Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Special Cards for Special Days

When my paternal grandfather died in 1965, my parents went out to his home in Port Alberni for the funeral and to help clear out his possessions. Knowing I was interested in family history they paid attention to bringing back many mementos and keepsakes that had belonged to my grandparents. My grandmother had died six years earlier so everything had to be packed up and given or taken away.

I have my grandfather’s, and his father’s pocket watches that came over with them from England in the early 1900s. I’ll write more about them later. I have photos of grandparents, great-grandparents and even a great-great grandmother that came down to me. I’ve published a few of them in past blogs. And I now have a coffee table that had been in the centre of their living room for many years.

My father’s brother and sister also shared in the family memorabilia. My aunt (who I was just reminded that I owe a letter or email) kept a collection of cards and letters that had been written to my grandparents. Among them were a number that had been sent by my parents – mainly my mother – for birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other special occasions. My Aunt Ethel packed them up and sent them to me in 2010. Some of these go back to the late 1940s. They are now in a binder of their own along with the letter my aunt sent accompanying them.

My mother was great at writing letters and notes to keep relatives up-to-date. I have several that came back to me from various recipients. And a few that came to me personally. They are very special reminders of her.

Some of the special days for which these cards were sent have past or not yet been reached this year (Easter, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversary) but I thought I would write about one of them anyway that was sent close to this day of the year.


This is a get well card send to my grandfather on May 26th, 1955 after he had had surgery. Wow, 61 years ago! Inside the card was a note written by my mother wishing him well and giving him the most recent news about us – and their new 1952 Desoto. “…at least it’s new to us” she said. We had taken it “down to Butte, Montana for the weekend & gave it a good work out” she went on.

Mom rarely missed an opportunity to send cards and wish others well and tell them about what was new. She would probably have been right at home with Facebook.

We still shop for cards to send at special times but our kids mostly use Skype. And no one will likely be surprised that I have kept every card ever given to either my wife or me or both since we got married.
  
I am especially grateful to my aunt for saving the cards and passing them on to me.


Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Religious Affiliation in the United Kingdom

Those of us who research our families in Europe have found a great deal of information, particularly for ancestors beyond three or four generations back, in church records such as baptism, marriage and burial registers. As I pointed out in blog posts of 19 April 2016 and 3 May 2016 concerning Historical Trends in Parish BMD Register Entries, the completeness of information in ecclesiastical records began to wane in the latter 19th century. For the areas of England that I have looked at in detail, I thought it might have to do with movement away from the Church of England as well as the emphasis on civil registration of vital events.

I recently came across an interesting website on Wikipedia called Religion in the United Kingdom. I thought it might shed some light on the questions of whether the church was losing its relevance, at least in terms of the recording of those vital events.

The plots of baptism, marriages and burials from Church of England registers for the parishes of Plympton St. Mary and Plympton St. Maurice in Devon in my previous blog posts showed a marked decline in entries beginning in the mid-1800s. Civil registration had of course begun in 1837 but that did not immediately halt the trend. I thought a part of the answer might lie in the country becoming more multi-cultural.


Certainly over the last two centuries there has been an influx of immigrants from other parts of the world into Britain. Unfortunately detailed statistics have only been kept for the most recent decades. Census records show the percentage of foreign-born residents of Britain was quite small until the middle of the 20th century, though, so immigration does not explain the drop in baptisms or church-related marriages and burials.


The 2011 United Kingdom census offers some interesting statistics as do British Social Attitudes (BSA) Surveys. Both sets of data show that religion is still very much a part of the lives of most citizens – 67% of the total population. Of those, 60% indicated they were Christian.


In a more detailed 2009 BSA survey concerning religions, only 19.9% of those surveyed (40% of those with a religion) said they belonged to the Church of England. Over half of the people (50.7%) said they were not religious at all. The proportion of Church of England members dropped further by 2015, to just 17% of those with religion.
 
Time series from the British Social Attitudes Survey showing the religion to which people consider themselves to belong
These last two groups probably account for most of the decline in entries in the Church of England registers. Over two hundred years ago, almost all of the people of England were associated with the Church of England and had their important life events recorded in the registers. Many, of course, were forced by law to do so even if they belonged to a non-conformist group since, for so long the Church of England was almost an arm of the government. Notwithstanding that, the church records offered a very accurate view of the communities in terms of births and deaths.
Surveys such as the BSA and analyses of census results shown on the Online Historical Population Reports Website are great resources to find out about the makeup of communities from the past. Not only do they summarize religious connections but also tell a great deal about occupations, movement of people across the country and immigration.


Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A Special Mother’s Day Memory

In their search for so many past generations, what genealogist does not find Mother’s Day or Father’s Day just a bit more special? It kind of goes without saying that we would not be around to look for those ancestors if it had not been for the fact that we had those mothers and fathers.

And no matter how many brothers and sisters we might have, we always come back to thinking that our relationship with our parents was the most important one. To us it was, of course!

If you are very lucky you remember one particular incident or have one unique photo of you and your mother. It reminds you of that unique relationship more than any other and, in many ways, defines you as a person as well. It says you were loved and cared for and that your mother was very happy to have you around. You knew, or would come to learn anyway, that you could do anything you wanted because you had the support and protection of your mother.

This is my favourite photo of my mother and me. It was taken when I was about two years old. I do remember it being taken by my father but not where. There is another picture taken at the same time with Mom holding me and standing next to my paternal grandmother, so it might have been on Vancouver Island.


In the photo it is a beautiful, warm summer day and I’m happy because I am with my mom and my dad is there as well behind the camera. We are not touching in the picture but we are still as close as a mother and son can be.

We missed a lot of Mother’s Days after she was gone – too soon. But we treasure the time we had with her. Happy Mother’s Day


Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.