British Lung Foundation
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Researching Other Peoples Family Trees...Has Pitfalls

Still gasping for breath, so to take my mind off my rotten lungs and achy chest I spent a couple of hours on Ancestry poking about in other peoples family trees while Murphy snoozed on the router...

Don't know what Himself was doing...I could hear the strimmer, so I expect he was cutting something or other down.

I'm juggling three trees... not to mention my own which is a work in progress...I live in dread of adding some of the people on one tree to another one by mistake...would make it interesting I suppose... but awful confusing...especially if I put my Irish Grandfather on another tree...he changed his name at the drop of a hat.

Some trees are easy. All the records are there for the searching...other people have added precious family photographs...if they emigrated, there they are on the passengers lists...old Wills tell you what land they owned and which houses and give an insight to their lives from the items they left...pewter platters and oak chests...bed-linens and bed hangings.

You can sail back to the 1500's without a bother.

Read the Cambridge Alumni records and find sons with a degree in Law when they were fifteen...imagine them in long black gowns and cloaks with a sheaf of closely written upon parchments under their arms...scuttling towards their Chambers.

Find carefully transcribed Parish records of births and marriages...perhaps a Clandestine marriage held in a debtors prison presided over by a dubious member of the clergy...

Then there are the truly difficult trees.

People who ducked and dived...changing their name and evading the census...sometimes those elusive ones will suddenly pop up...often on a Criminal Record where they have a couple of aliases...but they'll lie about their place of birth or perhaps they don't recall where they were born...they have plain names...John Williams or Richard Smith. They've committed bigamy and have many children and no matter how careful I am with the searching I'm never quite sure whether the John or the Richard is the right one...

And there are trees I've begun for people and I've simply given up.

They'll argue the Grandfather wasn't a window cleaner they'll say...when the census clearly shows Grandpa being precisely that.

My Great Grandmother was Irish...she wasn't actually. She was born in Hampshire...had English parents and Grandparents...

Uncle John certainly didn't have twelve children...he clearly has twelve children on three census records...

Other trees I've quietly forgotten about are those where the person is simply not interested...I send them reams of records and hear nothing back. Not even an I peep over the parapet and ask did they find the information interesting...? And get an 'oh yes'...

Stuff them...they can do the rest themselves.

But delving into the past is what I do...I find such tantalising information sometimes which makes me Google for more...for instance I found a young man who married when he was twenty. He was a sailor on a Frigate which sailed from Brazil in South America...I looked up the Frigates name on the net and that led me to an account written first hand by the Captain of that Frigate...a tale of unpaid wages and almost mutiny...of the skirmishes fought while in Brazil...the constant threat of losing his crew to Yellow Fever and Syphilis...the meagre rations and the longing to set foot on dry land once more.

The poor man who died in a Lunatic Asylum in the late 1800's...he was there at the same time as the man suspected of being Jack the was a truly appalling place. Over five thousand patients with few staff...the favourite method of keeping those who were considered to be a danger to themselves or others was a type of cage with a lockable lid...

Those people mean that we have our lives today...without the man who died in 1530 and left a Ewe to his servant...there is someone alive today who wouldn't have otherwise existed. If the young sailor hadn't married a local girl while on leave from the Frigate...generations would be lost.

Makes you think doesn't it.

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You must have the patience of Jobe (sp) I wouldn't know where to start,and as for venturing way back I would defo get lost and get confused who was what to whom,Lol

So you are doing a great Job.


Ah...but you never see me waving my arms about and shouting when I get hopelessly lost in a tree!


At least you find your way out, I would be lost in the ether forever,Lol


Absolutely fascinating I have my family tree back to the 1500s but only names and dates no details so pretty boring hope Murphy is well and causing havoc :-)

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My partner's family are really interesting. His earliest ancestor on his Father's maternal side I can trace was a polish Jew who left there in the sixteen hundreds - that was lucky. On his Father's Pternal side they were French Hugenot weavers/cloth workers who came over here in the seventeen hundreds.


There's a Huguenot burial ground in Dublin...I've never seen it and anyway it isn't open to the public but apparently you can peer through the railings!


You could look some of them up...see if they had more interesting lives than you first thought...if your tree goes back to the 1500's, chances are most of those people would have been Yeomen farmers...they'd have certainly left Wills because they'd have owned houses and farmlands...

Murphy is ok...he's back to the vet tomorrow for another injection...poor little chap..


Yes it does. My partner's family lived in a place in East London that had a shop underneath and one night the shop caught fire from a lantern not extinguished properly. Now, in each of the rooms over that shop lived a family of hugenot silk weavers, or other such people - so a lot of things to catch fire easily. All the families had many children. There is now a memorial in the street there. - haven't seen it yet ourselves as don't get up to London that often - infact not been there in about 7 years or more. Obviously if his ancestors hadn't got out of there he wouldn't be here and neither would his two gorgeous grandsons. Had a lovely conversation with them both tonight on skype - it was good to be able to walk around with the ipad in my hands and show them our gardens in the sunshine and it had rained in Florida today - still it is bloomin hot there!

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And it must have been dreadful for them to lose their livelihood that way...don't think there was such a thing as house or work place insurance during the times of the Huguenot's...


Love doing my family tree, as you say there are so many family myths which are proved incorrect byt research. I found my grandfather told everyone he had an older brother by the smae name and refused his state pension as he was not that age. My research shows he was the only one and he lied about his age on his marriage certifficate, he was suddenly 5 years younger :) My father always believed he had an uncle he had never met.

My family is rather boring really, Miners on my side never really left the West Midlands, and Farmers on my wifes side who started in Cheshire and migrated to Shropshire. I have found family in Derbyshire and Leicestershire and looks like one side originated in Monmouth and migrated to the Black Country via Bridgnorth. I have also found a relative living in Shropshire in the same village I currently live, I wonder sometimes whether there is a connection to my home which the original cottage is over 100 years old. Something else to research.

I did also find a distant uncle who moved to Northumberland and his brother followed and subsequently died in the first world war in France, he is mentioned on the memorial in the cemetary in Blythe which my daufghter now a teacher up there only lives 4 miles from Blythe, she now feels she has some attachment to the area as she has distant relatives there and hopefully my research will discover some living ones we can make contact with.

Feel free to have alook at my family tree at


Thanks...I'll have a look at your tree this evening...

Miners weren't boring at health and safety then...just a few Canaries in cages...if they keeled over it was time to get to the surface!


You really hit a nerve with me there Vashti.

I do wish people would think before asking for a tree search, as to what, why, and how interested are they really? Like yourself, I've spent hours and hours researching some trees, sent reams of records etc., And never as much as a "Thank you."

Obviously this doesn't apply to all those who ask, and I've had people give me flowers and things in gratitude (not that I expect it.)

Like you, I enjoy doing it and it's very addictive, but I wish some people were more thoughtful or sincere before asking.. XX


I've had a couple who were intent on me finding out they were connected to Royals...they weren't lol

Most people are's the few who aren't which rankle a bit.

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