All about Pandas #Autismawareness #PDA

If you are expecting this post to be about family history, it isn’t. It isn’t about books either. It is however about family. As regular readers will know, my grandson, Edward, has a diagnosis of Autism with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). For more about what this means see my post Of Pokemon and Dinosaurs and being Edward and the website Being Edward, where his mum explains a little of the excitement that is life with Edward. 15th May is PDA awareness day and as a family, we are using the days around that time to spread information about the implications of PDA. Martha is coordinating a panda explosion. (Edit – We’ve discovered that one of the collective nouns for pandas is cupboard – so it will be a Cupboard of Pandas, rather than an explosion). The panda is the logo of the PDA Society, so toy pandas are to be hidden round the country, with explanatory cards attached, explaining a little about PDA. Martha’s blog post explains this more fully.

This started with the idea that close family would hide a few pandas but it is already spreading, with friends and acquaintances rushing in to buy and hide their own pandas, to fund panda purchases, to donate to The PDA Society, who do wonderful work and to spread awareness. If this takes off, we may extend it for a longer time period. If you know anyone who would like to make/buy/hide/name a panda. Do get in touch.

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#FamilyTreeLive Adventures

I have, rather belatedly, managed to access the photos from my camera, thanks to being reunited with the ‘big’ laptop. The feet still ache, the back is a little dodgy but I have recovered sufficiently from the two brilliant days at Family Tree Live and am now just about fit to post about our adventures.

The first issue was to leave our caravan site at a sufficiently early hour. We have no problem with getting up early but a 2.2 metre high barrier is in place on the site from 10pm to 8am, to prevent people being disturbed by moving caravans. Despite knowing that our car will easily fit under this barrier, I am still worried that it will somehow have grown overnight and we will not be able to escape. Needless to say, we exit unscathed and with car roof intact. We have left early to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic so arrive just a tad early. We are the first to park in the exhibitors’ dedicated car park. The free parking is a real plus at this show. Alexandra Palace is looking beautiful in the early morning spring sunshine.

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We remove the covers from our stand and are pleased with the way it is looking. This is our first time with a stand and we are excited to share seventeenth century life with show-goers.

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I manage to sell a book before the show even starts! Then the doors open and there is a steady stream of visitors stopping to chat. The Ally Pally security team are amongst those who are enjoying trying on armour. The morning passes swiftly. I take time to circulate the stands and it seems that every other person is an old friend. I make sure I buy a copy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s latest novel. I have all his others on Kindle but have deliberately waited to buy this in hard copy and in person, so I can get it signed. There are also newcomers on the block. I am particularly impressed with Twiggli Trees’ attractive charts.

There are plenty of networking opportunities and our supply of business cards is seriously depleted. It was great to see that every stand was family history/history related and that local societies outnumbered the commercial giants. Family Tree Magazine organised several admirable add-ons, such as their ‘Crack the Code’ activities’ stand, the goody bags containing vouchers that allowed show-goers who purchased a magazine package to get discounts on certain stalls and the children’s packs. Obviously, most children were in school on Friday but it was sad that there were not more in attendance on the Saturday. Encouraging the next generation (or the generation after next) is one of my hot topics, that I speak on regularly. Although many family historians moan that their younger relatives do not take an interest in family history, I wonder how many of these actually take the trouble to make the hobby appealing. A case in point. Our stand was particularly popular with the young people who did attend. Mother, grandmother and grandson stop by. Grandson clearly wants to try on the armour. Grandmother misses this opportunity and heads off determinedly in another direction! It is a chicken and egg situation. If there is nothing provided for young people, young people won’t attend but it must be dispiriting to make provision and then have so few children there. Please show-organisers, do keep trying to encourage young people to take an interest in family history by providing child-friendly activities at shows.

Next, it is time for me to time travel to the twenty-first century, to deliver my workshop on reading Victorian handwriting. This workshop element is a new offering for this type of show in the UK and worked very well. Our stand was next to the workshop area, so we could see how engaged the visitors were throughout the show. This was followed by my presentation on twentieth century research, which was sold-out and well received. Next, I was interviewed by the Family Tree Live team and then it was back to the seventeenth century.

Day two could be spent wholly in costume, although I did miss the opportunity to sit down that the workshop had given me. Ally Pally does have rather unforgiving concrete floors and we were unsure if our feet or legs were hurting most. Nonetheless we were sad when the event drew to a close and then there was the logistical nightmare of trying to fit all the kit back in the car. At this point, I am wishing that it had expanded overnight! Even having fewer books to take home than we arrived with it is not easy. Our team had a great time. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. If you are amongst those who enjoyed our contribution, please tell the organisers, as we would love to do this all again but probably not until our feet have recovered.Now to tackle the 68 things on the ‘to do before the end of May’ list. This sounds do-able until you know that I only have five free days in that time!

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And We Are Off #FamilyTreeLive

This post is meant to be the first about our Family Tree Live adventures but before I launch into my account of the event, I want to share the ‘experience’ that was applying to renew our passports. No longer the trip to the Post Office’s photo booth, now we can download our own digital photos. We understand the need for a plain background. All my walls are plain, this should be a breeze. Unfortunately, finding a sufficiently large space on said plain walls was more tricky. We take two half decent (by passport photo standards) pictures of our heads, then read the bit that says they need half your body as well. We are advised to take picture from five feet away. Getting five feet away from the plain wall – trickier still. We have a series of photos that are either too dark, too light, too blurry, too shadowy (this is getting to be reminiscent of the Goldilocks story). The instructions insist that the photos cannot be edited IN ANY WAY. This means I can’t crop off window frames, furniture or other unwanted extraneous items. We have long since abandoned any idea of looking half presentable. Finally, photos are acquired. I upload one on behalf of the fisherman of my acquaintance. Up comes a warning notice ‘we cannot discern the outline of a head. Do you still wish to use this photo?’ Well I would hardly have uploaded a picture of a vase of flowers would I? I tick yes, I do wish to use this photo. I have to provide a reason why! Restraining the temptation to put ‘there’s no discernible head outline because he has a beard you muppet’, I put an edited version of that comment and we are waiting with trepidation to see if there are any issues with our applications.

Now to our adventures. With almost literally everything but the kitchen sink packed in the car (we are taking a kitchen sink but that’s in the caravan), I am due to drive to Bideford to commence our journey. Not a peep out of my car. Clearly the battery has breathed its last. I have to be fetched before our adventure can begin. Despite mist and rain, the journey is uneventful until we leave the M25, when an accident reduces our progress to a crawl and necessitates a diversion. Nonetheless we arrive at our campsite and set about conserving our energy ready to set up tomorrow.

sir-basil-sepia1Set up day dawns. We wend our way to the iconic Alexandra Palace. We have strict instructions to check in for our vehicle passes, no problem. Other instructions stress that hi-viz jackets MUST be worn at all times whilst setting up. Some of our fellow stallholders seem to have failed to grasp this. Apart from a few issues with hanging our brand new, super publicity banner and more than one change of plan, regarding our table arrangement, we arrange our seventeenth century artefacts to our satisfaction, wondering how on earth it all fitted in the car. We exchange greetings with friends and manage to escape before the worst of the London rush hour sets in.

Annoyingly, although photographs were taken, I have neglected to bring the vital cable that is required to transfer said photographs from camera to computer, in order for me to upload it. This means you have a gratuitous photo of Sir Francis instead and you will have to wait to see the wonders of our stand.

Come and Meet Mistress Agnes at #FamilyTreeLive – a chance to buy my books at reduced prices on stand 167

Just to say that I will be on duty at Family Tree Live as Mistress Agnes, in company with various disreputable characters, on stand 167 – so do come and experience the lives of your C17th ancestors. See Swords and Spindles website for more details of what is in store. All my books will be on sale on that stand. I don’t want to fiddle with 1ps and 5ps so there will be an opportunity to save a few pennies. Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of your seventeenth century ancestors will be 15% off with the voucher that will be in your Goody Bag.

CCCC front coverThere is a limit to what you can get in a Landrover (there really is – I was surprised too), so what with armour, instruments of torture, costumes of various sizes, toys and a multitude of household items, I will not have an infinite number of every book title – so if you were hoping to relieve me of one of my publications, let me know and I will save you a copy. I would advertise my workshop and presentation but I am afraid (well, afraid for you, glad for me) that they are fully booked.

Looking forward to seeing you all.

Nearly my Ancestors: or how I almost climbed the wrong (very exciting) family tree

Mary Woolgar née Cardell 1817-1892

Mary Ann Cardell, born c. 1817 in Highgate but who were her parents?

Recently, I issued a challenge to help me find the parents of my great great grandmother, Mary Cardell. Thanks to helpful fellow family historians I confirmed that she had a sister, Catherine. The marriage records of these ladies revealed that their father was called James. Mary and Catherine consistently claimed to have been born in Highgate, Middlesex c. 1817 and c.1813 respectively. In Highgate, in 1813, a James Cadwell married a Mary Ann Gutteridge, who, despite the slight spelling variation, were prime suspects as the next generation. I was tempted to follow Mary Gutteridge further, in the hope that going back a little and then coming back forward might give me the confirmatory evidence I needed. Mary Ann Gutteridge’s ancestry proved fascinatiing. I have already mentioned the royal clockmaker, the vicar of the neighbouring parish, the one who was captured by parents and the Huguenots. Add to this a poet and an inventor of an early form of shorthand and I was set to add the most fascinating branch ever to my family tree.

I was heard to say, rashly, ‘I am so sure that this is right I just need a little more evidence.’ I purchased four certificates I downloaded wills, I looked for and failed to find, DNA matches with the surnames of these putative ancestors. I wrote an eight page rationale considering the likelihood that these people were my ancestors. For days I followed this line when I should have been doing other things but still I hesitated. I reassessed the evidence again and again. Finally, I returned to the witnesses of the Cadwell marriage, who I had initially dismissed as not seeming to be relevant. One had the unusual name of Thomas Knackston (elsewhere Kneckston/Naxton et. al.). It turned out that he married an Ann Gutteridge. Surely she should be a relative, probably a sister, of Mary Ann Gutteridge? Via her second marriage, I traced Ann née Gutteridge. She had a sister Mary Ann. She was emphatically not the Mary Ann I had spent time and money tracing.

I sighed and returned to the proverbial drawing board. I very quickly discovered that, not only had I got the wrong Gutteridge family but that James Cadwell and Mary Ann Gutteridige were definitely not the parents of my great great grandmother.

I am now investigating a James Cardell and Maria Withinbury who married in Worcester in 1798 and then moved to London. I am not really convinced that these are going to be right either but I have no more likely candidates. What I really need is a baptism for Mary or Catherine, daughters of James Cardell, or even their probable sisters Eliza and Lucretia in the 1820s.

Thankfully, after 42 years of researching, I am by nature thorough and cautious. I was so close to claiming the wrong family as my ancestors. I wonder how many people would have grafted them on to their pedigrees without further thought? I’ll admit that I was very close to doing so. I don’t suppose I will ever find a family as exciting as those who were almost my ancestors. In the meantime, feel free to seek the right ones on my behalf as I have rather lost the motivation for this search. Oh and if anyone wants to know about the ancestry of a Mary Ann Gutteridge, daughter of George and Sarah Gutteridge née Mudge, born in Shoreditch in 1783 and probably married not to James Cadwell but to William Rhodes, you know where to come.

Still More Conference Musings

I woke up with an ‘interesting’ voice but we arrived at the conference venue in good time for the ecumenical church service. The first presentation of the day was Julie Goucher, looking at the benefits of Guild membership and challenging us not only to make full use of what was on offer but also to make a contribution to the various projects, or to the running of the Guild, ourselves.

Red Jacket posterThe next session was Dr Simon Wills, speaking on ‘Your Ancestors’ Travels by Sea’. This was packed with interesting information. Simon began by looking at the evolution of passenger-carrying ships from the 100 foot long Mayflower to the Queen Mary II, at over 1200 foot long. In 1620, the Mayflower took 66 days to cross the Atlantic, passengers were each allocated a five foot square space. In 1936, the Queen Mary I made the same journey in just four days. The game-changer was the advent of steam. In 1838 The Great Western’s journey time was two weeks. He even mentioned the Red Jacket, which was a ship that carried members of the Braund family to Australia. I wish I knew more about my great grandfather’s trip to Asia in the late nineteenth century. Simon outlined some useful sources for tracing passengers. He said that the ages on the Passenger Lists (BT26 & BT27 at The National Archives) were often merely the purser’s estimate, particularly for women, as you wouldn’t ask her age.

A buffet lunch was followed by Debbie Kennett, who was discussing genetic genealogy, past, present and future. She ran through the history of the uses of DNA for genealogical purposes and highlighted the early involvement of Guild members in this field. Debbie considered the ethical issues; for example sperm donors, who were promised anonymity in the past may now be discoverable through DNA. She also pointed out the problems that might arise when DNA results were not what the testee might expect. Debbie made several predictions for the future. She believes that there is really nowhere further to go with mitrochondrial DNA however we will probably see a drastic reduction in the costs of tests such as BigY700. She believes that the tests will become more precise, making it easier to identify common ancestors. This too may apply to autosomal tests and we can expect to see fewer false positive matches. There are also likely to be opportunities for genealogists to make use of tests that extract DNA from objects, such as licked postage stamps, or from hair. Indeed, some companies are already offering this but Debbie recommended patience, as this is an inexact science at the moment and in the future, more accurate tests may be developed. Debbie spoke about moves to create a single composite family tree, so that we can see how we relate to any other person. Given the wild assertions on online trees, the mind boggles. I can’t help thinking that this will be some kind of Frankenstein’s monster! In the more distant future, we may see universal DNA testing and we will all be able to confirm precisely how we relate to another person; then genealogy as a hobby might be redundant!

The conference finished with Paul Howes outlining the Ruby project, which is a collaborative one-name study that 35 people have been working on for over a year, in order to celebrate the Guild’s 40th birthday (I’ve been a member for 38 of them!). It is certainly a good advertisement for what can be achieved by working together. Then all was over, until next year.