What I Did On My Holidays

I’ve just had one of my regular el-cheapo holidays to visit family. They even bought a new bed for us to sleep on while we were there, since Fred is now in a ‘big boys’ bed.

Most of the week was spent relaxing – we drove past a beach, potty trained the little guy (mostly successful, though still in nappies when we go out or for bed) and visited many friends in the pub. I managed to get started on a new book (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith) and an old book (Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett). I barely thought about work at all.

We even squeezed in a game of Necromunda against my very first opponent and his Redemptionist gang. I took out my Delaques, and realised that the roster is over ten years old. Impressive. Jen took some Eschers. He set up a three-player scenario, where we had to get to the top of a tower before anyone else to win a prize. He and Jen got into early fighting, shooting each other off of walkways and so on. I snuck in through the other side, managing (somehow) to avoid all attacks, until my leader was caught by an executioner one-shot flamer. He caught fire, and luckily ran straight across the walkway and past two guards (one wielding a rather nasty-looking double-handed chainsaw) towards the Redemptionist base. The following turn, a Redemptionist brother reached the top of the tower, while my Delaque Juve was a level below and held up by an Escher heavy… The Redemptionists only had to wait one turn at the top to be the winners. Luckily, my leader doused the flames and ran into the Redemptionist base (undefended, they were all off picking on Eschers) and what had been a forgone conclusion shifted very suddenly – and again, as my Juve finished off the Escher. He was now at least five floors above anyone else, and only one below the top. That’s the first game of Necromunda I’ve won against that opponent – as most of his gangs have an incredibly high rating, I’m always the ‘underdog’. This scenario limited all players to four models at a time, so there was some opportunity to fight fairly there.

With the underdog bonus, and hitting the button, plus a few lucky shots on the way, that Juve managed to pick up 37 experience points (from 0!) and got instant promotion. Awesome.

Unusually for such a long stay away, I didn’t get any painting done. I almost packed some models as I left, but couldn’t get them fixed and protected for the journey in time. I decided to take it easy instead.

I did get a lead on my family tree – my aunt has done a lot of research already, with the things I had been making assumptions about previously. I think she’s gone even further back than I could, and told me that the family had originally come from France (to settle on the Isle of Wight). She’ll dig out what she can find, and I can see how it fits what I’ve discovered. Although it’s not a resolution, I’m still going to be following the family tree this year. I’ll just pick it up as and when I can.

Speaking of family trees, one of the benefits of going away was meeting the two new additions – my cousins have had babies! There are a few more expected this year, which is always fun. We’re expecting to be the last, in June. I think that the new babies are my first cousins once removed, and Freddy’s second cousins. Here’s a diagram, showing the new babies in relation to Freddy. It is restricted down to just my mum’s family, and only as far back as her parents (my grandfather, Freddy’s great-grandfather, is also the new babies great grandfather). These diagrams don’t make things in exactly the easiest format to read, but that’s something I can play around with later.


Family Trees and Logical Deduction

This last weekend, I got bit by the genealogy bug again. It started off as an investigation as to why my existing GEDCOM file didn’t work in a WPF demonstration app (Family.Show), and kept losing relationships. It turns out that the GEDCOM format requires a relationship (or FAM record) to specify the two people who are ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in a family, but also that both those people must have a reference to the relationship. Technically, you can say that it is a poorly formed file if it doesn’t have all those links in place but I prefer to think of it as a weak file format if it allows such ambiguity. My particular family tree file works fine in Family Historian (the program that my Dad and I use to edit the tree), but opening it in Family.Show loses relationships. It assumes that if Alice has Bob listed as her husband, then Bob should have Alice listed as his wife regardless of whether he does or not.

Anyway, from the techie stuff, I looked at alternative file formats, but quickly got side-tracked by different pages about how to research a family tree. It seems that the best way is to go to the records office and trawl through by hand, which is a bit time-consuming. Online databases are patchy, and don’t provide a great deal of detail. There is an excellent site at www.freebmd.org.uk that is aiming to get the indexes of births, marriages and deaths online for free search, but they will only give information in three month ranges, not at specific days. The amount of other information is also fairly sparse, such as places and names. They do tell you where the certificates will be found, so you can order them (at a cost of approximately £9). This is without even knowing for sure that it is the person you’re looking for more information about! At almost £30 per person (if you want the whole set of birth, one marriage and death records), the hobby becomes quite expensive. I don’t know if harassing a local records office will actually yield more information or not, but it’s worth a try to circumvent those costs.

On the other hand, I did find a Family History Society based on the Isle of Wight that has made the island’s records searchable and incredibly easy to use. It’s slightly easier that FreeBMD to search things on, and remembering my mother and some of her siblings were born on the island, I plugged in the few names I had for that side of the family to see what I could find. I got my granddad’s birth record back which gave me his mother’s maiden name (although it only gave me a year for birth, not a day). I checked her surname for marriage records with his surname, and found one match. This gave me my great-grandparents full names. Putting those into the birth records gave me years for their births, and their mothers maiden names.

So I repeated, and went backwards. I’ve hit a couple of dead-ends – people who must have been born or married off of the island (hey, it happens), or multiple possibilities of who a person is (one Toogood I found could have been any one of a half-dozen recorded births). But I managed to get a couple of lines with confirmed dates in the 1860s, and names for the generation before them. All based on free information I found on the internet. Which is slightly scary.

One afternoon’s work gave me about 50 new names to add to the tree – and for a change, it’s going backwards! One of the hardest parts of building a family tree is keeping it up to date. At present, at least three of my cousins are expecting babies in the new year.


This is it, as it stands today. The highest point on the far left, and the third of the chart on that side is where my Dad got to researching his line. The two-pronged point in the middle and the two slightly lower points either side are what I managed to research from the Isle of Wight Family History  Society. The two low points on the far right are what we’ve managed to get for my wife’s family so far. The lowest point on the chart (about 3/4 of the way along) is my son, around whom my tree research is based.

Unfortunately, not all family history societies are quite as useful as the IoW’s. The Bristol and Avon FHS has a research room in the records office, although from the look of the website I originally thought it might have been a ‘quirky name’ for the records database search of their own site. The website gives off a bit of the 1995 vibe – alas, a lot of FHS websites have a bit of an ‘information superhighway’ feel to them. It turns out that to find information, one must physically leave their desk and look for it!

It feels, in this modern age, a little bit strange to have to know what area you’re looking for and actually go there to find records.

Family Tree Update

On Saturday, we visited my father-in-law’s family to make a start on my wife’s family tree. We managed to add just over sixty names to the list, bringing to total to over two hundred! As usual, a lot of the details are concentrated near the bottom of the tree – people who are still alive – but some of the older details were backed up with birth, marriage or death certificates. These are fantastic, it helped to fill some gaps in the knowledge that people either don’t know off the top of their head or never knew. I am indebted to the in-laws for keeping a hold of that sort of thing. I’ll definitely try and keep what I can for the future, and pass it on with the tree itself. We’ve gone back six generations from my son on almost every path now, and just think how amazing that will be to his children and grandchildren!

There are still some gaps, but with luck we should be able to get in touch with some of the more extended family and see what they can fill in (even if it is only their own details!)

Also, my parents are at home Easter weekend so we’re travelling down to see them – hopefully, I can meet up with my granddad and get some more information from him. I’ve been warned that he probably won’t have any documentation to help piece things together, but that’s not a major problem. We’re also going to start planning to meet with my wife’s other grandparents, to find out what we can there. It will challenge my family tree program and it’s text support, as most of the names on that side are German…

One thing my dad hasn’t tried when researching his tree is getting in contact with living relatives he doesn’t know or have a lot of contact with, to try and get more details that his main sources (close relatives, of which there are few) might not know. Although, I don’t know that there’s much more that they can tell him – he is from a small family, and his mother knows enough to place the top of the tree near the beginning of the 19th century. It’s at least two or three generations further than I’ve managed yet.

In other news, I have a small disaster to report. I was, over this year, going to try and re-post all the content I produced for pagan-gerbil.net way-back-when I was a student, and had the time, and some really weird ideas. Like eating noodles for 23 days, or flying to Glasgow on a whim.

This idea might have to take a backseat for a little while, as in the recent reformats of my drive… I’ve lost them. Now, I’m sure there’s a spare hard-drive knocking around somewhere that it should be saved on (some of the older stuff may even be on a CD backup I made many many years ago). I think that I have a bunch of IDE drives in a box, and eventually replaced the ones being actively used with SATA drives. So given the age of the content, I just need to find out any old IDE drives and see what’s on them! That’s almost easy! As long as the files still exist somewhere!

I’m not filled with a huge amount of hope. I have a few too many things to get sorted before I can search the drives out anyway.