MYPASTONLINE - MY FAMILY
Welcome to mypastonline this site is dedicated to all our ancestors who have long since passed. In passing they each left a little behind that makes my family what they are today.
For my children and grandchildren this is your history, this is your past all of which is tied to your future. All my love Mum and Nan.
My life started at Oswestry in Shropshire and I was the eldest of two girls. On the maternal side of our family it was tradition that children were only given one forename. My Nan gave all her children one forename and my mum gave my sister an I one forename. This is a tradition I carried through with my own children.
My dad was an Electrical Engineer on the Railways and both my grandfathers were Railway Guards. There was a very strong railway connection and when we were little my sister and I travelled all over Shropshire, Mid and North Wales on days out. At that time, children of railway workers travelled free. I remember the excitement of travelling on the steam trains. During the summer months we travelled by train to all the Carnivals at Ellesmere, Market Drayton, Wem and Whitchurch. These Carnivals were big events when we were children as was the Oswestry Carnival.
Below is a picture of Oswestry Carnival in the mid 1950's
Sundays were very much a family day. In the morning dad would take us to see his parents our grandparents and then we would go and spend the rest of the morning in the park. Mum would be at home cooking the Sunday dinner. When dad passed his driving test in the late fifties and got his first car he would take Mum and us girls out on a Sunday afternoon drive around the country lanes. One of my favourites was when he would take us round all the lakes in the Ellesmere area or to Whittington Castle. If it was a hot summer's day we would swim in the lake at Ellesmere. We would have to go around the other side of the lake and cross some fields dodging all the cow pats. The highlight of the Sunday afternoons was when my dad bought us all an ice-cream cornet it cost him about 6d (old pence) each. My dad used to be so pleased with himself if he could afford to buy us an ice-cream. Money was often tight.
Below is a photograph of my Dad with his first car a 1938 Morris Eight. The photograph was taken on the side of the road where Oswestry Cattle Market and the Pedigree now stands.
Once a year we travelled on the train to London to stay with my Auntie and her family in Greenwich. We spent many afternoons in Greenwich Park and the highlight of our stay in London would be going to see a show at The London Palladium. I also used to love going to Trafalgar Square to feed the pigeons something which is not allowed now. This is such a shame because as a child I had such fun and they are memories I will never forget.
The picture below is me in Trafalgar Square c1957
Notice from the above photograph how all the men were dressed in suits, with shirts and ties and highly polished shoes. The guy in the background was lighting a cigarette. At time when little girls like me wore ribbons in their hair, gingham dresses, ankle socks and sandals, the height of fashion. As children my sister and I were always well dressed, most of our dresses were made my mum.
The railway years came to an abrupt end when Dr. Richard Beeching was brought in by the government of the time and closed lines and stations which followed with large scale redundancies. Families put out of work because sons had followed father's on to the railways often three generations and many times as a child I heard the words "Beeching axe". For the loyal workers it really was a brutal, unsettling time.
My family moved to Hereford for three years where my dad was an Inspector in a local factory. Both my mum and dad hated that period and as soon as possible we moved back to Oswestry. Oswestry was very much in their blood. Although they had lots of holidays abroad they would never contemplate leaving there again. When my dad was made redundant from Insulation Equipments, he took the gamble to turn his passion for photography into a business and worked successfully for over 30 years as a professional Photographer. His work was regularly printed in the Advertizer and the Shropshire Star. It is because of his photography that I am able to share some of the images he took and I hope you the reader will enjoy a trip down memory lane with me.
On leaving school, I worked for twelve months in the drawing office of Insulation Equipments this was a horrible job and I hated every moment I worked for that company. I then spent 10 years working for a local solicitor John C Gittins initially as their receptionist and progressed to working for their bookkeeper. This job I loved and I was treated very well by the Gittins family, John Gittins came to my 21st birthday party. I use to earn £5.00 per week and my pay doubled when I worked for the bookkeeper.
Then I married, my husband and I had three wonderful boys. In between having my children, I went back to work at the solicitors in Church Street and went on to work at Oswestry Leisure Centre at weekends. Eventually I worked as Deputy Matron at Brogyntyn Hall when it was a boarding house for girls from the High School.
In 1981, we moved to Cape Town where we lived for four years. When we moved back to this country we spent a further twelve months in Oswestry before moving to our present home in Warwickshire where we have lived for the last 22 years. My boys are now settled and I have 9 beautiful grandchildren.
I have always had an interest in genealogy and for many years wanted to know how my family had evolved from generation to generation. My Nan who was a big influence in my life was in her element telling us stories of her upbringing and being descended from 'Landed Gentry', lost wealth and afternoon tea with the 'Lady of the Manor'. I have never forgotten those wonderful stories but I do wish I had paid more attention. My Nan died in 1975 and with her so I thought went all the truths, half-truths, secrets and embellishments. As I grew up, married, had children and grandchildren of my own I often looked back at my happy childhood and wondered if any of the stories were true. Dad a professional photographer reignited my interest when he gave me and my sister photographs of his great grandparents, grandparents and parents together with photographs of my Mum's family. Finally, in 2005 I decided that I would look to see what information I could find.
This has been an incredible journey back through time. There have been many highs and many dead ends. My journey is not finished. The tales of belonging to 'Landed Gentry' are very hard to prove and are at least two generations back from the stories I was told as a child.
I hope to bring together on this site all the different aspects of my past where appropriate I will add time-line or facts which you might find interesting. Life has highs and lows for all of us and the stories I was told about my ancestors had a lovely romantic feel about them. The reality was very different.
On a personal note although I have always wanted to trace my family history my main inspiration now comes from all the photographs my Dad took. He left an everlasting legacy.
DAVID HARRIS 1925 - 2003
HIS LOVE - HIS FAMILY
HIS PASSION - PHOTOGRAPHY
HIS HOME- OSWESTRY
HOW I STARTED MY RESEARCH
I worked backwards, started with myself, and then with my parents and my grandparents, it was amazing how quickly the past opened up. The truths and half-truths frequently threw me off course. Most of all I had to learn to be sensitive to other family members who did not share my enthusiasm and at times did not want to know about the past especially if I uncovered some dark secrets. I found without the actual birth, marriage and death certificates dates and places especially census documents were only as good as the information transcribed. Even these records were not always accurate. Spellings of place names were often written how they were pronounced. Name changes for example were common.
My Nan sent my Granddad to name one of their daughters, by the time he got to register her name he could not remember what he was told so he gave her a completely different name 'Bertha'. My Nan immediately changed her name to Molly, that is how all her family, and friends have known her. People often told lies when giving information, facts could often be made to fit if suited a families purpose. See Francis Family.
I was fortunate that my parents and grandparents had kept letters especially ones that were sent during the war. My father had kept his war service records and a copy of an article about the Flotilla he was on during the war. My mum and I found a few family death certificates. When we moved my mother-in-law from North Wales to Warwickshire, I found she had kept a birthday book that had all the families' births, marriages and deaths and some baptism dates which helped a great deal with my research. In her little book, she had even recorded the times of deaths and burials. However, when using records you might have a date in mind and then when researching cannot find the date you are looking for. For example if you are searching a BMD in 1850, try also 1849 or 1851. When looking for marriage dates, children of the 19th century were often born before their parents married or their mothers were pregnant when they married. Look for the date when the eldest child was born.
I then organized a simple filing system, which started with one box file, and now there are ten. The Internet has endless information my advice would be, to make sure you print off copies of your research. As I have found to my cost in the past, computers do crash! More importantly if you print copies of information you are less likely to forget were the information came from. Another tip would be to put a date on the information you find. This helps with jogging the memory into remembering because as your families grow and branch out into new families the information can become overwhelming.
One of my biggest resources have come from local newspapers which hold a lot of information with announcements of births, marriages and deaths. I found that quite a few of my relations were active in the local community and often their activities were covered. If there was a milestone, in their lives like a Golden Wedding or 90th or 100th birthday, those events would also be covered and with help of local libraries, I have articles on several such events.
Speak or email your local library most now have an Archivist or person who deals with local Social Studies. The two libraries that I have dealt with over the last couple of years at Oswestry and Newtown have been very helpful.
Recently I have been reminded very much of the days I worked at the Solicitors. One of my jobs was to write Abstracts of Title these had very specific shorthand of their own and were all written in past tense. This is now becoming very useful the further back I research.
I was quite surprised when I first started my family research how much Welsh ancestry I had. English family history sites were easy to find. The further back I researched the harder it was to trace my Welsh ancestors. It took me until March 2007 to find Welsh family history sites so as I find useful sites I will add them to this list.
If possible join your local Family History Society although in my case I cannot get to any of their events, the information they provide me with is crucial and it gives access to other members who might be researching my family. After joining the Montgomeryshire Society I received three contacts one was from France all providing information which often confirmed the links that I had researched. In addition, I was able to look at new links. For less than £15.00 your membership could provide lots of help and keep you in touch with people that share your interests.
There are quite a few genealogy magazines in newsagents, I subscribe to Your Family Tree which is proving to be very helpful.
Researching your family history can become addictive and expensive and I do not gain financially from the research that you read on these web pages. This is a hobby that I love and for me personally it is journey that I am still travelling.
Finally make friends with other people also researching your surnames; they too can be a wealth of information. I always give credit to my sources by using their first names. Be mindful that they might not want to be identified, never give out their email addresses or home address. Always, always thank your source. There is nothing more frustrating when you spend sometimes hours helping someone with their research and they do not acknowledge your help. To help my readers I have now set up a forum which you are welcome to use to ask for help in your research. This is a free service so please be respectful to all those that use the forum.
Warning this hobby can seriously damage your bank account.
Me, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Links you might be interested in;
http://home.freeuk.net/montgensoc Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society
www.sfhs.org.uk Shropshire Family History Society
http://novelist2.net Alternative me
http://www.facebook.com/novelist2 me on Facebook
Please note I have changed my email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Page last updated 27th August, 2009