C20th Research, Third Cousins, DNA and another Writer

Well, today has been exhausting. Slightly delayed start (still in my pyjamas at 9.30am) because I got carried away with the hunt for third cousins. The more I do of this the more I am convinced that anyone who takes an autosomal (family finder) DNA test should be doing the same. Without verifying our documented trees down to at least our own generation, what use are all those suggested cousins going to be? I should make it clear I am being pretty thorough (ok, so I am a perfectionist – very thorough) about this and adopting the sorts of techniques used by probate researchers/heir hunters to trace living people. Actually, that is not quite true as I am doing it on a zero budget, so can’t order eleventy million certificates to prove or disprove theories. Apparently Ancestry estimate that the average person has 175 third cousins (Thanks to Debbie Kennett for that information). Obviously there are huge variations either side of that number and it looks like I am going to be at an extreme end of the scale. It was probably fitting that real ‘work’, when I got round to it, was finally finishing off the course that I’ve been preparing about C20th family and local history. I am now going to market it to anyone who has taken an autosomal DNA test!

common-people-book-cover-usa1Now for the advent calendar. This is a book I haven’t actually read yet but it looks so good that I am going to include it – shamelessly relying heavily on the blurb and other people’s reviews. It isn’t actually a novel either but the story of a family. The author has done exceptionally well to find a publisher for her family’s story in the days of the hobby’s boom. I remember when I first started, reading Marjorie Reeves Sheepbell and Plougshare – don’t read that unless you want to be seriously envious about the amount of family documents and memorabilia that she inherited. Others from that era were John Peters’ A Family from Flanders. Must also mention John Titford’s Come Wind, Come Weather but all these date from the 1970s and 1980s. Now the world and his wife are writing up their family stories getting one commercially published is next to impossible, which is why I think Alison Light’s Common People: the history of an English family is going to be something special. As the title suggests, Alison has woven and interesting story around the lives of ordinary people.

It is an opportunity to find out more about Victorian England in the throes of its industrial heyday and it is by setting her own family’s experiences into the broader context of their time that Alison has produced such a successful book. Now all I need is time to read it. I shall be recommending it to students on my Writing and Telling Your Family Story course – advert alert – you can register now for this – it starts at the end of February and it is online, so no excuses for those of you overseas.

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