Ancestry update – October 2017

Wow it’s been an exciting few weeks on the ancestral trail.

My most exciting non-living connection I’ve found recently is I’ve discovered that one of my 10th great grandfathers was the Reverend Edward Wightman 1566-1612 and he was the last person to be burned at the stake on 11 April 1612 (for heresy). I found that a little disconcerting… here are 2 links to read more about him and the horrendous times he lived in although I don’t think he really helped himself.

I spent another evening surfing the records back on a different line and ended up in 1599 deep in the Kingswinford area of the West Midlands. I hit on the name Skidmore and before I knew it a mini explosion had happened of Skidmore’s on my family tree. The family was extensive and fired-off in all manner of directions; it’ll take me an age to sort it out. It was interesting for me because I’ve already a maternal connection to the geographical area but to go back so many hundreds of years and find a paternal connection to the area as well, filled me with wonder. Even more interesting was that where the Skidmore connection appears in my tree at my 3rd great-grandfather Ephraim Skidmore level, I learned he had four wives! That will add a new dimension and challenge to my research.

The most exciting LIVING connection I’ve found recently is a female second cousin. Well in honesty she found me. Her mum and my dad were first cousins but never met each other to their knowledge. I find that incredibly sad. Our respective grandfathers were brothers and such was the respect of the eldest brother for his youngest, he named a son after him.

I’ve grown up without first cousins and just 3 second cousins (brother and sisters in the same family unit) on my maternal side. I  always felt a little lopsided not knowing relatives on my paternal side plus losing my grandfather in his sixties in the 1970s. This new cousin has sprung into my life full of excitement for the research, for the photographs I’ve shared and for the appreciation she knows her information is bringing to me. She still lives in the area and whereas I’ve gone broad and wide in my research, she’s added a real depth to hers. This is fabulous for me where our ancestry overlaps. We’ve talked of meeting up and she’s offered to show me some of the area where we know they lived and worked. You can keep your foreign and exotic holidays, I couldn’t be more excited than spending my time travelling into the past with someone I’m related to who ‘gets it’. An ancestral soul-mate.

These are the great-grandparents we share and this lady died a few weeks after I was born. It was taken just over 100 years ago circa 1910-1912. To put that into context – it was around the time of the Titanic disaster.

Of course at the end of the day where people aren’t still with us and we have no DNA from them to confirm the connections, we can only rely on records and the perhaps vain hope that everyone along the line has been faithful!

Finally, I’m just about to post my father’s DNA. This should strengthen up some of my connections with living cousins as well as bringing new people into the mix. I am aware I can link this DNA into my own tree although don’t yet know how to do that… then let’s bring the party on.





Summer leaves… and autumn sun

My favourite time of year is finally here when the shift in daylight is suddenly noticeable, along with the dip in temperatures and a sense of a slide into nature’s seasonal reinvention. It triggers me pulling-up a metaphoric drawbridge into the autumn.


Whilst friends lament over the loss of another summer or chase extending their summer abroad, I am welcoming the changing hue of the leaves, the longer shadows and an inner sense of change – a new beginning. I get excited with the exchange of seasons and it hits a spot in the way transition into spring never quite does.

The change incites expectation, a promise of things to come, which leaves me energised and refreshed after the assault of the summer – whether it has been a hot one or a wet one.

I have often wondered why I savour this part of the year above all others so much. I was born during the second half of August – as this was when I took my first breath in life, perhaps there is a primordial connection so integral that I cannot, nor would want to, shake.

kay in hills

Somewhere in #midWales

Of course autumn falls in line with the academic year. I generally didn’t enjoy school but going back in September was almost as good as the day we all said our goodbyes for the long summer break. Having new things was a treat as I grew up and invariably in September we would have the excitement of a new pair of shoes, replacement uniform, plus pens and pencils. Oh for the total distraction of a new pair of shoes; whether I was guilty of ignoring the conversation of friends as I surveyed my feet squashing the leaves on the ground, or day-dreaming gazing at my feet under my desk in the classroom, focus was on my newest acquisition until the novelty wore off.

The autumn brings with it the change of outdoor colours and many of us continue to reflect this with our attire. I savour the day I get my winter clothes down from the attic and do the exchange with my hardly worn beach clothes. I relish the first windy dry day when I freshen up all my jumpers and fleeces, watching them dancing about in the breeze from indoors.

As I delve through forgotten outfits, I sieve out what no longer fits or is unacceptably out of fashion, making a mental note of what I need to replace. This leads to more excitement as I give myself permission for a shopping spree. I retrieve newly heeled footwear from the cobbler which is almost as good a fix as buying a brand new pair of boots. I can feel the anticipation rising of covering-up my arms and legs, the pulling on of socks and walking around the house with a top to toe protective warm layer. I prefer my warmth delivered by fabric rather than having limbs exposed as the summer months usually demand.

This is before I even get to my hats, scarves and gloves. Unlike summer, autumn is the time I do not have to worry about my hair getting damp and losing its style, because I just cover it up. The seasons colour changes also sees me tossing out the blonde hair dye and bringing on the red hair tones. Boosted by the power of the summer, my hair gets a good cut, as do my nails, both of which seem to have taken on a growth-spurt over the last few weeks. I go through my makeup bag and relegate anything too summery like the pale shimmery lipsticks.

What we eat changes. I buy different foods. Goodbye salads, hello organically harvested root vegetables from the garden. The tins on my shelves suddenly strain under the weight. Just in case we get snowed in.


#StratfordUponAvon #Warwickshire

Downstairs, the two woodburner grates have been cleared and the logs are ready. I start recording and downloading box-sets ready for the cold, dark evenings. #GoT Game of Thrones 2017 is top of that list.

As the light fades and the days shorten, for some it feels a bit like going into a tunnel with little sight of reprieve. For me, autumn pays homage to my inherently lazy streak – I gain great satisfaction from the comparative inactivity of cupping my hands around a hot drink in front of the television and wearing my ‘comfies’ (pyjamas) as my young nieces put it.

Not that being outside can’t be enjoyable in the autumn. Daylight  strolls with jackets buttoned up to the neck, collars turned up, gloves on, a warm hat to the strains of my boots crunching through frozen leaves on a sunny day, just does it for me.


On one autumnal walk I spotted this greedy tree had ‘eaten’ the railings! #GrovePark #Harborne #Birmingham

sunny people and apple tree

This particular September early morning sunshine brought these ghosts to us when we lived at our last house. Spookily this was where we normally kept the bench. They only stayed a few minutes and were created by light bouncing off our conservatory windows down the garden, but I was glad they came to visit.

Outside or inside, autumn is my time – time to pull up that drawbridge, catch up with some television viewing, read books; time to use the excuse of the lack of daylight to lie in with the newspaper; time to take stock, to reinvent myself – all the things I do not get time for or have the motivation for in the summer. But please DON’T tease me with those idyllic chilly starts and warm afternoons! Stay cool the whole day through…


#Ullapool October 2016



Ancestry – April 2017


Over the next year I am going to be spending as much of my time as possible compiling my family tree. Having received my DNA results in February, I’ve decided to start blogging monthly about where my journey is taking me.

Since my first blog, I’ve actually joined Ancestry. You don’t have to be a member to order your DNA. I elected for the wider access that includes Germany and the US – both of which I believe will connect me to unknown rellies.

I half-heartedly started the process of joining Ancestry a few times. That was because I knew it was going to be a demanding hobby once I started. I don’t know if the two are connected, but discounted membership offers did start presenting themselves to me over the coming weeks and I eventually got a year’s membership for £90. That’s £1.70 a week – not bad for something that keeps me quiet for a good 30+ hours a week, given the chance.

Then came the task of entering my family tree itself. Working with Ancestry’s software takes a little getting used to (so allow time for it initially) and I made some mistakes but it is generally human-friendly. When you set up your tree, you can elect to have a completely private tree or you can go public with it. Many set up their trees under a username and no-one would know who you actually are in real life. That’s a personal choice. I’ve been quite honest about who I am (she says writing this blog under my writing pen-name!) and I’m public with my family tree but I’ve kept off anyone living. In fact I think Ancestry does that themselves.

It has been heart-warming posting up portrait photographs of ancestors, some gone over 150 years, and watching little family groups appear with growing associated data to remind us they were here on this planet once-upon-a-day.

The benefit of putting your tree up is several-fold. Firstly little green leaves start to appear at the top right of the ancestors called ‘hints’. The system has done its own quick research and found links to the trees of those who also carry your ancestor and to public documents such as census, military records etc.

This speeds up the growth of your tree because it brings in that information to be assessed. It’s possible to review dates, siblings, spouses, children and sometimes photographs or documents and to incorporate that information into your tree. Some have to be ignored or shelved to a later time if you aren’t sure.

Don’t underestimate the enormity of these little green hints. They quickly accumulate into 100s. But it doesn’t matter. It just means there is always something you could be working on and you can choose which line of exploration to follow.

The fun starts… Your profile has DNA and now it has names. From all those potential cousin matches (I started with 34; it’s grown to 38 cousins 4th-8th level) the system can match with your tree names as well. So if under the DNA section I search for the name ‘Jones’, the system will filter through all of those 38 cousins who share my DNA. It isn’t always obvious and can be incomplete – for instance my Jones are Midlands based but many of my potential matches might be in America; so there’s more work to be done there.

But I did notice on my DNA summary page Ancestry had taken it upon itself to show me there was a direct hit for 3 complete occurrences. Ancestry extracted these automatically to show me. It did it because I’d put my tree on so it is worth that effort, yet many don’t do it – which puzzles me.

Ancestry makes it easy to contact fellow members so long as they are checking in regularly and up for contact, contact is a real possibility!

On Monday I had my first ‘phone conversation with a new relative. That was an exciting moment. Our joint ancestors were a couple who lived for most of the 1800s. We talked about the now and the then. Amazingly and by sheer chance, we’ve found an unusual surname that we also have in common which he hasn’t posted up yet, so now we are looking to see if we are related down that line as well. We hope to meet up.

When I read (or write) a book, in my resting moments I wonder what the characters are doing. It’s the same with genealogy. I never met most of them but what I do know buzzes around my head even when I’m not looking at photos and facts about them. Don’t tell anyone but I sometimes talk to them too.

I am messaging some other matches and potential matches but those little green leaves will keep me busy for a long time yet.

I’m excited that more and more people are getting the genealogy bug. It is addictive. But the plus of that is that my tree will keep growing and my family should keep on growing too. Who knows where the next few weeks lead me.

I suspect DNA is a BIG growth area! Cheers! 

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The past is a foreign country…

The past is a foreign country…

Leslie Poles Hartley CBE (30 Dec 1895 – 13 Dec 1972).

I am reflecting on the fact it is one week on since the Referendum and never in my fifty-something years have I ever felt such a second-class citizen as the day the Referendum came to town.

In shock (as one of the winning majority voters), I took a conscious decision not to inflame the vitriol any further but rather take a few days to get my head around what was happening. And why.

I’d witnessed bullying at my all-girls school in the 1970s. Let me be clear – this was NEVER targetted at the 3 ladies from various ethnic minorities in our year. We had one lady from an African-Carribean background – she was sporty and had this wonderful mass of afro hair that I stared at during Maths. And two were from eastern shores one, a delicate flower of a personality that achieved straight As in everything except PE and the other, a chatty social character whose skill at that young age was bringing people together.

The bullies repeatedly taunted one girl (probably) because she had red-hair and was slightly over-weight. Glad I wasn’t her, I felt terribly upset for her. I did have one brief run-in with a bully but I like to think because I kept my cool and didn’t fight back or look too upset, I was left alone thereon. But that one moment made me feel – scared, on edge and helpless, a victim and it stayed with me. And apart from one senior manager’s incompetence in her own job role, I’ve not experienced it since – until Friday 24 June, polling results day…

The way the Remain side behaved en masse battering the Leavers took me right back to the classroom – bewildered and missing the point for the attack completely. What was my crime? But it did make me realise something else very important – how the ethnic minorities and indeed anyone slightly different may well feel living with a regular threat of verbal attack, a head shake, a certain look and the arrogant contempt by another in a country that is supposed to belong to all of us. And here was I in the majority camp feeling like I should hold my thoughts and opinions back. I’d have felt more comfortable walking into church on Sunday trying to convince the congregation there is no God.

A week before the vote, I did consider the Leavers might win. Then things got a bit out of sync and by the eve of the Referendum, I was convinced there was no chance of beating the Remain camp. I felt sick (a word some of the Remain camp also used after the results) about what staying in would mean but I accepted it and that it would bring a slow decline deeper into my existing concerns about the EU.

I did my homework. As a responsible citizen (like being on a jury) I gathered my facts, I listened to hours of evidence and I weighed up the information before turning out to deliver my verdict. Before long, my suspected belief became a deeper opinion. I was not happy about the growing control Europe had over us; I felt more should be done to keep us safe and secure without the EU dictating to us and I wasn’t happy that we were a magnet for unsustainable immigration. For years I’ve watched the corporate world have to shift and change to fall in line with EU human rights and employment law. Political correctness went mad.

Waking up and silently turning my mobile on last Friday, my face lit up with disbelief as I read that the Leavers had won. I watched TV over breakfast then happily went off to a wedding for the day. Meanwhile panic set in for the others waking up and within a short time en masse, we were subjected to vile comments, mocking thoughts dressed up as humour, and plain, nasty (untrue) accusations. The Remain camp screamed with all their might.

Leavers were not in their right mind, the Referendum had got it wrong! A petition was started up to overthrow the decision. Comments hit social media ‘Good luck you are gonna need it’. Vicious, venomous, angry and attacking our intellect, ability to make a judgement and worse still – our intent. What had we done? You must all be sorry now? Some hadn’t understood what they’d voted for and now they’d change their mind so therefore we needed a re-vote. Crazy, crazy hot-headed thoughts. What was a vote for in the first place if not to make a decision?

Rewind. I went back over my reasoning. Nothing had changed except the Leavers vote won. And while every vote in my lifetime had probably been to try and keep one party or other out of power – this time I had the freedom of restraint and voted from the heart. I remembered a friend on polling day had been into a care home and witnessed a distraught woman with dementia not being able to make herself understood, alongside a woman whose first language wasn’t English. This was not good enough and it swung her vote – Leave. Of course I’d made the right decision.

The likes of J K Rowling had written about loving the differences in Europe – well guess what? If we don’t take steps to preserve some of those differences we will end up in one swirling mass of sameness, and culture will be confined to glass cabinets in museums. I don’t want that for the next generation. I’m not anti-Europe or Europeans, I’m pro-Europe and those differences, just not the EU.

As the voting stats were released, the attacks got worse because there was the introduction of labels to hang blame on: white, older, working class, pensioners and they were spitting at that. The young had voted Remain, as apparently had Scotland and London.

Ricky Gervais’s media profile questioned why the old hated the young so much. The young became aggrieved. If only 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote they’d have won it! Sorry but you aren’t old enough yet and there’s a reason for that – you aren’t old enough – yet! When you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, look back and see how much more you know you’ll understand how better you are equipped for these decisions. And it is because of that experience that we voted with authority and no apologies.

Foreigners piled in – ex-pats who were concerned they’d lose their dual nationality when we were trying hard to hang on to one. The lady in Australia who wrote in the Guardian a lament over the loss of her bluebell-wood childhood because of the Leave vote and how she was going to stop delaying her Australian citizenship after 9 years in Oz. Well her old world was over the day she left our shores – anything else is just memories.

And why carve up the voters in terms of age or gender? I want to know how many vegetarians there are; which way the eldest versus the youngest siblings in the same families voted; how did short people vote compared with the tall; what about married versus single? Or what about what star signs people voted from? Now that would have been interesting!

We are custodians of the United Kingdom built on the back of some grim events if you dare to look back in history far enough. We and our ancestors have been through a lot to get to this point. 2016 has already seen a high number of big celebrities pass-away and in my mid-50s I really get a sense that life is changing and moving into a world I don’t like very much. The longer we live and the more technology infiltrates our lives, the quicker that change appears to happen and the longer we live to see it.

Lines have to be drawn where decisions are made and where the line falls people will fall on both sides of that line, and sometimes right up against it. I worked for an exam awarding body auditing papers once and I understand all about the wrong question coming up and the consequences of that. But it was fair – as fair as we could get it. Everyone had a chance to read up the facts, to ignore claims that might be too fantastical, make the judgement that if you can’t use a comb how can you run the country, and analyse it any which way you wanted. But it’s done. No going back. Another little notch in history and it’s way to early to be able to assess the merits of this Sliding Doors moment in political history, but I believe there will be some; much as I accept we are wide open to criticism.

Finally the country is getting on with the task of living again. Slowly apologies have crept in by some naturally more loving people or those who’ve realised they exploded a tad too hastily or far too honestly for anyone’s good. The smart-ass comments have done the rounds and are retreating; now we can talk real politics about how this decision pushes forwards.

I recently had a typed exchange with an extended family member who lives in Scotland. Their perspective is way different because their needs up there are different. We agreed to disagree as we could see we were on opposite sides of what is best for us as individuals and family units. Practically everyone she knows voted Remain and she is fearful for their future. Most I know voted Leave and I’d have been fearful if we were staying. That is one hard call to make and why this brush with politics is the closest I want to be to it for a very long time. Feeling like I’d lost a country is one thing but family and friends – I really want that thought to be history. 

Amazon Kindle countdown deal


Looking for something to read over Easter?
For one week Love Travels is available for 99p from Amazon on Kindle. USA one week countdown offer will start later today when the time zone has caught up! Don’t forget if you don’t have Kindle you can download an app for free.