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.


Wedding Wednesday – 1929

This week, we’re off to 1929 for Wedding Wednesday – to my great grandparents’ wedding at Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.

In this week’s Wedding Wednesday blog post, it’s the turn of my Great Grandparents, who married on All Fool’s Day in 1929.

Here’s the happy couple, standing outside my great grandmother’s parents’ house at Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.

Newlyweds Ernest and Maude Barber
Ernest and Maude – married on 1st April 1929.

Here’s the happy couple again, this time with their wedding group – the groom’s half-brother Walter ‘Curly’ Hopkin, and the bride’s younger sisters.

Barber and Yarrow marriage, 1929

One of the bridesmaids is still alive, and has just turned 102 years old. My Great Grandmother (the bride), her sister, reached 104.

Ernest and Maude enjoyed 56 years of marriage, until Ernest’s death in 1985.

Wordless Wednesday – The Box

Wordless Wednesday – this week features a mystery box….

Wordless Wednesday – a double wedding in about 1913

Wordless Wednesday – this week is a photograph of a double wedding taken in about 1913.

"Annie Barber and Mr Smith" double wedding
A double wedding for the Barber family in about 1913.

WANTED: Dead Or Alive

Killing off your relatives is a crucial part of your work…. as a genealogist, not as a marauding tyrant.

I’m hoping that aside from in genealogy, that there’s nowhere else where the mark of a successful day is one where you’ve killed off a load of your relatives.

Anyone tracing their family tree is sure to stumbled across at least one elusive relative at some point in their research. That relative will cause them to spend many hours following potential leads and plenty of head scratching and brow creasing before either solving or putting it off until a rainier day.

This is a routine I know well.

Help! My Grandmother was a zombie

William Yarrow and his wife Elizabeth
Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright) seems to have died and been buried more than once.

I’ve recently struggled to kill off a maternal 4x Great Grandmother called Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright), who appears to have died twice (about 2yrs apart) and been buried – in neighbouring parishes (!). Her death(s) fall right at the start of Death Certification in England and Wales. One of them is even noted as being in London and that her body was carried back on the train.

However, there’s seemingly no death certificate for her (the only one that matched in name turned out to be a baby), and parish records and the gravestone all contradict eachother.

The hidden Grandparents and Uncle

I’m currently struggling to find a my paternal Gtx4 Grandparents John Levitt with Elizabeth (née Skeel), and one of their sons Richard Skeel Levitt, during the 1871 census. I can find the rest of their children, but for some reason in 1871 they vanish.

I have them living in the same parish in all the censuses before and after this particular one. So, did they elude the enumerator? Were they away somewhere? – and if so, why don’t they appear somewhere else?

The surname has many variants but having done some pretty vague searches and very specific ones too, they remain elusive. Richard never married and seems to stick with his parents until their death, after which he goes to live with his other unmarried brother. It’s odd that all three seem to be missing.

The Serial Bride

Mary Watlington (formerly Martin, formerly Crisp, née Tingey)
Mary Watlington (formerly Martin, formerly Crisp, née Tingey)

Okay, to be fair, three marriages is probably nothing compared to some, but Mary Tingey surprised me. Born in 1820, she married to John Crisp in 1846. He died soon after their son was born. Within 4 years she had remarried to widower James Martin (my Gtx3 Grandfather) in 1850 and the following year they started their own family. After 5 children – with seemingly just one surviving (my ancestor) tuberculosis and scarlet fever, and then the tragic train accident that claimed her husband, Mary lived alone as a widow.  I’d hunted for her death for some time, but the searches were unsuccessful.

I hadn’t considered that instead of being buried somewhere out of step with the rest of her family or that she had been recorded for some reason under an earlier name, that she had remarried. One evening I stumbled across the marriage in 1877 with 57yr old widow Mary Martin, formerly Crisp (née Tingey) becoming the second Mrs Matthew Watlington. To add to the confusion, the new surname occasionally appears as Watling.

Check, check, check and then cross-check…. again…

These are just three of several situations where I’ve struggled to solve a puzzle. Whilst I know that checking and cross-checking is absolutely crucial to accurately recording your genealogy, it can be all too easy to accept even documentation and gravestones of the time as being accurate.

I’d like to say that I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way… but I say that every time it happens.

Happy Anniversary Ernest and Maude

On this day in 1929: Ernest Herbert Barber married Maude Yarrow at Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.

On this day in 1929, my maternal great grandparents; Ernest Herbert Barber (1902-1983) and Maude Yarrow (1899-2004) were married at St Peter’s Church, Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.

I was very lucky to have known them both well, as well as Maude’s siblings who appear here as bridesmaids. One of which (Agnes, far right) is still alive today.

Newlyweds Ernest and Maude Barber
Ernest and Maude – married on 1st April 1929.

Happy Anniversary!