Archive for 2009

Ten Tips for Starting Your Family History

1. Work backwards in time

It’s easier to work methodically from a fact such as the date of birth or a marriage of a relative than to try and trace down from a person you don’t know much about.

2. Ask the family

Ask other relatives what they remember about their family history.  Make a note of any nicknames name changes.  Ask them to tell you any family stories, what their ancestors did for a living, what they looked like.

3. Take notes and get organised

You never know what information will come in useful in your family history research so get into the habit of taking notes on what you have looked for and what you found. There are many useful computer software packages that will help you keep your records in an orderly manner and help draw up pedigrees and family groups sheets so you know who you are dealing with. Anyone joining the SoG from September 1st will receive free family history software (while stocks last) to help them record their family history

4. Check out the Web

The Internet can be a useful tool for contacting relatives and finding data. The Society of Genealogist website has a useful free information leaflet with information on starting your family history and links to useful websites

5. Meet other family historians

Family Historians are incredibly help to each other. There is a network of local societies with regular meetings up and down the country. Here you can meet like minded people with the same interests and local expertise. The Society of Genealogists is the largest UK family history society with a remarkable library and education programme.

6. What’s been done before?

It’s worth checking if anyone else is doing research into your family history before you start. The SoG  free information leaflet on starting your family history has useful links to Social network sites  where people can register their research interests and could be a way of finding information. The Society of Genealogists library collects published and unpublished family histories and research notes.  Its free library catalogue can be found on its website which also list the names in its various collections

7. Read up on the subject.

There are many good books and magazines devoted to family history. The Society of Genealogists’ online bookshop has plenty of family history titles to help you.

8. Ask questions.

Who are you dealing with? You must at least know a name. Where did your ancestors live? Most family history records are associated with a place. When were they alive? Records and research will differ depending on the period you are interested in. What did your ancestors do in their lives and will that affect what information you can find?

9. Get some documentary evidence

Your family history will be drawn from myriad of records and sources throughout history in which your ancestors will be mentioned. Birth, marriage and death records, censuses 1841-1911, wills, church records occupational records, education and apprenticeship, military service records, tax records, criminal records, poor law, newspapers, trade directories, ecclesiastical licences, church court records, tombstones etc might all throw up valuable information.

10. Stay focussed

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information that’s available to family historians. Remember to have a clear idea of what you are looking for and why you started the search in the first place. Family history is fun and thoroughly absorbing. If you like detective stories and have a mind for solving puzzles then it’s definitely the hobby for you. Good hunting.

News for Family Historians on Proposed Changes at The National Archives

Natalie Ceeney Chief Exec of TNA and Jeff James Head of Operations faced a second packed public meeting on Thursday 20 August at The National Archives Kew, Richmond, Surrey EnglandNational Archives. During this meeting Jeff outlined in more detail the proposal for charges to be made for using the car park from January 2010.  TNA is suggesting a daily charge of £5  for all users of the public car park with discounted season tickets being made available for regular visitors. The rationale behind this proposal is that the car park costs something over £80,000 per year to run and maintain  when overheads such as security, CCTV, building and maintenance etc are allocated.  Introducing charges could possibly bring in something over £90,000 towards overall  proposed savings of £4.2 million if the estimates of the future number of visitors who will use the car park and how much they are likely to spend come to pass.

Additionally Natalie and Jeff spent more time explaining their rationale behind someof the proposals and how their budgets work. In addition to the cuts made in operations and services attendees were told of some of the decisions that have had to be made on capital expenditure such as the  postponment of a new cooling plant to update the aging building and archives. Unless any alternative  suggestions about potential savings come  out of the consultation period it looks like the proposals  made in June will become finalised and acted upon. We will hear the final decisions at the next  public users’ forum to be held in Spetember. Minutes of the meeting and the dates of future meeting will be available on TNA website shortly.

Many genealogists and family historians use  the vast number of records  relating to family history held at The National Archives.


Else Churchill, Genealogist, Society of Genealogists

Family History Skills Course for Beginners at the Society of Genealogists – 15 weeks starting 3 September

The Society’s successful evening family history skills course begins again with the first fifteen-week series of classes for those who are new to genealogy and family history or who have had a little experience and want to learn more. The team of lecturers will introduce the records and illustrate how they should best be used for the study of family history.

This course provides plenty of opportunity to use genealogical sources in practical sessions in the classroom and as exercises at home. The lectures cover sources in all the major repositories but emphasis is also placed on the extensive collections held in the Library of the Society of Genealogists that can be of help to the beginner. We will look at using birth, marriage and death records, census,  parish registers, wills, the armed forces, how to lay out a pedigree and more.

Thursday evenings 6-8pm,  3 September-10 December. £180.00 (non-SoG members), £144.00 for SoG members.  For more information or booking, contact the events co-ordinator, tel: 020 7553 3290, email:

You can also view a copy of the leaflet







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Special Family History Collections at the Society of Genealogists

kipling27Some of the most important items in the library of the Society of Genealogists are to be found in the mansuscripts  in the Special Collections. Housed in thousands of boxes, these collections often represent the life work of a genealogist who has researched many different families. Sometimes the work is quite scholarly or looks at families that share a common theme such as the Campling Collection, the original notes made  by Campling before publishing the pedigress as East Anglian Pedigrees. Other collections have compiled family trees for families in a specific area  such as the Rogers Collection of notes on Cornish families. The SoG has over 350 of these special collections.

New collections come into the library every week.  Often they are  the life work of a family historian bequeathed to the Society because no other family member might want the research. Each collection is sorted and listed by volunteers. Often the papers aren’t as organised as they might be when they arrive at the library. It  can be quite a daunting task to go through many boxes of notes and to make order out of chaos. It can be quite sad if family photos don’t have names or places attached to them such as these charming family photographs.

Sometimes it’s not only the family photos that can be difficult to  identify.   All sorts of ephemeral items often come in with the research notes.  Volunteers have great fun sorting the collections. It was a delight to find this fine fellow (below)  in the recent acquisition of the Helen collection. Helen Collection cat 1

Surnames represented in the Society’s document collections of miscellaneous manuscript research notes, the roll pedigree collections and the birth briefs submitted by members are listed on the library section of our website. However the names in the special collections are, at present, only listed in card indexes in the lower library.

Contributing to the Society’s centenary appeal can help us continue to conserve and care for our collections. See the donations page of our website.

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14 SoG members took part in the guided walk around the City of London looking at some of the lost burial grounds.  Between 1741 and 1837 over two million burials occurred within the City but finding trace of these can now be a challenge. The walk, led by Alec Tritton, started at St Olave Church Hart Street, near the Tower of London and concluded at Bow Churchyard. Concentrating on burial grounds in the financial district the group got a feel for the parishes where their ancestors lived, and died. After two and a half hours we retired exhausted but cheerful to one of the few local hostelries actually open in the City on Saturdays. Everyone agreed they had a good day as you can see by the picture. London burial walk

Alec’s next walk around nonconformist chapels and burial grounds will take place on Saturday 26 September. Places are limited so do take the opportunity to book on line via the   SoG’s events pages on our website

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