Welcome to week 2 of our genealogy bootcamp - rev up your family history research


28 November 2021
nypl.digitalcollections.510d47df-79c1-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w-17333.jpg How to trace your overseas ancestors
Get some new ideas for expanding your family tree and discovering new ancestors in part 2 of our one-month family tree bootcamp.

Get some new ideas for expanding your family tree and discovering new ancestors in part 2 of our one-month family tree bootcamp.

Day 7: Learn the basics of paleography

Once your research takes you beyond the census and BMD records, you’re sure to encounter a style of handwriting which is unfamiliar to you. Paleography is the deciphering 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. 

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Day 8: Supplement your book collection

Despite the fact that a lot of family history information is online, as all true enthusiasts know, nothing can beat having a useful book or magazine to refer to time after time. Set aside some time for having a look at your family history library, however modest this might be. Could you benefit from owning a local history text relating to the area where your ancestors lived? Or perhaps a dictionary of family history terms?

Secondhand book shops are great places to go searching, and keep a look out for book fairs in your area and family history events, which often have book stalls of new and used titles. Don’t forget sites such as ebay and abebooks for used books.

Day 9: Join a specialist family history society

Many family historians join a family history society early in their family tree adventure, however have you ever considered also joining a specialist society which focuses on one particular aspect of genealogy? The Federation of Family History Societies website has a list of dozens of member societies – take your pick from a range of topics including heraldry, Quaker ancestry, Romany and traveller ancestors, and family and community historical research.

Day 10: Overseas ancestors

If your ancestors came to the UK from another country, or emigrated to start a new life overseas, there are plenty of options available for finding out more about why they entered/left the country and where they settled. Ancestry, TheGenealogist and FindMyPast all have collections of records for overseas ancestors, and the British Library has a large collection of births, marriages and deaths. 

The National Archives also has a free webinar on emigration. 

Day 11: Explore a new archive

Make today the day you discover an archive you’ve never visited. Museums, university libraries and family/local history societies are all potential sources of new material. Check the website of the nearest university to where your ancestors lived – the special collections of its library may well hold valuable local history material for you.

Historic UK has a good list of UK museums, divided into categories such as maritime, industrial and aviation, which can point you in the right direction.

Day 12: Go along to a family history talk

Attend a talk held by your local family history society, even if you’re not a member (most charge just a modest fee for non-members). You might choose a talk from the society nearest to where you live, or the society in the area where your ancestors were based.

Either way, you’ll be able to tap into the research and expertise of the speakers; many such events have a Q&A or social session afterwards, where you can chat to other enthusiasts and share your findings.

Day 13: Get to grips with borders

Discover how the borders of the counties where your ancestors lived have changed over the years. The Historic Counties Borders Project has digitized the borders of the UK’s 92 counties and made them available to use freely. 

The site also has a description of each county, together with a list of its main towns, rivers and historic visitor attractions.


(image copyright New York Public Library, retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-79c1-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99)

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