Posted by: Christine | April 15, 2014

My Second Conference

I have returned, tired and exhilarated, from the Guild of One-Name Studies 35th Anniversary Conference and AGM. This was held this year at the  Ashford International Hotel, in Kent. This was the wrong side of London for us (and probably a lot of other attendees) but we braved the journey down the M1 and round the M25. We had a diversion along the M11 and A12, because of the lack of signs at a junction and then delays on the Dartford crossing. Shattered by this experience we stopped for lunch at Emmetts – a National Trust garden near Sevenoaks. Here we found bluebells in flower and a very nice scone for lunch.

We continued the journey via the A20, having had enough of motorways, and arrived at the hotel about 4.30. There was a buffet dinner from 6.30 and then after a break (we decided not to attend the review of the Guild’s Constitution!) there was a talk on Kent in the 19th Century. This was a very entertaining talk by Bob Ogley – a writer, broadcaster and expert on everything Kentish. He introduced us to some of the characters who were born, lived or had connections with the county.

Next morning we were up early for breakfast – an almost infinite selection of different foods. My non-participating husband then left to explore Canterbury and the Conference opened with the AGM. During the AGM, awards were made to those people who had joined the Guild when it first started and had been members for all 35 years.

Awards to Guild members who have been there from the start.

Awards to Guild members who have been there from the start.

I should point out that most of the presentations will be available online, so I won’t go into too much detail. After Morning Coffee, the first speaker was Dick Eastman. He needs no introduction as I am sure everyone follows his Online Genealogy Newsletter . The talk was about the “Book of Icelanders” Because the population of Iceland is so interconnected, a database has been set up combining family trees, DNA and health records. People can then check whether someone they meet has the same great grandparents – there is even an App for it. Dick suggested that, eventually, this type of system will spread worldwide and one-namers will be an important part of this. Very thought provoking.

Keynote Speaker Dick Eastman with technical operators Bob Cumberbatch and  Colin Spencer

Keynote Speaker Dick Eastman with (right) technical operators Bob Cumberbatch and Colin Spencer

Following straight on was a talk by Dr Paul Cullen about the “Family names of the United Kingdom”  (FaNUK) project at the Bristol Centre for Linguistics, University of the West of England. This has been looking into the origin of surnames, especially the relationship between names and landscape. Unfortunately the results will not be published for two years. The good new is that they have received funding to continue the research. An interesting talk.

Not your ordinary Family History speaker - Dr Paul Cullen takes a break

Not your ordinary Family History speaker – Dr Paul Cullen takes a break

By now it was 1.00 and time for lunch. One of the things I love about the conference is that you can sit down, on your own, and almost  immediately you are joined by other people, with whom you have an interesting conversation. On this occasion, we almost missed the start of the afternoon session! It was only later that I realized I had been talking to my fellow Blogger Nicola Elsom. Perhaps we should add “Blogger” to our name labels, to recognize each other.

After lunch was a Panel Session: How I run my Study, chaired by Bob Cumberbatch. Three Guild members, Paul “He’s got a big one” Howes, Colin Spencer and Tessa Keough discussed various aspects of their One-Name Studies and how they dealt with various aspects. A good example of how every Study is different – there is no right or wrong way to do it. Tessa joined us from the USA and the technology couldn’t quite manage to cope with showing her live, but we could hear her and she could hear us.

After Afternoon tea (more food!) we had a choice of Breakout Sessions provided by Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage. I attended the Ancestry one. Afterwards, there was an unplanned gathering to announce the election of a new Chairman. Corrinne Goodenough was replacing Kirsty Gray. We returned to our rooms to prepare for the Banquet.

The Banquet this year was much better than last year. I think complaints had been made about the loud music which made it impossible to chat. This time the band was in a separate area and the talking could continue – we didn’t leave the table until 11. The food was very good. Cream of woodland mushroom soup with stilton rarebit, Duet of Lamb: slow toast shoulder and lamb medallion, tomato & herb crushed potato with seasonal vegetables, Chilled lemon souffle, raspberry sorbet, tuile biscuit (although, come to think about it, I don’t remember the biscuit – perhaps I was too busy talking!). The wine was good as well. It must have been as I was inspired to have a quick go on the dance floor

Table 4 and the rest of the room at the Banquet

Table 4 and the rest of the room at the Banquet

The band and dancers

The band and dancers

Not too much wine was had, as I had no problem getting up the next morning. There was a bit of confusion with changing times and rooms but eventually the second Breakout Sessions started. Today there was a choice of Ancestry, FamilySearch and FindMyPast. I opted for FindMyPast as there have been so many complaints about the recent changes to the site, I thought it would be entertaining.

Myko Clelland told us all about the reasons for the changes – forced on them by the increasing number of their databases. He explained how the search methods had changed and how to get to go direct to the different databases. It all seemed to make sense although some people didn’t seem satisfied – there was no violence though. I think a lot of the problem is that people (especially genealogists) don’t like change. If you’ve searched a website in a certain way and then everything changes, of course you don’t like it. Also, with a website that big, it takes time to make the changes and something is bound to not work for a while. Go away and do something else for a week or so. I’m sure everyone will get used to things eventually. We also heard about some of the new records coming soon. These included Shropshire Parish Records, WW1 service records (with a completely new index) and surviving Irish census records, 1821-1851.

Myko Clelland from FindMyPast in defensive posture

Myko Clelland from FindMyPast in defensive posture

During the morning, news had been received that the next speaker, Jayne Shrimpton, had been delayed, so the programme was rearranged and Bob Cumberbatch did his talk on Tools and Techniques for your one-name Study. His top ten free tools were: Evernote, Outwit Hub, Google Drive, Dropbox, Google Fusion Tables, Google+, WordPress/Blogger, Google Sites, Picasa and Flickr. I already use some of these (you are reading this on WordPress) and have been thinking about others, so this was a very useful presentation. Bob also mentioned something called LastPass which looks after all your passwords – I’ll definitely be looking at this.

Time for lunch. I should mention here that the food was good throughout the weekend, apart from the broccoli. Now I quite like broccoli but there seemed rather a lot of it. At lunch on Saturday, it was included in the mixed vegetables and was too hard. Today, there was broccoli soup, the vegetarian option was broccoli pasta and the mixed vegetable included a lot of – you’ve guessed it – broccoli. Anyway, through the broccoli, I had an interesting discussion about DNA.

After lunch there was a return to the programme. Dr Tyrone Bowes: Mapping Surnames – hints and techniques for mapping your one-name study data. Dr Bowes has set up his own business Irish Origenes to research Irish surnames and discover the place from which they originated. He uses a combination of traditional genealogy, DNA and mapping. For Ireland he uses the 1911 census, as surnames were standardized by then, but most of the population still lived on the land. For the rest of the UK (England and Scotland) he uses farmers in the 1841 census. With detailed study of maps he has discovered the area or areas, sometimes the actual townland the name came from. He has obtained some very impressive results, but I am not sure if this technique would work as well outside Ireland. He has not yet attempted Wales!

By the time it came for the final presentation, we had heard that Jayne Shrimpton was unable to attend, so Dick Eastman stood in and gave a second talk: Cloudy, with a Chance of Genealogy. The fact that he was able to give this talk was a good demonstration of the advantage of cloud computing. He had a talk that he had given before, back home on his computer, which he downloaded from the cloud, onto his tablet. He made a few changes (converting prices for dollars to pounds etc) and gave the talk from the tablet. I won’t go into details as you can download the slides yourself from here. Another fascinating and thought provoking talk. (I think I have been converted and have started backing up my documents on Google Drive already.) Inspired by all this inter-connectivity, I tweeted a picture live from the audience of the talk.

Dick Eastman talking about using Cloud Computing for Genealogy

Dick Eastman talking about using Cloud Computing for Genealogy

The conference was then closed, and after a cup of tea, we departed for home. It was an uneventful journey, but I was glad I had a driver. I just sat there, my head a whirl of people, names, computer programs – so much information! It had taken a couple of days to come down to earth and report on the event. Many thanks to the organizers – another fantastic event.

Just a final note. The hotel was very comfortable. The fact that our room was up two flights of stairs and along what seemed like several miles of corridors, somewhat offset the amount of food eaten (have I mentioned the food?). I am already looking forward to next years Conference – see you there!

PS. My husband would like to thank the Guild for organizing the conference, enabling him have a few days exploring Kent. I’m told the weather was very good outside the hotel.

Posted by: Christine | April 11, 2014


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1705 of John Madder. I have written about this event before here and here. I am finding it even more relevant this year, in the run up to the vote on Scottish Independence.

You may be wondering what an event that happened so long ago had to do with a referendum this year. Well, if Scotland votes yes and becomes a separate country, it will be the end of the Union. And one of the many reasons for forming the Union in the first place, was the death of John Madder and the other two sailors from The Worcester. It was because of a dispute between two separate countries, with two separate parliaments, but the same Queen, that John Madder had to die.

I’m sure, if people vote Yes, that English sailors will not be hanged as pirates in Scotland, just because of some minor disagreement in trade. But what else might happen?

Enough of politics, since as a mere Englishwoman I have no say at all in whether this country of Great Britain is torn apart (perhaps England will do better without those grumps in the north).

Today’s post in memory of John Madder is a bit of fiction – an exercise from the writing class I attend. We were given a list of last lines from famous books and had to write something to finish with that line. I picked the final line from The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies. “Let your ship sail free.”

In the morning they took John from his cell for the last time. They loaded him into the cart with the two others and slowly they trundled their way from the security of Edinburgh Castle. The execution had already been delayed a week and Thomas still thought that a pardon was on the way, but John knew that this was his last day. As soon as they were out of the gates, he could tell by the noise of the assembled crowds that there would be no more delays. The Crowd wanted their deaths. As they moved down Castle Hill, to the High Street, the shouting, boxed in by the towering tenements on either side was almost overwhelming.
Soon they turned out of the town and onto the Leith Walk. Suddenly he could see and smell the sea again. Across the Firth was the harbour where they had taken his ship. Not that it was his ship, of course. It belonged to the owners back in London. He was not the Captain – that was the overly optimistic fool in the cart with him. But he was the mate. He was the person who had sailed the ship halfway round the world and back. Fighting the sea, the crew and the captain to arrive here. He had known that it wasn’t safe to enter a Scottish Port in an English ship, especially not one carrying such a valuable cargo. But it had been that or face the risk of French pirates. Now they had been accused of piracy, tried and convicted, although innocent.
He closed his eyes and tried to shut out the anger, and worse, directed at them. With a bit of imagination he could pretend the edge of the cart was a ship’s rail and the rough rope round his wrists, a ship’s rope. The swaying cart was a ship’s deck and the noise, the sound of the sea. He remembered the ships he had sailed on.
He had sailed to the frozen north to fetch wood for the Navy from the Baltic. Toured the Mediterranean trading fish for wine, drinking the wine and then trading some more. Then there was this last voyage. Over three years ago they had left London for the East Indies, now he would never return. Most of his life had been spent at sea, fighting the winds, enduring the lack of wind. Always looking forward to reaching land. And when he was on land, longing to return to the sea.
There was sudden lurch and the motion of the cart changed. He opened his eyes. They had reached the Leith Sands. Beyond the crowds he could see the waves breaking on the beach. The tide was out. Of course, they hanged pirates between high and low water, so the tide would wash for three days over their bodies on the gibbet. And there it was, the wooden posts and the crossbar, with the ropes swinging gently in the sea breeze.
James was first up the ladder. He was the gunner, in charge of the cannon that had attacked the hypothetical ship, so he had to die. A quick nod before the hood was put over his head, up the ladder and then he was swinging and jerking at the end of the rope.
Next was Thomas. He kept pushing up the hood as he climbed the ladder. Looking back up the road for a messenger from the Queen. Stupid man, she could do nothing, stuck in her dual position, as powerless as them.
Now it was his turn. He was the last because he was the most hated. Not English, but Scottish, born just along the coast from Leith. They considered him a traitor. He was a big man and decided to jump from the ladder; it would be quicker that way. He jumped. He couldn’t breath. He tried to struggle against the pressure of the rope around his neck and then he heard a voice in his head.
“Let your ship sail free”

R.I.P Captain John Madder died 11th April 1705

Posted by: Christine | March 24, 2014

Converting the Hobbyists

Last Friday I spent the day at the NEC near Birmingham, attending the Hobbycraft Exhibition. No I haven’t found yet another occupation, I was with some other members of the Rugby Family History Group doing what I enjoy most – talking about Family History!

We were manning a stand for the FFHS (Federation of Family History Societies), which we do twice a year. FFHS attends events like this all over the country and local Family History Societies represent them there. See here for an event near you.  So why do we attend events that are not aimed at Family Historians? Precisely because they are not aimed at Family Historians! We can creep up on them when least expected.

Actually what we are doing is publicizing Family History Societies – not just our own, but all societies. It’s amazing the number of people who have never heard of Family History Societies. I have been attending these events for several years now and witnessed how the views of the general public have changed about genealogy/family history. My modus operandi is to grab anybody who pauses to look at the stand and ask them if they are interested in family history. Originally the answer was either yes, in which case you could have a conversation about how they were doing and try to help with any problems they might have, or no, but it sounded interesting. In that case we could explain how they could get started. It’s a wonderful feeling when someone walks away, enthused to start researching. I wonder how many people I have started on the path to addiction!

Nowadays it is completely different. Practically everyone has tried researching their family tree (the power of television!) but most of them still don’t belong to a family history society, or even know they exist. The most annoying response is “Oh yes, I belong to Ancestry”. Then we try to convert them to the benefits of family history societies.

Stand all set up and waiting for customers

Stand all set up and waiting for customers

As you can see the FFHS is celebrating its 40th Anniversary. As it is also the centenary of the start of World War One, we had a display about researching military ancestors. We were also advertising the WW1 Centenary Quilt – a project to embroider  squares to commemorate those who served with the Commonwealth forces during the First World War and who did not return home. For details see here.

We had quite a busy day, talking to anyone who stopped for a look. Our main weapon was the Really Useful Leaflet, which we handed out to practically everyone. This useful publication contains a list FH societies and also useful websites as well as information  on how to start FH research. (By the end of the day, I can say this in my sleep!) This years edition also contains information about researching WW1 ancestors. You can  download a copy  here.

Apart from persuading people of the joys of  joining FH societies, we had several interesting conversations. One visitor wanted help with a problem which I wish I had – she had been given suitcases full of family documents. What should she do with them all? We discussed various methods of cataloging and that she should continue scanning everything – not to mention backing it all up, in several places. If she wanted to share some of the documents, I recommended starting a blog – much easier than setting up a website.

Someone else was trying to discover if a distant ancestor was the father of his wife’s illegitimate first child. Could a DNA test help? As he has an unbroken male decent from this child and a cousin descended from the legitimate children (also male), I recommended a Y-DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA. It should prove if he and his cousin had the same (male) ancestor. If they are not related he could compare the result with others in the database and perhaps get a match.

Getting to work, helping the public

Getting to work, helping the public

We didn’t just help people, we learnt things ourselves. Another query concerned ancestors in Jamaica. After several questions we discovered that this person had gone down all the avenues and was obviously an expert on her own subject – the family were Jewish traders, originally from Spain. She could get a long way back, but was missing confirmation of a more recent link. It was all very interesting and towards the end she mentioned some family names. One of them was Lindo. Now, in my family tree, I have Lyndoe from Norfolk. She knew about this family and said it was connected. A whole new field of research has opened up! I also told her to check the Guild of One-Name Studies website to see if anyone had registered the name. If not, she should join and register it herself. (I checked and it isn’t already registered – I hope she joins)

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but also exhilarated. I felt I had done my duty and hopefully passed on my enthusiasm for family history – and encouraged a few more people to join a family history society.

Posted by: Christine | March 1, 2014

Rugby Saturdays

I’ve always thought that Saturday was not a day for working. It’s the weekend – you don’t have to do anything. A bit of shopping, a bit of sport, perhaps catch up with the papers. Today seems to be the first in several weeks when that is true – so I’ll spend it catching up with this blog!

Three weeks ago there was a meeting of the Rugby Archaeological Society (sorry no link yet to their website – I haven’t set it up yet). I had been asked, as leader of Rugby Local History Research Group (they do have a website ) to give a talk about the History of Rugby. It was a talk I had given before at a day school  at the Percival Guildhouse in Rugby, so I felt fairly relaxed about it. I knew that the venue, in Rugby Library, was not very large, so I tried not to advertise it too much – only Twitter, Facebook and an announcement at a meeting of Rugby Family History Group. The room soon filled up and people were queuing out the door.

View from near the back before the talk

View from near the back before the talk

I was then asked if I would do the talk twice. Foolishly I said yes and people were sent away to come back in an hour later. The talk seemed to be well received and after a five-minute break, I did it all again. By the end I was completely shattered. I returned home and spent the afternoon in front of the television watching Rugby.

Now I am not that interested in sport in general, but living in the town of Rugby and having two sons who had to play it at school, I learnt to enjoy the game. Standing on a muddy school field in driving sleet you are forced to take an interest, if only to take your mind off the discomfort! So, I usually follow the Six-Nations, which is on at the moment.

If you are watching any sport, it is natural to support one side or the other and in the Six-Nations I have a hierarchy of support. Obviously, I support England if they are playing and then whoever is playing against Wales (although there is a problem if they are playing France!). That Saturday was a very enjoyable afternoon. Wales was beaten 26-3 by Ireland and England beat Scotland 20-0 (at Murryfield!).

The next Saturday there was no Rugby and I traveled to Telford. I know, I lead such a glamorous life. I was attending a Guild of One-Name Studies Seminar. It was called The Next Generation and all the speakers were under the age of 40. I will not go into details of the seminar as it has already been done by Jo Tillin here. She gave  the first of the talks and the whole day gave an interesting outlook on how the younger generation conduct their one-name studies. The whole seminar can be seen viewed on YouTube here , so here are just a few pictures of the day.

Jo is introduced by Chairman Kirsty Gray, who also gave two of the talks

Jo is introduced by Chairman Kirsty Gray, who also gave two of the talks

Lunch time, in a separate building, so at least we got a bit of fresh air

Lunch time, in a separate building, so at least we got a bit of fresh air

The youngest member of the Guild on One-Name Studies. Amy tells us about her school project.

The youngest member of the Guild on One-Name Studies. Amy tells us about her school project.

The audience fill in their comments forms as Bob Cumberbatch sets up the live link to Canada for the final speaker.

The audience fill in their comments forms as Bob Cumberbatch sets up the live link to Canada for the final speaker.

Last week it was back to Rugby. First I spent a couple of hours in Hunts Bookshop. I had suggested holding a Local History Help desk (why do I have these bight ideas). This would encourage customers to Rugby’s only independent bookshop and raise the profile of the Local History Group.

View from the help desk in Hunts Bookshop - waiting for customers.

View from the help desk in Hunts Bookshop – waiting for customers.

We only had one question, which we were unable to answer at the time, but we found the information later. Now to find the person who asked the question! Perhaps we’ll be better prepared next time (probably 29th March). We chatted to several other customers to the shop, so at least a few more people know we exist.

Finally, home for more Rugby. Unfortunately Wales had won the night before, but there were a couple of exciting games and England won (just). Another successful Saturday.

And now another Saturday – and nothing planned. My husband is out, talking to rats (Sorry RATS) and there’s no Rugby until next week. I can do what I want.  The sun is shining and I should do some gardening (or update my gardening blog). I could do some family or local history, or update any of several websites. I could read a book or do some writing – I have homework – 350 words on something boring (think I’ll leave that until tomorrow). The choice is endless. I expect I will just read the newspaper. After all I have four weeks of accumulated Saturday papers to catch up with.

Posted by: Christine | February 3, 2014

Ancestors are like Buses

I do wonder if it is our ancestors who make the decisions on what they want us to find, not us. Sometimes there are the strangest coincidences. Recently I heard from a someone interested in the Madder name. We had met last year via Ebay, when we both bid for a Madder family bible. I let her have it – it was her family after all, and we have exchanged information. This latest e-mail was about a Private Thomas Madder who died age 29 in 1864 in the Maori Land Wars, Tauranga, New Zealand. She didn’t think he belonged to her family, but thought I might know him.

Since Thomas was aged 29 in 1864, he would have been born around 1835 – just before civil registration. I had a look at my family trees and found a Thomas Madder born a couple of years later. I had him in the census, aged 4 in 1841 and 13 in 1851, then nothing at all.

Thomas Madder aged 4 with the rest of his family

Thomas Madder aged 4 with the rest of his family in New Windsor

This was a good candidate – he could have lied about his age and joined the army sometime between 1851 and 61. A bit of research via Google and I found that Thomas was a member of the 43rd Regiment and had been serving for 9 years. He died on April 30th, of a Gunshot wound to the left chest. I now had enough information to look for the start of his army career at TNA (which I will be visiting at the end of this month)

This will be the reverse of the research I was doing recently on Samuel Madder, whose death I never managed to pinpoint precisely. Thomas, if he is who I think he is, was Samuel’s grandson! Yes, I’m back researching that same family. Robert, the groom/gentleman’s servant who died of TB and Amelia, the gentleman’s mistress, were brother and sister to Thomas. But this is not the coincidence I want to write about today.

Last Friday, a few days after finding Thomas, was  the monthly computer evening I run for Rugby Family History Group. I was demonstrating newspaper websites, which are such a rich source for family historians. I was on the British Newspaper Archive  site and had done a search for Madder (as I usually do if no-one else suggests a name – it is a bit of a joke in the group.) In fact, I think the search was for “Mr Madder” a good method to find people rather than just the word Madder. I then started to show the filters on the site. I selected a place filter of Aylesbury, it was top of the list and I knew there would be results there. I then noticed that one of the filters was for type, and there were 2 illustrated articles.

Searching the BNA website.

Searching the BNA website.

I clicked on this filter and chose the first of the two articles – I had struck gold! This was the 1909 obituary of Charles Samuel Madder. One and a half columns of information on his life. It included his date and place of birth – I only had his baptism as he was born in 1827, before civil registration. It gave information about his children, the fact that one son was in America (the other was to emigrate to Canada a few years later). There was a list of everyone at his funeral and who had sent flowers, naming nephews and nieces. Best of all there was a picture. Not a very good picture, but better than nothing.

Picture of Charles Samuel Madder from the Bucks Herald 27 Nov 1909

Picture of Charles Samuel Madder from the Bucks Herald 27 Nov 1909

This was gratefully received by his Canadian descendants, who recognized a likeness – the hairline has obviously been handed down!

Charles Samuel, Robert and Amelia are all on the 1841 census above, with Thomas. I only hope that I discover that the soldier I was told about is part of this family. But don’t buses normally arrive in threes? Perhaps there will be another ancestor coming along soon.

Posted by: Christine | January 13, 2014

PCC Wills on Ancestry

Last week a new set of data appeared on the Ancestry website, the PCC  wills. These wills have been available at the TNA for some time and available for download (for £3.36 each. To search is free) from their website. I think they have also been available at The Genealogist

Announcement of PCC wills on Ancestry website

Announcement of PCC wills on Ancestry website

The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), which actually sat in London, was the senior church court, and dealt:
•with the wills of relatively wealthy people living in the south of England and Wales
•with the estates of people who died at sea or abroad leaving personal property in England or Wales.
(info from TNA website)

Of course, I had searched the wills at TNA for Madders and downloaded anything interesting – usually on visits to Kew, where the download is free. With the inclusion of sailors wills it has been useful for trying to find relatives of John Madder and I have found instances of copies of two different wills for the same person, including John himself. With the use of alternative surnames, I also looked for sailors of the name of Mather.

When the Ancestry announcement appeared, I didn’t expect to find anything new, but did the usual searches. I produced a list of names in Excel and started cross checking. One difference between the different searches is that in the TNA catalogue you must search for an exact name, but at Ancestry you can do an exact search or a search which includes Soundex or phonetic variations – search for Madder and you get Madders, Madar, Mider, Meader, even  Maidary. The problem then is deciding which of them is one of mine!

PCC image downloaded from Ancestry.

PCC image downloaded from Ancestry.

It was when searching for Mather that I found something interesting. It was the will of Abraham Mather, mariner from 1700 – just the right period for my search for relatives of John. Why hadn’t I found it before? It was indexed in Ancestry as Abraham Mather, so why hadn’t it come up in the TNA catalogue search for Mather? I went to the TNA and made several searches, without finding him. Eventually I searched the PCC wills without any surname, just forename (Abraham) and date (1700). There were only eight results and one immediately jumped out – Abraham Malher! The piece number agreed, the name had been wrongly indexed by TNA – and Ancestry had got it right!

Start of Abraham's will. Mather or Malher?

Start of Abraham’s will. Mather or Malher?

Now I know I sometimes complain about the standard of Ancestry’s indexing, but this time they got it right. I would never have thought of searching the TNA for Malher, instead of Mather. It just shows that if the same information appears in different places, don’t think “I’ve already got that” and ignore it. It might have been indexed differently, or have a different way of searching. Always check everything! 

I wish I could say that this will was the vital one I needed to track down John Madder’s family. It wasn’t. It seems that Abraham was giving a form of power of attorney to his loving brother (brother-in-law?) Charles Brumfeild, leaving everything to him and making him his executor. No help at all.

Perhaps, somewhere, what I’m looking for is lying, mis-indexed or not even indexed at all.

Posted by: Christine | December 24, 2013

A Genealogist’s Christmas Carol

It was Christmas Eve.

All the preparations were done. Turkey collected, presents wrapped, cake iced. Just time for a little family history research before bed. I poured the remains of a bottle of wine into a glass and settled down in front of the computer.

Some time later, much later than I had intended, I gave up. I was never going to find out who his parents were. I stretched and turned off the computer. I wandered into the lounge to put away my files and turn off the Christmas Tree lights.

I stopped. There was someone sitting in the chair beside the tree, a man. How long had he been there? How had he got in? He looked like a tramp, long greasy hair tied back, dirty clothes of an indeterminate hue and a rather unpleasant smell. What if he attacked me? I looked at my only weapon, the empty wine glass in my hand. Should I smash it first or go straight for his face?

“Who are you? What do you want?”

He seemed to be as shocked as me. “What is this place? I was…. somewhere else and then I was here” He stared at me. “What are you? You seem to be a woman, but you are dressed in men’s clothing.”

I glanced down at my jeans. What was going on? Then I had a ridiculous thought. “What is the date?”

He looked at me strangely.
“Why, it is Christmas Eve. Probably Christmas Day itself by now.”

He looked even more confused when I said “Yes, but what year is it?”
“The year of our Lord, one thousand, seven hundred and four, of course” He obviously thought I was the only lunatic in the room.

I carefully put the empty wine glass down on the coffee table and collapsed onto the sofa opposite him. This must be a dream. I’ll wake up in a moment.

“I think I know who you are. You are John and you are, were, in a cell in Edinburgh” I sat back and studied him more closely. He seemed unsure as to whether he was happy with what I knew about him.

“Yes, but who are you? Are you a magician or witch who has summoned me here? Did I die in that place and this is…?” He stood up and started looking round wildly.

“Don’t worry. I am a relative of yours. Well, at least we have the same surname. I think you have travelled in time. It is Christmas, but Christmas 2013. Three hundred and…” I did a few sums “nine years in your future.”

He sat down and thought about this for a while. “Or it could just be a dream” I added.

He had come to a decision. “Whatever it is, there’s nothing I can do about it. Have you got any more wine for that empty glass?”

“Sorry” I remembered my manners. “Can I get you something to eat?”

“The journey has made me hungry, thank you”

I dashed through to the kitchen. At least there was plenty of food available. I got out a tray and loaded it with a loaf of bread and some butter, cheese and some slices of ham. I looked at the bottles of wine, standing ready for Christmas dinner the next day. No, better leave those. I grabbed a wine box, Sainsbury’s Montepulciano, probably better than he was normally used to.

“Is this OK… all right?” He wouldn’t know modern slang, I thought. After my demonstration of the wine box though, he soon got caught up with some modern technology.

As he ate, I told him about my research, how I had got interested in the family name and come across him and the records I had found about him. I was dying to ask who his parents were, but didn’t think it polite at that stage.

Once the edge had been taken off his appetite, he started asking questions, why was I interested in him? I couldn’t tell him that, it was something that hadn’t happened yet, in his time. So I just told him that I had researched a lot of people of our surname, and that I had found a lot of information about him. I picked up the file I had been working on and showed him some documents I had found.

“Where did you get these papers?”

“Oh they’re just copies from the National Archives, they let you take photographs nowadays and I printed them out”

“What are photographs?” This is going to get complicated, I thought. I rummaged in my handbag and brought out my camera. 

“This is a camera, a machine that can take a picture. Like an artist with paints, but much quicker. I pointed it towards him and pressed the button then showed him the result.

“That is a picture of me?” He thought for a moment “There cannot be many painters in this time, if everyone can do this”

“There are some, but most people just take photographs. Anyway, the picture can be moved to another machine and printed onto paper. You have printing presses don’t you?”

He nodded, I wasn’t going to get involved with explaining digital images and computers.

I flicked through the pages “Look, here’s a copy of a letter that you wrote to the ship’s owners at the start of the voyage”

He stared at it and shook his head in amazement. He leafed through the pages, looking at other letters and documents that I had collected.

“That’s the court record of that dispute you had with the owner of the Constant James in 1695”


“What happened in the end? It doesn’t say in the document”

“We got our pay, eventually”.

I sat back, sipping my wine, and watched him reading his own history. Suddenly I realised what was coming next. I tried to grab the file away from him but it was too late. We both sat there and stared at the page.

It was the copy of a page of burials from a parish register and there, at the bottom of the page, was his burial. Hanged on the eleventh day of April 1705. That was less than four months from now.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

He took a deep breath. “At least I know how much time I have.” He gave me a tight smile. “More than most people do”

“It might not happen” I started gabbling, “Now you know what the future could be, we can do something to change it.”

“I don’t think so. I’ve lived close to death, most of my life. You can’t change your fate.”

“Look, here’s more information about what happened, a transcript of the trial. There must be something to help” The discussion went on for some time.

Next morning, Christmas Day, the alarm woke me early. My head was aching and I felt terrible. What had I been doing last night? The edge of a dream drifted through my brain and disappeared into nothing, as dreams do. Time to get up and stuff the turkey.

And so Christmas continued it’s usual well oiled round: eating, drinking, washing up, sitting slumped in front of the television. It was only while watching Dr Who that something nagged at the back of my mind, but the television drove it away.

It was several days later.  Things were starting to get back to normal and I had a bit of time to myself. Time for some more family history. A new year coming up, time for a tidy up. I got out the file I had stuffed into a drawer on Christmas morning, what a mess. I started putting documents back into order. There were some missing. Where had they gone? I looked around the room and my gaze fell on the chair beside the Christmas tree. I remembered someone had been sitting there, who?

I went through my file again to see what was missing. The trial transcript, some of the letters, and the page of burials. Suddenly it all came flooding back. He had been here, I had actually spoken to him.

What now? It had happened once, could it happen again? It would be New Years Eve in a couple of days, a week after Christmas Eve and another special day. Would he come again? I had better make some preparations, write a list of questions to ask.

No, this was silly. I had probably filed the documents somewhere else or they had got muddled up with something else.

It had all been a dream. Hadn’t it?

Happy Christmas. Thank you for reading this, my first attempt at a short story. Normal blogs service will resume in 2014.

To find out about the real John Madder see my post Death on the Leith Sands

Posted by: Christine | December 17, 2013

Too Many Websites

Family Historians nowadays spend a lot of time visiting numerous websites. Flitting like butterflies from site to site, collecting a tiny piece of genealogical nectar from each, to build up our family trees. I expect newer members to our hobby wonder how we ever managed to do any research before the internet! The answer is: slowly but possibly more thorough.

But that’s not that I want to blog about here. A few days ago I was talking to my son about something I was doing and he asked “How many websites do you have now?”. I had to stop and think about it. This post is the result.

The first website I set up was in early 2002. Some members of Rugby Family History Group decided it would be a good idea to set up a website. Of course we set up a committee and our then Chairman, Harry Batchelor, read a book “Teach Yourself HTML in a Weekend” and produced a few pages. This inspired me to set up my own site on the free space provided by my ISP (BT) – it even had coloured pages! This website faded away not long ago when BT stopped providing space, but I had already moved on.

With my “experience”, in 2003, I became webmaster of  After a while I attended a FFHS Seminar for webmasters and was introduced to Joomla! This Content Management System made creating websites a lot easier. As well as updating the group’s website, I set up a new site for my one-name study.

This site is now badly in need of updating. A job which is on my, ever lengthening, to-do list. I intend to put a lot of my information, starting with GRO indexes for Madder into the Guild of One-Name Studies Archive, with a link from my site. I will also provide a link to my Madder DNA study at 

Talking about the GOONS, does my profile page on their site, at count as one of my websites? I don’t really thing so. 

Enough of the advertising. Last year I took over as leader of the Rugby Local History Research Group. They had a website, but it needed updating. It was easier to start from scratch at  (We will be closing down the old version shortly.)

Earlier this year the RFHG website won Best Website, Small Society in the FFHS Geoff Riggs Award

Presentation of the Geoff Riggs Award 2012

Presentation of the Geoff Riggs Award 2012

Notice the carefully positioned certificate to hide my sling! (My shoulder is now fully recovered, by the way).

I should have kept quiet about this award at a recent meeting of the West Midlands Group of Family History Societies. They wanted to set up a website – mainly to advertise the Worcester Family History Fair to be held next August (9th – put the date in your Diary!). I tried hard to resist but in the end I was forced to volunteer. As this was to be a basic site to which several different people could contribute, it was decided to use a WordPress blog. It can now be found at

This was so straightforward that I decided to have another go at persuading some members of RFHG to set up their own Blog/Website. At the following Computer Evening on 29th November, I would set up a blog, from scratch, to demonstrate how easy it was. Unfortunately it was a failure – it was Black Friday and the internet was so busy it was virtually impossible to do anything. I think everyone concluded it was too difficult.

But I did set up that other blog though. I realised that this blog was getting too full of posts about gardens. They have now been transplanted to 

I make that three websites and three blogs – so far. I have been asked to help set up a website for Rugby Archaeological Society. I might as well corner the market in Rugby history websites!

And then there is the social networking.

Two twitter accounts: personal @ChristineMadder and RFHgroup @RugbyFHG (Think the WMGFHS want one as well – it’s on that long to-do list).

Facebook: I’m at and there are pages for Rugby Family History Group and the West Midlands Group of Family History Societies. There is a group for my Madder One-Name Study, but it’s a closed group so not very active, because no one can find it. Perhaps it should it have a public page?

Finally, the writing class I attend (“Writing Fiction” at the Percival Guildhouse) has decided to set up a website to publicise our work. Hurrah! Someone else has volunteered to do it! I will give details of that once it is set up.

So, I think that’s it. I’m off now to prepare a really special post for Christmas. Look out for it here – or somewhere else.

Posted by: Christine | November 25, 2013

My Life with Doctor Who

In the last few days it has been difficult to ignore the 5oth Anniversary of Doctor Who, so I thought I’d add my small contribution to the reminiscences.

When the programme appeared in 1963 I was aged eleven. I had already discovered science fiction in the books of John Wyndham (Day of the Triffids) and was looking forward to this, the first television SF series. At least, the first I was allowed to watch! I had heard about the Quatermass adventures in the 1950s and A for Andromeda in 1961. My parents mentioned a giant eye in a washing machine in the later, but of course I was too young to see it.

In my memory, children’s television seemed to consist mainly of westerns, so a science fiction series was something new. I have to admit that I don’t remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot, but I know where I was when Doctor Who started – in front of the television. The now familiar music, the police box, the doctor himself (played by William Hartnell) and his assistant (in this first episode it was his granddaughter), the main ingredients were already in place. I was hooked.

Soon the programme became a permanent part of Saturday evenings. Of course, as it was transmitted at tea time, certain food became connected with it: crumpets for a time and the family expression “meringues with Doctor Who”.

The early series seemed to be as much about history as monsters. I think they alternated. There would be one adventure about Daleks, which I didn’t find frightening and I never hid behind the sofa! The next would go back in time to some historic event. I remember one adventure where the Doctor was travelling to China with Marco Polo – I think it lasted nearly as long as the original journey.

In 1966 came the first transformation, when Patrick Troughton took over. I didn’t like him as much and some of the adventures got a bit peculiar. I remember one that involved travelling across a chessboard. In 1970 Jon Pertwee took over and I went to university. In those days it was still just a children’s programme, not event television as it is now, but I continued watching when I was at home. I got used to the Tardis never going anywhere (the monsters came here and were always a man in a cheap costume) and the Doctor travelling in that old car. The UNIT years, caused, I think, by a lack of money.

In 1974 Tom Baker arrived and it all started to seem a bit silly – the curly hair and the long scarf. I was now at work and meeting my husband to be. I liked K-9 though, who joined the cast in 1977 – the year I got married. After that I lost interest as one doctor merged into another. I expect other viewers felt the same as Doctor Who ended in 1989. A brief comeback in 1996 was not a success and that seemed to be it.

Then in 2005 the series returned, with Christopher Eccleston. This was a different, modern take on Doctor Who, still meant for children, but with another level for adults. You could enjoy the jokes and spot topical references. The Doctor quickly regenerated into David Tennant, probably one of the best Doctors and the series started spawning spin-offs. There was something for younger children – I didn’t watch this as by now even my children were too old for children’s programmes. Then there was Torchwood – Doctor Who with sex. I wonder what happened to that? Torchwood, that is, not sex!

In 2010 Matt Smith took over. Why do actors stay just long enough to become “The” Doctor and then are replaced by someone else who seems wrong? And it all starts again.

Then, to celebrate the anniversary, Saturday was “The Day of The Doctor”. Multiple Doctors, including a new (old) one played by John Hurt, fighting Daleks and other monsters in multiple periods of time. I think I’ll have to watch it again to work out all the action. And at Christmas we look forward to the next incarnation.

It will be nice to have an older actor, Peter Capaldi, playing the Doctor. But wouldn’t it be more interesting to have a female Doctor, perhaps a 60ish genealogy blogger? I’m here if the call comes! It won’t, but I’ll be there, hopefully, for many years to come, sitting in front of the television (or some other machine) waiting to see what happens next.

It seems like only yesterday I first started watching Doctor Who.

To the Doctor, it probably was.

Posted by: Christine | October 28, 2013

Ancestral Foraging

When we research our ancestors we tend to look at them at one remove. “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”, but there is one time of the year when I feel the tug of the ancestral genes – Autumn. In particular the harvest to be found in the trees and hedgerows. Sometime towards the end of August I will notice the blackberries starting to ripen and look forward to the harvest to come.

The last few years I seem to have missed it. Dull wet summers and the sudden start of meetings and classes have distracted me, but this year was different. Good weather, at the right time, have produced bumper crops. The garden has produced potatoes (not many, but more than last year when they got blight) and beans – french and runner (the latter still going now). From the greenhouse came tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers and I had to make a mousaka to use up an unexpected crop of aubergines (what else can you use them for?). Apples (no pears this year), plums and raspberries. There were a few puny fruits from a cultivated blackberry in the garden, but it was when my husband mentioned there were lots of blackberries in nearby hedgerows that I sprang into action.

It was a Sunday afternoon and the sun was shining. I packed several old 1 litre ice-cream containers into a bag, my husband querying why we needed so many for a few blackberries – just wait and see!

Plenty of blackberries in the hedges.

Plenty of blackberries in the hedges.

I quickly filled a container and while he, a bit slower, filled his, I had moved onto a bush full of beautiful sloes. It was several years since I had last made sloe gin and our stock was getting low! It seemed that someone  had already stripped the more accessible branches but with a bit of balancing on the edge of a ditch and pulling down branches, I soon had two containers of sloes.

Sloes - worth the occational scratch from the thorns.

Sloes – worth the occasional scratch from the thorns.

I had also noticed the elderberries were looking especially good, so on the way back I plucked handfuls of the juicy sprays of fruit. We had run out of containers by now, but these went into the carrier bag. So we returned home, hot, scratched, stung by nettles and dripping purple juice. What to do with all this bounty? Jam, wine or into the freezer for another day?

First I put the kettle on. No, not for a cup of tea – I needed a gallon or so of  boiling water to pour over the 6lbs of elderberries which I had deposited into a bucket. The first stage of turning them into wine. The 3lbs of blackberries went into the fridge, they would be made into jam. The sloes, nearly one and a half pounds, also went into the fridge until I could get to the shops for gin (Aldi is the cheapest!).

While I was occupied with all this, my husband had decided to do a bit of pruning. We have an ornamental vine on the patio (Vitis vinifera Purpurea) which had made a lot of growth this year and was blocking light into the conservatory (useful in the summer but now we needed as much heat as possible). It needed cutting back and I emerged from the kitchen to find the stems, together with several bunches of grapes about to be consigned to the garden waste wheely bin. I quickly put a stop to this and found I now had seven pounds of grapes to deal with.

Severn pounds of grapes rescued from the bin!

Severn pounds of grapes rescued from the bin!

Opinion seems to be divided as to whether these grapes are edible, but I tasted one and although not terribly sweet it was palatable. I would make some more wine, but not “proper” wine from the juice, but would treat it as a country wine, like the elderberries. Cue another bucket and more boiling kettles.

The next day, after purchasing sugar and gin, I went into production. The result was five jars of blackberry jam and a large container of sloes, each individually stabbed with a fork and soaking in sugar, almonds and gin. I was getting into the swing of this – I could do with some more blackberries (blackberry brandy, anyone?), the sun was still shining, so out I went again.

The job half done!

The job half done!

Some of the blackberries went into another jar with sugar and the brandy, the rest into the freezer in half pound bags One came out a week later and made a very nice apple and blackberry crumble – using cooking apples from the garden, of course. The sloes also went into the freezer, in case I want to make more sloe gin – I can’t afford more than one bottle of gin a week!

By the end of September, the elderberries and red grapes had been strained, sugar and yeast added and I had a row of demijohns bubbling away. I couldn’t collect any more blackberries as it was now October, and as everyone knows you can’t pick them then, as they belong to the devil. Did my ancestors have this superstition or was it just my mother? It’s also good luck to catch a falling leaf in October – surprisingly difficult, considering how many there are about.

You might have thought my labours had ended, but no, I was keeping an eye on the vineyard. Well, it’s not actually a vineyard, just three Muller-Thurgau vines planted against the south-facing wall of the garage. Unfortunately, said garage is on a north facing hill, so usually mould, or the blackbirds get there first – in fact usually there are not enough grapes to bother with. This year however looked like being worth the effort. A couple of days ago, with the prospect of a violent storm, we harvested the grapes.

Grapes ready for picking. Sorry blackbirds - we got there first.

Grapes ready for picking. Sorry blackbirds – we got there first.

They then had to be crushed. The best way of doing this is the traditional one, by treading, so I climbed in. It really is the most efficient way of doing it – I even remembered to wash my feet first. I don’t know if this is something any of my ancestors did – perhaps some British slave on a Roman estate…

Treading the vintage (with small spider beating a hasty retreat)

Treading the vintage (with small spider beating a hasty retreat)

It then had to be strained and I discovered I had produced an amazing 10+ pints of juice. Then came the technical bit – messing around with hydrometer, thermometer and paper and pencil to work out how much sugar to add. This would increase the potential alcohol from 4-5 degrees to a more drinkable 10-11. The yeast was added and now there is a thick layer of froth on the top. When that has died down a bit, it will be transferred to demijohns to finish working.

I know that I don’t have to do all this. Unlike my ancestors, for whom all this effort would have been a matter of life and death – the ability to preserve food would help them survive the winter, I can just go to the shops to buy jam or wine, or even sloe gin. But it gives me a great sense of satisfaction and saves money. How else could you get several gallons of wine for the price of a few bags of sugar and a visit to the local hedgerows.

I’m now hoping that the elderberry or red grape wine will be ready for bottling soon. I am expecting the storm to bring down the fruits of the crabapple tree in the hedge at the bottom of the garden and I’m running out of demijohns.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »