Starting Family History Course


My latest Family History Course has been delivered to a group of senior citizens attending a Digital Training course. It consists of an hour long lesson followed by an hour for questions or practicals.

If you are part of a group that would be interested in this course then please contact me for pricing.

Skeletons in the Family Closet


Its an common belief that every family history will uncover at least one of the following:

  • lunacy
  • bankruptcy
  • illegitimacy

It is certainly true that you should be prepared to uncover family secrets that are revealed whilst you delve through historical records.

In my own family tree somethings were well known and talked about such as one ancestor being the son of his mother’s employer and not her husband. Another distant cousin had been jailed for manslaughter. One of my great grandfather’s died from the complications associated with syphilis (a much more common disease in the 19th century than you might think).

What we didn’t know until I requested my 2x great grandfather’s police employment records was that he was thrown out for embezzlement. I haven’t yet had a chance to visit Preston to discover the details of his crime to see quite how bad he was.

Another interesting find was brought to light when I ordered my 3x grandparents marriage certificate and their eldest daughter’s birth certificate. When I looked at the date her birth was recorded as the day after their marriage. It does make you wonder if they did make it down the aisle on time or they falsified her birth registration!

A couple of my ancestors have appeared in listings for bankruptcy as these were widely published back then and are well indexed now. At least one went bankrupt more than once so he obviously wasn’t a very good business man.

So keep your eyes open as you look in the records. Dates on certificates and church records can be very informative as can household composition on census returns.

Borrow more books



Borrow more books

Originally uploaded by Phil Bradley

Libraries are important sources of information for family historians. Please do your bit to save your local library!

Bring your tree to life


A family tree just filled with bare statistics and dates doesn’t make for an exciting read to share with a wider audience. They may well be impressed by the fact you have traced your family all the way back to William the Conqueror but there are ways to make the facts more interesting.

People

Include photographs of the people on your tree. This may be modern photographs, scans of old photographs or maybe a painting that you can capture on camera.

The photo below was taken at the wedding of my great grandparents in 1915. My great grandfather was obviously in the military at the time as he is pictured in uniform. If you are not aware of the date a photograph was taken then the fashions in the image can help you pinpoint the date.

1915 Wedding

My great grandparents wedding in 1915

Take care when scanning old photographs as they maybe damaged by the process.

Houses and places

Family homes and the places they lived are an important part of a family history. If you don’t already have photographs lurking in the family album then take the chance to go and visit these places and record them in photographs.

GG Granny's House

The house of my 2x great grandmother

You may also be able to take a video of the locality which can show how the different parts of the place relate to each other.

All of these things can really help bring your family history to life.

Resources for Family History: Local Libraries


If you are looking for a great place to find information on your family history then your local library (or the library where your family originated) can be a great starting point. They are free to use and quite often have accumulated a lot of information. Many also offer access to sites such as Ancestry for just their normal charge for using the computers. This is a lot cheaper than subscribing for yourself unless you want to use it every day! You may also be able to borrow books which give advice on researching your family tree or local history books.

Before you set out it is worthwhile checking what sources you will be to access so that you have a clear plan of action. For example on the Cumbria County Council web site there is a whole page listing which libraries have local and family history sources in them. Also check on their opening times so you don’t turn up on early closing day!

My local library in Kendal is quite a large one and so contains quite a lot of useful records and other research materials:

  • a fee based research service
  • Registrar General’s Indexes from 1837 (microform)
  • Registrar General for Scotland’s Computerised Index from 1855
  • 1841-1901 census for Westmorland on fiche
  • Ancestrylibrary.co.uk – free* access through the libraries computers to the 1841-1901 census for the whole of England, Wales and Scotland *normal computer charges apply; £1.00 per half hour, usual concessions
  • County and Regional Directories: Various dates for Westmorland from 1829-1938. A few for Furness and Cumberland
  • City and Town Directories: Kendal 1953, 1963, 1965, 1974
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI): 1992 edition on microfiche
  • Card index for ephemeral files and photographs
  • Parish registers: a small number of transcripts
  • Maps: 1st edition O.S. series 6″ and 25″ to 1 mile (incomplete sets)
  • Westmorland 2nd edition O.S. series 6″ and 25″ to 1 mile (incomplete sets)
  • Westmorland Plus later maps.
  • Photographs.
  • Newspapers on microfilm.

Not all libraries have such a wide range but others have even more. Go and check them out and get your family tree growing.

Key Sources for Family History: Census Records


The census was used to count the number of people living in the United Kingdom. These have been taken since 1801 but it is only from 1841 that they start to really be of use for family historians. With each census more information was requested so they become even more useful. With data restrictions there is a 100 year embargo in England & Wales so family historians were only just allowed access to the 1911 census in 2010.

Each page of census data has the locality it was taken in so you can see County, District and Town/Village information. The road and house number or name should also be included. Below I have listed the years of the main census and the information that was added each time.

1841

  1. Name.
  2. Age (For those over 15, this was rounded down to the nearest 5 years).
  3. Profession or Occupation.
  4. Whether born “in county”, elsewhere in the UK or in “Foreign Parts”

1851

  1. Relationship to head of household
  2. Age at last birthday
  3. Marital status
  4. Rank, profession, or occupation
  5. Place of birth more exact
  6. Blind, deaf or idiot
  7. In Ireland language spoken

1861

1871

  1. Economic status
  2. Whether blind, deaf, dumb, imbecile, idiot, or lunatic.

1881

  1. Language spoken (Scotland)

1891

  1. Language spoken (Wales)
  2. Whether an employer, an employee, or neither.
  3. Number of rooms occupied, if fewer than 5

1901

  1. Number of rooms in dwelling.
  2. Whether an employer, worker or working on one’s own account.
  3. Whether working at home or not.
  4. “Language spoken (children under 3 years of age to be excluded)” (in Wales)

1911

  1. Industry or service with which the worker is connected.
  2. How long the couple has been married.
  3. How many children were born alive, how many who are still alive, and how many who have died.

1921

  1. Place of work

1931 (destroyed in World War 2)

  1. Place of usual residence

1951

  1. Household amenities

1961

  1. Qualifications
  2. Migration
  3. Household tenure

1971

  1. Car ownership
  2. Travel to work

1981

1991

  1. Ethnic group
  2. Long-term limiting illness
  3. Central heating
  4. Term-time address of student

2001

  1. Size of workforce
  2. Supervisor status
  3. First question on religion on the main census form (England, Wales, and Scotland)

2011 (scheduled for 27th March)

  1. Includes questions relevant to civil partnerships.
  2. Other new questions involve asking migrants their date of arrival and how long they intend to stay in the UK, and will also require respondents to disclose which passports they hold

Basic Internet Security


The first thing to remember is that the Internet is a big place and if you put something out on the web you never know who will see it. So if its something you don’t want other people to know then don’t put it on the Internet!

On sites such as Facebook you can strictly limit who sees what but still it is safer to keep information such as your date of birth to just the day and month. For people wanting to steal your identity the key bits of information they need are your name, date of birth, address and mother’s maiden name (why can’t companies choose a more original bit of data for security?).

It may be tough to remember more than one password but if you only have one and someone works it out they could hack into any site you use it on. When choosing passwords try and make it complex using a mix of upper and lower case and numbers. Try not to choose something too obvious – you would be amazed at many people choose password123 as their password!

I also advise youngsters not to put pics of themselves showing an obvious school uniform logo on it. The same should apply to parents when posting photos on a public forum where you have no control over who sees it e.g. Blipfoto.

Be cautious with pop ups on web sites. Often they are trying to install spyware or viruses on your computer. If you get a message in one saying that you have been infected by a virus whatever you do don’t click on it to remove – make that window close instead.

Basically just use the Internet with common sense and try and keep safe.