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

 

 

How times have changed! Teacher’s Post advertised in Corron School, Kilmacabea, Co. Cork in 1868.

Recently I’ve been searching through the archives researching a family of teachers who lived in the West Cork area in the 1800s.  I came across this lovely little newspaper advertisement recruiting a new teacher for the small rural parish school almost 150 years ago.

Bear in mind that this was published not too long after the famine and people were probably very glad to have work and accommodation.  Whatever about not measuring up to the requirements of todays legislation and employment laws I’m not sure how many of today’s prospective teachers would have a wife or sister willing to come and work for one seventh of the salary of their husband/brother.

Parish v. Civil Records

One of the projects I’m working on at the moment is transcribing and digitising the records for Fanlobbus Parish in Dunmanway Co. Cork.  Today I was working on the burial registers and I found myself drifting and wondering about the people who were named in them.  There was an appalling level of infant mortality in the 19th century.  Epidemics almost completely wiped out some families. Many young men who should have been in the prime of their life succumbed to TB in their 20s and 30s.  Young women died in childbirth.  Not to mention accidents, murders and homocides.

A couple of entries in the parish register were difficult to decipher so I decided to go to http://www.irishgenealogy.ie and compare the church burial record to the civil death record.  Church registers deal with the burial of the deceased and contain basic information such as name, address and date of burial.  The civil  death registers contain more details, such as the cause and place of death, as well as marital status, occupations and the name of the person reporting the death.  I expected that the information on the church record I was struggling with, would be exactly the same as the civil record.  Wrong.  On many of the samples that I checked the details differed.

Here’s one example. The Church record shows that Melian X of Kenrath, was buried on 6th August, 1923, Aged 70.  Z.W. Miller and Arthur Wilson were the clergy who officiated.

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The Civil record (below) reports her date of death as 5th August, 1923.  It gives more information than the Church record, telling us where she died and that she was female, a widow to a farmer and states her cause of death as gastritis and heart failure.  It also names her son-in-law, who was the informant.

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The huge discrepancy in this case is her age.  The age is displayed very clearly on both registers.  According to the church she was 70, but according to the state she was 76.  The ages varied on many of the samples of death/burial records I checked between these two sets of records –  most were out only by a year or two, but some had larger discrepancies.

In 1864 the state started to register deaths and from then onwards, it’s possible to check both sets of records to get a more complete record of the person.  However, pre-1864 we have to rely solely on the burial records.  What I learnt today is that the records are not necessarily 100% accurate.  In many cases they are the only information that is available on our ancestors and we are very grateful to have them, but we need to keep an open mind regarding the exact dates and information provided.  Don’t immediately rule potential relatives in or out solely on that one piece of information.  Sometimes its peoples ages that are a little  bit out, other times it’s the spelling of names, or variants of addresses.

Keeping in mind these (usually minor) inaccuracies, parish registers are a hugely important primary source of information used to trace our ancestors and I for one am extremely grateful to the scribes who created these amazing records.

 

 

 

First blog post – Sharing my Genealogy Journey

Having recently graduated with my diploma in genealogy from UCC, I plan to share some of what I learnt while completing the course.  Tracing family history and creating family trees is highly addictive, taking me off on many unexpected tangents and leading me down some very interesting avenues and sometimes even up a cul-de-sac.  I intend to share some of these experiences and journeys as my quest continues.