Has anyone investigated their family tree and found anything interesting?

(142 Posts)
IcouldstillbeJoseph Fri 14-Sep-12 12:51:03

I'm off sick and lying around watching rubbish daytime TV. Loads of those adverts for Ancestry.co.uk etc. It doesn't really interest me, but was wondering whether anyone has ever discovered anything interesting/significant in their family tree?

HecateHarshPants Fri 14-Sep-12 12:58:51

Mine dead ends because my great grandfather doesn't exist.

He was a merchant seaman who kept jumping ship, stealing other people's identities.

Every so often he'd come back to the UK and get word to my great grandma, who would dump her children with her parents for a few days/weeks and disappear off wherever to meet him.

Even the name he put on the marriage certificate to my great grandmother dead ends. It's not him.

The name they raised their children with is not the one on the marriage certificate. That was made up too.

He eventually disappeared to Canada and bigamously married a woman out there. Her father sent my great grandmother hush money.

I would love to know what happened to him after that. Did he stay with this woman? Did they have children? Or did he run off and change his name again.

I would also love to know what it was that he was running from!

snigger Fri 14-Sep-12 13:03:46

My great-great grand-father marketed his own patented body building course - my great-aunt tracked down a pamphlet with a picture of him with a waxed moustache and a corset. So proud.

thestringcheesemassacre Fri 14-Sep-12 13:04:38

My grandmothers grandparents (my great great I think) were convicts who were sent to Australia. The grandad was a bit of a chancer who stole some fruit from a stall in oxford St and the grandma was a house maid who took some linen that had been left out in the bin. They survived the trip and then met in one of the unofficial marriage style camps.

Also the grandad was one of the workers that first went with Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth who first discovered the Blue Mountains in Aus.

onetiredmummy Fri 14-Sep-12 13:05:25

One of my female ancestors was transported for cutting a man's throat with scissors.

Another who moved to Maine was found drowned in a lake under suspicious circumstances.

Sad one - my great great great grandma was in labour up in the bedroom, the eldest son (2) was downstairs with his father, other sibling playing outside. The father was drunk & nearly unconscious & the 2 year old fell into the lit open fire & died sad

Mama1980 Fri 14-Sep-12 13:06:01

My great great grandfather was killed at the bottom of Stamford hill having been run over by a haycart. The death certificate states that he had taken drink.

BeauNeidel Fri 14-Sep-12 13:07:00

I haven't, but my great-uncle had an interest and investigated. He had an interest until he found out about a relative who was a doctor, he impregnated one of his household staff. The baby the dies under mysterious circumstances shock

My paternal grandparents are immigrants from Greek Cyprus, they were apparently on a list of 'possible communists' when they came over. Not sure how true that one is tbh hmm

ViviPru Fri 14-Sep-12 13:15:57

I love all this.

My Great Great Grandma was a cook on a huge estate in East Anglia. The master of the house fell in love with her and was disowned when he got her pregnant and married her. His brother did the same with another member of household staff. To this day we have no idea what happened to the fortune they would have inherited had they not been ostracised. Tad miffed that my inheritance stands at a few bits of Wedgewood and a clapped out Merc grin

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Fri 14-Sep-12 13:18:42

I solved a family mystery. My great, great grandmother fell out with her brother and never spoke to him again. We never knew why, but guessed it must have been serious because he emigrated to the US to get away from her, and then died in an earthquake in San Francisco.

Anyhow, when I started delving into my family tree, I found out why. My great, great grandmother was from a Catholic family, my great, great grandfather was not only a Protestant, but the son of an Orange Lodge member. When they married his family disowned him completely, her family mostly accepted it, but her brother was so outraged he left the country.

All very sad really ... but they did have a long and happy marriage, so I suppose it worked out for them in the end.

frasersmummy Fri 14-Sep-12 13:19:18

We have a relative who was locked up in some sort of asylum because of something simple can't remember what but the census under occupation shows this poor guy is listed as lunatic

So its official yes I am descended from a lunatic. [Grin]

amck5700 Fri 14-Sep-12 13:20:42

I found out that my dad's parents committed suicide within a few weeks of each other when he was only 7 sad

Two suicides (father and son) by cutting their own throats, one by throwing himself under a horse (also son/brother of above), one drowning - lost at sea on the Lusitania, several pregnancies outside marriage, connected to the composer of 'Colonel Bogey' and to a singer from the 80s/90s, although this person is still active musically. Have been unable to contact said singer so currently not able to reveal more on that.

Actually make that four suicides; The two throat-cutters, the horse-chucker-underer and a distant great-aunt who gassed herself after discovering something awful about her husband who left her.

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Fri 14-Sep-12 13:26:02

Oh, I'm also descended from the man who invented the first flushing lavatory ... I'm remarkably proud of that grin

AnneOfCleavers Fri 14-Sep-12 13:27:42

I have a pirate captain on my family tree. Arrr!

Lexilicious Fri 14-Sep-12 13:54:22

I was quite into this for a while. A lot of my mothers side was already done by a relative from her northern Irish family (ulster scots) and there are a lot of lost fortunes, marriages for money, deaths at sea, and so on. Couple of catholic/Protestant marriages here and there. My grandad remembers grazing his knee out playing when quite young, and a kind lady from a Carrickfergus neighbourhood he wouldnt ordinarily have been in patched him up and sent him on home. Turns out she was a third cousin or something. My mum is still doing it, adding detail and checking consistency. Her mother's side is really interesting - norwegian miners settled in Durham area, and there is a quite rare surname which is interesting to track around the world, including a reasonably well known concert pianist.

I tried to do my dad's side of the family years ago but he is almost pure Essex agricultural peasant so it is very difficult to go back further than when census started. Had a very pleasant day out there going round churchyards finding rellies though! I tried using the microfiches of church baptism records but it is really hard work. Might get back into it because it is all in the PRO in Chelmsford, which is where the ILs live.

There is one interesting dead end though which I would like to put some effort into; my dad's great grandfather has a very swanky gravestone in the cemetery in Grays Essex, but according to his marriage certificate was born in a pub in Pitsea which no longer exists (in fact I think Pitsea as a whole is now buried under a junction of the A12!). I cannot find a birth or baptism record for him though, and I think he had a hard childhood because he went to sea from the age of about 8. Ended up as a Master Mariner though, with his own Thames Barge (hence the comfortable retirement and grand gravestone). There is apparently a cartoon of him in Punch, something about serving sailors 'plum duff' for pudding, which is gently mocking the standards he kept on his boats - he would not have drunkenness or swearing, and paid his men above the going rate if they kept to his standards of behaviour. I like that - a generous employer in tough times.

kerala Fri 14-Sep-12 13:56:05

My ex did this and found his great granny was a prostitute. Kind of ended there.

A great uncle paid for a geneologist to research the family tree (maternal side) and found that the family was part scottish border reivers, part norse traders and part hugenot french.

I find it fascinating! Hoping to get back to it all at some point in the near future. Got to trace my Gt-Gt Grandfather's birth. Unfortunately not an unusual name and in London so 25 or so people of the same name to try to eliminate.


A 18C PM - and a family line traceable back to the 1200s. Utterly, utterly fascinating and absorbing.

I often wonder what they'd think of us.

A relative traced our family tree back to 1500s and also discovered that someone in the timeline was a slave trader blush

My mother discovered a 'family' name that I will be giving to my first born daughter, should I be lucky enough to have a baby. It's lovely and unusual, but not soo wierd as to be of the 'point and laugh' variety...

Dell28 Fri 14-Sep-12 23:27:05

My great great grandfather accidentally killed his own father in an accident involving a turnip.

I know no more but am dying to. What could have possibly happened???

I can't do mine, we're all too boring with boring names.

I am a bit dubious about some of it, as well. I do genealogy stuff for work sometimes, and google has loads of official stuff so I use that, but it also has lots of stuff by people tracing back from themselves to 1400 or whatever, and usually it is inaccurate (as in, really obviously inaccurate if you happen to know about the people they're talking about - assuming all men called 'John Smith' must be the same John Smith they're looking for, etc.)

I know some people can really trace their families back but I just thought I'd say that in case you're still trying to decide whether to shell out for those pay sites that people set up to do it with.

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Sat 15-Sep-12 18:17:52

LRD makes a good point about some of the stuff that is online - if you're starting out, do be very wary, especially of the family trees you find on some sites. Always look for alternative sources to corroborate what you find!

To give you an example of how wrong some are: there is a tree on a certain very famous site which has been compiled by someone in America. My great, great, great grandparents are included in this tree simply because my g,g,g granddad has the same name as someone this woman is related to.

It's very easy to see she has the wrong person because her chap lives in the US, my people are in the UK, and the only way they could be the right people would be if my grandmother returned to the UK to have every single one of her children (possible), and my grandfather commuted here every day to work (unlikely).

However, some trees are just as wrong, but not in such an obvious way - so remember to never take anything at face value!

hecate - the man with no real name sounds fascinating. I wonder if you might be able to pick up some clues if you trace forward/sideways from the canadian bride?

lexilcious bits of Pitsea do still exist (unfortunately) - so you may not have as much of a dead end as you think.

LRD and Saskia - yes, it absolutely right to be cautious of online data. I have had several people message me through genealogy sites saying they're related. When I have checked, we have ancestors with the same name, but they are in totally different locations.

The research I have done so far has been backed up with BMD certificates, baptism records, census and electoral register info.

After a bit of raking around online I think I have the right baptism information for my Gt-Gt Grandfather, BUT the information there simply says 'born around..' and a year. So not much further than I was! One day I'll get there. He is one of those similar to Hecate's ancestor in that he didn't always give his real name - and certainly interchanged his first and middle names at random. Also he married twice, both women coming from Derbyshire. No information yet on either woman's surname. My guess is that they were somehow related but that is just speculation.

ModreB Sat 15-Sep-12 18:42:00

My cousin did this for my mums side, she got back to the mid 1600's for my Grandfathers family, but no real scandal. On the other side, my Grandmothers family, my great grandparents (Her parents) were never married, my great grandfather had another family about 2 streets away and apparently flitted between the 2, in full knowledge of both. He was not married to either of them. He had several children with each "wife", my grandmother was one of eight siblings. This was around 1890. Before "settling down" hmm he had been a circus acrobat, and was of Romany Gypsy origin.

My Grandmothers brother and his wife had no children, so at a relatively late age adopted a baby boy. It turned out that he was the illegitimate biological child of his adoptive father. confused His wife, the adoptive mother, apparently never knew but had a very close and loving relationship with the child.

This is not from a website, but family documents, census records etc. We have a very uncommon family name, and know how we are connected with everyone in the UK phonebook with the same name.

Pascha Sat 15-Sep-12 18:44:00

My GGGfather was a known smuggler who was convicted of bigamy - he had 3 wives and families under 3 different names. Thats about it.

Hassled Sat 15-Sep-12 18:44:16

Our family corker is a paternal grandfather's (great?) uncle who was some sort of sea-captain in the South China Sea circa 1880. There is a photo of him looking perfectly normal but the caption reads "all that is known of Captain X is that he once dyed his beard green by mistake". I reckon he was a pirate.

PoppyWearer Sat 15-Sep-12 19:21:03

My DH's family tree is fascinating, but unfortunately he is descended from someone noteworthy (not famous as such, but noteworthy) and the family tree back in time from him is well-trodden, so nothing new to unearth, it's all been done, back to before the Domesday Book.

My Mum thought she unearthed an ancestor who was the product of a brother-sister liaison. Yikes!

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sat 15-Sep-12 19:21:31

I could BORE you to death with the oodles of cool stuff I've found in my family.

Done mine and DH's family. DH's Dad's family is ultra complicated on one side as the husband ran off with another woman, the wife ended up in the workhouse with three kids after having another child with the husbands cousin who was 10 years her junior and only 18!!! Another line of his family goes back to 1500. Another has smugglers and a legend about them haunting the house that still exists. Another has a line that again dates back to 1500 and the guy has a brass statue of himself in a church in kent. Another has a merchant seaman who died in hospital in Bermuda. Got some great newspaper articles on a few people which seem to show they were all troublemakers and real characters!

DH's father recently has been contacted saying he is in line to inherit some money - I've checked it out and its actually true! A relative a few generations ago had an illegitimate child then married and had four more of which only two survived. The illegitimate one married and had a daughter. Daughter moved to australia, never married and died. Therefore the money all goes to the grandchildren of two half sisters who survived!!!

My family; loads of photographers including a woman who was one of the first females in the business. Can trace one line back to scotland and the outlawed McGregor clan. Have a couple of strange connections with famous people (not direct line). Have a couple of lines traceable back to 1500s. Have a female relative who ended up in a mental institute - her medical records still exist. She apparently thought she had dropped her head down the drain and that people would come in the night and remove her arms and the ones she had weren't her real ones.

Two of my grandfathers were in WW1 and I've managed to trace their movements; one was gassed and returned home to England as a result and another kept a diary which matches the history of the division he was in perfectly and its utterly fascinating. Both were so unbelievably lucky. I think the WW1 stuff is one of my favourite things I've done as I feel I have more of a connection with my great grandfathers as my Mum can remember them and I have photographs. This week's Who Do You Think You Are? was brilliant as it was on the same subject. I'd LOVE to do loads more study in this area to remember people who fought in WW1 especially since the 100th anniversary is coming up.

That said, DH's mother's side of the family is utterly dull and I've only found one bit of interesting stuff - one line were boat people and lived on barges in the 1800s - but otherwise they were all coal miners who don't seem to have done much of interest.

I love family history; but its time consuming (and can be expensive unless you are careful!) and I think it can be difficult to get into and start finding stuff unless you know where to start and how to do it. It never fails to amaze me how many trees on Ancestry are bollocks, poorly researched and inaccurate - people don't check stuff properly. Its very easy to take a wrong turn and make a mistake...

As I say, could bore you all to death! SORRY!

FairPhyllis Sat 15-Sep-12 19:23:53

My parents are very into this - my mum's lot are very easy to trace because the names are all very unusual, but sadly Dad's family were extremely inbred peasants who are all called James or Mary and all married their cousins, all also called James or Mary. And many of them were from Ireland so often the records don't exist anymore.

My GGGF (I think) was in the army in India and we got some of his army records showing he was constantly being treated for venereal disease blush. We didn't tell my GM about that. He became a Chelsea Pensioner in the end.

My mum's family spent a lot of time being extremely litigious in the consistory court of the Bishop of Chichester in the 1500s.

One ancestor was shut up in some kind of hospital/workhouse for "idiocy", and the little daughter of another was killed by being run over by a cart sad.

We also found out that one pair of ancestors got married on Christmas Day in the 1800s in an abbey on the south coast - we later twigged that this was because you could get married for free on Christmas day!

One branch of the family was from Jersey and when I happened to be there I had a poke around St Helier and found their houses.

I find the professions that have vanished utterly fascinating - lamplighter etc.

mogandme Sat 15-Sep-12 19:24:59

This is a fab thread

My great-grandfather and two brothers walked from Essex to Derbyshire to get work in a foundry. This story has been passed down the family so when I contacted some distant cousins they knew the story. I've managed to get back to 1722 for this branch of the family.

Would love to do Dad's family but unfortunately they were Scottish, with some murky goings on and name changes which are making things difficult.

kellestar Sat 15-Sep-12 20:33:32

My DH found out his uncle was born out of wedlock, he didn't mention it, but his dad said ... is investigating the family tree and his uncle was apoplectic. He won't speak to anyone now and blames DH for it all. Yet DH still hasn't told anyone and won't, but is cross his uncle is causing ruptions.

Euphemia Sat 15-Sep-12 20:34:49

I found out that my grandad had a wee sister who died aged 4, and that his mother died in childbirth aged 37. sad

Ive done mine and dh's. I started it when my first dd was born.

Ive found some great stuff like one great great great grandmother who drowned in the surrey canal after stopping to wash her face?!! The newspaper listed that she was found with one shoe a brass ring and a piece of velvet. I always wonder why she had a scrap of velvet?

But my grandad thought his granny was his mother. I then found out his granny had been married three times and had had a daughter that no-one knew about. Shehas mine and my daughters names. Her father got a divorce from granny and got custody of the child! I cant trace her past her 20's and it makes me sad to think she had a whole family but no-one knew of her.

bonnieslilsister Sat 15-Sep-12 23:29:08

I love this thread smile

My mum's grandfather witnessed his mum being kicked to death by his drunken dad whilst he and his brothers pretended to be asleep shock sad

Apparently he never mentioned it to anyone. He was 9yrs old when it happened.

notcitrus Sat 15-Sep-12 23:39:17

My great great uncle was an explorer and has some mountains etc in Australia named after him. Family story is he gave his gold mine away to Queen Victoria hoping she'd give him a knighthood, only she didn't, which proves he was an idiot. Turns out he did lots of cool stuff, though no-one knows where the money went.

The really interesting thing is DH's great great uncle was also in Australia at the time, became a governor, and my relative was his second-in-command for 20 years!

CointreauVersial Sat 15-Sep-12 23:43:09

William Shakespeare's on mine!

It was fairly easy to trace, because the family were farmers and stayed in the same small area for generations.

CollieEye Sat 15-Sep-12 23:43:55

She may have had the scrap of velvet as a way of re-claiming a child from the Foundling hospital: www.telegraph.co.uk/family/familyhistory/8201629/Threads-of-feeling-stories-behind-babies-left-at-the-Foundling-Hospital.html

BestIsWest Sat 15-Sep-12 23:48:00

Descended from a long line of tin workers, colliers and ag labs. Though someone in the family did invent Horlicks.

apostropheuse Sat 15-Sep-12 23:56:30

Yes I've done it - got back to about 1800. Bit of a dead end though as all of my ancestors are Irish (the Republic as it is now) and many records were destroyed.

I love it all - but it can be very frustrating.

floweryblue Sun 16-Sep-12 00:00:12

I haven't read the thread, for the same reason as I switch off when my mum tells me about her new discoveries about people I have never met, some of whom may have had sex who may be related to me. I don't care!

edam Sun 16-Sep-12 00:02:44

My Dad got hold of the family bible and started rooting around. Ironic to discover us three vegetarian sisters are descended from a gamekeeper. grin OK, we have lots of other ancestors as well, but that chap is significant as he's the one who moved from Scotland to Wales and left a family that has been Welsh for generations with an oddly Scottish name.

The interesting thing about family history is that it shows just how mobile people were in ye olden days. There's a sort of vague assumption that for generations most people went no further than the nearest market town, but as soon as you start looking at the lives of quite ordinary people, certainly when you get to the 19th Century, they moved around a lot.

dh's Mum told him about her Great-Grandad being a musician in Amsterdam, so when we went there on holiday we looked him up. Only to discover he was quite a big deal over there and there's even a street named after him - a great big boulevard, not just a backstreet. I seem to remember his street was much bigger and broader than the parallel roads named after Mozart and Beethoven - only fair given he was the local boy!

Goldidi Sun 16-Sep-12 00:03:49

The most interesting thing in our family tree is that they kept reusing names. My great great great grandmother had 6 sons all called John because the first 5 died as babies and they used the same name for the next baby sad Only 2 of her 11 children survived to adulthood sad

We also had scandal with an unmarried great aunt who kept her baby shock when she fell pg at 14. She even managed to find a man willing to marry her and take on the little girl as his own. It was a good job too as they then couldn't have children together.

TotallyKerplunked Sun 16-Sep-12 00:08:37

GG grandfather inherited almost 1 million quid yet died penniless!

I've also got a few lunatics in my family tree and to my mothers everlasting shame found that some of the family originated from France in the 1500s. No one famous.

bitbizzare Sun 16-Sep-12 00:11:53

Gt Gt Grandma Maine was born in Ireland in 1888. She had a twin sister, Mary .. Their mother died the day after giving birth of "Bride's Disease", their father seemingly vanished as there's no records of him. Gt Gt Grandma was adopted by a Scottish couple who ran a Catholic shelter in Glasgow for teenage boys on the run, in 1901.. For whatever reason the three of them then moved to the far North of Scotland ..

Annie had six children, they fostered dozens (this was a Catholic norm).. Annie then developed PND and was sent to Craig Dunain Asylum where she died in 1961 of heart problems.

She and her sister were beautiful women - I have two photographs of them - but it is odd that in many ways, she had a very sad life, whilst her sister married a barber at 19, they lived above his shop and had many children and long happy lives together..

Interestingly Gt Gt Granda Maine grew up next to Gt Gt Grandma Braulen in a little village called Culburnie - who was only living up north as she was fostered from Glasgow. Gt Gt Grandma Braulen and her husband had 8 children, eventually two of their sons would go on to marry on to marry Gt Gt Grandma Maine's daughters.

Gt Gt Grandma Braulen is in many ways a bit of an inspiration to me - as is Gt Gt Grandma Maine - Gt Gt G B grew up with a widow in the middle of nowhere with her wee brother and two other children. She went to work at 13 if not younger, in a lodge in the middle of nowhere.. She would see a tree every night and she said "that tree looks as lonely as me.. I wonder which of us will last longer, me or it".. 100 years later that tree's still there, Gt Gt G B is long dead.

Oddly too my Gt Gt G B's sons (so my great grandad) attended the same school that my father's adoptive father's brother in law went too, they sat next to each other and even have the same surname..

Also funnily enough, the street on which they live and have lived on for about 100 years or so, that is father's adopted dad's b in law, is the same street that Gt Gt Granda Maine's grandparents lived on in the 1800s. Probably the same house, weirdlu.

Jux Sun 16-Sep-12 00:18:12

On his dad's side, dh is the grandson of a prostitute and a naval chappie. Interestingly, further back (and on his mum's side) he is descended from an admiral with an island named after him.

My family are all staunch Catholics, but we are descended from Jews, which I find ironic. Hitler would have hated us the same though.

My dad's dad was a member of the Plymouth Brethren.

Empusa Sun 16-Sep-12 00:19:41

A good few generations of my mum's side of the family lived on Heath Row. Guess what is built there now..

iscream Sun 16-Sep-12 07:42:46

I have my family tree quite far back. I often wondered if it was accurate, as I didn't know my paternal side of the family, so I got my brother to submit/test his dna at familytreedna. We have many matches and several of them confirm what we were told was true. I haven't pursed a lot of my matches, but a 5th cousin e-mailed me and is sending me all his tree details. I am going to try and put my DNA results to the names I already have and fill in some of the names and places. I am going to trace my moms side eventually as well.

ProfYaffle Sun 16-Sep-12 07:50:53

I've got mine back to 1630 which isn't bad for bog standard non aristocratic yeomen. Highlights of mine: Discovering a 200 year long dynasty of Mersey sailors, one of whom has a folk song written about him, 3 members of one family died in Victorian mining disasters, one relative was a very well known Philanthropic Mayor of our town who did lots for the poor, it turns out my Nan's vague memory of someone moving to America was true and we have a Pioneer branch and 4th Great Grand Uncle Robert was transported to Australia for setting fire to a hay stack!

llynnnn Sun 16-Sep-12 08:34:57

I find it all fascinating, but how do you find out these interesting things? I've just had a 14 day trial of the ancestry website and managed to find my g.g.grandparents but no juicy information, just standard, they lived here, worked as this and had these kids!

What's the best way to find the good stuff? smile

SayersIsBetterThanGreggs Sun 16-Sep-12 08:37:19

My great, great, great grandad was one of the sailors rescued by Grace Darling, he has a lighthouse monument in our cemetary. Tried looking for some info on the other sailors she rescued but there isn't any.

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 08:56:16

llynnnn, you start with the census that gives you occupations and clue. And if you have family stories/photographs they help a lot. Then contacting other people who might also have a common ancestor to build up a picture and find out if they have any stories.

It can be worth researching the general history of an area, event or occupation to build up a picture of someone's life. If they are in the military research their regiment / division.

Parish records sometimes hold more information than simply baptisms, marriages and death. Local history archives can hold information - for example I've just found a relative had a contract to maintain 5 miles of a toll road and another has an application to be admitted to a hospital as a pauper patient which I strongly suspect to be a lunatic asylum (I've already found one in an asylum on the other side of the family). I've not had chance to check these records out as they are in a local record office the other end of the country, but I know they exist as that particular local council has a searchable index of the records they hold which has given me than information.

Then there is wills which sometimes reveal interesting things like a child left out of a will or strange requests.

Then theres the newspaper archives which sometimes reveal interesting things. Of course, if your family was never involved in trouble they are less likely to be in the paper.

And finally google is your friend. Since books over a 100 years are now out of copy right you can sometimes find interesting things from digitalised books or there can be stories and histories about an area that mention names.

Basically any source of information is a potential source of information about your family; the trouble with ancestry is it does tend to limit you to just who is related to who and you have to use other sources to find out other things which you don't necessarily realise at first. Also, the amount of information available freely is still expanding at a huge rate; there is so much more stuff available now than there was just 9 months ago when I started looking. Local councils are realising this is a huge source of potential income so are investing in it to bring in revenue.

iscream Sun 16-Sep-12 08:59:08

llynnnn other family members often will know stories of the past. Also archives may have family histories that have interesting stuff. Order the death and birth registrations and they often have information. So do newspaper archives.

ProfYaffle Sun 16-Sep-12 09:11:52

Good advice from hmmm. I found out about transported Uncle Robert because he'd been left off his father's will so I dug a bit deeper to try and find out why.

I find ancestry is good for building the bare bones, but to flesh them out take detective work. There's no one standard way of finding info, it depends on which records survive.

Taking Uncle Robert as an example again, there are detailed records of transportees which have been put online by historians in Australia but I can't find anything further once he gets there because the census records are really patchy.

The www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ is a good resource, as is speculative Googling.

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 09:39:11

I've found both findmypast and ancestry's most basic package were quite limited in the information you could access. Great for starting off but if you get a bit more involved and interested then it really can be worth upgrading. I've found merchant sea identity cards on findmypast for example which had photographs from the 1920s which were amazing. Also the most basic packages only have the most basic information much of which you can find for free elsewhere (though admittedly some of the free sites don't have complete collections yet).

Great free sources of information:
www.familysearch.org is really helpful (Church of Latter Day Saints)
www.freereg.org.uk has an ever growing collection of parish records
www.freebmd.org has an ever growing collection of GRO records
www.freecen.org.uk has an ever growing collection of free census transcriptions
There are also a couple of more specific free bmd sites (go to www.ukbmd.org.uk/ and click on local BMD on the left and it gives you a list of counties that are searchable; bath bmd is particularly good if you have relatives there as they have mother's maiden names right back to 1839).

Like I say not all records are available - there are areas missing and dates missing but they all are definitely helpful and have different information available on each.

Digital copies of book of parish records done by George W Marshall or W.P.W. Phillimore are available at http://archive.org but they are yet to digitalise all of the ones that exist.

And if you know a parish if you google sometimes you can find online transcriptions.

Many of these sources have information that ISN'T available on the subscription sites too so even if you do have a subscription you should use them too.

BionicEmu Sun 16-Sep-12 09:39:45

I haven't researched my family tree, but a random family in America researched theirs and they all originate from my house! It's a very old rural farmhouse. A couple of times a year members of the family come over and actually come to.visit the house. After seeing one lot of them standing outside my house taking photos, I asked them what they were doing, they explained, so I invited them in for a look around. They nearly wet themselves with excitement. On the plus side I now have a comprehensive history of my house, including some v old photos!

Dawndonna Sun 16-Sep-12 09:49:54

Neither set of grandparents were married when they had their children. My father's mother didn't know that my mother's mother wasn't married and vice versa. My mother's parents married when I was five. We found out a couple of years ago that grandad had been married before, and somebody was against divorce. Whether my gran or the first wife, we don't know. My gran on my mother's side was also an illegal immigrant until she married my grandfather in 1963. She'd been here since they escaped from Jersey during the war. They were living in Jersey and Antwerp since 1935. Gran however was from neither place.
I always knew I came from a long line of Bastards!

Narked Sun 16-Sep-12 10:15:53

The best stuff comes through oral history. I have a fairly distant relative who's very into this. Her family splits from ours with a group of siblings IYSWIM. She contacted my mother with info she'd found. She has all the details of births, marriages and deaths. What she doesn't know is that one of the siblings got pregnant when she wasn't married and another of them was married but had no children. The two women went to stay with family out of the area for a month and came back with a baby. The married sibling was registered as the mother and her husband as the father, and that's how the child was raised.

My mother hasn't told her either. I'm only saying it here because it's anonymous. Home births and family keen to hide their dirty laundry. I'd bet there are a lot of birth certificates out there pre 1940 with the wrong mother named.

BedHog Sun 16-Sep-12 10:17:26

One of my ancestors was the first white man to cross the Sahara desert. I'm hoping to find out more about him and the rest of the family when I get a chance - last time I investigated anything was pre-internet!!

pookamoo Sun 16-Sep-12 10:23:35

Found out by chance that my great grandmother had previously been engaged to her husband's (my gt grandfather's) brother. Her engagement ring came to light recently and I spotted that the initials engraved inside and the date did not match up with their engagement or marriagr. Her first fiance was missing during WWI and presumed dead, then turned up in the 1920s married to a Polish or Russian (I think) girl - he had been a spy trapped behind enemy lines, and while he was gone they had both married someone else! My Grandpa refused to talk about it but we aren't sure if he knew and was embarrassed, or if he didn't really hear and understand what we were talking about.

llynnnn Sun 16-Sep-12 10:24:46

Thank you for all the tips and links, very useful grin can't wait to start digging again!

saffronwblue Sun 16-Sep-12 10:25:23

Not very far back but two of DH's great grandfathers are in this famous painting. One has exactly the same profile as him!

Shesparkles Sun 16-Sep-12 10:29:58

I'm doing mine just now on my dad's side. I've not made any major discoveries, but am filling in the gaps about a greatx4 uncle who was a bit of a pioneer when he went to the USA. (google Tonto natural bridge, and he's the boy). I've also been sent some photos of a greatx3 uncle who my ds is the spitting image of!
I'm off work for 6 weeks after an op on my foot so I intend doing some more whilst I'm off.
Even though there's not been anything remotely scandalous (so far!) I'm finding it really interesting to find out where Ive come from.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Sun 16-Sep-12 10:35:43

I investigated my gt gt grandfather with unusual surname and found ancestors all the way back to 1630 in tiny rural German town. That was with the help of a very generous person who had researched his family from there and had copies of the church records.
Some family trees on ancestry are just laughable, especially some American ones with people who happen to have the same name but apparently from say, Aberdeen, Alabama or something instead of Aberdeen, Scotland.
Mysteries can be very frustrating. Where was uncle Archie when the 1901 census took place. He's not with the wife and kids, he doesn't seem to be anywhere. Could there have been a lock in at the pub?
Oh and some transcriptions are funny too, particularly the ancestry ones from the Scottish census records. It's a god job I know many of the scottish place names myself.

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Sun 16-Sep-12 10:48:56

One of the best things about archive.org is that you can download the documents on to your computer, then use something like Google Desktop to search them. This is really handy if you have several generations of a family in a village or parish. Also, what you are getting are records that you would have to pay to see on Ancestry and FindMyPast.

And, don't forget the National Archives www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ - lots of great records there - wills, military papers, also collections of family letters and documents.

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 10:54:10

Where was uncle Archie when the 1901 census took place. He's not with the wife and kids, he doesn't seem to be anywhere. Could there have been a lock in at the pub?

I've managed to track most people who are 'missing' from the census - they turn up with bad transcriptions after a lot of detective work. But I still have three gaps. One is a woman who I think should be in the workhouse as two of her children are and the rules were you had to be in the workhouse if your children were; her and her newborn daughter are missing. Were they missed from the records or did she do a runner and abandon the children? The other two are a complete mystery though. Tried every combination of searching by place, year of birth, first names together etc and still nothing.

The ancestry census transcriptions are full of errors - I hate using them. Findmypast is better and seems to have fewer mistakes (got to be honest on the whole I found findmypast better for a beginner as the search options were easier to get used to. It took me a lot longer to get to grips with ancestry but ancestry does have features that findmypast doesn't have which once you get used to are really helpful).

The trees on ancestry I find funniest are the ones where mothers had children when they 60 or they are resurrected from the dead and mysteriously appear on the next census.

mateysmum Sun 16-Sep-12 10:57:10

Do give it a go OP; everybody finds out something of interest It's easier if you have an unusual surname.

I've done DH's and found out his family were classic victorian industrialists, who made pots of money from "muck and brass", then the next 2 generations became gents and spent it all. One of them shot himself after his business was threatened with failure. There was a tragic accidental shooting of a young boy by his cousin, whilst they were playing with guns. A divorce after the wife lied about her age to her wealthy husband to be.

Possible connections to a Scottish Earl etc.

Ancestry do free 14 day trials and there are lots of free resources available on the web and at local archives. Start off by chatting to your family - it's amazing what they can suddenly remember about the past.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Sun 16-Sep-12 10:58:02

hmm I know. I searched all Archibalds in Fife at one point and didn't find him.
Found his brother eventually, badly transcribed but also on a ship as a night watchman so slightly unusual.

edam Sun 16-Sep-12 10:59:26

mateys, isn't there a saying about 'rags to rags in three generations' or something - about those Victorian industrialists who made a pile, then educated their sons as gentlemen who didn't know the first thing about business and just wasted all their inheritance?

numptymark1 Sun 16-Sep-12 11:00:21

my family name changed because someone couldn't spell

8 children, first 3 had a G in the surname, the 5 youngest didn't! (1823 it disappeared)

in 9 generations on my dad's side, only 4 mens names were used as both first and middle names, and 6 women's desite there being families with up to 11 children!

also my parents are from 300 miles where I was born, I now live 120 miles from my birthplace -but in the same town as ancestors from the 1780s

how very very random!

ChoccyJules Sun 16-Sep-12 11:02:31

I did mine as much as I could 20yrs ago in the Uni Summer break. I used the local office to look at all the microfiches etc. I decided to go up each Grandparents' line (all four) in the interests of equality and I got each back to around 1800, not much more. Two of the trails ended as I needed to visit a different office (is it registry office, I cannot remember?!), my 'main' line (dad's dad) came from Norwich and their records office burned down in a fire (this was before you could go to the big place in London or do it online) and the fourth one, well the women were clearly so naughty that I couldn't tell who had done what with whom (and everyone haing the same name doesn't help!).
I found it really interesting BUT found nothing of interest IYSWIM.
I also went round some local churchyards to look at headstones of relatives.
I interviewed the oldest member of our family who filled in information about many of the bloodlines (my parents are both from the same farming village so everyone knew everyone). She was able to confirm juicy titbits and out personalities to names.
But yes, nothing useful to report. I'd be boring on WDYTYA!

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 11:04:21

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed if the brother is on a ship that would be my best guess for Uncle Archie too. He wouldn't appear on the census if he was away working at sea....

mateysmum Sun 16-Sep-12 11:06:20

Yep, that's right Edam - a classic tale!

DH's father had never mentioned knowing anything about his family history, but then when I found a reference to a family coat of arms and family silver in a will, he suddenly said "oh you mean this" and whipped a crested teaspoon out of the drawer. Then when I told him that his family used to live in a very grand house he said "oh yes, I spent Christmas 1943 there".

The family were awarded an official coat of arms in the early 1900's. I am planning to get this on the door of any new car and you can expect all my letters and emails to carry said crest at the top!!!

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Sun 16-Sep-12 11:08:45

"in 9 generations on my dad's side, only 4 mens names were used as both first and middle names, and 6 women's desite there being families with up to 11 children!"

I sympathise, my family do that too ... in one branch I have seven generations of Ralphs, which would be bad enough if it was a single Ralph per generation, but no, there are multiple cousins called Ralph for each generation. And they're all farmers in the same county hmm

mateysmum Sun 16-Sep-12 11:09:20

Another tip OP. Make sure you get organised. At this stage, probably not worth buying a family history program, but you will soon find yourself overwhelmed with info if you're not careful. Also, sometimes by organising material, a pattern of events emerges or questions are raised. for instance, I couldn't understand why one chap seemd to completely replace his family in between 2 censuses. I think discovered that his wife and 2 children had died of some nasty fever within a couple of weeks, so he had remarried and started again.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Sun 16-Sep-12 11:12:29

hmm yes it's a possibility I have considered but will never know. normally they were both miners!
I find it fascinating that with all of the Victorian horror and stigma over illegitimacy ( and into the 20th century) there were many many births out of wedlock, adopted children and unmarried couple just cohabiting.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Sun 16-Sep-12 11:13:55

Can anyone recommend a family history program?

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 11:16:55

Another tip OP. Make sure you get organised.

Hell yes. My mum has been doing family history since the mid 90s. I started doing it at christmas when it dawned on me she had it all in her head and no one else knew anything she had researched! She's driven me nuts with hundreds of bigs of paper and not remembering what her notes actually meant. You miss masses of clues by being disorganised and not spotting a pattern as my mum will testify from me picking through things and finding missing info and errors due to poor organisation.

Two other points about cost.
DO NOT BUY BIRTH/MARRIAGE/DEATH CERTIFICATES DIRECT FROM THE SUBSCRIPTION SITES!!! They are hugely overpriced. Buy them direct from the GRO records office - much much cheaper (usually about a tenner).

Same goes for any software. Even stuff thats compatible with ancestry. You can get it much cheaper from other places.

And don't just do your direct line; brothers and sisters are invaluable for clues for your direct line. Mothers maiden names as middle names are a particular favourite of mine for that.

McKayz Sun 16-Sep-12 11:21:53

My Dads great uncle was Hitler's right hand man and best friend. I found some long distance relatives who ran to Spain at the end of WW2. They've told me that they were each others best man and godfathers to their children. My Dads granddad moved here at some point between the wars as he met his wife while he was a merchant seaman.

Until I got married I had the same surname which made history at school interesting.

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 11:24:22

I use MacFamilyTree for my Mac. My mum is running Ancestry's Family Tree Maker on PC. Both are good and compatible with each other and Ancestry if you want to go down that route.

Both were about £20 on offer - Mine from apple store (downloaded version) and my Mum's was from Amazon (Note: there are a few versions available of Family Tree Maker - they vary in price due to the edition they are and that most of them come with a few months subscription to ancestry - you need to be careful when you are buying and consider whether you actually need a subscription especially the worldwide option). It is much cheaper to buy ancestry software from amazon than direct from ancestry... which peed me off no end.

ProphetOfDoom Sun 16-Sep-12 11:39:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hulababy Sun 16-Sep-12 11:50:51

I'm currently looking at mine. My pils pay for ancestry so I have been using that. I need to get a family tree software though for if/when ancestry subscription finishes.

Only back to early 1800s so far but only started a week ago. It is quickly addictive though and 10y dd is fascinated.

Not much out of the ordinary yet although there seems to be a lot if very short pregnancies lol, 4 months from wedding to birth, hmmm! Loads of people with same names as all passed down making it confusing.

Currently looking at one strand and there is a possibility of a bigamist issue coming up - hmmm!

MadBusLady Sun 16-Sep-12 11:59:37

Oooh, Hecate's mystery Ggrandfather sounds exciting. I have one of those, though I think he only had two identities. No idea why. The false identity is really random too, it's Scottish sounding (and the guy was actually from Wiltshire, no known connection to Scotland). It was complete news to my mum that his name, and her mother's maiden surname, were not real.

And yes, ALL the trees on Ancestry and other subscription cites that other people have done should come with a huge, huge health warning. People just assume others are correct, and duplicate their mistakes in tree merges, and before long it looks like a "fact" because so many people have got it in their tree.

I've been doing genealogy since BEFORE THE INTERNET <gimmer> and it were different in moi day.

edam Sun 16-Sep-12 12:00:53

My Mother has a story about some ancestor gambling the family fortune away. And my Dad found a relative who cheeked the local squire's son - apparently refused to doff his cap, squire's son got all arsey, ended in a fight, relative had to jump on a ship bound for New York. I was quite impressed, only then he died in a fight in New York, so maybe he was just a bruiser rather than standing up for the rights of the common man.

Carriemoo Sun 16-Sep-12 12:02:18

I know my grandad was a survivor of auschwitz... I havent been able to find any futher records of his family as he wouldnt ever tell us anything about his life before he came to England.

I wouldnt even know where to start with cross border family trees.

Hulababy Sun 16-Sep-12 12:02:23

I'm currently looking at mine. My pils pay for ancestry so I have been using that. I need to get a family tree software though for if/when ancestry subscription finishes.

Only back to early 1800s so far but only started a week ago. It is quickly addictive though and 10y dd is fascinated. She lives that we know the name Of her great great great great great grandma!

Not much out of the ordinary yet although there seems to be a lot if very short pregnancies lol, 4 months from wedding to birth, hmmm! Loads of people with same names as all passed down making it confusing.

Currently looking at one strand and there is a possibility of a bigamist issue coming up - hmmm!

Also some very short men according to their ww1 records - just 5f4 and chest of 33 inch for eg.

MadBusLady Sun 16-Sep-12 12:08:25

Hmm The ancestry census transcriptions are full of errors - I hate using them.

Yy, why are they so poor? Have they had a computer read things? That's the only explanation I can think of for some of the wildly unlikely mistranscriptions there.

On the other hand, human error comes in too, especially when somebody is looking at an unfamiliar name. Presumably most transcriptions come ultimately from volunteers from the local FHS, and I've noticed they often mistranscribe out-of-area surnames that are less familiar to them, eg my Devonian GG-grandfather with a very typical Devon name was hopelessly mistranscribed in Staffordshire (someone read it as an Italian name!) Took me years to find him.

MadBusLady Sun 16-Sep-12 12:10:10

I find it fascinating that with all of the Victorian horror and stigma over illegitimacy ( and into the 20th century) there were many many births out of wedlock, adopted children and unmarried couple just cohabiting.

Same in my family. I guess it just goes to show that most of the shock-horror-stigma of that time was really about the ruling classes having a moral panic, while ordinary people got on with their lives.

Plus ca change smile

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 12:29:22

I think they are all done by hand as computers can't read the handwriting and because pages have faded.

The real issue is the way you can report/change bad transcriptions on each site when you do find them. They have a team to check bad transcription reports on findmypast but it doesn't seem to be the case for ancestry. Not to mention its not so obvious how you enter bad transcriptions on Ancestry as its not as user friendly. The system on findmypast is infinitely better imho.

I've reported bad ones on findmypast and had them changed to the correct info (though not all - they do check and have you have to met rules for changes), whereas ancestry you can only put an alternative and source for your information thus when you search they tend to come up lower in the results still even when they should be at the top which is frustrating, but just reminds you to check a couple of pages in search and not just the first.

Both have strengths and weaknesses as search engines. I do think bad transcriptions is one where ancestry falls down more though. Just not quite as well maintained/supported.

Nancy66 Sun 16-Sep-12 12:38:42

Yes! It's all very Downton Abbey.

My great great grandmother on my mum's side worked in service as a maid to a big, rich family. She got pregnant in 1900 (aged 19) by one of the sons of the house and.....he stuck by her and married her!

From their living circumstances it was clear he was disowned by his own family.

Turns out my gran did know the story (yet never mentioned it to any of us!) and she says that the rich bloke's mum used to make secret visits to them and take them food.

Sabriel Sun 16-Sep-12 12:45:11

Anneofcleavers, does your pirate captain have the initials IG?

The transcriptions on Ancestry were done in America, so a lot of the very odd errors that you look at and can see instantly what it should be they didn't have that local knowledge.

There is a Tree on ancestry that has been linked to mine (before I realised what people were doing and made it private). It is the same surname but 2 completely different families. I have contacted the owners of the tree 3 times pointing out why it's wrong (like "mother" was 73 when the last child was born, and there are gaps of less than 9 months between some of the children) but it's still there angry

DancehallDaze Sun 16-Sep-12 12:48:00

I prefer the Ancestry system as they allow all suggestions to stand alongside the first transcription. It just means that there are multiple index entries. Once you have found the original entry, you can use your own judgement as to what it says - but you have to be able to find it first!

The census is full of mistakes (apart from 1911 all we have is the enumerator's transcription anyway, not the original forms). I can look at an entry and know from my other research that, for instance, someone's surname is wrong, because the enumerator put 'ditto' for the whole household when one of the occupants actually had a different name. But FMP will only accept mistranscriptions, so they would reject that kind of information.

Nothing is going to change the original image. An index is merely a finding aid, and adding multiple interpretations to the index gives the user a better chance of finding what they seek. Multiple interpretations do not compromise the integrity of the original document.

MagdalenaAlec Sun 16-Sep-12 13:01:53

I am not an expert in the field, but my MIL is and she has dug some pretty good stuff, including the fact that she is a very distant cousin to both William and Kate (through an obscure scullery maid way back in the days)! So technically, this makes them related at some point shock

MmeGuillotine Sun 16-Sep-12 13:20:00

While trying to find out the link between my family and the ventriloquist Fred Russell, who was apparently a cousin of some sort, I found out that my great great great grandfather was a police sergeant in the Whitechapel H Division at the time of the Ripper murders in 1888. As I've been a Ripperologist since my early teens, I found this ENORMOUSLY exciting.

The other side of my family is rather grand but I find them infinitely less interesting than my East End ancestors.

redexpat Sun 16-Sep-12 13:24:45

All of my grandparents' families made it back from WW1. Not one of them died in the trenches. Then they were almost all wiped out by spanish flu.

And Gx5 grandmother was born aboard HMS Victory.

cheesesarnie Sun 16-Sep-12 13:27:41

my grandfather changed his religion to marry my nan and apparently my surname was used as an insult between catholics and protestants.

ChoccyJules Sun 16-Sep-12 15:57:59

Blimey, Local Archives Office was what I was going for, not Registry Office. Dozy me!

HecateHarshPants Sun 16-Sep-12 18:26:00

NotGeoffVader - wouldn't know where to start. I don't know who she is. Don't know who her father was. I only know that he married a canadian woman and her dad sent my great gran money. I only know that cos my great aunt used to work in the bank and she told me. Shocking lack of confidentiality! grin but no names and no records now. Apparently there were some letters, but when my grandma died, my grandad burned everything (he hated my great grandparents - long story, but they caused grandma a lot of hurt in her life)

The only thing I know is he claimed to be from a famous biscuit making family hmm one of the names he used was William Pride Crawford.

Euphemia Sun 16-Sep-12 18:56:28

Better than Nobby Nabisco, I suppose, Hecate. grin

What a shame, Hecate - would be so interesting. But yes, without 'hard data' it's almost impossible.

ProfYaffle Sun 16-Sep-12 19:20:11

You can use Tesco vouchers to buy Family Tree Maker and you get 6 months free access to Ancestry.

Kaloobear Sun 16-Sep-12 19:29:40

One side of our family is descended from Walter Tyrrell who may or may not have killed a king:


i just signed up for the 14 day free trail - all of my family so far have been from the suffolk/essex area
also my parents told me they were going to call me mahala when i was born - looked back and 2 of my ancestors were called mahala ,but im sure this isnt an english name ?

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 19:39:48

Google is telling me Mahala is native american name in origin. No idea if its also an english name...

Mrsjay Sun 16-Sep-12 19:50:20

MY great aunt had to go to the country to have her baby she had to tell people her fiancee had died in the way 1st. there wasnt any fiancee and the baby was adopted nothing else as exciting as being related to bygamists or the well to do ,

sparkle12mar08 Sun 16-Sep-12 20:00:14

In the form Mahalah, it's biblical in origin, and means 'tender' or 'tenderness' in Hebrew. Reasonably common in the 19th century in England.

Moln Sun 16-Sep-12 20:13:01

Well the most exciting thing I discovered was that my great, great grandfather (on my paternal side) was a dance teacher in Birmingham and had a heap of children.

That's it, about as interesting as it gets. I've as yet to find any information at all about my paternal grandmother.

Haven't looked into my maternal side that much really, my uncle is so I'll scap it all off him when he's done!

doinmummy Sun 16-Sep-12 20:21:51

We are related to the chap who arrested Guy Fawkes. An uncle in Australia has done a massive family tree on my Dad's side.

Jux Sun 16-Sep-12 20:50:01

We are descended from the House of York. Apparently. (Personally, I doubt it.)

Hulababy Sun 16-Sep-12 22:13:26

Have managed to get to DD's 7th great grandmother and grandfather tonight I think. Just need to do some checks tomorrow to check right people.

Does anyone use a particular good family tree maker, in terms of actually getting your tree drawn up?

At moment it is all on ancestry website but obviously that would go if PILs don't renew at end of year.

HmmThinkingAboutIt Sun 16-Sep-12 22:42:49

Hulababy, you can export your tree direct from Ancestry as a GECOM file. You can than load the GECOM file to software and it draws it all again for you in the software. So just export it before the subscription expires. Most software that is compatible with GECOM files should work. You're most likely to get the least amount of problems using their own software I would imagine.

One of my most illustrious ancesters (AgLab, natch grin ) died by "falling over a stile, drunk" <proud>

Most interesting one is the mysterious g.g.uncle who disappeared aged about 14 or so - family rumous has it that he went to the States, I've found a potential census entry and port record for him entering Canada at about the right time, but also I have copies of handwritten letters to the Chief Constable of the county where he lived, from his mother, asking them to investigate. Sadly there's no response from the police - when I get round to it I need to contact them and see if they have records of anything.

Another family rumour from ages past is that an ancestor was a sailor of some sort who died/was killed in mysterious circumstances off the coast of Guyana, and lost his fortune (gold) to the bottom of the sea/the two men rowing him back out to his ship.

One of these days I'll get back to it...

iscream Mon 17-Sep-12 05:36:10

HecateHarshPants , why not go the DNA route? www.familytreedna.com/default.aspx Is there a living male descendant of your mystery ancestor? If there is, I'd get him to submit his dna. Maybe you can all chip in to pay for it? Sounds like it is the only way you can trace him.
I use the familytreemaker, plus I bought another familytreemaker that is merged with ancestry. I do not have a subscription to ancestry, just a free account, but I am sure because I bought the program my information won't vanish. I can't access other peoples trees and stuff though, however, it is available for free at my local library so I can go work there if need be.
They don't want your tree;s to vanish, as they charge people in order to access them right?
This is a source of irritation to me, that they make a profit on other peoples work. So I do not have my tree open to public, and only share it with DNA matches.

mrsnec Mon 17-Sep-12 06:08:05

I looked at genealogy.com recently. Just as I miss my DGPs and wanted to know more and feel close to them. So I just googled my DGM's maiden name. I found myself on there so knew it was the right one but the errors made me really cross. It shows me as unmarried and 5 years older than I am. Same with DB and DU on there but not his DW or adopted DD and no links at all to DGF's side of the family so I'd me reluctant to pay for a subscription. I contacted the person who created the tree but haven't had a response. Just a warning to anyone who's thinking of trying it really.

HecateHarshPants Mon 17-Sep-12 06:29:05

no. there isn't. he only had one son, who died several years ago. That son had no children.

well, I say he only had one son, I mean he only had the one son (and my grandma) with my great grandma. Who knows what happened with this canadian woman or if there were any other wives out there! grin

It's a mystery, that's for sure. My mum does have a photo of him, I suppose my only chance would be 'do you know this man', in some canadian publication or something like that. but that seems a bit extreme grin

Kbear Mon 17-Sep-12 06:40:21

My interesting thing wasn't historic but current.... I found that my grandfather's brother had a son we didn't know about. We traced him and he lived around the corner from us!

We put a note in the door and he got in touch. Turns out his grandson is in the same year at junior school as my son. So.. to put it plainly, we found that my son was at school with his second cousin.

Kbear Mon 17-Sep-12 06:43:22

wonderingwendy - I have an aunt, now deceased, with a middle name of Mahala. I am not sure where it came from.

iscream Mon 17-Sep-12 07:13:27

HecateHarshPants Hmmm. I guess you could try a family finder dna test, or one that tests both male and females? Maybe you'd maybe find a female ancestor/descendant of his, who could help with your trail? I don't know much about which is best, I will have to find out before I upgrade to a test that shows the females.
I am Canadian, if you would like to show me his pic. Imagine if I knew who it was! (unlikely but you can never tell)

iscream Mon 17-Sep-12 07:16:48

I found out my grandfather had been married before he married my grandmother, and had a son. I found his son's grand daughter, she is my half cousins, and had lot's of stories to share with me. I also found out my great grandfather had been married previously to marrying my great grandmother. They didn't have children and she died a couple of years after marrying him, then that same year he married my great grandmother. I wasn't too impressed with that.

iscream Mon 17-Sep-12 07:18:14

I also found out my grandmother had been married before too, and had 2 sons, my half uncles. My father never even mentioned to my mother that he had three older half brothers!

iscream Mon 17-Sep-12 07:20:20

*I mean His sons daughter , his granddaughter. The connections can be confusing if I am not staring at the tree!

BigFatLegsInWoolyTIghts Mon 17-Sep-12 07:21:18

I looked into my Mum's side and we haven't moved from the area since I don't know when....when I found us STILL in the same town in 1700 and STILL living in shared rooms and working as stall keepers, I bloody gave up!

kbear - maybe were related grin

iscream Mon 17-Sep-12 07:26:34
Lexilicious Mon 17-Sep-12 07:54:04

about the handwriting on census and other records... I read somewhere recently that when you have to type a word in those security check boxes from a mangled looking picture, sometimes it is actually from an old book or document, and they are sort of crowd-sourcing what it might be spelling, as part if a digitising project (congressional library perhaps?)

My (Co. Durham) maternal grandmother's maiden name ends in -men, and there is a split away earlier Cumbrian branch of the same name which has been written -man in the census there. It took me ages to convince my mum/grannie that they were linked, just subject to however the enumerator 'heard' them say their name at the door. I guess you could think of it by accents too.

HecateHarshPants Mon 17-Sep-12 08:06:37

iscream, wouldn't that be funny!

I will pm you with my email address. Then if you give me yours, I can scan the pic in and send it to you.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Mon 17-Sep-12 10:34:18

Hecate you could also try Canadian genealogical talk forums. That's how I found my distant German ancestors- from a specific site. There are some very informed people out there who have often deeply researched very specific areas. If you posted all the aliases your ancestor was known by and any other relevant info someone might be researching from the Canadian direction and make the link.

Whitamakafullo Mon 17-Sep-12 10:38:29

My G G G gran was had 4 sons, all seemingly to different fathers, who were all suspected to be married men. She never married herself

She set up her own business (a sweet shop) and became very successful. Good on her, although my gran would've been mortified if she had known this story grin

When one of her younger sons got married, he had his eldest brothers name on the marriage certificate as his father confused

Another relative apparently died in the flu epidemic according to my mum, but I've never been able to find his birth certificate, which is odd.

For years I was told I was descended from James Watt, but I have found this to be utter shite grin My mum and auntie won't admit this to anyone wink

Hulababy Mon 17-Sep-12 18:41:53

Is there an online method of searching for people prior to the 1841 census.
The 1831 census doesn't list names and address, and many of the BMD registers don't list names of mother/spouse, etc.

Or do I have to go and visit each parish in person?

Hulababy Mon 17-Sep-12 18:42:45

And how are you all finding out things like how people died? From the death certs? If so, if that in person rather than online searching?

Hulababy Mon 17-Sep-12 18:44:48

HmmThinkingAboutIt - thanks, I'll look at exporting it

HmmThinkingAboutIt Mon 17-Sep-12 19:37:13

Before 1841 you need to look at parish records for baptisms, marriages and burials. They vary in how much information they will give you. Sometimes its useful and sometimes its not. Baptisms will sometimes list the names of both parents (this includes between 1841 and 1911 too which can be helpful).

www.freereg.org.uk and www.familysearch.org are good starting places for parish records but not everywhere is transcribed so it depends on where your family is in 1841 as to how you work backwards from that. You may need to go to local record offices to find some parish records.

Its very much pot luck backwards from 1841 as to how good the records are and how far back you can go.

SoleSource Mon 17-Sep-12 19:48:43

Fab thread smile

Our surname is very rate. Traced to 16th century. Lord, manor, county in England named after our surname . Also a major train station. New house/museum opened in our surname this year. About 20 of us left.

SoleSource Mon 17-Sep-12 20:02:18

Oh yeah King of England in 16th century would visit the Lord. Is all me knows.

edam Mon 17-Sep-12 20:42:12

How can the name of a county be a rare surname? Rutland? Westmoreland?

McPhee Mon 17-Sep-12 20:45:11

We discovered that my Nan had a baby in the war who was given up, and sent to live with the babys father. It was very sad as my nan had obviously had to keep this a secret and taken her pain to her grave sad. She wasn't my grandads child.

Since then we've become reunited. I like to think my nan is happy now.

SoleSource Mon 17-Sep-12 20:48:08

Fgs 16th century

SoleSource Mon 17-Sep-12 20:51:59

County no longer our surname. Train station not in use but think still exists.

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Tue 18-Sep-12 14:11:24

Inspired by this thread I've decided to have another go at breaking down some brickwalls - and found something surprising!

"excellently skilled in Physick and Chyrurgery & had by God’s help wonderful success to admiration & was very generous in her administrations"

This was written about my 9x great grandmother by her husband after her death. Apparently, chyrurgery is an archaic term for surgery. As far as I can tell she would have been setting fractures, treating infections and performing complicated deliveries. And this was just after the civil war when women who did these things were often accused of witchcraft.

mixedmamameansbusiness Sun 11-Nov-12 14:33:14

My great aunt committed child murder and it is pretty doc,enter, newspapers, official documents etc. I noticed that my great great great grandfathers wife was previously married and happened to live two doors away from him, full of intrigue although I lack facts here. I would like to write novels so the family history thing gives me great ideas. The great aunt thing also loosely forms the basis of my planned dissertation for my history degree.

It is a. Fabulous hobby I really enjoy it and would encourage any one to give it a go. It is so much more than names and dates.

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