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Lockdown Genealogy


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Some months back my wife, looking for something to amuse herself with during lockdown, latched onto genealogy.  A curiosity at first that has developed into a full blown “who do you think you are”.  Honestly, the things you find out about the ancestors.  On my side a Union cavalry officer during the Civil War, married five times but not always with a benefit of divorce.  On her side a female relative living in Whitechapel during the reign of the Ripper.  

 

She is as far far back as the 1700s in some cases but as you might imagine it’s getting difficult because of the lack of accurate documentation and so on.  However, what is available is like having your own personal time machine.  Quite something.

 

Dennis

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I once traced my family tree...

 

...turns out I'm related to William The Conqueror, Julius Caesar and God. 😁

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My late uncle was doing the family tree and got as far back as the 1500s. Turns out we are descendents of a Norfolk smithy. Where they originally came from we're not sure, somewhere in Northern Europe pretty certainly, but where??

 

One thing that helps is having an unusual surname. But one thing that didn't help was one of the ancestors changing the spelling of said surname.

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When I traced my family tree, I got one "branch" back to a couple who married in 1820. My family history is full of ploughmen and farmers. I'm from good East Fife farming stock, although the family name (the clan) has connections

with Canmore and Stuart royalty. Three Drummond (for such my name is!) women were consorts of Scottish kings, two as wives and one as mistress and then fiancee- she was poisoned by a rival shortly after the marriage had been

scheduled. Drummonds were the Dukes of Perth in the Jacobite nobility, and once rehabilitated(!), Earls of Perth in the British nobility. Drummonds fought in the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) where Scottish independence was secured.

Drummond clansmen scattered caltrops (twisted nails with 4 points where one point always points upwards) in the path of the English Heavy Cavalry, and broke their charge (which was no mean feat).

 

Every British monarch has had Drummond blood in their veins . . .

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I'm always amazed when people manage to trace their linage, with any degree of certainty, to a time before the English Civil War. It is hard for us to imagine these days how much the administrative infrastructure of the country was devastated during that period. 

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Some of my cousins 'Oop North' had traced the family back for several generations, then the youngest sent in his DNA. He was contacted by someone doing the same thing, but had met a brick wall, until a DNA match came through. My grandmother had another son we knew nothing about, and I gained some new cousins this summer.

Amazingly, the nearest lives only 5 miles away as the crow flies. I am Maclean by direct descent on my mothers side, and Mackintosh on my paternal grandmother's side, and several generations of Bells from my father's side. My other grandfather was born in Philadelphia, but his family moved back during the depression. His family were originally from Somerset, and he married a Scots lass.

The late Lady Bentwaters has a far more interesting line. In her case, the family kept records. They came from Northern Germany, where they had been fighting the Romans, via Belgium, where there is still a branch of the family, and settled in England around 1000 AD. Became Royal bodyguards to several Monarchs, were prominent in the military and the Church, and in Parliament. They owned large tracts of Yorkshire, and tea plantations in India. A family member did the research, and produced a 500+ page book with a full family line. They are further established in S. Africa, Florida and Pennsylvania.    

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One of my great uncles, a Merchant Navy officer, became a POW in 1917 after his ship was sunk in the Indian Ocean by the German raider Wolf. For some months, he was thought to be dead and looking through the microfiche copies of the local paper in North Shields library I found an obituary which recorded that "He was the grandson of Captain Henry John Nicholson". That seemed odd. North Shields, in those days, was a sea port and was full of ships' captains: it was as if for some reason the paper expected its readership to know who Nicholson was, even though he'd died nearly 40 years previously. So I looked him up in the index and found two reports of a court case in 1866. The first related that Cap'n Henry had returned from a voyage a couple of months previously and discovered that his 18 year-old eldest daughter was pregnant (or as the paper put it, "enceinte"). Being a pillar of Victorian society Henry was somewhat put out about that, since she wasn't married. In short order, he extracted the name of the guilty party and also discovered that he'd apparently persuaded the girl to try to abort the baby by getting her to take a concoction provided by a local chemist, Mr Manners. Perhaps a trifle inconsistently, Henry seems to have been even more hacked off by the attempt to get rid of the socially embarrassing baby than he was by the prospect of its arrival, or perhaps he realised there wasn't much he could do to the prospective father but he just wanted to kick somebody. Soon afterwards, the chemist received a visit from a middle-aged gentleman who told him conspiratorially that "he wished him to furnish him with something to procure an abortion".  Manners "told him to come back in about four or five hours, when he would have the mixture ready". Henry (for it was he) duly returned with another man, which you might have thought would have rung alarm bells, but Manners handed over a bottle and a box of pills. Thereupon Captain Nicholson shouted "Gertcha, yer swab!" (OK, I made that bit up) and introduced his companion as Superintendent Hewett of the local peelers.

 

Nicholson proceeded to drag his daughter into court and make her testify against Manners, who was charged with supplying the means of causing her to have a miscarriage. The defence claimed, implausibly, that the medicine "was not to procure abortion but to restore natural functions". However, the jury chose to believe this story and found him not guilty. The report concludes "On leaving the court, Manners was cheered." From which I deduce that Captain Nicholson hadn't endeared himself to the good people of North Shields, though somehow I doubt he cared a toss. From other records, I discovered that his daughter was duly packed off to Glasgow to give birth and that a year later she was married in South Shields, on the opposite side of the Tyne, to a ship's carpenter. I do wonder if he was a crew member of Nicholson's current ship, detailed off for the duty by the Captain and maybe given some financial incentive.

 

I looked for Henry Nicholson's own obituary in the Shields Daily News but it seems that for some reason his widow and children didn't bother........

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My daughter did the family history a couple of years ago, and discovered we are related to Sir John Colborne, later Lord Seaton and a Field Marshall, who commanded the 52nd Foot in the Penninsular War and at Waterloo.  He's my second cousin six times removed, which gives me a certain glow of pride.  Unfortunately in the last two hundred years the family has rather slid down the social ladder, so much so that I doubt if he would talk to me if we met!

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4 hours ago, Pete F said:

I'm always amazed when people manage to trace their linage, with any degree of certainty, to a time before the English Civil War. It is hard for us to imagine these days how much the administrative infrastructure of the country was devastated during that period. 

Hi Pete,

           it's easier if you have landed yeoman farmers, gentry or a title (major or minor) in your family tree as the rules regarding register of hatching, matching and dispatchings was well controlled, and outside of church control. Most of us plebs, not so much!

Aunt of the ex had to trace their family back, rule of the NSDAP to ensure no Hebrew blood, due to her intended being a German national, that was back in 1932.

She got back as far as the middle of the 16th Century, around 1550 (ish). There was a minor title in the family, as the family hall still stands, blimey, I'd have had a permanent headache, the front door is about 5'2" at it's apex, I'm 6'2".  Sadly the young lady was disinherited by her father because she married 'beneath her station'. Her husband was a groom, she was found 'stone picking' in a field, that information was found in a local broardsheet, as this was the only thing she could do to keep the family from penury. Current Missus's maiden name was Lonsdale, as in boxing's Lord Lonsdale, sadly, the money went in a totally different (male) direction! What's the saying? when me boat comes in, I'll be at the train station!

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My cousin's husband did quite a bit of digging with regards to my mother's side of the family. It seems that two of my great, great grandfathers, were German Jews who fled from Southern Germany in the early 19th century. Seems there was persecution even then. My dad's side are from north of the border, and I think that I have related this tail before on here, so if I have, apologies for the repetition. Many years ago, my mum was on holiday and was at Tighnabruaich, and got talking to an elderly piper. He asked for her name, and when she told him, he reckoned that our name derives from Bruce, and that we could probably trace it back to Robert Bruce. Of course, many years later, I told my wife about it, and that we could be descended from Scottish nobility, she said, "Yeah right! You and a couple of thousand others. Check the Glasgow telephone directory!!" There's no talking to some of these peasants.

 

John.  

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Near as I know, my Anglo-Saxon ancestors arrived in England sometime after the Romans split. Sometime in the late 1600's/early 1700's some of the came to the New World and lived in one of the American Colonies. Around the time of the American Revolution, they split for Nova Scotia. That's where I was born and lived until age 25, when I moved west.

 

On my maternal side, they too were Anglo-Saxons that ended up as Scottish Border Clans ( Armstrong ). After the British defeated the French on The Plains Of Abraham and took over the Acadian Colonies ( Nova Scotia was part of Acadia ), they expelled the Acadians down to the Louisiana colony and brought in replacements from Britain. Some being those Border Clansmen. ( apparently, they didn't get along with neither the Brits or the Scots and were noted sheep stealers and cattle rustlers.) 

 

During WW2 Mum and Dad met, married and started a family. I'm Child #2. the best one and their favourite!

 

 

 

Chris

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2 hours ago, dogsbody said:

 Border Clansmen. ( apparently, they didn't get along with neither the Brits or the Scots and were noted sheep stealers and cattle rustlers.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might get a bit peeved if opposing armies kept marching back and forth across you lands, and helping themselves to your crops and cattle to feed themselves en route.

You nick stuff from us, we'll have it right back - twofold, at sword or gunpoint.

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One of my paternal ancestors left your part of the World on the Mayflower. Others, named Bruce and Anderson, came later from north of the border. 

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My wife has done quite a lot of work on my family history, it’s strange how many cross overs there are between my Mums and my Dads family.  

 

I appear to be related to Cricketer Jack Berry Hobbs, Canadian Navy Air Ace William Atkinson.  I have both Irish and English roots.  Fathers family were Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (my Grandad was Foreman Pipe Fitter for the first steam heating system in St Paul’s Cathedral).  My Great Grandfather served in WWI (418th Field Company RE, 47th London Div) Ypres, Somme, Messines, Paschendale, Somme (again), Germany.  We even have an Executioner, James Berry, in the family but being from humble stock makes it difficult to trace back into 17th Century and beyond.

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I think that most people, when they delve back into their ancestry, find that they come from many different areas of the world. Mine are no exception. As I said, my dad was from Scotland, and his mother came originally from Ireland (Wexford, we think). One of my great great uncles on my dad's side went off to "the colonies" and settled in Utah, and even had a canyon named after him (good old great, great uncle Ebenezer.....yes really).

As I've already said, on my mum's side, her mother's family came from German Jewish stock, whereas my mum's father was from the Fenlands, hence her maiden name of Fenn.

 

John. 

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Earliest surviving record of my family name goes back to 1750ish.

Earlier than that will likely not be easy as the reference in the Chuch records of that time indicate previous records lost due to a fire.

That said, etymologically*, there's a good chance the origins are from further east (Northwest Germany) which fits the general pattern of westward migrations over millennia :D

 

3 hours ago, Bullbasket said:

I think that most people, when they delve back into their ancestry, find that they come from many different areas of the world.

:nodding:  Which sometimes makes for interesting discussions.

 

*it has regional connections to the Eastern part of the Netherlands and is pretty rare, only 8 people left with that name.

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My mother's cousin worked at the British Museum and he always said that for most people in England and Wales the best you're likely to get by way of documented records is the 16th centuary when parish registers were introduced. To be certain of your genealogy before then you have to be aristocracy and the only way to prove your ancestors came across with William the Conqueror is to be of royal decent. 

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