1. Courses coming in October

     We have a bumper number of courses starting in October:

    The National Archives Website and Catalogue – Finding People

    Tutor: Guy Grannum
    Start date: 23rd October 2020
    Course length: 3 weeks

    COURSE OF THE MONTH

    The National Archives’ website and catalogues describe more than 20 million documents, and can lead you to information about individual ancestors.

    UK Government records, held at The National Archives (TNA), are a leading resource for genealogists. These are the historical records of a nation through more than a thousand years. They include documents about all parts of the British Isles and all parts of the world where the government had its agents, colonial officials or military forces. Even if you cannot visit TNA in person, there is much to be gained from using TNA online. The lessons cover how to find the most genealogically valuable records and how to search for individuals. You learn what to do next, once you find an interesting listing, and how to discover useful background details about the records. The key to achieving this is navigation skill and you are shown how to navigate around the website. The emphasis is on remote access, how anyone, living anywhere, can make the most of The National Archives website and catalogues.

    Are You Sitting Comfortably? Writing and Telling Your Family History

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 5th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks
    Assessed and non-assessed options available

    Writing your family history is the logical step after genealogical research, and sometimes while research is still in progress. To avoid gathering dust, a family story must be written to appeal to a broad spectrum of relatives and readers, to answer questions of relationships and to stimulate the sharing of knowledge. The history of a family blends a range of information: the ancestors and their stories, the places they knew, and the context of contemporary conditions and event. A good story, based on sound research, is a focal point of a family re-union, and it makes a great gift.

    This five-week course begins with advice on making decisions about what to write about, and what to include, and how to make some order out of the potential chaos of information. It goes on to discover the historical context and how to add interest into your story with background about what was happening nationally and locally and how this might have affected your ancestors. It looks at how knowledge about occupations can bring an ancestor to life, and how and why social history helps you to make sense of it all and frame your story. Finally in week five, you will discover how to add photos and other illustrations as well as options for publishing. This course is about acquiring skills that will help you to present your family history in a coherent and interesting way.

    Practicalities of a One Name Study

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 6th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    This new course for 2020 sits between the existing two one-name and surname study courses: Introduction to One-Name Studies (901) and Advanced One-Name Studies (902) and focusses on the practical elements of running a study.

    The course is designed to enable students to explore the practical steps of maintaining and developing their one-name study through a variety of mediums and to give some context to the various considerations they will need to explore.

    Victorian Families – Your Ancestors in the Census

    Tutor: Malcolm Sadler
    Start date: 7th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Victorian ancestors – we all have them but what do we really know about them? Facts from civil registration and the census tell us something, but say little about how they lived. But, interpreting the social and local detail half hidden in these vital documents, bring their lives back to us! This course takes you beyond the facts and explains what census records reveal. The census is a window on the Victorian family and this course helps you take a closer look at life – in fashionable streets, back alleys and the countryside, in large houses, town houses, cottages and tenements. It looks too at food, work, fun, life and death. You will learn to interpret what you have found, get to know your ancestors better, and realize the genealogical value of a close acquaintance with past lives.

    Manorial Records for Family and Local Historians

    Tutor: Sue Adams
    Start date: 12th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks
    Assessed and non-assessed options available

    The manorial system was a framework for people’s lives in England and Wales for hundreds of years, enduring well into the 19th century in some areas, and not finally abolished until the 20th century. Manorial records can be used to locate people within a community and to set them in their social and economic context. This course examines the place of the manor in the legal and social system, the records created by the manor, and changes that occurred through the centuries. 

    17th Century Sources

    Tutor: Stuart Raymond
    Start date: 14th October 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks
    Assessed and non-assessed options available

    Students completing this course will gain a broad understanding of the problems encountered when researching in 17th century records. They will be able to locate indexes and finding aids, document copies and transcripts, and original records. In addition, they will appreciate the research value and practical application of the information found. The course gives significant emphasis to local and regional differences within records as well as to historical context. For genealogists the 17th century presents new challenges. These are not discouraging – if anything, challenges add interest and enthusiasm to research. Historically it is a fascinating period, and genealogically some familiar records continue to be used so the research is not with entirely new material. Themes within the course include: the structure of a gentry dominated society, the records created by 17th century civil and ecclesiastical government, and the problems created by the “Commonwealth Gap”. Sources for 17th century research are found in many formats, from original documents to print to microform to digital. This course presents 21st century techniques for finding ancestors in Stuart England and Wales and teaches record interpretation, analysis and planning. 

    Demystifying DNA for Family Historians

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 19th October 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    DNA testing is becoming an increasingly popular tool in genealogical research and has the potential to solve mysteries and brick walls, where other records do not survive. The more its popularity rises and the number tested increases, the greater the chance of success. However, with so many tests available and so many companies to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

    This course starts at the beginning, providing you with the tools to understand and demystify DNA testing for use in your own research. You will be guided through what to consider before testing, the different types of DNA, who can test and which test is the most appropriate in different circumstances. You will learn about how DNA is passed down the generations and why this is important, what haplogroups are, and how much you really can rely on ethnicity estimates. 

     

  2. Lost in Genealogy: Seven Steps to Battling Bias

    This excellent article was written by former Pharos student Dr Sophie Kay. She has kindly allowed us to reproduce it here. Sophie is a professional genealogist at Khronicle. You can find Sophie’s blog here: The Parchment Rustler and follow her on Twitter: @ScientistSoph.

    Today, we’re going to talk about the elephant in every genealogist’s research room. It’s one we’ve all spent some time with, whether we realise it or not. And what’s more, this particular elephant tends to divert our research when it shouldn’t. At its worst, it can stampede us right off course.

    Have you guessed the elephant’s name yet…?

    Yes, bias. Bias comes in many forms, but I’m going to focus on cognitive bias here. This occurs when our internal judgments impede rational thought and affect our decision making when we’re interpreting information. So when does this happen and how can we combat it?

    Our Research Process

    Most of the time, there is more than one route through a genealogy problem. Each researcher will tackle things in their own way, with a variety of creative approaches often possible. 

    Whatever the route, the fundamentals of the process involve us examining multiple sources. For each of these, we identify what information that document has given us, and assess how much we can trust it

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Document1.jpg
    With a multitude of documents in our work, how do we decide which evidence to trust the most? Image credit: Militia return by Liz West, CC-BY 2.0; Birth certificate for Albert Cook by Jez Levy, CC-BY 2.0.

    So every time you look at a document, you’re making a value judgment about its usefulness to determine how it affects the emerging story. These judgments are key to pushing our research forward: they’re a natural part of what we do. Usually, there is no “perfect” way to navigate our decisions either…and sometimes our forebears find ways to surprise us (NOTE: For more about proof, I highly recommend Phil Isherwood’s article).

    But what happens when we make errors of judgment? Perhaps we trust one source more than we should; perhaps we unfairly reject another because we think it doesn’t fit the picture we have in mind. This is where cognitive bias comes into play.

    Cognitive bias takes many forms, but I’m going to focus on two sorts here: confirmation bias, and anchoring. Let’s take a look now at what these are and what they might mean for our genealogy research.

    Confirmation Bias

    Confirmation bias arises when our firm beliefs about a person or situation cause us to dismiss evidence which conflicts with those beliefs. This prevents us from making an objective assessment of the evidence. Instead, confirmation bias causes us to seek out information that reinforces our existing beliefs.

    Baptism register entry for a Francis Burdett Nuttall, son of Joseph and Jane Nuttall of Hines, Lancs. This is shown as a photo of the original document.
    Baptism record for Francis Burdett Nuttall, 18 Sept 1861 (indicated by the red arrow). Source: Ancestry – Manchester, England, Non-Conformist Births and Baptisms, 1758-1912.

    Take a look at the baptism record above and imagine that you really wanted to discover high-born ancestry, despite having any evidence to suggest this. If you found Francis Burdett Nuttall in your family tree, you might jump at the prospect of him being related to – or even descended from – the line of Burdett baronets. Looking at this through the lens of confirmation bias, you might conclude that the similarity of name was “proof” of a blood connection, rather than exploring other possibilities – such as the parents naming their son after a public figure they had admired.

    Confirmation bias can be a particularly potent distraction in genealogy research. To research the lives of our ancestors, we step from the known into the unknown: throughout this process, we have to generate our own theories which govern what to look for next. We all need ideas to follow up, but we need to be careful that we’re motivated by the evidence in front of us, rather than wanting a particular outcome.

    Anchoring

    Anchoring bias occurs when you give greater weighting to the first pieces of information gleaned in your research, whether or not they are of good quality. If we happen upon a misleading piece of information early on, it could easily steer us off course.

    For example, think about research using newspapers, where the details included may not always be accurate. If a news article is your first source of a particular “fact”, it has considerable power to lead you astray. Take, for instance, the following news article and imagine that we came to this early in our research, knowing John Walton’s name but little else:

    News article summarising a Juvenile Plundering case in Birkenhead in 1865, discussing a boy John Walton "about 13 years of age".
    Liverpool Mercury, 17 February 1865, page 8. Birkenhead Police Court summary. Source: British Newspaper Archive via FindMyPast.

    How might we use this article in our research? We cannot guarantee that it provides a fair representation of the facts. 

    Anchoring might occur if you assumed from this that John was precisely 13 at the time of his trial and refused to consider any alternative ages when running your searches. Anchoring bias can make us blind to other possibilities, perhaps cause us to run too-narrow searches or to discount genuine matches that don’t fit with our early evidence.

    How can I battle these biases in my own genealogy research?

    It’s not always a straightforward battle, but the following suggestions may help you break out of the bias bubble:

    1. Slow down and acknowledge the existence of cognitive bias

    This is the absolute first stop on our journey. Each of us, no matter what our level of experience, can fall victim to cognitive bias. By acknowledging this, we are better placed to combat it. Our biases are rarely conscious ones and can be annoyingly difficult to spot. 

    If we’re to call out our biases, then slowing down our pace and questioning our own decisions can be of huge benefit. When we’re hurtling through our research, hot on the trail of a new lead (we’ve all been there), it’s easy to fall into quick decision making without weighing all the evidence. Snap decisions often rely more on “gut feeling” and might allow our biases to sneak in unannounced.

    Once we’ve realised that bias is a universal experience, there are some routes to spotting it, which we’ll delve into now.

    2. Talk to others about your work.

    Talking about your process, not just your findings, is one of the most important aspects of beating cognitive bias. Bias thrives on our isolation. Genealogy research frequently occurs within our own little bubble and it’s typically the end findings that we discuss with our nearest and dearest, not the methods or reasoning we used to get there.

    Researching alone – or even in a pair or small group where you may all get stuck in a thinking rut – can entrench our habits and attitudes and cause us to miss things. Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes is what’s needed. Think of it as genealogical peer review.

    Two men are having an animated conversation whilst sitting at a table. One of the men is gesticulating with his hands to make a point.
    Engaging with others about our genealogy research – our thought processes, as well as the story itself, can help our findings to flourish. Photo by Daniel, CC BY-ND 2.0.

    So, whom should you speak to? Your confidant could include a trusted friend or relative who has experience in genealogy. Alternatively, you could join your local family history society to meet others with whom you can discuss your research. If you’re UK-based, you might find the Federation of Family History’s society search facility useful. 

    You might also choose to connect with other researchers via online forums and social media. Draw on these valuable community networks and be prepared to reciprocate too: if someone acts as a sounding board for your research, how about you return the favour for them when they need it?

    3. Write up your research.

    When we write up, we draw the separate strands of our research together into a common narrative thread. This is a critical process and requires you to scrutinise your own ideas and methods, and work closely with your notes and sources. This is known as self-reflective practice

    Transforming your research notes into a written volume, an article or a blogpost is a crucial phase of self-reflection, forcing us to critique our own work. Photo credits: Pencil notes by Robert of Fairfax, CC BY-NC 2.0; bookshelves by Eltpics, CC BY-NC 2.0.

    Writing up is a great opportunity to spot any errors you might have made. Think of it as a friendly critique of your younger self! 

    Sometimes a project might need time for it to grow to a point where writing up is a viable prospect. Where possible, I’d advise writing up as often as is appropriate, so you can spot any mistakes or missed avenues before you build on your research much further: backtracking then will feel even more painful.

    4. Embrace evidence.

    An empirical (evidence-based) approach can help you to construct a logical argument for why you think the record you’ve found is the right one for the individual you’re researching. Always ask: what’s the evidence for or against this finding? Does it fit with what I already know, or do I need to rethink some aspects of my existing narrative?

    When drawing together multiple sources from several research sessions to make your case, a well-organised system of recording in a research log can assist you in referring to all the relevant documents when you’re drawing your conclusions.

    Example of a handwritten research log, for a researcher investigating William Frazer. Columns include dates, place of research, purpose, call number, source, document number and results. The bottom of the log includes a research question and suggestion, which help to shape the research.
    Example of a handwritten research log – I tend to prefer wider spacing than this so it’s easier on the eye. This is only one example of a log: you can develop a version which works for you. Source: FamilySearch Wiki.

    If you’re new to research logs, then Cyndi’s List has some great resources for you to explore on the subject. Natalie Pithers of Genealogy Stories has also written a great overview of logs and why you need them on her blog.

    5. Beware anchoring from oral histories

    Oral histories (evidence drawn from conversations rather than written documents) are typically a first port of call in our genealogical journey. How many of us started our family history journey by talking to our older relatives? Conversations can be a rich source of information about our forebears, but are unlikely to be 100% accurate. The nature of oral histories as a frequent starting point makes them a particular source of anchoring bias.

    For instance, I’ve encountered cases where someone was adamant they knew their mother-in-law’s maiden name, but in fact got it completely wrong; cases where a family story about a particular religious affiliation turned out to have no basis in fact; and stories of connections to famous people which weren’t true at all. So as with all our research, BE CRITICAL!

    Oral histories can be an amazing source of information, but also a major source of anchoring bias. Photo credits: Whisper by ElizaC3, CC BY 2.0; Anchor by Phong6698, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

    Once you’ve recorded the oral history you’ve taken from a relative, try asking yourself: “What does this oral history suggest I should look at?” followed by, “If some of these ideas are inaccurate, what are my alternatives?” This way, you’ll have a Plan B in mind from the start and might be less likely to be derailed by misinformation.

    Be especially careful not to assume all information you’re told is accurate. Use it as a guideline to suggest research directions, but don’t assume that it provides the complete picture.

    6. Celebrate context

    Ask “what are my blind spots?” and approach genealogy as a perpetual learner. Delve into some background reading about the era and place that you’re researching; understand the provenance of the record sets you work with. Appreciating context in this way will really improve your judgments when navigating the records.

    7. Practise, practise, practise

    The final step in battling our biases is to continue on our research journey with these bias-battling tools in mind. There is no quick, one-stop fix for cognitive bias, but over time you can train yourself to spot when it’s happening. 

    It’s a reassuring thought that, whatever level of experience we bring to our genealogy research today, we’re all learning as we go. The more secure you become in your genealogical technique, the better equipped you’ll be to address bias in your own practice – as well as helping friends and acquaintances with theirs!

    Try some of the suggestions above and you’ll find that bias-battling gets easier with time. Critiquing our own work can help our research to flourish, gifting us family history stories that we’ll enjoy sharing with our families and descendants for many years to come. 

    What’s your advice?

    Do you have any favourite bias-battling approaches or advice you’d like to offer to your fellow genealogists? Or perhaps you’d like to share your own experience of being led astray by bias? Post your tips and stories in the comments below and perhaps you’ll help others avoid the pitfalls of the genealogical elephant in the room…!

    Further Reading

    If you enjoyed reading about cognitive bias and what it might mean for your genealogy research, then I’d highly recommend the following articles and resources for further reading.

    BOOK: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This bestselling book comes from one of the original academics to identify and characterise cognitive bias – it’s a great introduction to the major concepts.

    BOOK: History in Practice by Ludmilla Jordanova. Chapter 5, on “The Status of Historical Knowledge”, provides a great overview of the reasoning processes that underpin historical research.

    ARTICLE: Confirmation Bias and the Power of Disconfirming Evidence by the Farnam Street blog. Their Mental Models page, which provides more information about cognitive biases and how to challenge them, is also worth a look.

    ARTICLE: The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain. Ben Yagoda’s article for The Atlantic looks at some of the history of our awareness of cognitive bias and studies on how we might unseat it.

  3. Courses coming in September

     

    Will you be raring to get back to study in September? We have plenty of courses coming up next month to whet your appetite:

    First Steps to a One-Place Study

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 2nd September 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    This is a BRAND NEW COURSE on One-Place Studies.

    One-place studies are a fascinating blend of local and family history. They are frequently undertaken by family historians wanting to create a context for their ancestors. Through a one-place study, you can investigate the friends, neighbours and associates with whom your family may have interacted and you can begin to understand the community in which they lived.

    This course is designed for those who are just starting on their one-place journey and for more experienced one-placers who would like guidance or inspiration, or who are seeking a more organised approach to their study. It will also be suitable for those who may not want to undertake a full-blown one-place study but who wish to investigate an ancestral area in more detail. There is some focus on British sources but the techniques described should be applicable to studies world-wide.

    Organizing Your Genealogy

    Tutor: Barbara Baker
    Start date: 7th September 2020
    Course length: 3 weeks

    As you research your family history, you collect information, charts, copies of records, notes, lists of sources searched, etc. Whether you are just starting your research or whether you have been at it a while, it is important to be organized and have a record keeping system. It should be easy to file and store information when you get it, and to find it long afterward. Good organization and record keeping will help you assess what you have, what you have learned, and what you need to learn. This three-week course is designed to help you get organized, stay organized and be ready for research online and on location by developing good record-keeping habits.

    Old Handwriting for Family Historians

    Tutor: Susan Moore
    Start date: 10th September 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Old handwriting, or palaeography, often presents difficulties for family historians. This course takes a practical approach to reading and transcribing old handwriting, focusing on Secretary Hand, a commonly used form during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Family historians will come across Secretary Hand in many types of documents such as parish registers and wills and inventories. The course aims to equip students with their own set of steps to successful transcription, as well as provide insights into the development of Secretary Hand.

    The course is an advanced course working with documents from the 17th century and is most suitable for all those who already have some understanding and practice with old handwriting in their own family history research.

    SET BOOKS:
    There is a set book which accompanies this course. Students are asked to purchase A Secretary Hand ABC Book by Alf Ison before the course starts. 

    Professional Genealogist – Become one, become a better one

    Tutor: Karen Cummings
    Start date: 14th September 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Do you have ambition to become a professional genealogist? Have you already started taking on clients but are looking for guidance or want to check you have thought of everything? Whether you are already researching for clients or planning to do so, this 4 week professional genealogist course guides you through the professional skills that form the foundation for success.

    This course was developed in association with the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA), the professional body for genealogists in England and Wales, and includes guidance on what AGRA requires of its members and the application process.

    The course begins by considering how professional research differs from personal research with a focus on standards for research, analysis and reporting. We move onto education options, membership of professional bodies and handling client enquiries. Equally important are the business skills that contribute to success. Topics in this segment of the course include advice on managing your office, UK regulations for the self-employed and costs and pricing. Another section of the course presents advice about the ways professional genealogists can stay current with new developments, with advice on the advantages of diversifying into writing and lecturing. We conclude with a practical guide to marketing your business and yourself.

    Researching in Archives for Advanced Genealogists

    Tutor: Simon Fowler 
    Start date: 29th September 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Moving from online records to researching in archives can be a daunting prospect. However, with such a small proportion of records available online, the serious researcher must make use of all repositories available to him. In order to have the greatest chance of success the researcher should understand how records are kept and how they are most effectively accessed.

    In this course you will learn about the record-keeping framework in England and Wales and be introduced to the cataloging process and the way archives are arranged and described. You will learn where to find national, local and specialist collections, and recognise which repository or archives is the most likely custodian, and how to plan your research day in the archives to make the best use of your time.

    You will be introduced to conservation and access issues for fragile documents and get practice finding the documents you are looking for.

  4. Student Showcase: Telling Your Family Story

    This is the first in a series of blog post from students of Janet Few‘s Are You Sitting Comfortably?: writing and telling your family history (216) course.

    Janet says: “I have been tutoring the course for several years. Three years ago the option to submit an assessed piece for feedback was added. Since then, each time the course has run, several students have taken this opportunity and have sent in a section of their family histories. They are given about six weeks after the course finishes to do this. I have been in awe of what they have produced in a comparatively short space of time. It is a pleasure to be able to feature some of their stories on the Pharos blog“.

    Our first offering comes from student, Gemma Ward, and tells the story of Ernest Leon Loveday

    RAF Air Gunner Herbert Leon Loveday (1915-1941) went missing on the night of 30 November/1 December 1941. Herbert Loveday was married to Peggy Marshall (1917-2009). After Herbert’s death, Peggy remarried and had a second family. Peggy was my husband’s grandmother. Whilst researching Herbert Loveday, I discovered the story of Ernest Leon Loveday (1889-1916), Herbert’s father. This is the story of Ernest Loveday. 

    Ernest Loveday

    In 1906, trawler captain Henry Lilley encountered rough weather around the Penland Firth, Orkney Islands. He “was thrown against a rail violently.” Henry’s injury – a deep cut to his hand – became infected. Henry was brought back to his hometown in Hull and died of blood poisoning [1].

    The Lovedays moved into Henry Lilley’s former home – a narrow, two-bedroom terrace at 13 Beech Grove, Wellsted Street. Here they are in the 1911 census return [2]:


    Ernest Loveday – the focus of this report – is highlighted.

    The 1911 census gives another statistic – two children died in infancy. The Lovedays’ eldest child died at the age of two from “peritonitis complications” – an abdominal inflammation usually caused by infection [3]. A few months later, the Lovedays’ second child died aged eight months from “teething” [4]. It seems likely that both Loveday deaths were caused by poor sanitation. The Impact of Social Housing on Public Health in Hull reports on “the dreadful living conditions and the increased problems with night soil removal” in late 19th century Hull [5].

    Figure 1: England (1948). The Albert and William Wright Docks, Hessle Road and environs.The aerial view was taken in 1948, so shows some bomb damage can be seen. However, the photograph also illustrates the layout of the Hessle Road district.


    The Lovedays lived in the Hessle Road district. In the aerial view, Hessle Road is the long road (marked in yellow) in the aerial view (Figure 1). Wellsted Street is marked in red. The Albert Dock and the Humber Estuary is to the right of Hessle Road. Unsurprisingly, Hessle Road is known as the home of fishermen and dockworkers. One of the most famous residents of Hessle Road district is the aviator Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia. Amy’s father was a trawler owner and fish merchant, although (according to author and biographer Alec Gill), Amy Johnson was ashamed of her Hessle Road roots [6].

    Figure 2: Hessle Road in the early 1900’s.


    Hessle Road was also a busy shopping street. The artist’s impression (Figure 2) shows the wide street, tram lines and numerous shop awnings. The 1899 Kelly’s Directory lists over 250 shops or enterprises on Hessle Road, selling predominately foodstuffs (e.g. butchers, tripe dressers, grocers, fishmongers, confectioners), as well as representatives of other 19th century professions – tobacconists, boot makers, pawn brokers, chemists, watch makers and drapers [7]. Wellsted Street was on the opposite side of Hessle Road (from the docks), so there were fewer fishermen on the street. My own brief survey (based on the 1901 and 1911 censuses) of the Wellsted Street residents shows a mix of workers in Hessle Street’s different shops and industries. There is also a large proportion of railwaymen (brass finishers, iron moulders, guards, clerks) [8]. According to the Hull Daily Mail, “The city was awash with platforms and stations helping Hullensians get around, let alone the vast quantity in the East Riding [of Yorkshire].” [9] As well as numerous passenger trains, there was also a network of local goods trains connecting the docks and warehouses to central termini and on to the rest of the country.

    In the 1911 census, Ernest Loveday was a railway goods porter i.e. he was responsible for loading goods onto the railway carts [10]. He may have worked at the goods yard or railway line next to the Albert Docks. Perhaps he worked alongside his father William, a goods guard.

    Figure 3: Original Hull Paragon entrance hall and ticket office. Note the NER mosaic on the floor.


    In 1913, Ernest had a slightly different job. He was working as a North Eastern Railways (NER) platform porter at Hull Paragon, the town’s main railway terminus. Ernest would have handled passenger luggage, assist on ticket barriers and in the booking office [11, 12]. The job of platform porter may have been slightly more prestigious than goods porter. There was also the opportunity for tips. Ernest’s job as platform porter could have led on to other platform jobs – as a station master, guard or ticket collector.  

    Kate Jarvis

    Ernest would marry his next-door neighbour Kate Jarvis. The Jarvis family lived at 64 Wellsted Street on the corner of Beech Grove. The Jarvis family is shown in the 1911 census below [13]:

    (Ernest’s future wife Kate Jarvis is highlighted.)

    Both the Jarvis and the Loveday families have several adult children working, so they were probably have felt relatively prosperous. Kate is a dressmaker. It is possible she could be working at (or apprenticed to) one of the dressmaking shops along Hessle Road. However, I can find no other evidence of Kate’s occupation. She may (alongside her sister Helen) have been taking in mending and adjustments on a piecework basis.

    The First World War

    The First World War started on 4 August 1914. Four days later, the NER (North Eastern Railway) issued a circular calling on volunteers to form a Pals battalion. This battalion – the 17th Northumberland Fusiliers – would become known as the Railway Pals. This battalion was housed and trained in Hull [14].

    Ernest did not initially join the battalion formed by his employers at the NER. He married Kate Jarvis married on 8 August 1914, and the newly married couple moved to Sculcoates in the north of Hull [15]. Ernest and Kate’s son Herbert Leon was born on 17 May 1915.

    At the end of 1915, Ernest attested for army service under the Derby Scheme or Group System. The scheme was first designed to put pressure on men to enlist – each man received a letter from the Director-General of Recruiting and had several visits from experienced canvassers. In Ernest’s case, this seems to be his employers at the NER. Ernest attested on the last possible date – 11 December 1915. Attestation simply meant a promise to serve when called. Many men – perhaps Ernest included – hoped the war would be over before the call-up [16].

    Figure 4: While waiting for the call-up, Ernest would have worn an armlet like this one from the Imperial War Museum collection.

    Ernest was called up around 7 April 1916. After basic training, he embarked for France on 28 June 1916. He had joined the 32nd Northumberland Fusiliers, the reserve battalion for the 17th Northumberland Fusiliers (Railway Pals) raised by the NER. He probably expected to join the 17/NF (Railway Pals). By 1916, the demands of war meant men were posted where needed. Ernest was posted to another Pals battalion – the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers (Newcastle Commercials).

    The Battle of the Somme started on 1 July 1916. Ernest arrived too late to “go over the top” with his new battalion. In any case, on 1 July Ernest was admitted to Camiers General Hospital with scabies. According to Medical Services: Diseases of the War, the condition was often caused by infected blankets or clothing. The treatment consists of warm baths, application of sulphur ointment and provision of clean clothing and bedding.

    Ernest left hospital around 10 July 1916. The heavy losses of the Battle of the Somme led to further army reorganisation, so Ernest was first attached, then formally transferred to the 12th Durham Light Infantry (12/DLI).

    Figure 5: The Albert-Baupane road. The 12/DLI would have taken this road to the battlefront.


    The battles Ernest was involved in were all part of the wider Battle of the Somme (July-November 1916). Ernest’s first experience of battle was probably on the night of 17 July. The battalion attempted an assault south of the village of Pozieres. A Stokes mortar barrage was designed to eliminate the German defences, followed by an infantry advance. The Stokes mortar barrage fell short leaving the German machine guns free to fire at the advancing soldiers. The survivors were forced to hide in shell holes for up to 50 minutes. This experience must surely have been terrifying for Ernest and the other soldiers involved.

    After a period of rest in billets, the battalion returned to Pozières. This time they were in a support role. The battalion was tasked with carrying bombs to the front, and then digging and wiring the trenches, all under continuous shelling. A military historian calls this battle “small-scale, disjointed attacks…launched on little more than the next trench, the next strongpoint, the next machine gun. Men struggled towards ill-defined objectives on a moonscape battlefield under an interminable hail of artillery shells and machine gun fire.” [17]

    After Pozières, the 12/DLI were gradually moved out of the line. Ernest would have billeted with the battalion in farms away from the Somme Front.

    Hull

    In Hull, Kate (and presumably baby Herbert) moved back to the familiarity of Wellsted Street. Kate’s parents had moved out by this point, so she moved to 98 Wellsted Street. Makeshift street shrines were erected to commemorate men serving in each street. A local newspaper describes one shrine as “of Gothic design, richly upholstered and enclosed in an outer case.” [18] Another local shrine is described below:
    …quite a showplace, for the residents put out in a line down the centre, tables containing photos adorned with glasses of flowers and coloured cloth, and there was a homely and pathetic touch furnished by memorial cards of relatives who have lost their lives. A cigar box stood on a table in this terrace, and the hundreds of visitors on Saturday evening [23 September 1916] and again yesterday [24 September 1916] were invited to contribute a copper for our sailors’ and soldiers’ tobacco.”

    According to the article above, the Wellsted Street shrine was unveiled on 24 September 1916 by the local vicar. The Church Lads Brigade and a local Boy Scout troop attended, “and the band played the general salute when the vicar drew the curtain.” Ernest Loveday was one of 235 serving men listed on the Wellsted Street memorial [19]. (The Wellsted Street shrine – like most other street shrines – did not survive. According to Kingston upon Hull War Memorial 1914-1918, most shrines were not designed to be permanent. Many were destroyed in the post-war slum clearances or Second World War Blitz. [20])

    Figure 6: Street shrine (artist’s impression)


    Ernest’s Death

    On 7 October 1916, 12/DLI took part in the capture of the village of Le Sars. The plan was for 12/DLI to seize a maze of trenches (The Tangle) and a sunken road east of the village of Le Sars. 12/DLI attacked in four waves behind a tank armed with machine guns. The tank cleared the Tangle of German defenders before being disabled or destroyed by a shell. Ernest’s company continued under heavy machine-gun fire. The battle – and the tank! – was graphically reported by the Aberdeen Evening Express (10 October 1916):
    “Machine guns swept the field with bullets as the men lay on their faces in the mud…Another muddy thing came on the way to the “Tangle”, more like a primeval river hog than in the early days of its debut, because of the mountains of slush churned up by its flanks. The Tank turned its snout towards the “Tangle”, and struggled over the choppy ground – wave upon wave of craters with high rims – until it reached a bit of the deep cutting which makes a hole in the side of Le Sars. This sunken road or old quarry track was filled with German soldiers, alive and dead…After that, something having happened to its internal organs, it committed hara-kari [suicide] but it seems to have been useful before going up in a blaze of glory.”  [21]

    The defenders were shelled by German artillery throughout the night of 7 October. Ernest suffered a gunshot wound to his head, and was excused duty on 8 October (the day after the battle). He was taken via the Casualty Clearing Station to the General Hospital at Rouen. Ernest died at 5.35am on 12/13 October. He is buried at St Sever Cemetery on the outskirts of the hospital. (Different sources give Ernest’s death as 12 or 13 October. Most likely he died in the early morning of 13 October.)

    The photograph (Figure 7) is captioned “Sleighs, normally used for the conveyance of wounded are dragged by horses over muddy ground, a result of bad weather, at Le Sars, Pas de Calais on the Somme front, October 1916.” [22] The photograph shows the conditions at Le Sars at the time of Ernest’s death. Perhaps Ernest was transported in a similar sleigh.

    Figure 7: Sleighs, normally used for the conveyance of wounded are dragged by horses over muddy ground, a result of bad weather, at Le Sars, Pas de Calais on the Somme front, October 1916

    Figure 8: Photograph of Ernest Loveday printed in the Hull Daily Mail

    Ernest Loveday’s death and photograph was reported in the Hull Daily Mail: “Official information has been received by Mrs Loveday, 98, Wellsted Street, of the death of her husband, Private E. L. Loveday, late of the Northumberland Fusiliers, but who was transferred to the Durham Light Infantry, who died of wounds received in action, on October 12th. He was 25 years old, the only son of Mrs and the late Wm. [William] Loveday, goods guard, and leaves a widow and baby to mourn their loss.” [23]

    Ernest was also remembered in the December 1916 NER staff magazine. [24]

    On 18 November – a few weeks after Ernest’s death – his sister Laura Gambetta Halliday (nee Loveday, 1888-1965) gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Ernest Leon in memory of her brother. [25]

    By early 1917, Kate was dealing with the administration following her husband’s death. British Widows of the First World War: The Forgotten Legion describes the lengthy process of applying for a pension: “A wife did not automatically receive a pension, but had to make an application and fill in the relevant forms…A form had to be completed with the full details of the marriage and the birth of any eligible children, then taken to a Justice of the Peace or a police officer above the rank of sergeant who was prepared to that the information therein was correct. The form then had to be sent to the War Office along with copies of the marriage certificates and any birth certificates. The declaration to be signed by the relevant authority figure also stated that the widow was ‘in every respect deserving of the grant of Pension.’” [26] In May 1917 Kate was awarded a weekly pension of 18/9.

    Figure 9: Record of Ernest’s effects.

    In January 1918 Kate Loveday received her husband’s effects. The form (reproduced left) records Ernest’s possessions – letters, photos, a silver wrist watch, a strap Bible, a piece of heather (traditional symbol of good luck), razor and case and two cap badges. Perhaps Kate herself gave Ernest some of these items when he left.

    On 14 May 1919, there was a memorial service for railwaymen at churches throughout the country. Kate may have been one of the 800 bereaved relatives to attend the local service in Holy Trinity Parish Church (now Hull Minster).

    After the war, Ernest’s final resting place – St Sever cemetery next to Rouen Hospital – came under the jurisdiction of the Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves Commission. Kate was asked to confirm Ernest’s details and to supply a personal inscription. The form was sent to the wrong address, returned and retained in Ernest’s military file. It may be for this reason that there is no personal inscription on Ernest’s gravestone. [27] In any case, an inscription – quoted at 3d per letter on the form) would be too expensive for someone surviving on a widow’s pension. (The charge later became a voluntary payment).

    After the War

    Kate Loveday

    After Ernest’s death, his widow Kate moved in with her mother and father. [28] (Kate’s father died in 1924 [29]). Presumably baby Herbert is also living with his mother and grandparents. (My information comes from electoral registers which only show eligible voters).

    Kate remarried on 12 November 1932. Her new husband was waterworks jointer and war veteran Walter Stanley Quelch (1897-1965). [30] It was a second marriage for both Walter Quelch and Kate Loveday.

    Walter Quelch

    Walter Quelch had a very different army career from Ernest Loveday. In February 1915, Walter enlisted in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He was not yet old enough to go overseas, so he spent his first year at Victoria Barracks in Portsmouth. It is likely that Walter used the opportunity to gain additional training. In February 1916, Walter joined the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). After war service on the Western Front, Walter re-enlisted on 9 May 1919. He would remain with the corps until 16 July 1921. (Walter received several minor injuries throughout his war service. One injury was described on the Casualty Clearing Form as: “Coy [Company] being buried by shell explosion.” It was classified as shell shock.)

    In November 1930, Walter enlisted for four years’ service with the Territorial Army Royal Tank Corps. He was slightly too old to enlist in the Second World War. In the 1939 Register, he is listed as Waterworks Inspector. [31] He also trained as an anti-gas instructor. [32]

    Kate and son Herbert moved in with Walter at 104 St John’s Grove, part of the new Preston Road estate built in the east of Hull after the war.

    Kate died of breast cancer on 22 September 1958. [33] She was buried in the local cemetery at Preston Road. The grave is shared with Walter Quelch (died 1965) and Walter’s third wife Clarice Bayston (1905-1987).

    Herbert Loveday

    Ernest’s son Herbert Leon Loveday trained as a grocer. After a spell at a local grocers, he became a commercial traveller or travelling salesman. He worked for the canned goods firm Libby, McNeil and Libby. In the 1930’s, the firm sold a wide range of tinned products – meat, evaporated milk, fruit, vegetables and fish. Herbert would probably be responsible for selling these products to grocery stores.

    On 25 May 1940 Herbert married confectionery manager Marjorie Rose (Peggy) Marshall (1917-2009). [34] Their daughter was born on 27 August 1940.

    Figure 10: Herbert Loveday. From a newspaper notice posted by his wife.

    The Second World War begin in September 1939. According to his widow, Herbert was a strong swimmer so wanted to join the navy. The navy quotas were full, so he was instead directed to the RAF. Herbert was part of a six-man Vickers Wellington bomber crew. (The crews were self-selecting – made up of friendship groups formed in training.) Herbert was an air gunner. It is likely he was a he was a rear gunner or “tail end Charlie” i.e. he sat in a gun turret at the rear of the plane.

    On the night of 30 November/1 December 1941, a bombing mission to Hamburg – Herbert’s fourth mission – failed to return. A search party the next day was unsuccessful, and bad weather prevented any further searches. [35]

    On 3 January 1942, one of the crew members washed ashore at Texel (an island off the coast of the Netherlands). The other crew members were never found. [36]

    Memorials

    Figure 11: Board 13, Hull Paragon Station.

    As part of Hull’s First World War centenary celebrations (held in 2014), Hull Prison inmates created twenty wooden plaques inscribed with the names of men who passed through the Hull Paragon Station on their way to war. Ernest is at the top of board 13 (third from top).

    It seems particularly poignant that Ernest’s name stands on a board in his former workplace.

    Ernest’s son Herbert Loveday is commemorated alongside the rest of his crew on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.

    References 

    Ernest’s war service was compiled from British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database online]: Ernest Loveday at www.ancestry.co.uk. Original at The National Archives.
    Battalion operations compiled from Sheen, John (2013) With Bayonets Fixed: The 12th & 13th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry in the Great War and UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920: Durham Light Infantry 12th Battalion 15Aug-1917Oct accessed at www.ancestry.co.uk. Original at The National Archives.)

    Walter’s war service was compiled from British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database online]: Walter Stanley Quelch at www.ancestry.co.uk. Original at The National Archives.

    [1] British Newspaper Archive, Hull Daily Mail, 8 March 1906. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [2] 1911 Census for England and Wales: William Leon Gambetta Loveday. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [3] Certificate of Death: Florence Gambetta Loveday 1885.General Records Office

    [4] Certificate of Death: Rosa Gambetta Loveday 1885.General Records Office.

    [5] Jessop, Shaun (2015). The Impact of Social Housing on Public Health in Hull.

    [6] Gill, Alec (2015, 2nd ed). AMY JOHNSON: Hessle Road Tomboy – Born and Bred, Dread and Fled

    [7] Kelly’s Directory of Hull, 1899. Accessed at the University of Leicester Special Collections Online.

    [8] 1901 England, Wales and Scotland Census and 1911 Census for England and Wales. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [9] Kemp, Dan (2020), “The Lost and Forgotten Railway Stations of Hull and East Yorkshire” Hull Daily Mail 1 March 2020

    [10]  Britain, Trade Union Membership Registers: Ernest Loveday. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk Original at the Modern Records Centre.

    [11] National Railway Museum: EL Loveday

    [12] Wood, James (2018), “The Jobs that Time Forgot” Mail Online, 27 August 2018.

    [13] 1911 Census for England and Wales: James Bullin Jarvis. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [14] Shakespear, J RECORD of the 17th and 32nd BATTALIONS NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS (N.E.R. Pioneers). 1914-1919 Kindle Edition

    [15] Certificate of Marriage, Ernest Leon Loveday and Kate Jarvis, 8 August 1914, General Records Office

    [16] The Derby Scheme: Voluntary Conscription from Great War London.

    [17] Hampton, Meleah (2016). “The Battle of Pozieres Ridge”.

    [18] British Newspaper Archive, Hull Daily Mail, 10 October 1916. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [19] British Newspaper Archive, Hull Daily Mail, 25 September 1916. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [20] Kingston Upon Hull War Memorial 1914-1918

    [21] British Newspaper Archive, Aberdeen Express, 10 October 1916. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [22] The Imperial War Museum, The Battle of the Somme, July-November 1916. Catalogue number Q1495.

    [23] British Newspaper Archive, Hull Daily Mail, 20 October 1916. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [24] National Railway Museum: EL Loveday

    [25] Certificate of Birth, Ernest Leon Halliday, 18 November 1916,, General Records Office

    [26] Hetherington, Amanda (2018). British Widows of the First World War: The Forgotten Legion

    [27] Loveday, Ernest from The War Graves Photographic Project

    [28] England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1920-1932, accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.Original at The British Library.

    [29] England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007: James B Jarvis, accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk

    [30] Certificate of Marriage, Walter Stanley Quelch and Kate Loveday, 12 November 1932, General Records Office

    [31] 1939 Register:Quelch household. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.

    [32] British Newspaper Archive, Hull Daily Mail, 3 September 1938. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk

    [33] Certificate of Death: Kate Quelch 22 September 1958.General Records Office

    [34] Certificate of Marriage, Herbert Leon Loveday to Marjorie Rose Marshall, 25 May 1940, General Records Office

    [35] The National Archives Website: Discovery: AIR 27/1320 No 214 Squadron: Operations Record Book 1941 Jan-Dec

    [36] 30/01.12.1941 No. 214 Squadron Wellington Ic Z85953 Sgt. Michael Fitzgerald Air Crew Remembered

    Images

    Figure 1: England (1948). The Albert and William Wright Docks, Hessle Road and environs, Kingston upon Hull, 1948. This image has been produced from a print.
    Figure 2: Hessle Road by Jonathan Ward. Commissioned by author.
    Figure 3: Hull Paragon Station Entrance Hall and Booking Office by Bernard Sharp. Accessed at Wikipedia. Creative Commons License.
    Figure 4: The Battle of the Somme, July-November 1916 by Ernest Brooks, catalogue number Q770. Accessed at the Imperial War Museum [online]. IWM Non-Commercial License.
    Figure 5: Brassard, British, Derby Scheme, Army, catalogue number INS 7764. Accessed at the Imperial War Museum [online]. IWM Non-Commercial License.
    Figure 6: Street shrine by Jonathan Ward. Commissioned by author.
    Figure 7: The Battle of the Somme, July-November 1916 by Ernest Brooks, catalogue number Q1495. Accessed at the Imperial War Museum [online]. IWM Non-Commercial License.
    Figure 8: British Newspaper Archive, Hull Daily Mail, 20 October 1916. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.
    Figure 9: Extracted from British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database online]: Ernest Loveday at www.ancestry.co.uk. Original at The National Archives.
    Figure 10: British Newspaper Archive, Hull Daily Mail, 17 December 1941. Accessed at www.findmypast.co.uk.
    Figure 11: Hull Paragon Station Memorial.Own.






  5. Courses coming in August

     

    Looking for a course to study over the Summer? Coming up in August we have:

    In Sickness and in Death – researching the ill-health and death of your ancestors

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 12th August 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    One thing that all but our most recent ancestors have in common is that they are dead. The health problems and deaths of our ancestors are an integral part of our family’s history. This five week course will help you to set your ancestors’ lives in context by looking at the illnesses, disabilities and diseases that brought about their deaths or had an effect on their well-being. We shall discover a variety of records that might provide information about ill-health or causes of death for specific ancestors, or about prevalent threats to health in the past. The causes, symptoms and treatment of various illnesses will be investigated and significant medical developments of the last 400 years will be explored.

    Scottish Research Online

    Tutor: Chris Paton
    Start date: 31st August 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Scotland was one of the first countries to digitise its major family history records collections for accessibility online, and continues to this day to use such resources to promote a worldwide interest in family history for those with Caledonian connections. This course describes the major sites and record types that you will encounter in your research, and how to analyse the results. Most importantly it will inspire you to actively pursue your interest in Scottish genealogy and take it to the next level.

  6. Courses coming in July

    We have some great courses coming up in July:

    Employment Records

    Tutor: Alec Tritton
    Start date: 2nd July 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    COURSE FULL but booking now for January 2021

    Scotland 1750-1850 – Beyond the Old Parish Registers

    Tutor: Chris Paton
    Start date: 6th July 2020
    Course length: 5 weeks

    An intermediate level course in Scottish family history for those who are going back beyond 1850, this course discusses sources that fill the gap when the OPRs are uninformative or missing; for example, records of parish and town administration, occupations, land transfer and taxation.

    Before the Modern Census – Name-rich sources from 1690 to 1837

    Tutor: Else Churchill
    Start date: 28th July 2020
    Course length: 4 weeks

    What do you do when the nominal census records that you have used so much are no longer there, when you cannot obtain names, ages, birthplaces and the household address of a family? And how do you supplement the deficiencies of parish registers?

    Your attention should turn to a variety of lists which at least reveal where someone lived at a particular time. Though this seems scant information, such facts can be vitally important especially in those years when children were not born and christened.

  7. Pharos Tutors under new ownership

    Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd has been purchased by Dr Karen Cummings DipGen, with the change in ownership effective immediately.
    Helen Osborn, co-founder and owner of the business since its inception in 2005, has sold the business to allow her to focus on other interests.
    Karen Cummings, who has been the Course Director for Pharos since October last year, is an established genealogist, tutor and speaker. She is one of our longstanding tutors and has taught and written a number of Pharos courses over the last 6 years. Students who have been on Karen’s courses will testify to her enthusiasm about Pharos courses and the subjects she teaches.

    Karen Cummings, new owner (right), with Helen Osborn


    Helen says “Pharos has been a large part of my life for 15 years and it now needs new vision and fresh enthusiasm to take it forwards. Karen shares my love of imparting the best genealogy tutoring and inspiration to all genealogists no matter where they are in their educational journey. She brings many skills to Pharos so I am really thrilled that she is stepping into my place. I know the company will not only be in safe hands, but will build on current successes and go from strength to strength.”
    Karen says “When Helen told me she was thinking of selling Pharos I jumped at the opportunity to buy the company. I’ve been a student, a tutor and then the Course Director for Pharos and, as we were moving things forward, I was constantly reminded of that 1980s marketing campaign “I liked it so much I bought the company”. We have the most amazing group of Tutors here at Pharos, I am in exceptionally good company. Like the other tutors, I am passionate about delivering high quality courses to students, providing them with tools to become better genealogists, and giving them the opportunity to ask questions along the way. We have over forty different courses currently running and more in development, and I am very excited about taking Pharos forward into the future”.
    If you have any questions, feel free to email Karen directly: karen@pharostutors.com

  8. What is Proof?

    This excellent article was written by Phil Isherwood, and he has kindly allowed us to reproduce it here. Phil is a Pharos Graduate who describes himself as an amateur genealogist. His daily working life includes developing methodologies for business teams, a skill transferable to genealogy research. You can find Phil’s blog here: Seeing the Wood for the Trees and follow him on Twitter: @isherwood_phil 
    The end goal of all genealogical investigations is to establish proof, by which we mean a convincing, credible case for a specific ancestral identity, relationship, or life event. By thorough research in sources, we must find sufficient detailed, matching evidence to uncover and reconstruct relationships and events relating to our research target, and only our research target.
    But how do we decide when an accumulation of evidence reaches a threshold that we call proof? How do we define it? How do we decide when it has been met? How do we assess what others have proposed as proof? Is there just one valid definition of proof or are there many? These are questions that are central to the pursuit of genealogy.
    This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

    Why is a definition of proof important for genealogy?

    Once, in those not so distant pre-Internet days, many genealogists laboured away in near isolation, uncovering family histories from public, private or academic sources then sharing the outcomes within their families. Today, genealogy is a collective activity, nourished by easy online access to many sources, supported by vibrant societies and online communities. We share ideas and knowledge, we communicate with and educate one another, and, crucially, we often share our findings. One need only take a brief look at the thousands of published trees on Ancestry and other large subscription sites to understand the ubiquity of sharing amongst family historians. Some, such as the LDS Church, have even gone as far as to suggest that an end goal of collective sharing could be a single, comprehensive family tree of everyone.
    But, as many who have looked at shared online trees in any detail, one quickly realises that the published conclusions of some family historians can stretch credulity. At best it can be said that there is a variable interpretation of what is required to establish a genealogical proof.
    A standard definition of what constitutes proof is clearly necessary for any serious genealogical endeavour, as without a consistent measure of proof we can’t achieve consistent outcomes. When collaborating with others, it is an essential.

    A History of Genealogical Proof

    In the UK there has never been an official definition of genealogical proof – something which I have found troubling. In the USA however, the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has been a leader in setting out formal definitions and, where needed, updating them over time.
    The BCG’s original definition of genealogical proof was based on the legal standard of proof as used in civil court cases. This principle is called the Preponderance of the Evidence, which amounts to “when I weigh all of the pros and all of the cons, I think that the pros outweigh the cons.”

    This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

    Sounds reasonable, right? But there’s a catch – the margin by which the pros outweigh the cons can be tiny, even infinitesimally small. Where there is a significantly larger quantity and quality of evidence on one side this can work, but in marginal cases this can lead to conclusions which we might view today with some suspicion.
    In the late 1990s, the BCG recognised the weaknesses of Preponderance of the Evidence and developed a new definition of called the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), which they published in 2000.

    The Genealogical Proof Standard

    The GPS is a five-step process which defines a well conducted genealogical investigation. It can be simply summarised as: search, cite, analyse, consolidate, and conclude. To have met the standard, the researcher must show that their whole investigation (not just the conclusions) meets all five of the elements.

    The Genealogical Proof Standard

    1. Reasonably Exhaustive Search
    Full text: “Reasonably exhaustive research – emphasizing original records providing participants’ information – for all evidence that might answer a genealogist’s question about an identity, relationship, event, or situation.”
    So, what is a “reasonably exhaustive search“? Simply put, it is a search that has examined all potentially relevant sources. It implies that we start our investigation by finding out what the potentially relevant sources will be, list them and then search them all in turn, consulting the original or an image of the original wherever possible. By doing so we minimise the risk of undiscovered evidence emerging later to overturn an initial, perhaps hasty, conclusion.
    2. Complete, Accurate Source Citations
    Full text: “Complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item contributing – directly, indirectly, or negatively – to answers about that identity, relationship, event or situation.
    Thorough, accurate citing of sources helps us to remember where we found the information we rely on as evidence and enables others to validate that our search has indeed been “reasonably exhaustive”. Assuring others of the quality of our search is doubly important, it enables them to:

    • replicate our steps; and
    • contribute their own ideas about other relevant sources which could enhance our research.

    Citation is the single most effective tool for enabling effective collaboration between genealogists.
    3. Analyse and Correlate Sources, Information and Evidence
    Full text: “Tests – through processes of analysis and correlation – of all sources, information items, and evidence contributing to an answer to a genealogical question or problem.
    What this really means is that we need to make a sound interpretation of the evidence at our disposal. Kick the tyres, make sure that it stands up to scrutiny, be honest with ourselves about any gaps or deficiencies that may be there. This is the right point to consider whether the evidence we’ve collected forms a full and coherent picture. Is it the best available evidence? Is there any other potential evidence we could add to our search to strengthen our case? Is the evidence sufficient to support our conclusions? Will our conclusions reflect all the relevant evidence, good and bad, direct and indirect, positive and negative?
    4. Resolve Conflicting Evidence
    Full text: “Resolution of conflicts among evidence items pertaining to the proposed answer.
    It is a genealogical truism that any sufficiently exhaustive search will uncover at least some conflicting evidence. The corollary is also often true, that if you’ve failed to find any conflicting evidence then you may not have performed a sufficiently exhaustive search!
    Analysing and resolving conflicting evidence is an essential step. Are we able to understand what the conflicts in the evidence might mean? Can we account for them? Or does the conflicting nature of the evidence put our conclusion into doubt? If we’re unable to resolve conflicting evidence satisfactorily then we will not be able to formulate a credible conclusion.
    5. Soundly Reasoned, Coherently Written Conclusion
    Full text: “A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion based on the strongest available evidence.
    At first glance, this element of the GPS seems like a non-sequitur. Conclusions must be:

    • soundly reasoned – as no-one would accept a conclusion that relied on unsoundreasoning;
    • coherently written – as no-one would accept a conclusion that was written incoherently; and
    • based on the strongest available evidence – as no-one would accept a conclusion based on partial, weak, or inaccurate evidence.

    What this really means is that our conclusion must be based on a sound appreciation of what evidence was available, that we accurately interpreted and collated the evidence, and show how the evidence leads to the conclusion. It enables us to demonstrate that our conclusion is not only valid, but free from bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation of the evidence.

    What the GPS is – and what it isn’t!

    There is little doubt that the Genealogical Proof Standard is a significant improvement upon Preponderance of the Evidence. It sets a far higher standard for proof to be achieved – no more dodgy marginal cases – and roots its requirements in the language of genealogy rather than a legal framework which has doubtful relevance to our pursuit. It is applicable to all genealogy work, not only in the USA but all around the world, whether professional or amateur. It sets clear expectations on how we should plan, execute, and document our work. It creates a common standard and supports common outcomes that can be scrutinised, replicated, or refuted. It is a vital tool that all genealogists who have mastered basic sources should try to understand and engage with. It is the missing link that may, in the future, allow genealogy to be the truly collective experience that it could and, many would argue, should be.

    This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

    But it has problems too:

    • it isn’t a single, cogent statement against which a documented conclusion can be measured;
    • there is no straightforward checklist one can use to say “if these items are covered in the documented findings then it passes”;
    • to assess whether a documented outcome has met the standard, the assessor must have access to details of how the investigation was conducted;
    • the five steps of the GPS each have detailed definitions which require some knowledge and skill to understand fully and utilise.

    One can easily use the GPS to assess formal genealogy reports, but it is simply not possible to use it to assess the principal form of communication in modern genealogy – the online tree.
    So, if it has shortcomings should we be making efforts to use it? Yes! Yes! Yes!
    The GPS is the only agreed standard for genealogical proof. It is the best available and we should all be using it so that:

    • we have confidence in our own conclusions;
    • we have confidence in the conclusions of our peers and collaborators; and
    • we can share our work in the confidence that it can be used as the basis for further investigation without the need to be re-verified from top to toe.

    It is a sad fact that in the laissez-faire world of shared online trees, one must re-assess all findings before using any element for one’s own purposes. Consciously using the GPS can reduce needless rework and, most importantly, make us all better genealogists.
    The GPS is not perfect – even investigations that follow it thoroughly and accurately can’t ensure perfect certainty in their outcome. (We are engaged in family history, not mathematics, so there can never be perfect certainty!)
    It is a little daunting, but it is the best framework and standard that the global genealogy community has. Once mastered, it can and will save you time, effort, energy, and tears!
    Have I persuaded you that the GPS is the best way forward for your genealogy? Please let me know in the comments below.

    Sources

    1. Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2nd Edition 2019).

    Personal note: This is one of the single most important, yet least readable, books in the history of genealogy!

    1. Anderson, Robert Charles. 2019. Tools for Testing Genealogical Proofs. Talk delivered at RootsTech London, 24 October.
  9. From Family Fact to Family Fiction – Barefoot on the Cobbles

    Pharos Tutor, Janet Few, is author and tutor on the course ‘Are you Sitting Comfortably: Writing and Telling your Family History’. Here she tells us about some of the research that was necessary to turn a family story into a fictionalised account for a forthcoming novel. Janet lives and works in Devon.
    I always knew I would write a novel one day, just not this novel. When FindmyPast released some criminal records, I discovered the story of a local couple who were accused of the manslaughter of their adult daughter. Although this only took place in 1918, no hint of the incident had passed down to the present day and I was intrigued.
    One hundred years ago, in the euphoria of the armistice, a young woman lay dying in a North Devon fishing village. Her parents were to stand trial for her manslaughter. Barefoot on the Cobbles uncovers the story of the troubled individuals involved and the traumas in their pasts that led to this tragedy. I have tried to recreate life at the dawning of the twentieth century and to root the narrative in its unique and beautiful geographical setting,
    I used very similar research techniques to those that I suggest in my Pharos course. The court records do not survive, but I was able to find very detailed newspaper accounts and they were the key to unlocking the past. They also helped me with dialogue, as I had access to verbatim witness statements. Of course, my previous history and genealogy books hadn’t required me to be able to write speech. The novel is set in a fishing community, where the weather played a huge part in people’s lives and I tried very hard to reflect actual weather events of the time. Fortunately, monthly weather reports for the period I was writing about are available. Where possible, I even tried to write chapters at the right time of year, so that I knew that I was capturing correctly the twists of the seasons and the wildflowers in the hedgerows.
    Being an historian, I was obsessed with getting things right. It was very difficult at first to realise that this was not family history, it was fiction and I could fill in the gaps by making things up. Actually, very little was invented in the end. You would not believe the extended debate that ensued over very minor points, such as whether Clovelly donkeys carried luggage down the hill as well as up. Despite photographic evidence, it seems they did not. It turned out that the photograph that suggested to the contrary was posed for a film!
    Avoiding anachronisms is not just about making sure your sixteenth century character is not wearing a wristwatch, or your hero does not put his shopping in a plastic carrier bag in the 1930s; I have read both of these clangers. Using appropriate language was another challenge. I had to be careful not to use phrases or vocabulary that was inconsistent with the early twentieth century. Reading novels and diaries that were written in the period, or earlier, was a great help here.
    I call it a ‘why done it’, it is very much about people and why they may have behaved as they did. It is essentially a book about people and what makes them behave in a particular way. The characters and their backgrounds allowed me to explore such issues as anorexia, shell-shock, mental health, alcoholism, the menopause and infant mortality. You will find evidence of my interest in the history of medicine and of my love of the Devon landscape, hidden between the covers of this book.
    I spent two years immersed in a landscape that was familiar and an era that was not. The characters became as real to me as my own family and somehow I knew how they would react in certain situations. In the end, the facts and the fiction became intertwined and now I have to remind myself which are the parts of the novel that I invented.
    **********************************************************************************
    Barefoot on the Cobbles is due out on 17 November, for more information see
    http://bit.do/bfotc
    Details of Janet’s course Are you Sitting Comfortably: Writing and Telling your Family History here
     

  10. What is your oldest possession?

    This post is by Pharos Tutor, Julie Goucher
    Image - Oldest possession
    As humans we all have many things in common and yet we are unique individuals. One thing we have in common is that we each have a surname, in fact there is a chance it is our oldest possession. We were probably born with it, but we might have acquired it though marriage or adoption. Regardless of how we acquired it, we share our surnames with others, some of whom we are related to and others we are not. For some genealogists, that concept is fascinating and so a project of proportion is born, a one-name study or research into a surname.
    Over the course of the next five weeks, a group of genealogists will be exploring the wider angle of surname research. We will be understanding the concept of one-name studies and surname research, exploring surnames and their history and using distribution maps which often add an interesting dimension to our studies as well as our family history. Also, we will be exploring core records that we need to build our studies and the process of gathering information.  We will then discover data analysis and making sense of it all and look at the practical aspects of operating a one-name study, covering organising it, software, sharing your study using Facebook Groups and using the unique help of the Guild of One-Name Studies Profile feature as well as having your own website. The Guild offers the opportunity to have a website on the Guild servers, at no cost to those with a registered study. The website is indexed by all the search engines such as Google and Bing and provides a platform for you to share your material with others, find lost cousins, and preserve the material at the same time.
    Each week there is a lesson with a series of exercises to undertake, with the answers and comments shared in the student forum, lesson material to read and think about, a video or two to watch. At the end of each lesson is a list of references covered during the lesson and perhaps some hints for recommended reading. Also, each week there is a student chat, this enables conversation, debate, the exchange of information, hints, tips and guidance.
    Since the 1st February on my own blog I have published each day about some of the fascinations of researching a surname, undertaking the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course and getting the best from membership of the Guild of One-Name Studies.
    By investing the time to understand the broader concepts of surname research and how that works with, and links to other disciplines, you are laying solid foundations for both your own one-name study and your own family history. At the early stages, it is more than just tree building or name collection, solid foundations involve thinking about what you want your study to achieve over the longer term, thus enabling yourself to build a research plan to meet your study goals and discover the fascinating story of your oldest possession.
    The Introduction to One-Name Studies course starts on 13 February 2018 and runs for five weeks.
    Read more about Julie