Genealogy: Effective Searching

While this is not a brand new title (it was published in 2012) I have just begun to re-read Helen Osborn’s book Genealogy: Essential Research Methods and so far I find myself nodding in agreement with the author’s viewpoint on a number of things.

The first statement that I line up behind is when in Chapter 2 she talks about the nature of that the well worn phrase the “brick wall”.

“Your brick wall may not be my brick wall” Ms Osborn writes and later: “Brick walls are only met when you have truly exhausted all the available options.”

All to often a person new to our pass time will find a brick wall in their research, but they have only come to the end of their own competence and lack the knowledge to find out more. In some cases they may just have searched the easy records, or used the basic search on a website and so failed to have found their ancestors. With a bit more know how the researcher may learn techniques, such as simply searching more widely  – as Helen Osborn highlights in this book.

The next major statement that I found myself wholeheartedly in agreement with was that the family history researcher has to understand something about the legal and administrative setting of the period in question, plus putting our ancestors into the geographical and historical environment in which they lived. Laws passed inevitably created records and these documents may contain record our ancestors.

We really need to understand why a record was created and what they included or excluded. For example if we are to look at the tithe records for England and Wales (searchable on TheGenealogist) do we know who was included and who was not, and also what exemptions might there have been?

With the tithes the owner and the occupier of the land was recorded in a period from 1837 to the mid 1850s, so while you may find your ancestor from any level of society included, you will not find all the names of their household.

At the time of the survey approximately 25 percent of England and Wales had no liability to tithes, as they either had been bought out earlier or for historical reasons had never been subject to the tithe and so you will not find your ancestor in the records if they lived in one of these areas. This is just one example, but the same principle has to be applied to other records by family historians. We must find out what we can expect to find in a record set and what we can’t.

When we are dealing with the last will and testament of an ancestor we need to pay attention to the places that we are likely to find their will – what is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction for will?  Do we know the archdeaconry or deanery that they may have been proved in and what were the conditions for the will to be proved there?

I do recommend this title.


Or as a Kindle book…

See amazon


Send to Kindle

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.