03 October 2019

The Politics of Family History - Part Twelve

There are often likely to be skeletons in the cupboard of any family history, just as there are in government departments.

Are you interested in taking the best of the past into the future with family history research, or any other sort of research for that matter?

Are you interested in public history - by you and your ancestors as well as other people?

Have you long had an interest in the politics of family history?


Have you been discovering anything highly political through family history, public records, privacy and once-secret dossiers?

Have you been discovering Shropshire's history and its political influence on the entire world?

Are you currently comfortable with nature?

Are you currently comfortable with yourself?


We all have our own reasons for wanting to know about the past, just as we all have our own reasons for wanting to forget the past.

We all have selective memories, selective attention and a variety of biases.  Even if we are unwilling to admit to the facts of our limitations, and even lack insight into those limitations, the political elements of our existence cannot reasonably be ignored.

For example, how do you reflect on the journey to work or school or home or college or university or anywhere else, whether of yourself and/or other people, in the past and/or present?

Politics is intrusive, which is why my preferred approach to understanding the past, present and future has been consciously chosen for the love of reasonable privacy.  Even fiction can be intrusive when it follows the facts too closely.

I do not write fiction as "Via".

How have you been documenting your political journey and the political journeys of your ancestors?

How have you been handling differences of opinion about the past?

All religion is political.  It is based upon unprovable opinions.  It is therefore likely to cause friction between people with opposing views, or even slightly different views.  Arguments often arise in families, as they do in the wider society, when beliefs are mistaken for knowledge.

When reflecting on identity, how do you distinguish between knowledge and beliefs?

How have you been reflecting on menial roles, higher goals and social enterprise in relation to your family history, and your present intentions?

You may convey your family history findings in the name of comfort and in the name of accuracy, if you have the sensitivity with which to do so.

You may not even wish to share your family history findings with anyone.  That is your personal choice, and right.  The knowledge you gain may be associated with the emotional healing you are seeking.

How do you usually think about accuracy in relation to comfort?

Do you ever think of propaganda as the expression of comfortable lies and inaccurate fears?

With so many people living in cities, and moving to cities and between cities, there can be a longing for a real sense of community, with or without family members involved.

Yet who can be trusted with private information nowadays?  Sharing any information about ourselves can be a risk.  Many pieces of data are collected about us by governments and other entities, including malicious ones and potentially malicious ones.

There are many people who do not know the difference between running a business and treating people atrociously.  How much money have other people made by selling information about you to various organisations and individuals?

There is much cruelty in the world.  Many people are unaware of when their own decisions are expressions of cruelty while other people are deliberately cruel.

How have you explored cruelty in relation to your own family history, whether within family relationships or through the decisions of other people?

I experienced much cruelty when I lived in the Scottish Highlands, through bullying.  Teenagers are often cruel to each other, and to other people.  Being English meant that some Scots treated me as though I was an enemy, and even personally responsible for historical events.

Adults are often cruel, too, especially when they are unreasonably resentful and/or abusive as a consequence of their religious and/or political beliefs or sense of self-importance.

We were a non-religious family through we always had a deep respect for, and appreciation of, nature.  As I have already mentioned in this series of blog posts, we did not discuss our political views openly.  We did not mix with opinionated people.

My love of peace and privacy has probably arisen as a consequence of my upbringing.  City life, and suburban life, and town life for that matter, can be much more anonymous than living in a village or remote area.

When geographically separated from the wider world, there is more likely to be curiosity within the surrounding households about strangers in their midsts.  I do not want my neighbours talking about me.  I do not even want my family members talking about me to strangers.

I prefer to interact only with people who understand and respect my desire for peace and privacy.  Is that too much to ask?

Australia is not really home to me.  It has never felt like home.  I have not met many Australians I can trust, or even respect.  There is no point in attempting to respect someone incapable of mutual respect.

I began exploring my husband's family history in the hope that, by doing so, I would feel more of a personal connection with Australia.  In my early married life, I attended a wide range of short-courses and did voluntary work and did my best to get along with the people my husband knew.

The tactlessness of many Australians, including politicians, bureaucrats and people in the media, has made me less and less connected to the society around me.  The pretensions of many Australians have appalled me, as have their unsought, ignorant and insensitive opinions.

I did not want to absorb such horribleness.  And I have certainly never considered brashness, bigotry and intrusiveness to be normal.

How do you make decisions in relation to the politics of age and identity?

How do you make decisions in relation to the politics of culture more generally?

How have you tried to change the culture of politics, and why?

How deeply have you reflected upon your cultural identity since beginning your family history explorations?

My husband is a quiet, gentle, thoughtful man, in much the same way as my maternal grandfather.

My grandfather was a rock of stability for me as I grew up.  My husband has been a rock of stability for me as I have grown older.

Yet family history research tends to uncover much instability rather than stability.  Official records reflect changes even more so than continuity.

Where, then, is home for any of us, and what is it?

There are many aspects of Britain I detest as much as Australian ones.  Yet a willingness to leave known unpleasantness does not imply that pleasantness will be found elsewhere.  What we probably want is for the unpleasantness to stop.  That, in itself, is often a political matter.

I have rarely, if ever, acted in the name of Britishness, except in a touristic way.

Is your sense of identity mainly related to your temperament rather than cultural, racial or geographical factors?

Many people in the world do not know when they were born, or even where they were born.  They may or may not know who one or both of their genetic parents may have been.

My official identity, hence my political identity, gives me many options in life, not only as an Australian citizen and as a British citizen, but also as someone eligible to apply for Irish citizenship.  The latter would provide me with potential, future citizenship rights throughout the European Union that are unlikely to be available to many other British citizens in the years ahead.

All citizenships are political.  All residency rights in a country have political connotations.

How have you been exploring identity across the centuries and its influence on your life today?

How have you explored your family history philosophically?

What are the ethnicities within your family history?

How do you feel about those ethnicities?

What have been your social and geographical experiences of family history research? 

Have you taken journeys to where your ancestors lived or fought or worked or migrated or originated or married?

How have you proved marriages took place, or did not?

Has there ever been a paternity dispute in your family?

Have you been in touch with distant family members through email or social media, finding you share similar, or different, family research interests, and intentions?

Have you carefully reflected upon the intentions underpinning your research?

If you have met new people who directly or indirectly share part of your ancestry, what were your feelings and expectations before doing so, and how did the experience compare?

How have you been evaluating experiences associated with your family history research, whether the experiences have been your own, those of other relatives or your imagined view of the world as it was lived by an ancestor?

Did any of your ancestors live some or all of their lives within a non-family organisation, with or without access to filiation?

Have you found records about an ancestor's experiences of children's homes, orphanages, boarding schools, prisons, hospitals, workhouses, monasteries, convents, mission stations, military organisations, concentration camps or refugee camps?

Was anyone in your family adopted or a legal guardian, or involved in banditry and/or gang warfare?

Has anyone in your family ever been an officer of arms?

Most family histories have little or no significant, official connection with heraldry and vexillology.  Even so, many people have been duped into purchasing expensive but worthless coats of arms, flags, badges and other dubious insignia.

What are you currently hoping to discover via research?

What have you already discovered via history?

What have you been attempting to find out via locations in the physical world, whether in person or virtually?

I know my fair ancestors in Mayfair were never wealthy.

The family as a social institution has often been influenced by circumstances beyond the control of most, if not necessarily all, of its members.  Your family history is likely to have been influenced by many social institutions and many formal organisations.

Some formal organisations are known as institutions, though their meaning is obviously different from the sociological one.

Much of your sense of identity is based on ancestors and education, whether the education has been your own or that of your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents?

I am not a parent, as you may already know.  I certainly did not enjoy school, or family conflicts, and I would never want any child, adolescent, young adult, or anyone else, to suffer the bullying and confusion I suffered.

My maternal grandmother and her best friend both worked "in service" in their youth in a great house in Shropshire.  My grandmother developed the persona of a higher class person as a consequence.  She was very much like Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in manner and appearance when in public.

I am still discovering Shropshire history.  But as I think about the lives of my ancestors, and the discomforts they experienced, I also remind myself that wealthier families lived nearby.

How many people have profited, and continue to profit, from the miseries of my ancestors?

Even with an awareness of the poverty and hard work of my ancestors, and the very limited physical and financial inheritance left to any of their descendants, I still love experiencing the joy of genealogy.

However rewarding or frustrating the research may be at times, discovering the ancestors within us can be surprisingly overwhelming.  Our connections with history, and the universe, can deepen as a consequence.

When my mother was a child, her family migrated from Shropshire to Staffordshire.  It was not a very long journey in geographical terms but it was a major upheaval in her parents' lives nevertheless.

When my father was a child, during the Second World War, he moved with his mother and younger brother from South Wales to London to Devon and then back to London.  His father had moved as a child from Northern Ireland to Devon.  His mother had grown up in London but her father's parents had migrated from Belgium.  After the war, my father and his family moved to Staffordshire.

That was how my parents met.

Migration is part of my English, Belgian and Ulster heritage.  My Australian life is a consequence of my decision to migrate, just as moving from one location to another was part of my life in Britain.

In Belgium, some of my ancestors migrated from Flanders to Brussels and then travelled on to London.  Other family members migrated from Walloon areas to Brussels.  The family members from near Antwerp probably left the area before 1830.  The family member from Lier most likely left there in the late 1860s.

My Belgian great, great grandparents arrived in London in the mid to late 1870s.

Migration is part of my husband's Italian heritage.  I met him in South America on one of my investigative journeys in the 1980s.  His family, in earlier generations, migrated from Italy to Australia for various reasons.

I migrated from England to Australia when we married.  As a migrant in Australia.  I was also a internal migrant in Britain, as were many of my forebears.

Life in Australia has been part of my husband's heritage since at least the late 1870s and early 1880s.  Some of his ancestors left Viggiano in Basilicata at that time.   Others left in the late 1880s, possibly to escape conscription.

Those leaving earlier were travelling musicians.  A few became small traders in Australia or remained as musicians.

Through studying the lives of pre-1930 Italian migrants and their family histories in Australia, I have gained a perspective on Australian history most professional historians do not possess.  The research also made my 2009 and 2013 visits to Italy much more meaningful and rewarding for me, and for my husband.

One of my husband's other ancestors left Lombardy before the First World War, possibly also escaping conscription.  He followed two uncles and an older brother to Australia.  Several younger siblings followed later.  They mainly established ice cream factories in Australia.  The eldest uncle probably helped to pay for their journeys.  We have no idea about what happened to the other uncle.

Ancestral reflections can take us on many emotional journeys, even without going anywhere in the physical sense of the word.  Yet through travel, or via migration, we can have breakfast with forebears in spirit as we learn more about their lives and legacy.

The maternal ancestors of my husband were from the Veneto region of Italy.  They came to Australia in the 1920s, escaping poverty, traumatic memories of war and dangerous confrontations with Fascists.
You may have gained insightful images of the world through migration.

During my childhood, my family made a temporary migration every summer to the coast of north Wales from our home in central England.  We lived in a tent for several weeks, in a field on a farm, overlooking the sea.

In my teens, my family left the dilapidated cottage we rented in rural England.  We then went to live in a basic holiday chalet in the Highlands of Scotland.  We inhabited the uninsulated chalet over an entire winter.

We then moved into a more solid rental house.  My parents never owned any property when I was growing up.  They never had a mortgage as a consequence but we never seemed to have much money.

I was a migrant again when I moved from the Scottish Highlands after finishing high school.  That was when I went back to Staffordshire and lived with my grandparents while studying at a technical college.

I then migrated from Staffordshire to London when I finished college, having been offered my first full-time job - at the BBC.

Winters in England are something I do not miss while living in Australia!  When I lived in London, I liked to travel to somewhere warmer every winter, whenever that opportunity arose.

All migration is political as all economic factors are political.  What have you been learning about unfairness and better opportunities via research?

Many historical records of relevance to my Ulster family history were destroyed by a fire in Dublin in June 1922.

What have been your experiences of Ulster mysteries and discoveries?

I only know a few details of my Ulster heritage.  My grandfather left there as a small orphan boy during the First World War.  Most of his early years were spent in Devon, where three of his much older brothers were based with the Royal Navy.

My grandfather was born in Belfast in 1909.  His father worked as a yarn dresser in the linen industry.

In 1901, the family briefly lived in Bessbrook in County Armagh, not far from Newry.  The children were mainly born in Antrim, most likely in Belfast itself.

In 1911, according to census records, the family lived in West Belfast, just off the Shankill Road.  They were Methodists.

There is much to learn about the present via understanding of the past.

What have you attempted to learn and understand, if anything, via the Americas?

How far back does your ancestry go in various parts of the world?

Do you have Italian Australian ancestry from the 1880s?

My husband's paternal grandmother, Josephine, was born in Australia in 1898.  Her parents were first-generation migrants, also via Italy.

My husband is therefore three parts third-generation Australian and one part fourth-generation Australian, or even more.   All his grandparents became Australian citizens, or at least British subjects in Australia, long before he was born.

Josephine's mother, arrived in Australia as a child. Josephine's maternal grandparents, two great uncles and at least one great, great grandparent also migrated to Australia.

Josephine's father arrived in Australia as a young man, escaping conscription in Italy.  He could not read or write but he became a very good businessman.

With evidence certainly available to confirm Josephine's maternal great-grandfather, Giacomo, being in Australia around 1882, that would suggest my husband's Australian connection goes back six generations, to Little Lon

Do you speak proper Italian at all?

By that, I do not mean the various dialects of Italy.  Nor do I mean speaking Italian with a foreign accent.  What I mean is:  Do you have the ability to communicate verbally, clearly, accurately, successfully and productively with official Italy, in the northern, central and southern parts of the country?

Do you have the ability to communicate with officialdom anywhere?

I have managed to find a great deal of information about my husband's ancestry, without knowing the Italian language, and with a great deal of imagination, luck and curiosity.  What I have been discovering is of importance to Australia as a whole, so I have been told by several historians.

Here is one of my introductory blog posts:
Italian Migrants and their Family Histories in Australia

I have been especially interested in learning why the internment of naturalised British subjects in Australia during World War Two was so unjust, especially for naturalised persons originally from Italy, such as my husband's grandfather.

Explore Ancestors Within to find out more, particularly if you - or someone you have married - has ancestral connections with Italy.

There continue to be many injustices in Australia.  I am too distressed to recount the many I have personally experienced, even recently.

The people of most relevance to my Italian investigations have included:

The Viggianese - From Viggiano in Basilicata to Australia between 1870 and 1890.

The Cremonese - From Cremona and nearby villages in Lombardy to Australia between 1880 and 1930.

Montello bisnenti - From north of Treviso in the Veneto to Australia between 1920 and 1930.

My husband and I have, in previous decades, enjoyed exploring history through travelling as well as through reading.  Yet we have long been deeply concerned about the future of the world.

We chose not to have children, for a great many reasons. The more we learn about history, and about nature, the more we worry about what will happen.

We love art.  We love beautiful scenery.  We love Italian opera. We love peace and justice and truth.

We are not at all religious, though we are interested in philosophical ideas.  Our parents were not religious.  We also both dislike sport and are not particularly competitive in any way. 

We have both enjoyed many Italian foods over the years.  We can even grow many of the ingredients for Italian meals in our own garden.  Our diet now is vegetarian and we no longer drink alcohol.

I have always mostly spoken the English language though spelling is not one of my strong points, and nor is proof-reading.  I also have trouble typing accurately and remembering numbers.

Do you think of shared language in a similar way to other shared pleasures?

Are you aware of the most political words in the English language?

04 September 2019

The Politics of Family History - Part Eleven

Here are my lovely grandparents, Harry and Dorothy.  I do not have many photographs of them so every one is precious to me.

Harry and Dorothy were never known by their first names by people outside the family.  Traditions of courtesy and formality were very important in their opinion.

In this picture, they are probably enjoying a family picnic, even in a business suit and smart summer frock.  They are likely to be sitting on a rug.  They would never sit on the grass directly.

Many people have mementos of the past that bring life to their family histories.

Which objects make your ancestors seem closer to you?

Which traditions make your ancestors seem closer to you?

Which changes in your life make your ancestors seem closer to you?

Have you been wondering whether the world has improved for current and future generations or whether it is going backwards?

Do you have a Whig view of history or a realist one?

I am a realist.  I know there is too much selfishness in the world for it ever to be improved properly.

You may think my explorations of history are a higgledy-piggledy jumble.  Yet social experiences can often be higgledy-piggledy, especially when selfish people take advantage of kind individuals.  My grandparents were good, kind, peaceful people.  Decorum was important to them but so was honesty.  They did not trust most people.

Selfish people will always be exploitative unless measures are in place to prevent them from being that way.  Unfortunately, selfish people are attracted to careers in politics for their own benefit.  They want the excitement of power.  They do not want to be good, kind and peaceful.

Yet different people have different assumptions about what is selfish and what is not. 

My grandparents benefited from the 19th century Factory Acts, the Mines and Colleries Act of 1842 and the Elementary Education Act of 1880, at least when the laws were enforced.  Yet my grandfather's family would not have approved of the Education Act of 1902.  They were Methodists.

Most of my ancestors, up until 1918, were probably barred from voting as a consequence of poverty.

My grandmother gained the right to vote in 1928, at the age of twenty-two.  The first general election in which my grandparents were entitled to vote was in 1929

The first general election in which I was entitled to vote was in 1983.  I was first entitled to voted in local elections in 1981.  Yet I did not really have a vote because there were no candidates representing my point of view at all.

Do you know much about the early 20th century Efficiency Movement?

Do you know much about the UK General Strike of 1926?

When examining your family history in relation to education laws and labour laws, and the inadequacies of laws and their haphazard enforcement, how do you feel?

There continues to be much exploitation, bullying and other abuses in the world.  There is still much to learn from the horrible injustices of 19th century Britain

Wealth has often been built on the backs of the brutally abused.

What do you know about excessively cheap labour today and the expanding wealth gap?

Exploitation is often out of sight and out of mind.  Whether it is a child down a mine or up a chimney, or an impoverished widow or abandoned wife with starving children to feed, there is the added danger that desperate people will do dangerous work for a pittance if no better alternative is available.

What do you know about the British class system and the injustices within it?

Why is it still the case that restlessly disruptive young people from impoverished, minority or unsettled backgrounds are still more likely to end up in jail while restlessly disruptive young people from wealthy backgrounds can eventually become prime minister?

How do you examine social differences, economic differences, cultural differences and mental health issues?

How do you examine the influence of language and dialects on socioeconomic success?

Are you familiar with the linguistic work of Joseph Wright?

When I was growing up, just about every television programme indicated that intelligent people spoke RP and the cheerfully vulgar working class spoke Cockney.

Voices sounding like the people around me were never broadcast at all.  People with regional accents were either treated by broadcasters and film makers as though they never even existed or were merely comic characters.

People sounding like my paternal grandfather were stereotyped as yokels or pirates.

How were, and are, people with foreign accents stereotyped?

If you have not yet explored the early parts of this series of blog posts, you may like to start at the very beginning:



21 August 2019

The Politics of Family History - Part Ten


As this series of blog posts has revealed, there is much politics in family history and much also to learn about the politics of family history.

To investigate the history of your own family is not without its risks, especially if it reveals that your family is not actually your family at all, biologically speaking.

How do you usually think of courtesy in relation to family life and how do you compare it with courtesy in political life more widely?

Do you usually consider family life to be political?

There is often much to learn about the politics of the family, and about courtesy and its history.

Perhaps you are a member of a current or former political family.  Yet every family is political in its own way, especially when one or more members have much more power than the other members.

Do you know much about oligarchies and nepotism?

What does the word family really mean in the 21st century?

What did it mean in previous centuries, and to whom?

What relevance did courtliness and gallantry have for your ancestors?

Do you know whether any of your ancestors wore powdered wigs and bizarre silks?

Mine are unlikely to have done so.

Were any of your ancestors well acquainted with the galant style, sensitive style and rococo aspects of the arts in the 18th century?

Where any of your ancestors bourgeoisie in the 19th century?

Mine were certainly not though a few may have been petite bourgeois or aspired to be so.  Most were skilled workers or colliers.  There were quite a few carpenters and cabinet makers in my paternal ancestry, in England and in Belgium.

Do you have much interest in woodworking and its history?

Were most of your ancestors skilled workers?

Some of my Belgian ancestors were embroiderers and seamstresses though I have not yet found any lace makers amongst them.

Much terminology has political meanings in various contexts.  You may have noticed, however, that I am writing these blog posts without much of a narrative.  I am merely interested in exploring the politics of family history along various threads.

There are many themes still to explore.

I have recently discovered the online archives of The Gazette.  Do you know much about it and its history?

Does the date 22 June 1815 mean anything to you?

I have been wondering how often my Belgian ancestors would have been refugees from fighting of one sort or another, and victims of other sorts of oppression.

My wealthiest relative in the first half on the 20th century was my double great, great uncle, Louis Prosper Verheyen, the manager for a drug and spice merchant. 

I have discovered, from The Gazette of 5 February 1929 that Louis became a naturalised citizen in January of that year.  At around the same time, he married my great, great aunt Florrie.  His first wife had died the year before.

Perhaps Louis had been unable to become British before then.  He remained Belgian.  That may have been due to his childhood troubles and confinement to an industrial school outside London.

How do you attempt to uncover hidden experiences in your family history?

What do you know about the politics of the hidden?

In 1908, Louis was living in Chamberlayne Wood Road, Willesden with his first wife, their surviving children (several had died in infancy) and his widowed mother, who was dying of pulmonary tuberculosis.

My great, great grandfather had been Louis step-father.  I am wondering whether they had a difficult relationship.  I am also wondering whether my Belgian great, great grandparents were ever proficient in the English language.  I suspect they were not.

My great, great grandfather was described on his wife's death certificate a having been a journeyman tailor, meaning he never employed anyone.  He probably spent much of his career as an employee.

I would love to know more about the theatrical costumes on which he worked in London.

He was much older than my great-great grandmother when he died, a couple of years before she did.

Two of my paternal grandmother's brothers were younger than my father-in-law and another was only slightly older.  I always thought of my in-laws as being in my grandparents' generation rather than my parents' generation.

How have you explored the generation gap through your family history?

There are often also attitude gaps between migrants and the children of migrants.  Neither usually feel quite at home in either their place of residence or their place of origin.

I am like that myself.  I do not really feel I belong anywhere.  I have always felt like an outsider.  I have spent much of my life as though I am a wanderer in search of a real home in a real community.

My grandparents had all moved from one part of Britain to another at various times.  My childhood and adolescence were unsettled, too, especially with my parents' work.  My late teens and early 20s were also unsettled and unsettling, including after my move to London at the age of nineteen.

London was certainly a contrast to my mid teens in the Scottish Highlands and my late childhood and early adolescence in the rural Midlands of England.

I wonder whether my Belgian relatives mainly interacted with French-speaking people in Soho, where they lived in the 1880s and 1890s.  Having lived mostly in Brussels beforehand, perhaps my great, great grandmother did not really feel London was an especially overwhelming place, unlike my experiences of it.

London, for me, was a place of excitement and fear and opportunity and frustration and expensive decisions. 

When considering location in family history research, it can be hard to imagine how our ancestors lived even if we know something about where they lived, and with whom they lived, and where they worked.

Are you familiar with the Battle of Waterloo and Waterloo Bridge and the Waterloo Helmet?

Are you familiar with the Swinging Sixties?

My parents were in their mid twenties when Waterloo Sunset was a popular song.  Many of their influences were countercultural, unlike those of my in-laws and maternal grandparents.

My paternal grandmother was certainly ahead of her time in terms of independent mindedness, feistiness and a feminist spirit.

Are you familiar with my research into the spice of life?

Are you familiar with Mincing Lane in the City of London?

You may know the lane as the historic home of the British tea trade, opium trade and spice trade.

What do you know about Household Words and A Child's History of England?

During her first marriage, my Belgium great-great-grandmother lived in Molenbeek.  As far as I am aware, she grew up closer to the centre of Brussels.  Her parents, Rosalie and Joseph, married there on 16 August 1873.  Joseph had been living in Sint-Joost-Ten-Node.

When I was a little girl, the only Brussels I knew was the sprout variety, and not with much pleasure.  I like them much better now, as long as they are freshly picked and lightly cooked.

On all my blogs, your comments are still truly welcome and appreciated if they are relevant to my ongoing investigations.

I would especially love to hear from you if you can offer interesting historical insights.  Please note, though, they I prefer not to put many links to web pages littered with intrusive advertising.

You may also wish to contact me by email: writetovia (AT) gmail.com for a more private form of correspondence.

I hope you have caught up with the following:

The Spice of Life - Part One

The Spice of Life - Part Two

The Spice of Life - Part Three

The Spice of Life - Part four

When Florrie and Louis married in the late 1920s, they lived in Crediton Road, Kensal Rise.  It may have been the house I visited with my parents as a young child in the 1960s.

If you have already had a genealogical look around Ancestors Within, is it because your family history explorations have taken your research via Belgium and/or via migration?

You may be interested in the origins of family names. Having a "foreign" sounding name tends to cause political problems from time to time especially if the possessor also has a "foreign" accent.  Even regional differences in names and accents can cause political problems.

How well have you been spinning the thread of history together?

How successful have you been at finding great grandparents?

Do you, and other researchers, treat your ancestors as subjects or objects?

Are your investigations into working families and genealogical studies helping you to understand the shape of your own life better?

I try to imagine the various challenges of language and literacy my great-great-grandparents would have faced.  Although such obstacles were probably difficult enough for my uneducated English and Ulster forebears, they must have been much more so for my Belgian ancestors.

Just as today, family life in the 19th century was rarely straightforward and uncomplicated.   Building up an accurate picture of the truth can be like making bobbin lace.

I enjoy the joy of genealogy, especially when discovering new facts about my ancestors.  There are also the issues of consanguinity, affinity, peace and privacy to consider when interacting with other family history researchers.

How do you tell the difference between Brussels lace and knotty problems?

My Belgian ancestors are linked to textile industries and tailoring as well as carpentry and cabinetmaking, as you may already know.

You may also know about the Ulster mysteries and discoveries in my family tree and my weaving of a family yarn.  One of the things I have been doing is getting to know great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers, within reason.  They are people often unknown to history except through family discoveries and rediscoveries.

Where and how did your family traditions originate and continue, and why?

If you have a similarly mixed cultural heritage to my own, or even a more mized one, how was Christmas usually experienced by your ancestors if they chose to experience it at all?  

There have been many deaths around Christmastime in my family.

Putting everything and everyone into the family history picture requires a sense of purpose.  In my own case, I begin with questions I want to answer but then serendipity tends to take over.  It has certainly been an interesting, exciting and surprising exploration from my point of view.

That has been the case with The Gazette.  Have any of your ancestors been victuallers?

I have already provided an introduction to my Surrey family heritage in which I mentioned East Molesey, Egham, Richmond and Twickenham.  In a 1790s trade directory, I found a boot and shoe maker in Richmond called Welcome Cole.  He is quite likely one of my ancestors.

Do you know much about The Universal British Directory?

In the 19th century and early 20th century, in Britain and Belgium, families were often much larger than they are today in western societies.  There are often so many cousins and second cousins in the world of today that making new discoveries through distant relatives, and with the help of other strangers, can feel overwhelming.

In June 1811, a Welcome Cole was declared bankrupt.  He had lived in New Cut, Lambeth and in Paradise Row, Rotherhithe.  He was a victualler, dealer and chapman.

The only 19th century people I have found of that name happen to be my ancestors.  The following month, July 1811, Welcome was sent off to the King's Bench Prison.

Being prepared for the spice of life can turn family history research into an endlessly surprising journey.

Has there been much bankruptcy recorded in your family history?

Has there been much poverty recorded in your family history?

In December 1813, poor Welcome was in the Fleet Prison.  He was still attempting to earn a living as a victualler and had been living in Twickenham and Hounslow.

There is no record of how long he was in the debtors' prisons.

Has anyone ever written a novel based on the experiences of anyone in your family tree?

Art, artistry and craft skills can provide insights into the activities of ancestors.  For example, my husband's Italian heritage is linked through one branch of his family to the harpists of Viggiano.

Have you read a novel called Sans Famille?  It is by Hector Malot and was first published in 1878.

08 August 2019

The Politics of Family History - Part Nine

There are only a few questions I still want to answer about interesting mysteries within my own family history.

Ancestors Within may help you to find a few answers you are currently seeking.

Why are your questions of importance to you?

What have you found of most interest in your findings?

Are you one of my relatives at all?

Even if you are not, how do you usually relate to the worldwide genealogical community?

What are your main research interests and why do you have those interests?

If you are willing and able to assist with my ongoing research, so much the better.

Ancestors Within  has shown that there are many ways to approach family history investigations, especially on a minimal budget.  I have never had a subscription to a family history website.  I have never bought books about how to do family research.  I have only once purchased a magazine on the subject, mainly out of curiosity.  There was little in it of relevance to me.

How do you usually ascertain relevance?

As an unpaid researcher, most of the methods and sources I have used have been of the free or very cheap variety.  My local library provides free access to genealogical resources otherwise only available by subscription.

Through this blog, I have creatively shared a few aspects of my family history research.   Through doing so, I also discovered many benefits to my research arising from publishing my findings.

All my family history research has been through my own choice.  My research has not been funded by anyone other than myself and I have had clear, personal priorities about what I wished to discover and what I wanted to share.

There have also been quite a few surprises.

How might you be able to assist me and/or future visitors to Ancestors Within?

If you are well-versed in genealogy, you might be able to offer some ideas about solving the mysteries that still baffle me.  Gaining access to records in small communities in England, or in non-English speaking locations, is often quite a challenge.  Yet I have already had wonderful, free assistance to overcome some of those obstacles.

Quite a few people have contacted me through Ancestors Within over the years, adding to my knowledge.  I am eternally grateful towards anyone providing highly relevant and accurate information free of charge.

The same cannot necessarily be said of the people seeking to persuade me to provide their activities with financial or promotional support.  Nor can the same be said of the individuals who have contacted me mainly to attract attention to their own activities, none of which are of any relevance to mine.

For the benefit of other unpaid family historians, from time to time I have placed free links from Ancestors Within to websites about commercial genealogical products and services.  Even so, I have never provided reviews or recommendations, though I have received several requests from commercial entities seeking my assessments.

If your commercial product or service has been mentioned in Ancestors Within, I hope you have been willing, as a courtesy, to provide some sort of acknowledgement.  You may also have provided a compensatory donation to at least one of the not-for-profit organisations beneficial to my research.

Courtesy and kindness can take many forms.

Whenever someone has contacted me in an effort to persuade me to promote their business or read their blog or buy their book, I have considered their unsolicited requests to be rude.

How do you usually think about courtesy?

How do you usually think about diplomacy?

Much family history research has international features.  So many of us have ancestors from more than one country.

I try to avoid sharing identifying details of living and recently deceased persons.  When conducting and publishing family history research, it is absolutely necessary to have a carefully considered, cautious approach to privacy and security.

Today, I have decided to move a few links from older blog posts to this one, to ensure they are still relevant to me:

Black Country History

Through that website, I found interesting photographs and information:

Perhaps I am related to one of them

Some of my ancestors may have looked like them

Although family history research certainly relies on evidence, and is a journey towards truth, much like science, it has the added dimension of uniqueness: No two family history journeys are quite the same.

If we are sensible, we each begin our family history journeys with ourselves, as individuals.  Starting in the present is always a good idea when attempting to reveal mysteries and unravel confusions.

What is it about yourself that inspires you to want to know more about your family history?

What motivates you to want to learn more about your family history, or about anything else for that matter?

Why are you reading this?

What are your expectations of this information?

What are you seeking to discover here?

In many types of research, the sources of information can be traced back through citations.  Online citations can often be indicated through hyperlinks.

In journalism, however, especially investigative journalism, links to whistle-blowers are usually hidden.

Uncovering secrets and possible scandals in a family can sometimes feel like being a whistle-blower.  We may even discover political scandals along the way.

For ethical reasons, no sensitive information should ever be published, in any context.  The responsibility towards people in the present and future, and especially towards their mental health, must be appropriately considered at all times, by everyone.

Yet what should be done when wrongdoing is uncovered, especially ongoing wrongdoing or wrongdoing in the relatively recent past?

The insensitive or embarrassing release of information can have many unpleasant consequences, even for yourself.  This is particularly the case if someone feels threatened by your research and seeks revenge.

The truth is all important, though sensitivity must always be expressed if the truth could cause distress to someone.  But there are also people who have caused a great deal of suffering, much of which may have long been hidden behind a web of lies and threats.

Are you hoping your research will help you to redress a past injustice, or at least to understand the causes, context and consequences of perceived injustices?

How do you distinguish between facts and perceptions?

What is most important is intellectual honesty.  Through this approach, emotions and ulterior motives do not distort or hide the truth.  

What are you seeking to explain as a consequence of your research, either to yourself or to one or more of your family members?

What sorts of comparisons are you attempting to make, and why?

How would you compare one Staffordshire coal miner with another?

How do you think about the politics of coal, in any societal, political, environmental or historical context?

What do you know about world energy resources?

What do you know about the history of coal mining?

Which relationships between cause and effect are you seeking to understand better?

Your family history research is likely to be mainly qualitative rather than quantitative, though you may find it useful to seek out quantitative information to provide more context to the story.

What do you know about Coalbookdale?

That is a significant place in my family history, and in the world's industrial heritage, and to the future of life itself.

What do you know about the 1801 painting Coalbrookdale by Night by Philip James de Loutherbourg?

What do you know about the worldwide energy supply and world energy consumption?

What do you know about the Earth's energy budget?

Who made the most money from coal mining in the United Kingdom in the 19th and 20th centuries and how much unfair privilege do their descendants still possess?

Family history research can be associated with historical demography, family economics, home economics and all sorts of other, associated subjects.  There will also be brute facts to consider.  Sometimes, however, there are no reasonable explanations for an occurrence, at least for now.

What do you know about air pollution in Victorian-era Britain, and its ongoing consequences?

What do you know about the economic history of the United Kingdom, and the issues necessarily to be explored in any society as a consequence of it?

Genealogy tends to be associated with genetics, lineage, pedigrees and kinship.  It may be associated with membership of a clan or a nation.  The latter may be associated with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

How do you usually assess mortality rates, whether in your own family history or more generally?

All accurate histories rely upon primary sources of evidence, even though such sources are not necessarily accurate.

In terms of context, the lives of ancestors can be understood a little better with the help of local history and one-place studies, and possibly even one-name studies

But how do you build up a bigger picture?

How do you identify past surprises and injustices and highlight more recent ones?

What do you know about hidden psychological heritage?

How much of your behaviour and thinking happen to be instinctive?

How much of you is innate?

Like the ecology of the natural world, the ecology of human society is about the interactions of organisms and populations in their biophysical environment.  We, our ancestors and future generations, are those organisms.

Ecological investigations must always acknowledge the complexity of biotic and abiotic components.  Even so, family history research is not an exact science.  Like the sciences, however, it can involve jargon.  I try to keep that to a minimum within Ancestors Within.

We are obviously all products of culture as well as nature.  I view the findings of family history research as an essential part of the ecology of human society but also as much more than that.  How did your ancestors attempt to find safety and security, if at all?  How do you meet your own needs in that regard?

How do you account for views on morality and mortality, or the lack of them, within a family history?

Are you more interested in studying your family tree through unilineality or ambilineality?

How do you think of genetics and commonality in relation to privacy and peace?

Your observable, biological characteristics are know as your phenotype. Your biological makeup is associated with three factors.

1. Your environmental experiences - both naturally and culturally

2. Your genotype - the inheritance you carry in your genetic code through DNA

3.  Epigenetic changes - which leave your genetic code sequence intact but alter the function of genes

But how do you achieve a genealogical proof standard?

Often, our family history findings combine technical communication and narrative presentations.  You may write about your family history as an anthropologist would, in a detached way as an observer.  That is probably a good idea if your family history contains many tragedies and/or abuses and/or you have experience psychological trauma yourself.

Please be aware that there are many unscrupulous people seeking to benefit financially from your family history searches.  They may have a website with numerous links but little useful information.  They may also be trying to hack into your digital devices, possibly to steal your identity and financial resources.

Has anyone in your family ever had a surprising inheritance or been duped into believing one existed?

Has anyone in your family ever been denied an expected inheritance and consequentially contested a will?

Where have you found evidence of parent-offspring conflict in your family history?

Have you incorporated several generations of cousins and siblings into your family history research or have you stuck to simpler research, by only tracing records from one generation of parents to each earlier level of your family tree?

How do you know you have traced your family history through reliable sources?

How many of the biological parental relationships in your family history are a consequence of fully informed, mutual consent?

Which ancestral relationships tend to indicate sexual coercion, ignorance or carelessness?

How do you usually examine the gender issues in your family tree?
 
You may prefer to use your accumulated family history data mainly on lists and charts or you may have written much of your family history in a journalistic or academic or otherwise technical way.

Alternatively, you may have developed a creative non-fiction narrative or incorporated your factual data into a work of fiction.

There are many options.

You may have put your family history findings into another artistic form, using photographs, drawings and other visual representations, expressing your family history without many words.  Or you may have written poems or song lyrics about aspects of your family history.

Have you compiled a genogram of your family history?

What have you inherited biologically?

What have you inherited legally?

What have you inherited emotionally?

Which progenitors in your family history have most acquired your affection, and why?

I am especially interested in my great-great grandmothers, especially the Belgian one.  I have now acquired a great deal of knowledge about her.

It is usually much easier to trace ancestors with contextually unusual names. Most of my ancestors had highly common English names, and highly common English occupations.

Do you know anything about the politics of etiquette and the etiquette of politics and how they have affected your family history?

30 July 2019

The Politics of Family History - Part Eight

I have recently been discovering more about my Wallonian ancestry from the National Archives of Belgium.

Do you have any Walloons in your family tree?

My Flemish great-great-grandmother was actually half Flemish and half Walloon.  Both of her parents were born in Brussels but her mother's family came from Namur.  Her father and maternal grandfather were both carpenters in Brussels at the time of her birth in 1845.  Her father was a widower when he married her mother, in 1837.

In 1847, the family was in Algiers, briefly.  That was where my great-great-grandmother's brother Joseph was born, on 1 September of that year.

The family seems to have returned to Brussels soon afterwards.  Perhaps the North African weather was too hot for them.

My Belgian great-great-grandmother's maternal grandfather was born in Namur on 24 June 1775.  His father, Jean-Joseph Bara, was a carpenter, too.  He was born circa 1745.  The area was part of the Austrian Netherlands then.

Before the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, the area was part of the Spanish Netherlands.  It was under the control of the French from 1794.  In 1815, it became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.  It became part of Belgium in 1830.

My Flemish ancestors were originally within the the Duchy of Brabant.  My great-great-grandmother's father was born in Berchem, to the south of Antwerp 29 August 1805.  His father was born there in 1772.  The entire family subsequently moved to Brussels.

I have no information about how the elder Joseph was affected by the Brabant Revolution or the subsequent French activity.  His wife, Euphemia Bulteel, may have originated from the town of Otegem in the municipality of Zwevegem in West Flanders.

How do you attempt to assess the politically-related upheavals in your family history?

What do you know about the influence of cultural events on political ones?

Does any of your family history involve events via Belgium?

How has politics, and economics, affected your family history via migration?

What is your approach to understanding politics via history itself?

How do you investigate local history and social history in relation to political history?

How do you investigate labour history in relation to economic history, political history and cultural history?

There were carpenters amongst my Huntingdonshire ancestors.  They probably did not travel far from St Neots and Eynesbury until their migration to London in the 1840s.

I feel as remote from my Huntingdonshire heritage as I do from my Belgian heritage, having never had a personal connection with either part of the world.

How does the history of road development play a part in your family history?

How did other forms of infrastructure  influence the decisions of your ancestors?

How have you been investigating the working lives of ancestors?

I have been reading English Social History by GM Trevelyan.  The author came from a much more privileged background than mine.  My copy of his book is from July 1945, when Britain had paper rationing.

How have government policies affected your view of the world?

If you had ancestors in England, how were they affected by enclosure acts and turnpike trusts?

The lives of many of my Shropshire ancestors, in particular, were probably influenced by the early 19th century work of Thomas Telford.

How may the subsequent development of rail transportation transformed their existence?

I had been eager to learn more about my Belgian ancestors for many years.  Do you have more interest in learning about the unfamiliar rather than the familiar?

My interest has long been more towards the history of the world rather than local history.  Yet family history can bring more meaningful connections with any sort of history.

What is your approach to historiography?

What is your attitude towards world history?

How do you usually assess politics?

If you have a similar heritage to me, how have you examined the historiography of the United Kingdom?

How have you examined the historiography of the British Empire, or any other empire?

What is your attitude towards imperialism?

What is your attitude towards mercantilism?

What is your attitude towards warfare?

How do your attitudes to such subjects affect your examination of your family history?

What do you know about the historiography of the Poor Laws?

How do you usually assess poverty?

How do you usually assess wealth, influence and prestige?

GM Trevelyan was related to an earlier historian, Thomas Babington Macaulay.  The latter was also a politician.

What is your philosophy of history?

What is your political philosophy?

What is the purpose of your family history research?

How have people in your family influenced your views on political issues?

Do you have an antiquarian interest in your ancestors?

What do you know about Whig history and the idea of linear human progress?

I have been comparing the political landscape of my Belgian ancestors with that of my husband's relatives in the Austrian-ruled Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia.

Who do you believe has the right to rule your life?

What do you think finding a real home really means?

How do you compare decades of your life with the decades of your ancestors' lives?

How, for example, do you compare the 1770s with the 1870s and 1970s?

You may already know something about 1870s migration from Belgium to London.

You may also know something about Belgium and the Franco-Prussian War.

How do you compare the 1780s with the 1880s and the 1980s?

Do you think of your ancestors, and other people remote from you, as if they are objects or subjects?

What have been your experiences of comparative history when looking at the lives of your ancestors?

What do you know about historical sociology and comparative sociology?

What do you know about comparative historical research?

One of the predominant apparent trends in politics today, in many parts of the world, is diminishing respect for the truth.  But has politics always been that way?

There can be no justice without respect for the truth.  Without justice, societies either descend into chaos or authoritarian rule, or both.

When chaos or activism occur, authoritarian rulers demean, imprison or kill the unruly.  It has happened time and time again throughout history.  It is still happening.

Yet civilised activism is necessary when justice is threatened.  It is necessary whenever truth is ignored.

Finding the facts of our own family histories can help us to understand the importance of truth, justice and research.

Have you ever participated in a Royal Commission or something similar?

Do you know much about the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Children's Employment and the consequential report of 1842?

What do you know about The Cry of the Children by Elizabeth Barrett Browning?


Do you write poetry in response to political issues?

Do you write anything else in response to political issues?

Elizabeth Barrett was born a year after one of my maternal ancestors, Winifred Taylor.  Winnie, as she was known, was a child of the Shropshire coal mines.  She was likely to have been a relatively robust child, at least in comparison to Elizabeth.

Winnie lived to be sixty-six years of age.  She brought up eight children.  Her father, husband and sons were all coal miners.  Her daughters also worked at the mine. 

Winnie died in the town of her birth, Dawley Magna, in 1870.  Elizabeth Barret Browning died in 1861, in Florence, Italy, far from her place of birth.

Where were your ancestors in 1842 and what were they doing?

Where were your ancestors in 1861 and 1870, and what sorts of lives were they leading?

In Britain, the Mines and Collieries Act 1842 followed the Income Tax Act 1842. The Prime Minister at the time was the Conservative, Robert Peel.  His family made their home in Staffordshire.  It was a rather more extravagant dwelling than the homes of my family members.

You probably know of the Battle of Waterloo of 1815.  You may also know about the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.  But do you know anything about the Battle of Cinderloo?

How do you compare the aggression and oppression of the past with the aggression and oppression of the present?

How do you identify reasonable attempts to maintain law and order?

How do you compare those attempts with unreasonable ones?

This is, as you may have noticed, part eight in this series of blog posts.  Here are links to the first seven:

The Politics of Family History - Part One

The Politics of Family History - Part Two

The Politics of Family History - Part Three

The Politics of Family History - Part Four

The Politics of Family History - Part Five

The Politics of Family History - Part Six

The Politics of Family History - Part Seven

How do you tell the difference between the politics of family history and the politics in family history?

When I am in a low mood, I sometimes place a blue rose image on my Via blogs.  This is one of those occasions.

Political experiences in recent years have caused me and my husband much personal distress.  We have been the victims of much abuse, and many lies.  We believe those injustices will never be properly addressed.  We have no faith in the Australian political system, or the legal system.

If we have been from more high profile, wealthier families, we probably would not have been treated so appallingly.  In 2014, my husband experienced considerable bullying at work, until he was forced to take time off for health reasons.  He was then forced into a "voluntary" redundancy.  His health has not yet properly recovered.

He has also been a victim of bullying in his family, as I have in mine.

Have your well-meaning, tolerant attempts to be supportive and caring ever been exploited by bullies in your family?