Family History - Pieces of the Jigsaw

Ref: C3671150

Once the skeleton family tree is built we seek to know more about our ancestors’ lives by locating personal details, what’s called putting flesh on the bones. Sometimes there are gaps which cannot easily be filled and it could be that these missing pieces of the jigsaw may be in the Legal system. Of course that doesn’t mean that everyone’s ancestor was a Criminal, there are many reasons our family members were mentioned in Court records. This may then open the door to unexpected discoveries and new lines of research. We’ll sample Court records, particularly Quarter Sessions and where to find them before investigating Death Duty indexes. Join us to double-check and update on basic sources, good systems of recording and catch-up on the latest online material including DNA. Optional trips and guest speakers included with course members welcome to share examples, ideas and query problems.

Course aim

To extend and develop Family and Local History research projects through learning and refreshing resources, particularly Quarter Session records, whilst sharing ideas and experiences with other course members.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify three types of courts with which ancestors might have been involved – in order of seniority
  • List at least six ways in which non-criminal family members may appear in Quarter Session records and advise why Quaker John Tawell is a notable criminal
  • Report on searching archive catalogues, newspapers and other websites for the Civil Court Records in two areas of interest
  • Explain the potential value of using Death Duty Records and share the result of online searches
  • Share with the group this term or next, images (if possible as a jigsaw) of course related sources linked to my own research with an accompanying narrative account

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • It is anticipated you will want to follow-up the course content in respect of your own family and local history connections

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • Occasionally you will be invited to undertake activities in relation to the course content linked to your own interest. It is hoped you will want to share your research work with the group and talk about the pitfalls and possibilities encountered.

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • Notebook, writing equipment and perhaps a folder to keep course work together

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • Information on optional reading material and guidance on relevant websites will be provided throughout the course

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Progress to additional family and local history study courses offered for example by the WEA, Pharos Tutors, Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Degrees in Genealogy, oxford Undergraduate advance diploma in local history.

Download full Course information sheet

Family History - Pieces of the Jigsaw


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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