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24 September 2014

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Tracing your family history
Click for bigger picture.If you are about to embark on tracing your family history and suspect that you may have Gypsy blood; or if you have found a reference in a name or occupation maybe which you are intrigued by, then we have some hints and contacts which may be of help.
Hop picking near Maidstone

We have been talking to Janet Keet-Black who is the secretary of the local Romany and Traveller Family History Society.

The group provides members with a quarterly journal full of research tips, social history and Gypsy anecdotes. They also meet regularly to swap notes and share a song and stories.

Tips from the Society

Janet says that you have to think laterally when tracing what may turn out to be a Gypsy line. If you are using Parish records to trace Baptisms then you may also want to find out where certain crops where grown at certain times of the year as many such ceremonies where carried out when families where together picking. Also check occupations.

If it turns out that your granny sold pegs, for exemple, then she may well have been a Gypsy. However, not all Hawkers were Travellers and not all Travellers were Gypsies. It was a forename which got John Pateman from Kent thinking about his background. His relative was called Noah.

Many Gypsies were given Biblical names or ones which gave a feeling of pride and grandeur such as Sampson or Nelson, Britannia or Cinderella. Cas Holmes found out that her grandmother was a Gypsy when she used some of her Romany language in a quarrel so listen to your old folk for significant words.

Take a look at old family photos to see if any were taken at gatherings such as Hop Picking, although be warned that it was an annual event which brought together families from many backgrounds not just Gypsy.

More information

The journal Romany Routes, published by the Romany and Traveller Family History Society includes information about British Gypsy Families and gives advice on sources and methods for Gypsy research. The society can be found at

Listen to what Janet has to say

If you would like to put up a message to search for information on a family then you can do so on our message board.

Early history
Making a living
Horse drawn days
Settling down
Modern times

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Setting the scene
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Horse drawn days

Settling down
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