Family history

Researchers and historians from The National Archives and elsewhere offer expert guidance on researching family history and unlocking the multitude of sources available.

  • Audio contentRiver Tigris abover Amara (by kind permission of Jenny Lewis)

    Finding my father in Mesopotamia

    Jenny Lewis’s father fought as a young man in the First World War campaign in Mesopotamia – modern day Iraq, Iran and Syria. He joined the South Wales Borderers in 1915 and served in Mesopotamia until 1917 when he was […]

  • Audio contentKarl Marx request for naturalization, notification of refusal (catalogue reference HO 45/9366/36228)

    British nationality: subject or citizen?

    Mark Pearsall looks at the status of immigrants and the concept of nationality over the last 500 years. This talk covers alienage, denization, naturalisation and registration of citizenship and the records of these statuses that survive. This talk also clarifies […]

  • Audio contentEvicition of poor Irish families in Leather Lane Holborn,1892 (catalogue reference ZPER 34/100)

    ‘…we may lie and die in a land of plenty…’: The Victorian poor in their own words

    In all but the most specialist accounts of Victorian histories the poor are often represented through generalisations, graphs or summed up in ‘averaging’ paragraphs. More detailed work might look at the experiences of individual poor people through pulling together accounts […]

  • Audio contentFlyer from the Keep Our Secrets Secret campaign (catalogue reference EXT 1/111)

    Spies like us: The secret life of Ernest Oldham

    The security service files held at The National Archives in series KV 2 reveal that many people involved in espionage, like Foreign Office clerk Ernest Oldham, were ordinary folk who entered an extraordinary world by chance – often with tragic […]

  • Audio contentTroops travelling to Manchester for review by Lord Kitchener

    Digitising MH 47 the Middlesex military service appeal tribunal

    On the introduction of conscription in 1916, Military Service Tribunals were set up to hear applications and appeals for exemption. Surviving material is fragmented but two complete sets of tribunal papers were retained, including those for the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal. […]

  • Video contentBlack nurse and baby

    Black in the British Frame

    Stephen Bourne shares his memories of growing up in Peckham and of his adopted Aunt Esther, a black Londoner born before the First World War and the subject of his first book. And he talks about how, from an educationally […]

  • Audio contentFour generations of the Page family (Southampton)

    News from FamilySearch

    Sharon Hintze brings you up with the latest developments on FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogical organisation. It is rapidly evolving, with new features and collections, and partnerships with commercial organisations arising almost weekly. Sharon is Director of the London Family […]

  • Audio contentINF 3/1142

    Scandals in the family

    This talk explores the deeds and misdeeds of one family, using documents in The National Archives and elsewhere. The tale involves deception, divorce, and the deliberate destruction of official records. Although the main narrative concerns one man, Captain George Boynton, […]

  • Audio contentir-59-4-1817

    Death and taxes: understanding the death duty registers

    For over 100 years, from 1796 to 1903, the Inland Revenue maintained a series of registers recording the payments of death duties. These registers are now held by The National Archives and represent one of family history’s best kept secrets. […]

  • Audio contentUntold-Histories-Image

    Writer of the month: Researching untold histories

    Dr Kathleen Chater discusses her book Researching Untold Histories: Black people in England and Wales during the period of the British slave trade, c1660-1807. Kathleen worked for the BBC until 1994. One of her interests was family history so when […]

  • Audio contentimmigrant-ancestors-project

    Immigrant Ancestors Project: indexed collections from The National Archives

    Family history majors at Brigham Young University intern at various repositories of European countries and obtain copies of emigration registers, passport applications, and other records that contain hometown information for each emigrant. These records are indexed in the Immigrant Ancestors […]

  • Audio contentSharon Tomlin, genealogist

    Fundamentals of researching your Caribbean ancestors

    Caribbean genealogist and family historian  Sharon Tomlin discusses the basics in researching Caribbean ancestry, in particular at the records of people that have moved away from their original Caribbean homeland and settled in countries including the United Kingdom, United States […]

  • Audio contentbs0026502

    Tracing your merchant seamen ancestors through crew lists and agreements

    The Merchant Navy Crew Lists and Agreements are one of the greatest sources we have for family, maritime, social and economic history. They are a continuous record of Britain’s maritime trade activity during the 19th and 20th centuries as well […]

  • Audio contentWhite Star Line poster, 1884 (catalogue ref: COPY 1/66 (187))

    There and back again: going away doesn’t mean staying away

    It is easy to think of emigration as a one-way process, but not everyone who went to live in another country stayed there permanently. As more and more records are indexed online, you may find family members in unexpected places, […]

  • Audio contentpro30-29-17-5-cullercoats-northumberland-illustration-1845

    Thomas Armstrong: the smuggler king of Cullercoats

    On the surface, Captain Thomas Armstrong was an upstanding, if sometimes over-zealous, member of HM Customs service, patrolling the north east coast of England against smugglers. However, an examination of the customs records at The National Archives revealed a different […]

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