1. Becoming a Professional Genealogist

    Are you thinking of becoming a professional genealogist but don’t know where to start?

    We often receive questions from students who want to know what their next steps should be.

    They ask questions like:

    “Do I need a qualification to work as a professional genealogist?”
    “Do I need to become accredited?”
    “Are your courses accredited?”
    “Where do I start?” “Am I ready?”

    We have a great course that covers all of this:
    Professional Genealogist – Become one, become a better one

    The question of qualifications

    In the UK you don’t actually need any qualifications to set yourself up as a professional genealogist. You may think that’s a good thing, but isn’t it also a little scary? What would you look for in a professional genealogist?

    There are some great professional genealogists out there who have no genealogy-related qualifications, but they tend to be established in the field and have lots and lots of years of professionally varied experience.

    There are also a lot of “wannabie” professional genealogists starting out right now. How are you going to distinguish yourself from the rest? How are you going to demonstrate that you are working at the highest possible standards and are by far the better choice, compared to Mr X down the road? One of the best ways to do this is by following a formal training programme that is recognised by the industry.

    Our Advanced Certificate in Family History Skills and Strategies is a great example of a programme recognised by AGRA, the professional body for England and Wales.

    Aim for accreditation

    Working at the highest standards is all about providing the best quality of service to your clients. How do they know that the beautifully laid out family tree and 50 page report you have produced is not, in fact, riddled with errors? Organisations such as the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) (with equivalents ASGRA in Scotland and AGI in Ireland) only grant full membership after assessment of examples of your professional work.

    Here are some of our top tips as you think about starting up:

    Be honest with yourself

    You have been working on your own family tree for years and have lots of experience but it is important to be honest with yourself about how much you know. We guarantee you don’t know everything yet.

    Be ethical

    Your clients will value honesty even if you can’t take every kind of job on right now. Don’t pretend to be an expert in things you are clearly not. Start small with the more common records and build up your knowledge.

    Be patient

    So, you’ve had some nice shiny business cards printed and your website has gone live. Surely now the queue of paying customers will begin to form? The harsh reality is no, it does take time and it takes longer than you think it might. Be patient and don’t give up!

    Next Steps

    If you are interested in becoming a professional genealogist and want to know more, take our Professional Genealogist – Become one, become a better one course. This four week online course covers everything from starting up in business, answering client enquiries and report writing, working out your rates and marketing.

    If you are looking for more detail on methodology and reporting try our Advanced Methods & Reports course (this is part of the Advanced Programme but can also be taken in isolation).

    If you are interested in taking a certificate programme in genealogy that is recognised by AGRA, see our Certificate Courses pages.

  2. Courses Coming in February

    We have some great courses coming up for you in February and early March:

    So You Think You Know FamilySearch – A Guided Tour

    Tutor: Barbara H. Baker
    Start date: 1st February 2021
    Course length: 4 weeks

    * COURSE OF THE MONTH *

    Discover what you don’t know about English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh resources at the FamilySearch website with the help of an experienced guide. Barbara Baker worked in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City for more than 30 years and is an expert in FamilySearch resources.

    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. All this information is free to anyone with the knowledge and navigating skills to find it.

    The lesson headings are:

    Week 1: Introduction to FamilySearch and FamilySearch.org
    Week 2: Exploring British and Irish data and resources at FamiySearch.org
    Week 3: The British and Irish collection at the Family History Library
    Week 4: The FamilySearch Family Tree and What’s New

    Introduction to One-Name Studies

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 2nd February 2021
    Course length: 5 weeks

    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.

    You will learn about the history and study of surnames; which surnames are suitable for a study, what a one-name study consists of, and how to get started. We cover how to collect and analyse data from the core records. You learn about all the practical aspects of running a one name study; collecting data, how to publicise your study, data protection, publish results and make sure your study is preserved for others in the future.

    Victorian Crime and Punishment – Courts, police and prisons

    Tutor: Antony Marr
    Start date: 23rd February 2021
    Course length: 5 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED * Booking now for June 2021

    Scottish Research Online

    Tutor: Chris Paton
    Start date: 1st March 2021
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Scotland 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. This course describes the major sites and record types that you will encounter in your research, and how to analyse the results. Most importantly it will inspire you to actively pursue your interest in Scottish genealogy and take it to the next level.

    Wills and Administrations; the riches of probate records

    Tutor: Linda Newey
    Start date: 1st March 2021
    Course length: 4 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED * Booking now for September 2021

    Advanced Methods and Reports

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 1st March 2021
    Course length: 4 weeks

    This course provides students with the techniques and tools to ensure the best possible evidence for their pedigrees and trees, and is suitable for hobby and professional genealogists alike.

    We look at problems of identity and interpretation, standards for evaluation and analysis, and how to build a case for proof. We will consider the display of charts and genealogy research reports, showing the conventions and standards that are used and that enable written research to be of a high scholarly standard. Students will also practise writing short research reports.

    The lesson headings are:

    Week 1: Evidence and Proof
    Week 2: Overcoming Problems in Genealogy
    Week 3: Laying out Your Tree
    Week 4: Writing up Your Research

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

    Tutor: Else Churchill
    Start date: 2nd March 2021
    Course length: 4 weeks

    What do you do when the nominal census records that you have used so much are no longer there, when you cannot obtain names, ages, birthplaces and the household address of a family? And how do you supplement the deficiencies of parish registers?

    Your attention should turn to a variety of lists which at least reveal where someone lived at a particular time. Though this seems scant information, such facts can be vitally important especially in those years when children were not born and christened.

    Over four lessons you will learn about the introduction of newspapers, the earliest efforts at census taking, and what other records are considered to be useful census substitutes. Census substitutes are often quite local in scope and purpose. Many will be explained and advice will be given on how to search for local lists. You will come away with an understanding of how to make the most of census substitutes, some new online search skills, and an ability to assess and access these sources.

  3. Student Showcase: Telling Your Family Story

    This is the second in a series of blog post from students of Janet Few‘s Are You Sitting Comfortably?: writing and telling your family history (216) course.

    Janet says: “I have been tutoring the course for several years. Three years ago the option to submit an assessed piece for feedback was added. Since then, each time the course has run, several students have taken this opportunity and have sent in a section of their family histories. They are given about six weeks after the course finishes to do this. I have been in awe of what they have produced in a comparatively short space of time. It is a pleasure to be able to feature some of their stories on the Pharos blog“.

    This offering comes from student, Samantha Taylor, and tells the story of Farrington Family

     

    Our Farrington Family of Brightlingsea

    The town of Brightlingsea is almost an island, bounded by muddy creeks, with a single road connecting it to the county of Essex.  Brightlingsea Creek joins the river Colne just before it empties into the North Sea.  On its way from Colchester the Colne flows past Rowhedge, Wyvenhoe and Brightlingsea, and meets the Blackwater which has travelled from Maldon, past Tollesbury and around Mersea Island.  All these places were famed for their boatbuilding.  This enclave of the Essex coast was steeped in the traditions of seafaring since before the time of Henry VIII.  As a limb of the Cinque Port of Sandwich the townspeople were exempted from serving on juries and in the armed forces, safe from the press gangs, underlining the national importance of their occupations and skills.

    At the beginning of the nineteenth century the creek and hard would have been full of fishing vessels of every size, cutters, smacks and yawls (200 by 1861).  The livelihood of the town came largely from the oyster beds of the Colne and Blackwater estuaries, and fishing as far as the Dutch coast and the Channel Islands.  As an interest in yachting for sport and pleasure began around 1825, wealthy owners looked to the men of the Colne to not only build, but crew, their race winning yachts.  These hardy men, brought up on the sea, knew well the ways of wind and tide and the most treacherous network of sandbanks.  By the end of the century it was as well known for beach huts and boating.

    Well inland from the hard is the centre of the town.  The outline of Hurst Green and Chapel Road is strikingly recognisable, even on the earliest maps, and along with High Street and Church Road forms the very skeleton of the ancient settlement dating back to the Romans.  The grassy triangular Hearst Green looks likely to have been the scene of sports and fairs, and its surrounding dwellings were home to two of our families in 1841.  Joseph Farrington had married Susanna Kerridge in July 1840 and their first child, Joseph Thomas was born in the spring of 1841.  Susanna’s father, James Kerridge, a widower, had married Joseph’s eldest sister, Ann Maria Farrington in October 1840, and they were living with James’s son George, then 13.  Both Joseph and James were fishermen as were more than half of their neighbours.

    Certainly in the early part of the nineteenth century the majority of properties were leased from the Lord of the Manor.  As fishermen, I am sure they would have lived in the simplest houses, two up, two down, however large their family became.  James, Ann Maria and their three children continued to live in Hearst Green.   Joseph and Susanna settled in Chapel Road with their nine children.  After Ann Maria’s death in 1867, James lived with his son Robert’s family in Hearst Green and their neighbours in 1871 were Joseph’s son Thomas Joseph Farrington and his wife Jane (Wright).  Another of their neighbours was Jane’s father, Henry Wright, a widower, and her sister Charlotte.  By 1891 Thomas Joseph, Jane and their four boys had moved to 59 Chapel Road, a four room house, probably with a garden.  Thomas Joseph’s brother, George Farrington, his wife Maria Ann (Farrington) and their four children were their neighbours.

    As widows, Susanna (Kerridge) and Jane (Wright) both lived on the High Street, albeit 20 years apart.  In 1891 Susanna was living in a single room but there is no mention of employment, while in 1911 Jane lived as servant/nurse with the Harris family.

    The railway appeared in 1866 running along the river from Colchester and crossing Alresford Creek. This branch of the Great Eastern Railway must have made a tremendous difference to a town which until then could only be reached by one road, or by sea.  The town’s population had grown four fold in less than 100 years, from 1,020 in 1811 to 4,501 in 1901, and by 1874 had a gas works company and a water company.  More houses were built on the north and south of High Street, and later in the century our families could be found in Nelson Street, John Street, and Sidney Street where my grandmother, Marion, was born.

    Brightlingsea lies quite flat along the creek but gradually ascends towards the farmland behind.  On this gentle hill to the north and slightly west, a mile and a half from the town, stands All Saints Church.  Now a grade one listed building it dates back to the 12th century and is built on the site of an earlier Saxon church of which a small arch remains.  The churchyard extends to six acres and the tower, built of local flint in the late 15th century stands 97 feet high, an important marker to those at sea.  Inside the church runs a frieze of tiles commemorating every Brightlingsea native lost at sea, since its inception in 1872 by the Rev Arthur Pertwee, in response to the 36 local seamen lost that year in severe storms on the North Sea.  Each tile is inscribed with the name of the deceased and his ship.  Many members of the family were baptised, married and buried here including Marion, who was baptised on 23rd October 1902.   This little pen and ink drawing of the church was made by Joseph William Farrington in 1938 and given to his niece, my grandmother, Marion.

    Chapel Road, then and now, is the site of the Wesleyan Chapel, records of which go back to 1805, although the building you see today was probably constructed at the end of the 19th century.  Wesleyan Methodism began in the second half of the 18th century but grew in popularity most rapidly in the first half of the 19th century.  The simplicity of their creed appealed particularly to the working class communities like that of our fishermen.  Between 1841 and 1855 at least eight of Joseph and Susanna’s nine children were baptised at the Wesleyan Chapel along with James and Ann Maria’s three children.  The deaths of Joseph’s sister Eliza (21), Susanna’s brother George (22), Joseph and Susanna’s son Isaac (2), and James and Ann Maria’s son James (3) were recorded in 1849.  They would have been buried elsewhere, possibly at All Saints, as there was no burial ground at the chapel.  George, Isaac and James died within a month of each other and I wonder if this is evidence of the cholera epidemic of that year.  A note in the burial record says that George’s body was brought home from the Channel Islands in the ship in which he sailed, but he may have been ill before he left.

    “Brightlingsea men have never been afraid of going to sea.  Their smacks earned a wonderful reputation for daring (and sometimes for piratical practices) in the last century” wrote Hervey Benham in the ‘Last Stronghold of Sail’ (George G Harrap and Co Ltd 1948).

    It is hard for me to imagine the world of these fishermen as they slip between the pages of census return and parish register, just out of reach, but I have been able to give some substance to them through Hervey Benham and Garboard Streyke who wrote most evocatively of this way of life before engines and mechanisation changed it forever.

    In February or March many smacks would sail to Falmouth and the Channel Islands to dredge deep sea oysters and would be away for two or three months.  Others would travel to the Terschelling Light on the Dutch coast, more than 200 miles away, for as long as four months.  In the sprat season from the mid-August to mid-February the smacks would work in groups of six or seven pooling their catch.  Whether dredging or netting fish, their muscles would have strained with the effort of throwing and hauling the gear, and all while under sail.  The storms could be savage and the sea often bitterly cold.  The creek could freeze in the depths of winter.  On top of that they would need to negotiate the most treacherous network of shoals, the Gunfleet Sand, the Long Sand, and the Sunk.

    “Many persons who, whether on business or pleasure, have paid a visit to Wyvenhoe, Rowhedge, or Brightlingsea, must have looked with some curiosity on the black, rough-looking vessels known as smacks, with their crews of bearded and bronzed men, clad in canvas jackets and pilot-cloth trousers” wrote Garboard Streyke as the opening to ‘The Sea, The River, And The Creek’ (Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington 1884).

    Beneath their jackets a traditional, tight fitting knitted gansey and a waistcoat, and over their trousers, thigh length greased leather boots with wooden pegged soles, would have been worn, topped off with a hat, and oilskins if it was rough.  They must have looked much like the men in the photographs by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, and I expect their wives also dressed similarly to the herring girls.

    The crews of four to six men would have started their day as early as four o’clock, before dawn.  Their meals would have been simple but nourishing, cooked on a small stove in the cabin.  Bread and cheese would do for breakfast and a bit of salt beef stew and dumplings, cooked in an iron pot, for dinner, and always washed down with tea brewed in the kettle with sugar, but no milk.  Although they may have frequented the many public houses in the town, when they were at sea not a drop passed their lips.

    It wasn’t just the harsh weather and inhospitable terrain the fishermen had to deal with.  On 21st December 1833 the Essex Standard reported that on Monday 16th December, the Magistrates in Colchester Castle heard depositions from the masters and crews of several vessels which had been molested in dredging for oysters off the coast of France.  One of the depositions was given by Shadrach Martin, master of the fishing smack Globe, describing how the vessel had been boarded by Frenchmen and taken to Granville.  Similar accounts were given by other masters who felt aggrieved by their treatment by the French when they were miles away from their coast, and considering that the French fishermen were not similarly violated when fishing off the British coast.  A letter was sent by the fishermen to the bench of magistrates, and one of the signatories was Isaac Farrington.  Born in Brightlingsea, he moved to Harwich with his young family and in 1884 his granddaughter Maria Ann Farrington would marry Joseph and Susanna’s son George.  As a result of the letter and the depositions the Magistrates sent a letter to Lord Viscount Melbourne requesting protection for the fishermen.  It was less than 20 years since the end of the Napoleonic wars.  William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne was a Member of Parliament for the Whig party and at the time Home Secretary, but would later become Prime Minister and a favourite of Queen Victoria.  Sadly I have not been able to find out if he acted in response to the letter from Colchester.

    UK, Apprentices Indentured in Merchant Navy, 1824-1910, TNA

    A life at sea started early and Joseph Thomas Farrington (14) and Thomas Joseph Farrington (13) were indentured to their father Joseph Farrington on 15th August 1855, as apprentices on the vessel  Rose, of Colchester.  I wonder if this infers that Joseph was at least the master of this vessel, if not the owner.

    Both brothers, Joseph and Thomas worked aboard the fishing cutter Globe,  which was registered in 1844 at Colchester but likely built at Wivenhoe around 1805.  Benham describes her as a ‘powerful cutter smack’.  At the time of the census in 1871 she was recorded at Dover with Thomas, aged 28, serving as Mate.  Joseph, aged 19, had been serving as A B Seaman in 1861 when she was recorded at Guernsey, Channel Islands.  The Globe’s Master, Hazel Polley was a neighbour of the Farringtons in Chapel Road.  Joseph Thomas was recorded aboard Tartar in 1871 at Swansea, and the following year he married and settled there.  In 1881 Thomas Joseph was recorded aboard the steam ship Castalia, built as a cross channel ferry but soon abandoned, as A B Seaman off Erith, Dartford, Kent.  George, the youngest of Joseph and Susanna’s sons, appeared in Newhaven, Sussex in 1881 aboard the fishing smack Queen Victoria as A B Seaman.

    Jane was born in St Osyth in 1849 to Henry Whybrough Wright, a farm labourer and Susan (Southgate).  By 1861, when Jane was 12, they had moved to Brightlingsea.  Jane married Thomas Joseph Farrington in 1869.  They had four sons: George Thomas, born 1871; Frederick Joseph (my great grandfather), born 1873; Thomas, born 1875; and Joseph William, born 1882.

    Jane was illiterate and my great grandfather’s birth certificate bears her ‘mark’, a simple and unsteady cross.  It is impossible to know what opportunities if any she had for an education or whether or not her family supported it.  A select committee report on Education of the Poor, 1818 said of Brightlingsea:  ‘The poor have the means of education, but appear very indifferent in taking advantage of them.’
    According to a House of Commons paper on education, by 1833 the town, with a population of 1,784, had four infant schools, six day schools and three Sunday Schools .  However the greatest change to the provision of education must have come with the 1870 Education Act which provided schools for everyone, known as Board Schools, although education did not become compulsory to the age of 12 until 1899.

    I like to think that Jane decided she wanted more for her boys, that the life of a fisherman was too hard and unrewarding.  Probably the combination of freely provided education and a declining fishing industry played their part, but I imagine she took the initiative while Thomas was away at sea.

    Their eldest son George was apprenticed to shipbuilding by the age of 19, and eventually joined HM Dockyard at Sheerness, Kent.  In the summer of 1895 he married Sarah Emily Underwood who was born in Tollesbury.  They had two children and continued to live in Kent until they died.  Before she married, Sarah was a draper’s assistant in Brightlingsea and in 1911 was living in Brightlingsea and running Farrington’s Drapers at 77 High Street, while George was living in Sheerness with his mother-in-law.  In 1939 they lived in Strood, Kent, and were listed as retired drapers.

    Frederick was apprenticed to shoemaking by the time he was 17, and by 1902, when my grandmother Marion was born, had his own boot making business in Brightlingsea’s High Street.  He had married Nettie Heaver in the autumn of 1899.  Their second child, Muriel was born in Chobham, Surrey in 1910, and in 1911 they were living in Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire.  At some point he visited the United States, perhaps to visit his younger brother, and was so enthusiastic he contacted Nettie and told her to sell all their furniture and pack ready to emigrate with their two girls.  However by the time he returned he had changed his mind.  Certainly by 1915 they had returned to Brightlingsea where Marion was at school, second from the left in the second row down in the photograph above.

    Thomas Farrington’s Master’s Certificate 1903

    Thomas did become a mariner and had achieved his Master’s Certificate in 1903 when he was 28.  Otherwise he is something of an enigma but it has been suggested that he died at sea on a yacht that sank off the coast of Carolina.

    Their youngest son Joseph William had become a mariner by the time he was 18, and living in Bightlingsea with his widowed mother.  However on 7th June 1905 he left England from the port of Liverpool and sailed to Philadelphia on the Friesland.  He didn’t return until 1927 when he sailed from Boston on the Aurania, arriving in Liverpool on 6th June.   An account of his adventures in North America, prospecting in the silver mines of Canada, was recorded in a US local newspaper.  Soon after his return he married Lily Martha Death on the 4th July in Chadwell St Mary, near to the home of his brother.  He and Lily settled in John Street, Brightlingsea where he worked as a bus conductor.

    Isaac Kerridge Farrington, born in 1891, was one of the four cousins living next door to my great grandfather, Frederick and his brothers, that year.  I was kindly sent some ‘Farrington’ related information by Margaret Stone, curator of Brightlingsea Museum and at the time had not worked out the relationship to my own family.  It was cheering to find the connection and satisfying to see the names Kerridge and Farrington come together.  His story, though, is as sad as it is familiar.  He was a corporal in the Rifle Brigade and was killed at Ypres on 10th July 1916.  He carried a small bible in his tunic which contained a request, written inside, that in case of accident it be returned to Miss Lillian Finch of 77 Nelson Street, to whom he was engaged.  The Brightlingsea Times included his photograph and a poem he had written while at the front, when they reported his death.

  4. Courses Coming in January

    December is a quieter month for us at Pharos, as we allow time for students and tutors to take a break. However, we have lot to talk about for January, some last minute Christmas gift ideas perhaps?

    Coming up in January:

    Introduction to Medieval Genealogy

    Tutor: Gillian Waters
    Start date: 5th January 2021
    Course length: 5 weeks (4 teaching weeks and a reading week)

    * COURSE OF THE MONTH *

    Don’t stop tracing your family once you have exhausted the parish registers. It is possible to trace lines back beyond the 1500s, and this course outlines some of the ways that you can break into medieval genealogy. It will help you create the foundations for researching medieval records, describe the nature of medieval records, on-line locations and finding guides that can improve your chances of finding direct or probable relations. It will also help you understand the geographical and political landscapes of medieval England, including general histories and the key events which generated records.

    The lesson headings are:

    Week 1: Starting out on Medieval Research – identifying families to track
    Week 2: Planning the move to Medieval Records – getting to grips with medieval pedigrees
    Week 3: Records of the Landed Classes- the structure of medieval society and the meanings of terminology
    Week 4: Reading week- a chance to do some background research
    Week 5: Medieval Church records, Military records and Taxation

    Advanced Military Research – 20th Century Conflict

    Tutor: Simon Fowler
    Start date: 4th January 2021
    Course length: 3 weeks

    This course follows on from our Your Military Ancestors course with a focus on the 20th Century (you do not need need to have taken the Your Military Ancestors course first).

    It covers the two world wars, the Boer War, the Korean War and other post-war conflicts, including for men who undertook National Service.

    As well as considering the records themselves, the course looks at their context, the purposes for which they were created and how different records relate to each other. We also consider non-military records at The National Archives and elsewhere that can help researchers. Although few records survive for civilians or those who served in the auxiliary services, such as the Merchant Navy and Home Guard, we will consider the records which are available.

    Apprenticeship Records

    Tutor: Stuart Raymond
    Start date: 6th January 2021
    Course length: 4 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED *

    Researching Online for Advanced Genealogists

    Tutor: Peter Christian
    Start date: 6th January 2021
    Course length: 4 weeks

    The internet is now an essential research environment for family history: many indexes to genealogical records are now available only online, and the internet provides access to a wealth of information and contacts for family historians. This course examines the main types of internet resource 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.

    Employment Records

    Tutor: Alec Tritton
    Start date: 7th January 2021
    Course length: 5 weeks

    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. 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:
    Week 1: The Professions
    Week 2: Merchant Seamen and Coastguard
    Week 3: Government employees
    Week 4: Town folk
    Week 5: Country folk

    Migration in the British Isles

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 18th January 2021
    Course length: 3 weeks
    * FULLY BOOKED *

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

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 26th January 2021
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Family 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.

  5. Announcement of new tutor: Dr Richard Baker

    We are absolutely delighted to announce the appointment of a new Tutor at Pharos Tutors: Dr Richard Baker.

    Dr Richard Baker Pharos Tutor

    Dr Richard Baker joins us at Pharos Tutors

    Many of you will already know Richard. Richard is an experienced Tutor and Lecturer in all aspects of Genealogy, but his specialist interests are in Heraldry and Palæography. He lectures regularly at the International Heraldic and Genealogical Congresses and is an Academician of the Académie Internationale d’Héraldique, a Council Member of the Heraldry Society and President of the International Federation of Schools of Family History. He will be preparing a brand new course on Heraldry for Pharos over the next few months, which he will teach for the first time next year. Keep an eye on the website for the release of course dates!

    He is well-known within the genealogy community for his position as Principal of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (IHGS), a position from which he retired earlier this year. You can read more about Richard here.

  6. Scheduling the Intermediate Certificate in Genealogy

    If you are looking for a programme of online family history courses covering a wide range of genealogical sources then look no further than our Family History Skills and Strategies (FHSS) Intermediate Certificate programme. More information, including entrance criteria, can be found here.

    The Intermediate Certificate consists of ten courses, and you have three years to complete all ten:

    17th Century Sources (382)
    Apprenticeship Records (281)
    Before the Modern Census – Name-rich sources from 1690 to 1837 (381)
    Employment Records (380)
    Migration in the British Isles (314)
    Nonconformity – Its Records and History 1600 – 1950 (280)
    Recording the Poor – From Parish to Workhouse and beyond (203)
    Victorian Crime and Punishment- Courts, police and prisons (308)
    Wills and Administrations; the riches of probate records (205)
    Your Military Ancestors (224)

    We often get messages from students asking for help scheduling the Intermediate Certificate courses. In this blog post we give some top tips on how to make the best of your time without overloading yourself too much in one go. So, how do you know where to start?

    Man under stress because of too much problems. Abstract image with a wooden puppet

    Course Numbers

    First up there are the course numbers. These are a guide to the difficulty of the courses. 300 series courses are generally more difficult than 200 series courses or based within an earlier time period. We suggest you plan to take at least one or two 200 series courses first.

    Course Frequency

    Secondly we suggest that, if you can, you avoid taking more than one course at a time. We have had feedback from previous students complaining that the courses booked up too quickly and that they struggled to fit all ten into the time available. In the last few months we have doubled up on how often nine of the ten courses run. All but Apprenticeship Records now run twice a year (and Apprenticeship Records takes a higher number of students than it used to).

    Fast track

    Now that we have increased the frequency of our courses it is possible to complete the Intermediate Certificate programme in 18 months without having to take any courses simultaneously. This is not for the faint hearted, there is a short gap between some of the courses doing it this way. The best way to show you how this works is to show you how we have scheduled these. Both schedules begin with the Wills & Probate course. If you start with Wills and Probate in September, you can follow the path below:

    Sep.    Wills and Administrations; the riches of probate records (205)
    Oct.    Nonconformity – Its Records and History 1600 – 1950 (280)
    Jan.    Apprenticeship Records (281)
    Feb.    Victorian Crime and Punishment- Courts, police and prisons (308)
    Mar.    Recording the Poor – From Parish to Workhouse and beyond (203)
    Jun.    Your Military Ancestors (224)
    Jul.     Before the Modern Census – Name-rich sources from 1690 to 1837 (381)
    Sep.    Migration in the British Isles (314)
    Oct.    17th Century Sources (382)
    Jan.    Employment Records (380)

    The alternative route is:

    Mar.   Wills and Administrations; the riches of probate records (205)
    Apr.    Nonconformity – Its Records and History 1600 – 1950 (280)
    Jun.    Victorian Crime and Punishment- Courts, police and prisons (308)
    Aug.   Recording the Poor – From Parish to Workhouse and beyond (203)
    Nov.   Your Military Ancestors (224)
    Jan.   Apprenticeship Records (281)
    Mar.   Before the Modern Census – Name-rich sources from 1690 to 1837 (381)
    Apr.   17th Century Sources (382)
    Jun.   Employment Records (380)
    Sep.   Migration in the British Isles (314)

    This is how courses were scheduled for 2020 and 2021, future order subject to change depending on tutor availability.

    We hope this helps!

  7. Courses Coming in November

    Pharos Courses Coming Soon

    Coming up in November:

    Scotland 1750-1850 – Beyond the Old Parish Registers

    Tutor: Chris Paton
    Start date: 2nd November 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    * COURSE OF THE MONTH *

    This is the second course on Scottish research. If you have not taken Scottish Research Online you may want to check out its description first. This Beyond the Old Parish Registers course is an intermediate level course in Scottish family history for those who are going back beyond 1850. You should have some experience with research in the Old Parish Registers (OPRs) of the Church of Scotland and in using major websites for Scottish research. The course discusses sources that fill the gap when the OPRs are uninformative or missing; for example, records of parish and town administration, occupations, land transfer and taxation. Using these records involves several different locations, and you will learn how to check online finding aids and discover the most effective way to obtain records that may be available both online and offline. Lessons will cover:

    • Kirk Sessions records and parish poor
    • Burgh records and town poor
    • Occupations, taxation and early lists
    • Land transfer and the value of sasines
    • Land, inheritance and estates

     

    Advanced One-Name Studies

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 3rd November 2020
    Course length: 6 weeks

    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.

    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 course and the Practicalities of a One-Name Study course. We strongly advise you to take at least the Introduction to One-Name Studies course before taking this course, even if your one-name study has been running for some time.

    The course includes sections on the theory of one-name studies, a review of current published work on surnames, introduces more complex interdisciplinary analysis, and shows you how to bring your historical skills up to scratch. There is an emphasis on analysing data and synthesis or ‘adding value’ to your results, as well as working towards the publication of your findings.

     

     

  8. Courses coming in October

     

    We have a bumper number of courses starting in October:

    The National Archives Website and Catalogue – Finding People

    Tutor: Guy Grannum
    Start date: 23rd October 2020
    Course length: 3 weeks

    COURSE OF THE MONTH

    The National Archives’ website and catalogues describe more than 20 million documents, and can lead you to information about individual ancestors.

    UK Government records, held at The National Archives (TNA), are a leading resource for genealogists. These are the historical records of a nation through more than a thousand years. They include documents about all parts of the British Isles and all parts of the world where the government had its agents, colonial officials or military forces. Even if you cannot visit TNA in person, there is much to be gained from using TNA online. The lessons cover how to find the most genealogically valuable records and how to search for individuals. You learn what to do next, once you find an interesting listing, and how to discover useful background details about the records. The key to achieving this is navigation skill and you are shown how to navigate around the website. The emphasis is on remote access, how anyone, living anywhere, can make the most of The National Archives website and catalogues.

     

    Are You Sitting Comfortably? Writing and Telling Your Family History

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 5th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks
    Assessed and non-assessed options available

    Writing your family history is the logical step after genealogical research, and sometimes while research is still in progress. To avoid gathering dust, a family story must be written to appeal to a broad spectrum of relatives and readers, to answer questions of relationships and to stimulate the sharing of knowledge. The history of a family blends a range of information: the ancestors and their stories, the places they knew, and the context of contemporary conditions and event. A good story, based on sound research, is a focal point of a family re-union, and it makes a great gift.

    This five-week course begins with advice on making decisions about what to write about, and what to include, and how to make some order out of the potential chaos of information. It goes on to discover the historical context and how to add interest into your story with background about what was happening nationally and locally and how this might have affected your ancestors. It looks at how knowledge about occupations can bring an ancestor to life, and how and why social history helps you to make sense of it all and frame your story. Finally in week five, you will discover how to add photos and other illustrations as well as options for publishing. This course is about acquiring skills that will help you to present your family history in a coherent and interesting way.

    Practicalities of a One Name Study

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 6th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    This new course for 2020 sits between the existing two one-name and surname study courses: Introduction to One-Name Studies (901) and Advanced One-Name Studies (902) and focusses on the practical elements of running a 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 mediums and to give some context to the various considerations they will need to explore.

    Victorian Families – Your Ancestors in the Census

    Tutor: Malcolm Sadler
    Start date: 7th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Victorian ancestors – we all have them but what do we really know about them? Facts from civil registration and the census tell us something, but say little about how they lived. But, interpreting the social and local detail half hidden in these vital documents, bring their lives back to us! This course takes you beyond the facts and explains what census records reveal. The census is a window on the Victorian family and this course helps you take a closer look at life – in fashionable streets, back alleys and the countryside, in large houses, town houses, cottages and tenements. It looks too at food, work, fun, life and death. You will learn to interpret what you have found, get to know your ancestors better, and realize the genealogical value of a close acquaintance with past lives.

    Manorial Records for Family and Local Historians

    Tutor: Sue Adams
    Start date: 12th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks
    Assessed and non-assessed options available

    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. 

    17th Century Sources

    Tutor: Stuart Raymond
    Start date: 14th October 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks
    Assessed and non-assessed options available

    Students completing this course will gain 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. 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. Themes within the course include: the structure of a gentry dominated society, the records created by 17th century civil and ecclesiastical government, and the problems created by the “Commonwealth Gap”. Sources for 17th century research are found in many formats, from original documents to print to microform to digital. This course presents 21st century techniques for finding ancestors in Stuart England and Wales and teaches record interpretation, analysis and planning. 

    Demystifying DNA for Family Historians

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 19th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    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. 

     

     

  9. Lost in Genealogy: Seven Steps to Battling Bias

    This excellent article was written by former Pharos student Dr Sophie Kay. She has kindly allowed us to reproduce it here. Sophie is a professional genealogist at Khronicle. You can find Sophie’s blog here: The Parchment Rustler and follow her on Twitter: @ScientistSoph.

    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.

    Have you guessed the elephant’s name yet…?

    Yes, bias. Bias comes in many forms, but I’m going to focus on cognitive bias here. This occurs when our internal judgments impede rational thought and affect our decision making when we’re interpreting information. So when does this happen and how can we combat it?

    OUR RESEARCH PROCESS

    Most of the time, there is more than one route through a genealogy problem. Each researcher will tackle things in their own way, with a variety of creative approaches often possible. 

    Whatever the route, the fundamentals of the process involve us examining multiple sources. For each of these, we identify what information that document has given us, and assess how much we can trust it. 

    With a multitude of documents in our work, how do we decide which evidence to trust the most? 
    Image credit: Militia return by Liz West, CC-BY 2.0; Birth certificate for Albert Cook by Jez Levy, CC-BY 2.0.

    So every time you look at a document, you’re making a value judgment about its usefulness to determine how it affects the emerging story. These judgments are key to pushing our research forward: they’re a natural part of what we do. Usually, there is no “perfect” way to navigate our decisions either…and sometimes our forebears find ways to surprise us (NOTE: For more about proof, I highly recommend Phil Isherwood’s article).

    But what happens when we make errors of judgment? Perhaps we trust one source more than we should; perhaps we unfairly reject another because we think it doesn’t fit the picture we have in mind. This is where cognitive bias comes into play.

    Cognitive bias takes many forms, but I’m going to focus on two sorts here: confirmation bias, and anchoring. Let’s take a look now at what these are and what they might mean for our genealogy research. 

    CONFIRMATION BIAS

    Confirmation bias arises when our firm beliefs about a person or situation cause us to dismiss evidence which conflicts with those beliefs. This prevents us from making an objective assessment of the evidence. Instead, confirmation bias causes us to seek out information that reinforces our existing beliefs.

    Baptism register entry for a Francis Burdett Nuttall, son of Joseph and Jane Nuttall of Hines, Lancs. This is shown as a photo of the original document.

    Baptism record for Francis Burdett Nuttall, 18 Sept 1861 (indicated by the red arrow).
    Source: Ancestry – Manchester, England, Non-Conformist Births and Baptisms, 1758-1912.

    Take a look at the baptism record above and imagine that you really wanted to discover high-born ancestry, despite having any evidence to suggest this. If you found Francis Burdett Nuttall in your family tree, you might jump at the prospect of him being related to – or even descended from – the line of Burdett baronets. Looking at this through the lens of confirmation bias, you might conclude that the similarity of name was “proof” of a blood connection, rather than exploring other possibilities – such as the parents naming their son after a public figure they had admired.

    Confirmation bias can be a particularly potent distraction in genealogy research. To research the lives of our ancestors, we step from the known into the unknown: throughout this process, we have to generate our own theories which govern what to look for next. We all need ideas to follow up, but we need to be careful that we’re motivated by the evidence in front of us, rather than wanting a particular outcome.

    ANCHORING

    Anchoring bias occurs when you give greater weighting to the first pieces of information gleaned in your research, whether or not they are of good quality. If we happen upon a misleading piece of information early on, it could easily steer us off course.

    For example, think about research using newspapers, where the details included may not always be accurate. If a news article is your first source of a particular “fact”, it has considerable power to lead you astray. Take, for instance, the following news article and imagine that we came to this early in our research, knowing John Walton’s name but little else:

    News article summarising a Juvenile Plundering case in Birkenhead in 1865, discussing a boy John Walton "about 13 years of age".

    Liverpool Mercury, 17 February 1865, page 8. Birkenhead Police Court summary.
    Source: British Newspaper Archive via FindMyPast.

    How might we use this article in our research? We cannot guarantee that it provides a fair representation of the facts. 

    Anchoring might occur if you assumed from this that John was precisely 13 at the time of his trial and refused to consider any alternative ages when running your searches. Anchoring bias can make us blind to other possibilities, perhaps cause us to run too-narrow searches or to discount genuine matches that don’t fit with our early evidence.

    HOW CAN I BATTLE THESE BIASES IN MY OWN GENEALOGY RESEARCH?

    It’s not always a straightforward battle, but the following suggestions may help you break out of the bias bubble:

    1. SLOW DOWN AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXISTENCE OF COGNITIVE BIAS

    This is the absolute first stop on our journey. Each of us, no matter what our level of experience, can fall victim to cognitive bias. By acknowledging this, we are better placed to combat it. Our biases are rarely conscious ones and can be annoyingly difficult to spot. 

    If we’re to call out our biases, then slowing down our pace and questioning our own decisions can be of huge benefit. When we’re hurtling through our research, hot on the trail of a new lead (we’ve all been there), it’s easy to fall into quick decision making without weighing all the evidence. Snap decisions often rely more on “gut feeling” and might allow our biases to sneak in unannounced.

    Once we’ve realised that bias is a universal experience, there are some routes to spotting it, which we’ll delve into now.

    2. TALK TO OTHERS ABOUT YOUR WORK.

    Talking about your process, not just your findings, is one of the most important aspects of beating cognitive bias. Bias thrives on our isolation. Genealogy research frequently occurs within our own little bubble and it’s typically the end findings that we discuss with our nearest and dearest, not the methods or reasoning we used to get there.

    Researching alone – or even in a pair or small group where you may all get stuck in a thinking rut – can entrench our habits and attitudes and cause us to miss things. Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes is what’s needed. Think of it as genealogical peer review.

    Two men are having an animated conversation whilst sitting at a table. One of the men is gesticulating with his hands to make a point.

    Engaging with others about our genealogy research – our thought processes, as well as the story itself, can help our findings to flourish. Photo by Daniel, CC BY-ND 2.0.

    So, whom should you speak to? Your confidant could include a trusted friend or relative who has experience in genealogy. Alternatively, you could join your local family history society to meet others with whom you can discuss your research. If you’re UK-based, you might find the Federation of Family History’s society search facility useful. 

    You might also choose to connect with other researchers via online forums and social media. Draw on these valuable community networks and be prepared to reciprocate too: if someone acts as a sounding board for your research, how about you return the favour for them when they need it?

    3. WRITE UP YOUR RESEARCH.

    When we write up, we draw the separate strands of our research together into a common narrative thread. This is a critical process and requires you to scrutinise your own ideas and methods, and work closely with your notes and sources. This is known as self-reflective practice. 

    Transforming your research notes into a written volume, an article or a blogpost is a crucial phase of self-reflection, forcing us to critique our own work. Photo credits: Pencil notes by Robert of Fairfax, CC BY-NC 2.0; bookshelves by Eltpics, CC BY-NC 2.0.

    Writing up is a great opportunity to spot any errors you might have made. Think of it as a friendly critique of your younger self! 

    Sometimes a project might need time for it to grow to a point where writing up is a viable prospect. Where possible, I’d advise writing up as often as is appropriate, so you can spot any mistakes or missed avenues before you build on your research much further: backtracking then will feel even more painful.

    4. EMBRACE EVIDENCE.

    An empirical (evidence-based) approach can help you to construct a logical argument for why you think the record you’ve found is the right one for the individual you’re researching. Always ask: what’s the evidence for or against this finding? Does it fit with what I already know, or do I need to rethink some aspects of my existing narrative?

    When drawing together multiple sources from several research sessions to make your case, a well-organised system of recording in a research log can assist you in referring to all the relevant documents when you’re drawing your conclusions.

    Example of a handwritten research log, for a researcher investigating William Frazer. Columns include dates, place of research, purpose, call number, source, document number and results. The bottom of the log includes a research question and suggestion, which help to shape the research.

    Example of a handwritten research log – I tend to prefer wider spacing than this so it’s easier on the eye. This is only one example of a log: you can develop a version which works for you. Source: FamilySearch Wiki.

    If you’re new to research logs, then Cyndi’s List has some great resources for you to explore on the subject. Natalie Pithers of Genealogy Stories has also written a great overview of logs and why you need them on her blog.

    5. BEWARE ANCHORING FROM ORAL HISTORIES

    Oral histories (evidence drawn from conversations rather than written documents) are typically a first port of call in our genealogical journey. How many of us started our family history journey by talking to our older relatives? Conversations can be a rich source of information about our forebears, but are unlikely to be 100% accurate. The nature of oral histories as a frequent starting point makes them a particular source of anchoring bias.

    For instance, I’ve encountered cases where someone was adamant they knew their mother-in-law’s maiden name, but in fact got it completely wrong; cases where a family story about a particular religious affiliation turned out to have no basis in fact; and stories of connections to famous people which weren’t true at all. So as with all our research, BE CRITICAL!

              Oral histories can be an amazing source of information, but also a major source of anchoring bias. Photo credits: Whisper by ElizaC3, CC BY 2.0; Anchor by Phong6698, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

    Once you’ve recorded the oral history you’ve taken from a relative, try asking yourself: “What does this oral history suggest I should look at?” followed by, “If some of these ideas are inaccurate, what are my alternatives?” This way, you’ll have a Plan B in mind from the start and might be less likely to be derailed by misinformation.

    Be especially careful not to assume all information you’re told is accurate. Use it as a guideline to suggest research directions, but don’t assume that it provides the complete picture.

    6. CELEBRATE CONTEXT

    Ask “what are my blind spots?” and approach genealogy as a perpetual learner. Delve into some background reading about the era and place that you’re researching; understand the provenance of the record sets you work with. Appreciating context in this way will really improve your judgments when navigating the records.

    7. PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE

    The final step in battling our biases is to continue on our research journey with these bias-battling tools in mind. There is no quick, one-stop fix for cognitive bias, but over time you can train yourself to spot when it’s happening. 

    It’s a reassuring thought that, whatever level of experience we bring to our genealogy research today, we’re all learning as we go. The more secure you become in your genealogical technique, the better equipped you’ll be to address bias in your own practice – as well as helping friends and acquaintances with theirs!

    Try some of the suggestions above and you’ll find that bias-battling gets easier with time. Critiquing our own work can help our research to flourish, gifting us family history stories that we’ll enjoy sharing with our families and descendants for many years to come. 

    WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE?

    Do you have any favourite bias-battling approaches or advice you’d like to offer to your fellow genealogists? Or perhaps you’d like to share your own experience of being led astray by bias? Post your tips and stories in the comments below and perhaps you’ll help others avoid the pitfalls of the genealogical elephant in the room…!

    FURTHER READING

    If you enjoyed reading about cognitive bias and what it might mean for your genealogy research, then I’d highly recommend the following articles and resources for further reading.

    BOOK: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This bestselling book comes from one of the original academics to identify and characterise cognitive bias – it’s a great introduction to the major concepts.

    BOOK: History in Practice by Ludmilla Jordanova. Chapter 5, on “The Status of Historical Knowledge”, provides a great overview of the reasoning processes that underpin historical research.

    ARTICLE: Confirmation Bias and the Power of Disconfirming Evidence by the Farnam Street blog. Their Mental Models page, which provides more information about cognitive biases and how to challenge them, is also worth a look.

    ARTICLE: The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain. Ben Yagoda’s article for The Atlantic looks at some of the history of our awareness of cognitive bias and studies on how we might unseat it.

  10. Courses coming in September

     

    Will you be raring to get back to study in September? We have plenty of courses coming up next month to whet your appetite:

    First Steps to a One-Place Study

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 2nd September 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    This is a BRAND NEW COURSE on One-Place Studies.

    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. There is some focus on British sources but the techniques described should be applicable to studies world-wide.

    Organizing Your Genealogy

    Tutor: Barbara Baker
    Start date: 7th September 2020
    Course length: 3 weeks

    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.

    Old Handwriting for Family Historians

    Tutor: Susan Moore
    Start date: 10th September 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Old handwriting, or palaeography, often presents difficulties for family historians. This course takes a practical approach to reading and transcribing old handwriting, focusing on Secretary Hand, a commonly used form during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Family historians will come across Secretary Hand in many types of documents such as parish registers and wills and inventories. The course aims to equip students with their own set of steps to successful transcription, as well as provide insights into the development of Secretary Hand.

    The course is an advanced course working with documents from the 17th century and is most suitable for all those who already have some understanding and practice with old handwriting in their own family history research.

    SET BOOKS:
    There is a set book which accompanies this course. Students are asked to purchase A Secretary Hand ABC Book by Alf Ison before the course starts. 

    Professional Genealogist – Become one, become a better one

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 14th September 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Do you have ambition to become a professional genealogist? Have you already started taking on clients but are looking for guidance or want to check you have thought of everything? Whether you are already researching for clients or planning to do so, this 4 week professional genealogist course guides you through the professional skills that form the foundation for success.

    This course was developed in association with the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA), the professional body for genealogists in England and Wales, and includes guidance on what AGRA requires of its members and the application process.

    The course begins by considering how professional research differs from personal research with a focus on standards for research, analysis and reporting. We move onto education options, membership of professional bodies and handling client enquiries. Equally important are the business skills that contribute to success. Topics in this segment of the course include advice on managing your office, UK regulations for the self-employed and costs and pricing. Another section of the course presents advice about the ways professional genealogists can stay current with new developments, with advice on the advantages of diversifying into writing and lecturing. We conclude with a practical guide to marketing your business and yourself.

    Researching in Archives for Advanced Genealogists

    Tutor: Simon Fowler 
    Start date: 29th September 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Moving from online records to researching in archives can be a daunting prospect. However, with such a small proportion of records available online, the serious researcher must make use of all repositories available to him. 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 cataloging process and the way archives are arranged and described. You will learn where to find national, local and specialist collections, and 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 be introduced to conservation and access issues for fragile documents and get practice finding the documents you are looking for.