My 2017 Genealogy Resolutions

Happy New Year! What better time to set yourself a new challenge than the start of a new year. Here’s my 5 Genealogy Resolutions for 2017…

Having gone back and checked on the progress of my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions, it’s now time to set myself a new set for 2017.

The aim of these are to encourage me to complete a particular genealogy puzzle that has maybe been baffling me for a while, or to achieve something new. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn (!) that sometimes I get side-tracked by other branches of the family and end up researching those instead. This post acts as a reminder, as well as a way for me to set myself some challenges, so here goes:

1. Kill Mary Clarke

In the last few weeks I spent my 37th £1 on another certificate in a bid to kill off my 4x Great Grandmother, Mary Clarke, later Mary Bailey, but it was another miss. She’s out there still and I need to find her, in order to bring her life story – which includes prison and hard-labour for neglecting and abusing step-children, and numerous stints in workhouses, to a close. Last known address: Hartismere Workhouse, Suffolk in April 1881.

I’ve attempted to kill her off in previous genealogy resolution lists, but her invincibility irritates me.

2. Scan my BMD certificates

At the moment these are all carefully filed in date order in plastic sleeves in a lever-arch folder. There’s a lot. To better preserve these, and to make it easier for me to access them when I want to (if only to stop me accidentally buying the same ones twice), I want to scan them. As there’s a lot, I’m aiming to scan 50%.

3. Finish reading published family histories

For ages now, I’ve had Richard Benson‘s ‘The Valley‘ and Deborah Cohen‘s ‘Family Secrets‘ books on my to-read pile. The events of 2016 consumed me, and caused me not to really have time or the inclination to sit down and read much.

I did manage to read some of Deborah’s book, and I also read ‘The America Ground‘ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, but I want to read more, so that I can get a good feeling about how to approach writing my own family history book.

4. Find my uncle’s grave

In October 2016, as I walked from away from the huddle of mourners at my uncle’s open grave, my mother tells me that he was not the first uncle to be buried there. This confused me, as I’ve always known all of my aunts and uncles. They watched me grow up, and I’ve watched them grow older. But no.

There was another, which my aunt remembers (because she was a young teenager) but my father doesn’t (because he was only very little). Certificates swiftly revealed Malcolm’s short life of 6 weeks. His cleft lip and pneumonia made it impossible for him to thrive, and he died in hospital in 1958. With my aunt visiting the UK in June, we’ll be back to visit my uncle’s grave, and I want to be able to take them all to the spot where their little baby brother was buried.

5. Run a 4th AncestryDNA test

In my first conflict of conferences, in which I was going to feast on my twice yearly nerdfest in Brighton, i switched my mind and decided to return for just 2 days of WDYTYA? Live in 2017 (the Thursday and Friday). I even managed to bag a complete bargain on my usual hotel (£25 a night!). In recent years I’ve stuck around for 3 days, but in 2016, I found this stretched my enthusiasm a bit, and as someone who is a family historian and therefore doesn’t have a stand, have books to sign, nor do I run a series of talks/record videos or podcasts (hmm… maybe that’s 2018’s resolution list right there!), then 2 was best.

During this time I aim to acquire a 4th AncestryDNA kit – avoiding the stupid P&P fees again (honestly, Ancestry, also let these be sold through someone like Amazon – expanding your audience and getting them delivered for free!!), and hopefully at another show discount rate.

This 4th kit may go to my visiting Aunt in June (if she’s interested), or to my mother’s sister (my maternal aunt), my own sister, or if I’ve hit a dead end, then I may try to locate a descendant from one of my 2x Great Grandmother’s first husband’s siblings. My Great Grandfather was illegitimate, but my grandmother tells me that he WAS the first child. DNA is going to be the only way to check, so I need to find a match with someone who contains only his family’s DNA, and not my 2x Great Grandmother’s DNA, in a bid to prove or disprove once and for all.

 

So, there we go. I can think of a load more things I already want to do in 2017, but I like to stick to 5.

Do you ever set yourself Genealogy Resolutions? How have you got on with those? Or what might you set yourself a challenge for in 2017? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy New Year to you all – may your 2017 be happy and healthy throughout. Thanks once again for reading my blog.

Andrew

 

EVENT: Masterclass – Writing family history with author Richard Benson

Cambridge Literary Festival presents a Masterclass: Writing Family History with author Richard Benson.

If you’ve wanted to write up your family history, then The Cambridge Literary Festival has announced an event that might be right up your street.

Richard Benson author of The Farm (2005) and The Valley – a century in the life of a mining family (2014), will be running a masterclass on writing your family history.

I’ve booked my ticket for the session, which takes place tomorrow, Saturday 5th April – 3:30-5pm, in Cambridge at The Divinity School, Lightfoot Room, St John’s Street.

I’m going simply because it’s time that I took the great stories that I’ve been stumbling across, and get myself writing them into immortality.

Richard’s written two memoir/biographical family history titles now, and what with his work for The Telegraph10, and Esquire, he must surely be a good source to learn from.

Author Richard Benson.
Richard Benson. Photo: Chris Floyd.

I’m surrounded by books, often talking to authors, meeting authors at events, and even have friends who are authors… so my excuses are running out, and it’s time to face my destiny and just get on and write.

No pressure there then, Richard.

Encouraging children to take an interest in their genealogy

What motivates children to take an interest in genealogy?

I remember being about 11 or 12 and sitting in the front rooms of both sets of maternal Great Grandparents and being completely bored by tails of the war years. Whilst one Gt Grandfather saw action in Egypt and other places, whilst the other was with the Home Guard, yet to my child ears, they were so utterly boring.

As a child, I didn’t want to know about ‘The War’. It meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t comprehend the date, why people would want to fight each other, and certainly not the scale of what actually took place. My mother was the same – she too had spent many hours listening to the very same stories as a child, and had not been interested either.

Now, as an adult, with those Great Grandparents all deceased, I’m left with a gap. An unrecorded gap in oral history, in personal history, and with only a few pay-to-view scanned documents sitting in sites like Ancestry or FindMyPast.

I was in Cambridge earlier today, picking up a few last minute Christmas presents when I spotted the following book from the Who Do You Think You Are? brand. I generally don’t buy genealogy books, as I rely on online information, but this one was different – it was aimed at children.

Be A Family Tree Detective book
Be A Family Tree Detective

I picked it up and flicked through, to find that it was full of colourful pictures, flaps to reveal information, and more along the lines of a pop-up book (without the pop-up bit).

inside the Be A Family Detective book
Inside the book – open the envelope to look at Census, lift the magnifying glass to reveal a tip. 

I wondered what it was that inspired me to start (although admittedly i was 16/17yrs old) – knowing that it wasn’t anything like this. Had it have been, i would most likely have been hooked and written down the stories (or at least listened and perhaps remembered some of them) at a much younger age.

I also got home to find that Who Do You Think You Are? magazine had also landed on my doormat – the January edition – and inside was a great tree chart from FindMyPast – encouraging people to fill in their ancestors. What a great way to help inspire kids to think about the past lives of their family?

The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.
The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

What was it that motivated you, and at what age?

Book: ‘Soham & Wicken Through Time’

Book Review: “Soham & Wicken Through Time” by Michael Rouse and Anthony Day (ISBN:978-1-84868-667-0), published by Amberley Publishing Plc.

‘Soham and Wicken Through Time’ by Michael Rouse and Anthony Day is a collection of images from the history of Soham town and the neighbouring village of Wicken in Cambridgeshire.

"Soham & Wicken Through Time" by Michael Rouse & Anthony Day
"Soham & Wicken Through Time" by Michael Rouse & Anthony Day

This book contains a real range of photographs, chronicling the changes that both places have undergone from the late 19th century right through to the modern day. Care has been taken to try to take modern photographs of street scenes from the same position as the older image. This is achieved in most cases and really gives the reader a greater means of comparison.

The book is split into two parts – Soham (by Michael Rouse) leads the first part half of the book, with (the more familiar to me) Wicken (by Anthony Day) taking the second half.

Each page comes with two photographs and a well-researched caption, often including specific names of the people appearing in them – giving this book an extra significance in that it documents not just the places, but also the inhabitants. Unlike several of the ‘then and now’ books, it includes the village postman, the paper delivery boy, and the amateur dramatics group from both the late 19th century/early 20th century and also from when the book was compiled.

The book is both fascinating as a measure of social history, as it is for a genealogist with interests in these two Cambridgeshire places.

My only note, and maybe this is just me, is that the book would have benefited from including a basic map of each location, so that the reader could get a better sense of the location of the street scenes.

Buy it today:

“Soham & Wicken Through Time” by Michael Rouse and Anthony Day is published by Amberley Publishing Plc, ISBN: 978-1-84868-667-0.

Buy from Amazon.co.uk – supporting this blog.

I got my copy (signed by Michael Rouse) from Topping and Company Booksellers of Ely – they may have some signed copies left!