S is for too many things!

Excited to learn that I am to speak on North Devon Emigrants at the Halstead Trust’s Exodus: Movement of the People conference in Leicestershire in September. Now to decide which example emigrants to choose. Cheered me up after a morning slogging through ‘S’ Enquire Within entries; unfortunately these include Scotland, Seamen and other lengthy topics. It is incredible how much has changed since the last, pre-internet, edition. Having become obsessed with the alphabetical motif I have decided to adopt it for an after dinner talk/Christmas entertainment that I appear to have been ‘volunteered’ for. A is for advent, Y is for Yule and all things in between. I may inflict this on my blog followers as a sort of advent calendar.

I am beginning to regret the decision to incorporate the burial registers from Buckland Brewer into our memorial inscriptions’ index. The registers have been transcribed but I felt I should check the transcription. Despite all my palaeographical practice with the High Admiralty documents, this is going to be tricky. The handwriting is not the problem, nor indeed is the Latin. The pages appear to have been chewed by rats, damaged by tempest or something similar. I may have to trust the transcription done in the 1930s, at least for the earliest entries.

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B is for British History Online

Have now finished ‘B’ for my Family Historians’ Enquire Within edit. Just thought I would, for the uninitiated, share how good British History Online is. A treasury of national and local documents, many from the early modern period, that can be searched by surname or place name. So many sources, so little time.

I am also getting back to the Buckland Brewer Memorial Inscriptions indexing project. The full transcriptions are all done and we are indexing. Still haven’t braved storm and tempest to take the remaining photos but I will, I WILL. We also plan to incorporate the burial registers for a ‘buried in Buckland’ overview. Bit of an indexing fest all round really as I am about to start some Clovelly indexing and I am now whizzing my way through the C17th Court of High Admiralty documents – on a case relating to the misappropriation of a cargo of serges at the moment.

Also revisted my Dawson ancestors this week. Have finally confirmed that the ‘fact’ that  great great auntie Alice died in a fire in Whitstable is rubbish. I had several similar ‘facts’ on this branch, gleaned from years of discussions with my mother and great aunt, both of whom knew the individuals they were talking about. Apart from the mode of auntie Alice’s demise, other ‘facts’ that proved groundless include the name of her first husband (actually there was no first husband but the name I was given was also incorrect for the father of her illegitimate child). No, William Sadler’s, name was not William but Harold, Uncle William’s wife was Fannie, not Carrie and as for the surname for cousin May’s husband – no relation to the truth at all. All this depsite the labels in the family photo album that I had revelled in since early childhood. ‘Always label your family photographs’. Yes, but it would help if the labels were right!

Auntie Alice – who definitely didn’t burn to death – and Cousin May

Now for the Braund Society Christmas lunch today.

Christmas gift idea for historians

Well, I’ll get the advert over first. I am offering gift wrapped copies of my book Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs (RRP £12.95), posted anywhere in the UK, for £13 – a great present idea for those history loving friends or family members. Overseas prices on request – contact me on historyinterpreter@hotmail.co.uk

My daytime sessions in the C17th are over for 2012. I now of course delude myself that I will get all those jobs done, that have remained undone since March. I have no basis on which to come to this conclusion but I guess I can hope. Yesterday, during a C17th session with thirteen year olds, I was asked, in all seriousness, if they had Facebook at the time of the Civil War. I explained the no electricity = no computers scenario but the enquirer clearly thought I was making this inconceivable idea up. Sad though that this young person had never spoken to his parents or grandparents about their childhoods.

After work I went off to vote, always an incongrous activity in C17th costume but important to exercise my democratic rights. People chained themselves to railings so I could be one of the 15% to turn out. Wonder what would happen if we adopted the Australian system of making voting compulsory?

Been adding a few more historical quotes to pages of my website, gleaned from yesterday’s school visit. Can you spot them?

As anticipated, my own contribution to Instruments of Death ended up on the cutting room floor but my three colleagues feature – an interesting series.

Now which of the 18 things on my ‘to do’ list to tackle first?

Enquiring Within, Military Records, Newspapers and Reindeer

A real variety this time. Excited to announce that I am being given the opportunity to contribute to the editing of a long awaited new edition of that family history classic Enquire Within. This was first produced by Fred Markwell and Pauline Saul and always featured highly on my family history students’ list of ‘musts haves’. At the moment I am fixated on the ‘G’ entries – from gavelkind and Genuki to gypsies. I am not working alphabetically and no, I couldn’t resist the temptation to start with X Y and Z – three letters of the alphabet done already you see!

Bit of a diversion when the British Newspapers came online via Find My Past. Am now working my way through 38163 Braund entries. We are obviously a very newsworthy family. Also distracted by Ancestry releasing World War One records free for Remembrance Day. Downloaded 59 pages worth for my grandfather, Frederick Herbert Smith. Nothing very exciting, in one respect. His Bii health rating means he was trained as a gunner but seems to have spent his time pen pushing in England. It did solve the mystery of the address of one of his former homes though. From the address on the records I was able to go to Google Street View and find that the current house was recognisable from a photo that I have, taken in about 1900. Also surprised to find that he gave the address of his future wife as his own, some four years before they married. Now I don’t know if the lodger became the boyfriend or vice versa.

Frederick Herbert Smith

Really getting into the Marine Lives transcribing now. Currently, I am embroiled in the adventures of the Endeavour in 1655, when the barbarous French made off with 113 pipes of Canary Wine that they had on board.

This week I had been booked to give a talk at a local history society. As the evening approached, I became less and less confident that the topic they had chosen was suitable for that particular audience. I therefore risked giving them the premiere of my talk on C17th witchcraft instead. It seemed to go well and I look forward to repeating it next week.

Excited to learn that Gregg Wallace is to be of the celebrities at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live a little less excited to discover that my application to be a speaker again this year got lost in the ether, so I wasn’t considered. I just hope that my service provider (who swear this losing of e.mails is not possible – depite it happening with unfailing regularity) know that I have access to swords and muskets. Talking of swords and muskets – looking forward to the episode of Instruments of Death, to which I contributed, being screened on Yesterday Channel tonight.

To cheer myself up after the Who Do You Think You Are? disappointment, I decided to spend the earnings from the job I mustn’t mention on a trip to Lapland – as you do. Now off to discover exactly where Lapland is.

Swords, ships, stories and polo shirts

An enjoyable day last week at the annual conference of Cornwall Family History Society. Then back to croak my way through a ‘between courses’ dinner talk. Fortunately  this was in short segments and I was ably assisted by Master Christopher (barber surgeon to the desperate) so my voice just about held out, if it did sound a little painful. Anyway, being told about gory medical procedures didn’t seem to put people off their meal.

The voice gradually improved throughout a week in the C17th, although the outdoor session struggling with a large group of French teenagers and a howling gale required Master Christopher to come to my rescue.

We’ve now heard that Instruments of Death will be screened on the Yesterday Channel on 12th November and then repeated twelve times in the few days afterwards. I would say this was overkill but it might be taken as a pun. The episode that I was involved in was centered around the English Civil War, its weapons and the medical techniques available for the treatment of any resulting wounds. I probably won’t appear myself (even if I’m being generous mine was a cameo appearance) but my colleagues will. This is episode one of what should be an interesting series.

More transcriptions of High Admiralty documents for the Marine Lives Project this week. I am getting into the swing of these now and it is an exciting project. If you are interested in C17th maritime history take a look.

Yesterday was the second of my one day Writing up your Family History courses. I was very pleased with how it went and was amazed that students came from Cornwall, Somerset, Berkshire and Hampshire! What a great bunch, all hopefully now motivated to put their family story into some kind of permanent form. Been a good week for sales Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs – am planning to market it as a Christmas present suggestion – oh dear, Christmas catalogues come out in June, maybe I’ve missed the boat.

Very excited to learn that my new status as leader of the North Devon Group of Devon Family History Society entitles me to wear an official polo shirt – shame it won’t be available in time for today’s meeting in Exeter, which is to be followed by a meeting of Devon members of The Guild of One Name Studies.