It’s New Year’s Eve, a time when people
drink too much look back on the past year and assess their achievements – and the things that didn’t quite go to plan.
And it’s too easy for many of us to remember what they meant to do but, for very good reasons, didn’t. That’s why I love Jill Ball (aka Geniaus)’s Accentuate the Positive geneameme, which she started a year ago. I took part in the first one and found it a great way to acknowledge the year’s successes and move into the new year with a warm glow that has nothing to do with a glass of something or the radiator I’m snuggled up to as I type.
So here are my positive answers to Jill’s statements/questions for 2013:
1. An elusive ancestor I found was: Well, I think I’ve found him – he’s in there somewhere. I’m hunting down a great-grandfather who is currently the brick wall in my Owen line. He was born on Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in or around 1847 and his name was Griffith Owen. The trouble is that a lot of boys born in the 1840s on that island were called… Griffith Owen or Owens.
I’ve just put together a data comparison spreadsheet with all the Griffiths on it and I’ve already eliminated some, but there’s a lot more detective work to be done. The positive thing is that I feel much nearer to pinning him down than I felt a fortnight ago. He’s given me so much trouble that it’s going to be a huge genealogy happy dance day when I find him.
2. A precious family photo I found was: I didn’t find this photo; my cousin Sheila gave it to me at my mother’s celebration party in July. It was such a thrill!
It shows my Mamgu (grandmother, in Welsh) on the right and her cousin ‘Auntie’ Mary, Sheila’s Mamgu, on the left. I was delighted – it brought back many happy memories of my childhood. Cousins can be so generous. Thank you, Sheila!
3. An ancestor’s grave I found was: None this year, though we recently chose a headstone for my mother’s.
4. An important vital record I found was: The apprentice binding for my 2x great grandfather, James Thomas Richards (1815 – 1896), waterman of Deptford and later of Newgate, the Leviathan prison hulk, the Royal Sovereign convict ship (1835) and Sydney.
I went to the Guildhall Library in the City of London, where the Watermen and Lightermen’s Company records are held. The very friendly and helpful staff told me that I could only see the apprentice binding books 1688-1908 (Ms 6289) on microfilm because so many people wanted to look up their watermen ancestors that the originals had to be kept back to preserve them. I was slightly disappointed – but thrilled to see the film of the almost 200-year-old record of James being bound apprentice to his father.
Then I got the film of the apprentice affidavit books 1759-1897 (Ms 6291) and wound… and wound… and finally found him lurking on a faded, blotchy page, half in the gutter (possibly appropriate, as you’ll see). Now I had confirmation of the date and place of his baptism and the day his apprenticeship began.
I’ll be going back to see what else I can find out about him at the Guildhall. It’s a small but fascinating library next to a beautiful old building, a London jewel.
5. A newly found family member: A re-discovered family member this year – Shae Honess, who’d been very helpful to my mother and me when we were writing our book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798.
We were both taking part in one of Inside History Magazine‘s Q and A sessions on Facebook and realised we knew each other. It was a wonderful surprise! If you haven’t visited their Facebook page do drop in. You’re bound to find something interesting and there’s a great bunch of genealogy people there. Thanks, Cassie and Ben!
6. A geneasurprise I received was: Finding the house in Hackney where my 2x great grandmother Rebecca Harrington (c 1841 – 1884) lived with her parents when the 1851 census was taken. I’m hoping to write more about this soon, so I won’t go into details now, but amazingly enough it’s still standing.
7. My 2013 blog post that I was particularly proud of was: The thief up the chimney. I wrote it as part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of Old Bailey Online, the “fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.” It’s a very impressive resource.
In this post I used OBO’s transcription of James Thomas Richards’ (yes, him again) slightly confusing trial for larceny, held on April 6th, 1835 at the Central Criminal Court. This post involved several Deptford pubs, some old maps, the online equivalent of highlighter pens and, eventually, a chimney. I enjoyed researching it immensely and it was a departure for me to write in response to a non-genealogy online event.
8. My 2013 blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was: Welsh Newspapers Online – read all about it. I was lucky enough to visit the National Library of Wales stall at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in February 2013 and attended a seminar about their work in setting up Welsh Newspapers Online, an important resource for genealogists, historians and many more. The fact that it was my most-viewed post of 2013 shows that plenty of other people have been fired up by Welsh Newspapers Online, too.
9. A new piece of software I mastered was: If an operating system counts as software, it’s Android on my new Nexus 7 tablet. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, in fact it’s shown me who’s the boss many times, but I’m getting there.
I’ve also learned to use PagePlus, the desktop publishing software. My first publication was put together in a rush, and I found that having used QuarkXPress and Photoshop/GIMP was a lifesaver. I’ve since gone on a course and found much easier ways to do things than the ones I ‘invented’ on the hoof…
10. A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was: Twitter. I’ve been on it much more than Facebook or Google+ in 2014. This is partly because I use it as a news feed for genealogy, history and family history (and increasingly writing) information and exchanging ideas. It’s also less time-consuming than scrolling down a long timeline on G+ or Facebook.
Well, this is already a long post and I’ve still got 10 more positives to go so, like last year, I’ll stop here and come back with answers 11-20 next time. Until then –
Happy New Year!