Category Archives: Family History

Social history


It’s not just people and places that make history interesting. Look around you and see the street furniture or features that existed when your ancestors lived:

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You can then compare with modern equivalents:

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Sources: Gravestones


Take a wander around your local church yard or cemetery and you may be amazed at what a genealogical treasure trove the gravestones and plaques can be. I snapped this one whilst walking back from Staveley Recreation Ground today:

Staveley Gravestone

It is up against the side of St Margaret’s Tower which is all that is left of the original church. The information given on it is well above that on most gravestones:

Name of deceased: Edmund Thompson
Residence: Brow, Over Staveley
Date of death: February 8th 1847
Age: 83 Years

His widow: Esther Thompson
Her death date: November 30th 1851
Age: 87 Years

Their 2nd son: Edmund Thompson
His place of death: Brow
Date of death September 9th 1854
Age: 64 Years

Their grandson and 8th son of Edmund: Nathan Thompson
Residence: Troutbeck Park
Place of Death: Sunny Brow
Date of Death: April 16th 1864
Interred (Buried) at: Ings on 21st April 1864
Age: 30

I am actually feeling inspired to find out more about this family and where they lived from the information given. Watch this space to see what I can find.

“Surname Saturday” – Brading


I have written an Article for Geneabloggers’ Surname Saturday over on my personal blog http://beckywilloughby.blogspot.com/2011/03/surname-saturday-brading.html.

The Brading family is from the Isle of Wight and by joining in with this prompt I hope that more Brading researchers will find me and my blogs so we can share information.

As long as you don’t post information on living people without their permission then joining in schemes like this is a great way to connect across the web.

Skeletons in the Family Closet


Its an common belief that every family history will uncover at least one of the following:

  • lunacy
  • bankruptcy
  • illegitimacy

It is certainly true that you should be prepared to uncover family secrets that are revealed whilst you delve through historical records.

In my own family tree somethings were well known and talked about such as one ancestor being the son of his mother’s employer and not her husband. Another distant cousin had been jailed for manslaughter. One of my great grandfather’s died from the complications associated with syphilis (a much more common disease in the 19th century than you might think).

What we didn’t know until I requested my 2x great grandfather’s police employment records was that he was thrown out for embezzlement. I haven’t yet had a chance to visit Preston to discover the details of his crime to see quite how bad he was.

Another interesting find was brought to light when I ordered my 3x grandparents marriage certificate and their eldest daughter’s birth certificate. When I looked at the date her birth was recorded as the day after their marriage. It does make you wonder if they did make it down the aisle on time or they falsified her birth registration!

A couple of my ancestors have appeared in listings for bankruptcy as these were widely published back then and are well indexed now. At least one went bankrupt more than once so he obviously wasn’t a very good business man.

So keep your eyes open as you look in the records. Dates on certificates and church records can be very informative as can household composition on census returns.

Borrow more books



Borrow more books

Originally uploaded by Phil Bradley

Libraries are important sources of information for family historians. Please do your bit to save your local library!

Bring your tree to life


A family tree just filled with bare statistics and dates doesn’t make for an exciting read to share with a wider audience. They may well be impressed by the fact you have traced your family all the way back to William the Conqueror but there are ways to make the facts more interesting.

People

Include photographs of the people on your tree. This may be modern photographs, scans of old photographs or maybe a painting that you can capture on camera.

The photo below was taken at the wedding of my great grandparents in 1915. My great grandfather was obviously in the military at the time as he is pictured in uniform. If you are not aware of the date a photograph was taken then the fashions in the image can help you pinpoint the date.

1915 Wedding

My great grandparents wedding in 1915

Take care when scanning old photographs as they maybe damaged by the process.

Houses and places

Family homes and the places they lived are an important part of a family history. If you don’t already have photographs lurking in the family album then take the chance to go and visit these places and record them in photographs.

GG Granny's House

The house of my 2x great grandmother

You may also be able to take a video of the locality which can show how the different parts of the place relate to each other.

All of these things can really help bring your family history to life.

Resources for Family History: Local Libraries


If you are looking for a great place to find information on your family history then your local library (or the library where your family originated) can be a great starting point. They are free to use and quite often have accumulated a lot of information. Many also offer access to sites such as Ancestry for just their normal charge for using the computers. This is a lot cheaper than subscribing for yourself unless you want to use it every day! You may also be able to borrow books which give advice on researching your family tree or local history books.

Before you set out it is worthwhile checking what sources you will be to access so that you have a clear plan of action. For example on the Cumbria County Council web site there is a whole page listing which libraries have local and family history sources in them. Also check on their opening times so you don’t turn up on early closing day!

My local library in Kendal is quite a large one and so contains quite a lot of useful records and other research materials:

  • a fee based research service
  • Registrar General’s Indexes from 1837 (microform)
  • Registrar General for Scotland’s Computerised Index from 1855
  • 1841-1901 census for Westmorland on fiche
  • Ancestrylibrary.co.uk – free* access through the libraries computers to the 1841-1901 census for the whole of England, Wales and Scotland *normal computer charges apply; £1.00 per half hour, usual concessions
  • County and Regional Directories: Various dates for Westmorland from 1829-1938. A few for Furness and Cumberland
  • City and Town Directories: Kendal 1953, 1963, 1965, 1974
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI): 1992 edition on microfiche
  • Card index for ephemeral files and photographs
  • Parish registers: a small number of transcripts
  • Maps: 1st edition O.S. series 6″ and 25″ to 1 mile (incomplete sets)
  • Westmorland 2nd edition O.S. series 6″ and 25″ to 1 mile (incomplete sets)
  • Westmorland Plus later maps.
  • Photographs.
  • Newspapers on microfilm.

Not all libraries have such a wide range but others have even more. Go and check them out and get your family tree growing.