This article focuses on the benefits of blending the methodologies of professional/academic social and cultural history with those of 'amateur' family history. Genealogists have often been dismissed by academic historians, categorized as conservative, with a big and a small 'c', in their supposedly nostalgic search for a golden age of the family. But it is also argued that genealogy provides families with a sense of identity in a period of transformation and disruption. Practitioners have said that they search for their family trees to find 'something solid in a shifting world'. This article suggests that when it comes to broader questions of historical change and continuity the techniques and findings of family historians disrupt many of our assumptions about the past. The construction of a family tree, the discovery of manifold secrets and lies, throw into question the solidity not only of the history of family, class relationships and the power relations between men and women but also of the history of nation and empire.