Archives for On Researching

My Top 5 books about Andalucía

Andalucía is a second home to me, so much so that I set part of my second novel Connectedness there. As some of you will know, I have a second blog at Notes on a Spanish Valley where I write about our life in the Spanish countryside. When fellow Brit in Spain, Alastair Savage, reflected on his favourite books about Barcelona I decided to undertake the same exercise for Andalucía. This is my choice. I have avoided ‘general’ books about Spain such as Giles Tremlett’s excellent Ghosts of Spain, one of Alastair’s picks, and have concentrated on Andalucía. Four of the five are memoirs. If you read them, let me know what you think. Read Alastair’s guide to Barcelona books here. ‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode I love my secondhand copy of this slim book for its pale blue cover. Penelope Chetwode, wife of poet John Betjeman, takes a circular ride on her horse Marquesa, around the countryside between Granada and Úbeda in Andalucía in 1961. Charming, quirky. Read my full review of Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía here. ‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode [UK: Eland] ‘South from Granada’ by Gerald Brenan Decades before ex-Genesis drummer Chris
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Categories: Book Love and On Researching.

Twiggy, Dusty, Paul and John… photos of The Sixties

If you love The Sixties, music and fashions, check out my Pinterest board for Ignoring Gravity. It’s where I collate all the images which inspired me when I wrote the book. From Twiggy to Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Beatles to Dusty Springfield, there are black-and-white and colour images of life from 1960-1969. My favourite comes from 1961, it’s an image of Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. See my Pinterest board for Ignoring Gravity here. The board for Connectedness – featuring more roses and trees, plus Picasso, art, and Malaga in Spain – will go online later this year.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Dusty Springfield, the Beatles & Audrey Hepburn: my #writing board at Pinterest via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2zv
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.

Family history: Look locally

Once you can place a relative in a geographical location, it is then possible to fill in background information about them via your local council records. Some of these may be online, others may be found in local archives or the family history centre, and can include council minutes, education records and quarter sessions. Quarter sessions in the UK were courts of limited criminal and civil jurisdiction, and appeal, usually held quarterly in counties and boroughs [above]. Discontinued in 1972 to be replaced by the Crown Courts, these are a fruitful place to search if one of your relatives appeared in court. Some records are available online, others may be accessed via your local archives. They are a rich source of information including the names of those present such as justices, bailiffs, High Constable, jury members and defendants. Some records are available online at Ancestry, for example Yorkshire quarter session records for the years 1637-1914. Council minutes are usually accessible in archive reading rooms, making interesting reading perhaps for information about a specific relative who worked for the council, or for social information about a particular time. If your relative was involved in local politics or Government service, this could
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Categories: Family history research and On Researching.

Author Interview: Caroline James

The inspiration for So You Think You’re A Celebrity…Chef? by Caroline James was food, food and the television chef Keith Floyd. But having the inspiration is all well and good, turning ideas and research into a novel is a different. Here Caroline James explains how her research became the book. “I’ve spent my working life in the hospitality industry and have visited many food festivals both at home and abroad. One event that always stood out is the Annual Gourmet Food Festival in Kinsale, Southern Ireland. The TV chef Keith Floyd was a great inspiration to me and I knew that having been invited to the four-day gathering he made his home in this pretty little town and spent many years there. A period that he describes in his autobiography as the happiest of his life. I wanted to find out why Floyd took Kinsale to his heart and I was so taken with the charm of this pretty fishing port that the idea for my novel, So You Think You’re A Celebrity…Chef? was born. Located only sixteen miles south of Cork, on the south-east coast of Ireland, Kinsale is a picturesque and historic town. Hailed as the Gourmet Capital of
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

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.

Family history: researching children’s homes

Lost children weren’t always adopted, as happens to Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity. If she had been born a century earlier, she may have been taken to one of many children’s homes in London. In 1739 London’s Foundling Hospital opened, a basket placed at its door to allow infants to be left anonymously. In the late 19th century poverty in London’s East End was notorious and this is where, in 1866, Thomas Barnardo established his first boys’ home. Lampson House Home for Girls [below] opened in London in 1894. If you are tracing a relative who was in a children’s home, the records may be held in a variety of places. Most children’s homes were privately run so the survival of documentation is inconsistent, records identifying individuals are widely held closed for 100 years. A useful website is The Children’s Homes which lists the location of existing records for many former homes. Other records which give an insight into lifestyle conditions [below] in children’s homes – such as reports of inspections, dietary diaries – can be found at the National Archives. Records for workhouses can be found in the appropriate county/metropolitan record office where you may also find records for workhouses
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Categories: Adoption and On Researching.

Guest Post: Helen J Christmas

Every writer is blessed with an over-active imagination. For Helen J Christmas [below], author of the ‘Same Face Different Place’ series, this led her to researching Britain and its social history. Here, she explains how her research was transformed into fiction. “I have a passion for writing. I have indulged it for most of my life but it wasn’t until 2011, my career as an author really took off. My current series (a combination of romantic suspense and noir fiction) was inspired while walking along the beach with our dog. I was just daydreaming about my life, when a set of characters and stories began to flood through my head. I was born in 1964 and remember the eras of the ‘70s and ‘80s – I thought ‘how great it would be to write an epic story that took the reader on a journey through the decades of Britain!’ My debut novel Beginnings (published in 2012) is the first book of my series ‘Same Face Different Place.’ It is a love story set in the criminal underworld of the 70s and the start of a mystery which rolls across four decades. I am lucky to be gifted with a powerful visual
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Categories: Book Love and On Researching.

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.

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.

I agree with… Frederick Forsyth

Frederick Forsyth “… [all authors are only half in the room] the other half is detached, watching, taking notes… I’ve always preferred not to join in, so I joined nothing… I used my separateness.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, July 17, 2015] Frederick Forsyth, author of The Day of the Jackal – one of my father’s favourite books and movies [see his old Corgi edition above], and therefore a large part of my childhood – has always stood apart. I understand what he says about observation, I do it too though I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. I don’t stand in a corner with my notebook out. But some time later, when I am trying to recall a characteristic, a description or a piece of dialogue, something I have seen somewhere or overheard will fall into place. All novelists have this ability, I believe. And journalists: as a trainee journalist I was told I must develop two things: a head for alcohol so I could keep my head when those around were losing theirs, so I could remember what was said in the morning; and secondly, a dirty mind, in order to notice all the unintended double entres
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching, and On Writing.

How Kate Atkinson writes

Kate Atkinson: “This is a novel, not a polemic [and I am no historian] and I have accordingly left the doubts and ambiguities for the characters and the text to voice.” [in Author’s Note, in the Doubleday paperback edition of ‘A God in Ruins’] In her Author’s Note at the back of A God in Ruins [how I much prefer to read these texts after I have read the novel, not before], Kate Atkinson explains that she decided to write a novel about the Second World War, “I rather grandiosely believed that I could somehow cover the whole conflict in less than half the length of War and Peace”. Of course she couldn’t and so she settled on the London Blitz in Life After Life, and the strategic bombing campaign against Germany in its companion novel A God in Ruins. It is the difficulties of bombing that she leaves in the mouths and minds of her characters. She writes of the perils for the novelist of writing a story based on true events. “There is nothing that happens during the chapters set during the war in A God in Ruins that isn’t in some way based on a real-life incident
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching, and On Writing.

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: 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.

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.

Susan Finlay interviews author Sandra Danby

In her interview about Ignoring Gravity, author and book blogger Susan Finlay asks Sandra Danby: “Do you have a favourite review of your book?” “I’ve had some fabulous reviews,” says Sandra. “It’s a challenging thing, you know, to send your debut novel out to strangers to read, so I feel very fortunate that Ignoring Gravity has been received so well. I think the review that meant the most was by a reader with personal experience of adoption: “Sandra Danby deals with the emotions surrounding grief, adoption and infertility with a deep understanding of the emotions involved. One of my close family members was adopted and so I could understand Rose’s identity crisis when she discovers she isn’t whom she thought she was. There is a twist at the end which unexpectedly gave me the shivers as I contemplated history repeating itself.” To read the interview in full at ‘Susan Finlay Writes’ [above], click here. To read more about how Sandra Danby researched adoption for Ignoring Gravity, click 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: Authors & reviews #interview about #writing at #SusanFinlayWrites http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Ct via
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.

Family history: searching the bastardy records

Trawling through records is difficult enough, but when you are trying to trace an illegitimate relative it can become disheartening. More than 14,000 bastardy records held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service have been indexed and made available online at Ancestry.co.uk. The records start from 1690 up to 1914 with documents including the maintenance of illegitimate children, bastardy bonds, and warrants for apprehending errant fathers who tried to escape responsibility for their children. To explore the full database at Ancestry.co.uk, click here.   To read how my research for Ignoring Gravity took me to the Family Records Centre in North London, and what I found there, click here. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now   If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:- Did your Ancestor belong to a Trade Union? Researching children’s homes Look locally And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: How to find an illegitimate ancestor #familyhistory via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1xY
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', and On Researching.