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Week 1: Fresh Start

Where to begin? I could write about my personal disappointment about the UK’s fresh start tomorrow, or I could write about my own fresh start when I first took advantage of FOM in 1976 and moved to Belgium to work or when I came back to England in 2008. However, I won’t since my small hop across the channel and back to live, work, and retire, does not compare to those twigs on my tree who ventured much further afield.

Most of us groan when we come across the numerous ag labs in our research and I sometimes moan that my maternal line is not very interesting since they mostly worked on the land, either tenant farmers or the occasional yeoman or ag labs in and around the Chilterns and Cotswolds, apart from my direct line making a foray in to Essex, whereas my paternal line consists of various occupations; both creative and industrial and started out all over the UK.

However, it is actually the younger sons of the land who perhaps led the more interesting lives, as they went overseas to the USA, South Africa and Australia to seek their fortune. It is their descendants who are now coming up as DNA matches to us which is exciting.

Some of them stayed in touch with the families back home and through that I have been sent a picture of my great grandfather George Turner de Fraine which nobody else seemed to have. It was his brother’s widowed wife and family who left Aylesbury and went out to Sydney, Australia. George’s nephew George deserves an article all to himself at some point. Another nephew went to the USA and I have been in touch through DNA to his descendant. Other branches of the family appear in Queensland and Victoria.

The Miles family at home in Saskatchewan

My grandmother, Molly Tompkins, had a picture of the Miles family from Navestock, Essex who went to Saskatchewan in 1895. Mary Ann Tompkins, wife of Henry Jacobs Miles, was the youngest sister of Edwin Osborne and Rosa Ellen Tompkins, Granny’s father and later to be mother-in-law.

John Tompkins and Sarah Jane Godfree had 10 children. One son died in infancy but 2 of the sons went out to South Africa as did one of their grandsons, the son of the oldest son. Two of the daughters married farmers and stayed in England, two married farmers and went overseas, one to Canada and one to South Africa. One of the sons became a marine engineer and married his wife in Italy, my great grandfather stayed in England in farming while the youngest son became a butcher in Kent.

The oldest girl in the family, Sarah Jane, married a Scot and went out to South Africa. One of her descendants, who is now in the USA, was the very first DNA match I came across and I was very pleased to be able to send him copies of pictures of our great x2 grandparents.

George and William Godfree, Sarah’s brothers went out to Australia (“Prominent Resident of Yapeen”), George to initially try his luck in the gold mines and later co-founding King and Godfree the grocer in Melbourne, William followed him out to Victoria but stayed in farming. (William Godfree of Kaanlang).

Our biggest group of DNA matches are descended from William Osborn and his wife Mary Mobbs or their son James and his wife Ann (Jones). James is the maternal grandfather of John Tompkins. Their habit of marrying cousins both before and after they left England for the USA has made untangling the relationships very difficult but does perhaps mean that finding matches are more likely!

These are just a few of the people in my tree who have left their families to make a fresh start. Some came back, other stayed to raise their families and thanks to DNA I am now able to find out what became of those siblings or their offspring who “vanished” from the UK records.

Week 30: The Old Country

Week 30: The Old Country

Because we moved around a lot when I was small, it wasn't until I was about 7 years old that we settled in one place when my parents bought a new build bungalow in Rockdale Drive, Grayshott. Four years later they moved on to nearby Headley and then on to...

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Week 27: Solo – choice or circumstance?

Catherine Godfree, born in 1844, was the youngest child of George and Mary Ann Godfree of Great Rissington. She had three older brothers and seven older sisters. Five of the sisters married and had large families, two sisters married but had no children, while two of the brothers never married and the one that did had emigrated to Australia following the death of his father.

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Week 10: Strong Woman

Week 10: Strong Woman

I have been fascinated by the story of my great x2 grandmother, Catherine Whitehill, born in Glasgow on the 31st May 1847. She had a tough life judging by where she lived, yet she raised 9 children to adulthood in 3 cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, at a time when infant mortality was high.

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Week 15: From Fire to Form

Week 15: From Fire to Form

A quick query of my family tree software shows me that of those who have an occupation entered, I have 32 smiths or related occupations of whom 8 are blacksmiths, 2 gunsmiths, 3 silversmiths, and 4 whitesmiths and also some charcoal burners.

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Week 24: Handed Down

Week 24: Handed Down

I have already got a post about my "hand-me-downs", so I have recycled that one this week. It traces the story of Suie Gillett, my maternal great grandmother and shows how easy it is to get things wrong when tracing your family history! The Gillett Spoons Since I...

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Week 6: Same Name

When I saw this prompt, I immediately thought of Jessie Ann Lewcock, who baptised and buried five babies, three of them called Seth, their father’s name. Only her two oldest children survived to adulthood, a daughter, Grace Agnes, and Lewis named for her brother. Her...

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Week 23: Wedding

Marrying the sister of a deceased wife was illegal in Victorian England. " ...under the Marriage Act of 1835, which had the support of the established Anglican church, it was prohibited for a widower to marry his wife’s sister on the grounds of a passage in Leviticus,...

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Week 16: Air

Flying, civilian pilots and air crew, RAF & Fleet Air Arm, ornithologists, fresh air .... When I saw this week's prompt I wasn't sure I had anything to really write about and was intending to write about fresh air as most of the world including me are under...

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Week 9: Disaster

William George Lewcock 1839-1887. St George's Churchyard, Hanworth. William George Lewcock died on the 3rd May 1887 leaving a wife and 8 children, three of whom were under twelve years old. If we have connected the twigs and branches correctly, he is a very distant...

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Week 12: Very “historical” fiction

While I am doing my research I am mentally visualising the people I am looking at in the census or on a certificate and trying to imagine what their life was like; their house, the street, what they were wearing and how they spent their time. Because I read, and still...

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Week 5: So far away … from “home”

Week 5: So far away … from “home”

........ a light hearted look at genetic heritage. Both my grandmothers were Essex girls, but that is nothing to do with why I support West Ham! The theme tune for Sports Report (right click for the appropriate background music) brings back memories of being...

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Week 11: Serendipity

Week 11: Serendipity

Researching our family history depends on careful research over time, but is often progressed by a large slice of luck! I have had two major ones - both when I was looking for something else, one for my paternal line and one on the maternal. Maternal lucky find My...

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Week 8: Prosperity

Week 8: Prosperity

George Godfree was my great x2 uncle, the sixth child and second son of George and Mary Ann, nee Smith, Godfree of Great Rissington. His father died in 1850, leaving the farm to Mary, "if she wants it", and then to George's older brother. Like many other younger sons...

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Week 7: Favourite Discovery

Week 7: Favourite Discovery

I can't write in great detail about my favourite discovery as it involves living people, but it was very early on in my genealogy research days when I was one of the first members of Genes Connected as it then was. My family had lost touch with a paternal first cousin...

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Week 4: Close to Home

Week 4: Close to Home

​When I decided to take early retirement and come back to England after 32 years living and working in Belgium, I toyed with several places to live. I wanted to be nearish the coast, my parents were living near Ely at the time so investigated Norfolk and Suffolk but...

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Week 3: Long Line

Week 3: Long Line

I was wondering which ancestors to choose this week, but ​I have decided to interpret Long Line as Long List. As soon as you start your family history research, you start collecting bookmarks, favo(u)rites – whatever your browser of choice calls them. The list gets...

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Week 2: Favourite Photograph

This is a hard one. Should it be the picture of Sarah Jane Tompkins née Godfree, a maternal great x2 grandmother, which I see every day as it is hanging over my mantlepiece? She also appears at the top of every page of this website. Perhaps it could be the group one...

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

For some time, I had spotted references to Amy Johnson Crow's genealogical writing challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and often thought it would be a good idea but simply never got round to it. This year I saw another reference and as it was at the end of December, ...

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Schooldays

The de Fraine, Tompkins and Gillett families often sent both their sons and daughters away from home for a few years of education, and I have several times spotted familiar surnames on lists of pupils, which when I have tracked them through other census returns and through birth registrations have turned out to be related to the name I was originally looking for.

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