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

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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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Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

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by taking the Family History Researcher Course online.

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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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See you at the Yorkshire Family History Fair this weekend!

One of the largest family history shows in the UK is this Saturday the 27th June 2015 in York and I’m going, are you?

York Family History Fair

I’m going to be at the York Family History Show this weekend. With exhibitors coming from all over the UK and Ireland, the organisers tell us that this is probably the largest event of its kind in England. Certainly worth going to if you are in the area on Saturday the 27th June as many family history societies and companies attend each year and there is also lots of local history from the York area to experience as well.

You don’t have to have Yorkshire Ancestors to come to this fair – your forebears can be from anywhere at all, so why not pop along! Everyone is very welcome, say the organisers and there is lots to see.

Held at The Knavesmire Exhibition Centre at The Racecourse in York there is plenty of parking. Refreshments are available all day and there are over 70 exhibitors on three floors.  With several lifts to take you to the upper levels, the whole place is wheelchair friendly.

Mark talk2013

This event is organised by family historians for family historians and will be their 20th year in York with the event becoming more popular each time it is held.

Do you really know who you are? Come and find out – you may be surprised!

Saturday 27th June 2015  between 10am to 4.30pm

The Knavesmire Exhibition Centre, The Racecourse, York, YO23 1EX

Admission: Adults £4.50, Children under 14 FREE

Yorkshire Family History Fair:

http://www.yorkshirefamilyhistoryfair.com/

TheGenealogist.co.uk

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