Who Do You Think You Are? Live: the world’s largest family history show is only a few weeks away!
It is back! The annual genealogy event, sponsored by Ancestry.co.uk, returns to London’s Olympia on 20-22 February, 2014.
I’m getting ready for my first ever time exhibiting there and as the weeks roll on I’m getting more and more excited about it. Come and see me at Table 56 where I shall be promoting my Family History Researcher course in English and Welsh Family History.
Piecing together your family history is a deeply rewarding experience. Nothing can beat the excitement of making new discoveries and identifying lost relatives. However, if you’ve recently hit a brick wall with your research, or you are daunted by all the options available for those starting their family tree, then help is at hand at Who Do You Think You Are? Live.
Every year, hundreds of genealogy experts from the major subscription sites, museums, archives and family history societies descend on Olympia for the world’s largest family history show. If you need a helping hand to uncover your family secrets, there’s no better place to go.
They’ll be new features at the 2014 show including commemorating the centenary of WWI and a new celebrity line-up to add to the usual popular features. You can:
Attend over 100 workshops in the Society of Genealogists’ Workshop Programme
Investigate family photographs with their experts
Spend one-to-one time with an expert in a subject of your choice,
Learn how DNA can help with research
Visit family history societies from all over the UK
Hear how celebrities from the television show felt about their discoveries, starting with Natasha Kaplinsky on the Thursday.
Explore over 120 exhibitors all specialising in family history
Don’t miss your chance to extend your research and share in the passion and enthusiasm of thousands of fellow family historians!
I want to take a moment this week to sing the praises of the knowledgeable people who work in county record offices and archives up and down the country.
I had a knotty problem to deal with this week with a family that I am researching. My task was to look for the maiden name of a second wife who married into the family in 1814 at St Thomas’, Dudley in Worcestershire and who was also marrying for the second time.
Because she was a widow her surname, in the marriage register for the second marriage, is assumed to be that of her first husband and so I have been asked to see if I can find out her maiden name. On her second marriage a fair number of her sons were given a distinctive second name and it had occurred to us that this may have been the woman’s maiden name.
I had a few hours in the City of Worcester set aside for this task and so I headed off to find the county record office.
What I discovered was that Worcestershire has housed its archives in the same modern building as its library at The Hive, which is aÂ joint university and public library. The Hive is the result of the vision of the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council.
On the first floor I found the reception for the archive and was immediately impressed by the helpfulness I was afforded. A member of staff showed me around the facility and when I explained what I was there to do was able to point me to the shelf containing collections of Worcestershire marriages transcripts.
I spent a productive hour or so noting down all the marriages of men with the woman’s first married surname, Fletcher, to a woman with the Christian name of Sarah.
Unfortunately there was no Sarah with the maiden name that I was looking for.
After a period of time the member of the archive staff returned to see how I was getting along. I explained that I had not found the answer and she then showed me another volume on the shelves that listed Worcestershire marriages by the bride’s surname. The suggestion here was that I may possibly be looking for the surname of the woman’s mother and not hers.
I then spent some time copying down all the women who had married in the relevant period and then compared the surnames of the men married with my first list. There was one surname that matched the other checklist I had of Sarahs who married a Fletcher; but sadly I can find no children called Sarah to the couple identified.
It looks like it is set for a long haul to look at all the marriages of a Sarah and someone called Fletcher and see if I can find the premature death of the husband called Fletcher. Once I identify the marriage that ended in Sarah being widowed before 1814 I will then have me a candidate for a possible maiden name. With this some more research will be required to make sure that we have found the right one.
As for the second name that this Sarah gave to her male children in the second marriage, perhaps it was from the father’s side and so this opens up the need for yet more research to be done!
Though I didn’t make a breakthrough this time, all the same the archive staff were most helpful in acting as a sounding board for my ideas to tackle this project and for their knowledge of the resources available in their collections that may help me.
With a little time on my hands this week I’ve been researching my late Godmother’s family, the Kerdals who ran a very successful shop in St Helier that went under the name of Maison Kerdal from at least the year 1893.
Monsieur and Madame Kerdal were French nationals who moved to Jersey, met and married in St Thomas’ church and set up a general grocer’s shop in St Helier. They then had several children including my godmother, whose nickname throughout her life was “Mimi”, though it bore no relation to her given names of Julia Marie Felicite.
Mimi, I can remember, had many tales to tell of her family and its business and at the time she was living I paid only a passing interest. It is so often the lament, of family historians, to claim that they wished they had taken more notice of these stories told by their seniors when alive, and in this case I can confirm that I again fall into this category.
So starting from my hazy recollections of Mimi’s remembrances I thought it was time to take a look at what records survive.
One of Mimi’s stories, that I recall, was of her saying that as a girl she was not at all interested in working in the shop and was once left in charge of it, in her parent’s absence, and simply threw the money given by the customers onto the shelf under the counter for her parents to account for on their return! This was recounted with a wicked grin on her elderly face as she felt sorry for the trouble she caused her parents.
Another memory was that her father moved the business, in the late 1800s, to a corner opposite the General Post Office in Grove Place, St Helier and then, when the GPO moved to Broad Street, he moved the family to live above a grander shop on the King Street/New Cut corner so as again to be close to the footfall that the Post Office provided.
My investigation, this week, began online at TheGeneoligist.co.uk to use their master search and found Julien Kerdal in the 1889 Kelly’s Directory of the Channel Isles at 7 Burrard Street in the trade of Wine and Spirit Merchant and in the 1911 Kellys listed as a Grocer at 45 King Street and again in 1939 as Wine and Spirit Merchant.
In the 1901 census, on TheGeneoligist, M.Kerdal has been listed as a Potato and Butter Merchant and in the 1911 in his own handwriting he has stated that he is simply a Grocer.
Mimi, meanwhile, was a boarder in 1911 in a convent school in Wales run by a group of French Nuns.
I then took a walk to the Jersey Archive. Here I looked at the parent’s Aliens Registration Cards (the children, being born in Jersey, were British and had no need for cards), the rates books to determine when each move was made, the death indexes – provided by the Channel Island Family History Society – to find when they died and where they were buried and the actual will testaments.
Armed with the information, I had gleaned, I was able to visit the sites of their various shops as they moved from Bath Street, to Burrard Street and then to King Street – the main high street of St Helier. I was able to pay a visit to the Almorah Cemetery, above St Helier, to find their graves and notice how so many are unloved and damaged by the years of rain and growth of holly and ivy.
Family history is an absorbing pastime when you mix together the dates, names and information that you obtain from a data collection, with a visit to the actual places where your forebears tread. It is then that it comes to life.
Check out the powerful Master Search tool that is a particularly different feature of TheGenealogist.co.uk where all the records on their site are easily accessible at the click of a button.
Allowing you to use one simple form to search across millions of records, including Parish Records, Wills, Newspapers, Census, Non-Conformist Registers, and more, I used this to research the Kerdal family online.
The simple to use interface allows you to search for a person, family, or an address, incorporating the previous searches such as the Family Forename Search, House & Street Search, and Keyword Master Search.
Disclosure: The above links are compensated affiliate links.
I got back from doing some family research in London today to find in my inbox an interesting press release from findmypast .co.uk.
It tells us that The Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) – ARA – has signed a deal, on behalf of a large number of archives and schools, with digital publishing experts brightsolid to publish online for the first time millions of school records from England and Wales.
It seems that this will be the first project to be undertaken under the framework of the new National Digitisation Consortium, which comprises up to 120 English and Welsh archives and schools working together to offer records for digitisation.
It is the first time such a large number of bodies will work together to digitise material – in this case their pre-1914 school registers. Once the registers have been scanned and transcribed by brightsolid, they will be made available to search online at leading family history website findmypast.co.uk, which is owned by brightsolid.
The registers span the period 1870-1914 and cover every region of England and Wales. They contain details of particular interest to the family historian, including name of the school and the pupil, their date of birth, year of admission to the school and the name of a parent or guardian. Teachers are also listed and Industrial School registers are included in the collection.
Chris van der Kuyl, Chief Executive of brightsolid said: â€œWe are proud to have agreed terms with the ARA to publish online this fascinating set of school records from over 120 separate archives across England and Wales.
â€œProjects of this magnitude reinforce not only our ambition, but our credentials as the leading digital publishing experts, especially within the genealogy market. We look forward to working closely with the ARA and the National Digitisation Consortium on this exciting endeavour.â€
John Chambers, ARA Chief Executive, said: â€œAs the leading membership body for those who work in UK and Irish archives, the ARA has an important role to play in helping the sector find new ways of working. The National Digitisation Consortium allows a number of archives and schools, of all sizes, to offer records for digitisation within a single, shared legal agreement. As well as enabling these fascinating school records to be available to the public, this project will set an important precedent for the way the sector can work together to achieve a better return.â€
I for one am looking forward to seeing them!
Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.
Its a hot Sunday here and after being out most of the day I have just come indoors to prevent the sun burn taking hold.
So I’ve turned on my computer and thought about doing a bit of family history research. Idly I browsed over to The British Newspaper Archive and entered one of my ancestors as a search term together with the date and lo and behold since I last visited more papers have been digitised and more results are therefore returned.
I do love this resource!
I’ve also found that they have a deal on at the moment – I believe it is for the whole of August 2013 – so for those of you who haven’t signed up with them yet you may want to try them out.
Here are the details:
For a limited time get £10.95 off a 12 Month membership to The British Newspaper Archive. Enter promotional code BnA82013 at the point of checkout to claim this exclusive offer.
Customers who subscribe to a 12 month package will get unlimited credits / page views, access to digitised newspapers dating back to 1710 and also gain access to My Research a personal area to keep track of searched articles, add notes and bookmark viewed items.
Now here comes the disclosure: The links are compensated affiliate links which means that I may get compensated by The British Newspaper Archive.
The beauty of the Singapore collection is that it is free to search and you do not even have to register to do this. Naturally I was curious to see if my dad got himself into the papers while he was there and it is with some satisfaction that I found an article and photo of him on page 4 of The Straits Times on the occasion of his marriage to my mother at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Singapore in the November of 1951.
So sometimes, when searching for your British Family you have to think about looking outside of Britain for them.
What else did I find on the Singapore Newspaper site? Well nothing more on Dad and Mum, but quite a bit on my mother’s step-father who was an architect in Singapore and my Uncle Bill who was Deputy Health Officer of the Singapore City Council.
In my Family History Researcher Academy course, on English and Welsh Family tree research, I have a tutorial devoted to using the newspapers as well as lessons on how to use some of the other lesser known data sets.
The launch of the course at a special trial price was very successfully filled, but I have been asked if there is room for a few more members. I am considering these requests and could decide to open it up again shortly. To be kept informed go to: www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com/trial
Disclosure: Some of the links above are compensated affiliate links that may reward me if you buy their subscriptions.
I have heard from the nice people at family history website findmypast that they have added new Kent baptisms, banns, marriages & burials to their parish records collection in partnership with Kent Family History Society, making it even easier to find your local ancestors. The latest release includes records from Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Ashford & Rochester in addition to 131 smaller parishes.Â They cover an extensive period of history from 1538 to 2006, allowing family historians to discover and add even more generations to their family tree.
Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at findmypast commented â€œThese new records are a fantastic resource for anyone eager to uncover their Kentish heritage. In combination with our recent addition of East Kent and Canterbury material, findmypast is definitely the go-to place when it comes to family history in the south east.â€
The new records have joined over 40 million parish records from UK family history societies available on findmypast in an exclusive partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies that started in 2007.
Jean Skilling of Kent Family History Society added â€œThe Kent Family History Society (www.kfhs.org.uk) is delighted to be working in partnership with findmypast.Â We hope our indices will be of help to everyone tracing their Kentish ancestry.â€
I have been having a nose around the British Newspaper Archive Collection again this week on its stand alone website as well as its home within the findmypast site.
I was looking for information on a great-great-uncle who died young (30) after a fall from a cliff. While I didn’t come up with a family notice of his death I found an article in the Isle of Wight Observer for May 19th, 1866 under the notices for the Royal Victoria Yacht Club that I found interesting.
After detailing that the Commodore’s splendid yacht had arrived at the station on Tuesday and then listing the twelve yachts on station, having got the important notices out of the way they then add a line or two about the man I was researching.
“It is with great regret that we hear that W.W.F.Hay esq., fell overboard from his cutter yacht the Surge, at Alderney, and lost his life. His remains will be interned tomorrow (Saturday). On receipt of the melancholy intelligence, the flag at the club was hoisted half-mast high.”
Well, their information was not quite correct, as reported elsewhere. William Wemyss Frewen Hay died when he went ashore at Alderney to have dinner with the officers at the garrison there and lost his footing while returning to the breakwater and where his yacht was anchored.
This, however, got me looking for information on the clipper yacht called the Surge and the first article I turned up made me think that she was not such a good racing boat at all. She retired from a race around the Solent having no chance of gaining the lead in August 1865.
Further articles, however, have her mentioned in a good light.. “Some dozen clippers have already been entered including the celebrated Surge (W.W.F.Hay Esq), the Water Lilly, yawl, (Commodore Lord A Paget, MP.) etc” which does not sound like she was an also ran.
I wonder what the yacht looked like and how many crew she required to sail her?
There are also other questions I have about Willaim, who at the time of his death in the May, according to another article, was due to be married in July of that same year. I would like to find out who his bride to be was, but so far no mention of the lady has appeared in my trawl of the newspapers.
As more titles are added all the time this situation may indeed change. I keep coming back to this resource as it is so useful to family historians.
Disclosure: The above are compensated affiliate links.
This weekend I decided to revisit a line in Plymouth that I had only barely scratched the surface of in my research into the family.
My paternal grandmother’s father was called Edgar Stephens. His mother was Mary Ann Stephens nee Westlake and her mother was also called Mary Ann. Thus, in the 1851 census I was able to find my 3 x great-grandmother Mary Ann Westlake nee Legg married to Thomas Westlake the Brass Founder and Plumber that I have written about before in relation to his advertisement in the 1852 Plymouth Trades Directory.
I was looking at the 1851census records for Thomas and Mary Ann and noticed that they were both the same age, having been born in 1818.
I then went to find them in the 1861 census and noted that the transcript on TheGenealogist had Thomas’ wife listed as “Clara M Westlake” but as her date of birth was still 1818 I just put this down to an error. Opening the image I could see that the writing was none too clear, giving the transcriber a bit of a job to work out. What it certainly didn’t look like was the Mary Ann, as I had expected it to read.
Popping over to Ancestry.co.uk and the transcription for their 1851 census was given as “Chrisk W “.
Searching the same 1851 census on Findmypast and I got the transcription returned as “Catherine W”. The writing on the census page had challenged the transcribers at all three sites and I can not blame them for their differing attempts to make sense of the entry as I certainly couldn’t.
So what had happened to Mary Ann? Had she tired of her name and changed it to something more exotic? Or had she died and Thomas had taken a new wife, who also happened to have been born in the same year as he and the former Mrs Westlake?
I decided to do some detective work and search for a death of Mary Ann Westlake from after the 1851 census and before the 1861. What I found was a number of candidates that could have been my great-great-great-grandmother.
So now I approached the problem by seeing if I could find a second marriage for Thomas and here I can testify to the usefulness of the advice, given by many experienced family historians, to “always kill off your ancestors”.
You see, by having done just this for Thomas, having found his death in the records and then the listing for his probate, I was able to discover that he had an unusual middle name of “Scoble”.
Now I could look for a marriage of Thomas Scoble Westlake and I found just the two in the databases. One was in 1841 to Mary Ann Legg in Stoke Damerel, which is in the Devonport area. The other was to Christian Upcott Harwood in the last quarter of 1859 in Falmouth, Cornwall.
I had the name of the second wife!
Though this asked the question, if Thomas and Christian were wed in 1859, then what had happened to Mary Ann? The records show that in the second quarter of 1859 a death was registered in Plymouth for her, allowing Thomas to take a new wife in the fourth quarter! I will need to order a copy of the death certificate to find out what she died of.
So who was Christian Upcott Harwood? I had looked for her birth or christening without any luck. Then it struck me that perhaps she too was a widow. I now looked for the marriage of a Christian Upcott, leaving the bride’s maiden name blank,Â to someone called Harwood and I found one to Samuel Peter Harwood in 1841 in Lewisham. Christian was from Plymouth and he was from Plumstead in Kent. A death occurred in East Stonehouse, Devon in the year 1858 to one Samuel Harwood and I assume it was his widow who married Thomas Scoble Westlake.
If you would like more tips on researching your English or Welsh Family History then why not sign up for my tips and a special FREE report using the box below…
Last week I was writing about my findings from a search for one of my ancestors who married in South Devon in 1866. I had taken a look at the Church Register for The New Parish of Christ Church Plymouth and found my ancestor Samuel Stephens marrying Mary Ann Westlake on the 16th December.
What took my interest was that his father, Robert Stephens, was noted under Rank or Profession as being a Tide Waiter. He also lived in Plymouth being born in1805 and to his death.
As many of us pursuing our family history have no doubt found, some of our ancestors had jobs that have disappeared or are now known by different names today.
I immediately wondered what type of occupation this Tide Waiter was, as previously I had seen him mentioned in the census as an “Extra Gent”.
What an ancestor’s occupation was can often give us a greater insight into their life. It is also a useful way of distinguishing between two people who happen to have the same name and between whom you are trying to work out which one belongs to your family tree and which one does not.
We can be interested in a forebearâ€™s occupation for the reason that it may have some relevance in determining a person’s social status, political affiliation, or migration pattern.
Skilled trades were often passed down from father to son and so having regard to an ancestor’s occupation may also be a useful tool in identifying a family relationship with others of the same name. Now Samuel and his father Robert did not seem to share a trade here, but it is important to remember that people could change their occupation over their life.
One of these gentlemen’s descendants changed from being a gunsmith to working in a pawn brokers and another who changed from being a cordwainer (shoemaker) to being a boatman on the river over their working life.
Names for old or unfamiliar local occupations have the potential to cause us to stumble if they are poorly legible in the record we are consulting. I can think of the example of the similarity between the words ostler (a keeper of horses) and a hostler (an innkeeper) that is easily confused.
If you are ever in this position then remember that you too can look for occupational data in several places. It may be found in the records of occupational licenses, tax assessments, the membership records of professional organisations to which our ancestors belonged, trade, city and town directories, census returns, and civil registration vital records.
There are a number of websites available that explain many of the obscure and archaic
trades, here are two that I have found:
So what was my Tide Waiter forebear? He was a Customs Officer who went aboard ships to search them for the revenue. This is made plain on the birth certificate for Samuel as his occupation is simply recorded as Customs Officer.
I found the scanned image of the marriage record in the Parish Records from Plymouth and West Devon at Find My Past.
Disclosure: The Link in the above box is a Compensated Affiliate link. If you click on the ad then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk should you sign up for any of their subscriptions.