Tag Archives: ancestors

Magazine Watch: Ancestors (Issue 92: London Special 2010)

27 Jan

The latest edition of Ancestors magazine from The National Archives is a special edition focusing on the city of London. As the editor Simon Fowler says "Many of our ancestors were drawn to the capital for work, education and pleasure – even if they just passed through the city. No other place in Britain had the same irresistible attraction."

There is a great selection of articles in this issue, covering a wide variety of subjects including features on resources at the Society of Genealogists and the Bishopsgate Institute.

It would be hard to pick out my favourite article from this issue, there really are so many fascinating articles. The interview with novelist Lee Jackson has introduced me to a wonderful resource, the Dictionary of Victorian London which was a result of the background research for his historical novels.

My favourite article (and it was a tough choice) has to be the one by the editor Simon Fowler entitled Drunk and Disorderly, which describes the life of Jane Cakebread who "over a 15 year period, received nearly 300 sentences" for being found drunk and disorderly.

Although she became a well-known figure through the media of the time and despite the best efforts of one or two individuals, she ended her time in a pauper asylum, with only one person attending her funeral.

The most helpful article is probably Peter Christian’s Mapping the Metropolis which is an excellent summary of the maps of London which are available online. It is going to take some time to explore all the sources mentioned, although one worth highlighting is the Crace Collection of Maps of London at the British Library.

This has to be one of the best issues of the magazine I have seen for a long time, it is packed with interesting and informative articles concerning the city that plays a key part in so many of our ancestor’s lives.

How far do you go?

19 Jan

As I have been trying to go through my files and tidy up my database I have run into the old question that has bugged me on and off for many years. Just how far do I go with my research?

Really what I am talking about is how much research to I do on a family that is only linked by marriage to one of my relations. One example is the family of Herbert Ebenezer BARRETT.

My 2x great-aunt Ethel Mary TROWER married Herbert Ebenezer BARRETT in 1925 and they had one child. Now I am happy researching the lives of both Ethel and Herbert and their child (and any descendants from that child), but how far do I go back the other way.

It goes without saying that I should trace the TROWER family, because that is the line that I am descended from, but what about the BARRETT family?

I can’t see any justification for going back beyond Herbert’s parents, unless there is something someone particularly wants to know, for instance if I was to make contact with a descendant of Herbert and Ethel and they asked me to find out more about the other side of the family.

Whilst I can see some justification in researching the parents and siblings of Herbert, I can’t see any point in adding all their details to my database. I could quite easily add another nine names to my family tree (two parents and seven siblings) but that is just making more work and leaving more loose ends that need tying up.

So I have decided (yes, I made a decision for once in my life!) I need to get some discipline into my tree and cut down the amount of work I have to do, so from now on I am going to include only the spouse as an actual individual in my family tree, unless there is very good reason, and the only examples I can think of are:

  1. A famous or noteworthy sibling or parent (purely for bragging rights)
  2. Where there was some recorded interaction between the siblings or parents (possibly other relations) after marriage (such as living with them during the census).
  3. Where another sibling of the spouse married another of my relations (for instance if Herbert’s sister had married one of Ethel’s brothers), where adding parents and siblings to my tree will show the relationship between the two couples clearer.

All the other information that I gather as a result of my research into the spouse of my relation (such as who his siblings were and where his parent’s lived and what they did for a living) will be recorded as a note with the spouse in my database, should I ever need to go back to it and follow it up.

By defining some ground rules and sticking to them (examples one and two above are vague enough to allow some flexibility) should reduce the amount of work and save me worrying too much about how much work I should be doing.

My questions to you are: What rules do you use when deciding who to research? Can you see any potential flaws in my rules? Let me know in the comments section below.

My Christmas Tree Project

5 Oct

I have mentioned my goal of having a chart of all my ancestors back to my 4x great grandparents printed in time for Christmas several time recently, but I thought it would be a good idea to go into some detail about my why I want to do this and what I want to achieve.

I have decided to call it My Christmas Tree Project because it is my family tree and I want it to be ready for Christmas, but mainly because I needed something short and simple to call it when I write or talk about it.

The finished product will be a printed chart, showing all my direct ancestors up to and including my 4x great grandparents. I am not sure if it is all going to fit on one chart and still be readable, I may have to have it printed in two halves.

The choice of 4x great grandparents was purely because that seemed the most achievable. I could have chosen 3x great grandparents and printed it tomorrow, but that would have given me nothing to aim for. Instead I now have a challenge to work towards, as well as a deadline.

I want to be able to show the tree around at Christmas when families gather, or visit. It will be a talking point, and whilst I don’t expect anyone to be able to add anything else to earlier generations, I do hope that I will be able to draw out information, and possibly photos of more recent ancestors.

Naturally part of it is an ego trip for me, being able to show off what I have achieved and show that all the time spent in front of the computer or in the record office and library has achieved something tangible.

So far most of my research has been trapped on my PC and more recently with the purchase of a netbook I have been able to share it easier, but I think people will be able to relate better to a printed chart than a small computer screen.

Of course a printed chart will only be able to contain a fraction of my research, for starters it will only have my direct ancestors on it, and I won’t be able to go into much detail on each individual, and will miss out some of the more interesting characters I have come across in my extended family.

The process of researching and preparing my data will also force me to review my data and fill in a lot of gaps that I have either forgotten to finish, or just skipped over on the way to something which seemed more interesting.

Currently I have twelve of my 4x great grandparents still to find, and five 4x great grandmothers whose maiden names I do not know yet. This week I will be putting together a plan to identify each of these seventeen individuals.

Some will be quite straight forward, such as requiring the purchase of a child’s birth certificate to provide the mother’s maiden name, but some are going to be more tricky because they are before the start of civil registration and detailed census returns.

Over the next couple of months I won’t be working exclusively on this project, and in many cases it will necessary to wait for a certificate to arrive or to get chance to visit a record office, so some of my other projects will get a look in. Also I won’t just stop at my 4x great grandparents, whilst I am at an archive it makes sense to carry on and try and go back further if possible.

Ultimately if I don’t find all 64 of my 4x great grandparents I am just going to have to live with the fact that my tree won’t look perfect, but in nature trees seldom do, so I shouldn’t get too hung up if mine doesn’t either.

Planning my next big challenge

10 Sep

I have been looking ahead to a time when all my organising is complete and all my files are in order, and thinking about what I want to do next.

I know I have several more detailed projects already on the go, but what I would really like to do is have another intensive genealogy weekend like I did earlier in the year. This time I would like to try and identify all my 4x great grandparents.

I had a quick count up last night and found that I already have some details for half of them, so that only leaves me another 32 ancestors to go.

I realise that 32 ancestors in a weekend is probably not going to be achievable, especially as some of these individuals are going to require a trip to the record office or London Family History Centre.

So in the next few weeks, as I transition from organising to researching, I am going to start doing some groundwork, pick off some of the easy ancestors and identify some of the problem ones.

I also need to go through and make sure I have all the details for the earlier generations and make sure I have all the basic information for them, so that means birth, marriage, death (or baptism and burial) and census details for all available years. Fortunately I can run a query on Family Historian which will show me which data I have and what is missing.

And the reason why I want to do this? Well, by the end of the year I would like to have printed a family tree of all my ancestors. Not as a Christmas present for anyone in particular (other than me), but as a talking point for when the family gathers at that time of year, hopefully to stimulate a bit of interest in our ancestry.

So by the end of October I would like to have the majority of the research done, I can then spend November adding as many photos as possible and worrying about presentation and then in December I can get it printed, and perhaps a working copy to scribble on around the table after Christmas dinner.

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