One thing that is common across most professions and occupations is the need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. Lawyers need to know about new legislations, medics about new treatments and mechanics about new technology etc., but what about genealogists? Do we need to update our own skills and knowledge?  After all the past never changes – does it?  Of course we do.

The basics of genealogical research may stay relatively the same, so some researchers who rely on experience alone will use that as their argument against attending courses etc.  The majority, I would hope, however will see the importance of continuing professional development (CPD).  Their training may range from reading relevant books, attending presentations at genealogy shows or taking courses at institutions or local archives centres.

One of the main things I learnt whilst studying for my Post Graduate Diploma in Genealogical, Palaeographic & Heraldic Studies  was how many subjects are encompassed within genealogy. It is not just the three areas mentioned in the Diploma course title, but many other areas.  Research in England and Wales differs to research in Scotland or Ireland due to different local and national government systems, and a variety of different resources they have available. Similarly research in other countries including America, Australia and those who had been part of the British Empire will also differ.  Just as countries have different records, so do different eras and religions. The most commonly used records and England and Wales date from the Victorian period, however Georgian through to Medieval periods require different approaches.  Religions outside of the Church of England, such as Methodist, Catholic and Jewish all require different knowledge and skills.  In addition DNA technology, heraldry, palaeography (reading old handwriting), Latin, and historical legal & social issues, currencies, and weights & measures, are all areas any genealogist will come across in their work. No one, no matter how experienced they are, can truthfully profess to be an expert in all aspects of genealogical research, just as a doctor is not an expert in all medical ailments and procedures.

The common phrase “use it or lose it” also applies. No matter how in-depth you have learnt something – if you do not consistently use that knowledge you will start to forget aspects of it. This is why refreshing and updating your knowledge is important.

All researchers have their own specialisms, which may be specific geographical areas (mine is East Yorkshire), time periods, religions, DNA, probate research etc. or reading and transcribing documents. No researcher should rely on that special alone as many clients ancestry will inevitably cross into other areas.  Over the years my client research projects have involved migrations to and from a variety of different countries, and a range of religions.  The people I have researched have been criminals, police officers, inventors, homosexuals, suffragettes or deaf. They have ranged from workhouse inhabitants to the wealthy elite, with occupations including agricultural labourers, military personnel, religious ministers, lifeboat men and doctors to name a few.  I have a good understand of most of these areas – but only because I have done the research when I come across something I have not researched before.

It is important that all genealogists continue to learn and refresh their knowledge and skills, as we never know where the research will take us. For this reason I will be attending the RootsTech family history show in London later this month primarily to attend the huge range of lectures and presentations they have on offer. Several of these will be given by colleagues who are members of the Register of Qualified Genealogists.  Just because they are giving presentations don’t think they will not be attending any themselves – I can guarantee they will be.


If you are interested in learning the basics of family history research contact me to book a one to one coaching session in either Beverley or Kingston upon Hull.