Storing your Family History

Lets be honest.  As genealogists the best bit is searching for information on your long lost relatives.   Whether it’s passing a dark cold winter evening searching through the limitless supply of online records, or trawling through some dusty files or records in an archive, traipsing through overgrown graveyards or even flicking through the family collection of photographs we are great at collecting information.  All these sources are great and provide the meat we need for constructing our family trees but what to do with all the information collected?

In my case, I have 4 main sources of stored data

  1. A collection of paperwork including, certificates, notes taken from interviewing relations or collected in archives, wills or letters from older family members etc.
  2. My Electronic files seem to take in all of the above as well as screen shots saved from internet searches, spreadsheets and working documents that I’ve used to construct my trees.
  3. Photographs.  There are actually 2 halves to this collection.  Firstly the good old-fashioned printed photographs and secondly the more modern Digital version of it. The digital version also includes copies made of older albums belonging to myself and of any relations collections I’ve been able to get my hands on.
  4. My family tree which I have chosen to keep on ancestry, though there are many other platforms for doing this.

My collection of paperwork and printed photographs are stored in a series of folders.  I’ve been relatively organised with this data, filing it under different family names and groups and usually being able to put my hands on a document when I go to check it.  There’s something about a bundle of paper that demands being stored somewhere.  It sits in front of you and clutters up the desk until you either bin it or file it.  But oh my goodness, electronic data is such a different matter.  Until very recently I had everything stored on the laptop under a broad label of family history but there was absolutely no  structure or reasoning to how it was done.  In 2016 I nearly lost all the data on my hard drive so in 2017 I eventually decided that it was time to tackle this map-less treasure trove of information on my family and make sure it is saved safely.

So here’s how I’ve set up my own system.  My main family history folder I have called Jeffers McCully Family Trees (see the photo at the top).  Within this folder I have created a sub folder for the main families that I am working on.

Each sub folder then contains a folder for every generation of that family.  Below you can see the folder for my McCully family which I have traced back to County Derry in the late 1700s.  In it I have dated and named each generation of my direct line of ancestors.

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My grandfather, John Hercules McCully (1898-1975) had a total of eight children so within his folder there’s one folder for each of them as well as one for John Hercules himself.  With this structure in place, it has now become much easier to sort and save the information.  Now I have each person’s birth/marriage/death records, photographs, census records, leases, newspaper articles, family stories etc. all safely stored in one place that I can easily and quickly locate.

I have also found that by putting the date of a document at the start of each file name (eg. 1898 John McCully birth record), it makes it easier to sort and find.  By using this method and sorting your files by date, you can see the timeline of your relative at a glance.

Finally, my last bit of advice is to always save, save, and save your work.  I learnt this the hard way when my hard drive broke and I discovered that my last back up was almost 18 months old!  I never again want to experience that mental trauma.  Thanks to a very tech-savvy nephew who retrieved my data, I got it all back but now I store it on my lap-top, with a back-up on an external drive and to be sure to be sure, I also now store it on the iCloud.

 

We Will Remember Them

Colin Davies (1917-1942)

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Colin Davies was born on 11th June 1917 in a small town in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales just a month after his father Jack, a teacher, had enlisted in the R.G.A. (Royal Garrison Artillery) in World War I.  Sadly just a week later on 18th June, his mother Annie died of Puerperal Fever, a complication of childbirth. With his father on his way to  Egypt and Palestine, Colin was taken in and raised by his grandparents Thomas and Ann Davies.

His father, Jack, continued to serve in the Army and didn’t return to Wales until after the war. On his way home he was stationed in Camden Fort Meagher near Crosshaven, County Cork where he met a Cork girl, Mary Stewart.  Jack married Mary on 7th October 1919 in Cork.  Jack and Mary Davies settled into life in Wales with Colin and their daughter Jean (c. 1927).

Colin, the son of a teacher, graduated with a B.A. degree but when War broke out a second time he followed in his father’s footsteps, enlisting with the 74th Field Regiment  of the Royal Artillery (R.A.).  He was despatched as a Gunner to their campaign in the Middle East – Western Division.  The records that I have found so far about Colin are a bit sketchy.  I’m not sure yet when he joined up or exactly where he was stationed.  What I have discovered is that  Colin was captured as a Prisoner of War in June 1942 and sent to Caserta in Italy.  When I found a few of his military records this weekend, I discovered that on 19th November, 1942,  after being held as a P.O.W. for 5 months Colin was shot and died while trying to escape  the camp.  Having witnessed first hand the horrors of the front line, those last 5 months of his life as a prisoner must have been horrendous for him, both physically and emotionally.  Colin was only 25 when he was killed.  He was buried alongside 755 other soldiers in Caserta War Cemetery, Italy.

1942 Death Entry Form Military

Colin’s father Jack, was my great uncle.  Colin himself was my mother’s first cousin.  What a sad ending to a such a short life so full of promise and potential.  Though he had a tough start in life due to the first World War he grew into an educated young man prepared to serve his county and fellow human beings.  When he said farewell to his family and headed off to war, he wasn’t to know, though it must have crossed his mind  that he was making the ultimate sacrifice that would ultimately cost him his life.

Thank you Colin for your service and sacrifice.  Thanks to you and hundreds of thousands like you, we are privileged to live our lives today in a much more peaceful world.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

(Robert Laurence Binyon)

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

 

 

Camden Fort Meagher – A match made in Cork

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The imposing entrance to Camden Fort Meagher, Crosshaven, County Cork

 

Two summers ago I first visited Camden Fort Meagher which is an old military fort situated at the Western entrance to Cork Harbour, quite close to the village of Crosshaven. There are records of a fort used to protect Cork Harbour on the site as far back as the 1500s. In 1989 it was taken over by Cork County Council as it was no longer used by the army and in 2010 a group of local enthusiasts set about restoring the fort, creating a museum and opening it to the public.   Camden Fort Meagher is now open to visitors every weekend from May through to September.

http://www.camdenfortmeagher.ie/

My main reason for this  visit was to see the place where I was told that my granduncle was stationed at the end of the Great War. This led me to ponder how Camden has influenced the lives of many Corkonians. It certainly had a huge impact on my family and if it weren’t for Camden, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t be here today.

 

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Cpl. John Davies, RGA.

Let me introduce you to John (Jack) Davies, born in 1891 in the mining village of Blaenclydach in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales. Jack was primary school teacher and on the 9th March 1916 he married a local woman, Annie Randle. Two months later, on the 19th May 1916, when Great Britain was entrenched in war with Germany, Jack travelled to Cardiff where he enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery to serve his country. He was trained by the army in Signalling and Telegraphy and presumably because of his ability to teach, became an instructor in that area.

The following year, on 11 June 1917, Annie gave birth to their son, Collin but sadly Annie died just one week after Collin’s birth. Three weeks after his wife’s death, leaving baby Collin with his grand-parents Jack was despatched with his battalion to serve in Palestine. He boarded a ship in Southampton on 9th July, 1917 and sailing firstly to Le Havre and then from Marseille to Alexandria in Egypt.   Corporal John Davies arrived in Alexandria on the 1st August 1917, on his way to Palestine, where he served in the British Army throughout the reminder of World War I, until he was demobbed and began his journey home in January, 1919.

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RGA uniform on display in Fort Camden

Jack’s military records show all his activity and movements within the army until this point. I had been told by my own mother that he was stationed in Fort Camden after the war and that it was there that he met his Cork wife, Mary Stewart. Fort Camden is not listed as a post on his military records. However his discharge papers show Mary Stewart’s address on Blackrock Road in Cork City as his residence at the time of his retirement from the Army and this gives credence to the family story.

Post-war Crosshaven must have been a very popular place for young ladies to visit with many soldiers from all over the British Isles unexpectedly finding themselves in this small seaside town on the South coast of Ireland while on their way home from war. Jack was one of these young men and I was told that he met his second wife, Mary Stewart, at a dance in Crosshaven. Jack & Mary married later that year, on October 7th 1919, in Mary’s home church, Scots Presbyterian Church in Cork City.

The newlyweds moved back to Wales, where Jack returned to teaching. Collin was reunited with his father and eventually became a big brother to their daughter, Jean.   Collin, like his father before him enlisted in World War II and was killed in action.

Jack’s marriage to Mary Stewart was not the last of Camden’s effect on my family. Following Jack and Mary’s marriage in 1917, Jack’s sister, Eunice Davies, who had been living in Wales met and fell in love with Mary’s brother, David Stewart who was working in The Eagle Printing Company in Cork City. Eunice Davies and David Stewart (my grandparents) were married in Gosen Congregational Church, Blaenclydach, Glamorgan, Wales, on 25th July, 1923.  Following their marriage Eunice moved to Cork where they lived the rest of their lives in Cork City with their daughter Ann.

So Fort Camden, which was originally built to protect Cork Harbour from foreign invaders, actually had quite the opposite effect on my own family.  Thanks to Camden the Davies and Stewart families crossed paths and a Welsh brother and sister married a Cork born sister and brother.

It was fascinating to walk around the fort almost a hundred years later and see where Jack stayed and also to see their uniforms on display in The Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) exhibition.  If you get a chance to visit Camden, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.  You get to walk around the site which contains many old buildings and features which are all fairly well preserved and contain some fascinating military exhibits.  If that’s not enough, the old Officers’ Quarters have been converted into a Tea Rooms which must have one of the best views in all of County Cork.

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Irish Granny = Irish Passport

Did you know that even if you yourself weren’t blessed to be born on the island of Ireland, you might still be eligible to apply for an Irish passport.  If either your parents or your grandparents were born in Ireland, you can apply for Irish Citizenship and an Irish Passport.

One of my more recent projects was to find an Irish birth record for a grandparent of a gentleman born in the UK and now living in Ireland.  He knew his parents were both born in the UK and had their birth certs.  While there was no documentation to prove it, he had heard that one of his grannies was from Ticknock, which he thought might be in Wicklow.

Using the information contained in his father’s Scottish birth certificate, I was able to locate  his Granny and Grandpa’s marriage in Dundee, Scotland in 1904.  This gave me the names, ages, addresses and occupations of both the bride and groom as well as the names of their parents and witnesses.  Scottish records provide lots of detailed information and this one was no exception.  I was then able to find the groom’s birth in Dundee, making him a Scottish Grandpa –  not what we were looking for.   The bride’s surname  was Kelly and there was no trace of her birth in Scotland. In order to search of the Irish Civil records I turned to tHhe fabulous website www.irishgenealogy.ie where I found hundreds of Kelly’s born around 1880. Knowing that Ticknock is located in south county Dublin,  helped to narrow the search and lead me to the  birth record I was looking for and proving that Yes – Granny was Irish!

Armed with this information I then ordered all the relevant birth, marriage and death certificates required to proceed with the Irish Passport application.  So it seems our Irish Grandparents are still looking out for us, even decades after their deaths.

Have a look at a sample of a Scottish Civil Record. Here is a copy of a death record for one of my own ancestors, Walter Paterson.  It gives so much information, showing Walter’s parents names, including his mother’s maiden name, his son, both his wives as well as his own age, profession, address and cause of death.

Walter Paterson death register 1883


The following is an extract from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs web site.   https://www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/citizenship/born-abroad/

Born outside Ireland?

You are automatically an Irish citizen if one of your parents was an Irish citizen who was born in Ireland.

You can become an Irish citizen if one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, or you can become an Irish citizen if one of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, but was not born in Ireland. If you’re eligible, you can register your birth on the Foreign Births Register.

With the United Kingdom about to depart from the European Union, many UK citizens are on the search for their Irish granny or grandpa in order to apply for their Irish Passport.


 

Ireland’s Grand Canal: People, Peat & Porter

Slightly different to my previous blogs.  The topic for my dissertation for my Diploma in Genealogy was Ireland’s Grand Canal: People, Peat and Porter.  It covers some of the history of the Grand Canal, looking especially at some of the people associated with the building of it and those who worked on it over the years.

Here it is.  Feel free to have a read.

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Out of the Ashes! The Young Family of Letterscanlan in the charred remains of the 1841 Census

William Young

1841-1911

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When I started researching my husband’s family tree, I was told about William Young, his Great, Great, Grandfather, who was a colporter with the Methodist Church in West Cork.  I discovered that a colporter was someone who distributed books and religious tracts.   William was a member of the Methodist Church who had a deep and sincere Christian faith.  While he was distributing Bibles and tracts to the people of West Cork he also took the opportunity to share his faith on a one to one level as well as to preach the Christian Message.

Apparently the Young family came from somewhere near Aughadown (pronounced Affadown) between Ballydehob and Skibbereen in County Cork.

The 1901 census showed William, aged 59, living with his wife Hester and 6 children in Templemartin near Bandon.  He was a Methodist and was born in County Cork.  This led me to his marriage in Bantry Methodist Church to Hester Vickery of Bantry in 1873.  His marriage certificate showed his residence at the time as Letterscanlan (a small townland in Aughadown) and stated that his father James Young was a farmer.

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As it appeared that William was born around 1842, there was no point looking for a Civil Birth Record as the state didn’t start to record births until 1864.  Likewise, the records I found in the Methodist and Church of Ireland records didn’t go back far enough.  Having run out of birth, marriage and death records I checked the land records in Griffiths Valuation which showed that in 1853 a James Young was renting just over 36 acres in Letterscanlan from Henry Becher, the local landlord.

Going back a step further I checked the Tithe Applotment Books (TAB) which showed both a William Young (76 acres) and a Richard Young (17 acres) listed in Aughadown in 1829.  Unfortunatley the information in the TAB was gathered for the purpose of taxing land rather than recording family history so there’s no indication how William and Richard Young may have been related to each other.

At this point I thought I had hit a brick wall with my Young family as I was now in a pre Church and Civil records era.  Then I discovered the 1841 Census records.  Most of the records for County Cork from the 1841 census were destroyed in the fire in the Public Records Office in Dublin in 1922.  A quick search showed records for just 97 people in County Cork in the 1841 census.  Not expecting to find any relevant information I scanned through the names and couldn’t believe my eyes when I found 2 Young’s from Letterscanlan.  Bingo.  I clicked on the link to bring up the Young’s page and this is what appeared…

1841-census-young-letterscanlan

… the charred remains of a census record.  Not even one straight edge of a page remained.  But I wasn’t looking for straight edges – I wanted information and this charred,fire damaged remnant provided it.  The head of the family in 1841 was James Young a farmer.

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The next section is not so easy to read as the fire destroyed a some vital information, leaving us with just a few tantalising clues.  The section listing those present on the night of the census is missing.  It appears that no one was absent from the house on census night. The last section was  a “Return of Members of this Family, Servants or Visitors, who have died while residing with this Family  since the 6th June 1831”.

The information that I can make out from this section is that James Young’s mother,  ..ne Young, died aged 65 in 1832 (?).  His father, …liam Young, died aged 80 in 1840.  His uncle, whom I cannot make out his name, died of pleurisy (?) aged 67 in 183?.

1841-census-young-letterscanlan-close-up-names-listed

So thanks to this remarkable piece of paper that was filled out in a small farmstead in West Cork in 1841, stored in the Public Records Office in Dublin and just about survived the 1922 fire in the Four Courts I have been able to trace our Young family of Aughadown, Co. Cork back to a William Young who was born c.1760.

The Young line which married into our Jeffers family in 1904 is as follows:

William Young 1760-1840

James Young c.1799 – ?

William Young 1841-1911 married Hester Vickery 1846-1936

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Frances (Fanny) Young 1876-1952

married Jasper Travers Jeffers 1878-1950.  These are my Great, Grandparents-in-law.