You can pick your Friends, but you are stuck with your Family! (but then again…)

I’ve just been updating and polishing my Family History files. This is very much a work-in-progress and isn’t likely to be finished any time soon! I have been doing this for over 50 years, too, so there are a LOT of people “in the database”.

Turning your family history into a story is not a job for the faint hearted, and, truth be told, isn’t necessarily of any interest to anyone outside your immediate family. (Or even to them!)

BUT

Your family history can be a great source of “plot”. It will show you the size of families and the names in use, and, in many cases the occupation of your family members, and their locations.

Everyone in the UK has access to the General Record Office of Births, Marriages and Deaths.  They have a useful web page at https://www.gov.uk/research-family-history and you can look online and order certificates of your “person of interest”

I also recommend https://www.freebmd.org.uk/ This site is useful for looking up records and getting the date (by quarter) and place of their birth, marriage or death. This will take your research back as far as 1837, when they started keeping BMD records.

I’m sure lots of us have got a battered photo-album, or an old biscuit tin, handed down to them and FULL of very old family photos. I urge all of you to check, and if at all possible, sit down with Gran, Mum or Great-Aunt Lilly, and try to identify them.  You are not going to write their stories, (generally) but they CAN inform your choice of characters in your next book. They also show you what people were wearing at that time. Don’t leave it until it’s too late!

They really did good beard back in Victorian times! Prototype Hipsters. I would really love to know their names.

Another great source of names can be the old baptism records. These have generally been collected by a local Family History society and can really be useful.

This is a screenshot of a random simple query on Baptisms in Helston. Lots of genuine names and occupations here, and plenty of fuel for any age you would want.

This is my Family tree – and all these details are available through the General Record Office. The “gap” in the right -hand column is because the Greys were out in India. They were jute merchants in Calcutta.

In that column, my great-great-grandparents, there is an army officer, a vicar, a Quaker mill owner, some “box-wallahs”, a Purser of the Botallack Mine, a railway contractor (he had several thousand fellow-Irishmen working for him, on the railway to Holyhead) a peer’s son and another peer’s daughter!

Most of us had relatives who served in the Great War. The Imperial War Museum is the best place to start. Its also FREE!

https://www.iwm.org.uk/research/tracing-your-family-history/tracing-your-army-history

Another really great resource is the National Archives at Kew. They have details on almost everyone and everything. I’ve spent many happy hours going through “stuff” there!

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

John King was my Gt Gt Gt Grandmother’s 2nd husband. This was the official notice condemning him to Debtor’s Prison in 1800. (not for long!)

Ditto the London Gazette. Historical Novelists and readers will surely have heard or read of “The Gazette” or engagements being announced in the Gazette, or someone being Gazetted. This still goes on for EVERY official government announcement. And, again, it’s FREE!

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/

And lastly,

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

Again, just packed with info on almost everyone and everything.

So, some rules.

Any event dated before 1066 is likely to involve a LOT of guesswork.

Any history before the Victorian era will have been written by a man.

All history is written by the victors (who pay for it).

And finally – do remember – we are STORYTELLERS first and foremost.

Now happy hunting, and don’t over-research! (you will, anyway!)

————————————————————————————–

And finally – some news about the hedgehogs!

We are getting regular calls from about 3 or 4 of them. Actually, IDing individuals is very very hard. I keep putting up pics from our cameras and share them to our local Facebook Groups. Quite a few people are feeding them now in the village. This is a GOOD Thing!

Remember, now matter what you feed them, this only represents about 20% of their diet. The other 80% is made up of invertebrates, insects, beetles, slugs and other tasty items the find while rootling round your garden.

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