Family History Group

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September 2017 Newsletter

The May meeting began with ‘Problem Corner’, where Trevor asked for help in tracing his uncle and his uncle’s twin sons. Using internet resources, the group was able to identify some information regarding these people although, as is usually the case with family history research, there is more to be done.
After the break, David made a presentation regarding his father, grandfather and other ancestors going back to the 17th century. This illustrated amongst other things the move from rural to urban areas, and David was able to use a number of interesting sources including a family Bible, and had met a distant relative found using the ancestry website.
June started with a talk by Maria on aspects of Richard’s ancestors, including his great great grandfather. Family letters and a family Bible helped the investigation, together with other sources such as census records. Maria and Richard had also spent time visiting the places involved, which helped bring the research to life.
We also spent time comparing websites that members use to pursue their research. Different sites have their advantages and disadvantages, though one lesson is that if you are interested in the records in a particular county, check which site(s) have pre-1837 material on that county.
In July, the meeting began with Ron telling how he traced a schoolmaster ancestor, who lived in a Welsh village which Ron visited, and saw where was the school he taught. The talk illustrated the fun of family history when you are able to combine the information from new online sources with an ‘on the ground’ visit and talk to local archivists.
Chris then spoke about Mustafa Karsa, the Turkish consul in Manchester in 1902 when he was found guilty in a breach of promise case. Tracing his relationships and children proved challenging, with some unusual genealogical features as well as humorous moments.
Thereafter, we spent time on ‘Problem Corner’, with some suggestions for pursuing members’ research.

Chris

June 2017 Newsletter

February 2017 – Ron began the meeting with a talk about trade directories, which were started well before census records. The most famous was Kelly’s directory, first published in the early 1800s. Although produced mainly for advertising purposes, they are a useful source for genealogists. Many directories are online and some are also available in libraries. Ron showed how he could use them to trace many of his ancestors who were in the spectacle frame manufacturing business.

A webinar produced by The National Archives entitled “Using Discovery for Family History” showed us how the “Discovery” archive, although not specifically developed for family history research, could be used as a valuable source of information.

March 2017 – We first watched a video from findmypast which gave a useful introduction to family history research. It included techniques to compile a family tree using censuses and birth, marriage and death certificates.

This was followed by a presentation by our guest David on tracing the lives of people with disabilities, concentrating on children with learning disabilities. David had traced family information for most of the children present for the 1851 census at the first school in Britain for children with learning disabilities, in Bath. In some cases, he was able to find out the children’s progress at the school and, sometimes, photographs of the children or their relatives.

April 2017 – Chris began the meeting with research into a Warwickshire cricketer, who played in 1919 under the name Albert Edward Giddings but whose name in later life was Gittings. Using several genealogy resources enabled Chris to trace him over his lifetime, with five surnames, complicated by errors, including one on his birth certificate.

Our guest Sue then made a presentation on her uncle Robert, born in 1914. He had a fascinating and eventful career, initially as coal miner, later a bus driver. He joined the Royal Artillery and, in World War II was at Dunkirk. He went to Singapore, which was surrendered to the Japanese, and he had to work on the Burma railway. He was later taken to Japan as a prisoner. He came home in 1945 to his wife and the son he had never previously seen. He was successful in setting up his own business and died in 1993. Sue’s talk was thoroughly researched and illustrated with plentiful slides; it was a tribute to a remarkable man.

Chris

March 2017 Newsletter

In November, Bill talked about his father and stepfather. The former was married to his mother in a shotgun wedding but was immediately banned from any contact with the family by his grandmother. His mother was eventually married again to a well-respected engineer who spent much of his time in Nigeria with the public works department. As a result, Bill was educated in a boarding school in Petersfield.

Sheila talked about her husband’s family history links between Cornwall and Cumbria. He came from Barrow-in-Furness but did not know much about his family history as his father was killed in the war shortly after his birth. He was brought up by his mother and his stepfather. It was only when he started to research his natural father’s family he found out that they were originally Cornish tin miners. This explained his lifelong attraction to this area and tin mining industrial archaeology. After visiting his father’s grave in France, he finally managed to get his father’s name inscribed on a war memorial in Barrow.

In December, Chris and Mike demonstrated the newly released online General Register Office index, which gives births up to 1915, deaths up to 1957 but no marriages. In addition it gives the age at death, which helps to avoid buying the wrong certificate.

Ivor talked about “Grahams Genealogical links” a CD obtained from his time with Christchurch Family History Society. This CD is available to members of the group.

In January, Janet talked about the origins of her middle name Oriska, which she used to get teased about. She was named after her mother’s friend whom she called Rissy. Careful research found a man who was leading a double life and had married twice. One of the children from the first marriage was called Oriska. Janet was pleased to find and contact a living relative of this family, who gave her more interesting information

Louise talked about her great grandfather and the difficulties she had had in researching him. She only had information from an aunt and an uncle on that side of the family. Several illegitimate births and father’s names not appearing on birth certificates, showed how difficult it could be to trace a family tree. She still has many unanswered questions.

Mike

December 2016 Newsletter

In August, our guest speaker was Sue Bowler, who gave a talk entitled “Sacrifices”. This was in two parts, one with a World War 1 theme, the other with a World War 2 theme.

In September, 10 of the members visited Nottingham University Manuscripts and Special Collections Department for a conducted tour. We were shown their vast collection of manuscripts and the special facilities they have to conserve and study them.

In October following Chris’s illness, we discussed the future programme for the group and two short talks. Mike talked about recent research concerning his mother’s birth and Peter talked about two black sheep in his family.

Mike

September 2016 Newsletter

In May we started with a talk by Maureen, whose extensive family history researches have involved much travelling to archives offices and libraries over the country, including Chichester, Worksop, Sheffield, Islington and the records centre in Kew (more of an adventure than downloading a document from the internet!). Maureen has been able to find references in books, old wills and more to build up a library of documents and the family tree, together with a social history context. After a break, we compared several internet genealogy websites (some free, some not) to see what we could find out about an ancestor about whom we wished to know more; this proved an interesting exercise, and we plan to do more on this.

In June we began by looking again at different websites to see what we could find about the emigration of a butcher turned cinematograph operator, with some limited progress. After the break we welcomed Graham Guilbert, who has been researching Jonathan France and William Bray, with Derbyshire connections in the late 18th century. Members were able to make some suggestions for further lines of enquiry, while an examination of genealogy and newspaper websites also provided some further possible leads.

In July it was time for members’ participation in what we call ‘mini-talks’. Several members contributed, talking about either their ancestors or websites they had used. It was pleasing that the discussion enabled group members to suggest avenues that may be fruitful for further research.

Chris

June 2016 Newsletter

In February Ron gave us a presentation on “Lost and Found in Wales”, in which he traced some ancestors named Evans, with some information dating back to the 18th century. Ron’s extensive research covered not only using websites but also visits to the relevant places to track down people. Other surnames included Jones and Davies: ensuring the right person had been found often proved challenging. The group also had a discussion about how we record the information we find. Some members use specialist software, but others use Excel, which can be straightforward and flexible.

In March we began with Janet, who introduced her father’s diary from 1945, when he sailed from Glasgow, via Cape Town to Cairo. Janet selected parts of the diary, which she had transcribed and were read out by group members, with links from Janet to illustrate how her father was able to document his experiences of war. Janet also produced accompanying photographs. This was followed by a presentation from Pamela, assisted by her brother Michael, on their father’s diary in the war. He was away from home for 15 months, and travelled via Aden to India, Burma and Singapore. Photographs and newspaper cuttings added to our understanding. There was also a display of several articles of interest; a Japanese officer’s sword was especially interesting.

In April we first heard from Peter, who has had a book published about the two sides of his family, the Humes and Sprys, with various parts of the family moving between India and England. The central character was Matilda Caroline Court née Spry, born in India but died in Ealing, England. The final intriguing part of the story was the time line surrounding Matilda’s death. Her death, her widower’s remarriage and the birth of his child with his second wife all occurred in 1897. The dates implied a conception before his first wife died what might be construed as a convenient death.

We then listened to a recording of a talk by a professional genealogist on how to solve the problems caused by brick walls that emerge when researching your family history. There were some very useful tips, and these have been circulated to group members.

Chris

March 2016 Newsletter

In November we had a visit from Tom, leader of the Soar Valley U3A Family History group, who spoke about researching Scottish ancestors. He introduced us to the record-keeping system in Scotland, and how this is organised around the Scotlandspeople website. It was good to see examples from Tom’s research into his own family. Local newspapers were also illustrated as a helpful resource. Before Tom’s talk, Mike J demonstrated the Group’s website, on the main U3A website and encouraged contributions; and we also had a brief discussion about the 1939 Register, an important resource, newly released.

In December we were pleased to welcome Sue Church, co-ordinator of the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS) for Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. She explained how GOONS operates, and the guidelines it has for members carrying out this form of research, though also applicable more generally. Sue was able to provide examples from her own work on the Teear name. This was followed by a fuddle; many thanks to those who provided refreshments; much enjoyed.

In January we had a presentation from John, of the History group, who had been intrigued by the finding that Walt Disney belonged to a family who once lived in Norton Disney, a small village in Lincolnshire. The family dates back to the time of William the Conqueror and is traced back to Hughes d’Isigny among others. The family history over the centuries was accompanied by photographs of effigies in churches that John had taken. Earlier, Chris illustrated how he had traced two females, born in 1815 and in 1908, using information from genealogy websites, Google and a variety of other sources, despite some red herrings on the way.

Chris

December 2015 Newsletter

In August members gave ‘mini-talks’ on their research. Joyce told us about her great great aunt and the Irish connection with her family. Louise had information on her great great grandfather but faced a puzzle with different spellings of the name of one of her earlier ancestors. Philip described an Edwardian wedding and highlighted the importance of oral history. Pamela gave us a glimpse of an old family letter, with more to come later. Chris told us about his great great grandfather, born in Ireland, who was blinded when fighting in the Crimean War, and he followed his children who had moved to Manchester in the 1870s.

In September Keith Oseman, a professional genealogist from Long Eaton, spoke to us about the website http://www.familysearch.org which, developed by the Mormons, is an excellent – and free – resource for family historians. We learned about the history of the development of the International Genealogical Index, and some controversies around the website. Keith explained the use of the search options, provided us with examples and gave us several tips that could prove fruitful. Chris earlier showed us about the help that family trees on http://www.ancestry.co.uk can give, but also some pitfalls – illustrated with research into the family history of comedian Tony Hancock.

In October we started with Pamela telling us how she read about her father rescuing an individual injured in the 1941 bombing, then being awarded the British Empire Medal. Our main talk was then from Rev John Perkins, who told us about a range of aspects of his family’s history, his research having involved contact with websites, Canadian Archives, churches, undertakers, and many other sources. His subjects included his late wife, who was adopted at 6 months, and their getting in touch with a ‘lost’ family; a pair of brothers, one of whom was Mayor of Leicester, another a bareknuckle boxer; and three other brothers who were convicted of offences in Leicester and transported to Tasmania. It was a fascinating talk, backed up by lengthy research.

Chris O'Brien and Professor Kevin Schurer

Chris O’Brien and Professor Kevin Schurer

In addition to our three monthly meetings over the past quarter, we organised a special meeting on October 5th on a great genealogical story: The Identification of Richard III. Our speaker was Professor Kevin Schürer, (pictured right with myself) who was the lead genealogical researcher in the University of Leicester project on Richard III. We met in Secular Hall, Leicester, and had invited members of History and other groups, together with other U3As: overall we had 75 people attending from eight U3A branches in the area. There was a buzz in the packed

 The audience just before the lecture started.

The audience just before the lecture started.

lecture room as Professor Schürer began. It was a real detective story: we heard about the history and archaeology, and Professor Schürer conveyed the excitement of the research and, eventually, the finding of the skeleton. There was a spinal deformity, consistent with Shakespeare’s writing and also two contemporary writers, but that wasn’t enough to prove it was Richard III.

D11This was where the work of Professor Schürer and his colleagues came in. There was a need to find descendants whose link with Richard III could provide relevant DNA evidence. Some earlier work had found one such, Michael Ibsen, which the Leicester research was able to confirm. However, another was needed: Professor Schürer traced such an individual: Wendy Duldig, a New Zealander. The problem was, where on earth was she? She was tracked down to London, where Professor Schürer met her in the British Library, and she agreed to provide a sample for DNA testing. Turi King, the project team’s DNA expert, was able to extract DNA from the skeleton’s teeth and showed that this indeed had the same pattern as DNA from Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig. Mystery solved at last!

The feedback on the talk was quite outstanding: “conveyed the difficult concepts clearly”; “a wonderful experience and presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment!” and “made a potentially dry subject most fascinating and his humour was the icing on the cake”.

Professor Schürer had given us an excellent presentation, mixed with anecdotes and humour, and it fulfilled our ambition to have an enthusiastic audience of U3A members from the East Midlands able to hear
and understand such a great story!

Chris

What Was The Family History Event of 2015?

Chris O’Brien, Family History Group Leader writes:

Chris O'Brien and Professor Kevin Schurer

Chris O’Brien and Professor Kevin Schurer

Many members of the Beeston U3A family history group had watched, on television, the re-burial of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015. We wanted to find out more about the discovery of Richard III and how it was shown that the skeleton found under Leicester social services car park was indeed the king who was killed in battle in 1485. Identifying Richard III was surely the family history event of 2015.

YouTube has a video of the press conference given by the University of Leicester when they presented their research on Richard III. Included is a short speech by Professor Kevin Schürer, who had led the genealogical work. We decided that we would like to know more; could Professor Schürer talk to us?

We realised that, to justify such a meeting, we would need more than the 15 who usually attend our group meetings; we thought a minimum of 50. We were able to pursue the idea when some of us visited Birmingham for the “Who Do You Think You Are?” exhibition, and we met Keith Oseman and Tom Adam who are leaders of the family history groups in Long Eaton and Sour Valley respectively. They agreed that by inviting local U3A groups we should get up to the 50 mark.

I therefore wrote to Professor Schürer, suggesting a meeting in Leicester, which would be convenient for him and should suit the U3A members who would come not only from Beeston but from other nearby groups.

Professor Schürer was very positive and efficient in replying and suggested a date of October 5th at 5 pm: that was the basis on which we would go ahead. However, we needed to arrange a suitable venue. I contacted Mike Bates of Leicester U3A history group, who talked through a number of possibilities and I settled on Leicester Secular Hall. This was available at a very reasonable cost, had facilities for a PowerPoint presentation, and was only a short walk from the train station in the city centre.

We publicized the event initially through the U3A groups in Beeston, Soar Valley, Long Eaton and Leicester. While focussing on members of family history and history groups we did promote the event more widely, and a number of others responded. We had acceptances from just over 50 who wished to attend, which meant we had met our original target. However, the room had a capacity of 80, so we wished to do more. I therefore contacted other local U3A branches, speaking to group leaders in Loughborough, Great Glen, Oadby & Wigston and South Leicestershire. All were positive, and the bookings increased, with another acceptance on the day of the lecture itself taking us to a total of 80.

We made a small charge to cover the room hire fee and would donate the surplus to the University of Leicester with a view to assisting their future research. I did not provide transport, bearing in mind that people were coming from a variety of places in the East Midlands, and Leicester has good public transport links.

On the day of the lecture, some people went to Leicester somewhat earlier and took the opportunity to visit the Richard III Exhibition Centre and the tomb in Leicester Cathedral before going on to Secular Hall.

 The audience just before the lecture started.

The audience just before the lecture started.

There was a buzz in the packed lecture room for the lecture as Professor Schürer began. It was a real detective story: we heard about the history and archaeology, and Professor Schürer conveyed the excitement of the research and, eventually, the finding of the skeleton. There was a spinal deformity, consistent with Shakespeare’s writing and also two contemporary writers, but that wasn’t enough to prove it was Richard III.

This was where the work of Professor Schürer and his colleagues came in. There was a need to find descendants whose link with Richard III could provide relevant DNA evidence. Some earlier work had found one such, Michael Ibsen, which the Leicester research was able to confirm. However, another was needed: Professor Schürer traced such an individual: Wendy Duldig, a New Zealander. The problem was, where on earth was she? She was tracked down to London, where Professor Schürer met her in the British Library, and she agreed to provide a sample for DNA testing. Turi King, the project team’s DNA expert, was able to extract DNA from the skeleton’s teeth and showed that this indeed had the same pattern as DNA from Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig. Mystery solved at last!

The feedback on the talk was quite outstanding: “conveyed the difficult concepts clearly”; “a wonderful experience and presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment!” and “made a potentially dry subject most fascinating and his humour was the icing on the cake”.

Professor Schürer had given us an excellent presentation, mixed with anecdotes and humour, and it fulfilled our ambition to have an enthusiastic audience of U3A members from eight branches able to hear and understand such a great story!

September 2015 Newsletter

We have had three interesting meetings over the past quarter.

In May, Gill told us about the research she has been doing on families in Attenborough. She had used a great variety of sources, including court rolls and records from archdeaconry courts. There were examples of parish records from Attenborough in the 16th century and it was fascinating to see how the content and format of records has changed. One of the challenges was reading old writing.

In June, Mike A told us about GOONS, the Guild of One Name Studies, which helps groups who are researching a particular surname. Janet illustrated the use of the Oxford English Dictionary, available online to those registered with Nottinghamshire libraries. It is particularly helpful for finding out about unusual diseases and occupations.
Philip then gave a presentation on his family history research. This included schoolmaster Frederick and his wife Ann, and Methodist minister son Charles. A variety of sources were used to uncover the story. Some points are not yet resolved: was a name Dewick or Duic and was there a Huguenot connection? And what happened to Philip’s maternal grandmother’s brother? Family history research just never completes!

In July five members gave short talks. Ivor spoke about his grandfather Charles Henry Widney who, with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was a survivor from a WWI battle. However, the information available is inconsistent: don’t believe all you read! Pamela summarised what she has found about her grandmother’s second husband, an Italian, Alfred Coppola. Some information is missing: several members offered advice. Ron and Margaret had visited Broadlands, the home of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Ron distributed an extensive family tree and illustrated the link between the Lords Palmerston and Mountbatten. Mike J explained some research into the father of a cousin, where there was (confusingly) recently found information that by one of his wives he had a daughter called Nona and by the other a daughter called Mona. Martin talked about his research into family stories of them being Yorkshire-based and of a relative (great great grandfather) who had been awarded the Victoria Cross after the siege of Delhi. He showed that the family had in fact come from Kent and that the great great grandfather was in fact illegitimate and not a direct ancestor.

Chris

June 2015 Newsletter

The group aims to hear from, and help newcomers to the subject, trace their family history, and similarly for others more experienced. We look to understand genealogical sources, techniques and tricks, and hear the findings of research and the detective work often involved.

In February, Mike A. started off the meeting with a presentation concerning his maternal grandmother, and the group was able to discuss the findings and how to take it forward. We then heard from Danny Lawrence, who has been researching the life of Arthur Jefferson, the father of comedian Stan Laurel. While it was easy to find that Arthur died near Grantham in 1949, the whereabouts and date of his birth have proved impossible to tie down, with several puzzles about his life.

In March, Mike J. showed us the importance of using family contacts to research family history, having been provided with a copy of a diary kept by his great grand uncle. Even though it only covered seven months, it provided valuable information about his life and family. Our main presentation was from Ron, whose talk was entitled “More than just metal-bashing and butchery.” He told us about Teresa, his grandmother, and her ancestors, including some spectacle-makers and butchers, many based in or near Wolverhampton. Ron has used an impressive range of resources, although there were still some ‘brick walls’ that were proving difficult.

In April we began with a short talk by Ivor that explained the use of PARLOC, for locating pre-1800 churches; and then referred to a puzzle in the transcription of the occupation of his great grandfather, a lesson being that actual church records can contain more than internet sources have transcribed.

This was followed by a talk by Derby probate solicitor Michael Mallender, who explained how he traced the heir to the Harpur-Crewe estate and Calke Abbey in the 1980s. This involved examining old archives, books, parish records in churches, memorials in churchyards, discussions with relevant people, and eventually a phone call to the United States to establish who inherited the multi-million pound estate. It was a fascinating talk.

Chris

March 2015 Newsletter

The Group aims to hear from and help newcomers to the subject trace their family history, and similarly for others more experienced; so that we can both understand genealogical techniques and tricks, and hear the findings of research and the detective work often involved.

In November, Keith Oseman, a professional genealogist from the Long Eaton U3A Family History Group, gave us a presentation on the subject of DNA, with a hand-out of his slides. After explaining the science of DNA, Keith illustrated how it can be used in family history research, and showed us the certificate of his own Y-DNA test, and how the results can be interpreted.

In December, the Group enjoyed a Christmas fuddle. Louise provided a seasonal presentation, entitled “Who is Santa Claus?”, finding that Father Christmas dates back at least as far as 15th century in England as a personification of Christmas and a Yule-tide visitor. Louise then went on to tell us about Saint Nicholas, born a Greek in Asia Minor in the late 3rd century. In the latter half of the meeting, we had a multiple choice quiz, with the winners being Ron and Margaret: well done!

In January, we began with Chris looking at some transcription errors in the 1911 census, though we also learned that websites differ in their accuracy. Then we heard from Jan, who told us about her ancestor, John Townsend (1759-1834), although with some uncertainty about his exact place in her family tree. John Townsend was a Bow Street Runner, whose portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery and, as is often the case with family history research, the presentation shed interesting light on the social history of the period.

Chris

December 2014 Newsletter

In August, Janet talked about discoveries she had made about her father’s mother and maternal grandmother, one born in the Kensington Workhouse and the other dying in the workhouse in Ledbury, Herefordshire, information that was probably not known by her father and his siblings. This led to some general discussion on the workhouse system.

In September, Jan and Pauline said that they had been to an excellent Family History conference at Buxton. About 50 U3A groups are invited to this meeting. There were four speakers. The first gave a talk about illegitimacy and cohabiting with some surprising statistics from the last few centuries. The second from Who Do You Think You Are, talked about on line resources, the effects of the potato famine on the population of Ireland, the increasing relevance of social networks to family history and the difficulty of researching ancestors with ethnic backgrounds. The third talk was entitled “Barking up the wrong tree”, which looked at the historical context relevant to the period of research. The fourth one was about the use of the IGI for researching families and their ideas about producing a world family tree.

In October, Chris gave us an interesting talk about a famous professional 1st class cricketer from Yorkshire. Some people had suggested that if he were still alive he would be the oldest 1st class professional. However, the records are rather hazy and Chris’s research indicates that the claim is not true.

We also continued to research some of Joyce’s relatives but this time with the help of a small display of a section of her family tree. Mike J, using Ancestry, was able to show the links between the relatives in question.

Mike

September 2014 Newsletter

In May, Keith Oseman returned to give us a talk about researching our World War 1 ancestors. The PowerPoint presentation with useful hand-out summarized the causes of the war, gave details of the organization of the three armed forces, a chronology of the major events of the war, a list of records available for family historians, the shocking statistics of the loss of life and a summary of the aftermath.

In June, Janet and the two Mikes talked about an improved method of making the “resources” of the group available to members. Janet has produced a folder listing books, magazines, CDs etc. which will be available for perusal at each meeting. The items will be brought to each meeting but left in a car boot for collection if members wish to borrow them. Mike Johnson talked about and demonstrated the information available on the Family History page of our website.

In July, following Janet’s suggestion, members were invited to provide short talks about a relative or non-relative involved in World War 1. At least seven members made contributions which provided fascinating glimpses of personal courage, personal conduct, disasters, deaths, gassings and the way the aristocracy attempted to shield their firstborn sons from the dangers of the front line. A number of artefacts were displayed to show a direct link to the conflict.

Mike

June 2014 Newsletter

In March, Keith Oseman from Long Eaton’s U3A Family History group gave us a talk about The National Archives (TNA) at Kew, London. This would have been very useful for our proposed visit this year but sadly there was not enough interest from the cluster group to fill a coach. Any visit will have to wait for another year or have the transport scaled for a smaller group. Keith explained the history of TNA, what archives are held there and how they are catalogued. He emphasised the importance of deciding exactly what you wanted to obtain from the visit before making it. The rules and methods of obtaining documents at TNA were explained. Two useful hand-outs were given to the group. The first was a summary of Keith’s PowerPoint presentation to the group and the second was an introductory article written by one of the TNA staff. Keith, who is a professional genealogist, invited group members to Long Eaton U3A Family History workshops which are run monthly for beginners and improvers.

In April, Bill gave us a talk about his research into several of his relatives, his father, grandfather and the maternal side of his family. His father divorced his mother not long after their marriage and joined the army but did not use his medical qualification. Sadly he died as an alcoholic in 1962. His maternal grandmother married a Canadian called Harry which caused Bill some difficulties probably due to his true name being Henry. He went to France in the First World War and was killed at Vimy Ridge, his body never found. One of his two war medals was marked “for civilization”!

Mike

March 2014 Newsletter

In November 2012 Chris’s cousin gave us a talk about her family with the unusual surname, Roocroft. Her initial research was difficult as it predated the internet but she gradually determined that the Ribble valley was the area where most of her relatives had lived. Her collection of a large amount of data demonstrated most of the problems and pitfalls that family historians come up against and how she managed to solve them. Finally, she has managed to produce an illustrated book of her family history. However, publication of her family tree on the internet highlighted the problem of getting many e-mails requesting information but not getting anything back. The fact that other people published details of her living relatives was also undesirable. A number of unrelated famous Roocrofts were identified.

Many members’ talks had included a small display of interesting artefacts but there was not usually enough time for the group to examine them. In December, we decided to have an “artefacts” meeting. A number of members brought their artefacts from previous talks. After a brief résumé of the talk, the group were able to examine them in detail. This produced a lot of interest and discussion.

In January, Mike A gave a talk about two of his wife’s distant relatives. These were two remarkable brothers (surname Balson from Bridport) from what appeared to be a very ordinary family. The first brother achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the navy. He served in both world wars and received several decorations, including medals for the Gallipoli landings, travelling to the Antarctic with Captain Scott, recovering £300,000,000 of gold bars from a ship sunk off Ireland and defusing an unexploded bomb on a ship in Portsmouth harbour whilst under aerial attack. The other brother started life as a painter and decorator, emigrated to Australia and helped to found the modern art movement of that country. By sheer coincidence, a television programme the same night was about a Balson family also from Bridport who had been butchers for over 500 years.

The February meeting was a second “artefacts” session from previous talks, which again stimulated a lot of discussion and interest. As members make extensive use of the internet for their research, methods were considered as to how a file of useful web sites could be collated for the group web page.

Mike

December 2013 Newsletter

At the August meeting we had three speakers. Chris Talked about the Japp family, especially Olivier who was a prominent member of society, having been a lady mayor and chairman of the Toxteth Women’s Lib movement.

Ann talked about her father’s military career during the Second World War and how he had been captured at Dunkirk, had been put in several POW camps and escaped. He was not interested in his medals so never collected them.

Maureen presented some of the many postcards she had collected from her family. The excellent postal system at the start of last century allowed up to 5 deliveries a day so people were using them to send messages which would arrive within a few hours. A forerunner of the SMS system!

At the September meeting Jan gave a very polished PowerPoint presentation of the Speakman family tree. In spite of hitting the usual brick walls, through church burial records she managed to trace the family back to a seven times great grandfather in 1730.

Pamela gave us an intriguing talk about a female relative who became a wife, mother and widow in the period of eighteen months. The husband had been drowned at sea off the Norwich coast partly due to the lifeboat having fallen into the sea on launching!

Janet talked about her unusual middle name of Oriska and her difficulties in tracing where it had come from. Possible origins were in America and through her godparents.

At the October meeting Ivor talked about his relatives with the surname Windey. The records he had found were good examples of how the spelling of an unusual name can vary through the ages and be incorrectly recorded. Occasionally, the name was completely changed from the correct version and children were incorrectly linked to parents.

Mike

September 2013 Newsletter

At our June meeting Dee, Mike A’s friend, gave us a talk about her research into her family history. Her interest started in 1996 when she was curious to discover why her grandmother had become wealthy. Overcoming the usual obstacles of incorrect dates in certificates, Dee eventually discovered that her great grandfather had built up a successful paint and wallpaper business in Nottingham. Another of her relatives was found to have shot a man in the thigh in a pub in Bulwell. The newspaper report of the subsequent court case was fascinating in that everyone, including the judge, was heavily in favour of being as lenient as possible to the assailant!

In the absence of a speaker at the July meeting, the group were shown information from the internet on software packages for storing and managing family history data. Only about half of the group use this type of software for their data, the rest preferring to use their own filing system either on computer or on paper. The general consensus was that it was best to stick to whatever system you were comfortable with. Launching into a new software package usually involves a steep learning curve.

Mike

June 2013 Newsletter

As we did not have a speaker for February, we discussed the use of computers in conducting research. A problem encountered by Joyce was investigated on Ancestry by Mike J using census data. She was having trouble trying to find where one of her relatives fitted into her family tree. Information was found to help her to make further links but, at a subsequent meeting, Joyce said that she had determined that this was not one of her near relatives.

In March, Wendy gave us an account of her research mainly conducted by her sister. This had commenced when her sister retired and started to investigate a family bible written in childish writing and containing strange names. It had been taken apart and then sewn back together again. The family history was investigated on both her mother’s and her father’s side, commencing in a small Yorkshire town in a house which had few amenities by common standards. The effects on the family of her father being posted to India for four years and her siblings’ marriages to people from South Africa and Norway were very interesting. The stories from the two sides of the family were professionally presented in two documents at parties given to the current relatives.

In April, Janet presented “A voyage round my father” Janet’s father had also been away from the family for 3½ years in the RAF. As in her previous talk, Janet had excellent photographic evidence and a superb painting of her grandfather who had been in the Coldstream Guards. Her father was stationed with 49 Squadron (Dambusters) at Scampton, where Janet had a very interesting visit. Although commissioned as a Flying Officer after the war, his desire to get back to the home ground of Ledbury made him resort to teacher training.

In May, Janet once again stepped into the breach as both Mikes were missing. Their absence meant that there was no technology available, so members were invited instead to share some aspect of their family history research with the group. There was no shortage of volunteers, and seven out of ten participants contributed. From Jan we had an account of her grandfather’s Battersea childhood; from Alison some colourful details about several different ancestors who originated in Derbyshire and did interesting things in places as far apart as Darwin Australia and Winnipeg. Anne had been researching her soldier grandfather and his medals, and Kath amazed us with a recording of an historic Irish song performed by her grandmother in the 1960s. Chris had a great grandfather who was wounded at the battle of Alba in the Crimean War, when he was only twelve, and one of Judith’s grandmothers created a miniature book in which to write a long letter home from Guyana, where her husband was a Methodist missionary. This had proved to be a fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences, and these summaries do no justice to the presentations we heard.

Mike

March 2013 Newsletter

The group membership remains stable with newcomers balancing those leaving. At the November meeting, Mike J showed us how to obtain valuable information through wills and probate records from archives and web sites. These are often useful in moving forward in time when researching a family tree. He provided the locations of local archives for wills and probate records, and sent out an e-mail with copies of forms required to obtain these official documents.

At the December meeting, Chris presented an excellent review of extensive research he had conducted over a period of about 20 years relating to the Manchester Statistical Society. This was the first official statistical society in the country which was set up by about 20 founding members. Chris showed interesting detailed family histories for nearly all of these. There were many links to well-known people of the time.

As we did not have a speaker for January, we discussed problems encountered in various members’ research and generated suggestions as to how they might be solved. Mike J showed how various web sites could be helpful. This prompted us into deciding to use the next meeting for further discussions on the use of computers and the Internet.

Mike

December 2012 Newsletter

The group is still attracting new members with 24 on the list to date and 10 to 15 attending the meetings on a regular basis. In September, Janet’s friend Tony presented a talk about one of his relatives who was a mariner. His research was prompted by the family story that the relative was the skipper of a ship depicted in a painting in their house, which he found to be incorrect. Tony’s excellent talk showed many of the pitfalls and problems encountered by family historians and also how they could be overcome. He also provided a two page summary of advice when conducting research, including a useful list of web sites.

In October, Paula’s talk was about two of her cousins named on a war memorial in Plymouth. Two brothers had been killed in the First World War within months of one another. One was in the Lancers and had been killed at the battle of Ypres. The other was a leading torpedo operator on a submarine sent to capture Istanbul. The submarine went aground near the Dardanelles and was attacked. The submariner was one of only six killed before the crew surrendered. Both talks were very interesting, generating a lot of discussion and giving the group ideas and advice for their own research projects. Several members and outside speakers are prepared to give talks on a variety of subjects in the future but we are still interested in more contributions.

Mike

September 2012 Newsletter

The group is still attracting new members with 24 on the list to date and 10 to 15 attending the meetings on a regular basis. We have now built up a list of members and outside speakers who are prepared to give talks on a variety of subjects but we are still interested in more contributions for the future.

In May we visited Nottingham Family History Society Resource Centre in the Galleries of Justice, where Geoff Hamilton, who recently presented a Beginners’ course, acted as our guide. It was an interesting insight into what facilities and information are available locally. Also in May, one of Glenis’s relatives gave us a talk entitled “Brick walls and Tangents” both of which are problems for family history researchers! This was based on a relative who had kept the log on a ship called “Candahar” sailing to Calcutta.

We visited Nottingham Library Local Studies Section in June. Our Guide was an enthusiastic Family History researcher, so we had another mini beginners’ course and another insight into the facilities and information available in the Central Library. Also in this month Mike J talked about some of his extensive research into his family, showing how information should be recorded and presented.

At July’s meeting Janet’s contact John talked about his research for a cousin involving a relative living in an asylum. The talk referred to bigamy, murder and a mining accident. He illustrated how easy it is to find errors in historical documents. At our August meeting, Jan talked about her maternal relatives who lived mainly in the Nottingham area. This was especially interesting as many of the locations were familiar to the group.

All of the talks have been interesting, have prompted lively discussions and given the members of the group assistance in conducting their own research. A group visit is being considered to Derbyshire Family History Society and the leader of Buxton U3A Family History group is planning an area U3A Family History conference in 2013 which we hope to attend.

Mike

June 2012 Newsletter.

Having lost and gained a few members, the number in the group has remained at about 22.

Geoff Harrington, leader of Southwell U3A Family History group has given four out of five talks for the “Beginners”. These have been very well received and most informative, with the size of the group just managing to fit into our lounge once a month! We have had talks given by group members for the last three main meetings:-

In February, Maureen presented “50 years in Sheffield for the Firmaner family”, showing how a person’s occupation can vary within their lifetime. In March, Anne put us all to shame by presenting extensive research on her family origins from Brighton conducted in only two years! Her links to Ireland are proving the most difficult part of the search. In April, Janet surprised us all with lots of old family photographs from her maternal grandmother’s side of the family. She was lucky to have had relatives who were interested enough in family history to collect and annotate these treasures. We are now awaiting Glenis’s sister in law to present a talk entitled “Brick walls and Tangents” both of which are well known to family history researchers!

Group visits are planned to Nottingham Family History Society Resource Centre in the Galleries of Justice, where Geoff Harrington will be acting as our guide and to Nottingham Library Local Studies Section.

Mike

March 2012 Newsletter.

The number of members in the group has increased to 24, producing a meeting attendance of about 15. At the November meeting I (beginner) gave a talk about my limited amount of research to date. Great grandfather’s claim to a large estate went down very well and I received advice from the more experienced members as to how I could take the research further.
As our usual meeting date for December was too near Christmas, we changed it to a guided tour of the Nottingham Archives. 11 members plus 6 friends had a very interesting visit where we were shown what the Archives contained, how to access them, the work of the conservators and a charter for a market in Nottingham dating back to the 12th century.
At the January meeting Paula gave a talk based on a notebook written by her grandmother, who was born in Beeston. This was a fascinating account of life in this area at the turn of last century. In February, Geoff Harrington is starting his separate meetings for a beginners’ course at my house, if the 15 members who have signed up manage to fit into our lounge.

Mike, March 2012.

December 2011 Newsletter.

Group attendance has increased from 8 in August to 10 in September to 12 in October so it is likely that the idea to hold future meetings at our house might not be practical! Several new members have recently joined the group. At the October meeting Janet Johnson presented the results of her research into her husband’s side of the family, showing the documentation she had collected and a folder with the all the work neatly written up.

Geoff Harrington, the leader of Southwell U3A Family History group joined us for the October meeting and talked about the basics of undertaking research. The majority of the group have expressed interest in Geoff running a beginners’ course in the New Year. Mike Johnson also talked about how to interrogate the International Genealogical Index. A visit by the group plus members of the Local History group and a few others to tour the Nottingham Archives has been booked for 19th December. Monthly National U3A Family History newsletters from the new National leader are now being forwarded to all group members.

Visit to the Nottingham Archives  is on Monday 19th December. It will last from 10.00 to about 11.30am with a total cost of £45. If everyone turns up, the individual cost will be about £3. The building is situated off Wilford Road next to the Law Courts. Click on this link or Google “Nottingham Archives”  for a map if necessary. For those who intend to go by car, please would they arrive at the entrance to the car park as close to 10.00am as possible. This is because the NA is normally closed on Mondays and the barrier will not be operating automatically. Chris Wear will be there to open it for you. For those on foot, walk straight to the entrance. Any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Our normal meetings are on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at Chilwell Road Methodist Church.

18 January 2012 – Paula Pardoe will talk to the group about her family history research.

Mike, December 2011.

Future Meetings Wednesday 19 December 2012, 16 January 2013, 20 February 2013 have all been booked at Chilwell Road Methodist Church.

You may like to read the recent National Family History Newsletter 002

You may like to visit the Web Site run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). the IGI or International Genealogical Index is found there.