I’ve been researching my family history with renewed vigour over the last few months and have found that the various family history sites have added a lot more material since I was last doing this about seven years ago. I’ve particularly appreciated the newspaper articles which are now available and have come across details relating to my ancestors in small local newspapers.
And that was how I finally tracked down the elusive John Smith. In truth, I had given up hope of ever finding John Smith, my great, great, great grandfather, but then I came across the marriage announcement of John’s son William to Emma, and this provided three clues: William was John’s second son, John’s profession as nurseryman was stated, and finally there was his place of residence. The result was that I then found the relevant 1841 and 1851 census reports within minutes, and, to my surprise, I immediately discovered yet another link in my chain of ancestors.
It so happened that Mrs Smith’s father was living with the family and the census reports gave his place of birth as a small Suffolk village. When I investigated further, there were any number of people with the same surname who had been born in the same village after the late 1600s, but there wasn’t enough information to forge the links between them.
So to say I was excited last week when I actually visited this Suffolk village would be an understatement. I felt I was on the brink of major new discoveries about my family and that the gravestones in the churchyard would yield sufficient information to help me fill in the missing links, of which there were many.
But I was doomed to disappointment. Maybe my ancestors are all lying there, but the gravestones had eroded to such an extent that it was virtually impossible to read the inscriptions of people who had died seventy years ago, let alone three hundred years ago. I’m hopeful that, in time, more information will appear on the family history sites which will enable me to complete my chain, but, for the moment, that chain must remain incomplete.
And yes, I was reminded of my heroine Julie and her murder investigations. Many is the time when she complains she is going round in circles, whereas what she would like to establish is a straight line running from A to B to C and even beyond. This is exactly how it is in family history, too. I can speculate as much as I like, but nothing will ever be proved without the hard solid facts.