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.

After the Hello

Upon following the post of when someone says hello I decided to take a little break from genealogy as I stated in that blog post, my confidence was slightly knocked. So after a mini break I decided to go at it again.

By this time I had accepted that the person contacting me in how I was wrong was correct in this statement. At times I will admit in my researching the Oakes side of my tree some things did not make sense to me and now I know why, the reason being I had the wrong branches.

In a risk decision I decided to get rid of those who I thought should be in my branch to deleting them to just having my twice great grandparents and the recorded evidence I knew was correct which was the census records of 1891 and 1901. Both these records said how my twice great-grandfather was born in Kings Lynn, Norfolk and had nothing to do with Scotland apart from his wife and son (my great-grandfather).

The census records gave a variation of birth dates for my twice great-grandfather and finding his baptism and who his parents were was becoming difficult and frustrating. With that in mind and how many did not always have an accurate knowledge of their own birth I decided to look at a larger scope. In doing so I had a lot more look within Norfolk. The census records said 1864 and 1861 and the record I found was 1857 as that was the closest to these years with a record that exists in that county.

Since then I have flown by going back to the 1700’s with siblings and even more so many times great grandparents. So after myself being annoyed I did message the person who initially contacted me and thanked them for saying I was wrong. As without that it wold not have led me in the direction I am now on with the Oakes side of the family tree. Guess what? It has an awful lot of Norfolk relations.

When someone says hello

One thing I do love about using family tree websites is being able to contact someone who may be a relation through the same connections through research. Usually it is me who does the messaging and chasing, but for once someone contacted me.

Over a course of one weekend it went to elation to annoyance. I was contacted about a twice great uncle I had in my tree that they also had. They wanted to know my connection to them. After an exchange in messages and explanations I decided to let them look at my tree because as many of you know it is easier to show someone then to explain people. I was happy to let them look as it saved me an explanation or two and them to have a little mooch around.

So after allowing them to have a look at my tree I received an email saying how we were not related and that I was wrong. The reason for it was based on a death certificate they had (that could or could not be the same person), they wished me the best of luck in my research. With that I was happy that I thought there was a connection to a family I had little connections to, to being annoyed that I was contacted by them to be told I am wrong.

Has anyone had this experience?

What annoyed me was the amount of time and effort everyone goes into researching a branch of a family tree to then be told I am wrong because they have different research and outcomes. To be honest I thought it was a little rude and rushed on their behalf. In a way it did knock my confidence as I do doubt myself at times with my research, but for a stranger to say you are wrong does make you question yourself even more. Then it makes me question is there anything else wrong? Or am I even wrong in the first place?

I wish people would be careful in how they approach people when asking if there is a connection. Remember be kind and be polite.

What is in a name?

Our name is never our own. It is something that was decided for us at birth. Unless you change your name by deed poll. More often than not we keep out first names. But when it comes to our surnames it is something that is centuries old. The interesting question is where did surnames come from?

Surnames really became prominent when people started to move geographically from the small village a family had been for generations to a new town or area. This was where surnames really came into use.

Surnames are a sign of identification, even more so back then. They originate from an occupation, the son of their father, a specific place they lived as well.

Names like Smith, Cooper, Miller originate from the job they did of blacksmith, cooper and a miller.

Names like Williamson, Johnson, Harrison are sons of William, John and Harry.

Names like Markham and Leatherbarrow are based on where someone lived. Markham is meaning a boundary + ham as a homestead. Leatherbarrow is lair by the wood, that is done by breaking down the word from Old English and Norse combined.

Like a lot of surnames they originate from Old English, Norse. Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Gaelic have their own translations and variations. Other languages may have different reasons for surnames in translation.

For example my surname is Parry, which originates from North Wales and means son of Harry (Henry). Similar to the Harris and Harrison in English.

For all the reasons mentioned above, it is why two people could have the surname Smith and not ever be related due to the centuries ancestral reasons of having a blacksmith in a particular village way back in history.

Always essential in researching family trees is to double-check the location.

Solving the riddle of Sarah

On my last post about trying to find the missing pieces I discussed on trying to figure out who Sarah Pritchard was on an 1871 census I had found.

Well I finally figured out who she was. Whilst looking on a family research website of Find My Past, I was browsing newspaper articles to see if there were any references to a Frederick Pritchard, or any Pritchard in the Stalybridge/Dukinfield area where the Pritchard family resided. With a bit of luck I noticed a Frederick Pritchard mentioned as part of a marriage announcement with a Sarah Clayton. The article had a date of 23rd March 1876.

I decided to double-check the information date wise through another research website I use looking at Cheshire’s birth, marriages and deaths. As Ashton, Stalybridge and Dukinfield come under Tameside, the records for this area are on the Cheshire website.

Furthermore I looked into the dates of 1876 with Frederick Pritchard without putting Sarah’s name into the search box. Once pressing search there was a result of Frederick Pritchard marrying Sarah Clayton in 1876. Just like the article had said!

I was happy! The reason was that this information fitted into the 1871 census, as well as his second wife my twice great-grandmother died the same year. So therefore all the pieces seemed to fit into place.

Through a bit of luck and double checking I found out where the pieces fitted into this big jigsaw of my family tree.