Summer holiday time can be a great opportunity to look at the places where your ancestors lived.
Quite often I have used time visiting an area to walk down the streets where my ancestors footsteps went before me and just imagining how it would have been in their day.
I will have often have prepared for such a trip beforehand. In most cases using the census collections and copies of trade directories to”get a feel” for the location in their era.
It is important to try and understand the social history of the town or area where our forebears lived, but what about our own history? Shouldn’t we try and document our times for those who follow?
As we grow older we constantly find that things have moved on, streets have changed, businesses have closed up, buildings demolished.
This week I was reminded of this fact by a visit from several cousins of mine to Jersey. A first cousin, his daughter plus fiancé, flew in from Canada, while a first cousin once removed, plus husband, came from the Midlands by plane. (If you find cousin relationships difficult to understand then check out my free report here.)
My elder cousin from Canada had memories of certain shops, that he had gone to with our grandparents and would have liked to have taken a trip to. The problem was that they had long since gone or changed in the intervening years.
We managed, however, to do many of the sites that had family associations for us; but I was still struck at how change in my own lifetime had crept up on my local environment. From the reclamation of land for a cinema, swimming-pool complex, 5 star hotel and housing apartments, which now replaces the beach where my science teacher had taken the class to learn some hands-on Marine Biology, to the house by the airport where my younger cousin (now based in England) had once lived as a child.
This was to be a great story as the Georgian farmhouse had been demolished, as new regulations deemed it to be too close to the airport runway. In actual fact there had been a dreadful air crash when my cousins lived in it, but she and her mother were thankfully away from the house at the time. In the fog a light aircraft had flown into said building with the loss of the pilot’s life.
Yesterday we took a trip to the site of the demolished house and walked around the footprint of the building. It was an eerie feeling as we picked our way over the old foundations.
I noticed the former garden still had flowers and plant bushes in it that indicted its past life as a formal front garden. These hardy specimens fighting through the weeds and wild foliage that aimed to sometime soon take control.
The happy ending to this piece is that the house was demolished stone-by-stone and it has sprung up again in restored Georgian glory as the cladding to a replica house a few miles down the road! The project is ongoing and the people behind it have a website here: http://savethelistedbuilding.com/
Yesterday we were privileged to be allowed to visit the house’s new site and my cousin, who had once lived within its granite structure, was delighted with the restoration and the positive ambience of its new location.
Think of those who will come after us, what stories can we leave them about our times?
Following on from my blog post last Sunday, I have just heard from TheGenealogist to tell me about another set of First World War records.
Press Release For immediate release:
Newly released for the first time are First World War Medal Records that crossed the great social class divide.
Over 117,000 ‘Military Medals’ were awarded in the First World War for ‘acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire’. These records are now available to view online complete with an image of the actual Medal Card and a link to the official government publication of the time. It’s a unique, comprehensive set of records available only on TheGenealogist.co.uk
The Military Medal was awarded to ‘Non Commissioned Officers and Ordinary Ranks’ and covers exceptional courage as a soldier in battle. It also was awarded for those that risked their lives trying to save others, often in extreme danger. The Medal Records on TheGenealogist show people from a wide range of backgrounds and social classes, including a number of young women from very privileged families who chose to drive ambulances and rescue the wounded in the mud of battle.
The role of ‘stretcher bearer’ was one of the most dangerous jobs of the time and surprisingly, the records show many women bridged social constraints of the time to risk life and limb to help rescue and bring in soldiers wounded in battle.
Details now available on TheGenealogist range from the most highly decorated Military Medal recipient, stretcher bearer Private Ernest Corey of the 55th Australian Infantry, to Lady Dorothie May Evelyn Feilding-Moore, the daughter of the Earl of Denbigh (the first female recipient of the Medal), to Mairi Lambert Gooden-Chisholm who rescued a German pilot from no-man’s land. Both men and women, crossing the social divide and class customs of pre-1914 to demonstrate outstanding bravery.
The new Military Medal records provide:
Full details of the person winning the medal – their rank, regiment, date of medal citation and the details of their heroism in battle
Sophisticated search techniques to find the medal recipient with just one mouse click. A further addition to the comprehensive medal and First World War records now available on TheGenealogist.co.uk
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content comments: “With our military record releases in 2014, we are aiming to cover all aspects of The First World War. Every new record set unearths surprises and the Military Medal collection is no different as we discover the female front line heroes listed alongside those who fought to protect our freedom. These unique records consistently provide fascinating tales behind them.”
I’ve got some advice for you to break down a brick wall.
Have you been stuck trying to find an ancestor?
Thought you might have been!
Maybe what I relate below will help you too.
The thing was that some while back, I was getting quite frustrated by being unable to trace a person in the records.
I was completely stuck finding this person’s birth, marriage or death and I had tried looking online and off without any luck.
Maybe you are in this position too?
What broke the problem for me?
Well it was avisit to a Family History websitewhile surfing forkeywordsto do with the ancestor and then a little bit of time spentbrowsing the transcripts featured on the platform.
There were some other factors, such as trying different spelling variations of first and second names, as advised by my family history teacher at the time and a visit to an archive.
What it boils down to is using a bit of lateral thinking in our family tree research and most importantly finding out about alternative records to the ones that we might have already used.
The family branch that has presented me with the most frustrating problems has been that from Devon. I was fine going back through the census years, 1911, 1901 and so on back to 1841 but then it became more of a problem.
Perhaps this story resonates with some of you to?
I had figured out that my 3x great-grandfather was called John Thorn. This was provided in the information he had given to the census enumerators over the years, along with the fact that he had been born in about 1795. His wife, Elizabeth, had been born about 1798.
As I belong to The Society of Genealogists I took a trip to their headquarters in Goswell Road, London knowing that they have the largest collection of Parish Records in the country on microfiche. They’ve also got some transcripts of parish registers in their library, which I thought may be worth looking at.
If you are in the area I highly recommend you visit the Society of Genealogists.
Unfortunately for me, at the time of my research, the Dartmouth parish records were not on microfilm at the SoG. But I was over the moon to find a great selection of Devon Family History Society booklets for marriages taking place in the churches of the town, including St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth. Browsing one book for any likely ancestors I spotted that on 13 April 1817 one person called John Thorn got married to an Elizabeth Sissell.
I opened up the internet and began searching using my new lead. My mission was to hunt down any evidence that this was the marriage of my ancestors.
Doing a search-engine query for Dartmouth + family history steered me towards the Dartmouth-history.org.uk website belonging to The Dartmouth Archives. I discovered that this voluntary organisation had a really broad family history section and included a number of transcribed baptisms, burials, marriages and census records.
I could read the very same information, as I had seen at the SoG in London, on this niche site. The data began in 1586 and ran to 1850 and there was the marriage of John Thorn to Elizabeth and this time I noticed that the witness were given as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell.
At the time I made an assumption that this last person was more than likely some member of the bride’s family. Could it perhaps be the father of the bride?
But that name “Sunass” just didn’t seem likely to me. Now I know that it was the best guess by the transcriber as it couldn’t be read properly in the original record.
From the information I knew that they had signed with a mark, thus they were illiterate and so the first name and the second had not been written down by the ancestors themselves.
When you are doing your own research you should bear in mind that our ancestors may not have had the ability to read or write and the minister may have interpreted the name as he had heard it said to him. In my ancestor’s case the surname “Sissell” could possibly have been “Cecil” or something entirely different. Consider saying the name with the regional accent and seeing what you come up with.
As for Sunass – at this point I was clueless!
The Dartmouth Archives website had not got any early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth and so I went over to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch.org and here I did a search for Elizabeth’s christening.
I was rewarded by a lead to a baptism in one of the other churches in Dartmouth, St Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. This child was the daughter of James and Sarah Sissill and she was christened Elizabeth Gardener Sissill.
You may notice that the spelling had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e” again pointing to the vicar writing it down the way that he heard it.
I now jumped to a conclusion that the witness to Elizabeth’s marriage could have been her father “James” and this has been interpreted as “Sunnas” because a flowing “J” for James had looked like an “S” to the transcriber and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”. All easily done.
So what I am emphasising here and I continue to do so in modules from my Family History Researcher Course, is to be wary of names and the way they were spelt. If you keep this in mind then some of the logjams we find in our research can be got past.
This breakthrough I had was down to finding that Dartmouth has an active family history website and then using their indexes in conjunction with other internet resources, such as the LDS site.
The first learning point is that you should always find out what other research may have been done, for the area your ancestors came from.
If you find a family history society, or local interest group with a website, can any of their publications or website pages help you with your quest?
Secondly, always keep in mind that names were misspelled in many records. In my own family research I have had to think of other spellings for the Sissells, and indeed names that may have sounded like Sissell in order that I may trace this line back further and break down the brick wall.
I have made some fantastic strides in my family tree research and it is mostly down to learning as much as I can from other’s experiences and finding out as much as I can about what records and resources are available.
Last year I put together some modules for a course of 52 guides, aiming at passing on my experience. Perhaps they can help you become a more knowledgeable researcher?
I had some professional genealogists and data providers also contribute to the project to make it well rounded.
As you have come to this page I am sure that you must have an interest in family history and I am betting that you to have some brick walls to knock down as well. So take a look at the report below that is based on some of the material from the Family History Researcher course…
Soldiers Who Died in the First World War added to TheGenealogist
As the anniversary of the beginning of World War I took place recently many new databases have made it online to help us search for our brave ancestors. One such release is from TheGenealogist and is the Soldiers Who Died in this war.
This detailed record set covers over 650,000 individuals who died in the First World War. Details include name, rank, regiment, place of birth, place of residence, place of enlistment, service number and the cause, date and place of death. These records are uniquely linked to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to show you where your ancestor is commemorated.
Soldiers Who Died in the Great War has been added to the huge military collection on TheGenealogist, encompassing many unique record sets from Casualty Lists and War Memorials, to Rolls of Honour and more.
This site is family owned and seems to have a very friendly feel to it. At a time when others are being accused of not listening I have found that the team at TheGenealogist responded rapidly to any glitches I have had with the interface in the past. Indeed one such problem I had a few months back was fixed in minutes!
Sign up for a Diamond Annual Subscription for only £69.45 for the first year, with their cashback offer
When I took a look at my in-box this evening I discovered this generous offer from the team over at TheGenealogist.
As I know many of you are looking for alternative genealogical research sites, at the moment, then maybe now is the time to take advantage of this offer!
With the release of over 11 million Tithe Records, millions of parish records, the Image Archive, military records, occupational records and the International Headstone project, TheGenealogist is now offering family historians the opportunity to take a look at the useful resources now available on TheGenealogist at a special one-time reduced price.
With many genealogy sites in the UK struggling with implementing new features and layouts, TheGenealogist has maintained its popular user-friendly search tools that have helped enhance its growing reputation.
For those people that have never used TheGenealogist, the popular tools such as the keyword search, family forename search and address search are well worth taking a look at to help discover your ancestors. The new special offer gives you this opportunity with a £50 cashback when you purchase a Diamond subscription, making it just £69.45for a year!
This will give you unlimited access to unique record sets and powerful tools, to help you with your research. You’ll also get 12 free issues of Discover Your Ancestors Online Periodical worth £12!
Mark Bayley, Head of the Online Division comments: “There have been many reports recently in the news and social media, of users struggling with changes to genealogy websites. We’d like to reassure you that we are customer led. We listen, respond and react quickly to our users. Our site design is based on keeping things simple and developed through customer feedback.”
If you’re struggling with your current family history subscription, why not give TheGenealogist a try?
Get access to the widest range of records including unique resources, such as Tithe Records, Non-Conformist & Non-Parochial Records, Parish Records, Will Records with images, Military collections, and more by going for a Diamond subscription.
The cash back offer is open to all new customers, world wide.
Hanging Judges, Captains of Industry, Empire Builders and a few Shropshire Lads
RECORDS REVEAL OVER 360 YEARS OF SHROPSHIRE HISTORY
Findmypast.co.uk has published online for the first time parish records held by the Shropshire Archives as the latest instalment of their 100 in 100 promise to launch 100 record sets in 100 days.
Spanning 1538 to 1900, the Shropshire Collection comprises approximately 2.1 million fully searchable transcripts and 155,000 scanned colour images of the parish registers. A selection of Anglican, Methodist and Non-Conformist registers from well over 200 Shropshire parishes from Abdon to Yockleton are included in the collection.
Many notable Shropshire lads and lasses can be found within these records, including Charles Darwin, Wilfred Owen, and Clive of India. A number of early industrialists such as Tom Farnolls Pritchard can also be found, reflecting the important role the county played in establishing Britain as an industrial powerhouse.
The Shropshire Collection adds to findmypast extensive parish record collection, claimed to be the largest available online. These records allow family historians to go as far back as the 1500s. With more parish records still to come as part of the 100 in 100 promise, family historians can now explore their more distant roots more easily than ever before. A new browse function allows for scrolling through individual while a number of new search fields have been added.
Debra Chatfield, a family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “The Shropshire Collection is one of the largest regional parish record collections we have ever published online and contains some truly wonderful gems. Family historians or people looking into their past, wherever they are in the world, can now search this historical goldmine and uncover the fascinating stories of their Shropshire ancestors. There is plenty of intrigue in the records to pique the interest of social historians too. With our adjoining Cheshire and Welsh parish record collections already available, these records could prove invaluable to anyone with missing ancestors who may have crossed the border into Shropshire.”
Tina Woodward, Shropshire Council’s deputy cabinet member responsible for Visitor Economy, said: “Making these records available online for the first time is a great step forward for access to Shropshire’s fantastic archives. We hope that people across the world will uncover Shropshire ancestors they never knew they had and renew their connection with our wonderful county.”
The collection is being launched to coincide with the Discover Shropshire day, a gathering of local heritage organisations, speakers and musicians who all have something important to impart about the history of the county. It will take place at Shirehall, Abbey Foregate in Shrewsbury.
This week I was pleased to see that Origins.net had released some fully searchable additional Devon Wills from between 1164-1992 for FREE online.
Their updated index now includes over 300,000 Devon probate records from over 60 sources, which is good news for those, like me, with Devon Ancestors.
This index has been created as a combined project by Origins.net and the Devon Wills Project to compile a consolidated index of pre-1858 Devon wills, administrations, inventories, etc. Many Devon probate records were destroyed by enemy action, when the Probate Registry was destroyed in the bombing during the Exeter Blitz in 1942. Thus the aim of this index is to create a finding-aid to enable the researcher to determine what probate materials were originally recorded and most importantly what documents have survived and where they can be located.
Following on from last week’s post, about the Memorial Awareness Board’s photographic competition, comes this interesting project from S&N Genealogy and TheGenealogist.
As family historians we are all, no doubt, well aware of experiencing that thrill when finding the grave of an ancestor in some churchyard or cemetery. I also know the frustration of knowing that a forebear was buried in a particular burial ground but not being able to find them. Perhaps because their memorial stone had been taken down when it became dangerous, or simply that the inscription had decayed over the years from the onslaught of the British weather.
Headstones nationwide are suffering from erosion, and burial grounds from closures for new developments. We need to act now to preserve these crumbling records.
If you, like me, are interested in helping to achieve this then you may want to join this new project where you can earn credits towards a subscription with TheGenealogist or products from S&N Genealogy. All you need to do is photograph and transcribe headstones from local churchyards and cemeteries from your part of the country.
As S&N Genealogy writes, in their most recent newsletter, they are aiming at building the most comprehensive record of gravestones for family research and help preserve the memories these fragile stones provide.
I applaud them for doing this and make no mistake, I for one shall be contributing my part.
Â Memorial national photo competition Â£1000 prize winner!
The Memorial Awareness Board (MAB) runs the annual competition that challenges the public to take two photos, one representing the â€˜thenâ€™ and one representing the â€˜nowâ€™. It’s an opportunity to showcase memorials ‘unsung beauty’.
The competition, sponsored by Funeral Directors Lodge Brothers (www.lodgebrothers.co.uk) was a huge success and with such a high standard of entries choosing the ten shortlisted proved a challenging task! Then ten were then published on the website and put to a public vote.
Winner Robin Bath from Fulham was delighted with the Â£1000 prize. Robin said â€œThank you so much to MAB for the great opportunity. I am a keen photographer and found the subject matter of stone memorials most fascinating. Visiting cemeteries is a beautiful and peaceful pass time. Organisationâ€™s like MAB are vitally importantâ€.Â Robin also received a gold award certificate signed by the MAB chairman.
Competition sponsor Chris Lodge, (Managing Director of Lodge Brothers) presented Robin with the cheque by the Thames at Tower Bridge.
Congratulations to runner up Peter Heaton from York who won a digital camera. Peter is most inspired by photography and visiting cemeteries. He says â€œI was delighted to hear that I had won the Silver Award in the MAB photographic competition, I came across the competition online a couple of years ago and thought then that its subject would suit my style of work and interests. I began to look at the fascinating variety of memorials in my local cemetery.
It is reassuring to know that there is a body such as the MAB which contributes to the continuing interest and development of ourcountry’s memorialsâ€.
New to this year were certificates signed by the MAB chairman who awarded a Gold, Silver and a selection of Bronze.
The Memorial Awareness Board is a non-profit organisation, representing memorial stonemasons and campaigning for sympathetic memorialisation in the UK. Its brand new website, www.rememberforever.org.uk, aims to inform the public and the press alike about their options regardingmemorialisation. Whether a loved one is buried or cremated they deserve to be remembered forever and a stone memorial is the best way to accomplish this. The website gives details of all types of stone memorial available from UK memorial masons.
Each year, the â€˜Dead Art? Then and Nowâ€™ photography competition attracts entries from across the country. The purpose of the competition is to encourage the public to venture to their local cemeteries to discover the beauty of stone memorials, while helping them to understand the importance of stone memorials as a focus for grief in the short term, and agenealogy tool in the long term. The competition Â is sponsored by Funeral Directors Lodge Brothers. Lodgebrothers.co.uk
Christopher Lodge, Director of Masonry at Lodge Brothers (Funerals) Ltd says, â€œ As a family business established over 200 years, we are really pleased to sponsor this unique photographic competition. Memorials play a part in our social history through both personal and public memorials. They are a lasting tribute to loved ones and those who have lost their lives for our country. We sincerely hopethat this competition shows the changes within our industry and society through the theme â€œThen and Nowâ€ and raises the awareness and importance of commemorating in stone.â€
I have seen elsewhere on the internet today that the comedian Al Murray is not happy with a claim that he is related to David Cameron!
This was just some of the publicity that has surrounded the launch today of 2.5 million records from British India records that provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the Indian subcontinent
Family history website findmypast.co.uk has, in partnership with the British Library,Â added 2.5 million records covering over 200 years of history of the British in India and published them online for the first time today.
These records covering 1698-1947 give real insight into the heart warming and heart breaking stories of British citizens living in India during the tenure of the East India Company and the British Raj.
Debra Chatfield, Brand Manager at findmypast.co.uk said of the release: â€œThe new British in India records at findmypast are a great opportunity to find ancestors that previously were considered missing, as so many of our relatives sought their fortune on the subcontinent. Whether your relatives were clergy, aristocracy, tradespeople, merchants, civil servants or soldiers, the lowest and the landed all have stories to be told with these records.â€