When you get into genealogy it’s always fun to be able to visit where your ancestors lived and effectively walk in their footsteps. So one good way to do this is to go to where your ancestors lived.
This is something my Grandpa did in the 1990’s when he went to the time of Thorpe St Andrew in Norfolk and I recreated in 2010. Thorpe is a town just 3 miles from Norwich on the banks of the river Yare. Today the town has a population of just over 11,000 and the most notable event in the town was in 1874 when a train crashed killing 25 people and injuring 75.
Thorpe is the centre of one branch of my family, the Weeds family. Now not all member of this branch came from Thorpe but from my 6 times great Grandfather when his son John Weeds was born in the then village in 1755. The last member of my family with a connection to the town was my Grandpa when he was christened in St Andrew’s church in December 1914 just days before his father went to war.
So what do you need to consider before you make a trip.
Well make sure your research is correct. You don’t want to make a trip and be disappointed not to find what you’re looking for and then discover you were in the wrong place. It’s not uncommon for several places to have the same name so it pays to check.
Make sure you have the research you want with you and have made a list of anything you want to discover while you’re there. This means you’re not flapping while trying to find some information you need only to find it’s a home on your desk.
Set out your goals before you go. Don’t just go and make it up as you go along. This could lead to you not achieving everything you want to and finding your trip disappointing.
Make sure you know everything you need before you go. Look into what graveyards there are so you know where to go. It’s not uncommon for the church to have a grave yard as well as a cemetery. Make sure you’ve noted which place your ancestors are buried in. If you have time once you have finished what you set out to achieve then look in other places as you may find things you weren’t expecting to.
Expect to find things out that you weren’t expecting. You may discover the information you have is contradicted by what you have previously found. You may have found a death record which you assumed was you ancestor only to find a gravestone who’s information proves you were wrong.
Do make sure you have a camera and a note book and pen. In fact take several pens in case you lose one. You can photograph all the things you find and the places you ancestors went and lived and make notes as you go along so when you get home you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
Expect your trip to take longer than you though. If you’ve only planned to stay for a few hours, you’ll probably end up spending the day. Before you know it you’re trudging through the undergrowth of a church yard and have lost 3 hours, but you might find some new information.
Use the trip to answer all your questions and don’t forget to visit everywhere you can. Don’t skip things such as war memorials as you don’t think there relevant. Do if your ancestors lived a long time before the wars but if they lived at a similar time then you may find distant relatives on it. For example I found my Great Grandpa’s brother and 2 cousins on the one in Thorpe St Andrew.
Most of all enjoy the trip. It’s your chance to truly connect with your past and walk in their footsteps.
Anyone who reads my blog (A BIG THANK YOU) will know my passion in history is the Tudors. I’ll read anything about them. Well on the 19th of May it is the anniversary of the death of Anne Boleyn.
It is believed Anne was born in 1501 in either Norfolk or Kent, although no one truly knows for sure. She was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Howard (the daughter of the Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. She was the sister of Mary and George. She was an educated woman and learnt many skills that a girl of this time period would not be expected to know. She was known to be strong with her languages.
Anne became a lady in waiting to Margaret of Austria who was ruler of the Netherlands in the stead of her nephew the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. She stayed there for just over a year until her father gain a place as lady in waiting for her in the household of Mary Tudor, King Henry VIII sister, when she went to France to marry Louis XII. When Louis died and Mary remarried and returned to England Anne stayed in France as Lady to the new Queen Claude. Anne returned to England in around 1522 when a marriage was arranged for her but the marriage never took place.
Anne soon had a place in the household of Queen Katherine of Aragon. She was described as being quick witted with excellent dancing, singing and musical skills, but even then her short temper was noted. In 1526 King Henry VIII first really noticed Anne and began to pursue her. This in turn led to Henry beginning to turn away from the Catholic church as he wanted a divorce for Katherine and they wouldn’t allow it. He needed the divorce as many believed Anne would not become his mistress and would accept nothing less than marriage.
Henry began to defer to Anne over Katherine and she was by his side at many great events such as the Field of the Cloth of Gold when Henry met King Francis of France at Calais in one of the most grand and decadent meetings seen. The fountains actually had red wine in them!
In September 1532 Anne became the Marquessate of Pembroke in her own right. This made her a higher rank than almost all the peers of the land. And in November 1532 Anne and Henry married in secret in Dover, small problem though was that Henry was still married to Katherine and would be until May 1533 when his divorce to declared.
Anne was crowned queen on the 1st June 1533 at Westminster Abbey after a procession through London from the Tower of London where traditionally the monarch and consort stayed the night before the coronation. By this time all could tell Anne was pregnant. She was crowned with St Edward’s crown which was usually only used for the monarch.
During her time as Queen Anne was a great advocate of the protestant faith, possibly more so than the King himself.
Anne gave birth to her first child in September 1533, a girl named Elizabeth. She suffered a stillbirth in 1534 and a miscarriage in 1536 and many believe this miscarriage was the final straw for the King.
As was said before Anne was known to have a temper on her and was also accustomed to getting her own way and this also played a part in her downfall. It is said she was overheard to have told Sir Henry Norris, one of the King men, that after the Kings death he would wish to marry her. This statement alone was ground for treason as imagining the Kings death was against the law. This accompanied by the, probably very false, confession of one of the Queens musician Mark Smeaton to have having an affair with the queen lead to the arrests on the 2nd May 1533 of the Queen along with Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brerton, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Richard Page and Viscount Roachford George Boleyn. All were charged with treason for having knowledge of the Queen (in other words having an affair with her). In the case of the Queen and Viscount Roachford this was incest as they were brother and sister.
All were taken to the Tower of London and on the 12th May Weston, Norris and Brereton were tried declaring their innocence. Only Mark Smeaton confessed after torture. All men accused were found guilty of. Sir Thomas Wyatt was never tried as he was declared innocent. On the 15th May Queen Anne and her brother were tried and also found guilty of high treason. The law of the land stated that the men should be hanged, drawn and quarter and Anne should be burned at the stake. In the end all the men were beheaded on the 17th may on Tower Hill by axe.
Anne herself was to also be beheaded, but the King paid to have a swords man brought over from France to carry out the execution. She left her quarters in the Tower of London on the 19th May 1536 and was lead to the execution site. She made her speech to the crowd in which she praised the King. She was then blindfolded and knelt down and her head was removed with one swing of the sword. She was then buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London in an unmarked grave. Her brother was also buried there.
So was Anne Boleyn the villain that history portrays her to be or was she a porn in the politics of the day? It’s very probable that she said somethings she shouldn’t have and got herself into some uncomfortable situations, but did she deserve to die for it. Or was her true downfall the fact that she didn’t produce the much needed male heir and the Kings eye began to roam. The truth is a source of much debate, but since the King became engaged the day after Anne’s execution and married 10 days after that!
Today we live more in a throwaway society and if something is damaged or broken it goes but this is a luxury many of our ancestors would have loved to have had.
I’m sure we’ve all done it. We get a garment that gets a hole in it and so it goes. Bur what would our ancestors have done. Well this would have depended on the damage. So for clothes they would have mended them if they could. Socks would be darned and holes would be stitched up.
How many of us would have thrown these jeans away? Our ancestors would never have done this. They would have carefully stitched over the area until the mend would nearly have been invisible. If the damage was too great then the garment would probably have be reused in another way. In the case of a pair of trousers that were damaged on the bottom they could be shortened and given to a younger member of the family. If this wasn’t possible then the garment could be turned into something else. So for example if a pair of curtains was ripped on the top and couldn’t be mended then the fabric could be recycled into clothes for someone.
But if the fabric was beyond use for being turned into new clothes then it still had a use. Cleaning in the home was a very time consuming chore for the lady of the house. Everything had to be done by hand. So having rags was essential. Old clothes could be used for washing floors and dusting and even for use as washing cloths and towels for the family. They could even be used to make a rag rug by attaching rags to a hessian sack to keep the cold from their feet.
But what when the rags were beyond use for that. Well they could be used in the garden. They could be strung over the garden to keep the births off the crops. If they weren’t even fit for this they would be sold to a rag and bone man who would then sell the rags to shoddy makers. These were factories that recycled the rags into yarn to make new cloth.
But what else did our ancestors make do and mend. Well obviously scraps of material could be used to make toys for children such as balls and rag dolls. Also old furniture could be reused after its functional life was over. So if a chair had a broken leg then the leg could possibly be mended by a new piece of wood being attached but if all the legs were damaged by rot at the foot then the legs could just be cut down to make a child’s chair. Or if the whole set of chairs and the table had rot then the whole lot could be shortened.
Pieces of wood could be collected and used in a variety of ways. In rural areas wood could be used to mend fencing and mend holes in buildings and even to build new items such as storage boxes to pack vegetables and flowers to send them to market. In the towns wood could also be used for covering windows instead of curtains or even making pallet beds to sleep on.
Today there is a mass market for selling crafting products and we can make so many different things from our own clothes to our own furniture. We make our own Christmas decorations and gift for one another, but in reality our ancestors had been doing this for as long as time can remember with the bits and pieces they had in their homes as nothing was wasted, everything was used until it couldn’t be used anymore or made into something else and then they would perhaps have been able to get a few penny’s for them
Maps are a valuable asset to anyone carrying out research into their ancestry. They show use what we can no longer see.
For anyone interested in a particular area an old map can be invaluable. The census records are a fantastic source of information to us as it tells us exactly where our ancestors live. But that’s all it does do. If you don’t know the area it really means nothing to you. So this is where maps come into play. Now in some cases using online maps such as Google Maps is great as you may be able to find the street your ancestors lived on and using Street View you might even be able to see the house they lived in. But what if the area has changed? Then what, well this is where old maps come in. By looking at the old map you might be able to see the street they lived on and then can compare it to a modern map and find you where the street used to be.
But you might say where can I see old maps. Well there are some websites that sell old maps and I have to say I use the Alan Godfrey collection (www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk). This site sells maps for most regions of the UK and range from one inch to the mile and much more detailed where you just buy the one for the area of the city you want. So for Sheffield there are 24 maps covering the areas of the city. If you don’t want to purchase a map then your local library probably has them for your town or city.
Another way maps can assist you in your research is by allowing you to plot where all the members of your ancestor’s family lived. This can show where families lived in relation to one another and can demonstrate how families stayed in similar areas and probably worked in similar places which may also be on the map. I know within my own ancestry many families stayed closed by each other with children marrying and living on the same street. So by plotting this on a map you can have a visual representation of where everyone lived. You could even annotate the map by putting names of ancestors on it.
Another great benefit of using maps is that they can show how an area changes over time.
If you look at the map of Sheffield from 1822 and then compare it to the map of 1905 you can see how much the city grew. On the 1822 map you can see field near the town centre where as by 1905 the field are now built on. Show this demonstrates that the lives of anyone from Sheffield must have change. So in near 90 years, which is approximately 3 generation any Sheffield ancestors will have gone from living in a small town to living in a city. So my 5 times great Grandparents would not recognise the Sheffield my Great Grandma, who in turn would probably not recognise the Sheffield of my childhood, although at least some of the same building would have been present. So it gives you a good idea of how places evolved over the years and show how you ancestors may have moved around the area they lived in to follow the work.
All in all I find maps a great source of information. They seem to put life into where your ancestors lived and gives you a true insight into their lives especially if they can be used with modern maps and road views so you can even see the homes they lived in.
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!