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’ (



Local and family history

I was on holiday on Flinders Island when this chat happened so I will only do a brief summary without names.

Kookay / Pixabay

How can Local History research complement your Family History?

in the absence of extensive personal records for #FamilyHistory local history is often the only way to understand the worlds in which they lived and died. Knowing can give clues and help solve genealogical dilemmas

Absolutely! Especially handy when delving into Irish ancestors.

It’s pretty much essential! Some of my best breakthroughs over the weekend were applying that local history knowledge, including of custom and practice, to detect and analyse pattern

The British Library Ethos Catalogue lists all UK theses, many can be downloaded FOC, but not every one is available & you have to contact the relevant university.

Right now, the difficulty I have is that many publications I want were small print runs and copies only survive in local history libraries which are closed due to covid.

I love bibliographies! Makes me frustrated when people don’t reference adequately. And jealous when the sources aren’t available to me!

I love a good footnote! But the academic style in academic Irish History (IHS) often means that footnotes are just references and not commentary.

Understanding what industry was happening in the places where your early ancestors lived can give you an idea of what occupations they may have had

Local occupations/industries are a fascinating study. Regional variation is esp why local research element so important – a Cornish tin miner has a v different local culture to a Rhondda coal miner

Understanding our ancestors within the context of their own time and place is important … I like the concept of #Genohistory promoted by

I think this is an essential part of the research process! “Context” is quite possibly the most important word in #genealogy – and local hist a vital part of that if we’re to interpret records properly

Funnily enough there was an aspect of this I wrote about last week – considering the need to understand occupations at a local level to appreciate terminology, and how community & job are intertwined. Local lingo essential knowledge!

I find BIG rabbit holes to explore when I start wondering about why everyone seems to do the same job in a town, or have jobs I never heard of. Got very into shoemaking near Hinckley Lancashire when researching the wife left behind of a convict ancestor.

Craft occupations can be interesting given that fundamental tools/processes often constant, yet with different names or slightly diff products for a place. How did your shoemakers turn out?

Context, context, context! You lose so much of your ancestors’ real story if you don’t know about what was happening around them. The local community is just an extended part of your family tree, with a good chance you are literally related to some of them

Our ancestors are much more than names and dates. Local history helps to build a bigger and more interesting story

12019 / Pixabay

Has visiting an ancestral place helped you understand your ancestor’s life within their community and place?

Not really as the visits were always very short. And at the time I was travelling I knew very little about my family

I haven’t had the chance to visit many ancestral places since I started researching my family history, but I regularly make use of Google Street View to get a feel for the landscape and layout, particularly for rural areas or in other countries.

I Google street view just about every location I find. Also zoom back out so you can see close towns, rivers, seaside and other features that might a context.

This is a great tip. When I checked street view for my ancestors property in England I didn’t expect much as the house had been demolished. But it was possible to see where the moat around the original house had been

I’m cautious about researching urban areas in the same way though, as they tend to have changed a lot, and it would be easy to get a false impression

I agree. This is where if available online I scour contemporary newspapers and other contemporary accounts

Visiting gives a sense of space and place, especially where the landscape remains relatively unchanged but using local history sources (including maps) provides a means to interpret what our sense perceive

Yes. Absolutely crucial to tread in their footsteps and see what they may have seen to feel closer and get a sense of their place.

not yet, fully, but I twisted my ankle in a cobbled back lane of Collingwood last year literally walking in the footsteps of my GGGrandmother, who’d done the same there in the 1880s, reported in the papers!

A holiday is not a holiday for me unless I visit a place an ancestor lived ort a cemetery!

Agree Sharn. Any future trips we may be lucky enough to manage will have a #historyconnection – LOVE cemeteries but getting the rest of my family to accompany me into them is like pulling teeth!

supposed to be #familyhistory connection – yes, both my parents loved visiting cemeteries on our hols and I inherited their love, but my siblings steadfastly did NOT

Walking past the house in Wales that my ancestors left in 1840 helped me understand what they left behind. The heaviest rain I’ve ever seen made me wonder why they were leaving and how different life in Australia would be for them

Yes there are places I have been to that I just know I have a connection to when I am there … it gives an understanding of place but not time … that is something we need to research in some way

I managed to identify a house in a photograph I had when I visited the village where my father was born

Visiting Norfolk Island showed me helped me understand the convict life of my g g g grandfather and his brother. It really was hell in paradise

Walking the main street in my ancestor’s Bavarian village it’s easy to get a sense of how people would have known each other because the geography has changed so little.

I loved visiting Cornwall and Chelmsford, Essex where ancestors lived. It is always enjoyable thinking you might be walking in there footsteps.

TheAndrasBarta / Pixabay

How do you research your ancestral places and communities? What resources, books and websites do you use?

Old maps (PRONI has a great online viewer for historic maps from Northern Ireland), street directories, aerial photographs (useful for spotting old boundaries and ruined buildings that don’t appear on maps), newspapers, court records, statistical accounts. There’s never an edit button when you need one – ‘historicAL maps’. The website is here if anyone wants to have a play with it…

Since most of my Irish ancestors were rural, I’ve been using maps like those @NLIreland hold… and combining them with other land records and travelogues/directories My home parish was noted (c 1800) for its love of learning & feast days

contemporary newspapers, academic histories e.g. The Outcasts of Melbourne (Graeme Davison et al, eds), journal articles, archival records, contemporary photographs or artworks

I always search for local history studies in journals in places such as JSTOR or Oxford Journals

Check university and research libraries near your ancestral places to see what they offer in terms of local history. This includes theses, specialist books and news stories.

Another great tip – yes! While I love the chase myself, I do always hope that someone has already produced something really substantial on aspects I’m researching

Join a local history society as a way of getting context to your family history research.

Check your state land registry website for maps and historical imagery (in Australia)

Local history and genealogy societies, Wikipedia, FamilySearch wiki, local tourist agencies, all provide leads

I find the British Newspaper Archive can sometimes be useful for interesting details

That’s an excellent way of finding information, using the surname and/or place name. But unpublished academic theses can also reveal a multitude too

Newspapers often announced when roads, rail and services such as sewer or electricity and the construction of bridges

Check to see if anyone is doing a One Place Study near your ancestral place to get a better understanding. Research the parish registers for whole-of-parish context not just focus on your family.

I found mention of my father’s childhood suburb which was then a slum in Hansard – The Australian Parliament record. Gave a really good insight into the suburb at the time.…

for my childhood town I frequently refer to the local library online collection at Even found a picture of my brother recently. Also found Nana & Mum out socialising and myself in a town parade in 1966.

Some websites

Google is my lazy way of researching my ancestral places and communities. There is so much available online and not just archives. Many organisations or places have a web page or two on the local history that leads to another interesting fact.

And maps! How can you go past maps? Love the NLS site And the 1892 Thomas Ward map for Wellington (NZ) is incredibly detailed!

You cannot beat newspapers for understanding communities in the past. Especially through advertisements. They give you an idea of who lived in a place and what they did, sold and what trouble they got into!

You really can’t go past a good local history to provide context. Not the old-style type where the “big players” are the focus, but a down-to-earth approach and understanding. Local historians are also give superb support for helping understand your place.

Trove is a great resource of course, maps, census, websites for a particular town. Town pages on facebook often have old photos

I love the Cyclopedia of NZ when researching my family here, and then Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, and for the census reports.

I have researched my ancestors places my visiting local libraries. Most seem to have a collection of old photographs or old books that are of interest.

jarmoluk / Pixabay

Have you found it easier to understand your ancestral community in a city, town or village?

A brilliant question. To some extent village is easier because it’s more stable so patterns/habits/customs develop and can be used. Cities often imply migration (at least in my research) and new patterns emerging but noting clusters of migrants is gold

And you get to readily recognise the names of the area.

Yes, that’s exactly it. Over the weekend I decided to focus on one surname in calendar of wills for Dublin and as a result I’ve been able to identify/locate members of the family that had “disappeared” tied by address… via @NARIreland

Great question! As a city person, I’d instinctively say the city ancestors, but I’m conscious I probably project things onto them. The rural communities have a more defined cast of characters you get to know, but I’ve no practical experience of that life.

There are occasions with smaller communities where you may hit the “cone of silence” because they don’t want you knowing their business or wonder about your motives. A local historian or colleague can give you credibility and ease the way.

Blog posts:

Joys of local history, Local history adds value, Local history and genealogy,

Readers: What aspects of local history do you find interesting to research relating to your ancestors?