A project for 2019 – 52 illustrated tweets that sum up my family and my family’s history. Documents, objects, photos, people, places – it all counts. One tweet every Tuesday. Watch this space…
46/52 My great grandfather was a railwayman, exempted from military service in WW1. His brother John Henry Norquay Annal wasn’t so lucky. He served with the Sutherland Highlanders & the Gordon Highlanders and was killed in action on 22 March 1918. #LestWeForget
45/52 One of the family’s most treasured possessions is this recipe book, started by my wife’s great aunt in 1912. Luise Schwarz survived WW2, despite being deported to Gurs in 1940 and returned to her native Landau, where she died in 1966. Apfelstrudel anyone?
44/52 My grandad joined the RAF in WW2. He joined as an Aircraftman 2nd Class and was promoted to Corporal in September 1941. His character was ‘Very Good’ and he earned a Good Conduct Badge. I know all this because I got a copy of his service record last week.
43/52 My grandma was illegitimate and her mother went to a lot of trouble to try to cover it up. On a 1909 passenger list she appears as a widow with her young child, while the 1911 census records my grandma as her niece. Social stigma has a lot to answer for.
42/52 I think I’ll just leave this one to speak for itself. Taken from my 1975 school report: ‘History E Tests suggest a brain about average in the form but since every piece of work has to be driven out of him – often late – it is not easy to classify him. DW’
41/52 It’s quite rare to have pictures of our ancestors at work, particularly our female ones. So I’m delighted to have this photo of my granny, which helpfully has a note on the back, written by my mum. “Mother at Boot’s, Argyle Place”. Edinburgh, mid-1920s?
40/52 My mother-in-law was a very talented artist and we have a number of her paintings around the house. One of her most precious pieces of work is this 1945 calendar which she made for her mother. The dates worked for 2018 so we had it on display last year.
39/52 In May 1936, my grandparents applied for a house in the new Edinburgh suburb of Carrick Knowe. My grandma kept this document, confirming their application and setting out the terms of their tenancy. She lived there until shortly before her death in 1990.
38/52 If any of our ancestors’ correspondence survives, it’s probably letters written to them rather than by them. Here’s a letter from a friend of my granny’s, written in 1925. With its personal touches, it tells me more about her than most official documents.
37/52 I never knew my paternal grandfather, William Annal. He died nearly eight years before I was born but I have lots of photos of him as well as this charcoal portrait which was made in 1944 by Victor Frank Canning while they were both serving in the RAF.
36/52 My wife’s ancestor, Christopher Hulme, was born on the Staffordshire farm which his family had farmed for centuries, but ended up, literally, in the gutter! In 1851 his address was The Gutters, Macclesfield, the centre of a major cholera outbreak in 1849.
35/52 Old family letters provide us with a rare opportunity to hear our ancestors’ voices. Here my mother-in-law, aged 12, is writing to her grandmother ‘Liebe Großmütti’ in 1939 and we have the added bonus of a personal illustration. Note the Sütterlin script.
34/52 I’m away this week, staying in a gîte in Brittany. Summer holidays are a big part of our lives today but they were important for our ancestors too. Here are my mum and her brothers Charlie and Dennis on the beach at Aberdour in Fife sometime around 1936.
33/52 I have a long list of things that I intend to research when I have the time; this photo is near the top of it. It shows my great grandfather David John Davidson as an Edinburgh militiaman, in the 1890s. He’s right in the middle of the picture. An officer?
32/52 Most of my ancestors seem to have died (peacefully?) in their beds but John Flynn was less fortunate. He drowned in Granton Harbour in August 1881 having been imprisonned for stealing a dog just three months earlier. It’s difficult not to link the events.
31/52 My 3x grt grandfather Peter Annal is the ancestor I’d most like to know more about. Born in 1799, he spent his 20s working in Hudsons Bay & had a child with a local Metis woman before returning to Orkney, where he married and had 13 more. He died in 1892.
30/52 When it comes to getting to know your ancestors there’s nothing quite like a good photo album. I inherited one from my grandma, full of pictures from the late 1920s/early ‘30s. Here’s one of my favourites, including my grandad, at the front on the right.
29/52 Born on Eday, a small Orkney island in 1857, my 2x great grandfather, James Miller, moved to Kirkwall as a young man and then to Edinburgh, where he died in 1946. I often struggle to comprehend the changes he must have witnessed during his long lifetime.
28/52 I’ve inherited some great family photos and this is one of my favourites. It was taken outside the family home in South Ronaldsay, Orkney, probably following the funeral of my 2x great grandfather, James Annal, in 1921. I know who 9 of the 10 people are.
27/52 My family doesn’t have a long history of formal education. My dad went to George Heriot’s and my brothers & I went to Watford Grammar School but we didn’t take it any further. In 2015 my older daughter was the first member of the Annal family to graduate.
26/52 As Family Bibles go, it’s not exactly the most informative, but it’s been in my wife’s family for nearly 153 years now. James Wadsworth, the original owner, was her 4x great grandfather. It was given to my father-in-law when he went to Cambridge in 1951.
25/52 I spent the last few days on the Isle of Man, the birthplace of my grandma’s maternal grandparents. Having Manx ancestors turns out to be a thoroughly good idea; the land/tenancy records are plentiful and detailed and practically every adult left a will.
24/52 As average life expectancy grows, so does the number of people whose great grandparents are still alive when they’re born. All eight of mine had died before I was born; my grandma’s mum, Margaret Howland, who died in January 1958, was the closest I got.
23/52 Family heirlooms come in all shapes and sizes. Here’s my personal favourite, but quite how my granny, living in her tenement flat in a very working class part of Edinburgh, ended up with this late 19th Century French mantle clock, I will never understand.
22/52 If I could solve just one family history brickwall it would be the question of my grandma’s paternal grandfather’s parentage. I have a theory that I’ve been unable to disprove after 40 years of searching. I’m just waiting for that vital piece of evidence!
21/52 I’ve always encouraged my daughters to take an interest in our family history. My younger daughter certainly has the bug and she’s just written a blog for my website about her ongoing research into her Oma’s life as a ‘Mischling’ in wartime Berlin.
20/52 My father-in-law would have been 86 last Sunday. Born into a working class Macclesfield family, he benefited from the Social Mobility aims of the 1944 Education Act. He went to Grammar School, won a scholarship to Cambridge and ended up as an RAF Officer.
19/52 I never got to meet either of my grandfathers. My dad’s father died in 1953, before I was born. My mum’s left his family in Edinburgh and married bigamously in London. My only knowledge of him growing up was my Granny’s nickname for him: ‘Old Buggerlugs’
18/52 After years of resisting, I bit the bullet a few months ago and took a DNA test. The results are now in and the Ethnicity Estimate looks quite convincing although I suspect that the 46% ‘Northern England’ largely relates to my Scottish Borders ancestors.
17/52 My fascination with churchyards & gravestones may seem slightly macabre, but it’s difficult to ignore their value to family historians. These five lichen-encrusted stones standing together in an Orkney churchyard record the names of 19 of my relatives.
16/52 If, like me, you have an unusual surname (and you’re a little bit OCD) a One-Name Study might be the thing for you. All Annals living today can trace their roots to either Orkney or Fife. Here’s the document which links the Yorkshire Annals to Anstruther.
15/52 An awareness of sources for local, social & political history is essential for genealogists. My Howland ancestors worked in a lead mining community in Wanlockhead. Researching the lives and experiences of the miners is both enlightening and distressing.
14/52 Each of our 32 3x great grandparents is as much a part of our genetic makeup as the other 31. Mary Jenkins of Oxford is just as important as my Orcadian Annals but I know next to nothing about her. Why do we spend more time researching some than others?
13/52 How do we get the next generation to engage with FH? Perhaps the most important thing is to put our ancestors’ lives into historical context. My younger daughter is researching her grandmother’s life in Berlin in WW2 and now plans to write her life story.
12/52 I got married 37 years ago today. Not only did I gain a life-partner but I also instantly doubled the size of my family tree. And my wife didn’t just bring her love, kindness and support – she also provided me with English and German lines to research!
11/52 My 85-year old dad’s with us for a couple of days, which gives me another opportunity to tease out some family history nuggets. An hour or two in the company of an old photo album is a great way of triggering memories. It’s amazing what you can pick up…
10/52 When do we become part of our family’s history? I suppose it starts the day we’re born, but we don’t see it until we’re much older. It was my younger brother’s 54th birthday yesterday – I guess we’re very much part of the history now! Here we are in 1967.
9/52 It’s always nice when you find your ancestor on one of those ‘off the beaten track’ documents and it’s even better when you find their signature on it. Here’s my 3x great grandfather, Peter Annal, signing his contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1820.
8/52 It’s often said that family history is about names, dates and places but it’s also about ‘things’. The artefacts we inherit from our ancestors can help us to tell their stories. Here’s a cart plate once owned by my Orcadian 2xgt grandfather, James Annal.
7/52 Twenty seven years ago this week, I became a dad. Happy Birthday (tomorrow) to my older daughter Catherine Maggie Annal, now a brilliant, hard-working Primary School teacher. Family History is as much about the present & the future as it is about the past.
6/52 Our lives are full of seemingly inconsequential, life-changing events. In 1979 I saw a job in the local paper, got the job and met my wife. Here are my parents in 1949, before they met. They’d both joined the Tynecastle branch of the Hibs Supporters Club.
5/52 My grandma (pictured here with her mother) was illegitimate. Her father isn’t named on her birth certificate. If she hadn’t told me what she knew about him, I would never have known about this whole branch of the family. There’s a lesson there somewhere…
4/52 In the summer of 1978, Uncle Tom came to stay. I asked my mum how we were related (I knew he wasn’t her brother or my dad’s) and we drew up a family tree – which I still have. Turns out he was my granny’s cousin. The rest, as they say, is (Family) History.
3/52 What got you hooked on FH? For me it was an interest in royal genealogies, the trees at the back of The Lord of the Rings & our pedigree cat! But mostly it was the Gordon Honeycombe TV series & Don Steel’s book which taught me that me I could do it myself.
2/52 I was born 58 years ago last Sunday at Edinburgh’s Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital. This is Elsie Inglis (1864-1917), doctor, suffragist and hospital founder. Dr. Inglis helped to make childbirth safer for mothers and their children. Thank you!
1/52 Everyone has one; that box or envelope full of certificates and other useful documents. You might get lucky and inherit them from your granny. And of course they have inbuilt provenance. They belonged to your family so you know that they’re the right ones.