THE Genealogy Show

We set off early to beat both rain and traffic and accomplish this successfully. In the absence of shuttle buses from South Car Park we walk down to Hall 2 at the NEC. There was a happy, gentle atmosphere with a real international vibe. It was lovely to meet several world-renowned genealogists who had only been virtual friends until now. Unfortunately, I had places to be and people to see, so I was unable to spend more than a few minutes in the ever-widening circle of heavyweight genealogical chat that continued in the meeting area throughout the two days of the show.

As a show speaker, I was given two tickets to talks of my choice and I had opted for those by genealogical crime writer, Nathan Dylan Goodwin. His first session described how he researches and writes his books. Very interesting and I appropriated a few ideas. Next, I was acting as a ‘wizard’ attempting to help show-goers with their problems and brick walls. Unfortunately, I was not provided with the required magic wand but I hope I that most people left with a few things they could try. There did seem to be a preponderance of people with Suffolk queries. I coped with foundlings and German ancestry but was a little bemused by the client who spent the twenty minute slot showing me forty or so documents but despite my repeated ‘how can I help?’ comments, didn’t actually appear to have a question or problem. I was reduced to ‘mmm lovely’, as yet another document was whisked past my nose. If you plan to take the opportunity of seeking expert advice in the genealogical equivalent of speed dating, please do come prepared and come with a succinct limited question, or indeed I’d settle for any sort of question!!

Then my allocated two hours on the stall of the Society for One-place Studies, to which I drifted back and forth throughout the day. We had a steady stream of enquiries and a pleasing number of people decided to take up the one-place challenge. The thought of taking on a new, tiny, place did cross my brain, like I have so much spare time! I sold almost all my stock of Putting your Ancestors in their Place and a few other books, despite having issues with the credit card machine. On the downside, my voice was beginning to disappear – cue the Strepsil overdose.

Day two and this time there was no avoiding the rain. Be-decked in waterproof trousers, wielding an umbrella and with spare socks and shoes in my bag, we set forth into the downpour. On arrival, we advise the security staff on tracing ancestry in India. This was more along the lines of ‘we know a man/woman who does.’ My talk was up first. Let us just say the audience was more noted for its quality than quantity. Judging by the ‘I wanted to hear your talk but …’ comments that I received later in the day, a significant reason for this was because I was scheduled half an hour after the show began. At this point, folk were still shaking raindrops from coats and getting their bearings. The real shame was not for me but for the missed opportunity. I was speaking about ideas for engaging young people in history and heritage. This is a crucial topic. On an almost daily basis, I hear people moan that younger generations are not interested in their genealogical research, yet often they are not willing to make any efforts to spark that interest.


A quick gap and then I was part of a three-woman panel chatting about surname studies, to a larger audience this time. At least my voice held out. Then back to more wizardry, fielding questions about dancing masters and apprentices amongst other things. The event ended as it had begun, with another talk from Nathan Dylan Goodwin, this time a fascinating account of his own family history research. All too soon, it seemed to be over. I really wish I had had more time to network with people. I had brief chats with so many friends. It is great to be at an event like this, when you know almost every other person. There were evening get-togethers but evenings and I do not get on. Next year and there is to be a next year, I will make more effort to stay awake beyond 6pm and join the fun. The next big genealogical event is Rootstech, of which more later.


The job we must not mention is about to hit the fan so there may be radio silence for a few weeks but I will do my best to keep in touch.


Pillories and Preparations

In the brief week at home, idleness has not been an option. Firstly, my home village staged a re-enactment to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Methodism in the village. William Reed and Samuel Thorne chose the day of the revels to preach on the village green, were duly arrested and fined. I have to admit that being part of the action, exactly 200 years later, was a ‘hairs standing up on the neck’ moment. Mistress Agnes was present in Victorian guise and a few reprobates were pilloried in the newly acquired community pillory – every home should have one. There was also a truly spectacular flower festival. As someone whose idea of successful flower arranging is remembering to put water in the vase, I was in awe.

1 June 2019 William Reed Commemorations (4)1 June 2019 William Reed Commemorations (6)

I did briefly get back to writing novel number two, after a gap of a few weeks. This has necessitated me buying a book. Thanks to Martha’s research, I did get it half price but it is still the most expensive book I have ever purchased. Then, with assistance, I tried to rediscover my garden. The grass had to be scythed and the weeds still have to be tamed.

Then it was onward and upwards and back ‘up north’ to THE Genealogy Show. Yesterday was spent setting up and greeting friends from across the world, some of whom I have only previously ‘met’ online. My two (well one and a third) presentations are tomorrow so today will be more relaxing. A talk to hear, some brick-wall bashing for attendees who have booked appointments with an expert (a few of them have got me – oh well) and helping out on the Society for One-place Studies stall in between. It is going to be a good day.


Hearse Houses, Herons and Hauberks

On a day ear-marked for treading in my ancestors’ footsteps we set off round numerous villages and hamlets across the wilds of Northumberland. Great great grandfather, John Hogg, led an itinerant life, so we had a long list of places to cover. Chollerton was first on the list. This small village is sited on the ‘Corn Road’ from Hexham to Alnmouth, which opened in 1753, enabling produce to be shipped to London. Outside the church was a ‘hearse house’ used, as the name suggests, to store the village hearse and to provide stabling for the vicar and others coming to church. It now contains a small, unmanned museum. Interestingly, the font at Chollerton church has been created from a former Roman altar.

Amongst other stops, we go to Thockrington, officially one of my favourite places in the world. Believe me, it is not a place you are likely to encounter unless you make a deliberate effort but the awe-inspiring landscape is worth the effort. We called at Great Bavington, Mitford and Netherwitton, with a supermarket stop in Morpeth in between. The main road north of Morpeth was closed due to an accident and fortunately we noticed this as we approached and whilst we still had time to take avoiding action. This sent the sat-nav into ‘turn around where possible’ mode, so it was back to the trusty map. I actually really enjoy tracking journeys on OS maps. It doesn’t seem to make me feel as unpleasantly unwell as it used to do. Unfortunately, this did mean we had to miss out three of our intended destinations.

130 25 May 2019 Gravestone St. Mary Magdalene, Mitford

Not one of my ancestors! Reverse says John Pots (sic) d. 1724 age 30 Mitford, Northumberland

Ten out of ten for Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre today. The forecast was a little uncertain but indications were that the early rain would pass over, so we ventured out and were very glad that we did. This coastal nature reserve is run by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and is excellent. The only charge is a donation towards the car parking. The 1km walk round the lake gave access to several bird hides and I don’t think I have ever seen so many different birds at one location. I believe the lake has been created from a landscape that was a legacy from open cast mining. To top it off, the café, with its views of the lake was lovely too. If you are interested in this sort of thing here are the birds and wild flowers that we encountered:- great tit, robin, black-headed gull, mallard and ducklings, magpie, Canada geese and goslings, grey heron, oyster catcher, house martin, barnacle geese, greylag geese, lapwing, mute swan, moorhen, goldfinch, crow, blackbird, jackdaw, shelduck, little grebe, cormorant, house sparrow, wood pigeon, blue tit, pheasant, tufted duck, gadwall, shoveler. Red campion, primroses, dandelion, buttercup, daisy, iris, bluebells, hawthorn, cleavers, gorse, cowslip, violet, stitchwort, white clover, speedwell, bird’s foot trefoil, red clover, stinging nettle, broom, dog rose.

132 26 May 2019 Hauxley Nature reserve Canada geese and goslings

We debated whether to go straight back to the van but decide to call in at nearby Warkworth Castle on the way and again this was the good choice. We hadn’t realized there was going to be a fifteenth century living history event underway. This was a real bonus and we enjoyed chatting to armourers, bow-makers, shoemakers, stained glass artists, candlemakers, rope-makers and potters. We watched dancing and combat and listen to music. I was amused that the compere attempted to disguise his anachronistic microphone by covering it with hessian. All in all, two great destinations today.

133 26 May 2019 Warkworth Castle

#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.

Alexandra Palace.JPG

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.

Family Tree Live 2019 Open for business.JPG

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!

Rose Window Alexandra Palace.JPG

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.