Obituaries as data sources

My great, great grandfather's newspaper obituary shows how valuable obitutaries can be to the family historian:


Southampton newspaper obituary 1882

SUDDEN DEATH OF Mr. H. A. LINFORD -the town experienced another painful example of the uncertainty of human life on Monday evening. Following almost immediately upon the melancholy decease of Mr. C. Horseman, the sudden death of Mr. H. A. Linford, of the South-Western Hotel, caused the profoundest consternation.

About 8 o'clock Mr. Linford entered his private office, and transacted certain business matters, then feeling rather unwell, but there appeared to be no cause for apprehending any danger. However, half an hour later, J. A. Tibbs, one of the porters at the hotel, entering the office, discovered his employer upon the floor, quite dead. He had fallen forward out of the chair, and there being a newspaper under him, it is supposed that having completed the writing, he was reading the paper when a fit seized him, and he fell forward an expired almost immediately.

Mr. Linford had for some time been suffering from heart disease, and during the last six months has paid occasional visits to a London physician, whom the same morning he had expressed an intention of seeing again on Wednesday. The deceased has also been treated by Dr. Wiblin and Dr. Beneraft, and the latter gentleman had seen him twice on the day of his death; in fact, he was with him an hour before the melancholy event occurred. The coroner (Mr. W. Coxwell) was immediately communicated with, and a jury was summoned to hold an inquest yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, but later on an inquiry was deemed to be un-necessary, as Dr. Bencraft was perfectly prepared to certify as to the cause of death.

Mr. Linford was born in 1826. His father was a chemist and druggist at Canterbury, was a member of the Town Council there, and a Sheriff of the city. Daring his early life Mr. Linford was engaged in banking business in London, and more latterly as secretary to some of the large hotel companies. In 1870 he furnished and opened the South Western Hotel, with Mr. Catherwood, but the partnership lasted but a few years, and Mr. Linford became the sole proprietor. During his residence in Southampton he took a great interest in local matters.

In the year 1874 he was an active opponent to the purchase of the Gas Works by the town, and acted in the capacity of hon. secretary to the committee formed for opposing the project. In the following year he was elected a representative of St. Mary's Ward in the Town Council, and upon his offering himself for re-election three years later, was ,returned unopposed, in conjunction with Alderman a Dunlop, J.P., and Mr. J. P. Weston. On his term of office expiring in November last he did not offer himself for re-election, and consequently ceased to be a member of the Council. Mr. Linford leaves a wife and family of one son and seven daughters to mourn their loss, and great sympathy is felt for them in their sudden bereavement. The cause of death is certified to be “Angina pectoris.”

In the article not only do we have facts about his death but also his life and family.


Involve your children

Church yards are wonderful family tree resources with information on the gravestones that children can help you discover:


Once they can read you can get them to hunt down any gravestones that mention members of your family.



There is lots of fascinating information on them including dates of birth and death. You can challenge your children to work out how old a person was when they died based on these dates.



So why don’t you take your children down to the churchyard? You can create a grave scavenger hunt for your family:

  • earliest/most recent date for burial
  • youngest/oldest person buried in grave yard
  • how many different occupations
  • most common surname
  • anyone born somewhere overseas

Just give your child a notepad and pencil and let them wander around whilst you do your own research!

#SurnameSaturday Jones

With the 6 nations show down between Wales and England today its time to celebrate my Welsh ancestry! My great grandfather Owen Evan Jones was born in the town of Trefriw in the Conwy valley in North Wales in 1875.

His father Llewelyn Robert Jones had worked in the wood yards and the iron works as well as a lime burner. It must have been a tough life in this part of Wales and Owen left sometime after 1891 as a qualified teacher. His father had disowned him for teaching English which was the only language allowed in the schools so he moved to Lancashire.

This must have been a very strange place to a young man whose family had been in Caernarvonshire and Denbighshire for generations. Luckily he found love in the form of my great grandmother Hannah Honorah Audrey Spencer and started his own family. Here they are enjoying a family trip to the beach:

Despite moving to England he was always proud of his Welsh roots and taught his grandson (my dad) how to pronounce the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (and he can still say it!). It was partly the pull of this Welsh blood that led me to choose Swansea university and loved spending 3 years enjoying the culture and rugby! 
This summer I finally got my first visit to Trefriw even though it was very brief. Some of it looked like is must have done when he was there in the 19th century. I wonder if they were church or chapel and which one of these religious buildings they used on a Sunday:
Original chapel
Parish church
Methodist church

The current school was built after my great grandfather had left but I wonder if the original school was just this house:

One day I will get back and do more research to find out more about my Jones and Roberts ancestors and my Welsh roots.. Only problem is I may have to learn Welsh to do so and so far I am struggling beyond bore da and nos da…

#SurnameSaturday: Linford

This week I am looking at my mother's side of the family and the Linford surname. At one point we thought the name was dying out in our branch of the family so I double barrelled my maiden name to include it and then gave my children it as and extra middle name. This century there have been 3 Linford boys born to the family so hopefully it will continue for some time yet.

The name means dweller at the lime tree ford and there at least five parts of the UK it could have come from. This means we could have originated from Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire or Leicestershire. As yet we haven't traced back far enough to find out which.
My grandfather Vivian Haldane Bruce Linford was born in Kilmalcolm, Renfrewshire in 1900. He was the youngest of 5 children born to Albert Wallace and Annie Mary Harrison Nash. My family seem to have the habit of using surnames as middle names and the Scottish tradition of using other family members names as well.
Tragically the eldest daughter Violet died as an infant. The others went on to either marriage and family or in the case of my great aunt Madeline a groundbreaking career as a journalist and first editor of the Guardian's women's page. There are some interesting articles on her here and on my cousin Paul Linford's blog. She also published a few novels and a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft.
Albert was a travelling salesman for a brewery and he had moved from Southampton to Scotland and then down to Manchester as he was posted to different regions. The family were very well off until he was admitted to an asylum around 1910. The former family home in Manchester is now a seminary for Catholic priests and was a substantial family home. Unfortunately medical fees used up most of his estate and my grandfather was unable to follow his siblings to university.
Albert was the only son of Henry Albert and Elizabeth Martha Forbes. He was born in Lewisham, Kent and lived in Middlesex and then at the Southwestern Hotel in Southampton which his father was the proprietor of. Albert had 7 sisters:
I haven't established how Henry went from being a clerk to running a hotel but it seems a strange career move! The hotel was built at the railway terminus from London and it was used to accommodate passengers before they embarked on a liner from the port (later on many first class passengers from the Titanic spent their last night in England at the hotel). Henry was a prominent local citizen and even spent time as mayor. Tragically he was only 56 when he died leaving his wife with children still of school age to raise alone.
He was one of 5 children born to John Thomas and Sarah Hamley Weeks in Canterbury, Kent:
John Thomas was a chemist and druggist in the city and at one point owned a shop in Burgate. His father-in-law William Weeks had been in the same business and for some years they were in business together. Things weren't always a smooth ride as John appears in bankruptcy records a couple of times. Like his son Henry he held public office and was a mayor of Canterbury in 1823.

John had been born in Vauxhall, Surrey (now London) to Samuel and Mary Butcher. Samuel was a butcher in Vauxhall and he also owned quite a few properties and had a complex will in 1832. Nothing much is known about his parents Joseph and Elizabeth Kitchinman other than their marriage in 1750 which produced three children.

Family History: World War One

Last month I posted about finding my great grandfather’s medal record from in this post. When the article came to the attention of my aunt and uncle I discovered that they had the actual medals! Today I got to see them and plenty of other memorabilia from my great grandfather.

It appears he was in the forces (maybe as a reservist?) as far back as 1913 as he had some medals for 3rd places in an army shooting competition at both 300 yards and a quarter mile. Both these medals are from the 5th Battalion the Hampshire Regiment:

In 1914 he was serving at the front in the 5th London regiment as a private. The proof for this includes a letter published in the local paper in Bickerstaffe:

He also had been given a box of cigarettes and tobacco by Princess Mary and her charity for Christmas in 1914:

There are still original cigarettes and tobacco in the box! Charles was himself a pipe smoker and his pipe from the war had his friends’ names carved into it:

For his service in 1914 he would receive the 1914 Star:

At some point before his wedding in 1915 he received a rapid promotion to 2nd Lieutenant. We need to get his full records to find out more. This meant he moved from a clay dog tag to a metal one:

Whilst he was an officer he had a notebook he used to record both important information on explosives and details of the mess bills:

Apparently he helped train troops whilst recovering on sick leave and on one occasion had to act fast when a recruit pulled the pin out of a grenade but forgot to throw it…

By the end of hostilities he had earned two more service medals:

I am just bowled over to have been able to hold these precious pieces of my family history. I feel so lucky that my great grandfather came through the whole war when so many others didn’t. Now the challenge is to see if I can find out more about his service…

So go and ask your family if they have something lurking in a tin or box in the attic.

#CharityTuesday: Dogs’ Trust Poop Scoop Week


Getting fancy with photos

My photography has definitely been changing since I started using photographic websites such as Blipfoto and Flickr. I used to be content with a basic:

  1. point
  2. press
  3. post

attitude to sharing my photographs. Now there are so many brilliant apps for the iPad and iPhone that tweaking my photos to make them more interesting is oh so easy. I just have to make sure I don’t overdo it! Here are a few of my favourite tweaked photographs:

This image of my daughter was taken on a very basic digital camera. I used Camera+ to  crop, colour and used depth of field to focus in through the leaves:
Apple muncher
For more fun photographs using Marblecam on the iPhone and iPad can have a wonderful effect on flowers etc.:
MarbleCam Flower
These 2 photos of me were tweaked in Instagram (left) and Camera+ (right) to use the colour tones. I then grouped them together using Nostalgio:
This is another slightly different colour effect from Camera+, I also used the Golden crop to concentrate on the important features:
close up
Flowers can really be shown off to good effect with the tools in Camera+. These next two show chives using Miniaturisation and Depth of field respectively:
Depth of field
All of these apps can make an amateur photograph look at lot more professional without spending lots of money on expensive software. It also doesn’t take a lot of learning to get to use them properly. So go on experiment!

Family History Friday: Band Family of Mottram and Glossop

Today I want to look at my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. She was born in Lancashire the daughter of Charles Band and Lillie Agnes Kellett.

Charles had been born in Glossop, Derbyshire in 1885. He was the youngest of 9 children:

Continue reading

Ancestry app for iPad

I have to say that since being given an iPad I’ve discovered how good the Ancestry app is. It never really worked for me on the iPhone but on the iPad it really shines.

Once you have downloaded your family tree from Ancestry on to your iPad it then starts looking for hints for existing members of your family. When you review each hint it brings up an image of the relevant data such as census page or sheet from a church record. You can then review the information and either accept or ignore. If you accept you can then choose which items get changed on your tree. The source information is automatically added.

A very useful app but be careful as you could be on there for hours… Free 1911 Census

I am loving the free access to the 1911 Census on this weekend (11-14th May). I have discovered an ancestor was a soldier and added a new 4x great grandfather to my tree.

Get on there quick!