Walking in your Ancestors Footsteps

Spending a few days in Edinburgh has given me the opportunity to walk around some of the locations where, according to the 1851 census, ancestors once resided.  My walk took me along parts of the Royal Mile and down some of the “Closes” which run from the Royal Mile down towards Princes Street Gardens and the railway line which runs alongside the gardens.

Prior to my walk, I spent a little time investigating some of the old maps of the city, and reading about the history of what is known as the “Old Town”. A wonderful resource for family and social historians is the collection of maps available on line via the National Library of Scotland : http://maps.nls.uk/. This is an amazing collection of digitised maps covering not only Scotland but the whole of the UK. If you have never looked at the site I can recommend it highly. Of particular interest was the collection of town plans of Edinburgh, as I was aware that during the 19th century, significant areas of the Old Town had been redeveloped and improved to get rid of the insanitary conditions which had been rife in the area, and which could well explain the derivation of the name for Edinburgh of “Auld Reekie”.

When we search census records, we are obviously looking for a name and when we find the name, there is an address, or location which helps us to “place” the household during the year in question. The pages we view on line form part of the enumerators book and list all the households he (and it was usually a he) visited, in order to gather the census data.  Whilst the address where your ancestors lived may still exist, it may not necessarily be identical to the address where, more than 100 years ago the family resided. Not least, streets could have been renumbered, redeveloped or even renamed.  This is why it is important to check any maps, and also to look at the description of the enumeration area which is written at the front of the enumerators book.  By comparing the enumerators description with a contemporaneous map , you can then compare the evidence with a modern map to assess what of todays location resembles that of yesteryear.

The first thing I noticed was that Cockburn Street, which curls down from the Royal Mile towards Market Street, was not present on the 1850s town plan. I subsequently found reference to it having been created about 15 years after the 1851 census in a book entitled Lost Edinburgh by Hamish Coghill published in 2005. This meant that at least some of the area I intended to walk, would not be entirely recognisable to the ancestors.

These two maps show how the streets changed between 1851  http://maps.nls.uk/view/74400081 and 1866 http://maps.nls.uk/view/117745491 and cover the area where I took my walk at the weekend. They give a great example of how the topography of an area can change in a short period.

Another useful resource for genealogists and historians are the maps, produced by Alan Godfrey. There is a comprehensive list of old maps available to buy at reasonable price on their website. http://www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk/

So if you are planning to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors, it is well worth doing some preliminary research into your proposed route, checking the enumeration district description and comparing the information with local plans or maps before setting out to explore.


My Christmas New Year Challenge (Part Three) – Grave concerns

One of the more unusual resources which family historians can make use of are the graves where ancestors were buried. During the last few months, I have been able to solve a couple of genealogical puzzles by identifying other occupants of family graves. In the first instance, I had been told that the family “knew” that a particular surname was connected to the family, but my client only knew of this information as a family story, so had no source or any other knowledge to explain the connection, or if indeed the family story was correct. Having identified the grave number from an index in the Local Studies Library, I called into the Bereavement Services office, where the staff found the necessary information I had requested, and then proceeded to locate the names of the other people buried the family grave.  Sure enough, two of the occupants bore the “mystery” name and from that snippet of information, it was possible to identify the connection, to the satisfaction of the client.

My two blogs earlier this week about Ivor Tempest Greenwood noted that various members of the family emigrated to Australia. Another family group of emigrants were identified and the final connection was made by investigating the identity of the one year old child who was buried in the same grave as Ivor Tempest Greenwood.

This child was the second burial in the family grave, and took place on 16 December 1902. The first burial which took place on 20 September 1900, was William Harper, a compositor, the husband of Sarah Harper nee Bruncker, and Ivor’s grandfather. At the time of William’s burial, his last address was given as The Asylum Lancaster, which is supported by the evidence of his whereabouts given in the 1891 census. Ivor was buried on 19 September 1914 and the final burial was that of William’s wife Sarah on 10 September 1928.

The child, John William Dray, was born too late to be recorded in the 1901 census, his birth was registered in the last quarter of 1901. The burial register provided the address where he had been living. By searching for the address, rather than by name, it was possible to find a John and Louisa Dray recorded at the same address. Knowing Sarah Greenwood nee Harper had a sister Louisa, it was a simple task to find her marriage in 1897 to John Dray. The church registers are available in the West Yorkshire collection on Ancestry, and the details confirmed that Louisa Harper was indeed the daughter of William a compositor.  John William Dray was Ivor Tempest Greenwood’s cousin.

This family sailed from London to Australia on 8 May1914 on board the Osterley arriving on  22 June. John Dray served in the Australian Imperial Force, enlisting on 5 November 1914. His attestation papers confirm that he had also served in the Duke of Wellington’s regiment, the regiment in which men from Keighley and the Worth Valley served.

It was only by investigating the identity of John William Dray that it was possible to identify another branch of the extended Greenwood/Harper/Bruncker family who made the long trip to Brisbane.

This week’s collection of blogs has given examples of how various strands of evidence can be used to put together a family story. Now all I can hope is that someone in Australia might be able to pick up the trail and identify any living relatives of Private Ivor Tempest Greenwood.


My Christmas New Year Challenge (Part Two)

My research into the family of Ivor Tempest Greenwood made use many of the usual resources any researcher uses whilst undertaking family history research. Birth, marriage and death certificates, census records and parish records are the everyday tools we can use, and we have to use the clues these records give us to piece together the evidence for the family story. Other available records can be scrutinised and form all the evidence,  the “jigsaw puzzle” of the family story develops.

Ivor’s father was William Henry Greenwood. His military records explain his whereabouts in 1901, as he was not to be found anywhere in the UK. The military records confirm he was on military service in South Africa at the time of 1901 census, presumably fighting in the Boer War.[1]  The papers also include information that William was awarded The Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Cape Colony, Orange State, and Transvaal South Africa 1901. So it I reassuring to know that I have not missed or misread a census record.

In 1911, the family are living together, along with William’s mother-in-law Sarah Harper, nee Bruckner and his nephew Henry Kenneth Bruncker, who was born in Derbyshire in 1908. I wanted to see how Henry fitted into the family tree and was eventually able to see how he was connected to the family by using evidence from ships passenger lists. A Thomas and Alice Bruncker, along with two children Henry and Hilda left England and arrived in Brisbane on 29th May 1913. From this information I was able to find the marriage of Thomas James Bruncker to Alice Harper, the sister of William Henry Greenwood’s wife Sarah. They married in Derwent Derbyshire on 20th May 1907. The 1911 census record for Thomas and Alice Bruncker gives their places of birth as Merthyr Tydfil and Manchester respectively. Hilda M Bruckner was born in 1912 also in Derbyshire.

Alice Harper was born on 13th April 1884 in Chorlton Manchester, where her father William, a compositor, was working. He was living in lodgings in Chorlton at the time of the 1881 census, whilst his wife and children were living with Mary Bruncker in South Wales. In 1891, William was incarcerated in the Lancaster Asylum and Sarah and her daughters Sarah, Mary and Louise were again in Wales. Alice however, was living in Bradford, a visitor in the household of Thomas Lewis and his wife Alice. No relationship is shown other than visitor, however, some extensive digging finally unearthed Alice Harper’s relationship to Alice Lewis, who was a Bruncker by birth, married a Mr Salisbury and finally a Mr Lewis, both ceremonies taking place in South Wales.

Alice Harper and her sister Mary, who was born 18th January 1880, were both baptised as adults on 7th April 1898, the same day as their nephew, Ivor’s brother, Henry Bruncker Greenwood. Their address was given as Fruit Street Keighley and their father William’s occupation was given as Compositor.[2]

Henry Bruncker Greenwood, set sail in in 1922. He was one of the first passengers to travel to Australia on board the SS Sophocles, a ship of the Aberdeen Line which had its maiden voyage in 1922. He arrived in Brisbane in May 1922 and he married in 1927. Henry was not the only passenger with the name Bruncker on board the SS Sophocles. Also on board were Eliseus Bruncker, his wife Llynilla and 10 month son, also called Eliseus. Eliseus Snr was born in Wales in 1888 and his parents, identified from census records, were Henry John Bruncker, a mason and Jane Thomas. Their marriage took place in Keighley at St John’s Church Ingrow on 2nd July 1883.[3] Henry’s father’s name is given as Thomas Bruncker, also a mason. Thomas was the brother of Sarah Harper nee Bruncker – the grandmother of Ivor Tempest Greenwood.

It surely cannot be a coincidence that Henry and Eliseus both travelled on board the same ship to Australia.

[1] Source Ancestry.com. British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008, 1908 Territorials Army Attestation papers; The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO).

[2] Source Ancestry.com. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. ;West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; St  Mary’s Church Eastwood Keighley.

[3] Source Ancestry.com. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. ;West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; St  John’s Church Ingrow Keighley.

My Christmas New Year Challenge (Part One)

Shortly before Christmas a link on Facebook to my local newspaper, caught my attention. Local history group; The Men of Worth Project, is a group of local historians who gather the records and the stories of soldiers living in the Worth Valley in West Yorkshire, who served the country at times of war. They had put out an appeal seeking living descendants of a young soldier, Ivor Tempest Greenwood, who died in the service of his country at the start of the Great War. Private Greenwood never saw active service, but research by the group into Private Greenwood’s cause of death, persuaded the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to add his name to its Perpetual Roll of Honour, the official list of First World War casualties. A contemporaneous newspaper account dated September 1914, reported that Private Greenwood died of typhoid fever and pneumonia within three weeks of joining the army. A prestigious new headstone has been created by the Commonwealth Graves Commission to commemorate his death and will be unveiled during the spring of 2017, and the Men of Worth project want any living descendants to come to the ceremony if at all possible.

The appeal was a challenge to me- could I use my genealogical skills to help them find any descendants?

Starting with the name Ivor Tempest Greenwood, I was able to put together a basic family tree swiftly. Ivor was one of three brothers, all who served during the Great War. Anyone researching UK military records of the Great War wants to trace the Attestation records, completed when a soldier enlisted. However, many of the records do not survive, either as a result of military action during the Second World War, or as a result of enthusiastic “weeding” by nameless civil servants between the wars. Miraculously, the records not only of Ivor’s brothers have survived, but also the records of his father, who had fought in the Boer War, enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1909 and served as a sergeant until the 1920s. Both of his brothers returned from the war and resumed their day to day lives. Information in the records of both brothers gave an address in Bradford where they lived with their mother. This was backed up by the evidence in father’s records, and was, in fact the address where the eldest brother was living in 1939, with his wife at the outbreak of the second world war. The eldest brother died without issue in 1981 but of the youngest brother, there was no trace until I extended my research beyond the shores of the UK.

An interesting feature of the Greenwood family was the use of unusual second names for the boys – Tempest, Harper and Bruncker. As I dug further into the family history, it became clear that these names were the family names of their mother and the paternal and maternal grandmothers. It also became clear that this large and extended family, despite being located in Wales, Derbyshire, Staffordshire must have remained in contact with each other, even when different branches of the family left the shores of the UK to start new lives in Brisbane. It seems very likely that there are great nephews and nieces of Ivor Tempest Greenwood now living in Queensland, and they are the people I would dearly like to make contact with.




War Memorials

Walking through towns and villages, people will probably pause at the war memorial noting the names of those who answered the call but failed to return. Sometimes you can that the same surname cropping up again and again, which makes me wonder just how much pain one family might have endured. Today we take the presence of such local war memorials for granted, but as The Empires of the Dead, How one man’s vision led to the creation of the WW1 War Graves, by David Crane explains. the idea of local memorials was far from the government’s plans, although it was eventually accepted that bereaved families needed a focal point for their grief, as there was no grave in the churchyard where they could pay their respects.

Whilst there are approximately 68,000 war memorials in the UK, not every community has a war memorial. Some communities were fortunate as all the men who enlisted returned home. These villages are known as Thankful Villages, sometimes called Blessed Villages,  and there are apparently 52 such villages. Of their number, 14 villages are “Doubly Thankful” as they suffered no losses in WW2, Upper Slaughter in Gloucestershire being one such example, despite its name. No Scottish Thankful Village has been identified

A project is being undertaken by Darren Hayman, who is visiting each of the Thankful Villages. He is creating a piece of music and a short film for every one, which focusses on village life. His website has lots of interesting information on the villages he has visited so far: http://thankfulvillages.co.uk/


You can read more about Thankful Villages here:





2017 – 100 years of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

2017 sees some notable centenaries, and one significant centenary in 2017 is that of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, or as it was originally called, The Imperial War Graves Commission, which was established by Royal Charter in 1917.

Anyone who visits a CWG cemetery must be moved by what they see. Rows of, mainly,  Portland stone headstones, the carefully tended lawns and gardens all of which pay homage to the fallen. Whatever their social background in life, in death, soldiers of whatever rank are treated equally, including those who are “Known Unto God”. The cemeteries as we now know them did not however, come into being without bureaucratic battles and the determination of Fabian Ware, sometimes called the unsung hero of the War Grave Commission. Ware ensured the graves of the fallen, hastily buried in battle, were properly recorded in order that once hostilities ended, the bodies could be reinterred.

David Crane’s book The Empires of the Dead, How one man’s vision led to the creation of the WW1 War Graves tells the story of Ware and the battles he fought to ensure that the fallen were appropriately commemorated. The gruesome task of recovering the hurriedly  buried bodies from the various battlefields can only be imagined. Bodies were recovered and laid in the final resting places we know today. Ware was knighted for his work in 1920.

Crane’s book was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non fiction in 2013.

If you follow the Commonwealth War Graves on Twitter @cwgc you may also like to follow @SirFabianWare as “he” tweets during 2017 about the lead up to the establishment of the Imperial War Graves Commission.

So whilst it seems inappropriate to wish the CWGC Happy Birthday, when it was born out of such sadness, I am sure that any relative who has ever visited a CWG cemetery or a researcher who has ever used their website, will want to thank them for the amazing work of the last 100 years, and long may it continue.

New Year and The New Kid on the Blog

Happy New Year everyone.

I am a novice at this blogging lark, so please bear with me. I have been inspired by Jill Ball, who I met in Salt Lake City last year, and will be seeing again this year. She wrote a blog on Boxing Day called “Accentuate the Positive”, so this is my effort to do just that.


Accentuate the Positive


  1.  An elusive ancestor I found was:  Still searching!
  2.  A precious family photo I found was:  Photographs of my husband’s great grandmother, who died when he was 12 but had never met owing to a family rift.
  3.  An ancestor’s grave I found was:  Mary Ann Vann d 1854, sadly the inscription too badly worn to read.
  4.  An important vital record I found was: The will of an uncle of husband’s great grandmother, written in 1873, which named her and made it clear the money was hers and hers alone.
  5.  A newly found family member shared: Not a newly found relative, but one who told me about some family artefacts he holds & will send me photographs
  6.  A geneasurprise I received was:  Having my proposal for a talk at Who Do You Think You Are Live in April 2017 accepted.
  7. 2016 Blog I was most proud of well can’t answer this one other than to say I am going to try harder in 2017!
  8. I made a new genimate who: Actually I made several at Rootstech 2016, who I now follow on Facebook and Twitter.
  9.  A new piece of software I mastered was: Family Historian.
  10. A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was:  Twitter particularly the #Ancestryhour tag. I tweet as @Historylady2013
  11. A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was: Rootstech 2016 about Irish Records available on line.
  12. I am proud of a presentation I gave to Bradford Family History Society about Workhouse Records and Where They Can Lead.
  13. A journal or magazine article I had published, sadly none, but I had a couple of mentions in Family History Magazine for my tweets.
  14. I taught a friend how to: Use snipping tool.
  15. A genealogy history book that taught me something new:  A Dictionary of Medical and Related Terms for the Family Historian by Joan E Grundy.
  16. A great repository / archive I visited: Edinburgh College of Physicians, wonderful venue and delightful staff.
  17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was: Divorced Bigamist Bereaved by Rebecca Probert.
  18. It was exciting to finally meet: Jill Ball at  Rootstech 2016.
  19. A geneadventure I enjoyed : Has to be Rootstech 2016.
  20. Another positive I would like to share is:. It is always worth going back and having another look for any new records which might have become available.

Whilst not on Jill’s list I am adding my 21st. What achievement are you most proud of in 2016?  Graduating with Merit from the University of Dundee with a Master of Letters Degree in Family and Local History.