If you’ve ever been intrigued by the possibility of researching your family history, a new series of courses at Durham County Record Office should be able to help.

The courses will enable both new and more experienced heritage seekers to delve deep into their family roots – possibly unearthing some real surprises along the way.

The Family History for Beginners Course will guide you through the first steps needed to dig into your family’s past. This course will include tuition on how to research civil registration, parish registers and the census.

Durham County Record Office’s education and outreach archivist, Dawn Layland, said, “The course is a fun introduction to help people start their journey into the past.”

“Newcomers can learn how to best use the rich archive at the Record Office and see examples of fascinating research in action, as well as get involved in interactive activities.”

“Previous participants have found it the ideal starting point and have really benefitted from having an archivist on hand.”

The three-week Family History for Beginners course will be held on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings.

The Thursday sessions will take place between 6.00 pm and 8.00 pm on 12th, 19th and 26th September. The Friday sessions will be held between 10.00 am and noon on 13th, 20th and 27th September.

The three-week course is priced at £30 per person.

Those who have already acquired basic research skills might like to try the Branching Out course.

The next session in the Branching Out series is entitled Illegitimacy, Divorce and Adoption. There will be a talk on this topic and then the participants will have an hour to browse the archives, with support from a professional archivist.

Dawn said, “Our ancestors lived in a world with very different laws around marriage and family.”

“Children born out of wedlock faced a lifetime of stigma and couples whose marriage had broken down were often unable to separate without heavy legal costs, if at all.”

“We will look at the social climate of the time, what records survive and how we can use them to find out more.”

An excerpt from a bastardry examination of Mary Bainbridge, Bishopton, 1810 (DCRO Ref: EP/Bis 4/2)

The Illegitimacy, Divorce and Adoption session will be held twice: between 6.00 pm and 8.00 pm on Monday 23rd September and from 10.00 am to noon on Thursday 26th September.

Tickets – which must be booked in advance – cost £10 per person.

To book a course or session at Durham County Record Office or to learn more about the service, please go to https://recordofficeshop.durham.gov.uk/pgEventResult or telephone 03000 267 626.

(This article’s featured image shows a 1923 photograph of four generations of the Holmes family from South Hetton. DCRO Ref: sout0081)

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