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18 September 2014
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An Intriguing Family History

By Dr Nick Barratt
Starting your own research

Local scene, in Freckleton, Lancashire
A local street scene from Lancashire, c.1910 
As a general rule, when attempting to place an individual within a community, look around to identify relevant records that may contain information about the locality. In particular, try to find out if there was a specific local trade or industry. You will also find it useful to know the name of the local manor or landed estate, as surviving records can be full of family details. Start with the local studies centre, then progress to the county record office.

It's important to know where to start and finish - and it's a fine line between family history and local history. Only you can decide how far you want to take things. The research that produced most of the material in this study required visits to a number of local study centres, archives and libraries, as well as The National Archives in London. It followed a clear progression, and once a basic framework had been developed from the main sources - in this case the parish registers - various other sources were used to construct this family's history.

The result is a rich slice of local and family history that adds a new dimension to one family's past. The story did not stop here - few histories have endings. Knowing where to start and where to finish is a key discipline for the family historian, and setting your objectives is part of the fun.

About the author

Dr Nick Barratt worked at the Public Record Office (now The National Archives, or TNA) from 1996 to 2000, with the family history team. He has given many talks on family history, and has written frequently for the TNA's genealogy journal, Ancestors. He has worked for the BBC as a specialist researcher on programmes such as 'One Foot in the Past','The People Detective' and 'Who Do You Think you Are?'.

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Published: 2004-09-13



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