Moreover, my ancestors' souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house.

Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Going Beyond 1837

After having the discipline of pulling together everything I had on a life, plus some with my Elizabeth Lodge saga, I have decided to write a few more 'standard' Blogs on how I am managing my current research. I tend to be a bit of a butterfly, a bit here and a bit there. For a while, I was deeply involved in searching my Joyce family who were farmers from the Brackagh - Kilmore area, Armagh, Northern Ireland. That was very satisfying - I managed to put together my great grandfather's family - mother, father and siblings and their families. But I have not been able to find beyond about 1850 and I needed a professional researcher to find copies of parish baptisms. However, as Irish farming families go with a name like 'Joyce' they were relatively easy to search online, a major reason being that 'Joyce' was not an 'Armagh' name - its a 'Gallway' name - and secondly my 2 X great grandfather's name was Andrew Joyce and his wife was Rachel. The combinations of these slightly uncommon names gave me quite a bit to work with. When I tried the same formula on one of my other Irish families, my 'White' family,  I hit a very big snag. I think the information I have from death certificates of my 2 X great grandmother and father are inaccurate, and not only that, John White must be second only to John Smith as a common name, and his wife, Mary is either Nellon, Nellan, Neilon.... and not born in Kerry either. I've shelved them for a bit.

No-one has been easy to get past 1837 reliably, but I am managing small amounts of information. A big win was finding a record in  the fabulous website, London Lives for the apprenticeship of my 4 X great grandfather, John Pope. He was apprenticed as a peruke maker in 1785 and ran a hairdressers in Upper East Smithfield, Wapping, for years. His daughter's husband, William Edwards, a mariner in the merchant navy was really hard to trace, but with research at the National Archives, I was able to find a some of his voyages even though there were few crew lists at that time. His death, and that of his wife, Sarah, is still a mystery however. 

The people that I have been able to find information on 1760 - 1840 most easily are tradesmen and more particularly, those who owned businesses. So here's where I have had success:
  • The British Newspaper Archive  for my family who got irritated with customers who owed them money and sued them
  • The London Gazette for my family who owed other people money! - and went to debtor's prison, in one case
  • Family who were business owners who advertised their wares and were well-known enough to get obituaries.
  • Business directories such as the Historical Directories site
  • Poll books from Ancestry, because voters were freemen - Guild members of trades, or landowners. Some Poll Books are also online for free at  Electoral Registers or you can find a few like this Hull one as an e book Kingston Upon Hull 1835
  • Parish records from free sites, and paid ones. If you can, don't rely on an index, but get an actual image of the record. You may find a lot more information - like my find of a family member a stickler for accuracy -  20 years later identifying herself in the margin (with all of her marriages), and getting the Priest to witness her correction of her now-grown son's baptismal name which was transcribed incorrectly. Or a note by a peevish Priest cross about having to bury a non-communicant.....I have one of those too!
  • The National Burial Index - I bought the CD and its very useful
  • County Record Offices - an absolute delight is the Hull History Centre
  • Beautiful old cemeteries such as the Key Hill Cemetery in Birmingham.
If you have family who are very well researched - my Jarvis family is an example - do look for published family histories (books on film, not just family trees) submitted to familysearch and other web sites but unless you can find sources and how the data was interpreted, treat the information with caution. I have found older research can be a wonderful guide, but not necessarily accurate in all particulars. I spent three Saturday mornings with an entire film of every receipt and letter kept for the Jarvis family search in the 1950's and it was totally absorbing to see the process unfold. However it uncovered a family difference of opinion which meant that some family trees are probably not correct, and I need to be most careful how I interpret older records and speculations. In the same vein, I have had to delete a section of my Clarkson family because I was a bit too hasty to match it to a well-researched family of Mormon converts. Just too many Joseph Clarksons in the same place, at the same time. This last is my current project, but its a tricky one. Pre-1800 I get tantalizing snippets of information but little hard evidence. I'm working on it!

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