My Family History in 52 Tweets

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…

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.

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A page from Oma’s 1943 diary

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.

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John Hulme with his daughter, Elizabeth, c.1962

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’

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My grandfather, Charles Flynn (1898-1968), aka ‘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.

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My ‘Ethnicity Estimate’ courtesy of ancestry.com/dna

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.

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Annal family gravestones in St Peter’s Kirkyard, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

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.

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Cupar Sheriff Court Register of Deeds – Warrants. National Records of Scotland ref: SC20/36/12

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.

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Photograph from The Museum of Lead Mining, Wanlockhead Village

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?

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Marriage of Benjamin Layton & Mary Jenkins, St Ebbe’s, Oxford

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.

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My mother-in-law’s war-time diaries and sketchbook and Resistance of the Heart by Nathan Stoltzfus

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!

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Me and my wife, with her assorted English and German relatives, March 1982

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…

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My dad (Eric Annal) aged about 16, outside his mum’s house in Carrick Knowe, Edinburgh, ca.1950

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.

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L to R: Me, my brother John and my brother Pete, ca.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.

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Peter Annal’s contract with the Hudsons Bay Company, 1820, A32-20 (detail)

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.

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James Annal’s Cart Plate, now on my dad’s conservatory wall

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.

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Me and my daughter, Catherine Maggie Annal, February 1992

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.

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Hibernian FC Supporters Club, Tynecastle Branch, ca.1949

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…

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My grandma, Margaret Howland (1906-1990) with her mother, also Margaret Howland (1872-1958), ca.1914

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.

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My first family tree, drawn up with assistance from my mum (Kathleen Flynn), 1978

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.

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Discovering Your Family History by Don Steel (BBC Publications, 1980)

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!

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Portrait of Dr. Elsie Inglis from the Welcome Collection

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.

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Family documents. Photograph by David Annal, 2019.

 

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