28 November 2021
Enjoy a whole month dedicated to you and your family history research with our month-long programme, full of ideas for helping you look at your family tree with fresh eyes and discover new skills.
Let's get started...
DAY 1: Discovery catalogue
Familiarise yourself with the National Archives Discovery catalogue - your gateway to millions of records. This online catalogue holds more than 32 million record descriptions, with details of which of the UK's 2,500 archives holds these (9 million of these records are available as downloads).
If you'd like to find out what records a particular archive holds you can search by repository or town, or alternatively enter keywords into the main search box on the home page and use 'advanced search' to set date ranges, exclude certain words and quote document reference numbers.
DAY 2: Surname origins
If you've hit a brick wall with a particular ancestor or branch of your family, point yourself in the direction of further clues by researching the origins of that surname.
By discovering the regions where the name is concentrated you may find new leads, different variations in spelling (allowing you to search indexes more widely) or even that someone has researched a branch of your family as part of a project.
The Guild of One-Name Studies website offers a great introduction to this field of study.
DAY 3: Abbreviations
Bring yourself up to speed with commonly used abbreviations on family history documents. Not only will you increase your understanding of documents you come across, you can also use your new-found knowledge when writing in your own research log and adding new ancestors to your tree, saving space and time. Learn more at RootsWeb.
DAY 4: Explore new records
Make this the day you find a new type of record that could take your research in a whole new direction. It's easy to get into the routine of using the census, births, marriages and death records and parish records, and while these are invaluable, there are many hundreds of other resources out there.
The A to Z index of the National Archives' Discovery catalogue (see day 1) is a good place to start, with lots of ideas to inspire you and records on subjects ranging from bankruptcy to the bomb census.
DAY 5: Take an online course
Would you like to improve your family history knowledge but don't have time to attend a regular class? Why not consider online learning?
There are hundreds of classes available, many of which can be taken at a time to suit you. A great starting point is the Federation of Family History Societies which has a run-down of lots of different options, including individual lectures, podcasts and postgraduate study.
DAY 6: Find out how to care for your old photos
Give your most precious old photos some TLC by reviewing how they are stored, and restoring any that have been damaged. Photographs should always be displayed and stored using acid-free materials (such as album pages and tissue paper) only. If you decide to restore a cracked, torn or faded photo, ensure you entrust your precious image to a trusted professional.
Some record offices and archives offer a restoration service, including West Sussex Record Office and West Yorkshire Archive Service.
DAY 7: Learn the basics of paleography
Once your research takes you beyond the census and BMD records, you're sure to encounter a type of handwriting which is unfamiliar to you. Paleography is the dechiphering of old handwriting and this is a skill that you can learn with practice.
Visit the National Archives website for a good basic guide to the subject which includes frequently used abbreviations and notes on historic spelling.