Archive for the ‘Family History’ Category

The transformation of family history research

A number of new information services that have came online in recent years have transformed the ease and ability to do family history research almost beyond recognition.

First of these was the arrival of the Irish censuses of 1901 and 1911 which make location of your family in those years a whole lot easier. As always, the more information that you have the better but even having just the name of the father and mother will let you identify your family from that time rather than a family that just happened to have a father with the same name as your grandfather. If you don’t already have a location for their house at that time, this will get you one along with the ages of them and all their children, plus the occupations of those working.

More recently, the General Records Office in Northern Ireland have allowed searches of records older than 75 years and that can get you well back with your family tree in very short order. With this you can search for births, marriages and deaths and get a copy of the certificates for £2 (searches are free and may be enough for you initially). Marriages are the best place to start as with just the name of the couple you can pick up the name of the father of each of them, their age and, of course, where the marriage took place. This in turn may belp you go back a generation using the name of the groom and his father along with his age (all on the marriage certificate). In principle, that can let you go back to an earlier marriage certificate and thereby another generation though you quickly hit the 1864 limit on registrations from where it’s off to the Public Records Office and their church records.

Sooner or later, you drop off the end of the online records as the church records have not, yet, been put online (due in part to objections from the churches) but they are available on microfiche in the Public Records Office and that should let you go back another generation relatively easily (to go back more with ease depends on how mobile your ancestors were).

Which is not to forget the previous mainstay of family history research (i.e. the Mormon site) but the above are more dependable.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Filling in some gaps in the family history with the general record office

There’s an awful lot of information out there which should be online but isn’t yet so my family history research is often dictated by the timing of information appearing online.

For instance, whilst contemplating an extended trip to the General Records Office some years ago, I found out that there were plans afoot to make their information available over the internet. That time has now arrived and their online search has speeded up considerably what was proving to be a very time consuming and unfruitful search involving trips to various local registry offices.

Why it was unfruitful is because I’d taken the information written in an 1850s era family bible to be correct. Certainly one thing that I knew to be correct was the place of marriage of the guy whose family bible it was. After all, he’d written that and obviously he would have known where he was married. Turns out that he was wrong and whilst the family bible says (in his handwriting) that he was married in Ballymoney, he was actually married in the Ballymena registry office.

Getting back to him was a breeze with the new service. I had the rough date of marriage of my grandparents and a matter of minutes later I was looking at a copy of their marriage certificate. Going back to his parents’ marriage certificates was another few minutes as was the next generation (the guy who owned the family bible). I can’t go back any further as registration only stated in 1845 but I have a definite location to check with the church records now.

My grandmother’s side is a little more complicated as her dad came from Scotland. It’s still a bit confusing as the family is in Belfast on the 1911 census, but not on the 1901 census yet she was born in Belfast in 1897. Tracking down her parents marriage took 20 minutes or so as I only had the rough date of birth of her dad and you can only search the records in five year slots but I’ve got that now. That in itself changes things somewhat as he was in Belfast much earlier than I’d thought. It gets more difficult from this point as his birth was somewhere in Scotland and his name isn’t overly rare so I will need to think about how to identify him now without knowing the names of any of his family.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

End of an era in Killinchy

My grandparents on Mum’s side were from the Killinchy area originally. Although they moved to Belfast in the 1920s, they still rented a cottage just outside Balloo village, moving once or twice and by the time I was born they were in a cute little thatched cottage on the top of the first hill out of the village.

We spent from two to four months a year from the 1960s through to the early 1980s and it always felt like home. Each summer, we’d basically up sticks and move to the country. Gone was the electricity, gone was the mains water in the kitchen and gone was the indoor loo! Still, it was nice and I managed to get through an awful lot of reading there over the years.

In 1969, we paved the front and as part of that Dad put a little square of plain cement so that I could put a handprint, footprint and some details for posterity, all of which were still readable up to a year or two back. But no more, as we found out when we called by last week as a big weed has grown through the little square. The flush toilet arrived in 1974 and comes with a fetching string vest pattern all around the septic tank courtesy of the vest my Dad was wearing that day. The thatch became increasingly difficult to maintain as the thatchers are dying out and it was replaced with a corregated iron roof sometime in the 1990s I think.

It’s seen better days for sure but is doing pretty well for a cottage that was built over 150 years ago.

However, the flush toilet has now gone as the garden has been bulldozed for the construction of a new bungalow.

The cottage is still there for now, but probably not for a whole lot longer.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The short announcements at the end of a life: Jean Stewart

Dad’s sister-in-law died at the end of last week after quite a stay in a nursing home. Her kids have placed the usual type of announcement that you get for such things in the paper, of course:

STEWART, JEAN – August 26, 2010, peacefully, at hospital, dearly-loved mother of Muriel and Jean. Service on Tuesday 31st August 2010 at 2.00 p.m. in Kirkwoods Funeral Home, 150A Kings Road, Knock, Belfast, BT5 7EJ and afterwards to Roselawn Cemetery. Family flowers only please. Donations in lieu may be sent, if desired, for N.I. Chest, Heart and Stroke, c/o Kirkwoods Funeral Directors (address as above). Will be sadly missed by her daughters, sons-in-law Gerald and Colin, grandchildren Simon, Sarah, Jenny and John, great-grandchildren and brother George. The Lord is my Shepherd.

As in all such announcements, a full life is condensed down to just a few words of farewell and, as usual, this means that a great deal about the person is omitted.

For instance, in Jean’s case she was buried with her husband John who she spent decades and Allan, the brother of Muriel and Jean, who died when he was only six months old. Jean’s brother George lives in New Zealand and couldn’t come over to the funeral as he’s getting on a bit himself. Sadly, Jean never made it over to visit him in Auckland as John had a heart attack before he retired so they were never able to manage the months long trip that would have been needed in those days. Still, at least George was able to spend time over here with them several times over the years although perhaps not so much as they both would have liked over their 50 year separation since he emigrated. Jean was the eldest of the two being born on April 14, 1923.

She met John through her employment in a drapers shop on the Crumlin Road and they married in 1951. Between Muriel and Jean she now has four great-grandchildren Josh, Emma, Ben and Sophie as well as the grandchildren mentioned above.

Missing also is mention of the trip taken to Portrush every Easter Monday for decades along with the family above, my Dad and us, Dad’s sister Ena’s family, and their parents (four car loads at the height of it all in the 60s). And, of course, lots of other things besides, many of which I’ve forgotten and some of which were reviewed during the funeral service.

The church itself was a major part of her life and although much of her involvement with the church wasn’t known to me at the time, that she was a person who cared about her religion came across always. She was in the choir and taught in the Sunday school and was one of those relatively rare people who you just know are Christians without being told because of the things that they do and they way that they behave generally.

I can’t say that I’ll miss Jean because with John’s passing 15 years ago we weren’t as involved with her as we had been previously which is sad really. As always, there were so many people at her funeral who I should be seeing now and again but who I rarely see outside of funerals these days which is something that I’m working on changing.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Wondering how to track down more family history information

Family history is something of an on and off hobby for me as it can sometimes be several years before more information becomes available.

In between times, it’s often worthwhile looking again at the information already to hand as there are often hidden gems amongst it. For example, the original family bible from William Stewart who was born way back on June 28th 1835 though it probably dates from September 6th 1858 when he married Eliza Dalrymple. He kept that up to date throughout his life as did his children although there are gaps both in later and earlier generations.

Those gaps can largely be filled in though. One very simple thing was realising that there was a very consistent habit of naming the first born boy and girl after the father and mother. Thus, when the “first” born wasn’t that meant that there was either a stillborn child or, more likely (because stillborn children didn’t get named), a child who died quite young. That such children existed has been confirmed in all cases where I’ve had later information about the family so, for example, the 1911 census confirmed several of these children in various branches of the family.

Other bits of information can sometimes need more thought. It was puzzling as to why David J Tannihill of Market Square Lisburn paid for the grave of my great grandfather Andrew. However, later on I found that when he died he was living in 155 Mayo Street, Belfast so if his family had bought the grave they’d have had to pay the non-resident rate for the grave. Who David Tannihill was remains, for the moment, a mystery as indeed does the reason why he wasn’t buried in Belfast instead.

I’ve suspected for a while that some of the location information I have for various people isn’t quite right as we tried to get some birth and marriage certificates where they were recorded as living at the time but found that the information just wasn’t there. So, the plan was to get the certificates from known locations and work backwards from there. That was a problem though as I didn’t know for sure where my grandfather was born. Or, rather, I didn’t realise that I really did know. That information came from his older sister Mary who died when she was 2 in Killymackel, Derriaghy (near Lisburn) of bronchitis. Thus I know that the family lived there in 1896 but in Mayo Street by 1906.

Interestingly, Derriaghy is where my Dad continued to go to the Masonic Lodge so presumably they would have some information about everyone from him back to my great grandfather and perhaps even the generation before that. Also, some years back I went round the nearby Presbyterian churchyard which seemed to have a number of Stewarts buried although at the time I hadn’t linked that with my lot (another visit is called for to recheck that information).

Finally, there’s my latest flash of inspiration. Whilst I’ve known for a while that my grandfather was in the first world war and that there should therefore be a service record for him, what didn’t occur to me is that there would be a corresponding service record from his time in the police so that’s something else to look into.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.