Clear crisp morning looking out to Bristol Channel and North Devon England
The area that needs patience and persistence is in trying to find extra information from local newspapers. In the cases of Thomas Ashburner, John Ashburner, Roger Orrell, James Atherton and Alan Atherton I was able to discover so much extra detail and find events that were buried deep in the past that turned their stories into something remarkable. This is where the past comes alive and an apparently boring and straightforward life turns out to be anything but and that was certainly the case with these men. Newspapers also can provide photographs of ancestors and that is a thrilling piece of detail to find. The newspaper accounts that you uncover can also throw up more names and these can be interesting to follow up. In the case of Roger Orrell the first name of his ‘sweetheart’ was intriguing and elusive but still a case to follow up and try different angles. Again, these can often be solved by contacts through family trees that are on line. I hope it will prove to be so in this case. These newspaper articles can often give a portrait of a long gone family member. In Alan Atherton’s case I did have living family members who had known Alan but they provided precious little information and that can often be a problem when talking to family. They either genuinely cannot remember or they have reasons as to why they do not want to be forthcoming on a subject and I have had plenty of those. When that happens it actually spurs me on to find out the reason for their reticence and it can be very interesting to uncover family secrets. If I do I always am very cautious about sharing information that could be upsetting to others and I urge you to always take that approach. Not everyone wants to know about the past or more importantly events that they have chosen to forget or compartmentalize. Please take care and share your information with caution and tact. You will also without doubt find that some information from family members is complete falsehood but again there is little point in telling them that what they believe is the truth is actually quite different. I have and still do let ‘sleeping dogs lie’ as regards some facts that impact on living family members. Using newspapers needs patience as you will find hundreds of references that initially seem to match but only a few will do. So if you want to go down this line I recommend using a subscription, if only for a month or so. Using a cost per click method will bankrupt you.
Hopefully you have an upright law abiding family, but if you have not then the criminal records are a wonderful source of information and provide endless lines of research. In my case there were plenty of instances to follow up but I am pleased to say that in living memory we have all behaved ourselves. James Atherton who features heavily in my story would probably not have drawn my attention had I not checked the criminal records for my family. If I had not done that research then this book would probably never have been written. James was not on the 1891 census for Darwen, Lancashire, the town where he should have been living. I carried on searching and eventually found him in HM Prison at Preston, Lancashire, detained at Queen Victoria’s pleasure. From there I checked out the criminal records and could put approximate dates to his offences. From there it was a trip to the library in Darwen where the newspaper records were held – unfortunately these are still not available on line. Patience was needed to search the microfilm rolls but I found the report of his case and it was shocking and fascinating. This also helps you to build up a picture of the life and times of your ancestors. With James I needed to discover what had happened to him and that in his case meant looking at military records. When you do that make sure that you study them in detail and even seemingly inconsequential notes and marks should not be discounted. For instance in James record there was a stamp on one of the papers that was a bit blurred and indistinct. I decided to try to make it out and after some time it gave to me the information that he had ended up in America and this was a British Consul stamp indicating that James was applying for his war pension. That opened up a whole new field of inquiry and also some other family contacts.
I hope these notes are useful and although I could have gone into greater detail about individual searches I trust these will suffice to assist anyone following similar lines of inquiry. Have fun searching and be careful what you wish for!
Jazz musicians Pont Saint Louis behind another Dame Paris France
Gorgeous start to the day Weston Super Mare Pier with Uphill church on the hill in the background