Family History Can Be Frustrating Looking For A Breakthrough

I’ve hit many brick walls with the research into my Great Uncle and then today a little breakthrough gives me the confidence to go on.

I am sure that there are many of you that have had the same experience. You open up a genealogy search site and enter your ancestor’s name and some details into the search fields. You hit the Search button and hope that the next page will reveal your kin. Back come the results and depressingly none of them seem to be your man or woman.

Well this has been what I have been experiencing recently, after the initial decision to explore more about Harold Perring Matthews, who married my Great Aunt Winnie. He joined the RAF and gained rapid promotion and honours in WWII. To find out more I will probably have to send off for his service record, but at present I just want to establish the main vital records for him.

 

I had already found Harold’s birth registered in the GRO indexes for 1901 and he appeared in the 1901 census as being 1 month old on census night. I’d also found his marriage in the indexes in the 4th quarter of 1936, but could I find his death or anything else? No I could not!

I use a variety of genealogical subscription sites when doing my research and two of the main ones were not giving me any details of his death. I was wondering whether to just put him on the back burner and turn to someone else, when I fired up findmypast and noticed that there was one record for an Overseas Death reported to the GRO.

Eureka! Great Uncle Harold died in 1969 in Palma, Mallorca aged 68, and his death was reported by the consular authorities to the GRO in England. So it is that he appears in their Deaths Abroad Indices and not in the normal GRO index.

Think laterally and try more than one search site!

Find My Past has Overseas Death Records 1818-2005 amongst many other data sets.


Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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The Family History Researcher and Harold P Matthews

Last week I wrote about how a family story had sent me off looking for my great-uncle Harold who served in the RAF during the Second World War and rising from Warrant Officer to Wing Commander in the Technical Branch.

One of my kind readers suggested a lead after they had done a Google search for H.P.Matthews that threw up a person of this name working for the Australian Department of Supply in a document referring to the Blue Streak Missile project. I had also come across something similar in Google Books and so was likewise wondering if there was a connection to Australia.

I set to work doing a trawl of Google search results and found a copy of an article in a 1959 copy of Flight Magazine with a picture of the Australian Government London Representative of the Department of Supply Mr H P Matthews.

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1959/1959%20-%202503.html

Regretfully I came to the conclusion that it didn’t look to me to be the same man. You see I have a picture of my Great-Uncle in my baby photo album! He and my great-aunt Winnie came to visit me in the late 1950’s (I was born in the summer of 1958) and there is one of them with me as a baby.

A further search of Google books have thrown up some snippet views of books that have Wg. Cdr H P Matthews appointed as the managing director of Zwicky Ltd in 1958. This company was a filters, pumps, airport ground equipment, pressure control valves, and hydraulic equipment manufacturer of Slough and Harold Matthews was also the MD of SkyHi Ltd. a hydraulic jack manufacturers also of Slough and possibly related to the first company.

 

I did a search on the website www.forces-war-records.co.uk and here I could see that H.P.Matthews was awarded the MBE, OBE and BEM, 1939-1945 War Medal, 1939-1945 Star and was Mentioned in Despatches, but not a lot else.

I am still at the beginning of cracking this family story and it is a major regret that I didn’t know Uncle Harold better. It would seem he was some sort of an aviation engineer, but I still don’t know what he did in the war that got him such promotion and honours!

http://www.apimages.com/oneup.aspx?rids=b122ed18743d49238762fd28fd2f913b

 

Disclosure: The above advert is a compensated affiliate link which may mean I get rewarded should you join their website.

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From Flight Sergeant to Wing Commander

I have been talking to senior members of the family again, in the hope of finding out interesting snippets about relatives passed lives and one fascinating character to be spoken about was that of my great-uncle Harold.

I recall Uncle Harold and Auntie Winnie, the sister of my paternal grandfather, coming on holiday to the St Brelades Bay Hotel in Jersey when I was a child growing up in this island. I know that he died in 1969 and so it must have been in the sixties that they would have come over on holiday.

My father recalls that he and his brother would be taken by Uncle Harold to Farnborough, as young men and that their uncle was treated with a great deal of respect by the people there.

It would seem that in the war Harold Matthews joined the RAF technical branch, but what he did no one in the family seems to now recall. It was certain that he didn’t pilot planes. Also known was that at the beginning of the war he was a Flight Sergeant and that when he retired from the RAF he was a Wing Commander.

To start my research I went to the London Gazette online and soon found that on the 9th of July 1940 Warrant Officer 162784 Harold Perring Matthews (43860) was granted a commission for the duration of  hostilities as a Flying Officer.

Another search found that on 1st January 1941 Acting Flight Lieutenant Harold Perring Matthews was admitted as an Additional Member of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. That was one year into the war and it is intriguing to wonder what he had done in the service of the country.

Next was a hit for 18 July 1947 and H P Matthews OBE is being promoted from Squadron Leader to Wing Commander. and then on the 10 February 1956 Wing Commander H P Matthews OBE  BEM (43860) retires from the Royal Air force.

This is an interesting man and would seem to call for more research from me.

Disclosure: The above advert is a compensated affiliate link which may mean I get rewarded should you join their website.

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Census Substitutes

Directories1869 at TheGenealogist.co.uk

I am sure that, like me, you have found an ancestor that doesn’t appear in the census collection for some reason or another.

The case, that I’ve been looking at this week, seems to have been absent from the country on more than one occasion when the census was being taken. In fact I only found him as a schoolboy, when he was enumerated in his parent’s home at the time. From other documents (in my ancestor’s case it was Hart’s Army Lists) you may be able to find a reason why your person is absent from the country and indeed I was able to pick mine up on findmypast’s passport applications, even though a passport was not a required document for people to travel with, as it has become today.

It would seem that my great-great uncle returned to the country at various times, resigning from the East India Company’s army, joining the British Army as a junior officer before resigning again after 2 years.

I was able to use the resources of post office directories on www.thegenealogist.co.uk to locate my ancestor and you may be lucky to find yours there, or in one of the ones available at www.historicaldirectories.org.

The outgoing ships passenger lists at Find My Past cover 1890 to 1960 and is another resource I’ve used to pin down my forebears with itchy feet.

A trip to the local county record office can provide you with the opportunity to take a look at Electoral Registers. If your ancestor was in business then you may well find that they had the vote not only in the ward where they lived, but also in the place where they carried out their business! This was the situation up until 1948 and university students could also vote at home as well as at their university address.

Other means of finding ancestors places of abode have been from birth, marriage and death certificates. I have tracked one ancestor’s house from the address he gave when reporting the death of his parent.

So just because a forebear doesn’t appear in the census doesn’t mean you can’t necessarily track them down and pin them on a map.

 

 

The websites that I use the most are Findmypast.co.uk and TheGenealogist.co.uk. Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

 

 



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.

 

 

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Family Tree Brick Wall Solved By British Newspaper Archive

British Newspaper ArchiveI have happily been spending some time looking around the newly launched British Newspaper Archive in the hope of finding ancestors from my family tree mentioned in articles or advertisements.

I can report that I have had some brilliant luck with some and no luck at all with others. I also have noticed that you have to deploy a lateral thought process to the search for a name mentioned in an article as an ancestor may have been named in full, or with initials or been misspelt by the journalist writing the piece.

Many results are clear and you can decide to save them by bookmarking them on the site. Some selections are, however, not so clear. The tip I would give you is to try and read the snippets, next to the results, with an open mind. On quite a few occasions my brain could make sense of the Gobbledygook that the optical character recognition OCR reports back for that article and recognised family names or places that otherwise would be disregarded as meaningless characters.

For example: 

At Cuttlehill Farm, Cross?ates. wit I I 12th ir.st., Helen Carmichael, wire of Jo»B| I jL C. Foord...

becomes: At Cuttlehill Farm, Crossgates. On the 12th instance, Helen Carmichael, wife of John I L C Foord

And now on to my discovery. I have, for some time, known of a 2x great-uncle that had been killed from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney and buried back on the English mainland near Weymouth. I had first come across this fact in a privately published book on the monumental inscriptions of a church in Cheltenham. In Christ Church Cheltenham there is a monument on the wall to his parents and at some time a local historian had written not only about the people commemorated by these plaques but also about their family.

As I am resident in Jersey I was intrigued to find that there was a family connection to the more northerly Channel Island and yet I had found nothing to explain how one of my ancestors had met his demise there. A few minutes on The British Newspaper Archive has solved this for me and I am now investigating this further.

To take a look at this great new resource for family historians go to:

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

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Everybody Has a Story to Tell

Pioneer Transcription Services is now offering oral history transcription services to people who wish to conserve the stories of their family members. The business has been transcribing oral histories for historians, authors and professional companies for almost  20 years. The emphasis on providing this service directly to people who want to preserve their families’ stories came about when one of the company’s  owners, Deborah Devitt, inherited a cassette tape her parents had made many years previously with her paternal grandmother. Unfortunately , the cassette tape had deteriorated over the years and there was never a transcript created. While the company created a digital audio file and transcribed the interview before more deterioration could occur, “I don’t want others to lose the stories that are important to their families,” Ms. Devitt states.

Individuals are conducting interviews with all kinds of different relatives from grandparents, to great aunts and uncles, to cousins, to brothers and sisters, et cetera.

Digital recorders are now very sensibly priced, which allows more individuals to record their families’ stories. These digital audio files can be easily shared with other family members and won’t deteriorate over time. Many people are setting up interviews with their relatives, using questions they’ve found on the internet or that they come up with on their own.

Pioneer Transcription Services realized there is a growing desire to have written transcripts of these interviews. “Our service is easy to utilize and accessible to everyone,” states Ms. Devitt. “A direct link for upload is right on our website.” Once uploaded clients just wait for their transcript to be returned to them. They are then able to share the transcript with other family members and friends or to use it in any way they deem proper. “Plus, these are our favorite things in the world to transcribe, ” added Ms. Devitt.

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