Aristos and Family history

Siberechts-Longleat HouseHave you caught the TV series about Longleat House and the Thynn family on the BBC? Its called All Change at Longleat and had me gripped as we witnessed the tensions that revolve around the eccentric Marquess of Bath and his son and daughter-in-law who have taken over the running of the house and estate.

Lord Bath, we discover, has handed over the control of the £190 million estate to his son, Ceawlin, but the handover isn’t going smoothly. Ceawlin, whose title is Lord Weymouth but only uses this on formal occasions, prefers to be known by his first name. With such an uncommon name as this I am sure that he is never mistaken for one of the members of the lower echelons of society.

In the first programme in the series we find out that Ceawlin has upset his father by removing some of the murals painted by the latter in the apartments where they had all lived once lived and the pair are no longer on speaking terms. In the village on the estate, there’s further unrest after Ceawlin puts up the villagers’ rents.

Meanwhile, Ceawlin’s glamorous wife Emma is settling into life at Longleat as Lady Weymouth.

In the safari park, the animal keepers wonder how Ceawlin will compare to his father. Lord Bath is still a flamboyant, controversial figure and the village fair allows the viewer to witness the awkwardness of  a meeting between the son and his father. Although now in retirement, the Marquess continues to enjoy a famously open marriage. Various ‘wifelets’ still visit when his wife is away.

46 Longleat house (70)

For me the most telling part was when Ceawlin was asked whether his childhood was a happy one, growing up at Longleat. There was quite a pause as he considered what his answer should be, then he tellingly said “Happy bits and not so happy bits.” Another pause and “it was what it was.”

He admitted that as a child he would definitely have preferred to have lived in a cottage in the village like most of his friends did. We heard how, in his teenage years, members of the public traipsed not just through the main house but also through the private apartment where he lived.

For those of us from a less privileged background, who may have occasionally dreamed of life in the upper classes, then this insight into one such family may make us realise that the grass is definitely never greener on the the other side of the hill.

 

Many more of us than we think may be descended from aristocratic ancestors. Be it from junior lines that have fallen away from the main family, to those who are fruits of liaisons between an aristocrat and another.

If you want to explore this fascinating part of family history research then Pen and Sword books have published Anthony Adolph’s book: Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors.

Tracing Your Aristocratic AncestorsClick this link to read more:

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Aristocratic-Ancestors/p/3827?aid=1101

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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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The History & Heritage Handbook

The History & Heritage Handbook 2015-2016

With the holiday season well and truly in swing, I’m on a weekend in London as you read this hopefully getting my fill of museums and heritage sites.

If you are like me and end up visiting parts of the country that you are unfamiliar with, then I’d recommend The History & Heritage Handbook 2015/16 to you.

Not content with this current short break, I’m also planning another few days in the South of England in September, perhaps going to the Record Offices and archives there. Plus I’ve a visit to the Midlands in the next few months. Back in June I was in Salisbury and saw the copy of the Magna Carta that is on show in the chapter house of the cathedral there and visited some other historical venues while there.

 

 

The new History & Heritage Handbook 2015/16 edited by Andrew Chapman and published by Heritage Hunter came out only recently and is invaluable to help people like me make the most of our visits.

The book is a comprehensive guide to almost 3500 places and organisations in the UK , the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Each of the entries provides the contact details and a brief description, many of which give specific information about specialist collections and all listed across more than 500 pages..

I recommend you use it to

  • research your family history: as the book includes details of county record offices and family history societies
  • find thousands of heritage sites to visit on holiday or for day trips
  • learn about special archives in museums and libraries across the UK, ideal for researching local, social or military history

or it can also be found at various other suppliers such as: S&N Genealogy Supplies

 

 

 

 

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My ancestor’s house was bombed

Paddington Street MaryleboneOn finding myself in London with some time on my hands earlier this year I decided to pay a visit to Marylebone to see where it was that my 19th century ancestors lived for a short while.

Having found that they had been resident at 19 Paddington Street in the 1861 census for London, by using TheGenelogist’s Master Search, I was keen to take a look at the shop above which they had lived. My ancestor, George Colwill was listed as a plaster, but it seemed he and his new wife were living above a baker’s shop in London. They would go on to become bakers back in Plymouth, where he had hailed from and then grocers and bakers.

1861 census of Marlylebone from TheGenealogist - George Colwill and familyOn arriving in the busy London street today I was delighted to find that it still held many of the period buildings that I hoped would have survived, at least at first-floor level an above. Being a commercial area the shops fascias had been updated over the years to give a more modern aspect.

Sadly, number 19 Paddington Street seemed to be a post war building that occupied a plot that was one in from the corner with Luxborough Street and sat next to a somewhat grander Victorian building.

19 Paddington Street, Marylebone

I wondered if the previous structure had been damaged in the bombings of the Second World War. To find out I went online to do a search of the Discovery catalogue on the National Archives website. TNA’s new search engine not only reveals what is in their own collections, but also combines what use to be the Access to Archives(A2A) with records listed for some of what is held at 400 other archives across England.

Here I found that the City of Westminster Archives Centre held a document called STREET INCIDENTS with the reference of: stmarylebonecdu/2 . What interested me was a line in the result for: Luxborough Street Corner with Paddington Street 11 May-19 November 1941 File: 546.

Recently I have also discovered a brilliant online resource at bombsight.org that allows researchers to see an astonishing interactive map that shows every German bomb that fell on London during the WW2 Blitz.

From this I could see that there was indeed an entry for this bomb and another that fell very close by. The shocking thing about this website is when you zoom out and see quite how many bombs were drooped as a whole on the capital.

www.bombsight.org consulted 19th July 2015 v 1.0www.bombsight.org consulted 19th July 2015 version number (1.0).

If you too have ancestors from London and you want to discover if their home or workplace had been destroyed in the Blitz then take a look now at the interactive maps on bombsight.org. You can filter by Satellite view, Street Map, Anti-invasion sites, 1940s bomb maps and bomb incidents.

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York Family History Show was great!

York Family History Show This time last weekend I was up The Knavesmire Exhibition Centre at The Racecourse in York for the York Family History Show sponsored by TheGenealogist and S&N Genealogy Supplies.

It was the 20th time that the organisers had run the show, but it was my very first visit to it and I have to say I was blown away by how friendly it all was.

There were more than 70 exhibitors from all over the country and you certainly didn’t have to have Yorkshire ancestors to enjoy the show. I made a point of going around all the floors and found some very useful family history society stands and various vendors selling many useful items for the family historian. While I was there I did a little video for you to get some of the atmosphere.

 

One of the main sponsors, TheGenealogist, had a large presence and I was lucky enough to be there when one of their satisfied customers came up to offer them a completely unsolicited testimonial!

With very little persuasion she repeated her thoughts about TheGenealogist, this time to the camera knowing that it was going to be made public and so I included it in my video. It is great to find a truly happy customer of a genealogical research site who is willing to tell the world what she thinks. She had joined TheGenealogist last year after switching from one of the other main sites and has never looked back.

TheGenealogist.co.uk
 

 

 

 

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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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May the 9th, Liberation Day in Jersey

Raising of the Union Flag Liberation Day 2015Its May the 9th and here in the Channel Island of Jersey it is the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of this island from the Nazi occupation.

As a child, in 1960s Jersey, I grew up understanding the importance of the day to many of the people around me who had lived through the German Occupation.

As I have grown older, so many of these people have sadly passed away. I felt, this morning, that it was important for me to go to what is now named Liberation Square, but was then known simply as the Weighbridge and to stand witness for all those that I have known who lived through the five years under the swastika.

At the re-enactment of the first raising of the British flag on the Pomme d’Or hotel, I found the commemoration very moving especially as covering the scaffolding on the next door building site is a blown up image of the actual raising of the Union Flag on the hotel that had served as German Naval Headquarters.
HRH The Countess of Wessex at the 70th commemoration of the Liberation of Jersey

This afternoon has seen a visit from H.R.H The Countess of Wessex and a sitting of the States of Jersey (the legislature for the Bailiwick) in her presence. It was held in the open air in People’s Park the setting for the first anniversary of the Liberation. But the most moving part was a bit of theatre where some of the island’s youth told the story of the occupation, relating stories about real people who lived through this era.

It is this social history that is so important to family history and so it is appropriate that I conclude this weeks post by mentioning  the unique pictorial records of over 30,000 people who lived in the island during the war.

Family history researchers searching for family who lived in Jersey during the WW2 German occupation can now download their registration card, which includes a photograph of their ancestor, in this fantastic recently made available online resource from Jersey Heritage.

Jersey Archive Occupation ID cards

The collection, which has been recognised by UNESCO for its importance and has now been digitised and added to the Jersey Heritage website by Jersey Archive, gives access to 90,000 images that can be searched for free at the link below:

http://catalogue.jerseyheritage.org/features/german-occupation-registration-cards/

It is free to search, although there is a fee of £5 to download a card. Researchers with Jersey family may wish to take out an annual subscription for £30 to make the most of other resources, including thousands of historic photographs, many with named individuals.

 

To discover more about your Channel Island Ancestors read this in-depth book by Marie-Louise Backhurst: Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors published by Pen & Sword

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Channel-Islands-Ancestors-Paperback/p/3098?aid=1101

"Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors" Book
Tracing Your Channel Islands Ancestors
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New WW1 Records Released

TheGenealogist logo

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

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Parish Chests are fascinating; their documents are treasures.

A Parish Chest
A Parish Chest in St Helen’s, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Leicestershire.

I was reading the National Archives Blog about the exhibition in the Keeper’s Gallery of some ancient Storage Chests.

One of these magnificent chests, although not made specifically for this purpose,  was used to carry the Domesday survey around.

Another is a Muniment Chest, made to hold church documents and money.

I have been fascinated with these exibits from the first time that I spotted them on a visit to the National Archives many years back. I recall vividly peering at them in the low lighting of the museum at TNA and marvelling at their construction.

Of course many of our English and Welsh parish churches have their own version of these caskets, as from the time of the reformation it was decreed that all parishes were to have a chest with three locks for alms to be stored. These evolved to include the records produced by the Parish and thus we have the concept of Parish Chest Records.

On my travels around Leicestershire, I recently came across this example in St Helen’s Church, Ashby-de-la-Zouche.

What were the Parish Chest Records and how can they be of help to the family historian?

I have created a downloadable audio podcast that explains and it is available here: Nosey Genealogist Master Mind Podcast on the Parish Chest.

Parish Chest Audio Podcast
Parish Chest Audio Podcast
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