Friday, 14 October 2011

The Ancestors' Geneameme

Thanks to Jill Ball of Geniaus for starting this geneameme. My list is annotated as follows:

  • Things I have already done or found
  • Things I would like to have done or found
  • Things I haven’t done or found
  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents (
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors (214)
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents (6 so far
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist
  6. Met all four of my grandparents (1 died before I was born)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents (all died before I was born)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor (my daughter's second name is Laura after my grandfather, Lawrence George Buchanan Davis
  9. Bear an ancestor's given name/s (My middle name is Mary. I have 15 ancestors with that name.)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (All except one)
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12. Have an ancestor from Continental Europe (Julius Wilhelm Fritz from Bahn, Pomerania, Prussia
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer (6)
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man - minister, priest, rabbi (2 great-grandfathers and 1 great great grandfather were clergymen)
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones (I have three different lines called Smith)
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginning with Z
  23. Have an ancestor born on 25th December
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year's Day
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (My mother was born in Canada
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier (1555
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university (theological college
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence (
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime (
  35. Have shared an ancestor's story online or in a magazine (
  36. Have published a family history online or in print (
  37. Have visited an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries
  38. Still have an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family
  39. Have a  family bible from the 19th Century
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible

Sunday, 9 October 2011

SNGF: Genealogy Database Statistics


Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver is:

1)  If you have your family tree research in a Genealogy Management Program (GMP), whether a computer software program or an online family tree, figure out how to find how many persons, places, sources, etc. are in your database.

2)  Tell us which GMP you use, and how many persons, places, sources, etc. are in your database(s) today.


Family Tree Maker

I use Family Tree Maker 2012 (FTM) for my genealogy research. I went to Plan > Current Tree > More to find my file statistics.


FTM stats


This shows me that in my database I have:

  • 5,096 people
  • 1,374 marriages
  • 14 generations
  • 1,015 surnames
  • 1,911 places
  • 63 sources
  • 425 media
  • average lifespan 57.3 years
  • earliest birth date before 1555
  • most recent birth date 11 March 2011

My daughter is due to have her first baby two weeks today, so that last statistic will soon change.


The Next Generation

I use The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) to publish my family history online. TNG also produces database statistics. These are slightly different from FTM because I haven't synced the two programs for a couple of days.


TNG stats


The TNG statistics provide me with the additional information that in my database I have:

  • 2,576 males (50.57%)
  • 2,499 females (49.06%)
  • 19 unknown gender (0.37%)
  • total living 582
  • total families 1,536
  • average lifespan 60 years 88 days
  • longest lived person 106 years

The large discrepancy in the average lifespan between FTM and TNG is surprising and I must investigate that further.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Lost in London - 4: Tracing an ordinary London family



To illustrate how much can be found about ordinary London families, I am including the following examples relating to my own Bluett and Fritz ancestors. They were poor Irish and German immigrants but the documents I have uncovered show that they actually lived extraordinary lives. The photographs of Mary Ann Bluett and Julius Fritz included in the family tree, above, came to me from hitherto unknown, distant cousins. We only made contact because my tree was online. 


LOL 3a


This article is from the Times of 15 May 1846. There was a family tradition that Thomas Bluett had been shot in London but the details were completely wrong. As a result, I researched without success for 18 years. Yet I found Thomas easily as soon as the Times Digital Archive came online. That one newspaper published nine separate articles about the shooting, arrest, death, autopsy, inquest and trial. There was also a classic thundering Times leader following the acquittal of the perpetrator, John Graham. Many other national and regional papers also published articles. From all this material I discovered that Thomas had been born in Ireland, whereas I had been searching for him in Devon & Cornwall for years!


LOL 4a


This article is from the Times of 11 June 1846. It provides wonderful information about Mary Bluett, née Langley, and her daughter Mary Ann Bluett, later Fritz. The second half of this article refers to Mary's previous residence in Hong Kong and to her having returned home on a ship whose Captain was subsequently tried at the Old Bailey, with Mary Bluett giving evidence. Armed with these clues and in collaboration with a cousin, found via the internet, I researched an amazing story of travels on three continents, confidence tricks, abandonment, mutiny, celebrity and crime.




Successive censuses showed that Julius Fritz had been born in Prussia but became a British Subject. I found his naturalisation papers in the National Archives and they gave me much valuable information about his origins, family, occupation and residence. They even gave me the name of his father in Prussia - Heinrich.




Cousins I found via the internet had a tradition that Julius was a Freeman of the City of London. I was initially sceptical as there was no such story in my branch of the family. But it turned out to be true and they were able to supply me with a copy of his application for the Freedom. This also gives the name of Julius' father - but as Ferdinand -and the information that he was dead by September 1876.




17a Fetter Lane, London was the Fritz family home and the location for Julius' tailoring business and second-hand china shop. Julius also let rooms to lodgers. It was a slum and was demolished in 1887. But it had been the home of the poet John Dryden in the 17th century and so it was sketched by several artists immediately prior to its demolition. A number of these pictures were found on the internet by a cousin, using Google. Members of the family are shown at the windows in this illustration. In another, a shop sign for J Fritz, Old China Dealer, can clearly be seen. 




This article is from the Times of 28 May 1878. It reports an affray involving one of the lodgers at 17a Fetter Lane, Mrs Amelia Lewis, in which Mary Ann Fritz (nee Bluett) and one of her daughters got caught up. They later gave evidence in court. Ordinary people frequently appear in police reports in this way.

Lost in London - 3: Helpful websites



Access to Archives. Search by name or place across the catalogues of most London repositories including the London Metropolitan Archives, City of Westminster Archives, Corporation of London Records Office and Guildhall Library.

Ancestry. Currently their catalogue lists 30 London specific databases, including London Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906; London Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921; London Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980; and London Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812.

Black Sheep Index. It's pot luck if you find anyone. I found two young ancestors who got on a train, very drunk, and objected violently to some pious fellow passengers who tried to convert them! I also found the reason for the disappearance of my great-great grandfather, Rev Frederick Davis – he fled abroad to avoid a charge of assaulting a young woman on a train.

British Newspapers, 1800-1900. 49 local and national titles. You may be able to access this collection for free using your library card.

Charles Booth Online Archive. Street by street notebooks and maps, documenting social conditions in London between 1886 and 1903.

City of Westminster Archives Catalogue. WESTCAT contains details of the official records of the City of Westminster and the former Boroughs of Paddington and St Marylebone together with parish registers and other parish records for these areas. The collections also include records deposited by businesses, estates, schools, clubs, societies, charities, institutions and private individuals. There are also images of prints and photographs drawn from the archival and local studies collection.

Cyndi's List. Check Cyndi's pages for London and the surrounding counties for thousands of relevant links.

Deceased Online. Digitised images of burial and cremation records from the London Boroughs of Brent, Camden, Greenwich, Havering, Islington and Merton.

Docklands Ancestors. Indexes to baptisms in dockland parishes, plus resources for researching Thames watermen and lightermen and other dockland ancestors.

Find My Past. The London Collection includes the City of London Burial Index; West Middlesex Marriage Index; London Docklands Baptisms; London and West Kent Probate Indexes and participants in the 1888 Matchworkers' Strike.

GENUKI: London. Don't forget to visit the pages for Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Essex as well.

Google. To find all instances of a search term on a website, use the search prefix "site" plus your search term, for example: " gurney". This is very useful for sites such as Black Sheep Ancestors which have multiple databases with no overall search engine.

Google Books. Search for references to ancestral names or places inside old books. Read them online or order the book from your local library on inter-library loan.

Historical Directories. Digital images of 81 London directories from 1808 to 1919.

London Ancestor. A miscellany of London links.

London Gazette. Includes bankruptcies, business failures and closures. I found a direct ancestor imprisoned in Maidstone Gaol as an "insolvent debtor".

London Jews Database. A database of names, addresses and some other information about Jews who lived in London in the first half of the nineteenth century.

London Lives, 1690-1800. A fully searchable edition of 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets, giving access to 3.35 million names.

London Metropolitan Archives. Information about collections, research leaflets and catalogue search.

London Road Name Changes. Indexed lists of the road name changes made by London County Council after 1889.

London Roll of Honour. London war memorials and rolls of honour.

Middlesex Marriage Index. Covers 31 parishes on the outskirts of London.

Old London Maps. Includes views of the city from the 16th to the 19th century.

Principal streets and places in London and its environs, 1856. Produced by the Post office, this directory gives the postal district for every street in London.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey. Pot luck again. This site has amazing detail about cases, with names, addresses and statements of victims, witnesses and perpetrators.

Society of Genealogists, City of London Resources. Includes information on the City Livery Companies, in addition to the resource categories listed for Middlesex, below.

Society of Genealogists, Middlesex Resources. Includes parish registers, marriage licences, monumental inscriptions, censuses, directories, poll books, periodicals and wills.

Times Digital Archive, 1785-1985. Information on how to gain free access and how to search. The Times is not just a source for "top people". Many ordinary people appeared in its pages, especially in reports of court cases and "human interest" stories.

Topographical Dictionary of London, 1831. "Containing descriptive and critical accounts of all the public and private buildings, offices, docks, squares, streets, lanes, wards, liberties, charitable, scholastic and other establishments, with lists of their officers, patrons, incumbents of livings, &c. in the British metropolis". 

Tower Hamlets BMD. Indexes to registrations of births, marriages and deaths within the Tower Hamlets district from 1837 to date.

Victorian London A to Z Street Index.

Lost in London - 2: Research strategies



General strategies

These are strategies applicable to all family history research:

  • Keep an open mind. Evaluate everything, assume nothing. What you think you know about dates, ages, relationships or places may be wrong and may be preventing you from looking in the right place.
  • Use all available sources. Never be content with just the readily available BMD and census information. More sources equal more pieces of the jigsaw.
  • Research related lines. Siblings share parents and first cousins share their grandparents. Work backwards through them and then come forwards down the tree again. Find living relatives. Different stories, photos and documents are passed down different lines. Distant cousins may hold vital clues. They may even help you research.
  • Use the internet. More and more images of primary sources are online, plus incredibly helpful indexes and search engines. The internet is an amazing tool, which has revolutionised genealogy. Use it!
  • Share your research. This combines the last two points. Publish your research online and watch the new cousins roll up and the brick walls tumble.

London strategies

Learn the geography.

"Mr Weller's knowledge of London was extensive and peculiar". Dickens

You need to "do the knowledge” like a London cabbie.

  • Learn the administrative structure. London consisted of the City of London plus parts of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Essex. There were different boundaries for registration districts, poor law unions, Church of England parishes and electoral wards. These overlapped in confusing ways. There were also frequent changes. During the 19th century there was repeated sub-division of Church of England parishes and, in 1889, the London County Council was created.
  • Study 19th century growth. London was transformed by the coming of the railways in the 1830s, leading for the first time to a divide between the inner city and the suburbs. There was new building on a massive scale, with the development of Islington, Paddington, Belgravia, Holborn, Finsbury, Shoreditch, Southwark and Lambeth.
  • Research street name changes. Many streets disappeared as a result of new road construction such as Kingsway in central London. Many had their names changed (sometimes more than once) to remove duplications. To track the changes you need maps. Reproductions of old Ordnance Survey maps and the A to Z of Victorian London are particularly helpful.
  • Consider migration routes. Identify possible routes  into London from your ancestors' rural places of origin. For example, the Gurney family moved from Norfolk to Bedfordshire to Hertfordshire to North London. And remember that they didn't just travel by road. You should look at the pattern of rivers and railways as well, when trying to identify where they came from or where they went.

Understand the society

"London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained." Conan Doyle

To do this you must read, read, read. Some helpful starting points are:

  • Ackroyd, Peter.  London: The Biography
  • Dickens, Charles. Any of his London based novels. See Dickensian London: A character in itself.
  • Engels, Friedrich. The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844.
  • Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor.
  • Booth, Charles. Life and Labour of the People of London. The London School of Economics has put Booth's poverty maps and notebooks online. If you are lucky, you may find a detailed description of your ancestor’s street.

Remember the history

"If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!" Coleridge

  • Your ancestors did not live in a vacuum, isolated from the great events of their day. To see the connections, superimpose a timeline of historical and/or local events on a chronological list of events in your ancestor's life. Tools to help you do this can be found in many genealogy software programs.
  • Are some of your male ancestors missing from the 1901 census? This baffled people when the 1901 census was first released. They had forgotten about the Boer War.

  • Did your ancestors appear in London out of nowhere in the 1840s/1850s? Remember the Irish Potato Famine, 1845-1852 and that Irish people did not necessarily have uniquely Irish surnames. 1848 is known as the Year of Revolution across Europe. Uprisings took place in France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Poland, and their suppression was the trigger for a wave of emigration. Many ended up in London.

Lost in London - 1: Why is London such a problem?

Back in 2008 I gave a talk to the Family History Group of Thornbury U3A on the theme "Lost in London - Breaking down brick walls in London research". As my health no longer allows me to travel to give talks, I've decided to share my presentation on this blog. I've broken it into four parts for ease of reading. I hope you find it helpful.



Why is London such a problem?

"Hell is a city much like London - A populous and smoky city." Shelley

  • Size. By 1800 London was already the world’s largest city, with a population of 1 million. By the 1851 census, that figure had grown to 2.5 million and was 6.7 million in 1901.
  • Scale. The small market town where I live, Chipping Sodbury, consists of one parish and it is possible to search the whole parish register, if necessary, for one event. But there were over 100 parishes in the square mile of the City of London alone. And some of the parishes in the wider city were truly enormous. By mid century, the population of St Marylebone was over 150,000.
  • Range of repositories. In addition to the major collections in the London Metropolitan Archives, Guildhall Library and Westminster Archives, there are separate record offices in most London boroughs, plus numerous specialist repositories
  • Range of sources. The numbers of different churches, charities, directories, newspapers, books, government reports, etc. covering London make it impossible to search everything.
  • Difficult research period. During the early 19th century there was a decline in the number of children baptised, especially in poor urban areas, and this was prior to the start of General Registration in 1837 and the first useful census in 1841.

Why are Londoners such a problem?

"There are two places in the world where men can most effectively disappear—the city of London and the South Seas." Herman Melville

  • Extreme poverty. In "The Condition of the Working Class in England", published in 1845, Friedrich Engels described the abject condition of the London poor:

      On the occasion of an inquest held Nov. 14th, 1843, by Mr. Carter, coroner for Surrey, upon the body of Ann Galway, aged 45 years, the newspapers related the following particulars concerning the deceased: She had lived at No. 3 White Lion Court, Bermondsey Street, London, with her husband and a nineteen-year-old son in a little room, in which neither a bedstead nor any other furniture was to be seen. She lay dead beside her son upon a heap of feathers which were scattered over her almost naked body, there being neither sheet nor coverlet. The feathers stuck so fast over the whole body that the physician could not examine the corpse until it was cleansed, and then found it starved and scarred from the bites of vermin. Part of the floor of the room was torn up, and the hole used by the family as a privy.

      On Monday, Jan. 15th, 1844, two boys were brought before the police magistrate because, being in a starving condition, they had stolen and immediately devoured a half-cooked calf's foot from a shop. The magistrate felt called upon to investigate the case further, and received the following details from the policeman: The mother of the two boys was the widow of an ex-soldier, afterwards policeman, and had had a very hard time since the death of her husband, to provide for her nine children. She lived at No. 2 Pool's Place, Quaker Court, Spitalfields, in the utmost poverty. When the policeman came to her, he found her with six of her children literally huddled together in a little back room, with no furniture but two old rush-bottomed chairs with the seats gone, a small table with two legs broken, a broken cup, and a small dish. On the hearth was scarcely a spark of fire, and in one corner lay as many old rags as would fill a woman's apron, which served the whole family as a bed. For bed clothing they had only their scanty day clothing. The poor woman told him that she had been forced to sell her bedstead the year before to buy food. Her bedding she had pawned with the victualler for food. In short, everything had gone for food. The magistrate ordered the woman a considerable provision from the poor-box.

  • Extreme mobility. Because so many were leading a hand to mouth existence, with very little money for accommodation, renting rooms by the month, week or even by the night was common. Most poor families gave a different address at the birth registration of each child. It is not uncommon for the address to change in the few weeks between birth and baptism.
  • Fragmented families. The Industrial Revolution led to a huge migration of population from the countryside into the towns. People lost their rural roots and the extended family structures which went with them. Family members were scattered over wide areas of the city and children no longer supported their aged parents.
  • Social breakdown. People were no longer well known to their neighbours, or to the authorities, as is demonstrated in the cases cited by Engels
  • Official anonymity. Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths was not compulsory until 1875. There was deliberate evasion of the census takers and it was easy to cover up cohabitation, adultery and illegitimacy. One of my husband's ancestors fathered two illegitimate children whilst he was an apprentice. He and his partner were able to pass themselves off as man and wife when baptising those children in a large London parish. Once his apprenticeship ended, they went several parishes away to tie the knot quietly.