It’s well known that there are archives for all the precious old documents that need to be looked after, but did you know there are photo archives?
These are great sources of information for genealogists and local historians. They can give a great insight into the history and how a place has changed overtime.
I may be biased as they show photos of the places I’ve known all my life but my favourites are Picture Sheffield (http://www.picturesheffield.com) and Picture the Past (http://www.picturethepast.org.uk). So let’s look at each in turn.
Picture Sheffield is run by Sheffield City Council and is part of Sheffield Archives. It holds a fantastic collection of old and modern photos of Sheffield and the surrounding area. It also has some photos of further afield which have been donated. You can search by area, subject and date. So if you find you ancestors lived in say Woodseats (where I lived) you can search for just this area. If you do there are 669 photos found. Some are of people, some of buildings and some are just general views. Most of these photos can be copied and used for private use, and all can be purchased for a fee.
Picture the Past
Picture the Past is run from Derbyshire Archives in Matlock in conjunction with Derby City Council, Derbyshire County Council, Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council. It holds a wealth of photos covering the 2 counties. Again you can search by place, county or date and view the images. Picture the past also allows you to purchase the images where copyright allows. If you search for Dronfield as an example 518 images are found, with a mix of general, people and buildings.
So why are photo archives so cool? Well, if you are looking for pictures of a place you used to live you can just type the name in and reminisce about the past. They are also invaluable for research. Over time family’s move about and children move further afield and thus you end up with ancestors being spread all over the country, if not the world. Using the photo archives you can see if there are any images of the places they lived or even of them (if you’re really, really lucky!). From here you can build up a picture of what they’re lives and conditions were like. So for example you can see what the area was like. Take for example, you find you ancestors came from Sheffield. Now if you know absolutely nothing about the city, and to be honest most people forget about Sheffield, even though it’s the 5th largest city in the UK, then the photo archive can give you an idea. You can read all the information you want on the city but the old adage is true, a picture really does paint a thousand words. You can see the buildings they knew and the places they visited. You may also be able to see the road they lived and the places they worked. My Great Great Grandparents lived on Bowling Green Street in Sheffield. On Picture Sheffield there are pictures of the Street. (I’m ashamed to say that despite living in Sheffield for 27 years I’ve never been).
The Photo archive can also add photos to family stories. Now I know my grandparents were in the Abbeydale Cinema in Sheffield on the night of the Blitz. There are photos of this building on Picture Sheffield and so if you didn’t know the building you can see a place they had been.
These archives along with the document archives (or document retirement homes as I like to think of them) are so important to anyone with an interest in genealogy or history. They give us the primary sources we need to prove connections and bring out ancestors and pasts to life. The work the archives do is vital and long may it continue.
These days illegitimacy is not frowned upon, but in the past it was a big deal. Anyone tracing their family history will have no doubt come across it several times in their tree and with our modern eyes it doesn’t mean much but then?
Let’s start with what illegitimacy is. Well according to www.collinsdictionary.com “Illegitimacy is the state of being born of parents who were not married to each other” https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/illegitimacy
I suppose up until the 1960’ illegitimacy was frowned upon and the mother was deemed immoral, but now a lot of children are born to parents who aren’t married and no one cares as long as the kids are looked after and happy. But this has not always been the case.
In the past it was not unheard of for single women to be sent to the workhouse or worse for having a child out of wedlock, but nothing was ever done to the father of the child. There is some evidence of women being committed to mental institution for being a single pregnant woman especially if the father of the child was an important person. He wouldn’t want the woman to be listened to and people believe he was the father, must think of his reputation and all that.
The laundry’s and homes run by the Catholic Church were another example of how the women were treated. They were sent there to have the child and have it adopted and some never left. They spent the rest of their lives there. The author Steve Robinson covered this subject in his second Jefferson Tayte genealogical mystery novel “To The Grave”.
Thankfully most women had the child and raised it with the help of their family and went on to have a normal life and in some cases married the father of the child.
In my family illegitimacy is not uncommon. Take my great grandfather for example. He didn’t know he was illegitimate until he had to produce his birth certificate in order to be ordained as a Church of England vicar. When they found out about his illegitimacy they refused to ordain him, even though he had been working as a lay reader for years and thus he became a chemical factory foreman. We have copies of letters he wrote begging for help to achieve his dream of becoming a vicar. It’s a good Christian attitude if you ask me and ironic as if you believe the teachings of the Church. He was baptised so what did it matter. Now the subject of who his father was that is interesting to me. Just 3 years before he was born his mother was in service to the Canon of Norwich and Archdeacon of Norfolk. Now although there is no evidence that anyone in the church was his father, his mother was obviously linked to the church and so could his father have been part of the church? Mind you his mother was pregnant when she did get married 8 years later to the child’s father, so who knows.
The other case of illegitimacy in my family which I find intriguing related to my 3 times great grandmother Sarah. She had 2 illegitimate children one born in 1863 and the other in 1864. I’ve found the records of her and her first child entering the workhouse in Stockport in May 1864 and the reason for entering was pregnancy. He eldest daughter was released 2 days later by order of the parish and lived with her grandparents. Sarah and her new daughter were released in October 1864. Now in some respects she at least had the workhouse hospital to help birth the child, but really was it the best thing to do to 17 year old servant girl? I don’t think so, but perhaps it was to scare her into mending her ways? In any case she didn’t have any more until she was married to my 3 times great grandfather and her children lived with them as a family, including her eldest daughter’s illegitimate son!
Throughout history the stigma has been on the mother for being immoral, but surely the same should have been placed upon the father. The mother hopefully knew who the father was, so he should have shouldered half the blame, if not more as I reckon some of the girls probably either were too young to understand, too frightened to say no or just given promises he had no intention of keeping.
So if you find illegitimacy, don’t judge, just think that without that child I probably wouldn’t be here.
OK I’m not suggesting anyone is descended from animals, that would be impossible although I’m sure me and my guinea pig were siblings as we were so alike in personality.
Let me explain where this rambling came from. One day while watching the ferry come in at Goodwick my Dad asked can you do a family tree from a dog.
My Grandparents had an ex show dog who was registered with the kennel club. Her full name was Bonnie Ruff Candy Tuff and she was a miniature Shetland sheepdog.
This is all I know about Candy. But who were her parents and grandparents? This took me to the Kennel Clubs website to search for her, but it seems they on only have current dogs registered on the internet so I drew a blank straight away. I tried to search for my cousins dog, an Alaskan Malamute who won junior Crufts before they got him, but again I could find nothing on the Kennel Clubs site (I do know more about him for when he joined the family).
So where did this leave my musings? Well no where, but it did get me thinking wouldn’t it be great if you could find this out and create a family tree for your pet. Just image the tree on the wall with photos of the pet’s ancestors. How cute would that be! If you think about it how cool would it be to know about your pet’s family. Would there be similarities in personality and looks. In the case of my guinea pig did they have eye sight problems and have the favourite past times of eating dandelions (I've tried grass and it's OK), hiding, snuggles and sleeping?
Now from here my internal ramblings got out of hand and got thinking about the animal world. Take for example the Eurasian Blue Tit. They have around 8 eggs at a time and up to 4 broods a year. If they all survive a pair of birds will have 32 children per year (8x4). The following year if all the children have children by the end of the year then the original pair will have 1024 grandchildren (32x32) and by year 3 they would have 32768 great grandchildren (1024x32). That’s just mind blowing. So in 3 years from one original couple 33824 new tweety birds can enter the world. So even if just 30% which is the average survive, that’s 10147 new lives! It’s a good job their only small, if they were the size of dinosaurs we’d be over run!
Can you imagine how big their family tree would be? You’d never get it on the wall of a house, let alone a nest wall. It would go round the tree the nest was in hundreds of times (and if it included photos, they’d all look the same pretty much). To put this into perspective, my family tree goes back to my 10 time great grandparents and has 4649 people in it (this includes extended family). If you print it out on A4 paper with just my direct ancestors on it it would cover 30 sheet of paper. I can even begin to fathom how big the Blue tits chart would be. Also can you imagine if they had to choose names for all of them? My ancestors Lady Elizabeth and Sir Thomas Wardle only had 14 children and most of their birth certificates say male or female Wardle as they hadn’t come up with names by the 42 day deadline for registering births!
So back to my original thoughts can you trace the family tree of an animal, I would have to say you could if you had known the animals ancestors, so for example had a long line of animals all descended from one another, then you could form a tree but it could be complicated as you may only have information on one line, but even this would be interesting. So calling all animal owners who have pets from a specific line, why not do a family tree for your pet!
So the TV show is back on our screens and we get to learn about a famous person’s ancestors. I have to say I love watching the show but I often wonder how many celebrities don’t make it to filming. Not everyone can have a famous or important person in their past. But surely all our ancestors are just as important as any other?
OK so from the show so far we’ve learnt that Sir Matthew Pinsent is descended from King William I, (the conqueror), as is Alexander Armstrong and the actor Larry Lamb ancestor was a lion tamer!
But what about your ancestors? Did they have such an interesting life? But then anyone who has lived has had a fascinating life as far as I’m concerned. No matter what they did with their lives they contributed to the fact that you are here so in my opinion it’s all important. Take for example my double great grandfather William Thomas Dent who was born in Norfolk in 1835.
Now William was a farrier, saddler and publican in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. So he was an important person to many people. Not only did he take care of the local horses but he took care of their owner. It’s really clever if you think about it. The horse comes to be reshod or to have a new saddle or one repaired. The owner then leaves the horse and goes into the Red Lion Inn (William’s pub) and has a few drinks and perhaps something to eat. So he makes money twice, genius!
At the other end of the scale though is my 5 times great grandfather William Wardle. He was born in Staffordshire in 1800. He spent his entire life as a farmer. Now some may feel this is not a very interesting life and so not as important, but it is. If he and the thousands of other like him didn’t work the land and produce food, how would everyone else have lived? If farming was not as important then why would TV shows such as the Victorian Farm, the Edwardian farm and the Monastic farm have been made?
Also a lot of the time the role of female ancestors is over looked in the show. Ok in some cases a female ancestor is followed, but what about the millions of women who raised you ancestors and ran the home and in the case of a lot of families worked alongside the man of the house. Now in the case of William Wardle it would be very unlikely that his wife Ellen Taylor wasn’t working on the farm with him. Why employ someone to help on the farm when Ellen can help, as well as raising their 5 children. The same is also probably true of William Dent’s wife Louisa Payling. She must have helped in the pub as well as raising the couples 11 children. But these people would not make great TV.
If we consider what our ancestors did, can we honestly say anyone was any more important than any others? Yes some can be much more interesting. I’m not saying for example Sir Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII adviser was on a level with a farmer, but they were equally important. Cromwell could have passed all the laws he wanted, but if the farmers weren’t doing their important work then there would have been no food to eat and so the population would have got much smaller and so who would Cromwell’ s law’s be relevant to. No people, no need for laws!
So Who Do You Think You Are may show the “interesting” parts of celebrities ancestors but my view is all our ancestors are interesting and worth learning more about.