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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Surname Saturday - the cautionary tale of McIntyre

Surnames are the tools of our trade as genealogists, but we shouldn't set too much store by them, and I don't just mean all the mis-spelllings and variants. Does anyone remember the film Local Hero? An oil tycoon wants to build a refinery in Scotland, and sends one of his executives to sweet-talk the locals. He chooses a man called McIntyre, thinking that a Scotsman would be particularly well-suited to the task. It is incidental to the plot that McIntyre only came have that surname because his Hungarian immigrant ancestor adopted it to sound more American. I used to tell this tale to my genealogy classes as a warning that you shouldn't get too hung up on the origins of a surname, in case an ancestor had simply chosen it, just like McIntyre.

Little did I know that I would have a McIntyre story of my own. It took me 20 years to locate the birth certificate of my great-grandfather, Robert Collins.His marriage and death certificates (both in Scotland) indicated that he was born around 1881, son of Patrick Collins and Jane McAtee. Patrick was dead before Robert married in 1907, and the family story was that Robert was born in Paisley, but the family came from Ireland. I tried everything, but the family could not be found in any census, and I seemed to have a set of great-great-grandparents who weren't married, were never born, and didn't die, in Scotland or Ireland.

Then I found my great-grandmothers application for poor relief in Glasgow because Robert had gone AWOL for a few months, leaving her with two small children and no money. The details given here corroborated the information I already had, with the added detail that Robert's mother Jane had gone to Canada in about 1905,and that her maiden name was McIntee, not McAtee. This was enough for me to track her down on a passenger list, with her married daughter's family, and gradually I pieced the family together, with yet another variation on Jane's maiden surname, McAttee. At last I found them in the census, including the elusive Robert, who turned out to be 7 years older than I had thought! So now I found his birth certificate at last, in 1874, not 1881, and it's a beauty. I found him inthe index as Robert Collins, but to my surprise the certificate read "Robert McIntyre  (or Collins) (Illegitimate)", and for parents' details "Jane McIntyre...widow of Patrick Collins, engineer, who died in March 1871".

So now I don't know who his father was, but he certainly was not the Patrick Collins who appears on all his documents. That's another puzzle to solve, and now I have my very own McIntyre story! And any interest I may have in the history and origins of the Collins surname has nothing to do with my own family history.

As a postscript to this, I noticed that in the 1881 census the Collins family were in the same house as another Irish family headed by a Thomas McEntee. This may just be a coincidence, or they may turn out to be related, recorded, with another spelling of the name. I'm not sure what to make of that one, I'm still investigating!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Royal Naval Reserve records 1860-1908 now online

These records have just been put online by The National Archives on DocumentsOnline

You can now search and download over 9000 service records for men serving in the Royal Naval Reserve between 1860 and 1908.

The records, from the catalogue reference BT 164, record a rating's name, date of birth, physical description, date of enrolment, parents' names, ships served on, retainer pay and any training undertaken.

The records cost £3.50 to download and you can search the records by entering any or all of the following information:

First name(s)
Last name
Year of birth
Place of birth
Service number
There is more information about these and other records on the DocumentsOnline page. They make a welcome addition to the existing Royal Navy, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Royal Naval Divison and Royal Marines records that are already on the site.

DocumentsOnline is a good place to look for British naval and military records, and a variety of other useful sources. They are records held by The National Archives, and most of them are not available on any other sites. The Introduction page gives you an idea of the range of records covered, and links to full lists by category under 'Quick links'

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Those Places Thursday - Oxford

Blackwells bookshop Broad Street, founded 1879
Genealogy sites stuffed full of names aren't the only places to go for your family history. There are some wonderful local sites full of information about places, and that information often includes names of the people who lived there.

One of my favourites is the Oxford History site, which has pages featuring some of Oxford's most famous and historic streets, and much more besides. There are also sections on Headington and Marston, and old picture postcards of villages all over Oxfordshire. So if you have Oxfordshire ancestors you are sure to find something to interest you.

The photographer Henry Taunt 1842-1922 at various times occupied premises in three of the the streets featured in Oxford History; Broad Street, Cornmarket Street and High Street (also called 'The High'). In the Footsteps of Henry Taunt is devoted to his photographs of Oxfordshire and the Thames, including locations in Berkshire, Surrey, London and Middlesex.

If your Oxfordshire ancestors were among the great and good, or if you just want to know if anyone famous ever lived in their street, the Oxfordshire Blue Plaque site is worth a look.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

American Civil War Graves in the UK

This was an interesting item on this week's episode of BBC Radio 4 series Making History Part of the synopsis reads:

Michael Hammerson is researching the lives and last resting place of Britons caught up in the American Civil War who returned to the UK.
His initial interest lies in the graves of American Civil War veterans in Highgate Cemetery in North London  but he would like Making History listeners with American Civil War ancestors to get in touch.He would also like to hear from those people who know of other American Civil War veterans’ graves here in the UK. Please contact Making History and we will pass on your information to Michael.
There are also links to a PDF version of a fascinating 8-page leaflet he has written about the graves in Highgate Cemetery, and to a podcast of the whole show (which can also be downloaded from iTunes).

That's quite some project he has taken on, and I wish him well. I've never come across one of these graves, or any references to them, but if I do, I know who to tell.

Myrt, I owe you one

I follow a number of blogs, and I have even created one before, so it's about time I started a genealogy blog of my own. What actually kick-started me into doing it was Dear Myrtle's webinar last Wednesday, 20 October.  I had never attended a webinar before, so that was interesting in itself, and then Myrt took us through the process of setting up and running a blog very clearly. It was worth staying awake until 2:30am to take part in it, but I'm glad I don't need to do it very often. They say that the world is getting smaller these days, but it still has an awful lot of time zones.

The archived webinar is online at Legacy Family Tree Webinars for at least 30 days after transmission, so catch it while you can.