family history group activities - 2013
2013 was a busy year for us with a varied programme. We had many speakers:- Peter Chalver whose website is www.lostcousins.com told us all about the website. Wendy Cummin, the archivist from the Galleywood Heritage Centre, talked about how she discovered information about 'Daisy', her grandmother. Her approach to family history is to build up stories and to find out more about the family members. Isobel brought along photos and her wedding dress which had been worn by 4 generations of her family, the last time by Isobel herself, and she told us the story of the strong women in her maternal line. Dr Jane Pearson told us about the ‘good-time girls’ of Colchester. It seems that once the army appeared the whole of Colchester was a 'red light district' with girls from far and wide attracted by the fact the soldiers were there; innkeepers ran brothels; there were 'cat fights' and loud arguments in the streets; and cheeky appearance in court where there was a reluctance to charge them with prostitution. Pat Gilbey had a Titanic Connection and told us the story of Sidney Conrad Siebert who ended up diving into the water and being picked up eventually by Lifeboat 4. She had got a lot of information from contacts and whenever she makes contact she asks if they have any photographs. She recommended using Google - that way she had found a letter from Sidney than came up in a Titanic memorabilia auction in America - the on-line catalogue showed all the pages and she managed to download the letter! Rosemary has spent a lot of time researching the military career of her uncle. She started with nothing but what her mother had said - ‘he was in the ‘Darnelles’, got shot and had a rank’. She started her research before the internet was available and had found information in local papers and from many different records in the National Archives. He was at a training camp for peacetime, part-time soldiers in Clacton when war was declared and they were all marched to Dover! She found that he had been in the Dardanelles, starting as a Private in the 1/5th Essex Regiment and ending up with the rank of Captain in the Labour Corps, in charge of a Prisoner of War camp. Using war diaries she had been able to follow the progress of the Regiment. Postcard Fairs had been a good source of photos to enhance her research which had ended up in a very large file. As this was just before Remembrance Sunday, we watched also a film which showed an aspect of WW1 that we were not aware of – the story of SS Mendi.
We went out for a talk when thirty of us went to Chelmsford's Museum in Oaklands Park for a presentation on World War I by the keeper of the Essex Regiment's museum, Ian Hook. It was a wonderful afternoon - Ian is passionate about his subject and had created a Power Point presentation which included many photographs of soldiers from the Essex Regiment.
We used a dongle to look at many websites that help us to get further, without paying! It was a very interactive meeting with lots of the group giving ideas. We also had an excellent afternoon at the Galleywood Heritage Centre, starting with freshly made sandwiches, a drink and cake for those who wanted it. The room was lovely - light and airy with plenty of sockets! We shared laptops and i-pads and got down to research, with some great results. We spent an afternoon trying to deal with problems – ‘trying’ because we were able to make many suggestions, and hopefully some of them worked! Many of the problems were to do with names – so when we can, we need to look at the original documents or images in case of transcription errors. We looked at ‘treasures’ - Pauline brought a bookmark she had found in her great grandmother's bible. It was from the International Industrial Exhibition in the City of Edinburgh from 1886, and we were reminded to look in our old books in case something is left there. She brought along a book - 'Manners for Men' from 1897, which advised that the Prince of Wales' influence had made it acceptable to smoke in front of women, and many of them were smoking too! We were surprised to hear that smoking was recommended by doctors for bronchitis [it made you cough!]. Olive brought a sheath knife from WW1 with a number on it, that we thought could be a service number. We heard from 12 year old Ellen Buxton's journal about the way that death was dealt with in 1861, which reminded Olive that she had been kept off school when she was 7 to see the body of her grandmother. Ellen had watched the procession for the wedding of the Princess Alexandra and then gone to St George's chapel, Windsor to see where her aunt and uncle had sat for the ceremony. We also had heirlooms at our Christmas meeting - Sunday School prize books; Di's wonderful certificates; Diana's story of the Honeybone family, and the grandfather clock that came to Baddow on the top of their car; and Tricia's Burmese bird carvings from WW2.