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Home truths: secrets & discoveries in family history

There are secrets kept and discoveries to be made in every family's history. With the growth of digital resources, it’s never been easier to uncover hidden pasts close to home.


Join leading historians and IHR staff for this panel & workshop on how we research our family histories. Part of the 2019 Being Human Festival in the Humanities.

Event type
Event dates
, 2:30PM - 4:30PM
London Metropolitan Archives
Professor Alison Light (UCL and Oxford), Dr Julia Laite (Birkbeck, University of London), Dr Mark Curthoys (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)
020 7862 8740

About 'Home Truths'

There are secrets and discoveries to be made in every family’s history and thanks to the growth in digital resources, it’s now easier than ever to uncover these hidden pasts. ‘Home Truths’ is an opportunity for people researching their past to meet and discuss family history with academics and archivists working in this field. At the event you can explore how the digital revolution is reshaping family research and how we write family history.

Combining a panel discussion and workshop, ‘Home Truths’ also considers the ethics of family history: what responsibilities do we have to protect the wishes of our ancestors? How should we handle secrets that former generations sought to keep hidden? In family history we’re all specialists with much to learn from one another.

This event is organised by the Institute of Historical Research, the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and the London Metropolitan Archives.

The speakers

Professor Alison Light is a historian, writer and critic. She is an honorary professor in the Department of English at University College, London, Honorary Professorial Fellow at Edinburgh University and a Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford. She is the author of the much-acclaimed Mrs Woolf and the Servants and Common People. A History of an English Family, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Here latest book, A Radical Romance, was published in October 2019). 

Dr Julia Laite is a Reader in Modern History at Birkbeck, University of London and the Birkbeck Director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre, which is dedicated to fostering the widest possible participation in historical practice and debate. The Centre will be running a series of Family History Workshops in 2020—do sign up to the mailing list! Her forthcoming book, The Girl who Disappears, uses genealogical and archival research to tell the story of a young New Zealand woman who was trafficked into the global sex industry in 1910, as well as the stories of her traffickers and their prosecutors. It will be published by Profile Books in early 2021. 

Dr Mark Curthoys is Senior Editor at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, at Oxford University, with responsibility for the ODNB's nineteenth and twentieth-century coverage. His own research has been in two areas: first, nineteenth-century public policy in relation to the legalization of trade unions and the de-criminalization of strikes; and secondly, the history of higher education in the nineteenth century, and especially the Victorian culture of examinations, social mobility and career patterns, and the prosopography of the emergent teaching body.

Alison, Julia and Mark will be joined from the IHR by Dr Hannah Elias, Dr Matthew Shaw and Dr Philip Carter.