On the Internet – June 2021June 8, 2021
On the Internet – December 2021January 3, 2022
It is good this issue to begin with a website that is about Bristol and has been created by someone who is a long-standing member of BAFHS and a regular contributor to this journal. Bristol History (https://www.bristolhistory.co.uk/) is the work of D.P. Lindegaard and contains much of the research she has done over the past fifty years. Although it contains her own family history, there is much more which will be of value and interest to those researching the social and economic history of Bristol and its surroundings. In particular, there are indexes like the Kingswood Index, the lists of those who died in mining accidents, and the list of black Bristolians, which dates back to the sixteenth century. The website has plenty of useful information, and some good, well-written stories.
If you have watched television programmes like Heir Hunters, you will be familiar with the phrase bona vacantia. It refers to assets with no obvious owner, and is used to describe the estates of people who have died without leaving a will or with no known next of kin. The bona vacantia, or unclaimed estates, list can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/bona-vacantia and at the time of writing over 7,000 estates were listed. Anyone can research the people listed and see if they can find a relative entitled to the estate, and professional researchers charge a commission relative to the value. I was contacted recently by someone using the family trees posted on Ancestry to trace possible relatives entitled to such estates, although in this case it all rather depended on a woman who had married my father’s second cousin in Bournemouth in 1943 and had five children, also having an illegitimate child in another town. With family history, one thing always leads to another and in this case it led to the discovery that the woman in question was born in New Brunswick, and had a brother who died in 1943. The Commonwealth War Graves website (https://www.cwgc.org/) lists only his name (Walter Waldron Adams) on the Bournemouth war memorial, but gives his rank as Pilot Officer. I tried the losses database on the Bomber Command International website (https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/100089/) and there he was. He was the pilot of a Wellington bomber which crashed on a cross-country flight when an engine failed. This record is now included on the Ancestry website, where there are also records of his early life in New Brunswick. There is an even fuller account of the accident on Aircrew Remembered (http://aircrewremembered.com/adams-walter.html).
It’s always good to find detailed and specific service records, and there is a set of records of the Royal Naval Division in the First World War now available of Findmypast which can tell you a lot about where a man served, his home address, next of kin, etc. One Bristol man who was a member of the Division was John Toghill, but he spent much of the war interned in Holland, which was a neutral country.
Note that, although he was interned, he appears to have had two periods of home leave, as well as an annual appraisal of his character. The Imperial War Museum has a film showing the interned soldiers, engaged in various activities, all laughing and smiling at the camera and surrounded by Dutch children and at least one dog. It can be found at https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060022921. It was clearly a better life than being in the trenches.
Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey is apparently the largest cemetery in Europe with over 243,000 interments. It was originally built to take the deceased from London, and had its own railway stations to bring the coffins and the mourners to its rural location. Brookwood has sections for different religions and occupations, and there are military sections for both British and overseas servicemen and servicewomen who have died in Britain. The Brookwood burial records are now available on Deceased Online (https://www.deceasedonline.com/) and these include scans of the registers.
Some years ago, I did some research for a friend who wanted to know more about her grandfather. He died before she was born, but was apparently something of a rogue. It turned out he was born in the United States, and had a half-brother who was a wealthy Manhattan banker. On the way, I discovered that our friend was a half second-cousin once removed of Diane Vreeland, the famous editor of Vogue. Another half second-cousin was Carolyn Satterlee Postlethwaite Cobb, who after divorcing her husband in the United States decided to move to Devon in the 1930s, eventually buying the Easton Court Hotel in Chagford . Carolyn was the daughter of William Morton Postlethwaite, a member of a distinguished American military family who was Professor of Law and History at West Point Military Academy. Now the reason I am telling you all this is because, as part of the research, I came across two information sources I had not seen before. First, from doing a search using Google, I found a page from the Ancestry website headed “Historical Person Search” which had her details (https://www.ancestry.co.uk/genealogy/records/carolyn-satterlee-postlethwaite-24-13n1fvl). No source details were given, or the identity of the submitter, and there were no links to the other family members listed. I could not trace this dataset in the card catalogue, but clicking on the heading took me to a search screen headed “Historical Records and Person Search”. There were search boxes for first name and surname, but none for dates, places or other details. I made my excuses and left.
The second piece of information, which I found on both Ancestry and Findagrave, was a “Report of the death of an American Citizen”, reproduced below. You will see that it contains much more information than is on an English death certificate, such as place of burial and names of next of kin, although the death took place in England.
If you have spent many happy hours with the historic maps and data at Knowyourplace, you should also look at the maps at https://maps.bristol.gov.uk/pinpoint/ , a site for which I couldn’t find a title. It deals with Bristol only, but shows streets together with historic and community features, and contains a lot of information about things like listed buildings, places of note, Roman roads and cemeteries.
Our area has had a long association with the Methodist church in its various, and sometimes rival, forms. If you have memories, and perhaps illustrations, of Methodist churches and chapels, and the life of the church, then you should find something of interest at https://www.mywesleyanmethodists.org.uk/. This will take you a section about Wesleyan Methodism, but clicking on Websites in the network will take you to sites about Primitive Methodism, etc, and you can also do a search of the whole network. You can make your own contribution to Methodist history by clicking on Add your story.
Finally, a quick round-up of some of the recent addition to Ancestry and Findmypast.
Ancestry has added a lot of Irish records. Ireland used to be a difficult country to research, but many records have become available in recent years, both civil and religious. Civil registration began in 1864, and only the 1901 and 1911 censuses have survived.
Findmypast has helped those with Scottish ancestry by providing civil BMD records from their start in 1855 to virtually the present day. This is only an index, so there is not the detail available on the Scotland’s People website at https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/, where a copy of the certificate can be downloaded. Remember that Scottish death certificates contain the names of the parents of the deceased, together with other details.
Findmypast has also added records of prisoners, including some photos, and has improved its census address search feature – invaluable for those researching house history. Finally, Findmypast has integrated its Australia, Inward, Outward & Coastal Passenger lists 1826-1972, with over 26 million records, into one file. Searching is not always easy, and I failed to find my gt-gt-grandfather who emigrated in 1838, although I had no problems in tracing his sister and brother-in-law who went out from Sussex on the same boat.