Find out how your ancestors’ lived

Nick Thorne 'The Nosey Genealogist' researching for FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

Discovering more about your ancestry

 

The most satisfying part of family history for me is when I can take some facts, that I have learnt from examining primary records, and then go and see where they took place.

This is often simplest for a baptism, wedding or funeral where the church remains standing to this day. Finding that my ancestor married and then had their child christened in a particular place may cause me to seek it out and lightly touch the font in a salute to my forebears who had gathered around it to watch the clergyman pour water over my ancestor’s head.

 

Baptismal font St. Saviours, Dartmouth, Devon, UK.
Baptismal font St. Saviours, Dartmouth, Devon, UK.

When I find out what an ancestor did for a living can equally have me making a trip to the place where they worked. This can be successful where, as in the case of a man who worked in the Royal Naval dockyards at Portsmouth, the buildings are still there and can be visited as a tourist attraction.

Boatbuilding

 

But it can also be disappointing when all trace of the former landscape has been obliterated by modern development on the site, as in the case of others of my ancestors’ places of employment – not to mention some of their homes.

What I like to do in this case is to see if I can make a visit to a museum that reflects the life of such an ancestor.

 

A visit to properties owned by The National Trust can reveal how your ancestors lived

 

Another excursion that I find useful is to visit several of The National Trust properties.

Hold on! I can hear people saying.

Surely the stately homes are only of interest to those who have aristocratic ancestors?

Well what about those of us that have identified ancestors that worked as staff for the ‘big house’? Some houses allow you to see ‘below stairs’, as well as the fine rooms up above.

 

For those of us that have found ancestors that had to enter the workhouse then a visit to The National Trust’s fine example at Southwell, that I have written about before in a post about workhouse ancestors.

On a recent visit to Birmingham I was able to take a tour around The National Trust’s Back to Back houses. These guided tours take you around the carefully restored, atmospheric 19th-century courtyard of working people’s houses.

These homes had windows only on one side as they were built, as the name implies, back to back with each other. To the rear was a courtyard that also housed the laundry and the outside toilets for up to 60 people to use!

 

What is fascinating, for family historians, is that the first house is dressed to reflect the 1840s. With tallow candles for light, no running water – requiring the teenage daughter to walk ten minutes to the nearest well pump carrying heavy wooden buckets. In this the house of a jeweller and his family we can get an idea of what life was like at the time of the 1841 census for working people that had moved to the cities to find a living.

See what ancestors living in the Back to Back  court housing

Another of the houses reflected the 1870s and although they now used oil lamps and had a communal tap in the courtyard,  and the outside privy now flushed rather than being an earth closet relying on the night soil men to carry away the human waste, times were still hard.

Upstairs the four sons slept ‘top and tail’ in a bed. A rough curtain slung across a rope divided the room so that another bed could be rented out to a lodger.

As if this lack of privacy was not enough, in the 1871 census it seems to identify that the house had a second lodger. The suggestion is that the male and female lodgers may well have been ‘hot bedding’ where one person has the use of the bed for the day, while the other for the night!

 

Theses types of windows into our past can really make us think about how our ancestors lived. It also brings home how rich we are now in the Western world that we are fascinated by the hardships of everyday life that our forebears simply took as normal. By using the records that are available to us and then relating them to conditions, that we can learn from studying the social history, enables us to build a better family story.

 

You can learn where to find the records that reveal your ancestors’ lives by taking the English/Welsh family history course. Read more here:

www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com/course

 

 

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Would you like some free credits at Find My Past?

Start Your Family Tree Week is back from  26 Dec 2012 – 1 Jan 2013 with special offers on accessing some search sites!

Hope you had a lovely Christmas day yesterday. At this time of year, when we are visiting or calling family, that we can often make a break through in our family tree research by simply talking to our relatives.

But now some of the family tree research websites are also making it easier for some of us to participate with special Christmas holiday offers. For example Find My Past has 50 free credits available to use for a short time.

Due to the past success of the Start Your Family Tree Week it is back for its third year.  From today, the 26th December to the 1st January, Genes Reunited and findmypast.co.uk will be helping members start their family trees with special offers, free getting started guides, discounts and competitions for the chance to win fantastic prizes!

Genes Reunited has some great prizes on offer during the week, competitions will be posted on the message boards and Facebook page.  To see the Genes Reunited getting started guides, visit www.genesreunited.co.uk/static.page/syftw

Findmypast.co.uk will be offering 50 free credits to get involved with the fun and to start searching records, coupled with quiz questions, guides and templates that make getting started as simple as can be! Experts are by no means left out in the cold either, with more advanced questions alongside beginners’ tasks and a “brick wall challenge day” will be held on Facebook and Twitter on the 31st December! The entire week’s calendar of activities can be found at http://www.findmypast.co.uk/content/start-your-family-tree-week/index

 

And here is another little present for you!The British Newspaper Archive online

For a limited time there is an offer of an exclusive 10% off the 12 Month Package to the British Newspaper Archive!

You will need to use this link to the British Newspaper Archive.
And then use the voucher code: fHmTenYtR (to be entered at the point of checkout, stage 1)

You then get:
o A 12 Month package
o Validity: 26 Dec 2012 – 31 Jan 2013
o Available in the UK Only

What do customers get with a 12 Month Package to the British Newspaper Archive?

o Unlimited credits / page views
o Access to all digitised newspaper pages dating back 300+ years
o Access to ‘My Research’ – a personal area to keep track of searches, add notes and bookmark viewed items into folders

 

So happy holidays and good luck with your research!



British Newspaper Archive


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Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by the companies should you sign up for their subscriptions.

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Browsing Old Newspapers for Ancestors

The British Newspaper Archive onlineI’ve been browsing old newspapers online for ancestors this week with some success and some disappointments.

In previous posts, here, I have mentioned my luck in finding useful leads from articles written about the death of an ancestor of mine who, on sailing to Alderney from Weymouth aboard his yacht, went ashore for a social visit to the Garrison there, and fell to his death on the way back to the breakwater.

The British Newspaper Archive presented me with access to details from various newspapers reporting the “melancholy death” of my ancestor and revealed facts about his family that I was not previously aware of. For example, by the mentioning of his late father as being “of Hay, Merricks and Company” I was then able to find out something of the nature of that ancestor’s business in making gunpowder.

This week I was searching for a completely different line and regretfully I have had no luck with finding any newspaper articles related to this research. As the project, to add newspapers to the archive website, is ongoing I shall simply keep on returning and running the same search again and again. This is in the hope that new titles, that have been scanned in the intervening period, will become available with a relevant article to my research.

So, having not got a hit on the current project, I then started browsing for other ancestors, before leaving the site.

Members of my maternal line spent some of the 1850s in Cheltenham and would seem to have been comfortably well off. It was with some amusement, then, that I came across their names in the Cheltenham Looker-On featuring mainly in the Arrivals and Departures page.

I can not imagine that today the wealthy residents of Cheltenham, or any other town for that matter, would wish all and sundry to be made aware of when they were not in residence, or to where they have “removed” themselves to, but in those days it was socially acceptable.

The Looker-On mixed social news and literary contributions and was known for expressing Conservative opinions in its writings, though I am not sure that these were the views of my Cheltenham resident ancestors from other research I have done!


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?

Now you can also access pages from The British Newspaper Archives via their sister site findmypast.co.uk when you take out membership of Find My Past.


Disclosure: 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.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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Multiple baptisms in Record Office

When I was in the Devon County Record Office the other week looking for ancestors to put in my family tree, I came across a job lot of children bearing my surname and all being baptised on the same day in 1811. Now as far as I can tell this multiple baptismal party are not direct ancestors of mine, but their record interested me all the same.

I had been looking for a John Thorn, at around the turn of the century from 1799 to 1805, and had noted on the familysearch.org website that there was such a christening in 1811 for a child born in 1803. (“England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J79W-GBY : accessed 16 Sep 2012), John Thorn, 23 Jul 1803; reference , FHL microfilm 917191.)

There can be many reasons for a late christening and indeed some people were not baptised until they were adults.

Archive Church Register
A Church Record from the Archive

While in the DCRO I followed up this lead by looking at their microfiche copies of the original St Petrox, Dartmouth church registers. What I found was that there were actually 5 children, all being the offspring of a John and Mary Thorn, being baptised that day and the original records gave the explanation for this in a note by the vicar.

“The above 5 children were born at Little Bay, Newfoundland.”

Dartmouth, it would seem, has a long history of men sailing across the other side of the Atlantic to the rich cod fishing grounds. A tradition that is mirrored in the island of my birth, Jersey.

While my interest was raised by the partial explanation for the multiple baptism in the records, I searched the web for details of Little Bay, Newfoundland. It would seem that there is still a place with that name in today’s Canada, but there was also a previous settlement in Newfoundland that is now called St Georges, but previously had the same name as well.

Dartmouth-history.org.uk has several documents that explain the development of the town and its harbour. It would seem that the Newfoundland trade was greatly reduced by the the Napoleonic wars, the number of ships annually involved dropping from 120 to 30 by 1808   (see: http://www.dartmouth-history.org.uk/content_images/upload/Nfland_fishing.htm)

Also this same site notes that… “the dominant families in Dartmouth for over 100 years were the Holdsworths and Newmans, both of whom acquired land in Portugal and Newfoundland, and became prosperous in the triangular trade between England, Newfoundland and Spain/Portugal/the Mediterranean.” While my family were humble mariners, much like the family I had identified in these church records.

I have ruled out that this family group are my direct ancestors by the dates given in the parish registers for their births. Of course, often in a church record you only get the baptismal date, but because the vicar was doing a batch of little Thorns at one time he has very usefully included their birth dates!

I wonder if this family, having been making a living in Newfoundland for some years had found the reduction in trade, caused by the Napoleonic wars, forced them back to England? Then, having put up in a small community like Dartmouth, they had come under pressure to christen their brood of children. Or perhaps there was no church at Little Bay that they felt able to use.

Who knows the answer to these questions; but this little example shows how family history, as opposed to genealogy, can be about the stories that are behind the bland statistics of births, marriages and deaths.

 

The websites that I am using the most at the moment are Find My Past and The Genealogist.co.uk. To take your family history further I highly recommend that you too consider a subscription to these websites. Take a look now and see what great data sets they have to offer:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


Disclosure: 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 Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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Solving Family Tree Brick Walls

Many of us, researching our family trees, come up against the inevitable brick wall of forebears that don’t appear in the documents in the places where we expect to find them. Sometimes this can be because they have been recorded, but the spelling of the name differs each time an official makes an attempt to write it down.

 

Brick Wall buster tip 1. Can’t find anyone of that name? Try searching for variants as in the past spelling was not an exact science.

 

This week I was revisiting my ancestors who married in Gloucester and then went on to have a daughter baptised in Devon that eventually married a Thorn and so perpetuated the Thorn/Thorne line that leads down the tree to me.

One of the problems that I have with this branch is that they were not literate and had no idea of how to spell their surname. The evidence is in the parish register for Dartmouth, where I first pick up the female line. Both parties, to the marriage between the Thorns and the Sissells made their mark and did not sign. The register gives me the name of the father of the bride as James Sissell as he makes his mark as a witness.

Elizabeth Gardiner Thorn, as she becomes on her marriage, is eventually buried in Dartmouth and I can trace her in the census records and on her death certificate as having been my 2x great-grandmother, from the names of her family in these records. This is how I know that I am investigating the correct person.

Researching the christening of Elizabeth backwards, in the IGI on familysearch.org, I find that she was given the name of Elizabeth Gardiner Sissill and I also find the marriage of a James Sysal to a Sarah Gardiner in 1780 in St Nicholas’ church Gloucester.

St Nicholas', Gloucester Parish Records are at County Record Office

So now I have three versions of the spelling of their surname, Sissell, Sissill and Sysal, but it is only the beginning!

I found that Elizabeth had a brother, Thomas, though at his christening the vicar entered his surname as Sizzall in the parish registers.

Turning my attention to the deaths of Elizabeth’s parents – as any good family historian always will try to kill off their ancestors – I have only just had some luck after my visit to the Devon Family History Society’s Tree House in Exeter and to the County Record Office to look at the microfiche copies of parish records.

I had no idea if James and Sarah had remained in Dartmouth of whether they had moved on, or even back to Gloucester.

With the aid of the various printed booklets of transcripts, from the DFHS, I was able to identify a Sarah Sisell (the fifth version of the surname) buried on March the 17th 1831 in the St Saviour’s burials transcripts and a James Saissell (sixth version of the spelling) buried on the 5th January 1835 in St. Saviour’s Dartmouth. Then I could look at the relevant microfiche copy of the register, in the County Record Office, to confirm the transcript was correct.

Spelling was so much more fluid in our ancestor’s day. Indeed the words “Burials” “Marriages” and “Baptisms”, at the top of the pages in the very same register, changed form throughout the different years!

I can only assume that all the variants of the surname, as recorded above and said with a West Country accent, could have sounded much alike to the hapless vicar whose registers display the fact that spelling was not fixed, as it has become today.

For more tips to get your family tree back before 1837 in England & Wales I would recommend that you buy my CD How To Get Back Before 1837 in England & Wales.

Help Me Get Back Before 1873 in My English Family Tree

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More Questions than Answers when researching the Family Tree!

Do you ever feel that there are more questions than answers, when researching your family tree?

It seems to me that the more answers we seek, to questions about our ancestors, often trigger more queries about them. This is a bit how I feel this weekend, after I’ve returned home from a visit to Devon this week.

I called in at the Devon Family History Society’s “Tree House” in Exeter where I was able to spend a profitable few hours reading the files that they have on families with the surnames I am researching. I was also able to look at what they had on the parishes I was interested in, so giving me some added background to the places where my ancestors lived and worshiped. I came away with a set of useful printouts, for 30 pence each, from a search of their database for records of the persons I was seeking information on. This would save me much time at my next stop, the Devon County Record Offices in Exeter when looking in the parish register microfiches.

 

Devon County Record Office
Devon County Record Office

I have visited the County Record offices before and had find it was easy to go off on side tracks, so this time I had come prepared with a set of answers that I was seeking from the records held there.  As always, however, simply by searching the documents and the microfiche of baptisms, weddings and burials, together with the microfilms of Bishop’s Transcripts gave me new lines of inquiries to make. In the course of looking for one ancestor I would spot instances of the family names cropping up in the documents and make a note of the details on my pad of paper.

While I was looking at parish records, for Dartmouth’s three C of E churches, in the hope of finding the burial of one ancestor, then I came across burials of the children of another. I saw a rapid succession of children of my three times great grandparents being baptized and buried by the established church and I wondered if this may explain why the next six are all baptized in the Presbyterian chapel in the town. But this doesn’t explain why one child, who died in 1827 aged 4 years old, is buried by the Church of England in January of that year, while his brother was christened by the minister of the Flavel Presbyterian Church in April 1826, in the year before the death of the first. From a search of BMDregisters.co.uk I have found that all further siblings are christened in that nonconformist church.

While at the Devon County Record Office I was able to examine the books deposited from that Presbyterian church, but could find no mention of my ancestors remaining members in this chapel in later years. The books, that I was able to see, did not go back as far as the time of the christenings in my family, but they did contain lists of members of the church which could be very useful to others researching Presbyterian forebears in Dartmouth.

One of the questions that I had wanted to answer, from my visit to the County Record Office, was did my four time great grandparents stay in Dartmouth? They can not be found in the 1841 census. Now that, I assumed, was because they had died before it was taken. I did indeed find, by working back in years through the burial registers of the parish church, the entry for a likely pair of candidates with the right names and ages that would have made them 25 and 26 on their wedding date in 1794. Yes, this is only supposition that I have found the right Thorn’s in Dartmouth as rather frustratingly there are others with the same Christian and surname as my male ancestor in the town. But these two are the closest matches for the facts that I have.

So the lesson is to embrace the discovery of the new questions, that will need answers to in due course. Yes, I went to Devon seeking the answer to one thing and came away with semi-answers and more family history questions to explore. But this is a good thing as it gives me more avenues to research and more information to seek out. It may seem like the jigsaw puzzle is becoming more complicated, as more pieces are being placed on the table in front of me, but in the end a better picture is emerging of my family history. And for that I am excited!

The Mouth of the River Dart.
The Mouth of the River Dart.

Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



Disclosure: 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 Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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London Family Tree? Westminster Parish Records Go Online.

WESTMINSTER PARISH RECORDS PUBLISHED ONLINE BY FINDMYPAST.CO.UK

.       Over a million baptism, marriage and burial records that date back as far as 1538 are now available
.       For the first time you are able to see images of the original parish records from the City of Westminster online

Leading UK family history website findmypast.co.uk has published online for the very first time today 27th March 2012 the parish records that are held by the City of Westminster Archives Centre.  What they have dubbed “The Westminster Collection” is to be found on the net at findmypast.co.uk and comprises of fully searchable transcripts together with scanned images of the parish registers of this part of London. What is great for people searching for their ancestors in this area is that some of the records are over 400 years old!

Coming from over 50 of the churches from Westminster and including St Anne, Soho, St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square, St James Westminster, St Margaret Westminster, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Mary-le-Strand, St Paul Covent Garden, these 1,365,731 records, that are launched today, extend over the various years between 1538-1945.

Debra Chatfield, the family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said today: “The Westminster Collection is one of the largest regional parish record collections we have ever published online and contains some truly wonderful gems. Family historians, wherever they are in the world, can now search this historical goldmine and uncover the fascinating stories of their London ancestors.”

Today’s launch is only the beginning of this exciting project, whose aim is to digitally preserve the City of Westminster Archives Centre’s collection. It is the first tranche of  Westminster records containing the city’s baptisms, marriages and burials. The remaining records are scheduled to go live on the site over the coming months, along with other records such as cemetery registers, wills, rate books, settlement examinations, workhouse admission and discharge books, bastardy, orphan and apprentice records, charity documents, and militia and watch records.

Adrian Autton, Archives Manager at Westminster Archives commented: “The launch of the Westminster Collection is of huge significance making Westminster records fully accessible to a global audience. This resource will be of immense value to anyone whose ancestors lived in Westminster and to anyone wishing to study the rich heritage of this truly great city.”

If you are interested in this part of London then the records can be searched free of charge by visiting the Life Events (BMDs) section at findmypast.co.uk. From there you should select parish baptisms, or marriages, or burials. Transcripts and images can then be viewed with either PayAsYouGo credits, vouchers or a full subscription to findmypast.co.uk.

The new Westminster Collection at findmypast.co.uk joins a growing resource of official parish records from local archives, including Cheshire Archives & Local Studies, Manchester City Council and Plymouth and West Devon Records Office, with many more in the pipeline and due to go live in the coming months. In addition over 40 million parish records from family history societies can be found at findmypast.co.uk in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies.



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How to Search for Your English & Welsh Family History

Many of us have a desire to know more about the generations that preceded us and about our roots. We may have become fascinated about where our family originated from; what it was that they did for a living and in what conditions they lived. If your forebears came from England & Wales, then you will want to know what records you can access and where to look for them.

I am Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist, and I have just published an amazon Kindle book called: How to Search for Your English & Welsh Family History. In it I lead the reader through some of the research work that you will probably need to undertake to pursue these goals. Assuming that you have a yearning to find out more about your British roots, this is a concise introduction to English & Welsh family history which can help you in your quest.

I include a look at online and offline records,starting with the census collections and the civil registration data. Different types of Parish Records are dealt with in one chapter including the Dade and Barrington registers. If your ancestor is missing from the church records, then I explain where to find the Bishop’s transcripts and what these copies are.

Baptismal, marriage and burial records are not the only records that were locked away in the Parish Chest and so I look at some of the other documents that may have survived.

Researching records of a marriage and what a Clandestine marriage was are included in this short book as is an explanation of why your ancestor may have had a double baptism. Nonconformist, those of a Christian denomination other than the Church of England, and parish graves are investigated, as is researching records of a marriage, illegitimacy and stumbling blocks in the parish records.

If you don’t have a Kindle then you can download Kindle for PC from amazon and read Kindle books directly on your PC!

If you want a concise book on English an Welsh Family history then click the button to Buy from Amazon in the box below.

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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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