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

Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014

A look back at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair, which took place on October 25th 2014 at Girton, Cambridge.

Yesterday saw the second Cambridgeshire Family History Fair take place – a free genealogy and local history event held in Girton’s Glebe School on the north side of Cambridge.

The Main Hall at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.
The main Exhibition Hall at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.

This year’s fair seemed much busier than last year, and although it seemed that there were fewer talks (one room, rather than two), this didn’t seem to affect the hustle and bustle in the main exhibition hall.

I went along for the whole day (10am-4pm), as I had my eye on 3 of the 4 expert talks, and also had a few genealogy hurdles that I wanted to try to resolve with the Suffolk Family History Society and the Norfolk Family History Society. I also hoped to bump into the postcard stall that I’d seen at last year’s fair… as I had a specific card to find.

Mike Petty MBE: Resources for Researching Cambridgeshire

My first talk of the day was the first time that I had attended a talk by Mike Petty MBE.

His fifty years of collectively working with the likes of The Cambridgeshire Collection, the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History (for which he is currently President), writing a weekly column for the Cambridge News, and being a seasoned lecturer and author for all things Cambridgeshire, has earned him an unrivalled knowledge of the history of the county, and the resources available to research it.

Mike admitted he’s not a genealogist – he’s a historian. This actually makes him a perfect speaker to genealogists, as his talk showed a full room how to get beyond the basics of censuses and BMDs, by digging out the more interesting information about Cambridgeshire that is tucked away in newspapers, in photographs, maps, and books.

As the audience were quickly scribbling down notes, Mike continued to show how to use online indexes to help make your next visit to a Cambridgeshire archives resource more time efficient. He spoke passionately about the vast card indexes that hold so many clues to resources, but which are themselves tucked away due to space limitations.

I’ll definitely make more effort to attend his talks in future – I feel like he could have talked for hours.

Postcard hunting

With a break between talks, I set myself off to see if I could find the Desira Postcards stall that I visited last year, and where I had bought one of two postcards of my Cross family’s bakery shop on Forehill, Ely.

Thankfully, the postcard I saw last year was still within their collection, so (ignoring the £8.50 price tag) I bought it, as it’s an example of how Frederick Thompson Cross was advertising his business. He died in 1911, after which his son Frederick Vernon Cross took over.

Advertising postcard for Frederick Thompson Cross' tea rooms on Forehill, Ely, prior to 1911.
Advertising postcard for Frederick Thompson Cross’ tea rooms on Forehill, Ely, prior to 1911.

Carl Warner: Crowdsourcing History at IWM Duxford

Having enjoyed the collaborative crowdsourcing Lives Of The First World War project that IWM launched earlier this year, I was keen to see what Carl Warner (Imperial War Museum Duxford’s Research and Information Manager) was going to tell us about their Second World War project: American Air Museum.

IWM American Air Museum
The IWM American Air Museum website has launched.

This time, Carl explained that IWM has just launched a new website containing around 15,000 photographs of the USAAF, and that members of the public can register and then add their own, whilst also discuss other images – in a hope to bring names to faces and places, and record the memories of those who remember the presence of American Airmen in Cambridgeshire during WWII.

My own Grandmother remembers the American airmen near Mepal, Cambridgeshire, and like many of her generation, it’s pretty much a story about eating ‘candy’ given to them. Little could she understand then as a child, that when she waved them off as they flew away, that many would never return.

Kathy Chater: How To Write Up Family History

Ex-BBC Researcher, turned professional genealogist, historian and author, Kathy Chater was my third and final expert speaker to listen in to. Her career background, like that of Richard Benson, would give me the impetus and expert advice I need to decide on how best to write up some of my own family history stories beyond the realms of this blog, and a characterless list of names and dates.

Kathy’s advice on breaking down your mountain of research into chunks and focussing on telling each piece of one person’s life at a time, certainly felt to me like a much easier approach. She then suggested that you could then weave a few of these into a story – trying to bring in national, international, social and family events to flesh out the stories and set your ancestor into context.

I’ve certainly been looking at how national and world events may have impacted on my relatives – looking at trends in silk and cotton weaving, the impact of the railways, enclosure acts, Cambridgeshire drainage acts, and of course the horror of wars.

Like Mike Petty, Kathy recommended turning to newspapers – not just the stories, but the adverts and reviews too – all which would help you to understand the world in which your relatives lived.

It was refreshing to hear Kathy give a shot of reality with her comments on being realistic about the publishing of the book – recommending that you should probably just stick to publishing it yourself within your family, and not a publisher. She amplified a message that I’ve heard regularly – file a copy of your book with relevant archives and organisations.

Recharged with enthusiasm to get stuck in to what was the 5th of my 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014, I hope to at least be able to decide whether I’m going to aim for a novelised or non-fiction approach.

Another great genealogy fair!

I’d like to say thank you to all of the speakers that I saw, and also to the hard work of the Cambridgeshire Family History Society team who organised the event. It’s great to see this growing, and I look forward to next year’s event.

Exhibitors at The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.
Exhibitors at The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.

In the meantime, The Big Family History Fair organised by the Huntingdonshire Family History Society returns in May 2015.

Expert speakers revealed for 2014 Cambridgeshire Family History Fair

Cambridgeshire Family History Society logoThe Cambridgeshire Family History Society has confirmed the guest speakers for this year’s Cambridgeshire Family History Fair.

A series of announcements via their Facebook Page, have revealed the following experts will be talking at the Fair on 25th October 2014.

  • Author, and former BBC researcher, Kathy Chater will be talking about how to turn your family history research into a story.
  • Author, well-known local historian, and President of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, Mike Petty MBE will be talking about the resources available to you when researching your Cambridgeshire ancestors.
  • Social historian Tom Doig returns, this time to talk about identifying dates of Edwardian photographs and postcards.
  • Carl Warner, Research and Information Manager at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, will be explaining how you can use the Museum’s vast image library to research and share your story.

The Fair returns to Girton Glebe Primary School, in Girton, on the North-west side of Cambridge. Parking and entry is free, and doors are open 10am-4pm.

For the latest information about the event, and to find out about the Society, take a look at their website.

A view of some of the trade stands at the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair, 2013
A view of some of the trade stands at the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair, 2013

I went to last year’s Fair History Fair, and really enjoyed it – attending Tom Doig’s lecture, and picked up a few special priced bargains.

See you there!

Andrew