This flowchart has been created to assist genealogists in their search for details of their ancestry.

This chart is not meant to be a thorough, comprehensive process but is offered as a basic overview.

Below the chart is a list of possible obstacles that might be encountered during your search.



What are some of the obstacles we can encounter in discovering how and when our ancestors arrived in this country?

  • The use of aliases is the first one that comes to mind. Aliases were more prevalent than you may think.
  • The incorrect spelling of names is often a problem. Human error in writing names in the original records, and human error in indexing, can never be dismissed. You may even find the incorrect spelling resulted from the misinterpretation of accents.
  • Incorrect information on birth, death and marriage certificates is another. Perhaps the informant was not sure of the facts. Places of origin can often have strange spellings – especially if they were European.
  • Insufficient information on certificates may leave you with birth place unknown and/or parents unknown.
  • Your ancestors may have paid their own passage over and therefore may not even be found on shipping records


Your ancestor may have arrived as a free citizen, but he/she could have quite easily been tainted with a shadowy past. If you dig deeper, you may make interesting discoveries.

  • Some convicts may have returned to Britain, and then arrived here as free settlers.
  • Some convicts found their way to other countries, and then arrived here as free settlers.
  • Some spent time in British gaols or on hulks for crimes committed prior to coming here as free citizens.
  • Some soldiers and marines only enlisted because they were given the choice of either joining the services or doing time for crimes committed.
  • Soldiers and marines may have been court-martialed, and may have arrived here from other colonial out-posts, having been sentenced to transportation to any of the British colonies which were taking convicts at the time.
  • Some convicts who arrived as the transportation system was nearing an end were given Tickets-of-Leave immediately on arrival.
  • Deserters from the military and navy, as well as deserters of merchant vessel crews could also enter the country as free persons.