Thursday, 23 February 2012

Finding Traces of Your Ancestors Lives in Unexpected Places

We are all familiar with the buzz you get from making contact with a distant cousin who just happens to have a wealth of family photographs that they are happy to share. I know I do, and thanks to some very special people I have come to know over the years (June, Angie, Jim), I have looked into the faces of my great-grandparents, some for the very first time.

This past month or so I have investigated different avenues of research into my family history, largely using archive newspapers ( and local history society transcriptions. These websites have proven to be invaluable resources into the lives of my ancestors, from discovering advertisements to Quarter Sessions reports. This past week alone I have found two ancestors from the same family line (uncle & nephew) in newspaper reports, sixty years apart. In 1882 one of my great-grand uncles, then aged thirteen, was charged with stealing fruit from a garden, and later the following year, he was charged for stealing a purse from a six-year-old boy. Subsequently, he was sent to Buxton Reformatory for five years. This news was equally disturbing and surprising, but in the end I had to concede that I have discovered a truly valuable addition to my family story.

Sixty years on, one of his nephews (my maternal grandfather), was in the newspaper for an entirely different reason. In 1943 he was repatriated home to England from Germany, where he had spent three years in a Prisoner of War Camp after being captured in Dunkirk in June 1940. His return home made local news and he even managed to get his mug shot on the front page!

The first paragraph brought unexpected tears to my eyes

Then there is one of my favourite resources for local history: eBay. That's right, I did say eBay. An unexpected source I grant you, but one that I have come to value almost as much as postcard fairs and emails from distant cousins. A few years ago, whilst conducting a google image search for one of my favourite childhood locations there were several links to the eBay website. At first I ignored them all because I didn't believe it would be relevant to my search. Then I relented, and I haven't looked back since. Not only have I found postcards of my own home town in Suffolk but several of those of my ancestors; a variety of towns, villages, and locations in Norfolk, Suffolk, London, Surrey, and Yorkshire.

I found one faded black & white or sepia toned postcard image of an ancestral town or picnic spot or a street, which turned into another find, and yet another and another. Sometimes I win the bid, sometimes I miss out. It has become my one weakness (thank you Dorcas Lane). One postcard that stands out in my memory from last year was an image of Holt Lodge in Norfolk. This building was not particularly relevant to my ancestry but the seller had also uploaded the back of the postcard which had been written on. It was from my 2 x great-grand uncle (in Norfolk) to his nephew (in Hampstead). I missed out on the item, but I did manage to keep a copy.

The back of a Postcard sent by my 2 x great-grand Uncle to his Nephew
Last week I bid on a postcard from Holt. It was a fairly ordinary image (a pond!), quite faded with the heavy-handed postmark stamp creating a nice little crater on the top left corner. I never expected to have it arrive on my doorstep and find it was written to my first cousin, three times removed. My initial findings had me thinking it was written by my 2 x great-grand uncle - the same one as described above - but further investigations and cross-referencing of the handwriting, proved that it was written by an unknown person. Even so, it was definitely addressed to my cousin who was then living in Richmond, county Surrey. Four years after the postcard was sent, she was married and living in Richmond with her widowed husband and step-daughter.

Postcard sent to my distant Cousin in 1904
The moral of this post is, leave no stone unturned. Investigate every possible avenue, and when you think it couldn't be likely, it really could be likely. If you don't ask, you won't find out. I took the chance on my grandfather's newspaper report. I already had several sources of information into his repatriation and I had found a link to a local newspaper report but until I approached the local Record Office, not only did I gain a personal account of his return from my great-grandmother (who had obviously been interviewed for the story) but I also gained a new photograph, albeit grainy.

My Grandfather in the Local Newspaper

And as far as eBay is concerned: it is game of chance. It is pot-luck. Sometimes I have found some treasures, and sometimes I have missed out. Sometimes I have paid pittance and sometimes I have paid exorbitant amounts. What I have discovered and gained from it all though, is absolutely priceless.

This post is dedicated to my Uncle who is currently recovering from a recent hospital stay following an operation and intensive health issues. Get Well Soon M xxx


Thursday, 9 February 2012

My Genealogy Bucket List

Inspired by Jill Ball at Geniaus I thought I would complete her GeneaMeme Bucket List. It goes something like this:

The Bucket List GeneaMeme
The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you would like to do or find: Bold Type

Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments after each item

So here is my Bucket List:
1. The genealogy conference I would most like to attend is... WDYTYA Live
2. The genealogy speaker I would most like to hear and see is...
3. The geneablogger I would most like to meet in person is... Where do I start? There are many to be honest, most of whom reside in the UK
4. The genealogy writer I would most like to have dinner with is... Nick Barratt
5. The genealogy lecture I would most like to present is... I had an opportunity to do this a few years ago but I bottled out. It was on the watermen of the Thames
6. I would like to go on a genealogy cruise that visits...
7. The photo I would most like to find is... My great-grandfather, Percy Preston
8. The repository in a foreign land I would most like to visit is... LMA and Wellcome Library
9. The place of worship I would most like to visit is... Any in East Anglia
10. The cemetery I would most like to visit is... Horbury, Yorkshire & Holt, Norfolk

My favourite place in all the world
11. The ancestral town or village I would most like to visit is... There are too many to list here. I would love to see Horbury & Fakenham and also re-visit several towns around the UK
12. The brick wall I most want to smash is... Richard Humphries (see my post) and also trace further back than John Waters.
13. The piece of software I most want to buy is...
14. The tech toy I want to purchase next is...
15. The expensive book I would like to purchase is...
16. The library I would most like to visit is... British Library
17. The genealogy related book I would most like to write is... I have several individual Family History projects in the works but I would love to write House Histories
18. The genealogy blog I would most like to start would be about...
19. The journal article I would most like to write would be about... Richard Humphries
20. The ancestor I most want to meet in the afterlife would be... That Richard chap!!
Also I would love to meet Elizabeth Humphries, Eva Bowes, Sidney Preston & Joseph Powell.

Two 'Jolly' Ladies