My best-liked technique to find elusive ancestors?

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!

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Local and Family History Fayre in Jersey

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

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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 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

 

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Family reunions past and present wanted for BBC documentary series

TV(1)

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 familyfinders@ricochet.co.uk to share your story.

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

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

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.  http://paidforadvertising.co.uk/

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I found an ancestor in the Wolverhampton City Archives

 

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-grand 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. The correct date was 1878 that he had been appointed to the job.

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-grand 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

 

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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.

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