I’ve found a vintage happy Easter postcard (unused!) in my grandmother’s papers, and thought it was a nice little piece to share. Happy Easter!
Amongst the various papers and ephemera that I’ve acquired from my late-grandmother and great-grandmother, was this wonderful little Easter postcard.
I like its simplicity and lack of the garish colours and cartoon chicks and lambs that litter modern mass-produced cards. The Easter message is embossed, making it not so great to scan, but I thought i’d share it with you.
I think it’s fair to say that if you’re a hobbying family historian like me, that when you set yourself a target to achieve in your family history research, it’s likely you’re about to get absolutely side-tracked up/down/sideways along your trees. I mean, why would you want to halt research that’s going so well in order to go back to that brick wall yet again?
So, here’s my ‘research plan’ for 2016:
1. Kill Simpson Bishop
Carried over from 2015, the mystery of Simpson Bishop has continued. After his surprise appearance in Lancashire – he abandoned the agricultural fenland of Cambridgeshire and entered the cotton mill industry. He gets married twice more – the latter in 1868, has further children (and grandchildren) but mysteriously lives apart from his wife from 1871 onwards. His wife finally calls herself a ‘widow’ in 1901, even though I haven’t seen him in records since 1874 when two of his daughters died.
What happened to him after 1874? He’s appearing sometimes as James Simpson Bishop (his son’s name), J S Bishop, Simpson Bishop, Sampson Bishop… his variants and the spread of his children makes him fair game to turn up anywhere in the UK and beyond.
I’d like to kill him off, or at the very least find a next piece in his puzzle (emigration? prison? another marriage? a next census return?).
I’ve had them both from new and have (shamefully) yet to get them to the top of my reading pile. I feel that by reading these two books, it will teach me plenty about writing better family stories, and help me to find a way to address earlier resolutions about writing.
If you’d like to recommend some other written family histories/stories, then feel free to do so in the comments below (although my reading pile is already about 150 books tall).
3. Finish a site re-launch
Back in April, Google announced that mobile-friendly sites would get priority in search results. Understandable really, considering that research has shown that most searches are now done on mobile devices rather than desktop.
Therefore, it’s made sense to me to rebuild my FamilyTreeUK website so that it uses a responsive web design. I’m fluent in HTML and CSS, so it’s been no big deal to do build the old sites, and not so hard to do this from-scratch re-build so that it works on a range of devices. I’ve been adding in search boxes, and lots of goodies specifically for search engines to read, so hopefully once done it is going to fare well.
What will now take time though is deploying it across all the lovingly handcrafted profile pages (there’s probably 130ish at least). I’ll be doing this over Christmas 2015, and probably whilst this post goes live.
Hang in there, it’ll look a bit weirdly disjoined for a bit, but once it’s complete it should hopefully future proof it for a good many years to come and make it more discoverable and user friendly.
4. Run another AncestryDNA test
So, back in May, my mother and I took our AncestryDNA tests, which gave us both some interesting and unexpected ethnicity estimates. There were some indicators that my father’s DNA should answer some of the ‘where the hell did that come from?’ questions, and also show me what the 50% i didn’t inherit from him might have been (and consequently might be lurking in my sister’s DNA).
So, I hope to encourage my father to take his test. He did show some initial interest in taking it but with the test price increasing a little, and the postage cost being a bit of a mood killer (£20?!? – why is this so much? Why not get Amazon to carry it in stock for you too and reach more potential users, and via cheaper P&P?) he’s held back.
I managed to get my first two for £79 each at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, (cheaper and minus the P&P), so i’m hoping they repeat the deal when I’m back there in April 2016.
Of course, there is the question after taking these tests as to what you do with that info… it does feel good to see it, but the chance of linking it back to a close common ancestor of another Ancestry user seems to be slim so far.
5. Meet more relatives
One thing that has happened over the last few years is that people stumble across this blog and my website and send me a message – and every now and then they’re someone who is related to me.
Therefore, in 2016, I hope to get to meet (within reasonable geography) some of these more distant relatives to find out about their branches and our common ancestors.
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.
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.
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.
How did i get on with completing my 2014 Genealogy Resolutions? Did I kill off my evil Gtx4 Grandmother? Did I write that book?…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
The British Archives has announced that the 1931 Census of England and Wales will be online and available for free in 2015.
The British Archives have announced that the England and Wales Census from 1931 is to be made available online for free and available earlier than its predecessors.
This has come as a great surprise to me, as I thought we were lucky to get to see some of the 1911 census before 2011 arrived, but in this surprise move, we’re going to see one of the most anticipated data sets here in England and Wales.
Access to the 1931 census, which records the population of Great Britain on the 26th April, will be a real treat for genealogists. It has widely believed to be one of the least likely censuses to be made available freely online.
The TBA Head of Digitalization, Ivana Pranker, confirmed that ‘the scanning process was completed in their warehouse in Hayes, in secret, back in August’ and that a dedicated team have been sanity checking it, and the indexing of the scanned records.
‘We expect that the whole census will be available to the public in 2015’.
The 1931 census sees the first time that ‘place of usual residence’ was asked – a piece of information that will allow family historians the means of deciphering where those mystery census night visitors actually lived.
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.
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
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
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…
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!
Celebrating Father’s Day 2013 this weekend – check out my photo gallery of 14 of my ancestral fathers.
It’s Father’s Day here in the UK this Sunday, so in the same way that I marked Mother’s Day with a photo gallery, I thought that I would do the same for my paternal and maternal fathers.
Interestingly, there are fewer photographs of my male ancestors. This will of course be down to one or two instances where illegitimacy leaves them absent, but maybe the luxury of late-19th and early-20th century meant photography was only afforded for their wives?
My Father, Dec 1950.
Paternal Grandfather, Percy Martin (1914-1991)
Paternal Great Grandfather, Alfred Sydney Newman (1883-1969)
Paternal Great Grandfather, Herbert Martin (1884-1917)
Paternal Great Great Grandfather, James Martin (1851-1934)
Paternal Great Great Grandfather, James Gilbert (1848-1916)
Paternal Great Great Grandfather, Alfred Newman (1849-1933)
Maternal Grandfather John Edward Dewey (1931-1991)
Maternal Great Grandfather, Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey (1896-1991)
Maternal Great Grandfather, Ernest Herbert Barber (1902-1983)
Maternal Great Great Grandfather, John Freeman Dewey (1856-1943)
Maternal Great Great Grandfather, Edward Moden (1867-1932)
Maternal Great Great Grandfather, James Yarrow (1875-1946)
It’s Mother’s Day today in the UK – here’s a photographic gallery of my female ancestors.
Today is Mothering Sunday here in the UK, so what better way to mark it than to share a gallery of photos of my female ancestors.
The photographs show both my paternal and maternal direct-line of mothers, reaching from my mother to my Great Great Great Grandmother (Ann Bowers) on my maternal line, and from my father’s mother to my Great Great Great Great Grandmother (Avis Tall) on my paternal line.
Click on any of the photos below to see a larger version, and to view them as a slideshow.
Happy Mother’s Day!
My Maternal branch of Mothers
Maternal Grandmother Pamela
MatMat Great Grandmother, Maude
MatPat Great Grandmother, Susan
MatMatPat Great Great Grandmother, Louisa
MatMatMat Great Great Grandmother, Adelaide
MatPatMat Great Great Grandmother Mary Ann.
MatMatMatPatMat Great Great Great Grandmother
MatMatMatMat Great Great Great Grandmother, Ann
My Paternal branch of Mothers
PatMat Grandmother, Edna
PatMatMat Great Grandmother, Clara
PatPatMat Great Grandmother, Daisy
PatPatPatMat Great Great Grandmother, Sarah
PatMatPatMat Great Great Grandmother, Harriet
Caroline Coe (formerly Howlett, née Clark) – my Great x3 Grandmother c.1911. Photo: Andrew Martin.
PatPatPatMatMat Great Great Great Grandmother, Elizabeth
PatPatPatPatMat Great Great Great Grandmother, Mary
PatPatPatMatMatMat Great Great Great Great Grandmother, Sarah
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 Clarkeended 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.
Hallowe’en Special: Could the dead help you grow your family tree by contacting you from beyond the grave?
So, as nights draw in on Hallowe’en, people will be telling ghost stories by candlelight in a bid to frighten others, but perhaps the spirit world may have much more to offer to family historians?
Ghostly figures of Anne Boleyn and Mary, Queen of Scots are almost common sights through-out the country, appearing in all manner of stately homes and castles. These women must be busier in death than they were in life.
However, amongst all these claims of other-worldly connections with those from beyond the grave, it makes me wonder – has anyone ever managed to further their family tree by participating in a séance or by enlisting the help of a Medium?
Perhaps that sounds like a stupid question? But when there’s so many claims that spirits communicate with the living in various ways, why shouldn’t some of these encounters involve a topic of conversation?
As a Spiritualist Medium for more than 30 years, and a Genealogist for over 20 years,Pat Peacock from West Sussex has found that the two areas have often complimented each other.
“Sometimes I think I should call myself a ‘Reunionist’ as I am able to connect people with their loved ones in the Spirit World and reunite them with family members on the Earth.” – Pat Peacock
Pat who is President at Chichester Christian Spiritualist Church, explains that she has been contacted by many people who are trying to research their family tree or to find a family member who has disappeared;
“…[They] tell me that they have consulted a Medium or Psychic who has given them some information. They usually say that I may find them strange asking me to check information obtained in this way and I respond by saying I am a Medium myself.”
Pat, as an experienced genealogist knows that consulting vital records is crucial, but does go on to say that “The information they have been given is mostly accurate and has resulted in further information being found through genealogy research.”
Perhaps this suggests that a medium or séance could be on par with oral interviews – scattered with truths and opinions, but useful for leading the researcher towards vital clues?
A Familiar Visitor
Sally Holmes, a Spiritual Sensitive from Cambridgeshire, recalls an encounter that briefly re-connected some of her family members:
“Many years ago one of my cousins ran to her mum telling her to get ‘the man with the dark eyes and the hat’ away from her. She never knew my mum’s grandad, but it was him that she was describing. He was blind and wore dark glasses, and he used to sit in the very same chair. We can only conclude that he was there watching over her.. just as he would have done if he was alive.” – Sally Holmes
This encounter was shocking at first for the youngster, but the feeling that a late relative was present in their lives became somewhat comforting in hindsight.
Was it really who they thought it was, or did luck simply turn up a description that stirred up a match for an identity and associated memories of a long-gone relative?
Walking through brick walls.
If there really are visitations from the spirit world, why do they rarely help to solve our family puzzles? Couldn’t they just give a hint where someone was born or where that great aunt moved to?
Maybe as Pat suggests, they do sometimes provide some pieces of information that can be corroborated with historical documents, leading a genealogist into new lines of research.
So, when you next hit that genealogical ‘brick wall’ and can’t find that elusive relative, just take a look over your shoulder.
Perhaps there is someone who could help you after all?