Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Country Life vs. City Life

I recently wrote an article for Genealogists.com about my love of all things 'country' and about my genuine happiness and gratitude at learning that so many of my ancestors were 'country folk', but it got me to thinking about what life would have been like for so many of our ancestors who did live quite rurally, and what the contrast would then have been in making the move to 'the city' — London.

Though quite complex, the answer to that is really quite amazing.

Looking at some of the documents in my possession that relate to my own family, I have found quite a lot of rural occupations listed. I have a grandfather who was a shepherd, and another whose occupation was listed as a hay and straw dealer, but the majority of my country ancestors (like so many other people's family members) were listed as agricultural labourers — an occupation that at one stage employed up to approximately 50% of the population of England.

So what was life like for our agricultural labourers and with what activities would their typical days have been filled?

I have read some fantastic articles about 'ag labs' over the years, which have helped so much to learn about what their lives might have been like, but my very favourite was published in a family history magazine several years ago, which described a typical day in an agricultural labourer’s life. The article explained that the agricultural industry was both labour intensive and seasonal. Not all of those employed had a secure job and many had to supplement their incomes by becoming involved in cottage industries, like straw-plaiting or lace-making.

Life for agricultural labourers was not at all easy. Most would have lived in tiny little 'two-up two-down' rented or tied cottages, and families often had upwards of nine or ten children, so the farmer and his wife would often sleep with the younger children in one of the bedrooms, while the older children would sleep in the other. In some cases though, children would also sleep downstairs, or were boarded out with elderly relatives, or people in the village. Downstairs in the cottage was a parlour, which would have been the hub of the home, and the centre of all of the family's activities, and then to the rear there would have been a workroom for keeping tools. Most cottages also had a small allotment attached too, where the family could grow some vegetables.

An agricultural labourer’s day might begin at about 5 am, often with breakfast and then a 2–3 mile walk to the farm, where work would begin at about 6 am, with all of the workers gathering in the courtyard to be instructed by the farmer on the day’s work.

Most labourers were employed on an annual basis, but some were lucky enough to stay with the same farm, or estate, for a few years. Those who were employed on an annual basis though, were regular visitors at hiring fairs in order to find work for the next year, and often wore an emblem on their clothing representing their skills so that farmers knew their specialties. If they did not find work though, they would invariably find themselves in receipt of parish relief and inevitably have to move around to try to find casual work as a general labourer.

By contrast, life in the city was fast-paced and a hive of activity. With the coming of the railways, London saw an influx of people travelling in to the capital and a new wave of people — of families — hoping to make their livings and their lives there. It was exciting and the opportunities were plentiful, but with the dramatic increase in the population also came an enormous amount of hardship, poverty and filth, with many of the parts of London being extremely poverty-stricken.

Health issues too, were of particular concern, where illnesses like tuberculosis were spreading at almost pandemic proportions — some estimates hold that in Victorian England alone, almost a third of the population died of tuberculosis.

Sadly these times too would most likely have meant that each and every one of our ancestors would have faced the possibility of losing a child. Infant mortality especially, was at an all-time high, where 15% or so of children would die within the first few weeks of life, and 30% or more would have lost their lives by the age of 15.

It is almost too much to bear thinking about, so it is incredible really to think that our ancestors actually lived through that and that they raised their families in those conditions.

If you are interested in reading anything additionally about what life in Victorian England, or in Victorian London in particular was like, there are some amazing resources now available, but one of the very best websites that I can highly recommend taking a look at is “The Dictionary of Victorian London” Perusing the 20 or so professions and trades listed on this site will give you a wonderfully in-depth picture of the incredibly varied ways in which our ancestors made their livings in the city. Who knows?—you city-dwellers may discover that your love of all things ‘urban’ may have its roots in one of your English ancestors who laboured in Victorian London.


Tina Alsford is an English born professional genealogist and probate researcher, who now lives in Australia. Tina has a particular interest in nineteenth century England and specialises in London family history research. She is currently also a start-up blogger for Samara Magazine (an Australian online magazine for women in business).

by Tina Alsford © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Genealogists.com Launches New Service


Genealogists.com is pleased to offer a new service called "Handwriting Analysis".  In a nutshell, we now analyze handwriting in order to give people an understanding of their ancestors’ personalities.

We can tell you about your ancestor's innate and learned personality traits as well as about their emotional and physical state at the time of the writing.  To name just a few, we analyze letters, diaries, journals, recipe cards, writing on the back of old photos, and of course, signatures. 

The response to this new service has been amazing; people are eager and excited to receive "real person" additional information about their relatives.  It truly brings their ancestors to life and adds a valuable dimension to family history research.

Handwriting analysis has been around a very long time and is classified as a science, just like psychology, by the Library of Congress; you may be interested to learn that handwriting analysis is admissible as evidence in a court of law in the U.S..  The first book about handwriting analysis was written in the 1500s by an Italian.  Since then, much research has been conducted over the centuries and currently, the science is widely used in Europe for numerous purposes, such as employment verification, credit checks, etc.

Here's a quote from a recent client whose grandmother's writing we analyzed last week:

"Thank you so much for your analysis.  I knew and remember my grandmother clearly and you really hit it right on the nose.  I can't tell you how pleased I was with your analysis. Now that my tenure has closed with the Grand Jury, I hope to have time to go through my possessions and send you new letters...I also recommended your service to our Program Director, who said she would be contacting you.  I spout the praises of your firm every opportunity I get...Thank you, once again.  Just delighted with your analysis!"

The above response is very typical, and it is gratifying to help people truly understand who their relatives really were.  Sometimes traits are handed down from generation to generation, and handwriting analysis is a unique and enlightening way to help you discover yourself in your family’s past.

Handwriting analysis can lead to amazing discoveries

If you have any records with your ancestors’ handwriting — perhaps just a signature on a certificate, a brief note on a postcard, or correspondence of any sort — we would love to analyze the records for you.  Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.  We look forward to helping you learn more about your ancestors and strengthening your relationship with them.

Act now and save.  Special introductory pricing until end of July 2014.

  • Full analysis (mental, emotional, physical, and personality traits) only $30 (save $10 per record)
  • Partial analysis (20 significant traits) only $15 (save $5 per record.)

Click to submit a record for analysis today.


by Nancy Douglas and Jim Heddell © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why We Trace Our Family History

I think I have always been in love with the country and with 'country life' really. When I was about 18 months old, my parents moved from the town that we were living in, to a little country village in England and I truly have some of the happiest memories from living there and of just of how beautiful I remember it being. It probably sounds so silly, but it honestly really was almost like that kind of storybook/picture postcard/photographs-on-chocolate-boxes pretty — just picture-perfect scenery — and it truly was such a wonderful place to live.

We lived there until I was five and I just have the most amazingly lovely memories of so many little 'country' things... of fields full of wild flowers and horses grazing in the meadows, of the little country lanes to go walking and exploring down, of my first school — which was the cutest little stone country cottagey building — and so many other things, and I can remember going blackberry picking with my mum, and my mum then baking and making treats like jam at home.

We moved to Australia when I was five, but I was lucky enough, that just by coincidence, all of the school camps that I seemed to go on always seemed to be to country properties or farm stays, and so I managed to still have a little bit of the country in my life growing up, which I loved.

Then, when I was nineteen, one of my very best friends moved to a little country town in Victoria, Australia and I think that that is when my love of all things country was really cemented for me. I still remember going to visit her there for the first time and seeing her new 'old' home and falling completely in love with it. Over the next six years that I visited her while she was living there, each time that I visited felt a little bit like coming home, and some of the best memories of my life are from times spent there. I have funny memories, even of just sitting and having a cup of tea on the back verandah and watching the neighbour’s chickens run by.

I think it all just made me realise that the country is definitely a big part of me, and where I feel the happiest, and so for me, when I then started researching my family tree and learnt that so many of my ancestors were people who were 'country folk' and did live and work in the countryside (like so many of our ancestors did), it made me feel like I could understand myself maybe even that little bit more. It's an indescribable feeling really, but it made me so happy. I thought, 'See, the country is just a part of me', and I guess it was always going to be, but I love that.

I have often heard people question why people want to trace their family trees and I think that you only have to watch television programs like “Who Do You Think You Are?” to realise or understand that for everyone, there is always going to be a slightly different reason. That everyone will have something that is personal to them, but I think that ultimately, there is a genuine natural curiosity in us all to learn about where we come from and also to see whether we can find that little bit of ourselves in that. To learn maybe why we love the things that we do, or maybe why we are drawn to the things that we are, and when you find those things...well... it feels lovely.

Tina Alsford is an English born professional genealogist with Genealogists.com, who now lives in Australia. Tina has a particular interest in 19th century England and specializes in London family history research.

by Tina Alsford © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Are Your Brick Walls Really Made of Brick?

Are your brick walls really rock solid, or do you just need fresh eyes looking things over for you?  Sometimes when the same person examines the same problem again and again, vital clues and information can be missed.  The following suggestions will help you look at your research with “fresh eyes.”

1. Discuss the problem out loud either with yourself or with someone else.  Sometimes dissecting the problem, especially with someone who is not personally involved in the research, can help.  Questions will be asked and you will need to explain how you have already attempted to break through a seemingly solid brick wall, and why you took a particular approach.  Just hearing the information out loud can often lead you to the next step.

2. Try thinking outside the box for ideas and clues that have may have eluded you up to this point.  Have you looked at records beyond marriage, birth, and death certificates?  Probate and land records are often helpful.  Ask yourself; were my ancestors members of a union or guild?  Did they participate in an organized religion?  Were they politically active?  What were their interests, hobbies, or pastimes?  Looking to these other sources may jumpstart your research and help “flesh out” your ancestor’s life.  Don’t look specifically for just your ancestor’s name, but also look at the local community’s archives, newspapers, libraries, clubs, organizations, and churches.  If nothing else, it will help place your ancestors in the proper historical and cultural context and give you an appreciation for their everyday lives.

3. Imagine all the variations in spellings of your surname.  Just when you thought your surname couldn’t be spelled yet another way, lo and behold, you might happen across a record with an alternate spelling.  Look for transposed letters, letters that may look similar in old handwriting styles and names that sound similar.  Also consider nicknames of your ancestors when researching them; you never know whether they—or perhaps a middle name—became your relatives’ preferred forms of address.  And who knows—the story behind a particular moniker might lead you to other lost relatives.

4. Let go of what you know—or think you know.  Family legend may be a strong motivating force for painting a family picture but trying to fit the puzzle pieces together based on stories passed down through generations does not always work.  Family lore may have Aunt Katie sailing into New York harbor from the old country—and it’s a great story—but perhaps it was really Philadelphia where she docked and later took another boat to arrive in New York.

5. Remember that people often reinvented themselves.  This was true for many immigrants who came to North and South America, and other colonies such as Australia or some African nations, looking for a fresh start.  When you leave your past behind, something totally different often takes its place.  The premise of a fresh start also holds true for people who are born, live, and die in the same country.  Perhaps your family didn’t actually own the general store in that small town, but rather someone from your family worked there as a clerk.  There can be truth in the shadows, but a total reinvention may also have occurred.  For instance, one immigrant who wanted to make an entirely fresh start in America chose a new surname at random out of the telephone book.  Luckily for the family, they knew about this change and embraced it as part of their heritage.

6. Look to the professionals for assistance.  All of those certificates, pictures, and notes you have compiled from your research, along with other records and correspondence passed on to you by your family, can become overwhelming without good documentation.  Genealogists.com can help you sort things out and help you access the 90% of records collections that are available only to “boots-on-the-ground” genealogists.  Hiring Genealogists.com can save you both money and countless hours of frustration.  It is a rare amateur genealogist who possesses all the skills, resources, and time needed to transform those brick walls into passageways to the past.


by Victoria Kinnear and Jim Heddell © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Write This, Not That



Genealogists.com is one of the world's largest family history research firms, and we continue to grow at a remarkable rate.  We currently are hiring for several positions, including Project Manager and Sales Manager.  Consequently, it seems we are always seeking additional researchers.  

Given this fact, we thought it might be helpful if we shared some pointers as to what not to say in your job application, along with some tips on what we find impressive or attractive in an applicant’s résumé.

1.  Please do not tell us that your family history research has been completed. As any seasoned genealogist knows, one's family history is never finished.  Instead, share with us the ways in which you were able to break through some dead ends that you encountered or let us know approximately how many years you have been engaged in your own or others’ family history research.

2.  Please do not tell us that you have amassed over 70,000 names in your family tree.  Quality research involves much more than sheer quantity of records gathered.  We are seeking hunters, not gatherers.  Please do include details about your successes with tracing difficult-to-find ancestors, and the methods you use to ensure that your family tree has been accurately constructed.

3.  Please do not tell us that you have traced your ancestry back to Adam.  In all our years of doing family history research, we have never found anyone who has been able to prove their descendence from Adam.  Please do let us know if you have experience with a particular era in time and how you would help others who have difficulty putting events in their proper historical and cultural context.

4.  Please do not answer the question about what repositories can you access by listing FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, and FindMyPast.  As important as these sites are, Genealogists.com focuses on the over 90% of records that are not online. Please do indicate whether you have expertise in a particular geographical area, have proficiency in a foreign language, or understand a particular ethnic or racial group. Your ability to read maps, decipher certain scripts (for example Old German), or basic knowledge of ecclesiastical records for instance are all very valuable skills that you should mention in your application.

We hope that this brief list will help you be more successful in your efforts to join one of the largest and most successful research firms in the world.  We appreciate your interest in joining us as we know that our researchers truly are the reason for that success.  We pledge to do all we can to continue to attract and retain the best genealogists in the world in order to access the records needed to compile family histories as well as make family history research affordable for the general public.


by Jim Heddell © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Birthday America

As family members and neighbors gather together to celebrate the 238th birthday of the United States, it’s a good time for talking with family members about how the holiday was celebrated in the past. How many of your group can remember that Independence Day became a paid federal holiday in 1941? Before then, it was an unpaid holiday for federal employees starting in 1870.

Did your family or community attend parades? What types of things were in the parades? Did anyone march or twirl? Was there a pie or hot dog eating contest in town? What did everyone eat at their cookouts? Are the same recipes still being used, handed down through the years?

How did the traditions evolve and change?  And fireworks... was it a private display in the backyard or did the community provide the show? Ask some of the “older” people in about the Bicentennial and what they remember.

In my family, we always attended the local parade in Towson, Maryland. There were marching bands, baton twirlers and lots of convertibles filled with local dignitaries, waving to the crowds. There were fire trucks and veterans from all wars. There were even horses with riders in cowboy hats and women in patriotic sequins! And lots of clapping.

The parade took hours to complete and people arrived hours before it was scheduled to get a good seat with their folding chairs. It was important not to have to stand for hours in the hot sun.

The kids ran around, not really paying attention to what was going. The big thing for us was to run back and forth across the street during breaks in the parade. The adults took the opportunity to talk to neighbors and compare notes from previous parades. Or at least that’s what I think they did since I was one of the ones running across the street.

After that, we had a cookout in the backyard and waited for dusk to arrive to begin the hike to the hill with the fireworks. The fireworks were donated by a local appliance store (Luskins). People came from miles to spread their blankets and doze off their meals before the big event. You never know what was going to happen. Several times, there were accidents when the rockets didn’t launch as planned and there were serious burns to the volunteers in charge of the event. A big hush would go over the crown until the ambulance would drive away, with their own display of lights and noise. Other years, the fireworks exploded low and the crowd was showered with tiny burning embers and ash. Most of the time, things went as planned. The night sky would fill with bright colors in exotic patterns, while the night air was filled with “oohs” and “aahs” from the happy crowd.

Luskins has long since closed and the fireworks have moved to other places. New traditions were forced upon the community. But if you ask anyone of a certain age, they’ll tell you that the fireworks today are not as good as they used to be. And there will be a wistful look in their eyes, as they remember going to the hill.


When you’re talking with your friends and family today, remember to record the discussions, with video, audio or just by taking notes and writing about it later. Keep the memories alive; it’s what genealogists do.

by Victoria Kinnear © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved



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Monday, March 31, 2014

Who Is Genealogists.com?

Genealogists.com provides high quality family history research at the most affordable price possible. We specialize in:
  • Obtaining copies of original documents from archives and libraries around the world
  • Breaking down difficult brick walls and solving complex family history problems
  • Strengthening and extending family trees

Who We Are
Genealogists.com has created one of the largest networks of professional genealogists in the world. We do research in every state in the United States, every country in the United Kingdom and Europe, as well as Australia, Canada, and many other countries around the globe.  Genealogists.com has:
  • Literally thousands of years of combined genealogy research experience
  •  More than 500 genealogists around the globe
  • Access to over 1,000 archives and repositories worldwide
Success Factor 1: Knowledge of Available Records
Our researchers know what records are available, what those records contain, and how to best analyze them.  Our detailed analysis reports will pull information from not only online sources, but from the archives that document where your ancestors lived and died.
Success Factor 2: On-Site Research
Our researchers conduct over 85% of the research projects using on-site archives that contain the records needed.  If a researcher needs one or more records from a remote archive, they can call or email one of our 500+ researchers who perform lookups in that specific archive and have the record sent to them saving weeks or even months of research time.
Success Factor 3: Customized Research
We customize the amount of research provided according to your needs.  Typical pricing is $43 to $65 per hour, depending on project size and complexity. The hourly price is less for larger projects. Your goals, your objectives, your research package.

Success Factor 4: Collaborative Approach
Our genealogists work together to bring you the expertise you need in the location you need.  You no longer need to spend time and effort searching for researchers in all the different locations where your ancestors lived and worked.  Simply submit your request and we will ensure that you receive the best researchers possible.

Success Factor 5: Quality Deliverables
Our job is to locate and fully analyze relevant family research records, providing you a detailed research calendar/log documenting our searches.  We then create a research report that presents our findings.  All of our deliverables are reviewed by expert researchers before they are sent to you in order to ensure the highest quality possible.  See examples of our deliverables.

Request a Quote Today
To receive a free quote for your research project, simply complete the "Request a Free Research Quote" form at:  indicating what you want us to investigate.  We will provide you with a quote within 72 hours; there is no limit to the number of requests you can submit.  We look forward to helping you with all your family history research needs.

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by Jim Heddell © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved