"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

On the sibling tidy-up

Yet again, I have to being this post with a massive sorry that I haven’t blogged for aaaages – this time of year is mega busy in my job as we try to get books out in time for Christmas, so I don’t have the time to blog in my lunch hour as I often do, and when I get home from work I’m just too shattered to write proper sentences after editing all day!
However, I haven’t given up on the genealogy. One of the things I’ve been doing with my tree recently is a sort of sibling ‘tidy-up’. I’ve blogged a bit about researching non-direct lines, i.e. siblings, before. However, although I’ve often preached its importance, I’m no saint when it comes to practising what I preach, and I find I have often left these particular loose ends undone, especially in the more recent branches of my tree where I’ve been in a hurry to work backwards.
Also, as new records are coming to light all the time, I’ve actually found lots of extra siblings that I didn’t have previously.
The fun thing about sibling investigation is that it’s often fairly simple, and so it makes for some nice easy genealogy – perfect for my current state of exhaustion! It involves lots of census checking, which a) I like and b) I don’t seem to get to do so much these days, as I plough backwards into the mists of time!
My strategy when it comes to siblings is to identify their spouses and as many of their children as possible, and cover them off on as many census records as possible as a family. I don’t particularly intend on investigating their spouses’ backgrounds or their children’s marriages, for now at least, as you have to draw the line somewhere. However, sometimes it can’t be helped, and I’m not going to say no to some instant records now, am I?! For example, the spouse’s father’s name and occupation is given on the parish marriage records in many cases. If nothing else, it’s interesting to get some idea of their background.
There are a couple of routes to do so, and I’ve used both, depending on which came easiest / bore the most fruit really. Firstly, you can trace your sibling forward on the censuses to find them living with a spouse and children, and then use this information to identify a marriage record and births for their children.  Or, you can go straight to the marriage records (usually parish for free and instant access) to identify their spouse, and then trace them on a census to find the relevant children and get their births that way.
As I’ve been working with late nineteenth-/early twentieth- century ancestors for the moment, I’ve often been able to use the mother’s maiden name in the later BMDs to find children born after the 1911 census. The only thing to remember here is to check (as far as possible) for marriages between other couples with the same name that might lead you to confuse their children. If this does arise, the only recourse is to the certificates, which isn’t a high priority at the moment to be honest. In this case I’d be keeping a note of them for future reference, but probably not adding them into my tree. Thankfully, I’ve not had any glaring problems here, though there are one or two close calls!
Also, as a quick aside – I’ve been working backwards through my tree for this, because it is easier to tackle. Moreover, for the moment I’m only going down my maternal grandmother’s side. This is only because it is the first line I researched, and it was one of the easiest for me – therefore the most neglected where this particular aspect is concerned within my current tree. However, I did have some of my original old index cards with some of this info, which has proved useful (although of mixed quality, to be honest)!
The sibling tidy up is useful for a few things.
First, I’ve often talked about siblings providing useful clues if you’re stuck regarding the life of your direct ancestor. Though this hasn’t been the case in any of my tidy ups so far, it’s not difficult to grasp that if I also had a missing sibling, there’s a good chance they might be found together. Or, that they show up as a marriage witness, for example.
Even if you’re not stuck, having the full picture of their siblings lives is useful as supporting evidence that you’ve got the right family when they show up on a census. Or just for adding flesh to the genealogical bones – for examples, I find more and more that my ancestors lived extraordinarily close together and stayed within the same few addresses for generation after generation – meaning that at one time entire streets were full of my extended family! It certainly gives an interesting picture of how they lived. Particularly in my home town, it’s also fun to see familiar local names creeping into the edges of my tree, and wonder whether I am distantly related to people I went to school with or our neighbours and so on.
The sibling tidy up is also useful for solving those one of those little genealogical problems we all come across – the mystery grandchild or niece/nephew. I get these all the time and they drive me mad. Because all genealogical programmes identify people by their ‘next of kin’, it’s extremely difficult to add in a (figurative) ‘orphan’ child and then identify their parents later. What I generally find happens is that you work through the sibling’s family and then suddenly ancestry starts waving a little leaf at me to connect bits of households together – proper jigsaw genealogy!
The best sibling tidy ups, though, are the ones that throw completely new light on the ‘story’ you thought you already knew, as happened to me recently....
On which, more tomorrow (or as soon as I can manage it!)
L x

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