If you need some family history help go to an archive!

 

Worcester Archive at The Hive I want to take a moment this week to sing the praises of the knowledgeable people who work in county record offices and archives up and down the country.

I had a knotty problem to deal with this week with a family that I am researching. My task was to look for the maiden name of a second wife who married into the family in 1814 at St Thomas’, Dudley in Worcestershire and who was also marrying for the second time.

Because she was a widow her surname, in the marriage register for the second marriage, is assumed to be that of her first husband and so I have been asked to see if I can find out her maiden name. On her second marriage a fair number of her sons were given a distinctive second name and it had occurred to us that this may have been the woman’s maiden name.

I had a few hours in the City of Worcester set aside for this task and so I headed off to find the county record office.

What I discovered was that Worcestershire has housed its archives in the same modern building as its library at The Hive, which is a  joint university and public library. The Hive is the result of the vision of the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council.

On the first floor I found the reception for the archive and was immediately impressed by the helpfulness I was afforded. A member of staff showed me around the facility and when I explained what I was there to do was able to point me to the shelf containing collections of Worcestershire marriages transcripts.

I spent a productive hour or so noting down all the marriages of men with the woman’s first married surname, Fletcher, to a woman with the Christian name of Sarah.

Unfortunately there was no Sarah with the maiden name that I was looking for.

After a period of time the member of the archive staff returned to see how I was getting along. I explained that I had not found the answer and she then showed me another volume on the shelves that listed Worcestershire marriages by the bride’s surname. The suggestion here was that I may possibly be looking for the surname of the woman’s mother and not hers.

I then spent some time copying down all the women who had married in the relevant period and then compared the surnames of the men married with my first list. There was one surname that matched the other checklist I had of Sarahs who married a Fletcher; but sadly I can find no children called Sarah to the couple identified.

 

 

It looks like it is set for a long haul to look at all the marriages of a Sarah and someone called Fletcher and see if I can find the premature death of the husband called Fletcher. Once I identify the marriage that ended in Sarah being widowed before 1814 I will then have me a candidate for a possible maiden name. With this some more research will be required to make sure that we have found the right one.

As for the second name that this Sarah gave to her male children in the second marriage, perhaps it was from the father’s side and so this opens up the need for yet more research to be done!

Though I didn’t make a breakthrough this time, all the same the archive staff were most helpful in acting as a sounding board for my ideas to tackle this project and for their knowledge of the resources available in their collections that may help me.

 

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Your Family Tree Magazine Features Channel Islands

 

Your Family Tree Magazine

 

Hooray! This month’s Your Family Tree Magazine ( May 2013 Issue 129) has a feature on uncovering your Channel Island kin and it is very good.

Naturally, as a local – I am a Jersey-born resident of this most southerly point in the British Isles – I was immediately attracted to this article. I flicked through to page 34, as soon as I opened my copy.

You may have noticed that I say above “I am Jersey-born” and not that “I am a Jerseyman”. This is because, when you live here, you become aware of certain linguistic conventions that we islanders abide by.

To be regarded as a proper Jerseyman I would need to have not only been born here, but to have come from a line of Jerseymen and women that have roots here stretching back several generations. It is also best that those roots can be traced to nearby Normandy and that your name has a French origin to it. My roots and name just do not qualify!

I am the son of incomers, my father is English, and my Norman blood is courtesy of an ancestor called de la Haye who emigrated to Scotland from Normandy, around the 12th century, established the Clan Hay and has filtered down to me here.

I can, however, and do claim to be a local.

 

Within this blog I have several pages written by guest contributor James McLaren of the Channel Islands Family History Society that will complement the YFT magazine’s feature. Take a look at Jersey Family History for tips on researching in Jersey.

For the record, here in Jersey is how we refer to what goes on within our island. Locals may wince if you refer to “researching  your family history on Jersey”. We are, after all, a separate legislative jurisdiction.

We do owe allegiance to the English Crown – the successor to the Dukedom of Normandy and are British. We do not owe allegiance to England, nor are we part of the United Kingdom. We are a Crown Peculiar. So to avoid annoying Channel Islanders, do not insinuate that we are loyal to England, and then you will find that we are a friendly and welcoming bunch.

When I was a schoolboy, here in Jersey, I learnt  a splendid repost to someone from the Mainland asking: “So how long have the islands belonged to England?”

The answer always was: “I think you will find that we conquered you in 1066.”

The logic behind this is that the Channel Islands are the last remaining part of the Duchy of Normandy that remains loyal to our Duke, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. That as Normans we conquered the English with Duke William. Simple!

 

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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.

 

 

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Census Transcription Error Unearthed A Second Marriage

This weekend I decided to revisit a line in Plymouth that I had only barely scratched the surface of in my research into the family.

My paternal grandmother’s father was called Edgar Stephens. His mother was Mary Ann Stephens nee Westlake and her mother was also called Mary Ann. Thus, in the 1851 census I was able to find my 3 x great-grandmother Mary Ann Westlake nee Legg married to Thomas Westlake the Brass Founder and Plumber that I have written about before in relation to his advertisement in the 1852 Plymouth Trades Directory.

Trade advertisement from 1852 Plymouth

I was looking at the 1851census records for Thomas and Mary Ann and noticed that they were both the same age, having been born in 1818.

I then went to find them in the 1861 census and noted that the transcript on TheGenealogist had Thomas’ wife listed as “Clara M Westlake” but as her date of birth was still 1818 I just put this down to an error. Opening the image I could see that the writing was none too clear, giving the transcriber a bit of a job to work out. What it certainly didn’t look like was the Mary Ann, as I had expected it to read.

Popping over to Ancestry.co.uk and the transcription for their 1851 census was given as “Chrisk W “.

Searching the same 1851 census on Findmypast and I got the transcription returned as “Catherine W”. The writing on the census page had challenged the transcribers at all three sites and I can not blame them for their differing attempts to make sense of the entry as I certainly couldn’t.

So what had happened to Mary Ann? Had she tired of her name and changed it to something more exotic? Or had she died and Thomas had taken a new wife, who also happened to have been born in the same year as he and the former Mrs Westlake?

 

I decided to do some detective work and search for a death of Mary Ann Westlake from after the 1851 census and before the 1861. What I found was a number of candidates that could have been my great-great-great-grandmother.

So now I approached the problem by seeing if I could find a second marriage for Thomas and here I can testify to the usefulness of the advice, given by many experienced family historians, to “always kill off your ancestors”.

You see, by having done just this for Thomas, having found his death in the records and then the listing for his probate, I was able to discover that he had an unusual middle name of “Scoble”.

Now I could look for a marriage of Thomas Scoble Westlake and I found just the two in the databases. One was in 1841 to Mary Ann Legg in Stoke Damerel, which is in the Devonport area. The other was to Christian Upcott Harwood in the last quarter of 1859 in Falmouth, Cornwall.

I had the name of the second wife!

Though this asked the question, if Thomas and Christian were wed in 1859, then what had happened to Mary Ann? The records show that in the second quarter of 1859 a death was registered in Plymouth for her, allowing Thomas to take a new wife in the fourth quarter! I will need to order a copy of the death certificate to find out what she died of.

So who was Christian Upcott Harwood? I had looked for her birth or christening without any luck. Then it struck me that perhaps she too was a widow. I now looked for the marriage of a Christian Upcott, leaving the bride’s maiden name blank,  to someone called Harwood and I found one to Samuel Peter Harwood in 1841 in Lewisham. Christian was from Plymouth and he was from Plumstead in Kent. A death occurred in East Stonehouse, Devon in the year 1858 to one Samuel Harwood and I assume it was his widow who married Thomas Scoble Westlake.

 

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We All Have Aristocratic Ancestors Says Genealogist and Author!

Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors
Anthony Adolph signing his new book: Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors, at the Who do You Think You Are? LIVE show.

Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors

 

 

At the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show, on the Pen & Sword stand, I was able to catch up with genealogist and author Anthony Adolph as he signed copies of his new book: Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors.

He graciously allowed me an interview afterwards and, as always, you can just tell the passion that he holds for his subject.

Watch my short video below and hear his argument that we all have aristocratic ancestors!

That being the case then, this book should appeal to every family historian.

To buy your copy now go to:
Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians

Disclosure: This is a compensated affiliate link which may reward me should you purchase.

Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors
Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors
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Merchant Navy Records for WWII have arrived!

Those of you with merchant seamen in the family are probably aware that only some records have been kept by the National Archives. Luckily for me the ones that I needed to access, for my father who had been a WWII merchant seaman, were kept there.

I was asked by my father, over Christmas, if I could find out for him exactly when it was that he went to sea, back in the second world war. He was a very young man and can remember having his first birthday, in the service, at sea one May in the 1940s.

With the passing of the years he has a sketchy recollection of his training period and can not remember exactly how long it was before he joined a merchant ship on the convoys across the Atlantic and also sailing in the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand.

The ship he joined acted as a troop ship in the war, armed with a single gun manned by an army contingent. It had been built as a passenger liner in peacetime and was fast having four screws.

 Merchant Seaman's Records

In my last article I referred to my trip down to The National Archives at Kew in search of his service records where I had to wait for the staff to view the documents and blank out any personal details  before I could view a copy. The process took longer than the time I had and so they had promised to post me the copies when it had been completed.

Well the documents from TNA arrived this week and I now have my father’s merchant seaman’s’ pouch and his wartime service records as he sailed the oceans!

At Kew I had been advised to look at the series BT 382/1799 which was the Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Fifth Register of Merchant Seaman’s Service (CRS 10 forms). Part 1: European origin mainly. Series 1, mainly of European origin, mainly 1942-c1965. Thon Hans Christopher to Thorne N B. for his records.

And also to request a search for him in BT 382/2981 being Part 2: European origin mainly. Series 2, mainly of European origin, 1946-1972. Thorburn A to Thorougood J G.

 

This has indeed given me the dates of his engagements and discharges for each voyage and so I can now tell him the first date that he went to sea in his war service.

As to the most interesting document from my point of view? This would be his British Seaman’s Identity Card, complete with a contemporary photograph of him aged 19, from his seaman’s pouch as held by TNA.

 

 

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My Dad is in The National Archives!

The National Archives

I was doing a search on the National Archives new Discovery search engine to see what I could find on my dad’s time in the Merchant Navy during World War II.

One hit was for his seaman’s pouch, R271022 THORNE J B 20/05/1925 PAIGNTON DEVON and it indicated that I could see the document for free at The National Archives. Now it did say that I would need a Reader’s Ticket to do this and as it has been quite some years, since I last went to Kew, my old one had expired.

So I figured that I would take a trip to Kew in Richmond, get registered for a new Reader’s Ticket and see what the document revealed.

The process of registering for a reader’s ticket requires you to bring two forms of ID one to prove your address and another to prove your name. You also have to do a short tutorial on the computer that educates you about the correct handling of their documents and a multiple choice questionnaire. It certainly isn’t something to worry about and if you get the answers wrong the computer shows you the correct answer before you move on.

Once I was registered, had my photo taken and issued with my shiny new card I went to order the documents and some others that may refer to his service record.

While the TNA website says that with a reader’s ticket you can order the record to be available for when you arrive or you can just order the record when you arrive there is a slight problem.

With these sort of records if it is not your own then it has to be looked at by a member of staff and national insurance numbers and other “data” have to be redacted in a copy that would be made of the document and this process would take some time as there were not enough staff to do it immediately.

As it turned out by the time I had to leave Kew the copies had not been brought up and so I left The National Archives without seeing them and providing my postal address for the staff to post it on to me.

So just a warning that this is the policy of TNA and I may post again when I get the photocopies in the post should there be anything of interest to family historians in them.

 

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Family History Books for Kindle

So this week, in the British Isles, saw Waterstones Booksellers launch the Kindle readers in their shops across the country. In my branch in St Helier, Jersey there is a great new display point and I was drawn immediately towards the Kindle Fire HD. I love the way it looks and the way it works! So much so that I got my debit card out and bought one there and then.

With these devices making more of an inroad into the way that people shop for books and read them I thought that it was timely for me to take a look at what family history titles are available from the Amazon Kindle store.

First off  I found that Peter Christian’s The Genealogist’s Internet is available. I’d seen it reviewed in Your Family Tree magazine in only the last month with a recommend that every family historian should have a copy either in Kindle form or in physical book.

It is a practical guide which that  is great for both beginners and more experienced researchers to use as it explores the most useful online sources and aids its readers to navigate each one. The Genealogist’s Internet features fully updated URLs and all of the recent developments in online genealogy.

This is the fully updated fifth edition and it carries the endorsed by the National Archives. Covering

·Online census records and wills, including the 1911 Census

·Civil registration indexes

·Information on occupations and professions

·DNA matching

·New genealogy websites and search engines

·Surname studies

·Passenger lists and migration records

·Information on digitised historical maps and photographs

Peter Christian’s book also includes the impact of blogging, podcasting and social networking on family history research, that allows the family historian to seek out others with similar research interests and so to share their results. Whether you want to put your family tree online, find distant relatives or access the numerous online genealogical forums, discussion groups and mailing lists, this book is a must-have.

For a selection of other Kindle books, including my own, head over to amazon.co.uk and take a look at these: Must Have Family History Books for your Kindle.

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The Family History Researcher and Harold P Matthews

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.

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1959/1959%20-%202503.html

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!

http://www.apimages.com/oneup.aspx?rids=b122ed18743d49238762fd28fd2f913b

 

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