Connect To The Youth In Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another day full of family history

So today we set out on another adventure, this time with my parents coming along as well.  These are my Dad's patriarchal family lines so he had to come along with us.  We headed out to Gravesend to see if we could find some of the family sites for the generations who lived near London, just before they immigrated to the U.S. 

If you clicked on the myriad of links I've given you in recent blog posts that point back to The Chart Chick Blog, you'll know that my father's father's father Joseph Hatten Carpenter immigrated from England in 1886.  His father had moved from Taunton to Plymouth where Joseph was born.  Joseph's grandfather was the one who moved the family from Trefusis farm into Taunton.  After Joseph was born, his father became ill so they moved to Gravesend to be closer to his Mother's family.  At times Joseph lived with his paternal grandparents and recently I found a wonderful journal Joseph wrote about the time he spent in England as a child.  It tells all about Joseph's life with his grandparents in Gravesend and how much he enjoyed his time there.  On the way to Gravesend, I read several pages from the journal aloud in the car so that everyone could get a good feel for where we were going. 

According to the UK Poll Books and Historical Registers, and the 1841 Census, Joseph's maternal grandfather Joseph Heath Hatton and his family lived at 62 High Street in Gravesend.  Joseph's journal tells us that they moved to 49 Windmill Road, and then to 195 Parrock Street, all within a couple of blocks of each other.  I hadn't scouted out these sites before, so we were heading out to find them without prior experience. 

High Street is a beautiful cobblestone road that looks down on the Thames.  They lived over the clothing store.  It is now a restaurant but it still has the apartment above it.  It was fun to watch my Dad get excited.  He knew his grandfather Joseph Hatten Carpenter well so I think it was exciting to see where his childhood had been though he never returned to England once he came to the States. 

Directly behind the store is St. George's Church on Princess Street.  Joseph's journal says that his grandfather Hatton was an well respected man in the community being a "deacon at the Congregationalist church on Princess Street."  It was here we ran into a little bit of trouble.  Princess Street is very short, there are no other churches on Princess Street in Gravesend.  But when we got there the congregant we talked to said that the church was of the Church of England and always had been.  He said they didn't have Deacons in the Church of England.  So I'm not sure what is going on there.  I'm going to have to do some more research.  Interestingly, it is also the place Pocahontas was buried when she got sick and died on the boat that was heading out of London.  Now we just have to find out if it is the church our Hattons went to.  I'm pretty sure it is--it is right behind their store and the only church on Princess Street.  But I'm not sure what to do with the Church of England/Congregationalist thing yet. 

We found the house on Parrock Street where Joseph lived with his grandfather Joseph.  It was a nice home.  Joseph writes about his fond memories of the strawberry patch there.  It is a nice house.  You can see why Joseph was proud that his grandfather was able to retire and live off his means.

Then at the Windmill Street address we found another surprise.  Joseph writes in his journal that one of his uncles worked as a lawyer.  At Windmill Street in the family home, we found the offices of Hatten and Wyatt law firm.  Founded in 1844 these had to be related but they were closed as this was Sunday.  It was exciting to find them still in the same place that I had found in the census records. 

We struck out on a couple of the other sites we were looking for.  And I have a cemetery there that I want to visit on my next trip. 

The best part of the whole trip was when Dad was using the pedigree chart we brought to figure out who was who.  "This is a really useful chart."  Yeah Dad.  That's what I do for a living.  LOL.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ok so it's not that old.

So I said I was having some trouble wrapping my mind around how old things were in England, and how far back my ancestry stretched there. 

I had to do a little forehead smack today.  We visited the British Museum and got to see all the Egyptology there.  My bachelor's degree is in ancient Near Eastern history so I have spent alot of time in the Middle East and in Egypt.  Somehow ancient history doesn't seem so distant to me.  I studied Greek and Hebrew and Hieroglyphics and that didn't blow my mind.  So why does the early 1700s seem so far away?  Probably because I can draw a pedigree chart to the 1700s.  I can see the people who lived and died between those times.  But it is much harder to draw a reliable pedigree chart back to ancient Egypt.  At Family ChartMasters we've done some spectacular charts that go way back.  But somehow my mind jumps that gap a little bit.

Got to see the Rosetta Stone for the first time today.  Very, very cool for a girl with a Middle Eastern Studies degree.  Almost as cool as her own family history sites.  The kids laughed that I wanted my picture taken with the back of it.  Anyone can see a picture of the front of the Rosetta Stone.  But when you've seen the back, then you've really been there.  :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

And She Scores Part 2

I was able to see these sites and find these documents last February.  But it was slightly melancholy for me because I couldn't share it with my kids.  But today I was able to bring it all full circle.  Today I was able to share with my kids the great fun of finding the long talked about Trefusis Farm and showing them the amazing documents of their family history.

In the morning we walked around to see the two churches in Taunton where my ancestors were married.  St. Mary Magdelene Church is where my Great-great-great-grandfather Robert Gibbs Carpenter married my Great-great-great-grandmother Maria Wright on the 25th of August 1829.  We were hoping to catch a service at St. Mary's but for some reason the regular service there was closed.

And my 6th great-grandparents Thomas Carpenter and Jane Rugg were married on the 27th of December in 1737 at St. James Church.  We were there exactly 275 years after their marriage.  I didn't even realize that we were going to be there on their anniversary.  What serendipity.  And miraculously the kids smiled for the pictures and everything.

We headed out to the Somerset Heritage Centre and I was really glad I had already been there.  I was able to take them straight to the good stuff.  And in the best of all possible worlds, I'm scheduled to go back for the Who Do You Think You Are conference in February so I know I'm going to get another shot at research in this archive.  So I didn't need to research, we could just treat the archive like a museum and show the kids the good stuff.  If possible, I highly recommend the miraculous way that turned out.  Go yourself to check the places out, take the kids, and then go back more for real research later.  You could combine the first and the last parts, but it was really beautiful walking out of that archive without the longing of being able to go back and do more research.

My younger son was the most enthused about the documents.  I got to show them the wills from 1721 and 1753.  "These are older than the Declaration of Independence!"  He helped me hold several of them down so that I could get good pictures of them.  It was really amazing to get to hold them and see the wax seals.  We tried to be really gentle with them so that they would be still be available for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  But nothing can compare to real hands on family history.

From there we went out to Bradford on Tone.  It was just so sweet for me to be able to take them there.  We hunted around the church yard for gravestones.  I told them I'd pay out a reward for anyone who could find one of our ancestors.  I would have paid good money for that since our last ancestor to be buried there was in 1812.  I knew there weren't any gravestones there but I was hoping for a miracle.  It got the kids involved but unfortunately they didn't find anything.  We had called the night before and the caretaker said St Giles church was going to be open but we were foiled again.  We tried to get ahold of several people but no one was available to open the church.  No matter, it was brilliant to be there. 

We walked down to the 13th century bridge between the church and the farm.  Our ancestors definitely would have crossed this bridge many times on their way to the village.  One of  the kids said "Now that's bridging the generations.."  Good grief.  

We had lunch at the White Horse Inn across from the church.  I absolutely loved the slow service and the time to sit and enjoy being in this town with my kids.  We relaxed and enjoyed each other's company.  It was a really sweet moment for me. 

We went down to the farm and took a quick picture with the real trefusis sign.  My dad and my sister have both been out to the farm and had nice conversations with the people who live there but I didn't want to bother them.  We drove around a little and then started back towards London. 

The kids were typical teenagers.  They were good-natured and even when I made them hold up the genealogy chart for a picture I didn't get complaining.  But I don't know how much really sunk in.  I want them to relish in it,  My overzealousness probably shut down some of their own enthusiasm and put them into "Oh Mom" mode.  But I do think they felt it more than they would ever tell me.  I'm sure they were happy to make me so happy.  I'm sure I'll hear about how inspiring it all was about the time they hit their 30s.  

This is really the story of investing your children coming full circle.  My Grandparents had that Brigadoon-esque Trefusis sign over their doorway when I was a little girl and that inspired my curiosity.  Today I got to take my kids to that place and invest the next generation in their family's history.  Hopefully I've planted some seeds that will take root in future years too. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hallowed Ground

Today we went to Bletchley Park on our way out to the place where my ancestry goes back to the 1600s.  My techie sons wanted to see Bletchley Park--it is the place where British intelligence worked to break the Engima machine codes in World War 2 and in the process laid the groundwork for the invention of the modern computer.  You can learn more about it here, and here.

I knew Bletchley Park would be interesting but I was unprepared for how moved I was by this site.  I was so impressed by how hard the work was and the intense dedication they had to this project.  I am so grateful for the workers of Bletchley Park and how they were able to cut the war short by their incredible intelligence.  Both of my Grandfathers may have been pulled into the European conflict had the war gone on and the course of my family would have changed dramatically. I am so thankful for what the British did to stop the Nazis.  I don't think I appreciated that enough previously. 

Then we headed down to Bradford on Tone, the site of my Carpenter line's family farm.  We are staying in Taunton tonight, the larger city next to Bradford on Tone.  My ancestor Robert Gibbs Carpenter moved to Taunton when he left the family farm.  The 1841 England Census shows Robert as a grocer on High Street in Taunton.  His son Robert Wright Carpenter, my father's great grandfather was born there.  High street is now a pedestrian mall that only runs about one block so we headed over there tonight for dinner.  I think the kids were quite impressed--like I was earlier.  They were quiet, maybe even reverent.  I'm still looking for the exact address of where they lived, but the kids got their first taste of walking where their ancestors walked.  Good stuff. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Down time

I think I learned something really important today about taking families to family history sites.  It's Christmas so we spend the time relaxing and being together as a family.  We had specifically come to England over Christmas so that we would have a few down days--something our whole family really needs.  You can't go visit anything on Christmas day so I didn't feel the pressure to be "educating" the kids.

It turns out that scheduling downtime into your family history trips is really important, and something that I would highly suggest for your own family history adventure.  The kids were already on overload and we were just getting started.  They just couldn't soak much more in.  And tired children of any age are not fun.  Having a day to do nothing was really helpful.  We watched TV in the evening getting a full dose of British TV.  That was fun.  "That Dog Can Dance" and the Christmas episode of "Downton Abbey."(fun for me since you won't be able to see it in the states for quite a while--yet a sad sad episode) :(  And of course the Queen's Christmas message.  After relaxing, we are finally getting over the jet lag and ready to go tomorrow. 

So make sure you have a little down time for the kids to relax when you take them on a family history adventure.  Even a few hours in the evenings helps.

Christmas in England

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve and learned a little more about how our ancestors might have celebrated differently than what we experience now.

We had dinner at the Peacock Lodge, a regular British Pub.  We had traditional Christmas Crackers.  Since they were only invented in the 1840's it is unlikely that they were widespread enough that my ancestors had them since they left in 1870.  It is funny how something that you think of as so traditional and common can be really not that old.  Anyway, it was fun to put on the hats and read the jokes and celebrate.

More likely they did have Christmas pudding though.  We've had several versions of Christmas pudding and they are pretty foreign to the American palate.  We have fruitcake which is similar but it is not very common to find someone who appreciates it in the States.  Some Christmas puddings are better than others.  I liked it ok, but it was definitely more of a "have to try it once" thing.

Later that night, Dad and I went to Christmas Mass.  Luckily we got there early enough to snap a quick picture before many people were there.  I didn't try very hard to get the kids to come because I knew it would be hard on them.  They're just starting to get over the jet lag.  A real Church of England Midnight Mass.  My more recent ancestors were Congregationalists, even a Congregationalist minister, but further back they belonged to the Church of England.  It was a beautiful service.  Beautiful music.  A wonderful way to start Christmas.  This church only dated back to 1789 but that's still ancient history where I'm from.  I'm sure the major difference between our experience and our ancestors, was that the Vicar was a woman.  It was nice to see so many people there and it was particularly moving to see the family across the aisle from us--three generations of mothers and daughters coming to church and taking communion together on Christmas. Well connected. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

That was a looooong time ago.

One of the things I love about London is how rich the history is.  Like I said last year, at home "our archaeological digs are for history that goes back 100 years. In England that's just your normal redecorating."

We went to the Tower of London today.  I'm sure my ancestors saw it as well.  In the 1800s some of my ancestors were living in Gravesend--not far away.  I don't know if they ever visited the tower although they could have, apparently ordinary people could visit then and by the end of the 1800s over a half a million people were visiting every year. 

What I just keep running into here is that I can't wrap my mind around how old the history is here.  I just can't get my mind around the 1000s.  William the Conqueror 1066-1087 first started building the tower.  We sometimes see him on charts we do for people who have tapped into their royal British lines.   I guess family history makes me realize the reality that these people lived so long ago, and printing charts has given me a good feel for how many generations is in between us and them.  The number of people who lived and died in the interim is dizzying. 

Friday, December 21, 2012


So we went to the Victoria and Albert museum today and I learned something about my ancestors.

I knew my Hatton line (Joseph's Hatten Carpenter's mother's line) were drapers in Gravesend.  "Drapers" is such a beautiful word for owning a clothing store.  I also know from his journals that they retired and lived off their wealth for over 20 years and I know from the censuses that they had several servants.  So they must have been fairly successful drapers.  From an American point of view owning a shop makes you a hard living--perhaps blue collar life.  But I knew in England it was a bit different.  I'd seen "Are You Being Served?" on PBS and I know Eliza Doolittle aspired to be a shop girl.

At the Victoria and Albert we found out what a huge deal it is to dress properly in England.  Fashion is a big deal.  I think it comes somewhat from the King's court and the courtiers.  It also told people what your status is.  There was a great exhibit there on historical costume coming down through the ages.  There are many fine clothing shops in London now.  It always has been and still is a great center for fashion.

As my ancestors came to America and then crossed the plains into the western frontier, they picked up a very utilitarian view of clothing.  If you were too into fashion, you were vain.  That flip in attitude had given me a skewed view of what my ancestors did.  But now I think I have a little better perspective.  Perhaps vanity was a virtue.

There was also a temporary display of ball gowns there.  Fabulous.  I should have been born in the 50s.  The balls, the debutantes, socializing throughout the season and being presented at court...  Yeah I can see the fashion thing now.  And it is beautiful. 

Later we went down to Oxford Street and Regent street to see the Christmas lights.  Beautiful shops, beautiful lights.  I learned something about my ancestors and had a great time. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our Ancestors Never Had Jet Lag

So jet lag is a real thing.

The kids were so excited.  No one would believe me that they were going to get hit with jet lag.  I tried to get them to sleep on the plane, but there were too many movies and too much excitement.  They didn't listen.  And now they are tired.  So mom was right.  Yeah, mom was right. Gotta love those moments.

As we got off the plane we had another one of those watershed moments.  Kim and I were a little slow getting our carry on suitcases and the kids got quite ahead of us.  My 12 year old daughter took off in search of a restroom and when I came off the plane, I went a bit ballistic (a bit) that she wasn't there waiting for us.  First steps into a foreign country and already we'd lost a child.  :)  She didn't realize, that unlike US airports where there are places to sit, and restrooms throughout, in a British airport, there are only long plain hallways until you get to the passport check area.  So everyone was in for a long lecture about how "things are different" here.  And as all teenagers react when faced with a long lecture from mom, I was greeted with "no they aren't--we know what we are doing."  "We've watched Dr. Who.  We know what we're talking about."  Yeah well, we'll see who's right about that one.

Solved it fairly quickly with a quick trip to Tesco (England's Walmart.)  We bought some Barbequed Lamas, and Oddities.  Happily, we found modest clothing for a 12 year old girl (who would have thought?  I can't find anything for her to wear without looking like a slut in the states but we scored at Tesco of all places.)  Since then we've had Prawn Cocktail crisps (Potato chips flavored with shrimp cocktail), Roast Chicken crisps, and we love Jaffa Cakes and Mint Humbugs. 

Emigration must have been something else for our ancestors.  What a exciting/scary/overwhelming experience it must have been to get off the boat.  Different foods, different sights, different languages.  If you have ever been to a foreign country you know what I mean.  We think the world is smaller now because the internet and our media has connected us, but it hasn't connected us as much as it sometimes seems.  Even the mother country is so very different.  I can't imagine having gotten off that plane with $10 in my pocket and knowing I needed to find a job immediately.  Not knowing anyone, not knowing where I was going.  Now we have reservations, and phones, and google earth.  And of course we have the money we need for our temporary trip.  Our immigrant ancestors were so incredibly brave.

But then they didn't have jet lag.  That's something I guess.  At least they were awake in the morning, and they didn't have a surge of energy when it was time for bed.  That is something just this last generation or two has invented. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Getting Started With A Bang

I couldn't normally do this, but since no one knows about this blog yet, I'm going to broadcast that we are leaving town.  We are so, so, so excited.

I'm going to do it because we are about to take the trip of a lifetime, and what better way to start this blog?  We are going to Zap the Grandma gap in a big, big way.  I'm taking the family back to where my ancestry goes back into the 1600s for a Christmas holiday this year.  We are headed to England.  The mother country.  This is a long way to go to connect your children with their family history, but then that's just the start of where we are going with this blog. 

If you read my main blog, The Chart Chick, you'll know that I've been working for several years on investing my children in this Carpenter line of my family history.  I've taught them alot about this line, and last Christmas we worked on a huge extraction project as a Christmas gift.  Then last February, on my way to the Who Do You Think You Are Live Conference in London, I decided to take a detour and find the family farm.  It was so wonderful to be able to find this family history site.  Little did I know I'd be able to take my children the very next year to see where this family line started. 

We have a great opportunity right now because my parents are living there for a couple of years.  So we are going to seize the opportunity while it presents itself.  I'm excited to take the kids out to see where the Carpenters came from.  But more than that I'm excited to take them to see my parents.   As you'll see when the new book Zap the Grandma Gap comes out, I am blessed with wonderful parents.  My children need their influence.  So we are going to go connect them with their Great Great Great Great Great + Grandparents, but also very importantly their regular Grandparents too.  We're looking forward to a great trip, and I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Of course you don't have to go to these lengths to connect your family with their family history.  We'll let you know soon about all the ideas we have for easier ways to make those connections.   In another couple of weeks, we'll be launching our new book, and we'll be developing lots of resources for you to help you invest the next generations in your family history.  We can't wait to get started.  And we can't wait to hear from you too.  Talk to you soon.