Favourite Book(s) #8 – A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will probably know that this is one of my absolute favourite books. My copy was purchased probably 30 years ago from a wonderful bookshop in Guildford called Thorps, which has long since closed.

It was one of those shops that had books on the shelves, on the floor, stairs, windowsills, on tables, chairs, they were everywhere. The first time I took my husband there he commented that books stacked everywhere liked that were a fire risk and did in some instances hinder a swift exit, but to me and many others the shop was magical.

My copy has this exact cover, held on by sellotape that needs replacing and is not in the greatest of shape. If I donated it, it would be refused and placed in a recycling tub I am sure!

I must read this book at least once a year and it has the effect of meeting an old friend and provokes happy memories. Years ago I saw the film with Brian Brown in it, but have not seen that for years. The story is set part in Malaysia, part England and part Australia. Set during the second world war and addresses the horrific experiences endured by those captured by the Japanese. I won’t tell you the rest, but urge you to buy or borrow a copy and read it; out of the depth of war there can be positive experiences and new friendships.

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Webinar – How Understanding & Researching European Surnames Can Help Your Genealogical Research

WSGS_Header_LogoI am delighted to be talking to the Wisconsin Genealogical Society about how Understanding & Researching European Surnames can help genealogical research. The webinar is to take place on 20 February 2018 at 7pm CST, which is the early hours of the morning for those in the UK!

We begin with an explanation of what a surname study is before covering what might be the catalyst for a study and why such a study might be a resourceful way to research. We then explore the key research methods for exploring European surnames and how they can help when researching in Europe and breaking down brick walls. We explore how to collaborate and undertake analysis of the data and look at surname variants and deviants and if they are an important part of European surname research. We then focus on surname distribution maps and the part they play in understanding surnames in Europe. In the last segments of the presentation we explore promotion of our European surnames so connection can be made with others, the use of social media and DNA surname projects.

The webinar is available to non-members of the Society and you do need to register Registration does not guarantee you a place and access is granted on a first come, first served basis. There is no access to non-members after the recording and it immediately becomes a members benefit.

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Favourite Book(s) #7 – Alphabet Series by Sue Grafton

I have long been an avid reader of the Alphabet series by the late Sue Grafton. The series of books follows the life of a fictional private detective, Kinsey Malone in the United States.

The series begins with A for Alibi and continues through to the last book written by Sue, Y for Yesterday.

Over the years I have acquired a variety of copies, an omnibus edition of the first three books, a variety of others then some of the later books in the series. I also have a few Kindle books. My plan for 2018 is to read the entire series again and divest myself of the actual books and replace with a full Kindle set. I have been fooling myself into believing that Kindle books do not really count as books!

Sue also wrote about titled Kinsey and Me which I read about a decade ago and will read again when I have read the series.

I found that some of the books had got a bit stale towards the end and I have to confess the last book I read was V for vengeance, but perhaps that is more the mood I was in when I was reading rather than the author’s writing.

I was very sad to read that Sue Grafton had passed away just after Christmas. She has left instruction that the last book in the series is not written and I think as readers we have to respect that, even if the OCD in me wishes there was a full set.

This has been a great series and I have read them sitting at the side of a river bank whilst my husband fished, read on trains and planes to domestic and foreign destinations, and at hotels on an abundance of work related trips.

RIP Sue Grafton and thank you for introducing me to the world of Kinsey Malone.

Sue’s website is still online and I understand will remain so. There is also a full list of the Alphabet series HERE

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Learning and One-Name Studies

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Having decided to work on a One-Name or surname study you will want to be as well informed as possible in terms of methodology, ideas, hints, tips, tricks and everything in between.

The Guild offers seminars to members and non-members alike for a reasonable fee. In the main they are recorded with those being available to members only. We have just launched a webinar series and you read about those at the website. They will be available to non-members for a short period before becoming a members only benefit.

Each year there is a Guild conference and again the sessions are generally recorded and made available to members only.

There is a book that I hearterly recommend, The Surnames Handbook by Guild member Debbie Kennett and is available from the Guild and Amazon. There is also the Guild publication, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: Art of a One-Name Study,again available from Guild and Amazon.

Also the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course which runs usually twice a year and lasts for five weeks. It is totally offered online and global members are encouraged.

I will be back with other One-Name and surname research posts in the future and if you did find this series useful,or would like me to cover a particular topic, then please leave a comment.


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The Three P’s ~ Publicise, Publishing and Preserving


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The ability to publicise a study, publish material and preserve a study are very much entwined.

The best way of advertising your study is to share information and talk about the fascinating characters we meet as we build our studies. We can share information in a variety of ways, from writing articles, comments on social media and even with a DNA project.

The Guild has a wonderful project called the Members’ Website Project (MWP) – this is the ability for those members of the Guild with a registered study to host a website on the Guild’s website. The study can continue to be worked on and at the same type is preserved. You can see a full list of studies that are currently within the MWP here

In addition to a website blogs are a common feature of a number of One-Name researchers  and the ability to reach others as it shares across social media. Over the years this blog has been in existence I have shared elements of my own genealogical research and of my studies, and currently I have a blog for each of my studies. Over the coming months I may rethink that approach and share snippets here or I may elect to keep things as they are, there are pros and cons for both approaches.

A number of members, me included have published articles about their study in broad terms, individuals within their study as articles with some going a step further and publishing a book about their study. The Guild offers the option to archive a set of papers, files, Gedcom’s, certificates within the Guild’s library, of which there are two. One size does not fit all and members can choose which service to use and they can use more than one. Being a belts and braces kind of girl, that is my preferred option and I also have an archive of material myself. It is even possible to preserve a blog, and at that is one of the benefits for retaining a blog for each study because the blog can be exported and deposited with the Guild library.

Whether you have been working on your study for a number of years or are new to the concept, do take time to consider how you might publish & preserve your work. There can be nothing more sad than to hear that someone spent a lifetime on research and after their demise the entire lot was simply discarded. Whilst it would be possible for someone else to reconstruct the same study there would most certainly be elements that could not be gathered again. With the issues around Data Protection countries like New Zealand have changed the access to some documents and the same has happened in some States in the US.

A number of these elements are covered in both the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course and the book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the Art of One-Name Studies published by the Guild of One-Name Studies.

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What is your oldest possession?

The Pharos Blog

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…

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Communication with others and Responding to Enquiries


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One of the Guild commitments expected of study registrants is to respond to all enquires received. In fact study holders like nothing more than talking about their study and sharing the gems they have discovered. They too, welcome submissions to the study.

All registered studies with the Guild have a profile page and I always encourage fellow members and those at the beginning of their study to set up the profile. I shared a number of them a little earlier in this series, and you can read that post here. The profile page sits on the Guild website and the profile will be displayed if the surname searched for is registered. Profiles can be updated at anytime. On the profile page is a link to a website, should the study have one, the Surname DNA project and the means to contact the study holder.

If a member has not registered their study they may list their surname interests and these are where the member has substantial work on a surname in either a particular place or perhaps they are not at the point of wanting to register. However, registration of the surname does yield certain benefits, such as Study Profile page, access to the Guild’s Members Website Project and participation in the Guild’s Marriages challenges. Essentially, a Profile page is the shop window of your study and without registration and the profile page how will people know you are beginning your One-Name and surname research journey?

Without sounding fanatical, you need to work your study, by that I mean advertise it, share information from the study with the wider genealogical community. Take advantage of the Guild’s offering, a website and profile page, write articles and blog posts. The power of social media is tremendous, so please do not overlook it. Over the years I have talked and written about my studies and have had a number of articles published in both the Journal of One-Name Studies and Family Tree Magazine (UK).

We delve into this element of advertising and promoting your study in the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course and there are a number of sections in the book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the Art of One-Name Studies published by the Guild of One-Name Studies.





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Drawing Conclusions from Data


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One of the elements of drawing conclusions is understanding the meaning of the surname.

Surname are typically formed from the following, withe those in bold the most common:

  • Patronymic – based on the given name of a male ancestor and is the male equivalent of a Matronymic surname.
    • Jones, Erickson, Williams
  • Matronymic – based on the given name of a female ancestor and is the female equivalent of Patronymic. These are less common that the male equivalent.
    • Megson, Babbs,Parnell
  • Genitive –
    • Manners, Squires,
  • Locative – based on a place or area
    • Redhill, Newton
  • Occupational
    • Butcher, Baker, Thatcher
  • Nicknames
    • Redhead, Toogood, Fox

Surname with multiple origins may well have multiple meanings. Other considerations are that language, French and Latin has influenced English surnames.

Italian surnames are different again and can be broken down into these core groups:

Pet names, Botanical names, those reflecting kinship, geographical, names relating to animals, insects, fish, birds, occupational, objects, those reflecting desirable or undesirable traits and Compound names, which are surname made up of more than one word. I will come back to Italian surnames in another post at a later date, after this initial series has finished.

In this section too you can look at events that might affect families, such as illegitimacy and foundlings. One thing you might also seek to understand is how much more work you have to do in a particular country or record set. By using a spreadsheet to track marriages for example for England and Wales you will be able to see how many marriages you still need to access.

If your surname is one that is generally speaking common in one or more regions, then you may choose to analyse the stray examples.

Further elements are covered in the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course as well as reading Seven Pillars: The Art of a One-Name Study published by the Guild of One-Name Studies.

Meanwhile, I’ll be back tomorrow talking about communications linked to our studies.

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I’ve Collected Data, now What?

Now what.

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Having downloaded and acquired data you need to do something with it. Not every member of the Guild does family reconstruction, and that might depend on the size of your study and your personal preference.

Personally I do reconstruct families and with a large study that is time consuming, but worthwhile.

Remember though, this is YOUR study so as long as you meet the requirements of the Guild of One-Name studies, you can make your own rules!

Reconstruction, in the main, can be started from either of two points:

  • Census
  • Marriage Records

However, it does depend on how you have decided to maintain your database. You might have elected to

  • include every person in which case you will have random references
  • only include family groups and keep others in spreadsheets.

I know Guild members who use both methods and there is no right or wrong answer here. I personally start from marriages and keep a spreadsheet of marriages devised by Country, so England and Wales from a mixture of FreeBMD and the GRO, Scotland and so forth. I add a number of fields into the spreadsheet, which are mainly for my benefit – have I the marriage certificate or a faux certificate from a Guild marriage challenge, have I entered the details into the Guild indexes and have I uploaded a copy of the certificate to the website.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to the Guild Chairman, Paul Howes in which Paul explained that he also starts from a marriage and the details of his spreadsheet. After our conversation I pulled up my spreadsheet and could see an real advantage to adding the extra fields – the date of the marriage and the church.

For readers outside of England and Wales or unfamiliar with the GRO and FreeBMD. The indexes merely tell you the marriage, the registration district and which volume and page. So in order to gain the details such as occupations, father of bride and groom, witnesses you need to send for the certificate which depending, on availability and time frame will between £6 and £9.25. Those of us who have purchased certificates and provided the information to the indexes help others and the marriage information populates into Marriage Locator. Of course, an alternative to the GRO certificate the marriage from the Parish Registers will also provide the relevant details.

Another element to looking at the data you have is spellings of the surnames – Surnames have changed over time caused by a variety of things, language, accents, unfamiliarity to the name, in the case of some, the alphabet changes and the ability of reading & writing.

We look at the topic of variants and deviants in the course and the differences between them. It is not necessary to register a variant and they can be added over time and research.

Analysing death and burial records might lead you to believe that there was an epidemic or alike of illness such as Cholera. Other analysing of London parishes might lead you to Charles Booths study of London

It is during this stage that you will draw a conclusion which might change over time as more research is done, or you might form a hypothesis .

You might find that during this phase that the evidence and tells you one thing, but you get a sense of X, and that can be determined by a DNA project.

We talk more about a number of these points in the in the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course.  Meanwhile, I’ll be back tomorrow talking about drawing conclusions from Data

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Quick Wins for Surname Collection

Data Collection

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Any One-Name and surname research project will involve the collection of material, what I refer to as raw data.

Regardless of where your surname originated from or where you reside, to undertake a One-Name Study and register this with the Guild the study should be global and there is no pressure on how soon you go global.

So what follows below, in no particular order, are some global quick wins. Sites where you can acquire material from without a paying subscription, even if you acquire the material and do not process it immediately – there are some real gems and my Orlando study has benefited greatly by several of the sites.

We talk more about Collecting data in the in the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course. Meanwhile, I’ll be back tomorrow talking about what to do with the data once you have collected it.

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