That starts with getting his birth certificate and going back from there.
For those of you who don't know - and that is about all of you - I am the family genealogist. That means I am the one who went out and researched the family tree. NOT an easy thing to do - computers only go back so far and then you have to rely on written records as far back as you can find.
Worst thing is many scribes and record keepers were barely literate themselves and they wrote down what they heard.
"Aye yer reverence, the lad's to be called Willum." So the handy parish clerk wrote down any thing from William, Willim, Willum, Willm, Will to Wm. as the child's name.
Even better is the twists and turns surnames take through the years. Surname = your last name, family name.
One line has a name that started out as Almond and goes through Allman, Allmand, Allman (again), Allmon where it finally stops.
In olden times they went through naming patterns to keep the names alive in the family- remember first and last names were not always important or needed. That's where names like Johnson (John's son) came about Sometimes you may wonder why you got stuck with a middle name that seems ridiculous. Well you probably have an ancestor way back there who had a few bits of money and the family, to curry favor, named a child after the old dodger. Guess who got remembered in the will?
Enough - I can ramble on for a long time over this subject and most of you could give a rat's A$$ about it. Suffice to say, the only sure way to know it by obtaining the birth certificate and that is done through the county courthouse, or the state record office where the person was born. Department of Vital Statistics or summit!
Interesting info Myst. Do they let anyone get a copy of anyone's birth certificate? I would have expected controls on that to stop identity theft but then that is a new phenomenon so there perhaps haven't been rules made to avoid that yet.
Apparently the Doomsday book has come on-line here to view, only taken about 9 centuries, not had time to find it yet but that will be interesting to see if I can find any of my family that far back (or at least guess they might be my ancestors).
It depends on the state and/or the county here in the US.
I have gotten grandparents Death Certs from the State of California indicating I was living grandchild and it was for genealogical purposes - All of the birth information I was looking for was overseas and, again it depends on the country. Scotland and England/Wales have much online. Ireland, well they created their own set of problems when they burned down the Four Courts in 1922 and destroyed their own history in a violent act of vandalism. There it is hit and miss on finding your ancestry. There are records but it takes great effort and much help to verify the information. It took me nearly ten years to find my mother's grandfather's birth and the kindness of another searcher. Great day there because the records he was listed in carried me back to his father and grandfather, brothers, parents and an assortment of relatives that just sit there waiting for final identification.
As for other countries around the world - it is hit and miss. Remember written records only go back so far. In my children's line I have gotten back as far as 1404 through the main name. That is pretty fantastic. On my side I barely made it back to 1750 before the trail gets lost. On my mother's side we make it back to the late 1500's. When you get that far back you are dealing with gravestones, very old parish records or bishops transcripts. Old family bibles are another source of information. You always have to remember the information is only as good as the source. Literacy, comprehension, family tales/myths do not always match. I have two family "legends" that fail to prove out as truth. Yet the stories go on and on. We all are not related to royalty or renowned people from the past. Someone had to plow the fields, sweep the floors and keep our bellies filled in order for us to have what we have today and be who we are today- never sell them short. They did their best and they are yours and mine. They are called the "salt of the earth" - mine were called "the children of the mist".