Family History Workshops

Organised by Julia Laite (Birkbeck, University of London) in partnership with the Raphael Samuel History Centre and Historians Collaborate. These workshops were generously funded by the British Academy.

Table of Contents

The Ethics of Family History

This initial workshop will examine the very practice of family history and microhistory. What are we doing when we tell the small stories of our own and other people’s families? Are there ethical issues with digitizing, naming, and communicating the experiences of the dead?

Reflections from the field:

  • Justin Bengry – Queer Family History & it’s Ethical Quandaries & Possibilities
  • Darryl Leroux – Construction of Family Lore in False Claims to Indigenous Identity
  • Lucy Bland – ‘Brown Babies’: The Stories of Children Born to Black GIs and White Women in the Second World War
  • Mary Stewart and Cynthia Brown – Oral Histories and Ethics.

Images From the Workshop

Criminal Ancestors & the Politics of Justice

Almost every historical family has members who have been labelled as criminals. But what does this mean? How common was it for people to become lawbreakers in different times and places, and what were the consequences? What was the experience of arrest, trial, and punishment for criminals and their families, from capital and corporal punishment, transportation and prison, fines and rehabilitation? This session will also explore what it means and how it feels to have criminal ancestors.

Reflections from the field:

Images From the Workshop

Migrant Ancestors & the Politics of Mobility

As parts of huge waves of emigration from the British Isles, our family members past can be found across the world. Whether emigrating from or to the British Isles. This session focused on the context and experience of migration to and from the British Isles and the British empire.

Reflections from the field:

Images From the Workshop

Telling Small Stories, Telling Big Stories

Taking place over 2 days, the recordings for this special event have been divided by Panel. The event aimed to explore:

  • How historians (of all types) might better collaborate through family history
  • The ethical, methodological and political challenges of family history
  • How family history can change the way we think about our history and our present
  • How we might go about placing family histories in broader historical and political contexts and
  • How family history and genealogy might help more ‘traditional’ historians understand their subjects

Panel 1: With Family History at the Heart ~ Academic Research Informed By Genealogy


  • Zehra Miah – I’m Just a Historian: family history to academic history (and back)
  • Jean Smith – The personal is historical: Mental illness in academic and family history research
  • Sophie Michell – Reconstituting Community: Genealogy and Microhistory
  • Abigail Broomfield – Family Archaeology and long-lost connections

Panel 2: Putting the (hi)story in: New Ways of Working with Genealogical Sources and Family History


  • Natalie Pithers – A Drop in the Ocean of Janes: The importance of Storytelling in family history
  • Alison Baxter – Family history, creative writing and difficult issues
  • Suus Van der Berg – Striking a balance: family history, queer history and ethics
  • Nadine Attewell – Family history, community history and challenging historical narratives

Panel 3: The Missing, The Difficult, The Hidden: Myth, Memory and Other Challenges of Family History


Keynote by Katie Donington – The Bonds of Family: Slavery, Commerce and Culture in the British Atlantic World


  • Kate Bagnall – Collaborating in Family History: Challenges and Rewards
  • Alison Pedley – Who owns these stories? Difficult histories in family and academic history
  • Keira Gomez – Misremembering and Personal Truth: trauma and healing in family history
  • Rebecca Wynter – Sharing Histories: Families and the 1903 Colney Hatch Disaster

and keynote

Katie Donington – The Bonds of Family: Slavery, Commerce and Culture in the British Atlantic World

Panel 4: Access, Resources, Communication and Collaboration


  • Simon Fowler – ‘Untying both hands’: encouraging the use of online historical resources for both academics and genealogists
  • Elise Bath – Family histories, tracing services and the holocaust
  • Mary McKee – Behind the scenes: digitization and records at Find My Past
  • Ruth Beecher – Oral histories across generations
  • Joanne Begiato – The Inheriting the Family Project
  • Alison Light – Closing Thoughts

For all future events please see our Events page here.