Built as a summer home by Arts and Crafts architect-designer Ernest Gimson for his brother Sydney, Stoneywell zigzags from its rocky outcrop, amid rhododendrons and heather. Every turn conjures childhood memories of holiday excitement, dashing down the winding steps –– one way to the fort, the other to the woods beyond.
The visit to this small National Trust house was a treat for my 90 year old dad, who once-upon-a-time had been an architect himself.
I found it fascinating from the point of view of seeing artefacts from the late Victorian times and up to the 1950s. The way that these everyday household items could spark off memories for both myself, with the more recent ones, and for my dad with the older objects.
It reminded me that seeing a facet of the Gimson’s family history, in the form of this well presented National Trust house, or indeed anybody else’s family life in photos or in a property such as this, can so easily be used to flesh out your own family story. The social influences on our ancestors is just as much a part of of our family story as is the family tree charting names and dates of births, marriages and deaths. By seeing the exhibits in a museum, or the furniture, books, children’s toys or the typewriter on the desk in Stoneywell and matching them to your own forebears, from the period, can help to make the telling of our family history all the more interesting.
Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,
These knowledgeable interviewees include practising professional genealogists, with years and years of experience to offer.
Yet others are from the very highest levels of the online data provider companies, like Ancestry and TheGenealogist.
Listen to the download and learn some plain tips that will simplify the often confusing business of researching English/Welsh ancestors. I am going to give you access to these eight professionals so that you can use their advice to break down several brick walls that you may have.
3. The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) Member. What would the advice be from a professional genealogist practitioner?
Well as many serious professional genealogists belong to this association, I headed over to the AGRA stand and asked a member for his research tips. Points he brought up included the information on documents being only as good as that given by the informant and what to do about conflicting data. There is more to hear in the full interview that you can download here .
4. Families in British India Society (FIBIS) Expert. In family history we often have to think a bit outside the box. Well have you considered that your missing ancestor had moved abroad? With 3 million Brits having gone out to India then if we have a missing forbear it could certainly pay us to take a look at the records from this part of the British Empire. Its not just soldiers, the list of people who went out to work there is long as we hear from this FIBIS expert.
5. Celia Heritage – Professional Genealogist, Author and Family History Teacher introduces us to an often under used set of resources in her piece: Death Records. She explains how to use these records to flesh out the bones of our ancestors lives.
Celia is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker and you can just hear the passion that she has for her subject as she dispenses some gems of advice in the free downloadable audio presentation. Its not just death certificates that Celia brings to our attention in this part of the recording!
6. Dr Ian Galbraith – The National Wills Index explains about one of the best single major sources for family historians when I asked him to talk about Wills and Administrations for this audio.
Ian explains why wills can be an important resource with an average of 10 names per will and with half of them being different from that of the testator. Many people are surprised by the fact that all sorts of people left wills, but you won’t be when you have heard the full interview.
7. Brad Argent – Content Director for Ancestry advises family historians to drill down for the information in the online databases in his contribution to the recording. Brad suggests we use the card catalogue to seek out data sets and then use the advance search facility of “exact”, “soundex” and “wildcards” when we are on this large data provider’s site. His advice is compelling.
8. Mark Bayley – Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, a site that gives really fantastic value and a very wide range of data, introduces us to a great name-rich resource recently published by TheGenealogist, in association with The National Archives.
What is this important resource for England and Wales?
It is, of course, the Tithe collection.
I have been using this set recently to great effect with my own rural ancestors and so I have included a module in my Family History Researcher Guides about the tithes.
The beauty of this data is that it includes both sides of society, with landowners and tenants being recorded and giving names and addresses. As a pre-census data set it is hugely valuable to us! Listen to Mark explain about these exciting records in the free recording you can download now by clicking the link below.
Now you may be asking why I am doing this for free?
Its because I want to introduce you to a set of guides that I have put together. A series of pdf modules that takes the information I gleaned at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and incorporated it, along with much more content into a year’s worth of weekly written guides.
There are extra contributions from various other professional experts who have penned some of the reports, as well as those modules written from my own extensive experience.
I am guessing that, if you have read this far, you are interested in English/Welsh family history and that you have hit at least one of the inevitable brick walls. The solution is to understand more ways to find your ancestors.
So if you would like to dramatically increase your knowledge then I think you will enjoy being a member of my Family History Researcher Guides. This is a 52 weekly series of guides written in an easily accessible form and you can take a two week trial for just £1 by going here:
News out today from the British-owned online family history company DC Thomson Family History (the people behind findmypast amongst other websites) and The National Archives that they are entering into a joint project to make the records of 40 million civilians held in the 1939 register available online.
When they have got this data digitised, it is estimated by the company that the collection will comprise of near enough 1.2 million scanned full-colour images of documents. As the records cover the entire civilian population of England & Wales at the outbreak of WWII, this is quite a significant release for those of us researching our English or Welsh family tree.
What was the 1939 register?
It was taken on 29 September 1939 by the British Government and recorded personal details of individuals in order to issue identity cards and ration books. In later years it became the basis of the National Health Serviceâ€™s records.
Findmypast say that , when complete, the 1939 register will be fully searchable online for the first time, opening up the past to a new generation of family and social historians, just as the 1911 census did on its release in 2009.
So what can we expect to find once this set becomes available to us?
The records contain the address, full name, date of birth, sex, marital status and occupation of individuals, as well as changes of name. Although the Register is literally within living memory for many people, information about living individuals will be kept closed for 100 years from their year of birth, or until proof of death has been authenticated.
From today, anybody interested in being kept informed about the project can register at www.1939register.co.uk.
Annelies Van Den Belt, CEO of DC Thomson Family History said: â€œThis announcement is great news not just for British family historians and those with British relatives, but for anyone with an interest in history itself; providing a fascinating snapshot of the country as it stood on the edge of the most widespread conflict in human history.
â€œThis significant project will bring these records to a global audience for the first time, and combined with the 1.8 billion records already available on our websites will make it easier than ever to begin your family history journey and uncover the powerful stories that lie within and that make us who we are.â€
Mary Gledhill, Commercial Director, at The National Archives, added: â€œThe National Archives is delighted to be working with DC Thomson Family History to open up this unique record collection to the world, allowing history enthusiasts to discover more about the people at the outbreak of the Second World War. In the absence of a 1931 and 1941 census, this collection is all the more valuable to family historians trying to trace their ancestors.â€
The 1939 register project is the latest contract to be awarded to DC Thomson Family History by The National Archives. Record sets previously digitised by the company in association with The National Archives include Crime, Prisons and Punishment; outbound passenger lists; British Army Service records; Merchant Navy Seamenâ€™s records; Maritime Birth, Marriage and Death indexes and the 1911 census.
Great news for those of us researching our recent ancestors from England & Wales. One of the most anticipated family history projects since the 1911 census.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in this post.
I’ve been looking back at an ancestor’s will this week. These family history records are fascinating. Seems that one of my two times great grandfathers left a little money and his house to his wife. In his life he had changed occupations from being a Hatter in Tavistock to being a grocer in Plymouth and it makes me wonder about the economic and social forces at work which made him chose this path.
Another ancestor, on my mother’s family side, seems to have cut his eldest son out of the will, everything being inherited by the children who were next in line! What was the story there, I wonder?
These wills, however, are from the start of the records created by the Probate Registry, which took control of proving wills and administrations in 1858. Before this, four different types of ecclesiastical (church) courts dealt with these cases.
Ancestry.co.uk has recently published online over a million probate records, featuring the last will and testament of some of histories most famous names including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Sir Francis Drake.
Ancestry bill this as being “the most comprehensive UK collection of its kind available to view online”. Certainly I have found that other providers give access to these records on their own sites, for example The National ArchivesÂ on Documents OnlineÂ and TheGenealogist.co.uk has a substantialÂ collection of Wills and Will indexes available online, including the index of the Court of York and full Wills for the Court of Canterbury.
The England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Wills 1384-1858 covers nearly five centuries worth of history and details how much people owned and who they left it to.
Up until January 1858, the church and other courts proved wills in England and Wales. The PCC was the most important of these courts and was responsible for the probate of wills where the value of assets was greater than five pounds, equivalent to Â£526 today.
Searchable by name, probate date, residence and estimated death year, each record contains information about the final assets of the deceased. Additional notes on their occupation, property and overall standard of living may also be included.
Many famous names can be discovered in the records including world famous playwright William Shakespeare. Dated 25th March 1616, Shakespeareâ€™s will details how he left a sum of one hundred and fifty pounds to both his daughters (over Â£380,000 today) as well as his wife the pleasure of his â€˜second best bedâ€™.
Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen also appears in collection. Upon her death on 18th July 1817, she possessed assets totalling around Â£800 (Â£60,000 today). The majority of this was given to her sister Cassandra aside from Â£50 to her brother Henry and a further Â£50 to a Madame Bigoen â€“ who had previously acted as a nurse to her family.
The records also reveal that the privateer and explorer Sir Francis Drake was somewhat of a real life Robin Hood. Having plundered many Spanish naval vessels and earned a fortune during his adventures in the Americas, Drake left forty pounds to the ‘poore people’Â of the town and Parish of Plymouth in 1596 – the equivalent of Â£150,000 today.
The original records are held at The National Archives and some of the earliest records in the collection cover males as young as 14 and girls as young as 12. This changed in 1837, when it was decided by the court that both genders must be over the age of 21 to have a will proved.
On top of monetary matters, these records tell us more about the private lives of some very public figures and will help historians discover more about the dynamics of their personal and familial relationships.
The majority of records in the collection also pre-date civil registration, the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate accounts of citizensâ€™ lives in documents such as censuses. As such, the collection is a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace an ancestor living before the mid-19th century.
Ancestry.co.uk Content Manager Miriam SilvermanÂ comments: â€œThese probate records provide fascinating insight into the final fortunes of some of our nations most famous names, right down to who should get their bed.â€
â€œThey are an incredibly valuable family history resource, covering a period in history from which few official documents remain.â€
Disclosure: Some links are compensated affiliate links.
Once you have exhausted tracing your ancestors in the census collections and the civil records back as far as 1837 then you have to begin using the parish records for your ancestor’s area.
As readers of this blog know I am a great fan of these particular documents and so I am really pleased to hear when a new collection get digitised.
Findmypast.co.uk has made these Hertfordshire records available online for the first time, making it easier than ever to trace your ancestors further back through the centuries. Debra Chatfield, marketing manager at findmypast.co.uk, commented on the new release:
â€œThis collection of records is a wonderful treasure trove for anybody interested in looking into their familyâ€™s past in Hertfordshire. Publishing the records online for the first time will make it so much easier for people to find out if they have ancestors from Hertfordshire, as you can now search them alongside millions of other parish records from across the whole countryâ€.
Full details of the records contained in this release are as follows:
I’ve just had an email from Ancestry and have immediately checked out their new records of Civil and Mechanical Engineers to see if I could find any of my engineer ancestors. If you have any that followed this career path then I’d recommend you too have a look now!
Just before I jump back to the data, that I have open in another window, here is their press release…
TodayAncestry.co.uk, has launched online for the first time the Civil and Mechanical Engineer Records, 1820-1930, detailing almost 100,000 of Britainâ€™s brightest inventors and innovators from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The digitised records were collated from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and reveal fascinating details about the institutionsâ€™ members, including pioneers of automobiles, bicycles and even hydropower.
Many were behind some of the notable inventions of the age, including one of the foremost designers of the internal combustion engine (Ricardo) and even an early sniper rifle (Whitworth). Others created some weird and wonderful designs, including a cucumber straightener (Stephenson), an elaborate mousetrap, and early forms of amusement rides (both Maxim).
The collection comprises membership records and photographs of engineers who were members of both institutions between 1820 and 1930, and provides a unique insight into their careers and accomplishments.
Before the 1700s, engineers in Europe had been almost all military men. Although civil engineering work had been carried out before then, it had not been recognised as an identifiable profession. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)was formed in 1818 with a mission to â€˜foster and promote the art of civil engineeringâ€™.
Founded in 1847, IMechE was formed for the growing number of mechanical engineers who were employed in the flourishing railway and manufacturing industries. The institutionâ€™s first president, rail pioneer George Stephenson is known for designing the â€˜Geordie lampâ€™ used by miners. A record of Stephensonâ€™s membership appears in the collection, along with a photograph.
Other famous engineers who appear in the collection include:
Isambard Kingdom Brunel â€“ Brunel was known for building dockyards, the Great Western Railway, a series of steamships including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship and numerous important bridges and tunnels. His designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering. Brunelâ€™s membership form for the Civil Engineers isincluded in the collection, dated 27 January 1829.
Sir John Rennie â€“ In 1815 Rennie assisted his father, who was another famous engineer, in the erection of Southwark Bridge, and later undertook the construction of London Bridge in 1824, which was opened in 1831, the same year he was knighted. His membership was passed by the council of the Mechanical Engineers in 1844 after â€˜many years in the professionâ€™.
Christopher Hinton â€“ Hinton was a British nuclear engineer and supervisor of the construction of Calder Hall, the world’s first large-scale commercial nuclear power station. Born in 1901, Hintonâ€™s application to join the Mechanical Engineers is in the records, dated 1921. Â
Sir F Henry Royce is another famous engineer listed in the records; he is known globally as the co-founder of the quintessentially British Rolls-Royce manufacturing company where his engineering legacy lives on today. Frederick W.Â Lanchester, another of the so-called â€˜big threeâ€™ English car engineers, celebrated for his innovative work on gas and petrol engines as well as his laterÂ researchÂ into aeronautics and flight theory, is also featured.
Aside from cars, prolific railway engineer ThomasÂ Brassey appears in the records. Upon his death in 1870,Â BrasseyÂ was responsible for one in every 20 miles of railway in the world. Irishman Thomas Andrews is also listed as the chief naval architect of the ill-fated Titanic and he lost his life on its maiden voyage in 1912.
ICE received a royal charter in 1828 and by the end of the 19th century had become both an educational and qualifying body when it introduced examinations for civil engineers.
IMechE started graduate examinations in 1913 and elected its first female member, Verena Holmes, in 1924. She got her first job building wooden propellers at the Integral Propeller Company in Hendon and went on to patent many of her own inventions including medical headlamps, poppet valves and apparatus for treating patients with tuberculosis. ICEâ€™s first female member, Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan, is also included in the records, becoming a member in 1927.
Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.uk comments: â€œIncluded within this collection are some of the brightest brains Britain has ever produced, who were responsible for some of the countryâ€™s most iconic landmarks and feats of innovative design. Today, as it was then, engineering is a vital part of the countryâ€™s economy and it is fascinating to be able to learn more about the men and women who established this legacy.
â€œNot only do these records provide a unique insight into engineering during the 19th and 20th centuries but they will provide a valuable resource for anybody trying to trace an ancestor within the collection.â€
The new database comprises three collections; the Mechanical Engineer Records, 1870-1930, the Civil Engineer Records, 1820-1930 and the Civil Engineer Photographs, 1829-1923, each of which is available to view from today online at Ancestry.co.uk.
I see that Ancestry.co.uk has launched online Surrey Parish Records, 1538-1987, featuring more than two and a half million historic Surrey parish records in the most comprehensive collection of its type available online.
The records, the originals of which are held at Surrey County Councilâ€™s Surrey History Centre, detail baptisms, marriages and burials contained in Anglican parish registers, dating from 1538 to 1987.
Crucially many records in the collection pre-date civil registration, the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate accounts of citizensâ€™ births, marriages and deaths, making this collection a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace an ancestor living before the 19th century.
Analysis of these records reveals fascinating historical trends, for example that the number of marriages increased by almost 1,000 in 1915 compared to the previous year, as couples rushed to the altar following the declaration of the First World War. (The number of marriages was 2,727 in 1914, increasing to 3,710 in 1915.)
Included in the records are a number of famous Surrey residents, such as:
Lewis Carrollâ€“ The burial of the famed author of â€˜Aliceâ€™s Adventures in Wonderlandâ€™ -Â real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, is recorded in the collection as taking place on 19th January 1898
P. G. Wodehouse â€“ The baptism of the writer Wodehouse, who was born prematurely whilst his mother was visiting Guildford, is listed as taking place on the 17th November 1881
John Derrick â€“ Historical sources reveal Derrick is probably the first named person known to have played cricket, while a pupil at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford in the mid 16th century. Derrickâ€™s burial in Holy Trinity Guildford on 27th October 1613 features in the collection
William Bray â€“ The baptism of Bray, whose 1755 diary was revealed to be the earliest known manuscript to reference baseball, is included in the records as taking place on 7th November, 1736
Other names of note who feature in the records includeVice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who captained Darwinâ€™s famous voyage around the world on HMS Beagle, Sir Barnes Nevill Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb used in the Dambusters Raid, and Jerome David Kern, one of Americaâ€™s most successful composers of musical theatre, who met and married his wife Eva Leale in Walton on Thames.
In addition, the Surrey roots of Academy Award-winning actors Sir Laurence Olivier and Kate Winslet can be traced in the collection. The baptism of Olivierâ€™s father Anglican Priest Gerard Kerr Olivier is recorded as taking place on 30th May 1869, 38 years before he welcomed young Laurence into the world in 1907, and the marriage of Winsletâ€™s third greatgrandparents Thomas Winslet and Priscilla Tasker on 7th December 1824 features in the records.
Also included are a number of interesting entries, such as a baptism record revealing one John William Hoakesâ€™ job as the â€˜Inspector of a Royal Lavatoryâ€™, and records of the marriages of the humorously named George East and Ellen West in 1895, and of Luke Sex and Sarah Eager in 1743.
The collection can be searched by name, spouseâ€™s name, fatherâ€™s name, motherâ€™s name, birth date, baptism date, marriage date, burial date, and by parish.
Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.ukcomments: â€œSpanning half a millennium, these records are an invaluable resource for anyone looking to research the history of Surrey and its people â€“ including some of the countyâ€™s most famous literary and sporting residents.â€
â€œThese records have been added to our comprehensive collection of Parish records, featuring millions of records from the length and breadth of Englandâ€
Julian Pooley, from Surrey Councilâ€™s Surrey History Centre adds:
â€œWe are delighted that Ancestry.co.uk is helping us to make Surreyâ€™s records so widely accessible for research. Thousands of people contact us each year seeking Surrey ancestors because they feel a need to understand their history, their family heritage, their place in their community.Â The discovery of these roots is more than simple genealogical number-crunching; it teaches new research skills, it brings scattered families together and makes new friends and it increases knowledge and awareness of the communities we live in.â€
A free launch event for the digitised Surrey Parish Records 1538-1987 collection will be held on Saturday 6th July (10.30am â€“ 3:30pm) at Surrey History Centre in Woking, with Ancestry.co.uk staff on hand to answer any questions about the records and help people search the collection, and experts from Surrey History Centre, East Surrey Family History Society and West Surrey Family History Society available to answer your family history questions.Â To book places on the presentations please phone 01483 518737 or email email@example.com
I have heard from the nice people at family history website findmypast that they have added new Kent baptisms, banns, marriages & burials to their parish records collection in partnership with Kent Family History Society, making it even easier to find your local ancestors. The latest release includes records from Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Ashford & Rochester in addition to 131 smaller parishes.Â They cover an extensive period of history from 1538 to 2006, allowing family historians to discover and add even more generations to their family tree.
Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at findmypast commented â€œThese new records are a fantastic resource for anyone eager to uncover their Kentish heritage. In combination with our recent addition of East Kent and Canterbury material, findmypast is definitely the go-to place when it comes to family history in the south east.â€
The new records have joined over 40 million parish records from UK family history societies available on findmypast in an exclusive partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies that started in 2007.
Jean Skilling of Kent Family History Society added â€œThe Kent Family History Society (www.kfhs.org.uk) is delighted to be working in partnership with findmypast.Â We hope our indices will be of help to everyone tracing their Kentish ancestry.â€
As my family tree research has moved along, I have been very lucky in receiving a helping hand by several distant “cousins” who have been nice enough to share with me information on mutual ancestors. Like me, they were independently researching the same, or sometimes collateral lines of Â our shared family. The input these kind folk have given me has often boosted my research and propelled me so much further forward in the quest to build my tree. There is some pleasure to open my email program and find the subject line includes a last name, from one of the various family branches I’m researching. You may be wondering how you could start to get your own fellow researchers to contact you?
1.Enter your ancestors into a family tree on-line. I have used the facility at websites such as GenesReunited and Ancestry(Disclosure: these links are compensated affiliate links) to upload some of my ancestors into the family tree facilities provided by these sites. A benefit here is that you don’t have to give out your email if you don’t want to, as you get messages via the website that allows you to decide to contact the person or not.
2. Set up a simple website. This has been my most effective way of receiving contacts. Initially I signed up for a free website hosting and simply purchased the domain name for a few pounds/dollars a year. I then got a free website builder that didn’t need me to know any HTML code as it worked in a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get manner. I posted a page with a few facts and some photographs on each branch and added a picture of my very minimal, at least that time, tree. As I grew more proficient I split the lines into several pages, one for each branch. When I went visiting the areas, where my ancestors had lived, I took photographs of houses that they had lived in, work places, schools that they had attended and so on. Next I published some pages in a short narrative about the trip. I then posted links to my site on a few websites that allowed me to do this, for example some forums will if it is not a commercial post.Eventually the Google search engine found my website and so now it has become easier for surfers to find it when looking for Thorne, or Stephens or Hay families. So what about the threat of spam to any email address that is published on the Internet? In order to prevent my main email becoming bogged down with spam I set up a separate email on my website domain, e.g name @ mydomain. com and then added a new identity in outlook express. I now have two email addresses so keeping my private one away from the spammers.
3. Get blogging. I chose to set up a WordPress blog on my existing website as an add on, but Blogger is an alternative that I have seen used. You may decide that, instead of adding a blog to a website that you go down the route of a blog on its own. To many this is the simplest way to get a web presence. You are able to host it on the blog provider’s platform. Better still, as you retain the copyright for anything you publish, register a domain name of your choice and get some web-hosting. Now all you need to do is set up the blog on your own hosted website. You don’t need to have other pages on the site if you don’t want to.
4. Join social networking sites like Arcalife, or We’re Related, or Ancestral Maps.
Arcalife combines the ability to share family trees with connectivity. It is heralded as a facebook for family historians. It is still under development but looks like it is going in the right direction.
We’re Related is an application that is not meant to be a full featured family tree software package, though it has got several features of that kind included. The idea behind it is for you to be able to share basic family information with anybody you choose.This should allow you to find your relatives on Facebook, keep up with your family, build your family tree and share news and photos with your family. They hope that in the future the application will allow us to share memories about ancestors with our family, compare our family tree with our friends on Facebook and so to see if we are related.
Ancestral Maps is an exciting new website that allows family historians to plot events and locations relating to your ancestors’ lives on maps. The idea is to then share these with others who are members of the website. It sounds like it could grow into a most useful site as it attracts new users.
So if you want to speed up your research and make contacts with distant cousins then I can’t recommend enough these strategies. The bottom line is that the world wide web has made it much easier for us to make connections with fellow researchers but to do this you need to set up a means for them to find and contact you.
A word of warning: Never take what is shared and publish it without asking. If someone has put in 20 years research on their family and shares with you the benefit of their work, for you to go and add it to your website without their permission is a recipe for ill-feeling and perhaps legal proceedings.
So a distant cousin’s research may well propel you along to find ancestors more quickly than if you were plodding along yourself, but remember that a good family researcher will check the primary source of any information given and will not take it as gospel until they have tracked down the births, marriages and death or census records themselves and then cited them properly in their tree.