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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Celebrities at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Celebrities that will be making an appearance at the NEC on 17 April 2015 for the much anticipated annual family history show Who Do You Think You Are? Live have now all been announced:

Reggie Yates
First will be Reggie Yates, who appeared on the TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? last year, in an episode which saw him travel to Ghana to trace his grandfather, Harry Philip Yates. Once there, he unravelled a complicated family history in which Ghanaian culture and British colonialism collided.

Born in London in 1983, the presenter knew very little about his father’s side of the family, after his parents separated when he was just four years old. He grew up with his mother and never met his paternal grandparents, but his Who Do Think You Are? experience made him feel more connected to both his own father and his wider family: “I feel like I’m part of something, and being here and learning about our history has made that even more real.”

During his trip to Ghana, the presenter enlisted the help of historian, Carina Ray, to discover more about the men in his family including George Yates, an Englishman who came over to the Gold Coast to work in the mining industry. Reggie also met his adopted uncle, JB, and spoke to Ghanaian chief Nana about his great grandmother.

Reggie will be on Thursday 16th April 10 am till Midday.

 

Alistair McGowan
Secondly we can look forward to seeing Actor and impressionist Alistair McGowan when he takes the Friday celebrity slot at Who Do You Think You Are? Live. Alistair will be talking about the discovery of his Anglo-Indian heritage and his experiences of filming in India.

Alistair talk about his time on the show. He’s an entertaining speaker so you’ll be in for a treat of witty stories and celebrity voices as he speaks about his colonial origins.
During his episode, in series 4, Alistair traces his father, George McGowan (1928-2003), from Calcutta, India after noticing the birth certificate stated George was Anglo-Indian.

In Calcutta, Alistair visits the red brick family home near the docks with his uncle, Rusty, who hadn’t been back for sixty years. Rusty reveals Alistair’s grandfather, Cecil, was a dock foreman and a dedicated body builder, with the pictures and muscles to prove it.

Local Anglo-Indian expert, Melvin Brown, explains Anglo-Indian ancestry originated from the British East India Company, which encouraged unions between it’s staff and the local populace, most often British men and Indian women, by paying for their marriages.

Eager to find where his mystery Indian ancestor mingled with the McGowans, Alistair visits Allahabad, where his great grandfather, Richard (d.1923), was a telegraph operator. Near the cemetery where Richard lies beneath a simple stone slab amid snakes and long grass, Alistair locates a whole community of McGowans, living together in a large house surrounded by exotic greenery.

 

 

Tamsin Outhwaite

Saturday sees the actress Tamzin Outhwaite, who shared her exploration of her Italian roots in her episode of Who Do You Think You Are? which aired in August last year. The organizers of the show say they are thrilled to announce that Tamzin will be talking about her discoveries at Who Do You Think You Are? Live at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre on Saturday 18th April at 10.15 – 12.00.

In her episode of WDYTYA?, Tamzin traced the life of her great grandfather Adelmo and his imprisonment in Palace Camp, Isle of Man, in August 1940 among Italian fascists and other immigrants with his son, Peter.
Adelmo was a proud family man who was never seen without a shirt and tie. His dedication towards providing for his family was extraordinary; he even missed an important wedding to open his ice-cream shop in Manchester. Hearing of her family’s internment left both Tamzin and viewers distraught.
We can look forward to additional behind-the-scenes moments, and more of Tamzin’s family history, during WDYTYA? LIVE show.

 

Tickets for the show are £16 in advance (£22 on the door) or you can order two for £26 using the code WMS2426 (if ordered before 7 April). You can book online at www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com or by calling 0844 873 7330. There is a transaction fee of £2.25 for each order.

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Tracing Family Who Moved Abroad

Wedding Singapore 1951This week I have been tracing family who have left the shores of Britain to live and work, before returning here later.

For this I have found the incoming and outgoing passenger shipping records on ancestry.co.uk and the Britain Outbound Passenger lists on findmypast.co.uk useful for this.

I was able to pick up on my father emigrating to Singapore in August 1950 to work in what was then a British Colony.

Recently I have discovered that the National Library of Singapore has put its newspapers on line to search for free. Regular readers of my blog will be aware of how much I enjoy making use of the various newspaper resources in Britain such as the British Newspaper Archive.

The beauty of the Singapore collection is that it is free to search and you do not even have to register to do this. Naturally I was curious to see if my dad got himself into the papers while he was there and it is with some satisfaction that I found an article and photo of him on page 4 of The Straits Times on the occasion of his marriage to my mother at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Singapore in the November of 1951.

So sometimes, when searching for your British Family you have to think about looking outside of Britain for them.

What else did I find on the Singapore Newspaper site? Well nothing more on Dad and Mum, but quite a bit on my mother’s step-father who was an architect in Singapore and my Uncle Bill who was Deputy Health Officer of the Singapore City Council.

In my Family History Researcher Academy course, on English and Welsh Family tree research, I have a tutorial devoted to using the newspapers as well as lessons on how to use some of the other lesser known data sets.

The launch of the course at a special trial price was very successfully filled, but I have been asked if there is room for a few more members. I am considering these requests and could decide to open it up again shortly. To be kept informed go to: www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com/trial

Disclosure: Some of the links above are compensated affiliate links that may reward me if you buy their subscriptions.

 

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RECORDS REVEAL 400 YEARS OF WESTMINSTER’S HISTORY

findmypast searchWell, I was out and about today so I missed this announcement earlier from findmypast.co.uk.

Today they published online for the first time the parish records held by the City of Westminster Archives Centre.

The Westminster Collection comprises fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of the parish registers dating back over 400-years.

 

The 3 million records cover the period 1538-1945 and come from over 50 Westminster churches including St Anne, Soho, St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square, St James Westminster, St Margaret Westminster, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Mary-le-Strand and St Paul Covent Garden.

 

Some of the fascinating documents now available online detail the wedding of Theodore Roosevelt, the former US President, in 1886; the marriage of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel; and the marriage of poet Percy Shelley.

 

Debra Chatfield, a family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “The Westminster Collection is one of the largest regional parish record collections we have ever published online and contains some truly wonderful gems.

 

“Family historians or people looking into their past, wherever they are in the world, can now search this historical goldmine and uncover the fascinating stories of their London ancestors. There is plenty of intrigue in the records to pique the interest of social historians too.”

 

Adrian Autton, Archives Manager at Westminster Archives commented: “The launch of the Westminster Collection is of huge significance and makes Westminster records fully accessible to a global audience. This resource will be of immense value to anyone whose ancestors lived in Westminster and to anyone wishing to study the rich heritage of this truly great city.”

 

The new Westminster Collection at findmypast.co.uk joins a growing resource of official parish records from local archives, including Cheshire Archives & Local Studies, Manchester City Council and Plymouth and West Devon Records Office, with many more in the pipeline, due to go live in the coming months. In addition, over 40 million parish records from family history societies can be found at findmypast.co.uk in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies.

 

The Westminster Collection is available on all of findmypast’s international sites as part of a World Subscription.

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