Classroom Courses

Bespoke family history courses taught to your local group

Face to face teaching remains an excellent way of learning new skills and techniques. With a wide range of both general and specific family history topics available, I tailor courses to your specific requirements and timings.

World War One Centenary Project

The small village of Llanddewi Rhydderch in Wales had obtained lottery funding to train a group of local volunteers in the skills required to research the World War 1 dead of their village. Further funding was provided to erect a memorial to the men in the churchyard and produce a booklet about them.

My role was to teach the group all they needed to know about how to research the men and their families in just one day. They had to be certain that every man who had a link with the village was included and that no mistakes were made, especially regarding any information that was to go on the memorial! One of the difficulties with WW1 records is that many do not survive, while many are inaccurate. Therefore it was was essential not only to teach the group about all the relevant sources they could use so that they could compare the information in each , but to ensure that they fully understood the possible pitfalls of each record. They also needed to know how to research thoroughly so that no embarrassing mistakes were made. It was also important to give them an understanding of the non-military records which would tell them more about the families the men left behind and what happened to them after the war.

The course ran from 10 am to 4 pm and I also provided ten hours of post-course back-up advice via email in case they needed it.

If you would like me to give a talk or workshop for your group or society please contact me for a quotation giving details of the sort of class or talk you would like, an idea of how experienced your group is and also your location. A number of sample courses are listed below and these can usually be adapted to meet your requirements.

Sample Classroom Courses

Building Your Family Tree

Five-week evening class.

Family History looks easy when you see it on TV, but in reality things can be quite different! In this Internet age there are numerous websites to use: but how do you know which is the best? Is it really "all on the Internet" and what if you don't have Internet access? How do you proceed when you hit a stumbling block and can't find the ancestor you are looking for, or when you have traced back so far that Internet sources are no longer much use? Family History can be a bewildering subject for the uninitiated, and even if you have made a good start and feel fairly confident - wouldn't you like to know more? A little learning can take you into research areas you had never thought of and really start bringing your ancestors to life!

This five-week course is not just for beginners, but also for those who realise that there is alot more waiting for them out there! We will look not just at how to start, but at the tips and pitfalls of searching and at the history of some of the records you are using. We will hone your research technique so that you avoid tracing someone else's tree by mistake (it is easy to do!) and show you that there is life away from the computer if you wish to progress in that direction!

Week 1: Starting Out and Civil Registration.
Week 2: Census Records. How To Get the Most From Them.
Week 3: Practical Exercise based on Weeks 1 & 2.
Week 4: Parish Registers.
Week 5: An Introduction To Other Sources.

Tracing Your Ancestors Through Death Records

One-Day Course

Of all the sources that family historians use, death records are among the most enlightening for the researcher and frequently bring our ancestors to life to a far greater extent than any other records. They often reveal personal information that is just not to be found elsewhere and which will help you see your ancestor in a much more accurate light. Finding an ancestor's death is crucial in another way too: an awful lot could have happened to him in between the time you last found him on a census return or baptizing his last child and the day he died – without the death record you only know half his story! Yet these sources are surprisingly underused by many researchers. We will look in detail at all types of death records, from the familiar to the less well known and not only how to get the most from them but how to use them as springboards to discovering other sources too. We will also consider the causes of death given on death certificates and how to interpret them, discover why death records can be hard to trace, and what you can do to locate those that just don't seem to be there.This course makes use of much research carried out in the course of writing my book, some of which there was insuffcient room to include!

Although aimed at students with some experience in family history, this course is also a good kick starter for complete beginners.


Sessions 1 and 2: approx 1. 5 hours Building a Wider Picture with Death Records & Locating Missing Death Records.Two Sessions with a comfort breaks in between.
Session 3 Inquest Records & Obituaries.
Lunch Break Lunch Break can include a question time for students to ask any questions about genealogy in general
Session 4 Wills & Probate Records:Are they Relevant to My Research & How do I Find Them?
Break Tea Break
Session 5 Coping with Death: Suicide, infant death, hereditary illness & the consequences of death.
Session 6 Gravestones & what they can tell us: A look at the information and imagery on gravestones and what can be learned from them.

The Parish, The Poor and The Land

One-Day Course

Many people may be familiar with parish registers and realise that before 1837 they are vital in order trace a family history, but many are unaware of the great wealth of other records created by the local parish authoriites which may help reveal the real lives of our ancestors both rich or poor. Parish Chest records date from as early as the sixteenth century and go on right up to the nineteenth century. They are one of the few sources which are particularly rich in docmentation of the poor and they are a research opportunity not to be missed! We shall look at the diffferent sorts of records to be found, how the parish was organised and see what happened with the introduction of the Workhouse system in 1834.


Session 1 The Organisation of the Parish & the Records Created 1550-1840. Parish Officers and the documentation of both the better off and the poor of the parish.
Session 2 The Poor and the Poor Law.
Session 3 The Introduction of the Workhouse
Break Lunch Break
Session 4 Land records: An Introduction. Maps, tithe and enclosure records. One of the most fascinating sources for finding out more about your ancestors and where they lived.
Session 5 Summing up and final questions.

The Manor and The Man

One-Day Course

Manorial records are often dismissed as "difficult" or "only of use for very early research". They are in fact one of the few sources that potentially span the centuries from the 1300s right through until the 20th century while, although early records are in Latin, from the 18th century the majority are in English. Manorial records are one of the few sources that can give us a run of conclusive evidence that will prove a family tree over several generations, sometimes before the advent of parish registers. With a little knowledge manorial records are not difficult and this workshop aims to break down these misconceptions and open up a much wider world of research to you.

This is an intensive workshop limited to 12 students. In the morning we will look at the manorial system and its records and also at who lived on the manor. You may be surprised to find how many of your poorer ancestor may feature. The afternoon will consist of a palaeography workshop with two tutors led by Dr David Wright and adjusted to the individual's skill level. We will practise reading old handwriting and take a look at some basic Latin which will be need for pre-17th century documents.

Fleshing Out Your Family Tree

One-Day Course

In this course we will investigate some of the sources that will help you see behind the scenes in your ancestors' lives, learning about incidents that happened to them and gaining an understanding of what everyday life was like for them.

We cover a range of centuries and will look at records produced in connection with nearly every stage of a person's life from infant to adult and the grave. Topics covered include school and workhouse records (in particular those relating to workhouse staff), trade directories, apprenticeships and guilds, Ordnance Survey maps, churches and gravestones and finally – court records where nearly all of our ancestors would have featured at some point in their lives either for civil or criminal misdemeanours or as witnesses. These records can be the most revealing and show you what your ancestors were really like!


Session 1 Welcome
Session 2 From Infant to Adult: School, Trade & Workhouse records. What can they tell us, and how to locate them. Three Sessions with comfort breaks in between.
Break Lunch and Questions
Session 3 Court Records. From Petty and Quarter Sessions to the courts of Exchequer and Chancery - your ancestors will be there!
Break Tea Break
Session 4 Getting Out On the Ground: Maps, Churches & Memorials.