Dr. Sophie Kay is a professional researcher working in genealogy and genetics. Her background is in mathematics and interdisciplinary cancer research and she holds a doctorate in Systems Biology from the University of Oxford, where she also taught mathematics, statistics and computational bioscience from 2008 - 2014.
Dr. Kay is an experienced educator, with particular interest in teaching research skills and collaborative, open working practices. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and was founding director of the award-winning Open Science Training Initiative from 2012 - 2019.
Sophie currently serves as a volunteer on the User Advisory Group of the UK National Archives, with particular interest in diversity and inclusion within the archive sector. She is also part of the team behind #AncestryHour on Twitter, which takes place at 7pm (GMT winter, BST summer) every Tuesday.
All opinions and content presented on Sophie's blog "The Parchment Rustler" are personal, and should not be assumed to represent these organisations in any way, unless otherwise stated.
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more…”
The confusion and displacement which Dorothy Gale voices when she steps out into the land of Oz for the first time in MGM’s iconic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz should resonate with many family historians.… Read the rest
The hat can be a powerful analogy for how we think and act. Changing our hat can transform our attitude: wearing a fedora might turn you into Indiana Jones, ready for perilous adventures involving snakes and priceless historical artefacts.… Read the rest
I’ll start today with a minor confession. Microfiche readers pose a big problem for me. Not because of their mechanics or the often poor visibility, but because of the intense backlight used to illuminate the film. Unfortunately I suffer from an aggressive form of migraine which presents exactly like a stroke (paralysis, loss of vision, hearing, speech), and – most unfortunately – is triggered by bright lights.… Read the rest
You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet of late here at The Parchment Rustler – at least in terms of new articles coming out (believe me, the behind-the-scenes stuff never stops).… Read the rest
Welcome to another article on my Negative Space methods for family history research! If you’d like to hear more, you can catch my talk on Negative Space at the Society of Genealogists in July 2023. Tickets available here.
Where were YOUR ancestors on the evening of Sunday 19 June, 1921? It’s not long to go now before you can find out. Excitement is building in the genealogy world as one of the most hotly-anticipated record releases in a long while edges closer to public view, promising to unfold countless family history stories across the nation and beyond.… Read the rest
Ah, the census – a classic game of ancestral hide-and-seek: pages upon pages of names, ages, occupations, places of birth…sometimes illegible, sometimes containing little (or big) white lies to confuse us. Anyone who has researched their family history in the British Isles through the 19th and 20th centuries will know the wonder, joy and frustration of trying to hunt down ancestors within census records.… Read the rest
Dishevelled and worn down by life, the old man trudges through the streets, inspecting the floor for the slightest hint of dog’s mess he can collect for his pail. Once the bucket is full, he will make for the local tannery to sell the contents for the highest price he can obtain.… Read the rest
Oh, the times when it happens. A fresh breakthrough when searching the records leads you to a result for your ancestor. Momentary delight is rapidly displaced by a sinking feeling of puzzlement as the scrawled handwriting reveals an occupational term which is a complete mystery to you. Such frustration.
You walk into the scan room thinking that you’re a happy mum in her second trimester. A fortnight later you find yourself standing in the unmarked section of a silent cemetery, staring at a little wooded glade where your baby’s ashes have been scattered. The shift is so abrupt, so unheralded, that you can spend years trying to catch up with it all.… Read the rest