Archives for Family history research

Book review: Pale as the Dead

This is an unusual mix of genealogy mystery and history, centred on the glamorous Pre-Raphaelite artists and Lizzie Siddal, the girl in the famous ‘Ophelia’ painting. Ancestry detective Natasha Blake meets a mysterious, beautiful young woman, Bethany, who is re-enacting the Lizzie Siddal scene for a photographer. Bethany confides in Natasha her fear that her family is cursed following the deaths of her sister and mother. After asking Natasha to research her family tree, Bethany goes missing. Has she run from a failing love affair, committed suicide, or has she been murdered? The trail is cold. Natasha must turn detective in two senses: she searches the birth, marriage and death records, census returns and wills, to find Natasha’s ancestors; at the same time, she is being followed by someone driving a red Celica. Adam, the photographer, is also Bethany’s boyfriend but Natasha feels there is more to his story than he is telling. The narrative wandered rather from the central story, complicated unnecessarily by Natasha’s own history and love life which added little. Perhaps this could have been avoided by telling part of the story from Lizzie Siddal’s point of view. There were so many peripheral characters, both in the
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Book review: Blood Atonement

A fascinating mixture of modern crime novel and family history research, Blood Atonement takes Nigel Barnes from London to the USA as he races against time to find answers for Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster. Foster’s first case after returning to work following injuries sustained in The Blood Detective [first in this genealogical crime series] is a dead actress and her missing daughter. Links to the actress’s past, mystery about her family and unanswered questions, lead Foster to call in the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes. Both men are strong characters who walk off the page, both loners of a kind, both lonely in love. This is a fast-moving mystery revolving around what happened to Horton and Sarah Rowley, who we know from flashbacks were teenage sweethearts planning to run away, but who only appear in records in the UK from 1891. Before that, they cease to exist. Where did they come from, and why were they running? Simply because their parents disapproved of the marriage, or something more sinister? And what has this to do with the dead actress found lying face down on her lawn in London? As he searches for the missing 14-year old, Foster finds chilling
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Family history: the paternity question

People have been having affairs – and illegitimate children – since the world began. For me, this means hundreds of story ideas for the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series. For family history researchers, paternity fraud presents a big dilemma: whether to believe what the records say. Adultery is notoriously difficult to trace through the records, with many women giving birth to babies whose father is not her husband. How do you spot a problem? Look out for:- Family rumours. Is it spiteful gossip, or is the rumour confirmed from different sources? Where was the father nine months before the birth? Did the birth take place a suspiciously short time after the wedding? Why is the paternity questioned? Physical likeness, does a child look like its father? Not a reliable measure, as often children are genetic throwbacks and resemble neither of their parents. Is it known that the mother had affairs? Check the divorce records for evidence of adultery. Are the parents living apart, so suggesting a marriage separation. Check the Census. A marriage breakdown is often evident in a person’s will, an estrangement may be mentioned. Or there may be a bequest to someone not in the immediate family. Was the
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Categories: Family history research.

Family history: was your relative a nurse?

If you are searching for a nurse who worked between 1898 and 1968, your search has just been made a lot easier. Over 1.6 million historic nursing records for the UK and Ireland are now online at Ancestry. There are three new collections:- UK & Ireland, Nursing Registers, 1898-1968 from the Royal College of Nursing: the largest of the three archives. It includes scans of the original documents and details about individual people including home address, education and previous employment history. Among the nurses listed is Dame Sarah Swift, founder of the RCN. UK & Ireland, Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses, 1891-1931: these records were supplied by the Wellcome Institute, and further records will be released this autumn. Many of these nurses were trained as midwives and health visitors, treating patients in their own homes before the beginning of the NHS. Scotland, Nursing Applications, 1921-1945: these records date from the beginning of state registration of nurses in 1921. Most fascinating is the additional information provided about individuals, which may fill in essential gaps in family history research. If you don’t have an Ancestry subscription, you can view the RCN records at the RCN Library. For help on how to
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Family history: The 1939 Register

The obvious place to start when researching previous generations of your family is the Census. Unfortunately, the UK’s 1931 Census was destroyed by fire during World War Two, and no Census was taken in 1941. But in 1938 the British Government announced a National Register would be taken to assess war needs and to issue identity cards. The records of 41 million citizens were taken. These records are now available at Find My Past. If the person you are searching for is not there, try military records at the National Archives. TNA has a number of research guides to help find members of the Armed Forces. This post was inspired by Laura Berry’s article ‘Missing from the Census’ in the April 2016 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Click here for more information.   I used the 1939 Register when I was writing Sweet Joy, the third adventure in the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series. For more about Ignoring Gravity, first in the series, watch the book trailer here. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: How
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, and On Researching.

Family history: Find Missing Births

Anyone researching their family history has to start with the two main life events: birth and death. Birth seems the obvious place to start, but finding certificates is not always straightforward. Adoption may be one reason, as Rose Haldane discovers in Ignoring Gravity, but there are lots of other reasons why births go missing. If you have hit a brick wall searching for UK records, try these tips by genealogist Laura Berry:- Informal change of name: it is perfectly legal for a person to change name without officially informing the authorities. Add to that the confusion caused by people by interchanging their first and middle names, perhaps because they dislike it. Some names were simply mis-spelled, either by the record-taker or the person reporting the birth. If in doubt, search for the mother’s maiden surname. A different quarter: until 1984, the GRO birth indexes for England and Wales were organised quarterly [after this it switched to annual]. Perhaps the birth you are looking for has been recorded in the next quarter. Parents at this time had 42 days in which to record a birth. Common names: if you are searching for a common surname and common first name, try looking for
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.

Book review: The Marriage Certificate

There’s a new genre appearing in mystery, thriller and general fiction sections: #genealogylit. Involving a combination of old-fashioned mystery, family history, detective fiction and combined historical and modern-day settings, #genealogylit has grown from the love of family history research and television programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Long Lost Family. The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux is another example of #genealogylit, combining family secrets with turn of the century British history: the Boer War, the Great War, the merchant navy, the changing role of women and attitudes to illegitimacy. Unlike other #genealogylit however, it is not a crime novel, there is no murder. It is the story of two couples – the bride and groom, Louisa and John, best man Frank and bridesmaid Rose – at a wedding on January 15, 1900; their lives, loves, dangers and tragedies. Running alongside is a modern-day strand. In 2011, amateur genealogist Peter Sefton finds the marriage certificate of Louisa and John’s wedding in an antiques shop and his curiosity is piqued. As he researches the names on the certificate, we also see their lives unfolding in a rapidly-changing world as the 19th century turns into the 20th. The men leave home
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Book review: The Blood Detective

I raced through this book, a hybrid mixture of crime and genealogy mystery. Author Dan Waddell is also a journalist and genealogist, having written The Genealogy Handbook [below] to accompany the Who Do You Think You Are? television series. So, he knows his stuff and it shows. Usually a crime novel features a lead detective and team, here we have two lead characters: Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster, and genealogist Nigel Barnes. Waddell’s plotting is ingenious. The past really does come back to haunt the present. There is a serial killer in West London who leaves a clue carved into the skin of his victims. This clue prompts DCI Foster to call on the specialist help of researcher Barnes. The murder hunt takes parallel paths: Foster chases living suspects, Barnes searches the archives for the true 1879 story of a serial killer, his victims and their descendants. What is the link? The final chapters are a thrilling race against time. I really enjoyed this. The linking of historical and present-day crime was clever, and the characterization was convincing and not of the stereotypical detective form. An enjoyable mixture of fast-moving crime novel with genealogical research and historical gems about this particular
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Book review: Hiding the Past

An unusual hybrid of genealogy and record checking plus amateur detective stuff makes Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodwin a worthy page turner for a holiday week. Anyone who loves family tree research, and a good crime novel, will like this with its narrative stretching from World War Two to present-day politicians. Within days of taking on a new client, genealogist Morton Farrier knows this case is different: one, his client pays a fee of £50,000 straight into his bank account; two, the client shoots himself in the head. Or does he? Helped by his girlfriend Police Community Support Officer Juliette, Farrier studies the background of his, now dead, client, Peter Coldrick, a study which leads him to two key years: 1944 and 1987. Official records for Coldrick’s descendants have mysteriously disappeared, Morton is being followed by a glossy black 4×4, and it may be his imagination but a usually helpful archives officer is proving difficult to pin down. Morton is an interesting character, adopted, rubbing along awkwardly with his widowed adoptive father and soldier brother, quick with a sharp word whilst knowing he should be kinder and hating himself for it. I also liked the clear drawing of his
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Family history: Deceased Online

I grew familiar with churchyards and graveyards when I was working on Ignoring Gravity as Rose Haldane believes her birth mother is dead and so searches amongst the headstones. If Deceased Online had existed when Rose was searching for her birth mother, perhaps she would simply have searched the database online. Deceased Online is the first central database of burial and cremation records in the UK, and records are constantly being added to its database. To read how I researched the graveyard scene in Ignoring Gravity, click here. So I tested the Deceased Online database with a random search for the name of my father. One exact match was found, a gravestone at St Maxentius, Bradshaw, Lancashire. Not my father, and not one of my relatives. Sadly my search went no further as this headstone is not part of the DO contract, so was available to view only by payment with the local authority: £2 to view the single headstone, or £15 to view all 511 headstones at this property. An annual subscription scheme is promised. My second search was for ‘Rose Haldane’. More success here, 36 headstone collections were found for Haldane, various cemeteries, mostly in Scotland, with multiple headstones. The most,
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Categories: Family history research, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.

Book review: In the Blood

Steve Robinson is a new author for me and this is the first in his series of novels about American genealogist Jefferson Tayte. I warmed to JT quickly, he’s not a typical hero and seems very real. His assignment – to uncover the truth of what happened to a family who set sail from Boston to England in August 1783 – takes him across the Atlantic to Cornwall. There are two parallel timelines, the ship voyage in 1783 and JT’s trip to England set in the present day. The story weaves back and forth between the two, in fact I enjoyed reading the eighteenth century strand and would have liked more of the Fairbornes’ story. JT’s search, initially for documents, suddenly becomes dangerous when local woman Amy discovers a wooden box. Now Amy’s life is in danger too. But who stands to gain from a mystery 200 years old, and which Cornish locals can JT trust? At times I wished there was a cast list at the front of the book as I got a little confused between the family connections, but as that is what JT was researching I guess it was inevitable. If you like reading mysteries, try
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Family history: British Newspaper Archive

The days are gone when researching old newspaper articles meant a trip to a library. Nowadays there is a fantastic online resource for anyone trying to trace lost relatives or researching their family tree. The British Newspaper Archive has almost 11.5 million newspaper pages on its archives from the 1700s onwards, across 473 UK newspaper titles. As part of my research for Ignoring Gravity, I read countless newspaper and magazine articles about adoption, the stories of birth mothers, adoptees and adoptive parents. I tested the BNA database. A random search for ‘Sandra Danby‘ produced three results, none of which were about me. Here are two:- May 6, 1950 Hull Daily Mail [above]: Sandra Danby was a principal performer at a concert in Hessle Town Hall, along with Elsie Meek, Sylvia Cowling and Michael Goforth. I’ve made a note of the name Elsie Meek, inspiration for a character name perhaps?June 19, 1950 Hull Daily Mail [above]: Sandra Danby from Hessle came second in the Haltemprice Fancy Dress Prize Winners ‘Most Attractive’ section, she was dressed as a Dutch girl. First prize was won by Patricia Partington, who dressed as Bo Peep. Next, I searched for ‘Rose Haldane’ and had more success with 13
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Categories: Family history research, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.

Adoption reunion: Doing it for love

The fifth season of British television adoption reunion series Long Lost Family included this heartbreaker: a woman who gave up her first-born daughter twice, in order for her to have a better life. Scotland, 1960: Christine Gillard was 16, her father dead, her mother working away, she lived with her 80-year old grandmother in a tenement so small you could walk from one side to the other in four paces. Christine became pregnant. For two years, the two women tried to raise active toddler Marguerite, in this one cramped room. “It was going wrong and I couldn’t put it right,” Christine tells Long Lost Family. “I had a big decision to make, I didn’t want her to go into a home, abandoned, with no hope for the future.” The solution was for Social Services to place Marguerite with a long-term foster family. “I had asked for help and I got it, I thought ‘they’ve got my baby’.” Christine’s life went on, she married and had four more children. But it was not a good marriage. Six years after she had last seen Marguerite, Social Services contacted Christine to say her foster mother had died, and that Christine could have Marguerite back.
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Categories: Adoption, Family history research, and On Researching.

Family history: HistoryPin

HistoryPin is a great idea. A global project which enables you to attach photographs and memories to a global map. A fantastic resource for family history researchers or novelists, like me. Like Pinterest, but specifically for history. There are some fascinating subjects which I will re-visit for research; I particularly liked ‘Remember How We Used To…’ Photographs of how we kept warm, played, worked, cooked and cleaned, celebrated and worked. Another useful function is searching by location. Ignoring Gravity is set around Wimbledon, Richmond [below], London Docklands and Battersea. Searching Wimbledon brings up a photo of the Blitz in 1941, the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 1962, a street party in Putney in 1989, and carriage cleaners at Wimbledon Traincare Depot in 1916. A search for Battersea is less populated, though there is a great black and white photograph of a boy and girl – siblings perhaps – standing outside a house on Winstanley Road in 1951-3. In conclusion, this is a work in progress and geographical coverage is not consistent. But it is worth consulting if you are researching a specific location. All uploaded photographs are pinned to a specific place, and are shown on a street map so it is
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Categories: Family history research, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.

Book review: I Belong to No One

This is a brave book, a memoir written by Gwen Wilson knowing that she may be criticised, knowing that readers may disapprove, but having the courage to write it anyway. To say ‘This is me, this is what I did when I was a teenager’. Gwen Wilson had a tough start in life. Her father was not in her life, in fact in later years she discovers that her father was a completely different man from the one she thought he was. Instead she grows up with her mother and half-brother Steve. Her mother would today be diagnosed as bi-polar, Steve is thrust into the role of authority figure. The young Gwen grows up relying on stand-in families, those of trusting neighbours or the parents of her schoolfriends. Looking for love, for approval, it is little wonder that she gets ’into trouble’. Gwen Wilson celebrated her 60th birthday just before this memoir was published. She has travelled a long way and become a different person since the girl who struggled to be a mother and wife when she was still a young girl. There should have been more support for her, but 1970s Australia was in many ways an unforgiving
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Categories: Adoption, Book Love, and Family history research.

Book review: Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs

This is the true story of one woman’s search for her birth family which crosses continents from South Africa and Rhodesia, to Australia, the UK, and Holland. Jane Eales discovered she was adopted when she was 19. Her adoptive parents made her swear never to tell anyone else about her adoption and never to search for her birth parents. She lived with the uncertainty of not knowing for 40 years until, when both her adoptive parents were dead, she started to search. The journey crosses continents as she uncovers a family’s pre-World War Two flight as Hitler threatens, the politics of Southern Africa, and spying during WW2. The ‘Spotted Dogs’ in the title is a reference to Dalmatian dogs; the author’s birth mother, Phyllis, was a renowned UK dog breeder. For Jane Eales, the promise she made to her adoptive parents was a difficult one to break. They were the only parents she had known, they cared for her, she loved them though she found it difficult to accept and understand their need for secrecy when it made her own life so ill-defined. What prompted her to search? With a learning-disabled son, she was advised to check her own genetic
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Categories: Adoption, Book Love, Family history research, and On Researching.

Family history: 20 top tips to find your missing ancestors

You’ve decided to trace your family tree, back through the generations. Easy, it’s just a case of trawling through the Birth, Marriages and Deaths records, right? Sadly it’s not always that straightforward… but there are ways to track down missing ancestors. These are the 20 Top Tips by Who Do You Think You Are?’s TV show genealogist Laura Berry. If you have an ancestor who is missing from official records, there are numerous possible reasons for their absence. 1 Ancestors may have used middle names. I don’t have a middle name but Adeline V Stephen, who was christened in 1882, was known by her second name Virginia. She became the writer Virginia Woolf. 2 Check the mother’s maiden name, not everyone was born in wedlock. 3 If you are really stuck, you can post a question on a genealogy forum such as the WDYTYA Forum. Often other forum users may be able to help. 4 Perhaps your ancestor simply moved. Try searching in a neighbouring area. 5 Names were often misspelt, and the mistake is continued down the line. 6 If you are drawing a blank at your favourite genealogy website, try using a different website which may have a slightly different
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, and On Researching.

Author Interview: Gwen Wilson

I Belong to No One is the memoir of Gwen Wilson. The story of her life, from family violence, teenage pregnancy and forced adoption, how she dealt with all of that and became the woman she is today. The book is published on June 30, 2015. I hesitate to use the word ‘gritty’; although Gwen’s story is harsh and at times difficult to read about, at the same time her flowing writing style makes the pages turn. How many years did it take you to write your book, and what was the trigger that made you start? The initial trigger was my 50th birthday party, way back in 2005. Part way through my speech, it dawned on me that each of the guests represented a distinct part of my life. Family, friends, and colleagues – it was like a map of my life’s journey. The fact that I was even there – well-dressed, financially secure, a successful career woman, with a supportive husband at my side – was a source of wonder. My life could so easily have gone a different way. As I spoke, I felt the spiritual presence of those people – particularly the women -who had supported
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Categories: Adoption, Book Love, and Family history research.

Family history: using maps

Understanding your lost relatives is a little easier when you can place them geographically. Today there are huge online resources of historical maps which make this easier. If you are searching for someone today and you have an address, the best place to start is the simplest: Google Maps. Just type in a place name and map focuses on the area you want, making it easy to find addresses from birth certificates, for example. When you are dealing with an area of the country with which you are unfamiliar, using GoogleMaps allows you to familiarise yourself with the area and perhaps connect up a couple of clues which previously did not make sense. For example, birth certificates or baptism records with addresses which do not tally with other clues you have. Looking at the area on a map can often clarify the options. Britain From Above allows you to look down on early to mid-20th century homes, from the skies. For example, I grew up on the North Yorkshire coast near Filey, below are two photographs from the area. Top is a 1925 photograph showing Carr Naze and Filey Brigg; the pic below shows Crescent Hill and Foreshore Road in Filey in 1932.
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, and On Researching.

Long Lost Family: Denise’s story

This adoption story from the 1960s belongs to a teenager whose father died when she was 15. Missing her father and growing apart from her mother who was distracted by a new husband, she sought love and attention elsewhere. She went clubbing, and at 16 was pregnant. This is Denise Temple‘s story from the Long Lost Family television programme. The family agreed the child would be given up for adoption. But Denise remembers looking at her new born baby, Deborah: “I thought I’d die for this child, I’d die for her… I just cried and cried and cried. I said ‘I’m not giving her up’.” But her stepfather would not have her in the house. It was finally agreed that Denise and her baby could go home on the understanding that she could expect no help from her mother or stepfather. In The Sixties there was little state support for single mothers. Denise went home, and the baby slept in a drawer. She had half a dozen terry cloth nappies. “I was so alone.” She struggled on for three months, before finally giving her baby up for adoption. “It was no life for her, or me.” Denise never forgot Deborah.
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, and On Researching.