Turn back in time to the mid-1980s, and family history was fast becoming a mainstream hobby. Family history societies were being rapidly established around the country, a telly series had inspired viewers to look at their own family tree, and those early computers were being cranked into action by innovative family history researchers, keen to make use of the latest tools to sort and store their family history findings.
But it was a hobby without a magazine. As long-time Family Tree contributor, Iain Swinnerton, said: ‘Photographers, fishermen, campers, railway modellers, golfers and computer buffs, to name but a few, all have one – why not us?’
It was now that former fish & chip owner, paramedic and ceramic painter, Michael Armstrong stepped into the fray, launching Family Tree magazine in the autumn of 1984.
Many of the elements that we, as family historians today, would recognise about our hobby were becoming firmly established. 1979 had seen the TV series, ‘Family History’, aired; 1983 saw the first publication from Ancestry – a genealogy newsletter, and in the coming years their first floppy disks of family history data would become available. In 1999 the FamilySearch website launched, and, in 2002, the 1901 Census came online – and immediately crashed, due to massive popularity.
While that was frustrating at the time, it just demonstrated the thirst for knowledge about ancestors that people have – and continue to have.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, online access to birth, marriage and death indexes, censuses, and now DNA results too, has seen many more people become able to join in with the hobby of family history and trace their family trees.
Set against the rapidly changing backdrop of the ‘Internet Era’, how has Family Tree magazine continued to help family historians over the years?
In some ways the magazine is just the same – readers’ letters, questions and stories, expert articles, useful information. But if you flick through an early copy, you’ll notice pages and pages of lists of names: people seeking relations, looking for ancestors. In the age before the internet took off as a communication channel, in the era before there were copious quantities of digitised and indexed family history records online, finding the barest details for a family tree required putting pen to paper and planning trips to archives and graveyards.
Now, however – while only a small proportion of the nation’s archival material is online – those core records (BMDs and census, as mentioned above) are. This means that people can make rapid progress with their research initially, scouring the online databases. And this is where Family Tree steps in. Whether it’s providing information for beginners to the hobby – so that they can learn how to research their family tree methodically and accurately; to providing information about research skills, new records and lesser-known ones, for more advanced readers – the aim of Family Tree is to give informative, friendly advice.
In addition to the letters, questions, in-depth research guides and more, as mentioned above, within the pages of the magazine we have new features too, to meet the needs of today’s family researcher, and to help them become the best genealogists they can be.
Over the years, Family Tree has grown – now published 13 times a year, with more pages than ever, and today the Family Tree team provides readers with not just a magazine, but help via our social media channels and our website, which is jam-packed with a growing range of guides. Find out more at www.family-tree.co.uk and pick up copy of the latest magazine in all good newsagents. To check out our latest subscription offers, please see https://www.family-tree.co.uk/store/subscriptions
Did you know?
The organisations behind the Secret Lives Conference have a long history of expertise, the oldest of which was established 107 years ago!