02 December 2017

Welcome to my Surrey Family Heritage

I first visited Hampton Court Palace in the year 2000, ten years after I permanently migrated to Australia.  Little did I know, at the time, that my Surrey ancestors had lived nearby.  I did not even know, back then, that I had any Surrey ancestors.

At the beginning of the 19th century, my Surrey ancestors lived around Richmond and East Molesey. You may know those areas better than I do.

Even as one of the geographical, historical and ceremonial counties of England now known to be associated with my family history, Surrey is still an area I do not know very well at all, having never lived there.  My view of it has always been as the home of rich commuters to London.

The local borough council, Elmbridge, has a few family history resources.  In fact, East Molesey is close to many other family history resources.  It is not particularly far from Heathrow Airport, or from the National Archives at Kew.  Perhaps I should fly there again sometime soon.

The Elmbridge Museum has an interesting historical overview of the area.  The Surrey History Centre also has plenty of information.  There is also a useful site called exploring surrey's past.

Since 2009, I have welcomed many people here, hoping they will become acquainted with Ancestors Within.

Welcome is a friendly word.  I hope all visitors here are friendly, too.

Are the people of Surrey friendly in the 21st century?

Were the people of Surrey friendly in the early 19th century?

Throughout my family history research, I have made many discoveries through the friendliness and helpfulness of other people.  Although I have never lived in Surrey, neither have I lived in the main county of my mother's heritage, namely Shropshire.

Have you ever been welcomed to Surrey or Shropshire or both?  They are very different areas of England, of course.

What are the locations most associated with your family history?

I have always considered Surrey to be a place of affluence.  When I lived in London, I only once went to Richmond, probably in 1983.  I remember buying a bright orange pair of cotton trousers there.  I frequently wore them on my subsequent travels.  But I remember little else of the place.

But how affluent were my ancestors?  What were they doing in Richmond and East Molesey and why did they move to central London?

I hope the men amongst my ancestors with the first name of Welcome were kind, friendly people.  They all had the surname of Cole and they all lived in London and/or Surrey during the 19th century.

Is there at least one Welcome Cole in your family history?

Many people, quite rightly, do not welcome coal in the 21st century, but none of my Surrey ancestors were involved in coal mining, unlike the Shropshire ones.

In November 2014, I mentioned Shropshire pitmen, poachers and preachers.  My mother's considerable Shropshire heritage has immense differences from the experiences of my paternal ancestors, in many ways.

My mother's great-grandparents were all born in the same county, namely Shropshire.  My father's great-grandparents were born in Ulster, Belgium, Huntingdonshire and London.  The London branch of the family tree originated in Surrey.

At the end of 2010, I invited you to have a genealogical look around this blog and make a comment or two of relevance to my social and cultural history interests.

The earliest record I had of a Welcome Cole, until recently, related to an event at the church of St George in Hanover Square in London.  The church is certainly a wonderfully historical location.

The marriage of that Welcome Cole to Elizabeth Wilson took place in the church in Hanover Square on 21 September 1789.   I have since found out that Welcome was probably born some time around 1756 so he would have been around 33 years of age when he married Elizabeth.

I have been wondering whether his father was called Welcome.  I know his son certainly was.

Welcome and Elizabeth Cole welcomed their son, Welcome, who was christened on 27 December 1805 at Saint Mary Magdalene in Richmond, Surrey.  The family must have lived in Richmond for several years.  A son, Charles, was earlier christened in the same church on 5 April 1790.  Another son William was christened there on 10 May 1795. 

On 5 November 1800, a sister had been christened in the same church, Ann Cole.  Another daughter called Ann had been christened on 21 December 1798.  Presumably that baby died before the other Ann was born.

Welcome and Elizabeth had another daughter, Elizabeth Mary Cole, who was christened at the same church.  The baby was born on 9 July 1803 and was christened on 3 August of that year.

Elizabeth therefore gave birth to several children before the birth her son, Welcome.  Another son, George, was born on 13 August 1807 and christened on 30 September 1807.  Later, on 16 January 1810, James Cole was born.  He was christened at the same church on 9 February 1810.

Were your ancestors living in or around Richmond-upon-Thames during the Napoleonic Wars?

I have no idea why Welcome and Elizabeth Cole and their family lived in Richmond.  Did they have family there?  Did they have a business there?

The local council has a few history notes.

There is a local studies collection there.

There is also the Richmond Local History Society.

There is the Surrey History Centre to explore, too.

There is a possibility that Welcome  and Elizabeth Cole and their family were part of the Cole brewery family of Twickenham.  The Borough of Twickenham Local History Society may have further details.  It has an interesting overview of local 19th century history.

Do you know much about the history of Twickenham?

Have you been to the Twickenham Museum?

In Richmond, there is an area known as Cole Park.

The younger Welcome actually became a publican when he grew up.  He married Sarah Elizabeth Nash in Egham in Surrey on 29 March 1824.   Egham is near Runnymede.  That is historic in itself.  Perhaps the publican Welcome worked in Egham at some point, though that town is a considerable distance from East Molesey.  Do you know much about Egham?

I have long been wondering if there were already publicans in the family in the early 19th century and even in the 18th century.  That would certainly account for Welcome being given as the name of a son in each generation.

In 1824 there were about 230 people living in East Molesey.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any mention of Welcome Cole as a publican in an online history of the public houses of the East and West Molesey

The son of Welcome and Sarah, another Welcome Cole, was baptised at the church of St Mary the Virgin in East Molesey, Surrey on 19 September 1824.  There is a history written about East Molesey and the church of St Mary the Virgin.  It is available through the website of Surrey bellringers.

There is also website about the area around East Molesey.  I have also found information about the inns and public houses also has an interesting map, photographs and many other resources.

In 2009, I briefly introduced you to the post office Welcome and several of my other employed ancestors.  My 19th century family members mainly did very ordinary jobs.

At the beginning of 2010, I welcomed you to the second year of this blog.  I had made many exciting new discoveries over the preceding months.

In June 2010, I mentioned the earliest known Welcome Cole in relation to my fair ancestors in Mayfair.  Family history is often an exciting cultural journey.

Are you familiar with my Continual Journeys blog?

In August 2011, I welcomed your comments in relation to internment in Australia during World War Two.  Learning about the contrasts in family histories can bring the past to life in so many ways, especially when considering policy options for today.

In my view, there is never a place for stereotypes and prejudices in the study of real people, real lives and real societies.  In July 2013, after successfully researching the lives of ancestors, I welcomed you again to Ancestors Within.  I had, by then, been sharing my knowledge of history through this blog, and my other blogs, for quite some time.

In December 2013, I welcomed your knowledge of history in relation to my ongoing investigations.

Were you here in 2012 at all?

The possible age of the earlier Welcome was discovered in relation to a burial record at St Sepulchre in Holborn, London.  The record is dated 15 August 1837.  Welcome was 81 years of age when he died and his residence was listed as Crown Court.

The church of St Sepulchre is just across the road from the Old Bailey, where London's Crown Court is situated.  The court is known as the Central Criminal Court.  I have no idea why the court was listed as Welcome's address in the parish.

His son, Welcome, apparently later worked as an inspector of London post offices but I am yet to find a confirming record of that in the a new postal museum in London.  All I have is a census record.

My local library has a subscription to Ancestry.com so I will probably pop down there to have a further look soon, and to explore Surrey links.

The publican/post office Welcome lived until the age of 87.  He died in Witley near Hambledon in Surrey in 1891.

In January last year, I provided a summary of my Finsbury Park and London family history.  The younger Welcome Cole, born in East Moseley in 1824, was mentioned there.

Do you do genealogy by numbers?  It is probably especially useful to number ancestors if they have the same name.  Welcome Cole was a name which followed through to several generations.  I am not sure if anyone still has that name in the family.

In some records, Welcome Cole has been written as Milcome Cole, Wilcomb Cole and Welcomb Cole.   Additionally, when Sarah Elizabeth Nash became Sarah Elizabeth Cole, it would be many years before her granddaughter, my great-great-grandmother, was christened Sarah Elizabeth Cole.

Welcome, as Milcome, is recorded as the father of a Sarah Elizabeth Cole, too.  She was born in 1836. On other records, his name is correctly written.  His daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, was born on 13 September and christened on 16 October at St Luck Old Street in Finsbury, London.

Unlike the two long-lived two earlier Welcome Cole's, my great-great-grandmother's father had a much shorter life, as did his wife, Fanny.  They had lived mainly in London, not in Surrey.  Young Sarah became an orphan in the family at a very young age.

Sarah was born on 29 September 1863 and christened on 25 October at St Pancras Old Church, like her siblings.

A mystery Welcome Cole was buried on 6 April 1817 in Isleworth, not far from Richmond.  The record in question states that the person was female.  That is all I know about the matter.

Another Welcome Cole died in 1854 in Kingston, Surrey, but which one?

There is a History Centre in Kingston-upon-Thames.  I may need to investigate there.  I already know that several Welcome Cole's were very long lived.

I have just found out that the Crown Court, Bishopsgate of 1837 was probably Rose and Crown Court.  That location possibly became the subsequent Broad Street Station.  Although the funeral of the Welcome in question took place in Holborn he may have died in Bishopsgate.

I have also just found out that Welcome Cole of the General Post Office signed an affidavit in 1838.

If you have any relevant information about my Surrey family heritage, or even my London family history, I would welcome your assistance.

24 November 2017

Ulster Mysteries and Discoveries

I have long tried tracing my Ulster ancestors.  A considerable history is probably impossible.  Too many vital records appear to be missing or destroyed.

Are you aware of my research via Ulster?

The National Library of Ireland has property records, but I am yet to find anything relevant there in connection with my family. 

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland also has a wide range of records, though I have yet to find anything relevant there, either.  There are no relevant wills recorded.  My ancestors probably had nothing much to leave to the next generation.

I am still working out how to use the PRONI Historical Map Viewer.

There are many Irish genealogical websites.  Have you ever used the Irish Genealogy Toolkit?  It has some interesting information about the available Irish records.


Family history "dark ages"

The "dark ages" of my family history relate to the lack of Irish records from the 1800s.  I already know something of my paternal grandfather's parents and siblings in the early 1900s, mainly from the Irish census records of 1901 and 1911.

The absence of records has long prevented my further family history research on that side of the Irish Sea. Who really were my Ulster ancestors?

Locating the extended family of earlier generations has been impossible to achieve with any certainty. Did they originate in Ireland or did they migrate there from elsewhere?  Were they part of the Plantation of Ulster or the Plantations of Ireland more widely, or did they arrive at another time, or even from further afield or merely from a nearby field?

From all the available evidence, my Ulster family members were working class through and through.  I have been attempting to research their lives through cluster genealogy but have not yet had much success with that method.

Sketching the past

My knowledge of my grandfather's family is obviously still sketchy.  The family migration route in the late 1800s and early 1900s went from Belfast in County Antrim to Bessbrook in County Armagh and then back to Belfast.  The migration journey then went from Belfast to Devon, mostly during the First World War.

Fortunately, I know when and where my Antrim great-grandparents married.  Unfortunately, I know little about their lives before that.

My grandfather was descended from Ulster Protestants but he was not religious.  His family were not Presbyterians. I have no idea whether anyone in the family hand any involvement in politics, or violence.

In 1901, my Ulster ancestors were working in the Quaker Richardson linen mill in Bessbrook near Newry.   As far as I know, the factory made damask

My great-grandparents and their children lived in the model village.  My grandfather was not yet born.

Bessbrook is in County Armagh.  The village and its mill were founded by John Grubb Richardson (1813-1891).

I have no idea when, exactly, my ancestors moved from Bessbrook back to Belfast.  I only know that in 1911, Belfast was an industrial boomtown.

Having never worked in a factory myself, I find it hard to imagine how noisy a linen factory must have been.  And how did it smell?

Unrest and the rest

My grandfather was only a small boy when he went to live in England with his older brothers. That was before the Irish War of Independence, which began in 1919.  The partition of Ireland took place in 1921.

I would like to know more about the townlands where my ancestors possibly originated, and especially whether they migrated from a particular townland to Belfast.  I already have a vague understanding of baronies and counties, but that gives me no awareness at all of how my ancestors lived.

I have been trying to find out more about the riots around the Shankill Road from June to September 1886.  Do you know much about them?  I wonder how those civil disturbances affected my ancestors, if at all.

Church records

My Ulster great-grandfather was a widower when he married my great-grandmother in 1893.   I have discovered that his first marriage was in 1880. 

Both marriages took place within the Anglican Church of Ireland.  My great-grandparents subsequently became Methodists.

If you have Irish ancestors, you may have been able to trace them through church records.  I am particularly interested in Methodist records.  Unfortunately, my earlier contact with the Belfast Methodists came up with nothing specific at all.

In 1911, my paternal Methodist ancestors lived around the Shankill Road.  There is a Methodist church still in the area, as well as a Methodist Boys' Brigade.

There are many Methodist churches in Belfast at present. In 1911, only 7% of residents in Belfast were Methodist.  Even so, most of my Irish ancestors probably had their major life events recorded through the protestant Church of Ireland.

Are you aware of social conditions in Belfast in the early 20th century?

A little more light

Recently, I came across a site called IrishGenealogy.ie - and found a few more links to my ancestors.  The website was launched in September last year through the Irish Government's Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The Irish-speaking regions of Ireland are known as the Gaeltacht. Those areas are in the far west of Ireland, much like the Gàidhealtachd is in the far west of Scotland.

None of my known Irish ancestors could speak the Irish language.  Nor were they Roman Catholics, unlike my Belgian ancestors.

I am not sure where my Ulster ancestors lived in 1886, though I now have more of an indication of where they were in the 1890s.

The IrishGenealogy,ie website currently only has records covering a few vital years for family historians.  Access is free of charge, at present, and there is no need to register to use the site.

Waiting for a few more facts

I am looking forward to the extension of the records to the 1840s.  Most of the available records now only reach the 1860s, but at least now I know the first names of all my great-great-grandparents.   Finding the names of those sixteen individuals has been one of my main family research goals.

Have you checked any of the relevant records recently?

How have you located the maiden names of your female ancestors though several generations?

How have you located information about your Irish ancestry?

The National Archives of Ireland last year also developed a website to help family historians trace their Irish ancestry.

I still have no idea of the maiden names of my Ulster great-great-grandmothers, though.  All I know is that one was born around 1823 and the other was born around 1842.

My Antrim great grandmother and great-grandmothers could not read or write in English, or any other language.  I am not sure what they thought, if anything, about the Irish Home Rule movement.  They had no education, no political power and no access to wealth.

Irish citizenship

My paternal grandfather and his forebears were born in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  I am an Irish citizen by descent through my grandfather though my name is not yet on the Foreign Births Register.

If at least one of your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents was born in Ireland, including Northern Ireland, you may be entitled to register as an Irish citizen, too.  You will then be able to travel on an Irish passport.

Have you read my recent blog post on citizenships of ancestors and descendants?

Here are a few earlier notes of mine:

February 2011
Ancestral Scatterings

April 2011
Lovely Mary

September 2011
Getting to Know Great Grandmothers - Part One

April 2014
The Joy of Genealogy

December 2014
Consanguinity, Affinity, Privacy and Peace

September 2015
The Harpists of Viggiano

November 2015
Location, Location in Famly History Research

December 2015
Merry Christmas to All Family History Researchers - Buon Natale a Tutti storia familiare Ricercatori

January 2016
George in Aden

January 2016
Finsbury Park and London Family History

January 2016
Molenbeek and Me

September 2016
The Sound of Ancestors

March 2017
Breakfast with Forebears

July 2017
Images of the World through Migration

22 November 2017

Citizenships of Ancestors and Descendants

Like many family historians, I have been taking considerable interest in the constitutional citizenship saga still playing out in Australian federal politics.  Are you aware of the original meaning of the word saga?

Most Australians today are either migrants or descended from migrants over one or more generations.  Even a considerable proportion of indigenous people in Australia have non-indigenous ancestry as well as indigenous ancestry.

Are you fully aware of your own citizenship status?

Are you fully aware of your ancestry over at least three generations?

It is extraordinary there has never been a proper investigation, in previous decades, into the eligibility of people to stand for election to the Australian Parliament.  I have long known I have been ineligible as a consequence of my dual citizenship. Even if I gave up my British citizenship, I would probably still be ineligible to become a federal candidate as a consequence of my eligibility for Irish citizenship.

I have only twice mentioned citizenship on this blog.  Both times were in relation to internment in Australia in the Second World War.

The first time was in 2009.  The second time was in 2011.

Identity derives from many sources, not just ancestry, of course.  This is my family history blog.  I have another blog about identity more broadly.  I write about citizenship in that in 2009, too:

In the Name of Freedom

Virtual Via Nation

I also wrote about the subject in 2010:

World Class and Social Class

Australian Passports are Precious

And in 2011:

Sense and Censuses

Then in 2015 I wrote another one:

In the Name of Nationality

From my own research into the family backgrounds of several federal parliamentarians, quite a few of them are likely to be dual nationals.  As I am ineligible to be a member of the Australian Parliament, so are they.

02 October 2017

Respecting Ancestors

Many cultures practice some sort of veneration of the dead.

What does veneration mean to you?

What are your own cultural beliefs about death?

How do you reflect upon the inevitability of your own death?

What do you believe to be respectful towards the living, the dying and the dead?

And what do you believe to be disrespectful in each of those circumstances, and why?

27 September 2017

Time to Read

When I write blog posts, they are often mere notes of things I have discovered.  I am often too busy or too tired to check the words carefully before publishing them.  My writing is therefore usually initially published here as a draft.

In this way, I quickly offer a few snippets for other people to check themselves.  Much history research obviously involves checking and rechecking facts.  It also involves plenty of editing and re-drafting.

In 2009, I wrote about working families and genealogical studies.  My ancestors worked mainly because they needed money, or at least the money with which to pay for life's necessities.  I write this blog as a hobby.

In 2010, I wrote about celebrities, genealogy and your family history.  I do not have either the time or the interest to follow the lives of celebrities and learn about their ancestors.  Nor do I have time, other than generally through this blog, to assist with your family history, even if you want to pay me.

Also in 2010, I wrote about Lily of Lawley Common.  I am not sure if Lily had much time to read.  She was my great grandmother.

I want to have more time to read about the history of Lawley and nearby Dawley, preferably on paper or a small screen.  I prefer to type of a full-sized keyboard and to look at a large screen whilst doing so.

Recently, I came across an historical listing of Shropshire mines and mine owners.  That was a great find.  I have been searching for it for a long time.  Making the time to research is just as important to me as making the time to read, write and edit.

In 2011, I wrote something for people just starting out with family history research.  My own research began properly in December 2007.  I can't believe almost a decade has passed since then!

I did not have the time or the inclination to do the research earlier.  The online resources then were either difficult to locate or unavailable and I had other priorities.  The offline resources would have taken far too much time, money and effort to bother finding and I knew other relatives had struggled to find them in the past.

Nor did I have enough facts available about my great grandparents and their ancestors - so I would have to make the time to ask my older relatives quite a few questions.  When that time would become available became apparent to me about ten years ago.

By the latter half of 2011, I was getting to know great grandmothers quite well, and not only my own but also those of my husband.   There is a great deal more I would like to know about them all.  Could your great grandmothers read?

I have long been collecting recollections but not through audio or video recordings.  Most people of my acquaintance would be reluctant to talk if I recorded them in such ways. 

Nor have I written notes on most occasions.  My memory, and previously documented memories, have often had to suffice when listening to the answers to my questions.

Many people find questioning intimidating.  Their own memories may be faulty or their emotions may intrude upon their recollections of facts, particularly facts about events from long ago.  In my experience, older relatives prefer to reminisce about particular events while forgetting or ignoring other aspects of the past.

My mother's family history is tied up with the history of Coalbrookdale though most of her 19th century ancestors were involved in coal mining rather than iron production.  There is much still for me to learn about Shropshire history.  Do you know anything about the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust?  Have you recently visited its website?

Early last year, I wrote about Finsbury Park and London family history.  London sometimes seems further away from Shropshire to me than Australia does.  They are all like different worlds in the present.  How different were they in the past?

Making the time to read about a place, and a time, is usually easier when I have an interest in doing so.  When I was much younger, I often tried to learn about everything all at once and then became overwhelmed.  Even now, I tend to become overwhelmed by my own ignorance.

A few months ago, I mentioned the editing of Ancestors Within.  Since then I have been on my travels again.

Even when I do not have so many distractions, I find it difficult to concentrate on correcting mistakes in my writing.  As I was in England, visiting family, the weather gave me a little time to read.  It was often rainy or cold or threatened to drench me if I ventured outside.

Quite recently I haphazardly managed to put together a blog post on the coal war and family history.  My mother still has a coal fire in her cottage in the English countryside.  She urgently needs something better but is unsure what to do.  Mainly she wants to keep warm when she reads in the evenings.

Who or what are you attempting to understand at present, and why?

How are your ancestors assisting or hindering your understanding?

How has your reading been helping you?

True understanding is the most valuable gift.  Unlike shallow sentimentality, understanding requires time and knowledge and thought and care.   It is an expression of empathy.  And empathy can usually only occur with an understanding of the context of an attitude, belief or situation.

Happiness is often based on mutual understanding, a sense of belonging and of feeling appreciated.  Your happiness may or may not involve consanguinity.  It may or may not involve the activity of mirror neurons.  It may or may not involve nostalgia.

How may your time and knowledge and thought and care in relation to Ancestors Within become an expression of your most valuable gift?  And in which direction will your reading take you next?

04 September 2017

Useful Family History Information from Australia

I often find it frustrating when a genealogical website offers nothing more than a list of irrelevant links.  Fortunately, there are better information resources though they rarely reach the top of search engine listings.

Many interesting Australian genealogy and history websites and blogs are listed on Unlock the Past - including this one!

16 August 2017

The Coal War and Family History

Politics, coal, mining and undermining have had a long, interrelated history.  Even today, in England and elsewhere, political views may tend to correlate with experiences of former coal mining areas.

What are the features of a normal way of life, in your view?  How do you define politics?

In recent years, here in Australia, much of the economy has been focused, perhaps too heavily, on the mining industry.  My husband's maternal family has been strongly connected with the mineral mining industry in Australia, as have many other migrant groups and low-skilled workers.

In the past, many young women, like my mother-in-law, preferred to live - and marry - outside mining communities, when offered that choice.  They did not want the worry of their husbands - and sons - being killed or injured in one of the regular mine accidents.  In fact, there was a major mine disaster nearby on the day my in-laws married.

When you were growing up, did your way of life seem to be normal to you, and did your experiences seem fair?  Was the environment in which you lived ordinary to you or somehow unusual?

In the 20th century, there were power engineering industries of the English Midlands where my family lived.  There were many type of engineering work in the area then, just as there are today.

My grandfathers both worked as engineers at the same factory from the late 1940s until they retired.  They contributed to the production of the huge transformers used in coal-fired power stations.

My childhood in England during the early 1970s had been affected by events such as the three-day week, and the high inflation of prices experienced as a consequence of the 1973 oil crisis and the high unemployment of the subsequent recession.  I did not understand why my parents seemed to have so little money.  They never appeared to have any savings at all when I was growing up.

Whenever I looked out of my bedroom window in my middle childhood years, a huge coal-fired power station dominated the skyline.  I just considered it to be horrible and ugly.

My father worked in technical and engineering jobs but he never worked in a factory or a mine or a power plant.

Was anyone in your family directly or indirectly involved in mining or power generation in the 19th or 20th centuries? 

Have you mapped your family history in relation to coal?

My mother's great grandparents and earlier ancestors would have been familiar mainly with a small area of Shropshire dotted with coal and ironstone mines.  The mines dominated their lives.  When a mine closed down or reduced its workforce, the miners would move elsewhere.  My mother's maternal grandparents went to live in Wednesbury, which was then in the south of Staffordshire:

There are three excellent sources of information about the area:

A history of Wednesbury by Bev Parker

Wednesbury mining history forum

Mining in the Black Country by Mick Pearson

Around the world, there has been a long history of mining accidents.  A knowledge of that history could easily save lives, if implemented.  A knowledge of the risks of disease can also prevent suffering, at least when there is openness about the causes of pneumoconiosis and other lung problems.  There are still health problems in mines today.

My husband's maternal grandfather injured his leg in a mining accident in the 1930s.  He died of lung disease in the 1940s, long before being eligible for an old age pension.

Why should anyone risk life and limb just for somewhere to sleep and eat?  My husband's grandparents came to Australia to escape fascism in the 1920s.  Were they any safer at their destination?

All my mother's family heritage is associated with the 19th century mine workers who lived just to the north of Coalbrookdale in Shropshire.  My maternal 19th century ancestors, as men, women and children, would probably have been familiar with corfs and hurrying, both before and after 1842.  There is a fifty page section of the Children's Employment Commission (Mines) report of 1842 available online in relation to Shropshire.  The report lead to the Mines and Collieries Act 1842.

Do you know much about the 19th century mines and communities of Shropshire, or Staffordshire, or anywhere?  Do you know if any of your ancestors were members of the Midland Counties Miners' Federation?

Most British industry in the past two hundred years has developed in relation to cheap, accessible coal and the efficiency of transport routes, starting with canals.  Do you know much about the historical relationship between British coal mines and the development of British canals?

You may have heard of data mining and data about mining.  When I was young, I wanted to distance myself from anything associated with mining and roughness.  I worked in offices in London, though politics has long been one of my major interests.

Australia, 1887
City smog is bad for anyone's health, though there are dangers even in rural areas from coal seam fires.  People near the Hazelwood coal mine fire in Australia know this from their own experiences.  Who should own potentially dangerous assets, in your view?  And who should benefit most from those assets?

I am reminded that 1816 was the year the Davy Lamp was first trialled.  I have managed to trace my maternal line back to that time, when my ancestors were living in the mining community of Dawley in Shropshire.

1816 was the Year Without Summer.    What were your ancestors doing in 1816?  What would they have considered to be a normal way of life?  What were your ancestors doing in 1916?

Do you now consider your past and present experiences to be part of a normal way of life?  How do you define normal?

When I lived in London, the 1984-1985 miners' strike seemed more remote in relation to my own life than the events of the 1970s.  Did the strike have any effect on you and your views of politics and economics?

During the 1980s strike, I worked at the BBC in the production office of Newsnight in the television current affairs department at Lime Grove Studios in west London.  I was in my early 20s and only vaguely aware of my family history.  Coal mines were closing during that time, just as they had in the past.

There was much conflict between miners and the police on the picket lines.  There were extremist views expressed by political players on both sides of the dispute.  I could not understand why so much television news coverage was devoted to the strike when there were so many other significant issues in society.  Nor could I understand why anyone would want their sons and grandsons to have jobs in coal mines.

There had been mining in Shropshire since Roman times.  Miners had often faced possible death or injury on a daily basis.  The mines where my 19th century ancestors worked had closed down long before 1984.

Usually, I define politics simply - as competing views about fairness and unfairness.  How do you define politics?  And how do you incorporate political issues into your family history narratives?

With coal being a major cause of climate change, the war on the environment, and the poor, continues.  How do you look at your family history in this context?

Here are a few of my other earlier blog posts you may find relevant to your own investigations:

Finding great grandparents

The age of reflecting on age

Staffordshire miner becomes Prime Minister of Australia

The working lives of ancestors

Lily of Lawley Common

Liberty, Normandy June 1944

A Shropshire lad called Harry

Superstitions and traditions

Treasure troves

My fair ancestors in Mayfair

The importance of being earnest with Alice in wonderland

Our changing perceptions and opinions

A genealogical look around

Shropshire pit girls and wenches

Italian migrants and their family histories in Australia

Discovering Shropshire history

Work. literacy, poverty and conscription

07 August 2017

Big Data and Family History

Have you heard of big data at all?  Do you know about data cleansing?  These days, family history research is often very high tech!

How do you make comparisons between your ancestors and people who came from similar backgrounds?  I find it very interesting to explore, contrast, compare and consider people's career paths and life experiences, and life opportunities.

Your great grandparents will probably not even have known that various information about them was stored in a dusty old archive somewhere or other.  They probably could never even have been able to imagine the power of supercomputers, unless they read science fiction stories in their spare time.

Big data is something your 21st century research into your family origins has in common with scientific research into the laws of the universe, predictions of climate change, and continuing genome investigations.

Although other commitments prevent me from offering specific genealogical assistance beyond my personal interests, each of my blogs may assist your reflections on the past, present and future - and enrich your experiences of family history research.  There is plenty of information available here.

You are most welcome to contact me if you have some information of relevance to the investigations underway here.

I know from examining other people's research into my ancestors that some of the information I have about my own family history is probably inaccurate.  We all have to start somewhere and I like to put together as much evidence as possible.

Much of the information I want to access in the next few months is in the Westminster Archives.

Information about my Belgian ancestors may be in the Roman Catholic Registers, perhaps showing when they first arrived in Britain.

There is also theatrical information in the archives, where I may possible find a reference to my Belgian great, great grandfather's work as a theatrical costumier.  He may have known Willy Clarkson.

I am not sure whether my great, great grandfather designed costumes.  There may be something about his work in a newspaper called The Era.

I have also just discovered Archives Hub though I am yet to understand how to use it. 

10 July 2017

Family Spice Mixtures

In the first half of the 20th century, the only prosperity anyone in my family appears to have experience was connected with the spice trade.  A spice warehouse in London provided employment for my paternal grandmother in her teens.  She worked there with several older members of her extended family.

You may wish to read my entire, earlier brief series called The Spice of Life:

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

On my travel blog, Continual Journeys, I have also mentioned the spice of life

How do you tell the difference between a spice and a herb? How do you use spices and herbs?  How did your ancestors acquire and use spices and herbs?

What is your understanding of the economic reasons for the European Age of Discovery?  And what do you know about the history of the world economy?

During the expansion of the British Empire in the 1700s and early 1800s, spices and other prized goods from Asia were imported to warehouses through the London docks by the East India Company.

London docklands became the warehouse of the world from 1840 to 1940.  But who mainly benefited from that economic activity, and who did not?

Where, exactly, my grandmother worked is something of a mystery to me.  Finding information about the location online has been difficult.  I am sure she did not work in the Shad Thames warehouses though there is a brief but interesting Hidden London history of that area.  There is also an interesting old photograph of the area on the 365 project.

There were many other docks and warehouses in London.  There were spice warehouses in the East India Dock at Blackwall, for example.

In her 90s, my grandmother told me the Tower of London and Tower Bridge were not far away from where she travelled to work by bus in the early 1930s, along Commercial Road in East London from her home in Finsbury Park in North London.

There are many sources of history about the London Docklands, including the Port of London Authority.   There is a Museum of London Docklands associated with the Museum of London.

I have also found a past and present panorama view of London's changing riverscape to compare.  There is also an interesting PDF document about London Dock.

Perhaps the spice warehouse where my grandmother worked was situated in Wapping.  It may have been converted into luxury apartments in the 1980s.  I have found a few such flats available for holiday rentals.

When I lived in London in the 1980s, I never really had the urge to go to the East End.  At the age of 19, I shared a large flat in West Hampstead in North London with four middle-class young women of my own age.  That was when I worked as a secretary at the BBC.  I later lived in a large house with an academic family near Clapham Common, in South London.

Little did I know, at the age of 19, that my grandmother's most affluent relative, had lived in West Hampstead in late Victorian times.  Uncle Louis Verheyen was the manager of the spice warehouse.

The City of London has long been involved in the commercial aspects of importing and exporting.  As a young woman, I was much more interested in working in the media than in any other industry, though the money offered in the financial sector was certainly much more than I was receiving.

But I felt fortunate that I worked in relatively comfortable offices and newsrooms, not in a warehouse or factory or a shop or elsewhere.  And unlike many other young people in the 1980s, but certainly like my grandmother in the 1930s, I had an income with which to develop my independence.

I first began writing this blog at the beginning of 2009, when the UK (but not Australia) was in recession again.  In many ways, I consider my life in Australia to be provincial, much like my British childhood.  Yet provincial life can often lead to a feeling of disconnection from the rest of the world, and its problems.

In Reviews of History, there is an interesting overview of the grocery business in provincial England between 1650 and 1830, particularly in relation to sugar and spices.  There is also an interesting review there on a book about spices and the medieval imagination.

Are you interested in food history?  I have written a few things on the subject on Ancestors Within, and in my other blogs.  After all, we are not only what we eat but must also consider how our genetics could be associated in some way with the diet of our (recent) ancestors.

How often did your ancestors experience hunger, malnutrition or an upset stomach?

When and where did your ancestors suffer from waterborne diseases, food-related illnesses and other digestive complaints?

How did your ancestors preserve food and prevent the spread of diseases?

What, for that matter, did your ancestors usually eat?

What did your ancestors eat on special occasions?

How were your ancestors involved in growing food, manufacturing food items, distributing food and retail sales of food?

What did my Flemish ancestors eat?

How many food blogs relate to reminiscences of childhood and family history explorations?

How many family history blogs and online reminiscences relate to food history in some way?

In middle age, my grandmother worked in catering.  She even helped to supervise the catering at large events.  She always loved preparing food for her grandchildren, too.

Who grew most of the food we ate?

Where did the ingredients originate?

At the end of my first year of family history blogging, I received a Kreativ Blogger Award from Michelina Hall in Florida.  I rarely look at other blogs because much of the information there is quite personal and not particularly relevant to my own research.  Like my husband, Michelina's family heritage is Italian. Her genealogical interests are commercial as well as personal though she has a reflective approach to her writing, as I hope I do.

I still find it strange, and somewhat uncomfortable, to know that other people outside my family sometimes read Ancestors Within.  I am not a commercial blogger.  Nor am I an academic one.  I write purely as a personal interest, in the hope that what I write may help other people to experience life more deeply and enjoyable than they had earlier thought possible.

For me, neat and tidy family history research is an impossibility.  History is always messy.  We can make pretty pictures of it to share with each other but the reality cannot be ignored.  The reality lives within us, just as it lived within our ancestors.

How do you distinguish between my heritage, your heritage and our heritage?

Who is the "we" you usually place within your definition of "our"?

Culture and nature are mixed together in family history, and in our individual lives, like spices in a cake or curry.  The digital world, much like the media of the 1980s, mixes the private and the public in unpredictable ways.

The ruthlessness associated with greedy acquisitions of wealth has often been noted by thoughtful historians.  What is your understanding of 1980s Britain?  What is your understanding of Britain's financial sector today?

How does world trade today relate to the Opium Wars of the 1800s?

How has the spice trade related to the opium trade, and to the drug trade more generally?

Were any of your ancestors addicted to something?

As far as I know, no-one in my family has had any addictions.  My grandparents experienced food rationing during the Second World War.  That taught them to appreciate good food when it was available, and to appreciate peace.

Early last year, I wrote about my paternal grandmother's experiences of Finsbury Park and London family history.  In May last year, I wrote about an orphan in the family.  Earlier this year, I wrote about ancestors and a glass of water.  I also wrote about breakfast with forebears.

More recently, I wrote about images of the world through migration.  My grandmother's Uncle Louis had been a child migrant from Belgium.

Back in July 2009, I wrote about working families and genealogical studies.  If you are just starting out with family history research, I have written about that, too.

Uncle Louis was a half-brother to my great grandfather.  The more I discover about my family history, the more complicated it seems to become!

I have written about so many cousins and Molenbeek and me and success after many years.  According to the blogger statistics, more than 2,000 people have looked at each of those blog posts.  How many of those persons might have ancestors in common with my own?

In July 2010, I wrote about the importance of being earnest with Alice in Wonderland.  In October of that year, I wrote about family experiences at the seaside.

I have not really written much about the East India Docks.  There is plenty of information about them online.  But was there a spice warehouse called Van den Berg or Vandenberg there?

Do you know much about the history of the East India Docks and its warehouses?  The current names of streets there suggest it was the place where my grandmother worked.

Commercial Road is now also known as the A13.  Looking at recent maps and old maps is often useful when researching family history.  I wrote quite an extensive blog post in December 2010 on the subject of a genealogical look around.

Do you write about your family history?  In February 2011, I wrote in memory of generations past.  We rarely know when we will join those generations to become only memories.

Over the generations, our ancestors mainly become historical figures as we learn about our genealogical journey.  Your ancestors may never have been notable in their lifetimes.  They may never even have been notorious.   Most of us only have ordinary ancestors who, as individuals, made very little difference over the course of history for good or ill.

In March this year, I wrote about the smell of ancestral worlds.  Now I have been writing about family spice mixtures.

There are many different spice mixtures in the world, just as there are many different sorts of families and experiences of family life.  There are many condiments and seasonings used in meals.  Perhaps they make family life more palatable for many people.

My family history connects the Port of London with the Port of Antwerp, through my Belgian ancestry.  Many spices entered the European market through Antwerp during the Renaissance.  It was, at that time, one of the most important commercial capitals in the world.

With Brexit looming over Britain's future, who knows what will happen?  World trade will inevitably continue to influence and possibly undermine national sovereignty - and national democracy - in various parts of the world.

During this first half of the 21st century, like the first half of the 20th century, there will continue to be considerable economic chasms between the people existing in relative poverty and those with access to significant wealth.  The many people living in the chasms will continue to experience a mixture of hope and fear.  They will struggle daily towards the promise of prosperity while scrambling away from dire poverty on various steep and slippery slopes..

My grandmother, in her youth, helped with the distribution of spices in Britain.  Her work took her, little by little, further away from poverty, just as mine did.  Our struggles towards prosperity never made us rich but we could always put good food on the table.  Many of those meals and snacks have been enlivened by spices.

03 July 2017

Images of the World through Migration

This blog post is more of an opportunity for reflection rather than a narrative.

There are many reasons why people migrate.  They may move from one place to another with the expectation that it will be temporary.

They may intend to move permanently to another location but later return to their homeland.

What does migration mean to you?

What do you understand about human migration and especially internal migration?

Do you consider yourself to be an expatriate?  Do you have only a brief and not very deep connection with your current location?

Do you consider yourself to be a migrant?

When have you moved from one place, for at least a while, to live and/or work in another?

Do you spend much of your life on the move?

Do you spend much of your life in one place?

What do you understand of the history of human migration?

How do migration events play a part in your family history?

Did any of your ancestors move from one place to another against their will?

Were any of your ancestors victims of slavery or penal transportation or indentured servitude?

Did any of your ancestors experience forced displacement?

Were any of your ancestors internally displaced persons and/or did they become refugees in other countries?

Have you ever sought asylum?

Have you ever attempted to escape family violence?

How have you developed a deeper knowledge of the world, and of your experiences in it, via history

What has your family history taught you about various chance occurrences via existence?

How has your family history, and your knowledge of it, developed via assistance?

How have your experiences of family history and family life been influenced via understanding?

People move from one country to another for economic reasons, military reasons, political ones, and for emotional reasons.

People frequently migrate from one area to another in the same country, especially for economic reasons.  This has happened many times in my own family history.

Many of my ancestors were migrants, but not to Australia.  They either migrated from other countries to England or from one area of England to another, most usually, I think, to escape starvation.

When attempting to understand the reasons for the internal migration of my ancestors within England and Northern Ireland, the move usually took them from provincial, rural and village life to industrial and urban conditions.

Their journeys took many forms, as have my own.  They, and I, participated in rural flight.

In my childhood, on the other hand, my family left a provincial town so that my siblings and I could have a more rural upbringing.  My parents consciously participated in the self-sufficiency movement.

My husband and I do the same.  We consciously practice frugal living.  We feel fortunate to have had the ability to save for the future.  We have also been fortunate to be able to fund our international family reunions and family history research trips to England and Italy.

In my teens, I experienced student migration from England to Scotland and back to England again.  I have also studied in Australia but that was after moving here for other reasons.

Have you ever migrated for educational or training purposes?

Do you consider yourself to be something of a nomad?

Were any of your ancestors nomads or day labourers?

Have you spend much of your life and/or career touring in the arts?

Have you been part of a travelling circus or funfair or sports team?

Did any of your ancestors tour?

Have you ever been a missionary or foreign worker or diplomat?

Were any of your ancestors missionaries or foreign workers or diplomats?

My father moved during his childhood several times as a consequence of war and his father's military career.

Have you ever been called a camp follower or military brat or third culture kid or foreign service brat or missionary kid?

Were any of the locations of your ancestors related to military careers?

Have you or any of your family members ever participated in existential migration?

Have you ever migrated for at least part of a year as a consequence of seasonal affective disorder?

Do you know the difference between social mobility and various mobilities?

Do you yearn for a more settled existence or do you have wanderlust?

Have you ever experienced post-travel depression?

Have you ever been a backpacker or participated in Bohemianism?

Do you have Romani ancestry?

Have you ever been a digital nomad and/or ultralight backpacker?

Have you or any of your ancestors ever experienced homelessness?

Have you ever been a perpetual traveller or a gutter punk?

Have you ever been considered to be a settler or squatter?

Have you developed competencies in inter-cultural and cross-cultural understandings?

Have you ever had an identity crisis or existential crisis?

Is your interest in your family history a consequence of a midlife crisis?

Has migrating been a rite of passage in your family history?

Did any of your ancestors experience exile?

Are you part of a diaspora?

Since discovering more about my Flemish ancestry, I have been exploring various types of Flemish art.  The artworks illustrating this blog post are by Eugène Laermans, Theodoor Verstraete, Jan-Baptist Stobbaerts, Joseph Lies and Eugène Siberdt.

How do you think about history, genealogy and politics via migration?

How do you think about migration and settlement patterns via values?

How do you think about migration and settlement patterns via hopes?

How do you think about migration in relation to the past, present and future?

Have you ever thought about travel and migration in relation to the sublime, the superlative and the soggy?

To stay in one place is often as much of a gamble as moving to another.  Few people know the risks they face in the future, wherever they may be.

What is your attitude towards safety at home?

What is your attitude towards finding a new home?

How did your ancestors think about such subjects?

Did your ancestors have passports?

Do you have one or more passports or none?

How did your ancestors make choices in their lives?

How do you make yours?

Do you think Australian passports are precious?

Were you a child migrant?

Is child migration part of your family history?

My grandfather migrated from Belfast in Northern Ireland as a young orphan.  He went to Devon in England.

After her second marriage, my great, great-grandmother migrated from Brussels to London with the children of her first marriage.

My husband's only uncle was born in Italy and came to Australia as a small child.

Do you know your cohorts in relation to newer migrant groups and long established groups?

Do you believe people are the real home?

When are you most likely to experience a medley of reflections?

Do you live a long way from Italy?

When are you most likely to spend time reflecting on history?

As you may have found for yourself, retracing migration steps has been necessary when finding great grandparents and earlier ancestors.

How have the various branches of your family tree experienced identity across the centuries?

Did anyone in your family experience migration from Belgium to London in the 1870s?

Did anyone in your family experience civilian internment in the Second World War?

Do artistic, academic, genealogical and/or media researchers usually treat your ancestors as objects or subjects?

How do you usually reflect on names and literacy, and the different spellings of names and places?

How do you usually connect to your heritage?

Did any of your ancestors make the journey from Viggiano to Melbourne?

Did any of your ancestors make the journey from Lombardy to Australia?

How have you used genealogical studies to trace the working lives of your ancestors?

In discovering the ancestors within you and your heritage, are you an independent scholar and non-commercial family historian?

How are you taking the best of the past into the future with family history research?

When I have travelled overland on long journeys, as I have on several continents, I have wonder what that must have been like to do the same in previous centuries.  I am fortunate that I can now choose to travel in much more comfort than I did on earlier journeys.

When I have travelled by ship or ferry, I have wondered how that experience must have been for people in earlier times.  I am usually bored on a ship within twenty-four hours.  I am usually bored on any monotonous journey within an hour or two.

My overland journeys, especially when travelling independently, can take a considerable time.  I love to stop off regularly along the way to explore the surroundings, appreciate the scenery and learn about the history.  I also like to sample the local refreshments, of course!

How do you reflect upon courtesy, trust, friendliness and untrustworthiness?

How do you reflect upon biases and prejudices and inaccurate assumptions?

How do you reflect on open-mindedness and closed-mindedness?

I am wondering if you may have thought about justice for Josephine in some sort of way.

You may have thought about the spice of life.

You may have reflected on the fact that we are all related.

You may just be here for a genealogical look around.

Do you ever think about your homeland as if it is sacred?

Do you ever think about sacred mountains?

Do you ever think about religion, and conflict between and within religions, in relation to migration?

Perhaps you are just starting out with family history research.

How have you already traced your ancestral scatterings?

Through the generations explored in a family history project, especially whenever an ancestor came from a large family, there can be so many cousins discovered that the quantity of information can be overwhelming at times.  The emotions can sometimes be overwhelming too, even when positive.

At other times, there can be a dearth of new information and a strong urge to locate it.  Are you more interested in gaining access to family history documents or old family photographs at present?

The pictures here now are by Frans Van Leemputten.

Images of the world through migration and/or family history and/or our own travels or explorations of art, can involve culture shock at times.  We can especially experience culture shock when discovering how our ancestors really lived.

How do you think about your ancestors and education?

How do you think about your ancestors and asylum?

How do you usually approach questions and mysteries?

Life in any century is likely to include the need to manage stress.  When the stress is to great, people either fight, flee or freeze.  Which do you tend to do?  Which did your ancestors tend to do?

What did your ancestors do to manage their stress?

Did they have many choices or very few?

When a community is safe, settled and relatively prosperous, most people probably choose to stay.  Those seeking to leave may mainly do so to alleviate boredom.

A settled community may consider newcomers to be disruptive.  The original inhabitants may not appreciate the changes occurring around them.  The community then is not as it once was.  It feels less settled when observed by the original inhabitants.  They may reminisce about earlier times and long for similar circumstances.

There are often similar patterns of migration.  Many migrant stories have much in common with each other whereas a few others do not.  I am mainly interested in those differing from the majority of cases.

Family history allows us to see the world beyond the influence of politicians and military leaders.  We gain insights into suffering in ways far more humane than impersonally presented statistics.  The fields of Flanders have been battlegrounds for centuries, in between being the source of many livelihoods.

What are your current fields of research?  Where your ancestors mainly treated by authority figures as if they were mere statistics?

Were any of your ancestors authority figures?

I have spent many years learning about Italian migrants and their family histories in Australia.  I married into one of those families.

You may already know about my interest in the harpists of Viggiano.  I have already gathered a considerable amount of information about them.

My next research project, away from this blog, will mostly involve the Italian front in the First World War. Do you know much about what occurred in the lives of civilians between the Battle of Caporetto and the Battle of Vittorio Veneto?

Through my research concerning Finsbury Park and my London family history, I have already examined various forms of disruption in the lives of my own ancestors.  I have also mentioned the connection between Molenbeek and me.

I have also experienced success after many years in relation to my Belgian heritage.  It is why I am so keen to develop more awareness of Flemish social and cultural history.

In some situations today there can seem like there is overchoice.  The selection of items in supermarkets is often confusing.  The options for products and services seems deliberately perplexing for much of the time.

Have you been seeking a simpler way of life?

Did your ancestors have less complicated lives than your own?

How do you think about poverty and war and higher purposes?

How did they think about food and nature and taxation?

How did they think about military activities?

I know that my family heritage, and that of my husband, transcends differences of religion and many other aspects of culture, including language differences.  I have made many discoveries about interconnections, too, through economic history and multi-dimensional explorations of human migration

How have your beliefs and other people's beliefs, influenced who and what you have become?

How have your movements from one place to another, and the movements of other people from one place to another, influenced who and what you have become?

How have your struggles, successes and tragedies, and other people's struggles, successes and tragedies in life affected who and what you have become?

How has your life been affected by superstitions and traditions?

Throughout history, wars have been fought mainly with the same aims in mind.  People with power want to preserve their wealth and acquire new wealth.  People without power want to maintain a sense of identity and gain a sense of security as they struggle to survive from day to day.  Perhaps that is why so many people are interested in discovering their family histories.

How much does your image of the world change as you discover more about your family history?

How do the various branches of your family compare in social, economic and political terms?

In recent years, and in less recent years, many mortgagees have defaulted on the repayments on their borrowings in several industrialized nations.  Whether having lost a job or having less hours in a job, there have been struggles within many households to keep hold of a house or home.  Renters have also struggled.  They are often unable to accumulate wealth through property ownership.

With nowhere permanent to go once they have lost possession of a dwelling, where and how are people meant to live?

In poorer countries, the people struggling to survive have probably never been able to obtain a mortgage in the first place. They may think that the cheapest accommodation in richer countries is luxurious.

In the 19th century, dangerously romantic views of nationalism were expressed in many parts of Europe by persons wishing to maintain or acquire power.  Those views, as well as greed and fear, drove the desire to expand empires.  In the 20th century, nationalistic views were one of the main causes of the two world wars, as well as much other violence around the world.

The next set of images are by Jan Hendrik Leys

Have you ever lived in one or more crowded squatter camps, tenements, other slums, tents and other temporary shelters?

Have you ever been forced to live off the kindness of friends or strangers when you had nowhere else to go?

Have you been one of the thousands of refugees who once had a nice, safe home you were forced to flee for your life?

Around major cities, in many countries, even in relatively affluent countries, there are squalid places in which people exist in poverty.  But what and where, really, is a home?

Disappointments in life, and a sense of being the victim of injustice, can sometimes lead people to express spite.  Unlike the spice of life, spite is at the centre of all forms of abuse. Fortunately, there has been little sign of consistent maliciousness or malevolence in my own family history.

The maternal side stayed mainly in a small area mainly around the east Shropshire Coalbrookdale coalfield and then briefly around the south Staffordshire coalfield. The paternal side of my family has had more experience of migration than the maternal side.

None of my ancestors were rich or even comfortably middle class in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  None had much of an education or much of an inheritance.

All sides of my family have been associated with poverty in one generation or another.  They never had consistent prosperity.  They rarely had any political or economic power at all.

How does your family history differ from mine?  What does it have in common?  Are we related at all?

You are likely to be exploring your family history at this very moment, even if your family history does not intertwine with mine along the genealogical lines of recent centuries.  Your family history and heritage, and perhaps even the future of your family, may be filling your mind at present.

Do you explore history mainly as a diversion from other concerns or as a central aspect of your sense of identity and belonging?

I first welcomed online readers to my family history research at the beginning of 2009.  How have you been exploring the connections between family history, social history, cultural history, migration, research and relationships?

Soon after beginning this blog, I also welcomed you to my Italian social history studies.  How do you compare family experiences in one part of the world, at a particular time in history, with family experiences in another part of the world?

How do you tend to compare the disruptive forces eroding the quality of family life?

What have been the connections between disruption and migration in your family history?