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:


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.