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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A for Adventure, Archives, Ancestry & Anecdotes

A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories
Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records that 
can  enhance your family history research and writing.

ADVENTURE - when I started toying with the idea of tracing my family history, how little did I know on what a journey of adventure it would be - finding my way through the resources; alighting on surprising coincidences such as my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (right)  born the same day as my daughter 114 years later;  discovering I had American connections, hitting obstacles,  with the birth of my grandmother and the name of her mother remaining  my major brick wall;  being at times astonished, puzzled  and moved by what I am finding.  The Adventure continues.....

This is the  photograph that started me on my family history adventure - my great grandmother  Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe  with her orphaned granddaughter Annie Maria.

Research into Maria's life was a rich source of many a story.  It revealed a family  of eight daughters, (five surviving infancy),   the early death of their mother,  a step mother with  three illegitimate children, and the birth of four half-brothers and sisters.  And Maria went on to have 10 sons  and an only daughter!   So plenty of material to ponder over!

ARCHIVE CENTRES are "must contact" places!   Again it is a story of Adventure exploring the unique records and touching pages that record details  of  ancestors in their own lifetime, whether it be an old newspaper, a  poor law entry, a school record, or a mention in council minutes - many of which are not available online.  

If you cannot get to a centre relevant to your research,  search their online catalogue, and take a look at its  web site where on offer are a range of enquiry services from simple "look ups" to detailed research packages. 

In the course of my family history research,  I unearthed at Lancashire Archives   a marriage bond of 1786  two wills, dated 1821 and 1831,     plus an 1810  bastardy claim,  all relating to my Danson ancestors.  Tyne and Wear Archives were able to give me information on  the ships Robert Donaldson, master mariner sailed on, and also the service records of my husband's two  ancestors who were river policemen on the Tyne.  

 I shall  be looking in much more detail at a wide variety of records held at Archive Centres as I follow this A-Z journey. 

ANCESTRY (www.ancestry.co.uk) - one of the leading  genealogical websites, with a huge range of resources.   It is a cardinal rule of family history to always look at the actual record and not rely on transcriptions, and Ancestry now has an increasing number of digitized records - not just census returns, but also parish records and much more. Be wary, however, of lifting information from the public trees without checking the validity of the findings - mistakes can easily get perpetuated. 

ANECDOTES - in how many families is there hearsay  along the lines of "Granny always said we were descended from a duke", or "Great Aunt Amy was supposed to have been jilted at the altar".  Such stories certainly add interest to your family history and can feature in your writing as long as you make it clear they are no more than  anecdotes - unless of course you can find  the evidence to the contrary!   

Onto B for Bibles, Businesses, Blogging & Black Sheep  

Copyright © 2015 Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. Just stopping by from A to Z ... your blog caught my attention as my mother loves to research family history. Most of my childhood vacations were spent traipsing around old graveyards looking for the final resting spot of ancestors I never met. We definitely had some adventures on those trips! Reading your post today has brought back a lot of fun memories. :)

  2. I've gone back a fair way with my family tree, but unfortunately have no photos to back it up. Ancestry and similar sites can get expensive it you want to view more detailed records, Fortunately our local library gets you access to them for free.

  3. I don't live in an area that has archive centers and I would have to rely solely on Ancestry or other online resources (whenever I get ready to jump in), but I'm sticking close to your posts so I know how to do it when the time comes! Thanks!

  4. My great grandfather was a stowaway at age 13! There are no records of him at Ellis Island and the town he was from was destroyed by a volcano eruption! So, we don't know much about his side of the family...would have been interesting to find out why he left so young.
    Happy A to Z-ing!

  5. I love this approach to AtoZ. 4 words makes you a definite overachiever (go ahead, use that word for "O" lol). I'm also VERY glad to have company on this AtoZ Challenge. I don't see many family historians participating.

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  7. I am impressed, not just 1 "A" word, but 4!

  8. just stopping by on the A to Z challenge...my mom has done an excellent job not only researching our family tree but also some of my husband's.

  9. My husband would love to find more about his family history.I'll have to give him your suggestions.

  10. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to comment. Do keep rreading, as I try to keep up with the A-Z challenge!


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