New Passenger lists now online with unique search facilities

Departure of the RMS Campania from Liverpool

RMS Campania, one of the ships included in the passenger lists.

This is an interesting press release from TheGenealogist

TheGenealogist has just released five million Emigration BT27 records as part of their growing immigration and emigration record set. Uniquely TheGenealogist allows you to track transmigration of people across countries routing through British ports on their way to America. TheGenealogist is the only website with the facility to discover families travelling together on the same voyage using our SmartSearch technology.

The new records contain the historical records of passengers who departed by sea from Britain in the years between 1896 and 1909. These new records significantly boosts the already strong Immigration, Emigration, Naturalisation and passenger list resources on TheGenealogist.

TheGenealogist has further revealed that these records will be shortly followed by the release of many more unique migration records.

The searchable records released today will allow researchers to

  • Find people using British shipping lines and travelling to places such as America, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia in the Passenger lists of people leaving from, or passing through the United Kingdom, by sea which were kept by the Board of Trade’s Commercial and Statistical Department and its successors.

  • The Homestead Act of 1862 in America gave free land to settlers who developed it for at least five years, and became a particular magnet for Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes, who arrived in their millions. To reach America, it was necessary to travel initially to England in order to then board one of the large transatlantic passenger ships and this preliminary journey has been recorded for many transmigrant passengers within the BT27 records. For the first time these can be easily found using the unique transmigration button.

  • SmartSearch identifies potential family members travelling together. When our system recognises groups of people on the same voyage as a potential family it displays a family icon. This then allows you to easily view the family.Family SmartSearch

  • These fully indexed records enable family historians to search by name, port of embarkation, port of destination, country of departure, country arrival and nationality.

This release adds to TheGenealogist’s Immigration and Emigration records that already include the useful Naturalisation and Denization records.

Those with ancestors who travelled out of Britain will welcome this fascinating new release from TheGenealogist that reveal the details of the coming and going of passengers and is a precursor of a set of unique records joining the collection shortly.

Nigel Bayley, MD of TheGenealogist said: “We intend to make researching migrating ancestors easier with our new smarter interfaces and adding more records covering a growing range of countries.”

An example from the passenger list records:

Within the passenger lists, on TheGenealogist, we can find the passage of the Dunottar Castle from Southampton to Cape Town in South Africa on the 14th October 1899. One of the passengers was the young Winston Churchill who, at that time, was a member of the Press and was going out to report on the start of the Second Boer War.

Two days before his ship’s departure the war had broken out between Britain and the Boer Republic. At the news of this conflict Mr Churchill had obtained a commission to act as a war correspondent for The Morning Post newspaper. In return he was to be paid £250 a month for his services.

After spending a number of weeks in the Colony he managed to get himself onto an armoured train, loaded with British soldiers, performing a reconnoitre between Frere and Chieveley in the British Natal Colony during November 1899. A Boer commando force, however, had placed a big boulder on the track and the train crashed into it. The Boers, having succeeded in stopping the train, then opened up with their field guns and rifle fire from a vantage position.

After a fight a number of the British were taken prisoner, but the locomotive, decoupled from the carriages and ladened with men, managed to escape. Churchill, unfortunately for him, was not one of those on-board the loco. Without his sidearm, which he had left on the train, he had no option but to surrender to the Boers. Churchill was then imprisoned in a POW camp in Pretoria. After being held captive for about four weeks Churchill escaped on the evening of 12th December 1899. He did this by vaulting over the wall to the neighbouring property and taking flight.

Chuchill in Passenger Lists on TheGenealogist

If we look at Churchill’s travelling companions on the ship out to Cape Town, scheduled to take 65 days, we can see that he was sailing with a mixture of merchants, a jeweller, an actor, a Peer of the Realm (Lord Gerard), an optician and a couple of lawyers. The Hon A. Campbell was also listed, he was another member of the press corps who had made it on to that particular Castle Line sailing to the war zone with Churchill.

I like the unique search facilities for these records which makes this release fascinating.

Take a look at TheGenealogist now.

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Aristos and Family history

Siberechts-Longleat HouseHave you caught the TV series about Longleat House and the Thynn family on the BBC? Its called All Change at Longleat and had me gripped as we witnessed the tensions that revolve around the eccentric Marquess of Bath and his son and daughter-in-law who have taken over the running of the house and estate.

Lord Bath, we discover, has handed over the control of the £190 million estate to his son, Ceawlin, but the handover isn’t going smoothly. Ceawlin, whose title is Lord Weymouth but only uses this on formal occasions, prefers to be known by his first name. With such an uncommon name as this I am sure that he is never mistaken for one of the members of the lower echelons of society.

In the first programme in the series we find out that Ceawlin has upset his father by removing some of the murals painted by the latter in the apartments where they had all lived once lived and the pair are no longer on speaking terms. In the village on the estate, there’s further unrest after Ceawlin puts up the villagers’ rents.

Meanwhile, Ceawlin’s glamorous wife Emma is settling into life at Longleat as Lady Weymouth.

In the safari park, the animal keepers wonder how Ceawlin will compare to his father. Lord Bath is still a flamboyant, controversial figure and the village fair allows the viewer to witness the awkwardness of  a meeting between the son and his father. Although now in retirement, the Marquess continues to enjoy a famously open marriage. Various ‘wifelets’ still visit when his wife is away.

46 Longleat house (70)

For me the most telling part was when Ceawlin was asked whether his childhood was a happy one, growing up at Longleat. There was quite a pause as he considered what his answer should be, then he tellingly said “Happy bits and not so happy bits.” Another pause and “it was what it was.”

He admitted that as a child he would definitely have preferred to have lived in a cottage in the village like most of his friends did. We heard how, in his teenage years, members of the public traipsed not just through the main house but also through the private apartment where he lived.

For those of us from a less privileged background, who may have occasionally dreamed of life in the upper classes, then this insight into one such family may make us realise that the grass is definitely never greener on the the other side of the hill.

 

Many more of us than we think may be descended from aristocratic ancestors. Be it from junior lines that have fallen away from the main family, to those who are fruits of liaisons between an aristocrat and another.

If you want to explore this fascinating part of family history research then Pen and Sword books have published Anthony Adolph’s book: Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors.

Tracing Your Aristocratic AncestorsClick this link to read more:

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Aristocratic-Ancestors/p/3827?aid=1101

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Family History records for Portsea Island workhouse ancestors

 

Portsmouth Library and History Centre

Last week I was in Portsmouth and took advantage of an opportunity to pop into The Portsmouth History Centre which is on the second floor of the Portsmouth Central Library near the Guildhall.

It comprises of the City Records Office Archive as well as holding the library resources on Portsmouth family, local and naval history plus the Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens collections.

My interest was in the Portsea Workhouse, an institution in which my 3 x great-grandmother, Martha Malser, had died as an inmate in February 1870 aged 70. While the History Centre have the workhouse Creed registers from 1879 to 1953, which served as admission registers, the earlier records have very sadly not survived. This being the case meant I was unable to do any personal family history research this time.

Portsea Workhouse
© Copyright Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

I was, however, able to call up the Board of Guardians minute books for the time that my ancestor was living under their care in her old age. While not giving me any direct references to Martha it was an extremely interesting bit of research as it gave me a flavour of the organisation and an insight into its operation. For others, this could be a goldmine of family information.

These Board of Guardians minute books are a very name rich set of documents for those with ancestors who were officials, or who worked for the workhouse. Names were also recorded for suppliers to the institution of food, clothing, coal etc. This could be another opportunity for some researchers to find their family members mentioned, although often the supplier was simply noted by his surname alone. So you may see Jones £2 3s 6d, or Smith £0 4s 8d.

 

I read about the appointments made for named schoolmasters, matrons and various other officials to the workhouse. The records detail the taking of references for these people and the salaries that the Union would pay the successful candidates.

There was an interesting entry where the Board set out the duties they expected of the new clergyman. The number of days he was required to attend to the inmates spiritual needs, inside the workhouse, and the Eucharist services that he should provide for the workhouse inmates on the Sabbath.

Perhaps the most useful information for family historians, contained within these Board of Guardians minute books, was the records of people receiving “out relief”. Those who had become sick and were able to get some parish relief while not having to enter the workhouse. If your ancestor had fallen on hard times then these entries would give you both a surname and a first name, a place, the amount of out relief and also the reason for receiving the payment.

Most of the sicknesses that I read were general, such as “confinement”. I did read of some injuries such as back and leg, which would be expected of working men and women, though I did note one case of syphilis! Presumably this person was considered to be worthy of the care of the parish, so perhaps they were innocently infected with the disease.

To read more about the workhouse I recommend Peter Higginbotham’s site:
http://www.workhouses.org.uk/

There are also some modules on the workhouses and the Poor laws within the Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh Family History See the special Trial Offer running currently by clicking this link: http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/trialoffer.

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Jewish Seatholders go online

 

I got this piece from TheGenealogist this week.

Seems like a great resource for anyone with Jewish ancestors from London.

 

TheGenealogist has released online 99,500 records of London synagogue seat-holders spanning the years from 1920 to 1939.

Covering the records from 18 Synagogues around London with many connected guilds, societies and charities etc.
Additional information found in these records include names of gentlemen eligible for office, life member of the council, women who are seatholders in their own right and seatholders who are not eligible to vote.
Fully searchable by name, keyword, synagogue and address, the Jewish Synagogue Seatholders has been extracted from various years of: “Seatholders for Synagogues in London”

Those with Jewish ancestors from London will welcome this fascinating new release from TheGenealogist. Revealing details of positions held by forebears, researchers will be able to track ancestors who became wardens, council members, or served on committees of their synagogue, as well as seatholders in synagogues from around the capital city. These fully indexed records allow family historians to search by name, keyword, synagogue and address and with one click see an image taken from the pages of Seatholders for Synagogues in London.

The records include some synagogues that are no longer in existence; for example the Great Synagogue that once stood at Duke’s Place and which was destroyed in the Blitz.

Nigel Bayley, MD of TheGenealogist said: “These records will allow you to search for Jewish relatives amongst the London synagogue seatholders, it is now easier than ever to discover any official positions that your jewish ancestor held.”

Here is an example provided by TheGenealogist to illustrate these records:
Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, OBE (25 January 1882 – 28 January 1942) can be found in these records. De Rothschild was an English banker and a Conservative politician who was well known as the creator of Exbury Gardens near the New Forest in Hampshire. He was the eldest of the three sons of Leopold de Rothschild (1845–1917) and Marie née Perugia (1862–1937) and a part of the illustrious Rothschild banking family of England.
On 25 January 1910 he was elected to the House of Commons for the constituency of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire – his grandfather and namesake had been the first practising Jew to be able to take up his seat in Parliament.

Exbury House from wikipediaExbury House from wikipedia

His father, Leopold, died in early 1917 and Lionel and brother Anthony became the managing partners of N M Rothschild & Sons bank. However, Lionel de Rothschild had developed an interest in horticulture at a very young age and is said to have planted his first garden at the age of five. In 1919, he purchased the Mitford estate at Exbury in Hampshire where he devoted a great deal of time and money to transform it into one of the finest gardens in all of England with more than one million plants building Exbury House around an existing structure in a neo-Georgian style. Although he continued to work at the family bank, he is quoted as describing himself as “a banker by hobby — a gardener by profession”. Lionel Nathan de Rothschild died in London, aged sixty, in 1942 and was buried in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery.

Logging into TheGenealogist and selecting Jewish Synagogue Seatholders from the dropdown menu, we enter Lionel as a forename and De Rothschild as the surname. We can filter the results by date. This returns us several positions that De Rothschild held in three different synagogues in London, including the Warden of the Great Synagogue that once stood in Duke’s Place, north of Aldgate, until it was destroyed in the London Blitz. We can also see that he was the President of the United Synagogue in North Finchley.

Lionel de Rothschild United Synagogue

Selecting that record allows us to view the actual image of the page from the Seatholders for Synagogues in London 1920.

United Synagogue image

 

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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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Can you trust this family tree?

Family Tree on a computerI was doing some work on an obscure branch of my family tree this week when I came across a family tree online that included the individual that had married into my family.

Great, I thought, I can quickly get a handle on this person and get some clues as to where he had come from and so on. But casting an eye over the family tree I was disappointed to see that many of the details, such as the dates of birth and death were not backed up with any sources quoted.

For anyone, starting out in researching their family history, an early lesson to learn is that you should never import a family tree that someone else has complied, unless you have checked the details yourself. If the author of the tree does not give you the sources, from where they have obtained the information, then you are not going to be able to check them for yourself and so the best you can do is use the information only as a guide for further research.

Being in an optimistic mood I, nonetheless, jotted down on my scrap pad the names and dates so that I could go and look for them myself. But then it hit me that this family tree had been put together by someone in a haphazard  and slapdash way. A birth was attributed to Essex in Massachusetts, when the subject had been born in the English County of Essex. A marriage to a lady rejoicing in the first name of Thomasine reputedly had taken place in 1800. This was impossible as the subject was not born until 1837.

The problem can occur on websites that give suggestions that may or may not be your ancestor and that happen to have the same or a similar name. It seems that some people accept the suggestions as leads to be further investigated and so the family tree may be seen only as a work in progress. They don’t mean it to be used by anyone else, even though it left as Public in the settings.

This is all well and good except that it causes a mighty pitfall for the person new to family history who, having started their own tree on the site, then imports the details as fact and ends up tracing up a line that is not their forebears at all!

In the case of the tree I was looking at it was blatantly obvious that mistakes were made, but in some others it could not be so clear. If you are new to family history research beware of believing all that is written on the internet!

 

If you are serious about discovering your family history, then spend the winter nights looking for your ancestors in the records.

First you need to know where to look and what tips you need to tease them out.

My Family History Researcher Academy offers a simple to understand course on English/Welsh family history.

I have been sending out weekly tutorials to many satisfied members for some time and this month I had the following from a student who had just completed their 52nd lesson.

“Hi Nick.   Thank you very much for this series. I have learnt such a lot and it has increased my knowledge considerably.     A. Vallis.

Join the now better informed researchers, such as the family historian above.

Try it for yourself with this special offer of one month FREE!

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Walking in Ancestor’s Footprints

 

Paddington Street Marylebone This week I was able to take a day out in London to walk in my ancestor’s footprints.

I have know since the 1861 census went online that one of my Devon forefathers had a spell working up in the capital. In that year he was listed as a married man working as a plasterer at 19 Paddington Street, Marylebone in London.

We all have certain ancestors that fascinate us for one reason or another and one of my favourites is George Colwill the son of William, a hatter who had moved from Tavistock to set up as a grocer in Plymouth.

Having a change of career path, when you can see something more lucrative in front of you, seems to run in this branch of the family as by 1871 George had moved back to Devon with his wife and children and had set up as a Baker in Plymouth.

His new occupation seems to have been influenced by his time in London as at number 19 Paddington Street lived a master baker and a journeyman baker, as well as George and his wife Charlotte. Both the bakers were natives of  the same county as George, Devon. Were they friends? I also wonder if my ancestor quickly mover from mixing plaster to kneading dough while living there?

Being a baker in Plymouth was to make George a very wealthy man!

By the time of his death, in 1915, he left a comfortable amount of money to his daughters –  the equivalent of £2.2 million in economic status value translated into today’s money. Sadly, none of this has come my way!

 

While I was in Marylebone High Street, this week, I took a side trip down Paddington Street and found number 19, where my 2x great-grandparents once lived. Today it is a modern building, as perhaps the previous property was demolished after bomb damage in the war. But the rest of the street still gave me an insight into the ambience of the place in the 19th century. The leafy park opposite the building would have been a church yard in George’s day.

I have to report that I suddenly felt a strong affinity with them, as I walked from the doorway of the former shop and up the road to the busy Marylebone High Street. There I did some window shopping before making my way to the railway station and a train out of London for the provinces.

Have you visited your ancestors street and felt the same?

 

If you are serious about discovering your family history, then why not spend the winter nights looking for your ancestors in the records?

First you need to know where to look and what tips you need to tease them out.

My Family History Researcher Academy offers a simple to understand course on English/Welsh family history.

I have been sending out weekly tutorials to many satisfied members for more than a year now and this week I had the following from someone who has just completed their 52nd lesson.

“Hi Nick.   Thank you very much for this series. I have learnt such a lot and it has increased my knowledge considerably.     A. Vallis.

Why not join the now better informed researchers, such as the family historian above?

Try it for yourself with this special offer of one month FREE!

Click here or the image below:

Family History Researcher Course

 

 

 

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Twiggy’s Family History on Who Do You Think You Are?

 

wdytya2014_twiggy  In the last of the present series and in a show that was the 100th from the BBC of the gripping genealogical programme, we were treated to 60’s icon, model and fashion designer Twiggy.

And what a great show it was.

Twiggy’s Who Do You Think You Are? research revealed that she has a family history story filled with colourful characters, leading lives as eventful as her own has been.

The story of her great-great-grandmother who turned to crime “uttering forged coins” (passing them in payment) and spending time in a Victorian prison. The same woman and her daughter who were prosecuted for stealing a significant amount of money from the girls employer. The mother, having taken all the responsibility and being convicted, doing hard labour.

Others who ended up in the workhouse and the tale of the parish, when faced with having to support the inmates of this harsh institution, prosecuted the husband for abandonment of his wife and children and had him committed to jail with hard labour.

The fact that the convicted man’s occupation was that of a Slater, a hard job dependent on seasonal employment and from his death records we discover that he had a strangulated hernia. All of which point to another era when the welfare state did not exist to provide the safety net that we all so much take for granted today.

So why did the Workhouse exist? Why was there such fear on the part of the administrators of the Parish Poor Relief that they made conditions harsher than those that a labourer on the outside had to endure?

Workhouse tasks
Picking oakum (pulling apart old rope) was a punishment in prison for Twiggy’s 2x great-grandmother. It was also the task given to Workhouse inmates.

 

 

For centuries in England, those who fell on hard times would become the responsibility of their parish. The old poor law system had coped well enough until around 1800 new demands on the system caused the government to think again.

Unemployment had risen to new heights, a consequence of the growing industrialisation of the country that now needed less men to make the goods that previously had been created in the old cottage industries.

Another pressure on the poor law came from the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves.

Then, on top of this, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars caused a great many soldiers to return from France with no work to go to.

In today’s United Kingdom, we often refer to a North South divide with the balance being towards the richer South. In the 1800s the industrial north, with its large cotton mills and other factories, fared better than the South where fewer industries existed to employ those people who had previously worked on the land and were no longer required.

As the situation got worse for the government, by 1832 they believed that they had to overhaul the poor law system and the way in which the poor relief was distributed. A Royal Commission was asked to look into it and as a result parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

A belief was widely held in the country that the poor were often undeserving of the money. That they were idle if they had no work. Under the new Act Parishes were compelled to ban together into Poor Law Unions that often covered a 20 mile radius and each Union a Board of Guardians were chosen to administer the new system.

The biggest result of this change that could have affected your ancestors was the provision of a workhouse in each Union.

Five hundred plus of these Union Workhouses were constructed during the next 50 years with two-thirds of them having been built by 1840.

Although workhouses were not a new phenomenon, under the old system most of the unemployed would have received poor relief while continuing to live in their own homes (so called “out relief”).

Any parishioners, now needing help after the passing of the new law, were compelled to live inside the workhouse, where conditions were made as harsh as possible so as to discourage all but those who were desperate from applying.

Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.

On admission the poor would have to undress, have their clothes taken away from them until they were discharged. They would have had a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform of rough shapeless material. This stripping away of identity was all part of the discouragement from claiming indoor relief.

 

I have more on the Poor Laws, the Workhouse and Crime and punishment as just some of the many topics covered in my comprehensive Family History Researcher Academy course for anyone researching their English/Welsh family history. At the moment there is a Special Offer trial from the link on this page of £1 for the first two weeks!

Read what some of my past members have said:

“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have been doing family history for many years.  Kind regards. ” H.Stephens

“You communicate in an understandable way! Thank you for the modules that I have had so far” P.Martin.

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Family History sent me round the houses today!

IMGP0608

I was back in the area of Jersey where I grew up today.

It was not my family history that I was researching, but ancestors belonging to someone else.

I had received a request to take a photograph of the house in which my contact’s forebears had lived and so I went to my computer and opened TheGenealogist.co.uk and looked up the head of the household in their Channel Island records.

This site has some “Jersey Almanacs” which are very useful trade directories for the islands and soon I was on the trail.

The Genealogist also has the full run of census data and images, which I next used to quickly find the person in question.

Unless you are new, to family history research, then you will be aware that the census collections are also available on Ancestry and Findmypast as well. I tend to use all three sites, as sometimes the transcription on one may help me better locate a person with a difficult name spelling.

 

In the 1901 and 1911 census it was quite plain that the family in question lived around the harbour at St Aubin, in the parish of St Brelade. The census in each case clearly gave the name of the house, though it was different in 1911 from 1901 so there was the possibility that the family had moved a very short distance. Either that or they had changed the name of their house.

So a simple task, you may think. All I had to do was pop along to the road in question and snap a building. Even if the house name was no longer visible, or had changed, there was bound to be a property in the road that had retained its name and I could use as a reference point. All I would need to do is count down the houses from that one.

Oh that it was so easy! You see the harbour front has some alleyways off it and these had different road names today from the ones used in the census. It seems to me that the parish has gone back to using the older French names for these roads from the Anglicised ones used in 1901 and 1911.

Another problem was that off these alleys were some semi-detached cottages, some of which are reached via foot paths. Also there were a set of steps, leading up to the steep Market Hill that rises behind the harbour, on which three more un-named cottages perched.

Both of the census records ignored the Methodist Church, that sat in the middle of the harbour frontage between one of my reference properties, as is to be expected if it had no residents to be counted. But it was also obvious that, in times past, some of the other buildings would have been warehousing, or other uninhabited commercial buildings and so these too were not enumerated. This made my task of counting down the houses to the ones for which I was searching, difficult.

I consulted the “Description of the Enumeration District” as in some cases this can give you a good idea of the enumerator’s walk. In this case it mentioned the names of the roads, in general, but did not explain how he had dealt with buildings set behind each other or to the side.

By finding some more reference buildings, that is those that have retained their names through to today, I was able to tie down the house in the 1901 to being on one plot. I am not certain that it is the actual building as it may well have been built later, it not having many of the period features of its neighbours to give away its age.

So only a partial victory for family history research this week, but the Description of the Enumeration District can be a useful tool elsewhere and browsing through a road on the census can often be illuminating in other ways. Sometimes you may find more members of the family living close by and a child missing from one house in its grandparent’s or Aunt and Uncles. I remember finding this in my own family in Plymouth.

 

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Family history secrets from the Asylum

ITV CaptureLast night’s ITV programme on Secrets from the Asylum was fascinating from a family history point of view.

It showed vividly how emotional a finding that one or other of your ancestors spent some time, or indeed died, behind the doors of an asylum can be.

One of the things that I always advise people, thinking about researching their family tree, is to be aware that they may find skeletons in the cupboard. Also that once the skeleton is out this can cause other members of your family to get upset with you for opening the door into the past. Its particularly difficult if you dispel a carefully constructed family story that has been woven to protect the family from a perceived disgrace.

Another maxim, that I tell people new to family history, is not to judge their family for making up these stories and to try to understand your ancestor in the era in which they lived and in the social context of their times.

Both these “rules” had to be applied when I found a cause of death for a client whose family tree I was researching. Just like Christopher Biggins, one of the celebrities on the show, he to discovered that his ancestor died from “general paralysis of the insane”.

The client’s ancestor was said to have fallen from his horse as a relatively young man. My client had become suspicious of this story, perhaps subconsciously having picked up that the received wisdom was not told convincingly enough. His theory, however, was that his ancestor had perhaps run away from his wife and family. The truth was more of a shock when the certificate was delivered to him by me.

In the programme last night actress Sue Johnston was also featured as she revisited the hospital where she had worked in the 1960’s. Her experience was of wheeling patients down to have Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), which was invented in the 1930s to treat schizophrenia but was used on a variety of illnesses by the 1960s. Her memories of the patients getting the treatment were quite distressing for her.

I have found people who had this treatment and went on to live normal lives but for researchers who discover this in their family tree, this can sometimes be upsetting.

So, as long as you are aware that not everything that you may find out about ancestors will be “rosy” then family history research is a compelling pastime that gets better with the more records and resources that you can get to use.

 

If you are just starting out and want to build your knowledge of English/Welsh family history so that you are able to track down elusive ancestors then take a look at my course at Family History Researcher Academy.

For another couple of weeks I am offering my Summer Sale of a month’s trial for free in conjunction with S&N Geneology Supplies! Click the image below.
 
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