Welcome to Search My Past 

Dr. Penny Walters - international speaker and author

Presentations available:

  • ‘Ethical dilemmas in genealogy’

  • ‘The psychology of searching’

  • ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’

  • ‘Searching for ancestors when you’re adopted’

  • ‘Deconstructing the UK Censuses 1801 to present’

  • ‘Why did the Welsh leave Wales’

  • ‘1939 Register’

  • ‘Diaspora and homelands’

  • ‘Ethnicity and identity’

  • 'The psychology of naming'

  • 'Where's my mummy - Egyptian family history research'

  • ‘Black British family history research’

  • ‘Wish you were here’ (postcards)

  • 'Suffragettes'

  • ‘Britain’s WWII propaganda’

  • ‘What does the future hold?’

  • ‘Speaker training’

  • ‘Giving unexpected or bad news to clients’

  • ‘Turning information into an engaging talk’

  • ‘An introduction to genealogy’

  • Please email for a summary of the presentation you are interested in, and to check my availability

Author of 

Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (2019)


The Psychology of Searching (2020)

Both available on Amazon

in paperback or kindle


Forthcoming presentations: 2021

Check time zones

  • Introduction to genealogy 8 week online course, University of Bristol, 5 October- 30 November

  • 14 October, Online webinar 'Reserching ancestors when you're adopted' Lambton, Ontario Ancestors

  • 3 November Online webinar: 'Why did Williams and Walters leave Wales?' Bolton FHS 7.30pm

  • 12-14 Nov Online webinar: 'Why did Williams and Walters leave Wales?' Virtual Genealogical Association 

  • 19 Nov Online webinar: 'Why did Williams and Walters leave Wales?' Herefordshire FHS


I think your teachings are at the tip of the future - necessary and key to genealogy going forward with integrity! Pam, Seattle GS

''I have participated in this and several of your programs over the past few years. I am impressed by your clear-eyed and realistic presentation of the issues and considerations around adoption and reunion. Not something easy to do.'' Matthew, Roots Tech attendee

'Thanks for your wonderful presentations. I enjoyed hearing your personal story on seeking out DNA matches. You provided some great perspectives for adopted people.'' Kaitlyn, Roots Tech Connect attendee

"I appreciated the class, there's always more to learn and I thought you did a nice job with the techy-bits of DNA.'' Laurie, Roots Tech Connect attendee

''Many presenters are obviously reading from a script. Penny spoke as if she was with her best friends and joyful in her voice.'' Ontario Ancestors, London & Middlesex Branch

''Very knowledgeable. Her presentation was streamlined, and her delivery was excellent. I also enjoyed her little touches of humour.'' Ontario Ancestors, London & Middlesex Branch

''Last night’s talk was brilliant – thankyou.  I’ve had several complimentary messages today from members and some of our visitors. The most common comment was thought provoking.'' Graham, Fleet and Farnborough FHG

'Thank you for a very thought-provoking talk yesterday evening. I may never think about family history in the same way again.'' Geoff, Fleet and Farnborough FHG

''It was a great presentation and very informative; glad you started off 2021. You're going to be a hard act to follow according to all the raves in the chat.'' Carnell, Browood County FHS, Florida  

''Thanks for your extremely thought-provoking talk last night. I had a couple of members email me with their family history ethical dilemmas - and they weren't insignificant! You will be pleased to know that your talk attracted 72 people. We haven't had that many at a presentation before.'' Ruth, Malvern FHS   

''Penny is a much respected writer and public speaker, particularly on genetic DNA, adoption and moral dilemmas encountered during family history research. However, on this occasion, she took us on an engaging and enlightening journey through the decennial National Censuses of the UK'' Chris, Alde Valley Suffolk FHG

''I have just watched your DNA talk for the Really Useful Family History Conference and must tell you how much I enjoyed it. For the first time I have understood some of the DNA mysteries I have chewed over for some time. Not least, some of your charts explain relationships brilliantly. The conference was excellent and your talk was definitely the highlight!'' Carole, RUFHS, 14 November, 2020

''What a fascinating talk and it was good to have the handout to refer to and enabled us to concentrate on the talk rather than trying to take notes at the same time.'' Alde Valley Suffolk FHS, 16 November, 2020 

''Thank you for a great presentation. It was filled with very valuable information. My wife and daughter-in-law's families have English and Irish roots, so I'm certain I can fill in some blanks with the resources you passed along today.''  Norm, 25 October, American-French Genealogy Society, 2020
‘'Thank you for a very informative session! There were points you made... that honestly I never asked myself. It is so important to make sure you share accurate information, be considerate in what you share, and how you share it.’' Janice, AAHGS 16 October, 2020 

‘'Great presentation today. You definitely opened my eyes to several things to be cautious about when it comes to things I may take for granted in genealogy. Thank you for this information and for taking time to chat with me privately! I'm so glad AAHGS accepted your presentation - it was a great addition.’' Thomas, AAHGS, 16 October, 2020

''The speaker was so well organized. It made me think the whole time. Very good exercise for the brain.'' BIFHGSO attendee, 27 Sep, 2020

''As a 'Zoom' participant for your presentation about the 1939 Register, I just wanted to say thank you. I have used the Register a few times and I found your presentation to be an interesting further insight. As a retired curator I applaud your promotion of the links to and development of family history stories. Personally I place more importance on this than collecting endless names for a family tree.'' Bob, 24 August, 2020 

''I attended another one of your amazing webinars. Have you ever found your "real" family? Ethics of adoption. I appreciate your warmth, sensitivity, ethics, and humor in your webinars.'' Barbara, 23 August, 2020 

''A big thanks for the talk tonight, it was very well received. I am sure everyone learnt something from your presentation.'' Phil, 21 August, 2020 

''Thanks again for your talk, it went well and was attended well, it was our best so far.'' Peter, 18 August, 2020 

''I really enjoyed your talk yesterday and your explanations re DNA.  I have to admit to confusion over the whole subject and terminology I find quite overwhelming. Thanks and I do hope your family are all well and managing during this dreadful situation we are all facing.'' Ena, 3 August, 2020 

''Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and thought-provoking webinar today. I too was adopted.'' Karen, 2 August, 2020

''We've already had feedback from participants saying they really enjoyed the lectures. The discussion and questions went really well.'' BIFHGSO, 27 Sep, 2020

''My mum  and I attended your Zoom talk for the Northamptonshire Family History Society and both found it very absorbing. Inevitably it’s prompted further discussion between us as to our own family ethical dilemmas. Such a fascinating and insightful talk and topic!''  Yvonne, 29 September, 2020 


2021 online presentations

  • 11 September, Online conference New South Wales Annual Conference Ethical dilemmas in genealogy 

  • 8 September, Online webinar: 'Mixing DNA with a paper trail' York, Canada FHS

  • 1 September, Online webinar 'Dissecting the documents UK Censuses 1801- present' Huron, Canada FHS

  • 21 August, Online webinar: 'Psychology of Searching and Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy' Glendora, California FHS

  • 28 July, Mixing DNA with a paper trail, Chula Vista (California) Genealogical Society 

  • 27 July, Mixing DNA with a paper trail, Windsor FHS 

  • 17 July Online webinar: 'Psychology of Searching and Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy' Pinellas GS

  • 12 July, Online webinar: Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy Coventry Family History Society  

  • 8 July, Online webinar: 'Mixing DNA with a paper trail' Andover FHS 

  • 25 June Online webinar 'Mixing DNA with a paper trail' East London FHS

  • 19 June, Online webinar 'Dissecting the documents UK Censuses 1801- present' Quinte FHS, Ontario

  • 18-19 June, Online conference 'The Psychology of Searching' Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies 

  • 15 June Online webinar: 'Irish heritage' Dorset FHS

  • 13 June Online discussion Daniel's Genealogy

  • 11-12 June, Online conference Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, 'Dissecting the documents UK Censuses 1801- present'

  • 9 June Online webinar: 'Psychology of Searching and Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy' Albuquerque Genealogical Society

  • 3 June, Online webinar: Ethical dilemmas in genealogyFolkestone FHS

  • 28 May Online webinar: 1939 Register, Bucks FHS

  • 17 May Online webinar: Ethical dilemmas in genealogy, Sheffield FHS

  • 15 May, Online webinar:  'Searching for ancestors when you’re adopted' Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society 

  • 15 May Online webinar: Ethical dilemmas in genealogy, Sensitive subjects, writing about the hard stuff Evalogue Life

  • 8 May, Online webinar: Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy The Genealogical Society of New Jersey Conference

  • 7-8 May Online webinar: Why did the Welsh Leave Wales? (1800s) Heartland Family History Conference, Topeka (Kansas) Genealogical Society

  • 4 May Online webinar: Ethical dilemmas in genealogy, UGA ProTalk

  • 23 April, Online webinar: 1939 Register, Bucks FHS

  • 10 April, Online conference: Really Useful Family History Show, Searching for ancestors when you're adopted,' 'Researching Irish heritage.

  • 20 March Online webinar: Whittier Area Genealogical Society 'Mixing DNA with a paper  trail' 

  • 11 March, 6pm GMT, Online radio discussion: 'The psychology of searching' with Bernice Bennett, Blogtalkradio, USA​

  • 9 March, Queensland FHS, '1939 Register'

  • 25-27 February Online webinars: Roots Tech Connect Adoption; Egyptian family trees; DNA Basics free and available online until 2022

  • 22 February, Northants FHS 'Mixing DNA with a paper trail' 

  • 21 February 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy'  New Hampshire Library, USA 

  • 8 February, 'Ethics and ethnicity' Devon FHS 

  • 3 February 'Mixing DNA with a paper trail' Peterborough FHS 

  • 30 January "Dissecting the documents: UK Censuses"  Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

  • 19 January, 'Mixing DNA with a paper trail'  Dorset Family History Society

  • 14 January, 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy' Fleet and Farnborough FHS

  • 10 January, 'The psychology of searching' Broward County, Florida

  • 9 January,  '1939 Register,' London Middlesex, Ontario, Canada, 10am/ 3pm

  • 7 January, 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy' Ontario Genealogical Society

  • 6 January, 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy' Malvern FHS, Worcs 

2020 online presentations

  • 20 December, ‘Ethical dilemmas in genealogy’ Facebook Live debate: Genealogy adventures  

  • 27 November, Why did the Welsh leave Wales in the 1800's' Powys FHS 

  • 18 November 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy' CHFHS

  • 17 November Ethical dilemmas in genealogy Society of Australian Genealogists

  • 16 November, 'Dissecting the UK Censuses' Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

  • 14 November, 'Mixing DNA with a papertrail' Family History Federation annual conference RUFHS

  • 4 November Adoption’  Bolton FHS

  • 25 October 'Accessing a variety of British records'  American-French Genealogical Society

  • 16 October 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy' AAHGS

  • 12 October 'Mixing DNA with a paper trail 'the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra

  • 2 October 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy' Vivid-Pix

  • 26 September 'The Psychology of Searching' and Ethical dilemmas in genealogy British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa

  • 21 September 'Ethical dilemmas in genealogy' Northants FHS

  • 11 September, ‘Mixing DNA with a paper trail’ Powys FHS

  • 3 September ‘Mixing DNA with a paper trail’ Sussex FHS

  • 2 September ‘Researching your tree when you’re adopted. Have you ever found your ‘real’ family?’ Ryedale FHS

  • 27 August ‘Mixing DNA with a paper trail to search for bio ancestors’ Adoption UK

  • 21 August, 1939 Register, Herefordshire FHS

  • 20 August ‘Researching your tree when you’re adopted. Have you ever found your ‘real’ family?’ Utah Genealogical Association (UGA)

  • 18 August 1939 Register Dorset FHS

  • 15 August ‘The Psychology of Searching’ Whittier GA, USA

  • 5 August, ‘The Psychology of Searching’ Chesterfield & District Family History Society (CADFHS) UK

  • 2 August, ‘Mixing DNA with a paper trail’ Quebec FHS, Canada

  • 1 August, ‘The Psychology of Searching and Ethical dilemmas in genealogy’ Orange County California Genealogical Society, USA

  • 24-26 July, Panel discussion Family Tree magazine and FamilySearch

  • 11 June ‘Why did the Welsh leave Wales? (1800s)’ Legacy

  • 1 June, Live debate about ‘ethical dilemmas in genealogy and the psychology of searching’ GenFriends, USA

  • 29 May, ‘The psychology of searching’ Vivid-Pix Watch the recording here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thepsychologyofsearch (1h,3m)

  • 26 May, ‘Black British family history research and identity’ Legacy

  • 19 May, ‘1939 Register’ Legacy

  • 25 June, ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’ New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B) USA

  • 17-18 April, online webinars:Ethical dilemmas in genealogy’ (21m32s) ‘The Psychology of Searching,’ (27m07s) ‘The 1939 Register’ (30m26s) and Searching for family when you’re adopted: have you ever found your ‘real’ family?’ (38m0s)  Family Tree Live

  • 7 April, ‘Giving Unexpected or Bad News to Clients’ Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) Pro Talk, USA

  • 25 March ‘Ethical dilemmas in genealogy’ Search My Past  

2020 presentations booked, but postponed

  • ‘Drimoleague Diaspora: In Search of Family Ancestry’ Irish Famine Summer School, Roscommon, Ireland, 14 June

  • Drimoleague Diaspora’ Donovan Gathering, Drimoleague, County Cork, Ireland, 10 June

  • Which DNA test?‘ Drimoleague Diaspora’ Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland,  8 June

  • Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’  Cumbria FHS, 6 June

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’ AGRA study day, London, 30 May

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’  Manchester Jewish Genealogy Society, 17 May

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’ 16 May, Swindon Parish clerks annual conference

  • Searching for family when you’re adopted: have you ever found your ‘real’ family?’ and The Psychology of Searching’ 2 May, Society of Genealogists, London

  • ‘Genealogy as history’  8 week course, University of Bristol, 22 April- 17 June

  • ‘Ethical dilemmas in genealogy,’ ‘The Psychology of Searching,’ ‘The 1939 Register’ and ‘Searching for family when you’re adopted: have you ever found your ‘real’ family?’ 17-18 April, Family Tree Live, London

  • ‘Ethical dilemmas in genealogy’ 15 April, Huntingdon FHS

  • ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’ 21 March, Dorset FHS

  • Using DNA to identify biological relatives’ Dorset FHS, Poole, 17 March

2020 in-person presentations:

  • 17 March, Using DNA to identify biological relatives’, Dorset FHS

  • 26-29 February, ‘The Psychology of Searching,’ ‘The 1939 Register’ and ‘The Future of Genealogy’ Roots Tech, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

  • 12 February, ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’ Stalbridge FHS

  • 11 February, ‘Searching for ancestors when you’re adopted’ Southampton FHS

  • 11 February, ‘Starting a tree’ Withywood Community Centre, Bristol

  • 21 January, RQG online CPD, Ethical dilemmas in genealogy’

  • 20 January, The Psychology of Searching,’ Bath Family History Society

2019 in-person presentations

  • 'Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’  Dorset FHS, Glastonbury, 12 December

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’  Family History Society annual conference, London, 23 November

  • ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’ Gwent FHS, Chepstow, 13 November

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, and ‘The Psychology of Searching’ lectures; Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’ workshop Roots Tech, London, 24-26 October

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, Jewish Genealogy Society annual conference, 20 October

  • ‘What does the future hold?’ Chippenham FHS AGM, 21 September

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail,’ ‘The Psychology of Searching’ Brigham Young University, Provo, 31 July – 2 August

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’  Family Tree magazine online courses, July

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Fleet & Farnborough FHS, 11 July

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, Chippenham FHS, 11 June

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, Wilts FHS, May

  • ‘Irish Heritage,’  Bath FHS, 20 May

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Family History Society annual conference, York, 18 May

  • Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’ Swindon U3A, 9 May

  • ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’  Yate FHS, 8 May

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, Family Tree Magazine Live, Alexandra Palace, London, 27 April

  • ‘The Psychology of Searching and Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, Guild of One Name Studies Annual Conference, Leicester, 30 March

  • ‘Adoption issues’, Alton HGS Family History Group, 11 March

  • ‘The Psychology of Searching’  Romsey, Hampshire FHS, 27 February

  • ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’  Bath FHS, 28 January

2018 in-person presentations

  • ‘Black British family history research’ Birmingham FHS, 17 November

  • ‘Hidden Ethnicities in Black British Heritage’ Wiltshire Family History Society, Swindon, UK

  • ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’, East London Family History Society, Wanstead, 24 October

  • ‘What does the future hold?’ Register of Qualified Genealogists (RQG) Conference, York, 20 October

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Glamorgan FHS, 13 October 

  • ‘The Psychology of Searching’ APG Professional Management Conference, Kansas City, Missouri, USA, 4 - 6 October

  • 'Ethical dilemmas in adoption research' Society of Genealogists, London 29 September

  • Black British family history research finding British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade’  Secret Lives Conference, Leicester, July

  • ‘Genealogy Tourism: a new niche market’ Irish Famine Summer School:  Irish Journeys - Famine Legacies and Reconnecting Communities, Roscommon, Ireland, June

  • ‘Mixing DNA results with a paper trail’ and ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ The Name Event, London, May

  • Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Federation Of Family Histories Annual Conference, Bristol, April

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Bristol & Avon Family History Society, March

  • ‘An Introduction to Genealogy’ Bristol Women’s Institute, January

2017 in-person presentations

  • ‘My Genealogy journey’ Downend Family History Group, Bristol, October

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Bristol & Avon Family History Society Open day, September

  • ‘Being From a Diaspora’ Cork Foundation, Cork, Ireland, June

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Clans & Surnames, Nenagh, Ireland, May

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ Who Do You Think You Are, Birmingham, April

  • ‘Searching for Ancestors when you’re adopted’ and ‘Professionalisation of Genealogy’ Back To Our Past, Cork, Ireland, March

international speaker

  • adoption issues

  • diaspora

  • ethics

  • black British family history

  • the psycholoy of searching

  • Irish heritage