How to start your family tree, using Findmypast

March 8, 2015

Interested in starting your own family tree? I’ve put together this video guide to show you how to get going.

You can use the birth, marriage, death and census records I mention in the video by signing up for Findmypast’s 14 day free trial.

You’ll need to enter payment details, but just cancel the day before the expiry date through the ‘My Account’ section of the website and you won’t be charged.

 

 

I’ve been tracing my own family history for about six years – my paternal Silk ancestors feature in the video. I really hope you find it useful.

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My week on World War Two rations

February 20, 2015

This week I’ve taken part in an experiment with the team at Findmypast, to live on a British ration allowance from the 1940s.

While it’s not what I’d usually describe as family history research, it definitely helped me understand what my grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents would have experienced during World War Two.

http://www.awin1.com/awclick.php?mid=2114&id=105943

What I’ve learned from WW2 ration week

I’ve actually really enjoyed the week – it’s been very achievable, even if the food did get a bit repetitive. I found that the key was to invest a bit of time at the start, making soups and casseroles that could last for a few days.

I tried my hardest to ‘waste not, want not’. One evening, I used the zest from my one orange to create scones based on a recipe I’d found in The British Newspaper Archive. The recipe had been printed in the Lichfield Mercury on 25 February 1944.

 

Recipe for orange zest scones from 1944

 

I would most certainly have thrown the peel away before, but the scones were lovely and really simple to make. I’ll definitely be using that recipe again.

 

Orange zest scones from WW2

 

The meat, milk and fat allowances were pretty high, but I did struggle with the limited amount of cheese and fish. I’m a bit of a cheese addict, so 60g a week just wasn’t enough.

It was also hard to live without tinned goods and out-of-season or imported fruit and vegetables. I’m very much looking forward to my first post-war banana on Monday!

What could you eat during World War Two?

Meat, cheese, eggs, milk, fat and sweets were all rationed during World War Two. These were the rules the Findmypast team followed, based on the weekly ration allowance for an adult in the early 1940s:

Weekly ration

  • Bacon or Ham (150g)
  • Meat (400g)
  • Fish (1 fish meal per week)
  • Cheese (60g)
  • Milk (3 pints / 1¾ litres)
  • Egg (1)
  • Butter (60g)
  • Margarine (110g)
  • Lard or dripping (110g)
  • Sugar (225g)
  • Jam (50g)
  • Sweets (75g)
  • Tea bags (16)
  • No proper coffee – instant only
  • No tinned food, except Spam

 

The points system

4 points per week to spend on the following options:

  • Dried pulses, oats, rice or barley (1 point per 225g of each)
  • Dried pasta (1 point per 110g)
  • Olive oil (1 point per 25ml)
  • Dried fruit (1 point per 225g)

 

Fruit and vegetables

  • Limit of one orange per week
  • Limit of one apple per day
  • No tropical or exotic items, like bananas
  • Make the most of root vegetables, plums and pears
  • Try to use fruits and vegetables currently in season

 

Other items that weren’t rationed

  • Wholemeal bread (slightly stale)
  • Sausages and offal, but the sausages should be mostly ‘bulk’ instead of meat
  • Cigarettes and alcohol, but availability varied

 

Proof that Thomas Edward Taylor won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge

July 22, 2014

I’m thrilled to say that I’ve been able to prove that my great-great-great-grandfather won the famous Doggett’s Coat and Badge rowing race.

It seems the rumour I started investigating in my last post is true!

Thames waterman records

My cousin Lorraine sent me this photo of twenty winners of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

While I’m not sure which man is which, the caption at the bottom states that a ‘T. E. Taylor’ is among the group and that he won the race in 1878.

 

Twenty winners of the Doggetts Coat and Badge

Doggett’s Coat and Badge race winners – please click to enlarge

 

There’s also a collection of Thames Watermen & Lightermen records available online at Findmypast.

These confirm that a Thomas Edward Taylor won the race in 1878. But a question remains: is this ‘my’ Thomas Edward Taylor?

 

Thomas Edward Taylor, winner of the Doggett's Coat and Badge race

Newspaper article reveals an address

There are millions of historical newspaper pages available to search at The British Newspaper Archive.

All of the words in the newspapers are searchable, so you can look for absolutely anything.

I searched the collection for “Thomas Taylor” “Doggett Coat and Badge” and found the following article, published in Reynolds’s Newspaper in 1886.

 

Cutting from Reynolds's Newspaper, 13 June 1886, found at The British Newspaper Archive.

 

It describes an inquest into the death of an apprentice lighterman, who had ‘drowned in the River Thames, opposite the House of Commons’.

Thomas Taylor witnessed the tragedy and gave evidence. The article stated that Taylor had ‘won the Doggett Coat and Badge in 1878’ and that his address was 13 Paradise Street.

Confirming the address

I already know that my great-great-great-grandfather had lived in Paradise Street, but not at that precise address. The 1891 census (included as part of my last post) placed him at 51 Paradise Street.

Thomas Taylor’s daughter Eliza was five years old at the time of the 1891 census. I calculated that this meant she would have been born in about 1886, when the newspaper article above was printed.

Using this information, I tracked down Eliza’s baptism record in the London parish records at Ancestry. You can see that her father was listed as being a Waterman and was residing at 13 Paradise Street. A perfect match!

 

Baptism of Eliza Taylor in Lambeth

 

It’s fantastic to have been able to prove so conclusively that my great-great-great-grandfather did win the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race in 1878.

The Doggett’s Coat and Badge race

May 20, 2014
Maria Taylor

Maria Taylor

Earlier this year, I mentioned that there’s a family rumour about the father of my paternal great-great-grandmother, Maria Taylor.

My nan believes that Maria’s father once won a rowing race called the Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

 

What was the Doggett’s Coat and Badge?

 

The Doggett’s Coat and Badge race is the oldest rowing race in the

Doggetts Coat and Badge race winner

Doggett’s Coat and Badge winner

world. It was set up and funded by the comedian Thomas Doggett and has been held on the River Thames since 1715. Unbelievably, it’s still going today!

Every year, six Thames Watermen who had recently completed their apprenticeships raced from The Old Swan pub at London Bridge to The New Swan pub at Chelsea. Watermen appear to have been similar to taxi drivers, rowing passengers along and across the river.

The prize was an orange coat, a silver badge and the winner also apparently became a Royal Waterman. This ties in nicely with another family rumour about Maria Taylor’s father – that he once took Queen Victoria across the River Thames.

Thomas Edward Taylor, Thames Waterman

 

I was introduced to Maria Taylor’s father for the first time on her marriage certificate. My nan has a copy of this in her possession, so I didn’t need to order it from the General Register Office.

Marriage certificate from 25 December 1899

George Jones and Maria Taylor’s marriage certificate – please click to enlarge

The marriage certificate shows that Maria married my great-great-grandfather George Jones at Putney Church on Christmas Day in 1899. My nan believes it wasn’t unusual for people to get married on Christmas Day, as it was often one of the only days they had off of work.

Thomas Edward Taylor is recorded as being Maria’s father – my great-great-great-grandfather. According to the certificate, he was employed as a Lighterman. Lightermen were similar to Watermen, transporting goods across the River Thames, so this occupation fits in with the family rumour.

I’ve traced the family through the census records at findmypast and have also found Thomas listed as a ‘Lighterman Waterman’ in many of the records. Here he is in the 1891 census, living at 51 Paradise Street, Lambeth with his wife and six children (including a 13-year-old Maria):

The Taylor family in the 1891 census

The Taylor family in the 1891 census – please click to enlarge

 

Next steps

 

My initial investigations seem to show that there could be some truth behind my family rumour. Thomas Edward Taylor had the right sort of occupation to have won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race.

My next challenge is to see whether any records about the race and the Watermen who took part in it survive.

Discoveries at the Society of Genealogists

April 23, 2014

I had a spare couple of hours the other weekend, so thought I’d put them to good use by visiting the Society of Genealogists for the first time.

Having searched the library catalogue in advance, I knew they had microfiche copies of parish records from Campton, Bedfordshire. I’d learnt that my great-great-great-grandmother Sophia Stevens came from Campton a couple of years ago.

Since that discovery, I’ve ordered Sophia’s birth certificate and found out that her unmarried mother’s name was Mary Stevens. I’ve also found Sophia living with her mother and widowed grandmother in the 1851 census on findmypast.

Sophia Stevens in the 1851 census

As you can see, Sophia’s grandmother was also called Mary and was recorded as being a pauper. Her mother, Mary Stevens, was a plaiter and had been born in Campton.

Stevens family in the 1851 census

Sophia Stevens and family in the 1851 census – please click to enlarge

 

What I found in the parish records

The Society of Genealogists’ Campton records were extremely useful and provided me with some new facts for my family tree. This is what I found:

  1. Mary Stevens’ baptism record 

    Sophia’s mother, my 4x great-grandmother, was baptised on 18 June 1820. Her parents were Joseph and Mary Stevens.

    Baptism record from Campton, Bedfordshire

    © Bedfordshire and Luton Archive and Record Service – please click to enlarge

  2.  

  3. Joseph and Mary Stevens’ marriage record 

    Sophia’s grandparents, my 5x great-grandparents, married on 20 April 1817. Mary’s maiden name was Grumet.

    Interestingly, one of her sons is listed as having the middle name Grummit in the 1851 census record posted above.

    Marriage record from Campton, Bedfordshire

    © Bedfordshire and Luton Archive and Record Service – please click to enlarge

 

An amazing photo of the Jones family

February 16, 2014

I just had to share this fantastic photo from my nan’s collection. It shows my great-grandfather John William Jones, his seven siblings and parents in about 1916.

The Jones family in about 1916

 

My nan tells me that from left to right, the photo captures:

  • Tom Jones
  • George Jones, my great-great-grandfather
  • George Jones (nicknamed Bead)
  • John Jones, my great-grandfather
  • Maria Jones nee Taylor (known as Ria), my great-great-grandmother with baby Ann Jones
  • Maria Jones (known as Doll) with Edward Jones (known as Ted)
  • Harry Jones
  • Lilie Jones (who went on to marry Olympic athlete, Ernest Johnson)

 

I’ve found the family in the 1911 census, minus Lilie, Harry and Ann who were not yet born. The family of seven were living in three rooms at 29 Pearman Street in Lambeth – quite a squeeze!

George Jones was employed as a House Painter and it seems Maria had given birth to one other child who had sadly died before the census was taken.

The Jones family in the 1911 census

The Jones family in the 1911 census – please click to enlarge

 

There’s a bit of a family rumour surrounding my great-great-grandmother’s family – Maria Taylor’s father is thought to have won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race, a rowing race along the River Thames. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can prove this for my nan.

Stamp duty on birth, marriage and death certificates

October 23, 2013

One of the first pieces of advice I was given when I started researching my family history was to ask family members for photocopies of any original documents they may have, such as original birth, marriage and death certificates.

This week I realised that this doesn’t just save money when it comes to ordering copies of certificates from the General Register Office (GRO), but also that the originals can teach me something I would never have learnt from the GRO copies.

While organising some of my family history documents, I noticed that the birth and marriage certificates my nan has given me include what looks like a postage stamp in the bottom right corner with a signature over the top. Here’s an example from a 1929 marriage certificate, featuring a George V stamp:

George V revenue stamp on a marriage certificate

 

Following a bit of google research and this handy article on Sue Adams’ Family Folklore blog, I now know that these are actually examples of revenue stamps which were used to pay stamp duty, a tax on documents.

Although I was already aware of stamp duty, I didn’t realise that it had been paid with a physical stamp in the past. Had I not asked my family for copies of these original certificates, I may never have discovered this as the GRO copies don’t include this detail.

Sue Adams’ article states that these ‘Postage and Revenue’ stamps were introduced in 1881, though stamp duty had been imposed on the registration of births, marriages and deaths from 1783.

What I have yet to establish is when the practice of attaching a stamp to certificates died out. The latest example I have in my possession is from 1948. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has a later example or knows the date this practice stopped.

Newspaper article reveals Mercy Howard’s cause of death

April 3, 2013

I officially love the collection of local newspapers available at The British Newspaper Archive – I’ve just spotted another article in there about my great-great-great-grandfather Richard Howard!

I already know that Richard was a widower when he married my great-great-great-grandmother and that his first wife was called Mercy. She died in 1864, eleven years before Richard’s second marriage.

A report in the Cambridge Independent Press on 24 December 1864 reveals the cause of death, stating that when her husband got home Mercy ‘was ill with spasms, to which she was subject, and died almost immediately’.

It also tells me some anecdotal information about my great-great-great-grandfather and what life was like. The article reports that Richard had seen two men fighting near his house and that he went to help, but ‘was set upon for his interference’.

Newspapers are great for adding extra detail to what you already know about your family history, and this is a perfect example:

Newspaper article from the Cambridge Independent Press on 24 December 1864

Article from the Cambridge Independent Press on 24 December 1864 – please click to enlarge

The black sheep of the Silk family

February 25, 2013

Findmypast.co.uk published half a million Crime, Prisons and Punishment records last week, in association with The National Archives.

While testing the new records with a few of my family names, I discovered that my great-great-great-uncle William Silk was tried on 1 April 1913 at the Central Criminal Court in London – otherwise known as the Old Bailey.

Here’s the record I spotted:

William Silk in findmypast.co.uk's Crime, Prisons & Punishment records

William Silk in findmypast.co.uk’s Crime, Prisons & Punishment records – please click to enlarge

It tells me that William Silk was 49 years old and a Post Office Overseer. He was accused of stealing postal packets and postal orders to the value of £1. 10s. 6d., pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months hard labour at Wormwood Scrubs Prison.

William Silk was the older brother of my great-great-grandfather Charles Silk, who I know also worked for the Post Office. Charles was employed as a Sorter from when he started work in 1890 to when he retired in 1931, but census records reveal that William had progressed to being an Overseer by 1901.

The 1911 census below was taken two years before William was sent to prison and shows him living with a wife and four children. I wonder how the family faired after William’s trial, and also whether it was this incident that affected Charles Silk’s progression at the Post Office.

William Silk in the 1911 census

William Silk in the 1911 census – please click to enlarge

The 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial

December 27, 2012

Thanks to a trip to Brooklands Museum in September, I discovered that my great-great-uncle Ernest Johnson had raced there in 1934 as part of the World’s Cycling Championship Trial.

I looked the race up using google and learned that it was held to select four cyclists to represent Great Britain at the World’s Road Race Championship in Leipzig later that year. My search also revealed that the University of Warwick actually have a programme from the race in their collection.

I got in touch with the university and an archivist kindly copied some relevant pages for me. You can see my great-great-uncle’s name listed on page 23:

Cover of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme

Cover of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme

Page 17 of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme

Page 17 of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme

Page 23 of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme

Page 23 of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme

Page 33 of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme

Page 33 of the 1934 World’s Cycling Championship Trial programme