Family History: Last Will & Testaments

 

Death of NelsonFinding Ancestor’s Wills

Wills are a valuable source of genealogical information for researching our ancestor’s family history. They can give us details of family members, places of residence and burial, as well as revealing details about possessions. Many researchers new to family history are surprised to find that all levels of society left wills and not just the wealthy.

That having been said, however, as this week has seen the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, on the 21st October 1805, I am going to take as my example the will of the great architect of that victory: Admiral Lord Nelson. Viscount Nelson, as most of us are aware from our history lessons, lost his life on that day on board his flag ship, HMS Victory.

 

I have accessed the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills on TheGenealogist website and by using the Master Search I entered the Forename: Horatio, and Surname of Nelson and then selected Wills from the drop-down menu.

With one click we can see below an image of the original will written, on the 10th May 1803.

Admiral Nelson's will

Who got what?

The last Will and Testament can reveal what an ancestor considered important to them by what they distribute to their family and friends. We can often discover the charities that they may have supported and perhaps, as in Nelson’s case, other people that they cared enough about to have specifically mentioned in the document.

Nelson, we can read, left the poor of three parishes a charitable donation. As for whom he considered important, his mistress, Lady Hamilton, is first in line with the gift of his Diamond Star and a silver cup. Next to receive a  bequest was his brother, the Rev. William Nelson D.D., who got the gold box that had been presented by the City of London to the Admiral. The Reverend Nelson was also left the gold sword that had been presented by the Captains who had fought alongside Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. His two sisters are left a sword and a silver cup each and to his “worthy friend Captain Hardy”, Nelson left his telescopes, sea glasses and £100.

Last Wishes Betrayed

Codicils can reveal changes of mind by our ancestors, or simply an update of their last wishes. In Nelson’s case he was aware that he was going into battle and may not survive the day when he wrote a final codicil “in sight of the combined fleets of France and Spain” poignantly he was correct in that assumption.

A click on the record on TheGenealogist and, with a bit of practice to decipher the handwriting, we can make out the words of praise that he heaps on Lady Hamilton for the help she has given to her country. It would seem that the Admiral believed she had been overlooked for a reward for her diplomacy on behalf of Britain.

 

Nelson's codicil

Nelson appeals to the King and Country that, should he die “ample provision to maintain her rank in life” should be given to his mistress. It would seem providing for Lady Emma Hamilton and, by inference, his illegitimate daughter Horatia lay heavy with Nelson as he saw the enemy fleets on the horizon.

On that very afternoon the Admiral was fatally wounded by a single musket ball and died.

HMS Victory and the spot where Neslon Fell

Despite his last wishes, the government awarded various moneys to Nelson’s family instead and ignored Lady Hamilton and Horatia. Emma ended up in the King’s Bench Debtors Prison, along with her daughter, before running away from her creditors and going to live in Calais. When Lady Hamilton died in 1815, aged 49, Horatia went to live with one of Nelson’s sisters and eventually she married a clergyman to live quietly with a large family of ten children as a vicar’s wife back in England.

 

To search for your ancestor’s wills and countless other useful records take a look at TheGenealogist now.

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New Book: In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors

I was very pleased to hear from Anthony Adolph this week, about his new book In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors: from the Big Bang to Modern Britain, in Science and Myth especially as I had just been reading all about it in Your Family Tree Magazine and was intrigued as the magazine review called it ‘unusual and fascinating’.

In Search of our Ancient Ancestors

 

The following is written by the author:

I am delighted to announce the publication of my new book In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors: from the Big Bang to Modern Britain, in Science and Myth, which is being published by Pen and Sword this month.

According to science, life first appeared on Earth about 3,500 million years ago. Every living thing is descended from that first spark, including all of us. But if we trace a direct line down from those original life-forms to ourselves, what do we find? What is the full story of our family tree over the past 3,500 million years, and how are we able to trace ourselves so far back?

From single celled organisms to sea-dwelling vertebrates; amphibians to reptiles; tiny mammals to primitive man; the first Homo sapiens to the cave-painters of Ice Age Europe and the first farmers down to the Norman Conquest, this book charts not only the extraordinary story of our ancient ancestors but also our 40,000 year-long quest to discover our roots, from ancient origin myths of world-shaping mammoths and great floods down to the scientific discovery of our descent from the Genetic Adam and the Mitochondrial Eve. 

In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors will tell you where you come from, before the earliest generations of your family tree that you can trace using records. It also saves you having to think any harder about what to buy for your family and friends this Christmas!

I do hope you will enjoy it.  Anthony Adolph.

 

Anthony Adolph’s book is available from the publishers, Pen & Sword books, and all good booksellers.

Click here to buy now:

In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors

In Search of our Ancient Ancestors

 

 

 

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Channel Islands ancestors lecture at SoG

Channel IslandsWhile reading the latest news from the Society of Genealogist I came across an announcement for a half day course being held at the society’s head quarters in London called:

“My Ancestors Came from the Channel Islands”

It had previously been scheduled for the end of the month and has now been brought forward to 24/10/2015 10:30 – 13:00 – So anyone who hasn’t realised this yet and who intended to go then make a note in your diary that this course has been moved from its original date of 31 October.

If you have forbears form this part of the world and want to learn more about how to research them then as I write this they still have some space.

Check out the Society of Genealogists’ website:

http://www.sog.org.uk/books-courses

Here is what they say about this half day course:

On which of the Channel Islands did your ancestors originate?

Are your cousins still there?

This half-day course will cover sources of genealogical and historical sources of information about Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The course will include data that can be accessed in the Society of Genealogists library, online and on the islands in archives, libraries, registries and museums. Relevant contact details of historical and family history organisations will be provided.

with Dr Colin Chapman.

 

Society of Genealogists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Books on Channel Island Ancestors

Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors Pen & Sword books have the following editions of Marie-Louise Backhurst’s comprehensive book on Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors for sale. Check out the different editions with these links:

 Paperback     £12.99

 Kindle edition £4.99

 ePub edition   £4.99

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New Passenger lists now online with unique search facilities

Departure of the RMS Campania from Liverpool

RMS Campania, one of the ships included in the passenger lists.

This is an interesting press release from TheGenealogist

TheGenealogist has just released five million Emigration BT27 records as part of their growing immigration and emigration record set. Uniquely TheGenealogist allows you to track transmigration of people across countries routing through British ports on their way to America. TheGenealogist is the only website with the facility to discover families travelling together on the same voyage using our SmartSearch technology.

The new records contain the historical records of passengers who departed by sea from Britain in the years between 1896 and 1909. These new records significantly boosts the already strong Immigration, Emigration, Naturalisation and passenger list resources on TheGenealogist.

TheGenealogist has further revealed that these records will be shortly followed by the release of many more unique migration records.

The searchable records released today will allow researchers to

  • Find people using British shipping lines and travelling to places such as America, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia in the Passenger lists of people leaving from, or passing through the United Kingdom, by sea which were kept by the Board of Trade’s Commercial and Statistical Department and its successors.

  • The Homestead Act of 1862 in America gave free land to settlers who developed it for at least five years, and became a particular magnet for Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes, who arrived in their millions. To reach America, it was necessary to travel initially to England in order to then board one of the large transatlantic passenger ships and this preliminary journey has been recorded for many transmigrant passengers within the BT27 records. For the first time these can be easily found using the unique transmigration button.

  • SmartSearch identifies potential family members travelling together. When our system recognises groups of people on the same voyage as a potential family it displays a family icon. This then allows you to easily view the family.Family SmartSearch

  • These fully indexed records enable family historians to search by name, port of embarkation, port of destination, country of departure, country arrival and nationality.

This release adds to TheGenealogist’s Immigration and Emigration records that already include the useful Naturalisation and Denization records.

Those with ancestors who travelled out of Britain will welcome this fascinating new release from TheGenealogist that reveal the details of the coming and going of passengers and is a precursor of a set of unique records joining the collection shortly.

Nigel Bayley, MD of TheGenealogist said: “We intend to make researching migrating ancestors easier with our new smarter interfaces and adding more records covering a growing range of countries.”

An example from the passenger list records:

Within the passenger lists, on TheGenealogist, we can find the passage of the Dunottar Castle from Southampton to Cape Town in South Africa on the 14th October 1899. One of the passengers was the young Winston Churchill who, at that time, was a member of the Press and was going out to report on the start of the Second Boer War.

Two days before his ship’s departure the war had broken out between Britain and the Boer Republic. At the news of this conflict Mr Churchill had obtained a commission to act as a war correspondent for The Morning Post newspaper. In return he was to be paid £250 a month for his services.

After spending a number of weeks in the Colony he managed to get himself onto an armoured train, loaded with British soldiers, performing a reconnoitre between Frere and Chieveley in the British Natal Colony during November 1899. A Boer commando force, however, had placed a big boulder on the track and the train crashed into it. The Boers, having succeeded in stopping the train, then opened up with their field guns and rifle fire from a vantage position.

After a fight a number of the British were taken prisoner, but the locomotive, decoupled from the carriages and ladened with men, managed to escape. Churchill, unfortunately for him, was not one of those on-board the loco. Without his sidearm, which he had left on the train, he had no option but to surrender to the Boers. Churchill was then imprisoned in a POW camp in Pretoria. After being held captive for about four weeks Churchill escaped on the evening of 12th December 1899. He did this by vaulting over the wall to the neighbouring property and taking flight.

Chuchill in Passenger Lists on TheGenealogist

If we look at Churchill’s travelling companions on the ship out to Cape Town, scheduled to take 65 days, we can see that he was sailing with a mixture of merchants, a jeweller, an actor, a Peer of the Realm (Lord Gerard), an optician and a couple of lawyers. The Hon A. Campbell was also listed, he was another member of the press corps who had made it on to that particular Castle Line sailing to the war zone with Churchill.

I like the unique search facilities for these records which makes this release fascinating.

Take a look at TheGenealogist now.

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Find Your Naval Ancestors

Portsmouth Royal Navy dockyard

Having very recently visited the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth my interest in my seafaring ancestors has been revived.

As an island nation I am sure that many of the readers of this blog will have ancestors that have gone to sea, if only for a short time. Many of us will have family who have served in the Royal Navy and so have discovered just how intimidating it is to research a Royal Naval ancestor, especially if we compare it to looking for those of our kin who were in the British Army or the Royal Air Force.

Tracing Your Naval Ancestors – A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Fowler gives the reader a clear guide on how to use and, importantly, how to access the Naval records which are scattered among numerous repositories around the British Isles with the majority housed at The National Archives in Kew.

The book begins by giving the reader a short introduction on how to get started in their research. Simon Fowler assumes the reader has little prior knowledge of the navy and its history. His book shows you how to trace an officer, petty officer or rating from the seventeenth century up to the 1960s using records at the National Archives and elsewhere.

The reader will discover that the records of RN officers and ratings can be located back to 1660, often with more success than if you were looking for similar records in the army. As holdings for officers and ratings up to 1914 are different Simon Fowler has separated the two into their own chapters. A separate chapter then addresses the records from 1914 which covers all ranks.

There are additional chapters for the various auxiliary services; the coastguard; the Royal Marines; the WRNS; HM Dockyards; the sick and wounded and researching ships.

Depending on the era in question there are many naval records that the reader can use to discover more about the Royal Navy and its personnel. This well illustrated book shows the reader where to find the records, explains well what they contain and is an excellent addition to anyone’s library if they are interested in Royal Naval ancestors.

Tracing Your Naval Ancestors Paperback Editions available to buy from the following links:

Paperback £12.99

 

Kindle edition £ 4.99

 

ePub edition £ 4.99

 

 

Buy Tracing Your Naval Ancestors

and many other great family history books now from Pen & Sword.

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