Annie Barrows Talks Family History and The Truth According to Us

Annie Barrow interviewIf you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you know how brilliantly co-author Annie Barrows stitched together letters, conversations and history in her fictional love story and account of the Nazi-occupied island of Guernsey during World War II. I love that book. So I was super excited to hear her talking on The Diane Rehm Show recently about her new book, The Truth According to Us: A Novel.

Of course, Annie read from the opening of her book, which made me put it at the top of my reading list. Then she talked about how history can be so different, depending on who is telling the story and from what perspective. I loved her take on small-town history and family history: how it’s remembered so deeply and passionately by its own, and often so mis-remembered or mis-represented by outsiders.

Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.”

Annie did talk about the Guernsey book, too. I hadn’t realized her aunt wrote the original manuscript, then became too ill to do the rewrites her publisher wanted. So Annie took on the task. As the author of the acclaimed Ivy and Bean children’s series, clearly she was up to the task. But she didn’t dream it would become an international best-seller!

Genealogy Gems Book Club Genealogy Family HistoryThat’s my latest recommendation as the “curator” of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We recommend mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles that resonate with people who love family history. Up soon on the Genealogy Gems Book Club schedule: our interview with author Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) (we’ll put the link up on the Book Club page when it’s ready). We also recently published this new companion list of how-to genealogy books we love.

 

A Family History Photo Display with Mementos: What Would Yours Look Like?

mary ann photo trayRecently, Genealogy Gems Premium member Mary Ann shared some beautiful family history crafts with us. One is this exquisite family history photo display she made for a cousins’ gift exchange. It’s a collage concept that incorporates pictures with mementos and meaningful embellishments, but in a beautifully orderly fashion.

“This was so easy to make,” Mary Ann wrote. “The hardest part was rounding up the photos I wanted to use, then sizing them to fit the appropriate little openings. I use Photoshop Elements for my photos and digital scrapbooking so I cropped and sized the photos there, put them all into one larger page so I could print all at once, printed a draft on printer paper to make sure the photos were the correct size then printed my good version on photo paper.

“When I made the photo tray a few years ago, I found the tray in my local Archiver’s scrapbooking store. Archiver’s has since closed their retail stores but they sell online. I was looking at their site last night and found the same item for sale that I used in my project. Here is the link to the item.

“I cut out my photos, some of which filled the entire little opening, but if they didn’t, I added some scrapbook paper as a background to those. The “generations” and “ancestry” tags, as well as the ovals, flowers and key, are all scrapbooking embellishments. I used little pieces of ribbon under the outhouse photo, as a bow on the key and to cover the “handle” of the tray. I had some leftover lace I used to trim the bottom of the box. I copied a piece of a census record that showed my grandparents’ names and some of my aunts and uncles.  I used acid-free double sided tape made for scrapbooking to attach it all.  And I found the little frame to put on my grandfather’s photo.”

Mary Ann also hopes to create a photo tray like this for her son’s school photos (she saw the idea online) but hasn’t gotten to it yet. But she got a lot of mileage out of the one she did finish. “I made a total of 6 of these, all alike, and gave the remainders later as Christmas gifts to my mom, an aunt and a couple cousins,” she tells us. “And I was even clever enough to keep on for myself.  My aunt told me she cried when she opened it and saw what it was.”

I remember little display trays like this being popular in the 1970s or 1980s, too. I’ve seen them at resale and antique shops, and tucked away in friends’ basements and attics. You may be able to find vintage trays that are less-expensive than the new ones. This inspiring idea made me wonder what mementos, tiny memorabilia, embellishments and even photocopied genealogy records I would tuck into my own version of this project.

large_thumb_tack_800_16520We’ve got more beautiful ideas like this on our Pinterest boards! Check them out: Family History Craft Projects, Legacy Displays and Heritage Scrapbooking for Family History.

 

One of the Easiest or Most Complicated Genealogies in the World?

Easy or complicated genealogy for this remote island?

Easy or complicated genealogy for the folks on this remote island? Tristan da Cunha, Wikipedia image.

Small, isolated populations should mean it’s easy to do their genealogy, right? Well, I wonder.

I came across this Wikipedia article on Tristan da Cunha, described as “the most remote inhabited island in the world, lying 1,750 miles from the nearest landfall in South Africa, and 2,088 miles from South America. Its current population of 264 is thought to have descended from 15 ancestors, 8 males and 7 females, who arrived on the island at various times between 1816 and 1908.  The male founders originated from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, United States and Italy and the island’s 80 families share just eight surnames: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello, Patterson, Repetto, Rogers, and Swain.”

Of course, success in doing family history on this island depends a lot on how strong their record-keeping and preservation has been. (Consider what one natural disaster could do to written history) Barriers to migration should certainly mean it’s easy to find ancestors. But what does that family tree look like? How many people will show up in multiple places on the tree?

Have you ever done genealogy research on an isolated or insular group? What are the challenges? What’s easier? Feel free to share on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Feel free to share your tales of complicated genealogy!

 

New Editions of Old Papers Now at the British Newspaper Archive

London Standard British Newspaper Archive

More than 8.5 million newspaper pages from 1710-1954 are now available to search at The British Newspaper Archive. Recent titles cover England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and include the London Evening Standard, Glasgow’s Daily Record and the Northern Whig.

The first years from the following new titles have been added to The British Newspaper Archive:

  • Biggleswade Chronicle, covering 1912
  • Daily Record, covering 1914-1915
  • Lake’s Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser, covering 1864
  • London Evening Standard, covering 1860-1862 and 1866-1867
  • Newcastle Evening Chronicle, covering 1915
  • Northern Whig, covering 1869-1870
  • Surrey Comet, covering 1854-1857 and 1859-1870
  • Watford Observer, covering 1864-1865, 1867, 1869-1870

Check out the latest additions of old news now at The British Newspaper Archive here!

find ancestors in old newspapers chronicling america free us historical newspapers

Want to learn more about using old newspapers in your genealogy research? Check out my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. You’ll learn what kinds of family items you’ll find mentioned in old newspapers; how to find the right newspapers for your family; and how to locate old editions–both online and offline.

British Isles Genealogy: New Records Online for England, Scotland, Ireland

Trace your British Isles genealogy! This week we report on new genealogy records online for England, Scotland, and Ireland. Read about WWI weekly casualty lists, free census records at FreeCen, English and Scottish burials, Scottish poorhouse–and a free British Newspaper Archive webinar on learning about migration and travel in old newspapers.

British isles genealogical records

British Isles Genealogy: Free and Fee Records Now Online

NEW! Free UK census records website

The same team of volunteers who bring us FreeBMD and FreeREG have now launched FreeCEN, a free website offering free-to-search 19th-century UK censuses. “Transcribed entirely by volunteers, we have more than 32 million individuals available on our website that anyone can search without having to create an account,” states a press release. “FreeCEN2 also brings with it a host of improvements for existing and future volunteers, such as a members sign-in area and brand new messaging system.” NOTE: This site may not be comprehensive for every kind of record you’re looking for. But it’s free, and definitely worth exploring, whether you want to search its collections or volunteer to help add to them.

England burial records: Staffordshire, Lincolnshire

Findmypast.com subscribers can now access over 127,000 entries in its Staffordshire Monumental Inscriptions, providing information on burials in “168 churchyards, burial grounds, and cemeteries throughout the county. This record sets can help you discover an ancestor’s birth date, death date, and residence, as well as the name of other family members such as parents, spouse, or children.”

About 90,000 new records have been added to Findmypast’s Lincolnshire Burials 1754-1812, which now totals over 1.5 million records covering over 300 locations across the county. For each person, you might find age at death, birth year, burial date, and location.

Scotland, West Lothian

Findmypast.com has published new records relating to West Lothian, located in the south of Scotland. According to the site, the area was “known as Linlithgowshire until 1921. The county was home to the Scottish monarchs of the 15th and 16th centuries.”

  • Linlithgowshire Poorhouse records, with details on more than 15,000 people admitted between 1859 and 1912. “The collection contains a variety of different record types including admissions, deaths, discharges, and sick rolls that will reveal your ancestor’s admission date, behavior during their stay, previous residence, and more.”
  • Burials, 1860-1975. Over 87,000 transcripts of burial records spanning 115 years. “Each transcript that will reveal the date of your ancestor’s burial, the location of their grave, their occupation, residence, death date, and in some cases the names of additional family members.”

WWI Weekly Casualty List at The British Newspaper Archive

The historically significant Weekly Casualty List (1917-1918, published by the War Office & Air Ministry) lists names of soldiers who were killed, wounded, or declared missing during the First World War. The War Office and Air Ministry updated and published the lists weekly and our current holdings cover the latter years of the conflict. Over 2,400 digitized pages are published in this collection.

More new collections at the British Newspaper Archive

  • England:
    • Derbyshire: This brand new collection for the Ripley and Heanor News and Ilkeston Division Free Press for the town of Ripley already includes over 17,000 digitized pages for 1890-1897 and 1899-1957.
    • East Sussex: For Brighton Gazette, additions include 1871-1910, for total coverage for this scenic seaside town now spanning 1825-1910.
    • Hertfordshire: New issues have been added for Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow, covering the town of Royston. Available years now include 1878-1882, 1884-1888, 1890-1898, and 1900-1910.
    • Lancashire: The Nelson Leader coverage now spans 1920-1957; it was published in Nelson.
    • Norfolk: Another new collection is Eastern Daily Press from Norwich. It’s already got nearly 40,000 pages of coverage for 1870-1876, 1878-1890, 1896, 1899, and 1901-1909.
    • Tynemouth, Tyne, and Wear: Now you can read Shields Daily News from 1870-1957, with the recent addition of pages for 1938-1957.
    • Warwickshire: New on the site is Alcester Chronicle, with over 17,000 digitized pages covering 1869-1888 and 1890-1910.
    • West Yorkshire: The years 1880-1888 have been added for The Knaresborough Post, for total coverage now spanning 1878-1912 (with a few little gaps).
  • Ireland, Tyrone: The Limerick Chronicle (1832-1868) gives historical news from the western seaboard of Ireland and their holdings cover both the pre- and post-Famine periods. The Mid-Ulster Mail was published in County Tyrone, with current coverage offering insight into the period before the Great War.
  • Scotland, Angus, and Kincardineshire: The Brechin Herald and Angus and Mearns News (1890-1892). This paper covers both of the historic eastern counties of Angus and Kincardineshire.

Free webinar from The British Newspaper Archive: News coverage of immigration and travel

“The topic of emigration is well covered by the newspapers. For instance, you can easily find advertisements that might have enticed your ancestor to leave Britain or Ireland to seek a new life in Australia or America. In the 1840s, The Limerick Chronicle carried advertisements for ‘fast ships’ and information booklets designed to assist immigrants travelling to the United States.” -The British Newspaper Archive

(For the ultimate guide in newspapers research, read How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke. Got Canadian roots? Catch a conversation about Canadian newspapers between Lisa Louise Cooke and Dave Obee in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode #204.)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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