Perhaps it’s time to talk a little about online information sources.
Most family history amateurs start with subscribing to one of the main online subscription services. Find My Past, www.findmypast.co.uk Ancestry, http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ or The Genealogist http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/. All cover much the same main areas where you can find census returns from 1841 to 1911, register of births marriages and deaths from 1836 to present. As well as these they have extra sources
The one which I use, Find My Past www.findmypast.co.uk, costs £109.95 for a full year subscription, which includes censuses, births marriages and deaths, migration records, some parish records, extensive but not exhaustive military records and some specialist records. For example included is the Wiltshire Quarter Sessions Calendars from 1728 to 1859, which is unlikely ever to be of interest to me, but is exactly what someone else needs.
I chose Find My Past rather than anything else because at the time it was the first to have the 1911 census, and I’ve simply stuck with it since then. I would recommend that anyone starting out looks at each of them in detail before committing themselves.
But one of the most useful online sources for me is completely free. West Midlands Births marriages and Deaths http://www.westmidlandsbmd.org.uk/ does exactly what it says on the tin. All births, marriages and deaths registered in Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall between 1837 and 2002 are listed, together with their reference numbers for ordering original documents.
You can’t, of course get very far without getting hold of the original records of birth, marriages and deaths which give all sorts of clues in the search. But if you order them from one of the online subscription sources you will probably pay more than if you order them from the General Register Office. http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/. From Ancestry a birth certificate will £22.95, while direct from the GRO it is £9.25.