A helping hand

There are a growing number of genealogy groups on Facebook today.  Whether you need help with a particular location, a particular type of genealogy or DNA, there’s a group for you.  Many of these groups are free, and in many of them the members will put in considerable time and effort to help another member of the group.

One of the groups I am in started a discussion about feeling that they were actually getting help from an ancestor.  Arriving just a few days before someone died, finding something they had been looking for in a bookshop or archive when they weren’t actively looking for it, making contacts who turned out to be relatives, or who had the one piece of information they needed. This has happened to me more than once.  The thread on the group I am in is growing fast, and so I decided to share my stories with you dear reader, instead.

I’ve already written on this blog about the finding of my Irish grandmother.  I had a lot of help to find her, but it was the fact that her marriage was recorded on her baptismal record – something I still haven’t seen anywhere else – that confirmed that she was indeed my grandmother.  What made the priest confirm the marriage on the baptismal record I have no idea.

For my Dickins family research, I had a big question mark over Henry Fowler Dickins.  There appeared to be two of them, one born in 1807 in Colchester, and another baptised in 1815.  when I visited the Birmingham archives and consulted the registers, I found a note on the bottom of the register which asserted that Henry Fowler Dickins had been privately baptised in Colchester in 1807 by a Reverend W. Hoblyn and that Captain John Dickins, his father, had sworn this in front of a magistrate at Mansion House in London in 1817.  I have no idea why he appears in the register of baptisms for 1815 in that case, nor yet why the vicar has annotated the register two years afterwards, nor why he was again baptised, if that’s what happened.  The important thing for me is that I confirmed he was one person and not two, and the son of Captain John Dickins of the 90th foot.  Subsequent researches have failed to find a cleric of that name practising in Colchester at the relevant time, so either they got the name wrong or….

I was searching for records of the life of my five times great grandmother Mary Lycett, particularly her parents.  I knew that Francis Lycett was her father, but as is common in many families, Francis is a common name in the Lycett family.  I found a record for a Francis Lycett of the right vintage marrying an Ann Tompson or Thomson, and wondered if that might be the right one.  Lo and behold there is an annotation on the will of Mary Lycett’s father citing his daughter as the wife of Archibald Campbell MD of Stafford.  The notes were required because the two people, brothers of Mary Lycett’s mother,  named as executors, had died before their work was done, and they died intestate too, which meant the line of inheritance had to be worked out.

I had another coincidence involving the Lycett family.  My husband and I were invited to a family wedding at Weston Hall in Staffordshire in June 2007.  My husband borrowed a car from a friend with a newfangled SATNAV in it.  He programmed it, and we arrived, only just on time at a very upmarket venue with manned gates and a very baronial sweeping drive.  We arrived at the large stately home, and John decided to find out where the wedding was, while I was transfixed by paintings of my ancestors all over the entrance hall to the place.  It only took John a few minutes to find that we had been misled by the SATNAV to Weston Park, instead of Weston Hall.  We jumped back in the car (regretfully in my case) and drove hell for leather to Weston Hall, where the wedding was actually taking place – it had started by the time we arrived.

I had the distinct feeling that my ancestors had diverted us deliberately, but the story became even stranger when later research into the Lycett family proved that they had lived at Weston Hall themselves.  I regretted that my photographs from the wedding concentrated on people, rather than the Hall itself!  I was still lusting after the pictures at Weston Park, too, rather than taking in the full effect of the surroundings. 

The feeling on the Facebook group, whose thread has grown to many posts is that quite possibly great uncle Bernard is helping from beyond the grave!


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