And the Winner Is…..

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For the past few weeks, I have been receiving entries to my competition to win a 4day RootsTech Pass.  Entrants had to guess the distance I will be travelling in order to get to Salt Lake City in February and today I am pleased to announce the winner is Michael Hunsaker, who guessed the distance would be 5658 miles. The actual distance will be 5675.47 miles. I am looking forward to meeting Michael in person next year and to be able to congratulate him in person.

I am sure he will enjoy both the event and the opportunities a trip to Salt Lake City affords family historians and to look around the fascinating city itself.


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In another exciting development, another RootsTech competition has been announced this week: The RootsTech Photo + Story Competition. Prizes are a Canon Camera, a Canon Pixma wireless printer and two Dell laptops. Entries are encouraged from around the world, so no excuse for not rummaging in your photo albums to find something which tells the story that lies behind the photo.

You can find more details about the competition, the prizes and how to enter here:

Good Luck Everyone.


Ghosts Ghouls Witches Warlocks and things that go bump in the night!

It’s that time of year when all the ghosts, ghouls withches warlocks and things that go “Bump in the Night”  are out and about, perhaps along with a few monsters, bats and spiders thrown into the mix to frighten the neighbours and play Trick Or Treat.

Trick or Treat is a relative new comer to the British customs which surround Halloween. Or more correctly the evening before All Hallows Day. Growing up in the north of England in the shadow of Pendle Hill, I was very familiar with the true story of the Lancashire Witches. Their story has been written about by authors including Harrison Ainsworth and Jeanette Winterton to name just two. A group of predominantly poor women (described as old crones) and men were accused, tortured and tried before being hung at Lancaster Castle. One was tried at York. What was unusual is that a more middle-class woman was also accused and suffered the same fate. It is a truly horrific story which occurred at the time people were very scared of the idea of witchcraft and plots to assassinate the King. No doubt some of it was connected to the threat felt by the ruling classes about the risk of Catholicism once again becoming the official religion. Lancashire was something of a hot bed of recusants.

You can read more about the Lancashire Witches here: Dr Jessica Nelson from The National Archives also writes about the Pendle Witches in this news story from the BBC website

As children we would dress up, making our own costumes and have parties, where we would bob for apples but no tricking or treating. Of course, Halloween comes a few days before November 5th which is celebrated in the UK by bonfires and fireworks. I expect many of those watching firework displays will have forgotten the roots of “Bonfire Night”, which of course, commemorated the failure of the plot by the Catholics to blow up Parliament. In the north, the 5th of November was the night when at least some folk got up to no good, playing practical jokes on the night which was called Mischief Night.

So in keeping with the thoughts of Halloween traditions, I thought I would have a look to see how many Ghosts, Ghouls, Witches, Warlocks, Bats, Spiders and Monsters surnames I could find in some of the on line genealogical websites, and there are quite a few to be found on the sites I checked out: Family Search, Ancestry, FindMyPast and ScotlandsPeople. I even found several Frankensteins. So go and have a look at the genealogical connection of things that “Go Bump in the Night” 😉

RootsTech 2018 Competition Time

RootsTech 2018 Competition Time

As you may be aware, I am a RootsTech 2018 Ambassador and one of the benefits of being an Ambassador is not only that I have free admission to the event, but also that I am able to offer another ticket to one of my followers. So it’s competition time, you can win a 4 day pass to RootsTech 2018, worth $279. The winner will be responsible for all other expenses incurred in attending the event.

The ticket gives access to the following:

  • Over 300 classes
  • Keynote/General sessions
  • RootsTech classes
  • Innovation Showcase
  • Expo hall
  • Evening events


Should the winner already have booked and paid for their ticket , a full refund will be available and instructions will be provided when the winner is notified.

You can visit the RootsTech website to see details of the class schedule at

Scott Hamilton, the Gold medal winning ice skater is one of the Keynote Speakers and you can read more about him here:

So, now to the competition.

Can you guess how far I will have to travel (one way) to get from my home in England to Salt Lake City? I will give you a couple of clues – I am not travelling by a direct flight and I also have to make a train journey between my home and London Heathrow Airport.

You can answer either in miles or kilometres and the person with the nearest correct answer will be the winner. In the event of a tie, the names will be drawn from a hat.

Closing date for entry is 15th November 2017 and the prize must be claimed before 30th November.

Send your entry to

Only one entry each is allowed and my decision is final.

RootsTech 2018

How quickly the year is passing us by, seems like only a short while since I set off to fly from the UK to Salt Lake City in Utah to attend RootsTech 2017 in the company of @TheKirstyGray.  A trip to RootsTech from the UK is not cheap, but the opportunities it presents for attending workshops, an extensive exhibition area and the opportunity to meet members of the genealogy community from around the world is unmatched. You can find out more about Rootstech2018 here: and this link gives even more information.

In 2018, both Kirsty and I will again be travelling to RootsTech and we have both been invited to be RootsTech Ambassadors. This means we will be tweeting and blogging from the event, which runs from February 28th to March 3rd 2018.

If you are thinking about attending RootsTech in 2018, there is an opportunity to save money by registering now. Registration has now opened, with the opportunity to buy at the “early bird” booking rate, which gives a saving of $100. You can find out how to register by following the link:

If you want a taste of what attracts visitors to RootsTech, check out this keynote speech from this year

A trip to Salt Lake City also presents unrivalled opportunities to visit the Family History Library and to use the amazing facilities available to further your research. Five floors of resources for the continents of the world .You can find out more about the library and its facilities here:


Disclaimer: In case you are wondering, I have been invited to be a RootsTech 2018 Ambassador. My role is to help publicise the event via social media channels from now until after the conference closes. I will receive free admission to the event in return.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 6-8 April

Family historians are preparing to gather in Birmingham this week for the Who Do You Think You Are? Live Show, which is being held at the National Exhibition Centre.

The event is billed as being the world’s largest family history show, a claim which those of us who have attended Rootstech might query, but it is certainly the largest such event in the United Kingdom, and well worth experiencing at least once.

I first attended in 2012 and have attended annually since then and always find something of interest. In 2013 I took the opportunity to Ask an Expert, which is hosted by the Society of Genealogists. This is a regular feature  at WDYTYA? Live, and many visitors take the opportunity to book a 20 minute appointment with an expert genealogist. This year, I will be making debut as an “Expert” on both Thursday 6th and Friday 7th.

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Another debut for me this year is that of  “Speaker”. On Saturday 8th at 1.15 pm  in Theatre 3.  I will be speaking about “Delving into Workhouse Records”, illustrated with some of the Poor Law Union records which are held at my local studies library. I am fascinated by Poor Law Union records and enjoy digging around and uncovering the stories of people who came into contact with the Poor Law bureaucracy in whatever capacity. Most researchers will be familiar with admission and discharge records, but my talk will explore how financial records, committee meeting minutes , letter books and other records can be a treasure trove for researchers. I was stunned to see that more than 2 weeks ago, the workshop was sold out. No pressure then!

At other times I will be helping out with exhibitors including The University of Dundee’s Centre for Archives and Information Studies (Stand 268) and the Register of Qualified Genealogists (Stand 2)  If you are coming to the show, do come along and say hello.

You can find out more about the show by following this link:

A serious topic for today’s blog.

Yesterday, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse opened in London.  Already we are hearing the dreadful testimony from individuals who were sent to Australia and subjected to both physical and sexual abuse.  Sadly, abuse of children is nothing new, and as this sorry story from the workhouse confirms, children who complained continued to be ignored and disbelieved.

Amongst the Boarding Out Committee minutes I came across this story of a troubled young boy who would have been aged about 9 years of age. I am not going to use his true name nor that of the adults involved for obvious reasons, so will call him William. His father died and his mother became an inmate of the asylum at sometime between his birth and 1901, when he can be found as a resident of the workhouse. William was the youngest child in the family and his siblings no longer lived in the family home.

The Boarding Out Committee made no less than four attempts to place William with a foster family, and all these attempts ended in failure.  On the first occasion, William ran away from his foster home and returned to the workhouse, covered in bruises.  On arrival at the workhouse, he complained to the Workhouse Master that he had been severely beaten by his foster carer.  He was then examined by the Medical Officer, who found William’s bruising was consistent with his story of having been severely beaten. The Boarding Out Committee subsequently interviewed the foster parent, whose explanation of the injuries was accepted, and as so often seems to be the case, William was not believed.

Life did not improve for William. On the occasion he ran away from his foster home to his married sister, he was dragged back to the workhouse.  On the final occasion, the foster father returned him to the workhouse saying William was “incorrigible and would not work”. The Boarding Out Committee instructed the Clerk to enquire about a training ship to take William …. and “to tell the Workhouse Master to give him plenty of work”.

William was eventually sent to the Training Ship Indefatigable at Birkenhead. This cost the workhouse £22 and 10 shillings.  I do not know what happened to him subsequently. His real name is quite common so it is difficult to pin down but I have reason to believe he joined the army in 1910. A career in military service was not unusual for the boys who had been on training ships.

You can read more about the Training Ship Indefatigable on Peter Higginbotham’s excellent website


From the Workhouse to Flanders Field via Canada

I am presenting a talk, “Delving into Workhouse Records” at Who Do You Think You are? Live in April. I have been spending a few days in my Local Studies Library exploring the records looking for some interesting examples I can include in my talk.  Needless to say, as can often happen, I became distracted by the mention of an individual who had been Boarded Out by the Union Guardians, hence I spent some time following up on his story, has become the subject of today’s blog.

The source for this story was The Minutes of the Boarding Out Committee of North Bierley Poor Law Union. Here I found two specific mentions of a Leonard Cartwright. The first mention was in a minute of a meeting held on 7th March 1906:

Leonard Cartwright – Boarded with Dan Kellett of Wyke. Clerk to make enquiries as to whether this Boy can be taken out to Canada by Mr Kellett.

The second mention was dated 2nd of May, when the committee

Resolved that the Clerk be instructed to interview Mr Dan Kellett and ascertain whether he intends taking the above named boy [Leonard Cartwright] with him to Canada or not.

Sadly, I could not find any mention between the two dates, but I became curious about Leonard, particularly after finding an albeit nameless mention of him in the Report of the Chairman of the Boarding Out Committee dated 3 April 1907.  The chairman, Mr J Hardisty, was reporting on the successes of the Boarding out system and commented that

I may say we have had one case at the Servant  Girl’s (sic) Home, Sheffield; a boy has been placed on the training ship “Indefatigable”, Birkenhead, and another boy is now in Canada.

Leonard Fielding Cartwright’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1897. Although his date of birth was given on many documents as 3rd December 1897, the year 1896 makes more sense. By 1901, he was living, along with 3 siblings, in the North Bierley Workhouse. A little digging soon identified that their parents were Henry Cartwright and Emma Dean who had married on 28 January 1889 at Bradford Parish Church. Henry was a widower and already had a family of 9 children with his first wife. His marriage to Emma resulted in 4 more children in addition to Leonard.

Leonard’s siblings were born in 1889,1890,1894 and 1899 respectively. So someone was missing from the workhouse, but I soon found her living in Leamington with her aunt and uncle. Why the children entered the workhouse is unclear. Emma may have died, or been unable to care for the children for some reason, and Henry was living with his daughter Martha Ellen Hart and her family, but is still described as a married man, rather than a widower. Emma’s whereabouts remains a mystery to be solved, but she most certainly did not die before 1903, when an infant of the same name did pass away.

It seems likely that the Clerk to the Boarding Out Committee might have been a little late in his efforts to interview Dan Kellett.  Dan, his wife Nancy, their children and a 9 year old Leonard Cartwright arrived in Montreal on 26th May 1906, having travelled from Liverpool aboard the ship Lake Erie. Then Leonard vanishes for a few years. Although the Kellett family can be found on the Canadian census shortly afterwards, Leonard is nowhere to be seen.

The next “sighting” of Leonard is when he enlisted on May 12th 1915. His military papers are available free of charge, to download at . He confirmed a sister, Edith Cartwright as his next of kin and gave her address in Shipley. He wrote his will on 9th June 1916 leaving his estate to his sisters Edith and Dorothy. An interesting comment amongst the papers also refers to his Next of Kin as his mother, Mrs Emma Cartwright and her address was given as being c/o Miss Edith Cartwright, so Leonard seems to have hoped or believed that his mother could still be alive. Leonard had assigned his monthly pay of $15 Canadian dollars to his sister Edith in May 1916.

Leonard originally enlisted in Calgary into the 56th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was transferred to the 50th Battalion Canadian Infantry after arriving in the UK on 9th April 1916. He subsequently sailed to France arriving in Le Havre on 11th August 1916. He was reported as missing in Action on 19th November and it was confirmed he had been killed in action by 16th December that year. His grave can be found in the Adnac Military Cemetery Miraumont.

Whilst this story has a sad ending, it is good to see that Leonard managed to maintain some contact with his siblings. However I cannot but help wonder about what happened to him between arriving in Canada with the Kellett family and his enlistment in the Canadian Infantry.