Food, glorious food


RitaE / Pixabay

Tell us about your ancestors who had occupations or businesses related to food or beverages. Has it been easy to research this aspect of your family history?

My grandfather Frank Duncan had a food van in the late 1920s and 1930s that he took to football matches, race meetings etc in the area around Cobar. The aforesaid Frank Duncan was a sheep farmer on 48,000 acres near Cobar until an horrific bushfire wiped him out . So he was always connected with food.

I have had a baker and confectioner. But I haven’t done much research on them yet

Hi everyone – yes I have bakers and confectioners in my family tree too @tasteach. The Forfars had a famous bakery at Hove in Sussex and his descendants had one in Newcastle – Wingfields.

My great grandparents were dairy farmers at Seventeen Mile Rocks until the 1930’s. One of my convicts was a ‘pantry boy’ and I had a grocer in Suffolk in the mid 1800’s. I have to admit I haven’t done a great deal of research

My ancestors in Bedfordshire were vegetable growers. Researching their property has given me a huge amount of information about them

My great grandfather was a butcher. His business was in front of their house. His wife had a cake shop at the back of the house.

When I was little Mum and her sister had a delicatessen in Kensington NSW. I used to love the easy access to milkshakes and ice cream cones.

#Food & #FamilyHistory go together like strawberries & cream. Did the ancestors eat rich or poor foods or (even worse) workhouse food? To write about their lives we have to know about the food.

I have a 4xg grandfather who was allegedly a baker, but his son might have been making that up for the marriage register! And my 2x ggrandfather ran a pub in Charleston (West Coast) for a while – obviously found that more lucrative than the gold fields

My aunt was an excellent cook, and I have some of her recipes in my handwritten book. My nephew is a chef. There are some publicans among my family

Guess my farming ancestors count too! Grandfather and great grandfathers were stock agents, some good stories about their working life from newspaper reports when they retired.

I have farmers and vegetable growers in my family history in Australia. Most of them struggled to make a go of it but the ones that stuck with it for a few years did very well

My maternal grandfather was a sales rep for Allens sweets and also McNivens Ice Cream. His brother (my great uncle) was a pastrycook/baker. Easy to research.

I am envious Karen. The nearest I came was my grandfather knowing the owner of the Smiths Crips factory in Brisbane. I can’t eat them now because I had so many as a child

I imagine she did, but us kids certainly had some of the sweets! On at least one or two occasions he brought us an ice cream container full of Allens sweets! Happy days, of course! But, we lived a long way from my grandparents, so didn’t see them too often.

I forgot I had generations of corn millers in Marston, Lincolnshire. I have done quite a lot of research on this Morley family and the water wheel mill

My husband’s ancestors were butchers in Brisbane and had a firm called Daw and Slack. I was excited to find a photo of one of their shops in a much loved book called Brisbane Art Deco

I’ve recently been researching the Gutteridge & Anchor families of Emneth, Norfolk. The men were butchers & Mary Anchor was the licensee/beer-seller of the Butcher’s Arms at Muckle Row.

I got a lucky break with the Butcher’s Arms, finding a list of licensees on a Norfolk Pubs website; there was Mary Anchor and 2 husbands which helped explain all her tricky name changes

My convict 3 times g grandfather had a pub in Singleton called the Golden Fleece. I was thinking I had few ancestors who worked with food but now my memory is being jogged….

Mother-in-law was receptionist at Gartrell White cakes in Newtown, NSW – the kids had very fancy birthday cakes until she retired.

I think I have some grocers too – the widow and her daughter took over the shop until she died.

My maternal great grandfather had been a pastry boy on an immigrant ship to Australia. Both hard and easy to research as he deserted his wife and family.

I have a g g uncle who farmed sheep in NZ then came to the Darling Downs Qld and bred a new sheep. He is mentioned in a Royal Commission into the meat industry in Qld in the early 1800’s

I have two more self employed butchers in my family in 19th century. One at Violet Town and one at Redesdale, both in Victoria

My convict ancestor Margaret Jones was a dairymaid and she and her husband Samuel Taylor had some success in animal husbandry

My Great great grandfather was a gardener at Government House in Tasmania often mentioned in newspaper articles for growing great fruit and vegetables

Have also found him written up in Lady Harriett Gore Browne’s diaries while she was wife of governor in the 1860s

Amongst my husbands ancestors there were confectioners and a baker but on my side, farmers who grew their own food. All my food as a child was home grown, killed, dressed, baked etc

My husbands family had a bakery in Cuba Street, Wellington, NZ and as my ancestors lived close I wonder if they were customers. Or a great grand father was a cook on many different ships. No wonder I have no photos or electoral roll records. Often at sea?

My 2xgreat grandfather, William Welch, moved to the Hutt in 1845 where he started the Rose of the Valley Hotel, also known as the “The Rose Inn, Mr. Welch’s”.

Just remembered my 2x great grandfather who owned a pub in Kent Street London called The Castle. When he gave up the lease he came to Australia and struggled growing potatoes in the snow in Victoria

My g grandfather was involved in hare drives in South Canterbury. Got some photos of those.

StockSnap / Pixabay

What food related events did your ancestors experience during their lifetimes ie famine, new settlers, war rations? How did these events affect their lives?

The Potato Famine in Ireland caused my ancestors to emigrate to NSW.

I had paternal ancestors who left Ireland during the potato famine and went to Glasgow to work in the coal mines. I wish I knew where in Ireland they were from

My mother was a child during WW2 and she told me how they had ration cards and her lunch was dripping and bread. She reminded me of that whenever I didn’t like eating something so it stayed with her

My grandfather wasn’t allowed to go to war (WW2) as he had to keep the Brisbane water supply going. He used to come home with US soldiers and my grandmother had to make the rationed food go around. She did so graciously though

Gosh well I know that both my parents went through rationing in WW2. My mother says she will always remember the excitement of seeing chocolate wrapped in foil after it was all over. All foil was previously donated to the war effort for munitions I think.

My husband’s grandparents hoarded tea and sugar during WW2 as much as they could and my husband continues the tea hoarding tradition to this day !

My parents went through rationing during WWII, and sent food parcels to the UK. I got some books and toys when I was born. No food was wasted in my mother’s home. I still have that attitude.

Probably the most significant event that affected a lot of my ancestors was the potato blight in Ireland, prompting mass migration. My ancestors from Munster all came to NZ, while others moved to England and Scotland.

Irish potato famine (likely); war rations (definitely). One uncle was a cook during WWII when he was very young. There were several agricultural labourers/farmers among my ancestors and their families.

My paternal grandfather fetched firewood for the local baker during the depression as ‘payment’ for bread.

Great book about the meat industry in NZ, primarily about Borthwicks, written by Peter Norman, called The Meat in the Sandwich. Some good anecdotes about my ggrandfather in there too.

Mum never cooked brains nor tripe – probably a hangover from the Depression and WW2 coupon years plus she was raised in a single parent family when her father deserted them from 1938-1939 – so things were very tight

Nrs_Kitchen / Pixabay

Share your food related memories of your own past ie birthdays, family dinners, school fetes. What food evoke strong memories of the past for you?

Cooking wasn’t a strength for my mother. Her limited repertoire included meat and 3 veg, crumbed cutlets, corned beef, lasagne and packet cakes

Bread and dripping was not unusual in our house after we got home from school. The dripping had the taste of the previous roast dinner.

So many memories! My mother’s chocolate cake on birthdays that tasted like no other – a very rich cream or ganache filling from memory. My mother once buying such a big turkey for Xmas from DJs Elizabeth Street that it didn’t fit in the oven.

School fetes – toffee apples and toffee in cupcake papers!

My mother could also manage toffees and coconut for the fetes,

We had Christmas every year at my grandparents house. My grandmother would kill the chook on Christmas Eve. I loved the chooks so worried about the chook that was served on Christmas Day.

I have such fond memories of my Irish grandmother’s cooking. Her Irish Bap, Irish stew, caramel Custard, home made ice cream and Rosella Jams were my favourites

So many great memories! My mother makes wonderful desserts (pavlova, cheesecakes, sweet pies, cakes, biscuits, slices, puddings), roast meals, lasagna, spaghetti, and many others. She taught me how to cook when I was 7, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

My paternal grandmother’s roast chook cooked in the Sunbeam counter top electric frypan was to die for.

Remember going to Nana’s and she always had sugared almonds – pale pink and white I think – in a little jar, like the ones that used to be found in wedding favours

My mother always made wonderful double tier sponge cakes 🍰 for birthdays, filled with fresh cream (from our cows) and homemade jam. Sometimes we had bought lemonade too that was a real treat.

Mum was a great cook, yet we always had meat and three veges for evening meals. Mum also did lots of cooking at Girl Guide camps and catering for events with her sister and cousin quite often

We had meat and three veg too for dinners. I was always amazed when my mum cooked for friends at dinner parties – she really leveled up! LOL Obviously fancy fare was wasted on us kids.

Big fat cream buns. I think that is my favourite childhood memory. The baker delivered and we would get a cream bun as a treat

So many memories connected to food, and I’ve tried to pass on family food traditions to my kids. But have also created our own too – we make a gingerbread house every year for Christmas and they still love decorating it, even in their teens!

I have a book called British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History. I hvn’t read it yet but look forward to it in the new year. Looks an interesting read, and I expect will give a better idea of the food our ancestors ate

Happy memories of my parents discovering delicatessens in the 70s – trying black bread, salami, cheeses, avocadoes…we had what we called “peasant lunches” on Saturdays and loved them. A bit like an antipasto. Lots of fun.

Remember taking 25c for school lunch order on Fridays as a treat. Was able to buy a pie, coffee scroll and drink with that amount

Tuckshop! sausage rolls for morning tea on a cold Canberra morning were always very welcome. Space food sticks in the early 70s were very hip. Paddlepops for 2cents.

My mother made fudge & fudge cake for every celebration – sickly sweet. I haven’t eaten them since I left home. She had a very sweet tooth, lived to 92. For Xmas it was log cabin roll & fruit cake. When we visited her, she would make fudge cake

Boarding school food horrors – sinker, i.e. afternoon tea cake, fried fritz (a South Australian thing), boiled cabbage…..

I know what you mean but the chocolate slice at afternoon tea at our boarding school was to die for. I have yet to find the recipe. It was sooooooo good.

Family dinners were basic food – stews, casseroles, meat loaf, roasts, etc with vegetables, many of which came from the garden. That’s what I still eat a lot of. My father liked milk puddings. I did the baking – biscuits and loaves.

Food brings back so many memories. Mum’s roast beef. She was ahead of her time – went for low fat meals. I remember she used to ask the butcher to cut off much of the fat. He moaned as it reduced the weight so she said weigh it, price it, then cut it off.

Making boiled fruit cake with my GM. My GF breaking his false teeth on a bacon rib, him making me champ as a “starter” (potato mashed with butter, salt, white pepper) when we were hungry waiting for dinner. Peas like bullets after I went walkabout aged 3 😮

Our neighbours had hens. Lots of eggs though I avoided slaughter time. Chicken was expensive in the 1960s. I often asked for chicken for special meals like birthdays. Food choices are different today.

We had meat & 3 until Mum discovered Asian cooking. We had so many spicy meals we got excited when meat & 3 was back on the menu 😆


Are there any foods or recipes that have been passed down in your family? Do they reflect your heritage? Share your favourite Christmas foods and recipes.

Definitely Scottish Shortbread from Mr @geniaus forebear.

My grandmother’s home made ice cream, Irish bap and plum pudding are still a favourite in my family

So did I until I had to give up milk 30 years ago. It’s not the same with soy or rice milk. Bread and butter pudding used up old bread. Crumbles and sponges. 1st husband liked choc fudge pudding

Oh yum! You have reminded me of my mother’s rice pudding Alex. I could never make it taste as good as she did

What I have now is rice flakes cooked for a few minutes in rice milk, served with fruit (at present strawberries or raspberries from my garden) and yoghurt.

Rarely had rice pudding. Baked in the oven, short grain rice, can of nestles sweetened condensed milk. Nutmeg sprinkled on top. I always thought it was a waste of good condensed milk & hated the skin on the top. Mum was into fresh fruit so we had lots available.

I have cooked the mince pies and christmas cake. Shortbread is next with my nifty new cookie cutter in the shape of a Xmas tree together with my Gnome for the holidays spatula from TK Maxx.


Morning/Evening #ANZAncestryTime just popping in to say hi very quickly. Looking forward to reading about those family food memories. I remember my grandmother talking about using every part of the xmas bird, even its feet, to feed her hungry horde

Not a scrap Maggie! The same woman had been housekeeper for an English doctor and his wife. She was a fantastic cook – her recipe book fell apart eventually.

I never had soggy boiled cabbage. Mum put ours on when the roast meat was out finished and being carved. I still hate the thick white stems part as they sometimes they were nearly raw. When I went to university and met institution food it was frightening.

My mother loved to experiment – one of her go to cookbooks was Aerophos – though hers were probably late 1950’s

Aerophos is the best!!! We have that here at home. I’m pretty sure it’s what I use for the Christmas cake and puddings although I deviated this year to Nursing Mothers cookbook.

I just love old recipe books and that’s my go to section now when I go to Lifeline book sales. So many hilarious ones put out by fridge companies or canning companies – how many recipes can you collect for tinned pineapple or gelatine !!

I inherited some of my mother’s and my aunt’s by marriage. Some have gone off to collections. I still have some to sort through as they are not dated and no use to my researcher of food friend.

Same for my daughter – that and Commonsense cookbook but I don’t think my daughter appreciates them 🙁 probably too old-fashioned and very unhealthy.

Here’s last Christmas ham baked by hubby, and Christmas cake me-made #ANZAncestryTime Did Mum’s recipes A-Z a couple of years ago

My mother always made a delicious boiled fruit cake, a weekly staple!

My cousin always made black bun for Hogmanay and my brother has her recipe. That and shortbread. Neither can I eat

I have a lovely Christmas pudding recipe from an Irish friend’s grandmother. It has Guinness and whiskey in it, so I enjoy making it as much as I enjoy eating it!

No one mentioned the sixpences in the Christmas pudding #ANZAncestryTime We looked forward to that and ate so much pudding hoping to get a coin😀

Thanks for the tweet on sixpences – I’ve just ordered sixpences on ebay for next year’s Christmas Puddings

Mum cooked fabulous pikelets in an Electric counter top frypan

I loved mums meatloaf and got her to write the recipe out for me to use.

I love traditional Christmas pudding with warm custard and vanilla ice cream. I also love chocolate coated almonds, salted cashews, fresh cherries, seafood, and roasts (though these days, I mostly eat vegetarian!)

I have a little handed-down notebook with recipes (including for household products) but I’m not sure who it is handed down from! Currently trying to decipher handwriting, and might try making the more palatable-sounding dishes.


RitaE / Pixabay

Blog posts:

Jill:  Frank Duncan and his food van, Shortbread recipe,

Alex: Newcastle bakers, Daw and Stack, Jones and Taylor,

Sharn: Family recipes,

Carmel: A-Z recipes,

Twitterchat: November 2020 chat about food

Readers: What are your memories of great food that has been passed down in your family?

Can you help solve these brickwalls?

Couleur / Pixabay

Tonight’s twitterchat for #ANZAncestryTime was about helping to solve brickwalls.

Many participants had written blogposts or biographies on wikitree including the information known about their person who is a brickwall.

Other participants gave us details so we could help solve them

Sharn: I have traced my Campbell ancestors back to Neil Campbell and Christian Buchanan who had children 1761-1773 in Callender Perthshire but I can’t find a marriage or their births

Margaret: It is my father’s family that is so difficult. For his maternal gmother…, we know her father is John. We assume her mother is Isabella from Naming Pattern, possibly Jamison. NO PROOF.

Alex: I had a go at crafting a more focused research question this afternoon. Here it is. Where and when did Robert Forfar die. He married Lucy Swait on 30 Jan 1842 at St James Westminster London UK and had a son George born 23 Oct 1848 and baptised Bannockburn? Lucy Forfar nee Swait died a widow in 1866. I surmise that Robert died some time between 1861 and 1866 as he was paying for George to go to school in Ealing in 1861. Did he die in England? Did he die in Scotland? Did he die somewhere else entirely? Robert was described as a mason on George’s marriage certificate. His family were weavers in Scotland. Forfar as a name presents a whole bunch of problems – spelling and that it is a place name as well. I need to keep rigorous records of my searches.

Kerri-Anne: I’m grateful for how much I know but I’d like to find out more information on my convicts in England Scotland Ireland – Thomas Power Jean MacDonald James Bradley Sarah Barnes Mary Parker Charles Watson Waters Ann Daley Richard Hicks Margaret Howe

Sharn: My g g g grandmother was Mary Williams said to be born in Singleton NSW c 1840 to parents named as Joseph Williams and Mary Kelly. I can’t find this couple or Mary’s birth

Sharn: Would really love to know what became of my g g g uncle Lawrence Frayne, convict who left a wonderful diary from his time on Norfolk Island after he received a Cert of Freedom in 1846

Margaret: I found most of the family for my 2xggfather William Dickson – again DNA matches and lots of research. Now I have to find his parents’ siblings – and his wife – and their missing children.

Hilary: I partially broke a brickwall when I discovered who my 3xgt grandmother married then found a DNA match with her descendants from that marriage My ancestor was illegitimate so I need to confirm the father with another DNA match

KerrieAnne: I am trying to find the origins of my direct maternal line ancestry from Ann MacLean to Robertson and further back – mt dna suggests Viking origins which is no surprise as she was from the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides

Tara: I think of them as learning opportunities and, as 3/4 of my ancestry is Irish, I’ve multiple 19C brick walls. The other 1/4 are English/Welsh origins and I can take most lines back quite far although my Welsh 3GGM is a challenge of her own

Jennifer: My 2x great grandparents John Taylor & Martha Lloyd are my brickwall. They arrived in Aust betw September 1841 and October 1842. They don’t appear on any passenger list. I’ve searched Taylor, Tailor, Tyler

KerrieAnne: Brickwalls – my husband’s direct paternal line challenge – finding Edward Tiearney & Catherine Colligan in Ireland before their emigration to US. Done ydna & got a good match but no real progress to go further back in Connacht Ireland, probably around Carracastle

Claire: my brickwall is probably not solvable. Can’t find marriage of 2x g-grandparents who had 2 kids in 1880s Dublin. No death of man recorded but dead by 1901. I’ve checked every marriage of right names countrywide church/civil & every death in Dublin from year before last kid born to 1901. Not helped by names involved: Reilly/Murphy

Sharn: I would love to know more about the family of my two convict brothers Michael and Lawrence Frayne both born in Dublin c 1809 and 1821 with children between

Suggestions of where to look for information

  • Prison hulks for convicts
  • Scottish kirk session on Scottish Indexes
  • Colonial Secretary letters
  • Occupation records such as Masons
  • National library of Ireland parish registers
  • Census records
  • Newspaper and archives for British and Irish

Try more than one site for your records – GRO, FreeBMD, ScotlandsPeople. With a missing name, I look for another person – then you find the name is mistranscribed, and that’s why it hasn’t come up on the index.

I really think spelling is key. My New Year’s resolution is to write up lists of spelling variations for each surname I am researching and make sure my searches cover all and any more I find.

A tip for breaking down brick walls is to re-examine any certificates or other documents you have. You never know what you might have missed in the past

look at the names of witnesses as sometimes their surnames might be a clue to a real surname after a name change

From Judy

I can’t join #ANZAncestryTime but my Brick Wall tips are (1) Research all relatives; (2) Try neglected sources (; (3) ’13 Tips to Try’ (; (4) ‘Break Through the 1837 Brick Wall’ (



Writing a research question

An important part of genealogical research is deciding what questions you want answered and where might you find those answers. This was a great choice of topic for #ANZAncestryTime 

GraphicMama-team / Pixabay

What is the purpose of a research question? Are research questions an important part of your research methodology?

Sorry I can’t make today’s #ANZAncestryTime! Research questions are my favorite topic

Here’s a link to @marksology‘s site The Ancestor Hunt. The March 15, 2021 Bi-Weekly Newsletter includes my guest post, “Crafting an Irresistible Research Question”. /2…

You can find out more about Genealogy and Family History Stack Exchange, a question-and-answer site where I’m one of the mods pro tempore, by taking the tour and reading our help center. /3

Sometimes when we’re reviewing prior research as we’re writing up our questions for the site, we discover we know how to answer the question ourselves. Stack Exchange encourages people to write self-answered questions as a way to share our work. /4

These journals from @GenSocIreland will be of interest to those with #IrishGenealogy. Issues include practical information about working with documents such as Irish Wills, as well as family histories of the diaspora…

When doing the diploma, I found Dianne Snowden gave great help when setting up specific research question rather than just a general one. This has improved my researching skills tremendously

I really should have done that intro subject 😬 #ResearchQuestions are immensely useful & I should endeavour to use them more.

I do rely on research questions when writing my family stories. They create an intention & help me to stay focused. I tend to easily go off track otherwise

The point of a research question is for it to be specific so it can help you to find the answer to a problem. A research question helps you stay focused on a task

Ever since I started Family History at the University of Tasmania I have tried to write a focused and concise research questions as part of my research plan – to focus my research. Have I been successful? NO.

I find using the website research Ties helps me to write research questions as it is set up for this purpose…

Going back over previous research and reexamining evidence very helpful in formulating the next steps – and deciding what question needs to be answered.

I am not good with excel Alex so I need a well structured log ready made for me. Research ties helps me to keep track of my research and since I began using it I tend to use research questions more

A well crafted research question can guide our research to the right record set

Writing out a research question forces you to focus on what you want to know. You can see if it is more than one question. Or maybe you are a little confused and have to relook at your evidence. To me it is focusing on just one question at a time.

Shauna to me question at a time is key, along with focus., Without a research question I would want to tell a person’s entire story in one writing session.

It depends on what you mean by a question. I have questions I want answering all the time. Today’s – what is John Cummings’ date and place of birth? Why is he not in any records until he marries my cousin in 1916?

Relooking at your evidence is a helpful process when researching.

I think research questions help structure your thoughts and identify what you already know and keep you on course as it were. I need to use them more regularly in my research.

I find that if I formulate research questions I am more likely to achieve a successful outcome as I stay focused

I’m currently writing family stories for the April A-Z blogging challenge. A research question for each post stops me rambling on and losing focus of the intention of the post.

I found Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do Overs very useful in this regard. Encouraging us all to go over previous research, slow down and testing theories. I blogged about it here…

Currently going over all my research entering sources first rather than just dates and places so if no source it does not get entered

A much as I promise myself that I will put some source even if it is not perfect I found 2 people yesterday that I have added to try to get to DNA matches & have no idea where I got them from. They are living to so it’s probably not a tree

It is easy to forget where we found things when we forget to record it Fran but we all do it from time to time

Research Qs help narrow scope/time (important for me with any client work). For personal work, I tend to use research Qs when I’m investigating a theory e.g. pattern of 1Cs rather than siblings as wits. Otherwise, generic research Q “what can I learn about X”

It really is helpful. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I just poke, shake, rattle and pull (my own research) randomly to see what shakes out. Sometimes best discoveries are from that or it allows me to frame a more concrete question.

Yes, RQs are an important part of my research methodology. Asking the right question, and making sure the question is answerable, can open up new avenues for #genealogy research.

bluebudgie / Pixabay

How would you structure an effective research question? Do you record your research questions, evidence and outcomes in a research log?

I really dislike research logs & don’t use them. I record my research question plus evidence & outcomes in my family history program.

I used to use notebooks but I found that I wasn’t able to quickly find where I had found information so an online log is working well so far

Yes Sharn – same. I think what is great about online logs (read blog in my case) is that you can tag stuff and search for it easily.

My rule of thumb is “use what works for you”. The best system is the one you’ll actually use.

well I am always firmly in favour of never reinventing the wheel when someone has already done a marvellous job. I recently discovered Prudence Dwyer’s SMART research goals template on Fuzzy Ink Stationery…

To create a good question you must gather what you already know and how you know it. I will only record a question if I am going somewhere to find the answer

An excellent point Hilary. As the Cheshire cat said to Alice when she asked which road to take “It depends on where you are going”

Unfortunately I don’t record my research question, evidence and outcomes in a research log very often. My blog is the closest I come to that. Here is an example of some recent research but I need to do better – check blog listed below

Hard to describe in a few words. I include points to create borders around or exclude information that you might find. Eg born 1888 means you can pass by years say 1888+-2 years. Or immigrated to Aust in 1895 means suggests the 1901 census is not relevant.

I usually use pen and paper. I don’t keep them once I have answered the question. I record the outcome in my genealogy software. I don’t use a research log & never have. With new resources coming online I think we need to review and go over existing research.

This is how I do it too Shauna. I’m so pleased to hear you don’t use research log either. I did think I was a ‘bad genie’ for not using them

I have only been using a research log since we did that topic Jennifer but I have found it helpful so far for remembering what I have done – sometimes I forget and grab a notebook out of habit

I find it works for me to record it in Legacy in the notes for the person

I use notes in Legacy for DNA information seeing my tree is a DNA matches tree. I have my own sources too like BDM Online and Cemetery Search

I create a structure for blog pages of my ancestral lines – so that helps keep it focused rather than necessarily writing research questions – however for my Colonial American ancestry research I created a summary project page of directions I was taking

A summary project page is a great idea. I always create a structure when beginning a blog post about a family member. Along with the research question it helps to keep it clear and concise

Perhaps I subconsciously do this as I write my profiles. I have certain data I try to find for all of them, then look for extra info if I have time. That list is in my head. Then I add the categories and stickers

I usually have a research aim with two or three questions relating to it, then list of records to use to find the answers

I’ve been wondering WHERE people write their #ResearchQuestions. I think i’d have to have it, in very large letters, on a whiteboard above my desk, for it to keep me honest.

My whiteboard is where I put my research question Brooke. Along with any brain storming I think of that might help to answer the question

I also write the research question in the person’s notes in Legacy and at the top of a blog post and delete it when it’s completed. I find that works really well for me

I like that approach Jennifer. I’ll have to find the equivalent notes place in Family History Maker software.

If I am going to the archives, I will write question on my notes app in ipad, then as I find answers will add to the app

Several apps been released over the last few months for use on @WikiTreers. For Electoral Rolls I use the Ancestry Citer app. The source is same for all except district & year. I keep it loaded on a tab, add link, create source, copy & paste it in the profile.

I agree! I like to break down a research question into small distinct steps. That way you feel like you’re making progress, even if you can’t answer the question fully, or straight away.

SMART works for me: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-sensitive. e.g. What testamentary evidence is available from online sources (incl. library/archive catalogues and newspapers) for person X in country/ies Y between 1852 and 1890.

Approach depends on context. For theory testing usually excel. For personal research, the log is the person profile and allows me to identify specific knowledge gaps. Otherwise, word doc with headings tailored to research q, incl search parameters/criteria

I use @ScrivenerApp as my research planning journal. It is writing software with an integrated outliner, document editor, and index cards.

For research planning and discovering questions to explore, I like to create a timeline and a checklist of sources already gathered. For tough cases, I use a spreadsheet based on this design by Crista Cowan.

Crista’s checklist is cleverly designed to go along with Ancestry’s categories of records (no surprise there). I’ve added other categories to mine, like academic papers and genealogy journals.

There’s a space on the Source Checklist spreadsheet to put the research question at the top. If you have several RQs about the same person or family line, or in the same locality, it’s easy to copy a sheet and keep everything together in the same workbook.

StockSnap / Pixabay

Tell us how you have used / could use a research question to solve a problem in your family history research?

Well I may submit a brickwall question to the SAG English research group this week but want to be sure that I present the information clearly to them. Their guidelines ask what I know and where I’ve looked so that is a start.

A key part of a research question for me is a timeline. That allows me to see any gaps or inconsistencies. James Henry Trevaskis disappeared in Copperfield, QLD. I have narrowed down to less than 5 year gap. Still haven’t solved that but review every so often.

I have several places where a research question may help usually when father is unknown

Before I formulate my research question. I always create a timeline to help show where I have gaps. I love timelines!

I find that I tend to use research questions more when I have a tough problem to solve like differentiating between two people of the same name. Staying focused and writing everything down helps

For me I need focus. Writing a question down, reviewing what I have, listing possible sources, not repeating work. Am I successful? Not all the time however if I do a weekend full of research I do progress and get more done.

I love the timeline approach. @ScientistSoph ‘s GenShow presentation about negative space emphasised how useful it is.

I’ve used MindMaps for framing some complex challenges like finding ancestry of my 3 x gt gdmother from the Isle of Skye – wrt Viking ancestral lines etc

Currently examining 1898 and 1902 reports of sibling funerals to identify those individuals/families who attended both and using 1901 census to begin building family trees for those men to query relationship to family. Early days but promising

I’ll link to some of my RQs that I posted on Genealogy Stack Exchange. (As my husband’s former boss used to say, “If you don’t cite yourself, who will?”)

I found a card index for probate files on FamilySearch and realized I didn’t know how to use the index properly to find the file. So I worked it out and posted a self-answered question to show others how I solved the problem.

This brilliant QA was written in response to one of my questions on the site about GRO subdistricts. If you need to narrow the geographical area when ordering a certificate for a birth or death in England and Wales, try this clever hack.


manfredsteger / Pixabay


Share where  we can find information about using research questions. What has been your best source of information?

Another post that helps with writing a Family History research question from @familylocket.…

my research questions are not as detailed as some of I have seen. Depends on what the issue is. I prefer to keep things simple, You can use your genealogy software to record them eg by using tags for brick walls and then in the text list what you know

Some blogs and websites with information……

If I have a particularly sticky research question I will use @EvidentiaSoft to analyse the information

We do have to think of those who come after us Margaret. When I think back to some of the old info, totally unsourced that has been handed to me over the years. It’s very frustrating. You want to be helpful to your descendants

That is why I put all my research on WikiTree and FamilySearch – it will be available for everyone after me. I am transferring my mother’s 50 years of work from her unsourced trees to these place adding the sources as I go. I HAVE NO DESCENDANTS.

perhaps the best piece of research I did was with the aid of a mindmap which did show up areas of research I hadn’t investigated in connection with my maternal grandfather. I blogged about it here…

How to Develop a Quality Genealogy Research Question from @FHFanatics. I love the Youtube with Devon & Andrew. To the point, quick and easy to understand.…

I think we all have our own approaches that suit our brains/work styles. Mine is based on college & experience. There’s no “right” way IMHO. Maybe one mentioned today will resonate more than others. Do what works for you. Best advice is “suck it and see”! 🙂


Blog posts

Sue: Conducting your research.

Alex: Canadian research,

We picked this topic to help us think about Research Questions as next week we are doing “Helping Solving Your Brick Walls”. It is one of the popular suggestions for a topic. During the week feel free to write a question & tweet questions.

Not quite sure how it will work. Other chats do this so lets give the topic “Helping Solving Your Brick Walls” a go next week. Regards Fran & the team

Readers: Do you use research questions and how do they help you in your research?