My Family History

Why did I start to research my family history? This is a question I have been asked many times. Researching my family tree and finding out where I came from is something I had wanted to do for a number of years, but for some reason, I had put it off.

I suppose my reasoning behind this was that I didn’t have the time, as my son had been born with a disability, and was in and out of hospital , having had lots of operations. Another reason, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people out there, is that I didn’t know where to start, and initially, I didn’t know anyone who was doing this.

I had been watching all of the family history programmes on television and kept thinking that this was something that I would like to do. I was always wondering about who my ancestors were and where I came from. Was there anyone famous in my tree; was I related to royalty, and were there any skeletons in the closet?

2014-07-09 23.34.28

Another reason for wanting to research my family tree was that my maiden name is the same as my married name. At the time, I didn’t think that Hiscock was a very common name. I knew a few people at school with the Hiscock surname, but I just thought that it was a regional name. When I mentioned to people that I was a Hiscock before I got married, I was always asked whether we were related. This got me thinking, and I felt that I had to find out. Another reason for beginning my research was finding out that both mine and my husband’s Hiscock grandparents lived in the same road, and our parents, aunties and uncles all went to the same secondary school when they were growing up.

When I was young, we always spent a lot of time seeing my paternal grandparents and the rest of our extended family. I always enjoyed it when my nan got out her big box full of photos, and we always looked through them. There were loads of black and white photos in all different sizes, and I loved to hear who these people were and how they were related to me.

Ann & Hilda Cole

Great, Great Auntie Anne & Great, Great Auntie Hilda Cole

I’m lucky enough that my nan is still alive, and so, a little while a go, I went and visited her to have a look through the photos again. I’ve carried out quite a lot of research on my paternal line, and the names have become very familiar to me over the years. I always wondered what they were like as people and also what they looked like. I showed my research to my nan, and she was able to give me some old photos to scan, and I was finally able to put names to faces. It made the people seem even more real. Nan was able to tell me what some of the people were like as she had met quite a few of them over the years. It was really fascinating.

Finally, six and a half years ago in January 2010, I decided that the time was right for me to begin my journey of finding out who I really am.

My mother had started her family tree six months previously, so she was able to help me on my way. As she was using this was the route that I decided to take, so I immediately signed up for the 14 day free trial, careful to uncheck the renewal box. I decided that I was going to go for the Pay-As-You-Go option, after all, this was just a hobby, there was no need for me to take out a subscription was there? It wasn’t long before that changed, and I was totally hooked. Overtime, I have gradually increased my membership, and I am now using the Worldwide subscription, which gives me full access to their records.

Of course, you don’t need to use Ancestry, there are plenty of other family history websites out there. FindMyPast is just as good. I’ve found plenty of records on there that I haven’t managed to find on Ancestry. There are also free websites that you can use. FamilySearch is a very good website to use. You have access to vast amounts of records and you can also build your tree on there as well. A lot of people use various family tree programmes. Family Tree Maker is a good one to use and you can syncronise it with your tree on Ancestry. Using a family tree programme may be something to think about using once you are more familiar and settled with your research.

If you’re new to family history, and you want to make a start in researching your tree, make sure that you are able to speak to as many people as possible in your family. Try and get as much information as possible. Remember to not take anything as gospel, always try to back up any information that you have been given. Stories can change over the years and you don’t want to be sent on a wild goose chase.

I began by putting in my details on Ancestry, and then my parents’ details. It wasn’t long before I was getting the green, shaky ancestry leaves telling me there was a possible match in my tree. These hints are not guarantees that they are the right records for your ancestor. Names and dates may be very similar, so go careful before you add that piece of information. Always double check using more than one website. It was so easy to get carried away, and literally spend hours in the evenings finding out about all these wonderful ancestors.

At the beginning, it was all trial and error because I was self taught. I was finding my own way, and it was so easy to lose direction and add the wrong people. There was no organisation to my research, and it was just a random scribbled note on a scrap of paper, so it was inevitable that I ended up having the wrong people in my tree. I would even attach other people’s trees to my own because they had similar information. Most of the time, when I looked at their trees, a lot of the information that they had was not sourced, so I had no idea how they had found the information.

Eventually, I found my own routine, so I typed up my own family group sheets to give me some structure. This helped me to organise my research and to find the correct ancestors for my tree. I was still missing information at this early stage as I was only using Ancestry.

A few months after starting my family tree, I decided to start researching my husband’s. I began with his maternal line as my husband’s aunt had a lot of information to help me on my way. She had the names and dates of birth for her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. This time around, I was a lot more organised with my research, and typed out family group sheets each time I had researched a family. Not only was I searching in Ancestry, but I was using FindMyPast as well to find records. Below is my own family group sheet that I use for each of the families that I research:

research table

This table provides me with some structure as to what I have found so far, and what is left to find.

In late 2010, a very sad event occurred in my husband’s family. My father-in-law died suddenly and unexpectedly. I was at the wake talking to my father-in-law’s cousin about researching family trees. He had a lot of information regarding my husband’s grandmother’s family, along with photos. He promised to email them to us so that I could start researching that side of the tree. Not long after that,  my research began on the paternal side of his tree. Below is a photo of my husband’s great grandfather, born in 1873:

Sidney Godwin

Sidney Godwin

The more I researched both trees, the more experience I gained, the better the information in the trees. I found that reading the various different family history magazines can also prove to be a big help. The more knowledge that I have gained over the years has meant that I have been able to go through each family tree again, making sure that I have all of the correct information. I’ve even managed to add new bits of information about each person.

Researching mine and my husband’s family trees has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I have found out so much and learnt so many new things. With family history, you are always learning. Whilst there is plenty of information to be found online, don’t forget that local and county record offices are always a valuable source of information. You can look at original documentation, with some of them being hundreds of years old. You can also join Family History Societies; I am a member of quite a few and have found them really helpful. Go to as many family history meetings as you can, as you will always find help there. If you are on Facebook, a lot of the family history societies have their own pages. I’ve joined quite a few and they have been very helpful with breaking down brick walls in my research. They also have a lot of local knowledge in their respectful areas.

There are quite a few companies that run genealogy courses online. If you sign up with FutureLearn, you can take part in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree. This is a free online course that runs for six weeks. This course is aimed at all levels of experience. It benefits beginners as it sets them up on the right path for their family research and won’t lead to bad habits. It’s also beneficial for the intermediate and advanced researcher. You can also learn a lot from other people too.

Pharos Tutors is another company that runs courses; these are purely genealogy courses that are affordable for the everyday person. They cover all sorts of topics, for example, Scottish research online; The Poor, The Parish and the Workhouse. There are universities, for example, Strathclyde who do genealogy degrees. They do cost quite a bit to do, and at the time of writing this, I am in the process of saving up to do a genealogy degree.

So far, this year (2016), I have completed the genealogy MOOC (see above), and I would definitely recommend it. It changed the way in which I do my research and has made me a lot more organised. I have designed research logs for each person so that I know which websites I have used.

 I use research logs for each person so that I know which records I have and which ones are outstanding. I also print out each record and keep them all in binders so that, not only do I have an electronic copy, but I also have a hard copy as well.

For the past six years, I have been going to Who Do You Think You Are Live. You can meet up with all sorts of people who are researching their family history. There are lots of different lectures for different areas of family history, and you can learn a lot by attending these. I’m already looking forward to the next one. Over the past few years, I have purchased family history charts and Parish baptisms, marriages and burials CD roms, and family history books. I have got an excellent collection of resources available to assist me with my research.

I have managed to research back quite a few generations, and have collected various documentation along the way to support my research. Whilst my research is nowhere near complete, and I would assume that it won’t be due to the different records continually coming online, I thought I would share with you what I have so far and introduce you to the wonderful people I have found along the way. I will be sharing each couple/person with you in different blogs, but I will be placing everything that I share with you into a family history book which I am hoping to have published in full to place in my local library. The book will be divided into four sections, with the first two sections showing my paternal side of the family. Section one will be about the Hiscock line. Within my research, I have included photos, birth, marriage and death certificates, as well as census returns, parish records and any newspaper articles that may be available. I hope you enjoy reading about these people as much as I have researched them.

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Hunting for Ancestors


I’ve been researching mine and my husband’s family trees for a number of years, and today, we decided to go to the village of Minstead to see if we could find any of our mutual ancestors. We share a mutual five times great grandmother who was born in Bramshaw, three miles away from Minstead, but she gave birth to her three children in Minstead.

The church in Minstead is All Saints Church and is said to date back to the 13th century, but there has been additions to the church throughout the centuries.


The line of my family tree that was born and died in Minstead were the Hiscocks, Whitehorns, and Phillips. My husband and I spent an hour or two exploring the churchyard trying to read the weather beaten grave stones. Quite a lot had remained in tact over the years and were quite easy to read, but others, we were not so lucky with. We found a few small areas of the churchyard where members of the same family were buried. There were quite a few spaces where there were no markers on the graves, and the odd few that were overgrown.

With both of us descending from the same Hiscock line (my maiden name being Hiscock), we were particularly interested to see how many Hiscock headstones that we could see, as both of our four times great grandfathers had died in Minstead. Unfortunately, we only found the one:


This one was for a man called George Hiscock, and from what we could make out, he died in 1914. I will need to research further for him to find out who his direct ancestor was. I will be including George in my Hiscock One Name Study. We can only assume that the other members of the Hiscock family are either in unmarked graves, or they were in the graves that we were unable to read. The next time we visit, I will go into the church to see if they have a plan of the cemetery that we can use.

Another surname that appears in both of our family trees is Whitehorn. Both of our four times great grandfathers married into that family. Upon searching the churchyard, we came across quite a few:

As you can see, some are in better condition than the others. All I will need to do now is to work out where they belong in each tree and whether or not they are direct ancestors.That will keep me busy for a while.

Whilst we were on our travels round the churchyard, we were fortunate enough to come across the following grave situated under a large tree:


It is the grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, and if you look closely at the base of the cross, you can see two pipes placed there.

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Ancestor Number One of the 52 Week Challenge

This is a challenge where we have to write about one ancestor per week over the next year. I am slightly behind with this challenge, but I aim to be up to date by the end of the month. My ancestors will include grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins and I will be sharing their story with you.

My first ancestor that I would like to share with you is Albert Harry Copperthwaite, and he was my second great grand uncle on my paternal line.
Albert, known as Bert, was born on the 25th December 1883 in Southampton, Hampshire, England. Albert was the youngest of seven children born to Alfred Flint Copperthwaite and Clara Carter. His siblings were: Alfred James (1866-1959), Ada Susanna (1868-1946), Ernest Frederick George (1872-1946), Laura Clarinda (1875-1916), Lilly Louise (1878-1961) and Frederick Adlophus (1881-1935).
The first census that he appears on is the 1891 census. He is living with his parents and five of his siblings at Spa Court, Spa Road, Southampton, Hampshire and he is of school age.
The 1901 census shows that he was visiting his sister, Laura Clarinda and her husband Frederick Noyce. They were living at 1 Mount Street, All Saints, Hampshire. Albert’s occupation was a Ship’s Trimmer. A trimmer on a ship was a person who distributes coal on a steam ship. All Saints was a parish in Southampton.
In the first quarter of 1907, Albert married a lady called Kate Young, but by the time the 1911 census was carried out, Albert was living at 8 Wharf Street, Southampton. The other people recorded on this census return was a lady called Maud Beatrice Johnson (1891) who was a lodger, and a three month old child called Lily Alice Johnson. Lily was the daughter of Albert, but Albert and Maud were not married. There is no mention as to what happened to Kate Young, and this is something that I would like to find out. Could she have remarried or did she die of an illness or through childbirth?
Albert was living at 39 Mount Street when he signed on to the Titanic. His occupation was a fireman/stoker and he would have received a monthly wage of £6.00. Sadly, he died in the sinking of the Titanic, and his body was never found. He was only 29 years old.
There was a Relief Fund that provided payments to widows and children of the crew. Albert was a Class G crew which was at the bottom and included Firemen, Scullions and Lower Class Stewards. As Maud and Albert were not married at the time of his death, all payments to Maud in respect of their illegitimate daughter Lily would be made instead to her grandmother, Mrs Charlotte Johnson. An allowance of 8s 6d per week would be made for Lily Johnson if necessary.
I visited the Titanic museum in Southampton when it first opened in 2012. At the time, I was unaware that Albert was my ancestor. I will go and visit again to see if there is anything else I can find out about him.

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New Year, New Start

So, it’s been a while since I posted a blog as I’ve been busy with various projects. I thought that as it is a new year (two weeks in now), I would start my blog up again, and share with you regularly what I have been doing, and what I aim to be doing this coming year.

I started the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge last year, but unfortunately wasn’t able to complete it, so this year, I aim to start this again, and also complete it. I’ll be including direct ancestors as well as not so direct, as I want to share all of the interesting people in my tree.

I am carrying out a One Name Study as well, and I will be continuing with that. I have quite a lot of names in my database already, so far 8,500. I still have quite a lot of names to collect. It’s going to be huge study, but I am enjoying the challenge so far.

I’ve started collecting old documents as I find them very fascinating, and I have a few which are 200-300 years old. They are in remarkable condition for their age. I have been transcribing them, and I will share them with you soon.

There are a few places that I want to visit this year, for example local and county record offices. This will help me with my own tree and others and also my One Name Study.

In April I’m hoping to go to Who Do You Think You Are Live, which is being held in Birmingham this year. This year, I will be going for two days as I want to attend a few seminars as well as visiting the various stands.

I have a lot planned this year, and it looks to be very fulfilling, and I can’t wait to share it all with you. Watch this space for my next blog.

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Hiscock One Name Study

I’ve managed to continue, in the past few days, with my one name study. I’m still at the collecting names stage, and filling up my spreadsheet. So far I have just over 5000 names collected from the free BMD website. I’ve got another 3000 to transfer over from there, before I move on to the other genealogy websites to fill in the gaps, ie Parish Records.
The next stage will then be to find the variations, and then move on to people with the Hiscock name in other countries. It is going to take a bit of time to collate all of this information together, but it’ll be worth it in the end. I’m really looking forward to starting to build the various trees and find out about all of these people that share my name. Watch this space for the next update.

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Ancester Number 12 of the 52 Ancestors Challenge

Alfred Flint Copperthwaite is the number 12 ancestor in the 52 Ancestors Challenge, and is my son’s four times great grandfather. When researching Alfred, I felt that his middle name was slightly unusual and figured that it must be a family name that has been carried on. I researched further and found that Flint comes from Flint Cole (1765-1836). Flint Cole was Alfred’s great, great grandfather on his mother’s side. He was born in the St Michael area of Southampton. This area no longer exists in Southampton, and I assume that it was one of the many parishes in Southampton at the time. There is still a St Michaels church in Southampton City Centre which is in one of the older parts of Southampton.

Alfred was the second born of three children to George Copperthwaite (1815-1843) and Louisa Payne (1817-1871). His two siblings were Emma Copperthwaite (1839-1840) and Harriet Copperthwaite (1842-1843). As you can see, unfortunately, both his siblings died in infancy, he was the only surviving child.

Alfred was born on 14 February 1841 and was baptised a month later on 14 March 1841 at St Michael, Southampton. We don’t have to wait long to see Alfred on the next record, which was the 1841 Census carried out on the 6th June that year. Here it is below:


On the 1841 census, Alfred is seen to be living at Castle Buildings, St Michael, Southampton, Hampshire, England with his mother, Louisa and a female servant called Martha Cole.

 Scan1The 1851 census was carried out on 30th March 1851. Alfred was visiting his grandparents at the time of this census. He was staying with James and Harriet Payne at 4 Cossack Street, Southampton St Mary, Hampshire, England.



By the time the 1861 census was carried out on 7th April, Alfred was lodging at Poole St James where his occupation was a Tallow Chandler. A Tallow Chandler makes and sells tallow candles or soaps and oils. Tallow is made from suet or fat taken from animals and separated from the membranous, as well as the fibrous matter by melting.

By the third quarter of 1861, Alfred married Clara Carter, and he is back in Southampton.

By the next census return, in 1871, Alfred and Clara are living in Southampton, and Alfred’s occupation has changed to a ship steward. Here is the census return below:

 Scan3As you can see, Alfred and Clara are living at Duke Street with two of their children, Alfred and Ada. Alfred is four years old and is at school, whereas Ada is only two years old.

Scan4By 1881, the family have moved to 3 Spa Court, Spa Road in the area of Southampton called Southampton All Saints. Alfred’s occupation is a dock labourer. Alfred and Clara’s son, Alfred is a Butcher’s Assistant and their daughter Ada is at school.

Scan5In 1891, the Copperthwaite family are still living in Spa Road. On this census return, you can see the rest of their family. Alfred is back to being a Steward for a living. Their eldest son, Alfred, doesn’t appear to be living with them and neither is Ada. We have, instead, Ernest, who doesn’t seem to be working, and Laura, Lilly, Frederick and Albert who are all at school. Albert, in 1912, signs up to work on the Titanic, and tragically loses his life.

Scan6By 1901, Alfred and Clara have moved to 29 John Street in the St Marys area of Southampton where Alfred is still a Ship Steward. They have Ernest still living with them at this stage.

Scan7This is the 1911 census carried out on the 2nd April. It’s just Alfred and Clara living at home now. Alfred is 70 years old and is still working as a Ship Steward. They are living at 5 Brick Court, Canal Walk in Southampton. The 1911 census is my favourite census return as this is the return that is completed in our ancestor’s own handwriting.

Alfred passed away in the fourth quarter of 1919 aged 78 years old. His wife, Clara, outlived him by 10 years.

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1871 Census Return

Whilst researching for a client today, I was trying to locate her maternal great grandmother on the 1871 census. I completed the relevant fields, and one match came out as follows:

1871 censusAs you can see in the second entry down, we have a family with the surname Massey, no first names, just their ages and their relation to each other. We know that they lived at 33 Upper William Street, Marylebone, London and that’s about it. In the column for rank or profession, someone has written “left his house on Monday morning – information from another lodger.”

Has anyone else come across something like this in their research before?


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