Add colour to family history facts to make ancestors lives interesting

 

Census 1861

I was at a function recently and on my table was an enthusiastic family historian who had been tracing his family tree for many years. Next to him was the inevitable sceptic who tried to put us both in our place by saying just how boring she thought “gathering a load of names and dates was”. I didn’t enquire what her hobby was, or even if she had one at all.

I did surprised her, however, by agreeing and saying that one of my mantras that I repeat often in my contributions to the Family History Researcher Academy course is to find out about the lives, work, environment and social conditions that existed at the time that your forebears were alive.

If you have discovered, from a search of the census, that your Great Aunt Jane was in service in a large house then I would make an effort to go and visit the below stairs of a similar property. There are quite a few National Trust houses that meet the bill. On a visit to Erdigg in North Wales, this was exactly what I did. There the upstairs and downstairs were beautifully presented to give a feel for what life was like for our ancestors living in both levels of society.

Erdigg

As a worked example of what I teach, let’s consider my ancestor Henry Thomas Thorne. From the census of 1861, accessed on TheGenealogist  I am able to discover him working in the Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth where he is employed as a rope-maker at H.M.Dockyard.

1861 Portsmouth census

 

This weekend I had the chance to visit Portsmouth and not only go to the church where he married, but also to tour the Historic Dockyard and see an exhibit explaining how men like my 2x great-grandfather and his colleagues created the cordage that the Royal Navy of the time required for its ships.

I had previously obtained a copy of my ancestors’ wedding certificate from the GRO, having found their details in the Births, Marriages and Death Indexes that are available on various websites.

St Mary's Portsea

On this visit to Portsmouth I could now walk in the footsteps of my forebears on their wedding day the 5th February 1859 at St Mary’s, Portsea Island.HMS Warrior 1860

I could go on board H.M.S. Warrior, an actual warship from the time period (1860) and see how the cordage that he made was used on this ironclad steam and sail man-of-war.

Coiled rope

And I could see the tools that Henry would have used everyday, in the exhibition piece there.

Ropemaking

This story of my weekend excursion illustrates how I use the information that I discover in the records as a springboard to go on and find social history museums, or even the actual places that my ancestors would have gone to, and so build my family’s story.

If you haven’t moved past the gathering of names and dates stage in your family tree research, then I urge you to start doing so now.

 

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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TheGenealogist releases online 60,000 railway worker records.

 

I’ve been playing with a new set of occupational records this week after I received the following Press Release from the team over at TheGenealogist website. Many of the entries are fascinating for those researchers that have railway staff ancestors. Here is what TheGenealogist has to say…

TheGenealogist releases 60,000 railway worker records.

  • More than 60,000 railway workers have been added to the Occupational Records on TheGenealogist

  • Find details of railway ancestors, where they were employed and what they did

  • Trace your railway worker ancestor’s careers through their promotions

  • Discover when they retired

  • Read obituaries

The Genealogist has added over 60,000 rail workers to its online indexes of Railway Employment Records. Taken from Railway Company Staff magazines these records are useful to family historians with railway employee ancestors, wanting to find important occupation related dates and add some social history to their family tree. These records include such details as staff changes, promotions, pension records, retirements and obituaries. Often additional personal information is revealed in the magazines. In some cases you can read about gifts from co-workers given when rail staff leave.

Search TheGenealogist for Railway WorkersFor example, we can discover that Mr A.N.Train had been a Station Master at Whitdale and Sigglesthorne, stations that today are converted into private houses sitting as they do on lines closed under Beeching’s cuts in the 1960s. The railwayman’s details have been extracted from his obituary in the British Railways Magazine of November 1949 Vol 2 No 11. We can learn such useful details as his retirement date, as well as the date that Mr Train passed away at the age of 79.

One click takes us to an image of the original page on which the record is based.

Railway Staff Magazines on TheGenealogist

There is also a great article on their website where you can also do a search for your railway ancestors:

http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/featuredarticles/2015/off-the-rails-242/

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Happy St David’s Day to my Welsh friends

 

Welsh Flag

 

A Happy St David’s day to all my Welsh friends and readers of this blog.

While many of the records for doing Welsh family history are the same as those for neighbouring England, there are some differences when it comes to researching in Wales, or Cymru as it is known in its own language.

For those of us used to finding our family records in the County Record Offices in England will discover that much is the same in Wales. Researchers will find that records of registration of births, deaths and marriages are exactly the same in Wales as in England, and that the Registrar General’s indexes cover both England and Wales.

The census is the same, except for an extra question from 1891 when all those aged 3 and over were asked whether they spoke English only, Welsh only, or both languages.

Anglican parish records are the same as those for England, and are kept in local authority archives in the same way.

Some of the differences, however, that can cause us to stumble are Common names, the favouring of Patronymics, the Welsh language, and that many families were not members of the Established Church.

Nonconformity, being more important in Wales than in some parts of England, may mean that you find that your ancestors didn’t go to the local parish church. In many chapels the language used was Welsh, and some of the records may also be in Welsh.

Because the country has its own language English speakers may find the place names to be unfamiliar to them.

Another difference, from the English system, is that in England the County Record Offices are (in most cases) the diocesan record offices and therefore hold all the records of the diocese, such as Wills, bishop’s transcripts and marriage bonds and licences, as well as parish records. In Wales, the National Library of Wales is the diocesan record office for the whole of Wales, and therefore holds all the bishop’s transcripts, marriage bonds and licences, and Wills proved in Welsh church courts.

The National Library of Wales or Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru is very important for our research as it acts as the main repository for family history research in Wales holding a vast number of records useful to the family historian – census returns, probate records, nonconformist records and tithe maps, to name but a few, will help at some point during research.

Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources to use to find elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Family History Researcher English/Welsh course

 

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Found an Met Police Officer Outside London in Your Family Tree?

 

MetPoliceHeritage2

I had identified in the Indexes, to Births Marriages and Deaths for 1919, an entry in Devonport, Devon, for the birth of twins.

The problem was that the family were from London and, as I blogged last week, the head of the family was a Metropolitan Policeman. I had found from the The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre the stations to which he had been attached and it would seem he had a continuous service until illness forced his retirement in 1928.

A quite big question had worried me about why these children would have been born in the West Country to a couple, only married a year before in London. From my research I had discovered that the father was attached to Marylebone and then Clapham districts; but nothing had been said of any other service in the First World War.

As most of us know in England there is not a national police force. The County and Borough Police Act was passed in 1856 which made policing compulsory throughout England and Wales and made provision for H.M. Treasury to give assistance to local authorities to establish territorial police forces. By 1900, the number of police in England, Wales and Scotland totalled 46,800 working in 243 separate forces.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_law_enforcement_in_the_United_Kingdom#cite_note-UKPMet-6

 
Many amalgamations of police forces have taken place since then and today policing of England & Wales is mostly run on County lines. Scotland, has in 2013, merged all 8 territorial forces into a single service called Police Scotland, but England has not. The Met, I had always assumed, was only a London force and Devon had its own Police.

At this time (1919) Plymouth was policed by the Plymouth Borough Police force, as I found from a history on the Devon & Cornwall Police website
http://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/AboutUs/Pages/Ourhistory.aspx

“In the 1850s, the Devon County Constabulary and Cornwall County Constabulary were formed, bringing a new professionalism to the policing of the peninsula. These constabularies, along with the Exeter City Police and the Plymouth Borough Police, finally came to together following a series of mergers, which resulted in the formation of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in 1967.”

This birth of twins, to my Met Police Constable and his wife, was in World War I and so I wondered if war service may have accounted for the move of the family. Devonport was a large Royal Navy port in the City of Plymouth, County of Devon and I thought that, perhaps, the Constable had left the Police and joined the navy. Now it seems that he served his country, in the war, by staying in the Police force.

The resulting birth certificates, for the twins, confirmed that I had the right couple and the occupation of the father is given as: “Metropolitan Police Constable of 14a Auckland Road, Devonport.”

So that raised the question of what was a London policeman doing in Devon, in WWI?

The simple answer to this question came from the Friends of the Metropolitan Police website http://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/met-police-family-history.html

“The Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the policing of the Royal Dockyards and other military establishments, Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich from 1860 until 1934, and Rosyth in Scotland from 1914 until 1926.”

Today, the responsibility on forces bases is with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Police; but back then it was with the Metropolitan Police. So this Met Police Officer was enforcing the law at the Royal Navy Dockyard at Plymouth, when his twins were born.

As a general rule a British “Bobbie” is unarmed, even today. True we have Firearms Officers, who attend incidents where weapons are used, and we have police officers on guard at airports, military establishments and the like who carry guns, but the unarmed civilian policeman is part of British psyche. We refer to this as “Policing with the consent of the public.”

From some reading I have done, however, I have discovered that all Met Policeman of the Dockyard divisions were in fact armed. It is most likely that this P.C. carried a .455 calibre Webley & Scott self-loading pistol Mark I Navy. The dockyard police being normally issued with what ever the current side arm of the Royal Navy was at the time, rather than what the Met used on odd occasions in London.
http://www.pfoa.co.uk/uploads/asset_file/The%20Met%27s%20Dockyard%20Divisions%20v3.pdf

The thing about family history is that, along with many others, I find I am continuously learning. No matter how much I think I know I am always reminded that we are all advanced beginners. There is always more to learn!

 

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Got a Met Policeman in your Family Tree?

MetPoliceHeritage

This week I was asked to look into a family tree for someone whose family tree had found its roots back to London around the 1900s.

Finding the right person in the birth marriages and death (BMD) indexes had been a little difficult, as the date of birth was a few years out.

Notwithstanding, when the certificate arrived from the General Register Office we were able to see that the father of the child was listed a Police Constable.

As his address was in London we had a choice of two main police forces as his employer, the City of London, or the Metropolitan Police.  Taking a guess that it would be the latter, I went in search of what records there may be for Met Policemen and came across the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre’s website at: http://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/met-police-heritage-centre.html

From a link on its home page I ended up on the Family History which in turn gave me a link to a Search Sheet with this filled in with the scant information that I had about my Police Constable, I fired it off by email and waited for a reply.

From what I read on their site The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre research material consists of:-

  • Central Records of Service from 1911.
  • 54.000 name database from 1829 of which is updated regularly.
  • Pension cards for pensioners who have died
  • Police Orders from 1857
  • Joiners and Leavers Records.  (copies from National Archive)
  • Divisional Ledgers. (consisting of  collar Numbers, previous occupation and armed forces service) for certain periods of time for A,B,E,F,G,H,K,L,M,N,R and Y Divisions.
  • Subject and People files.
  • Photographs –  in the process of being scanned to Hi-Res from a vast collection

It was within a couple of days that I had my reply!

I got the man’s warrant number, his dates of service, that he had joined the Marylebone Division before moving south of the river to the Clapham Division and the various collar numbers that he had held.

Now that surprised me, as I had never really thought about the fact that a copper’s number would change as he moved station, but it does stand to reason.

Other information they could give me was that he retired from ill health, together with the illness and the pension that he got plus a card from an index that recorded his death in Eastbourne in 1969.

The ever helpful people at The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre advised me that Metropolitan Police officers pension records are held at The National Archives and gave me the index numbers that I will need to investigate this man further.

So if you have a Met Police Officer in your family tree, then it is well worth contacting the heritage centre. It is currently free to request information, but they do encourage donations.

 

 

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