Janet Few

Harnessing the Facebook Generation

Despite its title, this book is not about how to set up a Facebook page, how to Tweet, or how to create a website. Instead, it is about ensuring a future for our research. It is about why we should be concerned about doing this and how we can go about making sure that our family's history is not only preserved, but enhanced when we are no longer able to be its custodian. It is about presenting our hobby in a way that is attractive to all age groups. This is a book for grown-ups who want to inspire their descendants and other young people, with a love of history and heritage.

It is a thought-provoking look at how we can encourage the next generation of family historians and why we might want to do so. Suggestions cover activities, outings, toys, games, books and ways of exploiting the internet in order to motivate and enthuse young people, even toddlers.

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Putting Your Ancestors in Their Place: A Guide to One Place Studies

A One Place Study involves dissecting a small, definable, geographical area, to examine the individuals, buildings and processes of the past, in as much detail as possible. Our ancestors did not live in isolation. Family historians often focus on the nuclear family. Local historians might concern themselves with events, buildings and famous residents. To better understand our ancestors, they need to be 'put in their place', by investigating the community of which they were a part. To bring the history of a locality to life, it should be populated with ordinary people. A One Place Study brings family and local history together, to the benefit of both fields. Ranging from how to choose your place, through locating sources and collating your data, to publishing your findings; this book is suitable for experienced researchers as well as those new to One Place Studies.

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About Janet Few

The Jesuits say, 'give me a child until they are seven and I will show you the man', or woman of course. When I was seven I spent my time making up impossibly large families in 'my famerley book' (spelling was not a strong point). I also wrote long stories or played complicated, extended games of schools. Although I enjoyed 'dressing up', I hadn't yet started donning period costume but most other aspects of my current life were there in embryonic form.

I am an established non-fiction author but recently I was persuaded to return to fiction writing, something that I had not done since my angst-ridden teenage years. As a result, Blue Poppy Publishing published Barefoot on the Cobbles in November 2018. Inevitably, for someone who is obsessed with various aspects of history, the novel is set in the past, in this case in the early years of the twentieth century. This gave me an opportunity to investigate the impact of World War 1, shell-shock, the suffragette movement, the Spanish flu and pre-NHS health care; even boy scouts get a mention.

The story is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a century. In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lies dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?

I came across the incident that underpins Barefoot’s narrative in the course of some family history research. No hint of the story had come down to the present day and that in itself intrigued me. The novel is set primarily in rural North Devon where, both then and now, everyone knows their neighbours’ business. Additionally, they will probably tell the world about it in a millisecond. Not in this case. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the main protagonists were completely unaware that their ancestors, ancestors they had known in person, had been accused of a terrible crime. I was immediately inspired to attack this wall of secrecy and find out more.

I am often asked what the book is about; I am encouraged to make it fit in to a particular genre, with all the pre-conceptions that that entails. For want of anything more appropriate, I usually say that it is an historical novel, as it is firmly rooted in a carefully researched time period,. It is emphatically not a romance, although relationships do unfold, including relationships between parents and children. Nor is it a crime novel, although it does involve a crime. It is certainly not a mystery, as the reader knows from the outset who ends up in court. You have to wait for the end of the book for the verdict and I leave it to the reader to decide if the outcome was the just one.

I sometimes refer to the story as a ‘why done it’. The novel opens during a trial and then looks back to the incidents in the characters’ pasts that led them to be in that place, at that time, to become accuser or accused. It is essentially a book about people and what makes them behave in a particular way. You will find evidence of my love of the Devon landscape, hidden between the covers of this book. For more information about the novel please see

Aside from writing, I am a social, community and family historian and lecture across the English speaking world on these topics. This is also the focus of my non-fiction writing. I spend time as my alter ego, Mistress Agnes, living in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, working as part of the Swords and Spindles team My book Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of our seventeenth century ancestors, emerged out of this experience. My main interest is in the day to day lives of ordinary people, particularly women. I helped 80 ladies to write their memories of the pivotal period 1946-1969, which became the book Remember Then: memories of 1946-1969 and how to write your own.

I am passionate about encouraging young people to become interested in history, especially through living history or family history and in my booklet Harnessing the Facebook Generation: ideas for involving young people in family history and heritage I share many suggestions. I also enjoy dissecting small, rural communities and trying to understand how they functioned in the past. I have written a guide to one place studies Putting Your Ancestors in their Place. I am responsible for the latest edition of the classic family history handbook Family Historian’s Enquire Within, which was shortlisted for a CILIP award.

You can read about my chaotic historical life on the blog at Latest News from the History Interpreter do click ‘follow’ if you want to keep up to date.

My website is at 

You can also follow me on Twitter @JanetFew but be warned, I have no idea where I am going.


Barefoot on the Cobbles


In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lay dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all.

What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a hundred years.

Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.

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Remember Then: Women's Memories of 1946-1969 and How to Write Your Own

This book is the result of letting 80 women spend a year and a half recording their memories of life in Britain during the pivotal period 1946-1969.  This twenty-four year period was one of tremendous change in almost every area that they investigated.During this time, the country moved from liberty bodices to mini skirts and from ration books to ready meals. It saw the emergence of youth culture, the comprehensive education system, conspicuous consumerism and feminism; the Britain of 1969, was very different from that of 1946.
If you lived through this era yourself, you will find yourself exclaiming. I remember that' on every page.

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’Til Death Us Do Part: causes of death 1300-1948

One thing that all but our most recent ancestors have in common is that they are dead. The diseases and accidents of our ancestors are an integral part of our family history. This booklet examines a wide variety of possible causes of death for our ancestors, describing their symptoms and prognoses.

It also suggests records that may be used to provide information about how an ancestor died. A time line is included, outlining some major British epidemics. In the absence of a definite cause of death for a particular individual, we can at least gain an impression of the major killers of their time.

We owe it to our ancestors to pay tribute not just to their lives but also to their deaths.

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The Family Historian's Enquire Within

The last edition of this book was published in 1995. Since then, family history research has changed beyond all recognition, not least because of the internet. It is a tribute to the volume’s usefulness that, despite the many innovations since it was produced, the last edition was still the one book I would turn to when asked to man a family history ‘help desk’. An update was long overdue and I am honoured to have been involved in such a family history classic.

This book is not designed to tell you everything you need to know. Instead, its purpose is to point you in the right direction, so you can find out more. The number of people who have been involved in this and earlier, editions means that the entries are wide ranging and have a variety of regional slants.

We have aimed to be as comprehensive as possible but inevitably, there will be topics that some feel are missing. We hope however that we have covered everything that most family historians will require. Equally, in the fast moving world that is family history of the C21st, new books and websites will be appearing all the time.

We have endeavoured to be up to date and indeed additions were still being made to the ‘A’ entries as we worked our way through later letters of the alphabet.

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Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of our seventeenth century ancestors

Our seventeenth century ancestors may be people that we can identify, or they may be lurking, nameless, waiting to be discovered. In either case they existed, therefore we owe it to them to find out more about their way of life. This book sets out to provide an all-important context for these ancestors, ancestors whose detailed biographies probably elude us. The book makes good use of contemporary documents to put together an overview of life in the time of the Stuarts, concentrating on the lives of ‘ordinary’ folk, rather than the aristocracy.

Here you can discover what those Jacobean ancestors would have worn, what they would have eaten and how they would have lived. There is a chapter on medical practices and one on the medicinal use of herbs, complete with handy ‘cures’. Next time you are suffering from plague or a pain in the head you will know where to turn. Other sections cover gardens, crime and punishment, witchcraft, leisure and festivals.

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