It’s coming up to Christmas when families traditionally gather. Here are some ideas for questions to ask members of your family to help jog memories. It doesn’t have to be only the oldest members of the family you talk to – replies from all ages will show how things have changed over even recent years! Get the youngest members to contribute as well. Answering the questions yourself might suggest things to be included as you write up your own family history.
Newspapers and Archives
Christmas is a time of celebration but looking at the resources which are available giving information about family members I am struck by the thought that many of them do not record happy times. Records of Criminal proceedings, transportation, Workhouses, Asylums, Debtors Courts, Coal mining accidents, Military operations, etc. all tend to look at the harder side of life. How did our ancestors enjoy themselves?
- You might have photographs of your family on holiday. Where did they go? How did they get there?
- It is still true to say that bad news sells newspapers, but it is often possible to find evidence of what your ancestors did in their spare time. The reporting of Sporting events often reveal an ancestor as part of a football or cricket team, or as a member of a boat competing in a Regatta.
- Flower and Produce Shows are often lovingly reported if your great grandfather won a prize for his turnips you can find that. Your great grandmother might have won a prize for keeping a tidy cottage or for her strawberry jam. These small titbits all add to the story of your family.
- Parish Entertainments may also show children dancing or singing, or taking part in amateur theatrical offerings. A relation of mine regularly is found entertaining the inmates at a local Workhouse at Christmas!
- The British Newspaper Archive, which is also available as part of the Findmypast subscription is a way to find Family announcements as well as your family name mentioned in news items.
- Don’t forget that your library card allows you to have free access to the Times and other sites at home. The North Somerset Libraries Online provision can be found here (add NSC before your barcode number). Look to see what is available where you live. You may not think that your family would get into the Times but you might be surprised – if your family name isn’t mentioned try searching for the place which they lived as you may find useful information.
- For more recent articles try the Newsstream Website also accessible by Library card (just underneath the Times Digital Archve) - this can give obits and news items from the 1990s until the present day
- Do try the John Johnson Collection as well as this is can be a really lucky dip. Use the Jpeg version which highlights the words which you searching for – click on the highlighted number for a view of the page. For example, searching for “Weston-super-Mare” - the first example (for a hair restorer) gives a photo of a Mr R H NICHOLLS living in Montpelier and his letter of praise on Page 3. Another example is in The Weekly Times of November 1st 1911 which publishes a letter praising Allinson’s flour by a Minnie JARVIS with details about her family which match the entry on the 1911 census in Meadow Street exactly. Interestingly she says her family is vegetarian and we find her husband is a fruiterer on the census.
Years ago, when I started my family history research, one of the first ports of call was the LDS with its IGI (International Genealogical Index). Then it was available on fiche. As the computer took over from transcriptions on fiche, I think the LDS records, which were eventually made available online became overlooked in favour of some of the commercial sites for which you had to pay. Familysearch www.familysearch.org is still a free site and has an ever-increasing number of records available – some even have images of the original documents. Like all web sites it takes time to get acclimatised and get the most from it, but worth the effort.
Do you have Scottish Ancestors? This is worth checking out. It is a free site called Scottish Indexes. If you use the Advanced Search don’t forget to scroll down the page to get all the results. This seems an excellent site to use - possibly before spending money on Scotlandspeople
The AGM was held at the November meeting and the Committee was re-elected. As Peter de Dulin and I are out of action at the moment - until we are able to return, Jenny Towey is continuing as Acting Chair supported as usual by Brian Airey as Secretary and Roy Smith as Treasurer.
New Co-opted Committee Members
Bill Caple is returning to the committee and joining him is Brian Yandell and we welcome them both.
Honorary Life Membership
At the AGM two long-standing and hard-working members were presented with Honorary Life Membership. The committee wanted to express its thanks in a tangible way in recognition of all their efforts on behalf of the society and for their generous gift of time and expertise.
- Brian Airey, membership number 241, currently our Secretary with all that entails but has been Chairman (at one time simultaneously with being Secretary), looks after our library and arranges our visits to Archives all with a cheerful and supportive attitude.
- Graham Payne, membership number 461, is our Membership Secretary and is the person responsible for the transcriptions to be found on our site as well as overseeing our web site (with Paul Tracey). Graham also organises our stand at Family History Fairs and maintains the equipment used by our Help Desk at such events with a quiet efficiency which benefits us all.
Buckets and Spades
The latest edition of Buckets and Spades is now available, and all full members should have access to a copy by now. It highlights the commemoration of the end of WW1. The deadline for articles for the February edition is January 31st 2019 and Sue Maguire is looking forward to receiving them.
As can be seen elsewhere on our web site we have published “May They Rest in Peace” about those who died during that war from the Parishes of Hutton, Bleadon and Locking and researched and edited by Paul Tracey.
Some of the events which took place in Weston and district to recognise the Armistice were very moving and congratulation to all those who organised or took part in them. History really comes alive when you can connect to it through your own family. I have recently been looking at a WW2 Roll of Honour for a Scout group – I’m sure that when the children see the local addresses of those names on the memorial it will become more than just a list of names. How can we, as a society, encourage the interest of the younger generation? Next year is 80 years since the start of WW2 – perhaps we should chronicle memories of that before everyone who can remember are no longer with us?
Lorna Gibson would like to hear from anyone who is familiar with Facebook with a view to getting the society’s new Page launched. The ground work has been done but she needs some assistance to open it to others. Looking at other society Facebook pages they do seem to attract new members and are a way of letting others know that we exist. Please contact Lorna if you can help.
Library Help Sessions
These will continue in the Library on Saturday afternoons as usual but the volunteers are taking a well earned rest on Dec 22nd and Dec 29th when they will not be there – staring again on Saturday, January 5th 2019. If you have any questions in the meantime please use the Research Forum or the “Contact Us” facility using the Research Queries Category.
Subscriptions cover the calendar year from Jan 1st – Dec 31st and are now due and you can pay at the next meeting, use the form in the centre of Buckets and Spades or pay by credit card via the Parish Chest website. See full details here
There is no meeting in December while you celebrate Christmas but we look forward to the January meeting - on the 4th Tuesday in January - which will be Bill Caple talking about the effect of the 1903 storm and resulting flooding in Weston-super-Mare. The full list of Speakers for next year will also be available at that meeting.
Wishing all our members and visitors to our site a Very Joyous Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.