Sunday 24 May 2020

Signature Silhouette #6 ~ John Radcliffe

For many of my ancestors, there are no photographs, no treasured heirlooms, not even a funeral card to remember them by. But of those who could read and write, a few left their signatures behind. They often signed historical census returns, for example, copies of which still survive. Apart from descendants, their signature may be all that remains of them today. So, it's my intention to feature a Signature Silhouette for each of my ancestors, until they are all are preserved.

Here's one for my maternal third great grandfather, John Radcliffe (1827-1866). It's from the register of his second marriage, in Melbourne, Australia. It's dated 1861, and just might be the oldest signature so far found, of all my ancestors.

Idea for post courtesy of Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

Source of signature: Copy marriage register, John Radcliffe and Bridget Flanagan, 1861, no. 486, purchased from Births, marriages and deaths, Victoria, Australia.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Organising Your Digital Family History Files

Generally, ‘how-to’ posts are not my thing, but recently a few people have asked how I file the records generated in my genealogy research. Then, a budding family historian told me how he is struggling to stay on top of the paper mountain he’s constructing. Many genealogists already have their own preferred way of doing things, but those starting out, or experiencing difficulties, may find this post helpful.

I don’t do paper clutter. Truthfully, I’ve no original documents and few original photographs to file. So, I save everything on the computer and back it up to the cloud, and periodically to an external hard drive.

Goals of a filing system
My document filing system is not perfect. But let’s face it, I’m in this for the family history, not to become a professional archivist. If you’re like me -
  • you want something simple, easy to remember and easy to implement,
  • a way to find any document, immediately, at any time, and not waste precious genealogy time searching for it,
  • a system that helps avoid duplicating the same research, and
  • facilitates the easy back up all your genealogy records, together,
A big ask, you might think! My filing system achieves all that, and much more.

Filing system
First, a file folder named ‘Genealogy Research’ contains all my family history documents, in one place, to facilitate easy back up.

The Genealogy Research folder has four sub-folders, one for each grandparent.

In each Grandparent folder, there is a sub-folder for every one of my known direct ancestor couples, relating to that grandparent.

All records discovered for an ancestral couple and their family, after their marriage, are stored in their specific sub-folder. Documents relating to their lives prior to their marriage (e.g. copy birth registers) are generally filed in their parent’s folder.

For example, in my paternal grandfather's folder, the first sub-folder contains records for my grandparents, James Byrne and Lena O’Neill. It is simply called ‘1 Byrne-O’Neill’. The second sub-folder, ‘2 Byrne-Mahon’, relates to James’ parents, Michael Byrne and Elizabeth Mahon. The third sub-folder ‘3 Byrne-Leahy’ is for Michael’s parents, while ‘4 Mahon-McDonnell’ is for Elizabeth’s parents, etc., etc. Records for Lena O’Neill’s ancestors are similarly saved in her Grandparent folder.

I don’t have deep roots, as you can see, especially not for my paternal line. The sub-folders are named with the couple’s surnames, male first. Numbers are assigned solely so my grandfather is listed first, followed by his parents, and then their parents, etc. If your research goes back numerous generations, you may need to add further clarification to the folder name. e.g. their full names, or perhaps add their year of marriage, or maybe add a ‘marriage number’ generated by your genealogy software. Such details add nothing but unnecessary complexity in my case.

Four-Part Filenames
My files generally have a four-part naming format:

YYYY[MMDD] Category Name OptionalDescription

Date: Filenames start with the date, usually in ‘YYYY’ format, though sometimes the month and even the day, in MMDD format can be added, if necessary to portray the proper chronological order of events, as in 1867 below.

Category: The second element of the filename is the category, category being marriage, baptism, census, newspaper, photograph, death, correspondence, etc.

Name: The third element reflects the subject of the record. For individuals, the full name of the person is shown. In marriage records, the surnames of the couple are given. For group records, e.g. census returns, should I have been so lucky, ‘Byrne household’ might have been used in the name part. Keep it simple and consistent.

Optional Description: In the last part of the filename, my additional notes might reflect the source of the record, the quality of the record (e.g. index, transcription, original), maybe a location, or a ‘not found’ note, etc. I keep it short and sweet!

Bear in mind, the rules are guidelines to achieve your goals. Use what best suits any scenario.

Warning: I use spaces in my filenames. This (and probably the use of other symbols) is not recommended for computery reasons, but I didn’t know that when I started. It’s never bothered me, and I’m an advocate of the “if it ain't broke, don't fix it" principle.

Here’s the sub-folder for my great-great-grandparents, ancestral couple John Byrne and Alicia Leahy, as an example:

A top genealogy tool
As you can see, the filing system acts like a Timeline and thus has become one of my top genealogy tools. It enables me immediately spot any missing periods, or inconsistencies in the research. It’s great for highlighting missing information, too. In this case, it acts as an immediate reminder that, despite extensive searching, a death record for my great-great-grandfather has not yet been found. That’s why there’s an additional sub-folder ‘Death of John Byrne Search’.

Additional folders
A separate sub-folder might also be necessary where significant research on a relevant location was carried out, for example, or if there was a lot of correspondence relating to the couple, or, as in this case, I had to kiss numerous frogs before I met my prince. John Byrne was a brick wall ancestor for many years, hence the sub-folder ‘Unrelated Byrne Research’. He was also married before he met Alicia Leahy, so a separate sub-folder containing the records of his first marriage was created - ‘Byrne-Markey (John, first marriage)’:-

Collateral lines
While all direct ancestors have their own folder in the relevant Grandparent folder, a similar folder is created for their siblings and saved in their parent’s folder. It usually relates to their lives post marriage, though if significant research is carried out on an unmarried sibling, they might warrant their own sub-folder. Again, it is named with the surnames of the couple/individual, with the sibling’s given name added, as above. If post-marriage research is carried out on a collateral's children, a sub-folder is created in their parent’s folder, in turn. See example.

This method works extremely well for me. Consistency is the key. Save everything to the relevant sub-folder as you uncover it. You can always reorganise later, when the thrill of the chase is over.

And, don’t stress it – remember, you’re not trying to become an archivist - adapt, if anything isn’t working.

The best method for YOU is always the one YOU’RE happy to use.

And, if you need help with your paper files, Paul Chiddicks of The Chiddicks Family Tree is your man. He's written Organising Your Family History just for you.

Sunday 10 May 2020

On the far side of a brick wall #6 ~ The hunt for DNA cousins

Probably the only greatest chance of finding 'proof' of the relationship between my known Radcliffe family and the Radcliffe/Leonard-Riley-Slatterys in Liverpool/Manchester is with DNA. But first, there'll need to be living descendants on both sides to test.

Sunday 3 May 2020

On the far side of a brick wall #5 ~ Rosanna and Ellen Slattery

So, if both Thomas and Mary Slattery died in Liverpool in 1847, what happened to their children, Rosanna and Ellen, my would-be half third great-grandaunts? In 1841, they had lived with their parents and their older stepsister Mary Leonard in Liverpool, England, but they were not found in the city in the 1851 census.

There is no trace of them in the marriage, or civil death records for Liverpool either, certainly not in the decade before 1851. And, neither were they found in the burial register for St Anthony’s RC graveyard, where their baby brothers Thomas and Francis Slattery were buried. Presumably, they had left the city.

Rosanna was about eleven years old when she was orphaned, and Ellen only eight. Their half-sister Mary was about twenty-one, so presumably she took care of them. She married John Radcliffe in Liverpool in 1848 (if I've identified the right Mary Leonard) and their daughter Anne Radcliffe was born there in 1849. The Radcliffe family then moved to Rainhill, not far from Liverpool, and my preferred theory has the Ellen Slantey living with them there in 1851 was actually Ellen Slattery. But there was no sign of Rosanna. By then, she would have been fifteen years old and probably working, in service perhaps, someplace else.

The only potential subsequent record of Rosanna was found in Manchester, about thirty-five miles from Liverpool. The England civil marriage index has a Rosa Ann Slattery marrying either James Corcoran or James Kennedy in the second quarter of 1857, in the Chorlton registration district, not far from Manchester city.

It's easy to conclude she married James Corcoran, as the civil birth registers then show James Corcoran born in the fourth quarter of 1857 and Mary Corcoran in the third quarter of 1859. And, the mother's maiden name for both was Slattery. I'll order Rosa Ann's marriage certificate when the COVID 19 restrictions are lifted.

Corcoran family in the 1861 England census, 10 Smith Street, Manchester

In 1861, the Corcoran family lived at 10 Smith Street, Manchester. James was twenty-one years old, and born in Ireland. He worked as a labourer in a sugar works. His wife Rose Ann was also said to have been twenty-one years old, so born about 1840, and not 1836, but she was born in Liverpool, like my 'aunt'. Their children James, aged four, and Mary, aged two, born in Manchester, lived with them.

Another child, Rosanna Corcoran was born in Manchester in 1864, mother's maiden name Slattery. She seemingly died as an infant in Manchester that same year. This is the last potential record of the Corcoran family so far found in Manchester. 

And, no confirmed record of Ellen Slattery has been found since 1851.

Other evidence suggests my third-great-grandmother Mary (theoretically Leonard) Radcliffe died in April 1853, though the register of her death was not found in England. Perhaps she had returned home to Ireland beforehand, as death registrations only commenced there in 1864. We know John Radcliffe emigrated to Australia in 1858, without his daughter Anne, who was left with John's family, in Co. Dublin.

So, what became of the Slattery girls? Another family that seemingly just upped and vanished!

Continued, here.

  1. Slattery household, Ellen Place, Liverpool, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1841 England Census, accessed $
  2. Burial of Thomas Slattery, 16 September 1841 and burial of Francis Slattery, 18 March 1846, St Anthony's 'Liverpool, England, Catholic Burials, 1813-1985', accessed $
  3. Church of England marriage register, Radcliffe-Leonard marriage, 1848, St Nicholas Church, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, accessed $
  4. Baptism register, Ann Radcliffe, 28 October 1849, St Anthony's RC Church, Liverpool, 'Liverpool, England, Catholic Baptisms, 1802-1906', accessed $
  5. Ratcliffe household, Rainhill, Prescot, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1851 England Census, accessed $
  6. Marriage of Rosa Ann Slattery, Apr-May-Jun 1857,  Chrolton, Lancashire, 'England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005', accessed $
  7. Birth of James Corcoran, 1857, D Quarter and birth of Mary Corcoran, 1859, S Quarter, Manchester, GRO Online Index, accessed HM Passport Office.
  8. Corcoran household, Deansgate, Manchester, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1861, England Census, accessed $
  9. Birth of Rosanna Corcoran, 1864, M Quarter, Mother's maiden name Slattery, and death of Rose Ann Corcoran, 1864, S Quarter, Manchester, GRO Online Index, accessed HM Passport Office.
  10. Marriage certificate, John Radcliffle and Bridget Flanagan, no. 486, 1861, purchased at $ Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria (John Radcliffe, a 'widower from April 1853').