Nov 242014

The world of family, local and social history has grown exponentially over the last decade in particular. Whilst the commercial sites are expanding with newly digitised record sets being added (seemingly) every week, there are a whole host of people out there called ‘professional genealogists’. When I first dipped my toes into the water and undertook research for others, there was not a cat-in-hell’s chance of me giving myself such a title. And it is a title I have often marvelled at…. similar to calling oneself an estate agent, it is one of a small handful of professions which are ‘self-titled’. You can set up as an estate agent without having any qualifications or even experience and the same is – sadly – true of genealogy. Does having a qualification make you better at the job than the next wo/man? Well, that’s a discussion for another day….

Ten years ago, few people were able to make a living out of researching in this field. There weren’t many probate researchers (‘Heir Hunters’) and the lecturing circuit saw the same (sorry) old faces over and over again. That is not the case today. Every time I pick up Who Do You Think You Are and Family Tree magazines, new names are listed as article authors. When I see a lecture schedule for a conference, seminar or workshop, it’s great to see some ‘newbies’ coming onto the scene alongside some of the genies of longer standing.

RoomForEveryoneSome people have a niche, specialising in Scottish research, military ancestors, our criminal forebears or whatever. Some people have a general genealogical knowledge base.

Some people are on social media all the time, tweeting about the latest news and helping other researchers. Some people don’t use modern technologies and social networking channels.

Some people volunteer their time to help run societies, bringing together like-minded people who share a similar interest. Some people don’t feel that they have the time or expertise to offer to help in this way.

But whatever people do in the field of family, local and social history, there is room for everyone. No one has the right to exclude a fellow professional from what they perceive as ‘their arena’. However, we should also do our utmost not to step on each other’s toes if we have a particular function within an organisation. If you were contracted to write about burials for a publisher, then you would not expect a fellow genie/historian to write on the same topic!

Come on ladies and gentleman! Etiquette (not netiquette) is required here. Call yourself a professional genealogist? Then you should act professionally too.

Nov 232014

PlymptonThomas Elford was my gggg-grandfather on my father’s side – a long way back! He was born in 1804 and baptised in Plympton St Maurice on 3 August 1804, the third known child born of Edward and Ann ‘Nancy’ (nee Cannon) Elford. W.G. Hoskins in Devon (1956) wrote:

‘PLYMPTON EARL (or PLYMPTON ST. MAURICE) lies on a by-road 1.5 m. S. of the busy main road from Plymouth to Exeter. Those who have a special feeling for the small, ancient, and decayed boroughs of England will be delighted with Plympton. It has been left on one side in the past two hundred years or so, and one smells cow-dung in the streets instead of petrol fumes: the immemorial life giving smell of the land from which the little town took its birth in the 12th century.’

Thomas was a butcher and grocer, marrying Maria Dodridge in Plymstock on 23 September 1827. Maria was the daughter of Thomas and Mary (nee Symons) Dodridge of Brixton. Thomas and Maria Elford had quite a large family beginning with Thomas William in 1828. Several children were baptised with ancestral surnames as middle names, like Ellen Symons Elford (my ggg-grandmother) and James Weeks Elford.

Interestingly though, Ellen’s birth is not registered with her middle name:

B1839 M Ellen Elford

Robson’s Directory of 1839 – the years of Ellen’s birth – records Thomas Elford as a butcher as well as three Doddridge blacksmiths: John, Robert and Thomas, though I am not sure how they are related to Maria, if at all!

In 1851, Ellen was not living at home with her parents, but with an uncle and aunt, William and Tamzine Elford in Plympton St Mary. Thomas and Maria were at Fore Street, Plympton St Mary with six children still living at home. Thomas was widowed in September qtr 1858 and in 1861, just two of his sons remained at home (Source: RG9/1428/16/26):


Thomas remarried in 1861 to Rosamond Apter and he continued to work as a butcher until the late 1860s. He outlived even his second wife – she died in 1881 and Thomas died in 1886.

[Ellen married in 1855 and passed on the surnames of Elford and Symons to her children – Thomas John Elford, Emma Jane Symons, Elizabeth Maria and William Henry Oats.]

Nov 222014

ShouldIStayWhen should you give up? It is a more intriguing question than it may at first appear. We live in a culture that admires persistence: a society which believes that when the going gets tough, the tough should get going.

Today’s educators encourage young people to be ‘gritty’ and develop a ‘can-do’ mentality that will help them push on that extra mile toward success. Our language is full of clichés extolling the virtues of dogged persistence and yet, at some level, we all know that there are limits to how long we should continue trying to achieve an elusive goal. As Albert Einstein famously said, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity.

The problem in Britain in particular is that in our ‘can-do’ society we have made failure a taboo, something which should be avoided at all costs. The conscientious don’t want to fail at anything, never wanting to admit defeat.

Have we lost sight of the value of strategic withdrawals and made it hard for the conscientious individual to do the intelligent thing? Have we fostered the tendency to persevere beyond the point of sanity….?

How can we change attitudes to success and failure in fruitful ways? How can we recognise the value of dropping an elusive goal and changing tack? How do we know when to persevere and when to quit?

TryTryThere is a fine line though between giving up and giving in, don’t you think? When the whole idea of doing something fills you with dread, boredom or you would rather sleep – give up. When you feel like your soul would be writhing in a cage if you did it – give up. But if you simply lose focus and daydream more than you do the work – give up, for a short while. Go and do something different – go for a walk, work on something else, whatever breaks the focus…. come back later/tomorrow. But don’t give up on those missions. Whatever you do, do something.

So, when should you give in? There is a difference between ‘wrong choice’ and ‘fear’ and the two should not be confused. With wrong choice, you give up and try another strategy. With fear – which often hides under the mask of wrong choice – don’t give up. Instead, give in.

Giving in is not giving up. It is simply letting go of the handlebars, taking your feet off the pedals and freewheeling down the right path …. which to my surprise is down a road which is apparently labelled ‘get the hell out of your own way’. It’s that age old cliché …. If at first you don’t succeed: Try, try again…. [W.C. Fields]

[Are you a quitter? Take a look at 9 reasons to persevere.]

Nov 212014

hear_listenHearing is one of your five senses. It is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear. Listening requires you to pay attention to the speaker and provide feedback. Listening is a few steps further down the track than hearing where, after the brain receives the nerve impulses and deciphers it, it then sends feedback. Although they are synonymous, hearing and listening are completely different things. You can listen to someone without actually hearing anything. Did you ever day dreamed in class? You heard the noise in the classroom but you did not listen to what the teacher was saying.

Listening requires concentration, deriving meaning from the sound that is heard and responding or reacting to it in some way. Listening is a process of communication, where if the person is not listening it can cause a break in communication. Listening is defined by Merriam­-Webster as, “to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration.”

Apparently, there are four types of communicators…. I am sure you can think of people in your circles who fit with these characteristics:

  • A ‘non-listener’ is a person who is preoccupied with his/her own thoughts and although s/he is hearing, s/he is not paying attention;
  • A ‘passive listener’ hears the words but does not absorb the meaning and only provides vague answers;
  • A ‘listener’ hears and listens, but only grasps the meaning of talks that interests them (this is most common for people who do not want to listen to a topic on which their views differ and will cease to listen to that and start providing their own ideas);
  • An ‘active listener’ is the best listener, not only do they hear the person speak, but they also listen with patience and an open mind, their focus being completely on the speaker.

What type of communicator are you? Do you alter your type depending on the social or business setting you are in….? Are you happy with the type of communicator you are….?

[Food for thought for the weekend!]

Nov 202014

The winner of a war often loses just as many battles as s/he wins but with luck and preparation, at some point the tide turns or the opponent’s will is broken. If you want to win a war, prepare to suffer plenty of losses.

Do you ever enter battle and end up feeling bad even if you ‘win’? Winning and being ‘right’ does not ensure that things will end well. In fact, if your sense of victory is dependent on another person’s defeat, the victory can be mighty hollow. Being ‘right’ is over-rated. When people argue, what are they really doing? They are defending themselves. In an argument, each person is trying to change the other and who is really the only one we can change? We all know the answer: ourselves…..


Although most of us know better, we do give it a damn good try to change others because we are convinced that if they saw it our way, things would be better. All too often well meaning souls think they know what is best for others and want to tweak someone else’s mind or convince them why they need to change.

But all that is is aggressive behaviour. Aggressive behaviour is characterised by ‘You’ statements and focuses on how the other person ‘should be’ (in someone else’s opinion). Many times, aggressive communication is designed to ‘get back’ at someone else or control how they behave or think. Many people think that aggression is reasonable if the end justifies the means but really anything short of physical danger does not merit aggression because, by definition, the behaviour is authoritarian and judgmental.

Not everything in life has to be a battle – though sometimes it may seem like it! – and don’t think that losing a battle means losing the entire war. Using authoritative, assertive communication – counteracting the ‘You’ with ‘I’ statements – expresses personal feelings without trying to change the way someone else sees things…. And sometimes ignoring the arguing irritant is even more powerful!

The important thing is – Keep Your Cool. If somebody calls you an idiot, that’s personal. But if someone says that your idea is ridiculous, that’s business. Act appropriately when your ideas are criticised or shot down and when you talk (whether literally or online) about other people, be professional. Criticising a person’s idea and criticising a person are two events that I like to call ‘mutually exclusive’. Consider them separately and deal with them effectively.

[Once again, now to potter off and take my own advice…..!]

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join my other followers
Powered By