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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And I could see the tools that Henry would have used everyday, in the exhibition piece there.
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.
One of the largest family history shows in the UK is this Saturday the 27th June 2015 in York and I’m going, are you?
I’m going to be at the York Family History Show this weekend. With exhibitors coming from all over the UK and Ireland, the organisers tell us that this is probably the largest event of its kind in England. Certainly worth going to if you are in the area on Saturday the 27th June as many family history societies and companies attend each year and there is also lots of local history from the York area to experience as well.
You don’t have to have Yorkshire Ancestors to come to this fair – your forebears can be from anywhere at all, so why not pop along! Everyone is very welcome, say the organisers and there is lots to see.
Held at The Knavesmire Exhibition Centre at The Racecourse in York there is plenty of parking. Refreshments are available all day and there are over 70 exhibitors on three floors. With several lifts to take you to the upper levels, the whole place is wheelchair friendly.
This event is organised by family historians for family historians and will be their 20th year in York with the event becoming more popular each time it is held.
Do you really know who you are? Come and find out – you may be surprised!
Saturday 27th June 2015 between 10am to 4.30pm
The Knavesmire Exhibition Centre, The Racecourse, York, YO23 1EX
Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links.
This Press Release has come from the team at TheGenealogist.
Like so many, I love maps so this is really exciting news!
Detailed Town and Parish Maps go online for the first time
TheGenealogist has added maps to its comprehensive National Tithe Records collection.
All aspects of society were captured by this survey
Identify the land your ancestors owned or occupied in the 19th century
Get an idea of their working lives by the usage made of the plots by your forebears.
Fully linked tithe maps for Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire with other counties to follow shortly
Geographically placing where your ancestors worked and lived
In partnership with TNA, TheGenealogist is making it possible to search over 11,000,000 records from across England and Wales and to view theses valuable original apportionment documents with linked maps on one website.
It’s always been a challenge to find where our ancestors lived, but now these records can help you explore the fields and houses in their home villages and towns. Never before have family historians been able search nationwide for these ancestral maps. We plan to have complete coverage in the next few months.
Tithe maps allow you to pinpoint your ancestors from our records. They show the boundaries of fields, woods, roads, rivers and the location and shape of buildings. The detail recorded within the maps and apportionment records will show you how much land they owned or occupied, where exactly in the parish it was, what the land was used for and how much tithe rent there was to pay.
The Tithe Commissioners maps are now housed in The National Archives (TNA). Due to their age and the materials used the original maps are often too fragile to handle. These were microfilmed in 1982 and some of the maps have deteriorated over the last 30 years. The first stage of the project is the release of these as online images.
There are over 12,000 main maps plus thousands of update maps as the boundaries of fields changed over time.
The second stage will be the delicate conservation and digitisation of the original colour maps.
“Tithe records are a rich resource for family historians as they cover owners and occupiers of land from all strata of early Victorian society.
These maps can be three to four meters in length by several meters in width and have gone through a multiple levels of digitisation and processing so that the huge maps can load instantly, even on a mobile phone.This fantastic resource was created in the period from 1837 to the early 1850s as a result of one of the largest surveys into the usage, ownership and occupation of land in England and Wales since the Domesday book.”
Mark Bayley – Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist
Diamond subscribers to TheGenealogist are able to view apportionment records for all of England & Wales, with the accompanying maps now being live for Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire. The maps for the rest of England and Wales will follow over the coming months.
New avenues of research are opened up by the latest release of unique Great War records.
During the First World War many servicemen were reported as ‘Missing’ or ‘Killed in Action’ and for the first time you can now search a comprehensive list of these online. Usefully this includes the changing status of soldiers as the facts became clearer over time, as many assumed dead were found alive and those reported missing had their status updated.
This new release from TheGenealogist contains over 800,000 records. Included are 575,000 Killed in Action records, over 226,000 unique Missing-in-Action records and 14,000 Status Updates.
Over 100,000 people previously reported as missing had further status updates:
59,500 were later reported as killed
47,400 were later reported as PoW
2,000 were later reported as rejoined
4,200 were later reported as “not missing”
8,400 were later reported as wounded
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments:
“The telegrams and published lists of Dead and Missing must have had a huge impact on the lives of our ancestors. These records give an insight into what must have been an emotional roller coaster. They also give new avenues of research into what some researchers may have assumed were dead ends.”
These are now available to Diamond subscribers of TheGenealogist.
Example 1 Thought to be dead
Some people initially reported to be dead may turn out to be alive, the change in status is usually reported in the War Lists. If it had been assumed that an ancestor was dead, from the initial report, it could reopen a closed off branch of a family tree for further research.
An example of this type of positive record status change is Flight Sub Lieutenant Trechmann who was first reported as “Died As A Prisoner” in the Daily Lists of 6th June 1917.
By the end of July 1917 his status changed to Previously Reported Died As A Prisoner, Now Reported Alive and Still a Prisoner.
Finally, in December 1918, his records show that he was Repatriated.
Example 2 Thought to be wounded A different illustration, on many levels, is that of the 5th Earl of Longford. Within the Daily Casualty List on TheGenealogist for the 6th September 1915, we can find Lord Longford who had previously been reported as “Wounded”.
His status was then changed to be “Now Reported Wounded and Missing” and this alteration appeared in the daily list of the 27th September 1915:
During the First World War, Brigadier-General Lord Longford was in command of a division sent from their base in Egypt to Suvla on the Gallipoli peninsula as reinforcements during the Battle of Sari Bair.
The initial attack by other Divisions on Scimitar Hill had failed. With his men waiting in reserve, the 5th Earl and his troops were then ordered to advance in the open across a dry salt lake. Under fire, most of the brigades had taken shelter, but Lord Longford led his men in a charge to capture the summit of Scimitar Hill. Unfortunately, during the advance, he was killed.
Earl Longford’s body was never recovered and so, in the confusion of war, he was first recorded as “Wounded”, and then “Wounded and Missing”. Eventually, in 1916, he would be assumed to be dead.
Posterity tells us that the peer’s last words were recorded as: “Don’t bother ducking, the men don’t like it and it doesn’t do any good”.
These knowledgeable interviewees include practising professional genealogists, with years and years of experience to offer.
Yet others are from the very highest levels of the online data provider companies, like Ancestry and TheGenealogist.
Listen to the download and learn some plain tips that will simplify the often confusing business of researching English/Welsh ancestors. I am going to give you access to these eight professionals so that you can use their advice to break down several brick walls that you may have.
3. The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) Member. What would the advice be from a professional genealogist practitioner?
Well as many serious professional genealogists belong to this association, I headed over to the AGRA stand and asked a member for his research tips. Points he brought up included the information on documents being only as good as that given by the informant and what to do about conflicting data. There is more to hear in the full interview that you can download here .
4. Families in British India Society (FIBIS) Expert. In family history we often have to think a bit outside the box. Well have you considered that your missing ancestor had moved abroad? With 3 million Brits having gone out to India then if we have a missing forbear it could certainly pay us to take a look at the records from this part of the British Empire. Its not just soldiers, the list of people who went out to work there is long as we hear from this FIBIS expert.
5. Celia Heritage – Professional Genealogist, Author and Family History Teacher introduces us to an often under used set of resources in her piece: Death Records. She explains how to use these records to flesh out the bones of our ancestors lives.
Celia is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker and you can just hear the passion that she has for her subject as she dispenses some gems of advice in the free downloadable audio presentation. Its not just death certificates that Celia brings to our attention in this part of the recording!
6. Dr Ian Galbraith – The National Wills Index explains about one of the best single major sources for family historians when I asked him to talk about Wills and Administrations for this audio.
Ian explains why wills can be an important resource with an average of 10 names per will and with half of them being different from that of the testator. Many people are surprised by the fact that all sorts of people left wills, but you won’t be when you have heard the full interview.
7. Brad Argent – Content Director for Ancestry advises family historians to drill down for the information in the online databases in his contribution to the recording. Brad suggests we use the card catalogue to seek out data sets and then use the advance search facility of “exact”, “soundex” and “wildcards” when we are on this large data provider’s site. His advice is compelling.
8. Mark Bayley – Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, a site that gives really fantastic value and a very wide range of data, introduces us to a great name-rich resource recently published by TheGenealogist, in association with The National Archives.
What is this important resource for England and Wales?
It is, of course, the Tithe collection.
I have been using this set recently to great effect with my own rural ancestors and so I have included a module in my Family History Researcher Guides about the tithes.
The beauty of this data is that it includes both sides of society, with landowners and tenants being recorded and giving names and addresses. As a pre-census data set it is hugely valuable to us! Listen to Mark explain about these exciting records in the free recording you can download now by clicking the link below.
Now you may be asking why I am doing this for free?
Its because I want to introduce you to a set of guides that I have put together. A series of pdf modules that takes the information I gleaned at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and incorporated it, along with much more content into a year’s worth of weekly written guides.
There are extra contributions from various other professional experts who have penned some of the reports, as well as those modules written from my own extensive experience.
I am guessing that, if you have read this far, you are interested in English/Welsh family history and that you have hit at least one of the inevitable brick walls. The solution is to understand more ways to find your ancestors.
So if you would like to dramatically increase your knowledge then I think you will enjoy being a member of my Family History Researcher Guides. This is a 52 weekly series of guides written in an easily accessible form and you can take a two week trial for just £1 by going here:
I was passing by a village war memorial this week, still resplendent with its poppy wreaths from theÂ remembrance day service. I took to wondering about who these named individuals, carved in stone, were and what their lives had been before they went off to fight and die for their country.
So it is sort of apt that I just got this in from TheGenealogist. It deals with the National Union of Teacher’ War Records, giving some insight into one set of professionals who answered the call to go to war.
The Diamond subscription on TheGenealogist now has over 18,000 new records to access from the â€˜National Union of Teachersâ€™ War Records from 1914 to 1919. These records include a list of teachers who joined the forces, those who received honours, and also those who were sadly killed, plus other information relating to the National Union of Teachers during the war.
Covering all N.U.T. members who served in the war and also discussing issues of the time, such as pensions, salary levels of teachers who joined the army and fund raising for relief in Europe.
The records are a comprehensive list of members of the National Union of Teachers who served in the Great War. The teaching profession and its members responded to the great nationwide pressure to â€˜do their bitâ€™, with most male teachers of service age answering the call to arms.
The â€˜National Union of Teachersâ€™ had a number of courageous medal recipients amongst its members. Listed here is 2nd Lieutenant Jack Harrison of the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was killed in May 1917 in Oppy Wood, France aged 27. After having earlier won the Military Cross for bravery, he was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for single-handedly attacking a German machine gun post to protect his platoon. His body was never found.
He taught at Lime Street Council School in Hull and also played rugby league for Hull FC as a prolific try scorer. He is listed among the â€˜Gallant War Deadâ€™ in the records along with the name of his school.
The records provide an interesting insight into how a specific profession and its union coped with the events of The Great War. Taken from the National Union of Teachers War Records 1914 to 1919 publication, the records can be found in the War Service Lists in the Military Records section on TheGenealogist.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: â€œThe war affected so many lives, but it can often be hard to trace records for those who survived. This is why TheGenealogist is committed to providing more unique records of those who survived, whether they are casualty lists, prisoners of war, or in this case full service lists for specific professions. We are aiming to continually add more of these specialist records to provide family historians with more unique data at their fingertips.â€
This week the family history website Genes Reunited: www.GenesReunited.co.uk have added some interesting new and innovative features to their website.
One that has particularly interested me is what they term a Keepsafe. It’s purpose is for digitally storing all of your family records, photos and memories and Relation Profiles, where you can view and edit details about each individual in your tree. This latest addition comes after genesreunited.co.uk recently refreshed its appearance with a new, and easy to navigate redesign.
The Keepsafe, they tell us, is a unique and organised way for us to collate our family history and is a place for their members to safely store and share documents, from photos and certificates to maps and letters. Being made available to all levels of membership at www.GenesReunited.co.uk, whoâ€™ll be given the option to open their images to the public, keep them private or to share them with other members, their family and their friends. Theyâ€™ll even be able to share their Keepsafe on facebook. At launch today there are over 2.7 million private images already uploaded to Keepsafe.
Relation Profiles are automatically created for each relation Genes Reunited members add to their family trees. It includes a clear timeline, notes section and immediate family tree. Thereâ€™s also a section that prompts their members on what they can do next to take their research on to the next stage. Users are able to edit the details and then these changes will be reflected in their tree on the site. It is possible to also view any photos or records that are attached to the person too. Genesreunited allows members to print out the profile, so they can share their discoveries with their families.
The Genes Reunited site automatically creates â€˜Hot Matchesâ€™ where members who have the same relations in their family tree are matched with each other. It is said that many of their members have collected rich data on their relatives and having the option to share this with other members can be very beneficial to their research. At launch there will be over 260 million profiles already created, thatâ€™s equivalent to over 4 records for every man, woman and child in the UK .
Rhoda Breakell, Head of Genes Reunited, comments: â€œImagine being able to find out more information about your ancestors than you could have ever hoped for. Stories, timelines and more besidesâ€¦.Relation Profiles are a place where our members can store all of this information and then share it with each other. Who knows what anecdotes someone else might have written about your ancestors?â€
If you are having problems researching your family tree then maybe you can learn something from my experience here. I had got nowhere with this ancestor’s birth, marriage or death – on or off-line – then a chance visit to a Family History Website and an hour or two looking at the transcripts and a brick wall in my family history research came tumbling down! This, together with thinking of spelling variations of names, opened up a new line to me.
My paternal line in Dartmouth, Devon, UK has always been a bit frustrating once the census records ran out in 1841. This being the earliest English census on-line after which I had to start looking at parish records. I had worked out that my three times great-grandfather was called John Thorn and from the information given in the census collections I knew that he had been born in about 1795 and his wife, Elizabeth, in about 1798.
As a member of The Society of Genealogists in Goswell Road, London EC1. I knew that they’ve the largest collection of Parish Records in the country on microfiche. They’ve also got some transcripts of parish registers in the library.
Unfortunately Dartmouth parish records were not microfilmed, but a selection of Devon Family History Society booklets of the marriages of some of the churches in the town, including St. Saviour’s, were available. Scanning one book for any likely ancestors I noted down that on 13 April 1817 a John Thorn married an Elizabeth Sissell. With this tentative lead, I hit the Internet. I was looking for any evidence that this was the marriage of my ancestors. I opened the Dartmouth-history.org.uk website of The Dartmouth Archives and found that this voluntary organisation had a very comprehensive family history section with transcribed baptisms, burials, marriages and census records. I could read the very same details, as I had seen in London, on this niche site. The information began in 1586 and ran to 1850! There was the marriage of John to Elizabeth and this time I noticed that the witness were given as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell. I assumed that this last person was a member of the bride’s family and perhaps was her father, but the name Sunass caused me concern as it didn’t seem very likely and I guessed it couldn’t be read properly by the transcriber.
After doing family history for a few years now, I’m aware that names can be transcribed incorrectly. Perhaps written down as the transcriber had seen them (as best practice dictates) and not changed to conveniently fit in with what is consider to be correct. I wondered if both the first name and the second had not been written down by the person in question, as they may well have been illiterate. When you come to do your own research you should bear in mind this point. The minister may have interpreted the name as he had heard it spoken to him and so in this case “Sissell” could possibly been “Cecil” or something entirely different. As for Sunass – at this point I hadn’t got a clue what that could have been!
There were no early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth on the Dartmouth Archives website, but I opened another browser and navigated to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch.org and here I did a search for Elizabeth’s christening and was lead to a baptism in one of the other churches in Dartmouth, St Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. The daughter of James and Sarah Sissill was one Elizabeth Gardener Sissill – and here I noted that the spelling had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e”. This record made me wonder if the witness to Elizabeth’s marriage could have been her father “James” and this has been interpreted as “Sunnas” because a flowing “J” for James had looked like an “S” and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”.
So what I am emphasising here is to be wary of names and the way they were spelt. Before more general levels of literacy among the public became the norm, our ancestors relied heavily on a clergyman writing down their names as they sounded.
This breakthrough is down to finding that Dartmouth has an active family history website and then using their indexes in conjunction with other Internet resources, such as the LDS site. I could then take the names and details further by looking for death certificates for John Branton Thorn and his wife Elizabeth Gardener Thorn, as they had died after civil registration of deaths took place in 1837. From here a physical visit to the Devon Record Office to see the parish records may be the next step.
The first lesson is that you should always look to see what other research may have been done, for the area your ancestors came from, and that is published on the Internet. If you find a family history society, or local interest group with a website, can any of their publications or website pages help you with your quest? Secondly, be aware of the misspelling of names and keep your mind open to possibilities. In my case I need to think of other spellings for the Sissells or names that may have sounded like Sissell in order that I may trace this line back further and break down the brick wall.