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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