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.


Television series conveyor belt

We all love a good TV series whether it be Game of Thrones, Downtown Abby or even The Walking Dead. We all love to escape for an hour or so into a shows universe and take a break from whatever is going on in our lives.

There are many genres and shows that cater to everyone’s taste. Plus there are so many to choose from and diverse ways to watch them, whether it be at the time of showing, catch up or on an online viewer like Netflix or Amazon Prime. So for us the viewer it is a win situation with many choices in many different places, so what is the downside to it all lights have shade.

For this scenario I find that there are so many shows getting cancelled.

Recently I have noticed that shows I have really got into all seemed to have one thing in common, they get cancelled. Now before I continue I am aware that a lot of TV shows rely heavily in viewing figures because of budgets and finances to create such shows. However I feel that shows do not always get the chance they should especially with all that is involved with making such shows. From the production design, director, costume design to the actors.

I find that so often there is a chop and change from TV companies that they want to accommodate the next big thing. It comes over that some shows are just a trend, or in my opinion they seem it is all about a trend. Others are always timeless especially when it is a period drama, but the downfall is whether the right time period is picked up by the right audiences.

A couple of examples are Emerald City, which was a darker and more in-depth take to the classic Wizard of Oz, many fans loved it and the finale left an open-ended conclusion so a chance for a second season could have been made. But it did not happen. Obviously a lot of fans were not happy with the cancellation and took to social media with hashtags on bringing it back. Sadly that looks unlikely. The network that took on this show was NBC and it is not the first time a classic was cancelled by the said network.

In 2013 NBC brought back to life the Bram Stoker classic of Dracula. Starring Jonathan Rhys Myers as Dracula. This was a series that had an in-depth plot, a different take looking at Dracula not as the vampire portrayed as he normally is, but someone wanting to be a man and fighting the two contrasting ideologies and desires. He wanted to change because of his long-lost love who had returned in a new image but with the same features, just like the novel. It is clever how the characters we sympathised with in other versions were turned around. It was interesting, different and just like Emerald City, it was cancelled.

In the last few weeks another show hit the chopping block, a Shonda Rhimes (creator of Greys Anatomy) creation called Still Star Crossed based on the book of the same name. This show is based in Verona looking at what happens after the death of the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet. After three episodes the scheduling of the programme was changed and then it was cancelled and not up for a renewal of a season two. Fans of the show could not believe it, as they enjoyed looking at a show from a different viewpoint. But I think it was more shocking that it was cancelled even before the first season has finished.

So my wonder is TV companies want us, the public to tune into their channel, to boost their ratings. Yet how are viewers meant to do that when at every turn dramas are being cancelled after one season. The other case for all these cancellations is that sometimes these ideas are just really good ideas but in reality it flops to make a big impression on the wider world.

Honestly I think a lot of it is to do with timing of when these shows are aired and this comes to what I stated earlier about trends. Some shows are thought of at a time when there are a lot of similar shows. Like in the case of Dracula there was True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, so another vampire show may have just not been what people wanted to know about at that time.

In the case of still star-crossed it again comes at a time when historical (even though it is based on Shakespeare) are being on overload, especially with Reign also being cancelled; this show was about the Royal family of the Stuarts and that time period.

In the end that be just the simple answer of it all, in simply the timing was wrong and the programme just did not have the lucky sparkle like others where audiences grabbed it with two hands and went crazy over it.

I mean we cannot compare everything to Game of Thrones can we?

But really we have the power, or we hope we do when it comes to our favourite shows. What we as individual may like and think is doing okay, on a wider spectrum it is not as good as others had hoped.


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.

A review: Who do you think you are

Now that the latest series of who do you think you are has finished, ten more celebrities let us into their historical lives. For me it is a factual series I look forward to because as someone who does their own genealogy, it inspires me to look into areas I would not normally in my own tree. I find that some of the stories resonate in my own tree and I think this is the similar situation for others that do their own genealogy.

The celebrities for this season were in the order of appearance:

  1. Danny Dyer
  2. Amanda Holden
  3. Liz Bonnin
  4. Cheryl
  5. Ricky Tomlinson
  6. Sir Ian McKellen
  7. Greg Davies
  8. Warwick Davis
  9. Sunetra Sarker
  10. Sophie Raworth

I did find most of the stories fascinating. Especially Amanda Holden, Liz Bonnin and Sunetra Sarker because of their ancestors having their stories that took them to other countries. I loved Amanda’s enthusiasm for the vineyard. What really stood out was Liz’s journey to the Caribbean and the links and history I personally learnt about life in the Caribbean at that time. Former series have had celebrities trace their ancestry to India, but it is always a story I love to hear and that was the case with Sunetra. I loved the story of how she was the first to return to a village where her ancestors lived.

I think those that stood out was the enthusiasm and passion they had which for home-grown stories, I adored Sir Ian McKellen, mainly because it was based in Manchester and the North West of England which is where I am from. It was nice to see a piece of my own local history that I was not fully aware of.

One that did have twists and turns was Greg Davies’ episode. For me he is a comedian who I have never really watched or taken to. However I thought I would give it a go and I was not disappointed. With the twists of village life in rural north Wales and how everyone talks and it showed the social importance of life back then. It showed how reputation mattered and the taboo’s that were not accepted that are now. I found Greg’s immersion of getting to know these ancestors of his, really brought the story of his ancestors to life.

I had the same impression for Danny Dyer as I did with Greg Davies. Again I was not disappointed. His humour and shock was value enough for me. When finding out his connections to royalty and his facial and verbal reactions were great. As I have had those moments myself where you have an OH MY WORD!!! gasp of excitement and unbelievable shock. That is what I really caught my attention with this episode.

As an aspiring journalist and a fan of Sophie Raworth was someone I was looking forward to. I loved that she was already going in with a lot of knowledge already and those photographs were beautiful. Like many of us we have gone down the wrong route, as did she but found out they were a relation to her but not directly. Which for us who research lines it can happen a few times. As it has with me when I thought I had relations in Australia. I do, just from a completely different family unit and side of the family.

Although there were some that did disappoint me. I found that the Cheryl episode was okay in looking at mariners as an occupation as well as looking at World War One (which are stories I always love to hear). But personally I could not take to her as I felt she lacked something, whether it was the enthusiasm or that I had been spoilt beforehand with previous episodes, unfortunately I tried but I could not get into it.

Ricky Tomlinson for me came across as rather aggressive and I was angry at him for being so angry. Then again we all act in different ways to history especially when it is personal. I loved the social history to Liverpool and how life was with it being a busy port outside of London.

Warwick Davis I don’t know, I enjoyed it in a way with the musical aspects as I have a theatre musician in my family tree. But it was Warwick’s humour that really came into it all. For me I did not enjoy it compared to the others. Although for others they could have been their favourite.

One thing I did learn to go forward in my research is how I undervalued newspaper articles and how they give valuable information, especially with obituaries. I have used them a little before, but in the future more of newspapers will be used.

It was a series I thoroughly enjoyed and it is the names that attract the numbers to watch the programme. For me I find is useful for inspiration to look in new places for information.





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.