Family History

A lot of my time is taken up with family history research. About three years ago (2007), various inspirations combined to set me on an eternal journey of discovery about my ancestors. The things that pushed/pulled me were:

Three years on (November 2010), and I have spent many nights (and early hours) deciphering old documents and piecing together the mysteries of various families. My own family tree extends for many generations, one line back to the 1500s – thanks, in part, to the hard work of another genealogist. The detective work is so enjoyable, I have done research for several other people and picked up a few projects just because they aroused my curiosity.

Earlier this year, I did an Open University course: Start Writing Family History, in the hope of being able to put my research skills to good use (like earning some money). There were various ‘Start Writing’ courses on offer when I enrolled, but now only two are left, see: Start Writing. The Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education course: The Essential Guide to Family History was what I really wanted to do. It was in five modules, including one on maps and surveys for family history (maps being one of my other passions), but at £165 per module, I couldn’t afford it and now the course is no longer available.

For the final essay on the Start Writing course, I focussed on one of my ancestors who appeared to have endured significant hardship, and whose story was tantalisingly partially revealed (thereby posing more questions than were answered, as usual) by an astonishing discovery at The Old Bailey Online. The Old Bailey is one of the amazing resources now available online – the proceedings of London’s central criminal court, from 1674 to 1913, are now available to search and view absolutely free.

Another excellent resource is FreeBMD, a volunteer project to transcribe the civil registration indexes of births, marriages and deaths and make them available completely free online. Work is ongoing, and information about which records have been transcribed is available on the website. Births, for example, are virtually complete from 1837 (when civil registration started) up to 1932. Similar projects are in progress for the census: FreeCEN, and parish registers: FreeREG. Although I have a paid subscription with Ancestry, I do use FreeBMD often – the search facility is better at refining the results to the criteria specified.

Ann Frasier 1845-1919: A Case Study of East End Life

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