Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where did I get that? - Keeping records of searches.

In the early days of my search for my ancestors, I heard or read, more than once, how important it was to keep track of my sources, to write down where I found information.

As a beginner I thought it didn’t matter too much. After all, it was only for me, it wasn’t as if anyone else would be looking at it, and I would be all done in about a year, so what was the point?

Well, I was wrong. On many counts.

I did make some notes. Notes that I thought would be adequate for me to know where I got information from. Some were in a notebook, which I quickly realized was not going to work, as I needed to file the information in the ring binders that I had for each main line. I changed to loose sheets of A4 paper, noting all the names I found in a particular session on the same sheet. Which I also eventually realized was not working too well, as I then had to copy out that information to have it filed with the correct person. So then I learnt to have only one surname per page, and that worked much better.

I was also a bit casual about how I recorded the information for the source, or the sort of search I did; I just wanted to hurry on to hunting down the next ancestor, or the next bit of information. I really thought I would remember from my sometimes brief notes – I had no idea how much information I would accumulate; it turned out to be much more than my poor brain can handle.

I did not have any idea of how consumed I would be about my new interest, and how far and for how long I would want to pursue it (probably for the rest of my life). Almost four years on, and there are a number of times that I have not been able to work out from my notes just who and what I searched, and have had to go back and re-do some of the work.

So, write it down, and write it down clearly. I realize now that there is no place for short cuts. It is better to take the extra time to be thorough, than to go back to an ancestor or a family months later and not be able to work out what I did, and what I didn’t do. Re-doing work is no short cut.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What did that really say? Revisiting a transcription

In my time doing my family tree, I have had a number of documents that I have transcribed. Amongst them were copies of two letters written by my mum’s cousin to my cousin some years ago. I had taken care and tried to transcribe them just as they were.

Recently my mum was wondering about her cousins, who she had not had a lot of contact with, and whether they had any children.

I looked again at my transcription to see if there were any clues, and not only were there clues, my mum’s cousin had named her children and also those of her brother. I had typed a question mark next to the name of her brother’s wife. Wondering why I had done that, I revisited my copy of the original letter.

I had put a question mark because I couldn’t quite make out the name. Then I noticed that there were some numbers in brackets next to each of the children’s names that were not on the transcription at all. What were they? Only the ages of the children at the time the letter was written! When I did the transcription I had completely overlooked these numbers; I was looking for specific information, and was so focused on looking for anything about earlier generations that I skipped straight past those numbers.

That’s why it is a good idea to go back once in a while and revisit the information and documents we have gathered. Seen from a fresh perspective, we may pick up on details that did not seem significant at the time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday Summary, 20 Nov 2011

These are my recent genealogy related activities


I used Find A Grave’s cemetery search to find cemeteries in Newcastle upon Tyne, and then browsed through the names. I had used Find A Grave a long time ago, but had never tried the cemetery search – I got the idea from watching the Legacy Webinar Watch Geoff live: Cemeteries. I noticed that many were military people. They had been uploaded by the International Wargraves Photography Project (although there were no images for the people I looked at on Find A Grave).

Found two Gilroy names, John Soulsby GILROY and John Robertson GILROY. I recognized both middle names, checked my database, and sure enough they were mine. John Robertson was the brother of my great grandmother Elizabeth Robertson CROSBY (nee GILROY), and the other was the son of her cousin, also named John Soulsby GILROY.

Next stop was the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. I was aware of this site but had never used it, as I wasn’t sure I had ancestors who died in war. Both my grandfathers served in WWI, and both survived it. I was able to find both of these Gilroys there, as well as William GILROY, another of my Great Grandmother’s brothers.

Finally on to Ancestry taking advantage of the free access to WWI records. I did not find the service record for John Robertson GILROY, but did find one for John Soulsby GILROY, cousin of my great grandmother.

In remembrance of my Grandad Harold Harrison Berry who served in and survived WWI, I completed the transcription of his WWI service record that I started a while back. Reading every line as I transcribed, I was able to make much more sense of it. The next step will be to get a better understanding of what was going on in the places he served.

Through the military board at Rootschat, I found a link to the Long trail website, which has a great deal of information on lots of aspects of the First World War and the soldiers who fought.


I watched 3 of the webinars at Legacy Family Tree.

Watch Geoff live: Cemeteries, by Geoff Rasmussen. It was his examples using Find a Grave of searching for a cemetery that led me to the discoveries of Gilroy ancestors.

Cracking the Case of Nathan Brown’s Parents, by Marian Pierre-Louis.

Marian demonstrated how she tracked down the parents of Nathan Brown using indirect evidence. I thought this was excellent, presented clearly and very interesting to follow. It felt like a detective on a case.

She followed up, beginning with this post at her blog Marian’s Roots and Rambles.

It Is Well With My Soul: Finding Ancestors Amid the Rubble of Disaster and Misfortune, by Thomas MacEntee. Thomas looked at the sort of records that are available for searching for people who were involved in disasters of various sorts.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tips for census searching

I recently listened to a podcast from The National Archives, Solving Census Problems by David Annal, which was worth a listen.

It contains useful tips about census searching including

  • Spelling variants
  • Use of wildcards
  • Searching using the more unusual names in the family to produce more relevant results
  • Searching for children as their ages may be more exact than adults

Happy searching.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Summary, 6 Nov 2011

Recent genealogy related activities:

I am reviewing my research beginning with my grandparents and working backwards, in preparation for beginning to write the stories of my ancestors. I had the wedding certificates for both couples, but only one birth certificate, so I sent for and received the other three. I have yet to transcribe them and enter them into my database.

I had some notes that I made when visiting my Mum and Dad a while back, they are now mostly transcribed.

Watched the Legacy Webinar The three Cs of Irish Research:
Civil Registration, Church Records, and Census. I haven’t done any Irish research yet, and I found this a good overview and I will use the information when I am ready to start with Irish research.

I listened to two podcasts on blogging from Lisa Louise Cooke. They were from her series Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, episodes 40 and 42. They contain some useful information on setting up a blog, and adding gadgets. Some of them I have done, and some I have yet to try.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Census searching - when less was more

The first searches I did when starting out were on the 1901 census for England and Wales, for my grandparents.

I had followed the advice given to all beginners, to talk to living relatives. I had asked my Mum about my grandparents, what their full names were, and exactly when and where they were born, so I felt well-prepared. I was excited and a little nervous. Would they be there? What would I find out?

I filled in the search boxes for the 1901 England and Wales census for Harold Harrison Berry, born 1896 exactly and living in Sadberge in County Durham. I hit the button, waited, and ... Nothing, he wasn't there. I was so disappointed.

Never mind, I had the details for my other Grandad. In go the details again, William Murray Crosby, born 1895 exactly, in Newcastle upon Tyne. Again, nothing, and more disappointment.

After a few permutations, I found Harold Berry when I put in only his first name, surname, year of birth, and put place of birth as Sadberge, leaving out the county. (Sadberge is in the county of Durham, but on the 1901 census the place of residence it was shown to be Sadberge, Yorkshire (North Riding), and that was why I was unable to find him when I added a residence showing Durham as the county. On every other census record that I have found since then, Sadberge is shown as being in Durham; not sure why it is different for 1901.)

For William Crosby, I had to put only his first name and surname. I also had to add +/- 1 year for year of birth (he was born in June of 1895, so his birth year for census showed as 1896 in the transcription), and for place of birth and residence, fill in only the County box as Northumberland. This gave a number of results, and I was able to identify the correct entry when I found a family that included the names of his sisters (that my Mum had given me).

It took a bit of juggling around to get the combination of information to produce the result, and in the end, success came by stripping down the information to some bare essentials. This was my first indication that this family tree stuff was not always as straightforward as expected.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

SNGF The Ancestors' Geneameme

Thanks go to Geniaus for this Geneameme.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents (Thomas Berry, Mary Ann Sedgwick, John Harrison, Sarah Jane Henderson, Jane Gregg, John Hall, Elizabeth Walker, William Murray Crosby, Janet Cameron Picken, William Gilroy, Eleanor Robertson, William Clark, Ann Raper, Joseph Wilkinson, Sarah Marshall. That is 15; the 16th is not named on either the birth certificate, or marriage certificate, so is probably never going to be known.)
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents (Have only two, but who knows, maybe someday I'll find more)
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist
  6. Met all four of my grandparents (They were all alive until I was in my twenties)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents (Four of them were alive when I was born. If I met them it was when I was a baby)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor (My daughter's middle name is one that was used over the generations in my mum's family, and my son's name goes back four generations on my dad's side)
  9. Bear an ancestor's given name/s (I have my mum's name and her grandma's name)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (All of them)
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12. Have an ancestor from Continental Europe
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer (Many)
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings (No, only farmers of a few acres)
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man - minister, priest, rabbi
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z
  23. Have an ancestor born on 25th December
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year's Day
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (All born England)
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (Again, England)
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century (On a number of lines)
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university (I think mine is the first generation to go to uni)
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime
  35. Have shared an ancestor's story online or in a magazine (Tell us where)
  36. Have published a family history online or in print (Details please)
  37. Have visited an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries
  38. Still have an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family
  39. Have a family bible from the 19th Century
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible

Monday, October 10, 2011

SNGF Your Genealogy Database statistics

The latest Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver is to use our Genealogy Management Program (GMP) to find out how many people, places, sources, etc. are in our databases.

I use RootsMagic 4, and it shows these statistics for my family.

And these for my husband's family.

This is my achievement from nearly four years of research. It doesn’t seem very much compared to others who have participated in the challenge. (I could probably spend less time reading genealogy blogs and more time doing research).

Still, it is an exercise I have not done before, and it will be interesting to come back and compare in the coming months.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

These I knew, Grandparents: Berry, Gregg, Crosby and Clark

I was born and mostly raised (apart from a spell living in Western Australia) in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the north-east of England, and always thought of myself as a "Geordie" and proud of it. It was a bit of a surprise to find that neither of my parents were born there, they each moved there in their childhood, and of my four grandparents, only one was from Newcastle, although they all spent a lot of their lives there and they all died there.

I knew all four of my grandparents; they were all alive until I was into my twenties.

So who were they? Let me introduce them.

Grandad Berry was Harold Harrison Berry, born 2 January 1896 in Sadberge, County Durham and died 5 August 1975 age 79.

Grandma Berry was Jane Elizabeth Gregg, called Jennie, born 17 August 1901 in East Layton, Yorkshire North Riding and died 3 February 1982 age 80.

Grandad Crosby was William Murray Crosby, and the one from Newcastle upon Tyne. He was born there on 25 June 1895, and died 27 May 1977 age 81.

Grandma Crosby was Lily Clark, born 25 February 1901 in Seaton, Yorkshire East Riding and died 1 June 1977 age 76.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The adventure begins

I began the search for my family history in January 2008.

I had asked my first questions 15 years before that.

At that time I didn't even know exactly where my parents were born, and I knew very little about my grandparents and their parents. With my parents now in their sixties, I thought I better find out a bit more. My Mum was able to tell me names, dates and places of birth for her parents and for my Dad’s parents, who had all died by this time, and for their children, too. I left it at that.

I always thought I would one day find out more; what type of people did I come from? Were we were always workers, labourers?

The opportunity to start looking came when the first Australian series of Who Do You Think You Are aired and Ancestry had a four week free trial. I signed up, and I was hooked – once I clicked on that search button there was no going back.