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.
Do you ever feel that there are more questions than answers, when researching your family tree?
It seems to me that the more answers we seek, to questions about our ancestors, often trigger more queries about them. This is a bit how I feel this weekend, after Iâ€™ve returned home from a visit to Devon this week.
I called in at the Devon Family History Societyâ€™s â€œTree Houseâ€ in Exeter where I was able to spend a profitable few hours reading the files that they have on families with the surnames I am researching. I was also able to look at what they had on the parishes I was interested in, so giving me some added background to the places where my ancestors lived and worshiped. I came away with a set of useful printouts, for 30 pence each, from a search of their database for records of the persons I was seeking information on. This would save me much time at my next stop, the Devon County Record Offices in Exeter when looking in the parish register microfiches.
I have visited the County Record offices before and had find it was easy to go off on side tracks, so this time I had come prepared with a set of answers that I was seeking from the records held there.Â As always, however, simply by searching the documents and the microfiche of baptisms, weddings and burials, together with the microfilms of Bishopâ€™s Transcripts gave me new lines of inquiries to make. In the course of looking for one ancestor I would spot instances of the family names cropping up in the documents and make a note of the details on my pad of paper.
While I was looking at parish records, for Dartmouthâ€™s three C of E churches, in the hope of finding the burial of one ancestor, then I came across burials of the children of another. I saw a rapid succession of children of my three times great grandparents being baptized and buried by the established church and I wondered if this may explain why the next six are all baptized in the Presbyterian chapel in the town. But this doesnâ€™t explain why one child, who died in 1827 aged 4 years old, is buried by the Church of England in January of that year, while his brother was christened by the minister of the Flavel Presbyterian Church in April 1826, in the year before the death of the first. From a search of BMDregisters.co.uk I have found that all further siblings are christened in that nonconformist church.
While at the Devon County Record Office I was able to examine the books deposited from that Presbyterian church, but could find no mention of my ancestors remaining members in this chapel in later years. The books, that I was able to see, did not go back as far as the time of the christenings in my family, but they did contain lists of members of the church which could be very useful to others researching Presbyterian forebears in Dartmouth.
One of the questions that I had wanted to answer, from my visit to the County Record Office, was did my four time great grandparents stay in Dartmouth? They can not be found in the 1841 census. Now that, I assumed, was because they had died before it was taken. I did indeed find, by working back in years through the burial registers of the parish church, the entry for a likely pair of candidates with the right names and ages that would have made them 25 and 26 on their wedding date in 1794. Yes, this is only supposition that I have found the right Thornâ€™s in Dartmouth as rather frustratingly there are others with the same Christian and surname as my male ancestor in the town. But these two are the closest matches for the facts that I have.
So the lesson is to embrace the discovery of the new questions, that will need answers to in due course. Yes, I went to Devon seeking the answer to one thing and came away with semi-answers and more family history questions to explore. But this is a good thing as it gives me more avenues to research and more information to seek out. It may seem like the jigsaw puzzle is becoming more complicated, as more pieces are being placed on the table in front of me, but in the end a better picture is emerging of my family history. And for that I am excited!
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I have happily been spending some time looking around the newly launched British Newspaper Archive in the hope of finding ancestors from my family tree mentioned in articles or advertisements.
I can report that I have had some brilliant luck with some and no luck at all with others. I also have noticed that you have to deploy a lateral thought process to the search for a name mentioned in an article as an ancestor may have been named in full, or with initials or been misspelt by the journalist writing the piece.
Many results are clear and you can decide to save them by bookmarking them on the site. Some selections are, however, not so clear. The tip I would give you is to try and read the snippets, next to the results, with an open mind. On quite a few occasions my brain could make sense of the Gobbledygook that the optical character recognition OCR reports back for that article and recognised family names or places that otherwise would be disregarded as meaningless characters.
At Cuttlehill Farm, Cross?ates. wit I I 12th ir.st., Helen Carmichael, wire of JoÂ»B| I jL C. Foord...
becomes: At Cuttlehill Farm, Crossgates. On the 12th instance, Helen Carmichael, wife of John I L C Foord…
And now on to my discovery. I have, for some time, known of a 2x great-uncle that had been killed from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney and buried back on the English mainland near Weymouth. I had first come across this fact in a privately published book on the monumental inscriptions of a church in Cheltenham. In Christ Church Cheltenham there is a monument on the wall to his parents and at some time a local historian had written not only about the people commemorated by these plaques but also about their family.
As I am resident in Jersey I was intrigued to find that there was a family connection to the more northerly Channel Island and yet I had found nothing to explain how one of my ancestors had met his demise there. A few minutes on The British Newspaper Archive has solved this for me and I am now investigating this further.
To take a look at this great new resource for family historians go to: