Those 2015 New Year Genealogy Resolutions

Remember those Genealogy Resolutions from 2015? Well, let’s see how I’ve done so far…

Right at the tail end of 2014, I set myself some more New Year Genealogy Resolutions, in a bid to get myself to focus on solving some more problems (if only in a rush in December 2015). So, how did I get on?

1. Source and Scan even more photographs

I can confidently say that I have achieved this.

In my resolution, I included a screenshot of my current archived collection of photos, and it stated that I had 258 faces across 273 photographs. As of right now, I have tagged 283 different relatives faces across 321 photographs.

iPhoto showing a selection of Faces.
iPhoto showing a selection of Faces in my family tree photo collection.

Okay, that’s an increase, but I didn’t even start talking to my more distant Gilbert relatives, or my elderly uncle, so I think I could easily improve on that if I tried harder.

2. Kill off Mary Clarke

Honestly, this woman just won’t die. Mary Bailey (née Clarke) was my 4x Great Grandmother, and she has survived conviction and hard labour for abusing, neglecting, and cruelty towards her step-children, and a few periods in the workhouse, and yet she continues to dodge death.

In my resolution, I hinted towards a possible lead that might place her burial place under what is now a housing estate. However, the death certificate proved incorrect, and so she remains – out there.

Somewhere. Almost teasing me.

I’ll get you Mary!

3. Delve into new record sets

It’s easy to stick to censuses and parish records, but there’s so much more out there.

In 2015 I achieved this – I explored the newly launched online Wills service – which allowed me to download copies of relatives Wills from the comfort of my desk.

I’ve continued to explore newspapers, and these have often thrown me some new slivers of information – or leads to go on at least.

As I write this post, I’ve just had an email from Alex Cox at the FindMyPast team telling me about yet another batch of records they’ve added to their site. Honestly, you guys ruin my weekends!!

New India records available on findmypast
Alex Cox’s email telling me of new India records available on findmypast

So, just a couple of minutes ago, I took advantage of some newly available British India Ecclesiastical Returns and downloaded a copy of the marriage entry for a Sgt Thomas Yarrow and his wife Catherine O’Keefe (née Cambert) in 1863 at Faizabad. I already have a great deal of information on these two (including a family photo), but the marriage entry finally gives me the exact date of this event.

4. Write more

I kind of wrote more…. but unlike my resolution, it didn’t involve a book.

Instead, after Google announced it’s ‘mobilegeddon‘ update back in April 2015 (where Search Results will be biased towards mobile-friendly sites), I’ve been busy designing a fully responsive website template with which to upgrade The Family Tree UK website. I’ve done this from scratch, and now I’m slowly migrating the content across.

So yes, I did write more, but it was in HTML5, CSS3 and all in the name of future proofing my site. I also took the opportunity to tidy up some data and links too – so essentially all behind the scenes stuff.

5. Complete Simpson Bishop’s timeline

This one has puzzled me for a while ever since I stumbled across an unexpected departure from rural fenland up to the cotton mills, and an extra two marriages.

I lose Simpson Bishop after the deaths and burials of two of his young daughters in 1874. At the time of the 1871 census, he is not living with his third wife. Instead, he is living a short distance away with some of his older children.

He goes AWOL 1881-1891, whilst his third wife Sarah is easy to find – yet she states that she is ‘married’. She finally states she is a widow on the 1901 census.

Did he abandon her? Were they simply living apart on the census because they had a big family that wouldn’t fit in one small house for cotton mill workers like them? Did he emigrate? Did he die just after the 1871 census?

These questions puzzle me, and I feel that I need to give more attention to the Lancashire records and maps so that I can make judgements as to where he might have gone and why.

So, like Mary Clarke, he’s still out there… and I will find him.

Did you have any Genealogy Resolutions from 2015?

Last year a few of you suggested that you might participate with your own resolutions, so I’m wondering how yours fared – better or worse than mine?

It’s so easy to get sidetracked in family history if its your hobby as your attention competes with everything else that’s going on in your life. I’d like to think that professional genealogists, being more focussed and deadline conscious, would be better at Genealogy Resolutions. What do you think?

Anyway, have a think about what you might aim to do in 2016, as my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions are almost ready!

In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Andrew :)

My Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2015

Here’s my 2015 genealogy resolutions to take me through my family history research over the next 12 months. What will yours be?

For a couple of years now, I’ve been setting myself some ‘Genealogy Resolutions’ – some to-dos, tasks, brick walls – all challenges for me to try to solve in the following 12 months.

Whilst i’ve already summarised my progress of 2014’s resolutions, here’s my 2015 ones…

1. Source and scan even more photographs

iPhoto showing Faces of ancestors I've scanned
My iPhoto is already home to 258 relative faces.

I just about managed to get a few more photographs in 2014, but not the specific ones I wanted – namely of my great grandmother’s Gilbert family, and in particular of her wedding in 1909. I didn’t even get round to writing to that part of the family to ask them if they had copies of the images.

So, in 2015, this will be my first mission. Also, my father’s oldest brother has contact with his aunt still, and this connection had previously given me access to a wide range of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian Martin family photographs.

Back in 1995 when I first saw these images, I had to pick and choose which photographs to borrow, have sent away to have negatives made for, and then printed. Scanners were not cheap or readily available for home use. But now… there should be no stopping me making high resolution scans of all of the images I can lay my hands on.

2. ‘Kill off’ Mary Clarke

For those who have been reading a while, you might have seen me refer to an ‘evil’ gtxX grandmother Mary Bailey (née Clarke) who just seems to have dodged dying for a long time. After her stints in prison for child abuse, neglect, and cruelty of her step-children, and a few stints in the workhouse too, I have failed to find her death.

One clue has arisen – leading me several miles off piste in Suffolk, that might pitch her as dying near Lowestoft in Oulton Union Workhouse. If that is the case, then she may now be buried beneath or amongst a housing estate.

I’ll order the certificate, and if that fails, I may well be calling upon the paid services of a researcher to hunt this ancestor down. I’m determined to kill off Mary.

3. Delve into new record sets

A few days ago I wrote about feeling overwhelmed by the vast avalanche of records that are being made available – millions of new bits of data are out there, and it’s made me feel like I need to climb back down my family tree, and then learn to climb it again – looking for every new detail.

Mrs Alma Marchant with children from Wilburton Primary School, c.1904.
Mrs Alma Marchant with children from Wilburton Primary School, c.1904. My Great Grandmother Maude Yarrow is 5th from left, on the second row from the back.

I aim to go back and explore School Records and Wills more in 2015 for relatives much closer, as well as continue my research in newspapers – which has given me some real delights through 2014.

What would also be great, would be to find some records for Market Traders in Cambridge, Brewery Records for a pub that my ancestor ran in Ely in the 1890s,  and Great Eastern Railways records detailing the tragic accident that killed my Martin ancestor in 1868.

4. Write more

It’s been on my mind for ages now. Whilst some not-even-half-baked scrappy attempts at starting off some writing sits in various text editor programmes and apps, I’m not much further forward on the whole approach.

Juan de la Cosa's World Chart - from Dorling Kindersley's GREAT MAPS book
Dorling Kindersley’s ‘Great Maps’ book takes their highly visual approach – something that appeals to me… but does it work for genealogy?

Part of me wants it to be something very visual almost like a coffee table styled Dorling Kindersley visual encyclopaedia (as it was an old draw-out tree and a set of Victorian photographs that lured me into genealogy back in 1995), but part of me wants it to be more novelised so that I can flesh out context and livelihoods, whilst another part of me wants to write it as a more factual biography.

I want my effort to be read, but also to be interesting to those who have a casual interest in genealogy and perhaps not in the specific families I’ve researched. Deciding the angle to the writing is more of a challenge than deciding what goes in it.

5. Complete Simpson Bishop’s timeline

2014 led me to discover that a branch of the family that I had believed had remained in the village of Wicken, Cambridgeshire throughout their life, had actually shifted up to Lancashire to work in the cotton mills. This then led to the revelation that there were also two more wives, and two more children (at least) that I’d never known about.

Simpson Bishop‘s story expanded considerably, and it’s not finished yet. Why was he living near, but separately, from his third wife Sarah Washington (née Brown) in 1871 and 1881? What became of him and his wife after 1881? Did they divorce? Did Simpson die up in Lancashire or did he return back to Wicken (or somewhere else) to end his days?

A few more certificates and rummages should hopefully bring a conclusion to this surprise 2014 revelation.

What are your Genealogy Resolutions for 2015?

This is my third year of setting Genealogy Resolutions, and I find it quite fun to see whether I manage to solve these or even just progress them a little further each year.

How about setting yourself some too?

Leave your resolutions or links to your blogged/Google+’d resolutions in the comments below and let’s check back in 2016 to see how we got on.

Happy New Year!

Andrew

Those Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014

How did i get on with completing my 2014 Genealogy Resolutions? Did I kill off my evil Gtx4 Grandmother? Did I write that book?…

Old Father Time meets the New Year
As Old Father Time breathes his last, 2015 and a whole new year of genealogy awaits!

You might remember that I continued my tradition of setting myself some genealogy themed New Year Resolutions (or ‘Genealogy Resolutions’ as I’m calling them). These were 5 aims for my research during 2014.

Here’s the original Genealogy Resolutions for 2014, but how did I get on?

Well, in true genealogy style (and as I’m sure many of you will be able to associate with), I got sidetracked.

Anyway, here’s the results:

 1. Find More Photos

I managed to find some ‘new’ photos of my ancestors thanks to the kindness of people emailing me, or through the hints on Ancestry, and through exploring the brilliant Cambridgeshire Community Archives Network (CCAN) – a big, online, free-to-use archive of Cambridgeshire images. I’m sure there’s similar ones of these for other areas as the concept is hardly new, but this archive contains quite a few of my ancestors.

However, I didn’t write to the more distant relatives that I had planned to, so I need to pick that up.

My scanned and tagged photo collection in iPhoto, now contains 258 recognised faces. I think that’s quite a nice achievement.

2. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

For the second year running, I’ve yet to kill off Mary Clarke (1812-?) – my Gtx4 Grandmother who went to jail for abusing and neglecting her step-children in favour of her own, and served several stints in the workhouse in later life. She vanishes after 1881.

I took a gamble earlier in the year and ordered a certificate, but failed to get the right person.

A lead from the ever helpful Arthur Bird of the Suffolk Family History Society, has pointed me in the direction of Oulton, and a death there, and subsequent burial at a workhouse. If this is her, then I may find that her body has recently been exhumed, or is in fact now beneath, or at least amongst, a modern housing estate.

My next Death Certificate purchase will be the one to confirm/disprove this.

3. Spending 3 Days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Whilst I’ve been attending the WDYTYA? Live show for a few years now, 2014 was the first year that I spent all three days there at the London show. I really enjoyed myself, and I’m pleased to say that I felt like I got more out of it, and was really pleased to be able to meet up with familiar faces that I’ve only otherwise ‘spoken to’ via social media.

I look forward to the show in Birmingham, in 2015.

4. Sorting out the babies

I admit that I haven’t done this one at all.

The mass of Yarrow infant births and deaths in Stretham and Little Thetford, and the Martin ones in Little Downham, leave me with a set of certificates to purchase.

This one will have to wait a bit longer.

5. Write that book (or at least start!)

Whilst ‘the book’ remains nothing more than an idea, I have at least been exploring this further even if I haven’t really put too many words down. I do have a few thousand words tucked away in Evernote, but it’s more notation than book.

I’m still stuck as to whether I’d pitch for a novel based on one or a few stories, or stick to a hard fact book, but, as someone who became terminally thrilled by genealogy when I discovered an old tree and some Victorian photos, I’m wondering whether I should aim for something far more visual.

I was pleased to sit in on talks from Kathy Chater, Ellee Seymour, and Richard Benson this year – all being authors and/or journalists who have researched and written family history titles.

 

How did I do?

So, I completed one, three are in progress, and one I did’t do.

As with resolutions, it’s easy to sit there and come up with them, but the delivery can be difficult – particularly when you find yourself chasing a new and interesting story 5 ancestors away from where you meant to be.

I’ll reveal my New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2015 shortly, but in the meantime…

Have a very Happy New Year!

Andrew

My Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014

My Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014 – 365 days of intentions for family and social history research.

Following on from last year’s list of ‘genealogy resolutions’ here’s my list for 2014. If you missed my post from the other day, you can check to see how I got on with 2013‘s.

1. Find More Photos

I’m going to renew my search for family photographs of the siblings of many of my Great Grandparents, and their nieces and nephews. This will see me contact a number of distant cousins.

Here’s a few photos that I’ve got a tantalisingly poor photocopy of a photocopy of a…. etc, and really want to capture a hi-res scan of the photos included in what was a self-published 90’s family history book. The original author (a very distant cousin), is unwilling to go back through his notes, so I shall try the closer cousins instead.

The main photo i’m after, is a wedding photo of my Great Grandparents Alfred Newman and Clara Gilbert in 1909, which you can see in the photo below:

1909 Newman Gilbert wedding group
My Great Grandparents’ wedding on 2nd June 1909 – the only photo I have or have seen (of at least a 2nd generation photocopy) is on the wish list.

As you can see, it’s in a bad way, and as I also have another (high quality) group Newman-only photograph, I should be able to identify quite a number of the Newmans in this photo if it was also of a higher quality.

Fingers crossed!

2. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

Yes, she’s back.. or rather, she’s still out there somewhere. As per 2013’s resolution, Mary Clarke ended up in court and eventually prison for neglecting, abusing, and playing the role of wicked step-mother to her husband’s children (he was also found to have caused neglect) during the 1840s. Whilst my Great x3 Grandmother Caroline Clarke (featured in the wedding photo above) escaped this, by being the much older first-born who went into service, the rest of the family ended up in poverty – including stints at the workhouse, where I think some of the children were also born.

Mary vanishes after 1881, by then a widow… but I will find her.

In a way, I will be relieved to find how she met her end, and feel like I personally, also get to put an end to it, as the court session report in a newspaper, which includes direct quotes from her and the abused children, is quite harrowing.

3. Spending 3 Days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

I’ve booked my ticket for the entire 3 day show at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live show in London’s Olympia in February (not long to go!).

Stands at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013
View across Olympia lower court at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013.

This will be my first time that I’ll have stayed for longer than a day, and so I hope to be able to meet lots of people who i’ve come to know through my research, through the contacts that i’ve made at the wonderful genealogy magazines and companies, as well as taking part in the #TweetUp, and attending lots of the workshops and panel sessions.

Right, i better book my hotel!

4. Sorting out the babies

There are two concentrations of births and deaths of infants in amongst the available certificates, and I want to work out which child belonged to which family. Parish records for Stretham and its neighbouring hamlet of Little Thetford aren’t necessarily revealing which Yarrow child belongs to which couple.

Similarly, in Little Downham, there’s a confusing number of Martin infants getting birth and death certificates, but without names and dates that completely tally-up.

Some of the children might never have reached the parish church for baptism, hence a lack of church records.

I already have a few of the certificates, which reveal scarlet fever, tuberculosis and other causes.

The only way to sort this out is to go on a spending spree over at the General Register Office (GRO) website to see what can be found.

5. Write that book (or at least start!)

So I have been collecting more and more stories, and have even drafted a few thousand words for a book, but my ideas and thoughts of this book has since become hazy.

What goes in it? Who does and doesn’t get their stories in it? What level of reader?

I’m currently sitting in the frame of mind that I’d like to write a book that contains a lot of visual content – which might be expensive in both rights, and in print, but I want to do a good job, and inspire people like me – who are motivated by shape, space, imagery (my interest in genealogy was very much sparked by finding a handwritten tree, and a load of glorious Victorian photos of mystery relatives). I want something that’s going to be picked up many times, that has big images running alongside text.

Keeping up with the Joneses - Valerie Lumbers
Reading how others have written up their research, has been fun and thought-provoking.

I don’t imagine that this will be easy, but working for a publisher, and having been a designer, and being friends with a number of people who have been published and have self-published, I hope to find a route through it. I’ve also tried to read family history books, including this one ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’ by my friend’s aunt, Valerie Lumbers.

Firstly though, I need to focus on what the book is. And re-visit that couple of drafts i’ve written to see what can be pulled out and polished to help the book begin.

I’ve also been reading a number of eBooks on writing up family history, including: How To Write Your Family’s History‘ by Bartha Hill, and ‘Your Life Story: How To Turn Life Into Literature‘ by Kay Rennie.

What are your Genealogy Resolutions?

Last year, after posting my resolutions list, it seemed to spark interest amongst others including Valmay Young (hey Valmay, how did you get on?). Let me know if you’re taking part this year by leaving me a comment below, and perhaps a link to your list.

Have a very happy new year, and I wish you every success in your research this year.

Andrew 

Those top 5 genealogy resolutions of 2013

Catching a time-travelling grandmother? Killing off a child-abusing step-mother in 1841? Writing a book? …..Take a look back at how I’ve fared with my 2013 Genealogy Resolutions.

Last year, I made a list.

I’m not normally a resolutions type of guy, but I thought that it would be fun to do to try to help me focus on my research. It worked a little, but not as much as I would have liked, as I find it easy to go scrambling off on a tangent and chasing branches through different records. Before long, you find yourself about 7 surnames away from where you started.

However, it was overly productive, so I plan to have another 5 resolutions for 2014.

Before I reveal what I plan to do, I’ll just recap on the 5 resolutions from 2013

1. The Missing Bowers

I planned to crack my mystery Bowers connection. With my Gt Gt Gt Gt Grandfather Henry Bowers seemingly appearing out of nowhere, as a teenage groom at Wicken, I wanted to find his family. His subsequent Bowers family clearly have a Burwell connection, but whilst there are plenty of Bowers in both villages, and they seem to mingle, I’ve yet to find a mention of Henry.

In a bid to get further with this, I’ve looked at the parish records for Wicken and Burwell, alongside the census records, to try to see if there are any cross overs that would suggest that the Wicken Bowers family were living with Burwell Bowers on census nights, or appearing as witnesses etc at church events. This is a long, slow, arduous task, but one that I’m determined to complete. – INCOMPLETE

2. My time-travelling Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother

Elizabeth’s headstone in Stretham churchyard, suggests that she was buried alive when compared to dates in burial registers.

My Great x5 Grandmother, Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright) seems to defy time by dying and being buried on a range of dates within a couple of years – thanks to a lack of death certificate (it was 1837, the year the certification was compulsory, but she seems to be missing), a headstone, and two differing parish burial registers. Her demise remains a mystery, with the only lead for her London death, turning out to be a small child of the same name. – INCOMPLETE

3. Writing that book

Writing a book when you’ve been researching an entire family tree for so long, can be hard. Sure, there’s plenty of material – heartbreaking stories, funny instances, and wonderful photographs and sources, but where do you stop and focus?

That conundrum aside, I’ve continued to collect material for this and hope to use 2014 to flesh out the ideas and the stories. – IN PROGRESS

4. Visiting places familiar to my ancestors.

With the benefit of living amongst the villages that my family have lived and worked in over at least the last 430 years, it means that I’m always visiting places that they would have known, and seeing the landscapes they would have worked.

I managed to make several trips to places they would have known, including one to try to find the location of my Great Grandmother’s (Daisy Burnell) birth in The Stables, Abercorn Lodge, Abercorn Place, London. No obvious sign of the Lodge itself, or the stables (even though they might have been absorbed by something else), so I assume that they have since been redeveloped into something else, but I enjoyed a sunny afternoon visiting the area, and imagining what it might have been like back in the 1880s when she was born. – ACHIEVED

Abercorn Place sign

5. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

My step-child-abusing wicked Great x4 Grandmother, Mary Bailey (née Clarke) went to prison for her crimes in 1841. After serving her time and living a short family life, she ended up back in the workhouse twice, which is where I last saw her, as a widow. She continues to roam, and I won’t rest until i’ve bumped her off. – INCOMPLETE

As you’ll see from above, there’s quite a few incomplete ones there… so to help sort that out, I’ve just borrowed a friend’s research tool to help speed things up…

Andrew Martin makes genealogy easier by flying the TARDIS into research brick walls.
I’ve found that genealogy is easier when you fly a TARDIS into research brick walls, although I my Great x11 Grandmother loves my iPad Air.

2014’s resolutions…

Tune in tomorrow for my top 5 genealogy resolutions for 2014.

If you like this idea, then leave me a comment and/or link below to your resolutions blog post.

Have a wonderful end to 2013. And I wish you a prosperous, family filled, 2014!

Andrew

My Top 5 Genealogy ‘to-dos’ for 2013

My top 5 genealogy things I hope to achieve in 2013 – a mixture of visits, writing and demolishing those research brick walls.

I don’t really go for New Year’s Resolutions, as I like to challenge myself on a daily basis, but I thought that I would put down 5 areas of my family tree research where I hope to make progress in 2013.

1. The Missing Bowers

If you use RootsChat.com, you may have spotted me trying to unravel the Bowers family of Burwell, Cambridgeshire. There’s quite a lot of them there during the 19th century, and amongst them i am sure, *should be* my Great Great Great Great Grandfather, Henry Bowers – yet there’s no sign of him in an appropriate part of the baptism registers, and unhelpfully he was born in about 1812 (so, well before that helpful 1st July 1837 date) and there’s no parents noted on his 1832 marriage entry in nearby Wicken. Henry’s children’s Burwell connections are frequent, yet he himself has yet to appear.

I feel that I’m beginning to make progress though, by researching all the Bowers in Burwell by cross-referencing the registers to census returns. Annoyingly, my favourite census – the 1851 for Burwell – is missing, and so this leaves a hole in the data.

I am determined to crack this one. Somehow.

2. My Time-traveling Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother

Elizabeth Yarrow‘s birth, death and burial dates and place of death is open to discussion as none of the key sources corroborate. A death in London, a burial in Stretham, a date of burial in Stretham differing from the date of burial (randomly) noted in the register for neighbouring hamlet Little Thetford, date of death and age different between burial registers and gravestone.

It’s all a mess… and with her 1837 death year, there’s also no suitable certificate to help iron it all out (the one i did excitedly find was for a small child). My 5x Great Grandmother’s life and death might be impossible to unravel unless I get my hands on some newspapers and some railway records.

3. Writing that book

So, for quite a while now I’ve been toying with writing up research into a book, but then the genealogist’s work is never ever finished – so at what point do I start and end the book? What do i include and omit? Having several friends who are published authors themselves helps, but I hope to be able to work out how, and start, to turn my years of research into something that can be shared in print and in eBook.

If you’re a published genealogy author – drop me a message – i’d love to hear about your experiences.

4. Visiting places familiar to my ancestors

I’m quite good at this, mainly because few strayed from Cambridgeshire. Top of my list is to find the building (or site) of my Great Grandmother’s birthplace – The Stables, Abercorn Place, Kilburn. I’ve meandered the streets via Google Streetview, and I’ve been in the neighbouring streets (including the famous Abbey Road) where the family lived and worked… but this place remains unvisited.

5. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

My Great x4 Grandmother, Mary Clarke ended up in court and eventually prison for neglecting, abusing and playing the role of wicked step-mother to her husband’s children during the mid-1800s. She’d already bore my Great x3 Grandmother and a brother outside of marriage and before becoming the wife of William Bailey of Botesdale, Suffolk. This was to be to their advantage, as they went on to escape the miserable family life that followed. No wonder my Great x3 Grandmother Caroline Clarke changed her name and hid her parentage. Meanwhile, after a couple of stints in the workhouse, and one in prison, Mary vanishes after 1881… but I’ve yet to kill her off.

Mary, i’m coming to get you!

What genealogy brick walls are you hoping to demolish in 2013? Is there something special you hope to achieve in the coming year?  Let me know in the comments below.

Alternatively, join in the conversation over on LinkedIn.