Monday 6 November 2023

Family History Month - Gleaning Stories from Documents

For many of our ancestors, we need to glean the documents in order to recreate their life story. Our curiosity is usually piqued by a single entry on a document and from there we are off on a research tangent. One case for me, occurred when I was looking at the death register for my paternal great grandfather, Walter Haddow. The informant on his death register says “James Sneddon, son in law”

From this, I knew that one of my paternal grandmother’s sisters had married James. I plugged the information into ScotlandsPeople and came up with a marriage for Walter’s daughter Jessie and groom James Sneddon. They married in 1908. Jessie was a postal clerkess and James a shale miner. 

I then looked for them in the 1911 census and, in looking at the “fertility” column discovered that they had had three children born to them but only one living child, son George. 

That sent me looking for the deaths of two young Sneddon children in MidCalder. I discovered that the two children were, in fact, twins. Agnes Miller (named for James’ mother) and Walter Haddow (named for Jessie’s father) were born in 1910 and died just two hours later. This must have been a devastating blow to the couple. Indeed, to the entire extended family. Shortly after this, James was able to secure a job as a insurance agent and the family moved to Edinburgh. 

Further research shows that Jessie and James had an additional six children, for a total of 9. Sadly, they also lost 3 in infancy – Robert as a newborn, then Jean and Mary each at the age of one. More than half of the children born to the couple succumbed in infancy. I can’t imagine the heartache and loss. 

George, their first born, lived to the ripe old age of 73, Walter to the age of 62, Robert to the age of 73 and Agnes to the age of 79.

Similarly, I have posted two stories this week about using documents, including army records and newspapers to uncover stories from the history of the city I live in. One post looked into the rumour of a suicide at the Brantford Club and the other teased out “more of the story” of a Fegan Boy.

As genealogists, we all chase the stories. As family historians, we research the stories in depth, capture them and then need to preserve them so that future generations may also know them.

How are you capturing, documenting and preserving the stories in your family’s history?

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