Can You Trace Ancestry for Free?

Of all the enjoyable hobbies or pass-times you can choose, tracing your ancestry is probably one of the least expensive to start as there is no essential expensive kit or equipment to buy.

But to answer the question of whether you can trace ancestry for free more thoroughly, Maud Reid's baptismmy honest answer would be: Yes, at the beginning, but in the long run, no. As you build your family tree you will find that if you wish to make a thorough and accurate job of tracing your ancestry, there will be necessary expenses (e.g. ordering birth or marriage certificates), and some expenses that may not be necessary, but will make the process a lot easier (e.g. family tree software).

I would also stress here the importance of viewing original documents. Many free genealogy websites will allow you to search, and when you come up with a result, you will see either an index entry or a transcript. It is not usually possible to see an original document unless you on a paid subscription site or you can get to the appropriate archive. While online transcripts are very useful, there can be errors, and not only that, the original document may contain useful information that is not on the transcript. If you are starting out just using free sites, then you should make a note of all the references and make sure you get to see the original document at a later date when you want to spend money. Professional genealogists ALWAYS use original documents where they are available, and so should you if you want to do a good job.

If you are thinking of tracing your ancestry, you may be wondering exactly what and how much you can do for free, and what the minimum amount you will have to spend if you continue with your tree for the long term.

If you are lucky enough to live in the same county that your ancestors came from, then you can visit your local record office for free, carry out searches and view original documents without paying anything except for any photocopying you may require. However, this is very rare and most of us live long distances from our ancestors’ homelands, making it necessary either to travel or pay a professional researcher to visit the archives for you.

It is very difficult to say how much you will need to spend. It all depends on what documents, such as wills, your family have left and whether they are available online, or whether you need to order copies. If you hit a brick wall, or need to access documents in archives miles away from you, you might want to hire professional help. Each family tree is completely unique and it is almost impossible to predict what you might need until you start doing it. You may be able to go a long way on a tight budget, but on the other hand, those people who are willing to spend a lot of money paying for access to original documents, and using professional services when necessary, will usually get the most satisfaction and the more accurate and complete family tree.

I hope that the following information will give you some idea of what you will be able to do for free, and give you some idea of how much you might need to spend if you decide to get into this hobby in a more serious way. This is a short list just intended to get you started, and there are many more websites dedicated to genealogy.

The free genealogy websites I have suggested will also allow you to ‘dip your toe’ in and see if tracing ancestry is something you want to do. However, many sites that advertise themselves as ‘free’ are actually just free to search, and you will need to pay for credits to actually view a transcript or document. I have put these under SUBSCRIPTION WEBSITES.


FREE UKGEN Projects:

This is a free SEARCH service for Civil Registration (Birth, Marriage and Death) indexes that have been held in England from July 1837. However, once you have found the entry you are looking for, you will only have an index reference number. You will need this to order the relevant certificate from the General Registry Office. Each certificate can be ordered online at a cost of £9.25 for UK residents (see below).

A free census search engine. Currently, only 1841 to 1891 censuses are available, and it is not complete. The results will give you a transcript, which is very useful, but you will need to see an original document using subscription websites at a later date.

A free parish register search engine. Again, it is not complete, and you will only see a transcript in the results. This is very useful for initial searches, and the transcript usually gives a lot of information, but you must look for the original document at a later date.

Probably the best known and most useful of the free-to-search websites holding the largest collection of free genealogical data on the web. This is the service initially set up by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose mission is to connect families and ancestors all over the world. The service is totally free and you can make searches all over the world (though of course not all countries have complete records). Results are in transcript form, so you will need to search for original records later.

A community portal where it is free to post details of ancestors you are searching for. It also has links to free search websites – but most of these are free trials for subscription sites, which I have listed below.

National Archives
This site has lots of useful, free information about tracing ancestry. You can carry out a free search using their Discovery catalogue. Some documents can then be viewed online for a small fee – but you will find that many larger documents are usually only available at the National Archives at Kew – or at various record offices around the country. However, sometimes the information given on the index results can be quite useful without actually ordering the document.

Most paid websites have a choice of a membership fee where you pay a certain amount either annually or monthly – or a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system whereby you just pay for credits as and when you need them. If you are planning on spending time on your family history very regularly, at least a few hours a month, then a subscription is your best choice. However, if you are only going to be able to spend a little time now and then, it may be better to consider using pay-as-you-go credits.


Probably the best known genealogy website due to its strong TV advertising and large collection of indexed material and original sources. They have a 14 day free trial, after which you can pay for a year’s subscription, or in monthly payments. Alternatively, you can use the ‘pay-as-you-go’ system.

Ancestry also has a service which allows people to upload their family trees which can then be searched and viewed by other members. Be very careful with this. Finding your family on someone else’s tree is NOT research. You have no idea whether their tree is properly researched or accurate. If you find an ancestor on someone else’s tree be sure to back up your finding by doing the necessary research.

A good site with many indexes and original sources, and also has a 14 day free trial. Much of their data is also available on Ancestry, and Ancestry probably has the larger collection. However, FindMyPast has a better newspaper archive and very good military records. The subscription rates are slightly cheaper than Ancestry – but if you’re serious about family history it’s well worth using both – or subscribing to one and using pay-as-you-go on another.
SUBSCRIPTION WEBSITES with Free Search – No Free Trial


This site has many records to search, but you will need to buy credits in order to view original sources.


1851 Census - John W Bott pg1A full census and BMD research website – but you will need to pay a subscription depending on your requirements, and whether you want to pay monthly, quarterly, 6 monthly or yearly.
In summary, you can trace ancestry for free for a short while, which will help you understand the process and find out what’s out there, but if you intend to do this seriously and make sure you are tracing the right family, it will be essential to spend money. So, make sure you give yourself a monthly budget, take it slowly, and you will have a hobby that will give you pleasure for many years to come.

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Are You in Lord Nelson’s Family Tree?


Lord Nelson's family treeOne of England’s greatest heroes, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was responsible for numerous naval victories during the Napoleonic Wars, wounded several times, and finally killed during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

I have attempted to find as many descendants as possible of Nelson, his parents and grandparents.  However, this is a large family, and there are some gaps.  If you find anything missing, please do let me know.

Horatio Nelson was born at Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk on September 29th 1758, the son of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and his wife Catherine Nelson (nee Suckling). His grandfather was also Edmund Nelson, the son of William, the son of another Edmund, all clergymen. At this point the line gets a little dodgy. It is thought that this Edmund was born in about 1610, the son of a Thomas and Elizabeth, and the line may go back to 16th century London and 15th century Lancashire, but I have been unable to substantiate these earlier records.

If you are a descendant of Nelson (the only living descendants will be via his illegitimate daughter, Horatia), you are likely to already know about it as the name Nelson was carried though the generations in well documented families.

If you are wondering whether you are connected to Nelson via a less well known family link, then you will need to scroll down to see details of his siblings and his parents’ siblings.23 Pairs of Chromosomes. One Unique You. Get your DNA story at

If you are tracing your Nelson family name in Norfolk, great care needs to be taken, as there are several families with this name, so you should not assume a close link with the Admiral unless you can prove it without doubt using original sources

Descendants of Nelson

(Surnames that may have living descendants: WARD, SOMERSET, WEEKES, and JOHNSON)

Nelson married Frances Herbert WOOLWARD, the daughter of William WOOLWARD in 1787 at Montpelier in St. Nevis, but the marriage produced no surviving issue.

Emma HamiltonHowever, Nelson’s famous ongoing affair with Emma Hamilton (nee LYON) did produce a daughter, from whom there were descendants. This child was Horatia Nelson, and she married the Reverend Philip WARD in 1822. The WARD family is as follows:

Horatio Nelson WARD. Married Elizabeth Martha BLANDY in 1856 in Tooting, Surrey. Their children were:

Elizabeth Horatia Anne NELSON-WARD – Married Raglan Turberville Henry SOMERSET and had issue.
Horatio Nelson NELSON-WARD – No marriage.
Marmaduke Philip Blandy NELSON-WARD – No marriage found.
Hugh Herbert Edward NELSON-WARD – No marriage found
Admiral Philip NELSON-WARD – Married Hon. Dorothy CAULFIELD. No issue.
Rupert William NELSON-WARD – Died in infancy.

Eleanor Philippa WARD – did not marry. Died in 1872

Marmaduke Philip Smyth WARD – No marriage

John James Stephen WARD (died in childhood)

Nelson WARD – Married Jessie WARD. Their children were:

Nelson WARD – No marriage
Rose Nelson WARD – No marriage
Florence Nelson WARD – No marriage
Jessie Nelson WARD – Married Arthur WEEKES in 1888 and had issue in India and England.
Mary WARD – No marriage found
Kathleen Nelson WARD – No marriage
Agnes WARD – No marriage found
Maurice Suckling WARD – No marriage found

William George WARD – Married Toriana BLANCKLEY. Not sure if there was issue – please let me know if you have further information.

ADDENDUM – (Added 14th September 2016) – a descendant of William George Ward has very kindly emailed me with the following information:

Lieutenant Colonel William George Ward married Catherine Parker Toriana Blanckley (the only daughter of Captain Edward Blanckley RN and Harriet Matcham, Lord Nelson’s niece) on 15 Nov 1864 •Clevedon, Somerset, England.

They had six daughters (great-granddaughters of Nelson & Emma Hamilton and Nelson’s sister, Catherine and George Matcham).  Their first five daughters were born in India, where William Ward was stationed.  The first five daughters were:

Ellen Catherine Ward 1865 – 1938

Ethel Mary Ward 1866 – 1946

Caroline Gertrude Ward 1868 – 1941

Evelyn Hervey Ward 1870 – 1961

Ada Blanche Ward 1871 – 1911

Their sixth daughter was born in Pinner, Middlesex in a house near William’s mother, Horatia.  She was:

Alice Lilian Ward 1873 – 1911

William Ward died in Hastings on 10 Au 1878.

My 2nd great-grandmother, Tori, took her six daughters to live in Lutton House, a country house her father, Edward Blanckley had built near the village of South Brent in Dartmoor, Devon.

Of these six sisters, the only one to marry was the youngest, Alice.  She married the village doctor, Frederick William Style on 24 Jun 1903 (please see attached Exeter and Plymouth Gazette announcement).

Alice and Dr Frederick Style had two children:

Professor Derrick William Style 1904 – 1979

Phyllis Horatia Style 1907 – 1987

Phyllis remained a spinster, but my grandfather, Derrick married:

1) Lilian Langford (1903 – 1946) in Sept 1940 in Westminster.  They had one child: my mother, Ray Vanda Style (1942 – still living)

2) Hilde Frönwiesser (1918 – 1967) in Dec 1946 in Paddington.  They had one child, Eric Frank Style (1948 – 1964)

3) Mary Whittaker (1923 – 2013) in Sep 1969 in Wandsworth, Surrey.  They had no issue.”

(If anyone would like to see the copy of the marriage announcement in the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette, please email me at

Edmund Nelson WARD (died in infancy)

Horatia WARD – Married William JOHNSON in 1858. Their children were:

William Horatio JOHNSON – Married Mary Tress CURTEIS and had issue (Kent)
Margaret JOHNSON – No marriage found as far as I know.

Philip WARD – No marriage found

Caroline Mary WARD – No marriage.


Nelson’s grandfather was Edmund NELSON. He was married to Mary BLAND (see below), and his other children were:

Thomas Bland NELSON (1719). No marriage found.
Martha NELSON (1726) Died in childhood.
Alice Bland NELSON (1730). Married Robert ROLFE. Their children were:

Ellen ROLFE(1761), Edmund ROLFE(1763) and Robert ROLFE (1767).  If you can find links to these children you can claim to be a cousin of Nelson.

Thomasin NELSON (1732). Married John GOULTY. Their children (all born in Norwich) were:

Edmund GOULTY (1758) – No marriage found
Thomasin GOULTY (1759) – No marriage found.
William GOULTY (1763) – Married a Sarah WALLIS in 1785. Anyone tracing lineage back to this couple could claim to be cousins of Nelson.

John NELSON (1736). Possibly married Mary INANS in Hingham, 1758 – though needs further evidence.

Mary NELSON (date unknown). Several possible marriages – needs further research.

Nelson’s father Edmund married Catherine SUCKLING (see below). Nelson’s siblings were:

Maurice NELSON (1753). No marriage.

William NELSON (1757) – Married Sarah YONGE. Their children were:

Charlotte Mary NELSON – Married Samuel HOOD, 2nd Baron Bridport, in Marylebone in 1810, and became Duchess of Bronte. Her children were:

Frances Caroline HOOD – Married Sir John WALROND MP. Their children were:

William Hood WALROND (1st Baron Waleran) (1849)
Arthur Melville Hood WALROND.
Charlotte WALROND – Married Horace ROCHFORT in 1845 (probably in Ireland) and their children were:

Amy ROCHFORT – married Thomas P LAW and their living descendants may be found in Ireland and possibly in Northumberland.
William ROCHFORT – No information available.
Alexander Nelson ROCHFORT (Major General) – Did not marry.
Henry ROCHFORT – No information available.
Alexander ROCHFORT – married Mary Penelope, Viscount Bridport and they had the following children:

Mary ROCHFORT – No information at present.
Harriet ROCHFORT– No information found
Jane Sarah ROCHFORT – married Sir Charles HOTHAM KCB but there was no issue.

Arthur Wellington Alexander Nelson  HOOD, 2nd Viscount Bridport – married Lady Maria Georgiana Julia Fox-Strangways and their descendants should be found in the London area.   I do know that their daughter, Mary Nelson HOOD, married married Sir Herbert Frederick COOK, 3rd Baronet, and became Marchioness of Hertford. Their son was the artist, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th Baronet, who married 7 times, with children still living.

Suckling NELSON (1764) Died without issue.

Edmund NELSON (1764). Died 1799 without issue.

Catherine NELSON – married George MATCHAM. Their children are as follows:

George MATCHAM – married Harriet EYRE in 1817. Their children were:

Horatio Nelson Eyre MATCHAM (died without issue)
Catherine Eyre MATCHAM – married Henry Blackstone WILLIAMS. They had 10 children and descendants will originate in Wiltshire and Dorset, and will include the surnames STILWELL and SHIRLEY.
George Simon Eyre MATCHAM (died young)
William Eyre MATCHAM – married Mary Elizabeth LONG. Their descendants can be found in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
Louisa Harriet Eyre MATCHAM – married Fortescue Richard PURVIS. Their descendants may be found in Essex, Hampshire, Shropshire and Wiltshire.

Henry Savage MATCHAM – I have no further information about him.
Catherine Anne MATCHAM – married John BENDYSHE and their children were:

John BENDYSHE (died without issue)
Richard BENDYSHE (died without issue)
Nelson BENDYSHE – married Charlotte BRODRICK. Their descendants may be found in Australia and Devon.
Caroline BENDYSHE – married John GIBSON (not sure if they had children)
Laura BENDYSHE – married Charles Richard William WALDY and their descendants may be found in Surrey and Essex.
Thomas BENDYSHE – no issue
Susannah BENDYSHE – married William CROWTHER Their children were born in Worcestershire.

Edward Nelson MATCHAM – I have no further information.
Elizabeth MATCHAM – I cannot find a definite marriage or death for her.
Francis Griffith MATCHAM – Died in 1808.
Horatio Nelson MATCHAM – Died in 1821 without issue.
Nelson MATCHAM – Did not marry. Died 1886.
Horatia MATCHAM – She married Henry William MASON. Their children were:

Mary Eliza MASON – no marriage or children
George Nelson Pomeroy MASON – married Marian ROUSE. Their children were born in Kent.
Susan MASON – I have no further information.
Horatia Nelson MASON – no marriage or children
Charlotte MASON – No further information
Augusta P MASON – No further information – probably did not marry.
Anne L MASON – no marriage or children

Frank MATCHAM – no further information
Harriet MATCHAM – No further information.

Anne NELSON – Possibly marriage William CLAGUE – but I have found no evidence. Please let me know if you have further information about this.

Susannah NELSON – married Thomas BOLTON. Descendants of this line also have the name NELSON, as their son Thomas took on the famous surname (see below). Their children were:

Catharine BOLTON – Did not marry, no issue.
Jemima Susanna BOLTON – Did not marry, no issue. Died 1864.
Anne Nelson BOLTON – As far as I know, she did not marry, and died in 1830.
Thomas BOLTON (NELSON) Esq. (later 2nd Earl Nelson) – Married Frances Elizabeth EYRE, and their children were:

Horatio NELSON (3rd Earl Nelson) – Married Lady Mary Jane Diana AGAR. Their children were born in Wiltshire. Their son Herbert was the Viscount Trafalgar.
Rev. John Horatio NELSON – Married Susan Spencer-Churchill. Their two children were born in Scottow, Norfolk.
Frances Catherine NELSON – Married Robert John BUSSELL – I have found no children for them and have no further information.
Susannah NELSON – Married Alexander Calvin BLUNT – but there seems to be no issue from this marriage.
Maurice Horatio NELSON – Married Emily BURRARD. Their children were born in Hampshire and Wiltshire.
Edward Foyle NELSON – Died young in 1859 without issue.
Henry NELSON – Died young in 1863.

Elizabeth Anne BOLTON – Married the Rev. Henry GIRDLESTONE. Their children, all bon in Earlham, Norfolk, were:

Henry GIRDLESTONE – Married (1) Caroline Warren PIGOT and (2) Eliza MASON. He emigrated to Australia in 1872, and their children were born in Queensland.
Elizabeth Ann GIRDLESTONE – Did not marry, no issue.
Horatio GIRDLESTONE – Married Ellen Catherine BOLTON. Their children were all born in Norfolk.
Charles GIRDLESTONE – Probably unmarried.
Nelson GIRDLESTONE – Married Caroline Warner (surname unknown) – probably in Nova Scotia. Their children were born in Norfolk, Gloucestershire and London.
Maurice Nelson GIRDLESTONE – Married Katherine Alice LINKLATER. They had just one son, Arthur Nelson, born in Streatham Hill, London.
Susanna Catharine GIRDLESTONE – no further information.

Eliza Nelson BOLTON – No further information.
George BOLTON – Died at sea in 1799. No issue.
Susannah BOLTON – Did not marry, no issue.


Nelson’s paternal grandmother was Mary BLAND, the daughter of John (a baker) and Thomasin, born in 1698 in Cambridge. Her siblings may have been Thomazin (1706), Alice (1708) and Thomas (1711), though there may have been more, and they were probably non-conformists. If you have BLAND ancestors going back to these dates in Cambridge, then you may be able to find a connection.

Nelson’s Maternal Family – Surnames include SUCKLING, TURNER, WODEHOUSE and WALPOLE


Nelson’s mother, Catherine Suckling, was the daughter of the Reverend Maurice Suckling and Mary Ann TURNER, and the sister of Captain Maurice Suckling who became Comptroller of the Navy in 1775. He was married to his cousin, Mary Walpole, the daughter of Robert Walpole, Earl of Oxford, but she died in 1766 and they had no children.

The only other sibling of Catherine’s who may have survived, was William, but I can find no marriage for him. There are therefore no descendants from Catherine’s generation. However, the father, Maurice had at least 13 siblings, most of whom seem to have survived to adulthood, so there may well be Suckling families who could be traced back to the parents, Robert Suckling and Ann WODEHOUSE of Norfolk in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.


Nelson’s maternal grandmother was Mary Ann TURNER, the daughter of Sir Charles TURNER, 1st Bt., and Mary WALPOLE. Her only sibling was John TURNER, who died without issue. There does not seem to be much information about Charles’s parentage, but possibly if you can trace a TURNER line to Norfolk of the late 17th century you may have a chance of finding a connection there.

If you think you may have connections to Nelson’s tree and would like some professional help, please view my services on my Services Page before contacting me.






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Women of World War I – Dorothy Read – Woman of the Future

Women of WWIThis is the last in my series of blog posts about my grandmother and her six sisters.  This one is about the youngest, but perhaps most enterprising of the seven girls.

Like her older sisters Dorothy was born in Harpurhey and was baptised in April 1895. She was christened Dorothy Benson Read, the Benson being after her paternal grandmother, born Mary Ann Benson in Dublin.

As the youngest, Dorothy was only two years old when her father died, and had a rough time of it in her childhood as her mother went to pieces and ended up in the workhouse infirmary. Like my grandmother, she was fostered out, and at first I was not able to find her on the census as her surname was changed to the name of the family who fostered her.

However, once I found her marriage, I discovered her foster name. She is the Dorothy B Read who married Augustine Morgan in 1927 in Manchester North, and luckily the index for this marriage gives an alternative surname of Parks. I therefore looked up Dorothy Parks in the 1901 census and found her with the Parkes family – not far from her own home in Harpurhey. Allan Parkes, her foster father, was an Irish bookkeeper for a cotton mill, and her foster mother, Veronica, was a draper working at home on her own account, also Irish. The residence was also a shop, and there is a clue here to Dorothy’s later life, as we shall see. I think she learned a lot from this family.

In 1911 I found her as Dorothy Parks living in Bradford with her adoptive sister-in-law Veronica, who had married Alfred Henry Gardner, an estate agent’s clerk. Dorothy is described as a machinist in a shirt factory.

I am sure that Dorothy did her bit during the war. Given her character, she may have signed up for the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, or perhaps worked in a munitions factory. Whilst searching any other records, I found that the Red Cross site now have an online search engine. At the time of writing, only surnames from A to E were available so I was not able to search for Dorothy or the other sisters, but they should shortly have all surnames available, which will be extremely useful:

From here, I have a piece of information about Dorothy that dropped into my hands a few years ago. When our cousin Alice died, we inherited some scrapbooks of hers, and amongst these was a reference to her Aunt Dorothy. This told us that she had worked as a buyer in Lewis’s, and had at one time had to buy and arrange a dinner service for a royal visit to Manchester.

Women of WWIWe have an interesting photograph of Dorothy, with her oldest sister Maude, shown here. Maude (in foreground) is pointing at a photograph. I have looked at this with a magnifying glass, and although it is difficult to see, I believe it is a picture of that dinner service. It may be that Maude had helped her with the task. The two sisters look proud, and it is my theory that they look out at us from their early 20th century viewpoint, and say ‘Look at us. We are women, and see what we can achieve.’

In the 1929 Kelly’s Directory for Manchester and Salford, Augustine is entered as a ‘Manager’, living at 46 Edale Avenue, Moston, Manchester. This is very close to Harpurhey. In the same year, a Mrs Dorothy Read Morgan is listed under Milliners at a different address: 48 Ashton New Road, Beswick, which is further south. According to StreetView, this is a rather shabby looking street, with a few run down shops, many of which are currently boarded up. My guess is that Dorothy had set up her own business here, with her husband perhaps as the manager, and they lived and worked between the two properties.

It is obvious that Dorothy was interested in having a career. So where did the job at Lewis’s fit in? Unfortunately, Dorothy’s left hand is obscured in the photograph, so I cannot see whether she was married by this time. However, judging by the women’s clothes, this definitely looks earlier, even before the 1920s. This looks to me as though it was taken perhaps during or a little after the war. The blouses are still quite Edwardian looking, but while Maude still has an Edwardian looking hairstyle, Dorothy has a more modern bob. My guess is about 1919-20. If anyone can give a more expert opinion on this I would be grateful.

So Dorothy probably was working at Lewis’s before she was married, and later went into business with her husband. Reading between the lines, I think she must have been a very determined and forward thinking young lady. She would have welcomed her enfranchisement and was ready to grasp with both hands the new opportunities that were becoming available for women.

I could find no children for Augustine and Dorothy in the registers, though I do know that they had a son called Austin, because my mother remembers him quite well. She also remembers that they spent some time in Australia.

I have not found a death record for Dorothy in Manchester, and because the name is fairly common, it is not easy to find out what happened to her after these dates. I know that they travelled, and went to Australia. Also, in 1957 I found Augustine on a passenger list returning from a trip to Boston, Massachussets. His permanent address is still the one at 46 Edale Avenue and he is described as ‘retired’. Dorothy does not appear to be with him. I do hope that she did not die young.

Of the seven sisters, Dorothy is the one with her feet most firmly planted in the future, the one who seems to have taken the new opportunities run with them. What she achieved may seem modest by today’s standards, but she was born in a time and place with very little choice for women, and she was determined to get through that small chink in the door that came with enfranchisement and new working opportunities for women. I say, good on her – and I am proud to have her and her sisters in my family tree.

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Women During WWI – My Grandmother – and a Mystery Sweetheart?

Women During WWIIn my series looking at my female ancestors and their experiences of World War I, we have now come to my own maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Reid. Obviously I knew a bit more about her before I began my research. She was born on 28th December 1892 at Harpurhey, like her sisters, and baptized the following February. They were living at 222 Conran Street, a rather bleak looking side-street these days which looks as though most of it has been cut off and re-built so I have no idea what the house might have looked like.

Her father died when she was 5, and on her 8th birthday her mother entered the workhouse infirmary after turning to drink after the early death of her husband. My mother can remember her telling her about being dragged through the streets by her mother with nowhere to go. What a bleak and horrible few years my grandmother must have had in her early years.

After her mother went to the workhouse she was fostered by the Carroll family. In the 1901 census she can be found under her own name with the Carrolls and described as their ‘adopted daughter’. However, she took the name Carroll for some time – several years after her mother left the workhouse. We have postcards written to her as ‘Lizzie Carroll’, and I believe she was known as Lizzie for most of her life. I think she had quite an interesting and happy time with them. They took her on a trip to Australia with them, which must have been quite an adventure at that time.

Now, for the war years we have a bit of a mystery. My mother owns a locket of Nanna’s with a picture of her husband Francis on it (see below). However, on the reverse is a photographic portrait of a young man in soldier’s uniform. The locket came to my mother in an envelope with the following handwritten text on it:

2483 Lennard
Photograph – Tester Bros?
(Nr. Brighton, Sussex)Jack Lennard?

In pencil on the side is written the name ‘Jack’. We think that this gentleman must have been my grandmother’s ‘boyfriend’, perhaps even a fiancee, who was killed during the war.

I have searched and searched for a Jack Lennard in the WWI military records, and for the regimental number of 2483, but found nothing that fits all elements. I have searched the census records for someone living in Manchester, and I also looked up the Tester Brothers and found that they did a lot of portraits for the local training corps in Sussex – so presumably Jack or John, or Mr Lennard/Leonard, was based here for military training. There was a Jack Lennard born in Sussex, whose service records I have seen, and who died after the war in 1923 – but I have no idea how my grandmother would have known someone in Sussex.

Sadly, it may be that his records are part of the many WWI records that were destroyed during WWII bombing.

We tend to think of the mothers, wives and children when we think of those men who died, but what about the sweethearts? Those would never receive a war widow’s pension or have that status of wife of one who served; those who were robbed of the chance to live with their beloved as man and wife. I think my grandmother was one of those women, but it is nice to know that some time after the war she met Francis Manley (see my blog post), who was 30 years her senior and probably a bit of a father-figure whom she would feel would look after her. Francis was a widow with several grown up children and was already retired from his job as a Railway goods clerk.

They married in 1923. My mother Joyce was born in 1924 and two years later my Aunt Dorothy. Soon after Dorothy’s birth they moved to the Isle of Man and my mother had a very different childhood to her mother’s – growing up next to the sea and playing on the beach nearly every day.

Sadly, Francis was to die of a stroke just 12 years after they were married, but according to my mother those 12 years were very happy, but it is sad that once again my grandmother was plunged into financial difficulty, and they had to move from their home to somewhere less pleasant. My mother left school early and had to work to bring in an income.

Women during WWIIn later years my grandmother was more settled. I remember visiting her in her house in Douglas, which always smelt of China tea – something she was particularly fond of. She had a poodle called Chico who was a terror to all who came near him.  I also remember  that she had a constant wheeze (which I now realise was probably from her years in Manchester).  She was a worrier, but could also be quite fun, and I remember sitting next to her at the dinner table at Aunt Dorothy’s and her digging me in the ribs and giggling at some risque joke.  Despite all the difficulties of her life and all her worries, she was always able to laugh and have a bit of fun.  Nanna died in 1980 in a nursing home in Douglas, Isle of Man.

And possibly, it is our ability to laugh and have fun that helps us all survive the bad times. I get the feeling that all those sisters had a sense of humour, which may have helped them get through the war and all the other difficult times.

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Women During World War I – Lottie Read – A Hero’s Wife?

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Enter to win my book

I’m running a giveaway competition over at Goodreads for my family history themed novel.  If there are enough entries I may make more books available!  Winners are encouraged to write a review.  See below for details.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Out of Time by Rosamunde Bott

Out of Time

by Rosamunde Bott

Giveaway ends October 22, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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New charges for professional genealogy service

Just a short post to let everyone know that I will be putting up my hourly genealogy service charges from £20 per hour to £22 per hour.

The new charges will be in effect from Monday 22nd September.  However, if you are a current client I will not be increasing the charges for any current work.

Also – if you are considering hiring me to do any work, I will still charge £20 if you contact me before Monday – even if the work doesn’t start until after the 22nd.  Just start the conversation with me before Monday and I’ll keep you at the old rate for the first stage of work.

See my full range of services with the new charges here.


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Out of Time – a novel about family history

Out of Time - A Family History NovelAs a writer  who is also a professional genealogist, I find that my work feeds my writing, and the research I do for my novels feeds my family history research.  It is rather a perfect marriage.  I have been writing historical, or historical ‘time slip’ novels for some time now, and I have at last felt confident enough to go ahead and self-publish one.  It is called Out of Time and it has been published on Kindle since March and as a printed book at FeedARead since May.

I am pleased to say that it has been considerably well received by all who have read it, so I feel confident enough to blow my trumpet about it on my blog.  If you are interested in family history and you like a good read, then you can order it online as follows:

Click HERE for Amazon Kindle

Click HERE to order a printed book from FeedARead

Without giving too much away, the story follows Catherine Burns, who meets an enigmatic musician, Will, and discovers that he seems to know more about her family history than she does.  As she finds out about each of her female ancestors in turn, more questions arise about Will, the house she lives in, and how the past is reaching out to influence her present life.  It is a story with a mystery at its heart which I hope will keep you guessing to the end!

Please feel free to leave any comments below if you have read the book and would like to discuss it.  I will be happy to answer any questions too.

I will also shortly be publishing a children’s novel (C. S. Lewis fans would probably enjoy it!) and I am currently working on a historical novel set in Victorian theatre.  Watch this space!


Read an extract below:

publish your book for free

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Women during WWI – Florrie Read – Marriage and early death

Women of WWIMy Great Aunt Florrie died young. My mother thought that she had probably never married. That’s about all I knew about her before carrying out my research.

According to her baptism record (published on, she was born Florrie Read on 12th January 1886, and baptized at St. Oswald, Collyhurst on 9th March 1887, over a year later. Why such a late baptism I do not know, but we do know from the record that they were still living at 13 Forrest Street, so it was not an oversight due to a change of address.

Baptism of Florrie ReadI have been unable to find Florrie on the 1901 census with any variation of her first or second name. It may be that, like my grandmother, she was fostered out while her mother was in the workhouse infirmary and may be listed with a different surname.

I think I have found her in 1911, living in the household of the Fawkes family, her occupation given as a cloth stitcher in what looks like ‘Shiping House’. If anyone can tell me what this means, I would be very grateful.  My guess is that this was one of the shipping warehouses used for the cotton industry where fabric was prepared for overseas sales. The address is 57 Princess Street, Moston, which is in the Failsworth district, not far from where she was born.

From carrying out searches on Google, I have found that Princess Street is now known as Princedom Street, just below Moston Lane. The street seems like a fairly typical Victorian residential street, but No. 57 no longer seems to exist.

There was a mill at Moston – though it’s a few streets away, and it’s equally possible she could have been working at one of the cotton mills in Hapurhey.

Given that we thought that she had not married, I searched the death records, but found no death record with any variation of her name.

I therefore wondered whether we had been wrong about her being married, so I had a look at the marriage records and I found that a Florrie Read married a Richard T Marsh in 1913. To check this out I searched the death records for a Florrie Marsh, and sure enough, I found that she had died a year later. The burial record states that she was buried on 9th June 1914 at Christ Church in Harpurhey aged 27. This all fits, so I am very confident that this is my Great Aunt.

She died two months before the outbreak of World War I. But why did she die so young? Given that this was just over a year after her marriage I wondered whether she possibly died in childbirth. I decided to order her death certificate to find out.

The address of her residence on the burial record was 6 Lindum Street, Rusholme. This address can be clearly seen on StreetView, and is quite a pleasant looking street opposite a small green.

Did they have children? I checked out the birth registrations, and found a Lucy Marsh born in 1913 with the mother’s surname of Reed, but this turned out not to be their child.

The death certificate told me that she died at this address, of ‘mitral stenosis’. This is a narrowing of the mitral valve in the heart – often caused by rheumatic heart disease, which can occur after rheumatic fever. This is not too surprising, even in one so young. Rheumatic fever was once common in the UK in places of poor sanitation and over-crowding, but is now thankfully rare in this country. In the 19th century, Manchester had one of the highest death rates for diseases of the respiratory system (the sisters’ father had died of pneumonia at the age of 35), and while things had improved by the 20th century, it was still an unhealthy place to live, particularly in the poorer areas.

So what happened to Richard? I could not find a military record for him. He was born in Moston the son of John and Sarah, and was a labourer in a tin yard. He died in 1959 aged 76. He may have married again – there is a marriage in 1937 for a Richard T Marsh and a Bertha Barlow.

While my Great Aunt Florrie did not live through the Great War, she is an example of life in Manchester in the time Oxford Road, Manchester, 1910.  Valettethat led up to it, and she serves to remind us that, 100 hundred years on, our urban centres are generally far healthier places to live now than they were then.

Oxford Road, Manchester 1910.  Valette

On a personal note, I now think of my grandmother, who would have been 20 when she lost her older sister. I remember that she was always worried about health and alarmed at each little cold or cough. It’s no wonder, when she lost her father and sister at such early ages to diseases that nowadays are so preventable.


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Women during WWI – Marriage and Motherhood – Agnes Reid

Agnes ReidThis is the third in my series of Women during WWI – focusing on the lives of my grandmother and her sisters.  Before researching Agnes I knew very little about her, except that my mother thought that she had been an actress at one time.

According to her baptism record, she was born on 29th October 1884 and baptized at St. Oswald’s, Collyhurst as Agnes Annie READ.

After this my first search was the1901 census where I found the most likely entry for her as a domestic servant in Rixton with the Herden family. The Head of the household, James Herden was an architectural draughtsman.

It took me a long time to find her in the 1911 census. I did not know whether she was married at all, and no searches for her as Agnes Reid, or any Agnes born in Collyhurst came up with any results.

So I looked at marriages and found several possibilities. I then looked at the 1911 census entries for the respective husbands, and found that one with a spouse that was born in St. Oswald Parish. She had not come up on the census previously because the transcriber had written her name as James Annie. This is a common problem with online indexes – so it is always worth searching with different criteria until you find someone who looks right. Looking at the original record I could see that it was clearly Agnes Annie. The husband’s name was Whitfield Halstead, a paint brush maker. As is often the case for women, there is no occupation recorded for Agnes.

The marriage was in the April to June quarter of 1904 in the district of Prestwich.

Whitfield was born in Hulme in about 1882. By 1911 they had two children, Gladys May, born 13th December 1904, and Robert Whitfield, born 7th June 1906. They were living at 7 Springfield Avenue, Moston. This street still exists, but on Streetmap I found it full of modern houses, so it will look completely different now to how it did then.

Women in WWIA recent article in the Manchester Evening News describes what life was like in Manchester at the beginning of the war – and is worth a read.   It pictures a city still clouded in pollution, noisy, crowded, dirty and unhealthy. The outbreak of war made things even more grim, with the imminent food shortages and young men being shipped off to fight.

From his war service record on I found Whitfield and Agnes were still at the same address. Whitfield enlisted in 1915 and joined the Bedford Regiment. I also found records for him on FindMyPast showing that he was in the 1st Battalion, 363rd Reserve Employment Company at the Eastern Command Labour Centre. He was also a member of the Welsh Regiment, 12th Battalion in 1916. A service record for 1919 shows the Bedfordshire Regiment again. A further record showed him in the Cheshire Regiment, 21st (Labour) Battalion.

Luckily, he survived the war, but died quite young at the age of 56 in 1940 in Manchester. We don’t know whether he was wounded in the war – but we do know that life expectancy in Manchester was still fairly low, so he may have just been one of those who succumbed to its pollution. Of course, I would be able to find out the cause of death from ordering the death certificate.

I did not find any official war records for Agnes, and presumably she was busy enough looking after two young teenagers while Whitfield was away. With the children old enough to understand what was happening, it must have been a difficult and tense time for them, as well as the difficulties of food rationing. When her sister Alice was widowed in 1916, it must have brought it home to her even more, though I am sure the sisters all pulled together through this time.

Possibly Agnes took on domestic work during the war, or perhaps worked in a munitions factory, while her unmarried and widowed sisters helped to look after the children. Unfortunately, we have few records for women’s work during World War I apart from some nurses’ records, so much of the time we can only guess from what we know from history.

The other possibility was some kind of theatrical career, as my mother seemed to think she had done some acting. I have searched newspaper records, including those accessible online at the Manchester Library, but found no reference to her either with her maiden or married name. It could be that she was part of the recruitment drive for the war – the theatres in the First World War were used for encouraging young men to enlist before conscription and also for fund-raising and as a morale booster.

We do not know whether she was a professional or amateur actress, but if we are right in thinking that she was, she must have been a busy lady!

Agnes married again – to Arthur Perkin in 1942, and died in 1960 aged 76. Both her children married. Gladys May to Herbert Hallewell in 1930 and Robert to Rose Green in 1932. I found that a one-name study has been made of the Halstead family at and this tells me that Robert and Rose had a child, Geoffrey R Halstead. A search on PeopleTracer tells me that Geoffrey is still living in Manchester. He is my second cousin.  If we are able to get in touch with him I will post updates!

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