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

 

Those 2016 New Year Genealogy Resolutions

How did I do at keeping my 2016 New Year Genealogy Resolutions?

It’s time to take a look back at my 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions, and to see how I fared at keeping/completing them.

1. Kill Simpson Bishop

If anything, 2016 has a reputation as being a year full of death – the news is rarely empty of celebrity deaths, terror deaths, and as some readers may know, the last year has been one which has seen me attend 4 family funerals, out of 6 family deaths.

Despite this, Simpson Bishop has continued ‘to live’ on. The challenge for me is to identify where he may have gone to in order to find the death. Having established that he left the area after his oldest children (including my 3x Great Grandfather) had grown up and married, he heads north to Lancashire and re-marries in 1868. He’s alive at least until the early part of 1873, as his last known child John James Bishop is born in the December quarter of 1873. Simpson gets mentions in later records, but he doesn’t get hinted as being dead until his final wife says she’s a widow in 1901, although he’s not been living with her since at least 1881. His name also has numerous variations, including being preceded by the name James (mirroring his son, my ancestor, James Simpson Bishop).

There’s a Bishop emigration after the 1871 census to New York, with a feasible estimated birth date, although he’s noted as a Clergyman on the ship.. which I find a little unlikely, despite some of his children also heading overseas too.

Sadly, I failed this resolution in 2016. Nil points!

2. Read other written family histories

I’m a fair-weather reader – in that I can go the best part of a year without picking up a book, and sometimes I just can’t put one down.

'The Valley' by Richard Benson, and 'Family Secrets' by Deborah Cohen.
‘The Valley’ by Richard Benson, and ‘Family Secrets’ by Deborah Cohen.

I began reading Deborah Cohen’s Family Secrets (2013) book, but ended up being side-tracked by research, work, and other family issues. I hope to return to it soon, having realised it was one of my resolutions (oops).

I waded in to this resolution, and although life swept me away from these books, I think I can take a half point for this resolution.

3. Finish the website site-relaunch

I greatly underestimated the size of my familytreeuk.co.uk website when I wrote my resolution – estimating that there were about 130 hand-crafted profiles to reconfigure to a new design that was mobile-friendly (and therefore more favourable to users and search engines).

In reality, there are actually 82 surname ‘hubs’ and 378 individual profile pages to re-engineer.

I’ve plodded my way through these steadily, and have been able to re-launch 214 (57%) profiles, with only 168 to go. Whilst re-writing these profiles, I’ve often been re-scanning images, adding in extra information and references to other records that help to add flesh to the lives of these people. Obviously, that has flung me down research ‘rabbit holes’, and seen me add a few more profiles or go off on tangents.

I’m happy with this progress, so i’d like to think that I’ve half completed this resolution – so another half point.

4. Run another AncestryDNA test

I’m pleased to say that it took little effort to persuade my father to take an autosomal test, so I picked up a third test at 2016’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, and we ran the test in the May.

By July, we’d got the results – revealing that he isn’t very Great Briton after all and that he’s almost a quarter Irish, and a lot of Scandinavian. This amused and pleased him a lot – as he really is fascinated with the Vikings and their impact on the UK and Europe.

My Father's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

Resolution completed, so there’s a full-earned point!

5. Meet more relatives

Events as described in Resolution 1, meant that this turned out to be somewhat easy, despite the sad occasions that led to it happening.

I was so pleased to see some relatives again – like my father’s cousins, and also to meet (and in part, reunite) some of them too. I’m now in regular contact with some of them, which is a great feeling, and a nice ending to a sad year.

I was also really pleased to get to properly talk to my 1st Cousin, Twice Removed – the daughter of my Great Grandfather’s youngest sister. Despite this making her my Grandfather’s cousin, due to the large family above, she’s actually a year younger than my now-late uncle.

She was fascinated in family history, and talked to some length about a branch of our family tree. I know that her mother was a great source of photographs in the early years of my research (via my uncle), so I hope that I can talk to her more, and share the stories about our Martin and Giddings families in the new year.

I can safely say I completed this resolution, and earn another point.

The over-all score

So, all in all, I managed to score 3/5 for my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions.

To be honest, I forgot what some of these resolutions were, because I got carried away with research or website re-launching, or just life events that needed my attention. I like having these resolutions though, as it reminds me of challenges to do, and also gives me something to look back on – helping me to notice my own achievements.

Other things I managed to achieve in 2016 include:

  1. Re-joining The Newman Name Society
  2. Helping The Littleport Society by digitally cataloging hundreds of items in their archive…and digitise their audio interview archive that was stored on deteriorating cassette tape.
  3. Helping them to run two 200th Anniversary Riots events
  4. Rescued hundreds and scanned many family photographs – I now have 341 different relatives in my photo archive, across 565 photos, with a few hundred photos boxed up yet to scan, and many yet to identify people in.
  5. Used the General Register Office new searchable indexes to discover a terrible family tragedy that saw the infant deaths of 11 of the 12 children, and the first wife, of my 3x Great Grandfather, James Martin.

Did you have any genealogy resolutions for 2016? If so, how did you do? Let me know in the comments below.

Once again, thank you for reading,

Andrew

My 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2016

As Old Father Time heads off into the sunset, and a new year arrives, what Genealogy Resolutions shall I challenge myself with in 2016?

This is my 4th year of setting myself some New Year Genealogy Resolutions (you can read last year’s here).

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 feel a whiteboard evidence timeline moment coming on.

2. Read other written family histories

Sitting on my bookshelf are The Valley (2014) by Richard Benson, and Family Secrets (2013) by Deborah Cohen.

'The Valley' by Richard Benson, and 'Family Secrets' by Deborah Cohen.
‘The Valley’ by Richard Benson, and ‘Family Secrets’ by Deborah Cohen. I’ll bump these two to the top of my reading list in 2016.

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.

AncestryDNA postage costs
AncestryDNA postage costs are a bit of a mystery.

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 wrote about how a cousin’s family is like a world looking in on your family and that therefore they’re a great source of photos of your closer family.

Plus, as an adult and family historian, I always believe that you should talk to strangers… it helps make the world get a little bit smaller, and a little bit friendlier.