An interesting invitation!

I mentioned yesterday how amazing my friends are, how very talented they are and what great achievements they have made. I am particularly proud of my best friend Andrew Simpson, for lots of reasons, but also because he has published two excellent books, and has a fascinating and very prestigious blog. He very kindly invited me to contribute to it, and here is what he published a week or so ago:

Creating a novel from real lives lived out a century and more ago

Like many people I am fascinated by my family history, and like many people I live a long way from where my ancestors lived. Even if I did live near my ancestral roots, people in the past moved around far more than we sometimes think; the history we are taught often seems to suggest that most people lived in small communities and only went further afield on market days, or on family occasions such as weddings. People have always travelled, to find work, to marry, to see what lies over the hill.

Luckily for us we live in an age when we can access records through the internet, and conduct our researches on line. We no longer have to travel to the family church and look at the parish register then trail around the graveyard trying to find where our family has been laid to rest. With the way people moved around in the past, such visits might be to many parish registers and different county archives.

There are many genealogical sites on the internet, and there are even free sites, although they do not have the access to as many records and archives as those you pay for. It is possible however, from your own home, to roam the world in search of your family… I have ‘travelled’ to Tasmania in search of mine!

I am a writer, and my latest novel is a genealogical mystery, of a family in search of their roots who are able to go back through looking at census returns and other documents on-line to find their history. My story is about an imaginary family called the Radwinters. I chose the name because I passed by a sign to the village of Radwinter in Essex and the name caught my eye.

Many people would begin their quest by travelling back from the known, from their parents, and grandparents; they can use the information given on birth records, for example the mother’s maiden name. Marriages records give the actual names of the couple, this is important! I have friends who are always known as Jane and Jim, their actual names are Sheila and Gerard – it’s vital if you want to find when someone was born to have their correct given name! Death certificates will give a date of birth as well as the date of death.

Thomas Radwinter, the character in my novel has a different approach; he goes back to the census of 1841 in order to work his way forward to the present. To his surprise he finds there is only one person in all the census information called Radwinter… and in 1841 he lives in the village of that name!  1841 was the first census in England, Scotland and Wales; some of the enumerators in those days made mistakes; sometimes the people giving the information were illiterate or spoke with an accent and names were written down incorrectly and dates of birth were guess-work! If you are looking for someone, you might need to try a variety of spellings for names in order to find the one you seek.

My character Thomas tries to find a birth date for his ancestor, but it was only on July 1st 1837 that the General Civil Registration of Births, Marriage and Deaths was introduced in England and Wales. However, there are now many parish baptismal records available on-line; my character Thomas, however, has no luck finding his ancestor in either births or baptisms. In my novel, I trace how Thomas eventually succeeds in finding his ancestry, using resources as if I were searching for one of my own real family members

I have created a fiction, using my own experiences tracing my genealogical history; anyone else can do the same and find their own family too, and find their own exciting trues stories of the generations who came before them!

Here is my post on Andrew’s amazing blog:

… and a link to Andrew’s books:



  1. A Bryant

    For those with Irish descendent’s, it can prove difficult as the national records office was destroyed taking alot of the records with it.
    There is an ongoing project to rebuild them, but is very slow going.
    I do believe my own families research has stalled in the late 19th century.


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