I was so very pleased to meet up again with Anne Reid from SpeakingLives as I have done at several Who Do You Think You Are? Live shows in the past.
Some memories deserve to be remembered forever…
By recording spoken memories from the person who experienced them SpeakingLives offers us all the chance to secure a very special and personal legacy – one that can be enjoyed for years to come.
And that is especially true if the memories belong to your parents or grandparents and represent part of your family history. After all, as Anne says, “How often do you hear the words “I wish I’d known about…”, or “I wish I’d asked…” ?
“Whether what they recall is happy, sad, humorous, meaningful or triumphant, these special memories should be treasured. Because if they’re not preserved carefully they can be lost. Forgotten, forever.”
With SpeakingLives®, one of their specially trained Life Interview Consultants meets people in their own home, or a place of their choice, to record their unique memories and reminiscences using discrete digital audio recording equipment. The voice recordings are then professionally edited and delivered to them as a beautifully packaged CD or MP3 file.
It’s literally the gift of a lifetime.
Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,
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.
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.
Example 2 Thought to be wounded A 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”.
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:
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”.
I’ve got some advice for you to break down a brick wall.
Have you been stuck trying to find an ancestor?
Thought you might have been!
Maybe what I relate below will help you too.
The thing was that some while back, I was getting quite frustrated by being unable to trace a person in the records.
I was completely stuck finding this person’s birth, marriage or death and I had tried looking online and off without any luck.
Maybe you are in this position too?
What broke the problem for me?
Well it was avisit to a Family History websitewhile surfing forkeywordsto do with the ancestor and then a little bit of time spentbrowsing the transcripts featured on the platform.
There were some other factors, such as trying different spelling variations of first and second names, as advised by my family history teacher at the time and a visit to an archive.
What it boils down to is using a bit of lateral thinking in our family tree research and most importantly finding out about alternative records to the ones that we might have already used.
The family branch that has presented me with the most frustrating problems has been that from Devon. I was fine going back through the census years, 1911, 1901 and so on back to 1841 but then it became more of a problem.
Perhaps this story resonates with some of you to?
I had figured out that my 3x great-grandfather was called John Thorn. This was provided in the information he had given to the census enumerators over the years, along with the fact that he had been born in about 1795. His wife, Elizabeth, had been born about 1798.
As I belong to The Society of Genealogists I took a trip to their headquarters in Goswell Road, London knowing that they have the largest collection of Parish Records in the country on microfiche. They’ve also got some transcripts of parish registers in their library, which I thought may be worth looking at.
If you are in the area I highly recommend you visit the Society of Genealogists.
Unfortunately for me, at the time of my research, the Dartmouth parish records were not on microfilm at the SoG. But I was over the moon to find a great selection of Devon Family History Society booklets for marriages taking place in the churches of the town, including St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth. Browsing one book for any likely ancestors I spotted that on 13 April 1817 one person called John Thorn got married to an Elizabeth Sissell.
I opened up the internet and began searching using my new lead. My mission was to hunt down any evidence that this was the marriage of my ancestors.
Doing a search-engine query for Dartmouth + family history steered me towards the Dartmouth-history.org.uk website belonging to The Dartmouth Archives. I discovered that this voluntary organisation had a really broad family history section and included a number of transcribed baptisms, burials, marriages and census records.
I could read the very same information, as I had seen at the SoG in London, on this niche site. The data began in 1586 and ran to 1850 and there was the marriage of John Thorn to Elizabeth and this time I noticed that the witness were given as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell.
At the time I made an assumption that this last person was more than likely some member of the bride’s family. Could it perhaps be the father of the bride?
But that name “Sunass” just didn’t seem likely to me. Now I know that it was the best guess by the transcriber as it couldn’t be read properly in the original record.
From the information I knew that they had signed with a mark, thus they were illiterate and so the first name and the second had not been written down by the ancestors themselves.
When you are doing your own research you should bear in mind that our ancestors may not have had the ability to read or write and the minister may have interpreted the name as he had heard it said to him. In my ancestor’s case the surname “Sissell” could possibly have been “Cecil” or something entirely different. Consider saying the name with the regional accent and seeing what you come up with.
As for Sunass – at this point I was clueless!
The Dartmouth Archives website had not got any early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth and so I went over to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch.org and here I did a search for Elizabeth’s christening.
I was rewarded by a lead to a baptism in one of the other churches in Dartmouth, St Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. This child was the daughter of James and Sarah Sissill and she was christened Elizabeth Gardener Sissill.
You may notice that the spelling had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e” again pointing to the vicar writing it down the way that he heard it.
I now jumped to a conclusion that the witness to Elizabeth’s marriage could have been her father “James” and this has been interpreted as “Sunnas” because a flowing “J” for James had looked like an “S” to the transcriber and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”. All easily done.
So what I am emphasising here and I continue to do so in modules from my Family History Researcher Course, is to be wary of names and the way they were spelt. If you keep this in mind then some of the logjams we find in our research can be got past.
This breakthrough I had was down to finding that Dartmouth has an active family history website and then using their indexes in conjunction with other internet resources, such as the LDS site.
The first learning point is that you should always find out what other research may have been done, for the area your ancestors came from.
If you find a family history society, or local interest group with a website, can any of their publications or website pages help you with your quest?
Secondly, always keep in mind that names were misspelled in many records. In my own family research I have had to think of other spellings for the Sissells, and indeed names that may have sounded like Sissell in order that I may trace this line back further and break down the brick wall.
I have made some fantastic strides in my family tree research and it is mostly down to learning as much as I can from other’s experiences and finding out as much as I can about what records and resources are available.
Last year I put together some modules for a course of 52 guides, aiming at passing on my experience. Perhaps they can help you become a more knowledgeable researcher?
I had some professional genealogists and data providers also contribute to the project to make it well rounded.
As you have come to this page I am sure that you must have an interest in family history and I am betting that you to have some brick walls to knock down as well. So take a look at the report below that is based on some of the material from the Family History Researcher course…
I’ve just completed three enjoyable days at the largest family history show that there is.
Met many like minded people, including so many of you lovely readers of this blog and several students of the FamilyHistoryResearcher course that I provide. The course is great for beginners and for people who have started and now want to know what other records and resources to use to find their ancestors. The feedback that I got at the show was that it was not just the beginner who benefited from my course, but those who were also further along the line in their research. Thanks for those who told me so.
It was so heart-warming that so many of you made the time to come to my stall to say hello. To the students of the course who told me how much they enjoyed receiving their weekly lessons, I thank you for the kind words.
Turning to my ad hoc poll to see whether I should keep the name The Nosey Genealogist, or change to something more descriptive and perhaps less informal, the straw poll was overwhelming stacked in favour of sticking with The Nosey Genealogist!
Shortly I’ll start uploading some of the videos that I took at the show, so watch this space.
Not so long ago we just never heard of DNA being used in everyday situations. And then suddenly every detective story on TV seemed to mention the suspect’s DNA being collected from the crime scene.
In the world of family history, DNA has also emerged into the main stream. Today if you want to prove that you are descended from a certain line then you may be able to use genetics to prove it.
But then there is the shorthand that is used that can confuse us a little. You may have heard people talking about “snips” or SNPs and STRs and wondered what this has to do with anything!
I will now attempt to explain what I myself was uncertain of until I attended one of the talks by an academic at last year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live show and then found it explained again in chapter 12 of Anthony Adolph’s book Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors. Pen and Sword 2013
Chromosomes are made up of special proteins and DNA. DNA is composed of numerous base-pairs of nucleotides all arranged in a double-helix shape.
In every human cell there is a nucleus that contains twenty-two pairs of chromosomes that bear autosomal DNA and one pair that decides on the gender of the human. The two sets of chromosomes are reduced down to one in a process of myosis that produces eggs in females and sperm in males.
When a man and a woman have a child the male passes on the one set of his chromosomes and mixes with the female’s one set and so the next generation inherits from its parents.
It is a complex process that causes some slight changes or mutations which are known as genetic polymorphisms. Some of these mutations include single nucleotide polymorphisms which are often abbreviated to the letters SNPs.
A single tandem repeat is known as a STR.
SNPs and STRs do not, it is believed by the scientists who understand such things, carry any useful codes needed in the creation of ourselves, but they are there.
Individual genes have two or more possible states of being and these are usually referred to by the letters A or T and C or G.
An SNP is a change detected in a gene’s state of being from, say, A to G and you may see it being called a â€œunique event polymorphismâ€. Once a SNP has occurred it will now stay the same as it is passed down the generations and so you can see how this can act as a reliable marker for â€œdeep ancestryâ€ haplogroup testing.
So what about STRs?
They are a bit different. STRs occur in a different part of the chromosome and they are a series of multiple changes caused by the addition or subtraction of the number of base-pairs. So by counting these base-pairs the DNA company get to a numerical code. The great thing about these mutations is that they occur over a shorter time than the SNPs do and so they can change over shorter spans of generations.
Y-STRs are taken specifically from the male Y chromosome and are only passed down by the father, making the Y chromosome in any paternal line practically identical.
What we are presented with is two complementary sets of results: SNPs define a person’s haplogroup, or the group of people that share the same markers that can go back many thousand of years. The second is the smaller group of people that share the same STRs who are related to each other over the last couple of thousand years or less.
The second exception is mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA). This is only passed down from a mother to her child, but which only her daughters will pass on. This means that we have a definite marker for the female-line, in other words the mother’s mother’s mother’s (and so on) family.
As we get closer to Christmas I have noticed that www.familytreedna.com are offering money off their packages for the holiday season. Do you know anyone who would like to have a present of a DNA test as it would seem to be a good time to buy?
Disclosure: Links are compensated affiliate links.
Wow, I’ve had a busy weekend, some of it spent looking around an old graveyard.
I couldn’t help but notice the number of military men that had been remembered in the words written on their headstones. Some listed the battles they fought in and some just their regiment, or ship in the case of those who served in the Royal Navy.
I did get to spend an hour, however, on the computer looking up the names of branches in my family in a new set of records just released by TheGenealogist.
In my Devon lines my family tree often gets stuck, when I try to push it back into the 18th century. But this week, using the new Militia Musters, just released online by TheGenealogist, I have found some promising leads. And shock horror…some of my Devon kin, especially the ones from Plymouth, may actually be from Cornwell as I note the names appearing in Musters in that county, while others are more definitely Devonian.
For the first time you can search early militia musters for all of England and Wales. The collection includes over 58,000 rare records of these part-time soldiers for 1781 and 1782. This is the largest number of surviving records available for this era.
This joins the largest collection of Army Lists available online establishing TheGenealogist as a major military research site.
The militia men were offered a bounty to transfer to the regular army and some did decide on a regular military career. If youâ€™re struggling to find out how your ancestor started their military career, the answer could be in the militia records!
In the troubled times of the 1700s, Britain faced a threat from the European powers of France, Spain and Holland at various times. All â€˜able-bodiedâ€™ men were considered for the militia and put on a â€˜militia ballot listâ€™. The chosen men then were required to meet or â€˜musterâ€™ at points for training. Four musters were taken over the time covered by the new records on TheGenealogist.
The records cover people from all walks of life who made up the officers and men, from M.P.â€™s to landowners, from carpenters to labourers, if they were physically up to it, they could be selected for the militia!
Regiments covered all of England and Wales and are represented in the new records. The records are from The National Archives series WO13 and feature the â€˜muster and pay listsâ€™ of all members of the militias. Men received â€˜Marching Moneyâ€™ when the militia was mobilised and were paid expenses for local meetings.
The new militia lists can further help track the movements and lives of our ancestors before census and civil registration times.
In an easy to search format, itâ€™s possible to search for an ancestor to see if they served in any of the militia regiments of England and Wales. Search by name and any relevant keyword, or use the advanced search to narrow it down to â€˜Corpsâ€™ , â€˜Companyâ€™ or the actual â€˜Rankâ€™ of the soldier.
Mark Bayley at TheGenealogist comments: â€œThese unique records really enhance our online military collection. Not all our ancestors served in the regular army and the part-time local militias were an essential part of the national defence, as was seen in the â€˜Battle of Jerseyâ€™ at the time, when the local militia fought admirably against the French and Dutchâ€.
Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.
When conducting family tree research, obviously the more information you have, the better; thatâ€™s why millions of family history search terms are typed into google every single day. In fact, it has never been easier to find all kinds of ancestry data online including birth, marriage and death records, maps, old photographs, news archives, military records and much more.
By starting with what you know about your immediate ancestors, those at the beginning of their search can start using googling their family tree right away. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of google when it comes to investigating your ancestry online.
Google Search Tips
When googling your family history, there are a few things to remember in order for you to narrow down the results to those most relevant to you. These include:
1. Always put the most important information at the start of your search term as this will help order the results into those that are most relevant.
2. Use quotation marks on proper names and exact match phrases. For example, searching â€œLouis Mathersonâ€ will come up with page results that show that exact combination. If you type in Louis Matherson without quotation marks, then you may get results for Joe Matherson or Louis Simon.
3. Exclude unwanted results using a minus sign. For example, if you know that there are two towns in the country called â€˜Gillinghamâ€™ then you could type in â€œGillingham â€“Kentâ€ in order to tell google that you meant the other Gillingham in Dorset. However, adding a minus sign can in some instances also minus pages that refer to both Gillingham in Dorset and Gillingham in Kent, so make sure you careful about what you eliminate.
4. Googleâ€™s search algorithms do take into account synonyms, but you can search for additional synonyms by typing the tilde symbol (~) before certain words such as â€˜~graveyardâ€™ which will display results for â€˜cemeteryâ€™,â€™ churchyardâ€™, and â€˜memorialâ€™.
5. If you have found a page with a long list of names and you want to find the relevant information quickly, you can type ctrl + alt and â€˜fâ€™ and it will bring up a search box in the corner of that page. Simply type in the name you are looking for and the webpage will highlight the matching text within the document instantly.
6. If you want to search a surname, but youâ€™re not sure on the correct spelling then you can use the wildcard symbol (*) which will tell google to accept any consecutive string of characters that appears after the asterisk symbol.
7. If your search takes you to a â€˜file not foundâ€™ error message, this could mean that the page you are looking for is no longer updated (amongst other reasons). But never fear, you can still search for that information by looking for search results that have the word â€˜cachedâ€™ at the end of the description and URL.
Finding Free Genealogy Resources Online
Historical documents are being digitized and added to the internet regularly, so it is always wise to do a quick scan of the latest genealogy news websites. That way you can see if anything has been added that might prove useful to your own investigation.
You may also want to seek out genealogy forums and message boards to see if a distant family member has previously conducted family history research that may be of some relevance to you. However, be wary of using other peopleâ€™s research in your studies because they may have got some of their information wrong. Always double check anything you do decide to include.
Many popular genealogy subscription sites such as ancestry.com allow users a free-trial of their resources, so it may be a good idea to sign up and see what you can find even if you canâ€™t afford the subscription fee.
Historical records will make up the bulk of your investigation, however, you may also want to include interviews with relatives (some maybe more distant than others) in order to add â€˜colourâ€™ to your report. Use social media and people finding services to track these family members down and send them a draft copy. You never know, it might prompt them to start an investigation of their own and you may be able to share your efforts.
So there you have some tips that will help you search effectively online when conducting family tree research. If you have any other relevant tips, please leave a comment below.
Elise Leveque is a freelance translator and blogger from Bristol. She is currently in the throes of putting her own family tree together.
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.
I have been aware for some time that my grandfather’s younger brother died when he was only a young man. He is buried in the family’s plot in Paignton cemetery and from the memorial words on his grave it would seem it was tragic.
I recall that a family story had it that a motorbike was involved, and naturally some of the family had assumed that he was riding said motorcycle at his death.
My father, however, knew differently and explained that his Uncle Clifford had been killed when a motorbike had hit him as he stood in the road.
This week I have been looking on the British Newspaper Collection again, from within the findmypast site and was able to find a report in the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette of 31st July 1923 that reported on the accident. It also provided me with a little bit more information that I was previously ignorant of; that his occupation was a dental mechanic.
Another paper (Western Morning News of the 3rd August) gave me the names of those mourners that attended the funeral in St Andrew’s Paignton including those who are listed as uncles, aunts and cousins so giving more useful information for the family historian.
I really do recommend you taking a look at newspapers either on the dedicated British Newspaper Archives site, whose search engine seems to me identify a broader set of results than the sister site.
Or within the findmypast website if you have a subscription.
I am putting together a family history course of my own and will be certainly covering the usefulness of researching your ancestors in the newspapers of the time.
If you would like more tips on researching your English or Welsh Family History then why not sign up for my tips and a special FREE report using the box below…
I have heard from the nice people at family history website findmypast that they have added new Kent baptisms, banns, marriages & burials to their parish records collection in partnership with Kent Family History Society, making it even easier to find your local ancestors. The latest release includes records from Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Ashford & Rochester in addition to 131 smaller parishes.Â They cover an extensive period of history from 1538 to 2006, allowing family historians to discover and add even more generations to their family tree.
Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at findmypast commented â€œThese new records are a fantastic resource for anyone eager to uncover their Kentish heritage. In combination with our recent addition of East Kent and Canterbury material, findmypast is definitely the go-to place when it comes to family history in the south east.â€
The new records have joined over 40 million parish records from UK family history societies available on findmypast in an exclusive partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies that started in 2007.
Jean Skilling of Kent Family History Society added â€œThe Kent Family History Society (www.kfhs.org.uk) is delighted to be working in partnership with findmypast.Â We hope our indices will be of help to everyone tracing their Kentish ancestry.â€
Last week I was writing about my findings from a search for one of my ancestors who married in South Devon in 1866. I had taken a look at the Church Register for The New Parish of Christ Church Plymouth and found my ancestor Samuel Stephens marrying Mary Ann Westlake on the 16th December.
What took my interest was that his father, Robert Stephens, was noted under Rank or Profession as being a Tide Waiter. He also lived in Plymouth being born in1805 and to his death.
As many of us pursuing our family history have no doubt found, some of our ancestors had jobs that have disappeared or are now known by different names today.
I immediately wondered what type of occupation this Tide Waiter was, as previously I had seen him mentioned in the census as an “Extra Gent”.
What an ancestor’s occupation was can often give us a greater insight into their life. It is also a useful way of distinguishing between two people who happen to have the same name and between whom you are trying to work out which one belongs to your family tree and which one does not.
We can be interested in a forebearâ€™s occupation for the reason that it may have some relevance in determining a person’s social status, political affiliation, or migration pattern.
Skilled trades were often passed down from father to son and so having regard to an ancestor’s occupation may also be a useful tool in identifying a family relationship with others of the same name. Now Samuel and his father Robert did not seem to share a trade here, but it is important to remember that people could change their occupation over their life.
One of these gentlemen’s descendants changed from being a gunsmith to working in a pawn brokers and another who changed from being a cordwainer (shoemaker) to being a boatman on the river over their working life.
Names for old or unfamiliar local occupations have the potential to cause us to stumble if they are poorly legible in the record we are consulting. I can think of the example of the similarity between the words ostler (a keeper of horses) and a hostler (an innkeeper) that is easily confused.
If you are ever in this position then remember that you too can look for occupational data in several places. It may be found in the records of occupational licenses, tax assessments, the membership records of professional organisations to which our ancestors belonged, trade, city and town directories, census returns, and civil registration vital records.
There are a number of websites available that explain many of the obscure and archaic
trades, here are two that I have found:
So what was my Tide Waiter forebear? He was a Customs Officer who went aboard ships to search them for the revenue. This is made plain on the birth certificate for Samuel as his occupation is simply recorded as Customs Officer.
I found the scanned image of the marriage record in the Parish Records from Plymouth and West Devon at Find My Past.
Disclosure: The Link in the above box is a Compensated Affiliate link. If you click on the ad then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk should you sign up for any of their subscriptions.