My ancestor’s house was bombed

Paddington Street MaryleboneOn finding myself in London with some time on my hands earlier this year I decided to pay a visit to Marylebone to see where it was that my 19th century ancestors lived for a short while.

Having found that they had been resident at 19 Paddington Street in the 1861 census for London, by using TheGenelogist’s Master Search, I was keen to take a look at the shop above which they had lived. My ancestor, George Colwill was listed as a plaster, but it seemed he and his new wife were living above a baker’s shop in London. They would go on to become bakers back in Plymouth, where he had hailed from and then grocers and bakers.

1861 census of Marlylebone from TheGenealogist - George Colwill and familyOn arriving in the busy London street today I was delighted to find that it still held many of the period buildings that I hoped would have survived, at least at first-floor level an above. Being a commercial area the shops fascias had been updated over the years to give a more modern aspect.

Sadly, number 19 Paddington Street seemed to be a post war building that occupied a plot that was one in from the corner with Luxborough Street and sat next to a somewhat grander Victorian building.

19 Paddington Street, Marylebone

I wondered if the previous structure had been damaged in the bombings of the Second World War. To find out I went online to do a search of the Discovery catalogue on the National Archives website. TNA’s new search engine not only reveals what is in their own collections, but also combines what use to be the Access to Archives(A2A) with records listed for some of what is held at 400 other archives across England.

Here I found that the City of Westminster Archives Centre held a document called STREET INCIDENTS with the reference of: stmarylebonecdu/2 . What interested me was a line in the result for: Luxborough Street Corner with Paddington Street 11 May-19 November 1941 File: 546.

Recently I have also discovered a brilliant online resource at bombsight.org that allows researchers to see an astonishing interactive map that shows every German bomb that fell on London during the WW2 Blitz.

From this I could see that there was indeed an entry for this bomb and another that fell very close by. The shocking thing about this website is when you zoom out and see quite how many bombs were drooped as a whole on the capital.

www.bombsight.org consulted 19th July 2015 v 1.0www.bombsight.org consulted 19th July 2015 version number (1.0).

If you too have ancestors from London and you want to discover if their home or workplace had been destroyed in the Blitz then take a look now at the interactive maps on bombsight.org. You can filter by Satellite view, Street Map, Anti-invasion sites, 1940s bomb maps and bomb incidents.

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Great-Uncle Clifford’s Unfortunate Death Covered in the Papers

British Neswpaper Collection

I have been aware for some time that my grandfather’s younger brother died when he was only a young man. He is buried in the family’s plot in Paignton cemetery and from the memorial words on his grave it would seem it was tragic.

I recall that a family story had it that a motorbike was involved, and naturally some of the family had assumed that he was riding said motorcycle at his death.

My father, however, knew differently and explained that his Uncle Clifford had been killed when a motorbike had hit him as he stood in the road.

This week I have been looking on the British Newspaper Collection again, from within the findmypast site and was able to find a report in the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette of 31st July 1923 that reported on the accident. It also provided me with a little bit more information that I was previously ignorant of; that his occupation was a dental mechanic.

Another paper (Western Morning News of the 3rd August) gave me the names of those mourners that attended the funeral in St Andrew’s Paignton including those who are listed as uncles, aunts and cousins so giving more useful information for the family historian.

I really do recommend you taking a look at newspapers either on the dedicated British Newspaper Archives site, whose search engine seems to me identify a broader set of results than the sister site.

Or within the findmypast website if you have a subscription.

I am putting together a family history course of my own and will be certainly covering the usefulness of researching your ancestors in the newspapers of the time.

 

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My Dad is in The National Archives!

The National Archives

I was doing a search on the National Archives new Discovery search engine to see what I could find on my dad’s time in the Merchant Navy during World War II.

One hit was for his seaman’s pouch, R271022 THORNE J B 20/05/1925 PAIGNTON DEVON and it indicated that I could see the document for free at The National Archives. Now it did say that I would need a Reader’s Ticket to do this and as it has been quite some years, since I last went to Kew, my old one had expired.

So I figured that I would take a trip to Kew in Richmond, get registered for a new Reader’s Ticket and see what the document revealed.

The process of registering for a reader’s ticket requires you to bring two forms of ID one to prove your address and another to prove your name. You also have to do a short tutorial on the computer that educates you about the correct handling of their documents and a multiple choice questionnaire. It certainly isn’t something to worry about and if you get the answers wrong the computer shows you the correct answer before you move on.

Once I was registered, had my photo taken and issued with my shiny new card I went to order the documents and some others that may refer to his service record.

While the TNA website says that with a reader’s ticket you can order the record to be available for when you arrive or you can just order the record when you arrive there is a slight problem.

With these sort of records if it is not your own then it has to be looked at by a member of staff and national insurance numbers and other “data” have to be redacted in a copy that would be made of the document and this process would take some time as there were not enough staff to do it immediately.

As it turned out by the time I had to leave Kew the copies had not been brought up and so I left The National Archives without seeing them and providing my postal address for the staff to post it on to me.

So just a warning that this is the policy of TNA and I may post again when I get the photocopies in the post should there be anything of interest to family historians in them.

 

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Family History Books for Kindle

So this week, in the British Isles, saw Waterstones Booksellers launch the Kindle readers in their shops across the country. In my branch in St Helier, Jersey there is a great new display point and I was drawn immediately towards the Kindle Fire HD. I love the way it looks and the way it works! So much so that I got my debit card out and bought one there and then.

With these devices making more of an inroad into the way that people shop for books and read them I thought that it was timely for me to take a look at what family history titles are available from the Amazon Kindle store.

First off  I found that Peter Christian’s The Genealogist’s Internet is available. I’d seen it reviewed in Your Family Tree magazine in only the last month with a recommend that every family historian should have a copy either in Kindle form or in physical book.

It is a practical guide which that  is great for both beginners and more experienced researchers to use as it explores the most useful online sources and aids its readers to navigate each one. The Genealogist’s Internet features fully updated URLs and all of the recent developments in online genealogy.

This is the fully updated fifth edition and it carries the endorsed by the National Archives. Covering

·Online census records and wills, including the 1911 Census

·Civil registration indexes

·Information on occupations and professions

·DNA matching

·New genealogy websites and search engines

·Surname studies

·Passenger lists and migration records

·Information on digitised historical maps and photographs

Peter Christian’s book also includes the impact of blogging, podcasting and social networking on family history research, that allows the family historian to seek out others with similar research interests and so to share their results. Whether you want to put your family tree online, find distant relatives or access the numerous online genealogical forums, discussion groups and mailing lists, this book is a must-have.

For a selection of other Kindle books, including my own, head over to amazon.co.uk and take a look at these: Must Have Family History Books for your Kindle.

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Ancestors not on the database?

A problem that you may have encountered is one where your ancestors do not appear in the online data bases that you are searching through. I have had this problem with several forebears and when this happens I usually decide to look for the missing person in various alternative offline records.

If you too are experiencing the pain, of not finding an ancestor, then have you thought of looking at the original records at a county record office, or at some other repository? True, you may have a long and uphill task, as you methodically work your way back through the images, year by year, but this is how I came across one of my “lost” ancestors recently.

For one reason or another the transcript, which the search engine facility on the subscription site used to throw up likely records for me to consider, had recorded my ancestor’s name incorrectly. Only by browsing a microfiche, in the archive, did I find the person that I had been previously searching for without any luck.

In another and quite unrelated search, I found a transcript of burials to be a godsend to me. It had been created by the Devon Family History Society and I had found that they offered both printed booklets, and downloadable pdf versions, of parish burials for the area that I was interested in.

As I was too impatient to wait for the physical booklet to arrive in the post I opted for the download of the pdf from their website. Now this gave me an advantage. In addition to being instantly able to see my purchase, I was also able to use the really useful search facility that is built into a pdf document reader. By selecting from the tool bar: “Edit” and then on the drop-down menu: “Find”, I could look for a specific word.

I chose to search for my ancestor’s surname and when I couldn’t find him listed, because his family name had been spelled in a strange way by the clerk or vicar  (see the previous post on that subject on this blog), I then tried his first name.

After searching and rejecting many men called “James”, who had been listed in the booklet, I finally hit upon one in this list that seemed to fit the bill. His age matched my ancestor and the surname was indeed a novel interpretation of  the last name that I was looking for. Thus, in my family history quest to fill out my family tree I have encountered both a time when a transcript has helped me find an ancestor and a time when a transcript has hindered!

 

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Beware of Shared Family Trees!

Hugh Wallis onlineI was taking my research, of a branch of my tree that I have never really looked into before, a stage further.

It was the family of the Master Mariner that I had identified in Findmypast’s records of merchant navy records online that I looked at last week. I had traced back my 2 x great grandparents to their marriage in Portsmouth in 1859 and found that her family were living in that maritime city at the time of the 1851 census. Having failed to identify them in any of the other census from the UK, I then took a look at the LDS familyserch.org website to see if I could find marriages and baptisms for the parents. Now the results here were equally sparse. I did, however, find a marriage in St Thomas’ church Portsmouth for what I believe to be my great-great-great grandparents. From the census of 1851 I had got the Christian names of the family unit and my 3x great grandparents appeared to be called John Malser and Rosanna Craydon and John was born in 1811.

I thought I was on track until I tried to research back these families in Portsmouth. At present I have no leads from the online websites for the Craydon branch. What I did find was a possible baptism, from some Hampshire Genealogical Society transcriptions on the findmypast website for St Thomas’ Portsmouth. This gives the baptism date as being 1809 and so I can not be sure that I have found the correct man, but he is certainly a possibility.

We are all aware, in the family history community, how dates of birth in the census records can often be recorded incorrectly. This is where the subject wishes to massage their age slightly for some reason, simply doesn’t know their age, or in the case of the 1841 census the age is rounded down to the nearest five years for anyone over 15. Likewise we know that errors creep into transcriptions when they are copied and so that information contained within them may not be correct. So what I am left with is a tentative branch to my tree that awaits further investigation by looking at original, or at least microfilm copies of, parish records when I am able.

Before leaving this new line I decided to enter my newly discovered ancestors into a search engine. I quickly found a family tree that showed a link from the Malser’s to my parental family line, the Thorn’s. Here, however, it claimed my 2 x great grandmother was the daughter of a differently named set of parents from those that appear in the one census return that I have found. If I had done my research the other way around and had decided to put into my tree the information that was published on another’s tree without checking to a primary source, then I could have unintentionally introduced errors into my tree. As it is all I have is some leads that also need to be checked against the primary source, when time allows, but at least I have one census that has sent me in the right direction.

The names on that other tree could be different for all manners of reasons. They could be nick names, a case of remarriage or just plain wrong. Always check your ancestors back to a primary source before you can be confident that you have found your family.

 

 

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Welsh Family History Research

I’ve been lost in the north of Wales this week doing a bit of family history. Well not physically…I’ve been seeing how much I could do remotely, with only the resources that are at my disposal online.

I started with the 1911 census collections on TheGenealogist.co.uk, ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk. As I have written before in this blog, I often use more than one subscription site to look up ancestors because the search engines on theses sites rely on their own transcriptions, created by volunteer transcribers and very often a mistake in the transcription can mean that your search misses the entry for your ancestor. By using more than one look-up site I can often find the missing census entry from one by looking on another. This strategy paid dividends this week with the Welsh research as Welsh names of parishes very often seem to have variations in spelling and I assume that some of the transcribers were not local and so were mystified by what they were reading from the images.

I used the old trick of putting the parish name into Google, which I had open in another browser window while my subscription sites occupied their own windows. Often I was able to find a handy article that revealed the different ways of spelling a parish, along with the name of the old county that it was part of. To deal with the mis-transcriptions I had to use my common sense to match the spelling offered with the most likely parish that I could find in the county in question.

One of the brick walls that I ran up against, with this welsh family, was that they had a very common set of names for their children, in the particular counties that I was searching within. So as not to waste time I had to tackle the problem by approaching from a different angle and using a different data set.

On TheGenealogist.co.uk site I was also able to search their nonconformist records, also available at www.bmdregister.co.uk and was thus able to download an image that pertained to a baptism in the parish of Myfod, Montgomeryshire. Further research revealed that it was also known as Miefod and soon I found the correct entry in the census collection for the character that I was following.

I was also able to make use of the Hugh Wallis site that allows a researcher to search within the batch numbers on the familysearch.org website. With the aid of his useful tool, that is once more functioning after a period of not following the revamp of the LDS’ familysearch site, I was able to look for those with a particular first and surname baptised in a particular Methodist Chapel.

One last brick wall, that I discovered while doing this research in Wales, is that the further back in time that I went I came up against the custom of parent’s giving their offspring Patronymic surnames. This is where a child took the father’s first name as a surname. I found out that this practice, while no longer being held to in the towns and among the wealthier, still continued up until the early 19th century in some of the rural areas of Wales.

By the end of my time on this quest I had put a reasonable amount of branches on to this particular Welsh Family Tree but the conclusion that I reached is that it really would benefit from a visit to the County Record Offices in question in order to see the physical records for the various churches and chapels in the area. Not everything is online but it is a jolly good place to start!

 

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The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



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When A Name Can Be A Brick Wall In Family Tree Research

Ancestors in Thorne Family tree
My family tree research has thrown up the occasional brick wall when I have excluded the possibility of spelling an ancestor’s name in a different way from what was to be expected.

 

Just this week I was helping a contact find the death record for one of their forebears and the official death records had listed the deceased using an alternative spelling of the person’s middle name and so throwing some doubt on whether we had got our man or not. In the event the decease’s home address matched the information known about the family home and so it could be confirmed that this was the correct death certificate for my correspondent’s ancestor.

 

In my own tree I have come up against stumbling blocks provided, on the one hand, by poor transcription and, on the other, by variable spelling in newspaper reports that I had been investigating. One of my ancestors had a reasonably common first and second name, for his time, but he had been given the middle name of Crosland that enabled me to distinguish him from his same named contemporaries. Sometimes, however, he would appear as Crossland with two ‘s’s and other times with just the one. Similarly, one of his sons had been baptised with a middle name of Massy but this could be found in records written as Massey or Massy so adding to the chance of missing him.

 

Other problems, found using the search facilities of the main look up sites, were with transcriptions. It needs to be remembered that, when searching for an entry in a census, we are actually making use of the transcription provided by the website and not of the actual data written in the census. This would be impossible to use as it was completed in handwriting and so not open to search engines to interpret.

 

Using the census collections I have had difficulty finding my grandfather, a Hubert Thorne, as he had been transcribed as Herbert. Going back one generation and his father was Sydney, not Sidney and this doesn’t even consider the problems created by the enumerator shortening names such as Thomas to Thos, Elizabeth to Eliza and William to Wm.

 

Other difficulties arise, in my own family tree, when persons are baptised with a first and middle name and then adopt the middle name as a first throughout their life. To compound it all, there middle name is even used on their death certificate as if it was their first. And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that many of us have nick names that we prefer to be called by!

 

The point that I am making here, is to always beware of searching with strict parameters for a person’s name when doing your family tree.

 

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