So you want to be a professional genealogist?

Archives - Photo: Marino González via Creative Commons

Archives – Photo: Marino González via Creative Commons

I’m not a professional genealogist.

My interest in researching was fuelled by my love of Victorian photography and a hand-drawn tree that both showed my father and I people we’d never heard of, and so my interest for family history was ignited.

But whilst there are many large online family history websites like Ancestry, FindMyPast etc, there are also thousands of individual professional genealogists who work with people to uncover their family stories.

So far, I’ve not wanted to be one of those. Mainly because I just enjoy researching my own tree, and I wanted to do it however and whenever it interested me, and without a deadline. I’ve turned what have been hobbies into jobs before, and eventually for me, it has taken the fun out of it.

So, I’m curious as to why and how other people became professionals genealogists.

What better way to find out, than to ask two tame experts: Pam Smith, and Mark Daly.

Q1: How did you first get interested in genealogy?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: I’ve always taken a curious interest in family matters. Who? Why? What? Where? and When? whether  the living wanted to tell me or not!

Roger Stonebanks, a journalist and author came searching for the family of Albert (Ginger) Goodwin, Miner 1887-1918 who’s death/murder (which ever way you want to look at it) started Canada’s first general strike.

The family history evidence in Roger’s book Fighting for Dignity –  The Ginger Goodwin Story was the catalyst which ignited my interest.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: Procrastination and avoidance. It was 1993, I was 22 and only a few weeks away from my final Law exams. My addled brain needed distraction and it seemed the obvious moment to start investigating my roots!

Often when I visited my Yorkshire and Staffordshire grandparents and great aunties as a child, they would give me something related to the family’s history such as a set of medals, an army cap badge, some old documents or an entire Royal commemorative china set, normally with the aside “Eee, I’m not long for this life, you ought to have this” and a conspiratorial wink. I was made the adolescent custodian of these objects of fascination and working out who they belonged to, as a young adult, seemed the next sensible step.

Genealogy was largely still the preserve of the retired, researching notable ancestors, and the Internet as a research tool did not yet exist. Despite this, and the laborious process of manually searching thorough heavy registers of BMDs and unindexed censuses on microfilm in the dark basements of government buildings, I became hooked. My legal training suited the research process and I suddenly had a vehicle to explore periods in history, through the stories of real people.

The initial research into my roots proved unexceptional but after years of sticking with it, the past began to yield its secrets and its characters.

Q2: What made you decide to research other people’s families and turn it into a professional career?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: I began a course of education, firstly with WEA and the IHGS which made the archives my second home. Speaking about genealogy to local groups became second nature and word of mouth spread fast.

Queries started coming in and I realised there was potential to make an income from what came naturally to me i.e. an inquisitive mind and a passion for historical documentary evidence.

There is fulfilment and reward in taking a client step by step through their family history. The joy of discovery experienced by them, makes it all worthwhile.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: I started doing research for friends, in order to learn more, to make people aware of what could be discovered, to feed my genealogy addiction and to satisfy my ‘family tree envy’. I was still wading through my own coal miners and ag labs at that stage and so others’ roots seemed far more romantic or exotic. I particularly enjoyed researching stories of foreign roots, migration, diasporas, adventurers, people displaced by war and famine, anything with a cultural shift. Foreign languages felt like a challenge rather than a barrier and these stories with a foreign element remain one of my specialisms as a professional genealogist.

I continued like that for the next 20 years, as a sort of paying hobby, learning as I went along, fitting it around the day job as a lawyer. I then set up my own business as a legal translator and this gave me the flexibility to go professional with the genealogy.

Q3: What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of becoming a professional genealogist?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: Initially, undertake at least three courses:

  1. An academic course on the types of records available and how to use them.
  2. How to become a Professional Genealogist.
  3. Genealogical Report Writing.

Join a Professional Body, advertise and network with colleagues. Genealogy can be a solitary pursuit and it is essential to build relationships and leave your computer every now and then to maintain a sense of reality with the outside world.

Make Continued Professional Development (CPD) a life choice. Be an eternal student.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: For those with an existing job, start gradually. Do research for friends as a freebie but treat them as you would third-party clients: at the outset, give them a written description of what you will be doing and what they can expect; for the research, produce a well-drafted, fully-evidenced report; and finish off the job with an invoice (albeit for £0). As you get more confident and your name is passed around, you can follow this same procedure but finish with invoices that begin to reflect your worth.

Whether you are considering genealogy as a first career or a gradual switch from an existing one, academic study is invaluable. There are an increasing number of providers of courses. The Society of Genealogists  runs some excellent short courses and the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Strathclyde University and Dundee University provide longer courses.

Joining a body such as the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives as an associate is also a great way to meet fellow professionals once you have reached an assessable level of expertise and have decided to go professional.

Q4: What has been the most memorable life story that you’ve helped to uncover for a client?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: Settling an argument between two elderly and warring cousins over the accuracy of their claims and links to an ancestor who was a famous author.

Although the outcome was not palatable to one, my client was justified in his account of events backed up by the evidence I provided.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: I have done lots of research for television companies in the UK and the States and it is always satisfying to see your name in lights, not least to add some respectability to the profession that is genealogy. That said, it is still the private client work that is the most satisfying, especially when it relates to a person’s very identity (adoption, separation, etc.).

One case earlier this year was particularly rewarding: a lady, Ruth, in her 90s had been searching for over 70 years to establish who she was. She had grown up in an East End orphanage and was never informed of the name she was given when she was born or the identity of her parents. Other than her children, she had no family and no roots and had spent decades contacting different bodies and trying different researchers, in an attempt to work out who she was. The local authority had provided scant information and had told her that nothing more could be found or done. Assuming this to be a workhouse story, I trawled the categories of records that could relate to her time in care, such as workhouse registers and minute books, infirmary records, local schools and the orphanage itself. The exercise was complicated by the ever-changing London boroughs that had responsibility for different bodies at different times.

Most of these records were closed, so I used a Freedom of Information Act request. Within a few days, and after some thorough checks by the London Metropolitan Archives, I received 50 pages of documents relating to Miriam’s time in the orphanage. One of those 50 pages contained a single, vital piece of information, that the Ruth’s birth mother had been divorced by her husband four years before. Despite some confusion over the name of the mother, this led me to the mother’s divorce records at the National Archives which gave me her maiden name. With this, I was able to find Ruth’s own birth certificate, registered under a different first name and with her birth mother’s maiden name.

Although Miriam is now very frail, the break-through was delivered to her by her daughter over the summer, along with the news that I had found two nephews who were still alive. Researching aristocratic families in the English Civil War and Polish families captured by Soviet Russia is fascinating stuff but it doesn’t get much better than being able to tell Ruth who she is after 70 years of searching.

Still want to be a professional genealogist?

Becoming a professional sounds like a lot of fun, rewarding, and interesting hard work to me, but I’m happy to keep it as my go-to hobby.

How about you? Are you inspired after reading Pam and Mark’s answers? Or are you like me and enjoy keeping the casual nature of it?

Huge thanks to both Mark and Pam for taking time out (ages ago!) to answer my questions. If you’re interested in contacting either, you can of course find them online at:

Pam: / @genejean

Mark: / @theTimeSleuths


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Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 Ticket Discount Offer

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 ticket website

Enter code AM24 to get 2 tickets for £24.00

I’m looking forward to next week’s WDYTYA? Live show next week – which I’ll be at for all three days.

The WDYTYALive? team have kindly given me a special discount code to pass on to you – meaning you can get 2 tickets for just £24.

If you’re not sure about attending, I can say that I honestly know exactly how you feel.

It took me a few years to want to come to such an event – I was confused as to why I would want to come to a large London-based building (as it was), to see/hear/talk about something to do with the TV show. As usual, curiosity got the better of me though, and I’m grateful of it.

In the few years that I’ve been attending, I’ve since found the event a wholy enjoyable experience – where I learn so much, discover some great resources and tips from those who have been researching for much longer than I have, and get to meet and learn about great new innovations and record sets from a wide range of large and small companies.

Add to this, the means of meeting up with fellow bloggers and genealogy twitter users.

It’s since become a genuine highlight of my genealogy and actually, my social calendar.

So, if Who Do You Think You Are? Live is teasing your curiosity – go on, give it a go.

You can use this discount code AM24 at the WDYTYA? Live ticket site. Just enter it in the ‘Code’ box near the top of the screen, click ‘Use Code’. Then scroll down a little, and you’ll see that the option to buy ‘Adult 2 for £24’. Select ‘2’ and then you can complete the payment as usual.


Thanks to the WDYTYA Live team for this offer, and I hope to see some of you at the show.


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Reluctant Roots: Those who just don’t want to know

I was driving home on Wednesday with the radio on, when I heard the familiar Who Do You Think You Are? theme. This of course, prompted me to turn the radio up instantly.

Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor at BBC Radio 4

I was listening to BBC Radio 4‘s Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor, a show that I often listen to on a Wednesday afternoon.

He was talking to Professor Janice McLaughlin about paediatric genetics and her research study published recently as ‘Family Ties in Genes and Stories: The importance of value and recognition in the narratives people tell of family‘.

I was amused at Laurie’s comment about the popularity of the many people who research their family tree ‘even if they do so at the cost of ignoring their living relatives’ (I’m conscious of this situation)!

The segment only lasts 11 minutes, but I thought it was fascinating enough to share here – to hear about those people who DON’T want to discover their family’s past, and their reasons why.

Sometimes those reasons were because they didn’t want to ‘reconnect’ with disreputable family members in the past, as they’d put in a lot of effort to distance and better themselves and their own family.

Here’s a link to the episode (there might be geo-specific restrictions)

Have you ever reached out to a relative who specifically tells you that they don’t want to know about their family’s past?

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Relationship Calculator

I often get emails in response to my website or this blog, or through sites like Ancestry, from distant relatives. Naturally I am fascinated to work out the relationship between us, but it can be really tricky to do so.

Probably like a few of you this long Easter weekend, you’ll be spending time with family, and inevitably talking about ‘the tree’. My mother often asks if i’ve discovered anything new, but I often watch her eyes glaze over as she gets lost after about the third step when I’m trying to describe how one of those distant relatives is related.

A couple of days ago, Mark Subel from the team over at Crestleaf, sent me a handy chart that helps make it clearer, so I thought I’d share this with you here to help you overcome those glazed eye responses too…

Crest leaf Family Relationship Chart

Print it out, pin it, stick it your fridge, or save it to your iPad (i’ll be doing that for Who Do You Think You Are? Live in a couple of weeks).

You can right click the image above, or download it (588Kb) here.

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Preparing for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

My tickets arrived this morning for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 – the first at the NEC, Birmingham. 

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 tickets arrive

My WDYTYA? Live tickets have arrived.

I’ve opted for all three days Thursday-Saturday 16-18th April, but have not yet completely picked out the expert talks from the wide range of workshop topics that are up this year.

I do have my eye on a few though, including:

I’ve also opted to stay in nearby Coventry, so will be hopping onto the train for a few minutes east > west each day.

I do have a few ‘to-dos’ though:

  • Sync the Reunion10 files on my iPad. I found this so useful last year, when I was able to talk to the Devon Family History Society, and compare what was in their database with what was in my tree without folders of papers to wade through.
  • Collect a spoon from my mother. Yes, a spoon. I’m hoping to show this spoon to Eric Knowles, in a bid that he might use his expertise to give it a date that may reveal that it is more likely to be one of the spoons that an ancestor went to court over, after being accused of theft, and was found not guilty by a jury because of conflicting evidence. Does this carefully handed-down spoon have significance. More on that after the show!

If you’re going to the show (tickets still seem to be available), how are your preparations coming along? Any workshops that you’re interested in attending? Or maybe you’re one of the presenters – in which case, are you ready?

I’m also really looking forward to re-connecting with those people who I’ve met at previous shows, and who i’ve enjoyed the discussions and witty comments from on this blog and other social media. The event really helps to make that spare room hobby, feel like part of a combined effort to preserve the history, heritage, and collective memories of generations.

For now though, happy tree surgery!


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A world looking in: how a cousin’s photograph collection can boost your research

With today’s culture somewhat obsessed with taking ‘selfies’ or photographs of their dinner, or their cat (i admit i’m guilty of all three), it makes me wonder how this might affect photography’s role in genealogy research in the future.

Might we find in the future that there’s billions of collections of 10,000 photographs of the same one person, and no-one else?

This week, I experienced the delightful feeling of opening up an envelope and finding 16 photographs tumble out onto my desk. Not only was this somewhat un-expected, but not one of those photographs was familiar, and there are at least 9 people who I’ve never seen in a photograph before.

Collection of photographs on a desk

Some of the 16 photographs that were kindly sent to me.

This example reminded me of the importance of looking for photographs whilst researching.

And, it reminded me that while our own ancestors or relatives were often busy holding the camera and taking photographs of things that were new, or of special occasions, they were generally not taking selfies.

This seems to be reflected in the photo albums I have. Why would they fill a photo album of photographs of themselves? They would rather have photographs of people they knew, including neighbours, friends… and those all important relatives.

Having seen this in the albums in my custody, i realised that the photo albums of cousins may well be the same, but featuring photographs that their ancestors had taken at special occasions. So, like my branch looked into their world through a lens, their world was busy looking in on my branch, and often at the same occasion – giving you a potentially fuller photographic record.

So, to discover more photos of your family branch, reach out to those cousins near and distant, and see what snaps they have. This is one of my 2015 Genealogy Resolutions (and was also one in 2014).

It was a handwritten tree and a single photograph of two adults with a horse and cart, that sparked my interest in genealogy. Since then, I’ve been lucky to have found a vast wealth of family images reaching back to the late 19th century.

This isn’t the first time that a cousin’s photographs have helped to expand my research.

A couple of years back, one of my Cooper family cousins solved a puzzle of a crudely cropped photograph, and in doing so, changed the identity of the man in the piece of photo I had.

Originally, the man below was ‘Charles Newman‘, my Great Great Great Grandfather, but tantalisingly there’s someone else in the image who has been cropped out.

John Cooper cropped image

‘Charles Newman’ in the cropped photograph…

Two years later, cousin Evol Laing, who discovered me online, revealed the rest of the image, changing his identity completely to John Cooper, and showing his sons Alfred, John and Harry. She also had other photographs to back this claim up, and a wealth of photos from the Cooper family.  The connection between Newman and Cooper? Well, the ‘Charles Newman’ had a daughter-in-law named Harriet Cooper. John was her brother.

John Cooper with his sons

John Cooper (seated) with sons (L-R) Harry, Alfred, and John.

My scanner hasn’t been this busy since my first year of genealogy research, where I scanned dozens and dozens of images from my Martin and Dewey families.

I’m now back on the photograph trail, and hopefully will be able to tick off that Genealogy Resolution for 2015.

Happy tree climbing,


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Happy 120th Birthday Ethel

Today would have been the 120th birthday of my Great Great Aunt Ethel May Martin.

Ethel May Martin with bike circa 1908

Ethel May Everitt (née Martin) with bike circa 1908.

I sadly never met her, but her memories were able to feed in to my early family history research, via phone calls to my father’s uncle and my 1st Cousin twice removed, and verbally to my own uncle. She also had a huge box of family photos, stretching back to her own childhood, and a few of those family members from earlier generations.

She died on 4th June 1999 at the age of 104.

Ethel May Martin was born on 28th January 1895, in the fenland to the North West of the village of Little Downham, Cambridgeshire, England. She was the penultimate and eleventh child of railway platelayer, James Martin, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Giddings.

When she reached 101, she was featured in local newspaper, The Ely Standard. In their piece, she explained that she was born during a severe snow blizzard.

“When I was born, my father had to walk through the snow storm to fetch the doctor”.

“My father came back and had to sit by the fire to thaw the icicles which had formed on his whiskers. The doctor then arrived on horseback.”

The article also sees Ethel recall that ‘one of her earliest memories is playing in a garden with a skipping rope with her brothers around her’.

In her working life, Ethel appears as a Domestic Servant in 1911, living at home on census night. She went on to work in domestic service in Littleport, Ely, and London, often alongside her older sister Rose, before returning to care for her elderly mother. Her first annual wage was £6.

She also spent some time working as a fruit picker, before marrying Ebenezer Everitt on Christmas Eve 1931.

The couple had one daughter.

Without Ethel’s memories, writings, and photograph collection, my family tree research may never have grown green shoots.

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FindMyPast adds Hints to their tree builder

Find My Past logo

New functionality has entered into Beta on the FindMyPast website that suddenly makes their Tree Builder much more useful – Hints have been added.

Those of you who have used another popular online tree builder will know, Hints aren’t new, so rather than strain my brain over the ‘what took you so long’ bit, I thought that I would take a look at this new functionality.

If you’ve already found the Tree Builder on FindMyPast, then you’ll know just how crisp and uncluttered it is. I was pleased when the new tree builder was unveiled at the 2014 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show. Now, the added Hints feel like they are going to help you discover what’s in the billions of records that the team at FMP have been adding recently.

Hints should make this easier – sifting through records for you (although of course, always go looking too!), and these will no doubt encourage you to grow your tree.

Family tree showing FindMyPast Hints

Hints appear clearly in orange circles on your tree and in profile views.

In my test run, I found the hints to be very clearly indicated (an orange circle with a number suggesting the number of matching Hints).

These appear in a number of places, ranging from the tree itself, to the Profile Page of your relative:

FindMyPast Profile Page with Hints

Beta Hints appear within the Profile Pages of relatives.

..and they appear on the Profile Summary (when you click on a linked relative for example):

FindMyPast Hints on Profile Summary

Beta Hints are everywhere. You can’t miss them.

When you click through on the Hints you get a nice visual style to show you what type and some basic details before you decide to click for more information, or click to accept, maybe, or reject it.

FindMyPast Beta Hints results

The new Beta Hints continue the high visual style of the FindMyPast tree builder.

I’m pleased to see Hints reach Beta. As someone who has spent a lot of time using FindMyPast and Ancestry, I know that the Hints on the latter have been very useful.

I’ve already uncovered a few new things whilst playing around with the new tree builder and the hint suggestions. Therefore, I’m looking forward to continuing this, to see how they can help me further explore their ever expanding range of data sets on FindMyPast.

What I can’t tell yet, is whether these Hints will ever alert me to the appearances of my relatives in other FindMyPast trees.

That, in Ancestry, has been available for ages, but whilst that allows members to connect and build upon their family knowledge, it has also helped others to ‘rob’ and ‘butcher’ family trees, allowing me to see information that is complete rubbish – along the likes of how a grandfather, who lived all his life in one place in an English county, and whom I knew well, had spent 40yrs living in Indiana, married 3 times, appeared on the correct 1881 UK census, but which was listed as a UK village, in a  UK county, in England but which in turn is situated within Detroit.

Will FindMyPast go down this route? I’d like to think they won’t. Ancestry’s hints have already alerted me to too many rotten trees out there, with swathes of nonsense information that’s all too easily and/or accidentally just one click away to being added to your own nurtured mighty oak.

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Fruit picking in Witchford orchards

Highlighting my love of using newspapers in research, I found this article on fruit picking in the orchards of Dan Ward in Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.

Whilst it contains a nice insight into village life and agriculture, it includes photos of, and quotes from, my Great Grandmother Louisa Pope, and her youngest daughter Audrey Giddens. So, here it is 54 years on, re-created for the web, with original headline. It was published in the Saturday Pictoral on July 29, 1961.

It’s a ‘plum’ job but you need a head for heights

Mrs M Coe with ladder

Mrs. M. Coe shoulders her ladder and sets off to start picking another tree.

In the last fortnight the fruit picking scene in the Fens has changed. Changed from the back aching grind of strawberry picking to the arm stretching task of plum picking.

So drastic has been the change, that in parts of the Fens growers were gathering in the first part of the plum harvest at the same time as Wisbech growers were finishing off ‘the straws’.

In the most southerly parts of the Isle, fruit growers have been picking plums earlier than ever before. Not only have they completed the programme of early varieties but they are well ahead of schedule with the Czars as well.

Full gang

Dan Ward inspects a plum crop

Bowls player and Special Constable, Mr Dan Ward checks over the crop.

“This year is even early by our standards”, explained Mr Dan Ward of Witchford – certainly the ‘Little Kent’ of the Fens. “We have got all the Rivers Early and some of the Pershores off and now we are well on the way with the Czars – a later variety – and by Monday we should have a full gang of about 30 on the gardens”.

But although the plums have come early in the Witchford gardens – the locals use this term instead of orchard – the crops are not as heavy as they might be. Whereas, Mr. Ward has had 40 or more pickers in other years, he will be able to make do with far less this season.

But that does not take the shine off the crops for the pickers for plum picking is obviously a time of year that they look forward to very much. When we called in at the Ward farm this week we saw them busy at it and obviously enjoying every minute of it.

But it is only at Dan Ward’s that the Witchford people get the chance to do any amount of plum pulling. There is hardly another big orchard in the district – the next nearest centre being at Wilburton. I asked Mr. Ward how he came to be a fruit grower in such an area.

“As long as people can remember the Ward family have been growing fruit in Witchford”, he explained. “My grandfather and father before owned the gardens that I have now. I think that the industry must go back more than one hundred years in fact”. Despite the fact that the land has been in the Ward family all this time, most of the trees in the orchard are young. Mr. Ward went on to explain that he has replanted several acres – getting the trees from the Wisbech area.

Not only the trees but the end product as well have connections with Wisbech. Much of the fruit comes to Wisbech before being shipped off to various markets.

Having so many plum trees in an area where fruit growing is not regarded as a major industry could present problems to some people – but not to Mr. Ward. The organisation during the peak season at Witchford is equally as good as that at Wisbech and he has his own regular pickers who come each year to tackle the crop for him.

Louisa Pope picking plums at Witchford.

Mrs. L. Pope may not look a bit of her eighty years but as she says – “you are as young as you feel and if you keep working you always feel young”. She has been working on the Ward’s fruit farms for over 50 years and really enjoys the plum picking season.

One of them is Mrs. L Pope – who has been working in the plum gardens for over 50 years. Mrs. Pope picked from the ladders at the tops of the swaying trees last year and quite expects to repeat the performance during the next few weeks. She claims that it is the outdoor life and plenty of work which keeps her looking fit and young – she is actually over 80.


One of her daughters, Mrs. A Giddens, is following in her footsteps. As Mrs. Pope was picking from the ground when we were there, Mrs Giddens was towering above her on one of the ladders.

Audrey Giddens on a ladder, picking plums.

Mrs. A. Giddens reaches high for plums. This sort of work gives the women of Witchford a good head for heights and a chance to get out in the open air.

Monday will see the season rise to its heights. Pickers, baskets and plums will pour in and out of Dan Ward’s gardens and Witchford produce will take its place beside fruit from all other parts of the country in the nation’s major markets. So keeping up a centry-long tradition in the Ward family.

A group of plum pickers at Witchford, Cambridgeshire, in 1961.

When dinner time rolls round the workers take things easy. They find a bit of shade and have a nice quiet drink and a rest. Within minutes of this picture being taken, they were all swarming up the trees again.


Saturday Pictoral, July 29, 1961 – Denis Chamberlain
Pictures taken by staffman Harry Naylor.

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My Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2015

For a couple of years now, I’ve been setting myself some ‘Genealogy Resolutions’ – some to-dos, tasks, brick walls – all challenges for me to try to solve in the following 12 months.

Whilst i’ve already summarised my progress of 2014’s resolutions, here’s my 2015 ones…

1. Source and scan even more photographs

iPhoto showing Faces of ancestors I've scanned

My iPhoto is already home to 258 relative faces.

I just about managed to get a few more photographs in 2014, but not the specific ones I wanted – namely of my great grandmother’s Gilbert family, and in particular of her wedding in 1909. I didn’t even get round to writing to that part of the family to ask them if they had copies of the images.

So, in 2015, this will be my first mission. Also, my father’s oldest brother has contact with his aunt still, and this connection had previously given me access to a wide range of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian Martin family photographs.

Back in 1995 when I first saw these images, I had to pick and choose which photographs to borrow, have sent away to have negatives made for, and then printed. Scanners were not cheap or readily available for home use. But now… there should be no stopping me making high resolution scans of all of the images I can lay my hands on.

2. ‘Kill off’ Mary Clarke

For those who have been reading a while, you might have seen me refer to an ‘evil’ gtxX grandmother Mary Bailey (née Clarke) who just seems to have dodged dying for a long time. After her stints in prison for child abuse, neglect, and cruelty of her step-children, and a few stints in the workhouse too, I have failed to find her death.

One clue has arisen – leading me several miles off piste in Suffolk, that might pitch her as dying near Lowestoft in Oulton Union Workhouse. If that is the case, then she may now be buried beneath or amongst a housing estate.

I’ll order the certificate, and if that fails, I may well be calling upon the paid services of a researcher to hunt this ancestor down. I’m determined to kill off Mary.

3. Delve into new record sets

A few days ago I wrote about feeling overwhelmed by the vast avalanche of records that are being made available – millions of new bits of data are out there, and it’s made me feel like I need to climb back down my family tree, and then learn to climb it again – looking for every new detail.

Mrs Alma Marchant with children from Wilburton Primary School, c.1904.

Mrs Alma Marchant with children from Wilburton Primary School, c.1904. My Great Grandmother Maude Yarrow is 5th from left, on the second row from the back.

I aim to go back and explore School Records and Wills more in 2015 for relatives much closer, as well as continue my research in newspapers – which has given me some real delights through 2014.

What would also be great, would be to find some records for Market Traders in Cambridge, Brewery Records for a pub that my ancestor ran in Ely in the 1890s,  and Great Eastern Railways records detailing the tragic accident that killed my Martin ancestor in 1868.

4. Write more

It’s been on my mind for ages now. Whilst some not-even-half-baked scrappy attempts at starting off some writing sits in various text editor programmes and apps, I’m not much further forward on the whole approach.

Juan de la Cosa's World Chart - from Dorling Kindersley's GREAT MAPS book

Dorling Kindersley’s ‘Great Maps’ book takes their highly visual approach – something that appeals to me… but does it work for genealogy?

Part of me wants it to be something very visual almost like a coffee table styled Dorling Kindersley visual encyclopaedia (as it was an old draw-out tree and a set of Victorian photographs that lured me into genealogy back in 1995), but part of me wants it to be more novelised so that I can flesh out context and livelihoods, whilst another part of me wants to write it as a more factual biography.

I want my effort to be read, but also to be interesting to those who have a casual interest in genealogy and perhaps not in the specific families I’ve researched. Deciding the angle to the writing is more of a challenge than deciding what goes in it.

5. Complete Simpson Bishop’s timeline

2014 led me to discover that a branch of the family that I had believed had remained in the village of Wicken, Cambridgeshire throughout their life, had actually shifted up to Lancashire to work in the cotton mills. This then led to the revelation that there were also two more wives, and two more children (at least) that I’d never known about.

Simpson Bishop‘s story expanded considerably, and it’s not finished yet. Why was he living near, but separately, from his third wife Sarah Washington (née Brown) in 1871 and 1881? What became of him and his wife after 1881? Did they divorce? Did Simpson die up in Lancashire or did he return back to Wicken (or somewhere else) to end his days?

A few more certificates and rummages should hopefully bring a conclusion to this surprise 2014 revelation.

What are your Genealogy Resolutions for 2015?

This is my third year of setting Genealogy Resolutions, and I find it quite fun to see whether I manage to solve these or even just progress them a little further each year.

How about setting yourself some too?

Leave your resolutions or links to your blogged/Google+’d resolutions in the comments below and let’s check back in 2016 to see how we got on.

Happy New Year!


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