Archives for researching

#FamilyHistory… researching European relatives #research

Do you have European relatives on your family tree but find the prospect of research a little intimidating? The wealth and ease of information varies from country to country, some records are highly digitised but others are slow to go online. Much of it, though, is searchable in English. Here are some places to start. At Family Search,the search/records/research by location facility allows you to choose a specific country. For each location there is an index of collections and some ‘image only’ entries where the original document is photographed. A quick search for Spain revealed a bewildering amount of information, much by Spanish region or city, including births, marriages and deaths, business records and occupations, church history, census, taxation, land and wills. The benefit of starting here is that the Family Search website is in English, allowing you to travel through the relative sections with ease. Wie Was Wie, or Who Was Who, is a Dutch genealogical site available in English. It has a wealth of information including civil registration certificates, population registers, church books, statements of succession [wills], sea voyages, family announcements in newspapers, military registers, prison and hospital registers. In total, 174 million people feature in the Wie
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Categories: Family history research.

#FamilyHistory… Was your relative a nurse in the Great War? #nursing

Diaries, notebooks and sketchpads are dynamite for family history researchers as an insight into the lives of an ordinary people in your period of interest. If you are interested in filling in the life of a relative who served in a VAD [Voluntary Aid Detachment] during World War One, autograph and memory book of Cheltenham VAD nurse Dorothy Unwin may be of interest. Held at The Wilson art gallery and museum, it provides a very personal view of the war. The book includes photographs of herself, the wards she worked on, soldiers and staff. Most poignant are the comments given to Nurse Unwin by patients. Some soldiers write only their name, number and the date but some offer more information. Private Clapton of the 1stGloucestershire Regiment was ‘wounded in shoulder’. Percy Bedford of the 14thCanadian Battalion was ‘blown out of trench at Ypres 25 April 1915’. Many messages are of thanks. Patients are pictured playing sports and performing in plays and revenues. It offers a powerful insight into the men who fought in the Great War and also the daily life of FAX nurses. Vera Brittain [below left], who would go on to write Testament of Youth, was reading English
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Categories: Family history research and 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.

Family history: did your ancestor work in a pub?

British pubs, or public houses, can be traced all the way back to Roman taverns. After the departure of the Romans, there came the Anglo-Saxon alehouses based in domestic dwelling. The ‘alewife’ would put a green bush up on a pole to let people know her brew was ready for drinking. These alehouses rapidly developed into popular meeting places for the community so in 965 King Edgar decreed there should be no more than one alehouse per village. In 1393, Richard II made it legal for pubs to have to display a sign outdoors to make them easily identifiable to passers-by. Then in the 19th century came the development of tied houses [when a pub is linked to a particular brewer]. The pub is different from the inn, in that the latter was located along a highway or in the country [above] and provided stabling and fodder for horses, accommodation for travellers, and [if on a mail route] fresh horses for the mail coaches. Inns tended to be larger and grander than pubs. Many pub names date from times when customers were often illiterate and could only recognise pictorial signs. Pub names have a variety of origins, from objects used
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Categories: Family history research.

Family history: understanding your ancestors’ baby name choices

Naming a baby can give you clues to all sorts things about your ancestors. Time of birth [Christmas or Easter perhaps], religion, hobbies, the place of birth, for maternal or paternal grandparents, and for the royal family. Modern day babies may be named for the star of a hit television show, or the father’s favourite footballer. This style of naming choice is not new. Finn, meaning fair, or white, originates from Fionn mac Cumhaill [below], the mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology. Names can be traced in families through the generations, not only first names but sometimes a mother’s maiden name too. Many second names amongst 19th century gentry were the mother’s maiden name, it was a way of keeping a surname alive if the male line died out. At least ten American presidents have their mother’s maiden name as a middle name. Sometimes this led to the use double-barrelled surnames; in the 18th and 19th centuries, the mothers of illegitimate children would give them their father’s full name and their own surname. So if one of your relatives from that time has a surname for a middle name, it is likely he was illegitimate. Names go in and out of
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Categories: Family history research.

Family history: Was your ancestor a doctor?

The medical profession has changed out of all recognition since the 18th century and if you are searching for a relative who was once a doctor or medical professional, there are a number of useful sources to check which may lead you in an intriguing direction. In the 18th century, only physicians were called MD, doctor, with the status of being a gentleman. They charged for their advice and remedies but did not dispense medicines. They were university educated in contrast to surgeons and apothecaries who were trained via apprenticeships. Surgeons did not give medicines to patients, instead they specialised in pulling teeth, lancing boils, blood-letting, and amputations. Apothecaries dispensed and sold medicines from a shop, charging for their medicines not their advice. There was ample opportunity for quacks. The turning point came with the passing of the Medical Act in 1858. This meant that in able to practise medicine, all qualified medical professions had to be listed in the new Medical Register, and also licensed by one of 19 licensing bodies. If you are tracing a relative in the 19th century who you suspect worked in the medical professions in the UK, the two places to check are the
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Categories: Family history research.

Family history: using photographic archives

Photographs are not just a record of people but of places, lifestyles, streets, countryside and the changing times. If you really want to understand the life of your relative, searching the photographic archives now available online and at your local record office can make their world seem real for you. The clothes they wore, their holidays and work days, their parties and local community.  A simple way to start is to use Google and search using ‘images’. Other great starting places are Flickr, Pinterest or Instagram. I’m currently researching London during the WW2 Blitz, and a quick search produced literally hundreds of photos. One photo may lead to a new avenue of research. A studio portrait of a family member may lead you to a particular photographer. A uniform can help you to confirm a regiment or employer. History Pin is clever in that it allows you to collect images and pin them to Street View so you build up a wider picture of the area of interest. I found Collage, the London Picture Archive, particularly useful in my focus on the capital. It has more than a quarter of a million photos of London streets and includes the London
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Categories: Family history research.

Family history: Was your ancestor a boatman?

During the UK’s Industrial Revolution, raw materials and finished goods were transported around the country by canal. By the mid-19th century though, the new railways were taking away the business of the barges. Working on a canal boat was a tough life. Slow boats could take up to seven days to go from Birmingham to London and boatmen were expected to work up to 20 hours a day. Under threat from the railways, ‘family’ boats became numerous with a wife and children travelling with her husband. Boating became a closed occupation and outsiders, gongoozlers, discouraged. Boat people developed their own dress, language and took great pride in the decoration of their boats. Acts of Parliament were passed in 1877 and 1884 making canal boats subject to inspection to check living conditions, and some of these inspection reports survive in local archives. Considering the itinerant nature of the boatman, there are a number of excellent resources for family history researchers:- The Boat Families website is a resource kept by local enthusiasts, cataloguing life on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal & associated waterways, especially in South-West Lancashire. Names are listed by canal family, with more than 32,000 individuals named. A search for ‘boatmen’ at
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Categories: Family history research.

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: how adoption became a legal process

Only in 1926 did adoption of children in the UK become a legal process, it was part of a process to remove illegitimate children from their ‘unfit’ mothers and place them with a respectable married couple. Until the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, adoptions were often arranged privately or via the mother-and-baby home where the birth took place. In the 19th century there were hundreds of mother-and-baby homes where an unmarried pregnant woman would be housed and her pregnancy and birth overseen. She would remain with her baby during the early weeks while an adoption was arranged. Many women attended these homes secretly to avoid the stigma of bearing an illegitimate child. As an alternative to adoption, some single mothers left their child in the care of baby farmers who would care for the child for a fee, supposedly enabling the mother to return to work. However some baby farmers were found guilty of abuse and neglect. Prior to the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, ten bills had been introduced to Parliament by 1922 in an effort to regulate adoption. Finally the act became law on January 1, 1927. It provided assurance for the adoptive parents that the birth parents
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Categories: Adoption and Family history research.

Have you seen my research photos at Pinterest

I am a relative newcomer to Pinterest and, after seeing how other authors use it, I wish I had discovered it sooner. I have always collected photographs when I am researching my novels, putting them into moods and themes which are both inspiration and factual reassurance. Now I collate all these visual references on Pinterest. For Ignoring Gravity, this means photos of roses [because my key character is called Rose Haldane], trees [family trees, roots, all the tree imagery associated with genealogy] and 1960s life and fashions. 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] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Roses, trees, 1960s fashions & designs: my #writing board at Pinterest via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2zp
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Family history: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, set up under Royal Charter in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission. It commemorates 1.7 million people who died in two world wars, administers cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries. If you are tracing a relative who died in the First or Second World War, or seeking further information about medals, awards or casualty details, this is an excellent website to explore. As part of the 2017 centenary, the website is to be improved with even more information. It is never too late to change the records, if your family history research reveals an error or omission. In once case, a serviceman who died 99 years ago recently received a CWGC headstone at a churchyard in Hampshire. Driver Thomas Dawson [above] died on September 10, 1918 but because the CWGC was never informed of his death, Thomas never received a Commission headstone. His case was brought to the attention of the CWGC by his family and Thomas’s grand-daughter Kay Davidge was present at the installation of the headstone. The CWCG’s Instagram page is a useful source of wartime photographs which may add background detail
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Categories: Family history research.

Family history: Did your ancestor belong to a trade union?

We all remember learning at school about the Tolpuddle Martyrs [below] and their importance at the beginning of the trade union movement in the UK. They are still remembered today. The history of working life can be exciting and the excitement of researching your family tree is not about filling in spaces on a sheet of paper, it is about discovering real people and understanding their lives. If one of your relatives belonged to a trade union you could find out more about their working life, and also the time in which they lived. Searching however can be time-consuming, but rewarding. Here are some UK-based links to get your started:- The Modern Records Centre – held at the University of Warwick is the UK’s biggest repository of trade union records. Records vary from union to union, and year to year, but includes membership records, records of sickness and unemployment benefits, local branch meetings, social events and even some apprenticeship certificates. Trade Union Ancestors – it is estimated that more than 5000 trade unions have existed at some time or another, this website includes an A-Z guide of unions, union histories and biographies of union figures. Working Class Movement Library –
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Categories: Family history research.

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: 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.

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.