Father's Day

June 20, 2020

Father's Day is a special time for families to remember and celebrate the many aspects of fatherhood that we have come to know and value so much. Fathering can be a difficult responsibility, and no one gets it perfect. We can even get a wrong impression of our fathers and what motivates them, especially from what we are told by others.

I recently watched a Japanese film called The Fighter Pilot, also known by the title The Eternal Zero. It was a fascinating and well produced film that I would thoroughly recommend - if you don't mind films with subtitles. It follows the journey of discovery made by a brother and sister who learn the truth about the real grand-father that they did not know existed, and his time as a fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese forces during World War 2.

The story moves between the present day and key moments of the war. It follows the brother and sister as they research their grand-father's life and the ensuing struggle that they face with the image of him that they form from the testimony and opinions of former comrades. The shame that they feel almost deters them from continuing their search but, as with all family history research, perseverance is key.

If you like a story that immerses you in the personal investment that two young people put into discovering the true story of their family, then you will enjoy this film. It has many well developed characters and relationships, as well as dramatic aerial combat scenes, and a couple of good twists near the end. There is plenty of pathos and, while there is sadness, it has a happy ending.

Love and loss, and love again

April 25, 2020

One of the morbid realities with genealogy is that death is a constant. The high mortality rate of earlier generations really hits home when you come across infant deaths and deaths as a complication of childbirth. Then there is the impact on families from the deaths of sons, husbands and fathers during times of war.

 

One sad story that I recently came across during some research is that of Thomas Charles Maltese Macey. Given his name, you might be forgiven for thinking that he came from a privileged background but nothing could be further from the truth. Thomas was born in 1888 in Hornsey, London, and grew up in Islington where, like his father, he worked as a labourer for the Borough Council.

 

Thomas enlisted in The London Regiment and was a private in the 10th Battalion when he married Elizabeth Clara Beavis on 30 May 1915. It wasn't long before his unit, now known as the 162nd Brigade in the 54th (East Anglian) Division, left England for service overseas, sailing from Plymouth in late July; destination - Gallipoli. Thomas arrived as part of an amphibious landing at Suvla Bay on 11 August. This was a reinforcement of earlier landings by Australian and New Zealand divisions, as well as an Irish and Welsh division. With the enemy positions also heavily reinforced, it was never going to be an easy task for the Allies to dislodge them.

 

Subsequent attempts by the allies to capture strategic positions failed, and the opposing sides settled into a stalemate that saw an Ottoman orderly regularly hanging out washing on barbed wire in 'no mans land', and gifts being exchanged between enemy combatants - the Turks throwing dates and sweets across to the Allied soldiers who would toss cans of beef and packs of cigarettes back in return.

Summer settled in, and with it came flies and disease; sickness and deaths increased as the conditions deteriorated. Summer heat gave way to wet Autumn gales and then Winter blizzards; death took on a new persona with soldiers succumbing to drowning and the freezing cold. With no realistic prospect of victory, and public opinion turning, and the soldiers' morale failing, the total withdraw of troops was under consideration. On top of this, the entry of Bulgaria into the war allowed Germany to re-arm the Turks, further exasperating the already precarious position of the Allied divisions.


Thomas' thoughts must have been torn between focusing on surviving in these dreadful conditions, and his wife back home in London. It was during the wet and cold month of October that Thomas died. His grave at the 7th Field Ambulance Cemetery, Çanakkale, Turkey, marks the day when he paid the ultimate sacrifice as the 23rd, less than five months after marrying Elizabeth.

Exactly when Elizabeth heard of her husband's death remains unclear but it wasn't until after war's end that she found love again and married another soldier, with whom she had a son.

Some genealogies for Easter

April 11, 2020

At this difficult time when there is fear and much searching, the remembrance of Jesus Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection offers us hope. In light of this, I thought it would be interesting to look at a couple of genealogies recorded in the Bible.

Firstly, two of the four gospel accounts record the genealogy of Jesus. Why is this important? The authors were writing to different audiences and wanted to convey different attributes of Jesus, His nature and ministry. The first gospel with a genealogy, Matthew, was written primarily to the Jews, showing that Jesus was King and the Messiah, and a king must have a genealogy to show his right to reign. Secondly, Mark's gospel, which was written primarily for the Romans about Jesus the servant, lacks a genealogy as a servant doesn’t need one. The other gospel with a genealogy was Luke which was written to the Greeks who were preoccupied with what constituted the perfect man, and of course every man has a genealogy. Finally, John, which also lacks a genealogy, was written to a more general audience showing that Jesus was God, and God doesn’t have a genealogy as He is self existent, without beginning or end.

These genealogies of Jesus do not gloss over the failings of its members. It includes Rahab who was a prostitute from the city of Jericho, Ruth a Moabite (Moab was a pagan nation and hostile to Israel), king David who committed adultery and murder, and many more. Often times in my research I come across a family scandal that previous generations have tried to cover up or ignore. But Jesus was not ashamed to associate with humanity but came to save us. If humanity’s relationship with God was lost by a man, namely Adam, it could only be restored by a man – Jesus the Son of God! You can read about this in Romans chapter 5.

 

This brings me to the final genealogy which is found in Genesis chapter 5 that traces the lineage from Adam to Noah. In recent history people would often name their children after the king or queen at the time eg. George or Elizabeth, or after either one of their parents or grand-parents. By contrast, the names of people in the Bible, especially Hebrew names, had significant meaning and were associated with events or personal experience. So it is with the genealogy of Adam to Noah, the names of which are: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. Their respective names translate as follows: Adam - ‘Man’ (is), Seth - ‘Appointed’, Enosh - ‘Mortal’, Cainan - ‘Sorrow’ (but), Mahalaleel - ‘the blessed God’, Jared - ‘Shall come down’, Enoch - ‘Teaching’, Methuselah - ‘His death’ (shall bring the), Lamech - ‘Despairing’, Noah - ‘Rest’. This is the Gospel in a nutshell, God's promise of salvation, thousands of years before Jesus was born.

 

So if you are despairing during this pandemic crisis, there is hope to be found by trusting in Jesus Christ who paid the price for man's sin and rose from the dead.

The Perfect Father's Day Gift...

April 04, 2020

The past year has been busy here at YourAncestree, so here's my long over-due update. Despite the current Covid-19 crisis, my work continues, albeit without visiting archives, of course.


Bespoke research this year has been telling many fascinating stories, for example the family history I've been working on for a local farmer. I've been uncovering wonderful newspaper articles dated from mid-1800s that paint whimsical pictures of life in rural communities, including rural crime and disputes, agricultural fairs and other life events.

Interwoven into this farming family is an Irish connection with a military history. The great-great-grandfather served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars seeing action in the Mediterranean as well as in N America where he was taken prisoner. His son served in the Royal Marines and fought in the second opium war - western powers of USA, Britain, France fought against China over trading rights - at the capture of Canton, before being wounded while rescuing another soldier. This same man then toured the world in a number of voyages flying the flag for Great Britain.

Military records hold the greatest interest for me, being able to trace the journeys of brave souls in foreign lands adds a real sense of the dramatic. I've delved into the stories of many this year, for example a soldier who served with the Royal Tank Corps during the 3rd battle of Ypres in WWI; another client had an uncle who died at Gallipoli and a grandfather who served as a guard in a camp for foreign aliens on the Isle of Man. Yet another example is a young man who fought in and survived the searing heat of the Sinai desert as his unit battled from the Suez Canal to Amman against the Ottoman Turks, also in WWI.

With Father's Day coming up on 21st June, why not surprise your hero with a gift that will speak of the many trials and triumphs of past generations. Call me today to discuss what you would like to discover.

Always check

February 22, 2018

There are times during my research when ordering birth, marriage or death certificates that I may have difficulty in finding the entry in the Gocernemnt register. I know it should be there as it is listed in the civil register indices that are searchable on all the popular genealogy websites. If this ever happens to you, my advice is that you don't rely on the transcript . Instead, always go to the original image of the register. It is amazing how often I have found transcription errors in the page number or the persons initial.

The same applies for other documents such as census returns where this can be even more of a problem due to the fact that the originals were hand written. Trying to fill in the gaps when tracing a person can be made all the more difficult when their surname has been mistranscribed to the difficulties involved in deciphering the original handwriting. If this happens, many website search engines allow for variations on a name or the use of wildcards in the name's spelling. It may take a little longer in locating the individual but can be well worth the effort.

Happy hunting.

Preserving family memories

November 14, 2017

Christmas is a wonderful time of year when all the family can get together, giving gifts and sharing love and laughter. It is also a wonderful opportunity to discover more about your family history from the older generations.

If you are visiting parents or grandparents, ask them questions about their parents and grandparents. Get dates and places of major life events such as birth, married and deaths, as well as the maiden names of your female relatives.  This information is invaluable when researching your family tree as trying to find your forebear’s in the BMD indices (the civil register of births, marriages and deaths introduced in 1837) can sometimes be difficult as they contain only basic information.


While you are visiting relatives, ask them if they have any old family photographs. If they have some from family weddings or christenings these will often have members of the extended family whom they will often remember and can help add to your family tree. It is also nice to be able to see what your forebears looked like. Digging out some old family photographs will also be a great opportunity to scan and preserve them for future generations. Once scanned, they can also then be incorporated into a family history such as what I produce for clients as part of my various packages.

Taking the bait and catching red herrings

September 22, 2017

A recent Bespoke Research commission highlighted two traps for the unwary. A client asked me to resolve an issue in their family tree, one which was shared across a number of other trees belonging to other people on a popular genealogy website. Starting at the beginning by tracing the line back from the last personally known ancestor not only revealed that the ancestor's mother's maiden name was wrong but also the father's place and year of birth were wrong.

Unfortunately there was a red herring in the form of another individual who shared the same name (including the two Christian names) and was born at about the same time (according to census returns) and in roughly the same area s the ancestor's father. The 'red herring' was therefore appropriated by the client as an ancestor, possibly as a result of seeing that other people had him in their trees. This obviously resulted in having the wrong parents which sent the client off on completely the wrong path which lead, in turn, to the original issue that I had been commissioned to resolve. Thankfully, the correct individual, and their parents, was identified through their birth in the correct location (as consistently recorded in census returns). Discovering the correct line thus removed the original issue out of the equation.

This demonstrates how easy it can be to fall for a red herring when everything appears more or less to be right, and how important it is to search for other, more accurate, facts. Corroboration from other information contained in official documents can also help, and in this case the individual's profession was consistent throughout census returns (both pre- and post-marriage) and was the same as on the marriage certificate.

Sometimes we can be all too eager to trust what other people have put in their family trees. If we take the bait, and adopt or import their family trees, we also end up importing any errors that they may have made. We should always ask ourselves; how do I know that they are right?, what research is their tree based on? There are no shortcuts in genealogy and relying on what someone else has done without any validation can lead to all sorts of problems. As someone once commented, "in genealogy, the pudding is in the proof".

Life's coincidences

June 26, 2017

Life is full of coincidences. While researching a friend's family tree I discovered that they are descended from Tudor nobility. You may have heard of the Boleyn family, Anne being the most famous as the second of Henry VIII's wives and mother of one of our greatest monarchs - Elizabeth I. Well the coincidence lies in the fact that one of my ancestors was Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry, who was, to say the least, well acquainted with Anne and her sister Mary, my friend's ancestor.

There is a similar coincidence within my family tree. Two ancestors, one each from my father's and mother's side, faced off against each other at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Who would have thought that over 500 years later the two sides of the family would come together, not to fight this time (although my parents have had their fair share of arguments, but without the swords and billaxes) but to be joined in holy matrimony, and in the same town.

What's in a name?

June 17, 2017

For my first blog on my newly launched website I thought I would draw the reader's attention to how unexpected a significant discovery can be.

 

Whilst I was conducting some research for a client I noticed a somewhat interesting surname of a great-great grandmother. Immediately I had an inkling that this was a significant find, probably from landed gentry, and possibly even from the nobility. Further research confirmed my suspicions, and ultimately a descent from Robert (Stewart) III, King of Scotland was discovered.

What this demonstrates is that there is potential in every family tree to discover something trully significant and that just one name can be the linchpin. We are all of us unique (even if we aren't descended from the kings and queens of Scotland), the sum of our many ancestors. This is why my service is called YourAncesTree - because it is personal to you.

What's in your name?

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