Daring First World War escapees revealed

 

 

TheGenealogist.co.uk
TheGenealogist.co.uk

With Monday being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War there are many new records online.

With all the websites highlighting their records for the war that was meant to be “the war to end all wars” we have quite a choice.

So I was looking for something distinct to look at this week.

Luckily I’ve heard from the team at TheGenealogist about some new records that approach WWI from a slightly different angle.

 

TheGenealogist has just released for the first time two million military records that have uncovered the determined Allied servicemen who escaped from First World War POW Camps.

These new records include both officers and other ranks, listing those men who endured the hardships and often brutal regimes as a prisoner of war. It’s an area of the Great War that is very rarely looked at.

The hardship and disease that became rife in the camps made many men look to escape. The Allied Officers, although held in slightly better conditions, also had an unwritten code that it was every officer’s duty to try to escape and many tried and failed.

The new release gives details of the Allied Officers behind the escape attempt at Holzminden Camp, near Hannover in 1918, where a tunnel was dug for 8 months using cutlery as digging tools. 29 men escaped, 19 were eventually caught but 10 got away and returned to England. Their daring escape inspired the prisoners in the famous ‘Great Escape’ of The Second World War.

Holzminden Camp held a number of high profile Allied servicemen. Conditions were harsh as it was used for the most troublesome prisoners, who made regular escape attempts. Prisoners listed on TheGenealogist’s records include Michael Claude Hamilton-Bowes-Lyon (The Queen’s Uncle), William Leefe Robinson (who shot the first German airship down over London and who was kept in solitary confinement for repeated escape attempts) and James Whale (future Hollywood Director of ‘Frankenstein’).

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, commented:
“Our new unique records are a great resource to track down those First World War ancestors. With our extensive range of military records it’s now possible to find out if your ancestor was a casualty or taken prisoner of war of if they were one of the lucky ones who made it through unscathed. With this being the centenary year of the outbreak of The First World War, it is the perfect time to explore your family tree and discover the war service of your ancestors.”

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used above.

Send to Kindle

Looking for ancestors in the Archives

 

Dudley Archives and local history centreI’ve been to the Midlands this week and while I was there I took the opportunity to do some research in the Dudley Archives & local history centre.

No matter what gets put online, and believe me I am a  keen user of online content, when I get the chance I still love to go to an actual archive and do some research in the reading room of one or other of these local authority depositories.

I spent my time in the one run by Dudley Metropolitan Council looking back at parish records in Halesowen and was fascinated, as always, by the extras that are to be found written in the margin of the parish records, or as notes in the front or back.

One note that I saw this week referred to a number of burials on the page and it mentioned that all of the above died of smallpox putting some context onto the conditions at the time. In other records down at the Devon record office I have seen a whole brood of children being baptised together after the family had returned to England after many years in the fishing fields of Newfoundland and a helpful side note by the vicar explaining this.

Another great benefit of a visit to a record office is that they often have books on their shelves that can be helpful finding aids. I was able to make use this week of a set of indexes to the parish records, published many years ago, but with them I could narrow down the dates that I wanted to look at on the microfilm reader.

In my Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh ancestors I have a module specifically about the treasures that can be found in a County/City Record Office. The course can be done at your own pace and comes in 52 weekly downloads that build into a great resource for busting those brick walls in family history.

 

In England and Wales the Record Office is where the records of the local government administrative area are kept. In many cases they also house the ecclesiastical diocese records and, from a family historian’s point of view, they are the keepers of the old Parish Registers collected from the churches of the area, which was my reason for visiting Dudley Archives this week.

A Record Office:

– collects and preserves historical records of all kinds relating to its county,

– makes these records available for research of all kinds by all interested individuals and groups, and

– encourages and promotes awareness of the value and importance of its documentary heritage.

Usually a Record Office will also preserve a great deal of other archival material such as the records from independent local organizations, churches and schools.

There may be papers donated by prominent people from the community, leading families, estates, companies, lawyers and more. If you are in the area where your ancestors lived then go on an pay them a visit. The staff are usually very knowledgeable about their records and the district and so they can be a huge help to the family historian.

Join Family History Researcher

 

 

 

 

Send to Kindle

The Idle Poor and the Deserving

 

Southwell WorkhouseI have just been to Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire to look over an actual workhouse that is now run by the National Trust as a museum.

By doing this and seeing the layout of the accommodation, with its day rooms and exercise yards, my understanding of how these institutions worked has become clear.

 

In past times, before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the care of the poor members of the community fell to the monks in the various religious houses throughout England and Wales. With the reorganisation that the dissolution brought, those poor ancestors of ours who had the misfortune to fall on hard times, would then have become the responsibility of their parish.

Under this parish system, the old poor law had coped well enough until around the year 1800 when, under increasing demands being made on the system the authorities were forced to review the process for supporting the poor.

The situation was that unemployment had risen to new heights, as a result of the burgeoning industrialisation of the country. Britain now required less men to make the goods that had previously been manufactured by workers in the cottage industries.

On top of this the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves, added to the demand placed on the poor law system as it had been constituted.

As if this was not enough for the Government, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars had meant that a great number of soldiers now had come back from France and they had no work waiting for them at home.

The Deserving Poor.

In my family tree I was, at first, surprised that none of my ancestors seemed to have ended up in the workhouse. As I found more and more forebears I had become complacent that all my lot seemed to make it in the world without having to “Go On the Parish” and then I found one.

It was a sad shock for me as the lady in question had been the wife of a Master Mariner, the mother of several children who had all married and were making their way well in the world. But there she was in one of the census spending the end of her life in the workhouse!

Her husband was nowhere to be found in the census and so I speculated that he must have died abroad, not being able to find his death record. She, poor woman, had nowhere to go but into the workhouse.

But the workhouse was also a place where medical care could be given to those with little means in a time before the availability of free hospitals or medical insurance. So perhaps this explains why she was there? The deserving poor were segregated from the idle poor having different quarters and exercise yards.

The Idle Poor.

The number of workhouses had grown after the enactment of the Workhouse Test Act of 1723. The thinking behind this was that this new Act would help to prevent irresponsible claims being made on a parish’s poor rate. Something that concerned those who had to find the money to run the system as the funding of it was paid for by the wealthier members of the parish.

By the 1830s, in England and Wales, most parishes had at least one workhouse to send its poor to.

So what would any of our ancestors, unlucky enough to have found themselves in this position have faced? Those poor unfortunates who had no option but to seek “indoor relief” would have to endure unpalatable conditions inside the institution. It was designed to be thus so as to put people off from entering the workhouse unless they had run out of alternatives for survival outside.

Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.

On admission they would have to undress, surrender their own clothes until they were discharged, have a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform which was usually made of rough and shapeless material. This was all aimed at discouraging people from entering the system by stripping away part of their identity.

The belief, at the time, was that the undeserving poor were idle and so they were made to do tedious jobs. Inmates who were not aged or infirm would have to work for their keep. The jobs given to them were deliberately chosen to be monotonous and boring. At Southwell they would grind corn, pick oakum or, for the females, do laundry work.

Workhouse tasks

The picture to the left is of an old rope from the docks that the inmates would pick apart so that the fibres could be sold back to the docks to be used in the caulking boats and ships.

 

 

So what about the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and how this shook up the system?

There will be more detail about the workhouse inside my course on English and Welsh family history at: http://www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

 

Join Family History Researcher

Send to Kindle

Love to Learn

love to learn onlineI’ve been road testing a family history course aimed at beginners this week from Love to Learn. It focuses on informal learning for people beginning to research their family trees and is extremely accessible for active seniors and adult learners with a computer.

The courses are designed for those who enjoy discovering new interests and acquiring knowledge – people who, as the name implies, love to learn.

I liked the video introductions and the multiple choice review at the end of each module.

Love to Learn is the UK’s first dedicated website that offers a wide range of online courses for adults who want to keep learning, in an informal way, in their own time, at their own pace.

How can it help you?

Two of its most popular courses help to trace your ancestors and build up a visual record of their old photographs. These are:

Scanning and Editing your Old photos and

Family History.

This beginners’ online course helps you start exploring a fascinating field that, as most of you have probably already found, soon becomes a passion. It enables you to research your family history using internet resources including census, military and parish records.

Most people can trace their family back several generations, and some of us can even go back hundreds of years. However far you go, if you are just starting out, or know someone in this category, then this may be the perfect way to start discovering family’s stories.

The course is run in partnership with the experts from Imperial War Museums and Ancestry.co.uk and is led by history author and former teacher, John Child, its video tutor, and draws on his John’s own experiences of researching his ancestors. Mel Donnelly of Imperial War Museums has researched family and military history for 20 years. She helps you find out about people who fought in the British Army.

As you learn you’ll create your personal album for your family’s enjoyment and fascination. The course costs £38.00 and provides eight to ten hours on online learning. For more information, please go to http://www.lovetolearn.co.uk/family-history

 Disclosure: I was supplied with a complimentary copy of this course to review by the publishers, but with no conditions attached.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Send to Kindle

Family History Sites Mark Rememberence Day


ancestor, ancestry, family tree, family history, r

To coincide with Remembrance Day, UK family history site, www.GenesReunited.co.uk
has released a variety of military records taking its collection to 8.5 million.

The British Army Service Records are just one of the latest records added to the site and they include the Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service records from 1760-1913. These records are an important resource for family historians as they provide rich information on the soldier’s name, place of birth, regiment and the dates of service within the British Army.

New WW1 and WW11 Prisoner of War records have also been added to Genes Reunited. These records hold vital information; the Prisoner of War 1939 – 1945 records detail the prisoner’s name, rank, regiment, camp number, camp type and camp location.

Rhoda Breakell, Head of Genes Reunited, comments: “From the Harold Gillies Archive to the Military Nurses 1856 – 1940 we’ve released a huge variety of records. These new records will be an invaluable resource for people wanting an insight into the lives of their ancestors. ”

From today people interested in tracking down their ancestors can visit www.genesreunited.co.uk and search the latest records listed below:

· WWII Escapers and Evaders

· Military Nurses 1856 – 1940

· Army Reserve of England and Wales 1803

· 1st Foot Guards attestations 1775-1817

· Regimental Indexes 1806

· Manchester Roll of Honour 1914-1916

· Manchester City Battalions 1914-1916

· Royal Artillery Military Medals 1916-1991

· Royal Artillery Honours & Awards 1939-1946

· Harold Gillies Archive

· Royal Red Cross Register

· British Officers taken Prisoner of War between August 1914 and November 1918

· Prisoners of War – Naval & Air Forces of Great Britain & Empire – 1939-1945

· Prisoners of War – Armies and land Forces of the British Empire 1939-1945

· Oldham Pals 1914-1916

· Oldham Roll of Honour 1914-1916

· Prison Hulk Registers 1811-1843

· Ted Beard – RAF Nominal Roll 1918

· British Army Service Records 1760-1915 [WO 96 and WO 97]

WO 96 – Militia

WO 97 – Pensions 1760-1913

WO 119 – Kilmainham Pensions

WO 121 – CHEPS discharges

WO 122 – CHEPS discharges (foreign regiments)

WO 128 – Imperial Yeomanry

WO 131 – CHEPS deferred pensions 1838-1896

The newly added military records can be viewed on a pay-per-view basis or Platinum members can choose to add on the record set to their package for a low cost. The military records have been added to the existing military additional features package.

 

Meanwhile, over at TheGenealogist.co.uk

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

As we remember those who fought and fell in the Great War, TheGenealogist website is adding new military records to help you discover the role your ancestor played in the conflict. For example…

Hart’s Army List, 1908

Army List, July 1910

Army List, February 1917

 

Navy Lists

Navy List, December 1914

Navy List, February 1938

 

 

and at Ancestry.co.uk

More than 67,000 British military POW records published online – Ancestry.co.uk

Records contain details of British military personnel imprisoned during WWI and WWII

Famous pilot POWs Douglas Bader and William Ash are listed in the records

More than 14 million war records available to view free online at Ancestry.co.uk this Remembrance Day

Ancestry.co.uk, the family history website, recently launched online the UK Prisoner of War Records, 1914-1945, a collection spanning both World Wars and detailing the names of more than 67,000 British military POWs.

During WWI and WWII, thousands of servicemen were taken prisoner and forced to endure the harsh conditions of POW camps. These records detail the name, rank and regiment of these British military personnel as well their camp location, date of capture and release date.

Most of these newly digitalised records (59,000) pertain to WWII and pilot POWs are included for the very first time. The RAF and its pilots played a vital role in WWII both protecting UK airspace and attacking enemy ships, airbases and other industries key to the German war effort.

 

Send to Kindle

The Channel Island Monthly Review

CI Monthly Review

 

The Channel Islands Monthly Review at TheGenealogist.co.uk

I’ve received an up date from TheGenealogist.co.uk to say that we can now search a newspaper containing Births Marriages and Deaths from the time of the Occupation of the Channel Islands on their site.

A selection of issues that cover the period 1941-1945 are available from the time when some evacuated from their homes to England. To keep in touch the refugees produced this journal.

The background is this. In 1940 German forces were threatening the Channel Isles as they advanced across France and the British government consulted the Islands representatives. It was decided then that the islands were not defensible and so they would be demilitarised. A massive evacuation was carried out during late June 1940 and those residents of the islands that wanted to leave, boarded a flotilla of ships to the UK where they settled.

It is a matter of history that the Channel Isles were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during WWII and by the 1st of July 1940 they had surrendered to the German Army.

During the war ex residents kept in touch with ‘The Channel Isles Monthly Review’. These journals listed Births, Marriages and Deaths plus allowed islanders to keep in contact with friends and family. TheGenealogist has now included pdfs that can be searched in their newspaper section of the site and they promise that it will grow as new issues become available.

Just read the following excerpt for a flavour:

Nov 1941 issue “A young Jerseyman has escaped from Jersey. Three days and three nights in an eight foot boat without food.” This was his third attempt and he had previously spent four days on a rock that featured in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” . This attempt he managed to evade two German E-boats that nearly swamped his boat.

Conditions in the island weren’t good as the Jerseyman reported:-
“The food supply is not the best. Fuel is short. Income tax is 4/6 in the pound to pay the expenses of the army of occupation.”
He also said to the Times that food is rationed and very scarce with Jersey butter, cream and other products exported much against the will of the population.

“There is a total absence of fats on the island so there are no cakes or pastry etc. The curfew is at 11pm”
People used the review to publish excerpts from letters about relatives on the islands and give news of family members.

The selection of issues covers 1941-1945 and are available to Diamond subscribers.

November 1941
December 1941
January 1942
February 1942
March 1942
April 1942
January 1943
February 1943
March 1943
April 1943
May 1943
June 1943
May 1945

Take a look now and see this and other great data sets they have to offer at TheGenealogist.co.uk:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Send to Kindle

What Did Your Ancestors Do?

When we consciously decide to do Family history, as opposed to Genealogy, we set out to flesh out our ancestors lives a bit. We do this by seeking to understand what they did for a living, what the environment in which they lived and worked in was like and the social conditions that prevailed on them at the time.

My Devon ancestors are a mixture of Agricultural Labourers, Mariners, Small Businessmen and the like. Their work is very often dictated by where they lived. The countryside dwellers in and around Bigbury and South Huish worked on the land. Those that inhabited Dartmouth made a living on the river and at sea while those from Plymouth ran shops and small businesses. Not surprisingly none of them were coal miners or textile mill workers.

At the Society of Genealogists (SoG), in London, there is a good amount of material to help family historians research ancestors occupations and much of it is to be found in the Upper library at 14 Charterhouse Buildings. Although not all the material is exclusively on that floor, it is a good place to start as Else Churchill, the Genealogist at The Society of Genealogists pointed out in a talk I attended there last year.

With the “Ag Labs”, as we have come to call our Agricultural Labourers after the 1841 census introduced this shorthand way of describing them, there is a book that can be purchased from the SoG shop called My Ancestor Was an An Agricultural Labourer which explains what their lives were like and points the reader towards some source material that could be used apart from the census data.

Returning to the question in the headline of this article: What Did Your Ancestors Do? Finding the answer to this question will probably depend on what status they were and what and when they carried out their trade, profession or calling.

As some professions and crafts became more regulated then lists of those qualified to make a living from the activity will have thrown up records. Family historians can have recourse to Trade Directories, Apprenticeship lists and so on to try and find their forebears. Professional men, such as Medical men and Lawyers are going to be better documented than others. The SoG have extremely good runs of lists for these professions as well as those, such as Chemists and Apothecaries, who modelled their professional standards on the former class of practitioners, with the sanction of being struck off from the register to practice.

The Law list’s at the SoG include Barristers, London Attorneys and Provincial Attorneys back into the eighteenth century. The medical directories only really start in the 1850’s with the formal registration of these professions but I did find in their catalogue A directory of English country physicians 1603-43.

Men who were Officers in the Army or Navy can be found in the run of military lists on the upper library floor along with a great collection of Regimental Histories and Medal Rolls.

Some enlisted men can be located by using the Findmypast Chelsea Pensioner 1760 to 1913 data set and the Militia Service Records 1806-1915. Look in the county record office for the Ballot Lists of those men eligible to serve in the local militia from the 1750’s to Napoleonic times (1799 to 1815).

What if your ancestor went into trade by serving an apprenticeship? Else Churchill, explained that apprenticeship records are better documented before 1800 than after. A tax levied in the 18th century caused records to be kept and they are to be found today at the National Archives IR1 series and they are indexed by the SoG and can be found in books in the upper library. Another database is on Ancestry. The SoG has another excellent book called My Ancestor was an Apprentice which may help.

If your ancestors served an apprenticeship in one of the larger towns, or boroughs, in order to become a freeman and gain the entitlement to vote, then look for the records for the town/borough at the county record office. Ms Churchill pointed out that the more likely scenario would be that your ancestor would have served their apprenticeship within a family and there would be no record as the tax was not applicable within a family apprenticeship.

A possible record that may be found is where a child is apprenticed by the parish to make them less of a burden on the parish. Typically the age of the apprentice is much younger (7 or 8yrs old) and husbandry or housewifery. If the records survive they will be in the Parish Chest material.

This is only a short look at this subject and I will return to it in a further article here.

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.

 

Send to Kindle