Exploring Family History

A Practical Tutorial

Old Herts



I started to set up this tutorial many years ago, but work stopped when it was found that the demand for an online tutorial was insufficient to justify the time completing the exercise. It is now out of date as the external web sites it refers to have changed. However as it contains extensive information on the Lewin family of St Albans and examples of how useful a family bible can be - it has been decided to keep it.

Family history research involves collecting information from a wide range of sources and the purpose of this tutorial is to introduce a variety of online and other sources to show how they can be used.

These tutorials are based on an old bible relating to the Lewin Family of Hertfordshire in the 18th and 19th century, and the Horwood branch who lived in London in the 19th century. The tutorial, when complete, will start by introducing birth, marriage and death certificates, census returns, and parish registers in a practical context. Later other parish records, wills, manorial records, maps, published sources, etc., will be introduced, with examples, using online tools where appropriate, but going to off-line sources where this is necessary.

Each Tutorial page takes known facts and uses them to find more information. While the information from the bible is used as a guide the approach taken will work even if you have no bible or existing family tree to guide you.. The information is presented under the following headings:

The Bible: A description of the bible, with transcriptions of the manuscript texts and an analysis of who may have written them. It is not essential to look at this section before starting the tutorials.

Tutorial 1: When you start researching your own family history you will usually quickly find the identity of an ancestor born about 100 years ago. The tutorials start with the search for the birth certificate of someone born in 1891 and steps back over the years, initially using birth and marriage certificates, and census returns, before looking at other, mainly earlier, parish registers. It follows the steps that you would follow if the Bible had not existed and for this reason will be useful even if you have nothing to guide you. It uses online sources as far as possible, supplemented by certificates (brought online) and the techniques demonstrated apply to the majority of families anywhere in England. It covers sources needed by the beginner researching the 19th century.

Tutorial 2: The above text describes the children of John and Sarah Lewin and the tutorial looks at each of the children in turn, and follows their children towards the present, at least as far as they remain connected with Hertfordshire. In addition to researching the families, information will be given on the houses they lived in, where this is possible. While online information will be used where available, every opportunity will be used to include examples of different kinds of documents, including manuscripts, books, maps, engravings and photographs. It covers sources from the late 18th and the 19th centuries, and is relevant to people research siblings and cousins. Under construction.

Tutorial 3: The above text is the first written in the bible, then new, in about 1790 by John Lewin himself. Apart from this sentence, and an affidavit which links him to the Abbey Mills, St Albans, there is no further information about him in the bible, apart from the births of his children. This tutorial will look as his life, and that of his father, Francis Lewin of Bushey Hall. Again examples will be included of a wide range of documents but mainly related to the 18th century. (If possible this will be continued into the 17th century.) Under construction.

Sources: This is an index of the sources of information used, with links to the relevant tutorial pages. This means that if someone wants to see an example of a particular type of document they can go directly to the relevant page.  This will be updated as new pages are added, and will also indicate areas where there are planned additions.

Index: People and Places mentioned in the Tutorial. Under construction.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions - and their answers.

Development of this site stalled but is due to get back on track early in 2009. In the meantime the following temporary pages have been added - and will later be integrated with the extended tutorial.

John Lewin's Will of 1772