Tuesday 24 August 2010

Royal Heritage? No Thanks!

I cannot abide the "Who Do You Think You Are?" programme. It's pap TV designed to appeal to the ignorant masses. Well, no surprise there, that's what all TV is about!

They make it look ridiculously easy to find your ancestors. Of course it's easy when the professional genealogists do it for you and have access to records not available to the general public. All you have to do it turn up and say "That's fascinating!" But then a film of someone spending hours searching through the census records would not make good TV.

The programme seems to think you are only worthy if you have some foreign or royal connection. My family do not have foreign connections other that the fact that a group went to the USA to find work in the mining industry and in recent years people have moved about the globe as they tend to do. We've been in Devon (Horswills) and South East England (Hills) for hundreds of years.

We have no royal connections. We have some interesting connections (Thomas Hardy, Lord Nuffield, Titanic Survivor Alfred Horswill - more about them later) and a famous footballer (Micky Horswill) but nothing Royal. So no idle rich who have contributed nothing to society. Instead we have hundreds of years of tough manual labour. Women in service to those idle rich at the age of 12. Men - well, boys - at the coal face at 13. There was no pension scheme. They spent their whole life down the mines and that life was often a short one. My great grandfather (Charles Ormond Laverick) died in a coal mine in his forties.

The websites, blogs and Facebook pages of the genealogy companies are full of WDYTYA. I can see why they do it. The marketing teams have to be "out there" with whatever is current discussion. Their websites and blogs need to come up in searches constantly and the sad fact is people not only watch the programme but also want to read about it. This week's discussion mostly consists of inane comments about how wonderful Alexander Armstrong is because his family has royal links. Puhleeeeeeze.... who cares? We grovelled to the monarchy hundreds of years ago. Hello!! We don't do that now! He even seems to be a funnier comedian which is great PR...

We should be proud of the hard work done by our ancestors, not proud of the silver spoons.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Look who I found in the 1911 Census ...

You can make quantum leaps in your family tree with the 1911 Census. That's IF you know what to look for. I hadn't managed to find any of the Williams family (maternal great grandparents) in ANY census so it didn't look good for the 1911 Census.

I used Find My Past to look them up. You can buy credits rather than a subscription which suits me as I don't like too much going out of my bank account when not much goes in. Whilst normally it's good to have more information, with their search system sometimes it's worth just putting in names and a year of birth. It doesn't cost anything to view the overall list.

So, starting with what we know ... I put in Nan's and Uncle Arthur's names and date of birth then clicked to see the household. There was Aunt Kate too so I had the right household BUT I could see the reason I couldn't find them before. Their parents were not Francis and Elizabeth Williams but Henry James and Mary Ann Williams. Digging further back found the censuses showing they were both born in Southampton, which we knew so that was more confirmation. It's back to my roots for me then!

Mum knew her grandmother as Bessie, not Mary. Could this be because her mother was Bess? A lot of families called their children by different names, or a variation. John was "named after Bill". Don't go there ... the name changing in the Mangan family gets ridiculous. George Edward Jubilee Mangan was always known as Sam for another daft example.

For further confirmation of the Williams family I got on to Mum again. When I asked her a few months ago she couldn't remember the names of Nan's older siblings and thought the family had lost touch. I read out the names. I don't always do that as you need to get corroboration without giving the relative any clues but there was nothing to lose here. "I remember George, he worked with his Dad in the brewery. What do you call the people who make the barrels?" A cooper!! And there they are on the census under occupation: Cooper.

If you're a member of the family and you'd like to see full details on the Ancestry tree please join the private site at www.horswillfamily.com and you'll see it on there. Ancestry members: the tree is called Horswill and Hills Families.

The 1911 Census also provided some interesting details of John's family on his Mum's side. I found a John Hipson (John's great grandfather) who was in prison. The only John Hipson in London. I thought I'd better keep quiet about it until Maureen said "Did she find the one who was always in and out of prison?" Mind you, in those days you would go to prison for an offence that wouldn't even get you an ASBO today.

As for the Horswills - I found out what happened to Lizzie Jane. Details on the private site later.

For those interested in the 1991 Census we have a new Facebook group HERE.