Ancestry.com are celebrating their 15th Anniversary on 1st October 2011 and for 15 days they will be giving away prizes, plus a chance to win their grand prize - going behind the scenes of WDYTYA with Lisa Kurdrow. I have put a link in, and will do so on each of my posts until the closing date, just in case - it could be you!
So very happy - I met my cousin John yesterday. He is visiting the UK from Australia, and for the first time in over 100 years our two branches of the family met. Sentimental - you better believe it!
John's grandfather was my grandfather's eldest brother. Joseph emigrated to Australia not long after the turn of the last century and gradually lost touch with the family back home in Bristol. Two years ago, after a lot of internet sleuthing, poring over cemetery records and a couple of phone calls, I found one of Joseph's other grandchildren. I was quickly acquainted with the other members of the family and we keep in contact via email, Facebook and telephone. However, nothing can beat a face-to-face meeting.
John turned out to be the model cousin - charming and funny (runs in the family, according to my father!) and his lovely wife is interested in family history too. We compared notes on family traits, talked about our respective grandparents and generally reminisced. Our time together whizzed by, but it has renewed my determination to keep cousin hunting - maybe one day we can have a really big family reunion.
Lisa posted a great story this week over on her blog The Faces Of My Family. It's a lovely story, slightly spooky yet heart warming at the same time. I guarantee you will say "wow" after reading it. Thanks for sharing Lisa!
The lovely people at Genes Reunited have sent me a discount code to share - it's worth 10% off their Platinum Membership price. Here are the provisos - only works for the UK - sorry! - and it needs to be used by 3 October 2011. If anyone does use it, let me know that it works, please.
I have to confess that most of what rolls past me on the Twitter feed goes unnoticed, but here is something that did catch my eye. I have mentioned on my resources page that Ancestry.UK has a partnership with Living Relative Search. Their purpose is clear from the name. Like other similar sites, you enter your lost cousin's name, they match it to their databases and give you the results - for a fee. I have had one success (and I sneakily didn't pay - you get 10 searches for free, although not all the free results show complete records. Luckily, the information I needed was complete) and found a second cousin, so I guess in that case it would have definitely been worth paying.
Anyway, I follow Living Relative Search on Twitter and yesterday they were giving out a 20% discount code. Here's the code: 8R68-8Z2C. If you are looking for family in the UK, it may be worth a look. Good luck!
If your family history has a Bristolian element ( the original Bristol, in the UK) you might like to check out Paul Townsend's website, The Changing Face of Bristol. The site is non-profit making and designed for people with an interest in both Bristol's local history and family history.
Paul Townsend, a local historian, has an unparalleled collection of photographs of Bristol past which is interesting in itself. He also provides a link through to the "Know your Place" website, which provides historic maps of Bristol and its environs. There is a small collection of archive video too.
Of most interest to cousin hunters is the message forum, where you can ask for information about family members, places and general Bristol information. There are of course many other forums, probably better advertised, but perhaps a local query would get a better response from a local forum. If you need a link to The Changing Face of Bristol, forum, you just got one!
Since I thought of starting this blog I have been wondering precisely why I want to find my lost cousins and who will benefit when I do. Am I being driven by a purely selfish urge to add more details to my family history? Worse, am I simply a snooper, poking my nose into other people's business on the pretext that we share a few strands of DNA? Or is it just sentiment, a mawkish desire to recreate a seemingly happy family?
The truth will, of course, lie somewhere between these extremes. Naturally I am striving to find out as much as I can about my family's history and I recognise the importance of tracing as many sources as possible. Records and documents may build the skeleton of our family research, but people's memories help flesh it out and different points of view re-energise your research. So, yes, I am after my lost cousins to mercilessly plunder their documents, their photographs and their recollections. But I am happy to reciprocate (perhaps too happy - I do tend to go on!) so it is not entirely selfish.
Perhaps I am just nosey, hoping to find a celebrity amongst the distant relatives, or perhaps to measure my success against theirs? I can definitely say, no, to that! I am way too cynical to imagine that there will be an celebrities in the family and I couldn't care less. As long as my cousins are healthy and happy, I am glad for them. Several of us have become friends and we stay in touch via email and phone - I am delighted that we have a connection beyond a shared pair of great-grandparents. Some of my cousins do not wish to participate in my great cousin hunt to any great degree, and that's OK too - I am not going to hound them.
I have already written about my attachment to the Brown branch of my family - it runs deep. So maybe this is what it is all about - I want to recreate that moment in time, forever captured in a precious photograph, when the Brown family were whole, happy and hopeful, before emigration and war split them apart. It's true, that would be a marvellous achievement, to reunite all the descendants of my grandfather's siblings. But I know it won't happen, I am too much of a realist. What I can do is reunite all our memories, all our documents, all our photographs (and our addresses!) and gather them all together in one place so that our descendants don't have to wonder who is missing from the family fold. That's my goal, that's why I am cousin hunting.
The ghosts of the Brown family have haunted me for many years. They were the first names on my family tree. They were the reason for starting my family history research. Their descendants are the ones I want to reunite. Why? I couldn't tell you. Maybe it's sentiment, maybe it's curiosity, maybe deep down they are just a part of me. I just know I need to connect with them.
The Browns stare down at me from the family photo on the wall, 13 faces frozen in time; I watch them, they watch me. I can make our eyes meet, but that's as far as it goes. They have their time, I have mine and as the years roll by we are moving further apart. The only physical connection we can ever have is for me to find their descendants: my lost cousins.
I should have grown up with a huge family, but that was not to be. Richard Henry Brown and Ellen Warren, my great-grandparents, had 11 children but their descendants are scattered. Early in the last century they began leaving Bristol; first Joseph to Australia, then Robert to Canada. Reginald and Ernest followed Joseph a few years later. The Great War proved a disaster for the Brown family. Apart from the two eldest boys, who were married with children, all the Brown boys joined up. Reginald and Ernest fell within 10 days of each other in 1916, Sidney died early in 1917.
After the war the family seems to have gradually drifted away from each other. The girls, Alice, Gwen and Gladys, kept contact with the boys, but the boys didn't seem to keep contact with each other. Consequently, most of the Brown grandchildren and great-grandchildren grew up in ignorance of each other.
Alice and Gwen did not marry and although Gladys married twice, she had no children. I discovered that the two brothers who emigrated had children, and I have found some of their children. We are very happily reunited.
My research has shown that brothers Harold and Edwin, who stayed in Bristol, had children, and indeed I have now contacted one of Harold's daughters and found his other daughter's daughter. I am still looking for his son and his family. Edwin Brown's daughter was still alive a couple of years ago, and has emigrated to New Zealand. She is at the top of my "wanted" list.
Will I ever reunite the family? Well, perhaps some of them don't want to be! So far, we have all been delighted to find each other and our family history has been enriched for the reconnection. Later this month I will actually meet one of the "lost" Brown cousins (although he actually has another surname) on his visit to the UK from Australia. The thought thrills me, but actually, no matter how wonderful my new cousins turn out to be, I will always love the silent stillness of my family, steadily watching me from behind the glass on the dining room wall.
If you can, that is! I have a new page, on to which I have been attempting to put a forum - for the past several hours.....
So, I have a page, I have a forum and they are connected, just not as intimately as I was hoping - the forum is reachable through a link, which isn't what I really wanted. But for right now, it will have to do. I don't dare delete it and start again as I am afraid that to delete it would make the entire blog disappear, if not the entire worldwide web. I may be over reacting, but it is Friday night and I am by now a little fraught!
OK, I am off to watch some meaningless tosh on the TV, tomorrow I shall gird my loins to wrestle with the forum again and hopefully we shall have something lovely to post on by Sunday. Please do cross your fingers!
I may not have posted this week, but I have been busy getting things ready. I have started adding to two of the pages: Resources and Tutorials. These pages are by no means finished and are a work in progress.
In addition, I have been attempting to help the search engine spiders (I really don't have much of a clue what these are, but I read about them a lot!) find the blog and hence the lost cousin names. My search engine optimisation techniques are not advanced, but I do know that providing "backlinks" is essential - basically the more I can promote the blog on other sites, with a link to it, the more the great search engine gods love it. So, I have been busily adding the blog name and link on various site, like Hubpages, to get help it get a lift.
Finally, I have been looking into the best way to add a message board or forum to Blogger; My head is likely to explode with an information overload, but in the event I manage to put it all back together, I should have something in place before the end of September. It will, of course, be free to use.
I am relying on you all to put forward your own lost cousin names in order that we can get this cousin hunt underway!
I am astounded by the number of visits this new blog is getting. I have two other family history blogs and neither of them got off to such a flying start. Thanks to all of you who are following. I am gradually stopping by your blogs and signing up. Whenever I visit other people's blogs I am humbled by how much effort people put into their family history and hope that I match up.
Thanks again for the positive start and lovely comments :) Here's to finding some lost cousins.
Welcome to the Cousin Hunter. It's nothing sinister or unfriendly - I am just building on my family history research by trying to reunite my family, so I am tracking down my lost cousins. Finding your lost cousins is a great way to enrich your existing family research and quite often helps you to extend it too - other family members may have photographs and documents that your branch of the family have lost, and you can often reciprocate. Have a look at my article on Bringing Your Family History Back to Life to get some ideas of the benefits of seeking out and reuniting your family.
I am not only hunting my own lost cousins, I am hoping to be a resource for your hunt too. As time goes on, I hope to add some pages of advice and resources. If there is any demand I will also include a page for people to add their wanted cousins - could be a list or maybe a forum. As I become more savvy with writing on the Internet I am getting to grips with how to make my work more visible - and when you are looking for someone , you want to be visible. One thing I am sure of is that Blogger ranks highly with Google, so when I write the names of the people I am looking for on my blogs, those names will be highly visible in the search rankings to people who are looking for them. I would like to make this blog highly visible as a resource for finding lost cousins and in doing so, make it a worthwhile place for you to add your "wanted" names too.