Family History Research

21 May

A few years ago we decided to try and find a little bit of family background. I can’t remember why, I think we were probably inspired by watching the BBC show ‘who do you think you are?’ We were lucky enough to discover that a lot of our family tree had already been transcribed along with parish registers etc by a nice lady who turned out to be a distant cousin 🙂 Her website was a lucky find for us as it saved us a lot of hassle and we gained far more info than we ever would have done otherwise.

So from there we decided to dig up some more specific info i.e. ‘where’s the money’ 😉 (joking) So I got my great great great Grandfathers will, he left everything to his wife for her to deal with. Typical and not very helpful but fascinating none the less to a history lover, lovely old fashioned writing. I have now applied for his wife’s will, if she made one, to see if she was any more specific. We also got my great great grandfather’s will (you’ll here more about this chap in a minute 🙂 ) and that of his brother.

I find it all fascinating, although my dad doesn’t see the point in it. He has no natural curiosity about his family past. My great great grandfather’s will was such an interesting glimpse into the history, not only of my family, but also of the village which we still live in and also the surrounding villages. He disposed of houses and fields and businesses between 7 of the 8 children who had lived into adulthood (number 8 sadly predeceased him by 8 years) and he left money in trust for his disabled grandchild; It’s like a window into a whole different life. A time when local, rural communities thrived under their own industries before all the jobs moved into towns and the village life just dwindled down into nothing more than a holiday camp or retirement village. There is also the sensation, when reading these wills, that you are being quite nosey, snooping into a family’s lives and finances!

If you’d like to trace a UK will or grant of administration from 1858 onwards you can find details here http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/probate/copies-of-grants-wills at least that’s how I got my copies.

So with my great great grandfather willing away what seems like rather a lot of property you’d forgive us for thinking he must have been a pretty respectable business man right? Wrong!  I have discovered this gem of a website http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ You can buy credits for a very reasonable price and search away. Just bear in mind it’s interesting for local history but if you search for your ancestors as I did you might get more than you bargained for. 😉 You’ll probably find that if your ancestors are featured in newspaper articles from the Victorian era it’s probably not to their credit. I found the aforementioned great great grandfather popping up quite a lot in the local petty sessions and on one occasion being made bankrupt which was probably a result of all the fines he had to keep paying lol.

Again it’s that feeling of nosiness, I’m having a good poke around in his dealings most of which are pretty funny some not so much and were definitely worthy of a serious tutting from me. He comes across as a bit of a rogue but I hope a loveable one.

All in all I find it such an interesting subject. So if you are interested on learning more about your family of the history and legends of your local area the British newspaper archives is well worth a look at. It’s an on going project as far as I know so in a few months there may be even more articles of interest than there are today.

*foot note just got word from the probate registry, no will or grant of administration from great great great grandma, shame. Maybe she had already divided up her husbands estate between the kids?

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