My research has been pretty much without direction for several months, I have been jumping from person to person and from place to place without any real idea of what I was hoping to achieve.
It is about time I introduced some focus back into my research, but the problem has always been too much choice. There are just so many lines to pursue and relatives to chase that I have struggled to make a decision, until now.
Over a year ago now I undertook what I called my “Christmas Tree Project”, trying to identify all my 4x great-grandparents. In the end I fell short by three ancestors, but the project was very worthwhile and gave some focus to my research.
The next logical step is to move back a generation and focus on my 5x great-grandparents, all 128 of them! The good news is that I already have some details for 69 out of the 128 ancestors, but the big obstacle will be the three ancestors that it missed last time, I need to work again on identifying them before I can find their parents.
There will be two big differences this time, first I am going to give myself more time, in fact I think it might be an open-ended exercise or until I run out of ideas or enthusiasm. The second difference will be that I am probably not going to be able to print a physical copy of a family tree including all these generations, so I will have to think about putting all the details into an online tree.
I am hoping that this project will help bring back some focus to my research, I realise it will still mean a bit of jumping about from person to person and place to place, but at least there will be some method to my madness.
At the same time I shall carry on with all the other projects that I have been working on, there are still lots of things on my to-do lists that need working on, but then it seems that family historians are never happy unless their plates are overflowing with work to do.
The task of producing a family tree chart showing all of my ancestors back to my 4x great-grandparents was not easy, but I have learnt several useful lessons in the process, both about my ancestors and about me.
Firstly, it wasn’t easy trying to work across such a wide range of family lines at one time. I would much prefer to spend longer concentrating on each family rather than just grabbing as many details as quickly as possible before moving on to the next.
It has given me a good idea of the geographical distribution of my ancestors. This will be useful when visiting graveyards or record offices, as I will know which other surnames to look out for.
It has confirmed that most of my ancestors were ordinary labourers and from the South of England. No exciting or unusual occupations have emerged from my research so far.
However I have found a few interesting stories to follow up and research further, such as the illegitimacy of Ruth HILTON and why Henry SHORNDEN changed his name to WRIGHT.
For the first time I can say that I have a brick wall in my research. On the negative side this means I have a gap in my tree, but on the positive side it does mean that I have a decent challenge to get my teeth into.
Finally it has shown that I need to get my photos sorted out, as well as finding some for my maternal ancestors. I have copies of lots of photos on my hard drive, but they are not very well organised and I need to make a proper effort at trying to identify some of them, or at least finding dates for them.
Now my Christmas Tree Project is complete, or as complete as it is going to be for the time being, it is time to think about what I am going to do next with it, apart from stop calling it the Christmas Tree Project.
I like having a visual representation of my ancestry, so I think I will probably carry on and try to fill in the next row of ancestors. These are my 5 x great-grandparents, and I already have 69 out of 128 identified with varying degrees of detail.
There are of course many details still to fill in, some of the details I have are quite sparse, and there are more ancestors still alive at the time of the 1911 census to be found than I previously thought.
Three of my 4x great-grandparents are still missing, and one wife still has no maiden name, so finding those are a priority.
Finding my 5x great-grandparents however is not going to be top priority, I will probably be focusing more on specific branches and families in specific locations next year, rather than trying to find all of that generation.
Now I know how to get a chart printed, and how straight-forward it is, I will try and get it updated on a regular basis, perhaps every couple of months, tweaking and fiddling with the text in the boxes and fine tuning the layout as I go along.
Rather than missing out on getting my family tree in print and failing to complete my Christmas Tree Project I decided to get my chart printed today.
The printing of the chart was very easy, from Family Historian I created a pdf file of the chart. I selected a custom size for the pdf (841mm x 3276mm) and copied the resulting pdf to a flash drive.
I took the flash drive along to Kall Kwik in Horsham, West Sussex. They weren’t sure it would work, they hadn’t printed such a large pdf before. But it did work, a the result was quite impressive.
The photos didn’t come out quite right, but they are good enough, the printer is only meant for printing plans and line drawings.
There are a couple of things I will change for the next one, the font size needs increasing and the thickness of the linking lines needs increasing.
Of course the chart will never be finished, there are several details I could add in terms of residence and occupation, and I know there are a few more photos I could add.
The cost of this chart (£8.00 plus VAT) was such that I can afford to get one done every month or so. I am not sure that I can add another generation to it, it might be possible, but the print size will have to be reduced or the amount of information reduced to fit it all in.
The only problem is what to do with it, we don’t have anywhere in our flat to actually put it on permanent display. The only way I could get a photo of it all was to lay it out along our hall floor.
I didn’t get a lot of family history done this week, what with Christmas and my final week at work. I am worried that me family tree chart is not going to be ready, I only have two and a half days left to get it printed.
- Add some headshots into my family tree chart
- Create a PDF of my family tree chart and get it printed
Anything else that I manage to do during the week will be a bonus, but I am not expecting to have much spare time. However I do want to start looking ahead to what I am going to do next year.
My Christmas Tree Project has thrown up some quite interesting situations, that need further investigation, plus of course there are still three of my 4x great-grandparents that are missing, those will be quite a challenge to find.
Week 51, that must mean it is almost Christmas and my Christmas Tree Project is not completed. Everything this week needs to be geared towards getting it completed. It doesn’t help that I didn’t get much work done on it last week or this weekend.
- Create the headshot photos and the ‘blank’ headshot photo, and link them to my ancestors.
- Make sure I have text scheme for the ancestor’s boxes on the chart defined and showing all the information I want.
- Carry on filling in the missing gaps. There are not many more that I can do from home, but I could do with spending some money on the 1911 census but that will have to wait until after Christmas.
- Check with the print and copy shop that they will be open next week and they can print my family tree in time, otherwise I am going to be in trouble.
Not much actual research done last week, but I did clear a lot from my stuff to sort folder by scanning pages rather than actually going through them and deciding what to do with them. I didn’t get a lot done on the presentation of my chart for my Christmas Tree Project, so that will be carried over to this coming week as well.
- Priority is to get as much research done as possible on my Christmas Tree Project, mostly in East Sussex and Kent, just filling in missing details for my ancestors.
- Prepare for a trip to the London Family History Centre. This Saturday will be my last chance to get up there before Christmas and whilst I don’t particularly relish the idea of head up to London a couple of weeks before Christmas I need to make the most of the opportunity.
- Work on the presentation of my chart. Create the headshot photos and work on the text scheme for the ancestor boxes.
- Get rid of my stuff to sort folder. I think this week I will actually be able to finish sorting out my paperwork. I have only a few pages left, and most of that is scanning, so I think I will have it finished this week.
- I should get a birth certificate this week for one of the younger children of Thomas and Rebecca BATEMAN (my 4x great-grandparents). This should give me Rebecca’s maiden name which I think is TOWNSEND, but need to be sure.
Apart from family history I need to start thinking seriously about Christmas, I might start writing cards this week, which if I do will be a record for me, usually it is a lot later than this (just in time for the last posting date).