1. NEW Foundations of Family History course

    Foundations of Family History We are delighted to announce the launch of our two-part beginners’ Foundations of Family History course for research in England and Wales. This is an Anytime course, so there is no fixed start date, you simply work through the material at your own pace.

    When you embark on your family history journey there can be a lot to take in, with so many different records available, how do you know where to start? Developing an understanding of the records you work with increases your ability to get the most from them. Just as important is methodology and technique, how to most effectively build a family tree in which you can be confident.

    This two-part course will introduce you to the four fundamental genealogical sources in England and Wales: records of civil registration (birth marriage death certificates), census records, parish registers and wills and probate records, and start you off with some good methods and techniques that you can continue to apply as you progress your family tree further. The topics covered in the two parts of this course are as follows:

    Foundations of Family History Part 1 – Getting Started

    • Lesson 1 – Gathering information and interviewing relatives
    • Lesson 2 – Storing your family history research (including software options)
    • Lesson 3 – Civil Registration (birth, marriage and death certificates)
    • Lesson 4 – The census records
    • Lesson 5 – Building your tree with confidence


    Foundations of Family History Part 2 – Next Steps

    • Lesson 1 – Introduction to parish registers
    • Lesson 2 – Deaths, burials and obituaries
    • Lesson 3 – Getting started with wills and probate records
    • Lesson 4 – Problem solving


    Starting with an Anytime course gives you a feel for how Pharos course materials are presented, without the need to set aside fixed times for tutorials or complete work by particular date. Anytime courses are made up of a number of ‘lessons’, where one week is about equivalent to the amount of material we would teach on a tutor-led course in one week, but you can set your own pace. Each ‘lesson’ includes exercises for students to work through, websites to visit and search techniques to try out, so there is plenty of ‘doing’ as well as reading.

    You can read more about how different Pharos Tutors courses work here: How Courses Work.

    You can read more about the new courses here:
    Foundations of Family History Part 1 – Getting Started
    Foundations of Family History Part 2 – Next Steps

    LAUNCH OFFER: We are offering students who buy Part 1 and Part 2 of this course as a single purchase a £10 voucher off their next Pharos Tutors course*.


    * voucher will be sent out within a few days of purchase

  2. Understanding evidence, Part 2: Derivative records – some grey areas

    Guest Post

    Janice Heppenstall

    Janice Heppenstall is a graduate of our Advanced Certificate programme (with Distinction). She has a passion for finding the extraordinary in ‘ordinary’ people’s lives, using their stories as a springboard to explore the local, social and political context in which they lived. She blogs regularly on family history and genealogy topics at English Ancestors and is also to be found on Facebook.


    This is the second of three posts looking at different types of documentation and other sources that we, as genealogists, draw upon to evidence our research. These posts focus not on distinct record sets like censuses, birth registers or manorial records; rather they provide a broader look to get us thinking about the relative value of ‘evidence’ from different source types.

    In the first of these posts we focused on primary sources, which we often refer to as ‘original records’, and secondary sources. We looked at how we can use them together to build a fuller picture of our ancestors’ lives and experiences. In this second part we’re starting to look at derivative records.

    Derivative records are created after the event but based directly on an original record. In other words, information is copied from the original to another document. As such, there is scope for error in their creation, based on illegibility of the original text, carelessness, or other errors and omissions. There are several types of derivative records. In this post we’ll start with some grey areas: certain record types that are contemporaneous to and certainly look like originals but strictly speaking are not.

    Censuses, 1841-1901
    In the first post we differentiated between the 1911 and 1921 censuses and all those that went before. Why are these ‘original’ records, yet the earlier ones are not? When we find the 1911 or 1921 census return for our person of interest, we see a single sheet completed by (or on behalf of) the head of household and relating to the members and housing conditions of that household. This is an original record and primary source. By contrast, for the earlier censuses what we see is a long list of all residents in a specific locality, arranged by household and organised according to the route the enumerator took as he walked from house to house, collecting the information. You might have explained this difference with reference to illiteracy rates: that since a great many people were unable to read and write, the enumerator simply arrived on the doorstep and wrote down the information he was given; but this is not true. Individual records were created for each property, and this was then transcribed onto the lists we see today. The original household sheets were then destroyed. In other words, all we have left for these earlier censuses is the contemporaneous derivative record. This might explain some inconsistencies. The second child of my great grandparents is referred to in the 1881 census as Jane (female). He was actually John, a boy. Another great grandfather, George, appears as ‘Enoch’ in the 1891 census. Was this a mis-transcription, or did George object to nosy-parkers coming to ask him questions? (I have spent a lot of time playing hide-and-seek with George, and I suspect the latter…)

    Civil Birth, Marriage and Death certificates (Civil BMDs)
    Are they original records? You would think so, but they are not necessarily so. Imagine yourself registering a death in 1851. You would go to the local Register Office. They would record all the information, give you a copy, keep the original for themselves and send a third copy to the General Register Office (GRO) in London. Of course, there were no photocopiers: the only way to do this was to write it out by hand several times. In other words, when we buy Civil BMDs online from the GRO, what we receive is a facsimile of a hand-written copy of the original record, i.e. a true copy of a derivative record, and not the original itself. You can choose instead to buy your BMDs from the local Register Office. However, some don’t offer this service, while others don’t have the capacity for creating facsimiles of the originals, in which case what we receive is a modern handwritten or typed copy of the original – again, a derivative record. Might this explain an odd discrepancy you’ve come across?

    Bishop’s Transcripts (BTs)
    BT’s are an interesting grey area. They are the copies of parish registers that, from 1598 until around 1800, church ministers were required to keep and send annually to the diocese office. They are contemporaneous with the originals, and written by a churchwarden who may have known the individuals involved. Even if a parish’s records from this period have not survived, there is the chance that the BTs have, since they will have been lodged with the diocesan records, quite separately from the parish, and possibly in different archives. As copies, strictly speaking they are derivative records and may contain transcription errors. However, sometimes they contain more information than the originals, and are often invaluable in providing a second chance in deciphering 17th or 18th century handwriting.

    Let me give you an example from my own research:
    The first image below is the 1819 Bishop’s Transcript of the baptism of my 3x great grandfather’s first child. When I found it I was in no doubt that this was the correct Thomas Mann and son James Sword Mann. However, since my 3x great grandmother’s name is Lucy, and the mother’s name here is Sophia, my assumption was that Thomas must have married twice, his first wife, Sophia, having died not long after James’s birth.

    James Sword Mann, Bishop’s Transcript of Baptism Register Entry, 15 August 1819, Norwich, St Martin at Oak www.ancestry.co.uk Accessed 12 December 2022. Original data: Norfolk Record Office, Ref: BT ANW 1819-n

    Some years later another I found the parish register record for the same baptism, below. It contained all the same information: James Sword, son of Tho[ma]s and Sophia Mann. Clearly, the BT had been absolutely correctly copied from this original record. However, here, the clerk has added a note to the effect that he has realised the mother’s name of ‘Sophia’ should be ‘Lucy’. The note was dated seventeen years later, 14 August 1836.

    James Sword Mann, Baptism Register Entry, 15 August 1819, Norwich, St Martin at Oak www.ancestry.co.uk Accessed 12 December 2022. Original data: Norfolk Record Office, Ref: PD 15/10

    In this example, the BT is a faithful copy, but whereas a correction has been made to the original, the BT has been left with the incorrect information. Only by using the one original parish register entry do we see this additional important information.

    What all these types of sources have in common is that they are contemporary copies. You may come across other examples, such as the copying of information from chapel of ease records to the main parish register, or post-Interregnum transcriptions made by the parish clerk, based on notes received from the interim civil parish clerks. They are contemporary, and undoubtedly they have value. In some cases they are all we have. But they are copies nevertheless, and as such there is the possibility of error or omission. The important point to take away from all this is that we should be aware of the nature of the record we’re looking at, and we should record that along with the information from the record.

    In the final part of this look at different source types we’ll focus on more modern derivatives: transcriptions and indexes; and we’ll meet up again with James Sword Mann and his parents.


  3. Understanding evidence, Part 1: primary, secondary and original sources

    Guest Post

    Janice Heppenstall

    Janice Heppenstall is a graduate of our Advanced Certificate programme (with Distinction). She has a passion for finding the extraordinary in ‘ordinary’ people’s lives, using their stories as a springboard to explore the local, social and political context in which they lived. She blogs regularly on family history and genealogy topics at English Ancestors and is also to be found on Facebook.


    This is the first of three posts looking at different types of documentation and other sources that we, as genealogists, draw upon to evidence our research. These posts focus not on distinct record sets like censuses, birth registers or manorial records; rather they provide a broader look to get us thinking about the relative value of ‘evidence’ from different source types. In this first part, we’re looking at some important terms used to distinguish source types: primary, secondary, original and digital surrogate. The second and third posts will build on this, looking at a range of what are termed derivative sources. Although our starting point is that some types of evidence carry more weight than others, as we shall see, none should be disregarded because there is value in all. It all depends on how we use them.

    Primary sources are created at the time of an event, or not long afterwards. These include what we, as genealogists, tend to refer to as original records. They include the documents from official bodies and government offices that are the nuts and bolts of our research, such as civil birth, marriage and death certificates; records of baptisms, marriages, burials; wills; property documents, e.g. deeds; apprenticeship records; Court records; newspaper reports; and the 1911 and 1921 census (we’ll consider the earlier censuses in the second post). These types of original documents provide us with the hard facts that enable us to build our trees. They can include far more information than the mere fact of a particular event having occurred. A baptism record, for example, essentially has the date and location of the event, the child’s name and the name of one or both parents. Depending on the year and the parish, it may also include place of residence, father’s occupation, both parents’ fathers’ names and the child’s actual date of birth. Some even include the day of the week on which the birth occurred! It will of course include the denomination, and there may be other notes in the margin. That’s a lot of evidence! The important point here is that we are looking at the original document with our own eyes, and we see for ourselves what was written. We can examine it closely, decipher the handwriting, verify that this is the correct document for our research and get every last scrap of information from it.

    When we refer to ‘original records’, strictly speaking what we mean is the actual original documents lodged in archives like the local Country Records Offices, the National Archives at Kew, National Records of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) or other diocesan, university or specialist archives. However, increasing numbers of such documents have been photographed and made available to us online, through various websites. The availability of digital images can mean it is no longer necessary to handle the originals, which are stored away, safely. Indeed, often they are no longer available for the general user, meaning the photographed copies of them are what we must use. Archivists refer to them as digital surrogates. In almost every case they are as good as the original, but just occasionally they are not – we’ll see an example of this in part 3. When we rely on these surrogates, it’s good practice to say so. We can refer to them as ‘digital images of the original documents’ and give the website.

    Whether we see the actual original documents or an online photograph of them, we can be reasonably confident that most of the information in these original documents/ primary sources is true. Why only reasonably confident? Because the information recorded is only ever as true or as accurate as the facts provided by the informant. In the 1911 census my great grandmother added six years to her second husband’s age to make the age difference between them less obvious. Another example: the marriage record for my widowed 3x great grandmother has her father’s surname as ‘Moss’, which is actually her first husband’s surname. Sometimes we have to read between the lines, recognise human error, make allowances for individual foibles, and on occasion perhaps witness a web of deceit unfolding before our eyes.


    Family letters are also original documents (Karen Cummings’ personal collection)

    However, primary sources do not have to be from official bodies. We might also have personal items such as photographs of people and places; letters; memoirs; diaries; and spoken accounts by people who witnessed an event. In the case of photographs, sometimes simply seeing the image can be sufficient for our information needs: ‘Oh look, that’s Auntie Ethel at Grandma’s Ruby Wedding party, so she must have emigrated after 1977…’ However, often it’s what’s written on the back that adds vital information. The name of a studio on the back can help narrow down the date of the image, or there may even be a date stamp. Alternatively, someone may have written a note on the back. On the back of a group photo taken at the start of my Dad’s National Service training he has written his Platoon, Company and Regiment, along with the full address of the barracks, the date, and a signed dedication to his parents. But beware! Notes may have been added later by someone whose knowledge of the photo is based on hearsay. My Mum incorrectly labelled a photo as her ‘Uncle David’. Meanwhile, her cousin had incorrectly labelled a different photograph of the same man as ‘Uncle Albert’. It took a collaboration between the two daughters of these cousins – myself and my second cousin – to compare what we had and work out that these were in fact two precious photos of ‘Uncle Joe’, who had been killed in action in 1917, before his nieces, our mothers, were even born. This opportunity to exchange stories and photos is one of the things I love about finding new cousins via online trees. Another more distant cousin sent me a memoir written by his late aunt. It included information about family relations and tensions relating to my great grandfather and his birth family – information I simply never would have found any other way. Again, beware, though! A diary entry and a memoir is the writer’s ‘truth’, which on occasion may differ from the reality.

    Moving on to secondary sources, these tend to be published works in which the author describes, summarises, discusses or in some way draws upon information gathered from other sources (primary or other secondary). A secondary source may be produced many years after an event. The author may have had no physical connection whatsoever with the original event; and yet with the benefit of distance, hindsight and objectivity, the author can present an overview that adds context to our own research, helping us imagine our ancestors in their setting. Examples might include historians’ texts based on research about a person, locality, event or period of interest; literature contemporaneous to the time/ events; and modern historical novels or films based on sound research. Unless you are actually reading a book about your ancestor, such texts are unlikely to refer specifically to your family, but they can provide a fantastic backdrop to your research. While reading recently about trench warfare and the Western Front, I decided to watch a couple of films about the First World War to help me visualise what I had read: All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) and War Horse (2011). The depiction in both films of ‘No Man’s Land’, the area between the opposing trenches helped me to imagine the utter horror of ‘going over the top’, even down to the placement of coils of barbed wire laid by the troops to make an attack more difficult for the opposing side. Joey the ‘War Horse’ is seriously injured when he becomes entangled in one of these coils. In this example, my reading and the films were secondary sources, but both helped me to understand the conditions and horrific reality of life and death in the trenches for my own kinsmen. They enhance what we find in primary sources. Sometimes secondary sources include great photos and maps, or direct quotes from primary sources, guiding us to them so we can examine them for ourselves. Reading about the 3rd Battle of Ypres, where my aforementioned great uncle Joe was killed, I learned of diaries kept by his commanding officer and was able to locate these and read this factual account (primary source) of Joe’s final weeks, days and hours – even though he wasn’t mentioned by name. Other published works may be memoirs written by people who were there. Strictly speaking these are primary sources, but we can use them in the same way we use secondary texts, to help us understand the context and reality for our family.

    To summarise, then, primary sources are the original records made at the time of an event. They provide us with the essential data for our research. We simply could not progress without this information. The historian’s and genealogist’s mantra is always to get as close as possible to the original source. Today, often this means using online digital surrogates – photographs of these originals. However, although these records can help to pad out what we know about our ancestor – their occupation, maybe a physical description, evidence of regular drunk and disorderly behaviour, perhaps, and so on, they do not in themselves provide depth and context. What was life like on a prison hulk? Why were so many people in the north attracted to Nonconformity in the eighteenth century? What were the stages towards universal suffrage, and what can I deduce from the fact of my ancestor’s right to vote in a specific period of history? For these and many more questions and themes our research can benefit enormously from secondary sources.

    In the second part we will move on to derivative records, starting with certain types of records that appear to be originals but in reality are copies.

  4. A Few Forgotten Women

    The following is a press release from our tutor, Janet Few, one of the members of the A Few Forgotten Women project, several of whom met through Janet’s Pharos Are You Sitting Comfortably? Writing and Telling Your Family History course.

    A Few Forgotten Women

    A Few Forgotten Women is a project devised by a group of friends, known collectively as A Few Good Women. The group first got together during lockdown to provide mutual encouragement for family history projects. Even without meaning to, family historians often focus on the men on their family tree. It is usually the men who carry on the surname, the men who join the armed forces and who are more likely to leave wills, to vote or to rent property, thereby leaving a trail in the documentary record. Merely by virtue of her gender, a female can become overlooked. We realised that, unless we took on the responsibility of preserving them, the stories of many of the women we encountered during our research would be lost.

    The aim of the project is to preserve the memory of some women who have, until now, been hiding in the shadows, forgotten by history. The women that you will meet on our website are those that we have discovered as part of our investigations into our own ancestry, as part of a one-name study, a one-place study, or when undertaking a wider project. Then there are the women that had no link to our own work but who cried out to us as we researched in the documents of the past. We hope that meeting our forgotten women will encourage others to tell the stories of their own.

    Some woman are further on the margins than others and this project focusses on those whose lives were touched by issues such as poverty, illegitimacy, criminality, disability, alcoholism, prostitution, abandonment or mental ill-health. Often, several of these conditions go hand in hand, impacting on the lives of the women whose stories we seek to tell. Other women were less marginalised but lack descendants who can preserve their memory; they too find a place amongst our biographies. The nature of our site means that many of the stories we tell do not make easy reading. Please be aware that some of the biographies will contain material that some readers might find distressing.

    We are sensitive to the ethical issues surrounding telling the stories of people of the past. There is a balance to be maintained between commemorating their lives and respecting personal privacy.  Many of our women faced trauma and adversity; on balance, we believe they deserve their place in history. We aim to provide rounded portraits of real people in an empathetic and non-judgmental way. Where the women have descendants, we have tried to contact them to get permission to tell their ancestor’s stories.

    Our website is in its infancy, new stories will be added regularly. Take a look at the website here: A Few Forgotten Women

    You can also follow the project on:
    Mastodon @Few4gottenwomen@genealysis.social
    Twitter @Few4GottenWomen

  5. Black Friday Sale

    We’re having a Black Friday Sale!

    From Friday 25th November to Monday 28th November inclusive use code FRIDAY15 to get 15% of ANY of our courses!* That’s right, ALL of our courses are included in the sale.

    Don’t know where to start?  Here’s our list of courses coming in January:

    Advanced Military Research – 20th Century Conflict (325)

    This course examines in detail records available for Twentieth Century conflict, the two world wars, the Boer War, the Korean War and other conflicts, including records for men who undertook National Service or were in the Home Guard.

    Discovering more about your Agricultural Labouring Ancestors (242)

    This online course helps to set ag labs in a broader context and suggests sources that will reveal more about the lives of those rural ancestors and the farms on which they worked. The focus is on British farming from 1700-1950.

    Introduction to One-Name Studies (901)

    A one-name study is an exciting journey into your surname’s past. This introduction to one-name studies, written in association with the Guild of One-Name Studies, includes the history of surnames, what a one-name study is, and how to get started.

    So You Think You Know FamilySearch – A Guided Tour (206)

    Discover what you don’t know about English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh resources on the FamilySearch website. This course guides you through the website, offering tips about searching data, browsing formerly inaccessible records and using help.

    Tracing Living Relatives (255)

    This course guides you through the main sources for locating people, how and where to access relevant records, how to prove straightforward family connections, outlines how to present your findings and gives advice on how best to approach potential beneficiaries.

    Apprenticeship Records (281)

    Apprenticeship, both as a private arrangement and under the Poor Laws, generated records which can provide invaluable information for tracing family history. This course will guide you through apprenticeship records and explain how to find them.

    Building on a Solid Foundation – Genealogy methods and techniques (204)

    This genealogy methods and techniques course will build confidence in your family tree, with a walk through technique, research notes and useful research tools, such as research logs, timelines, source analysis and building a weight of evidence.

    Introduction to Medieval Genealogy (501)

    This course provides an overview of medieval genealogy, concentrating on the most accessible sources, giving contextual background to medieval society and the nature of medieval records; how they were put together, and their limitations.

    Researching Online for Advanced Genealogists (480)

    This course examines the main types of online resources which are useful in carrying out research in English and Welsh family history and aims to improve your search skills, so that you can be more confident with your search results.

    17th Century Sources (382)

    For genealogists the 17th century presents new challenges. This course will provide students with an understanding of the problems likely to be encountered in this period, record interpretation, analysis and planning and how to find documents.

    Employment Records (380)

    Many documents indicate occupations in which our ancestors were employed. This course examines what is likely to be found in official and unofficial sources and how information can be used to provide further insights into the lives of our ancestors.

    Want to know more about how Pharos Tutors courses work? Read our handy guide.

    * Only one discount code per transaction. Offer applies from Friday 25th November to Monday 28th November inclusive only (UK time zones). Offer only applies to course dates on the website with places available during the period of the sale.

  6. Pharos Courses this Autumn

    The nights are drawing in, the weather is getting cooler (well, at least in here in the UK). What better time to be thinking about taking an online course and working on your family history or local history project.

    Autumn woods

    We have some great courses coming up to help you:

    17th Century Sources (382)
    Nonconformity – Its Records and History 1600 – 1950 (280)
    Your Military Ancestors (224)
    Manorial Records for Family and Local Historians (401)
    Advanced One-Name Studies (902)
    In Sickness and in Death – researching the ill-health and death of your ancestors (240)
    Victorian and Edwardian Education and Childhood 1820 to 1920 (251)
    Mapping Strategies for Family Historians (343)



    Victorian and Edwardian Education and Childhood 1820 to 1920 (251)

    School time

    Tutor: Linda Newey
    Start date: 7th November 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks

    School records can be a great way to find out more about the community in which your ancestors lived. Some of the records you might find for educational establishments are: School Board minutes, log books, accounts, punishment books, admission registers, lists of pupils, photographs, timetables and staff appointments.

    Here are some examples of the riches you can find in school log books, taken from the log books for the Infant School, Girls School and Boys School in Sawston, Cambridgeshire:

    07 Apr 1887 “Sidney Barker went home on Wednesday morning because he was afraid to pass the master’s dog, thereby losing his attendance.

    27 Jul 1888 “… Holiday given on account of the annual pea picking.

    07 Apr 1891 “The Infant School work could be done much better if the lessons were relieved by a (?) hour or 20 minutes recreation, both morning & afternoon, in a playground. Parents naturally object to 3 hours brain work, without any interval for young children. …

    06 Sep 1893 “Sent Alfred Chapman, Hubert Osborne and Harry Holden home at 2 o’clock to be washed. The parents of the two former boys sent impertinent messages and refused to send the children back again.

    05 Sep 1904 “… Edward Patterson and Cyril Cowling have been successful in gaining County Council Scholarships (Minor) and will proceed to the County School.

    Our course, Victorian and Edwardian Childhood and Education 1820s to 1920s, builds upon education records to consider childhood as a whole. The course explores childhood and education throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras in England and Wales. It starts by considering the definition of childhood and the various social status influences on the childhood experience, such as wealth, gender and the differences between urban and rural living. You will learn about the influence of philanthropic and charitable organisations, that brought about social change by Acts of Parliament, laws and legislation, all of which ultimately led to improvements in the childhood experience and the provision of education for all. 
By the end of this course, you will know how to locate a wide range of records related not only to education, but many other organisations associated with childhood, and be able to apply this to your own family history research.

    17th Century Sources (382)

    Tutor: Stuart Raymond  
    Start date: 26th October 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks

    For genealogists the 17th century presents new challenges. These are not discouraging – if anything, challenges add interest and enthusiasm to research. Historically it is a fascinating period, and genealogically some familiar records continue to be used so the research is not with entirely new material.

    This course will provide students with a broad understanding of the problems encountered when researching in 17th century records. They will be able to locate indexes and finding aids, document copies and transcripts, and original records. In addition, they will appreciate the research value and practical application of the information found. The course gives significant emphasis to local and regional differences within records as well as to historical context.

    Nonconformity – Its Records and History 1600 – 1950 (280)

    Tutor: Alec Tritton
    Start date: 27th October 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks
    but booking now for April 2023 *

    Your Military Ancestors (224)

    Tutor: Simon Fowler 
    Start date: 31dt October 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED but booking now for June 2023 *

    Manorial Records for Family and Local Historians (401)

    Tutor: Caroline Adams
    Start date: 31st October 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks
    * Under NEW Instruction *

    Student feedback

    The manorial system was a framework for people’s lives in England and Wales for hundreds of years, enduring well into the 19th century in some areas, and not finally abolished until the 20th century. Manorial records can be used to locate people within a community and to set them in their social and economic context. This course examines the place of the manor in the legal and social system, the records created by the manor, and changes that occurred through the centuries.

    You will read court rolls, look at court books and learn about property transactions, surveys, maps, accounts and even people’s wills that may not be recorded elsewhere. You will be taught to search for and locate manorial records with confidence and understand how to use them to solve genealogical problems.

    Lesson Headings:
    History and development of the manorial system
    * People and their roles
    * Records of the Manor Courts
    * Farming the estate – Surveys, Maps and Rentals
    * Demise of the manorial system

    Advanced One-Name Studies (902)

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 1st November 2022
    Course length: 6 weeks (5 lessons)

    This course is the third of three courses regarding One-Name Studies and builds on the initial learning from the Introduction to One-Name Studies (901) course and the Practicalities of a One-Name Study (903) course. Take one-name study skills to new levels. Whatever drew you into the investigation of a surname you are now deeply immersed in gathering and analysing data. You have mastered the practical aspects of managing your project and are eager to turn your discoveries into something of lasting value.

    Lesson Headings:
    * The One-Name Study theory and practice
    * Interdisciplinary studies – Acquiring the right skill set
    * Surname case studies – Learning from others
    * Synthesis – More than family history
    * Spread the Word – Get Published

    In Sickness and in Death – researching the ill-health and death of your ancestors (240)

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 7th November 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    One thing that all but our most recent ancestors have in common is that they are dead. The health problems and deaths of our ancestors are an integral part of our family’s history. This five week course will help you to set your ancestors’ lives in context by looking at the illnesses, disabilities and diseases that brought about their deaths or had an effect on their well-being. We shall discover a variety of records that might provide information about ill-health or causes of death for specific ancestors, or about prevalent threats to health in the past. The causes, symptoms and treatment of various illnesses will be investigated and significant medical developments of the last 400 years will be explored.

    This is a very popular course so book soon to avoid disappointment.

    Mapping Strategies for Family Historians (343)

    Tutor: Sophie Kay
    Start date: 7th November 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED for November 2022 and February 2023 *
    Keep an eye on the website for new dates or email us to be added to the waiting list.

    That’s all for this month, happy studying!

  7. Pharos courses coming in August and September

    Those of you who receive the Pharos Newsletter will know that we have had a new tutor join us this month. Richard Holt is joining us to tutor out Apprenticeship Records course. This course, part of our Intermediate Certificate programme, starts in September and there are only a handful of places remaining. We have some other great courses coming up in August and September too:

    Researching in Archives for Advanced Genealogists
    Progressing Your Irish Research Online
    First Steps to a One-Place Study
    Wills and Administrations; the riches of probate records
    Organizing Your Genealogy
    Building on a Solid Foundation – Genealogy methods and techniques
    Apprenticeship Records
    Old Handwriting for Family Historians
    Practicalities of a One Name Study

    Researching in Archives for Advanced Genealogists


    Tutor: Simon Fowler
    Start date: 12th September 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Library card catalogue

    This course is part of our Family History Skills and Strategies Advanced Certificate programme but can also be taken in isolation by anyone wanting to learn more about how to get the most out of archives.

    With such a small proportion of records available online, the serious researcher must make use of all repositories available to them. In order to have the greatest chance of success the researcher should understand how records are kept and how they are most effectively accessed.

    In this course you will learn about the record-keeping framework in England and Wales and be introduced to the cataloguing process and the way archives are arranged and described. You will learn where to find national, local and specialist collections, recognise which repository or archives is the most likely custodian, and how to plan your research day in the archives to make the best use of your time. You will also be introduced to conservation and access issues for fragile documents and get practice finding the documents you are looking for.

    Note: Whilst this course prepares you for your next visit to archives the course itself can be taken completely online.

    Progressing Your Irish Research Online

    Tutor: Chris Paton 
    Start date: 19th August 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Irish flagThere is a common belief that if you have Irish ancestors then you should give up hope of finding out about them, because ‘nothing survived the fire’, referring to the destruction of Ireland’s Public Record Office during the Civil War in 1922. The overall aim of this course is to point out that this is a nonsense, and that the glass is half full and not empty. Whilst there are certainly challenges to be overcome, a great deal can still be accomplished with the many resources now rapidly finding their way online.

    This course will describe the many state created records and church records that can be used to research your Irish ancestry. It will provide a context to understand why they were created, and by whom and point out exactly where to find them online, and how to use them effectively.


    Lesson Headings:
    Understanding Ireland’s boundaries, key repositories and platforms
    * The vital records of Church and State
    * Documenting the people: Irish censuses and substitutes
    * Valuation records and inheritance
    * The Decade of Centenaries

    First Steps to a One-Place Study

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 24th August 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    One-place studies are a fascinating blend of local and family history. They are frequently undertaken by family historians wanting to create a context for their ancestors. Through a one-place study, you can investigate the friends, neighbours and associates with whom your family may have interacted and you can begin to understand the community in which they lived.

    This course is designed for those who are just starting on their one-place journey and for more experienced one-placers who would like guidance or inspiration, or who are seeking a more organised approach to their study. It will also be suitable for those who may not want to undertake a full-blown one-place study but who wish to investigate an ancestral area in more detail.

    Lesson Headings:
    * Choosing and Discovering your Place and its People
    * Data Collection 1 – Using more Common Sources (oral testimony, diaries and memoirs; photographs; vital records of birth, marriage and death; gravestones, newspapers, directories and gazetteers, censuses)
    * Data Collection 2 – Further Sources (tax lists, records of land ownership, records of education and occupation, records relating to the movement of people, records of local government)
    * Connecting and Analysing your Data
    * Putting your Findings in Context and Publicising your Study

    Partnership offer:
    Students on our First Steps to a One-Place Study course, who are not already members, may claim free membership of the Society for One-Place Studies for their first year (details in the lesson notes). Existing members of the Society can claim a discount on the Pharos One Place Studies course (see member benefits section of their website).

    Wills and Administrations; the riches of probate records

    Tutor: Linda Newey
    Start date: 5th September 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED but booking now for February 2023 *

    Organizing Your Genealogy

    Tutor: Barbara Baker
    Start date: 5th September 2022
    Course length: 3 weeks

    Getting Organised

    As you research your family history, you collect information, charts, copies of records, notes, lists of sources searched, etc. Whether you are just starting your research or whether you have been at it a while, it is important to be organized and have a record keeping system. It should be easy to file and store information when you get it, and to find it long afterward. Good organization and record keeping will help you assess what you have, what you have learned, and what you need to learn. This three-week course is designed to help you get organized, stay organized and be ready for research online and on location by developing good record-keeping habits.


    Lesson Headings:
    Record Keeping Fundamentals
    * Setting Up Your System on Computer
    * Sources, Sources, Sources!

    Building on a Solid Foundation – Genealogy methods and techniques

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 12th September 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED but booking now for January 2023 *

    Apprenticeship Records

    Tutor: Richard Holt
    Start date: 13th September 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks


    Apprenticeship generated a range of records, most of which provide invaluable information for tracing family history.

    The practice of apprenticing young men to learn a trade is first recorded in twelfth and thirteenth century London. It gradually spread to many other towns and cities, and became subject to regulation. The Statute of Artificers 1563 required all tradesmen to serve an apprenticeship of at least seven years before they could trade.

    Provision for apprenticeship was also made under the Poor Laws. Parish overseers could bind children as young as six or seven to serve as apprentices until they were adults. Such bindings were supposed to ensure that children were taken care of at little cost to the parish.

    This course will familiarise you with apprenticeship records, and will explain how to find them. It will also give you a basic understanding of what being an apprentice meant in the period covered.

    Lesson Headings:
    What was an Apprentice?
    * Reading & Interpreting Apprenticeship Indentures
    * Documents dependant on Apprenticeship Indentures
    * Pauper Apprentices

    This course is part of our Family History Skills and Strategies Intermediate Certificate programme but can also be taken in isolation by anyone wanting to learn more about these fascinating records.

    Old Handwriting for Family Historians

    Tutor: Susan Moore 
    Start date: 12th September 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Does reading old documents have you pulling out your hair? Old handwriting, or palaeography, often presents challenges for local and family historians. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a document that you are sure is relevant, but which you cannot read.

    This course takes a practical approach to reading and transcribing old handwriting, starting with the records of the 19th century and moving backwards in time. Students will be given the opportunity to examine handwriting styles and develop an understanding of how handwriting developed over the centuries. The course will then focus on Secretary Hand, a commonly used form during the Tudor and Stuart period. Historians will come across Secretary Hand in many types of documents such as parish registers, wills and inventories. The course aims to equip students with their own set of steps to being able to read, and successfully transcribe, the handwriting in old documents, enabling them to read documents which at first sight might appear to be written using a different alphabet.

    This course is part of our Family History Skills and Strategies Advanced Certificate programme but can also be taken in isolation.

    Practicalities of a One Name Study

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 27th September 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Practicalities of a One Name Study

    The course is designed to enable students to explore the practical steps of maintaining and developing their one-name study through a variety of media and to give some context to the various considerations they will need to explore.


    Topics covered:
    Understanding and making the best use of spreadsheets in your study
    * Genealogical Software, what to consider
    * Online Trees and other software
    * The next steps: Preservation and Sharing


    That’s all for this month, happy studying!

  8. Free Genealogy – some ideas to get you started

    Free genealogyA lot of family history research costs money, there’s no escaping it: document copies, website subscriptions, travel costs and so on.

    However, there are some free resources to get you started. Here are some of our tips, including some free family tree charts.


    Download free charts to help you plan
    Free Websites
    Genealogy Books
    Find Full Text Books for Family History Online
    Make use of Interlibrary Loans 

    Download Free Charts to help your Research

    When you take a Pharos genealogy course, you find yourself armed with plenty of information to expand your family tree. Charts summarise your research in a visual way. They help you identify problems and plan future steps and they are fun to fill out – use charts to get your kids or grandchildren involved in family history.

    Pedigree Chart

    The Pedigree Chart is a great way to summarise your family history research so far, focusing on your ancestors. Start by filling it in with yourself or your chosen ancestor on the left and then add the details of the parents, grandparents, etc. in the spaces to the right. This is your research road map, or skeleton.
    Download here

    Family Group Sheet

    A Family Group Sheet is useful when you start work on a new family. It is also great to act as a prompt when talking to living relatives and wanting to make sure you have not missed any detail.  This chart looks at a single couple and their children.
    Download here

    Free Websites

    When you are stuck it is handy to have some places to look for help. Here are some great general resources:

    Cyndi’s List
    FamilySearch wiki

    Books Our Tutors Recommend

    There are so many books about sources, methods, strategy, history and geography and it is impossible to recommend just one book. Here are some of our favourites:

    England and Wales

    • Amanda Bevan, Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives, The Website and Beyond, (7th ed. The National Archives, 2006)
    • C R Cheney, (ed.) Handbook of Dates for Students of English History (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
    • T. Fitzhugh and S. Lumas, Dictionary of Genealogy.  (A. & C. Black, 1998)
    • Jeremy Gibson and Stuart Raymond, Probate Jurisdictions – Where to look for wills. , (Family History Partnership, 6th ed, 2016)
    • Mark D. Herber, Ancestral Trails (The History Press Ltd; 2nd Rev Ed edition, 2004)
    • David Hey (ed), The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History (OUP, 2008)
    • C. Humphery-Smith, Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers (3rd ed., Phillimore, 2003)
    • Helen Osborn, Genealogy: Essential Research Methods. (Hale, 2012)
    • Colin D. Rogers, The Family Tree Detective (Manchester University Press, 3rd ed. 1997)
    • John and Sheila Rowlands (eds), Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research (FFHS and Genealogical Publishing Company, 2nd edition, 1999)
    • W.E. Tate, The Parish Chest (Phillimore, 1983)
    • Andrew Todd, Family History Nuts and Bolts Problem Solving through Family Reconstitution Techniques (Allen and Todd, 2015)


    • Bruce Durie, Scottish Genealogy, (The History Press, 3rd ed., 2017)
    • National Archives staff, Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives of Scotland (Mercat Publishing, 2005)
    • Michael Lynch, Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford, 2001)
    • Chris Paton, Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry through Church and States Records: A Guide for Family Historians (Pen & Sword, 2019)
    • Chris Paton, Tracing Your Scottish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians (Pen & Sword, 2020)
    • The Parishes, Registers and Registrars of Scotland. Scottish Association of Family History Societies. (SAFHS, 1993, rep. many times)


    • John Grenham, Grenham’s Irish Surnames (Eneclann CD)
    • John Grenham, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (Genealogical Publishing Company, 3rd edition, 2005)
    • George Handran (ed), Handran’s Townlands in Poor Law Unions  (Archive CD book at Eneclann)
    • Richard Killeen, Short History of Ireland (Gill and Macmillan, 1994)
    • Brian Mitchell, The New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2002, reprinted 2008)
    • Chris Paton, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians (Pen & Sword, 2nd ed., 2019)

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    Find Full Text Books for Family History Online

    Part of the richness of family history research is the variety. It can take you into any part of a library looking up information on almost anything. Similarly you may want to search full-text books online on a wide range of subjects in addition to history and genealogy.

    There are some websites for historians and family historians that either include full-text books or lead you to them. These are a few suggestions.




    For those who want to wander off into other topics and search more widely for online books, try these resources:


    Make use of Interlibrary Loans

    Interlibrary loans are available at most public and university libraries throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand and countless other countries. This is an inexpensive way to access books needed for research that are not available locally.

    You can borrow from other libraries outside your library system if the item you want cannot be found its catalogue. All libraries ask that you check the catalogue of your own system before placing an interlibrary loan request.

    Certain items may be restricted and unavailable via interlibrary loan:

    • Old books in poor condition
    • Books less than 12 months old
    • Books that cost less than a stated amount
    • Audio or video tapes, CDs
    • Any other book that a library considers must not be loaned

    Your library may have limits on how many interloan books can be in process at one time. The lending library determines the period of the loan. There may be a fee charged by your home library and by the lending library, and charges for a late return are likely to be higher than the usual rate. Expect to wait for a while, particularly if the book must come a considerable distance.

    Check the website of your own library system for local information or ask at your library.

    Back to top of page

    There are many, many more. If you have your own recommendations please leave a comment below.

  9. Pharos Courses in July 2022

    We have a bumper selection of courses coming up next month, including our brand new course on heraldry, Scottish and European research and a focus on research in the 20th century.

    Unlocking Heraldry for Family Historians

    Tutor: Richard Baker
    Start date: 11th July 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks


    Dr Richard Baker Pharos TutorThis brand new course on heraldry comes from renowned heraldry expert, Dr Richard Baker. Heraldry was originally a means of personal identification in a world that was largely illiterate, by means of easily recognisable designs which we know as coats of arms. The hereditary character of coats of arms means that the subject is inextricably linked to genealogy and family history.

    This course begins with an introduction to heraldry and the terminology. We will look at different types of coats of arms, and examine how they are being used for personal, civic and corporate identity. We will examine the components of an achievement of arms and the language of heraldry and you will learn to blazon simple coats of arms.

    In the second half of the course, we will move onto ways in which coats of arms are combined in families, how to begin to identify an unknown coat of arms and where to dig for more genealogical information.

    By the end of this course students should be able to:

    * Describe a coat of arms in the language of heraldry or draw a coat of arms from a description
    * Understand the different methods of marshalling arms
    * Identify marks of difference on a coat of arms and be aware of their meaning
    * Implement strategies to identify the bearer of a coat of arms

    Scottish Research Online

    Tutor: Chris Paton
    Start date: 4th July 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Chris PatonScotland was one of the first countries to digitise its major family history records collections for accessibility online, and continues to this day to use such resources to promote a worldwide interest in family history for those with Caledonian connections.

    In the first of our two courses on Scottish research, Chris Paton will lead you through the major websites and record types that you will encounter in your research, and how to analyse the results.

    Lesson Headings:

    * Understanding Scotlands People, FindmyPast, Family Search, Ancestry, and FreeCen
    * Essential Maps and Gazetteers
    * Civil Registration and Census Research
    * Searching in Church of Scotland Registers
    * Scottish Wills and Inventories
    * Take It From Here

    A previous student said: “Excellent tuition from Chris Paton; very good course materials; well-paced; excellent value for money. I very much liked the opportunity to work at my own pace.

    Discovering Your British Family and Local Community in the early 20th Century

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 11th July 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    1921 censusFamily historians often neglect the twentieth century as being not really history but there is plenty to be discovered about individuals and the communities in which they lived between 1900 and 1945. Twentieth century research brings with it the difficulties of larger and more mobile populations as well as records that are closed to view. This course sets out to provide advice for finding out about our more recent ancestors and the places in which they lived.

    The course is all about examining more recent family members in the context of their community and their time. It is ideal for anyone aiming to tell their story in more detail. The course is not just about individuals but also about the communities in which they lived, so local historians and those conducting one-place studies should also find inspiration from these five weeks of study. This year has seen the addition of the 1921 census to the researchers’ toolkit and the course includes a new section about how you can get the most out of the 1921 census.

    Researching Ancestors in Continental Europe (750)

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 12th July 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Map of Europe

    Europe is a complex Continent, spanning more than 50 modern Countries. Europe has seen a huge amount of change, forced religious changes, border changes, war, mass displacement and much more. This course is about creating a solid foundation to research in continental Europe.

    The course explores the standard resources across Europe, key websites, reading material and much more, providing the building blocks for robust and solid foundation research in Europe. We will consider the reasons for migration in the context of historical events. We will also look the culture that the migrants brought with them from their native land, keeping those links alive and also look at the impact of war and displacement and Europeans beyond Continental Europe.

    Each student will receive a set of European Country information sheets with core material for genealogical research meaning that students complete the course with the knowledge and core information to research further.

    Before the Modern Census – Name-rich sources from 1690 to 1837

    Tutor: Else Churchill
    Start date: 26th July 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks

    That’s all for this month, happy studying!



  10. Pharos Courses Coming in June 2022

    We have lots and lots of great courses coming up for you to choose from in the next month.

    Still to come, in May:

    Introduction to One-Name Studies

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 31st May 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    A one-name study is an exciting new journey into your surname’s past. It involves the collection of all the occurrences of a surname. This course is an introduction to one-name studies, written with the guidance of the Guild of One-Name Studies and is suitable for all genealogists who have woken up to the knowledge that they have an interesting and unusual surname.

    Lesson Headings:
    * About One-Name Studies
    * Surnames and their History
    * Core Records you will need and Information gathering
    * Analysing and making sense of your data
    * Practical aspects of running your own One-Name Study

    and, coming in June:

    Your Military Ancestors

    Tutor: Simon Fowler 
    Start date: 6th June 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks
    but booking now for October 2022

    Victorian Crime and Punishment – Courts, police and prisons

    Tutor: Dave Annal
    Start date: 6th June 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    So You Think You Know FamilySearch – A Guided Tour

    Tutor: Barbara Baker
    Start date: 6th June 2022
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Since its beginning in 1998, FamilySearch.org has been a leading family history website on the Internet. The website provides access to many of the records, indexes and resources available at the Family History Library, which has one of the largest collections of published, microfilmed and digitized British and Irish records in the world. In recent years technological advances have made it possible for you to search and browse formerly inaccessible records, check geography and boundaries and obtain research advice anywhere, anytime. This course guides you through the highways and byways of FamilySearch.org, offers tips about searching data and using the helps, and brings you to the point where you can say that you really know the FamilySearch website.

    Researching Your Welsh Ancestors

    Tutor: Eilir Daniels  
    Start date: 6th June 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Wales is unique and Welsh research is different. The course is aimed at those who have some basic knowledge of family history research in England and deals with those particular aspects of family history research in Wales which are different to that of England. Despite the fact that, by and large, Wales used the same legal and bureaucratic framework as England, the country’s social, linguistic, cultural and religious fabric mean that a different kind of approach is necessary. The context of research is vitally important and there are difficulties, even for those who have a good level of knowledge and experience with family history research.


    Lesson Headings:
    * Key differences between Welsh & English research
    * The Welsh language, place names and surnames
    * Nonconformity in Wales
    * Occupations, migration and emigration
    * Sources and records specific to Wales

    Demystifying DNA for Family Historians

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 13th June 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks

    DNA testing

    DNA testing is becoming an increasingly popular tool in genealogical research and has the potential to solve mysteries and brick walls, where other records do not survive. The more its popularity rises and the number tested increases, the greater the chance of success. However, with so many tests available and so many companies to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start.

    This course starts at the beginning, providing you with the tools to understand and demystify DNA testing for use in your own research. You will be guided through what to consider before testing, the different types of DNA, who can test and which test is the most appropriate in different circumstances. You will learn about how DNA is passed down the generations and why this is important, what haplogroups are, and how much you really can rely on ethnicity estimates.

    You will work with examples of real data and have the opportunity to work through techniques with your own results (if appropriate). At the end of the course you will have a toolbox of techniques to interpret your DNA matches with increased confidence.

    The course is suitable both for absolute beginners and those who have taken a test and are beginning to decipher their results.

    Students said:
    “Karen ‘demystified’ the science-speak and with the clear notes and charts, I now feel I have a good understanding of the area.”
    “It has been a fascinating insight into a large, complex and growing area of genealogical research”

    Employment Records

    Tutor: Alec Tritton
    Start date: 16th June 2022
    Course length: 5 weeks LAST FEW PLACES

    Records of employment can do two things; reveal important facts for furthering the genealogical information about a family and provide vivid details of the way your ancestors lived. Records of employment will vary from the scant to the copious; much depends on the occupation. This 5 week course examines what is likely to be found in official and unofficial sources and where and how the information can be used as further insights into the lives and times of our ancestors.

    Lesson Headings:
    * The Professions
    * Merchant Seamen and Coastguard
    * Government employees
    * Town folk
    * Country folk

    That’s all for this month, happy studying!