Explore Your (Digital) Archives: 4 Amazing Websites to Broaden Your Genealogy Horizons

It’s the last week of November: the time of year when we celebrate Explore Your Archive week. If you’re a keen user of social media, you may have noticed a number of posts using the #ExploreYourArchives hashtag in recent days. This initiative from the Archives and Records Association aims to raise public awareness of the value of our archive and heritage sector, and encourage us to engage with all the wonderful resources they have to offer.… Read the rest

Record Clustering Analysis Using Excel (A Tutorial)

Computer keyboard

In this short tutorial, we’re going to walk through the process of using Microsoft Excel to make plots for Record Clustering Analysis, or RCA for short. Even if you don’t have a Microsoft subscription, these instructions should work on the free, online-access Excel version included in Microsoft Office for the Web.… Read the rest

What’s Your Research Style? Power Up Your Family History with Record Clustering Analysis

NOTE: The methods in this article are designed for use with 19th and 20th century genealogical research in the UK, particularly England and Wales. Record Clustering Analysis is readily adaptable to other eras and jurisdictions though, so watch out for a follow-up article in 2021!

Pull up a chair, put the kettle on and let’s sit down for a think.… Read the rest

In Search of the Real ‘Blitz Spirit’

Few now survive who lived through World War II. Those remaining today can provide valuable accounts of their experiences, but such memories largely involve wartime childhood. As family historians, how can we connect with the range of experiences of adult civilians of the time?

Luckily, a remarkable collection of diaries in the UK’s Mass Observation Archive (MOA) allows us to step into the hearts and minds of the Blitzers.… Read the rest

Negative Space: Making Your Genealogy Gaps Work For You (and your family tree)

How do you feel when your genealogy research hits a brick wall: frustrated, demoralised, perhaps downright bewildered? Sometimes what you need is a fresh perspective on your family history to kickstart your research process.

A brick wall has a substantial chunk missing from the middle, revealing wooden boards behind.
Looking at the negative space – what’s missing from your research – can be just as instructive as seeing what you do have.
Read the rest

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.
Read the rest

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