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Open Ended Questions to Ask Older Generations of Your Family

Open Ended Questions to Ask Older Generations of Your Family

Almost everyone will have older members in their family that might not be around for that much longer, so it’s great to ask them about their lives and the lives of their Siblings, Cousins, Aunties, Uncles, Parents and Grandparents. The majority of the time they will jump at the chance to give you what you’re after as long as you don’t go down the ‘survey’ avenue. I’ve seen a lot of posts on forums and online communities asking about this and a lot of people write out pages of questions relating to the height, weight what colour eyes etc each ancestor had and it rarely gets any real response.

Questions should asked in a way that opens the person up and gets them talking, often going off on tangents completely unrelated to the original question, and this is where the really interesting stuff comes out.

– Favourite Memories Growing Up?

– Who were you closest to from your extended family (Cousins etc)?

– What was the house you grew up in like?

– We’re you evacuated during WW2 (If applicable)?

– What was the best time of your life?

– What was your alcoholic drink of choice when you were young?

– How did you meet your partner?

– Did you ever go on holiday when you were young? If so where?

– Who were your best friends in school?

– Do you have any family recipes and where did they come from?

– How many jobs have you had? And what was your favourite?

– Are you named after anyone?

A lot of the above questions might seem a bit pointless, but they are intended to open up conversation and not make the person feel like they are being interviewed. The most interesting stuff always comes from natural conversation. Ideally you want their personal impressions of subjects or accounts, rather than facts. Facts are easy to find but individuals opinions are not!

Understanding What Is Meant By “Second Cousin Once Removed” And Similar Relationships.

Understanding What Is Meant By “Second Cousin Once Removed” And Similar Relationships.

A lot of people and myself included when they start researching don’t know the actual meaning of relationships like “Second Cousin Once Removed” or “Third Cousin Twice Removed” and only know the simple stuff like great grandfather, great great grandmother etc.

A few things first, in genealogy and on most genealogy related websites the “Great Great Great Grandmother” relationship type is often abbreviated to things like “3xGGM” and “5xGGF” Meaning “Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather”. You get the point, good to know as it saves a lot of time and makes it a lot easier to understand.

With regards to Cousins, it’s actually a really easy concept to learn and one that will allow you to read tree’s and work out relationships with ease. The way it works is in “Generations”. So a “First Cousin” is what most people would just call their cousin, they are the children of your aunts and uncles, simple enough. A “Second Cousin” is where it starts to get a bit more complicated (But stick with it). These to you would be the children in the same “Generation” as you but children of your grandparents children.

Relationship Generations

So say a couple (The Grandparents) have two children , Bob and Tom and Bob and Tom both have two children each and each of those children have a child (See chart above). In the chart Max and Jill are First Cousins. Max and Ben are First cousins once removed. The removed part is where the different generations come in, they are one generation removed from eachother. Ben and Harry are Second Cousins, this is because they are the same generation (So no removal), but have two ancestors between them and their shared ancestors (The grandparents). If Ben were to have a child it would be Harry’s Second Cousin Once Removed and Max’s First Cousin twice removed.

Cousin Chart

The chart above is really helpful for all of the other relationships too. Just replace the “Self” with the person you want to start with, it could be you or could be anyone else then work your way to the person you want to find a relationship with.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Fooled In To Thinking Everyone Has A Family Coat-of-Arms or Crest.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Fooled In To Thinking Everyone Has A Family Coat-of-Arms or Crest.

The majority of people, when they first get in to Genealogy or Family History often (And me included) want to find out their “Family Crest” or “Coat-of-Arms”. If you google your last name followed by one of the two you’ll find countless sites which all want to sell you merchandise with “your” particular crest on.

Having a Coat-of-Arms is a particularly rare thing to have and even if a branch of your family does happen to have one, being able to use it legally is a completely different story. The majority of the companies that offer to show you your Family crest are not engaged in any legitimate genealogical research and will often completely make up or plagiarise/copy another companies work.

If you think you are entitled to use a Coat-of-Arms you first need to understand how they work and how they are issued in the first place.

United Kingdom Coat of Arms

The Motto

The Motto is a line of text or short message which the owner has chosen to represent them and their family/group. It will be set at the very top of the Coat-of-Arms.

The Crest

The Crest is the part of a Coat-of-Arms which sits upon the helm/helmet. This can often be a simplified version of the Coat-of-Arms which can be substituted in when a simple version is needed such as on cutlery. On the Coat-of-Arms it sits just under the Motto and will usually represent a characteristic or trait of the original owner. It could be the head of a Lion to represent bravery or something more delicate that represents success in a particular field or profession.

The Shield

The Shield can have many elements. The shield part of a Coat-of-Arms comes from when they would have originally been painted on to the shields of the bearer and has now become a part of the Coat-of-Arms itself. The elements on the shield can be different colours and have many different designs. The placement of these helps paint a picture of the story that the bearer wanted to tell.


There will also be supporters which are usually two animals or figures that stand either side of the shield, supporting it. The animals or figures used as supporters will also tell part of the story of the origin of the arms when used in conjunction with the other elements of the shield.



The right to bear arms is heritable, this means the sons, and in special circumstances, the daughters of a bearer. However, and this is the most important thing about Coat-of-Arms, Only one person can have a particular Coat-of-Arms so every descendant that inherits will have a slightly different one. This can be in the form of something being added or modified as well as colours being changed. The crest will almost always stay the same and will only change in very particular circumstances.

Laws regarding the use of Coat-of-Arms

Whilst long ago the right to bear a Coat-of-Arms was custom and not heavily regulated, during the 1400s in England it became law that only certain families and groups could bear certain Coat-of-Arms. A lot of Coats-of-Arms have been trademarked these days which means the owners have the last say on how their Coat-of-Arms are allowed to be used. They are not limited to people and can be used by corporations and businesses as long as they have a legal right to bear them.

A Guide to Manchester & Lancashire Genealogical Research

A Guide to Manchester & Lancashire Genealogical Research

A lot of my personal research has been around the Manchester and Lancashire area. So I’ve used a lot of sources in my research, these “Extra” resources used along with the usual suspects (Ancestry, FamilySearch etc.) can yield some very colourful results.

Lancashire Parish Clerks

Lancashire Online Parish Clerks

“This site aims to extract and preserve the records from the various parishes and to provide online access to that data, FREE of charge, along with other data of value to family and local historians conducting research in the County of Lancashire.”

Lancashire Parish Clerks is great because it has fully searchable free data relating to the entire county. You can search by church, town or the whole of Lancashire.

Lancashire BMD

Lancashire BMD

The Register Offices in the county of Lancashire, England, hold the original records of births, marriages and deaths back to the start of civil registration in 1837.

The county’s Family History Societies are collaborating with the local Registration Services to make the indexes to these records freely searchable via the Internet.

Although the indexes are not yet complete for all years and districts, we hope that the database will eventually cover all Lancashire births, marriages and deaths from 1837.”

Like FreeBMD, Lancashire BMD has transcribed the Birth Marriage and Death records for Lancashire, however they have also transcribed many maiden names of mothers and list the “Age at Death” on most records up to 1837 as opposed to 1866 for FreeBMD.

Manchester City County Council Burial Records

Mancheser City Council

The Manchester City County Council Burial Records website is a fully searchable database of all the big cemeteries in Manchester. Its free to search which can also tell you the names of others buried in the same plot but if you want any more information a fee is required. Worth it if it breaks down a brick wall. The best way to use this resource is by combining it with Lancashire BMD to search for correlating deaths.

Manchester’s “Unfilmed” 1851 Census

Unfilmed 1851

“Family historians with ancestors in mid-19th century Manchester face a particular difficulty. Following transfer of the enumeration books to the Home Office in London and analysis of the contents, the area where the books were stored was flooded and the books were badly damaged. Some of the books were in such poor condition that it was not considered worth filming them. Others were filmed but much of the image appears blackened and the writing is not decipherable. Since the original books were considered too fragile to permit public access, the returns relating to over 200,000 people were effectively unavailable.”

This site has transcribed and made a searchable database of all of the names they could get out of the damaged 1851 census.

Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society

Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society

Manchester &  Lancashire Family History Society is a good resource to use as like most Family History Groups it has a member directory and local record sets. Some records are free to search but a small fee is payable if you want to access members directories. These members will often help with local research which is good for anyone not actually from the area. Their record sets also contain employee records from mills in the area. If you have working class ancestors from the Manchester and Lancashire area there’s a relatively large chance they could have been involved in the Mills.

Artus Family History


Whilst this is not specific to Manchester and Lancashire it does offer some very high resolution images of street maps of some of the cities in the area such as Manchester and Stockport. These maps stretch from the mid 1850s up until the 1940s.

Storing And Preserving Old Photos And Documents

Storing And Preserving Old Photos And Documents

One of the most important things in family history is preserving old photos and documents for future generations. Especially old black and white photos taken over a hundred years ago. The best approach in my opinion is to put them anywhere you can online and buy some decent archival storage for the originals. The steps I have taken to preserve my family photos are listed below.

Archive scanner

Step 1 –  Digitize them to a high standard.

The very first thing you’ll want to do is scan EVERYTHING at a high resolution. I’ve written another post outlining exactly how to do this which can be found here, but the general jist is that you should scan at 600DPI using the TIFF File format as it does not compress photos which other formats do (This causes minor details to be lost).

If you don’t have a scanner there will be somewhere locally that will be able to scan them for you to  professional standard.


Step 2 – Save Them Online

External Hard Drive

Scanning at this size will take up quite a bit of memory on your PC so ideally you want to buy an External Hardrive. These have become very affordable in the last decade for the amount of storage you get. A cheap 500MB Hardrive can easily hold tens of thousands of high resolution photos.

Seagate Expansion 2TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
Toshiba 500GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive -Black
Toshiba 1 TB Portable External Hard Drive – Black






Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is where you keep all of your files on servers through either a website or other host. This is an extremely reliable way of storing data, providing you put it in more than one place. Personally I use a combination of Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive.

Dropbox offer free accounts with 2GB of storage with the options to increase by inviting friends and doing other things. As well as a flat 1000GB plan for £7.99 which is what I have as I use my Dropbox for all of my files too.

OneDrive is Microsoft’s free cloud service. Currently they offer 5GB Free, 50GB for £5.99 and 1TB for £7.99 it’s also linked to your Microsoft account. A combination of these two will be enough to keep all of your data safe and secure.

Photo Storage

Online Photo Storage

There are other sites which are dedicated to photo storage and sharing. Adding photos to these as well as sharing them with family members will increase the likelihood of saving them for future generations on different branches of the tree.

Flickr offers 1TB of photo storage for free. Its also really easy to add different albums and invite friends and family to comment on individual photos. I use this by making one large album with everything in then sub-albums for each Surname I have photos of.

Photobucket is another site that offers a free 2GB plan as well as quite a few tiered plans ranging from 22GB to 502GB. I don’t personally use this option but it’s definitely worth looking at.

Step 3 – Archival Storage For Originals

Most people end up putting old photos in a shoe box or standard photo album and then putting it somewhere in an attic/loft or basement and leaving it for years undisturbed. Or so you would think, these places are often damp and the temperature fluctuates a lot which encourages spores to grow and glues and plastics to erode which can be detrimental to old photos. The best place to store archival boxes is in a cool dry place like a cupboard in a damp free room of the house.

Everything that you have that comes in to contact with your photos should be acid free and of archival quality. You can get binders and archival boxes for all sizes. For photos I have one binder which has acid free plastic sleeves of varying types, different sleeves can hold different sized photos. These should also be backed using archival acid free backing paper.

Binders & Sleeves

A4 Deluxe Portrait Binder in Cedar Green
A4 Deluxe Portrait Binder in Cedar Green
A4 Clear Acid Free Archival Postcard Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums - 4 pocket per page (10 pack)
A4 Clear Acid Free Archival Postcard Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums – 4 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E12 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums - 12 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E12 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums – 12 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E9 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums - 9 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E9 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums – 9 pocket per page (10 pack)
Family History Deluxe Long Foolscap Certificate Binder Starter Package - Green
Family History Deluxe Long Foolscap Certificate Binder Starter Package – Green
Tips for Researching Dutch Ancestors.

Tips for Researching Dutch Ancestors.

It’s often daunting when looking at records from another country, in a different language to what you are accustom to. Dutch records are definitely no exception. We often take for granted in the UK how easy it is to obtain Birth/Marriage/Death certificates and how little effort it takes to find them.

WieWasWie Logo


When it comes to Dutch records, looking around in forums or using a search engine will usually bring you to the site “WieWasWie”. Since WieWasWie is a paid website it is often overlooked by people only looking for one or two distant ancestors a couple of hundred years ago. It does contain a lot of information which is almost exclusively Baptism, Marriage and Burial records (Doop, Trouw, Begraven).

Open Archives Logo


There is however usually the same information and sources available elsewhere on the internet. One such site is Open Archives which uses the Open Source data supplied by the Dutch Archives, it is free to use and has more records.

National Archief


If you are looking for Military or VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, Otherwise known as the Dutch East India Company) records. Then GaHetNa is the website you need. It is the Dutch National Archives website and is the number one stop if you’re ancestor was in the Dutch Military.

Militieregisters Logo


Another useful Military site is This site contains thousands of military service records and has an incredible simple easy to use search menu. Although viewing scans is not free you can earn free scans by indexing various projects on which also helps bring new searchable projects and source collections on to the internet.

Ministerie Van Defence

Archieven (Dutch Ministry of Defense)

The Dutch Ministry of Defense has repositories that contain the names of dutch citizens within Napoleons armies. These records contain not only basic information and their military unit but also nearly always contain the Mother and Father of the person in question which can massively help with the research in to a family.



Indexes for different areas in The Netherlands can be found at The site does have an English mirror but it is not updated along with the dutch version. It’s not particularly user friendly but does the job and can be very useful if you know what you want.

Zoekakten Logo


Zoekakten is another not so easy to use site. It does tend to have a massive repository of data though if you can work out how to use it. It usually has Christening/Marriage/Burial records that are missing from other sites online.

Local Sources

If you know exactly where your ancestors are from then your best bet is to look for the local archive for that region as they will have the most in depth records available. They can be found easily by searching for “[placename] archief genealogie”.

Figuring Out Who Is In Old Photo’s

Figuring Out Who Is In Old Photo’s

Sometimes you might inherit photographs from family members that have passed away and not know who they are. My father inherited a box of old photographs from his grandmother, the problem is he doesn’t know who most of the really old ones are. When I scanned them all on to my computer I started to wonder who they were. So I tried to find ways of figuring out who they were. I’ll start with this photo of a family.

Unknown Family Photo
Unknown Family photo

The first thing you need to do is dissect as much information from the photo as possible. Here’s what I got:

  • Postcard Format, years ago people would send photo postcards to loved ones that were done in a studio and mounted on to a postcard. This postcard was from “Bert & Mabel” indicating the two adults names.
  • Postcard reads “To Flo &  Bill” indicating a close relationship to a couple with these names.
  • Children are all of similar age groups so the family would have had: A boy followed by two girls around 1-2 years in age difference, then another boy and another girl. This gives us an indication as to the general family group we are looking for.
  • Style of clothes, in my opinion the style would broadly be between 1905 and 1920.
  • Photographers name, this photo doesn’t contain a photographers name or stamp but if one was present then the date could be further narrowed down based on when he worked or even the negative number of the photo if present.
  • It can be helpful to contact a local historian who if there are markings or a photographers name on the photo. If there are negative numbers on the photo anywhere it can massively help to narrow the possible date range.

Secondly you need to apply that information to a family tree.

  • I know that this photo came from either my great grandmother Gladys Alice Cane’s side of my great grandfather Harold Juden’s side so that’s where I’ll start looking. My photos are more likely to be from the Cane side.
  • If I look through my Cane side I find that Gladys’ parents are William Cane and Florence Kate Wood which matches up with Bill and Flo.
  • One step further I can look through all of the siblings of William and Florence for a Bert or Mabel. I find that William has a brother called Albert and Florence has three brothers called, Ernest Albert, Gilbert and Herbert, giving me four possible leads.
  • All three of Florence Kate Wood’s brothers never married or died young. Leaving only Williams brother Albert.
  • Albert Cane married Mabel Devenish in 1902 and had seven children: Albert 1903, Ellen Louise 1905, Ethel 1907, Richard 1910, Nora Beatrice 1912, Patricia 1915 and Vera Alberta 1921.
  • As there are only five children in this photo it stands to reason that the last two girls haven’t been born yet. This puts the photo at before 1915. The youngest in the photo appears to be around two years old putting the photo at around 1913.

Once you have a hunch or a few possibilities and if you have a photo of any of their family members, cross compare them.

William Cane and Albert Cane
Cane Brothers

The above photo on the left is of William cane, my 2x Great Grandfather and the suspected brother Albert Cane. It’s hard not to be bias when looking for similarities in photo’s so a second opinion should be obtained. To me, the two men look remarkably similar based on facial features and the expression on their faces.

The family group in the photo matches pretty much perfectly with the information in my tree and so proves with very little doubt that this is the family in question.

6 Reasons Why a Fathers Name would be Missing from a Document

6 Reasons Why a Fathers Name would be Missing from a Document

Unfortunately sometimes you might come across a Birth, Christening, Adoption or any other vital record that has the fathers name omitted. Most of the time this will result in a massive brick wall that is nearly impossible to break down, so it’s important to find out why the fathers name was left off in the first place if you are to have any hope of finding out who he was. Some possible reasons are:

Reason 1: A fling

The mother might have had a fling with a man she just met which resulted in a child, the man might have been a traveler or just in the local area for a short while and might not have even known he had a child.

Reason 2: Sexual Assault

The child might have been conceived under much worse conditions, not every girl or family would have chosen to give up or abort the resulting child so would not have wanted the fathers name registered at birth.

Reason 3: A paternity suit

In the past it might have been the case that a father did not want to be on the birth certificate, due to circumstances such as being from a much more prominent or wealthy family. These families will have had a lot more power in courts of law and could have spent a lot of money protecting the families reputation.

The opposite could also be true. A female member of a wealthy family might have had a fling or relationship with a lower class man and they might have tried to cover it up with a quick marriage to another man or keeping the child a secret.

Reason 4: The child is illegitimate 

A child is labelled as ‘illegitimate’, ‘base born’ a ‘bastard’ or one of many more terms if they were born out of wedlock. This is in my experience the most common reason and is the easiest to break down too. This could be the case if the parents were in a relationship but were not married when the child was born. In the UK the parish records, i.e Birth, Christening, Marriage, Death, Burial records were recorded by the parish Vicar or Rector, in the eyes of the parents the child might have been legitimate but in the eyes of most Vicars only a child born to a married couple would be legitimate and depending on the Vicar the fathers name was almost never recorded.

Reason 5: The Father did not accept the child as his

A father might not have accepted a child as his own for a number of reasons:

  • It could be that the father genuinely did not believe that the child was his and that his wife or lover has not been faithful to him.
  • The father might have thought it was his but did not want the responsibility of a child and dismissed the notion of him being the father.
  • The child might have been born with a physical or psychological abnormality which the father did not want to be associated with.

Reason 6: The father was deceased

The registrar might have left the fathers name blank as to the child there would be no father in his life so there would be no point in listing his name on the certificate. It could also be the case that the father died soon after conception and the mother found another man and wants to keep it blank in the hopes that he will take on the child as his own.