Who Do You Think You Are? Sir Derek Jacobi – Wills and more

 

Derek Jacobi from TheGenealogist

I watched the Sir Derek Jacobi episode of Who Do You think You Are? with great interest this week. The television researchers showed us that although the famous actor was born into a South London family of humble stock, he was descended from a Huguenot ancestor of status. Joseph De La Plaigne had been imprisoned in France for his protestant beliefs, before making his escape to England in his sixties.

It gave me great delight to find the TV programme showed Sir Derek a copy of his illustrious forebear’s will, as I too had discovered this very same document when looking around the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills on TheGenealogist’s website.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

If you want to read more about this and some of Sir Derek’s other ancestors’ last wishes, then there is an article on TheGenealogist’s website that I helped put together.

TheGenealogist Wills of ancestor of Sir Derek Jacobi

Many people from all stations of society, including some whom we would not have expected to have, made wills and so it is certainly worth taking a look to see if your ancestors left one.

Before 1858, England and Wales were divided into two provinces. The largest and most influential was Canterbury, which covered the South of England up to the Midlands and also Wales. The other was York, which covered Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and the Isle of Man. The two provinces of Canterbury and York each had their own Archbishop, and were divided into several dioceses. Each diocese had a minimum of two bishops, and these dioceses were also divided again into archdeaconries.

All wills, up until 12 January 1858, had to be proven in a church court to ensure that the will was legal. Wills were proven in over 250 church courts across the country, and the records of these are now stored mostly in local record offices.

For more on wills there is a module that reveals more about the subject inside the Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh Family History that is available from the link below. The course takes the student from beginning researching their English/Welsh ancestor to deal with many intermediate level lessons such as wills and much more.

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New WW1 Records Released

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New avenues of research are opened up by the latest release of unique Great War records.

During the First World War many servicemen were reported as ‘Missing’ or ‘Killed in Action’ and for the first time you can now search a comprehensive list of these online. Usefully this includes the changing status of soldiers as the facts became clearer over time, as many assumed dead were found alive and those reported missing had their status updated.

This new release from TheGenealogist contains over 800,000 records. Included are 575,000 Killed in Action records, over 226,000 unique Missing-in-Action records and 14,000 Status Updates.

Over 100,000 people previously reported as missing had further status updates:
59,500 were later reported as killed
47,400 were later reported as PoW
2,000 were later reported as rejoined
4,200 were later reported as “not missing”
8,400 were later reported as wounded
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments:

“The telegrams and published lists of Dead and Missing must have had a huge impact on the lives of our ancestors. These records give an insight into what must have been an emotional roller coaster. They also give new avenues of research into what some researchers may have assumed were dead ends.”

These are now available to Diamond subscribers of TheGenealogist.

Example 1 Thought to be dead
Some people initially reported to be dead may turn out to be alive, the change in status is usually reported in the War Lists. If it had been assumed that an ancestor was dead, from the initial report, it could reopen a closed off branch of a family tree for further research.

An example of this type of positive record status change is Flight Sub Lieutenant Trechmann who was first reported as “Died As A Prisoner” in the Daily Lists of 6th June 1917.

Example on TheGenealogist.co.uk of soldier previously reported Died as a Prisoner

By the end of July 1917 his status changed to Previously Reported Died As A Prisoner, Now Reported Alive and Still a Prisoner.
Finally, in December 1918, his records show that he was Repatriated.

PoW camp from TheGenealogist image archive
Example 2 Thought to be wounded
5th Earl of LongfordA different illustration, on many levels, is that of the 5th Earl of Longford. Within the Daily Casualty List on TheGenealogist for the 6th September 1915, we can find Lord Longford who had previously been reported as “Wounded”.

WWI Soldiers: Earl of Longford reported as wounded

His status was then changed to be “Now Reported Wounded and Missing” and this alteration appeared in the daily list of the 27th September 1915:

Earl Longford now Missing in Action

During the First World War, Brigadier-General Lord Longford was in command of a division sent from their base in Egypt to Suvla on the Gallipoli peninsula as reinforcements during the Battle of Sari Bair.

The initial attack by other Divisions on Scimitar Hill had failed. With his men waiting in reserve, the 5th Earl and his troops were then ordered to advance in the open across a dry salt lake. Under fire, most of the brigades had taken shelter, but Lord Longford led his men in a charge to capture the summit of Scimitar Hill. Unfortunately, during the advance, he was killed.

Earl Longford’s body was never recovered and so, in the confusion of war, he was first recorded as “Wounded”, and then “Wounded and Missing”. Eventually, in 1916, he would be assumed to be dead.

Posterity tells us that the peer’s last words were recorded as: “Don’t bother ducking, the men don’t like it and it doesn’t do any good”.

To read more about these records and to read a featured article on TheGenalogist see this article: Was your ancestor killed or missing in action?

‘First World War Collection’ visit www.TheGenealogist.co.uk

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Walking in Ancestor’s Footprints

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Have you visited your ancestors street and felt the same?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here or the image below:

Family History Researcher Course

 

 

 

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Exceptional new records from Findmypast uncover the diversity that formed the Royal Air Force in the First World War

Press Release from Findmypast that those of us with RFC/RAF servicemen in the family may be interested in.

 

Findmypast.co.uk, in partnership with The National Archives has released close to 450,000 service records of men of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force including 342,000 Airmen’s records never seen online before. Tales of derring-do brought to life so vividly by W.E. Johns in his Biggles series are well-known, but today’s release tells, for the first time, the stories of the unsung heroes from across the world and from the lower ranks that made up the RAF on its inception.

The majority of records in this collection date from 1912 with the formation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and include men who continued to serve in the RAF up until 1939. The earliest records date from 1899 with the Royal Engineers Balloon Service in the Boer War. With these fascinating records now available online, Findmypast offers the most comprehensive collection of British military service records in the early twentieth century.

Drawn from across the world…
The records reveal for the first time how World War One brought together men from across the world to serve alongside each other. Over 58 nationalities served in the RAF during World War One, with men signing up from as far afield as India, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Poland, Mexico, Romania and Germany. Included in the records is the first Indian to fly into combat, Hardutt Singh Malik, who became the only Indian aviator to survive the war, despite coming under significant attack and ending up with bullet wounds to his legs that required several months’ treatment in hospital. After the war, Malik joined the Indian Civil Service, serving as the Indian ambassador to France, and following his retirement became India’s finest golf player, even with two German bullets still embedded in his leg.

… and from across society
Despite the RAF’s reputation as the perfect playground for the upper classes, today’s records reveal how those from the working-class flew wing tip to wing tip with the officers, and became highly celebrated for their superior flying ability. One well-regarded flying ace, Arthur Ernest Newland, had humble origins as one of at least nine children from Enfield, north London, but the records show how he went on to twice receive the Distinguished Flying Medal for his prowess in the air, ending the war having destroyed 19 enemy aircraft, 17 of those single-handedly. One of ten children from a poor family in Limerick, John Cowell also became a celebrated airman during the war. Beginning on 5 May 1917, and extending through 28 July, Cowell scored fifteen victories as a gunner, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 11 June 1918, as well as the Military Medal with Bar. Returning as a pilot in 20 Squadron he scored his final victory a year and a day after his fifteenth but sadly was shot down and killed the next day by balloon buster Friedrich Ritter von Röth of Jasta 16.

The air’s a stage
With the records containing information about an individual’s peacetime occupation, as well as their military prowess, it’s perhaps no surprise that the RAF appealed to the more dramatic members of society with records showing 104 actors, nine comedians and even one music hall artiste made up the RAF ranks.

“It’s a real treat to have such an extensive set of records about the everyday airmen of World War One” said Paul Nixon, military expert at Findmypast.co.uk. “These people, drawn from all walks of life, and from all over the world, played an incredibly important part in shaping our history, particularly in the development of aerial warfare. To have many of these hitherto unseen records easily accessible online for the first time mean that now many people can discover the Biggles in their own family.”

William Spencer, author and principal military records specialist at The National Archives continued: “These records reveal the many nationalities of airmen that joined forces to fight in the First World War. Now these records are online, people can discover the history of their ancestors, with everything from their physical appearance right through to their conduct and the brave acts they carried out which helped to win the war.”

The records, comprising National Archives series AIR 76 (Officers’ service records) and AIR 79 (Airmen’s records) contain information about an individual’s peacetime and military career, as well as his physical description, religious denomination and family status. Next of kin are often mentioned and this too has been fully indexed and is easily searchable. These records form part of Findmypast’s 100in100 promise to deliver 100 record sets in 100 days. To learn more about the records, visit www.Findmypast.co.uk.

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Family History Research in England & Wales: The 1939 Register is coming!

 

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News out today from the British-owned online family history company DC Thomson Family History (the people behind findmypast amongst other websites) and The National Archives that they are entering into a joint project to make the records of 40 million civilians held in the 1939 register available online.

When they have got this data digitised, it is estimated by the company that the collection will comprise of near enough 1.2 million scanned full-colour images of documents. As the records cover the entire civilian population of England & Wales at the outbreak of WWII, this is quite a significant release for those of us researching our English or Welsh family tree.

What was the 1939 register?

It was taken on 29 September 1939 by the British Government and recorded personal details of individuals in order to issue identity cards and ration books. In later years it became the basis of the National Health Service’s records.

Findmypast say that , when complete, the 1939 register will be fully searchable online for the first time, opening up the past to a new generation of family and social historians, just as the 1911 census did on its release in 2009.

So what can we expect to find once this set becomes available to us?

The records contain the address, full name, date of birth, sex, marital status and occupation of individuals, as well as changes of name. Although the Register is literally within living memory for many people, information about living individuals will be kept closed for 100 years from their year of birth, or until proof of death has been authenticated.

From today, anybody interested in being kept informed about the project can register at www.1939register.co.uk.

Annelies Van Den Belt, CEO of DC Thomson Family History said: “This announcement is great news not just for British family historians and those with British relatives, but for anyone with an interest in history itself; providing a fascinating snapshot of the country as it stood on the edge of the most widespread conflict in human history.

“This significant project will bring these records to a global audience for the first time, and combined with the 1.8 billion records already available on our websites will make it easier than ever to begin your family history journey and uncover the powerful stories that lie within and that make us who we are.”

Mary Gledhill, Commercial Director, at The National Archives, added: “The National Archives is delighted to be working with DC Thomson Family History to open up this unique record collection to the world, allowing history enthusiasts to discover more about the people at the outbreak of the Second World War. In the absence of a 1931 and 1941 census, this collection is all the more valuable to family historians trying to trace their ancestors.”

The 1939 register project is the latest contract to be awarded to DC Thomson Family History by The National Archives. Record sets previously digitised by the company in association with The National Archives include Crime, Prisons and Punishment; outbound passenger lists; British Army Service records; Merchant Navy Seamen’s records; Maritime Birth, Marriage and Death indexes and the 1911 census.

Great news for those of us researching our recent ancestors from England & Wales. One of the most anticipated family history projects since the 1911 census.


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