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Monday, 30 January 2012

Feisty Aunt Edith

I think of my Aunt Edith (1907-1995) as one of a line of "Feisty Danson Females", amongst them  my Great Grandmother Maria   and her daughter, my Great Aunt Jennie.  Aunt Edith played a key role in my life and was a teacher, traveller, and great talker.  She was also a talented lady - and married  for the first time at the age of 73. 

Edith was born 2nd September 1907, followed  just a year and a week  later by my mother, Kathleen, born on 8th September 1908, daughters of William and Alice Danson of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.   They remained very close sisters  and most of  the photographs I have of Aunt Edith show her almost always with my mother.  
 

Edith and Kathleen at Poulton Gala Day c.1912

Aunt Edith was fond of regaling me with stories of the family and her life in teaching.  She was the only one to win a scholarship to Fleetwood Grammar School, riding the four miles on her bike in all weathers.  She became a teacher at Burn Naze School in Thornton Clevelys (a poor area of town in the 1920's and 30's)  and had a keen memory for past pupils (particularly black sheep)  and humorous incidents such as excuse notes, written  for absences. She must have been great to know in her 20's, with tales of the young men she went dancing with in Blackpool.     

Kathleen & Edith

Like her sister, Edith was talented in painting, embroidery and dressmaking, loved dancing, music, reading and baking - though there were some apocryphal cooking moments when my uncle (her brother) stirred a rice pudding, thinking it was very thin - she had forgotten to put in the rice!  Another time she was proud of a tart  with a golden pastry crust and  blackcurrants from the garden - until we took a mouthful - she had forgotten to add sugar to the fruit.  "Scatty" was often a term used to describe Aunt Edith,  as her mind was on so many things at once. 

Kathleen & Edith


Edith  kept home for her father and brother for much of her life and travelled widely, even to Russia in Iron Curtain days, bringing back gifts  to add to my collection of costume dolls.

 She  married for the first time in 1981 at the aged 73. a widower friend of my parent.  and died in 1995 aged 88.  

Aunt Edith (in blue) with her husband George, my mother Kathleen and brother Harry.
You can tell from these photographs that Aunt Edith was someone who enjoyed herself.   She took on the role of my godmother with great gusto and with my mother left me with a wonderful  legacy on how to get the most out of life, plus  many fond memories of a feisty woman
A Painting by my Aunt Edith
Written in response to  the Genealogy Challenge from http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/  ito create a tribute page to one ancestor.   It has been adapted from an  earlier  posting of 2nd September 2011 on "Two Close Sisters".

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

 
 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A 60th Anniversary Album: Sentimental Sunday

In a New Year tidy up, I came across an Album I had compiled for my parent's diamond wedding anniversary some years ago. Its format is simple, but I thought I would share the idea.

As my father's sight was failing, it had to be strongly visual, so I chose to feature a collage of photographs to reflect each decade of their life together, presented in a display album of clear plastic pockets. 


The Page for the 1930's

I also included postcards of where they first met (The Winter Gardens Ballroom and a week later  the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool, Lancashire) and later added the congratulatory telegram from the Queen.

Unfortunately there was a sad note to this occasion.  My parents  had enjoyed planning  well in advance a hotel celebratory lunch for family and friends.  But my mother had the first of several strokes and by the time the day came, she was in residential care.  However they still managed to dress up for the occasion  to enjoy the day in a quiet way.  






The Anniversary Album is now something I can look back on and treasure.  



The spring carpet of crocuses at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde
A  photograph taken by my uncle.
Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved 

Sentimental Sunday is one of many daily blog prompts from www.geneabloggers.com to encourage writers to record their family history

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Poor Law Records - A Free Offline Tool: 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has begun a new series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy. Week 4 – Free Offline Genealogy :

Seeing an ancestor described as a "pauper" in a census return conjures up images of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" and a time when the word "poorhouse" (or "workhouse" struck fear in people living close to destitution.  But for family historians searching for a story beyond the simple names and dates, such a discovery is an  immediate prompt to turn to poor law records. 


They are one of the most popular types of offline tools at my local archive centre, the Heritage Hub, Hawick and, although they have not been a source for my own family,  I find it fascinating to browse through them. 

Poorhouses were set up in Scotland as a result of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act of 1845 and were built in five towns in the Scottish Borders, serving not only the immediate town but surrounding parishes - hence their name of Combination Poorhouse or Union Poorhouse.

The Victorians  were great bureaucrats and the Heritage Hub holds a large collection of local Poor Law Registers, Poor Relief Applications and Parochial Board Minute Books, many of which can give a mini-biography of an ancestor, in often tragic circumstances, with details of name, address, aged, birhtplace,marital status,  occupation, whether disabled and if so how, financial circumstances, and dependants.  Here are some examples which caught my attention:
  • Robert Leck, once a well known clockmaker of Jedburgh, admitted to the poorhouse aged 67, with a pattern of admissions and discharges until the time came when he was "wholly disabled, nearly blind and wholly destitute".  Interestingly when I did a Google search, I found  an illustration of a Robert Leck grandfather clock about to be auctioned in London.
  • The story of Janet Scott had a more positive outcome.  Her admission record in 1877 gives us a glimpse of the desperate situation in which many applicants for poor relief found themselves.  A single mother with  two children and a baby, working as an agricultural  labourer, she  was "wholly disabled by a cart falling on her".  She was on parish relief for three years.  However she also demonstrated her resilience, as  in the 1881 census she was back earning a living, as an Ag. Lab, along with her two eldest daughters.  
Janet Scott's entry in the Jedburgh Union Poorhouse Register, 1877. 
Being a "pauper" did not always mean being admitted to the poorhouse,  as those on "out relief" lived in the  community and received support such as clothing, fuel or food, as illustrated in these records from Duns, Berwickshire:

  •  15 year old James Robertson is described as "delicate and deformed by spine curvature and will never be able to do much.  He needs a suit of clothes, 2 pairs of stockings and 2 handkerchiefs.  Allowed. 
  • Mary Burns, also in need of clothing , was granted " 1 frock, 2 yards flannel, 2 yards drugget, 2 pinafores and a  pair of boots."
  • At Melrose, Rosburghshire, a mother and young children were "footsore and weary"  and given help as they made their way from Newcastle to Glasgow to rejoin family  - a distance of 114 miles.
  • Mary Phllips was admitted to the Poorhouse as "this woman's husband deserted her, having absconded to America.  She has 2 children and is about to be confined.  Her parents very poor."
  • The Inspector was not always the hard face of the law.  At Melrose two young children whose mother had run away with another man,  were given a penny to buy a roll and told to return home and send their father.   The record showed six  young children in the family aged from 13 to 3 years old.
  • Rebecca Ballantyne, however, "burdened with 2 illegitimate children" was refused poor relief on the grounds she was able bodied and earning a good wage - 15 shillings a week as a mill worker.
  • In Hawick "Robert Campbell, a weaver, almost disabled by rheumatism applied for relief and was offered admission to the Poorhouse, but declined the offer."
  • "George Wilson, a labourer, wholly disabled by bronchitis,  as certified  by Doctor McLeod, was sent to the Poorhouse on 26th March but left the same on 2nd April."
The key to tracing offline records is often a census entry giving a clue as to occupation or status which can lead you onto Police Records (either as a constable or wrong side of the law), School Records, paticularly if your ancestor was a teacher, Burgh or County Council Records for an ancestor invovled in local government, or Militia Records to find an ancestor who may be listed as a volunteer soldier in the event of a Napoleonic invasion..... and much, much more.

So my tip of the day is to contact your appropriate local archives centre - they will hold a wealth of records showing there is genealogical life well beyond the Internet and most offer a remote research service.  You never know what might be unearthed to throw light on your ancestors' lives.  

With acknowledgement to the Heritage Hub, Hawick for permission to use the image above.  www.heartofhawick.co.uk/heritagehub

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Why Study the Past? Wisdom Wednesday



"The man,  who gives a proportion of his time to the study of the relics of years that are gone, will become a wiser and it may be reasonably concluded a better member of the community."

These words of wisdom were from George Webster, teacher of mathematics and an original member of my local history organisation,  Hawick Archaeological Society,  founded in 1856. 

156 years later in 2012,   the society is still very active in the town, though its historical emphasis has moved away from archaeology and antiquities which dominated its early discussions. A busy annual programme of lectures and publications  complements involvement in the local museum, in the commemoration of historical events,  and the placing  of plaques around the town to mark  local worthies. 

The society's  website http://www.airchieoliver.co.uk/  (Airchie Oliver)  has a  quirky title and reflects the way the society was known locally when people could not get their tongue around "archaeology", with Oliver a popular local surname.

Note:  Hawick, (pronounced Hoyk) is  a mill town famous for its  quality knitwear, and  is the largest settlement  in the Scottish Borders,  the region in the south east corner of Scotland.   See Hawick Common Riding.  

Below:  Hawick Among the Hills, with the Town Hall clock tower prominent in the  centre of the picture.

Wisdom Wednesday is one  of many blog prompts from  www.geneaology.com 
to encourage bloggers to write about their local  and family history.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Snowdrops - and more - To Herald Spring

It is a cold suuny day here in Hawick in the Scottish Borders - 4C (41F), but this picture taken in my garden heralds warmer days. 

Below - the heron, a regular visitor and mallard ducks on the Slitrig River, Hawick - taken a few weeks ago.




















Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Your Ancestral Home - Beyond the Internet

Cassmob at Family History Across the Seas, has introduced a new series "Beyond the Internet" to highlight some of the sources for family stories.   The latest theme focusses on researching your ancestral home.  

My own Danson family came from Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. and I have written in previous postings about the ancestral home Trap Farm at Carleton.   I found references to it in a Family Bible c.1830, in Death Duty Records for 1839  of my great, great, great grandfather and of course on birth certifcates, census records, and maps. 

I now live in the Scottish Borders and I thought I would highlight some of the Scottish resources for tracing house histories - not available online, but held at archive centres aross the country. The information falls broadly into three categories:  Owners & Occupiers, The Local Community  and Architectural Guides
 
Valuation Rolls by county and burgh  date from c.1855 and record the name of owner, tenant and occupier asnd usually their occupation.  To some extent, the information supplements the 10 yearly census returns,  You  get a picture of the neighbourhood, especially for instance the scale and range of workers on landed estates.  On the downside, the rolls do not list other residents/family in the property The lack of street names, house names or even numbers  means it is not always straightforward to identify the property you are looking for.   It is always worth checking if earlier similar records of property have survived such as Cess Rolls and Poll Tax Records.    

Electoral Rolls can be helpful in establishing who lived in a property, but give little detail other than name and it was 1928 before women in the  UK  would appear as eligible to vote on the same basis as men i..e over 21 years of age.  

Sasines have been the mainstay of Scottish land ownership records from the 17th century.  They are legal documents recording the transfer of ownership of land or building. 

Directories are great sources of information to browse through with description of the town or village, with lists of addresses  of nobility, gentry, clergy, schools, societies, professional people, farmers, manufacturers, shopkeepers, tradesmen, coaches and carriers etc. to present a profile of the  community in which your ancestor lived.

Many Local Histories  have been written by dedicated enthusiasts and can provide potential information, often quirky,  on specific streets and property and also the history of the locality and its people.

The Scottish Statistical Accounts are detailed contemporary parish reports giving background information on how people lived,  with descriptions of the economic and social state of Scotland at the time. The “Old Statistical Account” was written 1791-99,  so particularly valuable in pre-dating census returns, and the 'New Statistical Account” 1834-45. The “Third Statistical Account “was published in the second half of 20th century.  Again a good source if you are looking for colourful background on where your ancestors lived.

Postcards and Photographs The early 20th century saw a huge boon in postcard production, featuring houses, streets, shops, churches, historic buildings, war memorials transport etc with even small villages being profiled in this way.  A must to illustrate your family history.

If your ancestral property was really old, look for Architectural Guides on your region, or find out if it was worthy to be designated a "Listed Building".  Local Council Planning Records can also provide information on the development of the property. 

Family history is so much more than just names and dates.  Finding out about your ancestral home  is one of the many directions you can take from the basic research, to add colour to your family story.

For more information on the source material outlined above,  see the website of the National Archives of Scotland at  http://www.nas.gov.uk/guides/

********

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The School Portrait - Life's A Journey Series

Helen at http://saveeverystep.wordpress.com/lifes-a-journey-series/ urges us to share our memories from milestones in our life.   This week's theme   - The School Portrait. 



This is the earliest photograph I have from  my school days in the 1950's when I attended Devonshire Road School, Blackpool, Lancashire.  I am on the second front row, second from the right, next to the boy in the  striped pullover. 

I counted a class of 46 - double today's standard for class size!   We sat in seried rows of individual desks and I remember chanting our times tables, copying handwriting,  the hated mental arithmatic sessions and of course reading which I loved.

The fashion and hair styles here  were so typical of the day - the girls with plaits, pudding basin haircuts, side slides or fancy top ribbons.

There was not a strict uniform at my primary school, but I was desperate to wear a gymslip and tie.   My mother did not like them, but eventually I got one handed down from my cousin and wore  the school red and navy striped tie and the red girdle round my waist, feeling I had stepped out of one of the school stories I loved to read.

We didn't seem to get  individual portraits at my secondary school (girls only)  but I remember two occasions when the whole school (about 500  of us I think) gathered on the playing fields for a massive group photograph.  The first year pupils sat cross legged on the grass, with the staff in their academic gowns seated  on chairs, and the rest of the school grouped behind, either standing or  balanced on gym forms.  The result was a large rolled photograph in a scroll box.  Unfortunately I did not see fit to keep these and threw them out when I was having a major sort-out, prior to getting married.   

 A great pity!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Free Online Genealogy Tools: 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealaogy

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy
Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has begun a new series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy. Week 3  Free Online Genealogy Tools:  Which one are you most thankful for? How has it helped your family history experience?

www.familysearch.org has to be the main free online genealogy tool that first comes to mind.  The research into my Rawcliffe ancestors had led me to assume that,  like all my mother's family, they were very firmly based in the Fylde area of  Lancashire, England.  So it was a huge surprise to find,  in a very casual browsing for Rawcliffes,  an entry for Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe (my great grandmother's sister),  born Hambleton 1853 and that she had died in Jamesburg, New Jersey on 24th February 1930 - the first time I was aware of any American connection.   I discovered that Alice, after 6 children born in England, went onto have five more children in Brooklyn New York - the eldest Arthur Valentine, born appropriately on February 14th.  See A Lancashire Lass in New York.

When much of the information is contributed, I would have reservations on relying on Family Search, as I have come across conflicting information.     But it is an obvious place to make a start, particularly where you do not have  easy access to original source material.

Again at an early stage of my family history research,  I found www.genuki.co.uk very useful.  It is a virtual reference library of genealogical sources for the UK and Ireland,
 and covers every county in the UK with information on parishes, churches, libraries, family history societies, registrars, etc. Well worth exploring. 

I  have also made use of the free sites www.freecen.rootsweb.com and www.freebmd.rootsweb.com, as an alternative to the subscription sites. 

If searching for British & Commonwealth wartime casualties, the starting point has to be  the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site - www.cwgc.org. The Debt of Honour Register offers a free search facility, with details and images on the scene of war, place of burial and often notes next of kin.  An invaluable source that provided a moving account of my great uncle George's death and burial in 1916, aged only 22.

The website indexes  of the National Archives in London (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk) enabled me to trace  death duty records for my great, great, great great grandfather John Danson, with the mariners' register also listing my  husband's seafaring ancestor Robert Donaldson.  The index search was free, but the only down side was that I had to get someone in London to  obtain the actually copies of the records for me.  


Family history is so much more than names and dates, and the availability of online information endless - here is a brief list of sites that I have found very useful in helping to tell the stories of my ancestors' lives.

  • Looking for original archive material? Go online to http://www.nas.gov.uk/ (National Archives of Sctoland) and http://www.scan.org.uk/ (Scotish Archive Network).  They  both provide gateways to collections of original archive material, searchable by name and place,  with much more besides such as source guides, glossaries, old handwriting, etc.  I traced 18th property records relating to my husband's ancestor, merchant Samuel Donaldson.  I don't find the site and the online catalogues the most user-friendly, but these are essential sites for researching Scottish local and family history.  
  • Where and how did your Scottish Ancestors live?  Browse through www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk for Information about Scottish places past and present.  The site  also features Farm Horse Tax Roll 1797-98, and the Clock & Watch Tax Roll, 1797-98, Land Ownership Commission Report 1874, listing owners of land, and Medical Officer of Health reports from 1890. A quirky collection which might produce some fascinating results.
  • Have you found a British ancestor described in a census return as a "pauper"?   If so, click onto www.workshouses.org.uk  It offers a comprehensiveive look  at the operation of the poor law, buildings, inmates, staff and administrators and Includes pages with 1881 census return.  A very good portrayal of workhouse life.
  • Was your ancestor a Scottish architect?  Then take a look at  www.codexgeo.co.uk/dsa, a database providing biographical information and job lsits for all architects (principals, assistants and apprentices) known to have worked in Scotland 1840-1940.
  • Looking to calculate British relative money values across the centurie?  Try www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/
  • What was life like in Victorian Britain?  www.bbc.co.uk/history/British/Victorians provides very useful background  to the 1841-1901 census records.  
Not forgetting  the websites of local archive centres, local family history societies, local history societies etc. etc.   - and of course Google!   

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

An Array of Hats: Sepia Saturday

The theme this week for Sepia Saturday was hats. My earlier postings on wedding hats proved popular, so I thought I would bring them together here.

Oldham Family Weddings in the early 1900's  - photographs courtesy of my cousin Stuart.




My mother Kathleen Danson as a toddler c.1911 and at her wedding in 1938 and (below) my great aunt Jenny's wedding in 1929 in an icomic cloche hat - with her bridesmaid.


Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Hair Days - Sharing Memories

Lorine McGinnis Schulze at http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/p/sharing-memories.html has begun a new series of Sharing Memories with Week 2 - Hair

Pigtails to Ponytails characterised my look as a child, complete with kirby grips and ribbons.   On village gala days and on special occasions, my hair was wound into rags overnight  to hopefully create ringlets - which soon fell out.  
By my early teens my hair was long.  It was washed and rinsed in rain water - my mother's idea of a beauty treatment -  and it took ages to dry in front of the fire. 

Around the age of 15,  Mum suggested I get my hair cut professionally   - great - except we were both clueless afterwards how to style it at home,  and here I am being brave in highlighting publicly  this dreadful passport photograph, taken when I was to go on a school trip to Germany. This was the 1960's era of the Cold War and  I look  like the archetypal Russian spy.   

After five years, you could get a passport photograph updated,  and I could not wait to do this -  only to be further mortified when, instead of replacing the photograph,  the new one was just stuck beneath - to more family hilarity and more quizzical looks from passport control. 

By the late 1960's,  I had succumbed to using rollers and was aiming for the "beehive" look - not too successfully. I then moved on to perms for my fine, limp, locks.

 By the late 1980's grey hairs were beginning to creep in.   I recall one New Year's Day when we were due to go out in the evening.  I used a home colour shampoo to disguise the grey - but left it on too long and the result was rather too much  red.  The shampoo packet said it would run out after 6 washes, so I washed it about 6 times that day - to very little effect

We were now at the time  on TV of Dallas, Dynasty and Charlie's Angels,  with big hair and shoulder pads all the rage - hence this rare look for me taken for a work Annual Report.  Less glamorously, I was also likened to Deidre Barlow of "Coronation Street" soap opera fame.  The big specs did it!   This style involved too much like hard work.

 I am now pleased to see natural styles are back in vogue which suits my age and rural life style!





Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Remember This Day - A Double Birthday Celebration

My great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (left) was born at Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire on 15th January 1859, the daughter of Robert Rawcliffe, agricultural labourer and Jane Carr.  

At the age of 18, she married James Danson in 1877 and they lived in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Maria, one of eight daughters went on to have ten sons before finally a daughter Jennie.  She died in 1919 aged 60, after the death of two sons in the First World War.   See A Spanish Look and Maria or Martha


Census returns had enabled me to establish Maria's birthdate as c.1859. 

I sent away for her birth certificate and it was a great delight to open it and find she was born on January 15th - the same day  114 years later as my daughter (right with my granddaughter).

It is coincidences as this that makes family history such an absorbing hobby!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

My Earliest Baby Photo - Life's a Journey Series

Helen at http://saveeverystep.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/lifes-a-journey-series-week-1-my-earliest-baby-photo/ urges to share our memories from milestones in our life.   This week's theme is “My earliest baby photo”.


I was born during the Secnd World War and this is the earliest photograph I have of myself - with my father.  I have no idea when he first saw me.  Here I think I must be about 3 months old.   The studio photograph below was taken for my father serving abroad in Europe and later Asia.   It is a very special picture of my mother, as I cannot remember her with anything but grey hair worn in a French pleat.  She looks so stylish here.  


Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

A Cheery Early Sign of Spring




I just had to post this photograph taken yesterday January 13th in my garden in Hawick in the Scottish Borders. It brightens what has otherwise been a grey dreicht winter and contrasts with the heavy snow of the last two Januarys.

Complementing the day,  was this stunning sunset over the town.



Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Paid Online Genealogy Tools - 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: 2

Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has begun a new series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.  Week 2   Paid Online Genealogy Tools: Which paid genealogy tool do you appreciate the most? What special features put it at the top of your list? How can it help others with their genealogy research?

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Four paid genealogy sites are on my signed up list, and the one I use most frequently is www.ancestry.co.uk. It is the most comprehensive site that meets many of my needs for both English and Scottish research.

Until very recently,  Ancestry was the only other site that featured Scottish Census Returns and I preferred its search boxes which allows you to put in birthplace, close relative etc.  to aid search results.  However all you get is a transcription and I had then to turn to http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ to download an image, but the targeted nature of Ancestry questions definitely aided my search.  My one major reservation about the census results  relates to some odd transcriptions and spelling of surnames, Christian names, place names  and occupations  


Apart from the standard material,  I have found very valuable the WWI Service Records - many of these were destroyed in a bombing raids in World War Two, but I have been lucky enough to find pages on my great uncle George Danson (1897-1916) and also my husband's great uncle Frederick Donaldson (1894-1916).  The records include personal descriptions, next of kin,  signatures on enlistment, medical history and notification of death. Ironically both men, from different sides of the country. died on the same day at the Battle of the Somme - perhaps not surprising given the huge loss of life.  


I had the basic subscription,  but recently upgraded this, so I could access newer records that have come online e.g. British Post Office Appointments  I found my two great uncles, but to be honest the record gives no more than their name and date of appointment.  My next task is to look at the Railway Employment Records for more of my family.


Like many other bloggers, I have screamed at some of the information in the Public Trees.  Periodically I search for my key names - Danson and Rawcliffe -  and there are some very odd entries,which do not link with my source-based findings.  I have (tactfully)  asked the contributor for their source and outlined my different findings - but I never get a reply. 

The New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957 provided the information on my American connection - Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe, who travelled  with six  children under 11 years old  and two pieces of baggage.  I took out the pay-as-you-view option to
http://www.ancestry.com/  and was delighted to find her family (with five more children!) in American census returns for New York and New Jersey. 

http://www.findmypast.co.uk/ I have used on occasions, e.g. for 1911 census, usually on a pay-as-you-view basis,  and recommend the Chelsea Pensioner Records from National Archives and Ancestors on Board databases. The site has recently started featuring Scottish Census Returns, so it will be interesting to see the quality of the transcriptions.


http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ (a pay-as-you-view site)  is an absolute must if you have Scottish ancestors and it features images for all but the more recent records.  Don't ignore the hidden information under Research Tools which features fascinating titbits such as medical terms,unusual words,  over 1500 definitions of occupations, money converters and a tutorial on Scottish old handwriting.  A very comprehensive site, with  my only reservation that the search boxes for census entries could be more specific to help identify the right family and avoid expensive downloads.

www.genesreunited.co.uk -  An inexpensive paid site that it steadily increasing its databases - not something I use regularly, which means I have to begin again navigating my way round the site, especially the messages.  The "hot matches" facility irritates me,  as is is linked just on name and date of birth, but not place of birth which would refine the search results so much, and you can spend ages deleting  irrelevant  matches.    However I am very grateful to the site as it unearthed in my Danson family my third cousin (once removed),  -  the first major success I had with online sites, and we exchanged information and copies of memorabilia.   

So I might have some minor reservations, but where would we be without these sites which have helped revolutionise family history research?