This is Part 7 of David Boughton's Genealogy Pages

But still working on it!

Loose Ends


These are loose ends that did not seem to fit in anywhere else.

One of the problems that family history researchers seem to face is finding the very distant relatives that you only meet at weddings and funerals. In the often limited conversation at these events they just happen to mention that they remember so-and-so or some event or that they have old records or photographs. After the event, where you forgot to ask for their address and telephone number, no-one else seems to have it either. Cyndi Howells has provided a list of sites to aid finding people, so go to her start webpage here.

There are now many maps and street-finders on different web sites. Some for the UK require you to enter the post code, which is not much good if you want to see if the street you found from the 1881 Census is still there. Going through a post code finder could introduce another chance of an error or make it appear that the street has been demolished. It's also worth remembering that many of the older terraced houses in city centres have been demolished to make way for modern multistory flats or offices. But with small villages or named areas in towns and cities it's worth a try. See place for some idea of what's possible.

Now that the Times newspaper (of London) has three sorts of indexes, the original annual index, a CD-ROM based index and a new online index, it is worth looking up your surname there. For Boughton I found 87 references in the annual indexes covering the years 1790 to 1905. However you will then need to look up the microfilmed pages and this is a slow job even though the date, page and column is given in the index as well as indicating the sort of heading the entry was given. The headings are reasonably descriptive (as compared to the headings you get in modern newspapers) and cover Births, Deaths, Next of kin, Trials, Bankruptcies, Civil Actions (often very revealing), Divorce, Police, etc. The pay-to-view online index here is much faster, but it costs you!

Other daily newspapers do not have such a full index and while local papers might have been partly indexed by staff in the reference or local studies library, you really need to be willing to search around a date that you have already identified as being significant. Obviously this includes births, marriages and deaths but local papers have always tried to include things of note in the local community. For example, those present at laying a church foundation stone, a list of guests at the wedding of a neighbours' son or daughter and all too often in wartime, a list of the remaining family members on the death of a son or husband.

Surnames can be explored from other angles. If you have thought about writing off to one of the laboratories that are offering to analyse your genes, then keep in mind that it's unlikely that they can link you to a long-lost relative at present. As I indicated in Part 2, surname research of itself can be used to find out general information about where families may have originated. The most obvious example is a "foreign" name, i.e. one which does not appear to have originated in the county or country where family members are now. But bearing in mind that many new arrivals in the Americas and Britain changed their names on entry or later to make it easier to fit in, this might not be very successful in establishing where the family came from.
After all, if you think about it globally there are a lot of surnames about and it does not need much of a change in spelling to prevent you linking one branch to another. Which is where genetics may have a part to play in the future once enough work has been done to provide a suitable basis.
Interestingly enough, there have been many studies using surnames as the basic data to examine inbreeding, longevity, inherited diseases and the effect of environmental factors so that there is a useful quantity of information that family historians may find useful. If you would like to read about this, have a look at "Surnames and Genetic Structure" by G.W. Lasker, Cambridge University Press, 1985, ISBN 978-0-521-05763-9. Not only does it have more than 8 pages of detail on the literature cited but has an appendix which presents computer-generated maps and distribution diagrams of 100 common surnames in England and Wales for 1975. So, if your name is there, you won't need to look at telephone directories. But now there are similar maps being produced to order from census information, which may offer more clues as to where your family originated.
One of the latest sites for family maps is this one here

Latest update: 23rd April 2013