Thursday, 31 December 2015

And Who Might You Be?

Are you planning on going to Germany in 2016? And are you looking for the graves to visit and for cousins to say hello? Things might turn out to be a bit difficult for both.

I wrote about the difficulties of finding your German ancestor’s grave on August 31, 2015 in my blogpost “Finding your Ancestor’s Grave (Or Not)” which you can find here But finding relatives actually isn’t that easy either.

The main reason for the difficulty of finding German relatives simply is privacy. Not only are the privacy laws in German very strict and it is complicated, time consuming and sometimes simply impossible to find information on living people. But even when you manage to find them, you might not be able to get in touch with them or even be invited to their house. The reason for this is that Germans like to keep their privacy. They like to stick with their own family and friends and are rather reserved with getting in touch with people they do not know. And most of them simply aren’t looking for new found cousins, be it first, second or third.

Another reason is that in Germany genealogy is a more or less exotic thing to do. Remember, Germans usually stayed put and think they know where they come from. There simply doesn’t seem to be a need to know more and dig deeper. Therefore, most Germans aren’t even aware that they have relatives abroad. It happens quite often that I find relatives but they simply are unfriendly and hang up, making it very clear that they aren’t interested.

Often, there are no relatives in that area, their ancestors simply moved and their descendants are impossible to trace. The earlier emigration took place, the harder it is to find relatives.

But there still is hope and it is in fact possible to find relatives that know about the emigration and welcome you to Germany (which does not mean to their house). These are some examples where I found family members:

The emigrating ancestors had come from a small village close to the Dutch border with a very active Historical Society. They had information on everything a genealogist could ask for and knew directly which family member had emigrated and what became of the siblings. And as it was a Historical Society of a small village, many of its members were related. It only took one phone call and the research was more or less completed. And within 2 months about 200 family members from all over Germany met and welcomed their new found family member from America!

The emigrating ancestors came from a small village in Baden. I found out that there was a journalist living in the village, who also wrote about the old houses in this area. He agreed to meet my client and it turned out that they were distant cousins.

The family moved overseas in the 20th century; therefore the memory of them simply was alive and the remaining cousins knew about them and wanted to meet (but not in their home). I was only able to find them, because I turned every (and I mean EVERY!) stone around.

Once, I found the name in an online family tree; a sibling had married into this family. The researcher had more information and put me in touch with the lady who had provided him with that part of information. It turned out that she not only was a distant cousin of my client, but also a genealogist and archivist who had actually wondered what had happened to the cousin who all of the sudden vanished.

So, you see, it is possible to find relatives, but you really need time, know your way around, be creative, and, most of all, you need luck! Without luck you will not be able to get there!

But even without meeting your relatives, you will meet a lot of kind and friendly people in Germany. And who knows, maybe it turns out that you are related?
Enjoy your trip! 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Another Farewell Post

I have been missing in action more often than not in writing my posts for this blog. It seems only fair to officially bow out. I will continue to read your posts and hope you will visit me at Finding Eliza.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Farewell Post

To let you all know that,  for various reasons,  I have  taken the decision to withdraw from participation in the Worldwide Genealogy Collaboration blog.

Thank you, to Julia for giving me the opportunity to take part at the beginning of her Initiative,  and thank you to all my fellow bloggers who have given comments and shown support.

I wish the website well for 2016 and beyond,  and will certainly continue to read it. 

Susan at Family History Fun

Leaving the  Isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Of Robins and Toymakers

European Robin

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) is commonly depicted on Christmas cards, especially in Britain where it was voted the most popular bird earlier this year in a poll proposing a national bird for Britain.  It may surprise you that the Robin is not officially Britain's national bird, because this country does not have an official national bird.
Not all Robins found in Britain are natives.  Most individuals that breed in Britain are resident throughout the year, but some migrate southward.  The British winter population of  Robins is supplemented by migrants from Scandinavia and northern continental Europe.
The Robin's red breast is a territorial signal borne by both males and females.  Both sexes hold separate territories in the winter.  Robins aren't born with a red breast.  They hatch from the egg naked and grow a spotted plumage in the nest.  A couple of months after fledging the birds moult their body feathers acquiring the red breast.
Juvenile Robin moulting into adult plumage, including the red breast
People who emigrated from the British Isles took the Robin's name with them.  Birds that have red breasts or other red markings, whether a related species or not, have been called Robins.  An example is the American Robin, which is really a type of thrush.
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
So, the meaning words is not always what you expect.
To most of us, a toy is a child's plaything.  So, it is easy to imagine a toy maker as a Geppetto making Pinocchios.  However, there is a context in which 'toy' means something different.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives this definition:

Applied technically to small steel articles, as hammers, pincers, buckles, button-hooks, nails, etc. More fully ‘steel toys’

Another definition of 'toy' is:

an assemblage of numerous kinds of more or less useful wares, of small dimensions, and varying from a few pence to many guineas in value. It included much of what is now termed jewelry, small articles of plate, sword hilts, guns, pistols, and dagger furniture, buttons, buckles rings, necklaces, seals, chains, chatelains, charms, mounts of various kinds, etuis, snuff boxes, and patch boxes.

Both of these definitions of 'toy' are given in the context of Birmingham's industrial history.  So, if your ancestor was a toymaker in Birmingham or surrounding areas, he probably did not make Pinocchios.
Berg, Maxine. 2005. The Age of Manufactures 1700-1820: Industry, Innovation and Work in Britain. Routledge: London. p.231. accessed online ( : 8 December 2015) 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Two William Tremethicks and a fair bit of bewilderment - celebrating genealogy kindness

William Rowe Tremethick was born in August 1870, in the south-west corner of England, in a busy Cornish fishing village called Newlyn.
Photo of Florence Place, Newlyn
Florence Place, Tolcarne, Newlyn
The ninth of ten children of Thomas Tremethick and Patience (nee Rowe), William saw his older brothers and sister make their way out into the world: railway clerk, coachmen, naval wife, bosun, a light-keeper's wife, but most didn't go any further than neighbouring Devon.
William chose - or had chosen for him - the printing compositor trade.  By the time he was 20 he was based in Camberwell, Surrey, lodging in a street where many other compositors were based.  At some point I'll perhaps ask for a search of members from the London Society of Compositors.
Ten years later William was again lodging with a fellow-compositor Lewis Jones, this time in Westminster in the home of his parents, grocers Lewis and Ellen Jones.
The April 1911 census finds him living with a wife called Ellen in Gabriel Street, Newington, London [Surrey]. Also present are Maud and Grace Staerck, his step-children.  It states they have been married 6 years with no children born as a couple, but I can't any record of a c1905 marriage.

Banns for Ellen Naomi Staerck and William were later called in August and September of 1910. This was confusing - it had me hunting for a marriage certificate in 1910, but it appears they may not have married until 30 May 1915 in Christ's Church, Southwark, London.
Deacon Saintey's name from Naomi's marriage certificate with William Tremethick
Ellen was a widow; her first husband, William Staerck [such variation in the transcriptions...!] was the blacksmith son of a Lambeth file cutter. She was born Ellen Naomi Saintey in Newington, London, the daughter of Deacon Saintey who was described on both her marriage registers as Gentleman but in his 1861 and 1871 census as packer. Deacon was a farmer's son from Cambridgeshire so perhaps being a gentleman farmer is in his distant family story somehow. Ellen and William Staerck had four children together, William Deacon, Ida Kate S, Maude Victoria and Grace before William Snr died in early 1906.
This has been a really, really, confusing family to trace.  Ellen and both her Williams have unusual surnames, so it's more than a case of wishful linking, I think that the family were either deliberately being bit vague, or perhaps being a bit dozy and disorganised.  I think they could all read and write.  So I'm going to write down what I know and what I think is the most likely scenario in grey areas, and if I'm wrong, fine, I'll update their story in a new blog post.
Ellen Naomi's son William Deacon Staerck [spelt as Sturk on his army paperwork] fought in World War One with the Royal Welsh (Welch) Fusiliers.  He had married Ethel Carter before heading to war.
William died in 1917 and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais.  He was only 17 when he died.
It looks like his sister, Ellen Naomi's daughter Grace, married John Dixon on 26 December 1921 in Stoke Newington, Hackney and I'm confident the signature is that of William R Tremethick.
There is a record of a William J Tremethick who died in 1925 in Southwark, London, I believe this is William recorded with an incorrect middle initial as this would be typical of this family, I'm just grateful they have an unusual name.  I can find no record of him after that (although I was confused for a while as his cousin William Bone Tremethick also emigrated to the USA, see below).
I find Naomi Tremethick heading from Southampton to New York with a 10-year-old child called Ruby Staerck on 31 August 1927; the two of them travelled on the White Star Line's Homeric.
So who is Ruby Staerck?  She was born after Ellen Naomi's first husband William Staerck died.  Maybe she was the child of Naomi and William Tremethick born c 1917, but they were definitely married by then so why take the Staerck name?
What I think has happened is that Ellen's daughter Ida met a Jack Smith (itself possibly a made-up name?) and they had an illegitimate daughter together called Ruby.  In 1911 Ida had been working in Aston, Warwickshire, as a domestic maid for an older lady of private means.  Later marriage paperwork for a Ruby Victoria Staerck gave her parents' names as Jack W Staerck and Ida Katherine Smith.  So I think either deliberately or accidentally her parents' surnames have been incorrectly recorded.
There are also online travel records for an Ida K Staerck entering the US via Canada and then later as an Ida Katherine Gabarino living, naturlizing and later dying in California.
I think that Naomi is the Ellen Tremethick who ended her days in California in 1935.
On 7 October 1935 Chas I Cole (son of Claude D Cole and Pearl Russell) married a Ruby Victoria Staerck; this is where Ruby stated her parents' names were Jack W Staerck and Ida Katherine Smith.
Chas Cole is married but alone in 1940 and I think that Ruby have have married again, to a Mr Kelley.  Or perhaps someone just mis-heard Cole as Kelly.
A Ruby Victoria Cole and a Ruby Victoria Kelley died in California on the same day, 20 August 1943, and I'm confident they are the same person.
A HUGE THANK YOU to Paulene Bonello, Dee Davis, Laura Bale, Traci Eames-O'Leary and Jo Riley for their invaluable help with this story, all responding to a  request I made in the Facebook group Ancestry UK [no relation to the Ancestry company].  Paulene is also a friend who makes fine chocolates as Bonello Chocolatier , shameless plug there.

William Bone Tremethick

In looking up the documents from William Rowe Tremethick they discovered a William Bone Tremethick living with his wife Ruth Anderson, a lady with a Swedish father and an American mother.
William B, who was 5'2" tall and of fair physical appearance, had emigrated in the early 1920s.  In December 1919 he had received a Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity after being injured fighting in France, where he had served with the Inland Water Transport Corps Royal Engineers. By 1922 when his medals were shipped to him, he was living in Orange, Massachusetts.
William was a Primitive Methodist.  Born in early 1898, he was the son of fisherman Samuel Cotton Tremethick and Sarah Tregutha nee Bone, whose maiden name helped identify William as a cousin.  His father's younger brother John Tremethick was very active in this faith.  According to the Cornishman newspaper report, published 3 February 1926 upon John's death, "Deceased was one of the best known Mount’s Bay fisherman.  Prominently identified with the Primitive Methodist Church, he held for several years the position of Sunday School superintendent and society class leader, and was a member of the Board of Trustees and a lay preacher of the Penzance Primitive Methodist Circuit."
In 1947 William B is found arriving in Southampton on the Marine Marlin from the USA, heading back to Newlyn.
What few William Tremethicks there must be for the 'wrong person' suggested in search results to turn out to be a cousin after all! Such a distinctive name.
© Lynne Black, 22 December 2015
First published: Worldwide Genealogy

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Do You Ever Wonder about Christmas for your Military Ancestor?

Last month, I began my journey in tracing my dad’s movement during WWII. I discovered I have some records to obtain, but I do have the basic information for being able to hopefully find his whole story.

What I do know…First, he was with the Army Corp of Engineers Company 1308th Engineers GS Regiment.  Second, He enlisted in 12th of August 1943 at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  His oral history gave the reason for enlisting as no choice. He had been working for the Santa Fe Rail Road line as a Construction Foreman and trackman. 

This had exempted him from military service since September 1941, because he was in the group of men “keeping the infrastructure of the United States running for the purpose of shipping troops, and war related materials.”  He was fine with that, but it depended on his turning in a monthly report of employment.  He had left this to his wife to keep up to date.  She failed to do so, and he received a draft notice.  To keep from not having a choice of where to serve, he went to the war office and enlisted to work with the engineers regiment to keep the troops safe, and moving. He blamed her and later found out she was having an affair with a differed guy.  This was not a happy period in his life., but now you know why he enlisted.
He was trained in the Army at South Carolina where he made Rifle Marksman. Nov 1943.  He was a Private then.  This was not surprising as he was an excellent hunter from the age of 10. 
The GO 33 WD 45 in front of the Northern France, Ardennes, and Rhineland puzzled me.  A man writing a blog about a 82nd Airborne Veteran had the same question and helped me out immensely by putting links to actual army pdfs that gave the documentation I needed.
They were in the Battle of the Bulge.  
Next I turned to the old Newspapers searching for the 1308th Regiment.  There I found some solider’s stories of  what happened at the Battle of the Bulge and where my father was. 

The Republic13 Feb 1945, TuePage 1

Christmas Eve Dec 24th 1944, my father was in Ardennes, France cold and freezing.  He always said that it was miserable but he never talked of this time.  Looking at the one fellow soldier’s account.  I would guess it really wasn’t something to talk about.  I have included a snipit from the soldier’s account. Reading this helps me appreciate where my father was and what the men had to endure to keep the war from turning at that point. 
This is one account of a miracle that happened on that night in the Ardennes.  These men had to endure so much. Here is the story from the
I am getting ready to embark in a cruise with my daughter in 1 hour, so I will leave at this point and will pick up when I have more information on his after the Bulge.  
Merry Christmas to all.  May you and your family be blessed.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

T'was the Night Before Christmas - - And to All a Good Night


This will be my last post at Worldwide Genealogy.  After 24 months, I am leaving the fold.  It has been a great experience sharing with the readers and sharing the posting with other very talented and creative genealogy bloggers.

I have shared with you my experience in ordering 3 memorial markers at one time, to be placed in 3 different cemeteries with 3 different set of rules.  It was a bit frustrating, but, it was so worth it in the end. (See posts:  The Lazy Hazy Days of Summer, Perfect for Remembering and HeadstonesSounds Easy - - Until - - Ordering Memorial MarkersThe Headstones Have Arrived AND Do You Digitally Edit Documents?Tidbits From My World:: Reflection's Dreams. Headstones. Fortunes. Critters. Scientific Fistic.)

I have shared with you a bit of how I try to blend my research and my love of Rving/traveling these beautiful United States.

I shared with you thoughts about my dreaded Christmas letter and I even suggested you “step away from that computer”.

I have tried to suggest ways for you to share your lives and thoughts in your data bases for future generations to learn from.

This, my last month, my post will appear just 9 days before the celebration of Christmas.  Of course I have some thoughts on preserving the holiday and traditions for your family.

Take lots of photos.  Of course you will.  Preserve them in your data base.  Of course you will.  Tell the stories.  Record the traditions, food, the fun and the poignant moments.  Of course you will.

Here are a couple of photos from my archives, from the season. They truly represent the poignant moments of the holiday season for our family.  One of our family holiday traditions. Man reading, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to our sons. 

And, years later, Man reading the same to our Grandtwins. 

No matter what you may celebrate, Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Yule or otherwise, may the holidays be wonderful beyond all your dreams. Blessings and Peace to all.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Twelfth night, or what they ate at Christmas

With Christmas just over a week away, I'm going to write about a custom most of my UK ancestors were familiar with – but which has died out here in Britain.

It's not about a Christmas Day custom, though, but one which occurred during the festive season. Janet Few's already written a lovely post on Worldwide Genealogy about her own family Christmas tree tradition, so I thought I'd branch (sorry!) out a bit.

Dividing the Twelfth Night Cake
These days, the Christmas season seems to start in November (and in September in the shops). But go back in time and it really started on Christmas Day, or the night before, and continued for 12 days until Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night. For many people this day was an even bigger one for parties, feasting and present-giving.

So today I'm looking at something which started out as part of the celebrations of Epiphany, when the three Magi, or Wise Men, or Kings, arrived in Bethlehem. Twelfth Cake, also known as Twelfth Night Cake, Bean Cake or King Cake.

It was a rich fruit cake in which a dried bean and pea were baked. When the family, friends and neighbours were gathered round the table, the cake would be divided up and whoever found the bean in their slice would be king for the night, while the person who got the pea would be queen.

Misrule: The King Drinks, David Teniers the Younger

Most accounts skip over what happened if a woman got the bean, or a man the pea, but it seems that whoever got a 'wrong' legume would then choose a king or queen, as appropriate.

The monarchs for the night then ruled over all the others until midnight and were in charge of the feasting.

This seems to be a distant echo of the Roman Saturnalia, a midwinter festival which was partly assimilated by Christmas festivities, when a Lord of Misrule oversaw the upturning of social norms and a wild time was had by all.

By the end of the 18th century the King and Queen were joined by others, such as Sir Tunbelly Clumsy and Miss Fanny Fanciful, caricature characters picked out of a hat or bag. They acted as the merry monarchs' courtiers.

Plain Twelfth Cake (plum cake)

Twelfth Cake probably started out as a delicious fruit, nut and spice cake, but, as sugar became more available, would be dusted with icing sugar or covered in white icing. A paper crown, or one or two made of sugar paste, was often put on top.

During the 18th century decorations increased until the cake ended up covered in paste mouldings as elaborate as a Robert Adam ceiling, while usually keeping the crown or crowns. Sometimes the other Twelfth Night characters were also added to the decorations.

And with the cake, and the feasting, and the fun, and present-giving, Twelfth Night was 'probably the most popular day throughout the [sic] Christmas' when William Sandys published his book Christmastide in 1852.

So why don't we eat Twelfth Cake these days? What happened to it?

The Victorians did. In particular, Victoria herself. As Christmas Day became more of a family celebration, thanks to Dickens, Prince Albert and all the rest - because many of our 'traditional' Christmas customs are fairly recent in historical terms - it began to rival Twelfth Night.

Then in the 1870s Victoria banned Twelfth Night. Boo! Hiss!

To be more specific, she thought it was too pagan, too un-Christian, with its boozy celebrations and dangerous misrule, and too disruptive to hard work, so she had it removed as an official holiday. No day off work; no feasting or upsetting the social order.

The cake, with its decorations modified, and without its pea and bean, moved to Christmas Day.
Well, my ancestors weren't going to lose a delicious treat as well as a holiday, were they?
Black Bun

And it seems that Twelfth Cake was also the ancestor of a Scottish cake/pie called Black Bun, which I've eaten on Hogmanay.

Another Twelfth Night tradition was drinking a wassail - spiced cider, or wine or ale. With the flesh of baked apples floating in it, it was known as Lamb's Wool. It would go very well with a slice of cake or Black Bun.

The inspiration for this post came from my friend Lesley, who asked me if I knew anything about Twelfth Cake. I said I did, a bit, and dashed off to do some research. Any excuse! It was so interesting I wanted to share it with you.

So thanks to her, and to you for being a wonderful Worldwide Genealogy community. I'll end by wishing you a very Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it, and a happy holiday season to all. In the words of a favourite of mine, the Wassail Song:

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too!
Twelfth Night Feast by Jan Steen

All illustrations are in the public domain

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Does your message get to your audience?

Are you writing Effectively?

Earlier this week I went on an effective writing course (to help with writing for work) I would like to share with you some important things that I learnt.
I shall do this as a series of questions, interspersed with suggestions.  
I hope it may help some of my audience.  
I hope that many of you may already be using these in your writing.
Even if you are not a blogger you may find this helpful in conveying stories about your family.

What is your message?

When you write how often do you think about what message you are trying to put across to your audience? 
Do you always know what the message is that you are trying to convey?

Who is your audience?

Your audience may not be the same as your readers. 
Maybe an editor needs to read it, before it can be published, and you may have to adhere to certain guidelines. 
A genealogy blog, whilst aimed at genealogists, may be read by others unless it is restricted. 
The audience for a post in a facebook group may be the administrators of the group, they could decide what is suitable for publishing, especially if the group is restricted or closed.

Do you  feel you do not have enough time to write?

Do you plan what you write before you start or do you start writing and then go back and change things?
This was an important learning point as the minutes spent in planning can greatly reduce the time spent writing.

How do you plan what to write?

Do you use a computer or pen and paper?
Do you use Mind Mapping tools?
Do you use a word processing program?

I think I may have mentioned previously that I like a website called which is an online Mind Mapping tool. 

These type of tools can be used whether you use a computer or just pen and paper.

Don't forget to plan your layout, if you have already got something along the lines of a Mind Map, the important headings should be clear.

A crucial part of the plan is knowing how many words you should be writing. 

Short pieces with the right message upfront encourage the reader to continue.

If you want feedback say so and make it easy for the reader to respond.

Wherever possible avoid acronyms. 

Check spelling and grammar. 

If you have someone you can trust, get them to review it before it is published.

You may decide not to include everything that you initially started with as many of us tend to write too much.

I hope this helps you, whatever you need to write, be it a blogpost or a short piece about an ancestor to send to a cousin.

Please leave a comment below, especially if you have found this useful, I know that I for one shall be making much more use of Mind Mapping in future.