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 contentfacsimiles-of-irish-manuscripts-vol-iii-plate-xxxvii-exchequer-cloth--15th-century

    The Silken Paper Trail: openness and the national collective memory

    Distinguished historians Professor the Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield and Professor Lisa Jardine CBE explore the value of our archival heritage and consider why ‘sustaining the collective memory of the nation is a first-order requirement’. Lord Hennessy is Attlee Professor of…

  • Audio contentLondon District Messenger Boy 1944, cat. ref. INF2/43

    Lost in London

    Tracing ancestors before civil registration and the census presents a real challenge to family historians. In London, the problems can be even greater, where the population doubled between 1801 and 1841 and boundaries were often redrawn. Administering the area was…

  • Audio contentbs0026502

    Tracing merchant seamen, 1857-1918

    A frustrating aspect of researching merchant navy ancestors is the ‘black hole’ between 1857 and 1918 when there are no records for individual seamen. This podcast looks at what records there are for this period, how to access them and…

  • Audio contentThe 1911 census

    Digging for diamonds: hidden histories at The National Archives

    From ‘parachuting’ to ‘truffle-hunting’, there are many ways to research at The National Archives. This talk focuses on the histories that are harder to find, from the voices of enslaved Africans to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities in…

  • Audio contentcopy-1-566-titanic-lifeboat

    Women and Children First

    This talk looks at the origins and social context of why women and children were evacuated from the Titanic first, and did this conformity to the social norm actually lead to a greater loss of life. The talk also looks…

  • Audio contentbt-27-776-2-1-outward-passenger-list

    Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town

    It was Walter Lord in A Night to Remember (1955) who described the sinking of the Titanic as ‘the last night of a small town’. John Welshman’s talk builds upon and challenges Lord’s famous account. On the centenary of the…

  • Audio contentfrederick-woodford

    Frederick Woodford, a crewman on Titanic

    Much has been written about RMS Titanic, but this has tended to concentrate on the ship and its passengers. Using sources such as crew lists, local newspapers, Titanic Fund minute books and the 1911 census, this talk traces the lives…

  • Audio contentmt-15-504-pt1-lower-deck

    The Belles of Belfast

    To many, the Titanic story started with the sighting of a dark mass on the horizon, ending when the Atlantic closed over her fantail. However this is by no means the full story. This talk presents a whistle-stop chronology of…

  • Audio contentbt-27-776-2-1-outward-passenger-list-crop

    Titanic: Emigrant ship or luxury liner?

    This talk was originally scheduled to be given by Aidan Lawes at the Titanic 2012 conference held at The National Archives in April 2012. Sadly, Aidan passed away in early 2012. His paper, read by Roger Kershaw, is published here…

  • Audio contentMafeking Relieved, newspaper seller 1900, cat. ref. COPY 1-446 (306)

    Digitised newspapers as sources for family history

    This talk aims to give listeners a demonstration of the recently launched British Newspapers Archive (BNA). This database has over 200 UK newspapers, published from 1700-1950, and over 3 million pages – growing daily. Newspapers are frequently the only place…

  • Audio contentFlag for the Governor General of Canada, 1870, cat. ref. CO 325/54

    Finding your family in Canada

    Researching in Canada is vastly different than researching in the UK. Records are especially different in areas originally settled by the French. This talk gives an overview of record keeping in Canada, how the records are organised, and where to…

  • Audio contentZPER34-36-Scarborough-new-workhouse-1860

    Our ancestors and the fear of the Victorian workhouse

    In 1834 the British government introduced the Poor Law Amendment Act (the introduction of the ‘Workhouse System’). This was one of the most important pieces of 19th century social legislation and it touched the lives of millions of ordinary men,…

  • Audio content1911 census schedule front, cat. ref. RG27/8

    No vote no census

    The National Archives held a one day conference at Kew on Saturday 1 October 2011. The conference brought together an audience wanting to know more about the census, from genealogists to local and social historians. The conference looked at all…

  • Audio contentJames Sangs, 1873, cat. ref. PCOM 2/290 p197

    Out of the way of mischief

    From the mid-19th century the Home Office and the Treasury became involved in the inspection and funding of reformatory and industrial schools. Children identified as vagrant, neglected, disorderly, in danger of corruption, or in the case of reformatory schools, already…

  • Audio contentFlorence Nightingale's birth ceritifcate, 1820 cat. ref. RG5/83(4058)

    Overseas births, marriages and deaths: records in The National Archives

    There is no single place to find all the birth, marriage and death records of the British overseas. However, The National Archives holds a substantial number of them, in a variety of record collections. This talk looks at civilian and…

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