If you caught the BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? this week then you too were treated to a really interesting story.
It was that of Billy Connolly and in particular his ancestral links back to India.
His maternal great-great-grandfather was a soldier in British India who married the daughter of another British soldier. One who had seen the atrocities of the Indian Mutiny first hand and who himself was married to a young Indian girl at the time.
The Anglo-Indian aspect is another fascinating subject that could be examined in detail, but today I wanted to concentrate on the 1857 Indian Mutiny, as the British called it, or the First War of Indian Independence, as it is known to Indians.
What was good about this episode of the TV series was that it explained a bit about this historical time. There were brutal killings on both sides and it reminded me to go and look in my notes for an inscription that I had once seen on a headstone in one of the old cemeteries here on the other side of the world in Jersey, Channel Islands. There is no connection to Billy Connolly other than it is a person who also witnessed the brutality that his ancestor had in Northern India and the effect that it had on her.
Last year I was looking at some of the old Victorian monuments in Mont A L’Abbe Old Graveyard in Jersey when I came across this one:
Lavinia Fanny Kelly Hicks
Granddaughter of the above Mary Symons and the beloved wife of Captain W.J. Hicks H.M.E.I.S, who died at sea on her homeward voyage on the 28th of April 1858 in the 19th year of her age. Her constitution having been destroyed by the suffering she experienced during the mutiny at Allahabad.
So many other questions spring to mind from this.
This particular headstone can be viewed in its entirety as part of the Diamond subscription of TheGenealogist. This site has published photographs and transcriptions from several churchyards and cemeteries and I am told by my contacts at TheGenealogist that there are more to come in the future months.
Just search for Lavina Hicks and you can see the actual headstone that I was so moved by.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above.
I was asked this week to find out what I could about a man that was never talked about in the family.
Intriguing, I thought!
The subject had married the contact’s aunt in 1943 and fathered three children before, at some time, becoming estranged and then divorced from the aunt.
What little I had to go on was that in the Second World War the man was a British officer in the Indian Army. We didn’t know his date or place of birth, where in the U.K. he was from or any other family details.
To make things a bit more difficult he had always used a nick name “Ron” that was not the short form for his actual first name. Luckily for me, we did know the full name of the subject and to preserve anonymity I am going to refer to him here as Vincent Martin Edwards (not his real name).
Before the independence of India, in 1947, the Indian Army was an important component of the British Empire’s forces and made a significant contributions to the Second World War effort. After independence the records of officers, such as my man, have been deposited at the British Library in St. Pancras, London and so this was my first port of call.
I know from my visits to the British Library that they have runs of the Indian Army lists on the shelves of The Asian & African Studies Reading Room on Floor 3. A look in one of these, for the war years, should provide the officer’s number that can then be used to locate his service records that are held there, but not on open access.
From research that I have done in the past at St.Pancras I know that access to the service record for someone of this era would more than likely be restricted to the next of kin. All I wanted, however, was for one of the staff to look inside the document folder and to provide me with the date and place of birth of Vincent Martin Edwards and so I shot off an email request.
In amazingly short order I was emailed back with the answer: Streatham, 22 February 1919.
Meanwhile I had found the marriage details online for the couple at Findmypast in their British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns. The bride and groom were both 24 when they married in a church, in India and so I had confirmation of a birth date of 1919.
Turning to the online Birth, Marriage and Deaths, that are widely available on the internet, I went in search of the birth of Vincent Edwards for that quarter. These should be held in the records for the district of Wandsworth and so all I had to do was find the reference and order the certificate from the GRO.
Ever think things are going too well… that they are just a bit too easy?
The rapid reply from the British Library, the exact date and place?
Yes, that’s right! There were no records for Vincent Martin Edwards in that area for that date.
I began to expand my search to the neighbouring districts and found a Vincent Edwards in Camberwell for the first quarter. Perhaps this was my man? Was he born just into this district, I wondered, as it is not that far away on the map.
Now you may have heard the mantra “Always kill off your ancestors” that is try and find their death and in this case it only took me four years in the same Camberwell district to find the death registered of this namesake. This Vincent Edwards only had a life of 4 years, so couldn’t be my man.
So if the district was not wrong what about the date, not withstanding the supposed corroboration of the year from the marriage return?
I went back to the Wandsworth BMDs and began checking for the birth in the years either side for 5 years at a time. Result: a Vincent M Edwards born in 1920, so now we know he had exaggerated his age on his Indian Army records and at his marriage as well! Perhaps he had joined up before he was supposed to, as people did this in war time.
The lesson is to always treat dates with healthy scepticism until you get the primary record to prove them. I have ordered the certificate and await it with interest. From it I will be able to see such details as the Father and Mother’s names (The mother’s maiden name was added to the births, marriages and deaths index (BMD) held by the GRO from the September quarter of 1911).
The greater the knowledge that we have about a subject, then the more tools we have at our disposal to explore it.
In family history, the more we understand the records and resources, then the better we are able to locate our ancestors hidden in the documents.
Today I am really excited to announce the launch of yet more help for those people researching their English/Welsh family roots.
I’ve listened to your feedback and acted on it.
Some of you told me that you’d like to buy tutorials on certain specific areas for a very modest outlay of under a couple of pounds.
For those of you who asked for this quality information, so as to increase your knowledge of the family history records and resources, then here are the initial four tutorials being released today. I am making them available for the first time as MP3 downloads for £1.99 (or $3.30) so that they really are affordable to all.
Whether you want to listen to them on your computer, or transfer them to your MP3 player, then these programmes in my new Nosey Genealogist’s Master Mind Audio Series explain what the records are, where to find them and how to use them.
I know that many satisfied family history researchers have passed through my Family History Researcher Course of 52 written lessons – downloaded in pdf format to their computer each week. I have received compliments on the content and the accessible style and it gives me great pleasure that many of you really enjoy receiving a weekly module from my Family History Researcher Course. (If you have not joined yet, but are interested in this written course then check out the special offer which is currently a £1 trial for 2 weeks http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/trialoffer/)
But I also understand that some of you just wanted to listen to an audio programme on certain specific subjects and so that is what I have done for you today.
The first four Master Mind Audio Series Modules are:
The Parish Chest
Watch this space as I record and release more audio downloads in the near future.
This week’s Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC was a bit more traditional in tracing Mary Berry’s family back through various record sets. From what I can see, on the forums and on facebook, this has please many people who don’t like the recent trend of just one ancestor being looked at in a programme in more depth.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this week’s, with Mary Berry being a great choice to investigate with some interesting ancestors that made use of a large number of resources from the family history researcher’s tool box.
In defence for those other programmes, with the single subject, I would just like to say that one of the points that I was taught (and which I myself now teach in my own family history course) is that family history involves looking at the social context of our ancestors, as well as collecting names, dates and details.
We need to understand the world in which our ancestors lived and what was happening to make them be the people that they were. Perhaps these editions were simply trying to show this and in the confines of an hour long programme this naturally excluded all the other generations that would appear on the celebrity’s family tree.
That said, it would seem that the popular vote is for the later type of WDYTYA? Viewers from the genealogy pages on facebook would prefer to see a family tree being traced back and a little bit of detail being fleshed out on the poor unfortunate person who had fallen on difficult times or who had shown great grit.
As long as when we come to research our own family tree that we don’t make the mistake of simply collecting names, dates, perhaps an occupation and place or two and then move on to the next generation without thinking a little about the social context of our ancestors, then my vote is also with the Mary Berry type of programme, but only narrowly in favour!
As I wrote this post today I was casting my mind back over the show and counting off the data sets and resources used for which I have modules in my Family History Researcher course.
There was also Christopher Berry Junior’s wife and 6 children who ended up in the workhouse with some of the children dying while inmates, but the segregation that would have taken place between children and parent was not mentioned. See my module on the Workhouse.
Mary Berry was shown the Trades Directory and especially the one that her ancestor had published. In my course I have a module on Trade Directories written by Mary Bayley of TheGenelogist that uses that website’s great resources to explain their usefulness to the family historian.
Mary Berry had an ancestor of the same name as her who was identified in the GRO vital records as having had a number of illegitimate children. The Parish Registers also confirmed this fact. I delve into these three areas in separate modules on the Birth Marriage and Death certificates (lesson 2), the Parish Records (5 and 8) and Illegitimate children (21).
Then there was old newspapers (lesson number 42), Bankruptcy (lesson 29), apprentices (lesson 15), death records (lesson 25) and probably more!
If anyone is new to our fascinating subject, or is a seasoned family history researcher who would like to be refreshed on English/Welsh researching then I have a £1 trial for two weeks on offer at the moment.
Atlas shows us how Britain’s landscape has changed over the last 500 years
Looking at this collection of 57 maps and you will be able to find England’s lost counties of Westmorland and Huntingdonshire
Find Parish borders that hark back to when people associated more with their Parish church than town hall
There is a newly published historic atlas of Great Britain online at Ancestry.co.uk that gives the family historian something of a unique view of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales stretching back over 500 years.
Digitised by the family history site Ancestry.co.uk, the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, consists of fifty seven different maps of the counties of the U.K. What is interesting to me about this is it shows how Britain’s ancient parish and county boundaries have changed shape over the centuries.
We have all been there in our research. You may have lost someone from the records of a
particular county and thus you become stuck unless you can see the boundaries as they stood at the time that your ancestor was alive.
I was doing some research for a client whose ancestors came from Northfield. Today that is a suburb of Birmingham and so is in the West Midlands. At the time of their ancestor Northfield was in Worcestershire.
The subject of the research got married about ten miles away in Dudley, which was in Staffordshire at the time and today has its own archive service as it is a Metropolitan Borough. Thus to find the records of a family that lived in quite a small radius needs careful thought as to where to look.
This newly digitised Atlas is navigable online, users are able to scroll over whole counties and then use a zoom tool to go in and out. Useful if you need to identify the various local parishes, towns and the churches.
The original documents used in the atlas are from the resources of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies.
Browsing the maps open up quite an insight into how England’s historical county maps didn’t change much for centuries, before many of the ancient counties were split up to make more governable areas.
In this atlas the county of Middlesex is shown as it was in the 19th century. At that time it consisted of what are today large swathes of modern London and so included the likes of Islington and Chelsea. London itself is a much smaller settlement that is barely more than one mile wide.
The Home Counties appear in their original form before the legislation of the London Government Act 1965 created Greater London. You will also be able to see the original boundary of the counties of Essex and Surrey when viewing the maps.
Other counties that are defunct today but can be traced in the atlas include Westmorland (today a part of Cumbria), and Huntingdonshire, which disappeared into Cambridgeshire following a Government Act in 1971. Lancashire is also to be found here in its original form, comprising of modern day Manchester and Liverpool and also various parts of Cumbria and Cheshire. It was subsequently reorganised and downsized, losing nearly a third of its area in the process.
Before the population of the country grew over the centuries and along with this regional administration developed, people were inclined to identify themselves more with their local parish when considering where they came from. As time moved on and these parish borders changed to such an extent that now it is almost impossible to determine the exact location of some parishes and their records using modern maps.
I have an interest in a small village that sits today in North west Leicestershire, but in years past was divided between Leicestershire but with pockets residing in Derbyshire and completely surrounded by Leicestershire on all sides!
The Atlas is thus an authoritative guide to the drastic changes in Britain’s county and parish borders over the last 500 years and a valuable way of adding geographical context to family history research.
The maps were the brainchild of Cecil Humphery-Smith, a genealogist and heraldist who founded the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, based in Canterbury, which promotes family history both through courses and its extensive library. He is, of course, the author of Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers.
At Ancestry.co.uk, the maps can now be searched and browsed by county. For family historians using Ancestry’s Lancashire Parish records as well as the 1851 Censuses and Free Birth, Marriage and Death Index will discover that every record in these collections links to a relevant map.
In addition, almost eight million new records have been added to the Lancashire Parish records currently available on Ancestry’s site.
Ancestry.co.uk Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “The borders of the UK parishes and counties have changed so much over the last 500 years and that really makes these maps the key to navigating the past and progressing with your family history journey.”
To search the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, as well as millions of additional birth, marriage and death records, visit www.Ancestry.co.uk.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in this post.
Would you like a Family History magazine for free?
Are you looking for a fresh approach to researching your family history? Or are you keen to promote your family history services?
Whether you are long-standing or just starting out, whether you are advanced in your research, have reached early brick walls or work in this industry, Discover Your Ancestors magazine may help you along.
Discover Your Ancestors is packed full of family histories, case studies, UK and overseas features and advice on identifying those hard to find forebears.
Discover Your Ancestors magazine is now on its third annual edition in print, and is available at WHSmith stores around the UK or selected overseas premium newsagents or direct from the publisher here.
The magazine has also been running a monthly digital edition, to rave reviews. Priced at just £12 per annum, many loyal and engaged subscribers enjoy this digital magazine which is archived by issue in their very own members section of the magazine’s website.
But you don’t have to just take their word for it, or even take notice of those testimonials that are found on their website, you can try if for FREE!
I met these guys when they were on the next stand to me at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and I did this little video there.
So its a great pleasure that they are willing to offer my readers a free trial. As they say in this email that I recently received recently:
We are inviting each and every one of your contacts to enjoy a FREE OF CHARGE 3 ISSUE TRIAL so they can find out for themselves what a good read it is.
These knowledgeable interviewees include practising professional genealogists, with years and years of experience to offer.
Yet others are from the very highest levels of the online data provider companies, like Ancestry and TheGenealogist.
Listen to the download and learn some plain tips that will simplify the often confusing business of researching English/Welsh ancestors. I am going to give you access to these eight professionals so that you can use their advice to break down several brick walls that you may have.
3. The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) Member. What would the advice be from a professional genealogist practitioner?
Well as many serious professional genealogists belong to this association, I headed over to the AGRA stand and asked a member for his research tips. Points he brought up included the information on documents being only as good as that given by the informant and what to do about conflicting data. There is more to hear in the full interview that you can download here .
4. Families in British India Society (FIBIS) Expert. In family history we often have to think a bit outside the box. Well have you considered that your missing ancestor had moved abroad? With 3 million Brits having gone out to India then if we have a missing forbear it could certainly pay us to take a look at the records from this part of the British Empire. Its not just soldiers, the list of people who went out to work there is long as we hear from this FIBIS expert.
5. Celia Heritage – Professional Genealogist, Author and Family History Teacher introduces us to an often under used set of resources in her piece: Death Records. She explains how to use these records to flesh out the bones of our ancestors lives.
Celia is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker and you can just hear the passion that she has for her subject as she dispenses some gems of advice in the free downloadable audio presentation. Its not just death certificates that Celia brings to our attention in this part of the recording!
6. Dr Ian Galbraith – The National Wills Index explains about one of the best single major sources for family historians when I asked him to talk about Wills and Administrations for this audio.
Ian explains why wills can be an important resource with an average of 10 names per will and with half of them being different from that of the testator. Many people are surprised by the fact that all sorts of people left wills, but you won’t be when you have heard the full interview.
7. Brad Argent – Content Director for Ancestry advises family historians to drill down for the information in the online databases in his contribution to the recording. Brad suggests we use the card catalogue to seek out data sets and then use the advance search facility of “exact”, “soundex” and “wildcards” when we are on this large data provider’s site. His advice is compelling.
8. Mark Bayley – Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, a site that gives really fantastic value and a very wide range of data, introduces us to a great name-rich resource recently published by TheGenealogist, in association with The National Archives.
What is this important resource for England and Wales?
It is, of course, the Tithe collection.
I have been using this set recently to great effect with my own rural ancestors and so I have included a module in my Family History Researcher Guides about the tithes.
The beauty of this data is that it includes both sides of society, with landowners and tenants being recorded and giving names and addresses. As a pre-census data set it is hugely valuable to us! Listen to Mark explain about these exciting records in the free recording you can download now by clicking the link below.
Now you may be asking why I am doing this for free?
Its because I want to introduce you to a set of guides that I have put together. A series of pdf modules that takes the information I gleaned at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and incorporated it, along with much more content into a year’s worth of weekly written guides.
There are extra contributions from various other professional experts who have penned some of the reports, as well as those modules written from my own extensive experience.
I am guessing that, if you have read this far, you are interested in English/Welsh family history and that you have hit at least one of the inevitable brick walls. The solution is to understand more ways to find your ancestors.
So if you would like to dramatically increase your knowledge then I think you will enjoy being a member of my Family History Researcher Guides. This is a 52 weekly series of guides written in an easily accessible form and you can take a two week trial for just £1 by going here:
GREAT-VALUE 1 MONTH SUBSCRIPTION – £9.95 FOR UNLIMITED ACCESS
The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) has launched a brand new 1 month subscription. For just £9.95 you can search, view and print fascinating articles published in British and Irish newspapers between 1710 and 1954.
As they say in their press release “The new 1 month subscription is brilliant value for money. Not only is it less than half the price of The British Newspaper Archive’s old 30 day package, you can also view more newspaper pages.”
As someone who loves to read the articles in old newspapers and to sometimes hit upon a nugget about an ancestor I am really please to see the The British Newspaper Archive has reduced the price. Well done! This will help me in my Family Tree research while saving me some money.
The new price for a 1 month subscription is £9.95 opposed to the old price of £29.95. With the new package you can view as many newspapers as you like, subject to their standard fair usage policy of 3,000 pages per month. which is much better than the previous 600 newspaper page limit.
Ian Tester, Brand Director of The British Newspaper Archive, commented:
“Our historical newspapers are full of amazing stories just waiting to be unearthed. We hope that even more history lovers will be able to explore this treasure trove of information with our new great-value subscription.”
You can currently search 7.7 million newspaper pages at The British Newspaper Archive, with thousands more added every week.
Disclosure: Above links are compensated affiliate links.
Â Memorial national photo competition Â£1000 prize winner!
The Memorial Awareness Board (MAB) runs the annual competition that challenges the public to take two photos, one representing the â€˜thenâ€™ and one representing the â€˜nowâ€™. It’s an opportunity to showcase memorials ‘unsung beauty’.
The competition, sponsored by Funeral Directors Lodge Brothers (www.lodgebrothers.co.uk) was a huge success and with such a high standard of entries choosing the ten shortlisted proved a challenging task! Then ten were then published on the website and put to a public vote.
Winner Robin Bath from Fulham was delighted with the Â£1000 prize. Robin said â€œThank you so much to MAB for the great opportunity. I am a keen photographer and found the subject matter of stone memorials most fascinating. Visiting cemeteries is a beautiful and peaceful pass time. Organisationâ€™s like MAB are vitally importantâ€.Â Robin also received a gold award certificate signed by the MAB chairman.
Competition sponsor Chris Lodge, (Managing Director of Lodge Brothers) presented Robin with the cheque by the Thames at Tower Bridge.
Congratulations to runner up Peter Heaton from York who won a digital camera. Peter is most inspired by photography and visiting cemeteries. He says â€œI was delighted to hear that I had won the Silver Award in the MAB photographic competition, I came across the competition online a couple of years ago and thought then that its subject would suit my style of work and interests. I began to look at the fascinating variety of memorials in my local cemetery.
It is reassuring to know that there is a body such as the MAB which contributes to the continuing interest and development of ourcountry’s memorialsâ€.
New to this year were certificates signed by the MAB chairman who awarded a Gold, Silver and a selection of Bronze.
The Memorial Awareness Board is a non-profit organisation, representing memorial stonemasons and campaigning for sympathetic memorialisation in the UK. Its brand new website, www.rememberforever.org.uk, aims to inform the public and the press alike about their options regardingmemorialisation. Whether a loved one is buried or cremated they deserve to be remembered forever and a stone memorial is the best way to accomplish this. The website gives details of all types of stone memorial available from UK memorial masons.
Each year, the â€˜Dead Art? Then and Nowâ€™ photography competition attracts entries from across the country. The purpose of the competition is to encourage the public to venture to their local cemeteries to discover the beauty of stone memorials, while helping them to understand the importance of stone memorials as a focus for grief in the short term, and agenealogy tool in the long term. The competition Â is sponsored by Funeral Directors Lodge Brothers. Lodgebrothers.co.uk
Christopher Lodge, Director of Masonry at Lodge Brothers (Funerals) Ltd says, â€œ As a family business established over 200 years, we are really pleased to sponsor this unique photographic competition. Memorials play a part in our social history through both personal and public memorials. They are a lasting tribute to loved ones and those who have lost their lives for our country. We sincerely hopethat this competition shows the changes within our industry and society through the theme â€œThen and Nowâ€ and raises the awareness and importance of commemorating in stone.â€