Once a day on the Blair Archival Research Facebook page a new post is shared. There is a theme for each month and August’s was background research. You will get bonus posts relating to the theme but only on the Blair Archival Research Facebook page these will not be posted on the monthly blog review.
Background research is important when you are doing your research and when you are ready to write your family history. Knowing the history behind the records may help you break down a few brick walls. Comprehending the world in which your ancestors lived may help you understand their life experience.
“Bringing Your Family History to Live through social history” by Katherine Scott Sturdevant is a good place to start to learn about how your ancestors may have lived. I am not sure if you can still purchase this book but you may be able to borrow it from a library.
Another useful book is “Forensic Genealogy” by Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD.
Understanding the local history of an area is important. There is a book called “Local History A Handbook for Beginners” by Philip Riden which is very useful. This is based on English local history but you can apply the principles to any location.
A fun book that looks at the everyday life of your ancestors is “A Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England From 1811-1901” by Kristine Hughes. You can find books like this for most time periods in England and the States.
Finding out more about the religious denomination of your family will help with your research. “My Ancestors were Quakers How can I find out more about them?” by Edward H. Milligan and Malcolm J. Thomas is a good book for those starting Quaker research.
Wikipedia is a resource to learn more about your ancestor’s lives but remember to fact check the information before adding it to your research.
The Encyclopedia of Canada is a place to find more information on the times your ancestors lived.
Memorial University in Newfoundland has a collection called ICH – Oral Traditions and Expressions which is a collection of stories and looks at the different ways information was passed through the generations. If you have people from Newfoundland then these may add some flavour to your family history.
The Memorial University DAI has a collection called Centre for Newfoundland Studies – Newfoundland Images.
The Ontario Time Machine has a section called The Books: Settlement. You will find resources that may help you with the background information of your Ontario settler.
Was your ancestor a member of a brotherhood? Were they a Freemason? Researching the history of these groups will help you understand the types of activities your ancestor participated in, the type of people they associated with and other information about your ancestor. “My Ancestor Was A Freemason” by Pat Lewis is a good place to start.
Join the local historical society where your ancestors lived. They usually put out publications a few times a year which will help you understand the area. You may even find information on your ancestor at the historical society.
Local museums can be helpful in providing more information on where your ancestors lived. It may not be a museum about the local area of your ancestor but it could relate to their occupation or another part of their life.
The Irish Famine is usually foremost in the minds of many people doing Irish research. Did you know there was a National Famine Museum in Ireland? There is a joint project between students in Strokestown and Quebec researching the people that left Strokestown and arrived in Quebec during the famine.
There is a Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Digital Library online with links to several items that would be very useful to your research.
Blogs are a useful place to look for more information. There is a blog attached to Active History which looks at various aspects of Canada’s history.
Do you have Irish ancestors who were involved in the Theatre? Maybe they were part of productions at the famous Abbey Theatre? Did you know the Irish Theatre Institute had a website?
Do you listen to podcasts? The National Archives UK has a great selection of podcasts on various subjects. You can also find them on ITunes. I don’t have music on my IPod just podcasts.
Don’t forget about video to help you find out more. In Australia you can find Australian Screen which has historical footage to show you exactly what your ancestors might have gone through. There is one on the Australian Flying Corps in France, England and Palestine in 1919.
A lot of archives and other institutions are putting their images on Flickr. There is a Flickr group called Churches of Ireland where people have uploaded images of churches throughout Ireland. You could find the church where your ancestor’s worshiped in the mid-1800s.
The Orkney Library and Archive have a Photographic Archive online. It is a group of images mostly from the last century but they can still provide you with an idea of how things were for your ancestor.
You might be able to find business records relating to your ancestor. If not business records then maybe a guild or trade union that could provide you with some background information.
Don’t forget the women in your family. Did you have any suffragettes? Did your female ancestors serve in the military?
Many women were the only doctor their family may have had available to them. Do you know what potions and ointments your ancestor might have used? Do you know what the cause of death was for your ancestor?
How about your ancestor’s occupation? Do you know what the reference actually meant on the marriage certificate or census record?
Do you know the name of the vessel your ancestor travelled on to North America? Have you ever seen a picture? See if you can find it here.
Do you know what those symbols mean on your ancestor’s grave marker?
Do you know the buying power of the money your ancestor left in their will? The National Archives have a currency converter.
Have you been searching for your Irish ancestor on all the passenger lists out of Ireland and can’t find them? Did you know that some Irish went to Liverpool or Glasgow to get to North America? Some who ended up in the United States came through Canada because it was sometimes cheaper. Do some background research to find out what port your ancestors may have actually left from on their journey to the New World.
Do you have a brick wall in your research? Do some background research on the available records and see what new information may be found. While doing this research you may come across another record group you had not known about.
To get a new tip each day all you have to do is “Like” Blair Archival Research.
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