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My grandma is about to turn 95 and I had asked her for family information a few years ago. I started a small tree using Ancestry.com for her so we could record what she remembered and it grew from there.

I extended it to MrBlah’s family so that our kids could know something about both sides. And inevitably his side has all of the interesting people - for example Thomas Bentham, the first Protestant Bishop Of Coventry in the 1560’s is a 10x great-grandfather. And famous philosopher Jeremy Bentham is a distant uncle. (Our family name is not Bentham so not doxxing myself lol). Also MrBlah has the quirky people like the great-grandfather who was a railway station master and raced penny- farthings.

My family is boring in comparison. Our only point of interest is that the great grandparents on my father’s side are from Poplar, the squalid London area made famous by the tv show Call the Midwife.

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I was always into history, even as a child I liked to read books and watch films set in bygone eras, and of course I would soak up any stories and anecdotes about my family. I was close to my grandmother but a bit shy to ask about things, because there were tragic and obviously painful things in her history (her dad was murdered when she was five, it was political and complicated). So I never asked about things directly. 

I was in my twenties when a biography of my late uncle was published. (He was a famous artist in my country, died youngish when I was a child.) It mentioned a 17th century ancestor that got me interested - the mention was vague and I wanted to know more, so I hit the library. I found the man, but he didn't seem to fit the tree as described in the biography. So I did some digging, discovering some more ancestors in the process, and eventually found that the biographer had simply missed a generation. After I had all this information of basically this one line (my other grandmother's paternal line), obviously I started wondering about their wives, and then of course I had to come back to my other grandparents to see if I could fill in their trees too.

I'm very lucky to live in a Nordic country where records were kept meticulously and nowadays many original records can be accessed online for free or for a small fee. My ancestry is mostly Finnish and Swedish, with some German, Danish, Dutch, Scottish and Jewish thrown in. While some brick walls remain, my tree is reasonably full, so now I'm looking to tie loose ends re: siblings, cousins etc a couple of generations back - basically trying to find out if there are connected families who might still possess interesting photos or documents relating to my family. Some branches ended up in the US so I may ask for your advice in tracing them at some point.

Well, that was an essay! Will be very interested in hearing about your genealogy journeys.  :my_shy:

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So glad this club got started up! Thank you.

These days I think Ancestry.com is the most comprehensive resource... just an incredible amount of stuff there, with more being added all the time, plus the ability to connect with others and take advantage of their research. If you can afford it, the basic U.S. annual subscription works out to less than $10/month, which is well worth it in my opinion. If not, check your local libraries (some of them have subscriptions), or pay a visit to a local Mormon church's "Family History Center" -- which are open to the public, and usually have computers with Ancestry.com subscriptions. In my experience they are friendly and helpful, and they don't proselytize.

The most important thing I would say to those who are new to genealogy: Keep notes as you research, and write down the source of everything you learn. The data you discover about your ancestors will not always be right; sometimes you'll get multiple birthdates or parents' names, etc., and you'll have to try to figure out which one is more probably correct. I did a lot of research before I learned this lesson, and now I have data with no source and no way to go back and figure out how likely it is to be true, etc.

Along those lines: You'll come across a lot of people who will eagerly grab anyone whose name is the same, and add them to their tree, trying to go back as far as they can as fast as they can. They'll end up saying they can trace their ancestry back many, many centuries... but that claim (and their tree) is worthless without good sources. Resist the urge to do this; take it slow, one generation at a time, trying to find as many sources for your data as you can. It takes longer this way, but is much more rewarding.

Happy hunting!

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Indeed, write down your sources and be critical of them! Internet is a wonderful tool and you'll find family trees there, but I wouldn't add anything into my tree without checking the sources. And I mean original sources. Someone else's Geni tree is not an actual source. You grow more critical with time and it is also useful to periodically go back to your earlier research, look at it critically and re-verify things.

If you are interested in Scandinavia, Arkiv Digital in Sweden has a few more hours of free weekend left!

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My tip/learning, beware if the use of ambiguous pronouns in family stories.  As the extended family history sponge there have been some assumptions made over a generation or two about who the her is (that were wrong so I found said connection, just in a different place)

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My paternal grandfather was a well of knowledge but none of us really thought to write down what he was saying. Fast forward nearly 10 years after his death, my Dad and I have been trying to get half of what he knew. Ancestry has been very good and yes, there have been some minor confusion. I am much more critical these days then I was when I first started. 

I use familysearch.org to see if there is any information. My family has been in rural Newfoundland since the early 1800s, my 5x great grandfather settled my hometown but there was little written down. Church records are basically all that we have and some of them have been lost sadly. So chasing ghosts has been a lot of what I am doing, the ancestry DNA has helped as well! 

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I started my first family tree when I was thirteen. I was completely interested in history and wanted to learn more about my own family history. Also, I had lost both of my grandmothers at that point and my great-grandmother. I wanted to know where they came from and their families. It wasn't easy at the time. My maternal great-grandfather was able fill in some of the blanks. His own family, his wife's parents and siblings, and my maternal grandfather. My mom was also able to give names of his siblings, his grandparents, and further back. She knew the first born son always had the same middle name, the story that one of their relatives had belonged to Native American tribe, and constantly getting kicked out of churches or asked to leave.  Ancestry.com did get me a lot further. Yeah, there were a lot of green leafs that were wrong. The dates or places didn't match up.  Reading through the census was big help and a lot of information. It would list what states or country the parents were from. Also, listing the occupations. You could match those up with ages and date of births. It was really nice to find where the middle name came from. It was the maiden name of a my 3rd great-grandmother who died giving birth to a son. He was the first to get her maiden name as his middle name. His son, grandson, great-grandson and beyond each received it too. That was really cool to finally learn where it came from. There were a few surprises like Canadian roots! Cool but questionable ones royalty ones.

My aunt on my dad's side helped me with a ton of information. Her father (my grandfather) never talked about it. She gathered information from relatives going all the way back to Sweden and Norway. From there we haven't been able to figure anything out. There's too many identical names and dates of birth to narrow down.

Its really fun researching, learning the names and hunting.  

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1 hour ago, Antipatriarch said:

(snip)

Along those lines: You'll come across a lot of people who will eagerly grab anyone whose name is the same, and add them to their tree, trying to go back as far as they can as fast as they can. They'll end up saying they can trace their ancestry back many, many centuries... but that claim (and their tree) is worthless without good sources.

(snip)

Sound advice! Thanks to phonetic spelling, my last name changed repeatedly over the centuries. It's a rare last name with an unusual spelling for Germany, originating in one village. We're all related.

However, by sheer coincidence, it's a common enough last name in Ireland. So, a while ago, I received a message from someone in the US, claiming that we were related. I replied that it was unlikely, but I'd have a look. It took some digging, but the previously unknown relatives in the States do exist. One relative from the village migrated to the States in the 19th century. How exciting!

However, it is far more usual that I have to tell people that they're barking up the wrong tree. When one of my uncles got interested, he excitedly found "our Irish origins". I showed him grandpa's and my research, proving that it's just a coincidence.

Spoilered, because long, although fellow genealogists will understand:
 

Spoiler

 

We tried with our ancestor, but the trail goes cold in the 1630s. That's when the originator of the name showed up in the village and got married. The way the priest spelled his name has nothing to do with its modern incarnation. Since the same priest had a tendency to record French names in German translation ("Angelique", for example, became "Engel") grandpa and I suspected that the priest spelled a name unknown to him phonetically. He noted down our ancestor as "Jean" instead of "Johannes", which could mean a number of things. Maybe the priest couldn't be bothered that day? Maybe our ancestor was particularly insistent? Maybe...who knows?

What we could guess at is that the man had money. He married into one of the best families in the village, and a few years later was recorded as owning horses and oxen! A sign of some serious wealth! We only know that, because the ruling family of the day sold the entire area off, after the 30 Years' War. They took an inventory, which survives. And the clerk changed our last name, because phonetic spelling.

Grandpa was always convinced that our family originated from France, based on the first name. I have my doubts, because that priest was so consistent in translating names (took us a lot of sleuthing to figure that one out). My theory is that he came from the north of Germany, was possibly called "Jan" and the priest spelled it in a way he knew.

Since he had money, and knew how to run a successful farm, I suspect that he was originally from a farming family. The money? It was the 30 Years' War, he didn't come from the area, so it's likely that he was a soldier of fortune. The latter would make the Irish connection a possibility, but with no further information, it's like looking for "John Smith". Alas, there is only so much one can tease out of records. 

Bringing the past alive via snippets is so much fun. And quite heartbreaking too. I have started recording older relatives' stories, to make sure that things aren't forgotten. That's the heartbreaking bit, I find. Mr samurai_sarah's grandmother suffers dementia. She doesn't know what she ate for lunch, but her memories of the past are clear. The family asks me how I can stand to listen to the same story over and over again.

But, it's never the same story! I ask a question, and she goes off on a tangent. Who knew that she loved to cycle with her hair open? Who knew that that was the first thing her husband ever saw of her? You'd never think it of her these days, but back in the day, she was forward-thinking and grabbed life with both hands. I record her stories, because I don't want her to be forgotten.

 

 

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My dad had the genealogy bug, so I got dragged to a lot of courthouses and historical societies as a child. I was probably 12 or so when I finally started getting in to it. We were at the Cornwall Family History Society trying to track down Anne Martin. We knew when she got married and had children but didn't know her birthday or parents. Do you realize how many Anne Martins were born in that parish just within our estimated 10 year window? There were twelve of them. The mystery of trying to figure out which one was ours fascinated me. (We think we know which one it is but we don't really have proof). And lo, these many years later I'm still digging for more ancestors and more answers.

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There seems to be a period in England where the pool of acceptable names was quite small. I have so many Marys, Anns, Sarahs and endless Elizabeths. And Thomas, John, William and Edward.

And don’t get me started on multiple spelling - Kathryn/Catherine/Katherine/Kate etc.

And surnames Aker/Akers/Acres, 

Many of my people made their mark as an “x” on source documents so correct spelling is a mystery.

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I literally feel you Akers etc pain, only in the US.  

And im currently battling what is the real given name behind a couple of Milly’s (could be Millicent, Mildred, or Amelia) and a Hatty bit wait it co7ld be Hetty so is it Harriet or Hester.  

I have come to appreciate Quakers in the colonial era for documenting everything.  And 29th century German records with not just first and last name but the two (!) middles names so I really can tell that this Johann in my line and not some other line.  

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I swear that in each generation there are these names: James, Ellen, David, Lucy. There are at least 10 James' so I've been labeling them 1-10 in my own notes and then my Dad will fill in with nicknames that he knows. 

I'm currently battling with a name change where I can't figure out what it was before. I have a hint but really...the name is too common in that area. 

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1 hour ago, Carm_88 said:

(snip)

I'm currently battling with a name change where I can't figure out what it was before. I have a hint but really...the name is too common in that area.

Relatives of mine are battling with that as well. They know that their ancestors came from a different part of Germany, after the 30 Years' War, and the village re-named them. They know it wasn't their original name, because the previously mentioned enterprising priest didn't record their original name, but noted what the family was known as in the village: their place or origin. So, that's a dead end.

Normally Catholic church records in my region also note a previous parish, if someone moved to the area. That's usually quite helpful, provided the records were kept properly and survived WW2. While 19th century German record keeping was quite meticulous, for previous centuries I usually have to rely uniquely on Catholic church records. And I groan every time, I see that someone's previous parish was one the neighbouring ones. They're gone, no data available.

But the thing I love about genealogy is that sometimes you strike gold anyway. Grandpa and I were researching grandma's maternal line. For reasons lost to time, the village's records start in the 1600s. But we discovered that the village had come under scrutiny for participating in the Peasant Wars in the 1500s. Secular records with names had survived! Every now and then, it is possible to strike gold.

Genealogy is the history of the common people! And I love that so many people are interested and invested in telling that side of the story!

P.S.: If anyone has good ideas for a banner and a picture for our club, I'm all ears. I just used the first thing I had on hand. :(

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2 hours ago, samurai_sarah said:

P.S.: If anyone has good ideas for a banner and a picture for our club, I'm all ears. I just used the first thing I had on hand.

I think a tree would be appropriate. How about this one?

genealogy-tree-tag-cloud-white-background-edited.jpg.fe14b059588ea7484b8d4a6981fb7d76.jpg

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at some point many years ago a cousin did a tree to show how we are related to William "Buffalo Bill" Cody (he is my 2nd cousin, 4 times removed, we have the same 5x great grandparents). After proving that, he went further, only with the males, and eventually got back to a Peter Taylor, who came to Philadelphia in 1682, on one of Penn's ships (the Friendship).

I caught the bug after finding this tree among my grandmother's things after she passed and have been researching off and on for years. My daughter gave me an ancestry.com membership for Christmas one year and i was able to find some of my paternal grandfather's navy records, before that i only knew his name and death year. my tree goes all kinds of directions LOL

main surname is Taylor (lots of johns and enochs) of philadelphia, nj and w.virginia. if i gave any other surnames i'm afraid of giving myself away because those names are rare enough that they are all related. if you want to pm me i'll tell you :my_shy:

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20 hours ago, Bethella said:

I think a tree would be appropriate. How about this one?

genealogy-tree-tag-cloud-white-background-edited.jpg.fe14b059588ea7484b8d4a6981fb7d76.jpg

Thank you ever so much! See our bright shiny new avatar? :)

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@samurai_sarah  I may need to pm you. My maternal grandfather’s parents emigrated from Germany to UK in the late 1800’s and I can’t get any further back. The language barrier doesn’t help either :(

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4 hours ago, Blahblah said:

@samurai_sarah  I may need to pm you. My maternal grandfather’s parents emigrated from Germany to UK in the late 1800’s and I can’t get any further back. The language barrier doesn’t help either :(

ooh! I'm having the same issue. My ancestors also came from Germany to London in I think the 1870s. The language barrier has really made me helpless, plus they were Mennonites so I don't know if they would have been included in mainstream/parish records. If you come up with any ways forward, do let me know.

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On 15/11/2017 at 12:44 AM, AprilQuilt said:

ooh! I'm having the same issue. My ancestors also came from Germany to London in I think the 1870s. The language barrier has really made me helpless, plus they were Mennonites so I don't know if they would have been included in mainstream/parish records. If you come up with any ways forward, do let me know.

In the 1870s, Mennonite or not, they'd have been on record somewhere in Germany. :) Feel free to PM me, I'll see if I can help.

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thank you, @samurai_sarah, that's very kind! I'm going to do a bit more digging but I might very well need a little help. I know they were from Krefeld and were in the silk industry. Their name doesn't sound very German to me (it's part of my name and is always remarked upon), so I don't know if they came from somewhere else initially.

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2 minutes ago, AprilQuilt said:

thank you, @samurai_sarah, that's very kind! I'm going to do a bit more digging but I might very well need a little help. I know they were from Krefeld and were in the silk industry. Their name doesn't sound very German to me (it's part of my name and is always remarked upon), so I don't know if they came from somewhere else initially.

Silk industry? Possibly Huguenots from France.

ETA: Silk is a possible give-away. Some Protestant German states allowed the Protestant French to settle, after the Edict of Nantes was revoked (1685). They carried the knowledge of how to make and spin silk to Britain and Germany.

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@samurai_sarah this is what I suspect. It's a name that's used in France. 

...I was about to say that in that case I'd have to track back to the 18th or 17th centuries, but I've just looked at the Wikipedia entry for a silk-related company still in existence that bears this same family name. And the founders were from Krefeld. Their father was French and was in Krefeld from at least 1800. So I don't know if that precludes Huguenotism.

Live genealogy going on here, guys!

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8 minutes ago, AprilQuilt said:

@samurai_sarah this is what I suspect. It's a name that's used in France. 

...I was about to say that in that case I'd have to track back to the 18th or 17th centuries, but I've just looked at the Wikipedia entry for a silk-related company still in existence that bears this same family name. And the founders were from Krefeld. Their father was French and was in Krefeld from at least 1800. So I don't know if that precludes Huguenotism.

Live genealogy going on here, guys!

One doesn't preclude the other. After all, persecution of the Huguenots didn't start from one day to the other. The mass expulsion started after the Edict of Nantes was reverted, but people left long before that. It is thoroughly possible that people sought out relatives.

The silk industry is a powerful hint though. As far as I know, the silk industry shifted from France to other European states, after the Edict of Nantes was revoked.

PM me, I'll see what I can do for you. :)

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@samurai_sarah thank you! I've PMd you. 

I was more thinking that if a french-born man was having kids in Krefeld in 1800, that would be quite late for him to have been a Huguenot.  Unless he was already pretty old. Krefeld was an established silk town by this point so there could be all manner of reasons for foreign silk workers to move there.

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