Family History can make fools of us all at times. Today it’s April 1st and perhaps until 12.00 noon we can expect jokes to be played on the unsuspecting. However, you can be assured that those who attend the free Help Session at Weston Library this afternoon from 2.00 p.m. until 3.30 p.m. will have no tricks played on them – just genuine help and assistance.
There are several well documented tricks played by some of our ancestors to confuse the unwary.
- Two Wives - Same Name. Perhaps one of the most confusing is the young widower who marries another wife with the same first name as his first wife and from the same part of the country. If this happens between censuses then it looks as if there has been no change until you check the mother’s maiden name of the children. Do this by using the free GRO index You have to register but no payment is involved and then once logged in you can search the online indexes.
- Two Children - Same Name. Working along the same lines – things which happened between censuses – a child dies and is replaced by another who is given the same first name as its deceased sibling. This causes a minor hiccup in your research as genetically a tree based on either infant would produce the same results. A birth certificate might be needed to sort them out.
- Errors on Birth Certificates can also make fools of us. My maternal great grandfather died in 1885 – he had been an engine driver on the GWR and was based in Reading when he died. My great grandmother moved back to Bristol to be near her birthplace of Wraxall with their 5 children, including my grandmother, who had all been born in Reading. Amazingly, I have two more birth certificates for children born in Bristol naming my great grandfather as father. The first was in 1889 and this, the second one, was in 1892.
Reginald PINNOCK was christened at St Francis Ashton Gate in Bristol on the 24thJune 1892 but sadly died early in 1894 so does not appear on any censuses.
His second name is a mystery to me - could it indicate who his father really was? I’m not sure even whether Annie was his mother – Later she took in a young boy who, on his military papers, named her as his next of kin as a foster mother. Could she just have taken in the two who have birth certificates naming her as mother and William PINNOCK as their father? Perhaps their mother was a member of the family and Annie was making life easier for them? Neither of her daughters were old enough to be the mother.
This month I’ve had a new DNA match of 113 cM for someone who is named on my tree as a second cousin, once removed. Our Common Ancestors are William & Annie PINNOCK. Sadly, I’ve had no response from any correspondence from him and he might have been told more about those additional children.
- Inaccurate Information on Birth Certificate When my paternal great grandmother Rebecca Saunders COLES was born on 11 Jan 1844 her mother's name was given as Cherity COLES, formerly SAUNDERS. Cherity was being a little economical with the truth as she did not marry John COLES until 5 Feb 1844
- Wrong Father on Wedding Certificate. In my husband’s ancestry, his great grandparents were a John and Mary Ann PUDDY who had been married on March 29th 1860 at the Parish Church in Mark, Somerset, giving her father’s name as John SYMONS.
It took me several years to realise that John SYMONS was not Mary Anne’s father – another almost April fool! I eventually discovered that John SYMONS was her grandfather and that the Jane MILTON who witnessed the marriage was her half-sister. Her mother was a Harriet PUDDY d/o John PUDDY who 4 years after Mary Anne’s birth married a James MILTON. This was a fairly common occurrence in those days when the illegitimate offspring of a daughter might be taken into the family and raised as another child. Mary Anne might even have believed that John was her father and that Harriet was an older sister.
- Exaggerated Family Stories. It wasn’t on April 1st when my grandfather told me that his grandfather had entertained Garibaldi when he visited Bristol but the result was the same. Family stories passed down may often fool us into believing them but do not discard them – they may contain a grain of truth. Garibaldi did visit Bristol but only spent 10 minutes on Temple Meads station – Thomas LONG had signed a welcoming letter to Garibaldi which was the nearest he got to entertaining him!
- Inaccurate Family Trees. Another time I was fooled was by someone else’s family tree. My 7 x great grandfather was a Richard GUNTER born (I think) in about 1632 in Coaley in Gloucestershire. I found a tree which suggested that he was the son of a John GUNTER and Princess Margaret of Scotland, daughter of James VIth of Scotland. This would have meant that I was also descended from Mary Queen of Scots. Sadly, I discovered that Princess Margaret had died when she was only 2 years old and that John GUNTER had most probably married a Margaret STUART. I am still working on that part of my tree!
How have your ancestors fooled you during your research?
Researching English Ancestors - Assuming that most of us will be researching British records - have you looked at the Ancestry Academy videos ? This is aimed at Americans researching their British ancestry and explains a lot about the way in which English records have been produced and is a useful way of refreshing your own background knowledge of family history research.
New Records released - FindmyPast has added some new records today, March 31st, including some additions to the 1939 Register and some Sussex records. Two Bristol Newspapers have been updated – The Bristol Evening Post for 1979 and the Bristol Times and Mirror for 1913-1920. It is always worth checking to see what new resources have become available. It would be great if there could be some later copies of the Weston Mercury and the Weston Gazette included.
Links with 1871 Census - During March the Genealogist has added some interesting links to the 1871 census giving maps and other documents to widen your appreciation of where people lived at that time.
Tips for Researching - Last December FamilySearch published some tips for researching which are useful whatever resource you are using.
The Facebook Group and our Research Forum on our Web site have had limited use over the past month but if you have any queries about your research don’t forget that these are available for you to use. You could also use them to tell us about any successes you have had at breaking down brickwalls or tips you may have about new resources or ways in which you have achieved success.
Remembering the last Coronation - With the Coronation of King Charles III fast approaching those of us who can remember the last one should be making sure that their memories are preserved. The advent of television made the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II a widely shared event and I have written before about my experience of visiting a Great Aunt – the only close relation with a TV set - and watching the proceedings with other members of my family all clustered around a tiny 12-inch set in Bristol. My husband went with his parents to Birnbeck Pier to watch it, I gather that the set was not much larger than the one we had – but there were refreshments on hand as well. Later with my school I was taken to a cinema in Bristol to see the colour film of that day. We had the joint experience of a Coronation and TV to wonder at – how will this Coronation be remembered?
Coronation of King Charles III
Communities are planning events. What will you be doing?
The Coronation is on a Saturday and as it falls on the 1st Saturday in May we will not be holding our usual Free Help Session at the Library that day but on Sat May 20th we will be having our own celebrations – not of the Coronation but of the 40th anniversary of the founding of our Society. This will be a free event to which we have invited other family and local societies and groups to attend. Come along to Our Lady of Lourdes Church Hall in Baytree Road from 10.00 a.m. until 4.00 p.m. when you can meet and talk to representatives of the following : Bristol & Avon FHS, Somerset & Dorset FHS, Anglo-German FHS, Kewstoke Local History Group, Worle History Society, Wick St Lawrence Local History, U3A Family History Group, Guid of One Name Studies, Know Your Place, Friends of Birnbeck Pier, W C & P Railway Group, Church of Latter Day Saints, DNA Advice and Second Hand Books – apart from our own Society’s Stand and Help Desk. Something for everyone there, whether you are experienced or new to researching. A big “Thank You” to all members who will be taking part in organising and running this event.
Our next Members’ Meeting will be on Wednesday April 12th at Our Lady of Lourdes Church Hall from 2.30 p.m. when Linda Hotchkiss will be making a return visit to our Society with a talk entitled “From the Nursery” about the background to Nursery Rhymes and stories some of which were politically motivated.
Zoom Workshop - On Wednesday April 26th will be a Zoom Workshop form 7.30 p. m. about using FamilySearch the free resource from the Church of the Latter Day Saints. This valuable resource is often overlooked and has been updated over the years. When I started researching, the IGI on fiche was the first go to resource pre-dating the commercial ones and visits to one of their Family History Centres to search films of church records – images not transcriptions - produced great excitement and success. If you are unsure about how to use FamilySearch this Workshop should be extremely useful. They will also be represented at our Open Day. Details about how to join the Workshop will be sent to all members before the meeting.
North Somerset Archivist - The next visit of the North Somerset Archivist to Weston Library will be on Thursday June 1st between 11.00 a.m. and 1.00 p. m. and between 2.00 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. The aims of these visits are to
- Help people find out about the past, with information on how to find out about family, house and local history.
- Provide information on the archives held at the Somerset Heritage Centre
- Bring microfiche for people to study, and documents from the archive strongrooms when appropriate.
For more information and to book documents contact email@example.com
Finally - Any comments, tips and advice to other members are welcome, either on the web site of the Society or on the Facebook Group