Posted by: Christine | October 18, 2013

TNA Dayschool

On Saturday I attended a day school at the Percival Guildhouse in Rugby. There were people learning to play the saxophone in the basement, French irregular verbs and astronomy were elsewhere and we were on the top floor – with “An Introduction to the National Archives – Kew”. 12 students and 3 (4 in the afternoon) members of Rugby Family History Group as tutors.

We also run a five-week course on the records at TNA, for members of Rugby Family History Group and anyone else interested, but this was a taster session on how to prepare for a visit. We had run the day school a couple of times before, so I thought that I wouldn’t have much preparation to do for my session “using the website”. I already had the Powerpoint presentation and notes.

Of course, shortly before the day school TNA announced that they were making changes to the website “over the next few months”. Should I change my presentation? Would it still be current on the day? Would it be any help to our students? In the end I decided I would do the session “live” and keep the original slide show in case we couldn’t get an internet connection.

I spent most of the day driving the laptop for other people’s presentations. We started with a session on where the TNA is, the layout of the building and how to get a reader’s ticket. We told the students they could take a pencil, but not a rubber, into the reading rooms. We also talked about how the records are arranged and the different classes. Did you know that if you print out a list of TNA classes, it runs to 27 A4 pages!

Next was my tour of the website – the connection worked, so I was able to look at specific subjects that interested the students. At the moment much of the website is unchanged; the only changes are the look of the home pages and the new drop down menu. The former I don’t like much – there are too many pretty pictures. If I am trying to find something – surely the main point of the website – I want to find it easily, not look at the view on the way. There are too many distractions and it is difficult to pick out what you want. On the other hand, the menu is fantastic (I am assuming that eventually it will be available on every page). Wherever you are, you can easily get somewhere else. A big advantage if you are giving a demonstration.

That said, I had trouble finding the first thing I wanted to demonstrate, the video guides. For anyone else looking for them, click Explore Our Records, scroll down to the bottom of the page to Understand The Records (which is also second on the list on the menu, under Records) and click on Start Here. I played the short animated guide to ordering documents.

I then ran through the research guides under Looking for a Person, Looking for a Place and Looking for a Subject. It always amazes me the amount of useful information to be found in the research guides. Not just general information about the subject, but exactly what records you can find at TNA and other places, with links, as well as advice for further reading in books or online.  I then looked at the online records and how to order them and finished with the Discovery catalogue – how to search for and order the document you want. I then had to stop, as it was time for lunch.

After our jacket potatoes and salad (and perhaps a slice of homemade cake) and a brief break, we were back to the class. Each of the four tutors demonstrated various case studies – how they had used TNA records for their own family history research. There were Bankruptcy Records, Military Records and Railway Records. The latter is not an easy subject, and made more difficult by the fact that the tutor who had written them was away and they were read by someone else – we had great fun trying to co-ordinate speech and slides. For my session (maximum 15 minutes) I tried to show the range of different TNA documents I had used in my research into John Madder. This turned out to include Wills (PROB), State Papers (SP) and Treasury documents, including calendars (T). Ships Logs and Crew Lists (ADM), Chancery (C) and  High Court of Admiralty (HCA) and High Court of Delegates (DEL). Knowing that I can run on for hours about John Madder, this demonstrated considerable restraint on my part!

After recovering with a cup of tea or coffee, we reached the final session, answering questions and helping students with their particular problems. Another intensive test of the TNA website, where I hope we managed to satisfy all the queries. Soon it was 4pm and we could relax. It appeared to have been a successful day and we got five more names on the list for the coach trip to Kew on 14th November. (There are still plenty of spaces, if anyone is interested).

And I had been given a chance to renew my acquaintance with the whole TNA website, instead of just going straight to the catalogue. No doubt it will have changed again by the next time I have to show others how to use it.

My final message is to the TNA webmaster(s). It’s a fantastic site – don’t mess it up too much.

Posted by: Christine | September 16, 2013

Family Reunion

Almost exactly one hundred years ago, on 5th December 1912, Lionel George (known as George) EVERARD left London on the ship Corinthic. On 20th January 1913 he arrived in New Zealand. The passenger lists show him as aged 24 and unmarried. As he had married Elsie Annie MARRIOTT only a few days before, on 27th November 1912, where was his wife? It turns out that it was cheaper to sail as unmarried passengers, as they would have to pay extra for a married couple’s cabin. She is on the same passenger list under her maiden name.

George Everard on the Corinthic Passenger List to New Zealand

George Everard on the Corinthic Passenger List to New Zealand (Findmypast.co.uk)

Elsie’s family followed them out to New Zealand later, but George left behind a father and stepmother (George and Ellen), a younger brother Sidney Frederick and three sisters, one of whom was my grandmother. For around fifty years the two branches of the family kept in touch, sending photographs of expanding families at Christmas etc. But then the older generation started to die off; George in 1959, my grandmother Louisa Mabel and her sister Isabella Maud, both in 1964. Sidney had been killed in WW1 and contact was lost.

Probably the last family letter sent from England to New Zealand

Probably the last family letter sent from England to New Zealand

Since starting to research my family history, I have tried to find out what happened to the “New Zealand relatives”. Owing to the privacy laws, access to the New Zealand BMD records is limited. I put as much as I knew on my website and got on with other things.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, a granddaughter of George Everard became interested in family history. When she googled her mother’s name she came across the tree on my website and contacted me to tell me I had made some mistakes. After 50 years contact had been made!

We exchanged information, including the letter above written by my mother. Later she mentioned that she and her husband were planning a trip to England – could we meet? A date was arranged to meet up in Danbury, Essex, the village where our mutual great-grandfather George Everard had lived.

I decided it would be nice to visit the house where George had lived, but it appeared, by looking on streetview,  that it was not properly visible from the road. I decided to write to the owners to ask if we could have a closer look – but who were they? Eventually I wrote a letter to “The Occupiers” and to establish my credentials sent a copy of a photo of the house with my grandmother standing in front. Knowing the reception that any letter addressed to the occupier usually receives, I didn’t hold out much hope. Imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call the following day from the owners of the house, to say, not just that we could visit, but that we could see inside the house as well.

On the appointed day we drove, with my mother, to the pub car park where we were to meet. Then after welcoming the visitors we all drove to the ancestral home. We were given a warm welcome, coffee, biscuits and scones with cream and jam. We heard stories about the history of the house and were shown around the inside and outside. What a wonderful experience.

Later we had a look for the house where Auntie Isa had lived, but things had changed too much to identify the right one. We ended up in The Cricketers Arms on Danbury Common for lunch and more chat. The sun had shone all day – a memorable end to our visitors trip to England.

The Everard reunion outside the Cricketers Arms in Danbury

The Everard reunion outside the Cricketers Arms in Danbury

Posted by: Christine | September 1, 2013

The Garden in August

Before I sat down to write this post, I had a look through my photographs to see what had been happening in the garden during the month. There weren’t very many to choose from. I can only conclude that there has not been a lot of change.

The weather has been warm, but not too hot – a relief after the heat of July. We have not had enough rain for the garden though. At one point (24th?) there was a forecast for heavy rain for the whole of the UK. There were floods in some places but here we only got 5 minutes of drizzle. By the end of the month we had to resort to the hose pipe. The last week has been sunny during the day but sometimes misty in the mornings. The nights seem to be drawing in quickly. Autumn is on the way.

Early in the month there was a bit of colour in what I call the Pink Bed. 

Shades of pink

Shades of pink

At the back is a Phlox and in front of that a Lavatera that I planted last year – it’s supposed to be Barnsley, but I don’t think it is. The Geranium at the very front is Geranium sanguineum Alan Bloom. I’ve had this for years and it always puts on a good show. I have been a bit disappointed with this bed this year. I think there is too much shade for what I want to grow there. I’ll have to have a re-think.

The main border which I have been highlighting this year gets more sun and is now starting to get more interesting.

The main border - lots of yellow and orange.

The main border – lots of yellow and orange.

The flowers of the Echinops ritro are over and are looking a bit untidy, but we leave the seed heads for the birds. There is a blue aster but everything else is an autumnal yellow and orange. The weather this year has suited the Rudbeckia goldsturm. This was a plant that was moved last winter.

A closer look at the Rudbeckia

A closer look at the Rudbeckia

I think I must have accidentally moved a lot of Montbetia (Crocosmia) corms in the digging over of this border – they are coming up all over the place! The corms for the larger Crocosmia Lucifer were big enough to see, so they were removed, potted up and await replanting. The other flowers in this picture are some annuals, Cosmos ladybird mixed – a nice variety of colours from yellow to orange and not as tall as other Cosmos. This was one of several plants I grew from seed this year. Some french marigolds turned out to be the wrong shade of yellow for the border, but are doing well in a pot. A selection of Nasturtiums has had mixed fortunes – they started off well but some thrived and others just turned up their toes. There was a lovely range of colours among them.

Some of the more successful nasturtiums

Some of the more successful nasturtiums

I also tried a couple of perennials. I have fought a losing battle with the slugs over the Dahlias (bishops children). Only one, so far, has made it as far as flowering, but it is the perfect colour for this border. I hope I manage to keep it through the winter.

The survivor of many Dahlias

The survivor of many Dahlias

I have had more success with a Rudbeckia, Irish Spring. I now have several planted out in the border that have just stared to flower and there are extra plants in pots.

The first flower on Rudbeckia Irish Spring

The first flower on Rudbeckia Irish Spring

I’m hoping that all these will continue well into autumn.

Finally, for those of you desperate to know what happened to the Choisya that got a drastic pruning earlier in the year, there is good news. By the start of August small buds had started to appear on the bare stems.

Signs of life

Signs of life

By the middle of the month it was definitely growing.

It's growing!

It’s growing!

There was no growth on the right hand stem, which must have been dead, so we chopped that off. The middle stem, at the end of which had been left the only original leaves, was growing outwards. For the sanity of the person who mows the lawn (not me), this was shortened, leaving a more balanced shape of bush. It is now well on the way to recovery.

The Choisya at the end of August

The Choisya at the end of August

I’m sure by next spring it will be covered with flowers. This work has also benefitted the white Buddleia, just behind. It was looking very feeble from having had its light blocked by the Choisya for so long. It has enjoyed its summer in the sun.

Lets hope the garden will get plenty more sun in autumn (and a bit of rain as well, please!). I’ll let you know how things go in “The Garden in September”

Posted by: Christine | August 23, 2013

Electoral Registers and Telephone Directories

The few days ago I was scrolling through my list of Madder birth, marriages and deaths. As I do when I haven’t anything better to do, or avoiding doing something I don’t want to do!

This list is an Excel file into which I have entered the details of all the Madders in the GRO indexes. An easy collection to make nowadays when you can just make a search on FreeBMD and download the lot in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. No my collection was made in the “Good Old Days” when nothing was online, in fact when online hadn’t been invented.

When I started my family history I used to travel up to London, to Somerset House and haul the big books off the shelves and leaf through the pages and enter details in my trusty notebook. I then followed the books to St Catherine’s House and then to the brand new Family Records Centre at Middleton Place – the Future of family history. Then they closed the FRC and the books went into storage and everything is now online. Do you suppose the books miss their visitors?

Anyway, by the time that happened, I had all the 1255 Madders in the index, bought a few certificates and had started placing them all into different families. Of course there are quite a few individuals that I haven’t been able to place in a family and the worse culprits are the more recent generations, when you can’t just “look them up on the census”. Some aren’t a problem, by using the surnames of spouses and mothers maiden names, it’s easy to fit them together, but sometimes you hit a brick wall.

This is what happened recently, I happened to notice a name and wondered why he wasn’t in a tree. (When I have placed someone in a tree, I give them a reference, so it’s easy to spot the ones I haven’t traced – they have no number). I should point out at this point that I am not going to mention any names, as these people are living and I always respect people’s privacy.

So, I looked at, who we will call, Madder A. I found his birth, so knew his mother’s maiden name and sorting the database discovered he had a brother. Both he and his brother were married and I could find their wives and children in the list. From Madder A’s birth record, I could also find the marriage of his parents and their names. That is where the problem started – there was no birth entry for Madder A’s father, let’s call him Madder B. I tried all the usual methods, perhaps he had swapped this forenames around, but nothing fitted. I could tell by the area where this family was living, who  the most likely relatives were, but there were several candidates for his parents.

I decided to find out more about the family to see if there were any clues. Do you realise how much you can find out about a person nowadays? From the UK electoral registers 2002-2013 on Findmypast I could find out where these people were living and then look at their houses on Google Streetview. I found some of them on Facebook – adults hide most of their information but teenage children are a mine of information and of course you can trace relatives by looking at lists of Facebook friends. Madder B wasn’t on Facebook though.

Going a bit further back in time, Ancestry has British Phone Books, 1880-1984, where I found Madder B’s address and occupation in the 1960s, as well as his phone number. Had he been born elsewhere? I checked passenger lists – nothing. I had tried all the obvious online databases and finally, in desperation, I just put his name into the main search on the Ancestry front page. There were only two results – the GRO marriage reference (which I already had) and an entry in the Electoral Registers. Hadn’t I already checked these? No – this was Ancestry’s version, London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965. There he was, listed with two other people – these must be his parents.

I looked at this couple on my family tree – they had no children, as far as I could tell. I compared their marriage date with that of Madder B, he would have been a bit young to marry. Suddenly it clicked. Had be been born before his parents married? A quick check on FreeBMD and there he was, registered under his mother’s maiden name, except it wasn’t actually his mother’s maiden name, she had been married before.

I quickly found more information that told the whole story. This lady, lets call her Madder Wife, married had three children, one of whom died as a baby. Her husband then died. Several years later she married a Madder. I don’t know whether they were officially adopted or not, but her children were using the name Madder by the time they married.

Problem solved! I could add this family to my tree. (The marriage of Madder B’s sibling also allowed me to cross off another unknown Madder on my list). I know these people are not genetically Madders, but this is a one-name study I’m running – if they use the name they are included. Although if any of them approach me, I will know they are not useful candidates for a DNA test!

Why didn’t I think of looking for Madder B under a wife’s maiden name at the start? I don’t know, but it has certainly given me a lot of information about the family, using all the information available online. Now, If you’ll  excuse me, I’m off to check my security settings on Facebook.

Posted by: Christine | August 19, 2013

The Garden in Summer

AKA The Garden in June plus The Garden in July.

I didn’t spend much time in the garden in June. For one week I was away on holiday and the final week was spent glued to the TV by a certain Andy Murray!

Highlight of the month in the garden was the Wisteria. In line with the rest of this year it was several weeks late and waited until the start of June to flower. It is debatable whether it is worth the work (pruning in the winter and then the continual battle with growth in the summer) but when it flowers, it seems to be worth it.

The Wisteria at its peak

The Wisteria at its peak

It was planted at the back of the garage to climb along the top of the pergola, but we fight a losing battle to stop it going along the top of the garage. It is also trained across the garden and over an arch – we have stopped it here as it won’t grow down the other side of the arch.

By the end of June the roses were in flower. Here are some of them.

A Selection of roses from around the garden

A Selection of roses from around the garden

As July started, so did a hot spell that lasted most of the month. For some reason this inspired me to do more work in the garden – I think it was the pressure to get things done while it was cool, with the reward that I could then sit in the shade and relax.

First up was a large bush of Choisya Ternata. It had grown a bit too big and I had promised it a hair cut when it finished. Once I started I discovered that it consisted of long stems with leaves only on the end. After approval I was allowed to make a more close pruning.

Overgrown Choisya

Overgrown Choisya

Inside the Choisya

Inside the Choisya

Did I go too far?

Did I go too far?

It looked drastic once I had finished. Would it survive? I’ll let you know in a later post.

While we’ve been in the garden we have been entertained by a couple of young blackbirds. I think the nest was somewhere in the hedge as we saw the parents flying in and out earlier. The youngsters spent a lot of time performing acrobatics in the Amelencher trying to reach the berries it had produced.

"Mum said there was a nice bush somewhere round here - wonder where it went?"

“Mum said there was a nice bush somewhere round here – wonder where it went?”

We have also had a pigeon nesting in the garden. We should have got rid of it – we have enough of them already!

Pigeon on the nest

Pigeon on the nest

July is the time for Lilies, however I think this year was too hot for them. They came and went very quickly.

Lily Regale in full flower

Lily Regale in full flower

The main border at the end of July

The main border at the end of July

This is the border at the end of July. A few plants are flowering: a new orange red-hot-poker and a Monkshood towards the left hand end. The marigolds at the front have been flowering for ages. I’m afraid I can’t take the credit for these – I found a clump of weeds seedlings and I nearly pulled them up but thought I’d see what appeared. A seed head must have escaped from a nearby garden. It pays not to be too tidy.

Dominating this border is the Echinops Ritro – it is practically the only thing that I left in the border when I dug it up last autumn. The bees and butterflies love it.

No room left on the Echinops Ritro

No room left on the Echinops Ritro

I had replanted several Hemerocallis (Day Lily) in the border, hoping I had separated different ones. So far, judging by the flowers, they all seem to be the same variety.

Orange Hemerocallis – popping up everywhere

Because of the hot weather we have been having a lot of meals outside. This is the view from the pergola during a summer lunch.

View from the Pergola - note the Wisteria over the arch, with a blue clematis through it.

View from the Pergola – note the Wisteria over the arch, with a blue clematis through it.

Something to remember during the winter!

Posted by: Christine | August 8, 2013

Wapping to Bethlehem

It’s funny where you get information from – that information that suddenly solves a family history problem that has been nagging at you for some time.

In my research on Captain John Madder, I have found out quite a bit about his family. I know he married, in 1687, Isabella Foster (by complete coincidence I have a great-niece called Isabella Foster – spooky!) and had two sons, and a daughter, also called Isabella. As far as I can tell, this daughter Isabella Madder was the only child still living after his death in 1705, but not for long – she died in 1708, at the age of 16.

It is her burial entry in register of Saint Dunstan and All Saints, that has puzzled me.

Burial of Isabella Madder (London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Dunstan and All Saints, Register of burials, Mar 1701/2 - Feb 1708/9, P93/DUN, Item 128)

Burial of Isabella Madder (London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Dunstan and All Saints, Register of burials, Mar 1701/2 – Feb 1708/9, P93/DUN, Item 128)

Just her name and the words “Wapping to Bethlehem”. I realised this was a reference to Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital, but why? Was she locked up there? Unlikely, as she was well enough to write a will shortly before her death (see my previous post). This reference was what has been nagging at me.

Today it was solved – by a retweeted link to the latest news that the Crossrail diggers have found the Bedlam Burial Ground, which was under part of Liverpool Street Station. It contains thousands of bodies from all over London. More important, it closed in 1714, six years after Isabella was sent from Wapping to Bethlehem. She must be one of those bodies.

There is to be an excavation next year and the article states that Jay Carver (lead archaeologist on the Crossrail sites) has a problem “there are no surviving burial records for the cemetery, and instead names are scattered through thousands of records in the parishes where they lived or died. He hopes to ask the public for help in tracking them down.”

How do I get in touch?

Posted by: Christine | July 31, 2013

A Chance for research

A little while ago (well – several months ago) a member of Rugby Family History Group asked for some help with her research. She doesn’t have access to the internet and asked me to sort out her tree. I decided it was about time to get on with the job.

I got out the file she had given me. It was all her research, original certificates, funeral bills and a legal document to do with a will – all the things you collect when you start family history. She had done a fair bit already, there were all the Birth and Marriage certificates, step by step back to the start of registration. The family was named CHANCE and lived in  Birmingham. My mission was to discover if there was any connection with Chance Brothers, the glass manufacturers of the same area. This company produced the glass for the Houses of Parliament and the Crystal Palace and later became involved with lighthouses. Eventually they became part of the Pilkington Group.

Now one of the first things we tell beginners on our courses is, don’t try to connect your family to a more well-known person with the same name, but she asked nicely (and said she would pay for the reasearch!) so I agreed to help. Where to start? The certificates seemed to fit together OK, so I decided to look for the family in the census.

As I worked back I started to enter all the parents and children into a FH program (a good opportunity to try out the free versions of the PAF replacements I had downloaded). I soon encountered a problem. I found I had the wrong father for a child – in several censuses the child’s father was George, but his birth certificate said he was the son of Alfred. Puzzled, I carried on and in the previous generation I discovered George and Alfred were brothers. What was going on?

I compared the details on the census. In 1881, there  was Alfred and his wife Jane with one child. In the same census was George and his wife, Thirza and six children. I couldn’t find Alfred in 1891, but there was George, with seven children (some of the older ones had left home) and a wife called Jane!

Time to look at FreeBMD, where I found that Alfred had died in 1885, Thirza in 1886 and then there was a marriage for George and Jane in 1888. A lot had happened between those two censuses. This marriage wasn’t actually legal at the time. In fact the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act was not passed until 1921 (fourteen years after The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act of 1907) – but these things happen. I had a bit of scandal to report!

I managed to get the family back to the marriage of William Chance to Mary DAVIS in 1802 in Old Swinford, Worcestershire. There were a lot of Chance families here but I couldn’t pin down a baptism for William. This became Tree A.

I then started on the other Chance family. Being a lot better known there were a lot of trees and information online. It all seemed to agree so I used that to construct my second tree (using a different program), which I called Tree B. I stopped when I got back to William Chance who married Frances TAYLOR in 1682. In fact there are trees online that go back even further than this, and someone suggests that the family came over with William the Conqueror. Hmmm.

Anyway, I thought this would give me enough information to see if there was a match. This family lived in Bromsgrove and there were even more families there than in Old Swinford, but still no William baptised at the right time. My final conclusion was that there might well be a connection between the families, but it would be too far back and too difficult to find, without a (very) lot more reasearch. Anyone fancy starting a Chance one-name study?

Where did I find all these baptisms and marriages to check? On Familysearch.org of course, via the batch numbers on the Hugh Wallis website 
 http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hughwallis/IGIBatchNumbers.htm  
It was some time since I had used this website which was working again. For anyone who doesn’t know this site, you can select a County and then Parish, select the time period and when you click on the batch number it takes you to the Familysearch website. It’s also a good way of checking if there are records for the place you are interested in. I spent most of the weekend doing this and typing all the information into Excel, where I could sort it by date or name. I also spent a lot of time cursing the reversal of progress – at one time you could automatically download the whole list of entries! The other problem is that there are not many burials on Familysearch – difficult to “kill them off”

By Monday I had had enough and started writing up the results of my research. As I finished, there was a Tweet from FindMyPast – they had just added some new Worcestershire parish records. Out of interest I had a look and entered the name Chance – there were a few baptisms and marriages, but not for the places I was interested in. But there were 696 Chance burials – 124 for Bromsgrove and 134 for Oldswinford. At least I could download the list this time, but I would have to look at every single entry to see the details – I was losing the will to live!

While I was pondering this dilemma, a discussion had started on the GOONS Forum about the imminent arrival of a download button on Familysearch. In fact it appeared later that night (You need a username and password, but that is free) – I could now download all the records, 100 at a time, that I had laboriously typed in over the weekend. I gave up and went to bed.

I have now adopted a new motto:
Always put off until tomorrow what you should do today, because when tomorrow comes there’s a CHANCE you won’t have to do it after all.

Posted by: Christine | July 23, 2013

Holiday in Hampshire

Last month we went on holiday for a week. It has taken me over a month to write it up.

We set off south on a nice sunny day. As usual, the holiday starts when we leave home, so we planned a stop for lunch somewhere interesting. This time it would be Avebury and a nice walk around the stones, before continuing. Unfortunately the weather didn’t agree with our plans, so after a bite to eat, we visited Avebury Manor. This National Trust property featured in a TV series last year (The Manor Reborn), when it was given a “makeover” by Penelope Keith and Paul Martin. Rooms in the house have been recreated as they would have been at different periods of the house’s occupants. The unusual thing about this property is that, unlike other NT houses, you are allowed, even encouraged, to touch or sit on the furniture. You can have a game and read the books in the Billiard Room, or do a bit of embroidery in the Queen Anne suite of rooms. I can recommend the Chaise Longue in the latter – I always felt my life should be spent draped on a Chaise Longue! Well worth a visit, although I noticed no-one had been tempted to do the washing up in the Victorian Kitchen.

Avebury - the ditch and stones

Avebury – the ditch and stones

A quick look at the Avebury stones in the drizzle and we continued our journey. Eventually the sun came out again and I noticed on the map that we would be passing Woodhenge, so we stopped to have a look. (Can you see a theme developing here?). Not as spectacular as Stonehenge, a few miles away, but the positioning of the original wooden posts is marked by concrete markers, so you can see the layout. 

Woodhenge. The edge of Durrington Walls can be seen on the horizon.

Woodhenge. The edge of Durrington Walls can be seen on the horizon (left hand side).

There seemed to artificial features in the nearby landscape and then we noticed a NT sign nearby and discovered that we were looking at Durrington Walls. This is a 500m diameter neolithic bank and ditch. It is crossed by two roads, but archaeologists have found other wooden henges and several huts here. It is thought to be the place where the builders of Stonehenge lived. For more information and theories about the site see here or here. After wishing we had done a bit of research beforehand, we continued to our destination, the village of Damerham. We had booked a room at the pub there, The Compasses.

The Compasses in Damerham

The Compasses in Damerham

Damerham is a small, quiet village, a few miles west of Fordingbridge. There is a bridge over the river Allen which runs through the village, a church and the pub and that’s about it.

View of the River Allen from the bridge in Damerham.

View of the River Allen from the bridge in Damerham.

All Facilities in the centre of Damerham!

The next day the sun was shining, so we decided to explore the area, with a walk from Damerham to the neighbouring village of Martin. Eight miles there and back.

Going off-road near Damerham

Going off-road near Damerham

View of Tidpit Down from prehistoric Grim’s Ditch

The village green in Martin, with welcome bench for eating our packed lunch.

The village green in Martin, with welcome bench for eating our packed lunch.

Looking back at Martin.

Looking back at Martin.

Row of hree prehistoric barrows. At the base of the pylon, the nearer clump of trees and on the right. The large clump of trees behind is just a hill (I think)

Row of three prehistoric barrows. At the base of the pylon, the nearer clump of trees and on the right. The large clump of trees behind is just a hill (I think)

 We returned to the pub with sunburn and blisters!

The next day, Sunday, was still sunny. I couldn’t face any serious walking, so looked for a garden to visit. The NGS has produced a useful phone App to find open gardens and we found there were a couple open in Tisbury (Wiltshire). What is more they opened at 11am and served lunches (as well as “glorious teas”. What to do in the morning though? A look at the map and the English Heritage handbook and we decided on Old Wardour Castle. We had a lovely drive, spoilt only by having to dodge cyclists on narrow roads (Bradley Wiggins has a lot to answer for!)

Old Wardour Castle is a beautiful ruin, set in trees and overlooking a lake. It was built in the late 14th century by Lord Lovell and damaged in the Civil War. The family eventually built a new house and the ruins became part of the 18th century landscaped grounds. The grassy slopes surrounding the castle were covered in daisies and it being a warm and sunny Sunday, by the time we left, it was gradually filled up with picnicking families.

Relaxing at Old Wardour Castle

Relaxing at Old Wardour Castle

The gardens, at Tisbury, were North Cottage and Woodview Cottage. As expected, the lunch (quiche and salad) was very good and after visiting the gardens; a small but packed cottage garden and a small holding with wood, ponds and animals, we had tea and cake as well.

Colourful border at Noth Cottage, Tisbury. Tea tables scattered amongst the flowers

Colourful border at North Cottage, Tisbury. Tea tables scattered amongst the flowers

The forecast for the next day was not good, so when we got back to Damerham we decided to make the most of the lovely weather. We had a route for a short walk along the river. Only 1.5 miles, so I thought my blisters could manage it – the gentle exercise during the day had obviously been good for them! The route went via the church, near which there was an idyllic view back towards the pub. It backs on to the  local cricket pitch and there was a match in progress.

Typical English scene. Village cricket on a Sunday afternoon. (The Compasses pub is just behind the pavilion)

Typical English scene. Village cricket on a Sunday afternoon. (The Compasses pub is just behind the pavilion)

The walk was supposed to be through water beds and fishing lakes, but the route alongside the river was shut off by a locked gate – it was not so pleasant walking along a hot road! There was more bad news later in the evening, when we came down for our evening meal. It turned out they didn’t serve meals on Sunday evenings and no-one had bothered to tell us! We ended up with fish and chips from Fordingbridge.

That was the end of the perfect weather. We woke the next day to dull skies, but it wasn’t actually raining, so we set off to Winchester. We had passed through the city many years ago, but I couldn’t remember much. This was a bit of a research trip – I have started writing a novel set in the tenth century and since Winchester was the Anglo-Saxon capital I wanted to get an idea of the topography. It turned out to be completely different to what I had imagined, so just as well I haven’t written much yet!

After a tour of the back streets to find a car park, we visited the City Mill (National Trust) This is an interesting example of an urban corn mill. They have otters which visit the river beneath the mill and they have set up CCTV to watch them.

The City Mill at the East Gate of Winchester

The City Mill at the East Gate of Winchester

We then walked along the river to the old Bishop’s Palace (English Heritage) and then to the Cathedral, which was closed due to setting up a floral display. A brief visit to the Anglo-Saxon gallery at the City Museum and then a walk up the main street to the Great Hall and King Arthur’s  Round Table. I have seen it so many times on TV that it was nice to see it for real.

The Round Table in Winchester Great Hall

The Round Table in Winchester Great Hall

By this time we were getting a bit peckish, so headed for the nearest NT tea room, at Mottesfont. The garden here is famous for its roses and since it was June we expected a treat. Of course, with the season being so delayed we were a bit early for the main display.

Some roses at Mottisfont

Some roses at Mottisfont

Who needs roses when there are Irises like this?

We also had a walk along the river at Mottisfont and drove back (with a rose bush wedged behind my car seat!)

Bridge over the River Test at Mottisfont

Bridge over the River Test at Mottisfont

  By the next day the weather was even worse – a steady downpour. At last – I could relax with a book! Unfortunately, by early afternoon it stopped and I was forced out of the room. We hadn’t visited the coast yet, but where to go? I suggested that we discover where our local river reached the sea and go there. It turned out that it flowed into Christchurch harbour. We had never been there before so we studied the map and headed to Hengistbury Head and a walk.

The road to Hengistbury Head

The road to Hengistbury Head

The weather had not improved greatly, but there was an interesting pre-historic bank and round barrows to look for. I’m sure the view from the top to spectacular, but we could see very little.

The banks and ditches that cut off Hengistbury Head

The banks and ditches that cut off Hengistbury Head

Can you see Christchurch yet?

The cafe at the car park did very good cakes, which we ate outside (the weather was improving) and watched a family of young starlings.

Starling chick and parent - they're after the cake!

Starling chick and parent – they’re after the cakes!

Of course, once we’d taken off out walking boots, the weather improved, so we decided to have a look round Christchurch on our way back. It looked lovely (in the sun) 

The sun comes out at last - in Christchurch

The sun comes out at last – in Christchurch

Once again there were no meals served at the pub that evening. The electricians had been and there was no power in the kitchen! At least we had a warning this time and went to the Augustus John pub in Fordingbridge. I can recommend the food there, although a bit more expensive than the Compasses.

Next morning , our last full day, was again dull with the threat of rain. We decided to visit another National Trust property, Kingston Lacey. As the house didn’t open until midday, we stopped at Wimbourne Minster first.

Wimbourne Minster, looking rather grey.

Wimbourne Minster, looking rather grey.

There is much to see in the minster church of St Cuthburga: an astronomical clock (for those interested in such things) and several tombs – “the man in the wall” and “the man with two left feet” and for anyone watching the TV series “The White Queen”, the Beaufort Tomb.

The Beaufort Tomb - parents of Margaret Beaufort and grandparents of Henry VII

The Beaufort Tomb – parents of Margaret Beaufort and grandparents of Henry VII

Then it was on to Kingston Lacey and straight to the cafe. One of the reasons for coming here was the mention in the NT handbook of “prize-winning scones”. We had not yet had a cream tea on this holiday, so we made do with a cream lunch. There was a steady drizzle by now but there were a few tables outside, under cover. We attracted a strange avian trio of a chaffinch, a bluetit and a nuthatch!

Cream Tea with wet chaffinch

Cream Tea with wet chaffinch

As it was wet, we went round the 17th century house first, hoping the weather would improve later. There was a magnificent display of paintings by Rubens, Titian and Tintoretto etc and at the end a collection of Egyptian artefacts.

Kingston Lacey

Kingston Lacey

It was still raining a bit when we came out, so we thought we’d risk the gardens. There was a Fern Garden which looked very lush in the drizzle and borders with more Irises. There was a walk lined with Acers (I particularly liked one called Acer palmatum “Shindeshojo” – not sure if I could find room for one in our garden though!) and a Japanese Tea Garden. Of course, the further we got from shelter, the heavier the rain got. So it was a quick look around the kitchen garden and a swift walk back through some trees and colourful azaleas. Despite an unbrella, we were soaked by the time we got back.

White Iris in the rain

White Iris in the rain

The Acer walk. I rather liked the pink one on the right.

The Acer walk. I rather liked the pink one on the right.

By now we’d had enough so returned to Damerham for the last time.

Next day was dull again, but not raining. We decided to complete the circle, as it were, and stop for a break at Stonehenge. We thought it wouldn’t be too busy, but it was packed! Lines of parked coaches and people everywhere – it was chaos. Perhaps the tour companies knew that the local road and this entrance to the site were due to close two weeks later. Perhaps it’s always like that, but whatever happens next can only be an improvement.

The entrance to the tunnel under the road to Stonehenge

The entrance to the tunnel under the road to Stonehenge ….

.... then the shuffle round the stones

…. then the shuffle round the stones

The journey continued via Swindon. (Memo to self: next time try and avoid Swindon – it doesn’t seem to believe in road signs!) and a scan of the map to find a NT property we hadn’t visited before. We found Chastleton House, near Moreton in Marsh.

This is a small Jacobean country house. It’s set in the middle of the countryside and was a bit of a walk from the car park, but we needed to stretch our legs by then.

Entrance to Chastleton House

Entrance to Chastleton House

Impressive Long Gallery at Chastleton House with plaster ceiling

Impressive Long Gallery at Chastleton House with plaster ceiling

There was no NT tea room at this property, although there were plants for sale and a second-hand bookshop. Refreshments could be found in the church next door – delicious home-made cakes.

As we hurried back to the car, black clouds were starting to gather. Not far to go now. However we got caught by a very heavy storm on our way up the Foss Way.

Black clouds and sun on the Foss Way

Black clouds and sun on the Foss Way

So the holiday was over. We had seen grand houses and churches, lots of history and a lot of weather (and cakes). Must start planning the next one.

Posted by: Christine | July 15, 2013

Farewell PAF

After today PAF (Personal Ancestral File) ceases to exist. Well I expect there will still be copies of the program, working faithfully on computers all around the world, for some time to come. However from today it will not be available to download from www.familysearch.org . It has not been supported for some time and now the plug has been pulled.

PAF must have been one of the first Family History programs and the first version was released back in 1984. I encountered it in 1996 when I joined the Rugby Family History Group. Our then Chairman, Harry Batchelor, was very progressive and fought to drag his family historians in to the computer age. (He was the person who decided the group needed a website and leaned how to do it with a book called, I think,  “Teach yourself  HTML in a weekend”. He inspired me and I am now webmaster of that website.)

Imagine the leap in progress at that time. Before PAF, family history was recorded on pieces of paper, special sheets for recording families and printed charts to fill in with names. I understand some people still do it that way! Now you could just enter your names, add parents and children and it would all be saved on your computer, ready to be added to, or reports printed out. Other programs came along, usually at great expense, with extra “bells and whistles” but PAF continued, updated occasionally, but it did the job. I think it did originally cost a small amount, but recently it has been free to download. It was ideal for beginners and we recommended it on all our courses.

Now time has moved on, to the next big jump, into “The Cloud”. Publicity from TV programs, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” brought new people to genealogy and companies realised they could make money from our hobby. So they bought up programs and linked them up with their websites, A lot of people don’t use a program at all. They are trapped for life, paying out their annual subscriptions, because if they left they would lose control of their online tree, “shaky leaves” and all.

This is the future and that is why the LDS have killed off PAF. It doesn’t connect directly with their FamilySearch Family Tree – although, so far, most things on FamilySearch are free.

FamilySearch recommend three “family history record managers from our FamilySearch partners”. These are Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree and RootsMagic. I have downloaded the free versions of all these programs. So far I have discovered that none of them really works properly unless you download the full ie paid version. There is a limited special price for PAF users, but for how long?

Last year I bought a copy of Family Tree Maker. It was on special offer, and cheaper than the six months Ancestry subscription it came with. I transferred part of my tree to it and now it synchronizes the tree on my computer with one online (I can look at it on my phone as well!). Unfortunately I find it very complicated to use – I managed to get a husband married to the wrong wife and cannot manage to get them apart. How could I recommend that program to anyone?

There are other programs around, I know. But I don’t know of anything as cheap and as simple to use as PAF. So why get rid of it? And what do I recommend instead? (Although I am told that PAF 5.2 is available on shareware sites.)

Or perhaps we should all march forward, into the future. I wouldn’t like to be lumped together with those family historians, still using paper and pencil, I was so rude about earlier.

Posted by: Christine | June 23, 2013

The Garden in May

Yes, I know it’s nearly the end of June, but I’ve been busy – more about that later.

May was another mixed month. It started with warm sun but there were periods of gloomy wet weather and most of the month was windy. Unusually some of the best days coincided with the bank holidays, and on 6th May we visited the Quarry Garden at Bagington, near Coventry. We have visited here before, but slightly later, when the Rhododendrons and Azaleas are out. We thought there would not be much colour, but of course the Magnolias were out.

View across Quarry Gardens

View across Quarry Gardens

A bank of Magnolia Trees at Quarry Gardens

Magnolia flower at Quarry Gardens

Magnolia flower at Quarry Gardens

In our garden the focus moved from the border where there has been a pause between the tulips and later flowering  plants. The exception was the Paeonia mlokosewitschii, whose red shoots we saw earlier in the year.

Flower of Paeonia mlokosewitschii

Flower of Paeonia mlokosewitschii

On the opposite side of the garden buds were unfurling and leaves stating to appear on the trees. By the middle of the month they were in full leaf.

The tree border on 16th May

The tree border on 16th May

From right to left they are: Weeping Willow, the red Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ and green and white (for a couple of days it was bright gold!) Acer platanoides ‘Drummondii’. We call the latter the “Millenium Tree” since we planted it in 2000. The dark blob is a common holly and on the left is the fence with next door – yellow conifer on their side, mixture of Euonymus, honeysuckle and ivy on ours. The shrub in front is Choisya ternata – in bud. If you are worried about the claw in the top right hand corner – that’s part of the Wisteria (more about that next month)

Two weeks later, the holly has turned pink from the Clematis montana that has invaded it from several yards away (memo to self: must chop it back when it finishes flowering) and the Choisya is flowering – wonderful smell.

Trees on 31st May

Trees on 31st May

Of course the problem with all these trees is lots of shade! Underneath, at this time of year, is a plant that I have found useful, Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum). I think it can be a bit of a thug, but anything that thrives in this situation is welcome. This, with the variegated holly (silver king?), pulmonarias and aquilegias, and of course the bluebells, adds light to a dark area.

Using Woodruff and other plants to lighten a shady area

Using Woodruff and other plants to lighten a shady area

Sorry the picture is not quite in focus – I was bent double under a magnolia branch!

Further down the garden is the vegetable garden AKA “the wildflower meadow”. We allow plants here if they are not interfering with the vegetables. We have a thriving colony of Welsh poppies. They have just taken over from the primroses and will be in flower until winter when the primroses start again. Here a patch has formed a nice contrast with some Forget-me-nots. The Apple blossom above is just ending.

Yellow poppies and forget-me not below the apple blossom

Yellow poppies and forget-me-not below the apple blossom

Another plant that seeds itself around the garden is Aquilegia. It appears in a variety of different colours from purple, through pink, to white. I intend to be more strict with it and limit different colours to certain parts of the garden. It does seem to make a decent job of it itself though. Here is the purple version positioned right in front of a pink clematis alpina.

Clematis alpina and self sown purple Aqilegia

Clematis alpina and self-sown purple Aquilegia

On the 25th May we visited Coton Manor Gardens for our annual visit to see the bluebells.

Coton Manor bluebell wood.

Coton Manor bluebell wood.

Like a lot of other plants this year, the bluebells were a couple of weeks late.

There was a lot to see in the rest of the gardens there. I was glad to see that I was in good company with my display of orange tulips.

Orange tulips at Coton Manor, with colour co-ordinated chicken.

Orange tulips at Coton Manor, with colour coordinated chicken.

There was also a lovely gentle view in the orchard of Camassias and Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris – also known as Queen Anne’s lace or, to my husband, Keck)

Camassias and Cow Parsley in the Coton Manor Orchard

Camassias and Cow Parsley in the Coton Manor Orchard

As Coton Manor is within easy travelling distance, we bought season tickets, so there will probably be other pictures from there, later in the year. Just don’t confuse them with pictures of my garden!

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