Category Archives: Family History Talks

Family and Local History Talks in 2022 and 2023

After a break of a couple of years I’m now back with a new series of family and local history talks.

These are:

  • Local Links to the Lusitania;
  • Tips for Researching your Great War Ancestors;
  • My Batley St Mary’s in World War One One-Place Study;
  • The Home Front: the White Lee Explosion of 1914.

Local Links to the Lusitania focuses on people with Yorkshire connections on board the Cunard liner, torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast on 7 May 1915. The sinking did not affect only the rich and famous. Many Yorkshire people were involved. This talk explores some of their stories.

There is a possibility this talk can be tailored to your local area.


Based on my groundbreaking book The Greatest Sacrifice: Fallen Heroes of the Northern Union about rugby league players who died in World War One, the talk investigates the stories behind some of the men. It is also packed with tips for researching your own Great War Army ancestors.


My Batley St Mary’s in World War One One-Place Study is based on my ongoing study of the Catholic parish of St Mary of the Angels, particularly during the First World War. It investigates what a one-place study is, why I embarked on one, why I chose this particular focus, as well as my findings.


The Home Front: the White Lee Explosion of 1914 is a talk based around the events of December 1914 when a devastating explosion, caused during the manufacture of picric acid for the war effort, took place at White Lee. It resulted in deaths and injuries, as well as damage across a vast area of Batley, Heckmondwike and the Spen Valley. It is an event often overlooked because of later explosions in Yorkshire at Low Moor and Barnbow. This talk aims to provide more information about this Heavy Woollen District incident, the forerunner to the later explosions. The talk will explore the unlucky history of the site as well as the events on the day and the aftermath. 


For more details about these talks, including booking one, please contact me at: pasttopresentgenealogy@btinternet.com

Lusitania Talk – 10 May 2022

A heads up that I will be giving a talk via Zoom at 7.30 p.m. on 10 May 2022 about the Lusitania sinking of 7 May 1915.

Lusitania Medal Box – Photo by Jane Roberts

Huddersfield and District Family History Society are hosting the talk and more details are in the advert below. Essentially it is free for Society members, and a minimum £2 donation for non-members. Registering is by sending an email with ‘Local Lusitania Links’ in the subject box to webmaster@hdfhs.org.uk

As well as background details, I will be exploring some of the local links from around the family history society area to illustrate why the sinking had such a huge impact on our community.

It should be a fascinating talk packed with information and some amazing tales of loss and survival.

My 2020 Family History Review. And is it Really Worth Setting Any Goals for 2021?

Well 2020 did not go as planned. Massive understatement.

When the New Year dawned, little did I think the goals I set would be scuppered to such an extent. And if there was to be a hitch, a global pandemic would not have been top of my list of reasons. In fact, it would not have featured at all. But there you go.

2020 did begin well. Research for my new book got off to a great start. I gave a talk at Leeds library about World War One research based on the book I co-authored with my rugby league journalist husband. Other talks were lined up. I booked a couple of conference tickets, and the associated accommodation and transport.

And then March came, and with it lockdown. Everything went pear- shaped.

Archives visits and travel generally halted, along with it the prospect of any associated book research. Events and conferences were cancelled, one by one. As were the prospects of any further talks in these pre-Zoom days.

And unimaginably I lost any enthusiasm to review my family tree – apart from anything else getting through the trauma of daily life, where everything was so much more challenging and time-consuming, was an achievement. And these home-life challenges included a major water leak at the start of the year which necessitated a new kitchen and new bathroom – all work due to start in March. Lockdown came in as our bathroom was ripped out. Family history was the last thing on my mind.

The only thing that continued from my 2020 goals was blogging. In fact, this year saw an increase of around 50% in terms of those viewing my blog posts. Thank you. That was the one bright spot in my goals.

But things did pick up. In the place of conferences, I attended far more talks than I ever have before thanks to the wonders of Zoom. I also did a one-place studies course, and ended up starting one for Batley St Mary’s during World War One. Something entirely unexpected and unplanned at the start of 2020. But something I’m thoroughly enjoying.

As was becoming a grandma for the first time as 2020 drew to a close – I know, I’m way too young! It meant much of my free time this year was taken up with stitching a birth sampler ready for the big event.

Birth Sampler

In the light of all this I did think seriously about whether to set any goals for 2021, given the uncertainty we are still living under. But I do need something to aim for.

However, for 2021 my goals will be far more work-related, given how this has taken off.

And with work in mind, this was the major reason behind my decision to step down as editor of the Huddersfield and District Family History Society Journal. I loved doing it, and it is something I’m immensely proud of. But as work built up I increasingly found it squeezed the time I could devote to the Journal, particularly in the lead up to print deadline. My last Journal as editor goes out in January 2021.

And linked to this, my family history column in Down Your Way magazine also came to an end in 2020. The much-loved Yorkshire memories magazine was a casualty of the COVID-19 economic downturn. I must admit I really do miss writing a regular magazine feature, because it gave me another family history focus. But it has freed up even more research time.

As for my goals for 2021, they will be as follows:

  1. Pick up my book research, as and when I am able;
  2. Continue my blogging;
  3. Build up my St Mary’s Batley WW1 One-Place Study, details of which are at the top of my WordPress site;
  4. Focus on my research work for others. It’s a huge privilege to be entrusted with someone’s precious family or local history research, and I undertake it with the same dedication and thoroughness as I would my own; and
  5. Keep up to date with advancements in the field of genealogy as part of my continuing professional development programme. This will include undertaking a minimum of two formal courses, as well as a broad range of reading and practical work.

Finally a huge thank you for continuing to read my blog in these very trying times. As I said earlier this has truly been one of my year’s bright spots.

And as for the New Year, I hope that 2021 will be far kinder to us all than 2020 was.

Talk: Researching Your Great War Army Ancestors. (Includes details of my other 2020 talks)

Heads up about my forthcoming talk on 4 March at Leeds Central Library.

Based on my groundbreaking book The Greatest Sacrifice: Fallen Heroes of the Northern Union about rugby league players who died in World War 1, the talk investigates the stories behind some of the men. It will also be packed with tips for researching your own Great War Army ancestors.

The book, co-authored with Rugby League writer Chris Roberts, has received widespread acclaim, locally and nationally, in print and on radio. The reviews include:

The talk will take place in the Leodis Room, starting at 1pm. It will last for one hour, with opportunity to ask questions. Tickets are free and available through Ticket Source. You can also contact the library direct on 0113 378 5005.

This is one of a series of talks I give. The others scheduled for 2020 are:

  • Blogging for Family and Local History; and
  • The Home Front: the White Lee Explosion of 1914

For more details about these talks please contact me at: pasttopresentgenealogy@btinternet.com

That’s also the contact if you would like to buy a copy of the book. The price, including p&p within the U.K., is £14.99. It is also available direct from the publisher, Scratching Shed Publishing Ltd. It is also stocked at independent Leeds bookshop, Philip Howard Books. And it’s also available from the normal retail outlets.