Sunday, August 30, 2009

Researching With Sensitivity

One of the areas of research that has to be done very carefully is if you have a relative that fought in any kind of war.
WWI, for many, was the first huge one that had an almost global impact in one way or another.
Many participants tried to forget the traumatic experiences they went through. Some on occasion spoke up, others never did. All would probably wish it had never happened. Never force someone to talk about their experiences. Always be considerate of their deeply buried feelings and the grief and pain that can arise. For many time never heals.
I feel greatly blessed that we have a hand written account of my grandfather's 11 months as a prisoner-of-war in Germany. He wrote it well after the event. It is a thoughtfully written account of life in the coal mines and interactions with the local population. In some ways he felt better off than they were because he at least had boots on his feet.
At some point I plan on transcribing it because the pages are now quite fragile. My mother has it so I will either have to wait till I can make another visit or have my dad send me a photocopy. It's not one of those projects you can sit down with and do in an hour.
The title page reads as follows -
"Eleven Months Behind Barbed Wire"
My experiences as a prisoner of war in Germany 1918
John W. Hall
A.B. "Drake" Batt. R.N.D.
In the following pages I have tried to give an account of my experiences while a prisoner of war in Germany in 1918. Most of this account has been compiled from memory but an experience such as this lives in the memory for a long time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Researching family items

Have you ever researched any of the family items in your possession?

My mother has inherited a number of family pieces over the years and this is one of her favorites.
It is inscribed Helen Margaret Hall Xmas 1897 on the bottom. Given that Helen was born September 1896 I will have to assume that it was made for her by one of her parents or grandparents. What a lovely gift for a cherished baby.
I only ever knew my great aunt as "Nellie" and she had a wooden leg that she let us play gentle drums on when she visited. She died in 1971. By profession she was a teacher and lived in Campbelltown. My parents minister told them that she taught his mother !!!! (Small world). She enjoyed travelling and visited a number of relatives abroad, some of whom still remember her with much affection.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

BMD records England

Occasionally I have to do research in English records which is a bit more tricky that Scottish records (I am totally spoiled).
On Tuesday I was working at the family history center and was looking at some of the new data bases. I found a site for Lancashire, where one of my cousins was born. It proved very fruitful and I have now pushed my knowledge about his family back about another 3 generations. It's a basic index , which is free to look at, but some of the family names are unusual so that helped quite considerably. Copies of the original documents can be ordered from the same site for a small fee.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Visiting old haunts

Something that many people like to do when researching their family history is try to visit the homes, workplaces etc. of their ancestors.
While we were visiting my parents in Scotland we had the opportunity to meet a cousin from New Zealand for the first time. His father and my grandfather were brothers and this house is where they and their siblings were born and raised.
The Old Schoolhouse, Drymen used to be where John Hall was schoolmaster and taught school from the late 1890's till 1926. It still looks a lot like it would have done in years past but is now used as a B&B.