British Home Children

I’ve been reading a novel about orphans and children of unmarried mothers that were sent to Australia by the well meaning authorities in Britain back in the 1930s-1970s.  The premise of this page turning genealogical mystery is based around the question of what would you do if you discovered you had a brother you never knew existed?

Blurb* about the book: On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and temporarily placing him in a children’s home. She returned later but he had vanished.

What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go?

Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets, and one of the most shameful episodes in recent history as she attempts to uncover the truth.

Can she find the vanished child?

This book is the fourth in the Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, but can be read as a stand alone novel.

The Vanished Child by M J Lee

Disclosure: Please note this is an affiliate link to


These child migrants, or Home Children were part of the child migration scheme founded by Annie MacPherson in 1869, under which more than 100,000 children were sent from the United Kingdom to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. The Home Children programme was largely discontinued in the 1930s, but didn’t entirely stop until the 1970s.

Research, that began in the 1980s, exposed abuse and hardships of the relocated children and this led to Australia apologising in 2009 for its involvement in the scheme. In February 2010 the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a formal apology to the families of children who suffered on behalf of Britain. Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stated in 2009 that Canada would not apologise to child migrants, preferring to “recognize that sad period” in other ways.

WDYTYA? Magazine – British Home Children

Recently while I was browsing the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine website I have discovered that they have a useful list of websites for investigating those who went to Canada and so if you have family who went to this country then this may help your research:



*When I was a bookshop owner in the 1980s to the early 2010s we always referred to the short descriptive note about the book as the blurb – I just love that word!

Disclosure: Please note this post contains an affiliate link to This does not mean that you pay more just that I make a percentage on the sales from my links. The payments help me pay for the cost of running the site. You may like to read this explanation here:

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Thinking of a gift for a family historian?

As England goes back into lockdown and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have imposed their own stringent measures, we can be forgiven for looking for a distraction.

How about looking for Christmas gifts for family historians?

My eye was caught by these offerings from The National Archives in England.

TNA gifts for family historians


And then there are all sorts of great gifts on the S&N Genealogy Supplies website that a family historian can’t resist:


Just off to start my Christmas gift list. Now what shall I buy myself? !



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Who was the father? Watch out for “extra-pair paternity”

As reported in The Guardian newspaper the women of the 19th-century urban poor were not always faithful to their husbands (in contrast to their countryside sisters) according to some research published in the journal Current Biology.



You can read The Guardian‘s story here:

The authors of the paper conducted research where they compared the Y chromosomes of 513 pairs of men who supposedly share a common ancestor. Their aim was to discover what the prevalence was of what they called “extra-pair paternity” over the past 500 years – in other words, they were looking at how many times in the family trees of these 513 pairs of men that the father named on the birth certificate differed from the actual biological father.


I wonder how many people discover from doing a DNA ancestor test that they are not related biologically to the ancestors they had thought that they were from doing the paper trail research in the records?

Food for thought?

Old Woman with a Baby in her Arms Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0]
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The National Archives Events



I was browsing the news email from The National Archives that I got this week and noticed that there are some really interesting events coming up. Here are just three that caught my eye.



The Song of Simon de Montfort
23 Jan, 19:30. Explore Simon De Montfort’s life as a great warrior, devoted family man, charismatic political leader and paragon of knightly piety through original documents. 

Dependence, intolerance and expulsion
24 Jan, 14:00. Learn about the stories of Medieval Jewish communities and why they fled England despite the protection of the Crown. This talk marks Holocaust Remembrance Day 2020 (27 January).  

The rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell
27 Feb, 19:30. Discover the myths around Cromwell’s meteoric career and the personal, political and religious motivations behind it.


The National Archives at Kew
The National Archives at Kew


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And some new Family History Records were created

Registering a death in my family

My dad, one-time Merchant Navy Purser John Bryan Thorne, and myself last year on a visit to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

I have been mourning the loss of my father for the last month. He was very dear to me and the rest of our family and we were sad to have lost him on the 12th of April 2019.

Immediately there was much to do in arranging the winding up of his affairs – but some of these made me realise that we were in the process of laying down some new breadcrumbs for future genealogists to follow.

Amongst the duties I had to perform was to make sure that the registering of the death got the details completely correct including the spelling of his names and place of birth. As the death certificate was produced in the registrar’s office, and printed off there and then, I realised that my name and details were now forever recorded as the person registering my father’s death. Being a family historian, I couldn’t help but wondered if sometime in the future others would use the document to trace our family line back.

Then there was the matter of placing the family notice in the local newspapers. The funeral director asked for the wording we wanted to use. I felt strongly that it should definitely include our first names when listing the near family. Again, I wanted to make sure that it was easy for future generations to determine if they were researching the correct person and to easily find out the names of his children and his granddaughter.


The surprise in the neighbourhood

When sorting through his meticulous filing cabinet to find his birth certificate, bank accounts and utility details I was moved to discover that he had a personal file that included my own birth certificate from 60 years ago and his Second World War service in the Merchant Navy.


JBT Merchant Seaman ID
John Thorne Merchant Seaman ID (National Archives)


There was also his 1962 marriage certificate to my stepmother in Mosley, Birmingham as well as his 1951 wedding certificate to my late mother, that had taken place in St Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore. This last document I had never seen before and it is very precious to me as I have no idea how I would go about ordering a copy from the former British Colony and now Republic of Singapore.


Wedding photograph from Singapore 1951

To my utter surprise the Cathedral’s bells, that he would have heard ring out on his wedding day to my mum, were back in Loughborough at this very time for re-tuning and the addition of two extra bells to the peel. My sister had just taken a tour of John Taylor & Co. Bell Foundry and had seen them in the works just 11 or so miles away from Dad’s house. Naturally I paid them a visit with the kind help of the staff at John Taylor & Co. and was able to touch the bells that were a little part of my own family history.


St Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore (Wikipedia Someformofhuman. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (])

In 1889, St Andrew’s Cathedral had received a peal of eight bells from the family of Captain J. S. H. Fraser, H.E.I.C.S. These bronze bells were cast at the John Taylor & Co. Foundry in Loughborough, England, the same bell foundry that cast the bells of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, England and then sent out to Singapore. These eight bells have been rung every Sunday for services, weddings, funerals, Easter and Christmas. You can read more on the foundry’s website here:


With life inevitably carrying on for those of us left behind, a holiday that I had booked well before he had become ill came around on my calendar. As an Architect and a Watercolour artist he had told me of the beauty of Florence and the wonder of Brunelleschi’s Dome and had been excited to hear that I was to visit it this year.

I have, therefore, just returned from a few days holiday in Florence Italy. After climbing the 463 steps to the dome I then went into the body of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and lit a candle to remember the life of my very dear dad.


Votive Candle holder in Florence Cathedral, Italy (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore)

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How did our ancestors cope when they were apart in a family crisis?

I’ve just been out of circulation for a couple of weeks. An elderly parent of mine has been very sick with a diagnosis that holds out little hope and so I did what any concerned son would do, I packed a bag and travelled home to be with them.

These days we have the luxury of fast travel – in my case it was a 50 minute flight from Jersey in the Channel Islands to East Midlands Airport, close to my parent’s place in North West Leicestershire.

But this got me thinking about how my ancestors would have coped in the circumstances. Some of them lived in Britain while their offspring had fled the coup to try their hand “Out East”, in Singapore, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India.

It would have been a mammoth journey to get back to England by ship from these parts before air-travel had made it less time consuming. Even in the 1950s, when I am told my Dad flew back to Europe from Singapore, it was a long drawn out affair with several hotel stops on the way.

But what would the Victorians and Georgians have done? Well there was little alternative to booking a passage on a ship – and then it could be months to return to “Blighty”.  This doesn’t even take into account the length of time for the sick message to have got out to them in the first place. In our modern world of communication and travel we just don’t realise how cut off some of our ancestors must have felt when their grownup children were off in another part of the world.


I’ve been looking at the passenger lists online this week and wondering what the stories were behind some of the reasons to travel that these folk had. There are several decades of outgoing passenger lists to be found on several websites including that of TheGenealogist, whom I write articles for on a paid for basis and so that is why I include a link to them. You may, of course, search other sources to find your forebears in the Board of Trade Passenger Lists and marvel at just how long it took the past generations to travel anywhere!

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British Merchant Navy – 1915 Crew Lists

I came across this while browsing The Brickwall Club‘s Facebook page and I thought it was worthy of sharing with my own blog readers who may be researching their British family tree. The resource is great for any of you out there who had ancestors that served in the British Merchant Navy (MN) in 1915, at the time of the First World War.

The database is provided online for FREE by the National Maritime Museum at their website here:

The site explains that this is the first time ever that the Crew Lists of the British Merchant Navy from the year 1915 have been digitised and made available to search for free. It suggests that using their search box you can find relatives and loved ones via their database of over 39,000 crew lists and featuring over 750,000 names.


The National Maritime Museum says that as there are no records for individual merchant seafarers from this period, that the records that they are making available are of international significance in highlighting the vital contribution made by the Merchant Navy during the First World War. They go on to state that these records are also of great value to family historians, as one of the few sources of information about seafaring ancestors active in 1915.


RMS Lusitania


There is a good short description on the website that explains what the Merchant Navy is as well as what crew lists are. So if you have discovered in your family tree a merchant seaman (or woman, as there were some female crew members) then it is worth a look even if you don’t have a mariner from 1915 as an ancestor.


The1915 crew list database is online for FREE at the National Maritime Museum’s website here:

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New record release of Newgate Prison Records reveal thieves and Marie Antoinette’s libeller

Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links.*

Latest News

TheGenealogist is adding to its Court and Criminal Records collection with the release of almost 150,000 entries for prisoners locked up in Newgate prison along with any alias they were known by as well as the names of their victims. Sourced from the HO 26 Newgate Prison Registers held by The National Archives, these documents were created over the years 1791 to 1849.

Newgate Gaol, London from TheGenealogist’s Image Archive

The Newgate Prison Registers give family history researchers details of ancestors who were imprisoned in the fearsome building that once stood next to the Old Bailey in the City of London. The records reveal the names of prisoners, offences the prisoner had been convicted for, the date of their trial and where they were tried. The records also give the name of the victims and any alias that the criminals may have used before.

Use the Newgate Prison Registers records to:

  • Find ancestors guilty of crimes ranging from theft, highway robbery, libel and murder
  • Discover the victims of crime
  • Uncover some of the aliases used by criminal ancestors
  • See descriptions of offenders with details of their height, eye colour and complexion
  • Research records covering the period 1791 – 1849

Read the article I put together for them about Marie Antoinette’s libeller locked up in Newgate:


*Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links. This does not mean that you pay more just that I make a percentage on the sales from my links. The payments help me pay for the cost of running the site. You may like to read this explanation here:

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A New South-West of England Family History Show is coming!


With the success of the Discover Your Ancestors Family History Shows’ sell-out London event the organisers have now announced the introduction of a new South-West of England Show to be held in the Exhibition Centre at the University of West of England, Bristol.

Family history show at University of the West of England Exhibition Centre
University of the West of England Exhibition Centre

The organisers have some great offers on these new shows and they now all feature an enhanced format.

  • The Family History Show South-West event will be held on Saturday July 6th 2019
  • With low prices for both exhibitors and attendees, it is a really affordable event for all
  • Featuring fascinating Free Family History Talks
  • A dedicated Ask the Experts section
  • Wide variety of exhibitors from societies and genealogical suppliers

Family history shows expert talks

With expert speakers talking on a wide range of topics to help your research. A final ‘Ask the experts’ Question and Answer session in the lecture theatre will round off the show.

Visitors loved the Family History Show London
Visitors loved the Family History Show, London



Show Dates:- York 22nd June – South West 6th July – London 24th August

2019 will see the extremely popular Ask the Experts section at all of The Family History Shows events, along with the ever popular lecture theatres with expert genealogical speakers. Free talks will be held throughout the day by DNA experts, Military Historians and other experts at each event.


You can see a video of interviews with some of the many happy exhibitors at The Family History Show, London to see how well received these events are. Comments from the stall holders included just how busy they had been throughout the day and what a friendly environment the venue had been. Other exhibitors mentioned what an excellent fair it had been with a good turn out and many interesting stalls that had engaged and impressed those visiting the event.


Take a look at the video on their website (or on YouTube) along with another recorded with International Genealogical Blogger, Dick Eastman, who shares his views on the London show:


The large crowds of show visitors testified to the public’s willingness to support both the York and the London events. In fact The Family History Show, London doubled its size in 2018 and drew visitors from all over.

To celebrate the announcement of the new South-West show there is a fantastic offer for exhibitors who books tables at both York and London: a Buy one get one Free on tables booked for the South-West event. But hurry this offer will only last till the end of January 2019!


Sponsorship packages are also available.

Tickets for The Family History Show South-West are just £5.50 or two for £8 in advance; or £6 on the door, making The Family History Show a very reasonably priced event.


The show will be promoted in print, radio and online/social media.


Book tickets now to avoid disappointment:


For exhibitors Table Space is good value at only £50 per table – bookable online at:

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Review of The Family History Show London 2018


I’m writing this after a fabulous day at The Family History Show, London that took place at Sandown Park in Esher yesterday. It was really well attended by people searching for family history answers or to listen to a talk or take advantage of the Ask the Experts. What was immediately apparent was how the event has grown significantly since its first appearance on the calendar last year. For 2018 the show moved into the larger Surrey Hall making space for more exhibitors ranging from Family History Societies to genealogical suppliers and boasting two lecture theatres this year.

While some people on social media have pedantically pointed out that Sandown Park, where this took place, is not strictly in London I did hear that the race course themselves consider that they are a London Venue and market themselves accordingly. Certainly it was extremely good value for the area with tickets on the day only £7 and with some great online for early birds meaning you could have picked up a ticket for £5 or TWO tickets for £7.50. Whatever your standpoint on the argument, I don’t think those who came in their droves were disappointed.

Some of the highlights:

  • Dick Eastman, the highly respected international genealogical blogger gave the keynote speech.
  • Tips & Tricks for Online Research talk was delivered by Professional Researcher & Social Historian, Keith Gregson and as always went down well
  • Tracing Your Military Ancestors talk was another popular part of the show with Military Expert & Professional Researcher, Chris Baker
  • Photo Dating with Jayne Shrimpton, Photo Expert and Fashion Historian I noticed to be well attended
  • Mark Bayley from TheGenealogist packed out the theatre with his well received Breaking Down Brick Walls
  • MyHeritage gave a talk on using DNA to Trace Your Ancestry
  • And Graham Walter spoke on the 5 Killer Apps for Mobile Genealogy

Finding help from a family history society and being able to buy some of their publications, or talking to the MOD medals experts were more reasons that this show worked well, not to mention being able to pick up all sorts of other reading material from Discover Your Ancestors Magazine or Family Tree Magazine. If you bought one or two of these then you may even find one or two of my articles in them.

I was very interested to see several authors of genealogical books taking table stands this year including some that I follow and read avidly.

This event was well organised and I am so pleased to hear them announce that it will be back in 2019. I will come back without hesitation!


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