Social history of the family

Since doing my family tree I have come across relatives who were part of history from World War One, World War Two and the Boer War. These ancestors of mine were living and breathing during these parts of history. They lived their life and played a part in those moments. History is not just played out in the major incidents and activities, but also in the mundane everyday activities.

This realisation only really caught my attention prominently when I was researching my maternal side of the family, specifically my third great grandparents Joseph and Ann. Both were born in the regency period of 1817 and 1818. Joseph and Ann got married in Buckinghamshire in 1838, after seeing the marriage certificate I learned quite a lot.

Joseph was a labourer in 1838 and his father was also a labourer. Ann was a lace maker in 1838 and her father was also a labourer. Now the year 1838 is important as it was the very start of the Victorian era, where most people worked the lands and did manual jobs like Ann being a lace maker which was at the time a job more than likely done by hand. Fast forward the year to 1851 and Ann is now not just a wife but a mother and stays at home. Whereas Joseph’s occupation is a clue to what is socially happening. Joseph is now a railway driver. As you can see a lot has changed with the introduction of the industrial revolution and the introduction of steam. With this occupation looking at census records they moved around a lot, in the areas of railways. This is just one example of social changes.

A lot socially can be said not just about an occupation whether someone is a miner, tailor or banker (which is quite a high end occupation). Location of where someone lives can speak volumes of the wealth of someone. An inner city area was seen as high in poverty in areas with rows of terrace houses, which did create a sense of community and close knit neighbours.

History is made in not just in catastrophe but in the everyday. The family home, a location of where you live and what job you had speaks volumes nowadays to who our ancestors were and the impact they made.


Power of genetics

Recently I have been looking in-depth at my father’s maternal side of the family tree of Oakes and the names associated with it. As I know so little about the people apart from my great-grandfather Thomas originally came from Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England. As a theatre musician he travelled around and that is how my line ended up in the North West of England. So I really wanted to see if there were any living relatives still in Norfolk that are connected through the surname Oakes.

Before Christmas I joined a Facebook group looking at family history in and around Kings Lynn. So I decided to post a message about looking to find living relatives and see if I could connect with anyone in the area. Eventually I got a response from a woman that in her tree she had the same 4th great grandparents as what I had stated in my message. In conversing I knew we were related as our 3rd great grandfathers were brothers. Myself from the younger and her from the older, the brothers were one of many siblings.

In further talks we started sharing photographs over email and something astonished me in a fabulous way, one photograph was a group of people (all distantly related to me). This particular photo made me double look as there was a boy in this who looked the double of my dad when he was a child. So I had to show the picture to my dad and he was just as amazed at the likeness to him as a child also.

For me it showed the real power of genetics and DNA. It opened up my eyes to what my ancestors could have looked like with the similar features all the distant cousins had, such as nose shape, cheeks prominent, face shape and many other things. All show how we can picture our ancestors from looking at those in the present, as it shows what has passed through generation by generation.

It taught me to send a message out on a group as you never know what response you will get back. As well as how genetics can define a family group and how DNA has passed through generation by generation. It was certainly and eye opener, so don’t take old photographs for granted!

I found you

A poem dedicated to the members of my family who I have found during my research into my family tree. I am grateful that you are in my life!

I am glad I found you when I did
Just to say hello, it is me
I think we are related you see.

Our bond has grown
Ever so strong.
We share pictures and stories,
Of our lives
The fun and the mundane.

But I hope you feel,
As privileged as I
Because I know I am.
I am glad I found you when I did.

For the fallen

It is over a week since Armistice day and Remembrance Sunday.

My question is do you still think about them, apart from the times you wear a poppy and give silence in a mark of respect? Think about your answer and read on.

The reason I ask is because from my family history research I have come across so many relatives, closely and distantly related who fought in World War One and have both sides of the coin in that they died in action or survived the war.

Not long ago I came across a website called Everyone Remembered done by the Royal British Legion. I decided to commemorate my cousin twice removed Tom Speak on it, as his name is on the Thiepval memorial. What you do is place a poppy and a message to remember the soldier. Now the reason I am mentioning this website is because by 2018 the Royal British Legion want all WWI soldiers who died remembered.

Currently there are 747, 696 names to be remembered. There have been 480, 711 remembered so far. To be honest it doesn’t have to be a family relative, it can be anyone from where they suggest as the website has that option for you to do.

But what I want to encourage is for people to research their family trees. I am not saying you have to go back to the 1600’s and if you catch the bug and end up doing so then fabulous!

Now think of the question I asked earlier, what was your answer?

Think what if I had someone to remember? Well in doing your family tree as far as your twice great grandparents, you can answer your question of remembering someone in particular. It would be great to put a name to a family and then to remember a name and their story of life and death.

So please visit the website and see who you can find to remember!


It’s a small world

When starting my family tree I never expected to reach out to as far as I have done geographically.

When I started I thought that my tree would mainly be based in the United Kingdom, with a small exception of knowing I had relatives in Canada, based on my mum’s stories of meeting them.

Overall I never expected that my journey would take me across the seas to Australia. More recently I found that further up the line in history, there was an ancestor, a so many times great-uncle born, married and had children in Scotland emigrated to Canada (a different state). The children then married in Canada and their children were also born in Canada. But the intriguing part is that those children emigrated south to America.

In seeing that I had connections to America of North Dakota I was excited to see where else my ancestors travelled to. I found Illinois, Georgia and even Massachusetts. But I think that might be a tip of the Iceberg. I am looking forward to what roads and footpaths it may lead me to.

I shall carry on and see where I end up next!


Scars of the war

“The man may leave the battlefield, but the battlefield will never leave him.”

My great-grandfather Thomas Alfred Oakes was born in the Isle of Bute on 13th August 1887 to Thomas Oakes, a musician and Elizabeth.

At a young age he moved around a lot due to his father’s occupation of a musician from Wigan in 1891, to South Blyth in 1901. Eventually Thomas Alfred Oakes settled in a town called Stockport in Cheshire. The 1911 census saw Thomas as a single man and settled as a painter and decorator

In 1908 he signed up to the 6th Cheshire Regiment and was a private, but also a drummer. For me I found it nice to see he was a drummer as the musicality of his father passed on, his father also Thomas was a theatre musicians by trade. In 1913 Thomas married my great-grandmother Edith at Saint Elisabeth’s church in Stockport.

August 1914, the war began later known as the Great War. As Thomas was already attested to the Cheshire regiment he had an obligation to King and country. That day came on 10th November 1914 when he act of war started, when he was dispatched to France. Three days later on 13th November my grandmother was born.

As far as my own knowledge goes, 6th Cheshire’s were involved with the Christmas Truce of that year. My knowledge of his whereabouts are not great and I have since ordered a history book to help my knowledge on my great grandfather’s war story.

He was discharged on 7th April 1916 due to a time of expiration, probably due to him being with the regiment since 1908. With that he got to see his daughter Edith, as well as have a son who died as an infant and three more children after that, two boys and a girl.

The war had ended, many lives were lost and there was peace.

Peace for all nations came, but not necessarily for the individuals who had fought and survived. For they may not have given their lives, but their souls and health had been tainted and changed by the war. This was confirmed when I obtained a copy of the death certificate of Thomas Alfred Oakes and the reasons to why he died. The cause of death was a diverse or problems related to the heart that were in conjunction with the hardships of the active service between 1914-1916.

Just because he survived like many others, his health was damaged and he suffered like they are all did, those who fought and those at home who lost loved ones. I know he died but it was where, how and knowing why he died did upset me because I had grown a connection with a man who I never met. It may seem silly but doing your family history you do grow connections to these people. They are flesh and bone not just names and numbers.

Mystery of William solved

In 1911 my half great-uncle William Parry was living with a family whose surname was Roberts in Manchester, England. He was not living with his father William and stepmother Minnie; who is my great-grandmother.

In the 1911 census it said that William was a nephew in relation to the head of the household John Roberts. Automatically I assumed it was from the wife Mary Ellen who at first I thought her maiden name was Pritchard, like my great-grandmother Minnie. So I assumed that she undertook him as a nephew because of her sister. So that was that, I took it as what it was.

Over time I was going back over old research in looking at what I initially did, especially with the Pritchard relations in the confusion they had caused previously. Now I had assumed Mary Ellen to be a Pritchard, but could not find her on a census record with those who I assumed were her siblings. So I was confused.

After looking on other people’s ancestry trees for inspiration I saw one that had Mary Ellen as a Parry, so I got in contact with them. Now the ironic funny thing is Mary Ellen and John Roberts had many children and one called Emily. I had a photograph of Emily Roberts and this person who I contacted also had Emily Roberts on their tree. We chatted and I mentioned this photograph. I sent it her to confirm whether it was Emily. The funny thing was this in her reply “I have that exact photograph, she is my grandmother”. So I knew we had a connection somehow but still did not connect the dots to how, nor could she.

After giving this section on Parry and Pritchard a break I went back to it with a new lease of life. After re-reading the email the woman I contacted had sent, I wondered if there was some reason to contemplate in what if I had not picked up on whether my great-grandfather William had more siblings than I already had who were, the older Edward, the younger John and older half sibling Richard.

Digging and searching around trying to find if my hunch on Mary Ellen was correct. I got an answer. It was indeed what was right in front of my eyes all of this time, but something I had never contemplated or even considered. Mary Ellen was a Parry and a sibling to my great-grandfather William. I did not just find Mary Ellen but also an even younger brother than John, his name was Daniel.

So instead of my twice great-grandfather Daniel and twice great-grandmother Ellen only having three Parry children, there were indeed five of them. The mystery of who my great-uncle William was staying with from the age of six till his death, was in fact his aunt through his paternal link. In learning this it was a very Eureka! moment.

I was excited to finally have the answers. In doing so I contacted the woman who was Emily Robert’s granddaughter who was in fact a cousin of mine because of Mary Ellen being a younger sister of my great-grandfather William. I shared the information I had with her and she was also excited but grateful as I had helped her as she lives in Canada and was not sure from stories she was told on anything about her great-grandmother Mary Ellen Parry and who her parents were. So in helping myself I also helped her as well.

It was a huge relief to have got the mystery of which person he was connected to solved. I found a relation and more siblings who are my twice great-aunt and uncles in the process.