If you’ve looked at my website you’ll see that I offer a range of ways for you to choose from to help you understand your genealogy. These range from full packages tracing your ancestors back through the generations to hourly and daily rates. But what does carrying out this genealogical research entail?
Well it starts with a name, it doesn’t matter who in your family as long as you are absolutely sure they are a relative. If you’re not sure then start at someone you are sure of. From this person I work backwards. I start by researching this individual. My first stop is to find their birth record, either through a birth certificate of baptism record (this depends on the package level chosen, level one does not given your certificates). This will usually give the individuals parents’ names. I then follow this person through the census (between 1841 and 1911) to find where they lived and what their occupation was. It also shows who they were living with, so it could give the names of any spouses and children. This means any potential marriage records can be found and baptism records for their children. The final step is to find the individuals death record although this is not essential in building a tree. This record may come in the form of a certificate or a burial record. I may even find an announcement in the newspaper archive.
Once this ancestor has been completed I work back to the previous generation, i.e. their parents. The research method stays the same for them and the generations before them. It doesn’t matter which package is chosen or a custom package the methods stay the same. I search the birth, marriage and death records, the baptism and burial records, travel records, the census records, the newspaper archive as well as many others. I have to look through them and find the ones relevant to your ancestors and make sure I’m not confusing them with other people with the same name. The more common the surname the longer this takes (which is why most genealogists won’t take on research work for common surnames). All these sources give me a full genealogy of your ancestors and the lives they lived.
The only differences between the packages are the amount of people who are researched. Packages 1 – 4 research both sides of your family. In package 1 I research 14 people, package 2 is 28 individuals, package 3 is 42 ancestors and package 4 is 56 relatives. Package 5 is different as I research. This package follows one surname. It doesn’t have to be your surname, for example it could be your mother’s maiden name or your maternal great grandfathers. I trace the surname back through the generations back to the late 1700’s/early 1800’s (depending on how the generations fall as a generation is usually classed as 30 years).
To trace each individual usually takes several days to do so to do a full package can take many weeks of work researching through all the records to give a full account of your ancestors. Then the genealogy report needs to be written and all the evidence put into a tree. If a package including certificates is chosen then I have to wait for them to be delivered before I can move backwards/forwards to make sure I have the correct person and this can sometimes take several weeks.
I hope all this gives you some indication of what it takes to carry out genealogy research and helps demonstrate why it can take so long to do and the prices genealogists charge. If I charged per the hour for the packages it would be considerably more probably double due to the time it takes to research and make sure you don't miss anything. It’s a balance of doing the best work I can for the lowest price and guaranteeing the best level of service to all clients.
Family stories are as much as part of our ancestry as our ancestors names. They allow us to put flesh on the bones of individuals and help us to better understand those who came before us.
I want to tell you a story that has gone down in my family’s annals.
I wish I could start this blog with a photo of the individuals involved, but alas I don’t have one of the main character.
The story revolves around Archibald Dow the brother of Elizabeth Dow (my Great Grandma). Uncle Archie was my great, great Uncle. He was born in Sunderland in 1869. He was the eldest of 4 children born to George Dow and Eleanor Easton. The family moved to London sometime between 1878 and 1880. Archibald was a decorator by trade and he would paint just about anything, including banks. Archibald married in 1908 to Alice Rayner and they had one son Eric. He died in 1851 in Essex.
This story was told to me by my Grandpa who was with Uncle Archie at the time.
Grandpa and Uncle Archie had gone in to town to buy some glassware for a party they were having. Uncle Archie took a suitcase with him to carry the glasses home. They went to Woolworths as they sold relatively cheap crockery and glasses. They placed the order and the sales assistant wrapped their purchases up in brown paper and stacked them in the suitcase. Uncle Archie took the suitcase and before they left the shop the handle fell of and the case hit the floor breaking all the glasses. Uncle Archie turned around and went back to the counter and uttered the phrase that still has the family laughing to this day “same again love”.
Its stories like this that brings Uncle Archie alive to me. It shows he had a great sense of humour and this belief is backed up by the fact that Grandpa always said he was a jolly old fella.
Another family story in my family relates to my Grandfathers.
My parents met through a mutual friend when they were teenagers working at the local University. My Mum and Dad lived at opposite ends of the city and so except through work they would not have known each other. When they finally introduced their parents to each other it turned out my grandfather’s knew each other as they had worked in the same office for a short period of time. What a small world. What are the odds on this happening?
These stories don’t have to be ones you know, they could develop from researching your ancestors. It may be you discover stories. For example I discovered that my Great, Great Grandfather was the organist at Worksop Priory in the 1870’s. I found articles in the press relating to concerts he performed. This helped bring him to life for me as the articles even stated what he played, so I can listen to the pieces he played (played by others) and hear the talent he had.
Most families have stories like these in them which really need to be written down so that they are not forgotten. It’s great that they are passed down verbally, but they can be changed over time. It’s probably best to just write them down and store them with either your photos or family mementos. If you have a photo of those involved add the story to the photo so future generations can put faces to the names. Another idea could be to get a scrap book and write the story down around a photograph of the person the story is about. I could write about the time when I was about 12 my cousin picked me up and dropped my fully dressed into the paddling pool in Bakewell while on a day out with our mums. Luckily I usually fell in water so clean clothes were in the car.
Most of all just enjoy the stories. If they have been passed down through the family then they meant a lot to your ancestors so keep them going down through the generation to come.
It the 670th anniversary of the Black Death this year. Cheery thought I know but it got me thinking, again! We’ve all heard of the Black Death of 1348 and 1665, but plague was a quite common occurrence. So what is plague?
Well plague is a bacteria that is spread by flea bites mainly. The rats get the blame but all they did was carry the fleas, sort of. A bite from an infected rat could kill, but the rat usually died from the bacteria and so the flea jumped ship to a new host. The rats in some way were as much a victim as the humans were. Poor things. People suffering from plague have symptoms similar to flu but they also suffer from swellings in the lymph nodes especially in the armpits and groin. These often rupture producing puss. It was rare that a person could catch the plague from another unless they received infected blood.
The plague or Black Death as it became known decimated Europe, but it is believed it came from China. The infected rats and fleas crossed the channel in 1348 and arrived in Dorset and spread from there. In 1349 a second wave arrived on a ship which docked in the Humber. At this time period no one really knows what the population of England was but it is believed it was around 6 million. The country had already lost a lot of people due to famine and the 100 Years War we were fighting against France (1337 to 1453) and continuing battles with Scotland. As a result it would be impossible to accurately state how many people died in the outbreak. One of the best ways to discover how many died was to look to the clergy. These men were on the front line of the disease. They would have helped care for the sick and also would have given the last rites to those at the end. This means they were the most exposed group. It is believed between 30 and 40% of the clergy died between 1348 and 1349. Now not all of these deaths would have been attributed to plague so if we take the lower figure of 30% as the death toll and put this into the general population then 1.8 million people in England would have died.
If you put it into the context of your ancestors with a new generation coming along every 30 years your approximately 22 time great grandparents would have survived the outbreak!
This wasn’t the only visit of the plague. It came back several times.
In 1361/62 it is thought the death rate was around 20%.
In 1369 it is thought the death rate was around 10 – 15%.
In 1471 it is thought the death rate was around 10 - 15%.
In 1479/80 it is thought the death rate was around 20%.
The next biggest epidemic came in 1665 predominately in London. If you look at the Bill of Mortality (the document which shows what the people of London died from) at the end of 1665 it shows that 68,596 people died from the plague. In 1664 only 6 died of plague and in 1666 1998 died of the plague presumably these people mainly died before the Great Fire in September. In 1667 only 35 people died of the plague. What most people don’t know about this outbreak is that there was another place that was affected.
Eyam, a small village in Derbyshire also fell victim to the bacteria. The local tailor bought a bolt of cloth from London and he got free fleas with it. People started dying within a week. The local Rector, Reverend William Mompesson, recognised what was happening and decided to quarantine the village. The villages put money in vinegar at the boundary to the village and people from other villages left food. As a result the plague did not spread. It continued in the village for 14 months and in this time the burial records show 273 died. It also seemed that some people had immunity to the plague. Entire families were decimated but one or two members survived, even the village grave digger who handled the bodies survived, but then unless he got infected blood in him he should have been OK as the fleas would have hopped off once the person died. Perhaps it was like now where some people don’t get bitten by bugs and others do, they just don’t taste nice.
Should we worry about plague now, well no. It’s totally curable with antibiotics.
So we’ve had all these outbreaks in England over the years killing millions of people, but we are here now, which means our ancestors survived. They lived through frightening times and survived and so as a result we are here today!
So the New Year has begun and perhaps you have decided this is the year you want to find out more about your ancestry. You could hire someone to do the research for you or you could do it yourself. Either way you need to take certain factors into account. So I’ve decided to list my top genealogy tips.
1. Decide what you want to know before you begin. Do you want to focus on one branch of your family or are you just going to set to and do all your family?
2. Ask you family questions before you begin, they may know what you want to find out or have some access to family records you don’t.
3. Go through your old photos as they could yield some answers to your questions as previous generations may have written on the back of them.
4. Be realistic in what you want to achieve. You can’t just decide you want to set aside a day to do your entire tree.
5. Start from yourself and work backwards. You need to make sure every fact is correct. Just because you think your 3 times great grandparents were call Burt and Connie doesn’t mean they really were, so you need to check the facts.
6. Don’t ignore any sources. You really need to use them all to make sure you get a complete picture of your ancestors. Also don’t ignore sources just because they don’t agree with what you think you know or other sources. You don’t know which is true, so consider everything. Remember to check, check and recheck your findings.
7. You will need to accept that you will hit brick walls in your research. You don’t have to get all the answers now. You can always come back later when you have new ideas and perhaps access to more records. You also need to remember that some people cannot be found in the records no matter how hard you search.
8. Don’t get side tracked. Stick to what you intended to research. Make a note of what you’ve found and come back to it later. I really should stick to this point!
9. Keep meticulous records so if you need to come back to a fact or source later you can find it. Also it will make keeping track of your ancestors easier. Consider using forms to keep track of your research. There are loads of them available free online, or make your own custom one.
10. Check your spellings. Many names can be spelt in different ways. It is not uncommon for those writing down the records to spell the person’s name as they heard it so accents can make a name sound completely different.
11. Explain your findings. Just because you know what something means doesn’t mean others will. It also helps you to future proof your research so your descendants can understand your work.
12. You may uncover things you didn’t expect. You need to accept what you found and try to understand, but remember it has no impact on you and does not need to be kept hidden. No matter what it is it is part of your family history.
13. Don’t forget your family history. What was happening in the world whilst your ancestors were alive would have impacted on their lives and would have been just as important to how they lived as what’s happening in the world today is to us.
14. You may not find you have really exciting ancestors. Unfortunately your family may not be as exciting as it appears on the TV programmes, but don’t be downhearted. You ancestors are just as important. But remember some celebrities families are deemed too dull for the TV.
15. You need to remember genealogy is addictive and you must remember life exists outside your research. Also it’s going to take time to research all your ancestors, so don’t expect to complete you research in months, it will probably be years.
16. If you are having difficulties or you don’t have the time to do the research yourself consider asking a professional genealogist for help, they may know where to find things you don’t. If you do ask them to carry out research for you remember they cannot do it overnight any more than you can, so give them plenty of time.
Do remember that whatever method you use to trace your ancestry remember the most important thing it to have fun and enjoy the process.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!