Essential Reading

'I have been a family historian for more than 40 years, and a professional historian for over 30, but as I read it, I was constantly encountering new ways of looking at my family history....Essential reading I would say!' Alan Crosby, WDYTYA Magazine

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Discover Your Ancestors 5th Annual Bookazine : Out Now!

Discover Your Ancestors 5th Annual Bookazine


Includes two articles by Ruth A. Symes 

'Maternal Ties' - on our ancestors' experiences of motherhood (contraception, abortion, miscarriage, and childbirth). 

'Climate Changes' - on the effect of various historical weather events in the lives of our ancestors.

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#wdytya #discoveryourancestors #familyhistorygifts #familyhistorybooks #ancestors #ancestry #familytree #ancestryhour #genealogy 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Family First - Find out more about your ancestors in their family roles

Find out how your ancestors lived as fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters, children, sons, daughters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbours and associates.

Family First:Tracing Relationships in the Past

by Ruth A. Symes

(Pen and Sword, 2015)

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Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents – these are the relationships that structure the family tree and fascinate the family historian. But how much do we really know about how our ancestors lived out these multiple roles? Buffeted this way and that by economic developments, legal changes, medical advances, Two World Wars, the rise of the Welfare State, women’s emancipation and many other factors, relationships between members of our family in the past were subtly different to those of today and continually transforming. 
This book is both a social history of the period 1800-1950 and a practical guide on how to set about tracing and better understanding the relationships between members of your own family. What did it mean to be a father in this period, but also, how might you discover the father of an ancestor if his name is not mentioned on the birth certificate? What common ideas were held about the role of wives and mothers, but also, how were multiple births, stillbirths, abortions and infanticides dealt with in the records? What factors might have influenced the size of your ancestor’s family, but also why were its children named as they were? Did pecking order in a family matter, but also, was it legal to marry a cousin, or the sister of a deceased wife? How long could people expect to live, but also what records can tell you more about the circumstances of your ancestors’ last years? A final chapter considers relationships with neighbours, friends and club associates.

For women's history and social history books - competitive prices and a great service - visit:

#familyhistorybooks #familyhistorygifts #familytree #wdytya #ruthasymes #familytree #ancestors #ancestry #Victorian =#Edwardian

It Runs in the Family - Find out more about your ancestors' physical appearance and their personal effects!

It Runs in the Family: Understanding More About Your Ancestors 

by Ruth A. Symes

(The History Press 2013)

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In the quest to uncover our family history, we turn to written records, the family album and even heirlooms. However, they can often be difficult to interpret and sometimes pose more questions than they answer: Why didn’t my ancestors smile for the camera? Why did great-grandfather wear a beard while his sons were clean-shaven? Why is my great-grandmother holding flowers in this photograph? Drawing on evidence from social history, women’s history, and the histories of photography, art and fashion, and using examples from the lowly as well as the famous, Ruth Symes explores many aspects of ordinary life in the past – from the state of the nation’s teeth, to the legal and economic connotations of wearing a wedding ring and even the business of keeping a dog. This fascinating volume aims to help family historians get to know their elusive ancestors by deciphering the wealth of personal and historical clues contained in photographs, documents and artefacts.

#familyhistorybooks #familytree #familyhistorygifts #enealogy # familytree #familyphotographs #wdytya #ruthasymes

Unearthing Family Tree Mysteries - Investigate the Rumours in Your Family History

Find out how to investigate the rumours that circulate around your own family tree: 

Unearthing Family Tree Mysteries 
by Ruth A. Symes
(Pen and Sword, 2016)

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The intriguing characters in these real family history mysteries include an agricultural labourer who left secrets behind in Somerset when he migrated to Manchester, a working-class woman who bafflingly lost ten of her fourteen children in infancy, a miner who purportedly went to live with the Red Indians and a merchant prince of the Empire who was rumoured to have two wives. This book shows how a variety of sources including birth, marriage and death certificates, censuses, newspaper reports, passports, recipe books, trade directories, diaries and passenger lists were all used to uncover more, and how much can be detected by setting the characters from your family tree in their proper historical backgrounds. This book is an updated edition of my previous book, titled Stories From Your Family Tree: Researching Ancestors Within Living Memory (2008).

#familyhistorybooks #genealogy #familyhistorygifts #sources #Victorian #Edwardian #history #discovery #ruthasymes #discoveryourancestors #wdytya

Ideas for Christmas from your Ancestors (5) : Hang Apples from Your Tree !

Hang Apples From Your Tree!

'For a big tree, red apples tied on with bright ribbons, gilded nuts, bags of sweets, chocolate animals in silver paper, lengths of tinsel and crackers, all add to the decorative effect at small cost.'

Lancashire Evening Post, December 22nd 1938

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#ancestors #ancestry #genealogy #familytree #familyhistory #wdytya #familyhistorygifts #familyhistorybooks #ruthasymes #personalwritings

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Ancestors' Signatures - New book to help you find out more

Find out more about your ancestor from his/her signature 
(and many other aspects of his/her personal writing)

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and  Personal Writings

(Pen and Sword, 2016)

Out Next Week

                                                                       [From The Brighter Blackout Book, by Howard Thomas and Marjorie Banks, George Allen and Unwin, 1939]

#wdytya #ancestors #ancestry #genealogy #familyhistory #familytree #letters #familyhistorybooks #signatures #writing #personalwriting

Friday, 25 November 2016

Get more out of your hand-held computer - Family History Research

If you enjoy this article, why not follow me for more creative approaches to family history?

Ask for a Tablet for Christmas - To Help Your Family History Research

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Wouldn’t it be fantastic if when next visiting archives or relatives for your family history research, you didn’t have to pack pens, papers, albums or library books? After all, how often do pens leak, papers get torn, or notes fall out of order or go missing? Memorabilia can sometimes be just too precious to take out of the house and reference material is very likely to be far too heavy to carry. The answer lies in your hand-held computer. Used to its full potential, your handy tablet can act as a micro-office combining multiple functions such as filing cabinet, photograph album, search tool, scanner, library and much, much more. 

                                                                                                             By William Hook -  WikimediaCommons

Jargon busting
Tablets include iPad, which uses Apple’s operating system (ios) and Android devices such as Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy or Google Nexus. Smartphones have many of the same functions, but because of their smaller size can be less easy to read and operate – though they have the advantage of working outside restricted wi-fi areas. With small variations, any of these devices can facilitate your family history research in many different ways – tracing your roots need never be such hard work again!

1 Take material with you and keep it safe
Tablets are small and light enough to carry easily and can be carried in their own special case. Don’t worry about security. You can set a password to ensure that no one else has access to your personal information.

2 Take, store and send photographs
The large clear photographs that can be taken on a tablet are one of their finest features. Store the photographs (and even short videos) in labelled files on your device for easy retrieval. If interviewing elderly relatives, there is no better way to jog memories than a slideshow of images of people, places, family properties and heirlooms.

3 Download family history apps
There are all sorts of apps (applications) that you can download on to your tablet to help you with your family history research. These can be found by clicking on the ‘App Store’ icon on your iPad or the ‘Play Store’ icon on your Android-operated appliance. Search for relevant apps either by name or by browsing under the keyword(s) ‘genealogy’ or ‘family history’ to see what is currently on offer. Some apps are free and others require payment by credit card or PayPal account. Some apps will provide the tools for you to draw up and manage your own family tree on the tablet itself. Others are databases of potentially vital information (the history of the British Peerage or collections of scanned old newspapers, for example) and services (such as how to organise a family reunion).

4 Scan documents
Download an app that will turn your tablet into a scanner and then make copies of all your important family history documents: censuses, certificates, letters, and even old photographs. These will act as a vital back up to the originals. JotNot Scanner (for iPad) and TinyScan (for iPad or Android) are two such apps available for free.

                                Staff member retrieves files from the National Archives, Kew (Wikimedia Commons Images)

5 Take notes when you are out and about
You can type notes on your tablet when visiting archives, or even when talking to family members. On the iPad, the basic note-making facility ‘Notes’, will be already installed; Android-operated appliances have the ‘Memo’ facility. Alternatively, you can download a more sophisticated diary or journal app from the App Store/Play Store, for example Evernote, which allows you to sync your files across all your electronic devices. You then sign in to Evernote from any computer to access and update the files.
Some notepad apps will allow you to doodle or draw (a useful facility if you want to record gravestone engravings, or the design of heraldic crests, for example).

                                                           Look for alternatives to writing notes by hand

6 Plan research trips
The Assisted–GPS (Global Positioning Chip) inside most hand-held computers can give you the co-ordinates of exactly where you are, and (combined with Google Maps accessed through the internet), can help you to plan research trips to other places. Use the GPS function also to pinpoint graves and other places important to your history and then pass this information on to other interested family members. Unless you have ‘3G’ installed on your tablet, you won’t be able to use it to help you navigate whilst you are actually travelling. Smartphones, however, since they have on-the-go internet access, can be used in the car, on the train etc.

7 E-readers
Many family history books and articles can now be purchased online at as Kindle downloads. Store these in your Kindle App to read at your leisure. The advantages of reading from a Kindle rather than a book are many: you can, for instance, read wherever you are, carry lots of books simultaneously, adjust the size of the text to suit you, find key words and move easily between different parts of the book. Other retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, WH Smith and John Lewis, make their own brand ebook readers.
l iBooks is Apple’s ebook store,
l Googlebooks ( allows you to preview books and in some cases read the text of entire volumes online, if the titles are in the public domain.
l Project Gutenberg ( provides electronic access to thousands of older books that are in the public domain.

8 Search & save information
Your tablet is connected to the vast array of information sources available on the worldwide web. Google ( provides easy access to information and images. Wikipedia ( is a good starting point for answers to all sorts of questions about the past, but remember to check the reliability of the information. Join one of the commercial genealogical websites; or for instant access to information such as parish records, censuses, birth, marriage and death indexes, military records, records of travel and migration, electoral rolls, land tax records, historical surveys, newspaper reports and much more.
l If you see an interesting webpage that you would like to return to, simply bookmark the page onto your home page, or ‘clip’ the page to your note-taking app. Alternatively, you can take a screenshot by simply pressing the home button and the power button simultaneously. Retrieve the information from your photos folder. You can send copied information to yourself via email and, if necessary, print it out from your desktop computer at a later point.
l Dropbox,, is an online facility that allows you to save information from your tablet onto an external server so that it cannot be lost. Your folder can be shared by others provided you allow them your access details.

9 Join a social networking site
Social networking sites are free and allow you to share information quickly with lots of other people who are interested in the same family, place, time period, institution or whatever.
l My Heritage ( is a social networking site specifically for family historians.
l Facebook ( hosts pages devoted to individual families (listed by surname).
l If there is no page on these sites for your family already, why not think about creating your own? Read about how to do this at You will then be able to post news and photographs about your own family history and invite other family members across the world to post theirs.
l Linkedin ( is a social networking site for professionals. Here you can connect with experts in various aspects of genealogy.
l Twitter ( allows you to post very short pieces of news (maximum 140 characters). Here you can choose to ‘follow’ your favourite family history writers, and other interested people may choose to ‘follow’ you. 

10 Communicate with others
Emails (or messages sent directly from iPad to iPad in real time) are quick, cheap and easy to send and can be less embarrassing than a phone call and less formal than a letter. And if you are feeling particularly bold, why not try out a video messaging service (such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or – on iPad only – Facetime) to see and talk to newly-acquired or long-lost relatives, or to send a recorded video message to them.

This article first appeared in Family Tree Magazine UK

#familyhistory #ancestors #ancestry #technology #android #tablet #ipad #handheldcomputer #familyhistoryresearch 

See family history books by Ruth A. Symes at

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Competition time: Win a copy of Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings

Win a copy of my new book:

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings (Pen and Sword, 2016)

Write a telegram from your ancestor to you (8 words max).

Send via the comments box on this blog or message me through twitter @RuthASymes or Facebook: Searchmyancestry.

Winner drawn 21 December

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#letters #ancestorsletters #personalwriting #genealogy #familyhistory #history #familytree #writing #telegrams #diaries #appointmentdiaries #commonplacebooks #poetry #memoir #selfhistory #marginalia #postcards #greetingscards #valentines #birthdaybooks #graffiti #signatures #traveljournals 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Wigan Evening Post Celebrates the Launch of Miss Weeton

The Wigan Evening Post Celebrates the Launch of:

Miss Weeton: Governess and Traveller (ed. Alan Roby, with an introduction by Ruth A. Symes)

#MissWeeton #ellenweeton #governess #Regency #Wigan #journals #letters #letterbooks #womenwriters

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Queen Victoria's 'Rowdy Halloweens' at Balmoral

See my article on Queen Victoria's 'Rowdy Halloweens' at Balmoral in October 2016's

Scots Heritage Magazine

#Scottish #scotsheritage #scotshistory #queenvictoria #Halloween #Balmoral #Britishhistory #Victorian #royalfamily #ukhistory #autumn

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For women's history and social history books - competitive prices and a great service - visit:

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Off by Heart - The Poetry Our Ancestors Learnt at School


See my article on the POETRY our ancestors learnt by heart in this month's
Discover Your Ancestors Magazine online.  

For women's history and social history books - competitive prices and a great service - visit:

#familyhistory #familytree #genealogy #familyhistorybooks #ancestors #ancestry

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings (Pen and Sword, 2016)

                                                 Coming at the end of this month.... Nov 30th 2016


Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes

Could your ancestors write their own names or did they mark official documents with a cross? Why did great-grandfather write so cryptically on a postcard home during the First World War? Why did great-grandmother copy all the letters she wrote into letter-books? How unusual was it that great-uncle sat down and wrote a poem, or a memoir? Tracing Family History Through Letters and Other Personal Writings looks at the kinds of (mainly unpublished) writing that could turn up amongst family papers from the Victorian period onwards - a time during which writing became crucial for holding families together and managing their collective affairs. With industrialisation, improved education, and far more geographical mobility, British people of all classes were writing for new purposes, with new implements, in new styles, using new modes of expression and new methods of communication (e.g. telegrams and postcards). Our ancestors had an itch for scribbling from the most basic marks (initials, signatures and graffiti on objects as varied as trees, rafters and window ledges), through more emotionally-charged kinds of writing such as letters and diaries, to more creative works such as poetry and even fiction. This book shows family historians how to get the most out of documents written by their ancestors and, therefore, how better to understand the people behind the words.

#personalwritings #ancestryhour #ancestry # ancestors # familyhistory #familytree #genealogy #family #familyhistorybooks #familyhistorybooks #letters  #marginalia, #diaries #appointmentdiaries #commonplacebooks #memoirs #selfhistories #autobiographies #poems #poetry #graffiti #postcards #greetingscards #valentines #telegrams #traveljournals