Review: Burning the Books

Cover design for Burning the Books by Richard Ovenden, "A History of Knowledge Under Attack."

We now find ourselves well into autumn here in the UK; the weather is starting to turn and colder, darker nights beckon – the perfect time to be curled up in front of the fire, reading a good book. With this in mind, today’s post makes a slight departure from my usual “research methods” postings, but is highly relevant to the worlds of genealogy and history.… Read the rest

Walking in their Footsteps: Maps and the Family Historian

The best stories always start with a map. Whether I was in Narnia or the Hundred Acre Wood, Middle-Earth or Treasure Island, the books of my childhood were ever the richer for having a map at the front, ready to help me navigate those magical worlds.

For me, the maps fascination has never subsided, and I know I’m not alone in this.… Read the rest

Lost in Genealogy: Seven Steps to Battling Bias

Today, we’re going to talk about the elephant in every genealogist’s research room. It’s one we’ve all spent some time with, whether we realise it or not. And what’s more, this particular elephant tends to divert our research when it shouldn’t. At its worst, it can stampede us right off course.… Read the rest

Summer Lovin’: Marriage Trends Over the Generations

Bride Ann weds her groom Antony, 2 June 1962. Photo: Mr James Ackerley, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Spring is here, the sky is blue,

Birds all sing as if they knew

Today’s the day we’ll say “I do”,

And we’ll never be lonely any more…

Dixie Cups, “Chapel of Love”, April 1964.
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Asking the Right Question: Part 3

Picture this scene: you absolutely love chocolate cake and have decided to bake your own. You’ve even bought a cake tin especially for the purpose. You’re thrilled. You can’t wait to get started. Whenever you look at the tin, you think, “that’s the chocolate cake tin”. It’s become so fixed in your mind as the chocolate cake tin that it doesn’t once occur to you to use it to make other flavours of cake: lemon, coffee, blueberry, vanilla…and so there’s a whole load of things you end up missing out on.… Read the rest

Palaeography: A Digital Toolkit

For the past few months, the UK National Archives (TNA) has made its digital downloads free of charge until more normal operation resumes. Perhaps inevitably, the keen response in genealogical circles (including in popular magazines such as Who Do You Think You Are?) has focused on some of the main sources used in genealogy research – whether that’s military records, wills and probate documents, or poor law records.… Read the rest

Asking the Right Question: Part 2

I presume you took my advice from Part 1 and now have tea and biscuits at the ready? Excellent – they’re the foundation of many a good research session. If you followed through Part 1, you’ve now got your research question written down and possibly tacked to the wall or computer screen on a sticky note.… Read the rest

Asking the Right Question: Part 1

Picture your typical routine when you sit down to work on your family history. Perhaps you’ve switched the computer on, maybe your notebook is open and waiting to receive more scribblings, and there might even be a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits at the ready. You’re all set to jump into the past.… Read the rest

Welcome to The Parchment Rustler

Seven years old: I’m clutching a pen and my brother and I are asking questions, lots and lots of questions. The sheet of paper in front of us gradually fills with names – some we know, others we don’t. Bold lines crisscross the page, drafted out by my mother, ascending from the familiar names at the bottom to the strangers that lurk, barely discovered, near the top.Read the rest