Find Your Naval Ancestors

Portsmouth Royal Navy dockyard

Having very recently visited the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth my interest in my seafaring ancestors has been revived.

As an island nation I am sure that many of the readers of this blog will have ancestors that have gone to sea, if only for a short time. Many of us will have family who have served in the Royal Navy and so have discovered just how intimidating it is to research a Royal Naval ancestor, especially if we compare it to looking for those of our kin who were in the British Army or the Royal Air Force.

Tracing Your Naval Ancestors – A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Fowler gives the reader a clear guide on how to use and, importantly, how to access the Naval records which are scattered among numerous repositories around the British Isles with the majority housed at The National Archives in Kew.

The book begins by giving the reader a short introduction on how to get started in their research. Simon Fowler assumes the reader has little prior knowledge of the navy and its history. His book shows you how to trace an officer, petty officer or rating from the seventeenth century up to the 1960s using records at the National Archives and elsewhere.

The reader will discover that the records of RN officers and ratings can be located back to 1660, often with more success than if you were looking for similar records in the army. As holdings for officers and ratings up to 1914 are different Simon Fowler has separated the two into their own chapters. A separate chapter then addresses the records from 1914 which covers all ranks.

There are additional chapters for the various auxiliary services; the coastguard; the Royal Marines; the WRNS; HM Dockyards; the sick and wounded and researching ships.

Depending on the era in question there are many naval records that the reader can use to discover more about the Royal Navy and its personnel. This well illustrated book shows the reader where to find the records, explains well what they contain and is an excellent addition to anyone’s library if they are interested in Royal Naval ancestors.

Tracing Your Naval Ancestors Paperback Editions available to buy from the following links:

Paperback £12.99

 

Kindle edition £ 4.99

 

ePub edition £ 4.99

 

 

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and many other great family history books now from Pen & Sword.

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Easter 2015: The Sherborne Missal

SHERBORNE_MISSAL
On this Easter Sunday, when many of our ancestors would have attended church, I have been exploring via the British Library’s online gallery a digital copy of the 15th century Sherborne Missal.
http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/sherborne.html

Made for the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary’s in Sherborne, Dorset, at the opening of the 15th century, it is a masterpiece of the International Gothic style.

It is staggering to see this beautiful piece of work and to think of the labour put in by the monks who illuminated it and by those who were the scribes who wrote the script and the musical notation for the mass. Unusually, for a medieval missal, the names of the main scribe and main illuminator are actually given in the volume as John Whas and John Siferwas. This book takes us back to a time, before the reformation, when the religion of the country was still Catholic Christianity and the service in the churches up and down the land would have been the Latin mass.

How can you see more of this book?

The British Library has created a digital version using their award-winning Turning the Pages™. You can also switch on an audio commentary that explains what is on the pages as you turn them. I found this fascinating.

 

Happy Easter to all my readers,

Nick

The Nosey Genealogist.

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Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Happy St David’s Day to my Welsh friends

 

Welsh Flag

 

A Happy St David’s day to all my Welsh friends and readers of this blog.

While many of the records for doing Welsh family history are the same as those for neighbouring England, there are some differences when it comes to researching in Wales, or Cymru as it is known in its own language.

For those of us used to finding our family records in the County Record Offices in England will discover that much is the same in Wales. Researchers will find that records of registration of births, deaths and marriages are exactly the same in Wales as in England, and that the Registrar General’s indexes cover both England and Wales.

The census is the same, except for an extra question from 1891 when all those aged 3 and over were asked whether they spoke English only, Welsh only, or both languages.

Anglican parish records are the same as those for England, and are kept in local authority archives in the same way.

Some of the differences, however, that can cause us to stumble are Common names, the favouring of Patronymics, the Welsh language, and that many families were not members of the Established Church.

Nonconformity, being more important in Wales than in some parts of England, may mean that you find that your ancestors didn’t go to the local parish church. In many chapels the language used was Welsh, and some of the records may also be in Welsh.

Because the country has its own language English speakers may find the place names to be unfamiliar to them.

Another difference, from the English system, is that in England the County Record Offices are (in most cases) the diocesan record offices and therefore hold all the records of the diocese, such as Wills, bishop’s transcripts and marriage bonds and licences, as well as parish records. In Wales, the National Library of Wales is the diocesan record office for the whole of Wales, and therefore holds all the bishop’s transcripts, marriage bonds and licences, and Wills proved in Welsh church courts.

The National Library of Wales or Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru is very important for our research as it acts as the main repository for family history research in Wales holding a vast number of records useful to the family historian – census returns, probate records, nonconformist records and tithe maps, to name but a few, will help at some point during research.

Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources to use to find elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

CLICK the image below:

Family History Researcher English/Welsh course

 

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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…

 

 

Report3

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Free Discover Your Ancestors Magazine Trial!

 

Discover Your Ancestors
Discover Your Ancestors Magazine

 

 

Today I have a very special offer for you.

Would you like a Family History magazine for free?
Are you looking for a fresh approach to researching your family history? Or are you keen to promote your family history services?

Whether you are long-standing or just starting out, whether you are advanced in your research, have reached early brick walls or work in this industry, Discover Your Ancestors magazine may help you along.

Discover Your Ancestors is packed full of family histories, case studies, UK and overseas features and advice on identifying those hard to find forebears.

Discover Your Ancestors magazine is now on its third annual edition in print, and is available at WHSmith stores around the UK or selected overseas premium newsagents or direct from the publisher here.

The magazine has also been running a monthly digital edition, to rave reviews. Priced at just £12 per annum, many loyal and engaged subscribers enjoy this digital magazine which is archived by issue in their very own members section of the magazine’s website.

But you don’t have to just take their word for it, or even take notice of those testimonials that are found on their website, you can try if for FREE!
I met these guys when they were on the next stand to me at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and I did this little video there.

So its a great pleasure that they are willing to offer my readers a free trial.  As they say in this email that I recently received recently:

We are inviting each and every one of your contacts to enjoy a FREE OF CHARGE 3 ISSUE TRIAL so they can find out for themselves what a good read it is.

Please ask your contacts and customers to write to us at: subs@discoveryourancestors.co.uk with  NOSEY01  in the subject line

and we will set them up with a free 3 issue subscription.

Fantastic!

.

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Horray; We’re Back!

 

Nick Thorne

Message to all my readers: So sorry that the blog has been off line for the past week.

 

 

This was necessary while support tried to figure out what had happened to make it fall off it’s perch here on the web.

It seemed to have received an unusual quantity of spam messages from some unscrupulous people, along with a few genuine comments that are to be welcomed. Thousands rather than the usual hundreds of spam messages hit the inbox!

One of the security plug-ins seemed not to update and in my dashboard. I then got a message asking me to press a link to manually update the software. This I did and was then shocked to see the screen go blank in front of my eyes  and also find that the link to the blog had gone, as had my way in to edit it.

This plug-in is currently getting the blame for the blog disappearing into oblivion for 7 days. But I love a good conspiracy theory and so I am not so sure!

 

It’s good to be back,

Nick Thorne

The Nosey Genealogist

 

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Your Family Tree Magazine goes back to 1066 and beyond!

 

Your Family Tree Magazine issue141 Cover

I’ve been taking a look through my copy of Your Family Tree Magazine for this month.

Seems Adam Rees, the editor, and his team wanted to take their readers out of their comfort zone a little, by trying to help us take our family tree as far back as we can.

From page 20 they have a feature on Earliest Roots showing us how to extend our family tree to 1066 and beyond! For those of you who want to learn more about how to explore this fascinating facet of our pass time then I can highly recommend you take a look.

As YFT magazine says, it can be daunting searching for your family among early records, but as you’ll discover there are so many lines you can pursue, that you’ll soon find yourself engrossed in the detailed information they give on your medieval ancestors and beyond.

 

Also in this issue they continue their look at our families who were involved in WWI, showing us how to learn about their day-to-day actions, and discovering the bitter fighting that raged away from the Western Front, from Africa to Arabia, Greece to Gallipoli.

Then in their How-to-section they also reveal the best tips for using FamilySearch; why hiring a professional might be just what your research needs; how your ancestors used their leisure time; and where to find forebears in Dundee.

April 2014 Issue 141 is quite an edition to help find the ancestors in your family tree.



 

I had a quick chat with Adam at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and he told me what we can expect in the next few months from his magazine.

Check out the interview here and spot the moment at the beginning where I couldn’t quite remember what the magazine is called even though I read it each month!

It’s “Your Family Tree Magazine”, I do know that. Really I do…

 

 


Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in this post.

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WDYTYA?LIVE over for another year.

 

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.

 

WDYTYA

 

WDYTYA High shot down.MOV_000002035

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Second World War Merchant Navy Officers in the Family Tree

 

Merchant Seaman's Records
Merchant Seaman’s Records

This holiday period I was catching up with my copies of Your Family Tree Magazine (January 2014 Issue 137). On page 44 I began reading an article all about how one of their readers found the troop ship that took her father to war by doing a bit of detective work with the few pieces of the puzzle that she had.

The reader, Jackie Dinnis who blogs about her family history at www.jackiedinnis.wordpress.com, had a few photographs and his medals to go on and, crucially, a letter written by her father from the unnamed troopship.

In the note, to his mother, he tells of being entertained by an orchestra conducted by a popular British dance band-leader called Geraldo. By doing some research online Jackie found that Geraldo and his Orchestra had been going to the Middle East and North Africa in 1943 to entertain the troops. It required several other bits of information to name the troopship. Facts, that tied the dates of departure up with the detail that this band were on board, eventually named the troopship as the Dominion Monarch.

Now this is where her father’s story overlaps with my father’s story.

As I have written elsewhere in this blog about obtaining my dad’s merchant navy records he was a young purser’s clerk on board the former liner and wartime troopship the Dominion Monarch.

As I read this at Christmas, while staying with him, I asked if he remembered the concert by Geraldo. Sadly he didn’t, though I can confirm that he was on board for that voyage from a look at his MN papers, but he had other story’s to tell of life on board the ship and its convoy passages across the oceans.

Then we fast-forward to Christmas day and one of those games that get played at the dinner table when the family are gathered together. My sister’s mother-in-law picked a card that asked “What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your life?” In turn we all gave our answers and then it was my father’s turn.

“To have survived,” was his answer. And when asked what he meant, he elaborated a little: “being at sea in the war.”

Then, this week, I was able to watch with him the programme on PQ17 the disastrous Arctic convoy. It was not a route that he sailed, though he was empathising with the crews that were so sorely deserted by the Admiralty’s decision to withdraw Naval protection and issue the Scatter signal.

And finally, this week, I was checking in at Facebook to find that some of my younger first-cousins-once-removed, had been looking at their grandfather’s Merchant Navy ID card and receiving a history lesson from their parents over the New Year. The awe with which they were learning about young men (both my Uncle and Father served in the Shaw Savill Line) who had gone to sea at a time when a torpedo from a U-boat may have prematurely ended their lives, was fitting.

So this Christmas and New Year has, unintentionally, taken on a Merchant Navy theme for me. Family history is great!

 

 

Your Family Tree Magazine is one of my favourite magazines:



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Happy Christmas for Famliy Tree Researchers

 

Thorne Family togetherTo all readers of this blog I’d like to wish a very Happy Christmas.

Remember to keep your ears open, at this time of year when families come together, for any stories that can be useful when investigating your family tree.

I’ve already experiences a few reminiscences this week, some I am sure are a little bit exaggerated, but all worth a bit of investigation. These tales can often point you in a general direction and then you need to find out if they are correct by checking the primary sources. There is always the chance that the stories have grown over the years into the “received truth” with embellishments made for the telling or plain misremembering of the situation.

For some family history researchers Christmas time may be the only opportunity they get to gently question their senior family members about times past; but just as moderation in all things is a good motto to try and live by, don’t over do the questioning and end up making parents and grandparents think that they are being interrogated!

Have a very merry and peaceful Christmas.

Nick

The Nosey Genealogist

 

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