Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017

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Apr 092017

It hardly seems possible that it was a year ago since the last Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at the NEC in Birmingham…. that year certainly went by rather quickly. With the aid of my usual amazing scheduling, I managed to get to the church on time…. oh no, that’s a different story…. I managed to get to the train station on time (well, with a few seconds to spare, and a rather faster walk than usual over the footbridge to ensure I actually got on the train!) so as to leave Chippenham at 16:25. Cue minor heart failure. In my mind, the train to Birmingham would have taken me to Bristol Temple Meads first and then, with a change, to Birmingham International. However, this train was travelling towards London! After consultation with my travel assistant at FWL Towers, it transpired that all was indeed well and I would be changing in Reading, not Bristol.

On the Cross Country train from Reading to Birmingham, it would seem that Wifi (despite having a Myfi device) is sporadic at best and a number of reconnects were needed to even send emails, let alone do any genealogical research! Frustrating…. but we arrived on schedule and I almost completed mission one: To walk over the bridge from the train station to the NEC without meeting a genealogist! Failed as @pennysresearch appeared from nowhere, just shy of the escalator!

Mission two was to assist with the setting up of the University of Dundee stand and this was achieved without event. Sylvia Valentine (@HistoryLady2013) and I then returned to the Hilton so I could check in and as we were heading out for dinner, bumped into Aiden Feerick (an Irish genealogist) and so we ended up dining as a trio. A very pleasant evening was had by all.

This year, I had a somewhat busier schedule than I have had at past events and, in my usual fashion, made myself available for additional appointments during the course of the show. I already had four hours of Experting booked in (two on Thursday and two on Saturday) but ended up doing six eventually, along with much networking with fellow genealogists from across the globe and three lectures. I love helping out on the ‘expert’ tables and I was certainly able to help a large number of people to further their research in various ways from adoptions, people telling lies on certificates and in censuses or people simply hiding (or otherwise, being abducted by aliens, as we often say at FWL Towers!). There is still an urban myth that if the record isn’t available online it doesn’t exist, so I also spent some time encouraging people to visit various record offices across the nation.

My three lectures went well it would seem as, not only were they all packed with standing room only, but several people stopped me in the Exhibition Hall to make positive comments and others were heard discussing my lectures over breakfast in the Premier Inn! Rummaging in the Parish ChestsFree sources for the Frugal Genealogist and Using Social Media in your Research will certainly have further airings in the future.

The event comes around very quickly each year and there are so many people to try to ‘catch up’ with, there are always some I seem to miss, or only spend five minutes with before being sidetracked. I was pleased to spend quality time with several genealogy colleagues from overseas who I see even less frequently than the Brits – John Boeren from Antecedentia Research (Netherlands), Marie Cappart from Histoires de Familles (Belgium), Liv Birgit Christensen (Norway)…. some made it back home before those of us in the UK as there were several train strikes affecting journeys.

The trip home after an event is generally an anti-climax and mine was more challenging than most. Birmingham and its environs (for those of you not in the UK and/or those who do not follow football) is the home of many and various football teams. Sadly, a number of those teams were playing at home yesterday and hence, I had to stand in the train corridor with another 15-20 passengers, outside the toilet. Suffice to say, the aroma was not particularly rosy and, having been stood for much of the previous three days, standing on the train on the way home did not go down well. However, ever one with a sense of humour, I rallied the troops and most were at least swearing less/looking less miserable than they might have done otherwise.

And now, back to whatever normality looks like tomorrow (Monday). I am told it’s a four-day week. I am not so sure it will be for me/FWL!

Why wait?

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Mar 282017

If I told you how many letters we send out of our offices every single day, you’d be staggered. In fact, we are! FWL – as a company – has expanded beyond our wildest dreams in the last six months alone and the number of ‘heir hunting’ cases which are signed to us in frankly monumental.

Often, I (as MD@FWL) have very similar conversations on a number of occasions over the course of a day. People receive our letters (sometimes, along with letters from other companies) and wonder, “What’s occurring?” Many of the cases we work on are from the Unclaimed Estates list which is published on a daily basis (at varying times) by the Government Legal Department (formerly the Treasury Solicitors). If the family tree is simple to work out, potential heirs may receive anything from one to ten letters along with telephone calls and, from some companies, unexpected house guests.

It’s a tough decision to decide which company to choose to represent you and each individual has their own reasons for making their choice. Once the case is being progressed – whether probate is required or not – as administrators of the estate, our next battle is to ensure that we have located and engaged with all heirs. We never cease to be amazed with the number of people who do not engage with us for ages…. seriously? It’s not hard to comprehend! We hear the word ‘scam’ more times in a day than our combined total of hot dinners in a week…. but when you have been notified that we are administrators in an estate where you are entitled and we are simply trying to pay you the money which is legally yours, why wait?

In recent months, I have been threatened with police action for ‘not administrating an estate fast enough’. Fast enough?? Police action?! Get real! Sorry, Mr/Mrs/Miss Beneficiary but, if your brother/cousin/sister/whatever doesn’t engage, guess what? We cannot just pay their entitlement out without receiving any instructions or proof of identity documentation from them! Nor can we assume they are disclaiming because they aren’t communicating with us! It’s called THE LAW.

At FWL, we are ethical, professional and diligent. We proceed with estate administration as swiftly as possible but we will not cut corners. Simple. So, please…. if you receive a letter from us, reply. We won’t bite, honest!

Further 1939 Register entertainment

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Mar 202017

A little while ago, we ventured into the land of silliness and amusement with the 1939 Register. Long-term FWL followers will recall various posts over the years from the 1911 census which have included occupations such as fairy workers (more often, dairy workers) and angels (more often angle grinders), as well as other daft names (more often than not, real!). The 1939 Register is a wonderful new resource for our daily research challenges and, it would seem, it also provides its fair share of hilarity, in various guises.

Circus clowns are few and far between although Charles H. Austin (b. 1880) makes the grade (the transcript states his occupation as ‘Cicus Clown’) and then in Godstone, there are a whole host of trapeze artists, circus animal attendants, theatrical artistes and more! It’s a shame there is no place of birth listed on the 1939 Register as, of the seven trapeze references, most have unpronounceable/mis-transcribed surnames at the very least, and few appear to have been born in England.

Searching for Jesus, returns many college students at Jesus College, Oxford or Cambridge as well as Harold Heathcote who was an HM Inspector of Taxes or, as the 1939 Register would have you know, ‘Heavy Work Inspection Jesus‘ (so many comments, so little time!). On the flip side, William Topley is recorded as a ‘bell end man’ – a rather unfortunate term in today’s society….

William H. Adams is listed as ‘Engineer Royal Arse‘ and many of his fellow arses fall within the Woolwich Arsenal or Munition Workers in the Royal ‘Arse’, if the truth be told. And then, Joseph Harris‘ occupation is transcribed exactly as it appears:


along with hundreds of cooks who don’t quite appear correctly….. honestly, the list is endless. Carriers appear to frequently have been transcribed as conmen and there are six ‘thief’ references which range from Insurance Broker Chief Clerk (not Thief and Clerk!) to Sheep Skin something or another (not Thief Skin Classes!).

So, what other interesting transcriptions have you located? We’d love to hear your finds!

After a busy week comes a busier weekend!

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Mar 122017

When you want something done, ask a busy person…. well, this person is pretty darned busy already, thank you! Over the years, I have given many thousands of hours back to the genealogy and history communities, volunteering in various roles from committee member to Chair/Chairman and many other things in between. This weekend saw the second annual conference of The Surname Society…. an international society for those interested in researching a particular name/s and collecting data on either a regional, national or worldwide level. To ensure that all society members could access the conference lectures and AGM (either in real-time or at their leisure after the event), we were delighted to (once again) be supported by Legacy (this time in the form of Marian Pierre-Louis)…. without their technical wizardry, we would be lost!

The conference lectures were delivered by a world-class field of experts including Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, Dr Janet Few, Dr Martin Blythe of Living DNA, Ruth Blair and Helen Smith. Lectures are only available free for conference attendees (i.e. society members) although most will also be made available (for a fee) from the Legacy Webinar Library. I am pretty certain that we may have broken a world record for the most concise/efficient AGM in history for a genealogy society. Fifteen minutes….! A great day spent in front of the computer and so lovely not to have to pack up and then have an enormously long drive home after the conference was over.

20170312_104048Today was time for family time for the most part. A birthday tomorrow (not allowed to say who!) and so the FWL Wimborne Office and FWL HQ combined to visit Boscombe Down Aviation Collection and then partake of a bite to eat together for lunch. The collection is full of history (right up my street) and the gentleman volunteer who was wandering about could quite easily have been on Mastermind with his specialist subject being the collection itself! There were many restorations under way and also smaller craft stored in the hanger, as well as two cars …. not sure how they fitted into proceedings!

Having visited the Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare and also the Tank Museum in Bovington in the last year, anyone would think we were able to take time off….! Well we can, so long as there is a history-based visit scheduled!

A dull moment? What….?

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Mar 052017

I actually started writing this blog last weekend and I wrote: “That was the week that was. A week (and a half, in reality) after returning from RootsTech and our FWL world is BONKERS! Seriously….!!! Returning back to #TheRanch, I found a beautifully ‘parcelled’ box of paperwork for me to sort out upon my return. Oh joy! So many things for me to deal with, from my own ‘Private & Confidential’ letter regarding the silly man who drove into my car door in July, to cards inviting me to special celebrations in April and cards just appreciating me for being me!

And now, another week has passed and several people have messaged us asking if I am ‘OK’ and commenting that they are missing our blogs. Well, apologies for going AWOL and thank you for caring! Since my return from the USA (which is now ‘n’ weeks ago, as I actually cannot remember what ‘n’ is), the work has come piling in at a rate not dissimilar (I would imagine) to the predicted water rate when the Oroville Dam emergency was announced.

Along with the new commissions, a few interesting facts/daft transcriptions have been discovered, with the 1939 Register on FindMyPast recording 144 individuals with the words ‘expectant mother’ in the occupation column and a rather ludicrous 32 people called ‘My Fanny‘ who, for the most part are, in reality, named Myfanwy. Alongside these fannys (fannies?), there is also an Arse E. Silk in Leamington Spa who, in fairness to FMP, seems to be exactly that when looking at the image [possibly, Aase].

Knickers appear in the occupation of 40 individuals and those whose knickers are a little looser, four prostitutes??! Elizabeth Bonner was a Prostitute Nurse at Colindale Hospital and Rose C. Lemon was recorded as ‘formerly prostitute’ and living at Cane Hill Hospital. The other two entries were men, which was slightly more surprising…. Oscar Hellman and Gordon Hornby were both dental prostitutes, otherwise known as dental prosthetists! Oscar’s occupation is even in block capitals so doesn’t leave much space for transcriber excuses.

And finally, Cock James Wood…. I can hear you and yes, I am serious! I am sure those researching James Woodcock will be delighted when they locate his actual 1939 Register entry.

You see! Leave us for too long and look what happens.

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