Saturday, 17 September 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Hobbies

When I was small and living in London, my Dad kept racing pigeons.  These birds usually raced about 75 miles from a specific spot, and the winner would be the one who flew the fastest - but the bird also had to return home, or it would be disqualified.

 Pigeon racing has been around as far back 220 A.D.  However, the racing pigeon was specifically bred in Europe during the nineteenth century, and used to carry messages, especially in wartime.  Examples come from the Franco-Prussian War in 1871; in 1914 during the First Battle of the Marne, the French army advanced 72 pigeon lofts with the troops; in the Second World War the UK used more than 250,000 homing pigeons, and of course the Dickin Medal was awarded to animals (and pigeons).

 When we moved to Somerset (Southwest UK), he no longer raced them, but we still kept homing pigeons, and it was my job to take care of them.

I think this was possibly because he didn't want to climb the rickety ladder that led to the "pigeon loft" ie the attic space above the double garage.  I remember that ladder even more than I remember the pigeons! as it was only a few pieces of mismatched wood nailed together haphazardly.  I DEFINITELY remember the day it gave way, and as a 10-year-old I was left hanging by one arm from the trapdoor opening which led into the loft.  Then the trapdoor banged shut on my arm.  When you are ten, a six-foot drop onto concrete is a huge distance.  When I dropped to the floor (eventually) I remember running down the driveway to our house, screaming all the way, and then my mother standing terrified in the doorway and asking me to *shake hands* (which I thought was really weird, until years later I realised she was checking that my fingers still worked and my arm was not broken).

But I loved the pigeons themselves fiercely.  Chicks who didn't quite make it out of the egg were buried using an empty cigarette carton for a coffin and iced-lolly sticks for grave markers.  I learned solemnity and reverence for all God's creatures in this way.  And I learned to love a set of birds who probably only associated me with food and water.  'My' pigeon was a white one (named 'Whitey', with the stunning originality of a child).  These birds were not pets, but they are a vivid memory.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Thoughts on Thursday: Logical approach to geneaLOGICAL data

I found genealogical treasure at the weekend.  But at the same time: why don't people look at their data?  A GEDCOM was passed to me with thousands of ancestors, yet one man was married 30 years before he was born, and had his first child 130 years after his own christening.  It took me several hours to unravel all the other errors, working from the parish records that I have, and when I did, it became obvious that this particular line came from one small town in South Devon.  Obvious only when tweaked (sigh). 

Thanks to Thomas MacEntee and his recommendation to clip things to Evernote, I was able to go back to the South Hams website  with an online transcription of baptismal records dating back to 1602. 
* Genealogist's Happy Dance in living room*  

Margery BEERE (chr 1640) is my 8th great-grandmother, and she is a new addition to another of my lines which became unbelievably tangled over the years, where each genealogist thought they were right, even if their data didn't actually make sense (boys being sons of their own grandfather, who was in turn married to his own great-grandmother, and so on).  Because I knew it was in such a terrible state, I kept shying away from doing any research at all on this particular line.

But then I gathered up my courage along with my skirts, sat down with the parish records, and added my own logic, and I have made sense of my ELLIOTT line, into which Margery married.  It was nice to have my common sense/logic confirmed by the knowledgeable FamilySearch elves; when the site had a technical glitch, preventing me from entering all this yummy information into new.familysearch, they fixed it by putting the children in the right order with the right parents and linking the right generations without me making suggestions!  So although some might think that I was just another "genealogist who thinks she's right", I had a second opinion who came to the same conclusion completely independently.

Although I am hugely grateful to have received the initial GEDCOM, I can't help thinking: Why couldn't people have thought through their data logically in the first place?


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