Category Archives: Researching your family history

Commonwealth War #Graves Commission #familyhistory

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was 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. Anyone searching for their extended birth family may find themselves visiting this impressive database.

War cemetery

War cemetery [photo: cwgc.org]

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.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Driver Thomas Dawson [photo: cwgc.org]

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 to your research.

This post is inspired by an article in the January 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Check your local records 
Films bring history to life 
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion 

Identity Detective series
World War Two is the research focus for my next novel, Sweet Joy. Third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, which starts with Ignoring Gravity, Sweet Joy tells the story of a wartime love affair.
BUY
Watch the book trailer for the ‘Identity Detective’ series.

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War graves: where to look #WW1 #WW2 #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4k via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Films bring history to life #researching your #family #history

Film archives are a great boon for family history researchers, as they shine a lens onto life as it was lived in a dusty daily glory. There are many gems, from the Mitchell & Kenyon archive at the British Film Institute with hundreds of short films made in Edwardian England, to the Imperial War Museum’s film archive of war-related footage [below].

The best place to start is with the ‘Britain on Film’ project [above] at the BFI National Archive which is easy to search by region, date and subject. From here you can expand to regional film archives of which there are many including the Yorkshire Film Archive, the East Anglian Film Archive and the North West Film Archive.

For images of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, try the Irish Film Institute which includes documentaries, news reels and Irish culture; the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive with 1900 clips about Scotland; films at Northern Ireland Screen include rural life, true stories, and footage lost and found; and National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales has many films about mining.

To add colour to your understanding of your ancestor’s life, watch newsreels dating from 1910 to the 1970s at British Pathé Newsreels. The film collection at the British Council comprises 120 short films dating from the 1940s which focus on aspects of British life including work, entertainment, culture and sport.

Finally, search your loft and ask your relatives if there are any old home movies which have been forgotten. Home movies date back to the 1920s. Also, many regional film archives hold home movie collections so try searching for the name of a local Cine Club [which started in the 1930s] or a local event such as a fair or festival.

This post is inspired by an article by Amanda Randall in the April 2017 issue of Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion
Where to start your #adoptionreunion search
Check your local records 

Identity Detective seriesRose Haldane, the identity detective in Ignoring Gravity, was born in 1968 so The Sixties was a key period for my research. Most useful were the newsreels and documentaries at British Pathé Newsreels where you can search by subject and use the nifty adjustable dateline to focus on the year you need.
BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Films bring history to life #researching your #family #history https://wp.me/paZ3MX-48 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Check your local records #FamilyHistory #searching

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 be a good resource.

Education records include school registers, available online and in local archives, with a wealth of information from running costs of a school, examples of exams and exam results. Various school lists and yearbooks are available to search online at Ancestry and Find My Past.

Most local archives hold collections of rate books – rates were a local tax calculated on the value of the property, and pre-date the UK’s current council tax. Here you can find names, addresses, property descriptions, and amount to be paid. Some collections are now online at Find My Past.

If you are researching a relative in the Second World War, try the local civil defence records at your local archive or family history centre. If you can’t find the record you are looking for, check for changes to county boundaries and search is neighbouring areas. It’s also worth checking The National Archives via the Discovery catalogue. Civil defence records are not just about wartime ARP wardens but also include pre-war planning, evacuation procedures, recruitment, training and premises. Records go back to 1100.

More and more cemetery registers are going online as local UK councils work with Deceased Online and Find My Past.

Photographs of gravestones from some municipal sites are online at Billion Graves and Find a Grave.

This post is inspired by an article in the February 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine

If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:-
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion
20 top tips to find your missing family
Searching British newspaper archives 

ARP wardens

ARP wardens in Shropshire [photo: IWM.org.uk]

In the process of researching for Sweet Joy, third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, I have been looking at Twickenham where part of the story is set. A critical part of the action happens during a bombing raid on the town in November 1940 so I tracked down reports by ARP wardens [above] via the Discovery Catalogue at The National Archives, Kew.
Sandra Danby
Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it.
First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Check your local records #familyhistory #searching https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3Y via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Preserving #family #memories

Do you like the idea of your life being written up so it can be passed on to your family, but you’re worried you haven’t done enough exciting things or are not good with computers? If you would like to compile a record of family stories and memories, there is now a choice of digital and analogue solutions to suit everyone. Which ever method you choose, the first thing to do is talk to your relatives.

Frederique Hull, director of digital memory solution Family Quilt, says it is not unusual for people, especially older ones, to be shy and unassuming about their lives. “What can they possibly talk about that is worth telling? For the family whom they are sharing with it is completely different, pretty much everything is interesting. It does not take long before they realise how little they really know about their parents/relatives and so they love hearing the stories of daily lives, of hardships and joyful events. They are not looking for momentous achievements!” To help the process, Family Quilt has collected over 150 questions covering themes from growing up to working life and wisdom. “In those questions, there is a starting point for everybody. Browse them and see where they take you. Getting going is the hardest. Once started, stories will come back flowing.”

Jim Martin, director of memory video producer Loftbox, agrees. “Being comfortable and relaxed is key and that’s why we visit people in their own home. I am a very good listener with great empathy which, combined with my 25 years experience in conducting interviews and as a qualified oral historian, means I can talk about a wide range of topics designed to relax people and to stimulate conversation.”

Yvette Lowery of memoir publisher Personal Memento feels that with the advent of email, text and social media, the soul has gone out of our communication. “I find little things like receiving a hand-written letter or card through the post really heart-warming as it tends to be something that we just don’t do any more.  It is quicker and easier to fire off an email, but this can lack that personal touch. We store photographs on our computers and smartphones, but what if the computer or phone crashes and these images become obsolete? There has been an increased interest in personal history over these last few years, and I feel that many people still like to have something solid in front of them, be it a photo album or a book, rather than looking at images on a screen.”

Preserving family memories

Personal Memento – Tadeusz in his army uniform

Memory books are a craft-based way of taking a standard album, adding your mementoes and photos, choosing scrapbooking papers and embellishments to create a very personalised record of your family member. Eve Parris of Uniform Memories advises her clients on the compilation of a themed album that could become a treasured family album. “We live in a digital age where everything is supposedly available at the click of a button – except that it isn’t. Instead of the hundreds of photographs that you never look at on your computer, scrapbooking provides a personal and tangible reminder of that special someone or occasion. Something that you have spent time on, that is as individual as you are and that can evoke memories at the mere turn of a page.”

Preserving family memories

Compiling your Family Quilt record

Family Quilt’s Frederique Hull says it comes down to personal choice. “The ‘old fashioned’ books and the digital solutions may suit different people (especially if some older persons are less confident with computers) but in my mind, importantly, they are complementary. Digital solutions give you a lot of flexibility – you can choose how you record your stories (write, voice or video record), you can keep adding over time, you can easily save draft stories. They also make sharing easy – across different locations and in real time. But holding a book in your hand of your life story or of your family history remains really special. The browsing of the book creates great emotions. The physical book is also the visible legacy of a life well spent, of a family across generations.”

Preserving family memories

Interviewee at home with Jim from Loftbox

Loftbox’s Jim Martin says families are merging keepsakes with digital records. “An ageing population is part of the answer, but also we are seeing the suitcase in the attic generation digitizing their old analogue content in order to merge it with their new digital content.” Loftbox captures film of loved ones telling their memories so future generations can experience a relative’s, personality, smile, laughter and tears.

It is common to view your own life as mundane, but when family stories are shared with relatives you may be surprised at how vibrant your life really is. Just think of the laughter and tears at family reunions when old photographs are share. Yvette Lowery of Personal Memento says it is important to remember that, “future members of your family, many of whom will not be in existence for many years to come, will learn about what your life was like, the person you are and what really matters to you. Important pieces of a family’s history are found only in the memories of the living relatives and creating a book for yourself is a great way to ensure your memories are recorded accurately and gives you the opportunity to share with people the memories that you have never had time to discuss. This is an exciting process and the completed book will be cherished by your loved ones and yourself, as well as future generations.”

Personal Memento

Preserving family memories

Yvonne’s story, by Personal Memento

This professional memoir writing service is a family business that enables someone to create their own unique biography making a permanent legacy for family and loved ones. Director Yvette Lowery says, “Your life events and memories are what make you the unique person that you are, and we help you create a solid, permanent record of your life for the enjoyment of both yourself and your loved ones. Future generations will discover much more about you and how life has changed over the years in a personal, interesting way, rather than through a history book.”

Interviews are always conducted by Yvette Lowery, either face to face or by Zoom/Skype or over the telephone. The client decides how he/she would like her book to be created and which photographs they would like included.  Documents such as army credentials, marriage certificates and other documentation which is important to the client can be included within their book. “We work with the client to produce the front and back cover and offer various suggestions to enable the client to make an informed decision.”

The client’s life and memories are discussed during weekly, fortnightly or monthly interviews; these are recorded, written and edited, to create their unique, individual book. Each book takes between eight to ten interviews, but Personal Memento is flexible and can adapt to suit the client. “The client can regularly review their story to ensure that they are happy every step of the way and prior to publication of their completed book they will receive the printer’s proof copy for approval.The relationship between the client and myself is important and there needs to be trust, respect and sincerity.

“I understand and respect that some discussions may be of a confidential nature and not to be recorded or written in any form. If clients choose to conduct interviews through other mediums rather than face to face, we can arrange for photographs and documents to be securely mailed to us. We would like to be able to work with any client who wishes to use our services, with no geographical or other barriers which may prevent this.”
Personal Memento website
Follow on Twitter

Uniform Memories

Preserving family memories

Adding badges and certificates, from Uniform Memories

From complete beginners who are looking for that unique way of capturing memories, or seasoned scrapbookers who wish to advance their craft, Uniform Memories can provide an individual service, with advice and ideas to allow them to complete that special project. Classes and courses are available to guide customers on the basics allowing them to build a unique and truly personal memory that can evolve and grow as they wish. Director Eve Parris says, “although the business was started to provide and sell scrapbook materials on a military theme, it is this personal service that makes us stand apart from out competitors.”
Uniform Memories at Facebook

Family Quilt

Preserving family memories

Recording your memories at Family Quilt

Family Quilt is a fresh and easy way to digitally capture your life stories. In your private online space, capture the memories that make you and your family unique. Voice record or write your memories, add photos and files and easily share them with your chosen family members. A digital collection of memories is easy to share with family members in different locations. The collection is easy to build over long periods of time – there is no end to collecting. The stories can be voice recorded or written up giving choice and variety to the storyteller. The memories are easy to browse as they can be viewed in different ways (date they happened, date of input, topics). You can always print a book of your memories if you wanted to.

Sharing family stories is a very personal journey. Not all the stories are happy, not all the stories make us proud. And yet when sharing, candidness is critical to preserve the person’s or the family’s legacy. Privacy, and controlling who sees your stories is a key element to help a story teller feel safe in his/her openness. Family Quilt was built to be completely private and we have 2 in-built features to provide this safety:  the storyteller chooses who they want to share their Quilt with. From their account tab, they invite the family members they want to share with – if any, and they can remove them at any time.  We, at Family Quilt, do not have access to the stories written by the members. The storyteller can also decide when a story is shared with their family members by choosing to publish it to their Quilt. A story can be saved as a draft for as long as one is not happy to share it.

Cost: one-off £24 purchase. This gives you a lifetime access to the system, unlimited stories, unlimited photos and unlimited family members to share with. We have kept the price affordable to encourage as many families as possible to collect, share and enjoy their memories.

Family Quilt website
Family Quilt at Facebook

Loftbox

Preserving family memories

Loftbox videos provided in any format

A Loftbox interview can be arranged and implemented quickly. Some of the most candid and entertaining interviews Jim Martin has done have been those with the least planning and advance preparation. “Everyone has stories to tell and whilst these might not appeal to a national TV audience, your family and friends will love to hear them. Stories from your childhood are always great to hear along with insights into what you got up to as a teenager, your first crush/kiss and falling in love, your achievements and the lessons you have learned on the way are all great stories to hear told in your own unique way.”

Typical interviews are conducted over a two hour session, with the edit taking five to seven days to complete and send for approval or feedback. Loftbox can incorporate treasured photographs into a personal film, explains Jim Martin. “In my experience, people have spent a lot of money converting thousands of photographs and hundreds of 35mm slides and cine films into digital format, and still haven’t done anything meaningful with them since. Our main focus is on capturing your stories on film, after which we will identifying very specific photographs and video clips that will be used to enhance the interview material.”

Once the project is completed the invoice is paid, the the rights of that video are passed to the customer. Loftbox deletes the master files in accordance with GDPR.

Cost: £499 which includes the pre-filming conversation to assess priorities, travel to the client’s home, set up of video/sound/lighting, two hour interview, video editing, one set of client amendments and exporting the film onto a dedicated USB card. A secondary edit – to add in photographs and other media to support the stories and memories being shared – is charged separately.

Watch this video to see how Loftbox works.
Loftbox website
Loftbox at Facebook

Don’t leave it too late. This moving film by Loftbox encourages us all to share our memories now. Anyone that has lost someone close, or is faced with losing a loved one who is terminally ill will know that feeling of wanting to turn the clocks back to talk more about their early lives and to record those magical memories to treasure in the future.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
The paternity question
Researching European records
20 top tips to find your missing family 

Preserving family memories

 

Ignoring Gravity is first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of novels. Two pairs of sisters, separated by a generation of secrets. Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it.
Read an extract of Ignoring Gravity for FREE

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Preserving #family #memories https://wp.me/paZ3MX-9K via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion #adoptionreunion #searching

We all remember learning at school about the Tolpuddle Martyrs and their importance at the beginning of the trade union movement in the UK. They are still remembered today. Current online databases of union records include a wealth of information useful for anyone searching for a relative with a trade who may belong, or have belonged, to a union.

family history

[photo: alva2634.blogspot.com]

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 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 – as well as trade union histories and records grouped by occupation, this website has a fund of information about working lives such as Object of the Month and personality profiles. The international section includes India and Ireland.

family history

[photo: tuc.org.uk]

London Metropolitan University – this website tells the story of the TUC, the Trades Union Congress, with sections on the General Strike, Match Workers plus three sister websites – Workers’ War, Winning Equal Pay, and the oral history Britain at Work 1945-1995.

For more about the Tolpuddle Martyrs and that pivotal time in the history of the trade union movement, click here.

Trade union membership registers – you can search the three million trade union membership registers at Find My Past. Includes admission books, annual reports and membership lists.

Bishopsgate Institute Library – holds a variety of records, some digitised, including the General Federation of Trade Unions. Includes minutes, annual reports, proceedings, financial reports and copies of the Federation News journal.

This post is inspired by an article in the December 2016 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
The #paternity question
Further information #AdoptionReunion #HelpfulLinks
Where to start your #adoptionreunion search 

family history

Throughout the ‘Identity Detective’ series of novels of adoption mysteries, journalist Rose researches the history of her birth mother and subsequently attempts to trace lost relatives for clients.
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And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion #adoptionreunion #searching https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3D via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

The #paternity question #researching #adoptionreunion

People have been having affairs – and illegitimate children – since the world began. For me, this means hundreds of story ideas for the ‘Identity Detective’ series. For family history researchers, it 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.

[photo: @SandraDanby]

How do you spot a problem? Look out for:-

Family rumours. Is it spiteful gossip, or is the rumour confirmed from different sources?

Timing. 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 sibling not particularly close to his or her father? And is there evidence of another man being involved in the child’s upbringing; this may be unconscious interest, evident only through the observation of relatives.

If someone on your family tree has a number of these inconsistencies, there may be a case of ‘paternity fraud’. Always approach your research with care and sensitivity for the feelings of relatives.

[photo: @SandraDanby]

This post was inspired by Ed Dutton’s article ‘Who’s the daddy?’ in the May 2016 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Read more about Ed Dutton here.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Searching British newspaper archives
Researching European records
Where to start your #adoptionreunion search 

Sandra Danby

 

Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it.
First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series.
BUY

Watch the book trailer for the ‘Identity Detective’ series.

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The #paternity question #adoptionreunion https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3m via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Researching European records #familyhistory #adoption

If your adoption search takes you to Europe, the prospect of researching abroad may be 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.

[photo: geology.com]

At Family Searchthe 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 Was Wie archives.

If you are searching for French relatives, visit Geneanet, also available in English. As well as French archives it also has records for other European countries. A quick search revealed grave records from Londerzeel in Belgium; coats of arms searchable by place, name and guild; gravestone inscriptions from Watford, UK; and newspapers from the USA, New Zealand, Algeria and Spain. So far 1,440,447 graves are included in the database and visitors to Geneanet are invited to contribute their own images of gravesones.

For information about Germany, search Compgen. There is a bewildering amount of information here on a rather old-fashioned looking website which requires you to read German. The forum, however, is in English and when I looked included questions on the origin and meaning of the name Heisinger; the Reichsrevolver Model 1883 with a Prussian eagle stamp on the barrel; how to search for living people; and a request for information about a Prussian family, Johann and Charlotte Mordas.

If your foreign ancestor arrived in the UK and settled here, start first with the reader guides at the National Archives. Free guides includealiens’ registration cards, immigration, naturalisation, British citizenship, refugees, foreign affairs and foreign countries. If your research is historical there is even advice on finding records of French lands owned by the English Crown between the 11thand 16thcentury. For further French records, start with the Archives Nationales.

[photo: archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr]

The Danish Demographic Database, in English, allows access to Danish records including census since 1787, probate index, Copenhagen Police Emigration Protocols for 1869-1908 with 217,000 Danish emigrants leaving for abroad. Many additional archives are available only in Danish.

Europeana is a fantastic resource of life and culture in Europe including books, documents, newspapers, art, videos and oral histories from European collections. The photography section features 2.25 million images and now includes 2205 items from the National Library of Spain. As well as this ballet dancer [below] in the art section, there is a considerable archive of World War One images. Europeana allows searching by colour, sources, topics, people and time periods.

[photo: europeana.eu]

If you run up against language issues, remember to try Google Translate. It will translate a word, phrase or passage of text and, if you come across a website without an English language option, simply enter the full web address in the left hand box on Google Translate and click the blue ‘translate’ button.

If you’re searching for relatives and want to search online safely try the Lost Cousins website, which matches you with other people researching the same ancestors. It’s worth signing up for the Lost Cousins newsletter too.

This post is inspired by an article in the May 2018 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
20 top tips to find your missing family
Further information & #HelpfulLinks
Where to start your #adoptionreunion search 

Don’t know where to start investigating your own family history? Try this:-
‘Who Do You Think You Are? The Genealogy Handbook’ by Dan Waddell BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Researching European records #familyhistory #adoption https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3e via #AdoptionStoriesBlog