If you went to the Family Tree Live show at Alexandra Palace last week you may have heard Gill Blanchard speaking.
She is a respected professional family historian and author. I now see that her latest course on Writing Your Family History is about to run in a few days time. Best sign up now if you want to learn how to bring your forebears to life in words.
Starts Friday 10 May 2019
Ends Week ending Friday 2 August 2019
12 Weeks. 5 Lessons. Weekly Discussions.
Tutor: Gill Blanchard
Author and Professional Family Historian
Biography and Creative Non Fiction (UEA)
This is a practical writing course spread over a twelve week period that guides participants through the process of bringing their ancestors to life. The aim is on producing an entertaining family history that other people want to read. The lessons will focus on enabling students to choose the most suitable format for them, decide what to include and how, and find and add relevant context. The tutor will provide personalised and in-depth feedback throughout the course.
Students are encouraged to move beyond a basic ‘John begat William and Jane begat Mary’ chronicle; learn how to integrate relevant social and local history materials and to deal with repetitions, missing pieces and anomalies in their writing.
The course lasts for twelve weeks and is comprised of five lessons. The first four lessons are posted online at fortnightly intervals, with an extra week after lessons four and five to allow additional time for reading, writing, critiquing and feedback.
The lessons include writing exercises, focussed guidance, useful tips, writing examples, links to useful resources and background reading. There will be regular live online discussions with the tutor and other students. A dedicated learning hub can be used at any time throughout the course to share work, ask questions and post news.
This course is aimed at those who have completed a body of research into their family history and are ready to start writing.
Did you watch the Paul Hollywood programme in the 12th series of Who Do You Think You Are?
I thought it was a great show to start the new series off. Paul came across as a genuine normal guy who like many of us wished he had taken the time to speak more to his relatives about the past before they sadly died.
Even though one of the main lessons in my Family History course is to talk to your relatives and jot down what they tell you, as a basis for then trying to substantiate their stories with research in actual records, I too am guilty of not having done this before it was too late with some of my own family.
In this week’s TV show Paul Hollywood, from The Great British Bake Off, was taken back to his grandfather’s WWII experience in North Africa. It was here that his grandfather Norman Harman (1913 – 2003) had been sent as soon as he had completed his training. At Medjez el Bab in Tunisia, Norman’s Light Anti-Aircraft division were protecting the infantry from enemy air attacks at the time of the major Allied offensive to take Tunis from the German forces. With the enemy throwing bombs and missiles at them it was hard on these men.
From there Paul travelled to Italy, where he learnt about how his grandfather was part of the landing force that became trapped on the beaches at Anzio for four months, surrounded by Germans and all the while under constant aerial bombardment. Paul gets to see the landing area where his grandfather and the other men would have felt like sitting ducks, with death and devastation all around them. Norman and his comrades finally managed to land and their gun was then transported five miles inland. Unfortunately for them the regiment was soon surrounded by the enemy in a dangerously exposed area. Huge numbers of men had no choice but to dig themselves into 7ft long fox holes and spend months trapped, coming under repeated German shell attacks.
In May 1944 and thanks to Norman’s regiment’s extraordinary efforts, the stalemate at Anzio was broken. The next month the Allied armies went on to liberate Rome, but not without the loss of 14,000 lives. Paul’s grandfather brought back from this conflict a visible memento of his terrifying time. He had developed a facial tic that stayed with him until he died.
Researching his line even further back, Paul Hollywood was seen in the Who Do You Think You Are? programme to use TheGenealogist’s ‘family forename search’ to find Alexander McKenzie, a Wood Turner who had come down to Liverpool from his native Glasgow. I was very glad to see that this company’s excellent resource was used by Paul, in place of one of the other two subscription sites who normally always get a look in.
Following his Scottish family line up to Glasgow Paul then found that the next generation in the McKenzie family was a Glasgow Policeman, down from the Highlands, who had a certain amount of trouble avoiding alcohol and was eventually dismissed from the Police force, moved to Liverpool before returning to Glasgow and death in the Poorhouse.
Paul then discovered in the programme that his great, great, great, great grandfather Donald McKenzie, was a Highland postman with quite extraordinary stamina. As a crofter with little land he had to make ends meet with other employment. Donald’s was a post runner. Not having a horse, with which to cover his rounds delivering the mail to 30,000 people, Donald simply ran the 120 miles with the mail every week from one side of Scotland to the other.
With thanks to TheGenealogist for permission to use part of their article as a basis for this post. You can read the full piece, that reveals even more about Paul Hollywood’s family history, by clicking this link:
I was lucky enough to have some time recently to look around Salisbury Cathedral and in amongst the treasures of that beautiful place of worship I noticed a couple of ancient chests that were being completely ignored by the streams passing visitors.
As a family historian, interested in searching for ancestors in the Parish Records, I am acutely aware that these interesting heavy wooden pieces of furniture also appear in churches up and down the country and at one time performed a vital function in the preservation of documents that we use today in researching our families.
In my English/Welsh family history course, available online at www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com, I cover Parish Chest records in more detail in lesson 8. If you want to know more about how to tease out your elusive ancestors, from the documents that they were recorded in, then perhaps you may like to join me and numerous satisfied students on an online journey to learn more about the resources and records that you could be using.
As a teaser I am reproducing some of the content of that lesson below:
The Parish registers for baptisms, marriages and burials, were first introduced by Henry VIII’s Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell in 1538 to the English Church. Cromwell, who supervised the church through his position as Henry’s Vicar General and Vice regent, required that every parish church was to acquire a sure coffer (that is, a parish chest) within which their records could be securely stored.
The parish chest was not a new idea, however, they could have been found in churches up and down the land all the way back to medieval times. Often no more than a hollowed out tree trunk that was secured with three locks. The keys to which were to be kept by the Bishop, the Priest and by a religious layman. What was new, in Tudor times, was the notion that Cromwell dictated that accurate records were to be kept and the responsibility to do so was placed on the parish officials to keep these records safe.
By the mid-1500’s the parishioners in every parish of the land were instructed by law to provide a strong chest with a hole in the upper part thereof, and having three keys, for holding the alms for the poor. Another chest may have been used to keep safe the church’s plate and this or the first chest would also double up as a place where the parish registers and other parish documents could be kept safe. In some places only one chest would have sufficed for both purposes, while in other parishes two or more may have been used.
As can be seen by the pictures above, The Parish Chest was just that; a chest locked and housed in the church that could now only be opened by the Vicar and two officers of the parish.
It was the place for the parish church to keep safe its documents away from mice, dust and other conditions that may have damaged them. But as the chest filled up with records, then the oldest papers at the bottom would have been disposed of to make room for newer documents to go on top. For this reason alone many records will not have survived to the present day.
That is sad as the various account books, bundles of documents of all different sizes, could be valuable information. You may be able to read some fragments of extra information about your forebears and their lives, if your ancestor had dealings with the church in their parish. It could be that your ancestor was an artisan that was paid for some service by the parish clerk.
Perhaps your ancestor was mentioned in Settlement Examinations? Or Apprenticeship Indentures? What about bastardy examinations and bonds? Maybe the Constables’ and Overseers’ account books?
All of these records are what we call the Parish Chest documents as formally they would have lived in such a container in the church.
The reason why these documents may not have survived through to the present day are many. Some parishes would have been poor at keeping good records, anyway. Others may have consciously destroyed their documents while yet more parishes lost their records accidentally – perhaps through carelessness, water damage, fire, fungus, mold, or by being eaten by insects or animals.
As a consequence, when Parish Chest material has survived, for your parish, then you will definitely want to take a look at what has endured the years as it can open up a fantastic insight into your ancestor’s parish.
Other Parish Records
Here are some other records in the parish chest:
The Churchwardens Accounts
Glebe Terriers and Tithe Records
Charity Accounts (possibly not of a great deal of use to family historians!)
Petty Constables Accounts
Various other miscellaneous records
As I have stressed above, it is by no means certain that these documents will have survived the ravage of time, if they have, however, then the originals should now be stored away safely at the relevant County Record Office for the church in question. You see how the County Record Offices come up time and time again? I love visiting them and I encourage any of you that can to do so too.
In many cases you may be lucky enough to find that a local history society, or a county record society, may have published some of these records in full, if so then do take a look at their publications.
Be warned, however, that it is unusual to find any generally available on the Internet. Despite this caveat, I would still say that it is worth your while doing a search on Google, Bing or some other search engine.
Also it is worth seeing if they have possibly been filmed by the LDS and so made available from your local Family History Centre.
Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,
The greater the knowledge that we have about a subject, then the more tools we have at our disposal to explore it.
In family history, the more we understand the records and resources, then the better we are able to locate our ancestors hidden in the documents.
Today I am really excited to announce the launch of yet more help for those people researching their English/Welsh family roots.
I’ve listened to your feedback and acted on it.
Some of you told me that you’d like to buy tutorials on certain specific areas for a very modest outlay of under a couple of pounds.
For those of you who asked for this quality information, so as to increase your knowledge of the family history records and resources, then here are the initial four tutorials being released today. I am making them available for the first time as MP3 downloads for £1.99 (or $3.30) so that they really are affordable to all.
Whether you want to listen to them on your computer, or transfer them to your MP3 player, then these programmes in my new Nosey Genealogist’s Master Mind Audio Series explain what the records are, where to find them and how to use them.
I know that many satisfied family history researchers have passed through my Family History Researcher Course of 52 written lessons – downloaded in pdf format to their computer each week. I have received compliments on the content and the accessible style and it gives me great pleasure that many of you really enjoy receiving a weekly module from my Family History Researcher Course. (If you have not joined yet, but are interested in this written course then check out the special offer which is currently a £1 trial for 2 weeks http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/trialoffer/)
But I also understand that some of you just wanted to listen to an audio programme on certain specific subjects and so that is what I have done for you today.
The first four Master Mind Audio Series Modules are:
The Parish Chest
Watch this space as I record and release more audio downloads in the near future.
This week’s Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC was a bit more traditional in tracing Mary Berry’s family back through various record sets. From what I can see, on the forums and on facebook, this has please many people who don’t like the recent trend of just one ancestor being looked at in a programme in more depth.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this week’s, with Mary Berry being a great choice to investigate with some interesting ancestors that made use of a large number of resources from the family history researcher’s tool box.
In defence for those other programmes, with the single subject, I would just like to say that one of the points that I was taught (and which I myself now teach in my own family history course) is that family history involves looking at the social context of our ancestors, as well as collecting names, dates and details.
We need to understand the world in which our ancestors lived and what was happening to make them be the people that they were. Perhaps these editions were simply trying to show this and in the confines of an hour long programme this naturally excluded all the other generations that would appear on the celebrity’s family tree.
That said, it would seem that the popular vote is for the later type of WDYTYA? Viewers from the genealogy pages on facebook would prefer to see a family tree being traced back and a little bit of detail being fleshed out on the poor unfortunate person who had fallen on difficult times or who had shown great grit.
As long as when we come to research our own family tree that we don’t make the mistake of simply collecting names, dates, perhaps an occupation and place or two and then move on to the next generation without thinking a little about the social context of our ancestors, then my vote is also with the Mary Berry type of programme, but only narrowly in favour!
As I wrote this post today I was casting my mind back over the show and counting off the data sets and resources used for which I have modules in my Family History Researcher course.
There was also Christopher Berry Junior’s wife and 6 children who ended up in the workhouse with some of the children dying while inmates, but the segregation that would have taken place between children and parent was not mentioned. See my module on the Workhouse.
Mary Berry was shown the Trades Directory and especially the one that her ancestor had published. In my course I have a module on Trade Directories written by Mary Bayley of TheGenelogist that uses that website’s great resources to explain their usefulness to the family historian.
Mary Berry had an ancestor of the same name as her who was identified in the GRO vital records as having had a number of illegitimate children. The Parish Registers also confirmed this fact. I delve into these three areas in separate modules on the Birth Marriage and Death certificates (lesson 2), the Parish Records (5 and 8) and Illegitimate children (21).
Then there was old newspapers (lesson number 42), Bankruptcy (lesson 29), apprentices (lesson 15), death records (lesson 25) and probably more!
If anyone is new to our fascinating subject, or is a seasoned family history researcher who would like to be refreshed on English/Welsh researching then I have a £1 trial for two weeks on offer at the moment.
At the largest Family history show in the world, Who Do You Think You Are? Live in London, I decided to ask the expert on the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives for his tips on researching your family tree. I was looking for some material to include in a module of my courses on English/Welsh family history in which several experts advice will be collated for students.
As I’m feeling generous I’m going to share this piece with you for free here in this blog post today.
For those people who are starting to do family history, then one of the most important things is to take notice of anything that you are told by your relatives. Because, although the information may not be 100 percent true, there is always something that somebody will know that can help give you an idea as to where to go on and find other records.
It’s important that you afford the information in official documents with a certain level of importance. Although that information recorded is only as good as that given by the informant at the time. So beware that any information on a birth certificate, or a census record, can be wrong from day one because the person supplying it didn’t want the officials to know the real truth.
This can confuse people doing their family tree research. The best way of proceeding is to make sure that you look at every type of document available to you. So look at a civil registration certificate. Look at a parish register. Look at a census; try and get a will and look at anything else that will give you the full details relevant to that particular individual.
Doing your family history research that way you’re able to build up a fuller picture.
As you progress you will find that it becomes more complex and you’ll find that you may hit brick walls. You may find that you have conflicting information on an ancestor and that in some instances it’s going to be necessary for you to actually go along and work different lines of the family, investigate different individuals.
What you have got to do is make sure that you eliminate those people that aren’t part of your family. Its ever so easy to go down a wrong line because you haven’t been clear enough in making sure the family or the individual that you have is the right person. And sometimes that’s beyond the experience and the expertise of the average family historian and that’s where you need to talk to the professionals.
That’s where members of ARGA, The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives can help because they are accredited researchers. They have proven their ability to do this type of family research and while they might not be able to find all the answers, they are better placed than many of us to do so.
The reason why even a professional may draw a blank is that if an ancestor didn’t want to be found in officialdom, then they wont be! Irrespective of how good you are and how through you are, this may sadly be the case. Having said that, however, you stand a better chance with using a professional because they perhaps know a little bit more of the overall number documents that they can use to do just that.
This week (Thursday 20th, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd) Who Do You Think You Are? Live comes to Olympia with stands from all the major genealogical websites, family history suppliers, expert advice, talks from celebrities from the TV programme and a myriad of workshops.
The Nosey Genealogist will be there too on stand 56 showcasing our Family History Researcher Beginners English & Welsh Family History Course. As a special show offer we have re-introduced the popular Â£1 trial membership of our course that gives you two weeks lessons and some free bonus content.
The Nosey Genealogists has gathered together in one fixed-term-membership site a collection of 52 weekly lessons that will aid the beginner in English & Welsh family history to become a more knowledgeable researcher.
Also of great value to the more advanced, the course explores the different resources, data sets and documents that can reveal more about your English or Welsh ancestors.
Written from the practical point of view by Nick Thorne, an advanced beginner (as even the most experienced researcher is always learning more) and, with the aid of some lessons penned by professional genealogists, this course is delivered by email to your inbox to do at your own pace.
Topics covered in the 12 months include:
The census collections
The Parish records
The Parish Chest
County Record offices and what valuable treasures they contain
City and Town Directories
Genetics and DNA
Maps and Charts
The National Archives
Family Search Centres
If you are attending the show then do please come over and say hello and tell us that you read this blog. You will then be able to enter our competition to win a free copy of our next product due out soon!
This week I have been rather distracted from the enjoyable pass time of looking at my own family history by the needs of my business. Even then, I had to explain to someone in a bank just exactly what it is we do when we set out to research our family tree, in between sorting out some details of my banking with the branch.
I have also spent some time, talking with various contacts about how I take my family history course offer forward in 2014, and receiving advice from some of them looking afresh at my plans.
It is always good to keep moving ahead and so it was with some interest that I heard from the team at TheGenealogist about how they have introduced new technical changes to their business.
Subscribers can now use both TheGenealogist.co.uk and TheGenealogist.com to access their family history research!
With the ever increasing popularity of family history and as a number of their subscribers grow at a healthy pace, TheGenealogist have invested in a number of new core product features to ensure users of their family history website continue to enjoy the maximum reliability they expect.
TheGenealogist – an international brand
Firstly, with increases in sales all over the world, it was felt by the company that it was important to make it as easy as possible to access TheGenealogist and not just through a .co.uk address. The international .com web address will now equally represent TheGenealogist too. Secondly, as the unique search tools and major record set additions over the past few years have really pushed TheGenealogist forward internationally, the background technology has been further developed to continue the reliability of service that is associated with a subscription to TheGenealogist.
Major investment in IT Infrastructure
TheGenealogist say that thier website can now be accessed from both TheGenealogist.co.uk and TheGenealogist.com, held at multiple, geographically separate data centres on super-efficient servers that easily cover the needs of our subscriber base.
They have also ensured that subscribers will continue to get fast and reliable searching facilities from the background IT infrastructure. Something that users, such as myself, are pleased to find is a priority as who likes to hang around waiting for your search to be returned for more than a small amount of time?
Over Christmas, it seems, the new service was given its first major test and coped well with the large increase in workload that resulted in people using the holiday period to log in and do some research.
“The large increase in workload was easily handled by our new multiple data centers and new hardware” said TheGenealogist.
It is easy for a family history website to rest on its laurels and overload systems with large amounts of data and functionality and not anticipate reliability issues. However, TheGenealogist has in place a rigid IT framework ensuring it is well covered for many years to come. A high quality, efficient service will be maintained long into the future.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: â€œWe constantly strive to improve our service for all our customers. Our increase in user base, services and now free content such as the image archive, has given us the opportunity to redesign our service to be much more resilient to increases in magnitude of users. We have further extended our ability to offer large amounts of records for people to view in a secure and ultra-reliable framework. â€œ
So while they forge ahead I too shall be making some changes to my FamilyHistoryResearcher.com course and to the information available at NoseyGenealogist,com, but maybe not on the investment scale as TheGenealogist has!
Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate Links are used in this post.
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
I’ve been looking at some of my rural ancestors from Devon this weekend.
I found that they mostly had long lives, provided they survived through their childhood.
For example, one agricultural labourer (ubiquitous Ag.Lab in the census) reached his 91st birthday. Others died well into their late 80s.
By tracing the baptisms, of my direct ancestors in the parish records, I noticed that in the year 1830, before the census officials introduced the term Ag.Lab into general use, that my ancestor John Jarvis of South Huish, was recorded in the register for his son’s baptism as: Husbandman.
A husbandman is, according to the Oxford dictionary online: a person who cultivates the land; a farmer.
Origin: Middle English (originally in northern English use denoting the holder of a husbandland, i.e. manorial tenancy): from husband in the obsolete sense ‘farmer’ + man. Oxford English Dictionary Online.
So then I wondered how much, if any, land he may have had as a tenant and how could I find this out. The answer was the tithe maps, of course.
A quick online search and I discovered that Devon has a project to put the tithe apportionment documents and eventually the maps on the web.
Virtually every parish, from the beginning to the middle of the 1800s would have had tithe maps drawn up for their area. Accompanied by the apportionment records, which is the key to the tithe map. It tells the researcher who owned what pieces of land, what it was used for and the amount of payment due. The schedule is divided into columns:
1.Â Â Â Landowners
2.Â Â Â Occupiers â€“ if the landowner, this is shown as â€˜himselfâ€™, otherwise the tenantâ€™s name is given
3.Â Â Â The plot number referring to the tithe map
4.Â Â Â Name or description of the land, premises or field
5.Â Â Â State of cultivation e.g. arable, meadow, pasture, wood, garden, plantation
6.Â Â Â The size â€“ in acres, roods and perches
7.Â Â Â The money due to the Vicar
8.Â Â Â The money due to Impropriators
9.Â Â Â Any further remarks.
So what is a tithe?
The word literally means one-tenth. For centuries past the people were required to pay annual tithes, to their local parish church, to support it and its clergy.Â To begin with tithes were paid “in kind” which meant parishioners handing over one-tenth of their produce (corn, hay, vegetables, eggs, wool, animals, fish, flour etc.) As you would expect this made tithes unpopular.
In the 16th century the monasteries were dissolved and a great deal of former church property, including the rights to tithe, now passed into the hands of private individuals (‘Lay Impropriators’).
Those tithes that were now due to be paid to the Church of England still caused problems. There were no end of disputes over the values of land, processes and produce. On top of this was a reluctance by members of the other religious denominations to be forced to pay their tithes to the established state church.
To bring an end to these disputes, the Tithe Commutation Act was passed in 1836. Tithes were to be based on land values and converted to an annual money tax known as â€˜corn rentsâ€™ or â€˜tithe rent chargesâ€™. To get rid of the problem of variations from locality to locality the Tithe Commutation Act now fixed the payment based on the average price of wheat, barley and oats.
What did I find about John Jarvis?
Well there is certainly a man of this name listed in the ownership column along with that of the Earl of Devon who appears many times along side the names of others. John Jarvis was not, however, the occupier of the Orchards and arable land. This was a neighbour whose occupation on the census page is denoted as a Farmer.
So assuming that, in this tiny Devon hamlet, I have found the correct John Jarvis, then it would seem that he worked as a farm labourer, while renting out his own land to the farmer.
One of the lessons in my English and Welsh Family History course covers rural ancestors. Read more about this beginners to intermediate course here: