Family History – making a good job of adult learning

Studying family history might not seem an obvious route to employment, but joining Jackie Depelle’s WEA course led Pam Smith to a career as a professional genealogist and tutor. Jackie and Pam are avid users of social media to promote family history and the WEA. As tutors they seem to have boundless enthusiasm for their subject.

We can see family history’s wide appeal through the popularity of the television programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ as well as a range of magazines, websites and events – and adult education courses. ‘Heir Hunters’ make careers out of using genealogical research skills to trace beneficiaries entitled to inherit money from people listed in the Treasury’s Bona Vacantia list of people who have died without leaving a will.

As well as the personal interest and satisfaction of finding out about our ancestors, family history incorporates all sorts of skills as students carry out research, use information technology, explore records, check the validity of their results, learn about social history and geography, communicate with other researchers, do the maths involved and present their findings. It’s an absorbing subject where most answers seem to lead to more questions. It can even help in medical research as patterns of hereditary conditions can be traced.

It’s an excellent vehicle for adult learning.

Learning about the past through our relatives’ experiences can bring history alive and help us to understand social conditions with greater empathy. Even the forthright and fearsome broadcaster Jeremy Paxman was moved to tears when he took part in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and was shocked by the abject poverty that his forebears faced in a Glasgow tenement.

Jackie Depelle is @JackieDepelle on Twitter and Pam Smith is @genejean. Their profiles there give further links to their online presence.

About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn:

4 Responses to Family History – making a good job of adult learning

  1. Many thanks for this write up, genealogy is an area our Chesterfield digital inclusion volunteers encounter from time to time and the information at – Pam’s website and Jackie’s website will be a great reference sites in the future.

    • Ann Walker says:

      Thanks Steve.

      Interesting to see the links across the curriculum. Pam and Jackie are very supportive of anyone who wants to learn more about Family History, as their websites show.

      You’re all excellent adverts for showing how your enthusiasm has led you to become WEA tutors as well as having your other work interests.

  2. Rosemary Mayes says:

    As an avid family historian myself, I found this an especially interesting blog and would echo everything already said about the skills required. I’ll definitely be visiting Pam’s and Jackie’s websites.

  3. joaniepthemadhatter says:

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