Today in England there are people on strike. The country has no money and is asking public sector workers to a bit more towards their pensions and work a bit longer in their jobs, just like everyone in the private sector has to do.
I'm a public sector worker but I don't agree with the strike. I'm not even in the Union. Instead I had a minor row with the Union guy at work when he tried to recruit me. Am I ever going to join the Union? No, in fact I'm hoping that if I continue to argue with the recruiter then they'll ban me for life, and then I will be happy.
So rather than elbow my way through the picket (if there even was a picket) I booked the day off work and decided to do 2 things;
1. Have a lie in. I love waking up, looking at the alarm clock, and then rolling over and going back to sleep because I don't have to get up.
2. Visit the Family History Center in London.
The FHC is a wonderful place if, like me, you have an interest in your roots. It's in the basement of a building belonging to the Church of the Latter Day Saints, you might have to dodge a bloke trying to convert you but to be fair to them as soon as I tell them I'm just here to use and abuse their access to genealogy websites they stop converting me and wave me in, and they're very polite about the whole thing.
I also want to apologise, if you're in London and were expecting sunshine today and were disappointed by the cloud then you should be aware that it's my fault. I wore shorts today for the first time this year, of course it was going to cloud over in response.
So yes, the FHC, if you're like me and don't want to fork out a lot of money on Ancestry then this place is very useful, their basement has a bunch of computers with full access to Ancestry, FindMyPast, and the 1911 census, and it doesn't cost you a penny. The only problem is that if your laptop has a dying battery, like this poor old thing I'm working on at the moment, then you won't be able to plug it in to a socket to keep it going, because there aren't any. And you can't log on to Ancestry yourself if you have an account, so you can't update stuff on there until you get home.
However they do let you bring in as much paper and as many pens as you think you'll need, and if you have any problems the people that run the place are very knowledgable and really helpful, one day I might even throw myself at their mercy and beg them to confirm whether or not my family was ever Jewish. Oh, and they also have a load of microfilm and the readers, so you can use those too.
I already have my family tree uploaded to Ancestry, so while I couldn't use my laptop I at least still had a reference point (albeit not a very up to date one) so kept that open in one window so I could click back when I needed to confirm birth and death dates.
Last time I was at home my Mum brought out a few old birth certificates that she had requested back when she had time to do this kind of research, and asked me to find out a bit more about my great grandmother's side (my maternal grandfather's mother). Her name was Catherine, on her marriage certificate she is named as "Catherine Wilkinson", but on my grandfather's birth certificate she was put as "Catherine Smith formerly Anderson". According to family story she was informally adopted by "the Anderson sisters" in the coal mining village my grandfather grew up in. My Mum found her birth certificate, where her mother was named "Mary Wilkinson formerly Harraughty", with no father mentioned on it. Where was her father? Who was Mr Wilkinson that Mary apparantly married, and where the hell did the Harraughty family come from?
We also won't mention Avery, the brother that Catherine had who was the "black sheep" of the family, mostly because I can't actually find any trace of him anywhere.
Once I got over the fact that there are half a dozen ways to spell "Harraughty" I decided to spend today investigating them further. It turns out that there is only one Harraughty family that ever lived in Northumberland, and they are my ancestors!
Bernard Harraughty was born in 1830, his wife Bridget was born in 1831. Bridget was born in Barrington, Northumberland and Bernard was born in...er...Ireland.
I should stop at this moment to mention that I have no problems with finding out I have Irish ancestry. In my ancestry I already have English, Italian and Scottish roots. I also have ancestors who died in the workhouse, who owned acres of land and had it nicked from them, who were coal miners, and there's at least 2 women who had children out of wedlock at a time when such a thing was considered completely despicable. But I'm mostly English, and if there's one thing the English do well it's take the piss out of other countries, especially those neighbouring us. So if you're offended by my jokes about being offended by my Irish ancestry, then please go away and read a different blog.
Right, onwards! I don't know where in Ireland Bernard was from, but Ireland it definitely is according to his census records. He was a coal miner in Northumberland and had four daughters with Bridget, Jane, Bridget (the second), Catharine (who died when she was 14), and then Mary was the youngest. Bernard died in 1891, but Bridget lived on until 1909, proving once again that the women in my line are tough old birds who manage to live well past life expectancy at the time!
The bit where it gets confusing is the 1901 census. Mary? No idea where she's gone, Mary Wilkinsons are a penny a dozen in Northumberland and I was already getting a headache when I got to this point. Her daughter Catherine also appears to be a bit of a pickle. In 1901 Bridget was still alive and kicking and living with her daughter Jane Wilkinson, a widow.
Wait, Jane Wilkinson? I thought Mary was the Wilkinson bride?
Yes, it turns out that Jane and Mary both married Wilkinson men in 1888. I have no idea if these men were related, but it certainly does my head in. Especially when you factor in that that Bridget was also living with four granddaughters, Ada Johnson (where the Hell did Johnson come from!?), Catharine Wilkinson (possibly not our Catharine though as this one is around 8 years too old!), Hilda Wilkinson, and Mary G Wilkinson (another bloody Mary!!!).
At this point I had a screaming headache and my eyes were hurting, so I gave up and went to Bella Italia for lunch and then came home to drown my sorrows in tea.
So what have I discovered today?
1. I am part Irish.
2. My Mum wishes I had never discovered this XD
3. My uncle is going to curse a blue streak when I tell him.
4. Wilkinson men are apparantly quite attractive to Harraughty women.
5. My ancestors are bloody irritating.
I now need to find time to go back there again and delve further into the Wilkinson side of things. I never got round to the 1911 census, and I still need to find where Mary has disappeared to in 1901. And if possible I'd like to try and find this annoying Avery Wilkinson who apparantly did some bad things during the course of his life time?
And now I have to go and break the news to my uncle.