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Interesting discoveries at Cottingley

| October 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Family history research advice from Clive Harrison.

It is now just over three years since the family history research sessions began at Cottingley Cornerstone Centre. What commenced as a six-week introductory course in how to get started has become a regular fixture on the Cornerstone programme. Indeed, it has been so successful that the sessions were doubled to twice weekly from April last year.

Almost 100 researchers have benefited from the free sessions so far, with some being present from the start. We have participants from far and wide – not just Cottingley. Bradford, Shipley, Keighley and Bingley have all been well represented and we often have a researcher from Doncaster, although only when she accompanies one of our regular researchers.

Although I initiated the sessions originally, other researchers have gained experience over time and I am now joined by Jane, Di and Rae in assisting researchers with their quests to discover their ancestors and where they came from. The knowledge available does not end with the group leaders, as all participants help each other by exchanging their experiences and passing on any resources which may be useful to others. There is also a good collection of magazines and other publications to help with the research.

Over the years there have been many interesting, and sometimes amusing, discoveries. Alas, there have also been some extremely distressing stories uncovered, as well as many surprises which the researchers share with their colleagues over coffee and a cake in Poppies Café. And so, as well as family history research, the sessions have become a chance to socialise.

One of the most notable surprises occurred when a lady researching her Coyne ancestors in Leeds discovered an entry for the Cohen family in the 1881 Census, where the birthplace of the head of the household was not clear. At first she thought that the name had been spelled wrongly, perhaps through being misheard, and looking back at the previous census the name appeared correctly as Coyne. But looking at the census before that, the name appeared again as Cohen and the birthplace, Poland! Another inspection of the 1881 Census showed the birthplace to be Warsaw. And so this lady discovered that her Leeds ancestors had, in fact, been Polish, and possibly Jewish, immigrants.

There have been some scandalous discoveries too. One lady found a bigamist among her ancestors, and there was also an embezzler who sought refuge in the USA (but was arrested and jailed on his return to England). So far, the only offence I have found in my ancestry was a great-great-grandfather who was fined one shilling plus costs at York Petty Sessions in 1882 for failing to send his children to school.

King Edward III of England

One researcher has discovered a connection to King Edward III in his tree

I have found many interesting things in my research into Cottingley’s World War I servicemen. I was lucky enough to find the service record for one soldier, the pages of which included a list of all the kit and equipment issued to him on enlistment. There were, of course, boots, a cap, drawers, puttees, trousers, etc. But along with the brushes and a fork was a “housewife”! Not being a military man myself, I had to consult the Internet to discover that a “housewife” was a kit consisting of needles, thread, buttons, etc. used for repairing garments, and not what some of the other researchers suggested!

Recently one of our researchers has discovered a connection to King Edward III in his family tree, and who knows how many of us may be descended from royalty?

Is there something interesting in your family history? The family history research sessions are held at the Cornerstone Centre, Cottingley, on Wednesday and Friday mornings from 10am to 12noon.

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