Week 4 of our genealogy bootcamp - rev up your research


01 November 2021
1280px-Writing_with_a_fountain_pen_(Unsplash)-74535.jpg Week 4 of our family history bootcamp
In the concluding part of our month-long genealogy bootcamp, we explore how to go way beyond the census and different ways to research your family history for free.

In the concluding part of our month-long genealogy bootcamp, we explore how to go way beyond the census and different ways to research your family history for free.

Day 23 Identify an ancestor’s military badge

Discover more about an ancestor’s military service by researching their cloth or metal badge. Whether you’ve inherited the badge or identified it from a photo, it could be possible to find out the serviceman’s rank, regiment and specialist trade.

The British and Commonwealth Forum website has a chart of badge photos and information and you can also post a query on the forum or try asking for help on Family Tree’s Facebook page.

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Day 24 Start a writing project

Ensure that all your hard work researching your tree doesn’t go to waste – share it with an audience. Whether it’s an article for your family history society’s magazine, or you’d like to get started on writing down the history of your family for your own relatives, keeping a written record of your research means it has more chance of being shared with future generations.

Remember to include details about people, places and events happening at the time your ancestors were alive, to keep the account as lively as possible, ensuring it isn’t just a string of names and dates.

Day 25 Get to grips with Latin

Once your research journey takes you beyond the first birth, marriage and death records of the Victorian era, you’re into the realm of parish registers, and the possibility that you’ll need to decipher Latin to make sense of a record that mentions your ancestor.

This needn’t be daunting, though, as help is at hand with the National Archives’ helpful online tutorial which covers Latin used between 1086 and 1733. It includes the basics you’ll need to know about what was once the official language used in documents

Day 26 Go way beyond the census

Use street and commercial directories to enrich your census research and place your ancestors and their household in the context of the wider neighbourhood.

Most local history libraries and town/county archives hold collections of street directories, which were published from the late 18thcentury onwards and cover a specific town or region. Inside, you’ll find listings of the businesses in the area where your ancestor lived, adverts for local services they might have used, and extra information such as the names of schools, libraries, churches and colleges in the district.

The University of Leicester has an online database of directories covering parts of the UK from the 1790s through to the 1920s. 

Day 27 Get creative

Consider different ways of displaying your family tree treasures, such as scrapbooking. You can present family stories and copies of your photos in a heritage scrapbook, which makes a lovely gift or keepsake and may well interest a family member who isn’t into ‘traditional’ family tree research.

Check websites such as Pinterest and Martha Stewart for ideas and as with your main family history documents and photos, use acid-free display and storage materials.

Day 28 Improve your transcription skills

Help unlock the past for your fellow researchers by volunteering on a transcription project. By giving as little as an hour a week you can help make invaluable documents become available in a digital format; and improve your transcription skills into the bargain.

The National Archives regularly offers volunteer opportunities for both archive-based and online volunteers – find out more by e-mail - as do UK county and local record offices, and online projects such as Free Reg.

Day 29 Research your tree for free

As we all know, parting with money is inevitable at some point during our family history journey, when buying BMD certificates or paying to access certain databases. However, there are lots of options for keeping costs under control.

If you’d like to explore subscription websites such as Ancestry, Findmypast and The Genealogist, check whether your nearest local library or record office offers free access. Volunteer-run websites such as Free Reg and FamilySearch have thousands of free-to-access records, including baptism, marriage and burial data, and even memories and photographs.

Day 30 Look to the future with DNA

For this final day, we look to the future of the hobby in the field of DNA. Taking a DNA test can help you find living relatives who share your ancestry, discover your detailed ethnicity and break through brick walls that traditional research can’t solve.

Week 3 of the bootcamp

(image copyright Aaron Burden)

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