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Family History 2016: My Genealogy New Year’s Resolutions

That time of the year again. Time to look at my genealogy New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not into setting myself up for failure with overly-ambitious goals. So nothing too grand. More a case of “back to basics”. Some targets are more challenging than others, but all are attainable; and I hope that re-establishing good habits will ultimately bear fruit with my family history research.

I’ve culled my Resolutions to six. Weird number I know. But when setting work-linked objectives, which is essentially what these Resolutions are, sticking to a small manageable number works best for me. It encourages focus.

So this is my 2016 line-up (or walk of shame):

Regular Data Back-Ups
I’ve so much information stored on my ageing laptop. From my Family Historian tree to genealogy coursework; from research notes to information downloads such as burial registers and directories; not to mention scanned family and location photos and the final versions of my St Mary’s War Memorial and Hill Family History book. So, on the first of each month, I’m going to commit to a regular data back-up. A boring task which is all too easy to skip, as I know only too well; and before you know it weeks can easily become months between back-ups, and the consequences of a laptop failure after such a time-lapse doesn’t bear thinking about. This objective fits neatly into the SMART acronym.

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Achievable;
  • Realistic; and
  • Time-bound

Record Keeping
I love researching. It’s the thrill of putting all the pieces of a family puzzle together. What I’m not too hot with is the day-to-day routine. Meticulously recording my searches (failures as well as finds), updating my Family Historian programme, recording sources, filing documents etc. All this is such a chore in comparison to finding that elusive relative. I do it when researching for others because it is crucial work; but over the past couple of years I seem to have I have developed a blind spot with my own family history research. I’ve a stack of documents to record and notes to sort – but I always manage to find an excuse to put it off. No more! I will get them up to date in the first quarter of the year, and from then on record and file as I go along.….something I always used to do.

Get a Grip of Subscriptions
Over the years I’ve accumulated various subscriptions including magazines, Family and Local History Societies and websites. I’m now loosing track of what I’ve got, the costs and the renewal dates. It also means I’m not making the best use of my subscriptions. So this month I’m going to make a list of them all, along with the renewal dates. Then over the course of the year I’ll monitor my usage, evaluate them and decide which ones to continue with. Hopefully by doing this I’ll also keep up to date with what is out there, make fuller use of my subscriptions and become more involved.

A Selection of my Family History Subscriptions

A Selection of my Family History Subscriptions

Keep Informed about Latest Family History Developments
I’m going to ensure I set aside some time each week to keep up to date with family history developments in an organised way. As a start I do have several “free” hours each week travelling too and from work, so I can make far better use of this “dead” time to catch up with the latest news. This will comprise a mixture of platforms including:

  • making sure I do read those family history magazine and online genealogy newsletters I subscribe to;
  • keeping up with information from genealogy websites and companies;
  • continuing to broaden my knowledge by reading genealogy/family history books (at least one a month);
  • regularly reviewing what courses, talks and webinars are out there. After participating in The National Archives 1939 webinar, I’m going to sign up for other similar learning events from a mixture of sources (a minimum of six in the year); and
  • attending at least two family history fairs during the year

Get Back to my own Family History Research
This could be the real tricky one. Particularly over the last year or so I’ve found I have spent less and less time on my own personal research and more and more time researching for others. There have also been family illness issues which have intervened. Don’t get me wrong, I love researching for others. But I really do want to make some time to return to my own roots. I never did get to do my mum’s Family History book; neither did I make any progress with my husband’s Staffordshire and Shropshire tree. There are also lots of other loose ends I want to pursue. So I will need to commit time to my own research. That means my next big project will be the Callaghan/Rhodes Family History book. I will plan the outline by autumn, and make a start on writing it towards the end of 2016. I also want to move on with my husbands tree – I’ve lots of certificates lined up to buy, but I may still delay here in the hope that the cost does come down in 2016!

DNA
In 2015 I embarked on my genetic genealogy journey. In 2016 I aim to upload my data to GEDmatch, dig deeper into the findings and respond to contacts from others within two weeks. The end goal is to generally get more from the results than I have to date. A challenge to a self-confessed technophobe!

So New Year, clean slate. It will be interesting to see if I’ve managed to stick to these when 2016 draws to a close. Hopefully putting them into the public domain is another incentive for me to succeed with them!

Right, I’m off to do my data back-up.

My 2015 Blogging Year in Review: A San Francisco Cable Car

Promise, this really is my last post for 2015. But as a bit of a stats geek I couldn’t resist sharing the WordPress.com 2015 annual report for my family history blog. Momentous for me, because 2015 marked its birth!

The report includes useful information such as:

  • posting patterns;
  • top referring sites; and
  • most viewed posts

And on the subject of my most popular posts, I’ve added links to some of my favourites from 2015 which didn’t make the official “hit” list. These are:

As ever I’d welcome any feedback about which of my posts you particularly enjoyed in 2015; and what you would like to see more of in 2016.

So thank you for reading. And I hope to share more posts in 2016.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Another blogging mystery solved – the Liebster Award

I started writing my blog about eight months ago so it’s all still fairly new to me. Although I struggle with the techie aspects, I enjoy writing posts because it helps me to focus on my family history research. I also find it a useful discipline to construct an ancestor story, rather than having all the individual sources stored in various files, catalogued in card indexes and documented in computer software programmes. This re-evaluating of research can result in new leads. But I have occasionally wondered if it was worth putting it in a blog, and even went so far to question it in a recent twitter posting. After all, would anyone else be interested?

Then a few months ago I received a comment from Suzanne Hopper Gray. She has a fabulous family history blog Filling in the Family Tree all about her ancestors and the genealogy process generally. She had nominated me for a Liebster Award.

The Liebster Award is a lovely way to welcome new bloggers and also introduce them to other blogs. Thank you ever so much Suzanne. It made my day to know that others do read my blog.

The Liebster Award is, I suppose, the blogging equivalent of a chain letter. But it has some wonderful benefits. As a result of Suzanne’s nomination I’ve got to read some really interesting blogs, ones that I otherwise may not have seen. And hopefully my blog will be similarly introduced to others in the blogging community.

Here is how it works:

Make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you. Include the Liebster Award sticker in the post too.

Liebster Award

Nominate 5 -10 other bloggers who you feel are worthy of this award.
Let them know they have been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. Ensure all of these bloggers have less than 200 followers. Answer the eleven questions asked to you by the person who nominated you, and make eleven questions of your own for your nominees or you may use the same questions. Lastly, COPY these rules in your post. (Note: I removed a line that said you could re-nominate the person who nominated you. If you want that, add it back it in!)

So, in no particular order, here are my nominees for the Liebster Award:

  • starryblacknessa family history blogger sharing the lives of her ancestors. These include ones from Devon and Cornwall, areas I love visiting. There are also ones from West Yorkshire, my home-county;
  • Dunfermline News 100 Years Ago – I love old newspapers and I’m particularly fascinated by the WW1 period, so I really enjoy reading these news snippets about life and times a century ago;
  • Victorian Detectives – for those interested in Victorian Crime and Punishment, this is a wonderful blog;
  • The Pharos Blog: Lighting up Genealogy – in-depth, thought-provoking genealogy articles by Pharos Tutors, an online genealogy and family history course provider;
  • Life in the Past Lane – A family history blogger writing about her research journey, including her DNA discoveries.

Here are my answers to the questions asked by Suzanne:

What do you do for fun?
Read, cross stitching, research my family history, support my rugby league team (Huddersfield Giants), walk and have days out with my family. 

 

Combining two of my favourite things: family history & cross stitching


What happened on the happiest day that you can remember?
My daughter was born.

What is your favourite meal?
A seasonal, proper autumn/winter Sunday lunch. Mashed and roast potatoes, roast beef, Brussels sprouts, carrots, horseradish sauce, English mustard, lashings of gravy and, most importantly of all given my roots, Yorkshire pudding. 

What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
To have fun bringing together my ancestors’ stories so their lives live on; to also research and remember other people who lived in the Batley area; and if others enjoy reading it, well that’s a bonus

What is your preferred genre of music?
Rock/Heavy Metal in my teens and early 20’s. Numerous gigs and festivals attended. Now my taste is far more eclectic and, to the benefit of my hearing and fellow commuters, played at a reduced volume level. Given the current work stresses I’m into soothing sounds of sea/ocean waves, nature type music, if it can be classed as music!

If a genie came to you and said “Your wish is my command!” what would you wish?
This is a tough one. There are so many horrible things including illness, poverty and hunger. On a personal level it is tempting to say health for all my family. But trying to look at it from a more selfless/greater good angle I think I’d wish for an end to conflict in the world, from individual and community level right through to nations and religions.

Where would you like to go on your dream vacation?
County Mayo, Ireland

What irritates you?
People on public transport who take up more than one seat – one for themselves and the other for their bag!

What are you reading right now?
The Wills of our Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians  by Stuart A Raymond – I’m due to start my final assessed genealogy course module in the New Year!

What’s your favourite movie?
I don’t watch movies – I don’t have time! Think the last one I saw was “Titanic”. 

What are you most proud of?
Gosh another tricky one. My daughter (she’d be most put out if I didn’t say that). After that it is 50/50 between writing my paternal family history book which was a Father’s Day present for my dad in 2014. I finished it a couple of months before he was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. 13 months on he’s still with us and Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust have admitted they misdiagnosed him, but that’s a whole new issue!!!!!! And seeing my charity fundraising booklet in print. It’s about the men of Batley St Mary’s RC Church who lost their lives in WW1. I spent over three years researching the 76 men and the booklet has raised several hundred pounds for St Mary’s and The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. St Mary’s are currently raising money to repair the church roof. More information can be found at:

http://www.stmarybatley.co.uk/roof-fund.html

 

Labour of Love: Batley St Mary’s War Memorial Booklet


Here are my questions for those I’ve nominated:

  1. What do you do for fun?
  2. What is your biggest regret in life?
  3. What happened on the happiest day that you can remember?
  4. Why did you start blogging?
  5. What is your earliest memory?
  6. If a genie came to you and said “Your wish is my command!” what would you wish?
  7. Where is the favourite place you’ve ever visited and why?
  8. What irritates you?
  9. What book are you currently reading?
  10. If you could go back in time, which era would you want to visit and why?
  11. Which achievement are you most proud of?

Thank you Suzanne – really appreciated this. And thank you for introducing me to some wonderful blogs.

PS – to those I’ve nominated, do not feel obliged to take up the challenge. Some of you may have probably received nominations in the past!

 

Festive Adverts and Shopping in Batley: A 1915 Christmas – Part 1: “The Home Beautiful”

In the run up to Christmas I’m writing a series of seasonal blog posts with a family and local history theme. In the opening three posts I look at shopping in Batley in 1915, as described in the local press.

Adverts and shopping articles were a feature in all local newspapers up and down the country in the weeks leading to Christmas. 

These kinds of newspaper pieces and adverts – giving shop descriptions, detailed location information, and the wares on sale – provide a picture of the area in which ancestors lived, add colour to research and complement the information from other sources such as Directories and maps. They also provide a unique insight into the period for a family historian. And it is all the more useful if your ancestor worked in one of the featured shops!

Although the shops I describe are based in my home-town, the type of retail outlet and products sold would be seen in most towns in the country in this period.

By way of context, Batley and the surrounding Heavy Woollen District had prospered in the early part of the war. Its fabrics were much in demand by the military and business boomed. So, even if prices in shops were higher, the employment opportunities, wages and bonuses paid to mill workers went some way to offset this. Also, notably in these early war years, many shops made a virtue of not including wartime additions to the cost of stock bought in at old prices. So the implication given by the press was Batley residents were still relatively well-placed to put on a good show at Christmas.

Batley folk were exhorted to celebrate Christmas 1915 with cheerfulness and a generous spirit. It was claimed this would contribute to national optimism.  So, as families suffered the anxiety of separation and news of dead and injured servicemen reached home, shops were decked out in patriotic emblems, usually centred on the Union Jack or flags of Allies, and these Christmas adverts began to fill the newspapers.

The first ones appeared in the “Batley News” towards the end of November 1915, and by the beginning of December they increased to a steady flow. So a much later start than today’s Christmas retail push.

As for items designed to make a 1915 Christmas celebration, unsurprisingly alongside those traditional food and household goods, many products had a military theme or were directly aimed at our “gallant lads” and “plucky nurses”.

Like today, updating the house for Christmas played a part in preparations, the season being described as an ideal time to adorn the home with new goods.  Mr Preston Jenkinson’s shop, located by the Batley Tram Terminus, was hailed as probably the largest vendor or linoleum and flooring products for miles around. Products included linoleum, oil-cloth, rugs, fringe, mackintoshes and bedsteads. Its plain pricing, courteous staff, range of stock and the fact that “the huge store is one of those rare places where the stranger may have a really good look round before being pressed to buy” were virtues for those “bent on buying well for Christmas”.

Jenkinson 2

Hanover Street’s Messrs W North and Sons was another store for those with an eye for “The Home Beautiful” to frequent. This shop also sold oil-cloth, linoleum, dainty rugs and the “latest creations of carpet factories”. Beyond this they stocked enamelled curbs and hearths and inlaid furniture, “the choicest products of the cabinet-maker”.

Messrs Brett and North’s furnishing emporium on Bradford Road had “everything calculated to make home life bright and beautiful”. Its products ranged from pictures, mirrors, ornaments, cutlery and electro-ware to rugs, suites, desks, cabinets and easy chairs. “The metal artwork, vases, dinner and tea-set’s, exquisite designs in chairs, bedroom suites etc afford a pretty display”.

Flowers also played a part in the festivities. Messrs J Hick and Sons at Wheatcroft was described as “a joy to the eye and a refresher to the soul” whose flowers could “be bought and transferred to the home, to give radiance and fragrance throughout the holidays”. Besides flowers, seasonal evergreens such as mistletoe and holly decorated homes. And, as a time to remember departed loved ones, shops promoted wreaths and crosses to lay at last resting places. Ironic given the number of families who would never know final resting places as the war progressed.

Hick advert

Mr Arthur Kemp’s greenhouses and gardens in Wellington Street, facing the baths, was a Batley institution. Residents were urged to walk around the greenhouses to select tea-table and school party blooms; Christmas decorations for home, church and grave; bridal wreaths and buttonholes for the winter wedding; and the central piece at Christmas – the tree.

Kemps trees  11 Dec 1915

Music was important in Christmas celebrations and family gatherings. Mr W S Beaumont’s Henrietta Street music store stocked gramophones and thousands of records so “no home need to be without mirth and music at the festive season” with “such seasonable strains as ‘The Hallelujah Chorus,’ and good old carols like ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ followed by sprightly jigs and reels, or by patriotic spirit-raisers like ‘Britannia’ and the ‘Marseillaise”.

Beaumont Batley advert

Player-pianos and rolls were available, promoted as a way to play music without undertaking years of study. And for those already proficient pianos, violins and wind instruments were on sale. The shop had repair facilities and Mr Beaumont would consider weekly payment in approved cases. Santa Claus could supply children’s bugles and drums from the shop too!

Beaumont Batley 27 Nov 1915

In my next post I will cover Christmas toys and gifts, including those aimed at soldiers and sailors on active service abroad or in training at home. It can be found at: https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/festive-adverts-and-shopping-in-batley-a-1915-christmas-part-2-gifts-galore-for-man-woman-and-child
Sources:
“Batley News” – various November-December editions.