Author Helen Osborn on Genealogy: Essential Research Methods

Genealogy by Helen OsbornHelen Osborn is co-founder of Pharos Tutors, providers of online genealogy courses. She has worked as a professional genealogist and historical researcher since 1998 with clients worldwide and thousands of hours of research time under her belt. She is a member of AGRA and has been a consultant on the popular TV series Who Do You Think You Are? Helen has been lecturing, writing and teaching about research methods for many years and has written three previous books about public houses and brewing history. This is her first book about genealogy.

Here, she talks us through what went into writing Genealogy: Essential Research Methods

Genealogy is great fun, but it can be frustrating when you get stuck and don’t know where to look for advice. Thanks to the amount of records online, it is now relatively easy to start in the morning with just a few facts about an ancestor and to have built up some sort of a tree by lunch-time, assuming you have a subscription to one of the main family history websites. Yet, every single one of us doing this for any length of time will also fail to find an ancestor at some point or encounter a problem with identifying the correct ancestor. I am so pleased to begin to address the problems that genealogy throws at us, by producing the sort of book I wish I could have had on my bookshelf years ago. It comes not only from my own personal family history experiences, but also after having talked to hundreds of other genealogists about their problems, be they clients, my students or other professionals.

Working full-time as a professional genealogist for over ten years, I have built up thousands of hours of research time. Over time I have come to realize that problem solving and building up proof cases where identity is obscure or problematical is a whole lot more complex, pernickety and downright difficult than you might at first appreciate. Not only that, but there is very little information in print for the British genealogist about the best way to go about it.

There is lots of advice available in books and on the internet about how to start your family tree, and even how to venture further into the records, but very little that is for the intermediate or more advanced genealogist who wants and needs advice on method. General information about the life and times of our ancestors is to be found aplenty, but not much that discusses the issues and problems of genealogy in depth. If your family is anything like my family, you will find that they don’t conform very neatly to those broad-stroke general interpretations of history anyway. The internet has been a huge boon to family historians, but not everything you need is online and there is still no substitute for painstaking and detailed study into a family or community using original documents, analytical skills and documentation techniques. In short, there has been a lack of help for the genealogist who wants to advance their skills, rather than just find out about another set of possible websites to search within. I really hope that this book is going to start to plug that gap.

– Helen Osborn

Genealogy: Essential Research Methods is available to pre-order now with a limited time only discount of 30%


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