Saturday, 15 December 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Holiday Happenings

Edmund George HAYWOOD, my paternal grandfather, was born on 15 December 1903 in Millbrook, Cornwall, England. Most of his paternal forefathers had been involved in brickmaking; however, Edmund George chose to follow his maternal ancestors and worked with the sea. His grandfather (John Dunstone AVERY) had been a rigger, his great grandfather (George AVERY) a shipwright's apprentice, a ship's carpenter and then a shipwright, while his great great grandfather (Samuel AVERY) was a carpenter, and is listed as a mariner at the marriage of his daughter Susanna - also on 15 December, this time 1832.

Edmund George served in Bermuda (as a shipwright) in WWII, where he met his second wife, Etta May COLEMAN. After he returned to England, years and years of passenger manifests list him travelling to Bermuda (often via New York), back to England, and back to Bermuda again.

He died in 1984.

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at"

Friday, 14 December 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Fruitcake

The Christmas cake I ate as a small child was dark and rich - too rich - so one year my mum found a recipe for Boiled Cake which we used afterwards - it was still a fruitcake, but much lighter. Incidentally, you didn't boil the cake, just the ingredients beforehand... Here is the recipe (makes a big cake for about 12):

Boiled Cake
250ml (8 fl oz) water
900g (2 lb) dried mixed fruit
225g (8 oz) caster sugar (or light muscavado sugar)
170g (6 oz) butter
230g (8 oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten

Boil the water, dried fruit, sugar and butter for about 10 minutes.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and mixed spice into a large bowl.
Pour on the boiled mixture and stir well.
Mix in the eggs.
Pour into a lined loaf tin
Bake for 90 minutes at 150 C or Gas Mark 2
Let stand for 10 minutes

It tastes better about 24 hours after you have baked it! Some cooks like to add elderflower cordial to the water, some use cold tea instead of the water, some add treacle.

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at”

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: The Tree

I grew up with artificial trees, so it was natural when I left home and set up my own flat to have an artificial tree myself (and all of my flats have been far too small to cope with anything over a foot tall!). Over the years, artificial trees have improved considerably, so what used to be a rather obviously-plastic one now looks almost real. You often have to touch the needles to check!

The Christmas tree has not always been with us. Or has it? Check this out from Wikipedia:

"While it is clear that the modern Christmas tree originates in Renaissance and early modern Germany, there are a number of speculative theories as to its ultimate origin. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Martin Luther.  Alternatively, it is identified with the "tree of paradise" of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24 December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls."

"Happy Christmas" by Viggo Johansen 
And this from Encyclopædia Britannica: "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime."

And from "Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event."

I wonder how many of my ancestors had a Christmas tree?

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at”

Saturday, 27 October 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Week 43: Memorable Genealogy Moment

Think back to when you first started researching your family history. Is there a memorable early genealogy moment that stands out in your mind? Describe this event or discovery and how it impacted your research going forward.

The memorable genealogy moment I recall is the one which gave me the greatest sense of "I can do this!"

Everyone in my family had told me that I would never be able to find my great-grandfather (John Samuel EDGCOMBE)'s birthdate, as he had changed his age and run away to sea.  Annoyingly, the date written in the family bible was obscured by a large crack between the spine and the page. 

But I found it! And how did I do it?  Well, the polite way of describing it would be by "thinking laterally", but actually it was just a dogged determination not to be foiled.  In fact, one of the best ways of getting me to do anything is to say "you won't be able to"; I work best when reverse psychology is involved!  And I am sure I was helped by John Samuel, long since beyond the veil.

I felt so infused with success, I could have solved any genealogical brickwalls there on the spot! *embarrassed cough*

From this I learned two things:
a) I can do this (however long it takes to solve a problem)
b) If it looks impossible to find, think laterally and refuse to give up

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Sorting Saturday: Organise your hard drive

Michelle Goodrum of The Turning of Generations, is running a series for the 21st Century Organised Family Historian - a series I desperately need.

Back in January, she suggested organising your hard drive - presumably so you could find things later! after all, there's hardly much point in scanning everything in sight (whilst attending the excellent Scanfest), if you can't find where you put those scans, is there?

So I reviewed my genealogical files on my own hard drive, renamed some folders and created some more, and spent a happy afternoon sorting out pdfs, jpgs, gifs, tifs, etc and putting them in these folders.  I put shortcuts to these folders onto my desktop, and am now the proud owner of the following hierarchy:
(although, of course, I am not saying you HAVE to do it my way, just that it works for me)

On my C drive there is a folder called FAMILY HISTORY (how original).  This folder still has a lot of junk files-not-yet-placed, but it also has the following subfolders:

1 Names
2 Places
3 BMD files
4 Census
6 Photos
7 Documents
8 Other People's Genealogy

Technology Tip: If you begin the name of your folders with a number, then Windows Explorer will put them at the top of the 'tree' because it puts numbers before letters, viz. "1 Names" will be the at the head of the list, but "Names" will come somewhere down the bottom, because 1 comes before N, according to Microsoft.

To give a brief idea of what is in each subfolder, here you are:
1 Names - this contains tiny folders for each surname in my family tree (i.e. Haywood, Avery, Distin)
2 Places - this contains tiny folders for each locality they appear in (i.e. Axminster, Ringmore, Warleggan)
3 BMD files - this contains all the screenshots and downloads of online images of BMD registers I have collected over the years
4 Census - this is split into folders for the 1841, 1851, 1861 etc and contains the screenshots/downloads from places or names I haven't yet firmly established as mine
5 GEDCOMs - rather obvious, this one, but I made it because my GEDCOMs were all over the place
6 Photos - another obvious one.  Divided into family surnames
7 Documents - split into folders for certificates, medal records, medical records, passenger lists etc
8 Other People's Genealogy - I did some research for various aunties and friends, and it was getting all mixed up with my own genealogy, so I had to split it off and tidy it away

Now, where shall I put that article about researching one's genealogy back to Adam?  Maybe I had better start a new folder called "9 Humour"...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Sorting Saturday: Sorting Myself Out

Usually, Sorting Saturday would deal with sorting the (many) piles of paper you have floating around your house, or sorting the (many) folders you have on your computer, or sorting the (many) unlabelled photos you have in (even more) boxes.  So I'm going to concentrate on none of that.  I think that, in order to be able to even peep through my fingers at the piles, I need to sort myself out first.

I have been ill for the past couple of months, so I haven't blogged at all.  And this is the first post I have made - about sorting myself out!  I made a page of all the webinars, courses etc which I have attended during 2012 (My 2012 Events), and found a post of mine from December 2010 all about making genealogy goals, so I will repeat my list from there, and add any updates:

#  Volunteer to index for FamilySearch
done this, but 'attendance' has become patchy; must improve
#  Write this blog more than once a week
progress has become patchy; must improve
#  Now I have a Kindle, investigate genealogy books I can acquire (preferably for free)
#  Add some more to my family history writing project
ongoing; have acquired copyright permission for cover photo; need to write more
#  Write another SFA College of Genealogy course
done - have written five!
#  Create a genealogy routine
not done at all

I can add to this list.

# Attend webinars
so far this year I have attended 10, with another 9 planned
# Attend RootsTech
attended via live streaming
# Complete at least one genealogy course
start a Pharos course on Monday 13th August 2012
# Oh, yes, nearly forgot - do some genealogical research on my own family as well!


Sunday, 1 July 2012

21st Century Organized Family Historian: I'm In!

Michelle Goodrum of The Turning of Generations blog has initiated a year-long set of bite-sized projects to encourage us all to become more organised (see, I spelt it correctly there.  But then, I'm British...)  It is called the 21st Century Organized Family Historian, and you can read the introductory blog post here.

The projects include topics such as "Develop a Digital Organization Scheme", "Set Up a Work Area", "Eight Steps to Organize Heritage Photos", and so on.  I have come into this set of projects halfway through the year, so I will only be doing some and not others from the backlog.  For instance, I will not be attacking the ones regarding preparation for the US 1940 census (since my ancestors were born and died in the UK) - although I am working on said census as part of FamilySearch indexing.

Still, as any genealogist knows, you should never say "never" to anything and consider yourself so expert on a particular subject that you don't need to follow excellent back-to-basics projects like some of these.  Yes, of course you need to budget your time wisely, but along with that wisdom should come the phrase "I Am Not a Genealogy Snob."

Monday, 30 April 2012

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: Y is for Yeoman

A yeoman differed from landed gentry in one major way.  They both owned land (although the yeoman often owned substantially less!), but the yeoman would put his hand to till the earth whereas the landed gentry usually employed servants to do this for them.  Even the yeoman's wife would till the earth.

However, the term 'yeoman' was also applied to young sons of the gentry until they inherited their father's estate.  'Yeomanry' were volunteer cavalry regiments amalgamated in 1908 with other volunteers to form the Territorial Force.

Friday, 27 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: X is for eXtreme Genealogy

You've heard of extreme sports? even extreme ironing? so how about extreme genealogy?  The BBC defines Extreme Genealogy as the art and skill of DNA testing:

The firm is the brainchild of the Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes, who [several] years ago published research showing that everyone of European extraction could trace their ancestry back to one of seven women who lived 40,000 years ago. Such was the demand from the public to know which of the "seven daughters of Eve" they were descended from, Professor Sykes spotted a business opportunity."

  • Europeans mostly come from one of seven women
  • About half are from Helena, who lived in the Pyrenees 20,000 years ago
  • Among non-Europeans, 29 such clans have been identified
  • These include 12 among those of African origin
  • Four among Native Americans
  • And nine among Japanese

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: W is for Window Tax

There have been many weird and wonderful taxes throughout the years: poll tax, land tax, hearth tax, hat tax (1784-1811) on men's hats, dice duty (1711–1862), almanac tax (1711–1834), wallpaper tax (1712–1836), glove tax (1785–94), hair-powder tax 1786–1869) and perfume tax (1786–1800).

So, how about this one? Window Tax.  Every household paid a basic 2 shillings; houses with between 10 and 20 windows paid 8 shillings, and the rates for large houses were increased in 1709.  In order to reduce the amount you had to pay, you might block up several windows (which is why you often see these blocked-up windows in old ruins).

In 1747 the Act was repealed and amended: now (as well as the basic 2 shillings) houses with 10 to 14 windows paid 6 pence per window; those with 15 to 19 paid 9 pence; and those with over 20 windows paid one shilling per window. [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p 302]

This tax was abolished in 1851.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: V is for Villein

[Yes, I can spell 'villain' as well].  The type of villein we are talking about owes nothing to the Hollywood baddie.  The original villein appeared in the period of history which deals with the Normans, and the status disappeared in about 1500.

Absolutely free (except to his feudal lord)
Held land hereditarily - and it included a house and a garden plot
Always employed: week work (regular agricultural work) and boon work (extra work, such as at harvest time)
Could hold a number of arable strips of land
Right to graze beasts
Right to receive a crop of hay from the meadow
Rent was fixed throughout the centuries

Could not bring a suit in the king's court
Could not marry without feudal lord's permission

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: U is for United Kingdom

I always get this mixed up - and I live here!

The full name is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", which is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

To include Southern Ireland, you need to talk about the British Isles.

One thing which frequently annoys me about various sites on the Internet is when you come to a drop-down menu (either for a search term or for payment/address details).  I have only ever seen one site use the term "England".  Otherwise, I live in the "United Kingdom".  Doesn't seem to matter that I am English, looking for an English ancestor who did not live in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or anywhere else.

Monday, 23 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: T is for Time Immemorial

You thought this was just a well-worn phrase that has entered the English language as something that "everyone says" when they mean something which has gone on forever, didn't you?  Well, I have done a little research on "time immemorial", and you may be surprised at the results.

"Time Immemorial" was actually a legal term which meant all time prior to the accession of Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) in 1189.

In 1291, however, a person who "held a franchise without any charter of authority, but who could proved that he had possessed it from 'time whereof the memory of man runneth not the contrary' (i.e. 'time immemorial' or 'time out of mind') could be granted a charter for that franchise." [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p 283]

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: S is for Scanfest

Scanfest is a once-monthly excellent time for scanning all those one-day items ("I'll scan it one day").  It is usually held on the last Sunday of the month and hosted at the AnceStories blog.  The only downside I have found is that you tend to have so much fun chatting to others, that the scanning pile grows ever higher!

Here is a description of Scanfest from AnceStories:

"What is Scanfest? It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family documents and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem too overwhelming to begin."

Friday, 20 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: R is for Ragged Schools

1818: John Pounds sets up the first Ragged School.  The name at least does give you some idea of what they were - schools set up to provide free education for the poor.

1844: Lord Shaftesbury organises an official union of Ragged Schools.

The Ragged School movement grew out of recognition that charitable and denominational schools were not beneficial for children in inner-city areas. Working in the poorest districts, teachers (who were often local working people) initially utilised stables, lofts, and railway arches for their classes. There was an emphasis on reading, writing, arithmetic, and study of the Bible. The curriculum expanded into industrial and commercial subjects in many schools.

1844-1881: around 300,000 children went through the London Ragged Schools alone.

1990: "A Ragged School Museum is housed in a group of three canalside buildings that once housed the largest Ragged School in London. It occupies buildings that were previously used by Dr Thomas Barnardo and is located on Copperfield Road in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets." [Wikipedia]

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: Q is for Quarter Days

These are the quarter days, which were when rents were paid and servants hired:

Lady Day - 25th March
Midsummer - 6th July until 1752, then 24th June
Michaelmas - 29th September
Christmas - 25th December

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: P is for Plymouth

"Often quoted, rarely acknowledged" is the tag line to the excellent Plymouth Data website run by Brian Moseley.  Containing over 2,000 pages of information on such varied subjects as churches, chapels, public houses, convents, nunneries, schools, roads, streets, and much more, this site is well worth a visit - and a long stay! (if you can ever tear yourself away from such intriguing pages as those devoted to sports, lighthouses, charities, air services, ambulance services, electricity, and earliest residents...)

The site does not restrict itself just to Plymouth.  Also encountered are Devonport and East Stonehouse, and also the ancient parishes of Saint Budeaux, Eggbuckland, Tamerton Foliot, Plympton Saint Maurice, Plympton Saint Mary and Plymstock, which make up the modern City of Plymouth, within the County of Devon, in the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: O is for Online Parish Clerk

I am proud to be the Online Parish Clerk for Ottery St Mary, Devon, England, and am taking this opportunity to outline what an Online Parish Clerk actually is.  Taken from the GENUKI Devon page on this subject:

"The concept of an Online Parish Clerk (OPC), which originated in discussion on the CORNISH-L mailing list, involves identifying volunteers, one or more per Parish, who will act as a focus for gathering together transcriptions and name indexes related to that Parish (which are not already readily available elsewhere). The notion of Online Parish Clerks should in no way be confused with that of the official (i.e. Parish Council-appointed) Parish Clerks. All OPCs are unpaid volunteers who are willing to assist others in their genealogical research...The term OPC as used here, refers to a repositor of genealogically related materials such as (but not limited to) Church register transcripts, land tax assessments and census information, and the OPC should in no way be confused with the County Council appointed Parish Clerks. All OPCs are unpaid volunteers who are willing to assist others in their genealogical research."

Currently, there are Online Parish Clerk schemes running in the following counties: Cornwall, Dorset, Kent, Somerset, Sussex, Warwickshire, and Wiltshire.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: N is for Noble

No, I'm not talking about nobility here - aristocracy and all that.  The noble was a gold coin that was valued at 6 shillings and 8 pence, and was first produced in 1351.

One side showed the image of the king (Edward III at that time) in a ship, and on the reverse was a floriate cross.

Edward III noble: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc:

"Edward IV added a rose to the ship (from which it was called a rose-noble) and raised its value to 10 shillings.  At the same time, he introduced a new coin, the angel, valued at 6 shillings and 8 pence." [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p200]

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: M is for Monumental Inscription

A monumental inscription is the writing on a gravestone.  Sometimes it just gives the name of the deceased and their dates, but there was quite a fashion at one time to add a scripture, or write some flowery verses.  Here are some of my favourites:

"Here lies John Yeast,
Pardon me for not rising."
Ruidoso Cemetery, New Mexico

Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there's only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God
On a grave from the 1880's in Nantucket, Massachusetts

It wasn't the cough, that carried him off. It was the coffin they carried him off in.

Here lies an Atheist All dressed up and no place to go.
Thurmont, Maryland

Don't weep for me, Eliza dear,
I am not dead, but sleeping here.
As I am now so you must be,
Prepare for death and follow me.

To follow you I'm not content Until I know which way you went!

And Spike Milligan's monumental inscription: I Told You I Was Ill - but this was disallowed by St Thomas Church in Winchelsea, East Sussex.  So it was written in Irish! (Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite)

Friday, 13 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: L is for Lammas

From Wikipedia:

"In some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1 is Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mass, "loaf-mas"), the festival of the wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide. The loaf was blessed, and in Anglo-Saxon England it might be employed afterwards to work magic: A book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the lammas bread be broken into four bits, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called "the feast of first fruits". The blessing of first fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western Churches on the first or the sixth of August (the latter being the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ)."

It has also been noted that the word 'Lammas' may have originated from 'Lattermath', meaning a second mowing.  Lammas land was land enclosed and held until Lammas, when it was thrown open for grazing.  And the part I like the most? "There was once an old saying: 'at latter Lammas', meaning 'never'. [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p164]

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: K is for King's Evil

King's Evil is another name for scrofula - a disease of the lymphatic glands, specifically tuberculosis of the neck.  This disease was similar to consumption, and quite a large proportion of those infected (who also died) were under fifteen years of age.

And the cure for this disease?  Historically, it was believed that the touch of the reigning monarch was the 100% cure.  Originally, the king would wash the diseased parts, but later it became merely the king's touch which would effect the cure.  Then the cured sufferer would be given a 'touch-piece', or gold medal.  In order to apply for the touch, the sufferer would have to bring a certificate from the local vicar and churchwardens to state that they had not had 'the touch' before.  Most of the touchings were performed in London, with Queen Anne being the last monarch to provide the touch.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: J is for Journeyman

No, a journeyman is not a man on a journey.  The 'journey' here comes from the French 'jour' or 'journee' (pronounced joornay), which means 'day'.  A journeyman was a day labourer who had served his apprenticeship.

The Statute of Artificers of 1563 laid down the journeyman's hours of work as being, in summer, from, at or before 5 a.m. until between 7 and 8 p.m., with not more than 2 1/2 hours off for breakfast, dinner and drinking; and in winter from dawn till dusk. [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p160]

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: I is for Indenture

Indentures usually seem to appear when connected with apprenticeships.  The concept of an indenture was very visual; apart from being a piece of parchment with an agreement written on it, there was also an open secret to an indenture.

The agreement was written and duplicated on the same piece of parchment (with the duplicate known as a chirograph).  A wavy line was drawn - also known as 'indented' - and then the document was cut along the wavy line.  This meant that the different parts could be identified as belonging to each other as long as they fit together correctly.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: H is for Hiring Fairs

Hiring Fairs were usually held annually in market towns.  They were set up to enable employers to find employees (and vice versa, of course) - usually domestics and farm labourers.  If your ancestors were in one place for a long time, then suddenly moved, it may well have been because they had been attracted to a nearby Hiring Fair, the husband (usually) got hired some way away, and so the whole family moved.  Maybe your ancestor was a single man when he went to a Hiring Fair, then he was hired, found a wife locally, and settled down - and thus, your ancestors moved.

One of the most well-known Hiring Fairs appear in the novels of Thomas Hardy, such as Far From the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and the most well-known of all: Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: G is for GeneaBloggers

Calling all those who blog about genealogy!  GeneaBloggers is a very important link you should put in your Contacts/Bookmarks/Favourites right now.  It calls itself 'the genealogical community's resource for genealogy blogging', but that title doesn't do it justice. 

GeneaBloggers is run by Thomas MacEntee (I expect you have heard of him) and is so much more than a bunch of useful links.  Here is a snippet from their home page:

"Blogs listed at GeneaBloggers are selected based on content and ability to move the "genealogy conversation" forward."

There are memes, challenges, lists by country (it's international) and state, links to GeneaBloggers Radio, blog resources (design, templates, editing photos, blog publishing, improving your blog and many more), upcoming events, webinars (Thomas MacEntee does a lot of these, and he is an excellent speaker) - I still haven't managed to look through all the pages on the website.

GeneaBloggers describes itself as "a fast-growing community of like-minded bloggers who are always ready to lend a hand to new GeneaBloggers members".  Well worth a visit!

Friday, 6 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: F is for Franking of Letters

1660 onwards: Sending and receiving letters is only to be done by Members of the House of Commons and clerks of the Post Office.

1764: Each peer and Member of Parliament is allowed to send 10 free letters not exceeding one ounce in weight per day, by signing their name in the corner of the folded letter (envelopes weren't around).  Each Member can also receive up to 15 letters per day.

1837: The practice of Members of Parliament 'franking' letters for their friends is stopped (well, the powers-that-be tried to stop it).  The person signing his name in the corner also has to put his address plus the day of the month, and the letter has to be posted on the same day not 20 miles from the franker's home.

1840: Franking was abolished - the penny post was introduced.

30 April 2012: The price of a first class UK stamp will be 60p; the price of a second class UK stamp will be 50p.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: E is for Englishry

Aha! you say - there is no such word.  In genealogy: oh, yes there is.  We're talking 1066 to the mid fourteenth century, here, and the subject is: murder.

The penalty for killing a Norman was quite severe; the penalty for killing an Englishman, not so severe.  So, instead of just finding out 'whodunnit', genealogy came into play to find out whether the deceased was Norman or English by descent.  (If nobody could decide, then they considered the victim to be Norman).

Then, the spotlight would fall on the person accused of the murder.  If he could successfully plead 'Englishry' (ie that the deceased was English and not Norman), he would not receive the more severe penalties, which included a fine on the hundred (place) in which the murder was committed.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: D is for Daughter-in-Law

This is one of those words/phrases which meant something entirely different in your ancestors' times.  Look at old censuses and be amazed at the number of daughters-in-law who appear, aged only 3 or 4!  Wonder at the loose morals and shocking marriage customs among your farthest and dearest!

And then you find out the truth.  A daughter-in-law in our ancestors' day was in fact a stepdaughter, or part of a blended family where the father or mother married again after the death or disappearance of their spouse.  Some naughty census-takers, intent on confusing later generations [hollow laugh] even called a stepdaughter a daughter!  Similarly, if you find unknown sons-in-law - they are quite possibly stepsons.  Which of course hints at a prior marriage for either the father or the mother.  Which means more family history delving - yippee!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: C is for Certificates

When people first start to look into their family history, they often begin with birth, marriage and death certificates.  I know I did - and I leapt into the detective work of tracing and establishing a family tree by pouncing feverishly on each certificate as I found it, often focusing only on the name of the individual it concerned.  I didn't, for instance, look at a birth certificate for someone called John and notice that his father was called Henry and his mother was called Mary, who was listed with her maiden name.  I just looked at 'John'.

But it's when you come up against those brickwalls I mentioned in my previous post that you realise you really should have looked at all the other information that was just sitting there, waiting for you to notice it:
  • Parents' names (including mother's maiden name)
  • Father's occupations
  • Address of event
  • Whether the couple were married by licence or by banns, in a mainstream church or nonconformist
  • Is the father listed as 'deceased'?
  • Cause of death
  • Witnesses to a marriage; informant of birth/death
And then there is locating the certificate itself.  If you are hunting through the General Register Office's indices for the registration number, it is always worth remembering (put up a sticky note on the wall so that it is in front of your nose) that the event was not necessarily registered at the same time as the event actually happened.  The indexes are divided into four quarters: Jan-Mar, Apr-June, July-Sept, and Oct-Dec, so my birth (in November 1959) was actually registered in the March quarter of 1960!  I have several instances in my family tree where other family members told me I would never be able to find the birthdate, because such-and-such an individual had changed his age and run away to sea...but I found said individual.  He had been born on 31st December, but registered in the next year's first quarter!

When I began to research my family history, over thirty years ago, looking for the reference to a certificate meant a special journey to St Catherine's House in London.  I grew impressive biceps as I heaved huge books from their places on tall shelves and turned crackling pages as I visually scanned line upon line of beautifully-written handwriting.  Now I switch on the computer and go to FreeBMD - and all it takes is a click of the mouse.  How astonished my ancestors would be at this technology!  FreeBMD volunteers (I was one) have transcribed over 214 million records - and they still haven't finished.  But I will be forever grateful that they have worked so hard - and so too are my ancestors.

Monday, 2 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: B is for Brickmaking

If you have ever delved into family history, you may well have heard of brickwalls.  You may even have come across some of your own.  Brickwalls are when you have searched and thought and looked and delved and still haven't been able to find the information you are looking for.  But brickmaking is different.

Brickmaking is the profession followed by most of my HAYWOOD ancestors.  In the late 1780s, John HAYWOOD (my great great great great grandfather) was a potter, as were his two sons after him.  John (born 1816) was a brickmaker; his six sons followed in his footsteps as well (John, Alfred, Walter, Albion, Ebenezer and Harry).  And the profession continued through the years, the only difference being the men who were foremen and managers - of the local brickworks. 

This didn't exclude the girls, either, although they tended not to make the bricks.  Anna Maria was an earthenware painter for years and years, even after she became a widow at a young age and returned to live with her (brickmaking) father.

So when you are faced with the brickwall of several people of exactly the same name living on the same street of the same town - look at their profession.  Might just be the demolition you are looking for.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: A is for April's A-Z Challenge

Well, for quite some time now the post I wrote "I Missed the A-Z Challenge!" from last year has consistently been one of the top-read posts! so I am happy to announce that this year (2012) I have not missed the Challenge.

A-to-Z Challenge
The concept behind it is that you blog every day in April (except for Sundays) using a different letter of the alphabet for each day's post. [And btw, although today is a Sunday, you're allowed just this once].  I put together a word-processing document about all the genealogical things I wanted to blog about, thinking that I would find this really difficult, and ended up with not just one thing per day, but a whole choice of things per post - so my April is going to be not so much a challenge-to-find as a challenge-to-choose.  Here are just some of the ideas: Brickwall, Bishop's Transcripts, Brickmaking, Census, Certificates, Directories, Family History Societies, Geneabloggers - and the list goes on.

Week One:
April 01, Sunday - Letter "A"
April 02, Monday - Letter "B"
April 03, Tuesday - Letter "C"
April 04, Wednesday - Letter "D"
April 05, Thursday - Letter "E"
April 06, Friday - Letter "F"
April 07, Saturday - Letter "G"
Week Two:
April 08, Sunday - BREAK
April 09, Monday - Letter "H"
April 10, Tuesday - Letter "I"
April 11, Wednesday - Letter "J"
April 12, Thursday - Letter "K"
April 13, Friday - Letter "L"
April 14, Saturday - Letter "M"
Week Three:
April 15, Sunday - BREAK
April 16, Monday - Letter "N"
April 17, Tuesday - Letter "O"
April 18, Wednesday - Letter "P"
April 19, Thursday - Letter "Q"
April 20, Friday - Letter "R"
April 21, Saturday - Letter "S"
Week Four:
April 22, Sunday - BREAK
April 23, Monday - Letter "T"
April 24, Tuesday - Letter "U"
April 25, Wednesday - Letter "V"
April 26, Thursday - Letter "W"
April 27, Friday - Letter "X"
April 28, Saturday - Letter "Y"
Week Five:
April 29, Sunday - BREAK
April 30, Monday - Letter "Z"

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Fearless Females 18: Miss Murch begs to announce...

I just loved this newspaper advert which I stumbled upon quite by accident while looking for something else!  If you are a fan of "Lark Rise to Candleford", and know who Miss Pearl and Miss Ruby are, then you will also enjoy this snippet about my Miss Emily.

From "The Western Times", published in Exeter, Devon - Saturday 12 April 1884:

This is mt great great great aunt Emily Murch, born 1837 in Ottery St Mary, Devon.  She is my current shining star as detailed in today's Fearless Females posting:

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of  The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 18 — Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Fearless Females 14: Ancestor fined for assault

Once again, in honor of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of  The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 14 — Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?

Thomasine Dunstone AVERY (1814-1897) was my paternal great great great grandmother.  I enjoyed reading this excerpt from the Royal Cornwall Gazette of Friday 15th January 1858.  It detailed a case held at the Torpoint Petty Sessions on Tuesday, 12th January, before J.C. Roberts, W. H. Pole Carew, J.S.Tucker, Esqrs. and Rev S.W.Roberts, justices:-

Thomasine Avery, wife of George Avery, of Kingsand, a shipwright in H.M.Dockyard, was summoned by Elizabeth Trevethan, of the same place, singlewoman, for violently assaulting her, on the 29th December.

Complainant has had 3 bastard children, and having boasted that she had received 2 sovereigns of defendant's husband on the Saturday night previous, Mrs.Avery on meeting Trevethan, asked her for them, and on her denying that she had them, Mrs.Avery, to use defendant's words "turned her upside down" and took away her pocket, containing about 2s.8d, and also some letters. Mr. Beer appeared for Mrs.Avery.

The bench considered the assault to be proved brutal - but at the same time, taking into account the character of defendant, and extenuating circumstances, they only inflicted a fine of 1s. on the defendant with costs.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fearless Females 12: Audrey Ball HAYWOOD outside the home

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of  The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 12 — Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

Audrey Ball HAYWOOD (1932-1995), my mother, worked outside the home as a teacher's assistant in St John's Infant School, Glastonbury, Somerset.  She worked with the four-year-olds who were coming to school for the first time, and often had amusing stories to tell about what they said and did.

The most recent thing, which impressed me the most, was after she had died.  I was staying with my father in Glastonbury, to look after him and arrange the funeral.  I popped down to the local supermarket to buy basics like bread and milk, and the checkout girl commented on the passing of my mother (by then it had been in the local paper).  I'll never forget what she said:  

"She taught me to read."

I wonder how many other children around the area could say that - and I wonder how many women have that distinction?  My mother taught me to read as well, and in fact we still have a tape of me reading Peter Rabbit (very fast indeed, with prompts from my mother).  She it was who encouraged me to read anything and everything, which meant that I owned some 400 books by the time I was 14, and had read even more. She opened a whole new world to me, and I am forever grateful.

[This is a reposting of the narrative I wrote in Fearless Females Month 2011]

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Fearless Females 11: Amanda Died Young

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of  The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

Amanda Malvina Ley BUCKINGHAM (my great great grandmother) died on 21 April 1895 in Plymouth, Devon, aged only 43.  Her youngest child (Ernest Silas) was 9. The cause of death was given as morbus cordis and anasarca.  "Morbus cordis" means heart disease or heart failure, often used by doctors when they didn't know what the exact cause was.  "Anasarca", however, is more specific. Extreme generalized oedema often caused by renal failure and malnutrition sounds to me as though there was a story there.

Three years earlier, several of Amanda's children had been taken into care by Dr Barnado's, and in the years leading up to and following her death, the two youngest became "Home Children" and were sent to Canada.  I have investigated the family history packages which the Dr Barnado's charity offers, and although a simple search only costs GBP15, a more detailed package is much too expensive for my pocket!
  • Admission Package - £70
  • Full History Package - £85
  • Photograph Package - £20
My great grandmother, Annie Marian Buckingham EDGCOMBE, was 18 and in domestic service at this time, so she escaped being sent abroad - and, in fact, only two years later she got married, so maybe she was already courting.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fearless Females 10: Minda EDGCOMBE's Religion

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of  The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?
Minda Mary Edgcombe BALL (yes, she whose corset hurt her so much in the photograph below!) seems to hint at nonconformism in some of the documents I have and information which I have received over the years.

On the 1901 census, where she was 6 years old in County Mayo, Ireland and living with her coastguard father, they are described as Wesleyans.  In the early 1920s when she married, it was in the Ebenezer Chapel, Kingsbridge, Devon, which I thought to be Wesleyan (Methodist).  Until I looked at her marriage certificate more closely, when I realised that she had been married "according to the rites of the Congregationalist Church".  I looked up the Ebenezer Chapel, but to my dismay found it listed twice: once as a Wesleyan Methodist chapel, and once as belonging to the Presbyterians/Independents/Congregationalists (according to the GenUKI site, which is very knowledgeable about everything.)

So now I am more confused than ever.  Can anyone enlighten me?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Fearless Females 9: Minda's Baptismal Certificate

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month

March 9 — Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.

My maternal grandmother, Minda Mary Edgcombe BALL, was born 7 July 1894 in Ringmore, Devon, and christened on 11 November 1894 in South Milton (also Devon).  Below is her baptismal certificate:

Baptismal Certificate of Minda Mary EDGCOMBE: price one penny in 1915
She was born in 1894, she was baptised in 1894 - so why was the certificate issued in 1915?  Could this have been her 21st birthday present - the key to her own identity and a sign that she was now a 'real person'?  Certainly, there were no incidents - that I know of - like a marriage which would require it.  And this is one of those times when a genealogist groans "I wish I'd asked her when she was still alive!"

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sunday's Obituary: Samuel MURCH

A small clipping from Exeter & Plymouth Gazette (Saturday January 20, 1849) in the Deaths column:

"Jan.16, at Ottery St. Mary, Mr. Samuel Murch, in the 71st year of his age.  He was employed 44 years in the Ottery Factory, - the last 26 years in the silk department of the present proprietor.  He was a trustworthy and faithful servant."

Samuel Murch was my great great great great grandfather (paternal).  I feel honoured to be the descendant of "a trustworthy and faithful servant."  He deserves all those "great"s.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Fearless Females 3: Rabage BEERE and Beaton DOWNE

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 3 - List the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.

This is a truncated version of the blogging prompt.  It also asks if you share a first name with one of your ancestors - well, last year I wrote about my own name (Rosamund) and my aunt, Rosamund Gwendoline HAYWOOD, so I can't really do that again this year.  At that stage, the most unusual female first name I had come across in my family tree was that of Loveday Anna FRENCH - but I've done some research since then and found a new one.

Rabage BEERE was christened in Modbury, Devon on 2 January 1617.  Her parents were Emanuel BEERE and Ursula TWIGGES.  That's all I know about Rabage - in fact, I don't even know the meaning of her unusual first name and where it comes from.  Even Google hasn't helped (and I thought Google knew everything, including everything about me!).  Does anyone reading this have any idea?

And the female first name which made me groan the most was when I found a girl named Beaton.  Unusual, you might think, until you found her surname - DOWNE.  Who would call their new baby "Beaton Downe" (say it out loud and you will groan as well).  Mind you, Beaton was christened on 25 September 1592 in Winkleigh, Devon.  Maybe the phrase hadn't entered the English language back then.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Fearless Females 2: May and Ena Edgcombe

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 2 — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

Post one, get one free: this is a photo of May (Gertrude May) on the left - I think and Ena (Mary Georgina) EDGCOMBE who is on the right - I think; two of my greataunts.  This picture strikes me as special for two reasons: one is that Ena looks SO cheerful, and another is that she looks exactly like her older sister, Minda (my maternal grandmother).  The elder of the two, May, was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and Ena was born in Devon, England, but they both travelled to Sydney, Australia on the SS Hobsons Bay on 3 August 1926, married there, and raised families there.

As to when the photo was taken, and where - this is one of those mystery photos we all have where they come from somebody else and now nobody knows what's going on...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: The End

I learned over this past month how amazingly easy it is to let anything - and I mean ANYTHING - get in the way of writing your book.  Even 'good' things like genealogical research - and things which aren't so good, but are oh-SO-enjoyable, like watching TV, surfing the net, eating pancakes...and things which are essential, like breathing in and out.  Or should 'eating pancakes' come under the heading of 'essential'? LOL

I also learned the price of honesty when I went through the proper channels for getting permission to use a photo I found on the Internet.  Incidentally, although the copyright owners have my cheque (they confirmed it only when I asked), they still haven't cashed it, so I don't consider I have their permission.  Yet.

I would like to know more about publishing and self-publishing.  It may be a while before my book gets anywhere near good enough for publishing - let's say 'a long time before it gets finished enough for publishing' (sigh) - but I am very aware of the HUGE delight it can give you to find something written by an ancestor, and so I would like future genealogists to find my book and do the genealogy happy dance because of all the names and dates and places - and stories - which it contains.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: Day 3

This is the sort of thing which reminds you of the importance of citing sources.  Over the years, I have tried to impress on beginning genealogists how important it is to note down the source of any fact that they discover; I wish I had done it when I had started to research my family tree yada yada yada.  But I thought I was getting better (there goes that smug attitude again) - much better.

Until I started writing "Faith and Silk" for the Family History Writing Challenge.  Suddenly, facts which I had absorbed over the years, but not documented because I knew about them anyway, are looming large and unfinished in my book.  For instance: "The Great Sweat".  Now, I know it was something horrendous like influenza which spread to epidemic proportions like the Black Death - but when exactly did it happen? And what exactly was it? Have I remembered right?  Oh, that's easy, I'll just look it up in my software - er, no, perhaps I won't.  Why? Because I forgot to write down not only what it was and when it was - but where I found the information in the first place. 

Right then, I thought, I'll have to go back to the Internet and put "Great Sweat" into a search engine.  I have now officially given up on ALL search engines. They return stupid results like "Great Sweat from leading men's fashion retailer...", "Great Sweat and Odor Laundry Round Up", "Painting - great sweat equity or pain in the neck?", and "if you are trying to lose weight quickly and get a great sweat, using a sweatshirt is a good idea".  I despair.

Now - the Black Death was when? where?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: Day 2

I feel a little better about achieving this challenge - hey, I even feel better about participating.

Today I found a file of mine where I started to write the book as a story, rather than as a timeline of precise facts with no actual social history behind them.  It gave me new courage to write.  You see, I had been thinking that my book absolutely had to be one of the 'precise timeline' sort, and yet part of me was yearning to write sentences like "Robert carried his baby daughter down the steep hill from the church where she had just been christened'.  (And yes, I know the hill is steep.  I've been there and walked it.)  But another part of me - the rather severe sort of person who has her hair scraped back in a bun and looks at you over half-rimmed glasses perched permanently on the end of her nose - tut-tutted at the very thought of such whimsy.

But then I remembered how this is a first draft, and how they stress in NaNoWriMo that you can write complete and utter rubbish at first, with typos and grammar mistakes galore - as long as you write.  So I will take that approach with this family history book.  Maybe I just need to get the 'steep hills' out of my system first, and the 'precise timeline' will creep in later.  And if I reach the end and hate the lot, I can always rewrite it.  that's what second drafts are for.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: Day 1

Day 1 of the Family History Writing Challenge I posted about a few days ago.  Now that it is actually here, I feel a sense of deep foreboding (as they say in the novels).  I had been feeling rather smug, thinking of all that lovely research I had so painstakingly done over the past few years, and all those month-long novel-challenges I had already participated in (and achieved the goal set).

And now here is another challenge, but this time it is different.  I am so used to writing fiction, where you make up what you want to make up - and here is a set of people who actually lived, with events which actually happened.  There can't be a 'deus ex machina' in this book - because there wasn't one in the real lives of the people it concerns.

I am finding it much more difficult to sit down and write the opening sentence.  Much more.  I am really rather glad for Scrivener, which splits up your book into chapters and scenes and pages.  Maybe I'll start somewhere near the middle of the book instead.  I'm not going to give in, though.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Names which repeat

Have you ever been confused by the same name cropping up again and again in your family tree? I don't mean the surnames - that's part of the reason behind it all! - but surnames coupled with given names.  It can be very useful - after all, it is easier to trace Otho POPHAM and his son, Otho POPHAM - or Archelaus EDWARDS and his son, Archelaus EDWARDS - but how about if the name is not so unusual?

Take, for instance, my great great great grandfather, John ELLIOTT.  Baptised in 1785 in South Pool, Devon.  On This Day, incidentally: he was baptised on 29 January 1785.  His father was also John ELLIOTT.   And his grandfather - John ELLIOTT.  And his great-grandfather - John ELLIOTT.  And his great great grandfather - John ELLIOTT - all in the same small village.  I received a GEDCOM a few years back, where the researchers who had contributed had obviously got completely confused by all these John ELLIOTTs - and the result was such a tangle that it took me months to try and work it out.

And, BTW, the first John 1785 had a son - yes, you've guessed it - called John.  I'm so glad I descend from his sister, Eliza...except she went and married a man called John...

Saturday, 28 January 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Week 4: Free Offline Tools

For which free offline genealogy tool are you most grateful? How did you find this tool and how has it benefitted your genealogy? Describe to others how to access this tool and spread the genealogy love.

The free offline tool I found most helpful is the chain of Family History Centres.  Money does come into it - you can hire microfilms and microfiche, which costs (albeit a tiny amount), but the 'free' part of it far outshines these miniscule payments.  Imagine buying microfiche/films from a County Record Office, but having nothing with which to view them - enter the Family History Centre.  Microfilm readers - free.  Microfiche readers - free.  Computers with internet access - free.  And, of course, a wealth of knowledge - freely given.  The volunteer staff (who don't force their religion on you) are a HUGE offline resource.

I must admit, I found this wonderful resource because I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, so it was easy to go up a couple of floors of the church building and find the Centre.  And wherever I have lived in the following years, I have straightaway searched out the nearest Family History Centre. If you are reading this, you have access to the internet; if you go to the link here you can find out where your nearest Centre is.

Now I can give back some of the help I received over the years.  I have been one of the volunteers I mentioned previously, in one Centre (Bath) known as a Family History Consultant, and in my local Centre (Yeovil) as a Family History Specialist.  In fact, the only downside to getting a full-time paid job was not being able to work in the Family History Centre!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

On This Day: 24 January

Happy Anniversary! The splendidly-named Archelaus EDWARDS and Dinah PARTRIDGE were married on 24 January 1828 in East Portlemouth, Devon.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Family History Writing Challenge

Lynn Palermo, The Armchair Genealogist, has come along just at the right time (AGAIN).   This time she has nudged me into revisiting my chef d'oeuvre and turning it into a masterpiece.  How? By posting about the Family History Writing Challenge which will take place in February.  I have previously taken part in NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge that gets  you to write a 50,000-word novel in a month, so I am familiar with the concept.  Lynn has set up a new blog for the Family History Writing Challenge, and in it she answers the questions Why should I sign up? Whom do I write about? How much do I need to write? Where do I write? What if it's not good enough? When does it begin? and Where do I sign up?

I am excited to take part: I am going to revisit a family history book I started writing in 2003 about one of the branches of my family tree with the surname MURCH.  "Faith and Silk - The Murches of Ottery St Mary 1687-1875"  was its title, and I did the initial research, putting all 14,000 words into a Word document. These particular ancestors have provided me with plenty of subjects to cover: monarchs, wars, revolutions, weaving, woolcombing, religious nonconformism, silk and lace working, and the technological advances of the time. *rubs hands with glee at the thought*.

The trouble is: now that I look at it again, I can't remember which bits were written by me, and which were written by other people and faithfully copied down by me as research! so I am going to have to revisit it word by word (oh, dear, what a horrible thing to contemplate - NOT.  I am rubbing my hands with glee again). 

Back then, I used Microsoft Word to contain my words of wisdom.  A wonderful word processor, it does have disadvantages when you are writing anything of any considerable length like a book (scrolling to see things and find things, for instance).  So now I am going to use Scrivener (the Windows version).  I have imported those precious 14,000 words, and already I feel more in control.  I can divide them into chapters and even paragraphs, find things easily, use the corkboard feature so I can see at a glance where I am.  Eventually, when I have worked out what is research and which are my own words, I can separate the two and yet keep the research within the same program.  Scrivener puts the "flow" back into "workflow".

Roll on February!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Week 3: Free Online Tools

Free online genealogy tools are like gifts from above. Which one are you most thankful for? How has it helped your family history experience? 

Where do I start?  I was unemployed for 10 years, and so FREE was my watchword - during that time I found as many FREE online genealogical resources as I possibly could, so my list is long.  But there are two which I use daily; I suppose I ought to put FamilySearch in there as well, but that is so much a no-brainer for me, and so big, I couldn't summarise it!

South Hams area of Devon,UK

So here goes, with two rather territorial sites: one is narrowed down to the area in which I am researching ie the area of Devon called the South Hams, (from Dartmoor to the sea)  This is a collection of transcriptions and lookup offers covering the parishes in the South Hams area.  Such bliss! to find transcriptions of parish registers back to the 1600s (or links to local history societies which contain them).  I have found so many ancestors this way.

The other is only slightly larger - it covers England and Wales: FreeBMD.  This is a (free) site, produced by volunteers, which has put online the reference indexes for birth, marriage, and death certificates in England and Wales.  Depending on your budget, it might be enough for you to search it and find the reference number for your ancestor, because then at least you know he/she was born/married/died.  Then you order the certificate direct from the GRO - ignore some of the commercial companies, who charge waaaay over the top for the simple task of sticking a stamp on an envelope.  Why bother with them? when you can request the certificate yourself, and use this site first to make sure you have the reference number for FREE?

This of course only works from 1837 onwards, which was the beginning of civil registration in this country, and wasn't made compulsory until 1875 (so many people didn't register their children, in case it was some evil plot of the government to raise yet more taxes...sigh).  At the beginning of 2012 there were over 210 million records.  I have done some indexing for them in the past.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Genealogy Certificates Roll-Call

For me, this is going to be the Year of the Certificate.  I have set some goals for myself (why wait for next New Year? I have made this my January 1st, which is an idea I got from Jonathan Roche of the No Excuses Workout System).  And these goals are regarding certificates.  I decided to gather them from all over my flat (where some of them are in interesting places!), get archival sleeves for all of them, scan them for backup, and put them in some beautiful binders which I received for Christmas.

I have had to have two different sorts of binders and two different sorts of archival sleeves, because certificates used to be issued as long-and-thin landscape; now they are standard A4 portrait.  So, I have achieved the first goal: gathering them in from everywhere.  I have even put them in archival sleeves, and now I need to count them so I know how many more sleeves I need.

Birth Certificates
Long - 24
A4 - 19

Marriage Certificates
Long - 11
A4 - 5

Death Certificates
Long - 7
A4 - 16

It's a way of reassuring myself that I have got something as well as dates in a computer program.  Sometimes I get quite wistful when I hear/read others who have so much - especially photographs.

And the scanning?  I joined Scanfest originally - but I'd better not go again until I have some scanning under my belt, because it is so enjoyable that I found I ended up chatting and not scanning!  Scanfest is held once a month (usually the last Sunday of the month) at Miriam Midkiff's AnceStories blog.  Miriam answered the question "What is Scanfest?" like this:

" It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family document and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem too overwhelming to begin."

It's just the "meeting" part which defeats me.  It's too delightful for words!  I'll have to just stick with the "kick in the pants" side of it and put it on my calendar.  And this year - I'll be scanning certificates.  Who knows, I might even be able to afford some new ones.  Look out, GRO, here I come!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

On This Day: 19 January

Thomazin BENDING, my 4th great greataunt, was born on 19 January 1795 in Ottery St Mary, Devon, and christened only a couple of weeks later on 4 February 1795.  Maybe she was ill from birth, and that is why she was christened so quickly - at any rate, she mysteriously disappears and another Thomazin BENDING is born on 26 January 1796 and is baptised on 27 January 1797.

It was a standard and fairly popular tradition: if a child died when tiny, then the next child of the same gender would have the same name; for instance, if baby John was born, but died when two months old, then the next boy baby born in the family would be called John.  This is one of those habits which was quite common among our ancestors, and yet is not so common nowadays - and often catches out both the new and the experienced genealogist.  It is easy to get confused as to why there are two baby Johns in the same family, and to discard one as perhaps being nothing to do with that particular family, or that maybe somebody somewhere got their dates mixed up - but in fact it is two separate babies in the same family with the same name.

In fact, you can use this as a clue: if you have a child named Harriet, with no death date, and then another Harriet within a couple of years, at least you have a lightbulb-moment clue that the first Harriet might have died young.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

On this Day: 18 January

Several of my ancestors had this day as their special day:

John Henry BLAGDON, born 18 January 1902 in Millbrook, Cornwall.  I remember "Uncle John" (although in reality he was my great-uncle).  No child was ever allowed to go into "Uncle John"'s room, and always had to do the seen-and-not-heard thing around him.  Apparently, he was my Nan's older brother and it was his house; she had been promised it after his death.  He was the son of John BLAGDON and Susan Emma FARLEY.

George EDGCOMBE, my great-great-grandfather, was born on 18 January 1838 in South Milton, Devon.  He married his cousin, Mary Ann EDGCOMBE - their fathers were brothers.

Richard HARLEY, christened on 18 January 1794 in South Pool, Devon, was my 1st cousin 5 times removed.  He was the son of James HARLEY and Deborah GOODYEAR.

Honor ELLIOT was my 7th great-great-aunt, and was christened on 18 January 1678 in Modbury, Devon.  Her parents were William ELLYOTT and Margery BEERE.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

On This Day: 15 January

Jane BEERE, my maternal greatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreat great-aunt, was christened on 15 January 1611 in Modbury, Devon, England.  Jane was the daughter (and eldest child) of Emanuel BEERE and Ursula TWIGGES.  Jane's next sibling was called Rabage - a girl.   I have never come across this name before - has anyone else?

St George's Modbury, Devon

One hundred years later, on 15 January 1711, Alice DOWNE, daughter of Richard DOWNE and Jane WESTLECK was christened in Winkleigh, Devon.  She was my paternal fifth great-aunt - and, believe me, that is an easier relationship to visualise than the one provided by my family tree software: Jane BEERE's  8th great-greatniece's husband's 4th great-greataunt.  Sounds like a satnav's directions, when all you want to do is go 100 miles from A to B, but it takes you out of England, into France, back again, out of England and into Ireland, back again, and the whole journey takes several days...

Photo credit: John Salmon in Geograph Project, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

On This Day: 14 January

My family tree software rather unromantically calls him "Husband of 1st cousin three times removed", which is technically correct, but oh-so-clinical.  He is William KELLAND, who was born 14 January 1844 in Dodbrooke, Devon, England.

Friday, 13 January 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Week 2: Paid-For Online Genealogy Tools

Which paid genealogy tool do you appreciate the most? What special features put it at the top of your list? How can it help others with their genealogy research?

Well, at the moment I am subscribed to findmypast - purely because they were cheaper than Ancestry (of course, I used the version).  But as I ploughed on through 2011, I found that I much preferred FindMyPast's UK-centric history.  By UK-centric, I mean that their offices are in the UK, the records they concentrate on are from the UK (no irritating interference from US states I have never even heard of, let alone have ancestors in), and even their sister sites are in the UK. are very polite and helpful, and you can almost be tricked into thinking there is no such thing as - until you have to contact the helpdesk and are helped by an American accent sounding at times suspiciously far away.

But the bank manager rules my life (sigh) and so, when my FindMyPast subscription expires at the end of January I will have to look elsewhere.  I will continue to use free sites such as FamilySearch - and, in fact, I think that one of the delights for me in genealogy is finding FREE resources (especially when I have numerous brickwalls.  It's nice to feel successful at something).  The only thing I find frustrating with FindMyPast is that they do not offer monthly subscriptions. 

I am seriously considering taking out a subscription to The Genealogist this year.  I recently received a trying-to-be-enticing email from FamilyRelatives, which seemed highly attractive due to its small subscription price.  Until I checked carefully through the site, and found that they did not give access to the censuses.  So I went back to The Genealogist and looked at what they had to offer.  Slightly more expensive (but not nearly as much as FindMyPast, even with the loyalty discount!), but at least they had the censuses, except for the 1911 census - so I will use my remaining time with FindMyPast to search through and download any and all 1911 images.  And they also have nonconformist records.  Nonconformists! I have plenty of them in my tree. 

Looks like this is their year, then.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Week 1: Blogs

The blog I am most thankful for? Genealogy's Star, by James Tanner.  What am I talking about?  Amy Coffin's latest "52 Weeks..." series, described here at; here is Week 1's prompt:

Blogging is a great way for genealogists to share information with family members, potential cousins and each other.  For which blog are you most thankful for?  Is it one of the earliest blogs you read, or a current one?  What is special about the blog and why should others read it?

James Tanner's Genealogy's Star was one of the first blogs I read when I was beginning to write my own and wondering what to say.  He always has pithy opinions on genealogical matters, and always makes me think right down to his last full stop (or period, since he is American).

An official Rootstech blogger, he has written a wonderful guide to FamilySearch and his knowledge is something which makes me look up to him (albeit in a long-distance sort of way).  I hope I can be as good as him some day!  I would recommend that others read his posts to find out what a good blog looks like.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

On This Day: 3 January

Grace DOWNE, christened 3 January 1605 in Winkleigh, Devon.  Her parents were Richardi DOWN and Johan BRIGHT, and she is my 8 x great-aunt.

Robert DAMARELL, christened 3 January 1802 in Dodbrooke, Kingsbridge, Devon.  His parents were another Robert DAMARELL and Elizabeth JEFFRIES, making him my first cousin five times removed.

Betsy SHERIFF, christened 3 January 1808 in Thurlestone, Devon.  Her parents were Richard SHERIFF and Ann EDGCOMBE - and I know she fits into my EDGCOMBE line somewhere!

Sarah EDWARDS, christened 3 January 1830 in East Portlemouth, Devon.  Her parents were Richard EDWARDS and Mary Ann MARCH; Sarah's older sister Jane married into my BALL line.


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