Friday, 28 October 2011

Follow Friday: A Helping Hand Up from Down Under

One of the first blogs I followed was Judy Webster's UK/Australia Genealogy Blog.  I think it is probably aimed at Aussies with British roots, but it works for me to - British with "lost" (now found) Aussie cousins.  Judy is a professional genealogist and a great source of information.  Check out her website Judy Webster's Genealogy Advice if you have an interest in Australian Family History (especially that of Queensland).

Judy is one of the coordinators of a new project, and that's what I would really like to highlight.  It is the Genealogists for Families project.  The inspiration for the project was Judy's father, who had an altruistic streak - he would lend his "Do Good Money" to local hard working people in need of a little short term help.  In his honour, Judy has set up the project which, like Judy's father, lends money to those in need.  To volunteer you can invest $25, which will be repaid.  Visit Judy's the Genealogists for Families project for more details.

Good on you, Judy!
Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sentimental Sunday: Finding Comfort in the Past

It's not been a great few months here at The Treehouse, for various reasons, and things seem to be sliding from bad to worse.  Fortunately we have weathered worse times and we know that we will eventually bob back up again - we are just bracing ourselves for the storm.  My usual take on hard times is to keep hold of the proverb "this too shall pass", be grateful for what I have got and make sure that I get plenty of exercise in the great outdoors.  Another anti-depression measure is taking comfort in the past - my family history provides great lessons in overcoming adversity and my hardships pale into insignificance when compared to some of the circumstances endured by my ancestors.  Here are some lessons learnt.

Financial worries:  with one exception, all branches of my family went through periods of financial hardship.  The Warrens left their small North Devon market town when the wool industry collapsed and found themselves in the slums of Bristol.  Despite the major change to his life, John Warren adapted and prospered.  Similarly, the Masons were forced to leave rural Ireland due to the potato famine and for several years endured a cramped existence in a couple of rooms near the Liverpool docks.

Physical hardship:  I thank the Lord that I am not a Victorian wife.  With one exception, all my great-grandmothers lost at least one baby, and most were producing a baby every couple of years throughout their lives.  It wasn't only the women of course, the men worked hard too.  My great-great grandfather Frederick Hawkins ended his days in the workhouse after losing his sight and so losing his livelihood as a mason.

Human tragedy:  The loss of your children is the hardest blow to suffer and as mentioned, most of my great-grandparents endured these losses.  But perhaps even worse is the loss suffered in the event of war - worry beyond endurance, the strain of waiting for news, highs and lows of hope, and the final crushing blow delivered by telegram - my great-grandparents Harry and Ellen Brown received three telegrams, I shall never be so unfortunate.

My life may feel hard at the moment, but put in the context of my ancestors, I am lucky beyond belief.  It's a lesson I don't forget.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Thrifty Thursday: 15 Days of Free Access to Records

Not all the records on Ancestry, of course, but as I have mentioned before, from 1st October until 15th October, Ancestry is celebrating its 15th Anniversary and as a result we get access to records our memberships don't cover.  So far, I have tried the US Social Security Death Records - no luck there in locating the missing great-grandfather (James Toal).  This evening I am devoting myself to the Australian Census records in the hope of finding some further (distant) branches of the family tree.

As far as I can see, you lucky people in the US get the added bonus of entry into a sweepstake - us lowly Brits aren't so lucky, we just get the free access.

Start Looking
Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Brick Walls

I have run into so many brick walls during my family history research that I should have a flat nose!  Sometimes the wall has held me up for a few weeks, sometimes a few years.  In some ways it is natural that our research peters out on some branches.  We don't have the seemingly infinite resources of the WDYTYA production team so are unable to travel the world following up documents unearthed in some obscure archive by an obliging local archivist.  No, for us mere mortals, we usually have to accept that most of our research will (unless we are very lucky) wind up somewhere in the 18th Century.  What is galling is when matters appear to reach a conclusion far sooner - say in the mid 19th Century.

Over the years I have found that there are a few common causes of brick walls:

  • Mistakes made on original documents (eg misspellings, wrong age etc)
  • Mistakes made by the modern day transcriber (eg mistaking a copperplate "T" for an "F"
  • Our own difficulty in reading original documents (due to poor quality of the document or archaic script)
  • Searching in the wrong place for an ancestor (our ancestors were often more mobile than we imagine).
The good news is that most brick walls can be broken down simply by learning a few new search strategies, applying a little lateral thinking and doing a little studying.  Patience is also a virtue in the demolition process - leaving a problem and coming back to it later will sometimes reveal an answer, and sometimes new documents become available online.

I have put together my ideas for breaking down brick walls in a new article on Hubpages.  As always, I welcome any feedback or additional ideas.  

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