Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'Z' is for Zero-ing in!

(click on the pictures to enlarge)

Rounding off the 'A-Z' for this year, I find myself with many gaps in my Family Tree (that's it, above!)

There are so many question-marks regarding the 'missing links' - the gaps of generations unaccounted for. 

I don't like having large blank areas - I know these people must have existed, but finding the documented proof is another matter!

However, every now and then I get a break-through and suddenly we're off back another generation or two and I have to add extra 'twigs' to the edge of the 'branches'. ;-p

However, some remain lurking in the shadows; almost like rumours and whispers. Well, I'm 'zero-ing in' and tracking down these elusive people - who knows, I might actually find out the 'truth' about the family mysteries ........one day!

Thank you all for joining me on this whistle-stop A-Z tour around the
wonderful (and addictive!) world of Genealogy!

I hope you enjoyed it - and feel inspired to go and do likewise.

Please let me know how you get on!

Monday, 29 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'Y' is for Yesteryears!

(Post-WW1 street party, Carlisle, 1919;
my Mum, Grandmother and Great Grandmother feature here!)

Nearly at the end of this year's 'A-Z' blog-meme, my brief look at Genealogy has reminded me of the differences and similarities between the lifestyles of the previous generations and the present day.

Looking back, their lives were generally harder - struggling to keep land and livestock, coping with almost constant child-bearing and dealing with mortality (both infant and adult) from diseases and illnesses that would today be quickly remedied.

Also there were great separations when families emigrated, rarely to be seen or heard of again, often the only communication would likely be to inform those 'back home' of someone's demise. Nowadays, we have instant global contact by telephone and internet.

Yet, for all their material deficiencies, I've realised that (mostly) my families had a greater sense of community. Then, they would often live within a street or two of each other; older relatives would play their part in raising the younger ones, imparting wisdom as they passed on their cultural heritage and trade-skills. Nowadays, families are often geographically miles apart; older relatives pursue their own careers for longer and are often more financially secure and able to indulge in pursuits for their own ends.

Our forbears may not have had the convenience of supermarkets and 'wall-to-wall' entertainment, but they also did not have the level of depressive illnesses caused by stress that our hectic lives can induce at times. When they fell wearily into their beds they generally were so physically exhausted that they would not likely lie awake fretting about life's worries!

Our modern day labour-saving gadgets would seem miraculous; we take for granted a machine that can wash clothes with the flick of a button or dial, whereas even our grandmothers would perhaps have spent hours boiling up water and scrubbing collars. (however, although assisted by electricity ironing still takes time!)

(as a child, even I remember using a washboard like this and a 'dolly' in the washtub 
-  how many times I nipped my fingers in the mangle, too!)

Vacuum cleaners and a less dusty environment mean keeping our houses clean is not the herculean task Great-Granny might have faced.

Cooking on clean and efficient stoves at the click of a button would seem magical to someone who would have had to find kindling and coal and wait for the oven to heat up - and also require the skill to know when it was hot enough to cook thoroughly but not burn the food.

So, looking forwards, I wonder what the generations yet to come will make of our lives today?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'X' is for His or Her 'mark'

With formal registration introduced into England and Wales in 1837 (1855 in Scotland), Births, Marriages and Deaths were required to be collated and administered by law.

Alas, a lot of the general population, certainly in these earlier years, were generally illiterate; thus when required to append their signature to these legal documents they would simply scribe an 'X', leaving the registrar to write the name for them.

I volunteer at our local Register Office, collating and checking registers onto a searchable online index. This requires going through each register for the local area and inputting details onto a database. This last week I did a 500-entry register of Births from 1891, for the area of Leamington, Warwickshire - there were surprisingly few 'X' entries and it was interesting to see how well even the possibly lowest educated person at least had the skills of reasonable penmanship!

The week before, I was doing a Marriage register for the same area but from 1837 - far more 'X' entries that time! Mind you, some of the incumbent Ministers of the parish concerned seemed to have almost illegible writing - 'a', 'e' and 'o' took a bit of guesswork in interpretation on my part; likewise the fashion for not crossing the 't' mid-word. It required a bit of detective work to determine whether they meant 't' or 'l'!

Mind you - here's my 2xGreat Grandparent's marriage recorded in the parish register for Wetheral, Cumberland, 1835:

 (click on the picture to enlarge)

He managed to make a good signature but she, poor lass, had to make her mark - and couldn't even manage a 'X'! 

Friday, 26 April 2013

A-Z 2012 'W' is for Workhouse

(Bermondsey Union Workhouse, Lewisham, c.1900)

Searching through my Family Tree I have so far not found any reference of any family members being forced into the Workhouse. Poor though some of them may have been, it seems they were able to keep the wolf from the door - or at least had other family and friends willing to support them.

For that, I am grateful - reading of the harrowing and spartan conditions in many workhouses, especially in Victorian times, it is no wonder that it really was the last resort for many.

Many of these establishments were grim and prison-like, with different accommodation blocks to segregate the genders. On arrival, families would be separated, mothers nursing children would be kept together, but most often older children were housed separately - I wonder if some ever saw each other again.

Diet was poor and subsistent - despite regulated inspectors, Workhouse overseers were largely masters of their own domain and would often seek to save money by serving low quality food.

Aside from all this, the days were long and tedious with menial tasks to be performed - it is small wonder so many inmates developed mental problems.

Census records for Workhouses list the Overseer as the Head of the 'household' and then his own family, followed by a list of all the inmates and details of their age, place of birth and occupation. Given the fact that they were housed and treated indifferently, I suppose at least with every decade-wide census they were afforded the courtesy of appearing as individuals in their own right.

This verse perhaps sums up the despair that so many tried to avoid when faced with the prospect of ending up in the Workhouse:

Hush-a-bye baby, on the tree top,
When you grow old, your wages will stop,
When you have spent the little you made
First to the Poorhouse and then to the grave.

(anonymous verse from Yorkshire)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'V' is for Villages

Parish Church of St. Mary and St. Peter, Weedon Lois, Northamptonshire
(Parish Church of St Mary and St Peter, Weedon Lois, Northamptonshire)

Hunting down my elusive forebears has seen me tramping through various cemeteries and churchyards, sometimes in large towns and cities, but more often in small and out-of-the-way villages.

So often, in British history, the 'village' has been the entire universe to some of our ancestors. Some lived and died without ever moving out of their bucolic environs.

A lot of these villages have amazing names - some small and mono-syllabic, others double-barrelled or hyphenated; often the smallest hamlets have the longest names!

Here in the English Midlands, near the meeting point of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, we are surrounded by some of the quaintest of village names; for example: Bishop's Itchington, Leamington Hastings, Ashby St Ledgers, Claybrook Magna, Husbands Bosworth, Luddington-in-the-Brook, Yardley Gobion....old and curious names that have survived the generations.

Then there are the odd little ones: Crick, Hope, Leire, Aynho, Old, Griff - all tucked away in the gentle rolling countryside.

At least when my ancestors stayed put it made it easy to look for them - then some got the wanderlust and they were up, off and away!

We discovered a couple of hubby's ancestors were buried in the nearby village of Roade - odd, as the family all seemed to come from London. On further investigation, we discovered that this couple, man and wife, had set off from Roade at the start of their marriage and set up in the shoe trade in London. (We think he was a master shoemaker and Roade is in Northampton, a traditional site for the shoe industry.)

It seems they raised a fairly large and extended family in the London area, but then returned to their roots in their latter days, being buried with their own ancestors. I've pieced a line back (via their siblings) as far as 1592 - all back to that same village! And knowing how these family names changed their spelling over the years, I've made a tenuous (but so far unsatisfactorily proven) link back to the early 1400's!

Now hubby's just retired, I think we might pack a picnic and take ourselves off to Roade, for a tramp around the churchyard - to think his family are virtually on our doorstep!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'U' is for Uncles and Aunts - sidestepping the direct line!

Trees don't normally just grow straight up, they branch outwards - and no 'family tree' is without it's 'side branches', the Uncles and Aunts! The trouble is, a lot of Family Tree templates don't allow for more than one child - which means recording multiple siblings gets complicated.

For some generations I have genealogies that encompass siblings - for others it's a single line of  Grandparent-parent-child lineage.

To see the way parents used names from different generations is interesting, but in larger families once they get beyond formal or familiar naming patterns they often start getting a little more adventurous!

Take my maternal Grandfather, Joseph Edward Beattie; as I've mentioned previously he was exactly named after his own father (so he's JEB Jnr). Not that unusual, until you realise he wasn't the firstborn, but the 5th son and 8th child of 15 siblings! Normally you'd expect the first son to be named after his father, so why bypass so many children?  (beats me! :-/)

Anyway, here they are in order of birth:
John, Jane Elspeth, Mary Ann, David Johnstone, George, Rachel, Thomas, Joseph Edward, Charles, James,  Isabella, Robertina, Janet, Andrew and finally, Charlotte.

(see what I mean about the names getting a little more adventurous towards the end!)

The joy of all this is that most of these went on to marry and produce children - and again there is the repetition of names (most of them had a 'Joseph Edward' at some point!)

Seeing the recycling of names helps when digging backwards, too - you often unearth previously unknown Uncles and Aunts and think 'Ah - so that's where the name came from!'

When it came to deciding on names for our own children, hubby and I decided their first names should be ones that were not already in the family, although we did use 'recycled' ones for their middle names as a nod towards tradition.  Imagine finding out from an elderly aunt, 'Oh your Grandad had a brother called ****** and a sister called ******.....!" It was news to me, as I'd not done any of the family history and knew very little about that side of the family. The Uncles and Aunts strike again!

(Mind you, I haven't found another Robertina, Isabella or Charlotte yet, but who knows.....!)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'T' is for Tracing Living Relatives

{credit - Norman Rockwell }

Tracking down the family history isn't just about delving backwards in time; I've met up with all sorts of 'distant' relatives in the course of checking through the documents. Some are people I've heard about, mentioned in family discussions through the years - others appear out of the blue, when we discover that we're both chasing the same family line. I've discovered rather a lot of cousins 'x-times removed'!

I once put out a request for information on a family history message board, only to be contacted by someone  else who said she'd been trying to track down the same information about her husband's family. It turned out that his Grandfather and mine were brothers! In an even funnier quirk, they'd been trying to find his Grandparents' headstone in Carlisle cemetery - I knew exactly where it was (behind my own Grandfather's stone, as it happened) and was able to direct them to it. In fact, I had photos of the stone in question, so they knew what they were looking for! 

A good deal of emailling back and forth meant we were able to share old family photos and information that filled in some of our Family History 'gaps'. We arranged to meet - and got on like a house on fire. I suppose it's in the blood, after all!

I had a similar experience when I'd got another response to my queries - this time someone from Maine contacted me, saying that though he shared the family name he knew we weren't related but gave me a name and number to contact. Imagine my surprise when this 'contact' turned out to be one of my Mother's cousins - to hear this 'stranger' on the phone telling me about my Mum and other family members was rather odd, but almost like putting another piece of the 'jigsaw puzzle' together.

I think finding the 'living' links is every bit as exciting as digging-up the long-dead ancestors! (metaphorically speaking!)

Monday, 22 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'S' is for Stonemason

Genealogy is not just about dates and places, it's also about how our ancestors lived and what they did.

Often their occupations were defined by their local area - generations would work the same pieces of land, either in their own freehold or working for wealthier land owners. Thus, families would often stay within the space of a few villages their entire lives - marrying into local families, raising children and in turn being buried in the local churchyard.

Others followed the previous generations into specific trades, 'like father, like son'. There is a several-generation 'tradition' of stonemasons in one of my family lines. This is not the basic 'stone-cutting' for building materials; it's more on a par with sculpture. A Master Mason would spend many years learning his craft, starting as an apprentice and learning much of their trade by helping with conservation of earlier constructions, following the age-old methods of hand-chiselling.

Grandad at work!

An eye for design and detail was essential and my Grandfather was a keen illustrator - a couple of pic's from one of his notebooks (whilst convalescing in an auxilliary hospital after WW1):

This is my Great Grandfather's headstone - it has some beautiful knot-work at the top (I need to go back up to Scotland and re-photograph it properly!) done by his own sons (my Grandfather and his brother).

Designing, producing and erecting headstones was the family's 'bread and butter' and a fair number of the stones in Carlisle Cemetery were done by the family 'firm':

The engraving and sculpting would all be done at the workshops, then the pieces would be assembled on site.

(My Grandfather's headstone being 'assembled' under the watchful eye of his nephew)

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'R' is for Reivers

Genealogy throws up a variety of stories about our ancestors - some funny, some sad .....and some just downright bad. Here's an insight to some of my forebears!

The Border Reivers were groups of marauding families living in the Scottish/English Borders, active mainly from the late 13th century to the early 17th century. They raided homesteads throughout the borders with such regularity and ferocity that the whole area was termed the Debateable land - meaning that there was no clear right of ownership.

A great number of my Family Tree 'branches' are members of this dubious heritage - sheep thieves and cattle rustlers! It was not a good time or place to live - don't be led astray by the romance of Hollywood with their 'versions' of Scottish history! The Reivers were fierce and feared - taking lives as well as livestock. In fact, the term 'bereaved' (to be reived) stems from their actions! They were sort of guerilla soldiers, expert at tracking and ambushing, murdering remorselessly, as well as using their skills to run what would now be called 'protection rackets' - they were the Scottish equivalent of Chicago gangsters - indeed, as well as 'bereaved', their exploits gave the words 'gang' and 'blackmail' to the English language, too!

So awful were the reputations of such families that in 1525 the then Archbishop of Glasgow, in despair, uttered a curse upon them!

In fact, the curse covered not only those who fought, but also their horses, their clothing, their crops, anyone who helped them - it really is the mother-of-all-curses - read it here (if you dare)

...and as I can count a good dozen or so families in my 'tree' living in that area at that time, I sincerely hope this curse is no longer binding! (although, I have heard it said the good Archbishop refused it to be renounced! :-o)

Friday, 19 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'Q' is for Quests and Quirks

Tracing my Family Tree has certainly been something of a 'quest'! Genealogy seems to involve a certain amount of sleuthing - it's very easy to find you're following the 'wrong' line and I also have little pockets of  family relationships that seem to tie in if only I could find definite links. It's a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle - you find people that fit together as families, but until you can definitely link them in with 'proof' documentation you can never be sure they are the right 'John/Jane Smith'!

Census returns are invaluable in tracing the members of a family and their movements - a ten-year gap can introduce 'new' members of the household, as well as their geographical changes.

Then there are the 'quirks'! Genealogy is not an exact science (oh, that it were!) so you need to have a certain amount of flexibility - backing up your 'theory' with as much evidence as possible is vital. When I used to work in our local library, a lot of people enquiring about Family History were ushered my way (the other staff knew I had a keen interest!) so I spent a fair amount of time in the Local History section. It was lovely to see people trying to identifying their roots, but it was also difficult explaining exactly why Great Aunt Matilda wasn't on the census returns, or even that the age was 'wrong'! As I've said before, don't believe all you see - the accuracy of even official documents is dependent on who wrote them (and what they were told to write!)

I once spent months assuming a mother and child in a family I was tracing had possibly died as they did not appear on a subsequent census return. Then, lo and behold, they popped up on a later one! A bit of sleuthing uncovered the fact that they had been visiting friends in another district on census night and therefore had not appeared with husband/father and the rest of their family. (I'd thought it odd that in the absence of a spouse the father had appeared as 'married' rather than 'widowed'!)

So, polish up your magnifying glass and adopt Sherlock Holmes-style sleuthing skills - you'll need them, to track down the missing branches in your family tree!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'P' is for Photographs

Genealogy would be boring if it was only names and dates, but I'm lucky enough to have a fair number of old family photographs, especially some very old ones, so I thought I'd just 'pin' up a few more here, to celebrate 'P' for Photographs. You can probably guess at the ages, judging by the 'dress'!

Here's my Great Grandfather, Joseph Edward Beattie (Snr):

(I wonder if he actually rode that bicycle, or if it was just a 'prop'?)

My Grandmother, Kate (Meyers) Beattie, flanked by two of her sisters-in-law)

My Great Aunt Robertina (always referred to as 'Aunt Ina')

A very sad picture of one of my Grandmother's sisters, Hilda.
After a fall in the school playground she was ill for some time and died not long after this was taken.

My maternal Grandparents, Joe Beattie and Kate Meyers - this was always referred to as the 'betrothal' picture, taken the day they decided to get married. (Quaint!)

...and some pictures I have only as photocopies - no-one knows where the 'originals' are, unfortunately:

My Great Grandmother Janet (Davidson) Beattie

Here's my 2xGreat Grandfather John Beattie
(again, a dog 'in tow' - they feature a lot in Beattie family portraits!)

The last couple are two of my favourites:
My mother (centre) and her brother and sister, taken in the early 1930's

....and finally:
Another picture of my Mum as a very small child!

It was hard deciding which ones to show here, there are so many - but I'll save a few for the rest of the A-Z!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'O' is for Occupation

Looking through the census returns it's possible to see the various occupations my ancestors had - and quite varied they were too! Some were involved in the military and the Royal Navy, but many were quite nondescript jobs.

For instance, there's the ambiguous title of 'Ag. Lab.' (agricultural labourer - a universal term encompassing anything from ploughman to farm-hand and countless other jobs in between!). Here's a picture of one of my 2xGreat Grandfathers, Charles Beattie - shown in the census returns as a 'shepherd'

(I don't know when the picture was taken but he died in 1873.)

I assume he may have carried on a family tradition with livestock, since just a few generations earlier his family were one of those involved in sheep-stealing and cattle-rustling known as the Border Reivers (I'll get to them in 'R'!)

Strangely enough, one of his sons and the generations after that became stonemasons by trade. Three generations later my maternal Grandfather Joseph Beattie, along with is brother David, had moved south of the Scottish Border to Carlisle where they set up in business as stonemasons.

Here's Grandad at work in a cemetary, hammer and chisel in hand.

Incidently, his brother David is one of my heroes, as he wrote a number of books but he was also a keen amateur genealogist and local historian - I have him to thank for much of my family tree on that side of the family!

My father's side of the family were mainly miners - and until I started digging back I had no idea we had Irish roots! They moved to Scotland around 1850 and were involved in the coal mines around the Glasgow area. They married into Scottish mining families, so I have 'face-workers', hewers and 'slack sorters' amongst other trades. Some of the women branched into mill work, so they were involved in weaving as 'pickers' and  'piecers'.

The most exotic trade I've found was 'tea dealer'! Another of my 2xGreat Grandfathers, David Johnstone, gave this as his trade in the census - basically, I think he was a travelling salesman! ;-p

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'N' is for Names and Naming Patterns

I am, by turns, amused and amazed at the way my family have re-used names through the generations and also the strange and exotic ones that occasionally took their fancy!

Of course, it's not unreasonable to name children after their parents - I have several lines who named their first-born sons after the father, through several generations. I've had to resort to numbering them (e.g John Smith I, John Smith II, III, IV....etc) to try to keep them in order!

A lot of my family seem to have followed the traditional naming patterns pertaining to Scottish folklore:

1st son named after father's father
2nd son named after mother's father
3rd son named after father
1st daughter named after mother's mother
2nd daughter named after father's mother
3rd daughter named after mother

Applying this principle has come in useful on occasion, when trying to track down elusive records where the forename has been unknown, but it's not infallible!

My maternal Grandfather was named Joseph Edward Beattie - the exact name of his father - but he was the fourth son and middle sibling of a family of fifteen; it begs the question why his parents decided to wait until his arrival in order to pass on the father's full name?  Also, most of Grandad's siblings named one of their respective sons Joseph Edward, too. The two names carry on being used in successive generations, no wonder I need some kind of number reference to try to keep track of them!

Then there are the 'exotic' names - among my favourites are 'Euphemia', 'Isabella', 'Robertina' - rather grand names for the children of simple tradesmen and 'ag labs' (agricultural labourers)!

There's also a penchant for using surnames of previous generations as a middle name (e.g. Donald Davidson Beattie)  That helps when trying to corroborate family relationships, or gathering in the 'missing links' - for years I wondered why the name 'Caldwell' was used as my paternal Grandmother's middle name, until I came across some cousins, several times-removed, whose surname was Caldwell. Mystery solved!

However, I think my 2XGreat Grandmother Elspeth was having a laugh: her father's name was David Johnston and then she goes and marries John Davidson - I am constantly mixing them up! ;-)

Monday, 15 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'M' is for Military

(Grandad's WW1 certificate)

Military records can often produce hitherto unknown details - precisely because the armed forces were required to maintain accurate records (although, in the earlier years those details were largely taken on trust, as it was assumed applicants would be truthful in the information they supplied!)

I've come across those members of my family who chose military careers, as well as the faithful ones who responded to their nation's call in times of war.

This is my 2xGreat Grandfather William Routledge in his uniform as a corporal in the Royal Artillery:
(this is the family who travelled to Bermuda, mentioned in 'J' is for Journeys... )

My maternal Grandfather, Joseph Edward Beattie, a 'sapper' in the Royal Artillery, WW1:

.....and James, one of his brothers:

Interestingly, another two of my Grandfather's brothers had earlier emigrated to Australia, but duly enlisted to fight for 'King and Country' and were sent to France as members of the ANZAC forces. Unbelievably, they met up with my Grandfather during a lull in the fighting, having not seen each other for nearly a decade. (there's a semi-fictionalised account of the hair-raising outcome of that here !)

Rolling forward to the next world-wide conflict, here's my Dad in his RAF uniform:

The 'boys in blue' (slang reference to members of the Royal Air Force, mainly the 'fly-boys'!) are often remembered for dog-fights over London and the Battle of Britain; but they also needed ancillary staff - thus my Dad was a motorcycle despatch-rider posted in Italy and North Africa. He sometimes had to ride out behind the enemy lines with the LRDG's (long range desert group). The tales he told about them would make your hair stand on end - they were the inception of the now world-famous British SAS! :-o

Here's Dad looking a bit smarter in his 'dress' uniform, getting married to Mum in 1942:

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'L' is for Lineages

There is something rather pleasing about a record of direct lineage through the generations. Seeing the names and details of each 'link' in the chain ties me to my ancestors, even if most of them are just names on a page.

This is the longest direct line I have recorded in my Family History search and covers 11 generations, from my 7xGreat Grandparents down to my kids!

As for the whole Family Tree - well, it's big, with many branches! I'll try to post a picture of it all before the end of this meme!

Friday, 12 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'K' is for Kelly's Directories

Anyone who is serious about genealogy, certainly here in the UK, will be familiar with Kelly's Trade Directories!

These wonderful tomes of knowledge carry trade information regarding business and their proprietors and were started by Frederick Festus Kelly. In 1836, he was chief inspector of letter carriers for the General Post Office and took over the publication of the Post Office London Directory. Eventually he acquired the copyright himself and in the following years he expanded the business, branching out to other regions. In 1897 the company was renamed Kelly's Directories Ltd, and from then until the 1970's annual editions appeared for most country directories.

Even just to look through the earlier editions is intriguing, with all the contemporary advertising. Local Libraries usually have a set for public view - they are well worth a look! (and if any of your family were 'in trade' you might even find out the odd snippet or two of information about them!)