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

Front cover of Simon Smith's book The British Census

Review: The British Census

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

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

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

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

Christmas Competition: The Historic Occupations Quiz

Sepia photograph of a worker on a horse and cart containing Christmas trees

Our Historic Occupations Christmas Quiz ran throughout December 2020 – thanks to all those who took part! Although the competition has now closed, you can still try your hand at the questions simply for the fun of the challenge. Scroll down to enjoy the quiz as many times as you like.Read the rest

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

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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