The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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Feb 8 16

Can’t find an ancestor?

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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Nick Thorne

I was asked how would I go about finding a missing ancestor this week. Having taken a look at the research already done, by the family historian, my answer was quite simple.

“Think laterally and think creatively about the spelling of the names.”

If you are new to tracing your family history then you need to understand that not all our ancestors would have been able to read and write, so they were most unlikely to know how to spell their names and would have relied on others to write it for them. In these cases our forebears relied on officials to write down their name. It may have been the clergyman officiating at the time of a baptism, (or a marriage, or burial) who had recorded their name as he thought it should be written. But he may have heard it differently from how we now spell the name. Other officials, that our ancestors came upon, include the census numerator and the local registrar for births, marriages and deaths.


Today I was listening to the local radio in Jersey and the guest was talking about a woman who had moved away from the island to live in England. It seemed that no death details could originally be found for her there and the researchers had then employed a professional genealogist. The professional had, by trying different name variations, eventually turned up the death record in Worthing, West Sussex for the year 1993. The Jersey surname had been Anglicised from its true spelling of Le Brocq to Lebrock and so confused matters for those who had been looking. I wonder if the person reporting the death, to the local registrar in West Sussex, had no idea how this strange Channel Island name should be written?

Dorothy Lebrock

Death records on TheGenealogist.

When we are looking for ancestors we can become too fixed on a fact and so not find them because they are hiding under a different name, or possibly in different place from where we expected them to be. This is why I am encouraging readers to think laterally when approaching a missing ancestor from the records.

Even though I have written in an earlier post on this blog that advised researchers to focus in on a fact, you must still try to think laterally so as to be aware of people who might be the person you are seeking. By removing our blinkers that may allow us to see a name that has been written differently and realize that they are the person we are seeking.

Think how the name of the elusive person sounded in the regional accent for the place that they lived as the person filling in the document may have written down what they thought they heard.

So by using a little lateral thinking this can help family history researchers spot likely entries that may be our ancestor hidden in plain view!


Postscript: the story on the radio, that I make a passing mention to above, was about much more than just the misspelling of a surname. Dorothea Weber, neé Le Brocq, hid a Jewish friend called Hedwig Bercu in her house during the Nazi occupation of Jersey. For this there is a movement to have her recognised as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. There is, however, more to her story than wartime bravery.

Dorothea’s heroism was not recognised at the time and she was to suffer heartbreak and humiliation after the occupation. It turns out that Dorothea had married Anton Weber, an Austrian Baker in Jersey. With the war he was conscripted to serve in the German forces. On being captured, at some stage, he then spent some time in a POW camp. After the liberation Dorothea made enquiries and believing her husband had died in the war she inadvertently committed bigamy by marrying a British soldier, Francis Flanagan, from the liberating force and moved to London. When Anton was finally released he came looking for her and so she was arrested and brought back to Jersey to face a bigamy trial in 1949. Handed a suspended sentence it was not known, until now, what happened to her after that. It has now been found that she died in Worthing under the name Lebrock in 1993.



Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

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Join the Family History Researcher Course online.

Jan 31 16

My best-liked technique to find elusive ancestors?

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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Looking at the Chief Constable s report Wolverhampton City Archives
I sometimes get asked which of the various technique for finding an elusive ancestor is the best?

Which do I most enjoy using, is it searching the many record collections online?

Or is it perhaps using a particular tool on one of the subscription sites?

The more astute readers of my blog will have noticed that I often report back from a visit to a County Record Office, or from a trip to The National Archives or some other family history library. “Ah,” they say, “You prefer to go to a record repository and root around in the records there, now don’t you?”
Well the answer is my preferred research method is…

Stop just there! Let me just think about this…

The beauty of the online records are that you can look for the elusive ancestor from the comfort of your own home. They mostly have a search engine that makes it quick and easy to locate likely candidates for you and so can cut the hours spent scrolling through microfilm, or maybe leafing through a document or a book to find that mention of your ancestor in the actual record depository.

All in one search for family history

TheGenealogist online data website 

But a County Record Office, or a local heritage archive, has a whole lot more diverse record sets for you to look through than you are going to find on any of the data websites. For example, I’m thinking of records that I’ve used to find out where the family lived at the time that they had to have their child immunised against smallpox. Or the lists that are so very local to the area and so specific that the online sites would not have sufficient demand from their subscribers to warrant the expense of digitizing them; records such as the Chief Constable’s Report that I looked through recently at the Wolverhampton City Archives. Record offices may have documents left to them by a local lawyer’s office, a firm of undertakers, or perhaps the business records of the main employer in the town.


Dudley Archives West Midlands

Dudley Archives, West Midlands

Visit to Wolverhampton City Archives

Visit to Wolverhampton City Archives


So my answer has to be:

I most enjoy using all of the above. Which ever record collection and wheresoever it may be accessed, if it gives me the answer as to where my evasive ancestor can be found, then this is the one to use and will be my current favoured technique. It is going to vary, depending on the circumstances. So I am a great fan of the online websites and I am a great advocate of visiting the many physical depositories across the land.

But how do I know what to look for? How do I know which records I should be using, once I’ve exhausted the basic ones that everyone knows about?

I had to learn about them. What to look for and where. And, do you know what? I am so glad that I did, because without the extra knowledge I would still not know where some of my more elusive ancestors had lived, worked or played.

If you are wondering where you may find your elusive English/Welsh ancestor then take the plunge. Learn more about the records and resources both online and off.

Join the many satisfied subscribers to the Family History Researcher Academy now!


Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

Learn how to discover where to find the many records and resources that will help you to find your forebears.

Join the Family History Researcher Course online.

Some links may be compensated affiliate links. See

Jan 24 16

Local and Family History Fayre in Jersey

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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Family History Fayre Jersey January 2016

I was passing by my local library this weekend, in St Helier, when I spotted that they were having a Local History Fayre. I couldn’t resist heading up the stairs to find out more!

There were workshops happening to help you trace your family tree and free talks on a variety of local books, Journalism in Jersey, plus another one on the Jersey Archive.

I particularly found interesting the different stands that had been set up. Ranging over various aspects of island life from local old postcards, to the subject of World War I, The German Occupation and Jersey Buses. There was even a table from the northern most Channel Island of Alderney and, needless to say, those stalls specially tailored to help in tracing Jersey ancestors .

As you would expect, from an event held in Jersey and billed as a Local History Fayre, there were a number of representatives from the main repositories of Jersey family history documents and resources. I was pleased to see that the Jersey Archive was represented by none other than its Head of Archives and Collections, Linda Romeril.

On the Société Jersiaise stand was the friendly face of Anna Baghiani, the Lord Coutanche Library’s Assistant & Education Officer. Anna had been of great help to me when I was carrying out some Jersey history research in this learned society’s collections in the past.

The Channel Islands Family History Society was there with a table of helpful books and a member willing to give help to anyone looking to enquire into their Channel Island family history.

Also present were stalls for local historians promoting their latest book.

I have to admit that I enjoyed my all too brief visit to Jersey Library this weekend, made all the more pleasant by bumping into an old friend and local history researcher who was doing some work in the reference section while there.

I do hope that this Local History Fayre will return again soon!

Jersey Family History Fayre


Books on Channel Island Ancestors

Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors Pen & Sword books have the following editions of Marie-Louise Backhurst’s very comprehensive book on Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors for sale. If you have ancestors from any of the Channel Isles then, in my opinion, you couldn’t do better than taking a look at this volume!

Check out the different editions with these links:

Paperback     £12.99

Kindle edition £4.99

ePub edition   £4.99


Jan 17 16

Family reunions past and present wanted for BBC documentary series

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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Have you recently got in contact with a family member you’d lost touch with?

BBC1 documentary series Family Finders is looking to hear from people who have lost touch with loved ones, and have managed to track them down, either independently or with the help of specialist agencies. The cameras will be there to capture the moment as the two sides are reunited and meet each other for the very first time. The producers are also looking for people who have already been reunited and are meeting up with their newly found family again.

Call 01273 224804 or email to share your story.

I found this episode on YouTube if you want to get a flavour for the programme.

Jan 10 16

I’d like my clothes back – Recently opened documents from Jersey reveal prisoner petition

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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Jersey Archive

Jersey Archive


On 1st January 2016 Jersey Heritage opened over 200 new records to the public for the first time‬.

The records, which until then had been closed to public access for periods ranging from 30, 75 and 100 years and include a petition to the Home Secretary from Eddie Chapman, the notorious Second World War spy ‘Agent Zigzag’.

Also, in the current release, are witness statements in criminal cases, aliens cards of people born in 1915, hospital records, States of Jersey (government) minutes and files from the Bailiff’s Chambers (Chief Justice’s office) showing the impact of the First World War on day to day life in Jersey.


Coincidentally I had been talking about Eddie Chapman to my brother-in-law over Christmas, as he was in the middle of enjoying reading the book by Ben Macintyre in which, on a December night in 1942, a Nazi parachutist lands in a Cambridgeshire field with the mission of sabotaging the British war effort. The Nazi agent was none other than Eddie Chapman who had been recruited by the Germans when they occupied Jersey. Chapman was in the island’s prison for committing further crimes to add to those he was already on the run from on the mainland. He was able to convince his captors that he would make good spy material and before long found himself training at an elite spy school in France run by the German Secret Service, the Abwhehr.

On dropping into war-time England Chapman would shortly become MI5’s Agent Zigzag. The problem for Chapman, his many lovers and his spy-masters was knowing who he was. Ben Macintyre weaves together diaries, letters, photographs, memories and top-secret MI5 files to tell the story of Britain’s most sensational double agent.


And now, with the opening of the petition that is part of a file of Jersey prisoners writing to the Home Secretary about various issues, we see Chapman’s complaints about his treatment by Police before he became a double agent spy. In this pre-war petition he asks for the return of his clothes and further asks the Home Secretary if he can possibly help him get his bail money back from the Scottish Solicitor he gave it to before he broke his bail and fled to Jersey! Somewhat amusingly, in the covering letter from the Prison Governor in Jersey, we see that Chapman had previously pleaded guilty to the theft of clothes, a hat, socks and some money from a house within the prison grounds in Jersey!

These files are all now available to view at the Jersey Archive and the first Le Gallais sponsored ‘What’s your Street’s Story?’ talk of the year on Saturday 16 January at 10am, taking place in the Jersey Archive,  will cover some of the stories from these records.


The book on Chapman’s war time experience as a double agent is available at all good bookshops and from Amazon:

Agent Zigzag

Buy from Amazon – Click here.

Compensated affiliate link used to amazon.

Jan 2 16

I found an ancestor in the Wolverhampton City Archives

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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Wolverhampton City Archives


I’ve been visiting the Midlands for the New Year and on the last day of 2015 I marked the occasion with a visit to the Wolverhampton City Archives.

I am so glad that I decided to see if they were open as I managed to discover something interesting about a person in my family tree that I didn’t know before then.

I had identified that a great-uncle of mine, Major Robert D D Hay, had become the Chief Constable of the Wolverhampton Borough Police in around 1866. In fact I had got the completely wrong dates for his tenure, but the knowledgeable staff in the archives were able to find me an entry in their catalogue for a newspaper report that put me on the correct track.

In the interest of discovering something about the Major’s wife I asked the archive staff if they had anything about Mary Hay, neé Corser, whom I believed may have been a local Wolverhampton girl. Entering her name they showed me entries that suggested that she may have been the daughter of a local solicitor and attorney called Charles Corser and another link that revealed the fascinating fact that she had founded a home in the late nineteenth century as a shelter for homeless girls where they could learn a trade.

The archive staff explained to me what the home was established for and it certainly made perfect sense for the wife of the Chief Constable to have founded the institution. The man behind the desk seemed himself to be intrigued to discover that the Mrs Hay, of the Mrs Hay Memorial Home for Friendless Girls, had been the wife of the borough’s chief policeman.

It turns out that the home had been set up by my Victorian middle-class great-aunt who, like many of her class, feared that prostitution, that was rife among the desperately poor working class women of the city, was in danger of undermining the fabric of their own level of society. This, they concluded, was because of the temptation prostitutes held for their own middle class men and so the solution they came up with was to take the girls off the streets and teach them a trade other than the oldest profession!


In my course on English/Welsh family history I always encourage those who want to discover more about their ancestors to explore the records that the county record offices and city archives have as many of their holdings have not made it online. While there certainly is a lot of records to explore online now, there are often some smaller collections that can help you find out more about your family. To find them you very often have to pay a visit to the repositories in the area that your ancestor lived in and ask the staff what holdings they suggest may help you find out more.


While I was in the City Archives I was also able to take a look at the original Chief Constable’s report to the Watch Committee. While it was a later book than my own ancestor had compiled, it still gave me a fascinating insight into the running of a Victorian police force and I felt privileged to be able to turn the pages of the old ledger and read about some of concerns of the Chief Constable. Within its pages were the names of various PCs on sick leave; the names of officers facing disciplinary proceedings and the recommendations (or otherwise) for lodging house licences and so on.

Looking at the Chief Constable s report Wolverhampton City Archives



Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

Learn how to discover where to find the many records and resources that will help you to find your forebears.

Join the Family History Researcher Course online.

Dec 28 15

New releases from TheGenealogist

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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TheGenealogist logo Hope you are all having a great holiday season and if you celebrate Christmas, like I do, then I hope you have had a very peaceful and happy Christmas.

I am just back to where I can get online after a visit to North Wales. My journey was exciting, to say the least, with elderly parents and a dog on board and just getting out of the storm zone through flooding roads, torrential rain and low viability that made the deep standing water puddles impossible to see until the car was ploughing right up to its sills through them!

While I have been away I see that TheGenealogist has made a couple of important announcements and so I copy below the email that has been stuck in my inbox for days! It is exciting to see that the Tithe maps are now complete for England and Wales and I look forward to New Year’s day and the release of the first batch of Norfolk Record Office records.

This written by TheGenealogist:

We have been working extremely hard to bring you two significant releases for the Christmas period, the first is now live and the second will be released on New Year’s Day.

Firstly, we have announced the completion of our Tithe maps for England and Wales. That includes all 55 counties linked to the 14 Million searchable tithe schedules, to make it easy to see what plots of land your ancestors owned or occupied. You can read more about the release here.

Secondly, on New Year’s Day we’ll be releasing the first batch of records from our project in partnership with Norfolk Record Office, containing over 3.6 million individuals and fully linked to the original images of the registers.

These records will be available to all Diamond users.

Happy Searching!

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist

Dec 20 15

The Orange Lilies Novel hit the spot for Christmas!

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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As the Christmas mayhem is in full pelt all around me I have taken to finding a quite moment with a book. Currently I am thoroughly enjoying a Genealogical Mystery novella called The Orange Lilies.

Written by Nathan Dylan Goodwin this is a novella that follows on from book two in the Lost Ancestor series where forensic genealogist, Morton Farrier, delves into other people’s family history. In this entertaining read we find him putting his professional skills to use to find out about his own complicated family having discovered his biological mother was someone that he had always known.

What I liked about reading the book at this time of year was the flipping back and forth between a present day Cornish Christmas, spent with family in a cosy cottage, and the very different Christmas of his great-grandfather in World War I on the front.

The author weaves a fascinating tale and the twists and turns had me turning the pages to find out what happened next.

I heartily recommend this book! Buy it now in paperback or Kindle ebook from Amazon by clicking the link or image below.

Buy The Orange Lilies



Compensated affiliate product links used in this post:

Dec 17 15

Gift for Family Historians

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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www.familyhistoryresearcher.comI’ve been asked if I can do a gift subscription to my popular Family History Researcher Academy:

English/Welsh Family History Course.

The course delivers weekly tutorials on the records, resources and techniques that will help those of us with ancestors from England and Wales to find them where we might not have thought of looking. By discovering the many record collections that exist and tips on how to use them, we are better armed to find elusive ancestors who may be hiding in plain sight.

See what others have said about the course…

To buy someone a gift of the complete 52 lesson course then please use the buttons below…



Give a Gift! Once you have paid simply make sure you enter the name and email of the person to whom we should send the lessons.

To buy the full 12 month English/Welsh Family History Course for reduced price of $121 (US Dollars) please use this PayPal button.


To buy the full 12 month English/Welsh Family History Course for reduced price of £79.95 (GB Pounds) please use this PayPal button.


Or buy a subscription in GBP, paying in monthly instalments, by going to this page: TRIAL OFFER to pay monthly!


Dec 13 15

Solutions for very annoyed Family Tree Maker customers

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist
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Family Tree software


Oh dear me! Another major genealogy company upsets its customers this week!

This time it is Ancestry’s Kendall Hulet, Senior Vice President of Product Management at the corporation who posted an article to the Ancestry Blog on the 8th December 2015 stating,

“We’ve made the tough decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker as of December 31, 2015.”

I counted 8,212 comments as of Sunday morning, when I last looked, and they are mostly an avalanche of disappointment and anger.


How is it in these days that big business make decisions that are not customer led?


Do not despair!
What this has done, however, is create a superb opportunity for the makers and vendors of similar family tree software to encourage dissatisfied Family Tree Maker customers to look at changing to one of their alternatives.


In the British Isles I got a timely Christmas greetings email in my inbox this week from my friends over at S&N Genealogy Supplies in Wiltshire.

With the news that Family Tree Maker is being discontinued, many users are looking for an alternative software package. We understand that changing programs can be a daunting task, so we’ve selected our most popular software packages for you to consider.

Please remember that we are happy to offer advice on any of our products to make sure you get the one that suits your needs.

This genealogy retailer has many other products on offer at its website ( as well as advanced notice of a new piece of software called TreeView that is scheduled for launch in January and comes with a package of extras.



Published in the UK for the UK market, this comprehensive program suits beginners and experienced genealogists alike. Create professional trees and printouts with its advanced reporting capabilities. With the TreeView mobile and tablet app, you can sync across multiple devices to enable you to keep your tree up-to-date whenever and wherever you are.

TreeView Premium Edition + Free Find Your Ancestors Book & Online Magazine worth over £30
Includes a 4-Month Diamond subscription to TheGenealogist and Data worth over £180!


Pre-Order now and you’ll also receive “Researching and Locating Your Ancestors” by Celia Heritage, worth £9.95

Advance Order
(Due for release Jan 2016)


RootsMagic has become one of the UK’s most favoured genealogy packages. This software is comprehensive yet easy to use, and creates superb wallcharts and integrates with research sites. It is the top rated program in numerous reviews and articles which emphasise RootsMagic’s ease of use and powerful features.

RootsMagic UK Version 7 Platinum Edition with Getting the Most Out of RootsMagic 7 Book

Special Offer – Save £14.95 when purchasing RootsMagic UK V7 Platinum Edition with the Getting the Most out of RootsMagic 7 Book!

£49.95 – Save £14.95!

Family Historian

Deluxe genealogy software written by a leading UK software designer for the UK market. Allows you to enter your family by drawing a tree. Full support is given for sources, notes, facts and linked multimedia elements. For researchers it provides support for Queries and Reports.

Family Historian Version 6 + Free Find Your Ancestors Book & Online Subscription worth over £30





So while it may be annoying for those who have purchased and learnt how to use Family Tree Maker there are alternatives out there!