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On the Farm

Dear Reader,

Many of us have agricultural labourers and tenant farmers in our ancestry. As the fields around us are looking abundant and nearing harvest, it seems like an apt time to talk about farming and rural life.

Thanks to impressive DNA analysis, the culture of farming has been shown to have arrived in Britain some 6,000 years ago. Originating in the Far East and then spread across Western Europe, farming marked the beginning of the Neolithic period (New Stone Age). Previously, in the Mesolithic period (Middle Stone Age) Britain had been home to a population of hunter-fisher-gatherers.

Farming would have provided this group of previously hardened nomadic humans with a consistent supply of food and a reason to settle into permanent communities in order to sow and harvest their crops. It is hard to underestimate the huge shift in the culture of our ancestors this would have had and how it has influenced our lives to this day.

Whilst we may not realistically be able to trace our personal heritage back to Neolithic farmers, we can absolutely find a treasure trove of family history by starting a bit closer to the present day. As recently as the 1600s 80% of the population lived in the countryside and would have been linked to farming and its associated trades. By consulting sources we are used to using for our family history, in combination with research more often considered to be a study of local history, we can build up a picture of our ancestors lives and the farming communities they lived in.

We have plenty of courses that will help you learn more about your rural farming ancestors and how studies of family, local and population history can be used in combination:

Featured Courses

Featured Courses

The following featured courses all lend themselves to our overall theme this month of farming and local history:

Discovering More About Your Agricultural Labouring Ancestors

A five-week course led by Janet Few course. Agricultural labourers are not especially hard to find - they jump out from census returns, certificates and parish registers with unfailing regularity. However, agricultural labourers are not all the same. The labourer on sheep farm in Northumberland led a very different life from someone who worked on an arable farm in Lincolnshire, or a fruit farm in Kent.

This course helps to set Ag. Labs. in a broader context and suggests sources that will reveal more about the lives of those rural ancestors and the farms on which they worked. The focus is on British farming from 1700-1950.

Discover course details and start date here >


First Steps to a One-Place Study

One-place studies are a fascinating blend of local and family history. They are frequently undertaken by family historians wanting to create a context for their ancestors.

This five-week course led by Janet Few will enable you to begin to undertake a one-place study, by suggesting methods, sources and techniques that will enhance your understanding of a community and the people within it. There is some focus on British sources but the techniques described should be applicable to studies world-wide.

Discover course details and start date here >


Church and Community, Selected Records 1540 - 1800

Enhance your family history experience by considering the places our ancestors lived in the context of the wider community.

This four-week course led by Emma Jolly gives you the tools to understand the nature, jurisdictions and administrations under which different types of community existed in the past, and seeks to bring genealogy and local history closer together. You will learn about the many records of the diocese and its court, including visitation records, marriage licences and probate records.

Discover course details and start date here >


Local History - Uncovering the Places and Communities Connected to Your Ancestors

Through the lens of local history, we can appreciate the broader historical context of our forebears and better understand their experiences.

This four-course was developed with the British Association for Local history and is led by Claire Kennan. It will guide you step by step through three key time periods, from c.1066 to the present day, using a variety of case studies and sources from across Britain to enhance your learning.

Discover course details and start date here >

Book Review: Our Village Ancestors

Book Review: Our Village Ancestors

On a similar theme, we were recently sent a copy of Helen Osborn’s latest book, Our Village Ancestors – A Genealogist’s Guide to Understanding the English Rural Past, by her publisher and have published on a review on the Pharos Blog.

Here's a snippet of our review...

We are taken on a journey through the looking glass over a 400 year period of life in rural villages, from the mid-sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and the development of those villages over that time. Your ancestors came from a town or city? In the majority of cases, families living in towns and cities had migrated in from the rural villages in earlier generations. By the time you get back to 1600, over 80% of the population lived in the countryside. In other words, there is most likely something relevant to all family historians here.

One of my favourite sections of the book considers the annual Registrar General census reports, using them to not only gain an understanding of the growth of the village in terms of population and houses lost or gained in a ten year period, but also migration patterns and occupation changes. You can find these at the ‘Histpop’ website.

At every turn records are examined through case studies, comparing three different villages: Bredhurst in Kent, Datchworth in Hertfordshire and High Abbotside, a township in the parish of Aysgarth, Yorkshire.

In each chapter a wealth of information is provided, looking at each theme in detail and building a picture of how our ancestors lived, through records in which they may be named, the history of the village in question, and records giving more general context. Each chapter ends with a useful “Starting Points for the Researcher” section.

There are also some really interesting case studies, pieced together with a variety of records, such at the Eaves family of Datchworth, and a really interesting insight into the brewing process too!

This is a worthy book for the bookshelf of any discerning genealogist, and I can thoroughly recommend it to all of our students.

For the full review of Helen's book, Our Village Ancestors, see the Pharos Blog >


Changes to Certificate Programmes

We have recently conducted a review of both programmes to look at what works well, what we could better and how we can make things more accessible for you.

Intermediate Certificate Changes

Intermediate Certificate Changes

The Intermediate Certificate continues to be popular. On review, we have decided that it needs to include some teaching of methodology and techniques. Under the current scheme this is not taught as a standalone subject until the Advanced Programme. We are therefore changing one of the Intermediate Certificate courses, so the list of ten will become:

  1. 17th Century Sources
  2. Apprenticeship Records
  3. Before the Modern Census - Name-rich sources from 1690 to 1837
  4. Building on a Solid Foundation – Genealogy Methods and Techniques
  5. Employment Records
  6. Nonconformity - Its Records and History 1600 - 1950
  7. Recording the Poor - From Parish to Workhouse and beyond
  8. Victorian Crime and Punishment - Courts, police and prisons
  9. Wills and Administrations; the riches of probate records
  10. Your Military Ancestors

The new 'Building a on a Solid Foundation...' course will replace the 'Migration in the British Isles' course.

If you have already taken the Migration course you DO NOT NEED to take the Building on a Solid Foundation as well, to achieve the Intermediate Certificate (though, you are quite welcome to take it as an additional course).

See full details of changes here >

Advanced Certificate Changes

Advanced Certificate Changes

Changes coming into effect immediately:

  • Our first goal with the Advanced Certificate is to make it more accessible to you. You can now take any of the Advanced programme courses at any time within the three years prior to embarking on the Advanced certificate programme and have the marks count towards your certificate (so long as you passed the assessment!).
  • Previously a single payment has been taken for the whole academic year in the August before the September start. To reduce the financial burden in one go, you can now either take courses in earlier years (as above) or reduce the amount to be paid as a single amount by buying gift vouchers in advance of the payment deadline.

Changes coming into effect for those starting Year One in September 2021:

  • It is now possible for the Advanced certificate to be taken by those living overseas, so long as you have access to a range of original records (or copies thereof) for your project work via e.g. an LDS Family History Center.
  • We have also responded to customer feedback about the courses, where they sit within the programme and the transparency around the “extras” required to achieve the certificate.
  • We have moved Advanced Methods & Reports from Year Two to Year One, to enable this type of study to take place earlier in the programme. We will also be breaking down the current Deeds and Disputes course into two separate courses: Title Deeds and Chancery Disputes, both of which will be written and taught by Susan Moore.

See full details of changes here >

New Tutor Accouncement: Dave Annal

New Tutor: Dave Annal

We are delighted to announce that we have been joined on the Pharos Tutors team by Dave Annal, a professional researcher with over 40 years’ experience.

Many of you will know of Dave from his talks at shows like WDYTYA Live! and at the Society of Genealogists and, more recently, at virtual events such as Roots Tech Connect and The Genealogy Show. He is also responsible for running the Family Tree Academy in Family Tree Magazine.

Dave is a former Principal Family History Specialist with the National Archives and he worked at the Family Records Centre for many years. In 2019 he was awarded a Fellowship of the Society of Genealogists.

He has written a number of family history books including the bestselling beginner’s guide Easy Family History and Pen & Swords Birth, Marriage & Death Records (with Audrey Collins) and, with Peter Christian, he is the co-author of Census: the Family Historian’s Guide.

Dave will be running the FHSS Intermediate Certificate course, Victorian Crime and Punishment – Courts, police and prisons, from February 2022

Tutors Leaving

We are sad to announce that two of our tutors are leaving us, to spend more time on other things.

Antony Marr has been a popular and valued tutor, tutoring Victorian Crime and Punishment - Courts, police and prisons, over the last five or so years and has actively promoted Pharos at various events and on social media.

Peter Christian has been tutoring the Researching Online for Advanced Genealogists course for us in the Advanced programme since its inception and his expertise has been a welcome asset.

We thank Antony and Peter for all the support they have given Pharos Tutors and wish them both well in the future.


That's all for this month. Happy ancestor hunting!

Pharos Tutors

P.S. Reminder of Price Increases

This is a reminder that the increase in prices previously announced will become effective on 1st November 2021. 

You can still take advance of our current pricing by booking courses now and we have added as many dates as possible into 2022 to enable you to do this.

Check out all our course listings here >>