Tag Archives: genealogy

Using maps #familyhistory #genealogy

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.

1925 Carr Naze and Filey Brigg

1925 Carr Naze and Filey Brigg [photo: britainfromabove.org.uk]

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, here [top and 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. The town is completely recognizable, compared with Filey today.

1932 Crescent Hill and Foreshore Road, Filey

1932 Crescent Hill and Foreshore Road, Filey [photo britainfromabove.org.uk]

If you are searching historical records, the British History Online website is a good place to start. There you will find an enormous amount of information available for Britain and Ireland between 1300 and 1800.

If your research takes you beyond the UK, Old Maps Online is a portal to historical maps in libraries around the world. Curious, I searched for Ronda in Andalucía, where we used to live. The nearest map I could find which referenced Ronda was this 1943 map [below], sourced from the British War Office.

Ronda, Spain

British War Office GSGC of Ronda area

The more you study the maps and read the local history of the area of the people you are researching, the more you will understand them. As part of my research for Ignoring Gravity, I got to know the area around Southfields and Wimbledon, London, particularly well. Rose Haldane, my heroine, was born in 1968, but her flat is clearly visible on this photograph [below] from Britain From Above’s archives in 1952. Perhaps her birth mother or father lived in the same area in the 1950s?

1952 Wimbledon Park

1952 Wimbledon Park from the south-west [photo: britainfromabove.org.uk]

This post was inspired by the article ‘Mapping Your Family’ in the February 2015 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Finding your nonconformist relative
Genetic map ‘People of the British Isles’
Identifying headstones 

Sandra Danby

★★★★★ “I devoured the book in one go, unable to put it down despite the tirade of emotions it brought to the surface”

Start the ‘Identity Detective’ series of #adoptionreunion mysteries with Ignoring Gravity. When you don’t know who you are any more, it’s time to ask questions. Will Rose Haldane like the answers she hears or wish she’d never asked? #secrets #mystery #family #KU BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Use maps to locate your family in city or countryside #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-7i via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Brian Moore #adoptionstories

In his 2010 autobiography Beware of the Dog, England rugby player Brian Moore – who was adopted as a baby – wrote about his Malaysian birth father. But when he attended his birth mother’s funeral in 2020, he met birth relatives and discovered his birth father was actually Chinese.

Brian Moore

Brian Moore [photo: Getty Images, Daily Mail Online]

“Went to my birth mother’s funeral yesterday,” he posted on Twitter. “Strange feeling meeting my brother and sister and a whole set of blood relatives I never knew about. Turns out I’m half Chinese, not Malaysian, and my birth grandfather was a steelworker in Rotherham.” When he was an adult Moore had traced his birth mother, Rina Kirk, who told him his birth father was Malaysian.

Moore, who won 64 international caps playing rugby for England, now works as a solicitor. He was born in Birmingham in 1962 and was adopted by Ralph and Dorothy Moore when he was seven months old.

Brian Moore, middle, in a game at Twickenham in 1991 [photo: Getty Images, Daily Mail Online]

Ralph and Dorothy had two children of their own and an adopted Chinese daughter; they lived on a council estate in Illingworth near Halifax in West Yorkshire.  The Moores taught Brian about the country they believed he was from –  Malaysia. “I remember having a book about rubber plantations in Malaysia, and I pictured jungle tigers stalking the land.” In his book he added, “I never hide the fact that I am half Malaysian, nor have I ever felt ashamed of it, but nor do I think it very relevant to who I am.”

Brian MooreBUY THE BOOK

If you like this true story, read:-
Whitney Casey 
Sheila Mercier
Emmeline Pankhurst

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Brian Moore https://wp.me/paZ3MX-dl via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Tom Pickard #adoptionstories #true

Tom Pickard is an English poet who writes with lyrical beauty and erotic edge about his life in the North Pennines. In Fiends Fell, his 2017 book combining journal entries with poetry about a single year living on a bare hilltop in the border country between England and Scotland, Pickard writes about his childhood and the mystery of this birth.

Tom Pickard

[photo: Charles Smith]

Adopted by his great-aunt Katie at the age of nine months, Tom acquired the surname Pickard. He was christened as McKenna, Katie’s maiden name. In Fiends Fell, Pickard doesn’t dwell on his beginnings, but he does explore the gaps in his knowledge, understanding and memories. As a poet he is fascinated by language and, trying to recall a word in the local dialect, he says, ‘There is no memory of its currency in my childhood, which is the first place you’d want to look for a word you knew but had forgotten you knew and which had spontaneously recurred to mind.’ Later, attending the funeral of someone he had known since childhood, Pickard says, ‘His widow Pauline… was someone who knew the history of my – to me – mysterious origins… All I knew was that I knew nothing outside of being illegitimate and that I had a ‘brother’ with the same name.’ Could it be this brother who would unlock the mystery of Tom’s birth?

This is a book about life on the edge, of isolation, of poverty, of love of nature. It is not a book about adoption, rather it is an adopted man’s love of the life around him, his struggle to get by. Read it for the poetry and the descriptions of birds. Beautiful.

Tom PickardBUY THE BOOK

If you like this true story, read:-
Ray Victor Lewis 
Esther Robertson 
Laurence Peat

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Tom Pickard https://wp.me/paZ3MX-cM via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Identity #Mystery ‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan @A_B_Morgan

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan is a novel about identity, about identical twin sisters. Do you recognise what is fake and what is true? One sister is prettier and cleverer than the other, and she is unkind to her twin who seems downtrodden, bullied, teased and not so bright. Then a childhood prank goes wrong which affects the two girls for the rest of their lives. Helen and Ellie play a cruel trick on a neighbour, they swap clothes and re-do their hairstyles appropriately (Helen wears a plait, Ellie is in bunches) and act like the other one does – Helen assertive, Ellie cowering. It is Helen’s idea, but when it is time to swap back Ellie refuses. Beside Myself is thoughtful, at times creepy and disturbing.

Ann MorganThe story is told from Ellie’s point of view, that is Ellie who used to be Helen.
Hellie – Ellie who became Helen – is now a TV presenter.
Helen – who is now Smudge/Ellie – is struggling with mental health problems.
Confused, I was a little.

After the switch, both girls seem to be accepted without question by friends and family, despite their obvious personality differences. Their mother has met a new man and is not taking much notice of what her daughters do. Even so, the mother’s blindness is a little hard to believe. There is a soggy section in the middle of the book with stream-of-consciousness rambles which I could have done without. I also admit at times to pausing and double-checking which girl I was reading about.

Without giving away the conclusion, it is pertinent to say there is a dramatic turning point which makes the girls revisit their childhood, the swap, and other family memories; and so as adults they make sense of who they are today. Many things are explained and, though I didn’t find either girl particularly likeable, they are much more alike than either appreciate.

This is a psychological portrait of sisters, identity and mental illness, rather than a thriller so don’t expect dramatic action.
BUY

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A novel about #identity, about identical twin sisters BESIDE MYSELF by @A_B_Morgan https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5m via #AdoptionStoriesBlog #mystery

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Bloodline’ by @FionaMountain

This is a combination of genealogical mystery, murder investigation and historical examination of the Nazis. Bloodline by Fiona Mountain, the second Natasha Blake mystery, covers a lot of ground from its seemingly innocuous starting point when Natasha hands in her report to a client. But nothing is mentioned lightly in this book, everything has a meaning. Natasha is not sure why Charles Seagrove requested this particular family tree, but knows he is unrelated to any of the people featured. Fiona Mountain

The real reason for Seagrove’s interest in genealogy is at the heart of this storyline. There are many dead ends and I admit to losing track of who was who at one point but Mountain ties all the loose endings together so there is clarity at the end. At first, Natasha is simply conducting another genealogical research but everything changes when she receives an anonymous note, ‘Cinderella is in the bluebell woods at Poacher’s Dell’. Once her client is murdered with his own shotgun, Natasha feels threatened as well as puzzled.

There are many storylines to be connected including Charles Seagrove’s grand-daughter Rosa and her father Richard, Second World War land girls, and two soldiers – one German, one English – who meet in the trenches during the Christmas truce of 1914. This is a lot to handle but Mountain manages the complicated history with ease and I enjoyed trying to work out the solution.
BUY THE BOOK
Read my review of Pale as the Dead, the first Natasha Blake book.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BLOODLINE by @FionaMountain #FamilyHistory #Mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6c 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

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

A #genealogy #mystery ‘Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival @wendy_percival

A mysterious beginning with an invalid, threatened by a stranger. Just who is this woman and what is her connection to Esme Quentin? BloodTied by Wendy Percival is the first of the Esme Quentin series of genealogical mysteries.

Esme’s older sister Elizabeth is attacked and in hospital in a coma. Why was she in a town forty miles from home? Did she fall, or was she pushed? And who are the two people in photographs hidden in Elizabeth’s treasured locket? At the start of this story, Esme knows who her family is but once she starts to dig into Elizabeth’s odd accident/attack she uncovers a complicated family history that had me confused at times. This genealogical mystery involves a long-ago family argument, a derelict canal and a feisty elderly lady in a residential home. Esme is a bit like a dog with a bone, she won’t give up despite getting the jitters in the dark of the night.

Two things would have made my reading experience easier. Esme’s history – scar, widow, background as investigative journalist – was thinly drawn so it felt as if I was reading part two of a two-book series. The family twists and turns were such that I was often lost, perhaps because so much was told as Esme discovered paperwork, rather than seeing the action on the page by the characters concerned. That said, the menace builds nicely though I read to the end to find out what happened to Polly, the feisty lady.
BUY

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
‘The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley
‘The Storm Sister’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BLOOD-TIED by @wendy_percival #genealogy #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-38 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

20 top tips to find your missing family #familyhistory #research

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 a family member who is missing from official records, there are numerous possible reasons for their absence. These tips are useful whether you are searching for a relative who died a century ago, or more recently.

[photo: nationalarchives.gov.uk]

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 interpretation of the indexing. And don’t overlook paper records.

7 Check overseas indexes. People more around more than you think.

8 Check Local Register Offices, the primary records are kept here and may contain less errors.

9 Focus on the ancestor’s occupation. For example at the The Genealogist’s website it is possible to make census searches by profession making it easier to find someone whose surname has been wrongly noted.

10 Search the Poor Law records. Could your ancestor have disappeared because he/she is in the workhouse [below] on the night the census was taken?

[photo: workhouses.org.uk]

11 Try Parish Registers for baptisms and burials. They are not quite as detailed, but you may find a record that is missing from the indexes. It wasn’t compulsory to register a child’s birth until 1874.

12 You might not find your relatives in the local Parish records, even though the family was Protestant. Instead look at records for more than one denomination.

13 The forces. Men stationed abroad are not included in UK censuses prior to 1911, except the navy. Some men took their family abroad with them, so you may find everyone missing.

14 Look at old maps. Read more here about how I used maps to research the settings for Ignoring Gravity.

15 Search for a will. The national Probate Calendar was compiled from 1858 onwards. It includes the deceased’s occupation, address, next of kin and executors of the will.

16 Consider that your relative may have changed name. You could change your name without making an official declaration, as long as your intentions weren’t fraudulent. But some people changed their name by Deed Poll. Some records are held at the National Archives in Kew, name changes after 1914 were recorded in the London Gazette.

18 Try the online Discovery catalogue at the National Archives at Kew.

19 Read the newspapers. Not just obituaries and the Birth and Death announcements, but also news stories. Read them online at the British Newspaper Archive and Find My Past.

Lady Penrhyn convict ship [photo: Wikipedia]

20 Was your relative a convict? Possibly in prison [prisoners were noted on census returns by their initials] or possibly transported by ship [above] to Australia. Records at the National Archives, Kew.

If you liked this summary of Laura Berry’s feature, check out Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine for more help. I read it every month.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Searching British newspaper archives
Genetic map ‘People of the British Isles’
Searching the #DeceasedOnline database of #graveyards 

Sandra Danby

 

Watch this interview with Sandra Danby in which she talks about the inspiration for writing identity detective novel Ignoring Gravity, and her curiosity about how family affects our identity. BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
20 top tips to find your missing ancestors #familyhistory #research https://wp.me/paZ3MX-30 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Going back to the Family Records Centre #researching #adoptionrecords

Passage of time was one of the issues I faced when writing Ignoring Gravity, first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption reunion mysteries. In the time it too me to write the book, technology was revolutionised; ten long years, during which paper archives went digital, census and registry records became available online. The first draft of the book saw Rose making a trip to Myddelton Street, North London to visit the Family Records Centre in order to get a copy of her original birth certificate. I went too, to research the archive, to follow the process Rose would follow.

Myddelton Street sign - what is history of the name

Myddelton Street sign, what is history of the name [photo @SandraDanby]

When I retraced my steps, knowing the Family Records Centre no longer existed and its records long since gone digital, I found it a sad procedure. I’d liked the old building, the anticipation of the Tube journey, turning the corner, walking up the steps, the loud banging of the archive drawers, the friendly atmosphere of family history researchers poring over huge volumes.

FRC - the steps

Family Records Centre, the steps [photo @SandraDanby]

Recently, with some curiosity, I went back to the very first draft to find my first attempt at the scene where Rose visits the Family Records Centre. You can read it below. The scene was cut as part of my decision to place Rose in the 21stcentury, but on re-reading it I admit to feeling a fondness for paper records. The room, the atmosphere, the company of other people, lent the process a formality, a majesty, a sense of occasion.

It was a disappointing building. For something so momentous as the Family Records Centre, Rose had at the very least expected bay windows, Georgian steps or some sort of coat of arms. This place looked like a run-down comprehensive school. The black railings needed a coat of paint and there was litter on the steps. As she loitered with intent, a young girl pushed out of the heavy wooden doors. She pulled the lapels of her summer mackintosh around her neck in protection against the light breeze which teased loose ends from her low ponytail and flicked them sharply against her pale cheeks. Despite the sun, she behaved as if it was winter. The Girl banged into Rose’s arm as she passed but made no acknowledgement of anyone else’s existence.

Rose took a deep breath and walked in to meet her destiny. It really was like a school. A big sign listed the departments on each floor and a disapproving security guard watched all passers-by in case they made too much noise or ran in the corridors. Rose headed downstairs to the loo, brushed her hair, blagged a 10p coin from a little old lady and stowed her bag in a locker. She checked her hair again, then walked quickly upstairs and adopted the look of someone who knew where they were going: a tactic she used in strange places in order to ward off strangers and muggers. She didn’t know if it worked but it always made her feel better. She hovered outside the tiny bookshop which sold quaint home-made pamphlets on researching your family tree – Find your relatives in Canada; How to research army records; Tracing evacuees displaced during WWII. The cashier stared, gaze unflinching, and Rose rubbed her forehead in case there was a scarlet letter ‘A’ stamped there.

No. Her forehead was clean.

A sign pointed to ‘birth, marriage, death & adoption’ on the ground floor. Strictly speaking the order should reflect life so, ‘birth, adoption, marriage & death’. Or alphabetically it would be ‘adoption, birth, death & marriage’. She walked into the main index room where there was a continuous metallic banging noise as if lots of people were hitting empty petrol drums with pitchforks. Rose was shocked. People should show a bit of respect. This room contained official records of the highs and lows of people’s lives, of celebration and tragedy. Frowning and feeling self-righteous, she looked around to get her bearings.

“Births are on your right, the red books. Straight ahead are marriages, they’re green. Deaths are on the left, black. Adoption, if you want it, is at the back in the yellow books.” A tiny bird-like lady with glasses on a silver chain around her neck smiled, pressed a leaflet into Rose’s tightly clenched palm and waved towards huge metal shelves lined with books. Rose threw the A5 pink sheet into the nearest bin.

Red for birth, that was okay, blood was shed to bring forth new life. Green for marriages made sense too, green fields, new beginning, fresh pastures etc. And black for death was the social norm of mourning. So why were the adoption books jaundiced yellow? Yellow was a cowardly colour, sickly, plants with yellow leaves were past their best. Rose felt like a Cowardly Custard, putting off opening a yellow index book to find out the name of her real father who was too yeller to acknowledge her existence.

“Births are on your right…”, the bird-like lady directed another directionless new arrival.

Rose threaded her way through the shelves and angled viewing benches. There was a sense of business and purpose, a workmanlike industry. Women with shopping bags and businessmen with briefcases walked with purpose on a fleeting visit for a copy of a lost certificate, perhaps needed for a passport application. Others looked settled in for the duration, wandering between shelves, notebook and pen in hand, delving into books and leaving no stone unturned: a community of searchers. Two grey-haired ladies stood comfortably shoulder-to-shoulder, glasses perched on their noses as they leafed through index books. Were they sisters researching their family tree? They looked like siblings and both liked green. One wore a green turtle neck sweater, the other held a padded green jacket. They spent more time whispering to each other than looking at the books. This was a pastime for them, a hobby, an entertainment. Not life-affirming.

Rose meandered through the shelves and took an indirect route to adoption via death but in the end she reached the yellow section. In a tiny corner of the vast room, on a small bookshelf, sat the answer to her birthright. The heavy index books with black webbing handles started from 1927 with a book per year since 1966, around 30 books in all. Compared with the abundance of shelves holding red, black and green books, the yellow representation was under-nourished.

There was no one else within twenty yards of the yellow zone and though no-one seemed the slightest bit interested in what she was doing, Rose felt their implied stigma. By association, just by being there, she was coming out. She was adopted. She didn’t know how much of this was people’s real attitudes absorbed through osmosis, and how much of it was 60s stigma about unmarried mothers which she’d transferred to herself in her efforts to identify with Katherine’s plight.

The journalist in her shrugged and turned to face the task: get the facts and go, that was the objective. Rose hauled the 1968 index book onto the viewing bench and took a deep breath. The much-thumbed yellowing pages were folded and crumpled together.

Her birth certificate wasn’t there. Nobody’s was. There was an endless list of people’s names, dates of birth, entry numbers and volume numbers. For all her prevarication, Rose had expected some information today. A flood of heartburn rose up her windpipe and she tasted milky coffee. She sat on a chair while the sickness passed and worked out what to do next. 

“Everyone’s verry friendly here, aren’t they?” The three newcomers lined up in front of the adoption bookshelves just had to be siblings. Same corn coloured hair, same habit of running hand through said hair, and same height. Two women and one man, all in their twenties and all South African. “I don’t know where to start,” said the man.

“What are you looking for,” asked the bird-like lady who’d magically reappeared at their side like Harry Haller’s muse.

“Our grandfather was born here but then settled in South Africa. We can’t find his name anywhere and we fly back to Johannesburg tomorrow.”

“You need to look at the naturalised records at Kew.”

“Is it far?”

“The other side of London.”

“Oh.” The man’s shoulders sunk in defeat.

“Was he in the army, you could try their records. But I’ll warn you, it’ll take longer than a day to search.”

They nodded their thanks and left. Rose was alone again. She picked up another pink leaflet. To apply for a full certificate from the Adopted Children Register she had to fill in a yellow form. She took one from a wooden holder and started to read. Extra certificates cost £6.50 each. There was a choice of posted, collection or 24 hours. Oh God, more delay. Now that she was there she wanted the pain to be over. Not only could she not see her birth certificate in the index book, she couldn’t take it away today.

Post would take four working days. Did today count as a working day? If it did she might get the certificate on Friday. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t arrive until next Monday. That was a lifetime away. Rose ticked the 24 hours box. Paying an exorbitant £22.50 allowed her to collect it the next day and was the shortest time delay available. She’d just have to skive off work, again. Every minute until tomorrow would seem like sixty minutes instead of sixty seconds. 24 hours was 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds.

Rose turned back to the 1968 book and found her birth name ‘Ingram, Alanna’ in the index, added the entry and volume numbers to the yellow form and stood in line at the kiosks. She was the only person clutching a yellow form, the only adopted person there. She handed over a cheque and a copy of the precious form CAS 5/6, the original was safely filed at home. She also ordered a copy of Katherine’s death certificate. Rose had checked the marriage indexes just in case Katherine had married without anyone knowing, and the birth records in case she’d had any more children. But there was nothing.

24 hours to wait. 86,400 seconds. 4pm tomorrow and she would know the name of her birth father.

Getting hold of this certificate was a huge leap forward. There was something special about that bit of paper, seeing the words in black and white. Ink was permanent, a lasting, unarguable confirmation that everything she’d discovered was true. She repeated her mantra: “I am adopted and it’s not my fault”. What made Katherine and Diana do this deal and keep it a secret from everyone for over 33 years?

 “Hello dear. Births are on your right…” Rose exited the entrance where the bird-like lady fluttered from group to group, leaving an information leaflet clasped in each arrivee’s hand as evidence of her fleeting presence. She passed the stern lady at the bookshop and rubbed her forehead: it was still unmarked.

She stood on the top step and took a deep breath of fresh air, her lungs pressing against her ribs in an effort to inflate their parched corners with healing air. With no sense of direction Rose wandered along the road. She examined her hands and they shook gently. Delayed shock + anti-climax = low blood sugar. She needed chocolate. She felt as the emotional effect of the FRC must be writ plain across her face for all to see.

Read here how genealogists and family history researchers of the FRC responded to the announcement of its closure in 2007.

Fbk - IG KU the warm story
BUY ‘IGNORING GRAVITY’

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
After it closed: going back to the Family Records Centre #researching #adoptionrecords via #AdoptionStoriesBlog https://wp.me/paZ3MX-1O