In view of the date, it seems only appropriate to mention my recent foray into the realm of genealogy. Appropriate, I should explain, because my dabblings at historical research revolved around a chap by the name of Thomas Valentine Dunbabin, who had the dubious distinction of being my great-great-grandfather.
I've been vaguely interested in researching my family tree for several years now, but until now I've only ever dipped my toe in the water. I signed up for Genes Connected
(an offshoot of the phenomenally successful Friends Reunited) a little more than a year ago, but only managed to enter a small proportion of the relatives that I already knew about. Luckily, someone else spotted a connection and gave me access to his impressive tree, which told me more than I'd ever hoped to find about the Whitlocks, my maternal grandmother's antecedents.
Then I forgot all about it again. I continued to receive the occasional email from Genes Connected, but mostly ignored them. Last week, however, I stumped up the cash for another year's subscription and started to explore the Whitlock tree again. I found it frustrating at first, because there's no way to import the information from somebody else's tree, which meant that I had to go through it entry by entry. In retrospect, however, I think that this process really made the material come alive for me. Before long I was adding in the Dunbabins, my maternal grandfather's side of the family, courtesy of a wonderful hand-drawn tree that I was given by my uncle.
This tree stopped at Thomas Valentine and the details of his children, with the exception of my great-grandfather, were sketchy. A few exotic names piqued my interest - Zilpha, Ophla, Zena. Two adopted children - but whose were they originally? Could I discover any more about them? I soon found someone else with a Thomas Valentine Dunbabin in their tree and sent them a message, but I couldn't wait for a reply. It was time to start doing my own research - after all, I do have a degree in history!
The obvious place to start was the 1901 census
. And what a wonderful place it is! Granted, they do make you stump up for the privilege, but it seemed a small price to pay when I gathered together the results. There was my grandmother, aged about 18 months, and all of the other Whitlocks. More importantly, there were the Dunbabins, including our friend Thomas V. Now we can start to work out when some of these people were born... and what they did for a living! Thomas V was a smith at a "Ry Carr Wks" - railway carriage works, perhaps? Two of his sons were working there too.
Now I'm hooked. Next stop: FreeBMD
(that's "Births Marriages and Deaths", don't you know), which helps me to pin down TV's date of birth (March 1846) and reveals a whole host of new Dunbabins. And I've found more entries in the 1881 Census, which you can also access online through Ancestry.com
. Before you know it, I'll be heading for the paper archives...
The best bit? I have literally (while writing this post) just found this photograph of Thomas Valentine Dunbabin, taken on the 30th January 1901 at the wedding of his son (and my great-grandfather) Thomas Charles Dunbabin. Thomas V is the chap with the big beard on the right and the full photo (click to see it) even features Auntie Zilpha (at the back on the left). Thanks to my cousin Barry, who compiled the CD-ROM of old family photos that contained this gem a couple of years ago. I'm not sure what else awaits me on this voyage into the past, but this photograph will certainly take some beating...