Sometimes, it feels like our ancestors lived their lives doing everything they could to make our genealogical research more difficult. If ever someone gets around to inventing a time machine, here's a few of the things we'd tell the more elusive members of our family trees.

Start searching our records today!

Be creative

Look, we get it; you're from a sleepy Yorkshire village, it's the mid-19th century and your family has a tradition of naming sons after fathers. That's a nice way to honor your lineage. Let us ask you this though; would a couple of Juans hurt? Maybe an Augustus or two? After a certain number of John Smiths in a row, you're just being difficult.

Stop lying about your age

Social norms change, we understand that. We also understand that policing how accurate people were being when reporting their age in parish records was next to impossible – in the 1700s all you apparently needed to do to assume a new identity was walk four miles and part your hair to the left instead of the right. What we'd like you to understand, ancestor of ours, is that lying about your age makes things very difficult for us, so if you could stop it that'd be great.

Ask someone to check your spelling

This may be somewhat unfair given how relatively recent mass literacy is, but if it's an official document just get someone to give it a look over for accuracy. Don't be an ancestor we need to use Wildcards for. And please, block capitals.

Keep things

It may seem trivial to you, but that letter telling you that Aunt Mabel has a new horse is a goldmine for us. Don't throw it in the trash, throw it into a chest marked 'FOR FUTURE GENEALOGISTS'.

Keep your maiden name

We know that times have changed, and that keeping a maiden name after marriage hasn't always been the done thing, so we're not suggesting you buck social convention or anything like that, just keep it in the family. Maybe instead of John Smith, your son could be called Juan Thorpe Smith. Think about it, that's all we're saying.

Tell the world everything

Place announcements in your local newspaper whenever anything happens. Births, marriages, deaths, whenever you move house, holidays you enjoyed, little Juan's first tooth. You may think no one cares, but we do. We care.

Register to vote

'But I don't like either candidate!' we hear you cry. That's fine, you don't actually have to go to the polling station (though you definitely should, but that's a separate conversation, ancestor), but if you don't register to vote you don't show up in electoral rolls. Work with us here.

So, ancestors, if you'll be kind enough to do all of the above, we'll get along famously. If you have anything that you'd tell your ancestors, let us know in the comments.