Tag Archives: Findmypast

Family History Search Tips

I make no apologies for posting this advice. If it helps just one person it’s worth repeating it.

Here goes:

  • Do not rely on index searches and/or transcriptions – look at actual documents or digitised images of them;
  • Whenever possible use more than one genealogical dataset provider for any searches; and
  • When searching be flexible with spellings, dates, ages etc.

This was brought home to me yet again recently whilst doing my Aveyard One-Name Study.

Extracting all occurrences of the name from the 1851 census in England and Wales I used both Ancestry and Findmypast. Searching purely on Aveyard, and not including my variant surname searches, the totals were:

  • Ancestry: 206; and
  • Findmypast: 183.

Both providers had results not found by the other one.

I also looked at Haveyard. Ancestry had five results and Findmypast six.

I went through each result individually, checking against the original census images. Some proved not to be Aveyard entries at all. Even individual information within correct entries had discrepancies when checked against the image – ages, occupations, names and relationships incorrect for instance. And there was no correlation with the errors between the providers. As for the quality of images, that too varied. For some Findmypast was far superior; for others Ancestry proved more legible. And some were difficult on both.

In the end I came up with 211 genuine Aveyard/Haveyard entries. This total is purely coincidental in matching the Ancestry total. My 211 included some not found by either provider in the Aveyard/Haveyard searches, but based on my knowledge of names I knew should be there. And this total does not include the Halfyard spelling sometimes used.

To put it simply if I had used one provider for my search and not checked the images I would have replicated errors and had missing entries.

Even my 211 may be a hostage to fortune as I delve more into my Aveyard and wider ancestry, become more familiar with names which should feature based on results from other record sets, and look at broader wildcard searches.

I use this census search as an example. The same principles apply equally for any searches. Only today, finding someone in a 1939 Register search via Findmypast proved impossible. Switch to Ancestry and it was the first “hit.”

Also just because you cannot find an expected result does not mean it isn’t there. It could be simply mis-transcribed, the document could be damaged or pages may have been skipped in the digitisation process. So check the original document, especially if you are relying on one provider for your search. In fact I’d say always go through the document.

In recent weeks I’ve found burials which didn’t come up with a normal search; ships passengers missed off the search indexes; incorrect dates even down to the wrong year; and even a 1912 birth entry on the General Register Office (GRO) website which had the mother’s maiden name totally mangled. I went ahead and ordered the certificate, trusting my instincts (combined with reasoned searching and elimination). It proved the right call. The name was mis-transcribed on the main index, because the document itself had legibility issues and the name was highly unusual.

Another GRO example recently was using Findmypast marriage indexes for 1904. The page number was transcribed as 133 and their marriage finder hint came up with two suggested grooms. Looking at the image, the page number was actually 123. Using FreeBMD, a search on District, Date, Page and Volume sorted it and the correct groom was identified. Needless to say it wasn’t either of the two suggested via the Findmypast search.

The moral of the story is do not rely on indexes, transcriptions and the search algorithms of online genealogy sites; use more than one provider as it is less likely the same transcription error will be repeated on all; always check the image if at all possible; be flexible with your spellings, do not rely on what you think is the established one; and don’t accept negative search results without question.

So from one “old” genealogist, maybe by following these general principles you will have more chance of “meeting” your ancestors whilst you are alive, than in any afterlife!

Attempted Murder in Halton? The Peverse Joy of Old Newspapers

I make no apologies to returning to newspapers again. They are a fantastic family history resource. This is another fabulous FindmyPast newspaper find[1] which relates to my family. It concerns my 4x great grandfather Francis Hill and his son William. Without newspapers I would have struggled to discover this story.

Francis Hill was born in Sherburn in Elmet in 1789. In 1811 he married Grace Pennington, from Halton in the parish of Whitkirk. This is where they settled and raised their family. By the late winter of 1841/2 William, aged around 27, was the couple’s eldest son.

It is the unpleasant confrontation between father and son which the newspapers sensationally reported. The only witness to the events that dark February night was Grace. It appears the whole affair may have remained hidden if it had not come to the attention of the vicar of Whitkirk, Reverend Martineau, who passed the information on to the appropriate authorities. Thank goodness for Reverend Martineau, I say! Though I doubt that sentiment was shared by my ancestors. 

Contradictory statements were given by father and son as to the cause of the quarrel. William, an unmarried coal miner, claimed he arrived home on the night of 16 February 1842 at about 11.30pm to find his father the worse for liquor, eating some bacon and bread with a pocket knife. Francis, a labourer, had been unemployed for some time and William remonstrated with him for dissipating his money in such a manner. On the other hand Francis claims William came home in an intoxicated state and he chastised his son for arriving home at such an hour and in that condition.

William’s account was during the course of the argument he struck his father with, what the reports described as “a violent blow”. This knocked Francis off his chair and onto the floor. Francis got up and William was about to hit him again when he slipped and fell onto the knife which his father was still holding. The blade plunged into William’s left side resulting in the protrusion of a portion of his intestines.

Pocket Knife

William’s account, provided the following day, corresponds in most details with the one given by his mother. She stated her son struck his father, knocking him out of the chair. He was about to continue the assault when Francis, in self-defence, struck out with his knife penetrating the left side of William’s stomach, just below his heart.

This sounds more credible than the tale William told about slipping and falling onto a knife which his father had, rather improbably, retained hold of during the attack.

The statement of Mr Nunneley, the surgeon who attended William, concurs with Grace. He said it was impossible that falling onto the knife could have caused the wound. It was caused by a blow. The surgeon was doubtful whether William would ever recover.

Amusingly to 21st century readers Francis, who would have been aged 52 at the time, was described by the newspapers as “an old man”. He was remanded to prison to await the result of his son’s injury, charged with stabbing William in so serious a manner as to endanger his life.

He remained there for around a month. Not until 29 March 1842 was William recovered sufficiently to appear in front of the West Riding Magistrates. He refused to press charges against his father who was therefore discharged from custody.

William survived the injury and he married in April 1843. He continued to work as a coal miner.

So although not overjoyed at this unedifying depiction of my ancestors, I am thankful for the controversy because of the details it adds to my family history.

Sources:

[1] As OCR is not always the most accurate I also searched on the British Newspaper Archive site. Although I am not a subscriber, you can identify the paper and page number and then go back to FindMyPast armed with the newspaper details to check it out. Even this did not find all the results, including crucially the outcome of the case. I read through the papers to fill in the gaps.

Copyright

© Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shropshire, Staffordshire, Shrouds and Shoes – Part 1

This is, I hope, going to be an on-going record of my progress in researching a family tree from scratch. This recurring section of my blog will record my research highs, lows, successes and failures, brick walls and hopefully their demolition. I have no set timetable to complete this, so there may be gaps of several weeks between updates. But finally I aim to piece together the history of my husband’s family and write some individual stories. Part 1 describes the preliminary phase of my research.

This particular project is inspired by my mother-in-law. A few weeks ago she announced she had a family bible, complete with a record of a couple’s marriage and the births and deaths of their children.  There was also a series of non-conformist quarterly meeting cards. She was unclear exactly how they connected to her and  so she loaned me the impressively weighty Victorian tome to see if I could discover more.  Within days she added to this treasure, with the discovery of a totally unrelated bundle of documents containing assorted certificates, an apprentice indenture, baptism and burial documentation, and a will linking to various branches of her maternal and paternal line along with some others connected to my now deceased father-in-law’s family.

19th century family bible

19th century family bible

So a wealth of documents to get me started,  far more than other families I have researched.  I feel a bit like a kid in a sweet-shop – so many choices. But I am focussing on one branch at a time rather than adopting a scattergun approach. And I am being disciplined in recording my information sources, as well as any searches (both succesful and unsuccesful), far more so than when I started our researching my family tree. Hopefully this will save time as I progress.

With this in mind my first line of research is my mother-in-law’s paternal line, starting with her father William John Haynes. The reason for starting here is that his is the most complete set of documents in the parcel of papers, with his birth, marriage and death certificates along with various other papers chronicling the key stages of his life. The bible does not relate to this branch of the family.

William Haynes’ birth certificate states that he was born on 27 February 1904 at Elford Hill, Eccleshall, Staffordshire. He was the son of master wheelwright, Joseph Thomas Haynes and his wife Maria (neé Yates).   By the time of William’s marriage to Ada Eardley on 15 September 1929, William’s father was described as  a funeral undertaker. This information was a catalyst for a rather unusual memory for my mother-in-law. She recalled staying at her grandfather’s house and sleeping in a bedroom full of shrouds! According to GRO indexes he died in 1958, in his early 90’s.

A preliminary search revealed that J Haynes undertakers still exists at Eccleshall, with the website providing a brief resumé of the buisness.[1] So in my later research I intend exploring the life and business of Joseph Thomas Haynes.

However, based on the information provided by my mother-in-law, my first week or so’s research has centred around the 1841-1911 census returns and the odd foray into parish records. Using this combination of online sources I have constucted a basic skeleton of a family tree.  This is reproduced below.

Haynes Family Tree

Haynes Family Tree

The census search has proved fairly routine. No real difficulties tracking back to 1841. I used both the Ancestry and FindMyPast UK sites to do this. The only minor hurdle was finding William’s great grandfather, James Haynes, in the 1851 census. Although he was there in the 1841 census and then from 1861-1871, there was no trace of him in 1851. At this point I consulted on-line parish registers available for Shropshire on FindMyPast. Through the censuses I had located seven possible children[2] for James Haynes and his wife Ann. I then identified their baptisms in the Parish Registers for the parishes of Edgmond, Longford and Church Aston in Shopshire. This provided the breakthrough. The youngest children bore the surname “Haynes Parker” or “Parker Haynes”.  Only the youngest child George was born post-GRO registration. His baptism in 1838  is under the name Haynes-Parker, his GRO registration surname is Parker with Haynes being listed as a middle name.[3]  Eldest child, John, was baptised on 10 January 1824 at Edgmond Parish Church with the surname Parker and no mention of Haynes.  From this information it was now easy to locate James in the 1851 census – recorded under the name Parker not Haynes.

It also proved a breakthrough in locating James’ marriage. At the time of the 1851 census James’ mother-in-law Ann Hamlet resided with the James and Ann. The Parish Register of Stoke on Tern, Shropshire has a marriage on 31 March 1823 between James Parker and Ann Hamlet.  The Shropshire Parish Registers also provide a possible baptism for James in June 1797 at Lilleshall[4], illegitimate son of Ann Parker.

So if possible I would like to find out a little more about the reason behind this transistion of surname from Parker to Haynes, which took place during the late 1820’s to the early 1860s.

James’ son Joseph (1834) is the grandfather of William  Haynes. Born in around 1834 the Shropshire Parish Registers show that he was married by licence at Aston in Edgmond on 10 February 1859.  His bride was Mary Webb, daughter of William.  My husband says there is a family story that they are somehow connected to Captain Matthew Webb, the first recorded person to swim the English Channel. As yet, even despite this now shared surname, I have found no evidence to support the anecdote. My husband’s Webb Ancestry from the 1800’s appears to be Staffordshire based, with pre-1800s possibly Shropshire. A preliminary look at Captain Webb shows he was born in Shropshire in 1848. But it is something else to explore.

Of more immediate interest is an occupational connection between William Webb and the Haynes male line. They were all wheelwrights. By the turn of the 19th century the Haynes family  were diversifiying  adding building, joinery, carpentry and undertaking to their trade skill set.  In the late 1860’s they moved from Shropshire to Stone, Staffordshire to ply their trade and appear to have been extremely succesful at it. I had a quick look at the image archive on the Staffordshire Past-Track website[5] and was amazed to find images of  Haynes and Sons, Wheelwrights. This contains photographs of family events as well as ones of their business, including images of portable bandstands (one produced below)[6] manufactured by the family firm.  So again this is another aspect of the family history I intend exploring.

12 May 1910: Proclamation of the Accession of George V, Stone read from the portable bandstand in Granville Square. The portable band stand seen here was the first of its kind and was manufactured by Haynes and Sons, wheelwrights, of Station Road, Stone, and was purchased by Stone Urban District Council. See Copyright footnote at  [6]

12 May 1910: Proclamation of the Accession of George V, Stone read from the portable bandstand in Granville Square. The portable band stand seen here was the first of its kind and was manufactured by Haynes and Sons, wheelwrights, of Station Road, Stone, and was purchased by Stone Urban District Council. See Copyright footnote at [6]

Finally I quickly looked at the family details of William’s mother Maria (neé Yates). Her father John was a shoemaker, born in around 1830 in Stone, Staffordshire. John’s wife Ann and all his children were engaged in this trade. I traced John back to the 1841 census, living in the household of bricklayer James Thornhill and Ann. Other household members included George Yates (14) and Joseph Yates (7). From GRO indexes it appears that James Thornhill married Ann in 1838.[7]  So this is a certificate I would like to obtain to see if Ann’s name was Yates and to find out her background to see how this fits in with John.

I think the most satisfying aspect of researching my mother-in-law’s tree is her sheer delight at each new discovery. Of late she has struggled with memory issues, but this research is rekindling long forgotten episodes in her life.  It is an absolute joy for all concerned when some new find triggers the recollection of something buried deep in the recesses of her mind; or, because she knows I am working on her tree, she suddenly recalls some other fact or story. For example she thought her family routes were in Staffordshire, but when I identified a significant Shropshire connection she recalled her parents visiting family in that county. So this process is proving fascinating for me and an interest for her.

My next steps will be to try to flesh out the tree further with online parish records and the ordering of BMD certificates (oh, for that certificate price reduction, but sadly this research cannot wait!). Then to try to fill in the details of the individuals, their occupations and the times and areas in which they lived. I will return to this portion of my blog later in the summer.

Sources:   

[1] http://www.robertnicholls.co.uk/our-history/7.html

[2] I say possible because of the omission of family relationship details on the 1841 census.

[3] GRO Ref: Q3 1838 PARKER  George Haynes Newport  Vol 18 Pg 124

[4] The 1851 and 1861 censuses record his birthplace as Lilleshall, 1871 Woodcote,

[5] Staffordshire Past-Track website:  http://www.staffspasttrack.og.uk/

[6] With thanks to Staffordshire Past-Track and Mr David Haynes for allowing me to use this image. Copyright is retained by David Haynes who has kindly made his collection available to Staffordshire Past-Track for non-commercial private study & educational use. Additional information about permitted uses of content and commercial enquiries is available via the Copyright statement Copyright Statement on Staffordshire Past-Track. Re-distribution of resources in any form is only permitted subject to strict adherence to the guidelines in the full Terms and Conditions statement.

[7] GRO Ref: Q3 1838 Stoke on Trent Vol 17 Page 147