How good are you at finding things?
This article first appeared in the Gwent FHS Journal for June 2014. It is reproduced here with the consent of the Editor of that Journal and the author of the article
How good are you at finding things on this here intarwebby? Really? I am useless, absolutely useless. I have lost count of the number of times I have typed a name into a search engine, clicked on the button and then…. Well, one of two things happens.
1. I get no hits at all
2. I get thousands of hits, all of them wrong.
I used to get so frustrated that I would give up and go read a book. One day I had an idea, such a simple one that I should have used it before and saved a lot of stress. I would ask for help on a genealogy forum.
Now, I know there are several of them but my favourite is www.british-genealogy.com Started in 2004 by Rod NEEP, bought in 2007 by Pam DRAKE of Parish Chest and sold by her to Forces War Records in April 2013. I have been a member and Moderator on this forum since 2004 and I have every reason to sing the praises of the members.
The first time I asked for help I was looking for a marriage in the 1840s. I had tried the GRO fiche at Newport Reference Library but sone kind person had stolen the N fiche from every quarter from 1842 to 1850 and the library was waiting to replace them. I went onto the forum, chose my section and asked my question. Within 20 minutes I had a reply from a person who gave me date and place and told me where I could find more information. As an afterthought they said “Sarah GREEN was the granddaughter of Efrain Levy GREEN, who came over from Amsterdam in 1796 on a herring boat with his wife and two sons. I have a lot of information on that family would you like it?” They then sent me a file of 86 pages of information. I had so much fun checking it and adding it to my tree.
I asked for help again when I drew a blank looking for The Real Uncle Charlie. I told you this tale in a previous Journal and all the back issues of the Journal will be going onto our new website with an index of articles so eventually you will be able to read it again.
The most recent cry for help came when I decided to move my research to my great Grandmother, Louise Emma BELLEW and her parents. I had her 1861 birth certificate but I simply could not find her before her marriage except on the 1881 census when she was a visitor at the home of Harry BRIDGER, whom she married later that year.
I had tried several times to find the parents of Louise Emma. From her birth certificate I knew that her father was William Henry BELLEW, a gas fitter (Master) and Louise BELLEW formerly MILLMAN was her mother and she was born in Lambeth, but that was all. I had not found their marriage and I was stuck.
At half past eleven on night I went on to the British-Genealogy forum and asked for a little help to find Louise Emma and her parents.
Then I went to bed.
Twelve hours later I went back to my computer. Why such a long gap? Well there were essential domestic things to do first, you know, like washing a load of underwear and emptying the dishwasher. I confess I nearly got the vacuum cleaner out, but I soon came to my senses and made a cup of coffee before checking my emails and logging into the forum.
There were 18 replies to my query. Half a dozen people, some of them in Australia and Canada, had spent several hours searching the census, FreeBMD and loads of other places and had found Louise Emma’s parents – who were not married, found her sister and brothers; the death of her father, mother and brother; the marriage of her sister, the births of that sisters children and the attestation papers of her other brother when he joined the army.
Oh and just to put the icing on this cake of delight they had found Louise Emma’s mother in both the 1851 and 1841 census
All these answers were given with the suggestion that I must follow up and check for myself before accepting the information at face value – sound advice.
Some of you might not like it if someone else found information for you. I love it. I cannot find anything if it requires a what is called a “wildcard” search and yet these people found things in minutes and quite casually said “The name has been mis-transcribed as BELLEN”. I would never have thought to look for anything like that.
So here’s the point of all this waffling. There are lots of people out there who can search for and find almost anything. If you have come to a stop in your research and almost given up because you just cannot find that elusive ancestor then take a look at www.British-Genealogy.com It is totally free. Sign up and ask your questions. The members are more than happy to help you.
You can also ask those questions here in our Journal. We have a help wanted section for those stubborn questions about families who lived in the old county of Monmouthshire
Because this year is the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 why not take a look at www.forces-war-records.co.uk and see if they have information about your military ancestors. Keep in mind that 60% of military records from WW1 were destroyed by fire in WW2, but FWR are constantly transcribing records so it pays to take a look. Searching is free so you can see if they have anything on your ancestor before paying to view the records.
OH one other thing. Do please remember that all military records after 1920 are still with the MoD and if you want to read your ancestors file you have to apply here http://www.veterans-uk.info/ . If the person is still alive they must apply themselves or their spouse can do it and I believe it is free. If, like me you are applying for your parent’s records, as next of kin, then you have to supply a copy of the death certificate and it costs £30 per record.