Session 8 Add-on – Genealogy and Family History

As an add-on to Session 8, we will be talking about Family History and Genealogy. This topic isn’t included in the Urban Archaeology topic outline for the module, but as a class you have expressed an interest in options for researching family history using online resources and databases and also in identifying open source, free or low cost options. So that’s exactly what this presentation aims to do!

Urban Archaeology: Session 8 (Add-on) – Genealogy & Family History

Genealogy & Family History

  • Genealogy…

o   The construction of a family tree through research

  • Family History is…

o   The writing of a biography of a series of related ancestors of common genealogy


o   GENUKI Includes details of County Record Offices

o   Cyndi’s List LOTS of useful links to software, databases and resources

o   Genealogy Mailing Lists by John Fuller

o   LookupUK Resource Centre for finding friends or relatives

  • Gov’t repositories:

o   General Register Office

o   The National Archives

  • Libraries:

o   British Library for Family Historians

o   National Library of Scotland

o   National Library of Wales

o   National Library of Ireland

  • National Repositories:

o   College of Arms

o   National Maritime Museum – PORT. Catalogue of maritime-related resources

o   ArchivesHub – 20,000 archives in UK’s universities and colleges

o   ARCHON (Archives On-line). – Managed by the National Archives

o   British History Online – British historical sources, inc. text and information about people, places and businesses from the 12th century to the present day. Built by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament

o   Moving Here – a National Archive initiative of 150,000 free images. Mostly from four communities coming into Britain since 1800s: Jewish, Irish, Caribbean, South Asian

  • Useful Organisations:

o   Federation of Family History Societies.

o   Scottish Association of Family History Societies

o   Family History Societies – More Family History Societies indexed at GENUKI

o   New England Historic Genealogical Society, oldest and largest genealogical society in the USA

o   Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies

o   The Heraldry Society – covers heraldry, armory, chivalry, genealogy and allied subjects

o   The Heraldry Society of Scotland

o   AGRA – Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives

  • Online Databases:

o – entire copy of the indexes of Births, Marriages and Deaths for England and Wales from 1837 to 2001 – small charge for copies

o   Family Search site (LDS Church) – largest collection of free family history, family tree and genealogy records

o   The Origins Network – 80 million + British and Irish genealogical records

o   Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour Register – personal and service details for the 1.7 million members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First or Second World Wars

o   Burke’s Peerage and Gentry – genealogical records of Britain’s titled and landed families throughout the centuries. Good for terms related to British history, society and tradition

o   The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum at Caernarfon

o   The Monumental Brass Society – brasses and the MBS’s activities

o   Police Orders – police orders of police officers serving in London’s Metropolitan Police Service. From 1891-1895 and 1899-1932. Includes joined, resigned, retired, died, transfers and medals.

o   The Bookplate Society

o   Naval Biographical Database – People and ships associated with the Royal Navy since 1660. Charges.

o   Vision of Britain – by Great Britain Historical Geographic Information System (GBH GIS).  Uses 200 years of UK Census statistics, assorted historic maps and gazetteers and the observations of travel writers from as early as the 11th century

  • Get someone to do it for you!
  • General resources relating to a whole county:
  • Costs money. Useful if you’re coming up against Latin texts!
  • Association of Genealogists Researchers in Archives (AGRA) has a list of members who will do research,

Types of Resources

o   Bibliographies

o   Clergy

o   Histories

o   Maps

o   Newspapers

o   Place Names

o   Record Office Guides

o   Visitations

o   Wills – some online at , then try National Will Index at . Most have to be accessed from (can be expensive).

  • Local:

o   Local histories, church guides, etc.

  • Registers:

o   Births, marriages, deaths, held by General Register Office (1837 onwards). Each certificate costs just under £10. More and more available free through: Paid online versions available here:,,, or

o   General indexes such as Boyd’s Marriage Index and the International Genealogical Index. Before the mid-1800s, you can look at parish registers, some go back to 1500s. Many non-conformist registers here: and

o   There is the International Genealogical Index (IGI) – An index of c.800 million births, baptisms and marriages from around the world, at

o   Name indexes. E.g. Census indexes for England and Wales on The National Archives website, Scottish census indexes at Scotland’s People, Irish censuses,

  • Monumental Inscriptions
  • Censuses

o   1911,1901,1891, 1881, 1871,1861 1851, 1841.  Often microfilms or microfiche of census returns held by County Record Offices, Local Libraries or the Society of Genealogists. A complete set for England and Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands is free at The National Archives in Kew,  The Scottish returns for 1841 to 1911 are available at Scotland’s People Centre in Edinburgh,

  • Lists:

o   Lists of people living in counties such as Directories and Poll Books (those who voted in Parliamentary elections, 1690s onwards).

o   Provincial town trade directories – including street lists, such as Kelly’s Directory. Available from 1770s onwards.

o   National and county trade directories. Available from 1780s onwards. More details from 1840s onwards.

Family History – Beginners’ guides



o   Herber, M. 2005. Ancestral Trails, Alan Sutton

o   Barrat, N. 2008. Who Do You Think You Are? Encyclopedia of Genealogy, Harper Collins

§  E.g. The Hampshire Genealogical Society

Family History – Major websites

  • Major Websites:






o   National Archives Discovery website

Family History – Finding support

  • Social Network Sites:

o   Roots Web Mailing Lists

o   The Guild of One-Name Studies – Register the surnames you are researching to see if anyone else is doing the same thing!

Family History – On your computer

  • Data formats:

o   GENCOM (most common)

o   GedML (XML-based)

o   FamilyML (XML-based)

  • Don’t worry if you’ve been using a spreadsheet up until now!
  • GRAMPS – free, but bit of work needed initially to learn how to use

Software to build family trees


  • FamilyTreeBuilder – free, with paid Premium version (that you can sign up to at any point in using the free version). Easy to use, very popular


  • GEDitCOM II – free, this software is for Macs


  • Web Family Tree – free, really easy to use


Software to visualise family trees

  • Geneaquilts – advanced, great for visualising large genealogy datasets


  • Misbach Enterprises – specialises in making family tree charts. They generally charge for this service, but there are some nice free charts you can download and use


Software to visualise family trees

  • GedView – a way to look through GEDCOM files on your PC. If you’ve downloaded or been sent any files from other researchers, you can use this software to navigate the data


  • GedView for iPads, iPhones, etc. – costs £2.49, great to look at your work on a mobile device


Software to share family trees

  • Websites:

o   GED-GEN for making websites, works with any GEDCOM files

The powerpoint presentation:


Session 5 – Historical Archives: Archaeologists and Text

On the 1st November we visited the Hartley Library and were met by the Senior Archivist and the Special Collections Librarian. We were shown the latest temporary exhibition on display in the archives section of the library, and were given an introduction to the Cope Collection.

You can read about the Cope Collection here:

We did a quick run round the library, introducing other sources of information, including the map collection and the microfiche collection.

In the group study room, we talked a little about the different ways that archaeologists and historians look at primary and secondary sources, covering in particular the importance of using object-driven approaches for archaeologists in understanding a source.

Some of the session was spent discussing material culture studies and how useful this is for source analysis, with a brief foray into post-processual archaeology looking at Tilley’s approach to reading rock art as ‘text’.

Presentation below.

We also discussed the many different methodologies for analysing a textual source, and how most of them included the questions: What? Who? Why? Where? When? The worksheet below is just one method for analysing a text. It uses questions from the SCIM-C method of source analysis.

Session 4 – Historical Archives: The Historian’s Perspective

On Thursday, 25th October, Dr. Adam Chapman, a specialist in Medieval History, very kindly delivered a session looking at the use of historical archives for historians.  Dr. Chapman has provided copies of the PowerPoint presentation that he delivered as part of the session, and also the information sheet that he handed out.


A big thank-you to Dr. Chapman for this session!

Session 2 – Online Archives and Collections

This session looked at how we can identify which online archives or collections might be useful for a particular topic, and also had a practical where we used the Web to find some archival materials for a topic.

This is the transcript (approximate) from the session:

Slide 1:

Firstly, we must identify where archival materials can be found.


Now a lot of the materials that we would have traditionally gone to one of these kinds of institutions in order to access has now been made digital, and made available online.

In addition to this, there are materials that are available online, that are invaluable to research, that are not associated with an archive organisation.  This can be anything from people’s personal websites with old photographs and YouTube videos, to companies’ online catalogues and websites.

Slide 2:

Whilst this is not a definitive list of the kinds of resources that exist, you might find it useful to classify archival materials in this way:

Written Materials – these are usually in the form of a collection or an archive.

Objects or artefacts – these are generally held within collections.

Research data – these are published within a data repository.

Film & sound – these are mostly within media libraries.

Its useful to think of archival materials in these ways, as this provides a method for brainstorming what sorts of materials will be available about the kind of topic you are researching, and therefore what kinds of places the resources will be held.  Doing an exercise like this will help to discount kinds of archives that are likely to be less fruitful to query.

Slide 3:

Traditional Methods: What can I get online?

Most research into archives for history, local history in particular, will end in a visit to a physical archive.  But there is now much preliminary research that can be carried out online, before needing to visit an archive in person.

5% of the National Archives’ materials are now online, through the Discovery Catalogue.
NA Discovery Catalogue:

Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (usually known as the Historical Manuscripts Commission or HMC) was set up in the late 1800s to record the locations of archives for history study.  The HMC’s numerous indexes, publications, guides and annual accession lists are being added to the National Register of Archives (NRA).  The indexes are not currently online, but the plan is to do this in the very near future.

HMC on the NRA:

Over 2000 institutions in England have now made their archives publically available through the ARCHON Directory.  ARCHON includes contact details for record repositories in the UK, and some institutions outside of the UK if they hold substantial collections of manuscripts that are recorded in the National Register of Archives indexes.  So this is always a good starting point for research; although many of these archives will not have the actual archival materials available online, although in many cases, often the index information will be enough to begin your research.


Because we are archaeologists, we can use much more than just written archives.  There are objects too, and research data, all available online, that we can make use of before we need to visit a building somewhere.

Slide 4:

Most of the time, when researching archival materials online, you will go to the same institutions that you would visit in the real world.  Museums, archives, libraries are the most common places to begin when researching into archaeology and history.

Archives tend to mostly have online indexes of the archival materials that they hold. But sometimes they have also the actual materials. Usually in the form of transcripts, but sometimes also in the form of digital versions of the materials themselves.

Museums have online exhibitions of objects held in the collection – displaying details of objects online thematically. But they also increasingly have user interfaces to the collections database, where you can access the actual records of the objects. Usually this takes the form of the most basic accessions information, but sometimes more data is available, such as images, transcriptions if appropriate, and exhibition and conservation details.

Slide 5:

Its helpful to think of the availability of archival materials online as being situated along a continuum: from offline to online.

Offline through to Online:

  • Offline –  There is no online record available at all.
  • Partially Offline –  Index of records online, but the record itself is offline.
  • Partially Online –  Both index and transcript of the record online.
  • Online –  Index, transcript, and data of record online.

The usefulness of the availability is very dependent on the reason that you are looking for the archival material in the first place. i.e. Offline isn’t necessarily going to negatively affect your research, so don’t discount resource locations just because there are no materials online.

Slide 6:

The first thing to do is to think about why you are doing what you are doing, and then what you are actually doing.  Having a clear understanding of the topic of your research and then the purpose of your research will help you to identify what archives to begin with.

Slide 7:

Different institutions have different concerns for the items in their care.

  • Archives tend to have a focus on the content of the item, and so generally this is what will be the priority to get online.
  •         e.g. the text from a letter
  • Museum will focus usually more on the object itself, and will want this to be the first part of the record that they get online.
  •         e.g. the letter itself
  • Libraries have a multi-purpose focus. Traditionally they tended to put the reference to the record from the catalogue online, but increasingly this is changing to digital access to the item itself.

Slide 8:

Engaging with Objects Online:

Slide 9:

Reflectance Transformation Imaging:

Slide 10:

3D Printing:

Slide 11:


We’re going to do a brainstorm all together, thinking about how we identify which kinds of sources are likely to be the most useful for the topic that we are researching.

We’ll go through three ideas for topics:

  • Royal Visits to Southampton
  • Romans in St. Denys and Portswood
  • Basque refugees arriving in Southampton.

Slide 14:

We’ve talked about specialised organisations dealing with archival materials, and how these resources are available online in different forms.  The next thing to consider are the individuals who are adding archival materials to the web.

Increasingly, there are web-based services that make sharing content online incredibly easy, and this has led to collections that would previously very rarely have been available in the public domain being released online.
Family holiday videos from the 1950s shot on 8mm film are being added to YouTube, postcard collections from the 1900s are being uploaded to Flickr, and diaries and journals are being created on blogs like WordPress.




The neat structuring of many of these web services means that many of us are inadvertently engaging in quite advances archival practices when we are uploading content.  Flickr and YouTube ask for more and more metadata about items being uploaded; we’re adding everything from categories, keywords, locations, dates, and usage rights to videos and photos that we upload.  Blogs neatly organise our content into structured dated journal entries, with options for keywords and categories also being used more and more.

Slide 15:

We are archivists. The web makes it easier than it ever has been before to add archival materials for public consumption.  But is it making it easier to find that content?

Slide 16:

Three key ways to find information online:


By this we mean the main websites of organisations. These are a good place to start if you have quite a good idea of what you are looking for.


EuroDocs is an index of websites containing or using archives. Sorted by country, then period, then topic, this is a wiki.  A wiki is a website that has been created by lots of editors.  The wiki is managed by the Brigham Young University, so is reliable as a good starting point for a quick overview of a period.



This can actually be very fruitful. Again, a lot of your success will be down to successfully identifying in the first place whether a search engine will be the most appropriate way to find resources.  For instance, Google has a News search facility, which returns great results if searched by newspaper and year range.

Google News Advanced Search:

Slide 17:

But can we find the content added by individuals?

Locating individuals’ archival materials is often problematic. Unlike a large organisation specialising in archiving, individuals adding content to the web may not be aware of the methods for making their content more findable online.

Luckily, many people are using services like Flickr and YouTube, which are very good at indexing content, and rely on their search facilities as a major part of their business model. You’ll notice when you watch a video on YouTube, a list of suggested videos will come up with related content.

So these platforms are the first places to start, particularly if you would like to get a good overview of a topic, such as getting more contextual information about a particular period or place.

Finding content created by individuals as part of individual websites can be tricky.  A search engine is your best bet for this task.  It can often wield surprising results.  I put into Google ‘Transport Southampton Buses Old Photographs’ and came up with an extensive archive for bus photographs, with user added comments with information about the bus companies based in Southampton throughout history.  The comments have names and dates, but little reference information.  However, there are some useful photographs and there is a way to contact the administrator directly with queries.

In the session on archives, we’ll be looking in depth at the ways that we can critically analyse a source once we have found it, and this methodology applies to online materials just as much as offline items, so in Session 5 this will be covered.  But in the meantime, when analysing a source, it is important to note that we must think about:

  • Authenticity – external criticism of the material
  • The meaning – internal criticism of the material – interpreting the content (context is important here)
  • Reliability – including influences on the author
  • Bias – this doesn’t make a document useless!
  • Gaps in the record
  • Comparing to other sources
  • Hidden traces – e.g. information that is incidental to a testimony

We will be going over these in detail in Session 5, for now its useful to merely bare in mind that we cannot always trust what we see, and that what we are seeing may not be all that a source can tell us.

The real gems are the personal archives set up as websites by individuals.

Slide 18:


Now we’re going to split up into three groups and each group will tackle one of our three topics:

— Royal Visits to Southampton

— Romans in St. Denys and Portswood

— Basque refugees arriving in Southampton.

We’ll spend 20 minutes searching online for one or two resources that tell us about the topic our group has been assigned.  Aim to look for an institutionally based source and an individual’s source.  We’re going to work through the following questions to think about how useful the source is:

The slides shown in class:

Slides with transcript:

Practical 1

The notes we made during our brainstorm for the three topics for research (click on the photo to see the full size image):

Notes from Session 2, Practical 1

Useful Resources identified in class

Romans in St. Denys and Portswood:

Historic Environment Record (HER) – through Heritage Gateway –

HER for Hampshire County Council –

Hampshire Museums Service Online Collections:

Southampton Local History and Heritage –

Southampton Museums Service –

Southampton Archaeology –

Sea City Museum –

Archaeology Data Service –

— ArchSearch(for items)-

— Archives (for whole collections of materials) –

Ordnance Survey- Old Maps – [NOT FREE]


Local Authority Planning GIS mapping web services:

Southampton City Council Online Maps – [Has 1846 and 1870 town maps available as a layer, see ‘Change Background Map’. Also has WWII Bomb sites, sites of Archaeological Interest, and Listed Buildings.  These are all well hidden! There is a small button above the map that looks like two arrows, under the heading ‘User Options’, if you click on this, some additional layers will appear in the left hand toolbar.  Click on ‘Add Individual Layers to Map’ click on ‘History and Heritage’. Then click on the names of the layers that you would like to see. You will notice that a little cross appears in the box next to the title of the layer. You need to refresh the map now, in order to see those layers you have selected, so scroll down and at the bottom of the list of layers you will see a button: Update Map. Click on this and the little crosses will turn into little ticks. This shows that the map has been updated. Now you will be able to look at those layers on the map (you may have to zoom in to see the details). ]

20th Century Royal Visits:

Newspapers – using Google News Advanced Search –

Local Museums & Archives (see above).

National Archives, ARCHON Directory –


Basque Refugees:

Pathe –

BBC Motion Gallery –

Open Culture –

British Library’s Sound Archive (for oral histories) –

Basque Refugees Archive –

Hampshire Record Office Online Catalogues –

Download this list of useful resources for the three topics worked on in class from scribd here:

Practical 2

Worksheet used in class for practical 2: