Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Can you research a family tree?

Project Update

Cataloging a Cemetery and researching some of the older headstones is, I have to admit, far harder than I ever expected but it is such a worthwhile task that I can forgive it all of its difficulties.

The Cemetery Entrance
We've sorted the names for the unmarked plots and now the Stone Mason is working on our order, creating plaques and row markers. Meanwhile, we've moved on to writing the information for our Website, designing Interpretation Boards for the Cemetery entrance, inputting basic data so that our Website has a fully functioning genealogical search facility and then of course there's the family research. For many of us this was the main attraction but even this is harder than I thought it would be.

You may have created your own family tree and know all about what I'm going to discuss. I hadn't and so this was a steep learning curve for me.


This is what I've learnt so far:
The first place to look is the Headstone. It should provide the date of death, age, relatives and possibly birthplace. Unfortunately, there's always the possibility that it's so old, it provides nothing more than a difficult-to-read name! 
The Censuses from 1901 and 1911 are freely available to the public now and they can give valuable information about family members and addresses. 
In the Records Office there are shelves full of local Trade Directories which provide people's names and addresses covering the last two centuries and more. They also have sections organised by trades. 
The local newspapers are on microfilm at the Records office. You need to have a good idea of what date you're looking for as they are generally not indexed which means hours of sliding screen after screen of old newspaper pages. This can take even longer than expected as there are always fascinating articles to take you off on irrelevant tangents and as for the adverts… they’re hilarious! 
Our Records Office has a Person Index for anyone who ‘hit the headlines’ during their lifetime and a lot of information can also be gleaned from Congregation/Parish records. 
We have signed up for www.ancestry.co.uk and www.findmypast.co.uk but there are a number of free family research websites. Free Births, Marriages and Deaths can be found at www.freebmd.org.uk. The National Archives catalogue is at www.nationalarchive.gov and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is at www.cwgc.org
Failing all that you can always try Googling a name to see if there’s anything out there.
We have until the end of October to get the project completed so I shall take another deep breath and throw myself back into ancestry.co.uk. If anyone would like to help with researching any of the names then do please let me know. This is one of those jobs that is never done! We can never have too many volunteers!

This is a Heritage Lottery Funded Project.


28 comments:

  1. My hubby and I learned this when we were trying to find his grandparents' tombs in Israel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This work sounds so interesting. And Samson and I are so glad he put a smile back on your face. He has that effect on me too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Inger. He is a beautiful dog.

      Delete
  3. I have just spent a couple of hours on the freebmd site - how wonderful - thank you for passing these links on. I cannot find the 1901 census without having to pay - you say it is freely available - do you have a link for that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad it was helpful. You should be able to get the 1901 census on freebmd. I've emailed you a reply.

      Delete
  4. Oh yes, those local papers on microfilm - I lost hours and hours in a library in Liverpool (it's a long story, I'll tell it one day) and came out with just two lines of notes!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read some amazing, silly, anachronistic articles and really must collect them up for a blog post some day soon.

      Delete
  5. Thought about your project at the Chevra Kadisha Seuda this week when guest speaker Nigel Grizzard gave a talk entitled "Around the Grounds" and historical graves in places in UK where you would least expect them.
    We also did a family tree, but lack of paperwork and pogroms made it difficult to go back too far. Good luck with yours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That talk sounds interesting. I wonder if the guest speaker would be interested in our project. The pogroms have certainly cut short many of our lines of research. Latvia was wiped clean of records from Jewish families.

      Delete
  6. Lots of fascinating and helpful information here; thank you Rosalind. I got quite a long way with my family tree and uncovered a distressing skeleton (not literally!) a few generations back. We managed to locate the grave as the whole town had clubbed together to buy a big headstone, back in the mid-1800s, but when we got there there was no sign of the stone and the cemetary had no record of what had happened to it. There's a bigger story to be unearthed here, but it's hard to know where to start...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a need to know more about your 'skeleton'. It sounds fascinating!

      Delete
  7. Gosh I bet you never thought it was going to be this complex! Someone in the States did our family tree - we go back to the 17th century, apparently. Fascinating stuff.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right. I truly never thought it was going to be anywhere near this complex. 17th Century! That's impressive, given our joint histories.

      Delete
  8. Once again I wish I lived near enough to get involved. It sounds enthralling.

    ReplyDelete
  9. How very interesting, Ros. Even if sometimes a little frustrating, the rewards when you find a new clue must ba fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's like being Sherlock Holmes at times... but not all the time!

      Delete
  10. It sounds like a lot of hard work. I did start researching our family tree but was having to pay for each search I did. Thanks for links I might give it a try again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's surprisingly large amounts of information out there for free. Good luck with your renewed searching.

      Delete
  11. such a challenge but you folks are making great headway. I can tell you are really enjoying this. Indeed I wish I was over the ocean to come help. Good luck and keep digging!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for sharing all this valuable info, Rosalind.
    Wishing you lots of luck on your family tree.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good luck with the rest of your research, Rosalind! I know that it must be a tremendous amount of work, but it will all be worth it in the end. Thanks for the wonderful tips on creating our own family trees.

    Julie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly is a whole load of work but, as you say, it'll be worth it in the end!

      Delete
  14. Its a really interesting project Ros, and sounds like you are getting stuck into it, and its coming together.

    I haven't researched my family tree, mainly because my father was Irish, and everyone tells me it is very difficult to find records? I don't know, maybe one day I will have some time to do it. I am curious.

    My father died very young at 44, and because we lived here in the UK, we have totally lost touch. My mother wasn't much for letter writing, and to be honest the Irish side weren't ever so well educated I don't think, as often a cousin would reply on behalf of an uncle etc.

    Its fascinating stuff though, and folks I know who are doing it, say its addictive!
    Best wishes with your project.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Ros .. my uncle did my father's family tree back to the 1600s ... so I have the names and dates .. but I've done no other searching.

    One day when I was visiting my mother at St Pancras Hospital in London I travelled up in the lift with some very Cornish people .. they were surprised I knew that .. then I asked their name - it was Baragwanath ... that surprised me ... as in South Africa it was the name of the big hospital for the Africans - why the connection? Well my Baragwanath post last year's A-Z explains ... but I found Genuki - and I'm not sure if you've 'hit' this one ... here's the link http://www.genuki.org.uk/

    The Big libraries will have records too - but I don't know how to look up things in there .. I know cousin Jenny has looked up a lot about Emily Hobhouse .. but that's only 130 years or so ...

    Looking forward to finding out more ... one book I found interesting because the woman had an unusual name ... it costs 1p ... or a little more .. a new one is 97p ... Meet Your Ancestors by Diane Marelli
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Meet-Your-Ancestors-Discover-History/dp/1857039084/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394896423&sr=1-1&keywords=Meet+your+ancestors+diane+marelli

    I found it very easy to read - comprehensive, yet 'simple' to understand ... I haven't used - but I'd hate to lost it!

    Cheers and the free Census site may cost for overseas people, perhaps ... enjoy your digging - Hilary

    ReplyDelete