And The Prize Is

If your letter Is selected as our star letter, you'll win £50-worth of CDs from Archive CD Books. Dedicated to preserving genealogical books on CD-ROM, the project offers census CDs, trade directories, surveys and more. For more details see

Dear Sir I've just tried out the disc that came with issue 19 of Your Family Tree. I've run through the Surnames Of The United Kingdom, 1912 and am rather disappointed to find that my own wasn't listed even though it wasn't uncommon in 1912 (especially in Yorkshire). There is a possibility that it is a derivative of Manley or Manly, but I am puzzled by the abbreviation 'Bel.' which the author of the book has used, as in "Bel. to Manley = Manna's Lea..."

Do you know what the abbreviation "Bel." means, please? Many thanks for another excellent Your Family Tree. Mike Mansley via email

We consulted our surnames expert, Anthony Adolph, who explained: "Bel. would be short for 'belonged', suggesting that Manley meant 'the lea belonging to Manna'. Leas were ambiguous things -they could be taken to mean woods, or clearings in woods, ie, fields."

Dear Sir I've been researching my family tree for 13 years now and I think I've got as far back as the 1640s, though several of the links are still to be checked! I watched some of the episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? when I could, and couldn't help but note how easy they made it all seem. There was a lot of travelling and talking, and meeting wise historians who were instantly on hand with plenty of information to share, but not a lot of researching. I would say that there was a fair amount of 'here's-one-we-made-earlier' going on. I was stuck for two years on getting the correct birth for a great-great-great-grandmother and it's something you can't just gloss over when it's frustrating you. The only thing that seemed to frustrate Jeremy Clarkson in his programme was that he wasn't going to inherit any money!

I admit that I was really interested in Meera Syal's story, which took us into some of the records of entirely different cultures in India, and I had no idea about what the British did to the Sikhs over there. However, on the whole, I think the series could have done with a touch more of the everyday people who are doing their family histories, rather than the stars who are backed up by professional researchers and big travel budgets. I know that TV producers have to think about getting an audience and a balance needs to be struck but one oughtn't oversimplify too much.

I have heard they will be doing another series. I hope it deals more with what everyday folk face in their research.

KEEP IT REAL: Was Who Do You Think You Are?too simplistic in its approach, or should we be pleased with the way it's boosted interest in family trees?

Checking and double-checking, telephone calls, letters, waiting, reading up for context, working out what could be wrong with the date, spelling, placename, job title or middle initial.

Susan Daniel


Dear Sir

I have been reading Your

Family Tree since the first issue I saw, which was number four. I then subscribed to it so as not to miss any publications and have just renewed my subscription for another year.

In issue five the CD accompanying the magazine had on it the Genealogical Research Directory 2000-2002. Going through the names of people wanting to make contact with like-minded family historians, I came across someone researching my mother's family. I got in touch with him and he kindly gave me a copy of all his research whereby I now have a complete history of my mother's family going back to the early 1700s.

This means I can now concentrate on my father's family, which is where your magazine has helped me. In each issue of Your Family Tree I have found something either in the magazine or on the CD or both which has helped me. As my father died a few years ago and never had any papers relating to his family all I had was the names of his father and mother to go on. I found starting with the 1901 Census helped and your recent article on census returns helped even more. My grandfather's name was Benjamin Bickmore and I didn't realise how many ways it could be spelt. I assume that like we family historians, everybody checked and double-checked their work, but although I have found the internet very helpful I still need to go to the Public Records Office to check my findings. For instance, my grandparents' marriage was recorded on two different pages. Which was the right one? To find out meant a trip to the PRO which is only an hour's train ride away. As your previous readers have mentioned I find I get the best results from the FreeBMD and FamilySearch sites when I put very little information in the boxes.

One aspect of family history that has begun to fascinate me now is who lived in my house 100 years ago? Why were some of the babies born somewhere different from the rest of the family although they all lived together? How did my grandparents meet when one lived in London and the other in Hertfordshire? In 1889 when they married there were no cars, only horses and carts. How did they go courting? With this in mind I've started collecting copies of old Ordnance Survey maps which I find fascinating.

I recently received issue 19 -Christmas 2004 - and am very pleased with the Ancestral Pedigree Chart. I've now got somewhere to enter my above-mentioned mother's family and also my father's family, hopefully eventually going as far back as my mother's. Pam Escott, nee Bickmore

Dear Sir As an avid reader of your excellent magazine I am constantly amazed by the enthusiasm of family historians throughout the world. There seems to be a genuine desire to help everyone and anyone who has a problem or brick wall to knock down. What is it about tracing families that makes people want to go out of their way to help others? It can't just be that they might want help in the future!

I am left to wonder where we would all be without these people and, more importantly, where we would all be without the source documents we so eagerly crave. What if nobody in the past had bothered to write anything down? Where would we be without the priests who laboriously kept parish records, the person who pushed for a census to be taken, and others who faithfully wrote of matters they felt were important? And, of course, let us not forget the people who stored those records so that we could examine them.

I, for one, am grateful to them all, as indeed I am to those who protect and transcribe those records today. Where would we be without them? Where would your magazine be without them, and where would genealogists be without them? A big thank-you to one and all.

M Hagan

Sandhurst, Berkshire

"My point today is to put you straight with regard to GRO performance! About one month ago they sent a certificate to the wrong address, and this month I have been waiting 18 days so far! I rang them up yesterday, and they told me that the certs would be dispatched within a day or so. I am pleased so many people have the ancestry bug, since it ultimately could mean that more info will be available online? To be fair to the GRO, prior to the rush they were delivering in four to five days" Mike Wohlgemuth via email

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