working with negative space? try these four top tips

Mind the Gap!

Welcome to another article on my Negative Space methods for family history research! If you’d like to hear more, you can catch my Keynote talk on Negative Space at THE Genealogy Show this week (available online until the 25th July 2021). Tickets available here.

Our process with physical jigsaws can get us thinking about how we solve genealogy problems.
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1920s wedding photo showing the bride and groom surrounded by immediate family outside a church

Ancestral Hide-and-Seek in the Roaring Twenties

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

Bringing Home the Bacon (Part 2)

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

Bringing Home the Bacon (Part 1)

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.

Strange occupations.
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The Pitter Patter of Ghostly Feet

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

Family History With a Flourish: Video-Mapping Your Ancestors

Single frame from a family history map of the British Isles. Coloured pulses in blue and yellow indicate the location of birth events for the paternal and maternal sides of the family.
Snapshot from a dynamic timeline in Flourish, yielding the bigger picture on a family’s geographical spread. Try video-mapping your family history to understand how all those branches came together to form you.

Imagine you’re at an art gallery, looking at a picture that’s caught your attention. But instead of seeing the entire masterpiece, you’re standing so close that your nose is practically touching the canvas.… Read the rest

Promises to Your Ancestors: Making (and Keeping) Your Genealogy Goals

We’re only a few days into the year: chances are that you have already given up on that New Year’s resolution you made last week. If so, then you’re in good company: a 2018 YouGov poll of the UK population suggested that less than a quarter of people who make resolutions actually keep them.… 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

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.
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