52 Ancestors – 52 Documents

Throughout 2020 I’ve been tweeting my own take on Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 52 different types of document relating to 52 different ancestors over 52 weeks. Now I’ve put all 52 tweets together in one post…

1. I’m doing the #52Ancestors thing with a slight twist. I’m illustrating my ancestors’ lives using 52 different types of document. We’ll start with the will of my 4xGt Grandfather, John LAYTON of Buckingham (1751-1821). John was a carpenter and left his sawpit to his son Benjamin.

Will of John Layton of Buckingham, 1821. Buckinghamshire Archives, Wills PEC Vol.9 G

2. Scottish death certificates give so much more information than their English/Welsh counterparts. My 2xGt Grandfather John FLYNN drowned in Granton Harbour. Here we get the names of his parents with the implication that they’re both still alive.

Death Certificate of John Flynn, 1881. National Records of Scotland 1881 679 34

3. Valuation Rolls, available for the whole of Scotland at ScotlandsPeople fill in the gaps between censuses and help to tell the story of our early C20th ancestors. Here’s my Gt Grandfather, Samuel Christie Annal, in his brand new home in 1925.

Valuation Roll for the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1925-26. National Records of Scotland VR01000512 p.69

4. My 2xGt Grandfather, Thomas PORT, married twice. The two certificates tell an interesting story. He was illegitimate but when he came to marry for the second time, he invented a father, presumably in an effort to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Port and Mary Layton, Buckingham. General Register Office JUN 1847 Buckingham 6 495
Marriage Certificate of Thomas Port and Mary Ann Berrill, Smethwick. General Register Office SEP 1861 Kings Norton 6a 615

5. Here’s my 2xGt Grandmother, Margaret Hay SINCLAIR, in the 1861 census, living with her parents and siblings on the family farm in the #Orkney parish of Orphir. Not the most exciting document I’ll post this year but it all helps to tell the story!

1861 Census, Orphir, Orkney. National Records of Scotland 1861 23 ED.3 p.4

6. Like many young Orcadians, my 3xGt Grandfather, Peter ANNAL, worked for the Hudsons Bay Company. This is a detail from his contract, dating from 1820. He was 20 at the time and spent the next 10 years working out in the Nor’ Wast. @HBCHeritage

Service Agreement, 1820. Hudson’s Bay Company Archives A32/20

7. My grandfather, Charles FLYNN, was in Ashford, Kent when the 1939 national register was taken. He had left my Granny with their 3 children in Edinburgh and 8 years later he married again (bigamously). My Granny referred to him as Old Bugger Lugs.

National Register, 1939, Ashford, Kent. The National Archives RG 101/1681E/011 p.15

8. One of the downsides of being a professional is not having time to do your own research. I know I should be able to push back my English ancestry, but for now the 1651 baptism of my 7xGt Grandfather, John PORT, remains the earliest record I have.

Baptism of John Port, Dorchester, Oxfordshire, 1651/52. Oxfordshire History Centre PAR87/1/R1/1

9. I love the challenge of reading old handwriting but I have to admit that I struggle with early 17th century Scottish script. This is the Testament Dative of James ANNAND, ‘Wricht in St M[ar]garets Houp’, probably my 9xGt Grandfather, dated 1615.

Testament Dative of James Annand of St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, 1615, National Records of Scotland CC17/2/2

10. Nothing beats a good map, especially a detailed 25″ to the mile OS map like this. Here we have Reids Castle (really NOT a castle!) on the Orkney island of Eday, the birthplace of my 3xGt Grandmother, Jane REID. Was the place name an ironic joke?

Map of Eday, Orkney (detail), Ordnance Survey 25 inch to the mile, Orkney LXXX.15 (Eday), 1881. National Library of Scotland

11. My 2xGt Grandfather, James SMITH, was born in County Meath and moved to Edinburgh in the 1850s. He was a policeman, a grocer, a park ranger and finally a warder at Holyrood Palace. Here he is, listed as a grocer in the 1865 electoral register.

Poll Book, Edinburgh. No. VIII Canongate Ward. Edinburgh City Archives Sl56/11 p.152

12. Here’s my 2xGt Grandfather, John DAVIDSON, in the 1901 census living in the Scottish border town of Duns – formerly Dunse. And because I can, here’s the street he was living in (Willi’s Wynd) from a contemporary OS map. http://dunsehistorysociety.co.uk/documents.shtml

1901 Census, Duns, Berwickshire. National Records of Scotland 1901 735 ED.1 p.35
Map of Dunse, Berwickshire (detail), Ordnance Survey 25 inch to the mile, Berwickshire XVI.7 (Duns), 1899. National Library of Scotland

13. Latin has never been my strongest suit but as family historians we need to be able to pick out the key facts from a document. I was able to do a complete translation of this Roman Catholic marriage of my 2xGt Grandparents, John and Bridget FLYN.

Roman Catholic Marriage of John Flynn & Bridget Flynn, St Patrick’s, Edinburgh. National Records of Scotland MP 87/1/4/1 p.120

14. Isle of Man parish registers closely resemble their English counterparts, with one notable exception. For most legal purposes, Manx women kept their maiden names. The baptism of my 2xGt Grandfather Charles HOWLAND shows his mother as Mary COWLE.

Baptism of Charles Howland, St Jude, Andreas, Isle of Man, 1843. Manx National Heritage Library and Archive Service MS11410/1

15. County maps can help us to track our ancestors’ movements and set their lives in a local context. This 1838 map of the Environs of Edinburgh shows the village of Cramond and Peggys Mill, where my 2xGt Grandmother Margaret GLENNIE worked in 1851.

Map of the Environs of Edinburgh (detail), 1838, Benjamin Rees Davies. National Records of Scotland EMS.s.37A

16. At their best, Passenger Lists can act like a mini census. Here my Gt Grandmother Margaret HOWLAND is travelling to Canada with her daughter (my Grandma) onboard the SS Hesperian in 1909. They intended to settle there but returned the next year.

Passenger List, SS Hesperian, 1909. The National Archives BT 27/604 p.4

17. The 1841 census is best seen as a work in progress. The absence of relationships can make it hard to work out who’s who. Here my 3xGt Grandfather Samuel CHRISTIE is living with his sister Betsy but we need to use other sources to work this out.

1841 census, Grimness, South Ronaldsay, Orkney. National Records of Scotland 1841 29 ED.4 p.3

18. My grandfather, William ANNAL, joined the RAF (29 Squadron) in WW2. His service record tells me that he worked as a Wireless Mechanic at West Malling. 29 Squadron’s Bristol Beaufighters played an important role in the Battle of Britain. #VEDay75

Royal Air Force Service Record of William Annal, 1940-1945. Ministry of Defence

19. We often see a de-humanising element in records of our ‘lunatic’ ancestors, particularly in the census where people are often listed by their initials. My 3xGt Grandmother Mary Ann PORT appears in the records of the Northampton Asylum as Miss P.

Day Book, Northampton County Lunatic Asylum, 1844. Northamptonshire Archives and Heritage NCLA

20. The baptism of Rachel, daughter of my 3xGt Grandparents, James PHILP and Mary PATERSON provides a good example of the importance of viewing original documents and not relying on indexes. It describes James as ‘Servant to Mr Keith of Ravelstone’.

Baptism of Rachel Philp, Corstorphine, 1761. National Records of Scotland 678/20 p.267

21. Our ancestors’ wills are fantastic sources of genealogical information & can give us clues to their individual character. Here, my Manx 5xGt Grandfather Ewan HOWLAND names a son and three daughters. Two other sons seem to have been disinherited.

Will of Ewan Howland of Andreas, Isle of Man, 1800. Manx National Heritage Library and Archive Service Episcopal Court 1800 Andreas E 2

22. Birth records are fundamental to what we do, providing the links between generations. For many of us, the English/Welsh birth certificate is commonplace, yet only one of my direct ancestors has one, my Great Grandfather, Frederick Thomas PORT.

Birth Certificate of Frederick Thomas Port, 1850. General Register Office SEP 1850 Buckingham 6 356

23. Discovering that a pre-1841 census survives for your ancestors’ parish is a family historian’s dream. Here’s my 4xGt Grandfather William ANNAL and his family in the 1821 census for the Orkney parish of South Ronaldsay.

1821 Census of South Ronaldsay, Orkney. Orkney Library and Archive D1/1006

24. Documents aren’t just found in #Archives. That box in the attic is full of old family papers, diaries and notebooks. Like this ‘Receipe’ Book kept by my Gt Grandfather, David John DAVIDSON, who worked as a chemist in late 19th Century Edinburgh.

Recipe Book of David John Davidson. Author’s personal collection.

25. Ages in census returns are notoriously unreliable but there must have something strange in the Orkney water to allow my 2xGt Grandfather James ANNAL to ‘overtake’ his older sister, Betsy. Betsy was born in August 1836 and James in November 1837.

1871 Census of South Ronaldsay, Orkney. National Records of Scotland 1871 29 ED.7 p.10

26. Between 1710 and 1804, certain apprenticeship indentures in England & Wales were subject to taxation. The resulting records can give us clues about our ancestors’ lives, like this 1758 entry for my 4xGt Grandfather, William LAYTON, a ‘Joyner’.

Apprenticeship Duty Register, 1758. The National Archives IR 1/21 f.92lh

27. Inventories are amongst the richest, most rewarding documents we come across in our research, comprising a room-by-room list of our ancestors’ moveable property. This is the 1674 inventory of my 8xGt Grandfather, Richard PORT, of Oxfordshire.

Inventory of Richard Port of Dorchester, Oxfordshire. Oxfordshire History Centre Pec.70/4/37

28. Scottish birth certificates differ from English ones in two ways. They routinely give the time of birth and they give details of the parents’ marriage. My Gt Grandmother Margaret Ann Clouston MILLER was born the year after her parents married.

Birth Certificate of Margaret Ann Clouston Miller, 1881. National Records of Scotland 1881 23 15

29. Nonconformist registers had no legal status until 1840 but they’re often more informative than the equivalent CofE records. My 2xGt Grandmother, Mary LAYTON was baptised at the Old Meeting House, Buckingham. The register gives her date of birth.

Baptism (Nonconformist) of Mary Layton, Old Meeting House, Buckingham. The National Archives RG 4/293 f.51r

30. When it comes to family history sources there’s not much better than a good Chancery case. My 4xGt Grandmother Elizabeth PORT (née TRUMAN) was involved in a suit which lasted for nearly 11 years. This document is an Order issued on 5 June 1810.

Chancery Order, 1810. The National Archives C 33/577

31. Marriage records in pre-1837 English parish registers are somewhat lacking in genealogical detail. The 1776 marriage of my 4xGt Grandmother Mary BLENCOWE at least gives her husband’s occupation while one of the witnesses is possible relative.

Marriage of John Layton & Mary Blencowe, Brackley, Northamptonshire. Northamptonshire Archives and Heritage 42P/11 p.56

32. I feel like I’m cheating a bit here, including gravestones in my list of documents, but since they *document* someone’s life I feel I can justify it. This is the gravestone of (among others), my great grandmother, Catherine (or Kathleen) SMITH.

Gravestone in Mount Vernon Cemetery, Edinburgh. Author’s personal collection.

33. It’s all-too-easy to ignore our ancestors’ later lives and think of them only as the parents of the next generation. Census returns can help us track them from cradle to grave. In 1891 my 2xGt Grandfather Charles HOWLAND is with his second wife.

1891 Census of Wanlockhead, Sanquhar, Dumfries-shire. National Records of Scotland 1891 853B ED.1 p.6

34. There’s nothing like a collection of photographs to document a life. Here are four photos of my mum, Kathleen FLYNN, dating from 1928 to 2000. She would have been 93 today. #HappyBirthdayMum

Photographs of Kathleen Flynn. Author’s personal collection.

35. The Scottish 1841 & 1851 censuses take on extra significance as they pre-date the start of civil registration. Here, my 4xGt Grandfather, James PHILIP, is recorded in the 1851 census in Cramond, listed as an 83-year old Pauper formerly Ag Lab.

1851 Census of Cramond, Midlothian. National Records of Scotland 1851 679 ED.3 p.26

36. Records of livery companies and apprenticeships can be genealogical gold dust. This, from the Freedom of the City of London admission papers, records my 4xGt Grandfather, Samuel PORT, as the son of Thomas of Sherburn (Shirburn), in Oxfordshire.

Apprenticeship Indenture of Samuel Port. London Metropolitan Archives ELJL 1046/13

37. Electoral registers are at their most useful when you can view consecutive years. The changes in the enfranchised family members from year-to-year can give you invaluable clues. Here, my Granny, Lizzie G DAVIDSON, is listed in Edinburgh in 1925.

Electoral Register Edinburgh. No. 13 Dalry Municipal Ward – West Division – Polling District N1. Edinburgh City Archives Sl56/85 p.20

38. There are usually two copies of every will; the original will brought into the court by the executor and the registered copy, entered into the court’s books. This is the original 1738 will of my 6xGt Grandmother, Elizabeth TRUMAN (née CHUBB).

Registered Will of Elizabeth Truman (née Chubb) of Lacock, Wiltshire, Consistory Court of Salisbury, 1738. Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre P1/T/396

39. The printed 19th century parish registers used in the Isle of Man are identical to their English and Welsh counterparts, including the post-1837 marriage registers. My 2xGt Grandmother, Catherine CRENNELL, was married at Kirk Bride in July 1864.

Isle of Man Marriage of Charles Howland and Catherine Crennell, Bride, Isle of Man. Manx National Heritage Library and Archive Service

40. The Scottish 1911 census isn’t quite as useful as its English/Welsh equivalent; we don’t get to see the original householders’ schedules. Here’s my grandma, Margaret HOWLAND, aged 4. Her Aunt was in fact her mother, covering up her illegitimacy.

1911 Census of Edinburgh. National Records of Scotland 1911 685/1 ED.41 p.7

41. Whether they were the victims or the alleged perpetrators of crime we’re almost certain to have someone on the tree who had a brush with the law. In 1823, my 3xGt Grandmother’s brother, Thomas PORT, had a piece of bacon stolen from his shop.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 3rd December 1823, page 60

42. My Edinburgh/Irish Gt Grandfather, John FLYNN, was born in Corstorphine in 1857 and was one of at least 17 children baptised on 12 July at St Mary’s, later the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The parish register records the names of his godparents.

Roman Catholic Baptism of John Flynn, St Mary’s, Edinburgh, 1857. National Records of Scotland MP 74/1/1/5 f.85

43. Manx Deeds are an astonishing resource, recording transfers of land on the Isle of Man, with records surviving back to the 16th century. In 1810, my 4xGt Grandfather, William HOWLAND, bought some land from his sister Joney CAINE and her husband.

Manx Deed, 1810. Manx National Heritage Library and Archive Service NSS OCT 1810/7

44. It’s inevitable in small island communities that marriages between neighbours are commonplace and that some of those neighbours will be cousins. My 2xGt Grandmother, Jane ANNAL, née CHRISTIE, is related to everyone else on this 1881 census page.

1881 Census of South Ronaldsay, Orkney. National Records of Scotland 1881 29 ED.7 p.11

45. I don’t have any direct ancestors who served in the British Army so this is a bit of a cheat. Remembering my 2xGt Uncle, John Henry Norquay ANNAL, who left Orkney to fight on the Western Front in December 1916, never to return. #RemembranceDay

British Army Service Record of John Henry Norquay Annal, 1916-1918. The National Archives WO 363/A 279

46. This week I’m featuring my Gt Uncle, Samuel Christie ANNAL. Sam was one of 800 men of the Black Watch, dropped behind enemy lines in Myanmar in March 1944. Five months later Sam was dead and only 50 of the men were fit for duty. #RemembranceDay

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

47. Unlike their English/Welsh counterparts, Scottish marriage certificates name both parents of the bride and the groom. My 2xGt Grandmother, Elizabeth GRAY, was working as a House Maid at Houndwood House, Berwickshire when she got married in 1860.

Scottish Marriage Certificate of John Davidson & Elizabeth Gray, Edrom, Berwickshire. National Records of Scotland 1860 738 6

48. English/Welsh death certificates don’t offer too much in the way of genealogical detail but I always get copies for my direct ancestors. This is my 3xGt Grandmother Mary Ann LAYTON, née JENKINS. She was the widow of Benjamin LAYTON, a carpenter.

Death Certificate of Mary Ann Layton, Buckingham. General Register Office MAR 1845 Buckingham 6 255

49. The records created by the Stamp Office/Inland Revenue, relating to the payments of Death Duties are among the most underused FH sources. Here’s the entry relating to Ann PORT, the sister of my 3xGt Grandmother, showing that she died in Germany.

Death Duty Register (Administrations), 1823. The National Archives IR 26/218 f.463lh
Death Duty Register (Administrations), 1823. The National Archives IR 26/218 f.463rh

50. Burial records are among the least useful genealogical sources but I would always recommend that you seek them out. This is my 3xGt Grandfather William HOWLAND. Post-1812 burial records for the Isle of Man are identical to English/Welsh records.

Burial of William Howland, Andreas, Isle of Man – Manx National Heritage Library and Archive Service

51. We should always look for probate records for the extended family. This is a Scottish will (part of a Testament Testamentar) for the widow of my grandma’s father. She describes my grandma as her adopted daughter – she most definitely wasn’t!

Scottish Will (Testament Testamentar) of Edith Port or Bushnell, Edinburgh Sheriff Court. National Records of Scotland SC70/4/511

52. My final document stands for the thousands of documents sitting on record office and library shelves just waiting to be discovered. It’s a deed recording the purchase of a property in Buckingham by my 3xGt Grandfather, Benjamin LAYTON, in 1814.

Deed. Lease [Release missing] Thomas Hawkes to Benjamin Layton and Joseph Gray. Buckinghamshire Archives B-Buc/8/1/4

© David Annal, Lifelines Research, 29 December 2020

This entry was posted in Document Sources, research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 52 Ancestors – 52 Documents

  1. Brenda Clark says:

    What a great record of your ancestors. I cannot see any of my Annal’s but a very interesting read. Thank you.


  2. Steph Higgs says:

    What a great range of documented evidence! It’ll prompt me to search a little wider in the coming year. Thanks


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