New Book: In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors

I was very pleased to hear from Anthony Adolph this week, about his new book In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors: from the Big Bang to Modern Britain, in Science and Myth especially as I had just been reading all about it in Your Family Tree Magazine and was intrigued as the magazine review called it ‘unusual and fascinating’.

In Search of our Ancient Ancestors

 

The following is written by the author:

I am delighted to announce the publication of my new book In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors: from the Big Bang to Modern Britain, in Science and Myth, which is being published by Pen and Sword this month.

According to science, life first appeared on Earth about 3,500 million years ago. Every living thing is descended from that first spark, including all of us. But if we trace a direct line down from those original life-forms to ourselves, what do we find? What is the full story of our family tree over the past 3,500 million years, and how are we able to trace ourselves so far back?

From single celled organisms to sea-dwelling vertebrates; amphibians to reptiles; tiny mammals to primitive man; the first Homo sapiens to the cave-painters of Ice Age Europe and the first farmers down to the Norman Conquest, this book charts not only the extraordinary story of our ancient ancestors but also our 40,000 year-long quest to discover our roots, from ancient origin myths of world-shaping mammoths and great floods down to the scientific discovery of our descent from the Genetic Adam and the Mitochondrial Eve. 

In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors will tell you where you come from, before the earliest generations of your family tree that you can trace using records. It also saves you having to think any harder about what to buy for your family and friends this Christmas!

I do hope you will enjoy it.  Anthony Adolph.

 

Anthony Adolph’s book is available from the publishers, Pen & Sword books, and all good booksellers.

Click here to buy now:

In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors

In Search of our Ancient Ancestors

 

 

 

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Frank Gardner’s family history shows a direct line to the Conqueror

William the Conqueror

Last Thursday night, on BBC TV, saw what many people on my facebook page are saying was the best programme in the 12th UK series of Who Do You Think You Are so far. The subject was Frank Gardner, the BBC’s Security Correspondent who made the news himself in June 2004 when he was shot six times and seriously wounded by al-Qaeda sympathisers in Saudi Arabia.

It was his maternal family tree, that was the subject of the one hour show. It would seem to have delighted those viewers that have commented on social media because, while it did pick out certain key ancestors to look at in more detail, the episode went on to trace Frank’s line as far back as the research would take them. This happened to be to William the Conqueror himself and so it more than validated the family story, that Frank had heard as a child from his mother, that they were descended from the Normans.

You certainly couldn’t have wanted to find a better ancestor than the Norman King, if you were trying to prove that your family came over with the Normans! Without any shadow of a doubt William, Duke of Normandy, is one Norman that no one can dispute arrived in England at that time.

 

The satisfaction of being able to trace one generation back to another and then back to another, and so on for 31 generations, is something that very few of us can have the gratification of being able to do. Yet I was asked by a contact this weekend if I had noticed that it was often a pretty zig-zag line that was taken. The lineage, they had spotted from the pedigree shown on the screen, would meander back though the mother of an ancestor and then her mother. The next generation back was again via the female line and then, perhaps, the male branch for a couple of generations before going up the female line again.

“How could the Herald at the College of Arms have told Frank that he was directly descended from William the Conqueror?”

“Because he is!” I replied, nonplussed. “A direct line does not mean everyone has to have the same surname and be descended from the male. Women are just as important as ancestors to us all.”

I believe that this is a mistake that many may make in their family tree research. Unintentionally concentrating on charging back up one line following the father, the grandfather to trace the surname back. This can even happen if our quest started with a woman.

It takes two to create an offspring and the child, we know now, receives half their DNA from each parent. So take time to investigate some of your female lines and see where they take you. You too may be as lucky as Frank Gardner in your discoveries.

 

TheGenealogist website’s researchers have also turned up an interesting fact about the journalist’s dad.

Read their featured article here about Frank Gardner’s James Bond like father.

 

Read the featured article on Frank Gardner at TheGenealogist.co.uk

 

 

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Add colour to family history facts to make ancestors lives interesting

 

Census 1861

I was at a function recently and on my table was an enthusiastic family historian who had been tracing his family tree for many years. Next to him was the inevitable sceptic who tried to put us both in our place by saying just how boring she thought “gathering a load of names and dates was”. I didn’t enquire what her hobby was, or even if she had one at all.

I did surprised her, however, by agreeing and saying that one of my mantras that I repeat often in my contributions to the Family History Researcher Academy course is to find out about the lives, work, environment and social conditions that existed at the time that your forebears were alive.

If you have discovered, from a search of the census, that your Great Aunt Jane was in service in a large house then I would make an effort to go and visit the below stairs of a similar property. There are quite a few National Trust houses that meet the bill. On a visit to Erdigg in North Wales, this was exactly what I did. There the upstairs and downstairs were beautifully presented to give a feel for what life was like for our ancestors living in both levels of society.

Erdigg

As a worked example of what I teach, let’s consider my ancestor Henry Thomas Thorne. From the census of 1861, accessed on TheGenealogist  I am able to discover him working in the Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth where he is employed as a rope-maker at H.M.Dockyard.

1861 Portsmouth census

 

This weekend I had the chance to visit Portsmouth and not only go to the church where he married, but also to tour the Historic Dockyard and see an exhibit explaining how men like my 2x great-grandfather and his colleagues created the cordage that the Royal Navy of the time required for its ships.

I had previously obtained a copy of my ancestors’ wedding certificate from the GRO, having found their details in the Births, Marriages and Death Indexes that are available on various websites.

St Mary's Portsea

On this visit to Portsmouth I could now walk in the footsteps of my forebears on their wedding day the 5th February 1859 at St Mary’s, Portsea Island.HMS Warrior 1860

I could go on board H.M.S. Warrior, an actual warship from the time period (1860) and see how the cordage that he made was used on this ironclad steam and sail man-of-war.

Coiled rope

And I could see the tools that Henry would have used everyday, in the exhibition piece there.

Ropemaking

This story of my weekend excursion illustrates how I use the information that I discover in the records as a springboard to go on and find social history museums, or even the actual places that my ancestors would have gone to, and so build my family’s story.

If you haven’t moved past the gathering of names and dates stage in your family tree research, then I urge you to start doing so now.

 

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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A visit around a top supplier of Family history products

Family History Products (U.K.)

On a recent visit to Wiltshire I dropped into the offices of S&N British Data Archive, manufacturer and suppliers of many family history products from archival binders and equipment to data CDs and much much more.

If you are looking for archival products or data CDs and downloads then check out their comprehensive website now:
http://genealogysupplies.com/

 

genealogysupplies.com

 

 

 

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Grandpa caught a bit of shrapnel – how I found him in the online records

 

Your Family Tree Magazine June 2015

 

In this month’s Your Family Tree Magazine I have written a piece about my grandfather called ‘Grandpa “caught a bit of shrapnel” in World War I and I soon revealed how’. You can read it in full if you hurry down to the news-stands and pick up a copy of issue 157 of YFT before the next edition comes out.

 

It is all about how I used TheGenelogist website to piece together my grandfather’s war and blow out of the water a family theory as to how he came to have a nasty scar on one of his legs. You see my grandpa never really spoke about how he got his wound except to say that he “caught a bit of shrapnel”.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_dispatch_rider_in_France_%28Photo_24-317%29.jpg

We knew that there were two distinct parts to his war, firstly as an enlisted man riding a motorbike carrying despatches to and from the front line, and secondly as a junior officer in the Royal Engineers. But with the aid of the extensive military collections on TheGenealogist I was able to find out much more than any of us in the family had known before about this man! If you can, pick up a copy of Your Family Tree Magazine (known as Your Family History outside of the UK. The content is the same in both magazines) and see how I discovered more.

 

It really is satisfying when your research bears fruit and particular story was made possible by using the right resources.

 

 

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Choosing the Right Family Tree Template for a School Project

This week a guest post from Suzie Kolber of obituarieshelp.org

Whether you are a teacher designing a project for your students or a parent helping your child with a class project, tracing family history can be a challenge. It is an educational project that can provide a student with a lot of fun and information, but it can be difficult to find and organize everything. A family tree template can be an invaluable resource if you choose the right one.

Consider the Age
Young children are visual learners, so a template that is colorful and simple is best. Using an actual tree with branches and including only the names and dates of birth may be the ideal choice. Allow space for photos to make it easier to keep track of everyone.

Older kids can handle more information at one time, so you may leave out the photos and include more dates and data. It should still be visually pleasing for easy reference. Consider using colored boxes or a colored background if allowed to make it more interesting. Framed charts add style without interfering with the information. A bonus is the fact that it would look nice enough to be hung up once the project is finished.

Consider Family Situations
Teachers will want to consider the fact that not every family is alike if they choose the template to be used for the family tree. Some kids only know the background and family on one side. Select a family tree template that allows more freedom for various situations.

An example is a pedigree or landscape family chart that only includes the information for one side of the family. The child can choose which parent to focus on and others with only one parent in their lives will not feel different from the others in the class.

A child can also trace the history of a grandparent if he or she lives with them. By using a four or five generation chart, the child will have to do some research but will not have to struggle to find the information as much as with larger templates.

Consider How It Will Be Displayed
When selecting a family tree template for a class project, consider giving kids more than one choice. If these templates will be displayed together in a group, they will be more visually appealing if they do not look the same.
Because they are all different, no single template will stand out. It also allows the child to select the template for the individual family situation. If less information is known about one side or if the child is adopted, the template can be chosen to convey the appropriate information without leaving a lot of blank spaces.

When selecting a template for a class project on family trees, be sensitive to the feelings of the child. This is a very personal project that tells his or her story. Just as the stories will be different, the family trees will not look alike.

Suzie Kolber

Suzie Kolber created

http://obituarieshelp.org/free_printable_blank_family_tree.html to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects.  The site offers the largest offering of family tree templates online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.

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TheGenealogist releases online 60,000 railway worker records.

 

I’ve been playing with a new set of occupational records this week after I received the following Press Release from the team over at TheGenealogist website. Many of the entries are fascinating for those researchers that have railway staff ancestors. Here is what TheGenealogist has to say…

TheGenealogist releases 60,000 railway worker records.

  • More than 60,000 railway workers have been added to the Occupational Records on TheGenealogist

  • Find details of railway ancestors, where they were employed and what they did

  • Trace your railway worker ancestor’s careers through their promotions

  • Discover when they retired

  • Read obituaries

The Genealogist has added over 60,000 rail workers to its online indexes of Railway Employment Records. Taken from Railway Company Staff magazines these records are useful to family historians with railway employee ancestors, wanting to find important occupation related dates and add some social history to their family tree. These records include such details as staff changes, promotions, pension records, retirements and obituaries. Often additional personal information is revealed in the magazines. In some cases you can read about gifts from co-workers given when rail staff leave.

Search TheGenealogist for Railway WorkersFor example, we can discover that Mr A.N.Train had been a Station Master at Whitdale and Sigglesthorne, stations that today are converted into private houses sitting as they do on lines closed under Beeching’s cuts in the 1960s. The railwayman’s details have been extracted from his obituary in the British Railways Magazine of November 1949 Vol 2 No 11. We can learn such useful details as his retirement date, as well as the date that Mr Train passed away at the age of 79.

One click takes us to an image of the original page on which the record is based.

Railway Staff Magazines on TheGenealogist

There is also a great article on their website where you can also do a search for your railway ancestors:

http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/featuredarticles/2015/off-the-rails-242/

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Stoneywell

 

Stoneywell National Trust property.Just back from visiting the National Trust Property of Stoneywell in Leicestershire.

Built as a summer home by Arts and Crafts architect-designer Ernest Gimson for his brother Sydney, Stoneywell zigzags from its rocky outcrop, amid rhododendrons and heather. Every turn conjures childhood memories of holiday excitement, dashing down the winding steps –– one way to the fort, the other to the woods beyond.

The visit to this small National Trust house was a treat for my 90 year old dad, who once-upon-a-time had been an architect himself.

I found it fascinating from the point of view of seeing artefacts from the late Victorian times and up to the 1950s. The way that these everyday household items could spark off memories for both myself, with the more recent ones, and for my dad with the older objects.

It reminded me that seeing a facet of the Gimson’s family history, in the form of this well presented National Trust house, or indeed anybody else’s family life in photos or in a property such as this, can so easily be used to flesh out your own family story. The social influences on our ancestors is just as much a part of of our family story as is the family tree charting names and dates of births, marriages and deaths. By seeing the exhibits in a museum, or the furniture, books, children’s toys or the typewriter on the desk in Stoneywell and matching them to your own forebears, from the period, can help to make the telling of our family history all the more interesting.

Stoneywell pantry Stoneywell typewriter Stoneywell Model Train

 

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Fantastic Map Resource for Family Historians

http://www.nls.uk/ I’ve been having a lot of interesting fun playing with the many maps on the National Library of Scotland site. NLS give access to some historic high-resolution zoomable images of over 91,000 maps of Scotland and beyond.

Initially I was using it to superimpose the old OS 1:10K 1900 map on to the modern satellite image of the plot of a long demolished ancestors house in Fife (see the hatched building in the image on this page). By using the slider, that changes the opacity, I was able to see exactly where the house had been in relation to the ground today. All that remains are the stables and the farm buildings that make up part of the modern farm and no sign from the air of the villa that once stood on the plot.

It is not just maps of Scotland that can be found on this brilliant website as I was able to select an English county and chose between different series of the Ordnance Survey and the modern hybrid view from the air for a village in Leicestershire that I was interested in not to mention the coverage for London.

The better family historians will always try to gather together as much information on their ancestors as possible so as to be able to place their forebears squarely into the contemporary environment in which they lived.

The bare genealogical facts of names, dates and places go only so far to build a family tree, whereas finding out about the social and physical landscapes of your past family’s lives can help you to understand the challenges that faced them.

Landscapes can and did change over time. The enclosure of land and the movement from rural employment to working in the cities, as the industrial process grew had an affect on past generations. The building of the railways and roads, which may have disrupted their lives as well as provided new communication routes for them to travel down can often be seen by looking at various map series over time.

For those of you researching your English/Welsh family history and have hit a brick wall, maps are covered in more detail in a module of the Family History Researcher Academy.

 

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Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

CLICK the image below:

Family History Researcher English/Welsh course

 

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