MGM 2007 - Top Ten Family History Events In Museums & Galleries

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 16 May 2007
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  • Archived article
an old black and white photograph of a woman with a child

A woman with a child - an image from the photographic archives of the Jewish Museum Manchester. © Jewish Museum Manchester

Genealogy has always been a popular pursuit, but it has gained an even stronger following in recent years, evidenced by the success of the BBC television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” and its sister exhibition at Earls Court which attracted over 12,000 visitors last week.

But with so many resources available to genealogists, it can sometimes be hard to find the right starting place, or to know where to go to trace an long-lost relative.

One of the main themes of MGM 2007 is “People who are we?” and this has been carried through to many museums hosting and holding family history workshops throughout May. There is very probably one near you, wherever you live, offering fascinating insights into local history and invaluable tools to help you to uncover your ancestors’ stories.

Here are a few of our favourites from around the country, to give you a flavour of what is on offer.

a photograph of a brick kiln and other outbuilidngs

Was your ancestor a brickie? Find out how to trace them at Somerset Brick and Tile Museum. © Somerset Brick and Tile Museum

One way to trace your ancestors is via their trades and livelihoods. The Somerset Brick and Tile Museum is holding a family history day on May 24, where visitors will have the opportunity to find out more about brick and tile makers at Bridgwater and to trace relatives who might have worked in the industry locally.

A professional archivist will be on hand to help trace the brickies and tilers in your family whilst staff from the Portable Antiquities Scheme will be on hand to identify finds and pieces of brick and tile from the past.

At the beginner’s family history workshop on May 21 at Ellesmere Port Boat Museum and May 23 at the in Gloucester, visitors are invited to see some of the resources available, tour the museum and delve into the history of some local waterways families.

a colour photograph showing barges moored on a canal

The mysteries of canal ancestry will be uncovered at the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester.

(Above) Sunset over the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. © Pitt Pics

Canal boat genealogist Lorna York will be guiding would-be genealogists through the calm waters of the waterways archives, which contain a surprising wealth of information such as wage sheets and workmen's timetables and boat inspector registers.

The sessions will also introduce beginners to family history research through general and waterways research.

If you have African and Caribbean ancestry you can find out how to research your family history at the Museum in Docklands on May 26. 90 minute sessions will introduce you to where to find the necessary information to fill the gaps in your family history and rediscover your family roots. Sessions begin at 12.30 and 2.30.

a photograph of an old ledger with writing in it

Museum in Dockland will be showing you how to research African and Caribbean ancestry. © Museum in Docklands

An alternative take on tracing your ancestors and researching your family tree is on offer at the NCCL Galleries of Justice in Nottingham who will be asking: Do you have skeletons in your closet? on May 24.

This workshop explores how to trace those family members who found themselves on the wrong side of the law - as well as those who were involved in law enforcement. There will also be guided tours of the museum.

If you are looking for hints and tips from the experts and you live in London, then head over to PM Gallery and House where they and the Society of Genealogists, the premier Genealogical Library in the United Kingdom, present an introduction to family history research.

This taster session is designed to help you to find the right sources to start your own research.

a photograph of a prison cell with hammock

Did your ancestors endure something like this? Find out at the Galleries of Justice. © NCCL Galleries of Justice

It can sometimes be hard to trace Jewish ancestors; Jewish populations have moved frequently, spreading to every corner of the globe and some relatives have become even harder to trace in the last two hundred years, with names occassionally changing at border crossings and an unstable and transient life sometimes awaiting new immigrants to Britain.

If you are interested in tracing your Jewish family roots in the North, then go along and search the archives at the Manchester Jewish Museumon May 22.

Amongst the items on view will be an index to Jewish marriages in the City of Manchester 1900-1950, Birth Registers of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue 1874-1926, details of identifiable Jewish names extracted from the local directories up to 1850, the Birth Register of unqualified Jewish midwife Dora Black 1913-1934 and a photocopy of the Account Book of the Board of Relief of the Great Synagogue 1848-1852.

a colour photograph showing the iron gates and courtyard of a formal old building

Hints and tips on Genealogy at PM Gallery and House. © PM Gallery

The is holding its ‘Sharing Stories: Family History Day’ on May 30, an event that will encompass storytelling, performance geneaolgy and archiving.

The day kicks off at 2pm with a drop-in family workshop which runs until 5pm, creating storytelling performances that use your family history as their inspiration. Performances will take place at 14.15 and 15.45 and visitors are asked to bring along family photographs to the workshop.

Thanet’s Family History Society will also be around from 2pm to 5pm to give information and advice to anyone interested in researching their family tree.

From 5pm- 5.30pm there is a Film Screening of ARRIVALS>SLOVAKIA documenting a project by Lucia Nimcová who worked with local residents to display family portraits on billboards at the end of their street in Margate.

a photograph of a white square building with a clocktower on top

Turner Contemporary - the place for a family history day on May 30. © Turner Contemporary

On May 17 at 6pm there will be an illustrated one hour talk on tracing your family history by Diana Gregg of Portsmouth Records Office. One of a series by staff of Portsmouth Museums and Records Service as part of Museums and Galleries Month 2007, the talk will take place in the Square Tower, Broad Street, Old Portsmouth.

To book your free place, please telephone the City Museum and Records Office on 023 9282 7261.

Family history expert Valda Hudson will lead a workshop at the Museum of Farnham on May 19 from 10am to 12:30pm. She will be outlining the first steps in investigating family history, with particular reference to the resources available at the Museum of Farnham and where to go for further information.

Throughout May at Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery there is a community celebration of Museums and Galleries Month 2007. This special exhibition showcases the work of three artists working with three local community groups on the theme of People - Who are we?

Using the Museum and Art Gallery's collections as a springboard for exploring and developing the theme, the show will look at personal and family identity in a new and exciting way. Runs until June 30.

a colour photograph showing the classical facade of a Victorian era civic building

Bristol Museum - the site for an informative exhibition that looks at African ancestry. © 24 Hour Museum

The impact of Bristol's involvement in the slave trade, its links with Ghana and its effects in the city today are explored in the ‘Bristol faces - Afrikan footprints’ exhibition throughout May at Bristol's City Museum & Art Gallery.

The exhibition is the result of workshops and field research in Ghana by a group of young people from Bristol who have been researching their heritage and identity.

Some fascinating findings are revealed in the exhibition, which uses digital media, photographs and carefully selected objects to tell their stories.

As you may have noticed, we at the 24 Hour Museum are really terribly fond of re-enactments in our top ten rundowns, but even we didn’t think it would be possible to squeeze a re-enactment into a family history top ten.

Clearly, we were wrong: you can see knights in armour in their medieval encampment and meet experts and enthusiasts and find out how you can unearth the history of your family or local village on May 28 at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse - the Museum of Norfolk Life.

As if that wasn’t enough – there will also be an opportunity to try your hand at metal detecting.

a photograph of large Edwardian brick-built house

Gressenhall - a museum, a historic workhouse and a traditional farm on a stunning 50-acre site.

So there you have it - a selection of the many genealogy-themed events happening during Museums and Galleries Month 2007. Once again, these are just a selection of the many fascinating events listed in the 24 Hour Museum database.

To discover more, just enter the letters 'MGM' into the search box on this page or see the What's on page to search by date or place.

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