As I write this, a plane has just appeared in the clear blue sky leaving a vapor trail as it makes its way towards Bristol Airport. A very unusual occurrence during this pandemic but it seems to me to represent family history research – each family makes its mark as it travels through time but its effect soon fades – our research is to catch and preserve that trail.
What do you write in a monthly Newsletter for a Society during lockdown? No monthly meetings to report on or anticipate, no Family History Open Days to attend, no free Saturday Help Sessions – I could go on but let’s be more positive. Your committee continues to watch over the society; at our last virtual meeting it was decided to change the name of the Monthly Update to Monthly Newsletter to more accurately reflect what it contains. I hope you continue to find it helpful but would appreciate comments of what you would like included.
As family history and local history are intertwined one way in which to enhance our study is to look more closely at the area in which our ancestors lived. Perhaps inspired by the BBC’s “A House Through Time” how about a history of your own house or that of an ancestor. In my case very easy, as our house was built in 1935 and when we bought it in 1961 we were only the third owner and we haven’t moved since. I’ve even found a photograph of a grandson of the original owner taken in our easily recognisable front garden which was included in a family tree on Ancestry. Those trees do have their uses after all!
Somerset Heritage Centre
The Somerset Archives has a collection of Planning Applications for Weston-super-Mare which could be very useful if you decide to do some local research. Just go to the catalogue and enter the address which interests you. When restrictions are lifted you may be able to see the original plans or have them brought up to the Library when the North Somerset Archivist resumes visiting Weston.
The National Archives
By using the Discovery Catalogue of the National Archives it is sometimes possible to discover documents which refer to your family which have been deposited in archives than the county you expect them to be. If you happen to be researching an Amelia BEAUMONT widow of Benjamin BEAUMONT who died in Weston in 1897 and is buried in the Cemetery you can read all about her family here in the Discovery catalogue listing but the document is in the Manchester Archives.
There is still time to download digital images of some documents from the National Archives free of charge.
Newspapers, accessible from The British Newspaper Archive and FindmyPast can also provide information about who lived where. Try searching with the address of an ancestor. This way you may find:
- the usual family announcements of births, marriages and deaths which sometime name other relations.
- reports of inquests – giving details of cause of death or life style
- court cases affecting your family both as victims or as the accused
- advertisements for work, for servants, for sale of houses or other property etc.
One resource which I am lacking during this lockdown has been Street Directories – I do miss being able to access these in Weston Library. Very often, particularly in Weston, houses were given names but the directories of the early 20th century have appendices which list the number of the house which bears these house names. Directories also include a great deal of information about the administration of the town. The Weston Directory for 1941 even lists the Staff at the County School.
Weston Museum and History of Weston
- Weston Museum has been posting a number of videos concerned with the history of the Weston and its surrounds The latest is by John Crockford Hawley about the architecture of Weston.
- There is a fairly new Facebook Group called Memories of Weston-super-Mare which is producing some interesting views of Weston.
- Another Facebook Group worth a visit is Know Your Place, North Somerset Not only does it give help on how to use Know Your Place, which I have recommended before, but there are also interesting contributions about the area.
- Not so much family history but more a glance at the enjoyment of a children’s visit to Weston around 1960 – typical of fun at the sea-side
The Secret History of My Family
I don’t know whether you have caught it but BBC2 is showing “The Secret History of My Family” again which is three programmes investigating the lives of differing families with common ancestors and comparing the lives and attitudes of their descendants. You will be able to catch up on IPlayer.
Roman Catholic Records
- Each Friday FindmyPast releases more records. Take a look to see what has been made available over the past few weeks. Although Findmypast has just published some Roman Catholic Records there are none yet for Somerset. -
- The Somerset & Dorset FHS has produced a CD of the records of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Burnham on Sea. Looking through it – I noticed that a couple of the early marriages were in Weston Catholic Church and against some of the christenings were notes of their later marriage, even if it took place elsewhere in the country. Details can be seen in their online shop https://sdfhs.org/product-category/publications/data/
Comparison of Genealogical Websites
Which should I use? - Ancestry, FindmyPast, The Genealogist, FamilySearch or MyHeritage. Well, FamilySearch is free, Ancestry is free in the library (and at home during lockdown) and you have to pay for the others. Having said that, each has its strong points and the Familytree magazine has published a comparison to them (omitting The Genealogist). I found some interesting comments - you might not agree with them all but useful neverthless.
FindmyPast has announced the progress being made on the release of the 2021 census. This of course will be the last census to become available to us as the 1931 one was destroyed and there wasn’t one taken during the war in 1941.
Some of you may remember the excitement when we waited for the 1881 census to be released. 1881 was the first census to be totally indexed (it was done by volunteers from Family History Societies) and would revolutionise the way we researched census information. In Weston, we had been more fortunate because of Brian Austin’s work of indexing all local censuses from 1841 which we could look at on film in Weston library.
2020 Census and Buckets & Spades
To mark 100 years since the 1921 census, Buckets and Spades next March will be a special Census Edition and Sue Maguire would welcome any articles and items based on censuses. Any strange entries? Any strange names? Any different occupations etc. Or any way in which a census has assisted you in your research.
Writing up your Research
I know that some of you have taken this lockdown time to document your own research. It's not easy - but if you have anything you can share please consider adding information to your Surname Interests on our Web Site. I know that some of you have done this and it does seem a useful way of passing on your findings.
I’ve been trying to write up the results of my research in a form which will be easily understood by anyone who cares to read it and in doing so have revisited some of my early findings before the advent of the internet. I have identified places where more research is now possible – for example how can I not investigate more about this marriage - the bride is a 1st Cousin 3 times removed – close enough to be a valid DNA match.
Western Daily Press – Friday 18 October 1872
GORTZCOFF – BURROWS – Oct 14 at All Saints’. Knightsbridge,
Prince Zacharius Basilius Gortzcoff to Emily Ann, second
daughter of John Burrows, Esq., of York Street, Bristol
It turned out that there was a printer’s error in the announcement and the groom’ surname should have been GORTZACOFF but that was actually a pseudonym - his name should have been Basil ZAHAROFF and there are masses about him on the internet!
I am aware that today the speed at which some pieces of information can be located means that the beginner can get almost instant satisfaction from the results of their research. The majority of records which we use were not compiled for family historians but to measure the number and age of the population and enable initially the Church and later the Government to manage finances. We need other sources to put flesh on the structure given us by official documents.
How can our society help you with your research? – why not start with the web site?
In the top right-hand corner of our Home Page is a SEARCH Box which is really useful. You can use it to open up the riches of our Website.
If you enter any word, name, place or occupation etc., which interests you it will show every time it occurs on the site
- Other people who are researching the same name
- When the word occurs in queries and answers on the Research Forum
- When the word has been used in a Journal Article
- When the word is in an item of Society News such as the Monthly Newsletter.
Why not try it?
Our membership is a little down on last year but when compared with other societies and in the current situation I think we are doing quite well.
We do miss the opportunity to pass on by word of mouth the benefits of joining us. Our membership fee of just £9.00 per year is very little – less than buying a single birth, marriage or death certificate - and gives access to transcriptions of parish registers for North Somerset and beyond including an increasing number of photographs of tomb stones and inscriptions. There is also information and photographs about the places themselves. The Cemetery Records are invaluable to anyone who had relations who died in Weston from 1856 when all local churchyards were closed to new burials. Our records of Axbridge Union Workhouse also give details of inmates and an account of its position in the lives of many of our ancestors. The next edition of our Journal “Buckets and Spades” will be available shortly for members but selected articles from past publications are freely available on our website.
We look forward to meeting up again at sometime but while we are waiting why not share your research experiences with us by using the Research Forum – we’d love to hear from members about how you are getting on – and rejoice with you if you have made a break through.
As restrictions are reduced – still keep safe!