Sunday, 11 December 2016

THOMAS MOUNSER - Finding my Great-Grandfather in Eye, Suffolk

Tonight I managed to update my main database data in connection with my 4th great-grandfather Thomas MOUNSER.

Thomas was born in Eye in Suffolk in 1788. At the moment, only the year of his birth can be found. The data has thus been marked as unconfirmed, as the information has been discovered on other Ancestry public websites with no firm sources defined.

Eye is a small market town situated in North Suffolk, England. Its name is derived from an Old English word meaning 'island', as the village was potentially surrounded by water and marshland, with its castle standing on the high ground in the centre. Eye is known for its vibrant country market and the impressive church of St Peter & St Paul, which dates back to around 1470.

Village Cross - Eye, Suffolk

Thomas was baptised in the town on the 1 June 1789. This was an interesting data find in the Birth & Christening registers, as his name had been mis-spelled 'MONNSER' on the record. This entry also revealed the names of his father and mother for the first time - Richard and Elizabeth MONNSER. Up to this point their names had previously been unknown to me.

Thomas had a son - John - born 29 August 1814. It is not clear at present who his mother is, as her name was given to be Ann. Thomas did not marry his wife Ann ALFORD until 4 November 1816, and his status was said to be 'widowed', so it is possible that John's mother was actually his first wife. This has yet to be determined and is yet just one other mystery of this family which needs to be resolved. Thomas was aged 25 at the time of the birth.

Another son, George, was born 29 September 1816. It is likely that the Ann mentioned on this birth record was in fact Ann ALFORD, who Thomas married later that year in November. Thomas was 27 years old when George was born.

St Peter and St Paul's church - Eye, Suffolk

A third son, James, was born on 16 September 1818. He died just over a year afterward on 5 November 1819. Thomas was 30 years old when the infant died.

On 21 December 1820, the couple had a daughter, Maria MOUNSER.  Maria was destined to become my 3rd great-grandmother.

Thomas died in October 1843 in Friskney in Lincolnshire. He was 54 years old at the time. His wife, Anne ALFORD, outlived him and died in Friskney in March of 1875, aged 81 years of age.

Looking at the data I have on this family, it seems obvious that there are still some further questions to be answered. Why did the family end up in Friskney, almost 100 miles away from Eye in Suffolk where Thomas was born? What was Thomas' occupation? Was there a first wife and earlier marriage? Have we found all the children which came from the marriages?

Going back and researching the records of the 18th century is undoubtedly harder the further we go back in time, and we obviously need to be careful not to take the information at face value. But that is precisely what makes this research so interesting and worthwhile.  

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


I've been researching my family history data for around 15 years now and so have accumulated a great deal of information about my various family lines. I've sometimes seen posts on social media etc. about family historians sometimes becoming a bit 'overwhelmed' by the amount of random information becoming available to them via sites like Ancestry and Find My Past (...also known as 'the shaking leaf syndrome'!).

Don't get me wrong, this feature can be very useful as long as the researcher carries out the proper checks they need to verify the data, but well I know that it can sometimes feel like you are just 'grabbing' at the information as it shows up on your tree.

One way around this is to use the filters on these hints to show only certain family surnames to look at. The other hints can be kept to one side until all those associated to one line have been dealt with.
Thomas SEAMAN - Descendants - Progress so far...
But another way to conduct your research in a more organised fashion is to try and track down the descendants of a particular individual. I'm currently doing this with my g(x3) grandfather, Thomas SEAMAN from Mold in North Wales; checking each family associated with him one generation at a time. The graphic above shows details of where I'm currently up to with this.

Using this method, I've found this an ideal way of both reviewing the data I already have about the individuals connected to this line, but also of finding and reviewing new information and individuals in a more organised and structured way.

So if you're beginning to feel an information overload hurtling towards you - step back a bit, take a deep breath, and give this a try. 

I'd recommend it to anyone over alcohol or headache tablets!

Saturday, 27 August 2016


I was rootling about on the web earlier conducting a bit of family history research - trying to find how many UK-based blogsites there were available compared to all the sites based in the US.

One of my searches pulled up a link to this video, a webinar by Lynn Palermo featured on The Armchair Genealogist, and I was soon pulled away from what I had been looking at.

I really love using Scrivener for all my writing - the blog posts and articles as well as the creative writing I produce - so this video was right up my street.

Take some time out and give it a whirl yourself, I'm sure you'll find it of interest too.

For other videos in this vein be sure to check out Lynn's excellent YouTube channel at the link here.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016


My Auntie Bet just loved to sing.
She had a decent singing voice which was sometimes compared with that of the film actress, Teresa Brewer, whose movies Betty grew to love.
When we would gather at a family party and the beers had been flowing for a little while, someone would always be heard to say ‘Come on Bet… give us a song!’, after which she would stand herself in the corner of the room and sing out one of her favourite tunes ‘acapella’, to rapturous applause.
But she never pursued this talent in any professional kind of way. As far as I know she only ever sang at private family functions, and the odd performance which would take place during a ‘talent night’ in a pub or club. So unlike Teresa Brewer, there is not much evidence of her singing prowess to be seen out there… until now.

 78rpm records... Betty Welsh

The photograph above shows three 78rpm discs which I inherited from my Aunt after she died. I’d found them stored at the bottom of a drawer unit, wrapped loosely in brown paper and lying together, with only one of the discs being kept in a sleeve. As well as all three being covered by years of dust and grime, the surface of one had begun to disintegrate entirely, with black chips of acetate falling away to reveal the metal disc inside it. Indeed one side of the record had been splashed with white gloss paint at some point in its lifetime, so I’m afraid that this record is potentially too far gone to save. The others however, although slightly scratched, are not too badly damaged and play reasonably well. I have each of the discs now stored individually, wrapped in acid-free paper and plastic archival sleeves, and have begun the process of converting them to digital audio.
The audio track above is the first of these, and as the disc showed the least damage of them all, the track has not required much audio restoration to get it to this point.
The song itself is called ‘You My Love’, and is a cover of an original song which had been featured in the 1954 film ‘Young At Heart’, starring Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. The record was recorded live in The Gaumont, Princes Park Liverpool, and features the cinema’s own mighty Wurlitzer organ which was used to accompany her during the song.
The method of recording the sound was both simple and ingenious at the same time.
These were the days just before tape recording equipment became less expensive and therefore popular with the general public, and recordings at that time were being made using discs covered with a thin film of a special lacquer. The engineer would bring the recording equipment out with him during such sessions, and set up perhaps one or two microphones to capture the sound from the different sources (in this case, my aunt’s voice and the cinema organ). The sound would be cut straight onto the disc as they both performed, the recording lathe cutting a groove into the surface of the acetate as the song progressed, and the records could then be taken home and played shortly afterwards.
Betty singing at a talent night at a holiday camp in Morecambe Bay.
Some years ago, before Betty died, I made an initial recording of the tracks and cut them to a CD for her to play at home. It had been done to try and lift her spirits as she had not been well. Her dementia had started to become a real problem for Betty in latter years, and we decided that if we could do anything which would stimulate her memory and perhaps slow down the onset of the disease, then we needed to do it. The quality of the tracks was not perfect, but this didn’t matter for it made her happy to listen to them – this was the first time she had heard the music for many decades. The CD therefore served its purpose and brought back the happy memories and lifted her – if only for a little while.
We played this track during her funeral service in 2011 and I know that it came as a surprise to a few of those people outside the family to hear it, as they had only known her as a frail and infirm woman rather than the fun-loving and vibrant Betty Welsh that we had all known.
So now I’m revisiting this part of my family history, taking each track and digitally cleaning it up using the software I have in my home studio. A few of the others might take a little longer, but i’ll publish them on Soundcloud and on my genealogy blog here as I complete them, along with the other audio archiving I’m currently working on.
Okay. It might be a little bit corny for me to say it, but I think I must.
‘Come on Teresa… move over… just a little bit… and make room for my Auntie Bet.’

Monday, 28 March 2016

FINDING HUGHSON STREET - UK 1911 Census Address Search

The photograph on the left-hand screen below shows my mother, brother and I standing on the step on my Gran and Grandad’s house at 25 Hughson Street, Toxteth, Liverpool. At a guess I’d say the photo had been taken at the end of the 1960’s. I’d spent the whole of my early life living in the house - a simple two-up, two-down dwelling; with a front parlour and a back kitchen, a yard and outside toilet to the rear. And then, when I was seven years of age, we moved up into the ‘leafy suburbs’… and my Mum and Dad’s first rented property of their own in Childwall.

ughson Street - Census Search

The property in Hughson Street went back somewhat longer however. The rows of terraced properties had been built around the turn of the century, the small neat houses replacing the slum court dwellings which had been situated there previously. The houses had been rented out to tenants, and although I grew up primarily only knowing it as the home of my Gran and Grandad, I found out later that other families had lived at the address before we did.
The details of one of those families is featured in the right-hand side of the photograph.

For my online family history research I use when looking for information on the UK census records, and although there is no specific address search on the site one can still search for addresses by using the fields ‘Lived In Location’ and also ‘Keyword’. By just using this simple search criteria I found my record relatively easily by entering ‘Toxteth, Lancashire, England’ into the first field, and then the address itself into the second. Although my search did not immediately return the property I was looking for, it did however return one of the other houses in Hughson Street into the search results and I then used the ‘previous / next’ buttons to scroll through the pages to find the actual address I was looking for.

The census for 1911 shows that the residents in 25 Hughson Street were a 39 year-old widow, Elizabeth Flannigan, and her family. She had two daughters living with her in the property - Margaret aged 21, and Lelly Flannigan who was 18. All three of the women had been born in Liverpool.

However, on the night when the census had been taken there were four visitors to the property. Patrick Flannigan (aged 71) was a farmer from Greencastle, County Donegal in Ireland. This was also the birthplace of Edward Flannigan, a 32 year-old joiner, and John Drummond, a 43 year-old dock labourer. Finally there was yet another dock labourer, James Ennorby, who was also visiting and was listed as a widower. Of course, Patrick and Edward were most likely related to Elizabeth (perhaps they were her father and brother). The relationship of the other two men to their host is not known.

On speaking to my mother about her memories of the house during the 1930’s, she recalls that my Gran and Grandad were renting it from the landlord as far as she can remember, but my great-grandfather Peder Ingebretsen - a Norwegian merchant seaman - had also been living there up until he died in 1933. From that point on, the house stayed with our family right up to the 1970’s when the properties within the area had compulsory purchase orders finally served upon them, and the residents (in our case my Grandmother and Aunt) were moved out.
Ancestry - Address Search Criteria

Using the search capabilities of Ancestry in this way has been a most interesting exercise for me, and its been useful to look into the history of a property I can remember so well, and indeed at one time called home. But by ‘walking’ myself through the 1911 census pages in this way, I was also able to find names of other families who my Mother remembered as living in the area later on… such as Thomas and Phoebe Moss of number 21, and William and Annie Black of number 17. This brought her a lot of pleasure as she recounted her memories of what it was like to grow up within the area, and in particular relating to me what she remembered about their other neighbours who lived close by.

All I can say is that it only takes a few minutes to carry out a search such as this. If you have an old property which played a similar role in your own family history, I’d thoroughly recommend you try this method as well!