Black History Month

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There are some great educational events on this month.

One that caught my eye and I am hoping to attend at the British Library is Black In Renaissance Britain:

Two readers will give an insight into how British Library records assisted in their research:

Miranda Kaufmann will be discussing her discovery of 135 Africans spending a week outside Bristol in 1590.  Michael Ohajuru will be speaking about his discovery of a black magus (king) on a roodscreen found in early 16th century Devon. The session will be moderated by Dr Caroline Bressey, Director of the UCL Equiano Centre.

Through researching a different subject matter.  I came across John Alexander Barbour James.  He was born in 1867, Berbice, British Guiana (Guyana). Worked in Ghana 1902 through his employment as a  postmaster.

As he was unable to relocate his wife Caroline and their children to Ghana, the family arrived in London around 1904.  They settled at Birbeck Grove, Acton.  Mr James was active in a number of black groups including African Progress Union and the Association of Coloured People. He published books and wrote columns in the Acton Gazette & Express called “Trust the Blackman” and “Colour and Culture”.  He died in 1954.


Copying charges at Archives

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Not sure if it’s me but having visited an archives recently that will remain nameless.  I was left a little exasperated at the cost and inflexibility of their rules in regards to their charges.  It wasn’t breaking the bank, but taking photographs of their collection would be £4 for up to say 20 images, even though you may only want one.

Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand and appreciate that you have to pay to copy items, but I do wonder if everyone has their thinking caps on when they come to these rules.

What do you think?

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) Centenary of his death


Went to a great talk recently at the National Portrait Gallery by author Charles Elford about composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor to mark the centenary year of his death.  Even though Charles had written his own book about him, he read excerpts from another author Jeffrey Green.

I had heard of Samuel before but this talk really gave a more detailed insight into his achievements.

Samuel was born 15th August 1875  to Alice Hare Martin, an English woman, and Dr Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, from Sierra Leone.  There is no evidence of them being married. He grew up with his mother and her family in Croydon.  Samuel did not know his father who had left before he was born.    

Receiving a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Music aged 17.  His most well-known composition was Hiawatha Wedding Feast.  Samuel married fellow student Jessie Walmisley on 30th December 1899, despite opposition from her family due to him being mixed race.  They had two children Gwen and Hiawatha.

Unfortunately, by selling the rights to publishers of his work it left him with no royalties.  It was exhausting listening to the many jobs he held down to make ends meet which included lecturer and conductor at numerous organisations.  African-American spirituals were a huge influence to his music and he formed friendships with poet and playwright Paul Laurence Dunbar and historian and Pan-Africanist WEB Du Bois. Travelling extensively and even meeting President Roosevelt at the White House in 1904.

There was a cost to being overworked and he fell ill at West Croydon station, eventually dying of pneumonia aged 37 years old on 1st September 1912.

At the question and answer session at the end of the talk I asked if there were any of Samuel’s descendants here and was surprised to see a couple of hands shoot up.  It was great speaking with them.

There was one mystery, we learnt that Samuel found out his father had died.  I wonder who told him and his feelings about that?

I left having learnt more about this great composer and my overriding feeling was that he had so much more to give but it was sadly cut short.

Who Do You Think You Are? What’s the verdict?


Did anyone see yesterday’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are on BBC1 with actress Samantha Womack?

What with sticky fingered relatives and abandoned children.  It was all exciting and informative stuff.

Her reactions were classic television moments.  The television crew must have been rubbing their hands with glee.  Cue lots of surprised open mouth shots and Samantha showing off her numerical skills by calculating relatives ages.

I wonder what happened to Jessie?  Was it happy ever after?  Does Samantha have family in the USA?  None of these questions were answered.  Although I understand they can only fit in so much.  It would have been great to see the full story.

In this episode newspaper archives were relied upon.  I love reading old newspapers, they are so informative. You learn so much and really get a real feel for what’s happening in the world at that time.

Check out British Library Newspapers at Colindale Avenue, London, NW9 5HE.  Website:  Remember you will need a readers pass to access their records.


India Office Records at British Library

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I have researched many British India family trees.

The India Office records at the British Library is a fantastic resource if you have British ancestors who lived in India between 1600 to 1947/8.

Tip of the day – it should be noted that if you are searching the baptism records it does not indicate who the child’s parents are.  Therefore if you are searching for an ancestor with a very common surname it can be time-consuming.  Try and see if their names appear, which would then reduce your time.  Better still contact me and I can conduct the on-site research for you.

British Library family history sources include:

Biographical index

Returns of baptisms, marriages and burials

Wills, Administrations and Inventories

Pension Fund records

Military Service records

Civil Service records

Watch out for website transcription errors


Whilst researching a rather large family tree. I kept overlooking a transcribed entry on the ancestry website that should have matched but the surname was Hagelgans.  Unusual I thought and continued repeatedly searching for this missing family member.

Eventually I decided to look at the actual record to rule it out.  Found out it was the missing family member I was searching for – surname Hazelgrove!

Moral of the story? Always check the actual original image.  No website is full proof in regards to mistakes.

Welcome to my genealogy blog

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I have created this blog to provide tips and answer queries about your family history journey.

It may seem daunting but if you take it one step at a time, it will be a piece of cake!

Happy searching.


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