Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Mums, my Great-Granddad and my cousins

That's been my week!

First of all, it's Mothering Sunday today in the UK.  Sadly, I don't have my own Mum any more - I would gladly give my a year off my life to spend an afternoon with her, but that's not an option.  Instead, I have been thinking of her and remembering those far off days when a little bunch of freesias would make her day.  My own gorgeous daughter made my day with a little box of chocolates - not quite so fragrant, a lot more calorific but infinitely tastier!  We shall watch a film together this evening and scoff the lot!

My great-grandfather has been on my mind because I wrote an article about him over on HubPages.  They are running a competition in which you have to write an article in response to someone's published question.  The question I answered was about which of my ancestors I would like to meet.  Henry Brown has always interested me, so I penned Stalking Henry:  A Genealogical Journey.  I really enjoyed writing this article and it's had a fantastic response.  One reader said it brought tears to her eyes!  How's that for a compliment.

I've also been continuing to look for more cousins and corresponding with the ones I have already found.  I love our Facebook page, it's a great point of contact and resource for sharing photos.  There have been a few photos shared with week that have been absolutely great - a wonderful one of my grandfather's cousin looking windswept on a steamship sticks in my mind.  Following on from Facebook, another of my cousins is using Pinterest to organise her family snaps.  Hadn't thought of that (although I do use Pinterest, I love it!).

Have a great week, I'm off to work on another "Hub" - planning one on the Victorians.
Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Putting Right the Errors of the Past

This week has been a tad gloomy in the respect that I have been contemplating deaths.  Or two deaths, to be more accurate.  Both happened some time ago but, due to error or omission, required revisiting.

First there was the death of Sidney Brown.  Sidney was one of my great uncles, one of the ones who answered his country's call but who didn't return.  He is lying in that corner of a foreign field.  Sidney died, from what cause I know not, on 28 February 1917, hence the reason why his death was called to mind this week.  And the error that needed to be righted?  Well, our covenant with the war dead is that we shall remember them.  I feel that Sidney has been forgotten for too long.

His two brothers fared better; Reginald and Ernest Brown had emigrated to Australia prior to WW1 and joined the Australian Imperial Force.  When they fell they were not only remembered by the family they left in England, but also by the family that they joined in Australia; their brother, an uncle and cousins.  Their brother remembered Reg and Ernie by naming his twin sons after them.  His family never forgot them and have remembered them annually on Anzac Day.

Sidney, however, was not remembered so well.  I didn't even know his name.  Fortunately, last year I got into contact with a cousin in England who had a letter written at the time of Sidney's death giving more details about his last hours in a hospital in Rouen.  It makes painful reading.  I have shared the letter with my other cousins, and we shall remember Sidney not only on Remembrance Day but on the anniversary of his death.

The second error I have dealt with is just plainly that; an error.  I have but one noteworthy relative, a bishop, who died in 1982. This week I was Googling his name and read his Wikipedia entry.  It's a fairly brief entry, giving the dates of his tenure and the dates of his birth and death.  According to Wikipedia, he died the same year that he was born.  A simple typo, I am sure, but one that has been repeated all over the internet!  Surely someone could have picked that up, it's glaringly obvious!

It wasn't a difficult task to put the Wikipedia entry right, I just created an account and corrected the document.  However, I can't put all the copied articles right, so there will be a lot of wrong information out there.  Which just makes you think, how much more is there on the internet that is just plain wrong?  Hopefully, as family historians, we are all applying a higher standard of care to our research than a lot of internet researchers are applying to theirs.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sentimental Sunday: From England to Canada and Back Again

One of my most recently "found" cousins lives in Canada (as do several others).  She is a third cousin, we share a common set of great-great grandparents.  Her grandfather, who was a first cousin of my grandfather, emigrated to Canada around 1912, as did one of my grandfather's brothers.  I have already got in touch with the descendants of my great-uncle Robert, but it is wonderful to have found another shoot of the family tree.

My "new" cousin asked for my help this weekend in tracing her grandmother's family.  Like me, she doesn't have an international membership for Ancestry - it can get expensive if you just need to check out the occasional record.  I am so glad that she did ask, it's been an intriguing weekend!

Her grandmother grew up away from her birth family, the story being that she was given as a servant to a grocer and his wife, her own family having too many children.  The reality is turning out to be rather different.  From the looks of things, she did go to live with a couple, who indeed owned a grocery business, but there is no question that she was a servant.  At first she is described as a "visitor" on the census, but later as "niece".  I think that the couple regarded her as family, but perhaps she stayed in touch with her own family, so it stopped short of a formal adoption.

There may be a further dimension; she had a much older sister, 16 years her senior.  This woman didn't marry until her early thirties and then she and her husband emigrated to Canada.  Her younger sister also emigrated a couple of years later, her adopted family having died.  She married my grandfather's cousin soon after arriving in Canada.  I wonder if perhaps the sister was in fact the mother and that is why the family gave the girl up.  It wasn't unknown for the parents of a young woman who had a child out of wedlock to pass the child off as their own.  Maybe this was the case.  Or maybe not!
Monday, 16 January 2012

Military Monday: Imperial War Museum WebChat

I love the fact that studying my family history has awakened an interest in military history.  It's led my on to my Newquay War Memorial project which has given me more insight into military history.  However, sometimes you should look at it from the other point of view; how can military history and military records reveal more about your family history?

The Imperial War Museum in London
Photo Credit:  WordRidden via Flickr

My own family history research is a case in point.  The military records of two of my great-uncle, held by the Australian national archives, revealed their next of kin; my eldest great-uncle.  From this information we were able to eventually trace his living relatives, my second cousins.  The Commonwealth War Grave Commission records can also help.  They sometimes list parents or a spouse's name plus an address that can help you in your search.  If you are very lucky, your relative may just have one of the surviving UK service records which can hold a wealth of information.

The Imperial War Museum is hosting a live webchat, in association with Gransnet, on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 1-2 pm GMT.  Their researcher Mel Donnelly will be passing on her experience during the talk.  You can post questions in advance and there are already a few on the site - here is the link:  Live Webchat with the Imperial War Museum on Researching Family History.

Sadly, I shall be at work during the webchat, but I hope that you get the opportunity to ask a question if you need to, or just listen in if you are interested.
Sunday, 1 January 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Looking Forward to Looking Back

Where Will My Family History Take me in 2012?

Over the last year my family tree has grown tremendously.  It was pretty healthy at the start of the year but has grown in directions I hadn't even thought about at the beginning of the year.  I had it in my mind to explore the Brown side of my family, that being my "main" branch.  However, some lucky breaks have meant that I have also made progress in a branch that I thought had more or less reached its limit, and in another branch that I hadn't really even looked at too much.  In addition, my family history has taken me down a completely different route and made me reassess my life goals generally.

What does this year hold?  Well, last year's experience shows that even with the best laid plans the best outcomes often appear out of nowhere.  I have found several new cousins over the past year and I was only actively searching for some of them.  Three of them were happy accidents, extremely happy accidents, since I now have a photograph of my great-grandparents Alfred Williams and Ellen Jenkins.  One of my other "lost cousins" has provided me with a very precious letter, written by my great-uncle Edwin concerning the death of one of my other great-uncles, Sidney in WW1. I also met one of my found "lost cousins", one of the highlights of my year.  So, 2011 definitely underlined for me the importance of contacting cousins who are lost.  My hunt goes on in 2012 - I will be writing about it on my other family history blog, The Cousin Hunter.

The other unexpected twist to 2011 was that I began to write online to make money.  I started my HubPages project to finance my family history subscriptions and as a way to build a budget for my Newquay World War 1 War Memorial project.  It turns out that I love writing and I am seeing some success.  However, I am well aware that I have created an imbalance - the writing on HubPages and other sites has now taken over.  What began as a sideline to finance my family history has now eaten up all my family history/WW1 research time.  During 2012 I shall be addressing this.  My ideal solution would be to make enough money to quit my day job, write during the day and go back to research in the evenings.  It's a lovely thought, and one that I am giving serious consideration.  Fingers crossed!

2011 has also seen the demise of one of my former goals:  becoming a professional genealogist.  I had thought that I could turn my hand to making a living from researching other people's family history.  This year I have only taken on one commission and whilst I vastly enjoyed the research, I have found that actually I find the typing up a bit boring.  I won't be doing any more family histories, other than my own.  Oh, and one commission would hardly make a living!

I hope to be posting on this blog more regularly in 2012 - I slacked off in the last quarter of 2011, for the reasons above.  I can't wait to see where my family history journey takes me and who I will meet on the journey.  Any detours will be gladly accepted too!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Follow Friday: A Helping Hand Up from Down Under

One of the first blogs I followed was Judy Webster's UK/Australia Genealogy Blog.  I think it is probably aimed at Aussies with British roots, but it works for me to - British with "lost" (now found) Aussie cousins.  Judy is a professional genealogist and a great source of information.  Check out her website Judy Webster's Genealogy Advice if you have an interest in Australian Family History (especially that of Queensland).

Judy is one of the coordinators of a new project, and that's what I would really like to highlight.  It is the Genealogists for Families project.  The inspiration for the project was Judy's father, who had an altruistic streak - he would lend his "Do Good Money" to local hard working people in need of a little short term help.  In his honour, Judy has set up the project which, like Judy's father, lends money to those in need.  To volunteer you can invest $25, which will be repaid.  Visit Judy's the Genealogists for Families project for more details.

Good on you, Judy!
Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sentimental Sunday: Finding Comfort in the Past

It's not been a great few months here at The Treehouse, for various reasons, and things seem to be sliding from bad to worse.  Fortunately we have weathered worse times and we know that we will eventually bob back up again - we are just bracing ourselves for the storm.  My usual take on hard times is to keep hold of the proverb "this too shall pass", be grateful for what I have got and make sure that I get plenty of exercise in the great outdoors.  Another anti-depression measure is taking comfort in the past - my family history provides great lessons in overcoming adversity and my hardships pale into insignificance when compared to some of the circumstances endured by my ancestors.  Here are some lessons learnt.

Financial worries:  with one exception, all branches of my family went through periods of financial hardship.  The Warrens left their small North Devon market town when the wool industry collapsed and found themselves in the slums of Bristol.  Despite the major change to his life, John Warren adapted and prospered.  Similarly, the Masons were forced to leave rural Ireland due to the potato famine and for several years endured a cramped existence in a couple of rooms near the Liverpool docks.

Physical hardship:  I thank the Lord that I am not a Victorian wife.  With one exception, all my great-grandmothers lost at least one baby, and most were producing a baby every couple of years throughout their lives.  It wasn't only the women of course, the men worked hard too.  My great-great grandfather Frederick Hawkins ended his days in the workhouse after losing his sight and so losing his livelihood as a mason.

Human tragedy:  The loss of your children is the hardest blow to suffer and as mentioned, most of my great-grandparents endured these losses.  But perhaps even worse is the loss suffered in the event of war - worry beyond endurance, the strain of waiting for news, highs and lows of hope, and the final crushing blow delivered by telegram - my great-grandparents Harry and Ellen Brown received three telegrams, I shall never be so unfortunate.

My life may feel hard at the moment, but put in the context of my ancestors, I am lucky beyond belief.  It's a lesson I don't forget.


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