Surf back to your noble beginnings at the Burke's Peerage & Gentry Web site.
Burke's Peerage & Gentry has rolled out the red carpet for online researchers. Its fee-based database on the Web at www.burkes-peerage.net is the site to trace your "titled and untitled families" in the British Isles.
A $99 annual subscription will get you 24/7 access to more than 5,000 family records from the 106th edition of Burke's Peerage & Baronetage and the 19th editions of Burke's Landed Gentry for Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. The subscription includes Atavus, a bimonthly e-zine that covers topics as varied as Scottish clans and US presidents. There's even a tongue-in-cheek editorial on one of Burke's "bad boys"—Sir Mick Jagger. If you don't want a full year's worth of access, you can ante up $25 for a day's search privileges.
Annual subscribers can set up a personal home page, which displays the status of your free newsletter subscription and any searches you've bookmarked. It also has a quick launch to the search box and the current issue of Atavus.
The site's real treasure is its search engine, which plows through those thousands of family records. You can search for a surname, a place, a phrase or specific data within the records, such as Alexander Home, born between 1701 and 1710. Read the help file—it will clarify your search-criteria choices in the Advanced Search section.
Once you've found an ancestor, you'll have access to family lines that can stretch back hundreds of years. Click on Family Homepage for a brief overview of the person's lineage; click on Full Record for the family history, full lineage, current residence (when applicable) and an image and description of the coat of arms. Your search terms are highlighted throughout the displayed text, but you can turn off the highlighting to print.
Want to learn more about British aristocracy without subscribing? The site has plenty of freebies. These include an interactive clan map, an e-mail newsletter that summarizes the site's newest resources, and a guide to castles and royal residences. The online library's articles share sage advice such as how to get started in UK genealogy and how to avoid fake-title scams (see www.faketitles.com for more). You can also hit the discussion boards, although you'll be limited to read-only access until you subscribe.
If you can trace your lineage to one of the aristocratic families in the Burke's database, a subscription could save you months of research. That's a royal breakthrough for anyone in search of noble roots.