From Flight Sergeant to Wing Commander

I have been talking to senior members of the family again, in the hope of finding out interesting snippets about relatives passed lives and one fascinating character to be spoken about was that of my great-uncle Harold.

I recall Uncle Harold and Auntie Winnie, the sister of my paternal grandfather, coming on holiday to the St Brelades Bay Hotel in Jersey when I was a child growing up in this island. I know that he died in 1969 and so it must have been in the sixties that they would have come over on holiday.

My father recalls that he and his brother would be taken by Uncle Harold to Farnborough, as young men and that their uncle was treated with a great deal of respect by the people there.

It would seem that in the war Harold Matthews joined the RAF technical branch, but what he did no one in the family seems to now recall. It was certain that he didn’t pilot planes. Also known was that at the beginning of the war he was a Flight Sergeant and that when he retired from the RAF he was a Wing Commander.

To start my research I went to the London Gazette online and soon found that on the 9th of July 1940 Warrant Officer 162784 Harold Perring Matthews (43860) was granted a commission for the duration of  hostilities as a Flying Officer.

Another search found that on 1st January 1941 Acting Flight Lieutenant Harold Perring Matthews was admitted as an Additional Member of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. That was one year into the war and it is intriguing to wonder what he had done in the service of the country.

Next was a hit for 18 July 1947 and H P Matthews OBE is being promoted from Squadron Leader to Wing Commander. and then on the 10 February 1956 Wing Commander H P Matthews OBE  BEM (43860) retires from the Royal Air force.

This is an interesting man and would seem to call for more research from me.

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ScotlandsPeople is 10 years old!

Part of my family tree extends into Scotland and when I first set out researching the family I very quickly found the really useful family history website, ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk.

Officially launched in mid-September 2002, it celebrates its tenth birthday in September 2012 as one of the first genealogy sites to arrive on the web.

Back when I began I was favourably impressed with the data available to me from ScotlandsPeople, such as being able to dowload images from the Old Parish Records at a time when no English parish registers were online. The site now contains over 90 million digital records and corresponding images, and adds new sets of fully-searchable historical records on a regular basis.

With over one million registered users from across the world, the website remains the biggest online resource for Scottish census, birth, marriage and death records. The website has evolved through a decade of huge technological growth and in a time where interest in genealogy has soared.

Chris van der Kuyl, the CEO of brightsolid, the company that enables ScotlandsPeople for the National Records of Scotland, said:
‘ScotlandsPeople was our first ever family history website, and our partnership with the National Records of  Scotland has undoubtedly enabled brightsolid to expand our business to become one of the world’s leading publishers of online genealogy.

‘When the Scotlandspeople website was launched back in 2002, we were truly leading the way, offering a unique online product for family historians. We are immensely proud of how ScotlandsPeople has evolved over the last decade. We continue to add exciting new data sets and innovative search techniques to the site, making family history research easier and more accessible around the globe.’

George MacKenzie, Registrar General and the Keeper at the National Records of Scotland, said:

‘ScotlandsPeople has gone from strength to strength since its launch ten years ago. I am delighted that in our special birthday year we’ll be enhancing this very popular resource for Scottish family history by adding hundreds of thousands of new wills from 1902 to 1925.’

As well as the website, that can be accessed worldwide, if you visit Edinburgh then you will have the chance to visit the ScotlandsPeople Centre which is Scotland’s largest family history centre. It can be found at the east end of Princes Street opposite the Balmoral Hotel.

Opening hours are 09:00 to 16:30 on weekdays for £15 per day or free non-bookable two hour introductory sessions from 10:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 16:00.

Over the years brightsolid, the company behind the ScotlandsPeople website has expanded and now also owns Genes Reunited and Find My Past.

 

 

The websites that I am using the most at the moment are Find My Past and The Genealogist.co.uk. To take your family history further I highly recommend that you too consider a subscription to these websites. Take a look now and see what great data sets they have to offer:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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Multiple baptisms in Record Office

When I was in the Devon County Record Office the other week looking for ancestors to put in my family tree, I came across a job lot of children bearing my surname and all being baptised on the same day in 1811. Now as far as I can tell this multiple baptismal party are not direct ancestors of mine, but their record interested me all the same.

I had been looking for a John Thorn, at around the turn of the century from 1799 to 1805, and had noted on the familysearch.org website that there was such a christening in 1811 for a child born in 1803. (“England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J79W-GBY : accessed 16 Sep 2012), John Thorn, 23 Jul 1803; reference , FHL microfilm 917191.)

There can be many reasons for a late christening and indeed some people were not baptised until they were adults.

Archive Church Register
A Church Record from the Archive

While in the DCRO I followed up this lead by looking at their microfiche copies of the original St Petrox, Dartmouth church registers. What I found was that there were actually 5 children, all being the offspring of a John and Mary Thorn, being baptised that day and the original records gave the explanation for this in a note by the vicar.

“The above 5 children were born at Little Bay, Newfoundland.”

Dartmouth, it would seem, has a long history of men sailing across the other side of the Atlantic to the rich cod fishing grounds. A tradition that is mirrored in the island of my birth, Jersey.

While my interest was raised by the partial explanation for the multiple baptism in the records, I searched the web for details of Little Bay, Newfoundland. It would seem that there is still a place with that name in today’s Canada, but there was also a previous settlement in Newfoundland that is now called St Georges, but previously had the same name as well.

Dartmouth-history.org.uk has several documents that explain the development of the town and its harbour. It would seem that the Newfoundland trade was greatly reduced by the the Napoleonic wars, the number of ships annually involved dropping from 120 to 30 by 1808   (see: http://www.dartmouth-history.org.uk/content_images/upload/Nfland_fishing.htm)

Also this same site notes that… “the dominant families in Dartmouth for over 100 years were the Holdsworths and Newmans, both of whom acquired land in Portugal and Newfoundland, and became prosperous in the triangular trade between England, Newfoundland and Spain/Portugal/the Mediterranean.” While my family were humble mariners, much like the family I had identified in these church records.

I have ruled out that this family group are my direct ancestors by the dates given in the parish registers for their births. Of course, often in a church record you only get the baptismal date, but because the vicar was doing a batch of little Thorns at one time he has very usefully included their birth dates!

I wonder if this family, having been making a living in Newfoundland for some years had found the reduction in trade, caused by the Napoleonic wars, forced them back to England? Then, having put up in a small community like Dartmouth, they had come under pressure to christen their brood of children. Or perhaps there was no church at Little Bay that they felt able to use.

Who knows the answer to these questions; but this little example shows how family history, as opposed to genealogy, can be about the stories that are behind the bland statistics of births, marriages and deaths.

 

The websites that I am using the most at the moment are Find My Past and The Genealogist.co.uk. To take your family history further I highly recommend that you too consider a subscription to these websites. Take a look now and see what great data sets they have to offer:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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New Speedier Search for Family History Research

All in one search for family history

I’ve been away for the last three weeks, some of which was spent on tracking down my ancestors and some of which was spent talking to living relatives and gathering more family history stories together.

While I was away my scheduled updates of this blog seemed to have gone awry. Here is one that should have gone out last weekend!

One of subscription sites that I use personally is TheGenealogist.co.uk and I see it has launched a brand new all-in-one search feature. This allows users to do a single search across the entire website, which is a valuable extra dimension in my opinion.

The all-in-one interface now also incorporates their keyword search, and they are pretty excited about this being the first time that these two features have been brought together to aid family history research.

With this great feature you are now able to instantly display all the records for a particular ancestor, whilst filtering out all the other irrelevant results from the search.

The press release tells us that.. No other genealogical website currently produces such quick and relevant results for your ancestor search and has the flexibility to produce results for a number of different generations saving an enormous amount of time for researchers. Instead of offering search results that cast the net wide, like most genealogy websites, TheGenealogist segments the data down offering more accurate and relevant results – no more wasted time sifting through lots of irrelevant records to find the person you need.

The Genealogist claims Accurate and reliable results in a fraction of the time explaining that for the first time you are able to enter an ancestor’s name into a search along with an approximate year for their birth and the option of keywords that can then trace an ancestors life through the records, from birth to census, marriage and more.

What is more is that Address Lists are also included, thus allowing the family history researcher to view other residents and view any other potential family links.

Mark Bayley, Head of the Online Division at TheGenealogist, feels the new search facility is an exciting new development in the world of online research:

‘Customers will get a much deeper insight into their ancestors in a fraction of the time. They’ll be able to find everything we know about someone almost instantly with a single linked master search.

‘This is a powerful tool not currently available elsewhere. TheGenealogist is all about user-friendly searches, not just records and this new feature further enhances what we offer. We aim to make searches as useful as possible, we have our unique keywords searches that can scan our records quickly and it is now quicker and easier than ever with our new All-In-One Search.’

With its new search tool and using just the basic information, TheGenealogist, can narrow searches down to the specific and allow the researcher the ability to generate successful accurate results. Ideal for all professional and amateur family historians. To take a look go to TheGenealogist.co.uk

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for one of their subscriptions.

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