I was so very pleased to meet up again with Anne Reid from SpeakingLives as I have done at several Who Do You Think You Are? Live shows in the past.
Some memories deserve to be remembered forever…
By recording spoken memories from the person who experienced them SpeakingLives offers us all the chance to secure a very special and personal legacy – one that can be enjoyed for years to come.
And that is especially true if the memories belong to your parents or grandparents and represent part of your family history. After all, as Anne says, “How often do you hear the words “I wish I’d known about…”, or “I wish I’d asked…” ?
“Whether what they recall is happy, sad, humorous, meaningful or triumphant, these special memories should be treasured. Because if they’re not preserved carefully they can be lost. Forgotten, forever.”
With SpeakingLives®, one of their specially trained Life Interview Consultants meets people in their own home, or a place of their choice, to record their unique memories and reminiscences using discrete digital audio recording equipment. The voice recordings are then professionally edited and delivered to them as a beautifully packaged CD or MP3 file.
It’s literally the gift of a lifetime.
Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,
I’ve been going to the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show for a few years now and except for one, where the weather conspired to keep me away with thick fog marooning me in Jersey for days, I have seen the show go from strength to strength.
I love the mix of experts to consult, the varying subjects of the talks in the different theatres, the the range of family history exhibitors and the whole buzz of the show.
Tickets have gone on sale at their website and they have announced a number of exciting exhibitors new to the show, giving the visitor even more ways to explore their family history. Perhaps I could just draw your attention to the one at the bottom of this list, as the name may seem familiar?
New Exhibitors at the 2014 show Olympia, 20-22nd February:
Unlock the Past – this company combines hobbies and holidays by offering history and genealogy cruises, as well as genealogy e-books.
BRD Associates – preserve your story through theirÂ professional video life story recording, story books and old image restoration.
Borders Ancestry – if you have ancestors living throughout the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, then consider thisÂ professional research service.
QI Wellness Centre – a company who specialise inÂ the healing of your family’s inherited patterns.
Calico Pie – try their family historian deluxe genealogy software for size
Open University – is it time for you to take a course toÂ study family or local history?
Imperial War Museum – contribute to the museum’s ambitious WWI centenary project by uploading the life story of your ancestor’s role in WWI
RAF Museum – last at the show in 2011,Â get the very best advice in tracing your RAF ancestors
Fast Track Engraving – watch their demonstration of engraving and purchase your own memorial medallion to commemorate family members in WWI
Dr Williams Library – find out more about library research
Brythonium – create a tangible family history using their family legacy cards
The Book Alchemist – why not consider a virtual boot camp on how to turnÂ your family history into a written legacy?
The Nosey Genealogist – take a family history course using downloadable tutorials and audio CDs’
Of course you don’t have to wait until the show to take advantage of my Family History Researcher Academy course on English and Welsh Family history as there is a banner ad on the right hand side of this very blog!
As for WDYTYA?LIVE, New exhibitors will continually be added in the run up to the show so don’t forget to keep checking to see who is going to be there at: http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com
As I walked around the exhibition hall at Olympia, taking in all the different stands for family history societies and suppliers, I came across four different companies at Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE offering to record your loved ones as they recall their oral family history, or recount different tales passed down to them from relatives thatÂ no longer are with us.
The first one I came across was that of SpeakingLives. This company records people’s life stories and memories and offers to beautifully present these personalised recordings of loved ones so that the client and their friends and family can enjoy them for generations to come. The recording is made available on audio CD and MP3.
I was attracted to the variety of memorabilia on their table, items that I assume could have been used to spark off memories in the subjects.
SpeakingLives prices start from Â£195, but they sometimes have special offers to take advantage of.
Gift vouchers are also available.
Next I found My Viography who specialised in professionally filmed “viographies” (video biographies) and family history documentaries. From what I gathered by talking to them on the stand they use the latest high-definition video and professional film-making techniques with a professional presenter.
They can use your family photographs, video clips, mementos and favourite music in your viography or family history documentary to really bring your story and personality to life. Also on offer is to scan in your old photographs and convert older film and video footage in a range of formats (Mini DV, Video 8, VHS, Betamax, Super 8 or 16mm film) to help you tell your story.
My Viography’s price for a video starts at Â£594, but this can be made in three payments of Â£198. They also have other packages that offer extras to the basic at higher price points in the thousands and an audio only one at Â£495.
Then there wasÂ Splendid ReflectionsÂ whose owner offered a life interview consultancy. Which she explains is your opportunity, from the comfort of your own home, to reminisce, reflect and record your life story and memoirs for the enjoyment of your children and grandchildren for years to come. The result would be made available to you on DVD in a mini-documentary style combining any of your own videos or photographs.
I was very taken by the empty chair and recording equipment on the next stand together with large professional microphone on the next stand that I found in this market.
Life Stories say that they can help you create a unique recording of your story; a carefully constructed audio autobiography to leave for family, friends, or simply for posterity.
They can also help you store it securely for future generations to access, enjoy and even expand; a digital family vault of recorded memories saved for ever.
Life Stories package was Â£600 that would include preparatory conversations with you and/or your family about what you want to cover.Â Planning the conversation and discussing how best to retrieve and organise memories before recording. Lengthy recording over the course of one day and several days editing and production to produce the finished product. Longer recordings could be done at a slightly higher cost.
These companies are providing an interesting service that adds a professional polish to the job of recording the family’s oral history and as all good family historians know, our family’s oral history stories are of very great importance to us. Though we should always remember to check the facts with primary sources before we add them to our family trees!
That said, how great will it be for your children’s children to be able to look back, in years to come, and hear or see their relatives talking?
This week the family history website Genes Reunited: www.GenesReunited.co.uk have added some interesting new and innovative features to their website.
One that has particularly interested me is what they term a Keepsafe. It’s purpose is for digitally storing all of your family records, photos and memories and Relation Profiles, where you can view and edit details about each individual in your tree. This latest addition comes after genesreunited.co.uk recently refreshed its appearance with a new, and easy to navigate redesign.
The Keepsafe, they tell us, is a unique and organised way for us to collate our family history and is a place for their members to safely store and share documents, from photos and certificates to maps and letters. Being made available to all levels of membership at www.GenesReunited.co.uk, whoâ€™ll be given the option to open their images to the public, keep them private or to share them with other members, their family and their friends. Theyâ€™ll even be able to share their Keepsafe on facebook. At launch today there are over 2.7 million private images already uploaded to Keepsafe.
Relation Profiles are automatically created for each relation Genes Reunited members add to their family trees. It includes a clear timeline, notes section and immediate family tree. Thereâ€™s also a section that prompts their members on what they can do next to take their research on to the next stage. Users are able to edit the details and then these changes will be reflected in their tree on the site. It is possible to also view any photos or records that are attached to the person too. Genesreunited allows members to print out the profile, so they can share their discoveries with their families.
The Genes Reunited site automatically creates â€˜Hot Matchesâ€™ where members who have the same relations in their family tree are matched with each other. It is said that many of their members have collected rich data on their relatives and having the option to share this with other members can be very beneficial to their research. At launch there will be over 260 million profiles already created, thatâ€™s equivalent to over 4 records for every man, woman and child in the UK .
Rhoda Breakell, Head of Genes Reunited, comments: â€œImagine being able to find out more information about your ancestors than you could have ever hoped for. Stories, timelines and more besidesâ€¦.Relation Profiles are a place where our members can store all of this information and then share it with each other. Who knows what anecdotes someone else might have written about your ancestors?â€
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.
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!
I’ve not been able to do any family history this week because I had family to stay, in the form of my father, and then visits away to the family’s present home as well!
This, of course, gave me the chance to ask some questions about what he could remember about the generations that came immediately before him. Some of the information was complete news to me and I did wonder how it was that I had never been aware until then of certain points of interest.
I had started out our conversation over a meal and a drink by describing a visit that I had made to the town where many of the branch of our family had lived in the Victorian and Edwardian era and my delight in finding the house in which my 3x great grandparents, Henry and Ellen had lived.
Mentioning the name of the house sparked a memory for my father, but it was not about Henry and Ellen. It would seem that the very same house name had been used by one of his aunts for her house in a different town altogether. Is it plausible that she had fond memories of visiting her great grandparents and so used the name as a link to the past.
I have done something similar in that I named my house after my maternal grandparent’s house and in fact I can see the old place from my front window in the distance.
The practice of using family names as middle names, by parents when naming their children, can often be a huge help to us family historians in identifying our ancestors. This is especially the case when they use a mother’s maiden name as a middle name; or indeed a father’s name as a middle name when the child is illegitimate!
But the re-purposing of a house name and finding it on a census, a birth, marriage or death certificate, can also be a useful check point in tying down the correct individuals to enter into your family tree.
In the last posting about questions with my ancestor’s wedding certificate I discovered that the parish was not written on the document as I had expected it to be. Instead of St.Mary’s Portsea there was a series of pen strokes that seemed to begin with a P but could not be made out.
If you have read the comments, to that post, then you will see a suggestion from James Mac that it may have been a daughter church of St. Mary’s. He suggested I should try to tie down the incumbent, by using the resources of Crockford’s Clerical Directory. Well this is exactly what I did. In fact I used the 1865 edition that is available to search on Google Books for free.
From the copy of the certificate, that I had obtained from the General Register Office by post, I made out the name of the person marrying my 2x great-grandparents to be W H Rednap. I also noted that the marriage was by “Certificate”.
Now some folk have pointed out to me that “by certificate” usually means that the marriage was conducted by a Registrar. This is common in nonconformist church weddings and at registry offices. I turned to Mark Herber’s Ancestral Trails and found the line: “From 1837 marriages could also take place before civil registrars, or in chapels licensed under the Civil Registrations Acts. The law permitted the superintendent registrar to issue a certificate (similar to an Anglican licence) authorising marriages (without banns) in licensed places of worship”.
But even though the groom had been baptised in the Presbyterian church in Dartmouth, his wedding certificate indicates that it was carried out according to the Rites of the Established Church by one W H Redknap. Crockford’s confirms that William Henry Redknap was the Perpetual Curate of Milton, Portsea, in the diocese of Winchester from 1859, the year my ancestor’s married and formally the Curate of Portsea.
So then I looked into the history of Milton’s Church and found it was consecrated in 1841 and dedicated to St James, having been carved from the ancient parish of Portsea.
I do not know when in 1859 the Revd. Redknap took up his incumbency at nearby Milton, but my great-great-grandparents married in February 1859, in the early part of the year. So now I am leaning back towards the marriage having taken place in the main church of Portsea, by its curate before he moved to Milton. The Ancient Parish Church is St.Marys; but then this begs the question as to why it was “by certificate”?
I need now to consult the parish records of Portsea to lay this question to rest. Perhaps a trip to the Hampshire Archives is called for!
I have been looking more closely at an ancestor’s marriage certificate and have notice some interesting anomalies. When I had first come across the marriage ofÂ my 2x great-grandparents, Henry Thorn and Ellen Malser, on the familysearch.org website I had noted that the marriage was recorded in the register of St.Mary’s Portsea, a parish in Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. The wedding took place on the 5th of February 1859 while Henry was employed in the Naval Dockyard as a ropemaker.
I had assumed that the church, in which they married, was St.Marys and so this is what I recorded in my family tree at the time, but now I am not so sure. As you know, good practice for family historians teaches us to always seek out the original document. Looking at the online indexes I found the information that I would need to order their marriage certificate from the General Register Office.
When I had it in my possession I noticed that it did not say the Parish Church in St Marys Portsea. Instead it reads: Marriage solemnized at “the church” in the Parish of… followed by an indecipherable set of scratches!
The first resembles a “P” and then follows some strong up and down strokes which do not give us the whole picture of the letters. I tried to match them with legible letters in the rest of the certificate but I can not make them spell St.Marys! It is possible, I think, that the word may have been Portsea, but even of that I can not be sure.
Using the map search tool on familysearch.org (http://maps.familysearch.org/) I researched other churches in Portsea. A tip here is to use the town name and not the church, or parish – if I had entered “St Marys Portsea” it would not have worked. The result returned was a number of C of E churches in the area, all carved out of the ancient parish of Portsea.
From the marriage certificate I could see that both the bride and the groom gave their address as Raglan Street, Portsea. Returning to the familysearch.org map tool I was able to see that this road fell into two parishes, the further along its length you traveled. St Marys Portsea was the Parish Church for those living in the west and St Jude’s Southsea in the east.
The trouble is that neither of these fall happily into the pattern of strokes, that are all that can be seen in this particular wedding certificate. Can I assume that as St Marys was the mother church of Portsea that convention dictated it was the Parish of Portsea?
There are more questions about this particular certificate which I will deal with in my next post.
A problem that you may have encountered is one where your ancestors do not appear in the online data bases that you are searching through. I have had this problem with several forebears and when this happens I usually decide to look for the missing person in various alternative offline records.
If you too are experiencing the pain, of not finding an ancestor, then have you thought of looking at the original records at a county record office, or at some other repository? True, you may have a long and uphill task, as you methodically work your way back through the images, year by year, but this is how I came across one of my “lost” ancestors recently.
For one reason or another the transcript, which the search engine facility on the subscription site used to throw up likely records for me to consider, had recorded my ancestor’s name incorrectly. Only by browsing a microfiche, in the archive, did I find the person that I had been previously searching for without any luck.
In another and quite unrelated search, I found a transcript of burials to be a godsend to me. It had been created by the Devon Family History Society and I had found that they offered both printed booklets, and downloadable pdf versions, of parish burials for the area that I was interested in.
As I was too impatient to wait for the physical booklet to arrive in the post I opted for the download of the pdf from their website. Now this gave me an advantage. In addition to being instantly able to see my purchase, I was also able to use the really useful search facility that is built into a pdf document reader. By selecting from the tool bar: “Edit” and then on the drop-down menu: “Find”, I could look for a specific word.
I chose to search for my ancestor’s surname and when I couldn’t find him listed, because his family name had been spelled in a strange way by the clerk or vicarÂ (see the previous post on that subject on this blog), I then tried his first name.
After searching and rejecting many men called “James”, who had been listed in the booklet, I finally hit upon one in this list that seemed to fit the bill. His age matched my ancestor and the surname was indeed a novel interpretation ofÂ the last name that I was looking for. Thus, in my family history quest to fill out my family tree I have encountered both a time when a transcript has helped me find an ancestor and a time when a transcript has hindered!
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.
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.