8th May The Anniversary of VE Day

forces-war-recordsThe 8th May 1945 signalled the end of WWII and became VE Day – ‘day of the people’. Everybody had their own way of celebrating, and also remembering the fallen, of not just WWII, but also WWI.

Behind War Headlines and Historic Records Are People.

Behind the headlines of war and historic records are people – YOUR relations – and Forces War Records are constantly striving to help you add colour to your ancestor’s past.

I got contacted this week by the Forces War Records website reminding me that the 8th of May is the anniversary of VE Day.

They told me about how their website was evolving and how they are relentlessly adding new records and fresh information to it. It seems around 200,000 records a month! This could mean brand new insight for you – so it could be well worth visiting the site and searching their records regularly for any new information on your relatives that may have served Britain in the Second World War.

 

If you are short on time and would like some help with your research then you can also visit the site for details on how to conveniently hire a Forces War Records Researcher.

They promise that “As we are growing and developing we will be introducing many more educational features, medals descriptions, tips on genealogy research, and opinion led articles on the website’s blog that you can comment on and get involved with.”

The website has many other features that you may not be aware of, including a growing ‘historic documents’ library where you can view old newspaper cuttings and original periodicals from wartime such as ”The War Illustrated’. There’s really nothing quite like seeing the original material that your relatives might have read.

 

As you can imagine, Forces War Records are receiving interesting records, wartime books, periodicals, original newspapers, letters, pictures, and real stories all the time.

You can also visit the site for all their latest company news and offers.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the people that run the site: ” Forces War Records is not like other genealogy sites – we offer niche records and a wealth of historic information that you simply wouldn’t find anywhere else.”

 Disclosure: The above advert is a compensated affiliate link which may mean I get rewarded should you join their website.

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Census Transcription Error Unearthed A Second Marriage

This weekend I decided to revisit a line in Plymouth that I had only barely scratched the surface of in my research into the family.

My paternal grandmother’s father was called Edgar Stephens. His mother was Mary Ann Stephens nee Westlake and her mother was also called Mary Ann. Thus, in the 1851 census I was able to find my 3 x great-grandmother Mary Ann Westlake nee Legg married to Thomas Westlake the Brass Founder and Plumber that I have written about before in relation to his advertisement in the 1852 Plymouth Trades Directory.

Trade advertisement from 1852 Plymouth

I was looking at the 1851census records for Thomas and Mary Ann and noticed that they were both the same age, having been born in 1818.

I then went to find them in the 1861 census and noted that the transcript on TheGenealogist had Thomas’ wife listed as “Clara M Westlake” but as her date of birth was still 1818 I just put this down to an error. Opening the image I could see that the writing was none too clear, giving the transcriber a bit of a job to work out. What it certainly didn’t look like was the Mary Ann, as I had expected it to read.

Popping over to Ancestry.co.uk and the transcription for their 1851 census was given as “Chrisk W “.

Searching the same 1851 census on Findmypast and I got the transcription returned as “Catherine W”. The writing on the census page had challenged the transcribers at all three sites and I can not blame them for their differing attempts to make sense of the entry as I certainly couldn’t.

So what had happened to Mary Ann? Had she tired of her name and changed it to something more exotic? Or had she died and Thomas had taken a new wife, who also happened to have been born in the same year as he and the former Mrs Westlake?

 

I decided to do some detective work and search for a death of Mary Ann Westlake from after the 1851 census and before the 1861. What I found was a number of candidates that could have been my great-great-great-grandmother.

So now I approached the problem by seeing if I could find a second marriage for Thomas and here I can testify to the usefulness of the advice, given by many experienced family historians, to “always kill off your ancestors”.

You see, by having done just this for Thomas, having found his death in the records and then the listing for his probate, I was able to discover that he had an unusual middle name of “Scoble”.

Now I could look for a marriage of Thomas Scoble Westlake and I found just the two in the databases. One was in 1841 to Mary Ann Legg in Stoke Damerel, which is in the Devonport area. The other was to Christian Upcott Harwood in the last quarter of 1859 in Falmouth, Cornwall.

I had the name of the second wife!

Though this asked the question, if Thomas and Christian were wed in 1859, then what had happened to Mary Ann? The records show that in the second quarter of 1859 a death was registered in Plymouth for her, allowing Thomas to take a new wife in the fourth quarter! I will need to order a copy of the death certificate to find out what she died of.

So who was Christian Upcott Harwood? I had looked for her birth or christening without any luck. Then it struck me that perhaps she too was a widow. I now looked for the marriage of a Christian Upcott, leaving the bride’s maiden name blank,  to someone called Harwood and I found one to Samuel Peter Harwood in 1841 in Lewisham. Christian was from Plymouth and he was from Plumstead in Kent. A death occurred in East Stonehouse, Devon in the year 1858 to one Samuel Harwood and I assume it was his widow who married Thomas Scoble Westlake.

 

If you would like more tips on researching your English or Welsh Family History then why not sign up for my tips and a special FREE report using the box below…

 

 

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My Ancestor’s Polite Advertisement From

I was researching one Thomas Westlake, an ancestor of mine from Plymouth in the mid 1800s.

I’d found this enterprising forebear, of mine, who had been a Victualler and Brass founder, on the 1861 census. He employed one woman, six men and some boys in this Devon City at this time and so I guess I would find him listed in the trades section.

This had lead me on to use the University of Leicester site, Historical Directories at www.historicaldirectories.org to find him and his advertisement in a Plymouth Trade Directory!

Its great fun to see how polite were the requests of a Victorian era businessman, asking for trade, in an advertisement from this time. My ancestor, Thomas Westlake paid for a half page advertisement in the 1852 edition of the Plymouth directory, whose full title was:

“A Directory of Plymouth, Stonehouse, Devonport, Stoke, and Moricetown, compiled from actual survey.”

Trade advertisement from 1852 Plymouth

Trade advertisement from 1852 Plymouth

 

Thomas Westlake,

Brass Founder, & Manufacturer of Gas Fittings, Beer Engines, Water Closets, Lift Pumps, etc…

 

Begs respectfully to acquaint his Friends and the Public generally that he has, in his Establishment, men of experience in the above branches, from London and Birmingham; and assures them that all orders entrusted to his care, will be executed in first rate style, under his immediate superintendence, and on moderate terms.

 

Now who could resist an advertisement like that, but what would we think of it today?

 

I have also had some luck with other ancestors finding their advertisements in the newspapers of the day. It is worth a look at the British Library Newspapers collection.

Click the ad box below to go to The British Newspaper Archive.


 

The British Newspaper Archive is a joint venture with brightsolid, the company behind findmypast.co.uk and recent developments there are that they have just published millions of pages of local newspapers on their site for the period 1710-1950. More than 200 titles are included and they say they will be adding more all the time.

ÂDisclosure: 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 British Newspaper Archive should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

 

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The Family History Researcher and Harold P Matthews

Last week I wrote about how a family story had sent me off looking for my great-uncle Harold who served in the RAF during the Second World War and rising from Warrant Officer to Wing Commander in the Technical Branch.

One of my kind readers suggested a lead after they had done a Google search for H.P.Matthews that threw up a person of this name working for the Australian Department of Supply in a document referring to the Blue Streak Missile project. I had also come across something similar in Google Books and so was likewise wondering if there was a connection to Australia.

I set to work doing a trawl of Google search results and found a copy of an article in a 1959 copy of Flight Magazine with a picture of the Australian Government London Representative of the Department of Supply Mr H P Matthews.

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1959/1959%20-%202503.html

Regretfully I came to the conclusion that it didn’t look to me to be the same man. You see I have a picture of my Great-Uncle in my baby photo album! He and my great-aunt Winnie came to visit me in the late 1950’s (I was born in the summer of 1958) and there is one of them with me as a baby.

A further search of Google books have thrown up some snippet views of books that have Wg. Cdr H P Matthews appointed as the managing director of Zwicky Ltd in 1958. This company was a filters, pumps, airport ground equipment, pressure control valves, and hydraulic equipment manufacturer of Slough and Harold Matthews was also the MD of SkyHi Ltd. a hydraulic jack manufacturers also of Slough and possibly related to the first company.

 

I did a search on the website www.forces-war-records.co.uk and here I could see that H.P.Matthews was awarded the MBE, OBE and BEM, 1939-1945 War Medal, 1939-1945 Star and was Mentioned in Despatches, but not a lot else.

I am still at the beginning of cracking this family story and it is a major regret that I didn’t know Uncle Harold better. It would seem he was some sort of an aviation engineer, but I still don’t know what he did in the war that got him such promotion and honours!

http://www.apimages.com/oneup.aspx?rids=b122ed18743d49238762fd28fd2f913b

 

Disclosure: The above advert is a compensated affiliate link which may mean I get rewarded should you join their website.

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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.

Disclosure: The above advert is a compensated affiliate link which may mean I get rewarded should you join their website.

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Find Ancestors in Old Newspapers!

British Newspaper Archive

It looks like it has been a pretty busy month for The British Newspaper Archive website. They have introduced lots of new titles to expand their database and have also broadened the year ranges of their existing titles. The website is a wonderful source for family tree research to flesh out the story of your ancestors.

So even if you have used The British Newspaper Archive website in the past, you may still want to re-vist them to see if you can track down your ancestors in the extra pages and titles that have been recently added.

To check which new titles and issues have been added to the site in the past 30 days you only need to visit the ‘Newspaper Titles’ page at www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk !

Here are a few of the many new titles and issues that have just been added to the site.

New Title – ‘The Staffordshire Advertiser’
The latest newspaper to be added to the website for the Midlands is ‘The Staffordshire Advertiser’, from 1801 to 1839. While I haven’t found any of my ancestors came from this region I have found adverts placed by some of my forebears who were in business in many regional titles. This paper was established by Joshua Drewry (c.1773-1841) in Stafford in 1795, the paper went on to become the main county newspaper for Staffordshire.

New Title – ‘The Shoreditch Observer’
For those of us with ancestors that went up to the London area, the addition of ‘The Shoreditch Observer’ for 1863 to the website is to be welcomed. It rejoiced in the strapline of: ‘A journal of local intelligence for Bishopsgate, St. Luke, Hackney, Kingsland, Bethnal-Green, and the Tower Hamlets’, ‘The Shoreditch Observer’ contains an excellent round-up of local news, adverts and notices so worth a trawl.

New Issues – ‘The Western Gazette’ (1950)
With some of my family tree being in the west of England this latest addition to the website now meas that I can search the ‘The Western Gazette’ from 1863 right through to 1950 for family members. If, like me, you’re carrying out historical research in any of Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Berkshire, then this weekly newspaper will certainly help you with your searches.

New Issues – ‘The Evening Telegraph’ of Dundee (1904)
I have some Scots roots as well and so I am pleased to see that north of the border is not being left out. Still in publication, The Evening Telegraph is affectionately known by Dundonians as ‘The Tully’. With the addition of the 1904 issues, it’s now possible to read this Dundee institution from 1877 to 1904.

 

We have just had the Olympic torch go by today where I live. With a little bit of history being made makes me think about the games in years gone by. The Archive contains a terrific collection of stories about past Olympics, spanning the years 1894 to 1948.

Why ‘1894’?

Because there are also dozens of stories about the planning for the first Modern Games in 1896. From the lost luggage (and wine!) of the French Team in 1948 to worries about the Greek government’s finances for the 1896 Games – all Olympian life is there to be found.

What ever it is that you are researching, why not look at what can be found in The British Newspaper Archive website. Take a look today!

The British Newspaper Archive is a partner of the British Library and set up to digitise their collection of over 300 years of newspapers. Now accessible to the public, with market leading search functionality, it offers access to over 4 million pages of historical newspapers. A great source for hobby historians, students, reporters and editors – what will you discover?




Disclosure:Compensated Affiliate Links used above

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The British Newspaper Archive and Google Books Smash a Family Tree Brick Wall

As many of us find out, when we start to research our family history, our forebears can be a mixture of characters who can come from different walks of life and backgrounds.

In my case I have agricultural labourers, small businessmen, carpenters and brass-founders. There are mariners, soldiers and an intriguing line that “lived on their own means” and are descended from Scottish nobility, albeit in some cases, from the “wrong side of the blanket”.

One of these ancestors, who has always interested me, is a 2 x great-grandfather who appears on the various census as not having an occupation other than owning houses and funds. I had traced Charles Crossland Hay back from Cheltenham in England, where he died in 1858, to his birth in Dunbar in Scotland in 1797 the son of a merchant, who was also called Charles Hay, and his wife Mary Ann Stag. Charles Hay senior then moves his home to Edinburgh and then I pick up the son, Charles Crossland Hay, living at Auchindinny House, near Lasswade, before he marries his bride from Fife in 1832.

Over their life together they have seven children. Two of which are born in Scotland with four born in England and the seventh, my great grandfather, born in France. This last child is registered as a British subject and is christened in Lasswade, back in Scotland, and so his details were to be found on the ScotlandsPeople website.

With the recent launch online of The British Newspaper Archive at http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
I have, at last, gained more information that has allowed me to find out more about the business of my 2x great-grandfather, through a report on the tragic death of one of his other sons: William.

William Wemyss Frewen Hay died at the age of 30 from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney on a visit to the garrison there. In the newspaper article it stated that he was the son of the late Charles Crossland Hay of the firm Hay, Merricks & Co of Roslin.
Hay Merricks Gunpowder on a website
Now I could start using the search engines to find out about the company, but first of all I did a search of the newspapers for the business. I was rewarded by finding advertisements for their “Sporting Gunpowder” in papers from all over the country.

I went on to find samples of the gunpowder for sale at Christie’s and books mentioning the products digitised and on Google books.

Looking at a map I could also see that Roslin is but a stones throw away from Auchendinny and from the Lasswade parish church, so explaining the family’s link to the area.

On Google Books, I came across a Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1837-8 dealing with the effect of fictitious votes in Scotland after the Reform Act brought in by the Whigs. There is a list of voters and how they voted included in the document, something that would be unthinkable today. The four business partners of Hay, Merricks & Company of Roslin Powder Mills, which include Charles Crossland Hay, are all recorded as being voters for the Whig party in the years between 1832 to1850 at Roslin.

So now I have ascertained that my ancestor voted for the Whig party and was involved in the manufacture of gunpowder and all this has flowed from a newspaper report into the horrific, slow, painful death of his second son William in 1867 on Alderney, and who was actually born in 1836, two years before the report on fictitious votes was published.

What this shows me, is how events that occur at different points in a timeline and which get reported, can so easily unlock brick walls that occur at other times in the timeline.

 


Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate links used above.

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Family Tree Brick Wall Solved By British Newspaper Archive

British Newspaper ArchiveI have happily been spending some time looking around the newly launched British Newspaper Archive in the hope of finding ancestors from my family tree mentioned in articles or advertisements.

I can report that I have had some brilliant luck with some and no luck at all with others. I also have noticed that you have to deploy a lateral thought process to the search for a name mentioned in an article as an ancestor may have been named in full, or with initials or been misspelt by the journalist writing the piece.

Many results are clear and you can decide to save them by bookmarking them on the site. Some selections are, however, not so clear. The tip I would give you is to try and read the snippets, next to the results, with an open mind. On quite a few occasions my brain could make sense of the Gobbledygook that the optical character recognition OCR reports back for that article and recognised family names or places that otherwise would be disregarded as meaningless characters.

For example: 

At Cuttlehill Farm, Cross?ates. wit I I 12th ir.st., Helen Carmichael, wire of Jo»B| I jL C. Foord...

becomes: At Cuttlehill Farm, Crossgates. On the 12th instance, Helen Carmichael, wife of John I L C Foord

And now on to my discovery. I have, for some time, known of a 2x great-uncle that had been killed from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney and buried back on the English mainland near Weymouth. I had first come across this fact in a privately published book on the monumental inscriptions of a church in Cheltenham. In Christ Church Cheltenham there is a monument on the wall to his parents and at some time a local historian had written not only about the people commemorated by these plaques but also about their family.

As I am resident in Jersey I was intrigued to find that there was a family connection to the more northerly Channel Island and yet I had found nothing to explain how one of my ancestors had met his demise there. A few minutes on The British Newspaper Archive has solved this for me and I am now investigating this further.

To take a look at this great new resource for family historians go to:

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

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Tracing my Great-Grandfather in Trade Directories

Directories1869 at TheGenealogist.co.uk

I’ve used trade directories before, when I was tracing my tradesmen ancestors down in Plymouth. At that time I’d found one enterprising forebear, of mine, who had been a Victualler and Brass founder on the 1861 census employing  one woman, six men and some boys in this Devon City. This had lead me on to use the University of Leicester’s site, Historical Directories at www.historicaldirectories.org to find him and his advertisement in a Plymouth Trade Directory. Its great fun to see how polite were the requests of a Victorian era businessman, asking for trade, in an advertisement from this time.

This week I had turned my attention to my maternal great-grandfather. In a book, complied on the family, that I was lucky enough to have found on the shelves of the Society of Genealogists, in Goswell Road, London, my ancestor was given a brief mention in between his more illustrious brother’s, cousin’s and forefather’s. What I was able to glean, from this book, was that Edward Massy Hay had been a merchant in London for a period in the 1860’s, after a short spell in the army.

The book had been complied by his Father, Charles Crosland Hay and completed by his cousin on the death of the former. It gave me a clue that all was not well in the business world of Edward, as a line simply said: “Partner in the firm of Stevens & Hay, Merchants in London; on its failure he became a tea-planter in Ceylon.”

My first reaction was to see if the business went bankrupt and was mentioned in the London Gazette. I checked the website at www.london-gazette.co.uk, where it is possible to search back through the archives for free, but I found nothing on the business. I’d read a tip that it was always worth checking the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, in case the bankruptcy had been hidden in one of these publications. The results came back negative and so it looks as if the business was wound up without going bankrupt.

Recently, on taking a look around TheGenealogist.co.uk‘s data sets, I came across the 1869 Kelly’s Post Office Directory for London on their site. By entering “Stevens and Hay” I was eventually able to locate their business to an office at 65 Fenchurch Street, London. EC3

Moving on, to a Kelly’s Directory for 1880 London, I found my great-grandfather listed as living in Princes Square, Bayswater, London. Also at that address was his sister, Mrs Mary Ann Webster, whose husband was in the Madras Civil Service. But I had already begun investigating the move to Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka), by my ancestor. By 1880 he was appearing in a directory for that island, as well as at Bayswater!

From a website, dedicated to the history of Ceylon Tea (www.historyofceylontea.com), I found there are links to many years of the Ferguson’s Ceylon Directory. In 1880 Edward M. Hay was an Assistant for R.Books & Co of London, in the British Colony. He appears in several of the directories, one of which has him as Chairman of his local area’s planters association and in 1905 he was listed as the owner of a tea estate called Denmark in Dolosbage, Ceylon.

This little peep into my great-grandfather’s life was made possible by the use of various trade directories and the fact that they have been scanned and uploaded to websites on the internet. But before I turned off my computer, on a whim I decided to enter the address that he had shared with his sister in London into Google street view. I was rewarded with the Georgian fronts of Princes Square and easily found the house where he lived. It is now a small hotel and so its address is on the internet.

A search for 65 Fenchurch Street, and the offices, shows that they have been replaced by a modern vista. Lastly, I did a Google search for the Denmark Tea Estate in Sri Lanka and by chance it still exists! Using Google Earth I was able to use the satellite view to see, from the air, the hillside estate that once was where my great-grandfather cultivated tea.

It seems to me to be well worth using some of these alternative tools, available to us, when doing family history research. They may add just a little bit of flesh to the bones of facts gained from the census data or the birth, marriage and death records for our ancestors.

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Family Tree Research is Big Business!

While I was taking a break from researching my family tree I took a look at a finance site this morning. My attention was drawn, because of my interest in Family History, towards a report on Investors.com about a stock that’s been one of the market’s big winners during the past year and a half in the USA.

Read more at:http://www.investors.com/Education/DailyStockAnalysis.aspx?id=576677

It is, of course, Ancestry.com Inc. the group of family history web sites, including Ancestry.co.uk, that many of us use or have probably used in the past to dig into our family tree and dig up things like births, marriages and deaths, census record and more. It became listed in November 2009 and so it is considered to be relatively new to the market.

But already Investors.com reveals that:

” … a lot of people seem to be interested in that information. Sales growth ranged from 36% to 41% during the past four quarters.
* Earnings growth has had some big swings, but came in at a hefty 125% last quarter.
* Looking ahead, analysts see earnings rising 51% this year and 30% next year.
* The stock’s Relative Strength Rating is 96. That rating compares Ancestry’s price performance to the rest of the market. So Ancestry is outperforming 96% of the other stocks in the market.
* Still, its Accumulation/Distribution Rating is a D-. So some big investors have been selling the stock.”

All this shows that, across the world, people like us are so taken by the Family History bug that we are willing to spend money in the pursuit of our hobby.

Now I know, from feed back on my blog and on my facebook page, that some people believe that the subscriptions to sites like these are getting out of their reach. It would seem that the Israeli owned MyHeritage may have understood this trend in the market as it is reported on another website I found called Businessinsider.com, that they are developing a way to share the costs of subscriptions to their site.

MyHeritage, which makes it money from advertising as well as premium subscriptions has a quite clever way of getting family history researchers to pay for premium subscriptions to its site and that is to encourage your friends and family to chip in.

According to Business Insider:

“You can create a “Family Goal” to encourage other family members to subscribe.

This has some precedent, in different ways, in online fundraising campaigns, which encourage donors to reach a goal, and in group buying. Obviously it makes sense in a genealogy site, where a family may be involved in matching their heritage, but it can also make sense for any site that is used by a group (for example a group publishing platform).

It’s a clever mechanic, and it will be interesting to see whether it works for MyHeritage and whether other social sites implement something similar.”

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/myheritage-social-payments-2011-7#ixzz1RyYprp7U

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