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Column published: 25 November 2009
By: Gordon A. Watts Biography & Archived Articles
Topics in this column include:
The first article of my last column reminded us about the military personnel who have fought and died to preserve our way of life, and those who still fight so that others might gain the freedom of choice that we enjoy today. Unfortunately, in that article, I was in error when I mentioned that Harry Patch was an American soldier. Harry Patch was, in fact, British.
Henry John "Harry" Patch (17 June 1898 - 25 July 2009), born in Combe Down, near Bath in Somerset, England, was the last surviving British soldier to have fought in World War I. At the time of his death, aged 111 years, 38 days, Harry Patch was the verified third-oldest man in the world, the oldest man in Europe and one of the 70 oldest men ever.
My thanks to those of my readers who pointed out my error, and my apologies to those who might have been upset about it.
More personal genealogy
Since my last column, I have made a couple of discoveries regarding my WATTS lineage. One of these was found by searching through the free databases of Library and Archives' (LAC) Canadian Genealogy Centre, while the other was provided to me by a friend and fellow WATTS researcher who is subscribed to one of the online 'fee for service' genealogy sources.
I found the first of these discoveries by viewing recently added scans of Passenger Lists at the Canadian Genealogy Centre. Locating the passenger lists on the website took a little wandering around, as I found some of the links did not take me where I thought they should. In the end run, I found the simplest route to get where I wanted was to use the search engine. It helps if you have an idea as to at least the year of immigration, and the ports where they might have sailed from and arrived at. In my case, I knew the year (1912) that my grandparents and aunt had immigrated, and the most likely port of sailing to be Southampton, England. Coming to Canada at that time, the most likely port of arrival was either Montreal or Quebec.
Entering this information into the search parameters brought up a list of eleven possibilities, showing the names of ships, and the port and date of arrival. Clicking on the name of the ship brought up a screen showing the ship, shipping line, departure port and date, port and date of arrival, the name of any large group included in the list, and reference and microfilm numbers. A "View Image" link took me to a scan of the first page of the passenger list that gave summary details of the vessel, numbers of passengers, etc. From this point, I was able to successively step through the scanned pages to search for my family. Stepping through the pages one at a time forced me to view each page. Initially, I thought this a good thing. Once having found those I sought however, on a return visit to the list I would have liked the option to go directly to a specific known page The passenger lists that I searched ranged in length from 48 to 27 pages. I found my people on page 33 of the fourth list that I searched. My grandfather Fred WATTS, my grandmother Mary WATTS, and my aunt Nellie E. WATTS were on board the S.S. ASCANIA, a Cunard Steamship Company vessel that sailed from Southampton on 2 May 1912, and arrived at Quebec 14 May 1912. What proved to me that I had found the right people was the destination shown for them. That destination was Deans Haven, a small place located near Riondel on the Kootenay Lake in B.C. Deans Haven had been owned by the family of Richard T. Deane, who had hopes of turning it into a resort area to rival Banff, Alberta. My grandfather and great uncle Ernest George DAVIS (my grandmother's brother) came to Canada under the sponsorship of Richard T. Deane to assist in this endeavour. Unfortunately, the start of World War I put an end to this particular dream.
Of particular interest to me, aside from finding my grandparents and aunt on the passenger list, was confirmation of when, and from where, they had sailed. The ASCANIA embarked from Southampton, England, on 2 May 1912, 8 days prior to the sailing of the TITANIC. At the time of the sailing, there was a coal strike in Southampton, and many ships waiting to sail had insufficient supplies of coal, and were thus unable to leave. Coal from many of these ships was transferred to the TITANIC, so that it had sufficient to make its maiden voyage. As coal was transferred to the TITANIC from many of these ships, so were some of the passengers. Fortunately, the ASCANIA had sufficient coal to make its scheduled trip and so my grandparents were not among those who transferred to the TITANIC. Had it been otherwise, I might not be here now to write this article.
The second of my discoveries was, in fact, a double whammy, both relating to the 1911 Census of England and Wales. The aforementioned friend and fellow WATTS researcher emailed to me copies of scanned images showing first, where my grandfather and his family lived prior to their emigration to Canada, and secondly, that my grandfathers brother Frank had stayed in the British Army after the Boer War, and remained so at least until the time of the 1911 Census.
At the time of the 1911 Census of England and Wales, the scanned Census schedule showed my grandfather Fred WATTS as the head of the family, aged 30 and married. He was shown as a Farm Labourer, and gave his birthplace as Axford, Wiltshire. My grandmother was listed as Mary Jane WATTS, wife, aged 27 and married. Her birthplace was given as Stoke Poges, Bucks. My aunt was listed as Nellie Elsie WATTS, daughter, aged 10 months. Her birthplace was given as Burnham, Bucks. Information for the individual house schedule had been filled out and signed by my grandfather. The schedule included their postal address of Lent Green, Burnham, Bucks.
Unlike the individual household schedule showing my grandfather's family, his brother Frank showed up in an Enumeration Book for Military Establishments. The cover page of this book showed that those included in its pages were stationed at Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa. Each page in the book listed 30 individuals. Frank WATTS appeared on line 9 of page 10 of this book. He was shown with a Rank of Private, 32 years of age, single, in the First Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. It showed his birthplace as Marlborough, Wiltshire.
Prior to receiving these scanned images from the 1911 Census of England and Wales, I already had some information regarding both my grandfather's family, and my great uncle Frank. These scans however, added to my store of information regarding them. Perhaps more importantly, they provided documentary evidence of them at that time in their life.
UK National Archives
Those seeking information on ancestors from England may well start their search at the website for the UK National Archives. One of the first things you will see when accessing their home page is a list of 'quick links' leading to items such as births, marriages and deaths; Census records; citizenship and naturalization; divorce; passenger lists; and wills. It also provides a link to alphabetically listed research guides.
BMD's cannot be viewed or ordered at The National Archives. Civil registration of BMD's in England and Wales began 1 July 1837 and all BMD certificates since then have been kept in the General Register Office (GRO). Prior to then there is no central record of births, marriages and deaths. To trace a BMD before 1 July 1837, look for parish registers in local archives. Non-conformist marriages between 1754 and 1837 are likely to be found in Church of England parish registers. Information regarding BMD's for Scotland and Ireland can be found in their respective GROs.
The Archives provides links to records of the UK Censuses (taken every ten years), from 1841 to 1911. As has Library and Archives Canada, the UK National Archives has developed partnerships in order to produce greater, and more rapid, accessibility of information than might have been possible without such collaboration. This is particularly true insofar as scanned images of original documentation is concerned. For Censuses from 1841 through 1891 the Archives have partnered with Ancestry.co.uk. The 1901 Census is hosted by 1901censusonline.com while the partner for the 1911 is Findmypast.com.
If memory serves me correctly, in order to release the 1911 Census earlier than the mandated 100 years, it was made available with certain information, considered to be extremely personal, removed. In the case of the 1901 Census schedule for my grandfathers family, the only thing blanked out in the scan was the final column wherein any physical or mental infirmities would have been listed. It is my understanding that after 2011, this information will no longer be blocked.
The National Archives holds duplicate certificates of British nationality from 1 January 1949 to 30 September 1986. They hold duplicate naturalization certificates from 1844 to 1969. Unfortunately, scans of these certificates are not available online, and the Archives must be contacted to obtain certificates. From June 1969 until 30 September 1986 no duplicate naturalization certificates were retained. Enquiries regarding either nationality or naturalization certificates after 1 October 1986 must be made in writing to UK Border Agency, Reliance House, 20 Water Street, Liverpool L2 8XU. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
For inward bound passenger lists for people arriving from foreign ports outside of Europe and the Mediterranean, Archives has again partnered with Ancestry.co.uk. The passenger lists cover 1878 to 1960, and may include: name of passenger, birth date or age, port of departure, port of arrival, date of arrival and vessel name.
For outward bound passenger lists, for people leaving ports in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Archives have partnered with AncestorsOnBoard.com, The lists cover 1890 to 1960 and show passengers for long-distance destination, including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
I have listed here just a small portion of the content available on the website for the UK National Archives. Perhaps it is enough to let some of my readers know that it is a site worth visiting. Readers may find it useful to subscribe to a free monthly enewsletter from The National Archives. Subscribers receive monthly updates on recent opened government files, newly digitized records, and new online resources.
Updated databases at Library and Archives Canada
LAC reports that updates have been made to a number of their databases. These include:
Works in progress include:
Until next time.
Gordon A. Watts email@example.com
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To view back issues of Gordon Watt's columns, visit Gordon's biography page where all of his archives articles are available.
Canadian Genealogy & History Resources from Global Genealogy: