From the office: Getting my house in order

By steveharnell, 13 February 2014 - 2:09pm

Steve Harnell aims to take a more methodical approach to his family research and looks forward to WDYTYA? Live 2014

Thursday 13 February 2014

Steve Harnell, production editor
Read more blogs from the magazine team


Steve is looking forward to the hustle and bustle of his very first Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, which kicks off next week at London's Olympia

If I have a genealogy-related New Year's resolution for 2014 then I guess it's to be a lot more methodical in my research.

I've tended to take a rather more freeform approach over the past year, adding to my family tree in a rather scattergun fashion. Fun but disorganised, you might say. It's certainly not 'best practice' to use a rather dull civil service-esque phrase and I'm sure a more steady and considered approach will pay dividends.

Recently, I've been working on my mum's side of the family and come up with more details about my ancestors, the Drays.

In particular I started fleshing out additional background information about my great grandfather Robert Dray and found that I've got quite a few connections with Newport in Gwent.

I came up with an address for him – it was your typical Victorian terrace in the town – and then took a look on Google Maps Street View to see the house as it is today.

I don't have any photos of Robert unfortunately but looking at the house – which from the outside looks pretty much as I’m sure it did at the end of the 19th century – and poking around the neighbourhood really provided me with much more of a connection than just a mere street name on a map.

The Big Brother-style ethical debate about Google Street View is a whole other can of worms, but in this case it was a very useful genealogy tool to add a bit of flesh to the bones of Robert's story.

● This month's 25 Search Tips feature in the magazine also provided me with some very useful advice as I learn the genealogical ropes.

In fact, there was one tip in particular which I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit had previously passed me by and that was simply the use of speech marks around search terms to narrow down irrelevant results.

To be fair though, I've only been using the internet for the past 15 years so I can't know everything. Baby steps and all that…

Also, the little tip about reversing Christian names and surnames when they are within speech marks to be more in line with how data is stored on genealogy sites could pay dividends, too.

● This year will be my first trip to Who Do You Think You Are? Live which is held at Olympia in London between February 20-22.

I'll manning the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine stand on the opening two days, so do come up and say hello. We’ll also be offering you a special subscription rate so do sign up if you haven’t done so already.

If you're quick, tickets are still available from So far, all of my research has been done online, so this show – it’s the world’s biggest live event on the genealogical calendar – should give me plenty of inspiration in terms of taking my research to the next level and getting out there to visit some archives.

I’m looking forward to checking out the exclusive preview of Imperial War Museums' ‘Lives of the First World War’ project and will be using any spare moments away from our stand to take in a few lectures in the various theatre studios around the venue.

And talking of the WDYTYA? Live experience, for those of you living in the South East, you’ve got until Monday to pick up a free copy of the 60-page Official Showguide which has come with your February issue of the magazine. Don’t miss out – you’ve only got a few days left!


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From the office: Exploring the Surrey Parish Records
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From the office: Add your WW1 project to our map!
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