Family History sent me round the houses today!

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I was back in the area of Jersey where I grew up today.

It was not my family history that I was researching, but ancestors belonging to someone else.

I had received a request to take a photograph of the house in which my contact’s forebears had lived and so I went to my computer and opened TheGenealogist.co.uk and looked up the head of the household in their Channel Island records.

This site has some “Jersey Almanacs” which are very useful trade directories for the islands and soon I was on the trail.

The Genealogist also has the full run of census data and images, which I next used to quickly find the person in question.

Unless you are new, to family history research, then you will be aware that the census collections are also available on Ancestry and Findmypast as well. I tend to use all three sites, as sometimes the transcription on one may help me better locate a person with a difficult name spelling.

 

In the 1901 and 1911 census it was quite plain that the family in question lived around the harbour at St Aubin, in the parish of St Brelade. The census in each case clearly gave the name of the house, though it was different in 1911 from 1901 so there was the possibility that the family had moved a very short distance. Either that or they had changed the name of their house.

So a simple task, you may think. All I had to do was pop along to the road in question and snap a building. Even if the house name was no longer visible, or had changed, there was bound to be a property in the road that had retained its name and I could use as a reference point. All I would need to do is count down the houses from that one.

Oh that it was so easy! You see the harbour front has some alleyways off it and these had different road names today from the ones used in the census. It seems to me that the parish has gone back to using the older French names for these roads from the Anglicised ones used in 1901 and 1911.

Another problem was that off these alleys were some semi-detached cottages, some of which are reached via foot paths. Also there were a set of steps, leading up to the steep Market Hill that rises behind the harbour, on which three more un-named cottages perched.

Both of the census records ignored the Methodist Church, that sat in the middle of the harbour frontage between one of my reference properties, as is to be expected if it had no residents to be counted. But it was also obvious that, in times past, some of the other buildings would have been warehousing, or other uninhabited commercial buildings and so these too were not enumerated. This made my task of counting down the houses to the ones for which I was searching, difficult.

I consulted the “Description of the Enumeration District” as in some cases this can give you a good idea of the enumerator’s walk. In this case it mentioned the names of the roads, in general, but did not explain how he had dealt with buildings set behind each other or to the side.

By finding some more reference buildings, that is those that have retained their names through to today, I was able to tie down the house in the 1901 to being on one plot. I am not certain that it is the actual building as it may well have been built later, it not having many of the period features of its neighbours to give away its age.

So only a partial victory for family history research this week, but the Description of the Enumeration District can be a useful tool elsewhere and browsing through a road on the census can often be illuminating in other ways. Sometimes you may find more members of the family living close by and a child missing from one house in its grandparent’s or Aunt and Uncles. I remember finding this in my own family in Plymouth.

 

Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above when discusssing the resources of:

The Genealogist

Findmypast

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How To Break Down A Family History Brick Wall

 

Break Down Your Family History Brick Walls
Family History Brick Wall

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 a visit to a Family History website while surfing for keywords to do with the ancestor and then a little bit of time spent browsing the transcripts featured on the platform.

Dartmouth-Archives-onscreen

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.

This is one of the themes of the Family History Researcher course that I market online.

Thorne-family-tree-web-site

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.

SoG library

The SoG library is a treasure trove and it features often in the Family History Researcher Course and one complete module takes us inside their doors.

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.

Funny name, I thought, and today I understand taking transcribed names with a pinch of salt. If you decide to join the Family History Researcher Academy you will learn more.

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.

St Petrox, Dartmouth font

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.

Ancestors in Thorne Family tree

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.

There is a special offer running for readers of this page of a £1 trail for four weeks membership of the Family History Researcher Academy. Click here to learn more.

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…

 

 

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Want To Know What Your Ancestor’s Town Looked Like?

 

Jersey - St AubinSomething that I have always believed in is that family history, as opposed to straight forward genealogy, needs the lives of our ancestors to be put into the social context of the times that they lived in. One of the really powerful ways to do this, I find, is to look at images from the past.

For that reason I am really bowled over with the new addition to TheGenealogist’s website that gives us a taste of what life was like in the times of our ancestors, through the medium of old photographs.

TheGenealogist has become the first family history website to launch a dedicated new Image Archive, which includes hundreds of unique 3D photos and thousands of standard images dating from 1850 to 1940!

What is brilliant is that the new Image Archive is a free to use service that allows researchers the opportunity to relive the past through the eyes of their ancestors at: www.TheGenealogist.co.uk/imagearchive

If you are a Diamond subscriber to TheGenealogist then you will have further access to the Image Archive to download the images in a high resolution format for the greatest possible clarity.

The Image Archive is fully searchable using the title of the photo itself, or you can  just add a keyword to narrow down your search as I did to look at St Aubin, a village in Jersey, which is a place that is particularly well known to me. I can recognise buildings that are still there today, such as part of the current Spar shop that was, circa 1900 when the photograph was taken, Beresford’s General Supply Stores.

I then flipped to London and a view of Fleet Street, which I know from a stint working in a travel company based in what was an old newspaper office there.

Then on to Birmingham and to view streets that I can recognise have changed little from the first floor up (Corporation Street, for example) and those that by the time I lived in that city, in the late 1970s and 80s, had been demolished to make way for new schemes. So, by using this website, I could see what the Bull Ring looked like in the past. Then there was Five Ways, that I only know as a huge three lane roundabout, but was an atmospheric setting in the old images on TheGenealogist.

 

All the photos are rated so you can see which photos are of the highest quality. There is also a selection of main search categories and sub-categories to help you find photos of interest, quickly and easily. They are also rated for quality so you can see how good the picture is before you download it.

Hundreds of the images are available in stunning 3D to really bring the past to life!

3d picture from TheGenealogist

With scenes of the hustle and bustle of Market Day to the drama of war, there is a selection to view as both 3D moving images or as 3D Red blue images or in a standard format if you prefer. Digitally enhanced by creative experts at TheGenealogist, add a greater depth to that photo from the past!

Take a look for yourself here.

Disclosure: All links are compensated affiliate links.

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More than 13 million records launched today on findmypast.com

Some news that dropped into my inbox today…

DC Thomson Family History and FamilySearch.org to make billions of records available for people to search

More than 13 million records launched today on findmypast.com

LONDON, England and SALT LAKE CITY, Utah–Annelies van den Belt, the new CEO of DC Thomson Family History, the British-based leader in online family history and owner of findmypast and Genes Reunited, has announced a major new partnership with US-based FamilySearch.org that will give family history enthusiasts access to billions of records online and new technology to collaboratively research their family roots.

DC Thomson Family History, formerly known as brightsolid online publishing, is collaborating with FamilySearch, which has the largest collections of genealogical and historical records in the world, to deliver a wide range of projects including digital preservation, records search, technological development and the means to allow family historians to share their discoveries.

More than 13 million records from FamilySearch.org launched today on findmypast, including major collections of births, marriages and deaths covering America, Australia, and Ireland. Around 600 additional collections, containing millions of records, will follow.

The two organisations have a long history of working together on historical projects, including indexing 132 million records of the 1940 US census and two hundred years of British Army Service Records (Chelsea Pensioners) in a joint digitisation project with The National Archives.

Van den Belt said: “This is fantastic news for our customers all over the world. As a leader in online family history we will be able to offer access to a much wider variety of records dating back hundreds of years and the first batch are ready to search on findmypast. The convenience of searching many treasures from FamilySearch.org along with our own extensive collections will provide rich new insights for our customers.

“This partnership with FamilySearch will accelerate the momentum of our next phase of global growth into new non-English-speaking markets and give more people more access to more records to uncover their family history. This really cements our position as a market leader. ”

“We are excited to work with DC Thomson Family History on a vision we both share,” said Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch. “Expanding online access to historical records through this type of collaboration can help millions more people discover and share their family’s history.”

DC Thomson Family History is the British-based leader in online family history, which operates major online sites including findmypast, Genes Reunited and the British Newspaper Archive. It launched in America last year with its findmypast brand.

DC Thomson Family History has a strong record of partnerships with non-profit and public sector organisations such as the British Library and The National Archives among many other major archives and organisations around the world.

 

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Millions of School Records to go online

 

I got back from doing some family research in London today to find in my inbox an interesting press release from findmypast .co.uk.

It tells us that The Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) – ARA – has signed a deal, on behalf of a large number of archives and schools, with digital publishing experts brightsolid to publish online for the first time millions of school records from England and Wales.

 

It seems that this will be the first project to be undertaken under the framework of the new National Digitisation Consortium, which comprises up to 120 English and Welsh archives and schools working together to offer records for digitisation.

It is the first time such a large number of bodies will work together to digitise material – in this case their pre-1914 school registers. Once the registers have been scanned and transcribed by brightsolid, they will be made available to search online at leading family history website findmypast.co.uk, which is owned by brightsolid.

 

The registers span the period 1870-1914 and cover every region of England and Wales. They contain details of particular interest to the family historian, including name of the school and the pupil, their date of birth, year of admission to the school and the name of a parent or guardian. Teachers are also listed and Industrial School registers are included in the collection.

Chris van der Kuyl, Chief Executive of brightsolid said: “We are proud to have agreed terms with the ARA to publish online this fascinating set of school records from over 120 separate archives across England and Wales.

“Projects of this magnitude reinforce not only our ambition, but our credentials as the leading digital publishing experts, especially within the genealogy market. We look forward to working closely with the ARA and the National Digitisation Consortium on this exciting endeavour.”

 

John Chambers, ARA Chief Executive, said: “As the leading membership body for those who work in UK and Irish archives, the ARA has an important role to play in helping the sector find new ways of working. The National Digitisation Consortium allows a number of archives and schools, of all sizes, to offer records for digitisation within a single, shared legal agreement. As well as enabling these fascinating school records to be available to the public, this project will set an important precedent for the way the sector can work together to achieve a better return.”

I for one am looking forward to seeing them!


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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Two Million Hertfordshire Parish Records Hit the Web

 

Yippee, more and more parish records have gone online!findmypast parish records

Its great to read that findmypast.co.uk has boosted their data holdings of parish records the UK’s largest parish records collection with two million new Hertfordshire parish baptisms, marriages and burials dating from 1538-1990.

Once you have exhausted tracing your ancestors in the census collections and the civil records back as far as 1837 then you have to begin using the parish records for your ancestor’s area.

As readers of this blog know I am a great fan of these particular documents and so I am really pleased to hear when a new collection get digitised.

 

Findmypast.co.uk has made these Hertfordshire records available online for the first time, making it easier than ever to trace your ancestors further back through the centuries. Debra Chatfield, marketing manager at findmypast.co.uk, commented on the new release:

“This collection of records is a wonderful treasure trove for anybody interested in looking into their family’s past in Hertfordshire. Publishing the records online for the first time will make it so much easier for people to find out if they have ancestors from Hertfordshire, as you can now search them alongside millions of other parish records from across the whole country”.

 

Full details of the records contained in this release are as follows:

 

 

This collection also includes the parishes of Chipping and East Barnet and Totteridge which, since 1965, formed part of the London Borough of Barnet.

 

These records can be searched here (http://www.findmypast.co.uk/search/parish-records/baptisms?tab=1) and are brought to you as a result of a new partnership between findmypast.co.uk and Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies. The records can be viewed with PayAsYouGo credits, a Britain Full or a World subscription.

 

The records are also available on all findmypast sites as part of a World subscription.


Disclosure: Links above are compensated affiliate links. I may be rewarded by Findmypast if you buy their subscriptions from following these links.

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So My Ancestor Raced a Sailing Cutter Yacht

British Newspaper ArchiveI have been having a nose around the British Newspaper Archive Collection again this week on its stand alone website as well as its home within the findmypast site.

I was looking for information on a great-great-uncle who died young (30) after a fall from a cliff. While I didn’t come up with a family notice of his death I found an article in the Isle of Wight Observer for May 19th, 1866 under the notices for the Royal Victoria Yacht Club that I found interesting.

After detailing that the Commodore’s splendid yacht had arrived at the station on Tuesday and then listing the twelve yachts on station, having got the important notices out of the way they then add a line or two about the man I was researching.

“It is with great regret that we hear that W.W.F.Hay esq., fell overboard from his cutter yacht the Surge, at Alderney, and lost his life. His remains will be interned tomorrow (Saturday). On receipt of the melancholy intelligence, the flag at the club was hoisted half-mast high.”

Well, their information was not quite correct, as reported elsewhere. William Wemyss Frewen Hay died when he went ashore at Alderney to have dinner with the officers at the garrison there and lost his footing while returning to the breakwater and where his yacht was anchored.

This, however, got me looking for information on the clipper yacht called the Surge and the first article I turned up made me think that she was not such a good racing boat at all. She retired from a race around the Solent having no chance of gaining the lead in August 1865.

Further articles, however, have her mentioned in a good light.. “Some dozen clippers have already been entered including the celebrated Surge (W.W.F.Hay Esq), the Water Lilly, yawl, (Commodore Lord A Paget, MP.) etc” which does not sound like she was an also ran.

I wonder what the yacht looked like and how many crew she required to sail her?

There are also other questions I have about Willaim, who at the time of his death in the May, according to another article, was due to be married in July of that same year. I would like to find out who his bride to be was, but so far no mention of the lady has appeared in my trawl of the newspapers.

As more titles are added all the time this situation may indeed change. I keep coming back to this resource as it is so useful to family historians.


Disclosure: The above are compensated affiliate links.

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Recording Your Oral Family History Before It Is Too Late!

As I walked around the exhibition hall at Olympia, taking in all the different stands for family history societies and suppliers, I came across four different companies at Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE offering to record your loved ones as they recall their oral family history, or recount different tales passed down to them from relatives that  no longer are with us.

 

The first one I came across was that of SpeakingLives. This company records people’s life stories and memories and offers to beautifully present these personalised recordings of loved ones so that the client and their friends and family can enjoy them for generations to come. The recording is made available on audio CD and MP3.

I was attracted to the variety of memorabilia on their table, items that I assume could have been used to spark off memories in the subjects.

SpeakingLives
SpeakingLives

SpeakingLives prices start from £195, but they sometimes have special offers to take advantage of.

Gift vouchers are also available.

 

Next I found My Viography who specialised in professionally filmed “viographies” (video biographies) and family history documentaries. From what I gathered by talking to them on the stand they use the latest high-definition video and professional film-making techniques with a professional presenter.

They can use your family photographs, video clips, mementos and favourite music in your viography or family history documentary to really bring your story and personality to life. Also on offer is to scan in your old photographs and convert older film and video footage in a range of formats (Mini DV, Video 8, VHS, Betamax, Super 8 or 16mm film) to help you tell your story.

My Viography
My Viography.

My Viography’s price for a video starts at £594, but this can be made in three payments of £198. They also have other packages that offer extras to the basic at higher price points in the thousands and an audio only one at £495.

 

Then there was  Splendid Reflections whose owner offered a life interview consultancy. Which she explains is your opportunity, from the comfort of your own home, to reminisce, reflect and record your life story and memoirs for the enjoyment of your children and grandchildren for years to come. The result would be made available to you on DVD in a mini-documentary style combining any of your own videos or photographs.

Splendid Reflections
Splendid Reflections

I was very taken by the empty chair and recording equipment on the next stand together with large professional microphone on the next stand that I found in this market.

Life Stories say that they can help you create a unique recording of your story; a carefully constructed audio autobiography to leave for family, friends, or simply for posterity.

They can also help you store it securely for future generations to access, enjoy and even expand; a digital family vault of recorded memories saved for ever.

Life Stories package was £600 that would include preparatory conversations with you and/or your family about what you want to cover.  Planning the conversation and discussing how best to retrieve and organise memories before recording. Lengthy recording over the course of one day and several days editing and production to produce the finished product. Longer recordings could be done at a slightly higher cost.

 

Life Stories
Life Stories

These companies are providing an interesting service that adds a professional polish to the job of recording the family’s oral history and as all good family historians know, our family’s oral history stories are of very great importance to us. Though we should always remember to check the facts with primary sources before we add them to our family trees!

That said, how great will it be for your children’s children to be able to look back, in years to come, and hear or see their relatives talking?

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Browsing Old Newspapers for Ancestors

The British Newspaper Archive onlineI’ve been browsing old newspapers online for ancestors this week with some success and some disappointments.

In previous posts, here, I have mentioned my luck in finding useful leads from articles written about the death of an ancestor of mine who, on sailing to Alderney from Weymouth aboard his yacht, went ashore for a social visit to the Garrison there, and fell to his death on the way back to the breakwater.

The British Newspaper Archive presented me with access to details from various newspapers reporting the “melancholy death” of my ancestor and revealed facts about his family that I was not previously aware of. For example, by the mentioning of his late father as being “of Hay, Merricks and Company” I was then able to find out something of the nature of that ancestor’s business in making gunpowder.

This week I was searching for a completely different line and regretfully I have had no luck with finding any newspaper articles related to this research. As the project, to add newspapers to the archive website, is ongoing I shall simply keep on returning and running the same search again and again. This is in the hope that new titles, that have been scanned in the intervening period, will become available with a relevant article to my research.

So, having not got a hit on the current project, I then started browsing for other ancestors, before leaving the site.

Members of my maternal line spent some of the 1850s in Cheltenham and would seem to have been comfortably well off. It was with some amusement, then, that I came across their names in the Cheltenham Looker-On featuring mainly in the Arrivals and Departures page.

I can not imagine that today the wealthy residents of Cheltenham, or any other town for that matter, would wish all and sundry to be made aware of when they were not in residence, or to where they have “removed” themselves to, but in those days it was socially acceptable.

The Looker-On mixed social news and literary contributions and was known for expressing Conservative opinions in its writings, though I am not sure that these were the views of my Cheltenham resident ancestors from other research I have done!


The British Newspaper Archive is a partner of the British Library and set up to digitise their collection of over 300 years of newspapers. Now accessible to the public, with market leading search functionality, it offers access to over 4 million pages of historical newspapers. A great source for hobby historians, students, reporters and editors – what will you discover?

Now you can also access pages from The British Newspaper Archives via their sister site findmypast.co.uk when you take out membership of Find My Past.


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 British Newspaper Archive.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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Limited time only…ALL 1911 TRANSCRIPTIONS ARE FREE

I got a Press Release today. When I saw the headline I thought that I’d better post as soon as possible as some of my readers may make good use of this free offer…

“ALL 1911 TRANSCRIPTIONS ARE NOW FREE ON GENES REUNITED AND FINDMYPAST.CO.UK”

Leading family history websites www.GenesReunited.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk have teamed up to offer their members free access to all 1911 census transcriptions from today until 18th November 2012.

The 1911 census is a great place to start researching your family history as the records are the most detailed of any census. It includes places of birth, details of siblings, occupations, how many children have been born to the marriage, how many still alive at the time of the census and how many had died.

 

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager of findmypast.co.uk, said: “The 1911 census is an invaluable resource for tracing your ancestors and it’s fantastic to be able to offer this to our members for free.”

Take a look at  www.GenesReunited.co.uk or findmypast.co.uk now, before its too late!


ancestor, ancestry, family tree, family history, r


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 GenesReunited.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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