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Just a brief entry to express how disappointed I am. I had my DNA test done last year at ancestry and didn’t really do anything with it because I didn’t have a current sub. They wouldn’t show how people were related to you unless you paid up.  Well, I finally succumbed and paid for a month with ancestry and thought, right, what can you tell me, expecting to be able to contact lots of new genetically-related relatives to expand the tree. Well, the vast majority of them have no tree at all, and the rest have trees full of surnames which are completely different to everyone in my tree. How on earth would you figure out how you are related? So I paid my money and got precisely nothing out of it. The very first match did have a tree and the correct surname but they’re a beginner and had little information regarding our common surname. So I won’t get anything of interest from them either except for descendants.  Talk about hugely disappointing and, I felt, a waste of money.  As a resource for normal genealogical research I dislike ancestry, preferring findmypast, so that money could’ve gone back to findmypast to fill in gaps I’ve found during the past year. Huh.

Had to vent.

Just a week ago I signed up for a “free” trial with findmypast.co.uk and in that time, with just two days of research, I have filled in numerous gaps.  Their search engine is vastly superior to ancestry and familysearch.  They only display relevant results which makes a vast difference!  I don’t waste my time clicking on results which do not meet my search criteria.

I had a word file of particular details that I wanted for a range of different ancestors.  Slowly, I have made my way through them and crossed them out as I got a positive result.  I have noted the positive and negative results on my “research log”.

Last week I found the births or baptisms for Thomas Mudd, Elizabeth Potter (also her death), and clarified births, marriages and/or deaths for some of the Rose family.

Today I met with even more success, finding the baptism (and parents) of Mary Chariot and the marriage of those newly found parents, the marriage of John Beale’s parents, the burial of John Cornelius, the burial for Thomas Gruncel, the likely baptism and death of Sarah Kercher (nee Lee), and a baptism for Sarah Barnett.  For years I had been searching for the baptisms of Sarah Exel and Esther Webb, never having found anything remotely possible, but today I found a possible baptism for a Sarah Exall AND I found Esther (aka Hester) Webb!  That was the biggest prize, finding Esther.  Those records were probably sitting there all this time, buried in all the irrelevant results from stupid search engines.  Even when I know exactly what I’m looking for and that it exists, I always drew a blank on both ancestry and familysearch.  Findmypast also has British newspaper records with a good search engine so I have started to find little articles such as John Rose standing for council.

I recently received my DNA results from ancestry.  The ethnicity is not a surprise but ideally I need a subscription to view any matches.  I’m reluctant to give ancestry any money.  I’ve usually found them disappointing (see above comments re search results).  I think I’ll wait until my findmypast sub expires and then think about it.  I’m no hurry.  In the meantime, I have uploaded my results to Gedmatch but don’t really know what to do.  It’s all gibberish to me with its 31.6 cM 4th cousin match.  What is one supposed to do with that information?  Presumably the person you match has a tree with similar surnames?  Who knows?  I need a “DNA for genealogy” for dummies, with them spelling out exactly what to do.  The help I’ve received so far still doesn’t help.  When it comes to numbers, my brain freezes.

In the meantime, I’m happy enough continuing with the more traditional search on findmypast.

It’s all very well saying I’ll detail my searches in a spreadsheet, but often I’m not at my home computer when I’m searching so I don’t have the spreadsheet to hand.  Often I’ll think of something “just to see” and veer off in a different direction, without any methodical follow-up.  It’s a mess.  Then I read past posts on this blog and often can’t remember what I found or how I got there.  It’s really bad.  It all takes time and focus, which is difficult when you have a short period (maybe an afternoon) in which to do it.  No wonder I end up doing the same searches all the time.

I was idling away and thought I’d do another search on Christopher Dart in Redruth.  I haven’t been able to find his birth in Cornwall.  Well, today I happened upon a forum with someone saying they suspected he came from Devon.  Ah!  Interesting.  But why the suspicion?  Is it because there are a lot of Darts in Devon?  Very possible.  With that in mind I did a search for Christopher Dart outside of Cornwall and the nearest I found to 1801 was one baptised 3 January 1799 in Hatherleigh, Devon, son of Roger and Herriot.  Hmm.  Children are often named after grandparents but there are no Rogers or Harriet(?)s in Christopher’s family.  There must be more than one Christoper Dart in the whole of Devon for that time, but it appears to be an uncommon first name, if the results are to be believed.

And this is where I make another complaint about search results.  It’s no wonder I draw complete blanks time after time on ancestry and familysearch.  Familysearch, in particular, is a nightmare.  For example, I might enter the name Joe Bloggs, with a date and place and perhaps even parents, and what happens?  I get a list of results with Joe Bloggs listed as the father at a christening for that period.  WTF?  So, I usually end up leaving the first name blank and trawl through heaps of results.  I once entered the father’s name as the name of the birth or christening I was looking for (when it was his son I was looking for) and only then did I get the correct father, and had to search through heaps of irrelevant results.  That’s another thing.  Why ask for a date range if you’re going to show me results 50 years later than what I wanted?  It pisses me off.

Ancestry is just as bad.  Why show me a load of totally irrelevant results?  If my person died in 1850, why are you showing me results for a person born in 1870?  WTF?  I get so irate.  It’s just wasting my time.

I’ve been thinking about the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.  It might help get me focussed, although I know it goes against the grain to focus on one person at a time – I want all the answers now, for everyone!  Naturally, for such a challenge, I do not want to wait until January – why wait for some arbitrary start time?  There are 52 weeks in a year regardless of when the year starts, so I thought of doing it from 1 July.  It probably would be a challenge as there would be other interests and events to distract me AND I’ve just sent off my DNA sample, so there’s that whole huge learning curve with DNA matches and trees, etc, but  I think I’ll do it anyway.  It could actually be a challenge to find 52 ancestors that I can write anything about, but it doesn’t have to be a lot.  I could also just write about my search for more information or focus on a sibling instead.  I’ve decided I need to know more about siblings and perhaps searching for them will uncover more.  Past searches have proved that right.

Anyway, I’ll start on Friday.

I visited Ancestry.com today and started looking at the hints, etc.  I looked at census returns for Richard Jones and saved a couple, learning the approximate birth date of three children.  I compared trees with others.  I know the death dates of Richard and Anne by the memorial cards I have.  I tried looking for them but couldn’t, and got worried.  They were not in the plastic sleeve of the relevant family folder.  Later in the day, after searching everywhere, I had another concerted look in the bag of ringbinders and found the envelope in a buff folder!  I was so relieved!  Anyway, one of the family trees I saw had Richard’s date of birth about 20-30 years after mine but I know mine is right.  The date for his wife was right but it made her about 17 years older than him so they had hold of the wrong Richard.

It’s so time-consuming looking at everything and then trying to piece together a life story.  I thought I had started biographies on my netbook but when I went to add some information I got from my cousins about my grandmother, there was nothing!  I distinctly remembered typing it all out but it wasn’t there.  I must have done that on the old laptop.  It’s possible I have the info on a flash drive – must check.

Once the computer was free again I visited Ancestry again and found a message from a cousin’s offspring (not sure if they’re male or female) saying that his grandmother, my aunt, died in August last year.  So sad.  She was a lovely lady, the first wife of my uncle who I only found out last year had died in 2008.

I’m adding details to my online family tree but that leaves all the paperwork out of date.  It’s easier to update an online tree but I must keep the paperwork up to date.  I also discovered I do not have the wedding certificate of my paternal grandparents.   Must get a copy off my cousin.

I went through the loose photos from two separate boxes and sorted them into families and eras.  There are a few duplicates (and even triplicates in some cases).  Unfortunately, as my scanner no longer works thanks to no driver for Windows 7 64 bit, I can’t scan any.  It looks like I’ll have to buy a new scanner.  I’ve tried taking photos of photos but they don’t come out as well.

Distant cousin, the old lady who rings me up occasionally, sent me an A4 sized wad of notes she has on the Rose family.

By golly.  I thought some of my notes were difficult to decipher.  It will take several attempts to figure out what’s in it and who’s related to who.  Naturally she has included much information about her own branch which I will have to slot into the family tree both online and off.  She also included a photocopied page of pictures of the mills my ancestors owned and a copy of a probate for John Rose.  There are numerous little slips of other information but, as I say, it will take me some time to sort through them all and decipher the handwriting.

I now have all census returns for the direct line plus a couple of additional census returns for my great-grandfather’s sisters.

I will be away for the next month so will have no time to do any further research.  I haven’t done anything on ancestry for about 3 weeks (ever since the tree displayed in a ridiculously tiny font which I tried, without success, to fix).

When I return I will continue to compile mini biographies of all the ancestors for which I have a decent amount of information.

I was watching another episode of the Australian “Who do you think you are?”.  In it Georgie Parker was looking at newspaper articles online and I saw the website had Australian Newspapers written on it with a map of the states, etc.  Inspired, I headed to the computer and searched for Australian Newspapers and ended up at the Trove website of the National Library of Australia.  I spent the rest of the evening until 11.30pm trawling through articles in the Sydney Morning Herald which mentioned my family name.  I found several of interest including the announcement of my aunt’s marriage and the death of my great-great-grandfather.  There was also a photo of what looked like my grandfather but the initial was wrong.  I’ll have to ask cousins and aunt about it.

This morning I thought I’d have another go looking for census returns which I don’t have yet – this time on Ancestry.  I had the devil of a time trying to get the correct results to show up as the browser kept going to ancestry.com.au and showing Australian census returns.  The browser just would not go to ancestry.co.uk to show British results (as these are what I’ve subscribed to).  A plea of help on the forum got an answer which helped and I was off.

For some reason, I didn’t search initially for the missing census returns I’d noted down to look for.  I went off on a tangent from seeing the date of death of a great-grandmother on another branch of the family (from a fellow researcher’s tree) and went searching for her.  I found her on an 1871 census and adjusted my dates accordingly.

I was interrupted by a phone call by the old lady in England.  Unfortunately my cordless phone battery cuts off after about 3/4 of an hour and the other phone is rather crackly.  She’s not easy to understand because of the way she speaks so mostly I let her ramble.  I had no idea what she was saying when she rang back after the battery died and I answered on the crackly phone.  Thankfully she didn’t speak much more and rang off.

Back to the computer and I had been on the hunt for some Scottish relatives.  Ancestry has transcriptions of census returns but are unable to display the actual returns, which is a shame because the transcriptions are inaccurate.  I searched from 1851 to 1901 but found nothing for 1841.  I gained no new knowledge and am still stuck on Archibald Sutherland of Glasgow.  I can get no further back than 1851.  His father’s name is John but I haven’t even tried to search for a John Sutherland (and little other information) yet.

From Sutherland to Allison.  My grandmother always believed that through the Allisons we are related to Sir James Young Simpson but I haven’t been able to find any connection.  I searched the census returns for Allison for 1841-1871 but none of the names of my Allisons match the supposed brother-in-law? (I’m not even sure of the connection) of James Young Simpson.  Certainly one of the Allisons is named Jessie Simpson Allison so either there is a connection or my grandmother and her family believed there was because of the “Simpson” in the name.

I searched again briefly for my mother’s primary school in Sydney (of which I have a prospectus).  Previously I found no reference to it at all but through the Trove site I found a couple of articles mentioning the school.  In one there was a list of recipients of awards or prizes and there (I believe) was listed my uncle.  Another great find.  I sent this article off to my uncle’s daughter in Sydney who has contacted me recently about the family.

I finally went back to my initial purpose of looking for Powell in 1841 with no luck.  I had a look at a copy of my grandmother’s handwritten family tree which has many gaps in it.  She had Powell married to Bright (no first names).  I’d tried searching for the supposed brother William without luck so tried this unlikely search.  I found Thomas Bright married to Martha Powell in the 1871 census.  I know it’s the right result because she was born in “The Poles” in Shropshire.  My grandmother had written “The Poles” at the top of the Powell family tree.  My brother and I had never figured out what it meant.  I had presumed it was how Powell was pronounced and my brother wondered if they were Polish.  Neither of us had even thought that “The Poles” was a placename!  I searched on Google maps and it appears to be the name of a house (the little A is on a house) but apparently it’s an area in Bromfield, Shropshire.  I can’t find anything that actually says what “The Poles” is!  I wrote to my brother about the find.

A huge thunderstorm passed overhead and my daughter returned home from being away overnight so my searches ended.  I had come to a stop anyway and need a break.  Here comes the break…

A friend recently lent me series 3 of the Australian “Who do you think you are?”  After watching the first two episodes, I thought about World War One service records and realised I didn’t have any for my maternal grandfather.

I searched online and, of course, was directed to Ancestry.co.uk.  I searched anyway and a result came up for him.  Clicking on it took me to the subscription page.  I looked at it, considered it, worked out the exchange rate, and took the plunge.  I have 14 days free trial after which I will probably pay up and continue using it.  It’s so convenient to search from home.  I never get to the library during its opening hours and often people are using the computer from which you can access Ancestry.com.  Besides which, the desk on which the computer is perched has no room to spread out my notes.

I must ensure that I make good use of it.  It’s a great pity that it doesn’t include the records for Scotland.  Perhaps next year.