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Professional Family History

Dr Karen Cummings of Professional Family History provides high quality genealogy services for the novice, hobbyist and professional family historian.

Have you often thought about tracing your family tree but do not have the time or expertise? Perhaps you are looking for gift ideas for a friend. I offer a number of ready-made family tree packages to research your family back as far as the early 1800s (often late 1700s). Unlike some other websites, all of my packages include ALL of the birth, marriage AND death certificates located during the research into your ancestors, obtained at cost from the General Register Office. You will also receive copies of any census records found. A number of options are available depending on the number of surnames you wish to trace, the depth of the research required and, of course, your budget.

Have you been researching your own family history for some time or are you a professional genealogist and you need a professional to conduct local family history research in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire or Suffolk on your behalf? Perhaps you just want some “look-ups” carried out in parish registers. Based at the border of Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk I can offer research at a number of record offices with no travel costs to the client.

Are you an enthusiastic hobbyist who has become well and truly stuck and would like some advice? I have a number of years experience of family history research.

About me

I am a Member of AGRA, the UK Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives. AGRA (with ASGRA in Scotland) is the only UK based professional body which carries out an assessment of future members’ quality of work and business strategy before approving membership. I am also a member of the US Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and have committed to abide by their Code of Ethics.

I am a member of the Society of Genealogists (SoG) and the Guild of One Name Studies (GOONS) as well as the family history societies for Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk and Birmingham and the Midlands.

Before embarking on a career in genealogy I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for thirteen years, both as a development scientist and a project manager. I am a qualified Pharmacist and have a PhD in pharmaceutical development. My time in scientific research resulted in my having a proven aptitude for research, analysis and report writing and the required attention to detail and integrity to offer a quality genealogy research service.

I am committed to Continuing Professional Development and am working towards a Higher Certificate and Diploma in Genealogy from the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (IHGS).

I offer a level of customer service which is focussed on a high level of customer satisfaction. A program of work is agreed with the client ahead of any research commission and the business has a policy of refunding any whole unused hours should initial estimates prove excessive or research not progress as anticipated. My research reports all have a clear background and objectives that have been agreed with the client. They include full citations of any sources used, where they were examined and in what format. Reports also include an analysis of the findings, any conclusions that may be drawn, with an indication of the level of certainty that may be attributed, and suggestions for further work where appropriate.


I offer research at record offices in four counties. My areas of speciality include but are not limited to the following areas of England and Wales research:

Indexes of births, marriages and deaths
- the history as to how the GRO (General Register Office) indexes were prepared and sources of error
- the history of how the information in the indexes has changed over time
- the use of multiple commercial websites to find “missing” entries arising from online indexing transcription errors
- the use of local indexes where available

Birth, marriage and death (BMD) certificates
- the history of birth, marriage and death certificates and how the information contained has changed over the years
- changes in the law pertaining to age of consent, illegitimacy etc

Census records 1841-1911
- the history behind the census records and what information to expect from each census year
- a number of approaches to find “missing” relatives

Parish registers
- their history, the reasons for changes in the information contained and layout over the years, the reasons for e.g. surges of baptisms at particular times in response to changes in legislation.
- the use of reconstitution methods to construct pedigrees, moving up and down and across generations to verify family relationships
- the use of parish registers in combination with BMD certificates to obtain maximum genealogical information e.g. in the case of illegitimacy
- searches for records in parishes within a set distance from the starting parish using historical parish maps

Parish records (“parish chest” material)
- the history and detailed content of the records kept by the parish in addition to parish registers, which may include (the material available for each parish varies):
- churchwarden’s accounts, overseer’s accounts, constable accounts, vestry minutes, settlement papers, removal orders, bastardy papers, parish apprenticeships
- the use of parish records to provide information as to how ancestors lived; whether they paid taxes or received poor relief, whether they had been “removed” to or from another parish, whether they were parish officers

Wills & Probate
- the history of wills and probate, who could leave a will, types of wills, where probate could be granted at particular points in history e.g. 1940-1946
- the differences in the court systems before and after 1858: ecclesiastical probate court versus the court of probate and National Probate Calendar
- ecclesiastical jurisdictions and selection of appropriate court for grant of probate: Archbishop’s Court, Consistory Court, Archdeacon’s Court, peculiars
- original wills, registered wills, letters of probate and administration, administration bonds, inventories

School & education records
- the history of education and establishment of different types of schools e.g. National schools, British schools and ragged schools
- the use of schools records such as school board minutes, log books, punishment books, admission registers to discover more about how our ancestors lived

Other areas of research are available e.g. nonconformist records, surname distribution patterns.

Whatever your research requirements please contact me in the first instance to discuss the most appropriate way forward (no cost, no obligation quotation).