Saturday, 31 October 2020

Tribute to Nancy

 This afternoon, coincidentally around the same time as Sean Connery, our Aunty Nancy died.

Nancy (née Laity), was born at the start of 1935, the youngest child of three born to Lily May Jacobs and William Henry Laity.

By 1940 William had deserted Anna and the children. Eventually he would have a second family with another daughter and three more sons, including my Dad.

Nancy and her sister Stella, were avid lovers of family history, genealogy, and Cornish culture. Nancy was, in fact, my first real life example that genealogy & family history are not only things that it is okay to like, but also that it was the kind of thing that real people could engage with.

Nancy once told me that she early on in her marriage to Jim she had started looking for the half siblings. The search proved fruitful and both Stella and Nancy were writing regularly with my Dad by the mid 90s.

We all attended the 'Great Laity Gathering' family reunion in Marazion in the summer of '97, arriving a day or so early in order to meet Stella, Noah, Nancy, Jim & Alison first.

Nancy & Stella the first day we met
Taken outside Stella's house in St. Blazey.

'Great Laity Gathering 1997'
Trip to St. Michael's Mount to see the
portrait of Dolly Pentreath
RH edge: Dad (in black), Sis (in white), Mum (in orange)
I took the photo. Walking between Stella & Nancy.

That trip was the one that consolidated that there would always be a family history & genealogy journey at some point during my life. Stella made a proper Cornish tea that first afternoon and from then, throughout the rest of her life until she entered nursing care, Nancy gave me first potted genealogy basics lessons, what 'vitals' are, how to record and read trees, primary documents, secondary sources and photographs. She even taught me about the fine art of graveyard hunting for dead relatives. Later she would go on to share more research tips & first her discoveries, then later, she shared mine with equal excitement. She was so encouraging from day one. I remember she said to me that first day, if I got good, perhaps I could join the 'family genealogy team', co-ordinated by cousin Russell in the states. I said I'd love to join in and research with her & she joked that maybe after she passed, a slot might come up for me. I've lived half in terror of that happening ever since. Nevertheless, it was a really motivating joke. She was an exceptionally clever woman.

We stayed in touch and another proud day, was when my eldest son was tiny and we were able to get down to Newquay, she made him his first taste of Cornish pasty and on the same day, taught me the family pasty recipe. 

We stayed in touch across the years, mostly sharing family & genealogy news. 
The weekend before my Dad died we spoke on the 'phone and she was so warm, loving and supportive. 

Mum and I saw her last in June 2015, not long before she moved into nursing care. Shortly after, with the help of cousin Russell, we made a discovery about the family tree that allowed us to push back one generation by using the Land Grants of Henry VIII in Cornwall. This also allowed us to unify some of the branches higher up and tidy off some loose ends. I wrote to her about it, but I'm not sure she was able for that kind of information by that time. Still, it felt the right thing to do to keep her included. I never did write to her about the DNA side of things. Mainly because I think by that time, it would have been a bit beyond her. In a parallel world though, it would have been so cool to look together over our shared DNA & chase down the people and the stories.

I will most remember her as a massive source of love and support. She didn't care about the circumstances of how we came to be related, but that we were family.
Tonight I am strolling again through the Laity side of the family tree. Retracing her steps and seeing what there could be out there that's new.

Sleep tight Aunty Nancy. You are so loved. xxx

Sunday, 10 November 2019

A post for Armistice Sunday

For Armistice Day, some of our relatives who served.
Our Grandpa & Our Grandad:

Grandpa, William Henry Laity (Later William Henry Colenso Laity), served in both wars. In the Great War winning the Belgian Croix de Guerre, then returning as a PT instructor at the Citadel, Plymouth for the second war.

Grandad, Douglas Herbert Riches, was with the 8th Army Desert Rats. Pictured here with some of the lads near Sidi Birani c1942/3.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Spring Weddings!

As it turns out, today is a special day.

Do you have that happen when you're researching? - You're sat looking at a random ancestor and the date corresponds with something that happens in their life too?

I wonder if anyone has ever worked out the odds of that? - I know I wouldn't want that job. Coo, just think of the variables!

For me, I'm more struck with how often it seems to happen.

Today, of course is no exception, but it started yesterday.

Yesterday was one of those days that just reinvigorates the spirits and just gives a little fan to your genealogy flame. 

Out of the blue I was contacted on facebook by a woman with a mutual surname of interest (LOMBARDI - for those not in the know, Lombardi is to Italian Genealogy, pretty much what Smith is to English. ...only unlike Smith, there aren't really many folks looking into disentangling the family lines). 
She encouraged me to return to a facebook group and ask for some more help (since I've been sat stewing on that particular brick wall on paper for about 18 months and with DNA since roughly last October).
That led me to encountering a lovely lady named Faith, who was able to dig somewhere out of the bowels of Antenati, not only THE document to smash that brick wall, but documents to make light work of the next 2-3 generations too. 
It was a great day!

In the back of my head though, I still felt a little guilty. I've been mulling on a blog post for a while, but an approach would not be easy. Firstly, because I couldn't think of a way to tie a few things together, but then also because of a key issue of the moment.

Ten days ago my sister and her boyfriend of ten years got married, so I knew that I wanted this month's post to be a tribute to that. After all, why celebrate, track and record what went before if we don't equally celebrate the now and the yet-to-come?

Just one problem. Sis is a school teacher and in this digital day and age, we have to be particularly careful about anything online that relates to her, so unfortunately I can't share with you loads and loads of photos though it was a really beautiful wedding - very them. Right down to the ground though.

However, she did look amazing ...and this is my baby sister - and anyone who has a baby sister knows how ridiculously proud you always are of them, so while I acknowledge and celebrate my bias, I do want to show you this one shot that one of their guests was able to snap (it feels weird not to credit them, but we can't risk an accidental reveal) this lovely shot which should be safe:

Isn't she a beautiful bride?!

The skirt was her own and our Mum made the bodice piece for her. I saw the look on his face when she came in. It was all very much worth it.

I needn't have worried though. Inspiration struck this morning.

April 16th has always been a bit of a seminal date in my mind anyhow. Ever since we moved to the first house our parents owned on 16th April 1986 (while Mum was expecting my baby sis who just got married!).

Being only little at the time, lots of my memories jumble around that couple of days, but one of the handy little side effects has been that I've never forgotten that Mum and Dad's own wedding anniversary is the next day:

Keith S Laity & Ann Riches
17th April 1976
Central URC, Sheffield, Yorkshire

Marvellous - two events, both marriages, in the one month. On the way to a blog post I guess, but still...

...and then this morning I received a batch of messages on MyHeritage.
I don't know if anyone else gets this periodically or if I'm just the lucky one, but every now and again, I'll log in for something, typically after a few quiet weeks and find a string of messages from folks that I never got alerts about.
On this occasion this morning it's letting me have a clutch of messages dated back to mid-February. 

Among them, there was one from a lady I'd been speaking with back around Valentines day. She'd reached out because we have a DNA match of some flavour between about a third cousin point to something vague out from there (originally it was 3rd-5th, but oddly on there, as they've brought in all the awesome new features over the last several months, that guide has got to being a bit less handy than it was I reckon).

Anyhow, she and I match about 3% of our DNA and crucially, she also has a match with my mother, but not with my female second cousin who also tested (that side of our family having very handily placed identical twins along the line that really helps with narrowing the field!).

So we set out looking for a match around about second great-grandparents - fourth great-grandparents in the first instance. There was nothing immediately obvious, but we did seem to share a common surname: Brown.

The only problem was, 'our' Brown was Sarah and she was my Mum's 5th (and therefore my 6th) great grandmother. Given the shared DNA, that's really a couple generations out for a straight <any degree of> cousin relationship, but it does give us clues that we possibly descend through siblings. At that point though, all I had on Sarah's upward family group was a father's name: Thomas Brown. 
I don't know if you've ever tried looking for entries for a Thomas Brown, or a Sarah brown for that matter - or, indeed, for a Sarah Brown daughter of Thomas (or vice versa) in England, but if you ever have two-three hours to kill and no paint to watch dry...

I had thought the trail gone cold since we couldn't at that point be sure, but then, through the two messages that arrived this morning (which would have been the next day had we received them sequentially), it turns out that her nearest Brown ancestor, Grace Brown, also had a father Thomas, for whom the dates looked good.

A few hours on, across multiple platforms, and it looks as though we have a strong contender. What's even more astounding is, it was 273 years ago TODAY that Thomas Brown, the possible father of the sisters we seem to descend from, married Mary Frith.

Sadly there is no extant document currently publicly available online that covers their marriage, but they are indexed in the Nottinghamshire, England, Extracted CoE Parish Records, 1538-1837:

Thomas Brown & Mary Frith 
16 Apr 1745
Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire England.

He was 26, she was 24.

Now how's that for a coincidence?! ...and as himself just pointed out, my horoscope for today did say to look out for surprises in love. I'd say that qualifies.

So there we have it. Three different couples from the same family, over a span of 273 years, all choosing an early April wedding.

There must be something in the air!

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 (Not Sponsored)

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.