This week I, like many other members, got an email from the Society of Genealogists.
It comes on the back of the LDS news that The London FamilySearch Centre, that has been ‘temporarily’ at The National Archives in Kew for several years, is reaching the end of its contract with TNA and the size of presence at Kew and the type of offerings from the London FamilySearch Centre will change in June 2017.
With this news the SoG Library in Clerkenwell becomes even more of an important place for family historians to pay a visit to than ever.
I have always been a fan of the SoG and so this is good news that the films are still going to be available when The London FamilySearch Centre stops providing access themselves.
Here is the email from Else Churchill…
The London FamilySearch Centre microfilm collection, which is currently temporarily located at The National Archives, is transferring to the Society of Genealogists in Clerkenwell. The move reflects a partnership between the Society of Genealogists and FamilySearch to ensure that the microfilm collection continues to be available to family historians. The London FamilySearch Centre will continue to provide its research support services at the National Archives.
The collection of about 57,000 microfilms complement the SoG’s remarkable library of genealogical sources and both bring together, in one place, an unparalleled resource for family history researchers in the UK. Having been carefully curated over many years, the FamilySearch Films include many thousands of copies of original church and local records from the United Kingdom and Ireland; probate records for England and Wales before and after 1858 and selected items for Caribbean research.
The films will be available to view at the National Archives until 31 May and should be available for consultation at the Society of Genealogists Library from 26 June 2017.
June Perrin, CEO of the Society says “ The Society of Genealogists is delighted to offer a home to such a remarkable collection and looks forward to welcoming family historians to our library in Clerkenwell”
While reading the latest news from the Society of Genealogist I came across an announcement for a half day course being held at the society’s head quarters in London called:
“My Ancestors Came from the Channel Islands”
It had previously been scheduled for the end of the month and has now been brought forward to 24/10/2015 10:30 – 13:00 – So anyone who hasn’t realised this yet and who intended to go then make a note in your diary that this course has been moved from its original date of 31 October.
If you have forbears form this part of the world and want to learn more about how to research them then as I write this they still have some space.
On which of the Channel Islands did your ancestors originate?
Are your cousins still there?
This half-day course will cover sources of genealogical and historical sources of information about Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The course will include data that can be accessed in the Society of Genealogists library, online and on the islands in archives, libraries, registries and museums. Relevant contact details of historical and family history organisations will be provided.
with Dr Colin Chapman.
Books on Channel Island Ancestors
Pen & Sword books have the following editions of Marie-Louise Backhurst’s comprehensive book on Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors for sale. Check out the different editions with these links:
Its only three weeks to go before many of us descend on the NEC in Birmingham for the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show.
One of the most interesting parts of this event are the number of fascinating talks given both on the stands and in the various Society of Genealogist workshops around the hall. They can open up your mind to new places to look for your ancestors or give you tips and tricks to use that you hadn’t considered before.
The Society of Genealogists will be running an extensive programme of workshops by leading genealogists over the course of the three day show. You can choose from a vast number of subjects, for instance: different research techniques, how to record your findings and using parish registers.
Taking place in four theatres (SOG Studios 1, 2, 3 and 4), sessions last for approximately 45 minutes with a fifteen minute break in between. All workshops are free to attend* and subject to capacity – for this reason, you are able to pre-book a seat at your preferred workshops for just £2 when booking your tickets to the show.
Don’t forget the Keynote Workshop** will talk place every day at 1.15pm – 2.30pm in SOG Studio 1.
Heading over to TheGenealogist’s talks stand, that on the plan is near the entrance of the hall, I am looking forward to the Tracing Military Ancestors with Chris Baker, Military Expert & Author, Breaking Down Brick Walls with Mark Baley, Online Expert and Celia Heritage talking about our Ancestor’s Working Lives.
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…
Findmypast’s customers seem to be telling them that they want to go back to the past website.
It is difficult to ignore perhaps the biggest story in the British isles family history world this week of a customer backlash being played out on social media and on the review websites such as http://www.reviewcentre.com and http://www.trustpilot.co.uk about Findmypast.co.uk’s new website.
It even spilled over on to my Nosey Genealogist YouTube channelwhere an interview I did with Debra Chatfield at Who Do You Think You Are? Live got comments posted about, what Findmypast’s customers think of the new site.
While it may not be all of their subscribers, venting this anger, it would be fair to say that many of their customers are not impressed with the new site’s functionality and these are demanding a return to the old site.
Comments indicate that customers do not like the “new and improved platform”, some find it very slow to use and difficult to search for records. It would seem that these customers of DC Thompson Family History’s Findmypast do not like it, preferring the previous interface.
The facility to search for an address was not working properly this week, as I found out myself, though Findmypast promised to fix that.
It would seem, from the head of steam being built up, that many of the subscribers are threatening to walk away from Findmypast to other genealogical providers.
As someone who uses more than one website for my searches my immediate solution was to look up my census address query on the rival website ofTheGenealogist, which also offers an address search not to mention carries a very substantial suite of data sets including all the census records, parish records and the recently released and very interesting Tithe Apportionments that I find fascinating in my ancestor research.
I was also interested to see in an email that I received on Friday from the Society of Genealogists that they are running a training session for Members, staff and volunteers of the SoG.
They say that As the changes are quite significant the Society has arranged some special training in using the new style search functions etc. Paul Nixon, UK Data Strategy with DC Thompson Family History has agreed to come to the Society to make a training presentation and explain how it all works now.
I don’t really understand why Findmypast has let the situation get to this point.
As a fresher on a Business Studies course, way back in the 1980s, I remember being taught in the first few weeks of my undergraduate course that companies that are Customer led are the only ones that will survive. Those businesses that are product led or led by technology often try to push their customers to accept what they think is best for them, and that this is a recipe for disaster.
Surely a company such as DC Thompson Family History will have people within it that understand this customer focus? Lets hope so.
Like many, I have been fascinated by the reports in the media lately regarding the finding of Richard III’s remains in the former Greyfriars Church in Leicester.
I was a student in Leicester in the early 1980’s. So it was that I walked past the rather nondescript area where King Richard III was buried on a daily basis on my way to and from lectures and never for one instance thinking of the historical importance of the church that had stood there before.
On my most recent visit to the city, back in January, I was aware of the excitement that was building around the find at Greyfriars car park and picked up some leaflets at the tourist office on the subject. Then this week the world’s media covered the announcement that it was “beyond reasonable doubt” the skeleton of the monarch.
From my point of view, as a family historian, one of the really interesting things was the use of DNA from a descendent of the dead king’s sister to reach this conclusion.
The team from Leicester University had turned to the historian and author John Ashdown-Hill. Back in 2004 he had been able to tracked down the late Joy Ibsen, a direct descendant of Richardâ€™s sister Anne of York and from her to the Canadian born Michael Ibsen, a cabinet maker in London.
Again, of interest to us family historians, is what John Ashdown-Hill said on the BBC’s Radio 4 “Today” programme
â€œAn enormous family tree grew on my computer. You have to trace every possible line of descent because you donâ€™t know which one will die out in 1745 and which one will carry on to the present day â€“ you have to trace them all.â€
On the Who Do You Think You Are Magazine’s website it is reported that the team did not rely on just the one line from Anne of York down to Joy Ibsen, as is the impression gained from some of the media reports this week.
Not only did the genealogists find documentary evidence for each â€˜linkâ€™ of the chain between Anne of York and the late Joy Ibsen, but they were able to make contact with a second maternal line descendant â€“ who wishes remain anonymous â€“ whose DNA was used to confirm a match between genetic material extracted from the skeleton and a swab provided by Joyâ€™s son, Michael.
â€œRight from the start of the project, we did not want to rely entirely on the DNA between Michael and the skeleton. We always wanted to triangulate that wherever possible,â€ explains Professor SchÃ¼rer. â€œWe set about trying to secure a second maternal line, and after several weeks of research we actually did discover this person. The documentary evidence again is there to support this.â€
In a couple of weeks the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show will be at Olympia and already they have moved the talk by Dr Turi King called “Discovering Richard III” from a smaller area to now be held in the Celebrity Theatre / SOG studio 1 on Saturday, 1.00pm â€“ 1.45pm.
It is billed as telling the story of the research project undertaken at the University of Leicester to discover the burial place of Richard III and the related work to scientifically identify the skeletal remains.
Personally I can’t wait for this year’s WDYTYA? LIVE as I missed last year due to fog disrupting my travel plans!
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When we consciously decide to do Family history, as opposed to Genealogy, we set out to flesh out our ancestors lives a bit. We do this by seeking to understand what they did for a living, what the environment in which they lived and worked in was like and the social conditions that prevailed on them at the time.
My Devon ancestors are a mixture of Agricultural Labourers, Mariners, Small Businessmen and the like. Their work is very often dictated by where they lived. The countryside dwellers in and around Bigbury and South Huish worked on the land. Those that inhabited Dartmouth made a living on the river and at sea while those from Plymouth ran shops and small businesses. Not surprisingly none of them were coal miners or textile mill workers.
At the Society of Genealogists (SoG), in London, there is a good amount of material to help family historians research ancestors occupations and much of it is to be found in the Upper library at 14 Charterhouse Buildings. Although not all the material is exclusively on that floor, it is a good place to start as Else Churchill, the Genealogist at The Society of Genealogists pointed out in a talk I attended there last year.
With the “Ag Labs”, as we have come to call our Agricultural Labourers after the 1841 census introduced this shorthand way of describing them, there is a book that can be purchased from the SoG shop called My Ancestor Was an An Agricultural Labourer which explains what their lives were like and points the reader towards some source material that could be used apart from the census data.
Returning to the question in the headline of this article: What Did Your Ancestors Do? Finding the answer to this question will probably depend on what status they were and what and when they carried out their trade, profession or calling.
As some professions and crafts became more regulated then lists of those qualified to make a living from the activity will have thrown up records. Family historians can have recourse to Trade Directories, Apprenticeship lists and so on to try and find their forebears. Professional men, such as Medical men and Lawyers are going to be better documented than others. The SoG have extremely good runs of lists for these professions as well as those, such as Chemists and Apothecaries, who modelled their professional standards on the former class of practitioners, with the sanction of being struck off from the register to practice.
The Law list’s at the SoG include Barristers, London Attorneys and Provincial Attorneys back into the eighteenth century. The medical directories only really start in the 1850’s with the formal registration of these professions but I did find in their catalogue A directory of English country physicians 1603-43.
Men who were Officers in the Army or Navy can be found in the run of military lists on the upper library floor along with a great collection of Regimental Histories and Medal Rolls.
Some enlisted men can be located by using the Findmypast Chelsea Pensioner 1760 to 1913 data set and the Militia Service Records 1806-1915. Look in the county record office for the Ballot Lists of those men eligible to serve in the local militia from the 1750’s to Napoleonic times (1799 to 1815).
What if your ancestor went into trade by serving an apprenticeship? Else Churchill, explained that apprenticeship records are better documented before 1800 than after. A tax levied in the 18th century caused records to be kept and they are to be found today at the National Archives IR1 series and they are indexed by the SoG and can be found in books in the upper library. Another database is on Ancestry. The SoG has another excellent book called My Ancestor was an Apprentice which may help.
If your ancestors served an apprenticeship in one of the larger towns, or boroughs, in order to become a freeman and gain the entitlement to vote, then look for the records for the town/borough at the county record office. Ms Churchill pointed out that the more likely scenario would be that your ancestor would have served their apprenticeship within a family and there would be no record as the tax was not applicable within a family apprenticeship.
A possible record that may be found is where a child is apprenticed by the parish to make them less of a burden on the parish. Typically the age of the apprentice is much younger (7 or 8yrs old) and husbandry or housewifery. If the records survive they will be in the Parish Chest material.
This is only a short look at this subject and I will return to it in a further article here.
Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:
Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.
I was reading a newsletter, from someone I respect, in a completely different field of interest from family history this weekend. In it he was talking about obstacles in the paths of people that are trying to achieve something, whether it was in sports, business or any other pursuit.
Nick James runs a membership site that caters for people that want to run an internet marketing business and in this week’s tip he recalled advice that a life coach had given him to physically write down your stumbling block in a paragraph or two and then to draw a little picture next to it. The picture could be a fence, a brick wall or whatever you chose to depict the problem that you face.
The idea behind this is that by so doing the brick wall no longer exists as a theoretical problem. It now takes on a concrete form that you can now deal with. I have a special note book into which I enter my problem ancestors and this acts in very much the same way for me.
In my family tree I have various lines that seem blocked and so I decided to tackle one of them this week end by seeking the help of an expert and talking through the problem with them. Now I did this by making use of the excellent facility of a telephone consultation provided by the Society of Genealogistsâ€™ Family History Advice Line on 020 7490 8911. It is available on Saturdays: 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm and also on Thursdays: 6pm-7.45pm. I came away with ideas for further investigation that just might help me unlock the problem that I have of an ancestor whose occupation in the marriage register was a mariner. He turned up in a maritime city and married a local girl (of this parish) but did not provide posterity with any clue as to his parish or where he had sailed in from!
At the end of this month Who Do You Think You Are? Live returns to Olympia from the 24th to 26th February and one of the popular benefits of attending this event is the the Society of Genealogists Family History Show will be part of the weekend. Apart from the talks given there is a fantastic chance to book some time with an expert who can help you look at ways to tackle your obstinate brick wall. A chance to speak one-to-one with a local, regional or specialist expert may be what is needed to allow you to get through your brick wall.
For more useful tips to research your Family Tree then download my Kindle book by using the button in the box below.
Disclosure: The links in this post are Compensated Affiliate links. If you decide to buy the product I may receive a commission.
I’ve been to London this weekend and, on Saturday, I attended a great course at the Society of Genealogists on My Ancestor Came From Devon given by the society’s Genealogist Else Churchill.
Over the afternoon we were introduced to what we would be able to find in the library at the SoG in Charterhouse Buildings and where to look on the internet for Devon sources.
The talk encompassed sources for beginners to beyond and if you can’t make it down to Devon itself and find getting to London easier, then what is available at the SoG really is a good alternative for anyone who, like me, have Devonian ancestors.
I shall be returning to this lecture in a future post, but today I’d just like to mention some of the resources that were highlighted by Else Churchill.
The Society of Genealogists has registers for about 10,000 parishes. It houses published indexes and finding aids including the Devon FHS publications and also has many transcripts and indexes in microfilm and CDs.Â There are various trade directories spanning from 1783 to the 1930s in the library and poll books particularly from Exeter and Plymouth.
Many of us subscribe to one or other of the subscription sites, but very few of us can afford to belong to more than one or two. Well that is where a visit to the SoGÂ can be useful as they have free access to a number of the pay per view websites so allowing us to do searches on the sites that we don’t subscribe to ourselves. This is an important resource for the family historian, as often the way the database has been transcribed can have a bearing on what you are able to find on one over another. So if you have hit a brick wall and can’t find a forbear on one site then it is worth looking on another. Also one may be stronger for the counties that you are interested in. Findmypast turns out to be particularly good for Devon.
I’ve used trade directories before, when I was tracing my tradesmen ancestors down in Plymouth. At that time I’d found one enterprising forebear, of mine, who had been a Victualler and Brass founder on the 1861 census employingÂ one woman, six men and some boys in this Devon City. This had lead me on to use the University of Leicester’s site, Historical Directories at www.historicaldirectories.org to find him and his advertisement in a Plymouth Trade Directory. Its great fun to see how polite were the requests of a Victorian era businessman, asking for trade, in an advertisement from this time.
This week I had turned my attention to my maternal great-grandfather. In a book, complied on the family, that I was lucky enough to have found on the shelves of the Society of Genealogists, in Goswell Road, London, my ancestor was given a brief mention in between his more illustrious brother’s, cousin’s and forefather’s. What I was able to glean, from this book, was that Edward Massy Hay had been a merchant in London for a period in the 1860’s, after a short spell in the army.
The book had been complied by his Father, Charles Crosland Hay and completed by his cousin on the death of the former. It gave me a clue that all was not well in the business world of Edward, as a line simply said: “Partner in the firm of Stevens & Hay, Merchants in London; on its failure he became a tea-planter in Ceylon.”
My first reaction was to see if the business went bankrupt and was mentioned in the London Gazette. I checked the website at www.london-gazette.co.uk, where it is possible to search back through the archives for free, but I found nothing on the business. I’d read a tip that it was always worth checking the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, in case the bankruptcy had been hidden in one of these publications. The results came back negative and so it looks as if the business was wound up without going bankrupt.
Recently, on taking a look around TheGenealogist.co.uk‘s data sets, I came across the 1869 Kelly’s Post Office Directory for London on their site. By entering “Stevens and Hay” I was eventually able to locate their business to an office at 65 Fenchurch Street, London. EC3
Moving on, to a Kelly’s Directory for 1880 London, I found my great-grandfather listed as living in Princes Square, Bayswater, London. Also at that address was his sister, Mrs Mary Ann Webster, whose husband was in the Madras Civil Service. But I had already begun investigating the move to Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka), by my ancestor. By 1880 he was appearing in a directory for that island, as well as at Bayswater!
From a website, dedicated to the history of Ceylon Tea (www.historyofceylontea.com), I found there are links to many years of the Ferguson’s Ceylon Directory. In 1880 Edward M. Hay was an Assistant for R.Books & Co of London, in the British Colony. He appears in several of the directories, one of which has him as Chairman of his local area’s planters association and in 1905 he was listed as the owner of a tea estate called Denmark in Dolosbage, Ceylon.
This little peep into my great-grandfather’s life was made possible by the use of various trade directories and the fact that they have been scanned and uploaded to websites on the internet. But before I turned off my computer, on a whim I decided to enter the address that he had shared with his sister in London into Google street view. I was rewarded with the Georgian fronts of Princes Square and easily found the house where he lived. It is now a small hotel and so its address is on the internet.
A search for 65 Fenchurch Street, and the offices, shows that they have been replaced by a modern vista. Lastly, I did a Google search for the Denmark Tea Estate in Sri Lanka and by chance it still exists! Using Google Earth I was able to use the satellite view to see, from the air, the hillside estate that once was where my great-grandfather cultivated tea.
It seems to me to be well worth using some of these alternative tools, available to us, when doing family history research. They may add just a little bit of flesh to the bones of facts gained from the census data or the birth, marriage and death records for our ancestors.