As an island nation I am sure that many of the readers of this blog will have ancestors that have gone to sea, if only for a short time. Many of us will have family who have served in the Royal Navy and so have discovered just how intimidating it is to research a Royal Naval ancestor, especially if we compare it to looking for those of our kin who were in the British Army or the Royal Air Force.
The book begins by giving the reader a short introduction on how to get started in their research. Simon Fowler assumes the reader has little prior knowledge of the navy and its history. His book shows you how to trace an officer, petty officer or rating from the seventeenth century up to the 1960s using records at the National Archives and elsewhere.
The reader will discover that the records of RN officers and ratings can be located back to 1660, often with more success than if you were looking for similar records in the army. As holdings for officers and ratings up to 1914 are different Simon Fowler has separated the two into their own chapters. A separate chapter then addresses the records from 1914 which covers all ranks.
There are additional chapters for the various auxiliary services; the coastguard; the Royal Marines; the WRNS; HM Dockyards; the sick and wounded and researching ships.
Depending on the era in question there are many naval records that the reader can use to discover more about the Royal Navy and its personnel. This well illustrated book shows the reader where to find the records, explains well what they contain and is an excellent addition to anyone’s library if they are interested in Royal Naval ancestors.
Editions available to buy from the following links:
I’ve got some advice for you to break down a brick wall.
Have you been stuck trying to find an ancestor?
Thought you might have been!
Maybe what I relate below will help you too.
The thing was that some while back, I was getting quite frustrated by being unable to trace a person in the records.
I was completely stuck finding this person’s birth, marriage or death and I had tried looking online and off without any luck.
Maybe you are in this position too?
What broke the problem for me?
Well it was avisit to a Family History websitewhile surfing forkeywordsto do with the ancestor and then a little bit of time spentbrowsing the transcripts featured on the platform.
There were some other factors, such as trying different spelling variations of first and second names, as advised by my family history teacher at the time and a visit to an archive.
What it boils down to is using a bit of lateral thinking in our family tree research and most importantly finding out about alternative records to the ones that we might have already used.
The family branch that has presented me with the most frustrating problems has been that from Devon. I was fine going back through the census years, 1911, 1901 and so on back to 1841 but then it became more of a problem.
Perhaps this story resonates with some of you to?
I had figured out that my 3x great-grandfather was called John Thorn. This was provided in the information he had given to the census enumerators over the years, along with the fact that he had been born in about 1795. His wife, Elizabeth, had been born about 1798.
As I belong to The Society of Genealogists I took a trip to their headquarters in Goswell Road, London knowing that they have the largest collection of Parish Records in the country on microfiche. They’ve also got some transcripts of parish registers in their library, which I thought may be worth looking at.
If you are in the area I highly recommend you visit the Society of Genealogists.
Unfortunately for me, at the time of my research, the Dartmouth parish records were not on microfilm at the SoG. But I was over the moon to find a great selection of Devon Family History Society booklets for marriages taking place in the churches of the town, including St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth. Browsing one book for any likely ancestors I spotted that on 13 April 1817 one person called John Thorn got married to an Elizabeth Sissell.
I opened up the internet and began searching using my new lead. My mission was to hunt down any evidence that this was the marriage of my ancestors.
Doing a search-engine query for Dartmouth + family history steered me towards the Dartmouth-history.org.uk website belonging to The Dartmouth Archives. I discovered that this voluntary organisation had a really broad family history section and included a number of transcribed baptisms, burials, marriages and census records.
I could read the very same information, as I had seen at the SoG in London, on this niche site. The data began in 1586 and ran to 1850 and there was the marriage of John Thorn to Elizabeth and this time I noticed that the witness were given as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell.
At the time I made an assumption that this last person was more than likely some member of the bride’s family. Could it perhaps be the father of the bride?
But that name “Sunass” just didn’t seem likely to me. Now I know that it was the best guess by the transcriber as it couldn’t be read properly in the original record.
From the information I knew that they had signed with a mark, thus they were illiterate and so the first name and the second had not been written down by the ancestors themselves.
When you are doing your own research you should bear in mind that our ancestors may not have had the ability to read or write and the minister may have interpreted the name as he had heard it said to him. In my ancestor’s case the surname “Sissell” could possibly have been “Cecil” or something entirely different. Consider saying the name with the regional accent and seeing what you come up with.
As for Sunass – at this point I was clueless!
The Dartmouth Archives website had not got any early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth and so I went over to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch.org and here I did a search for Elizabeth’s christening.
I was rewarded by a lead to a baptism in one of the other churches in Dartmouth, St Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. This child was the daughter of James and Sarah Sissill and she was christened Elizabeth Gardener Sissill.
You may notice that the spelling had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e” again pointing to the vicar writing it down the way that he heard it.
I now jumped to a conclusion that 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” to the transcriber and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”. All easily done.
So what I am emphasising here and I continue to do so in modules from my Family History Researcher Course, is to be wary of names and the way they were spelt. If you keep this in mind then some of the logjams we find in our research can be got past.
This breakthrough I had was 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.
The first learning point is that you should always find out what other research may have been done, for the area your ancestors came from.
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, always keep in mind that names were misspelled in many records. In my own family research I have had to think of other spellings for the Sissells, and indeed names that may have sounded like Sissell in order that I may trace this line back further and break down the brick wall.
I have made some fantastic strides in my family tree research and it is mostly down to learning as much as I can from other’s experiences and finding out as much as I can about what records and resources are available.
Last year I put together some modules for a course of 52 guides, aiming at passing on my experience. Perhaps they can help you become a more knowledgeable researcher?
I had some professional genealogists and data providers also contribute to the project to make it well rounded.
As you have come to this page I am sure that you must have an interest in family history and I am betting that you to have some brick walls to knock down as well. So take a look at the report below that is based on some of the material from the Family History Researcher course…
Would you like a Family History magazine for free?
Are you looking for a fresh approach to researching your family history? Or are you keen to promote your family history services?
Whether you are long-standing or just starting out, whether you are advanced in your research, have reached early brick walls or work in this industry, Discover Your Ancestors magazine may help you along.
Discover Your Ancestors is packed full of family histories, case studies, UK and overseas features and advice on identifying those hard to find forebears.
Discover Your Ancestors magazine is now on its third annual edition in print, and is available at WHSmith stores around the UK or selected overseas premium newsagents or direct from the publisher here.
The magazine has also been running a monthly digital edition, to rave reviews. Priced at just £12 per annum, many loyal and engaged subscribers enjoy this digital magazine which is archived by issue in their very own members section of the magazine’s website.
But you don’t have to just take their word for it, or even take notice of those testimonials that are found on their website, you can try if for FREE!
I met these guys when they were on the next stand to me at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and I did this little video there.
So its a great pleasure that they are willing to offer my readers a free trial. As they say in this email that I recently received recently:
We are inviting each and every one of your contacts to enjoy a FREE OF CHARGE 3 ISSUE TRIAL so they can find out for themselves what a good read it is.
Message to all my readers: So sorry that the blog has been off line for the past week.
This was necessary while support tried to figure out what had happened to make it fall off it’s perch here on the web.
It seemed to have received an unusual quantity of spam messages from some unscrupulous people, along with a few genuine comments that are to be welcomed. Thousands rather than the usual hundreds of spam messages hit the inbox!
One of the security plug-ins seemed not to update and in my dashboard. I then got a message asking me to press a link to manually update the software. This I did and was then shocked to see the screen go blank in front of my eyes and also find that the link to the blog had gone, as had my way in to edit it.
This plug-in is currently getting the blame for the blog disappearing into oblivion for 7 days. But I love a good conspiracy theory and so I am not so sure!
I’ve been to the Midlands this week and while I was there I took the opportunity to do some research in the Dudley Archives & local history centre.
No matter what gets put online, and believe me I am a keen user of online content, when I get the chance I still love to go to an actual archive and do some research in the reading room of one or other of these local authority depositories.
I spent my time in the one run by Dudley Metropolitan Council looking back at parish records in Halesowen and was fascinated, as always, by the extras that are to be found written in the margin of the parish records, or as notes in the front or back.
One note that I saw this week referred to a number of burials on the page and it mentioned that all of the above died of smallpox putting some context onto the conditions at the time. In other records down at the Devon record office I have seen a whole brood of children being baptised together after the family had returned to England after many years in the fishing fields of Newfoundland and a helpful side note by the vicar explaining this.
Another great benefit of a visit to a record office is that they often have books on their shelves that can be helpful finding aids. I was able to make use this week of a set of indexes to the parish records, published many years ago, but with them I could narrow down the dates that I wanted to look at on the microfilm reader.
In my Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh ancestors I have a module specifically about the treasures that can be found in a County/City Record Office. The course can be done at your own pace and comes in 52 weekly downloads that build into a great resource for busting those brick walls in family history.
In England and Wales the Record Office is where the records of the local government administrative area are kept. In many cases they also house the ecclesiastical diocese records and, from a family historian’s point of view, they are the keepers of the old Parish Registers collected from the churches of the area, which was my reason for visiting Dudley Archives this week.
A Record Office:
– collects and preserves historical records of all kinds relating to its county,
– makes these records available for research of all kinds by all interested individuals and groups, and
– encourages and promotes awareness of the value and importance of its documentary heritage.
Usually a Record Office will also preserve a great deal of other archival material such as the records from independent local organizations, churches and schools.
There may be papers donated by prominent people from the community, leading families, estates, companies, lawyers and more. If you are in the area where your ancestors lived then go on an pay them a visit. The staff are usually very knowledgeable about their records and the district and so they can be a huge help to the family historian.
Seems Adam Rees, the editor, and his team wanted to take their readers out of their comfort zone a little, by trying to help us take our family tree as far back as we can.
From page 20 they have a feature on Earliest Roots showing us how to extend our family tree to 1066 and beyond! For those of you who want to learn more about how to explore this fascinating facet of our pass time then I can highly recommend you take a look.
As YFT magazine says, it can be daunting searching for your family among early records, but as you’ll discover there are so many lines you can pursue, that you’ll soon find yourself engrossed in the detailed information they give on your medieval ancestors and beyond.
Also in this issue they continue their look at our families who were involved in WWI, showing us how to learn about their day-to-day actions, and discovering the bitter fighting that raged away from the Western Front, from Africa to Arabia, Greece to Gallipoli.
Then in their How-to-section they also reveal the best tips for using FamilySearch; why hiring a professional might be just what your research needs; how your ancestors used their leisure time; and where to find forebears in Dundee.
April 2014 Issue 141 is quite an edition to help find the ancestors in your family tree.
I had a quick chat with Adam at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and he told me what we can expect in the next few months from his magazine.
Check out the interview here and spot the moment at the beginning where I couldn’t quite remember what the magazine is called even though I read it each month!
It’s “Your Family Tree Magazine”, I do know that. Really I do…
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in this post.
I’ve just completed three enjoyable days at the largest family history show that there is.
Met many like minded people, including so many of you lovely readers of this blog and several students of the FamilyHistoryResearcher course that I provide. The course is great for beginners and for people who have started and now want to know what other records and resources to use to find their ancestors. The feedback that I got at the show was that it was not just the beginner who benefited from my course, but those who were also further along the line in their research. Thanks for those who told me so.
It was so heart-warming that so many of you made the time to come to my stall to say hello. To the students of the course who told me how much they enjoyed receiving their weekly lessons, I thank you for the kind words.
Turning to my ad hoc poll to see whether I should keep the name The Nosey Genealogist, or change to something more descriptive and perhaps less informal, the straw poll was overwhelming stacked in favour of sticking with The Nosey Genealogist!
Shortly I’ll start uploading some of the videos that I took at the show, so watch this space.
This holiday period I was catching up with my copies of Your Family Tree Magazine (January 2014 Issue 137). On page 44 I began reading an article all about how one of their readers found the troop ship that took her father to war by doing a bit of detective work with the few pieces of the puzzle that she had.
The reader, Jackie Dinnis who blogs about her family history at www.jackiedinnis.wordpress.com, had a few photographs and his medals to go on and, crucially, a letter written by her father from the unnamed troopship.
In the note, to his mother, he tells of being entertained by an orchestra conducted by a popular British dance band-leader called Geraldo. By doing some research online Jackie found that Geraldo and his Orchestra had been going to the Middle East and North Africa in 1943 to entertain the troops. It required several other bits of information to name the troopship. Facts, that tied the dates of departure up with the detail that this band were on board, eventually named the troopship as the Dominion Monarch.
Now this is where her father’s story overlaps with my father’s story.
As I have written elsewhere in this blog about obtaining my dad’s merchant navy records he was a young purser’s clerk on board the former liner and wartime troopship the Dominion Monarch.
As I read this at Christmas, while staying with him, I asked if he remembered the concert by Geraldo. Sadly he didn’t, though I can confirm that he was on board for that voyage from a look at his MN papers, but he had other story’s to tell of life on board the ship and its convoy passages across the oceans.
Then we fast-forward to Christmas day and one of those games that get played at the dinner table when the family are gathered together. My sister’s mother-in-law picked a card that asked “What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your life?” In turn we all gave our answers and then it was my father’s turn.
“To have survived,” was his answer. And when asked what he meant, he elaborated a little: “being at sea in the war.”
Then, this week, I was able to watch with him the programme on PQ17 the disastrous Arctic convoy. It was not a route that he sailed, though he was empathising with the crews that were so sorely deserted by the Admiralty’s decision to withdraw Naval protection and issue the Scatter signal.
And finally, this week, I was checking in at Facebook to find that some of my younger first-cousins-once-removed, had been looking at their grandfather’s Merchant Navy ID card and receiving a history lesson from their parents over the New Year. The awe with which they were learning about young men (both my Uncle and Father served in the Shaw Savill Line) who had gone to sea at a time when a torpedo from a U-boat may have prematurely ended their lives, was fitting.
So this Christmas and New Year has, unintentionally, taken on a Merchant Navy theme for me. Family history is great!
Your Family Tree Magazine is one of my favourite magazines:
To all readers of this blog I’d like to wish a very Happy Christmas.
Remember to keep your ears open, at this time of year when families come together, for any stories that can be useful when investigating your family tree.
I’ve already experiences a few reminiscences this week, some I am sure are a little bit exaggerated, but all worth a bit of investigation. These tales can often point you in a general direction and then you need to find out if they are correct by checking the primary sources. There is always the chance that the stories have grown over the years into the “received truth” with embellishments made for the telling or plain misremembering of the situation.
For some family history researchers Christmas time may be the only opportunity they get to gently question their senior family members about times past; but just as moderation in all things is a good motto to try and live by, don’t over do the questioning and end up making parents and grandparents think that they are being interrogated!
I’ve been helping an old friend starting out in researching their family history in this week and he had noted that some of his family all had the same middle name.
The question, that he had, was would it be likely that it was a family surname from one of the female lines and being passed down to honour that family connection.
From what research I have done, by reading around, it would seem thatÂ it was quite common for children to be baptised with a second name taken from a family surname that was, perhaps, the mother’s or grandmother’s maiden surname.
Mark Herber, in Ancestral Trials, The History Press; New Ed edition (1 Jun 2005) makes this point when introducing genealogical research in chapter 1 of this comprehensive book. But hold on a minute, before you jump to the conclusion that the name you have found must be attributable to another branch of your family.
In the picture, that I have included here, from a Thorne family bibleÂ just one of that generation were given names that honoured their forebears surnames and that was Ellen Florence Malzer Thorne, the Malzer name being her mother’s maiden name.
The generation before (Henry Thomas Thorne’s siblings)Â were given a variety of conventional second names until the family broke with the C of E and became members of the Flavel Memorial (Presbyterian/Independent/Congregational) church.
At this stage several of Henry’s brothers and sisters were baptised with the middle name of Lemon. I am yet to understand who they were being named after so if any of my readers can put me on the right path then post a comment below or on my facebook page: www.facebook.com/NoseGenealogist
Certainly the parents of these children, John Brandon Thorn and Elizabeth Gardiner Thorn, were usefully named after their mothers and so made the search for them in the parish records all the easier.
So the conclusion is that an unusual middle name may point you to the maiden name of your ancestor or, regretfully, it may not!
Another point, that I have noticed, is that people may adopt a middle name and later generations begin passing it on as they assume it to be an ancestral name. Perhaps it was someone that they admired greatly, or perhaps it was indeed a family name.
For someone I was researching this week I discovered that they were not given a middle name in the church register when they were baptised and yet they begin to use this middle name and so do the generations that followed. Perhaps it was someone that they admired greatly, but it was certainly not noted in the parish register at the time of their baptism!
My research this week has been greatly helped by the fact that more parish records have made it online. My friend’s family were from the Birmingham area of Northfields. Now very much a suburb of Birmingham but in the years I was researching between 1769 and 1820 part of the county of Worcestershire.