This is a perennial question for many people researching their family history. Whether or not to have a public family tree available online. And it is a dilemma which can arise fairly early on in the research path. Sometimes though it is not even considered, and for some the consequences of a decision to go public emerge too late.
Before I go any further I want to make it clear there’s no right or wrong answer. It really is a purely personal decision, one with which you need to be comfortable.
However, here are some considerations which I’m sharing to provoke a deeper examination of, and debate about, the implications. It’s not intended to be an exhaustive list, more a thought trigger. I’ve split them into pros and cons.
First the advantages of a public online tree.
Connecting. It goes without saying, but a public online tree allows other researchers with the same family history interests to easily find and contact you. This enables you to connect with distant cousins, compare research, potentially plug gaps and share photos.
Collaborating. Following on from this, once connections have been made this can lead to collaborative working on trees, pooling research, and the possibility to discuss findings and theories with someone who has a mutual family history connection.
Learning. Linked to the above two, connecting and collaborating can lead to improving your family history research skills.
Expanding. By having an online presence you may be able to expand your tree, pushing back lines and breaking down brick walls. All at a far quicker pace than solo research offers. Though a word of caution. Do not accept the research of others at face value. Always do your own work to check and verify.
DNA. If you have undertaken a DNA test in order to further your family history research, a linked public tree is an important corollary to that test. I realise this may not always be possible. But if it is an option, there are clear advantages. A tree is one of the first things your DNA matches will look at to identify potential links. And it does encourage contacts. Ask yourself if, amongst a plethora of DNA matches, are you more likely to initially investigate and contact the treeless or those with trees? Personally, I find one of the most frustrating things about DNA testing is to see a possible match, but for that match to have no tree.
Tree Purpose. Is your tree family history, pure and simple? Or is it something along the lines of a one-name or one-place study? The latter two may have a lesser emotional/personal attachment, and also a need for a far broader range of collaboration/connection networks than your own family tree.
Family History Community Spirit. Having an online tree may fosters for you a feeling of really contributing and sharing to further the research of others.
Legacy. You may be the only one in your family interested in family history. There may be no-one to bequeath the family history baton to, no subsequent generations willing to take on your work. You may be wondering how to ensure your research is preserved for the long-term. Putting it online is one option.
Unexpected heirlooms. Recently a story made the news about the love letters written by a soldier, killed during the First World War Battle of the Somme, to his wife. They turned up in a sewing box donated to a charity shop. An appeal was put out, and within hours searches by members of the public on an ancestry site resulted in the tracing of family descendants, which will result in the letters being reunited. More details here. This is a rare, potential unexpected bonus of having a public tree.
Turning to the disadvantages of having your tree publicly available.
Information control. Obvious really, but once your tree is out there publicly available to all, you have no control who can access it and how it is used. Be prepared for it being copied wholesale by multiple people without them even contacting you, and without them even referencing the person behind the original research. Is this something which would bother you? If it is, think of other options.
Reduced Contacts. Linked to this, your tree’s proliferation may even reduce the chances of you being contacted. Unless yours is stand-out, it may be lost amongst a forest of other similar trees. Of course though this does not reduce your opportunities to contact others.
Photos. This is a particularly sensitive subject. You may have ancestral photos linked to your tree. You may also have document images, such as civil registration certificates or probate records. Whilst you might be happy to have the basic tree information copied, you may find the copying of photographs in particular, and them popping up on scores of trees, a bridge too far. Several bridges if the photo is misattributed – great aunt Jane labelled as someone entirely different.
Copyright. This is a topic in its own right, so I’m only putting some initial thoughts out there. Your own private tree for your personal use only is one thing. But where do you stand if you link photos, copyright document images etc to a public tree for all to see, copy and share? What about your own linked notes and analysis? And is that going to create a whole new set of potential issues?
Errors. What if you include something in a public tree which you later wish to correct or amend? You may find the horse has already bolted, with your early research replicated across many other online trees.
Privacy Concerns. Whilst living relatives should not be on a public tree, something to bear in mind is how traceable ultimately you (or your family’s) details potentially may be even if the living are unnamed. It might not be the first thing you think of when constructing a public online tree, and it may only be a very minimal risk, but you should be aware of the possibilities for abuse. As an aside, while online trees hosted by genealogy providers do anonymise the living, I’ve come across trees on personal websites where details of the living have been included.
Etiquette. Essentially by openly sharing your tree you are entrusting your work to others. Do not assume all online will have the same courtesy standards regarding information sharing, use and acknowledging.
And finally, in the interest of openness, here’s how I handle the dilemma.
Well over a decade ago I did have a bad experience regarding someone copying my once online tree, including notes and other elements, and it didn’t sit right with me. However, I can see the benefits of information sharing to mutually further research. I now have a threefold tree strategy. This is:
A full tree which is on Family Historian and it is entirely private;
A private tree on a commercial website shared with a couple of trusted people – a very much pared down version of the Family Historian tree, minus any images or photographs. Only very basic information, with no source links or citations. I’ve not updated it for quite a while, but it is useful to consult when I’m out and about (family history events, archives visits etc.); and
An online publicly available skeleton tree, with basic direct line information only, linked to my DNA research. No photos. No documents. No comments. No analysis. It is there primarily for DNA purposes. That way I have a way of connecting with other DNA researchers. And I can then share selected relevant information, rather than my full tree.
I realise it does limit my opportunities for connection and collaboration because of its reduced public visibility. However, that hybrid approach is a decision I am most comfortable with. But it may not necessarily be the right one for you.
The bottom line is make sure you define your reasons for putting your tree online in advance of doing so. Ensure you know the full range of privacy settings on whatever online medium you decide to use for a family tree (if indeed you decide to go down that route). Think about what would work best for you and what you would be comfortable with. And go into it with your eyes wide open.
Halfway through a piece of research, do you realise you’ve done it before?
Do you get broken off from your research, or shelve it, then pick up the problem months later – but can’t recall what you’d done or where you’d got to?
Are you a scatter-gun researcher, flitting from one unplanned search to another, and at the end of a couple of hours you have no idea what records you’ve checked. Then go round in circles once more, repeating the same searches?
You’re not alone. But it means you’re wasting research time; you’re potentially overlooking key pieces of information; you are duplicating your efforts; and your research is unfocused.
Which is where a research log comes in.
A log makes for efficient research, with no wasted time or duplicated effort. You can pick up a piece of research months later and know exactly what steps have previously been taken. It also means you can more easily identify gaps in your research.
In short a log keeps your research on track.
My seven key points for research logs are:
Define the research objective: Set out clearly the problem, e.g. finding out the date of birth of an ancestor, or who their parents were. Include what you know through evidence, and any assumptions or conflicting information. This enables identification of issues, leading on to potential sources and search strategies
Identify possible records and sources (e.g censuses, parish registers, probate records, books): These must be fully detailed including description, location(s) and type e.g. original documents, indexes, transcripts, digitised images etc.
Date of the search: Archives add to their acquisitions. Records are continually being digitised and appearing online, and this includes updates to ones already online (think 1939 Register, or the GRO Indexes). So a search conducted 12 months ago may not have the same outcomes if conducted today. A date helps you decide if it’s worth repeating the search.
Set out fully the search parameters: What spelling variants did you use? How many years either side of a specific date did you search? Which locations/parishes did you use? Did you rely on a data provider’s online search? Did you visually confirm results? Did you go through the record (and all the years) yourself? If a book, did you rely on the index or read the entire chapter or book? Some datasets (e.g. censuses) are on multiple websites – did you search just one? The same search on another website may have a different result. This enables you to see exactly what has been done and identify other possible areas of research.
Record in detail the results – including negative ones: Fully record search results along with your analysis, conclusions and any discrepancies. This includes problems with the records, e.g. were there any gaps or record damage which might affect the result? Do ensure that the explanation is clear because it might be a while before you revisit it. And do include negative searches.
Full source citations: Note where the original document can be found. Include full document reference, with page number. For website searches also include URL, description and date accessed. Give as much information as possible to enable you to find the document again. Do not assume it will always be online!
Next steps: Review your log. Identify follow-up searches.
Your log could be electronic (do remember to back it up). Or it could be paper-based.
There are lots of pro-formas online. I have included my example above. Or perhaps you might prefer to design your own bespoke log.
And do not be put off by the thought of the time taken to keep a research log. It is minimal when compared with the time you will save in the long run from trying to remember exactly what you’ve done before, reducing the number of repeat searches and pinpointing what you have not tried.
Whatever method you use, online or paper-based, your research will benefit.
This is the latest update of the pages relating to my Batley St Mary’s one-place study, the details of which I announced here.
During the last few week I have added seven pages. These include six weekly newspaper summaries. There is also one biography, that of Patrick Naifsey, which encompasses apparitions, miracles, evictions, Kipling and an Irish Great War poet, as well as the County Mayo/Batley connection.
I have also identified more men who served and survived, and have accordingly updated that page.
Below is the full list of pages to date. I have annotated the *NEW* ones, plus the *UPDATED* page, so you can easily pick these out.
Well 2020 did not go as planned. Massive understatement.
When the New Year dawned, little did I think the goals I set would be scuppered to such an extent. And if there was to be a hitch, a global pandemic would not have been top of my list of reasons. In fact, it would not have featured at all. But there you go.
2020 did begin well. Research for my new book got off to a great start. I gave a talk at Leeds library about World War One research based on the book I co-authored with my rugby league journalist husband. Other talks were lined up. I booked a couple of conference tickets, and the associated accommodation and transport.
And then March came, and with it lockdown. Everything went pear- shaped.
Archives visits and travel generally halted, along with it the prospect of any associated book research. Events and conferences were cancelled, one by one. As were the prospects of any further talks in these pre-Zoom days.
And unimaginably I lost any enthusiasm to review my family tree – apart from anything else getting through the trauma of daily life, where everything was so much more challenging and time-consuming, was an achievement. And these home-life challenges included a major water leak at the start of the year which necessitated a new kitchen and new bathroom – all work due to start in March. Lockdown came in as our bathroom was ripped out. Family history was the last thing on my mind.
The only thing that continued from my 2020 goals was blogging. In fact, this year saw an increase of around 50% in terms of those viewing my blog posts. Thank you. That was the one bright spot in my goals.
But things did pick up. In the place of conferences, I attended far more talks than I ever have before thanks to the wonders of Zoom. I also did a one-place studies course, and ended up starting one for Batley St Mary’s during World War One. Something entirely unexpected and unplanned at the start of 2020. But something I’m thoroughly enjoying.
As was becoming a grandma for the first time as 2020 drew to a close – I know, I’m way too young! It meant much of my free time this year was taken up with stitching a birth sampler ready for the big event.
In the light of all this I did think seriously about whether to set any goals for 2021, given the uncertainty we are still living under. But I do need something to aim for.
However, for 2021 my goals will be far more work-related, given how this has taken off.
And with work in mind, this was the major reason behind my decision to step down as editor of the Huddersfield and District Family History Society Journal. I loved doing it, and it is something I’m immensely proud of. But as work built up I increasingly found it squeezed the time I could devote to the Journal, particularly in the lead up to print deadline. My last Journal as editor goes out in January 2021.
And linked to this, my family history column in Down Your Way magazine also came to an end in 2020. The much-loved Yorkshire memories magazine was a casualty of the COVID-19 economic downturn. I must admit I really do miss writing a regular magazine feature, because it gave me another family history focus. But it has freed up even more research time.
As for my goals for 2021, they will be as follows:
Focus on my research work for others. It’s a huge privilege to be entrusted with someone’s precious family or local history research, and I undertake it with the same dedication and thoroughness as I would my own; and
Keep up to date with advancements in the field of genealogy as part of my continuing professional development programme. This will include undertaking a minimum of two formal courses, as well as a broad range of reading and practical work.
Finally a huge thank you for continuing to read my blog in these very trying times. As I said earlier this has truly been one of my year’s bright spots.
And as for the New Year, I hope that 2021 will be far kinder to us all than 2020 was.
Although you may think my blog posts appear to have been thin on the ground of late, the pages relating to my one-place study, as announced here, have more than made up for it. Since its official launch on 15 October 2020 there have been 22 additions.
These are the pages to date. I have indicated the 22 additions.
Do you have an ancestor who seems to appear as if from nowhere? My 4x great grandfather is in this category. On the surface there should be no problem finding his origins. There’s no mystery about him in census records. His marriage, wife, children and death are all traceable. He’s consistent in all his information. All evidence points to him being born in Gildersome, West Riding of Yorkshire, between 1799-1800. But that’s as far as I can get with him. Can I pin down his parents? Can I heck.
I’m writing this blog post more for me, to see if writing up my research will help me identify any gaps, or perhaps other avenues to explore. I’ve lost 10 years of my life to this man, you could save 10 minutes by stopping at this point. You have been warned!
You’re still with me? Well, let me introduce you to my mystery man. Step forward Abraham Marshall.
As mentioned he was born in Gildersome . In calculating his date of birth, his census information  and age at death are remarkably consistent. If they are to be believed he was born between 8 March 1799 and 1 March 1800. He worked as a woollen cloth weaver – this throughout his life. Abraham’s address is similarly consistent – Gildersome Street.
He was able to sign his name – and here his surname is consistently spelled as Marshall. Despite this my brain is aching with Marshall spelling permutations – yes I’ve tried that one too – because variations appear when others spell the surname. Abraham’s signature appears when acting as a witness, or informant, for some family birth, marriage and death events. He also signed his name in the register when he married Hannah Greenwood on 26 February 1823 at St Peter’s Church, Birstall . Looking at the witnesses to this marriage, one features frequently in this capacity in the register for this period, so probably a parish official. The other is Benjamin Ellis, but to date there’s no obvious connection to the Marshall or Greenwood families.
I have traced seven children born to Abraham and Hannah. These were:
Harriet – born on 2 August and baptised at St Peter’s, Birstall on 31 August 1823 ;
Caroline – same church, born 29 May 1826 and baptised 3 September 1826 ;
Salena (Selina) – same church, born 20 March 1829 and baptised on 21 June 1829 ;
Milton – born circa 1831 . No baptism yet traced;
Ann – born 7 February 1835. Baptised St Peter’s, Birstall 22 July 1855 ;
Amelia – born 13 February 1838 . No baptism yet traced.
Oliver – born circa 1841 . No baptism yet traced.
Interestingly, there was no problem tracing Church of England baptisms for the first three children. The fifth child, Ann, was baptised when 20 years of age. But so far there is nothing for Milton, Oliver or Amelia. Combined with Ann’s adult baptism, one theory is this is a family with non-conformist leanings. It is evident in the baptisms of some of Abraham and Hannah’s grandchildren. And the area generally did have a non-conformist tradition. This includes Quaker links, with a meetings taking place from the turn of the 18th century.
Abraham’s wife died on 16 October 1860 . He died of old age on 1 March 1878, age 78 . Burials were Church of England – Morley St Peter’s , where son Milton was buried only two months earlier, and Gildersome St Peter’s  respectively.
In summary, there is nothing startling about Abraham. His information throughout his life is remarkably consistent. Yet his origins remain a mystery.
There are several baptisms for Yorkshire Abraham Marshalls between 1795 to 1815. It’s not as uncommon a name as I first hoped. But none have births obviously within the 1799-1800 parameters.
Gildersome wasn’t a parish in its own right in this period. It was part of the parish of Batley. There is one interesting Batley parish baptism for a child who was born on 18 October 1804. It took place on 19 April 1812 for Abrham son of Abrham Marshall, a labourer, and his wife Hannah (née Absen) . The family had non-Conformist associations, with other children baptised at Morley Independent Chapel. But following this Abraham further shows he too was born in Morley. Crucially he can be traced in the censuses. So clearly not my Abraham.
There is, however, a baptism for one Abraham Marshall actually from Gildersome in the 1795-1815 period. A non-conformist one. This is recorded in the register for Morley Methodist Chapel. He was the son of Joseph and Rachell [sic] Marshall of Gildersome Street. Born on 10 July 1797, he was baptised on 30 July 1797 .
This was the second child of the couple baptised in this Chapel. Their daughter, Rachel, was born on 25 October 1795 and baptised 25 September 1796 .
Baptisms for two earlier children took place under the auspices of the Established Church at Batley All Saints. Mary was born on 23 July 1791 and baptised on 25 March 1792 ; and Sarah born on 7 March 1793 and baptised a few months later on 28 July . The Batley parish register in this period is a wonderful Dade-style one, a pot of genealogy gold. From the entries Joseph is a clothier , the son of William Marshall. Rachel is the daughter of Christopher Jackson.
Joseph and Rachel married by Banns on 3 January 1791 at Batley All Saints, witnessed by Benjamin Wilkinson and John Marshall . According to the 1841 census Rachel was not from Yorkshire . Then, age 85, she is living at Gildersome with 40-year-old Rachel Marshall, Joseph Marshall and Mary Marshall. It transpires this trio was her unmarried daughter with two illegitimate children. There is also a 28-year-old coal miner, Joseph Dawson.
I’ve tracked Rachel (senior) back to her baptism on 12 September 1756 at St Bartholomew’s church in Colne, Lancashire . She died in Gildersome on 21 September 1841, at the grand age of 87 . Unfortunately the informant, a Joseph Dawson (inmate), offers no clues – he’s probably the man from the census three months earlier. The disappointment was it’s not my Abraham Marshall who registered the death. That would’ve been the answer to my prayers.
As things stand Abraham son of Joseph Marshall and his wife Rachel Jackson, is a possible candidate. His birth location fits; his birth date is within two years of the anticipated one, far from an unheard of discrepancy; I’ve not found any marriage or burial for him (although neither have I found anything definite for Mary or Sarah), so he’s not been eliminated that way; there is the occupational link of clothier between father Joseph and my Abraham; and, even more tenuously, there is my Living DNA test ethnicity results which does have an unexpected North West England component. This is all I have to go on. Far from enough to positively prove the connection.
And there are niggles too. Big ones.
The first is that birth date – the fact my Abraham is very consistent in records definitely tied to him, means the 1797 birth date of this candidate jars.
Then there are naming patterns. Names of fathers, mothers and siblings are often passed through generations. Although not proof definite, it can be a clue to relationship links. None of Abraham’s known children were named Joseph or Rachel. Neither do Mary or Sarah feature. So there are no shared names between my Abraham and this candidate.
There’s the fact neither Mary Marshall (b1791 and Sarah (b1793) are picked up anywhere else in records. If I can’t find what became of them, does that mean I’m also less likely to find out anything further for 1797 Abraham because I’m looking in the wrong place or the records haven’t survived? So the fact I haven’t eliminated him is not conclusive evidence.
And finally there are no obvious connections between the families of my Abraham and what could be his mother and sister, the two Rachels, in terms of family marriage witnesses and death informants. And yes, in addition to senior Rachel death registration, I’ve checked all the witnesses to my Abraham’s children’s marriages , plus those for the two children of Rachel (junior) . The only thing I haven’t checked yet is who registered Rachel junior’s death.
There is another possibility too. As we’ve seen Abraham and Hannah’s choice of names was not conventional. 1829 Salena (Selina) and 1831 Milton are of particular note. And they’re not unique to Marshalls in this period. Over at Thornhill St Michael and All Angels parish church, Whitley miner Jeremiah Marshall and his wife Mary (née Howarth) had daughter, Selina, baptised on 4 September 1825 ; and son, Milton, on 14 September 1828 . So was Jeremiah connected to my Abraham? Other than the naming similarities, there is nothing else to go on.
Jeremiah was born in Tong in circa 1791/2. I’ve not traced his baptism. A miner by trade, he attested on 29 August 1810 with the 1st Regiment of Lifeguards.  It was in London that he married Mary, on 7 April 1817 in Kensington parish church . The following year, on 31 October, he was discharged to pension  and returned to Yorkshire with wife and son Henry, born just prior to discharge on 27 August 1818. The family initially settled in the mining community of Whitley and it was at Flockton Zion that Henry was baptised on 6 May 1819 . In addition to Henry, Selina and Milton, their other children included Thornhill St Michael’s baptised James , Nancy  and Edwin . Plus Bradford St Peter’s parish church (now the cathedral) baptised Squire  and Emma , when the family re-located from Whitley to Bowling.
Jeremiah, noted as being blind, was living separately from his wife and children in Bradford in 1851 . He died on 31 May 1857, age 66 .
I have gone through the located parish register marriage entries for his children  and there is no apparent witness link in them to my Abraham Marshall or his children.
Other than being born in the same decade, both in Yorkshire about 1.5 miles apart as the crow flies, and having two children with the same unusual names, there is nothing more at this point to connect Jeremiah and my Abraham.
And on the subject of marriages and witnesses, my heart momentarily leapt with some Oliver Marshall associated entries. I really did think I’d found a link to Jeremiah, via my Abraham’s youngest son. Sadly it wasn’t to be – and has added another family into the mix. On 10 October 1863 Oliver Marshall married Sophia Marshall (yes, Marshall marriages add to the fun) at St Peter’s, Birstall . Her father was miner Jeremiah Marshall.
Two years earlier an Oliver Marshall acted as a witness in the Batley All Saints marriage of John Marshall, son of Jeremiah . John and Sophia were siblings. Their father, Jeremiah, was the son of Isaac Marshall.
And this is where it gets even more complicated. Jeremiah was baptised on 15 September 1816, age 3, along with his 1-year-old brother Abraham and infant brother William . They were the children of Gildersome miner Isaac Marshall and his wife Hannah. Another son, John, was born in 1820 but not baptised until 1837 at St Paul’s, Birkenshaw . I’ve not definitively traced Isaac’s baptism and I have a couple of potential non-conformist burials for him – but no ages given. One small success is I found he married Hannah Marshall (!) at Batley All Saints on 17 May 1812 .
So was Isaac (or even Hannah) connected to Abraham and/or Jeremiah? Or are the naming similarities a pure coincidence? Again more work to be done. But at least there are some angles to work with.
One final research point. Some Ancestry trees link 1800-born Gildersome Abraham Marshall as the son of Abraham Marshall (baptised in 1780) and Alice Pennock. No details of any marriage. But doing some further investigation it appears Alice was from Pennsylvania USA, as was her husband Abraham – he served in the American Revolution. They married in Pennsylvania in 1786, their children (including an Abraham) were all born there, and the couple both both died there. There is no evidence tying them directly to my Gildersome-born Abraham Marshall…but they did have a son named….Milton. And this family did have Quaker links.
It may now ultimately come down to trying to reconstruct all Marshall families in the area in the period – and the non-conformist angle makes it less than straightforward. It may be not everything is traceable. Hence my problem with baptisms for Isaac, Jeremiah and possibly my Abraham. I also need to see if any Quaker records exist, even if it is for elimination purposes. Writing this piece has made me aware this is something I’ve overlooked.
The point is family history research is not always simple. It is not a couple of hours work and hey presto, back to the 16th century. I want to ensure my research stacks up and meets genealogical proof standards. It can be tempting to take the easy option – in this case slot in my Abraham as being the son of Joseph and Rachel. However, as it stands, I’m not confident there is sufficient proof. And I want to ensure I’m researching my family tree. So more work is required.
Congratulations if you’ve reached this far. I primarily wrote this to try to marshall my thoughts about my Marshall research. It is, therefore, hardly the most scintillating read. Be thankful I’ve not shared all the details of searches conducted – these are in my search log.
It may be you stuck with it because you have Marshall ancestors. If you are working on these families, and have even possibly undertaken a DNA test, do please feel free to drop me a line. In the meantime I will continue to chip away at Abraham. I’ve been at it in and off fir 10 years . But I think I’m in for an even longer haul.
 1851 and 1871 censuses, the 1861 indicates Gildersome Street. The National Archives (TNA) Reference HO107/2314/69/32, RG09/3352/147/22 and RG10/4529/13/20, accessed via Findmypast;  1851-1871 censuses. Even in the 1841 census his age (40) fits given the rounding down convention, but because of this convention it doesn’t carry the same weight. 1841 census TNA Reference HO107/1299/2/43/4;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP5/1/3/7, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP5/1/2/3, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Ibid;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP5/1/2/4, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Birth calculated based on census, marriage and death records;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP5/1/2/8, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Birth certificate, GRO Reference 1838, March Quarter, Leeds, Volume 23, Page 422, accessed via the GRO website;  Birth registered in 1841, June Quarter, Leeds, Volume 23, Page 473, accessed via the GRO website;  Death certificate, GRO Reference 1860, December Quarter, Hunslet, Volume 9b, Page 160, accessed via the GRO website;  Death certificate, GRO Reference 1878, March Quarter, Bramley, Volume 9b, Page 238, accessed via the GRO website;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP195/3/1, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP26/1/18, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP37/2, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812;  West Yorkshire Archive Service Reference C12/16/1, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, Non-Conformist Records, 1646-1985;  Ibid;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP37/2, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812;  Ibid;  Rachel’s 1841 death certificate, however, indicates her deceased husband was a labourer;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference Number WDP37/15, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812;  1841 census TNA Reference HO107/1290/2/47/12;  Original register at Lancashire Archives, Reference PR 3172/1/6, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk Lancashire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812;  Death certificate, GRO Reference 1841, September Quarter, Leeds, Volume 23, Page 279, accessed via the GRO website;  Harriet Marshall married Henry Peace (at Bradford St Peter’s on 2 May 1853 – father incorrectly named, but other records confirm this is Abraham’s daughter (William Holmes and Christopher Gibson); Caroline Marshall married Peter Aveyard on 4 June 1846 at Gildersome, St Peter (J Tappenden and Ann Elizabeth Hartley); Selina Marshall married Charles Ellam at Gildersome St Peters on 27 November 1848 (William Marshall and James Labley). She then married John Blakley Glover in the same church on 25 December 1858 (Samuel Scott & James Glover); Milton Marshall married Mary Hardcastle at Tong, St James on 8 June 1854 (David Clark and Peter Aveyard); Ann Marshall married George Auty on 30 November 1872 at St Peter’s, Morley (Charles Hargreave? and Mary Ann Rogerson); Amelia Marshall married Abraham Hartley on 29 July 1861 at St Mary Magdalene, Outwood (Amos Hartley and Oliver Marshall); and Oliver Marshall married Sophia Marshall at St Peter’s, Birstall on 10 October 1863 (Henry Ellam and George Bromley);  Joseph Marshall married Hannah Mary Guy at St Peter’s, Leeds on 11 July 1852 (George Thornbury and ? Moore); and Mary Marshall married Richard Brook on 4 June 1846 at Morley, St Peter (Joseph Marshall and Julius Whitehead);  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference Number WDP14/1/2/1, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference Number WDP14/1/2/2, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  TNA Ref Wo 97, Box 7, Box Record Number 19 Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913 accessed via Findmypast;  Original register at London Metropolitan Archives, London, Reference Number: DL/T/47/21, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932;  TNA Ref Wo 22, Piece Number 35, Halifax – Royal Hospital Chelsea: Returns Of Payment Of Army And Other Pensions 1842-1883 accessed via Findmypast  Original at TNA, General Register Office: Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths surrendered to the Non-parochial Registers Commissions of 1837 and 1857; Class Number: RG 4; Piece Number: 3161, Accessed via Ancestry.co.uk;  Baptised 9 September 1821. Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference NumberWDP14/1/2/1,accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Baptised 9 March 1823. Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference Number: WDP14/1/2/1,accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Baptised 24 February 1833. Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference NumberWDP14/1/2/2, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910; Born [1?]2 February 1837, baptised 7 June 1837. Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference Number BDP14, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Born 4 July 1839, baptised 30 June 1844. Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference NumberBDP14, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  1851 census TNA Reference HO107/2305/155/14;  TNA Ref Wo 22, Piece Number 35, Halifax – Royal Hospital Chelsea: Returns Of Payment Of Army And Other Pensions 1842-1883 accessed via Findmypast and GRO Reference 1857, June Quarter, Bradford and North Bierley, Volume 9b, Page 27. Note GRO death is 66, the Army pension record states 64;  James married Mary Ann Jowett on 8 December 1844 at Bradford, St Peter; Nancy possibly married John Noble on 21 May 1843 at Tong, St James; Selina married Richard Rhodes at Calverley, St Wilfred on 18 February 1849; Milton married Elizabeth Appleyard at St Philip’s, Leeds on 7 February 1853; Edwin married Margaret Storey on 14 June 1856 at Shipley parish church (under the name of Edward!); Squire married Mercy Hodgson on 30 August 1856 at Bradford, St Peter; and Emma married Samuel Baldwin at St Peter’s, Bradford on 22 February 1880;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, no reference given, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935;  23 November 1861 marriage, John Marshall and Bessy Hartley, original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference NumberWDP37/21,accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive Service, New Reference NumberWDP37/3, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive, new Reference NumberWDP90/1/1/1, accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910;  Original register at West Yorkshire Archive, new Reference NumberWDP37/16,accessed via Ancestry.co.uk West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812
Heads up about my forthcoming talk on 4 March at Leeds Central Library.
Based on my groundbreaking book The Greatest Sacrifice: Fallen Heroes of the Northern Union about rugby league players who died in World War 1, the talk investigates the stories behind some of the men. It will also be packed with tips for researching your own Great War Army ancestors.
The book, co-authored with Rugby League writer Chris Roberts, has received widespread acclaim, locally and nationally, in print and on radio. The reviews include:
The talk will take place in the Leodis Room, starting at 1pm. It will last for one hour, with opportunity to ask questions. Tickets are free and available through Ticket Source. You can also contact the library direct on 0113 378 5005.
This is one of a series of talks I give. The others scheduled for 2020 are:
That’s also the contact if you would like to buy a copy of the book. The price, including p&p within the U.K., is £14.99. It is also available direct from the publisher, Scratching Shed Publishing Ltd. It is also stocked at independent Leeds bookshop, Philip Howard Books. And it’s also available from the normal retail outlets.
It’s the end of January and I’m still eating my way through my Christmas chocolates. As I do so I can’t help but compare them with my family history research.
Each box and tin contains an overwhelming selection. One temptation is to dive in and, without any planning or forethought, work your way right through the entire box. That can be true of family history. A scattergun approach, jumping from one tempting ancestor to another. It’s great to start with, but ultimately it becomes less and less satisfying.
The other similarity is that often in that box or tin, some flavours and types are your favourites. You may be like me and go for them first (coconut is my personal weakness). The least tempting I leave till the end, and then I’m faced with nothing but a heap of orange creams which I must force myself to eat (it has to be done). Again, family history research can be the same. You have your favourite ancestors and these are the ones you go for first. You can’t get enough of them. Other ancestors, for whatever reason, don’t hold the same interest. These are the ones left for another day. And when you do pick them up, they’re not very satisfying.
On the same theme some chocolates are expensive. Others have more substance. Or they may have multiple layers and taste sensations. These could be your wealthy ancestors, or your ancestors with lots of associated records or the ones with really fascinating and varied lives.
My final comparison is that you can have too much of a good thing. It’s that end of January feeling when eating chocolates becomes a huge chore rather than a great pleasure. Personally I’m at the stage of not wanting to see another chocolate, but I feel I must plough on. And yes, hard as it is to believe, that can happen with research too. Family history morning, noon and night can leave you jaded by it all. That initial enthusiasm can wear off. So it’s good to have a break from it, even if only for a week or so. Then, like chocolates, you can return to it with renewed enthusiasm!
Actually, in hindsight, I may have eaten far too many chocolates this month. And done too much family history too (only joking). Which is why I’m having such fanciful thoughts. Normal service will be resumed in February.
Many will be starting their family history research in the New Year. That’s the time of year I embarked on my quest many moons ago, when my brother bought me some books as a Christmas present.
The other day I got to thinking about the mistakes I made in those early days, and the advice I wish I’d been given at the outset. Here are 10 tips I wish my younger genie had been given.
Talk to relatives…but only if they want to. Don’t push it. Not all relatives will be comfortable with this, particularly if there are skeletons in the family history cupboard. If they do agree to talk, bear in mind the memory isn’t infallible. Names, dates and events may not be recalled with total accuracy. And there may be some air-brushing to glass over uncomfortable truths.
Make a note of all the sources and references for your findings. That includes the document description, location and reference number. If it was accessed via an online search, note the website address, document dataset and search date. Basically anything and everything you will need to locate it again.
Make a note of all searches – negative as well as positive. It avoids unnecessary repeat searches. Note the search date. This helps with online searches. You only need to repeat when the dataset is updated.
Tempting as it is, avoid the scattergun approach. Plan your research strategy. If you plan, you focus. Don’t try do everything in one go. Concentrate on one person, issue, family at a time. Define the problem, and look at which records may help. Work through methodically.
Don’t accept online family trees as gospel. It’s all too easy if you’re new to family history to accept the research of others without question. Do so at your peril – you could find yourself barking up the wrong tree. Do your own research.
Record your findings as soon as possible. Don’t build up a backlog. I started with a card index system which I still continue. I also now record on a family history software programme. But it could also as easily be an ancestral notebook, or downloading forms such as those available on the FamilySearch Wiki. It’s whatever works for you. The key point is you do it, so your research is up to date. you can quickly evaluate it and spot the gaps.
Don’t get hung up on spellings. Literacy levels and accents all impacted. Be open-minded. Some of my family surnames have upwards of 20 spelling variations. Even Christian names could vary.
By the same token be aware that your ancestors were not necessarily consistent with facts. They may have not known their exact birthday. They may have wished to bend the truth. My great grandmother lied about her age to make it appear she was closer to the age of her husband. She and my great grandfather lied in the 1911 census about the number of years they had been married, to cover illegitimacy of children. Your ancestors were human. And humans don’t always tell the truth. So when searching, build up in parameters either side of dates. Question, question, question. And refer back constantly to previous findings,
Join a family history society. Consider courses. Read to expand your knowledge. Ask if you’re not sure. And accept help. We’ve all been there. And genealogists are a friendly bunch.
Finally be aware – family history research could end up taking over your life. You’re never finished.
I do hope these tips help you start your research on the right track!
Posted onAugust 28, 2019|Comments Off on Mining Genealogy Gold – A Hidden Gem in Leeds Central Library
As a family historian, I’m always on the look-out for sources which flesh out the lives of my ancestors. Leeds Central Library has one particular gem which deserves a spotlight. For those of us with early Victorian mining ancestry it is a must.
The Children’s Employment Commission looking at children and young persons working in mines published its findings in 1842 . This report is only a fraction of the evidence gathered. It draws on the masses of summaries, information and interviews produced by its Sub-Commissioners countrywide. These far more detailed Sub-Commissioners’ reports formed separate publications, reprinted by the Irish University Press in 1968 as part of its Industrial Revolution Parliamentary papers series . Leeds Library holds two volumes of this evidence, containing a wealth of information which did not make the cut for the main report.
Appointed from late 1840 onwards, the remits of these Sub-Commissioners encompassed all fields of mining – from coal, to copper, tin, lead, zinc and ironstone. It covers those toiling underground, as well as those engaged in surface work and smelting. All corners of the country are represented – including Scotland, Wales and Southern Ireland. So it would be a mistake to think it is only relevant for those with Yorkshire or coal mining ancestry.
Yorkshire coal mining, though, is my particular interest, and the focus of this summary. However, this summary will give you a taster for the information available for other regions and sectors of mining.
reported on the West Riding coal mining areas. Their evidence spans both
volumes, and the amount of name-rich genealogical information they produced is
staggering. We owe tremendous thanks to the trio.
William Raynor Wood examined the employment of children and young persons in the collieries and iron works of the towns of Bradford and Leeds;
Samuel S. Scriven investigated those employed in the collieries around the Halifax and Bradford districts; and
Jelinger C. Symons looked at the remainder of the Yorkshire coal field.
They considered a range of issues including ages, numbers of children, the employment of girls and women, how the children were hired, the jobs they undertook, their wages, their working hours including night shifts, their workplace conditions including accidents, meals both in and outside the workplace, holidays, how they were treated, their educational standards and the impact the work took on their physical, religious and moral condition. These findings are illustrated with sketches of children and youths at work, diagrams showing pit layouts and illustrations of machinery.
Tables and appendices collate an array of information, some of which is unexpected material. Fatal pit accidents in a 3½ year period in Bradford and Halifax District feature, with the names and many ages of the victims. There are lists of child workers in particular pits. These include details of in excess of 200 named Bradford and Halifax hurriers with their ages, height, physical condition, whether they could read and write, along with their employment details. There is a tabulated medical examination of children in Dewsbury Colliery. There are also tables showing the names, ages and wages of the three youngest children and three oldest young people working at selected collieries. Beyond this, for comparison purposes, similar wage, age, physical and educational information is collated for children in other industries such as worsted workers in Halifax, or scribblers, carders, spinners and card setters. So, don’t rule out evidence relating to mines if you have ancestors working in other industries.
Crucially, these findings were based on interviews with a cross section of people directly involved in, or with an interest, in mining. You get the usual suspects – coal mine proprietors, doctors, workhouse staff and vicars. But you also have statements from coal miners, mothers and fathers of children employed in the industry, as well as the children themselves. Working class folk whose voices are not ordinarily heard. Here are the real treasures of these reports. You can almost hear the accents and regional phraseology of these long-gone people in the written statements. And yes, there is an explanation of terms generally in use among colliers of the West Riding. Addle, agate, leet, lake and mashed up are my favourites .
Each interview is prefaced by the deponent’s name and gives location, age and employment details. And because the interviews were conducted at around the time of the 1841 census, it is easy to cross match them to your ancestors. From this you can find out precisely where they worked, what they did, wider family information, their health, their educational standard, what they ate, even where they lived and their previous abodes.
My 4x great grandfather Jonathan Ibbetson, a widower, and three of his children, are interviewed by Symons. These include his 11½-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. From the interviews I learned that two out of his three daughters worked below ground, one having done so since the age of six. The girls were hurriers, employed by their brother. This was common practice – the colliers, not the mine proprietors, generally employed, and paid, hurriers themselves. The hurrier’s job was to convey the empty corves (wagons, usually with small wheels) to the miner, help fill them with coal, then push the laden corves by dragging, pushing, or ‘thrusting’ them with their heads in readiness for them to be taken to the surface. In this case the two girls worked together, thrusting the corves a distance of 160 yards, and back, which Elizabeth says hurt and made her head sore. On average they conveyed 16 full corves daily. We learn the family moved from Queenshead (Queensbury) to the Birkenshaw area, and worked in Mr Harrison’s pit in Gomersal. We also learn of their poverty, with John (a hurrier, aged 13½) saying:
I have been to Sunday-school. I stop at home now, I’ve no clothes to go in; I stop in because I’ve no clothes to go and lake with other little lads.
One particularly shameful practice, the plight of pauper apprentices, is highlighted in the evidence. Poor Law Unions were in effect binding out workhouse children to miners to work as hurriers. Dewsbury Poor Law Union were singled out for particular censure for putting out a Batley workhouse boy, Thomas Townend, to work for a Thornhill collier. Symons described it as:
A very gross case of the unduly early employment of a workhouse child…before he was quite five years old.
Thomas is interviewed
I remember being in the pit. I liked it; but they would not let me stay.
For those of you who watched the BBC TV series ‘Gentleman Jack’ there is evidence from children working at the Rawson-owned Swan Bank and Bank Bottom collieries, as well as ones employed at the late Miss Anne Lister’s Listerwick Pit . There are also details about the ages and wages of some hurriers at Listerwick.
And where else would you
get an entire section devoted to the families of six colliers in Flockton? Not
only do you get the names, ages, relationships, occupations and wages of every
household member, you get a summary of their weekly food and fuel consumption,
along with a description of their house, garden, and furniture right down to
the books they owned. There is even a
pen piece for each family. Samuel and Martha Taylor’s reads:
The parents of this man were ignorant, being totally uneducated, and their moral character not good; yet, notwithstanding, he has turned out a very respectable man; and having married an industrious, worthy young woman, he is likely to become a good member of society. His wife has taught him to read and write; and though brought up amidst dirt and disorder his cottage presents a pleasing picture of comfort.
Pure genealogy gold!
Even if your ancestor is not interviewed or mentioned by name, the evidence is well worth consulting for the incredible overview of all aspects of the everyday lives and work of those employed in the mines in this period.
As a result of the investigation, the Mines and Collieries Act of 1842 was passed. Crucially, from 1 March 1843, it was made illegal to employ women or girls of whatever age underground in any mine or colliery in Britain. Boys under the age of 10 were no longer permitted to work below ground either.
This blog pulls together my three previous posts on this subject. These are:
With special thanks to the staff at the Leeds Local and Family History library for their help in locating a copy of the Children’s Employment Commission: Appendix to the First Report of Commissioners, Mines: Part I: Reports and Evidence from Sub-Commissioners, Industrial Revolution Children’s Employment, Volumes 7 and 8.
Notes:  Children’s Employment Commission – First Report of the Commissioners: Mines. London: Printed by William Clowes for H.M.S.O., 1842  Children’s Employment Commission: Appendix to the First Report of Commissioners, Mines: Part I: Reports and Evidence from Sub-Commissioners, Industrial Revolution Children’s Employment, Volumes 7 and 8. 141 Thomas St., Dublin: Irish University Press, 1968.  To earn; to be employed; as it happens; to be idling/passing time; and disabled/worn out.  Anne Lister died in September 1840 and the evidence was taken in May 1841, but the boys had worked there for around three years.
Comments Off on Mining Genealogy Gold – A Hidden Gem in Leeds Central Library