Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Something a Little Different

The last few days have been a little hectic. I'm on the team of staff volunteers for our competitive knitters' game and we just held one of our biggest annual events. This year it also fell over a three day weekend where we were hosting an out of town colleague to do some project work.

In all of that then, I'm somewhat 'a day late and a dollar short' on the GeneabloggersTribe sharing event that actually happened on the 19th.

The idea was for members to respond to a single post on facebook with one of their posts and to read and comment on a handful of others' work.

I was blown away with some of the incredible stuff I read. I don't want to give any spoilers though, so here's a simple list of the posts that I had a look at and really enjoyed the most:

5 Rules of Genealogy Standard Proof
* I Seek Dead People
* 3 Ways to Choose an Ancestor Story
* Heirlooms From My Mother
* She Did WHAT????

* Horrors! Sweater-wearing Freshmen
* How's Your Brand?

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

My Valentine

A rare departure today and a focus on a living relative.

Indulge me if you will, because my darling husband gave me the sweetest gift last year by promising me that we could get married on 14th August so that our half year anniversary will always fall on 14th Feb and ensure that we never have to 'go in for all that' ever again.
What a guy!


Christophe was born to Vincenzo Lombardi and Christiane Rameau in Paris on Sunday 15th September 1968. He was the baby of three boys and the younger of two surviving.

He and his brother grew up in the 10th district, where in a foreshadowing of his future professional life, they would play dress-up

He began his school career at l'Ecole Maternelle Jeanne d'Arc.
Then, after three years of école primaire, the brothers transferred to Ecole Notre-Dame de la Gare, a private school run by monks, where their parents felt they would receive a better education.

It was while singing in the school choir that his choir master picked him as a boy alto for the children's choir Les Petites Enfants à la Croix Brûlée. They sang for a variety of audiences, including a visit to the city of Tours and this television performance recorded in Paris for Christmas alongside the Philharmonic Orchestra of Paris and the Golden Gate Quartet, as well as the trumpet player Maurice André:

After five years, Christophe transferred to the Lysée Claude Monet where Italian lessons were available. Teachers also encouraged him to take Latin, assuming that as a half-Italian he would have a natural skill for it. However he was so bad at it that he was one of three boys permitted by their Latin teacher to quietly play table-top roleplaying games quietly in the back during lessons.

At 15 he opted for a technical Bac at boarding school, but flunked badly and he was offered a choice between secretarial college, interior design, and hairdressing at BEP level. 

He opted for secretarial training and found himself as one of only two guys in a class with 25 girls, which he enjoyed immensely.

He dropped out of college and spent some time working in several positions, including as a stone mason's assistant.

National service beckoned at age 20 and initially opted for long service of 18 months in order to go into les Départements d'Outre-Mer et Territoires d'Outre-Mer (DOMTOM) for a chance at some sunshine rather than the cold of Eastern France or Germany.
Initially he really enjoyed the physical side of things and aspired to special forces for a while.

After two months basic training in Perpignan, with all the places in Tahiti gone, he opted for New Caledonia so as to still get to visit Polynesia.

On arrival he was assigned to the BCS and offered the post of Secretary to an Adjutant third in command of the base.

He made friends with another of the Adjutants and together they formed a small musical act singing in restaurants on the weekends.

After 14 months abroad he returned to Paris and found a job as a security guard in the business district while putting himself through classes at
Paris drama school 'Les Cours Simon'.

Eventually on the back of a four page handwritten letter of application, he found work in the Ardèche as a stablehand and logistics assistant for a horse trekking holiday company in exchange for board, lodgings, and free lessons in horse riding and tractor driving.

At the end of the summer season, the boss' son-in-law, who was a shepherd, offered a winter season working alongside him.

In 1994, during a visit to his Mum in Cosne, he auditioned (and failed) for the local radio station but was taken on by a medieval summer camp in the countryside near Bourges.
The boss, Thierry de Fontenay, was preparing to move the project to a new location in Les Cévennes, so Christophe relocated once again in time to open for the summer season.

Based in a forest clearing, living in tents about 10 minutes from the equestrian centre, days were spent mentoring up to 20 children a day. Morning sessions consisted of workshops in sword fighting, archery, jousting training exercises, then lunch cooked over the campfire. Then afternoons consisted of a LARP style interactive adventure quest to recover a magical sword. Evenings were spent sharpening archery and sword fighting skills, as well as
Tai-Chi Chuan.

In 1995 he applied to a youth scheme in Montpellier who put him forward as a part of the French delegation to a 30 days international arts exchange between France, Senegal and Germany.

In 1997 he felt the call and followed his instincts to Ireland, arriving on Saturday April 5th with his backpack, a pair of bamboo fighting sticks, his guitar and 30 punts in his pocket.

After a few days in Wexford staying with the St Vincent de Paul, he was directed by one of the guys to go and see a friend of his called Kevyn Tuohy who was working as a stained glass artist outside of Galway, so he hitch-hiked his way up the West coast.

It was while he was staying with Kevyn that he found work through the local jobcentre with Italian circus Il Florilegio, who needed a french speaker.
His performance background meant that he was taken on as both a general hand
and as Pucinella in the show.

At the end of June he realised that the circus schedule would never allow him to see anything of the places you pass through, so he left the circus and returned to Cork and took a room in an apartment with a friend he had made.

In July, after several weeks playing tourist, his friends took him to see the Galway Arts Festival.

By the autumn, he was living in Leitrim where he would spend the next 17 years honing his skills first as a street performer, fire dancer and fire display fighter, appeared as a fighter in children's television programmes "Tx" and "The Mystic Knights of Tír na nÓg", then as a magician, auditioning successfully as a member of the Society of Irish Magicians.

In 2010 he opened his own business, Trapdoor Entertainment and in the Christmas season of 2012 toured his own card-based magic show 'A la Carte' in both Ireland and the UK.

In 2014 he relocated to the Irish Midlands with his family in search of a better balance between their commute to Dublin and the North, while still maintaining a rural lifestyle at home.

After a period of further professional development he also returned to acting and currently works primarily in film and TV.

He married his fiancee of five years on 14th August 2017.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

2018 Looking Backwards and Forwards.

Happy 2018! 

Did you know we get a blue moon this month? I just love the idea of that. I'm fighting the temptation to go looking for who in our tree might have seen one before (though no promises over whether or not they were interested). 

2017 was a very big year at our end (and it somehow feels so long ago already) and pretty much nothing went as it should have, which makes for some strong memories, but in all honesty, I'm hoping this year's adventures are ...shall we say 'different'?

On Sunday 5th February we had trouble reaching Tof's Mum for our usual Sunday check-in with her. In the end the local sapeurs undertook a welfare check and established that in fact her doctor had admitted her first to the local clinic and then the hospital on the Saturday. Ironically, after having had to make a forced entry via the first floor living room window and searching the house, they found a note on her dining table asking the doctor to please inform us 'or else he will call the fire brigade who will come and break my windows getting in'. We were able to establish contact with the hospital and started to make plans to go out to her in a few days when they anticipated discharging her home.

The following afternoon we checked in with her hospital doctor who had been running tests. He wanted to run another the following day before advising on when we should come.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Within an hour he rang us back to explain that she had suddenly got very much worse and had died at 18.20 local time. He and a nurse had been with her at the end.

We spent most of February in France dealing with the funeral and related administrative things. It was difficult of course, but to be among the family is always a special treat, so that was nice.

Once we were home and settled, it was downhill all the way to our wedding in the summer.
Even with doing virtually all of it ourselves (and with the help of the family and our amazing Best Man, Best Woman and her lovely hubby), as well as taking the first two weeks of August off from everything, we just barely made it by the skin of our teeth (and that's before my darling husband got a spontaneous nosebleed requiring an ambulance in the early hours of the morning of our wedding day). 
We were gifted a two-nights honeymoon in Connemara by some lovely friends of the family and that was a very welcome break and ensured that we did see something of the end of summer - and we got to see the sea!

We had hoped that the tail end of 2017 would be calmer. Tof had booked himself onto some continuing professional development training as he wasn't feeling up to much work-wise (to say nothing of him going down with Shingles for his first time in late September) and we thought that was that, but sadly his brother Fabrice passed away unexpectedly on Sunday 8th October. Having his shingles Tof was contagious at that point, so unfortunately we were not able to go out for the funeral.

In late November and into December we started to get the first results in from the DNA tests that a group of family members took. We're really enjoying the whole voyage of discovery and seeing where it takes us. 
To date, Tof's has been the most astounding. Previous to the big MyHeritage update of a couple of weeks ago, he had exactly four matches. The very first one we looked into, we found a wonderful new cousin (of some sort) in lovely Vito. Our first person of interest is his Great Grandmother Rosina CARBONARO, who was born Rosina LOMBARDI. Based on her date of birth, she could well be a sibling of our brick wall Genaro LOMBARDI b. somewhere around 1880 (roughly). He's giving us some trouble though as it seems that he may have moved from somewhere else to Minervino Murge to be with Francesca CATALANO after they were married (there seems to be no record for that marriage in Minervino Murge), so until we can locate their marriage lines, we're a bit stuck there.
We are also slowly getting to grips with GEDmatch and are considering Promethease.

We closed out the year with a visit to my Mum's for the big double birthday and a family Christmas.

There were some cool things too last year. I was taken on as a volunteer helper in a few places including the Thursday Rangers and Adoption Angels team over at Wikitree and I've really loved meeting everyone at the British Isles Facebook group (among the far too many groups I joined, but then genealogy's never one for moderation) and even discovering I'm related to some of them! 
We took part in a really fun graveyard photography weekend for FindAGrave (highly recommend it as a great activity that all the family could join in on). I also recently got to help with tracing two WWI airmen for two ladies working on a book project in Australia and am providing genealogy and family history support for a commemorative arts installation in Devon later this year. 
We also feel that we're very close to reuniting the Sgt White photograph with his family. We're now as sure as we can be that it was Sgt White of the RAF, as opposed to the man from the Royal Signallers. We continue to look for modern relations (he had no children and his widow seems not to have married again).

We also acquired two new books this year. One was the personal book based on my Grandad's life story that I showed you a few weeks ago. The other one I picked up on the recommendation of a lady at the National Archives in Dublin, who called it "the Bible for Irish Genealogy". It's called 'Tracing Your Irish Ancestors' by John Grenham and while I'm taking it at a slow plod to read through, I find myself referencing it so often that it now lives within arm's reach of my desk.

In 2017 I acquired my first ever paying genealogy customers. Largely through Fiverr, but I also have one client on a longer-term private commission on a really cool project which I can't say much about at this stage, but it has me constantly challenged, baffled and sometimes incredibly excitable with some downwards genealogy from certain members of C19th Prussian nobility.

Last but not least, as of yesterday, I'm a member of the GeneabloggersTRIBE and I could not be prouder of that achievement. Thanks again to them for all their constant hard work in support of us all.

2017 Target:
2018 and beyond...

I did get a blog post in for January & in fact across the year I got 5 posts in, so that was an improvement of nearly 200% so I'm impressed with that all things considered
I have 2 posts so far in January (plus this one), so I'm claiming that as progress.
I definitely want to keep to the one a month challenge this year, but I'm really hoping to actually hit all 12 this year.

HUGE amounts of manual data entry to cope with my GEDcom not playing on various platforms (or arguing with others' formats - I'm looking at you wikitree)
Yeah. That's a continued work in progress. It's a real challenge to fit in the time for it, but I am finding it works as an excellent check system for those daft little mistakes we all make and don't necessarily notice straight away. At least that's what I tell myself...

I was (and am) making some slow progress with wikitree, but there was also RootsMagic, GenesReunited, Family Tree Circles, GeneaWiki and various other places). 
I'm still going on some of that. I do try to keep to the same handle across platforms (dlaity) so if you do see something on a mutual relative (or don't but think I might have it), definitely give me a yell and I'll try and help you out.

Update the paper tree when all the online ones are fixed
In all honesty, I never got to work on our paper tree at all last year. Hopefully later this summer?

Remember that nice mounting system for the paper tree that I dreamt up? I had three possible methods to make it happen:
* I get cast in something that makes serious money
* I find a craft or genealogy customer prepared to pay me in a custom size piece of perspex
* I meet an art or woodwork student prepared to take on the challenge as part of their coursework.
I'm adding two new ideas to the 'how to make it happen' list:

* Regain confidence with woodworking enough to make my own

* Find and take some training in picture framing.
Finish off my four generations project for my licensing exam. - Shooting for sitting the May level 1 exam if at all possible.
With the way last year turned out, I didn't manage to get that all sorted (not that I'd have had the head-space to do a good job of it anyway). I did get it to somewhere between half and two-thirds written though, so I'm going to aim for the August sitting this year.

I wanted to create something else crafty (on top of my shawl pattern from the year before) and I wanted to start a book on Bad Billy.
I did start an outline on the book for Bad Billy, but it isn't really going as I'd like it too, so it keeps being sent to time out.
I'm also frustrated by trying to work out if I can get a look at the Royal pardon for some kind of capital offence (hanging was the original sentence) that Billy was given shortly before his transportation.
I also still can't resolve the ridiculously tight period between the trail going cold in Port Jackson and him being back in the West Midlands getting married.

NEW: Try to work out how Tof and Vito connect by trying to work out how Rosina and Genaro connect.

What are your genealogy targets for 2018?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Product Review: 'The Beautiful Life of...' book by Four Bears Books

NOTE: So that you know, I'm not being given anything to review this product, nor was I asked to review it. I'm just very impressed with it.


Back along a couple of months I backed a project on Kickstarter because it looked pretty cool.

The concept was brilliant. Writer Juliette Eames and a small team at Four Bears Books had come up with a hard-back book that could be customised to make anyone's life into an heirloom accessible to anyone from the littlest family members upwards.

For my donation, we got to be one of the first families to receive a book. We chose to feature my Maternal Grandfather (who was my March Relative focus back in 2016) as of all the near relatives we could think of, he was the one relative who every living adult member of the immediate family was alive to know and we felt that was an important place to start. Over time I'd like to think that we could possibly collect a few more of these books focusing on other relatives too.

As is my traditional curse, some of the administrative side of it went wrong (if ever anything will have teething troubles, gremlins, or computer refusal, it's ALWAYS going to happen with me), so I ended up trading quite a few emails with Juliette herself and even, in the end, we even got to speak on the 'phone. I have to say, she's one of the most on-fire genealogy/family history people I've ever encountered and it's clear that her whole heart and soul is tied up in this product.

Our book arrived ever-so speedily today (I think about 3 weeks from standing once we got everything sorted out) and we are so impressed with it. It's a great quality book and beautifully presented.

Would you like to see a few pictures of what they created for us?

The Front Cover

Pages they made from family photos we contributed

The opening of the story

The part about his marriage to Grandma:

Should you happen to be on the lookout for a genealogy/family history based gift or even a baby welcome present, this would be a lovely option. We're really pleased with ours.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Happy Birthday Great-Grandma!

On Wednesday, 9th December 1891, Dorothy Hawley was born in Codnor, Derbyshire. She was the fifth of the six children of John James Hawley and Elizabeth Waterfall. 

She was the youngest daughter to survive and the youngest child to survive overall after her baby brother Fred was run over by a bus in the blackout during World War II. 

This is the earliest photo I have of her. I suspect that it was taken around the time of her marriage to Robert William Dawson, which happened in September of 1918. 
He would later tell his granddaughter "She had jet black hair".

Just over 15 months after their wedding, on 1st Jan 1920, she gave birth to identical Twins.
Olive was the elder twin and weighed two and a half pounds, then came Edna weighing two pounds. The two tiny newborns slept together, nested in a drawer.

May Queens' Handover 1936
Incoming Queen Appleblossom (Edna) left
Outgoing Queen Anemone (Olive) Right

In January of 1948, aged 57 she became a Grandmother for the first time. She would have three more Granddaughters before the end of 1952.

Seven Great-Grandchildren followed (5 girls and 2 boys) between 1973 and 1986.

I am the sixth of seven Great-Grandchildren and the last that she would meet personally.
This was the day we first met at Edna and Douglas' house 22nd Jan 1983.
She was 91.

She died on Wednesday 1st May 1985
in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire (where Olive lived), at the age of 93.
Edna passed away that Friday, aged 65.

Her descendants today include 
one more Great-Grand-daughter,
9 Great-Great-Grandsons
and 6 Great-Great-Granddaughters.

Happy 126th Birthday Grandma Hawley

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Our very own Impossible Girl

It is the 7th of July 1893. Early morning in the historic fishing town of Mola .

Close to the Cathederal of St Nicholas of Bari, Vito Dottari is working in the Town Hall.

Around 09.00 he adds a record to the notes, corrections & omissions section of the Atte di Nascita for the day before:

Atto di nascita for Maria written by Vito Dottari

Luckily for us, 124 years later, thanks to social media bringing together some of the most lovely people on the planet, a volunteer named Ligia Cavallari of the Facebook Group 'Genealogy Translations' very kindly translated it for us:

"1893,July 7th in the Town Hall...appeared Furio Palma,53 years,housewife,who presented a baby, male sex,seeming to have few hours of age and declared that this morning at six AM ,I say (dico )of female sex,appearing only few hours of age and declared that this morning ,I say,yesterday at six hours AM was delivered to her the foretold girl wrapped in four cotton rags,without any signal or monogram;to the foretold girl I gave the name of Maria and surname Giacinto and entrusted her to the wet nurse Viciliano Margherita,wife of Taseo Francesco Paolo,who has promissed to take on the breeding and to give account to each request of the authority.Witnesses Bizzi Giuseppe ,50 y,leather craftsman and Didonna Giuseppe,57 y.pasta maker."

It doesn't read well because our hero makes a couple of pretty fundamental errors and has to correct himself. In fact, the foundling presented by Palma Furio is a baby girl born left, and then found around 06.00 the day before.

On behalf of the town he gives the child the name Maria Giacinto. At this point, if the parentage of a child was unknown, the custom was to give the child a family name that does not belong to any other family in the area so that this child's descendants have a name, but the child could not be confused as the natural child and heir of any community member.

Thus the foundling baby roughly one day old embarked on the best start that her town could offer her. Entrusted to the care of a wet nurse, Margherita Viciliano and her husband Francesco Paolo Taseo.

So the legend goes (the document at this point cannot be found), 19 years and 10 days later, on 17th July 1916, Maria married her sweetheart, Michele Lombardi. They are said to have adored each other. At some stage (again the document at present cannot be found), Maria became pregnant, but sadly it was not meant to be. Both Maria and her baby passed away during childbirth.

While uniquely horrible, this was by no means an uncommon thing 100 years ago. Time moves on and so do people. Michele found love again with Loreta Sassano They married 16th Nov 1926 and built a family.

Today, 124 years after her birth, by chance Maria's Atto di nascita still exists in a collection immortalised in photographs. It could well be that some of her family somewhere are researching their family history and taking DNA tests to find other relatives. It is extremely unlikely though, unless her first family secretly kept knowledge of her alive, that anyone will have her name recorded anywhere in their family tree. Possibly, they mightn't even know where to look. Effectively, though she lived, loved and died, she has been lifted out of time and space as though she was never there.

However, it is because of her absence that Michele went on to gather: 

8 children
12 grandchildren
10 great-grandchildren

That's 30 people to date who exist because she no longer does.

In recognition of what she meant to my husband's Nonno and the fact that there is very likely no-one else to claim her, we have kept everything we know in our tree.
Some day, perhaps we'll find another document for her - her marriage lines, or death certificate. There's always an outside chance that perhaps a photo survives, but until then, we've given her a portrait in our tree. We found it in a "free to use" Google clipart search:

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Just 28 Days (on time and DNA testing)

We're finally really getting down to doing our DNA testing. I can hardly believe the thing we've talked of for so long (especially for himself and his Italian side) is actually happening.

In the end, we decided that the best one for us at this time is the My Heritage kit (which is currently on special offer as it happens). We got a fantastic deal and the test is beautifully low-tech in that it's a really simple cheek swab.

Should you have an opportunity to try one, I highly recommend it. I think most of us have had those times where a place or activity has been somehow familiar and then we've later gone on to find that we had ancestors in that place or doing that activity. It's like it resonates with something deep within us. Stating my bias here, I'm extremely interested in the notion of collective/generational memory. I also highly recommend reading some of the scientific investigations around it if you're interested too. They're an absolutely riveting read.

It was very peculiar to sit there last night, watching a digital clock display on the computer counting off the seconds to one minute either side, rolling that swab around.
Of course there's nothing to see and very little sensation - it's a bit like if you've ever had a piece of cotton wool brush against the inside of your cheek, but it's a strange and oddly confronting thing to sit and think 'what would even my grandparents think of this?'
We are in an age of more scientific privilege than ever before and progress is so swift. Isn't it frightening to think that there are now University graduates who couldn't, without help tell you what the relationship is between a cassette tape and a pencil?!
...these are just a few of the thoughts that raced through my head while performing my test.

It was such a small thing and a large thing at the same time. Stupidly, I felt a little under-dressed for the occasion sat at my desk in sweater and jeans. Though for the life of me, I couldn't tell you what would have felt more appropriate. As though somehow, magically, it might improve the test I also felt as though I should be thinking 'good thoughts' of all my ancestors (though truly, I haven't yet found an ancestor I haven't at least fallen for a little bit). It's a huge responsibility in some ways too. I found myself thinking: "What if my DNA's broken, or damaged? What if there's not enough of it? What if it doesn't carry enough information to be worthwhile?" I had to give myself a stern talking to on that and as with this blog, I called to mind the future ghost of some downward descendant who's often with me when I'm tracking our family's history and remember that as much as genealogy is a pursuit for one's own edification and pleasure, potentially some point down the track, it may also prove to be a tiny treasure for those who come after, particularly for those of us who bridge the gap between the analogue and digital eras.

Now there's just that four weeks wait for results. That in itself is an odd thing. In today's world it seems like such a long time, and yet, four short weeks ago from today I was back to work following time off for our wedding (separate post on that sometime soon. You've probably noticed it takes me a while to get the words to come together) and four weeks from now it will almost be Samhain and the Celtic New Year, which is one of my most favourite holidays in the world.
I'm also remembering back to childhood. There was a book that used to be put out (by Royal mail I think) that covered all kinds of interesting and educational activities that, if you liked the look of them, you could send 28p and however many stamps and in "just 28 days" you'd receive a parcel - honest-to-goodness exciting post. That time just used to seem to fly by, so I think I'm going to have to remind myself that it's "just 28 days" and contain my soul in patience. After his and my results arrive we have to do it all over again for the other members of our family who've kindly agreed to test as well.

I'm excited with the potential learning opportunities from this experience. On my father's side, my cousin has kindly agreed to test, which is lovely as we are sadly low on males to test on our Laity side now. I'm aware of other males who have tested up our common lines, particularly the Spencer/Spencer-Churchill side & I believe there is someone out there who tested some Hobbins Men also. On my mother's side, my two second cousins have agreed to test with me. This will be interesting for all of us as their maternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother (Olive and Edna Dawson respectively) were identical twins, so we're expecting that between us, we may have some very interesting results.

Have you done any DNA testing? What was your experience like?