Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Sunday, 31 January 2010

21 Jan 2010 - "Who Do You Think You Are"

The opening meeting of 2010 was a "double-header" for, on this occasion two of our members, Peter Towle and Andrew Dinwoodie both gave their own differing interpretations of "Who Do You Think You Are". Both are founder members and past Chairmen of our Society and to our surprise, both had been born in Derby.

Using English certificates and Census returns, Peter took us back a number of generations of his family in Derby and Lincolnshire, in some cases reaching the 15th century through "Bishops' Returns". This was of particular interest as some of the audience had had no previous contact with English certificates and little idea of how to find them other than on the internet. It was particularly poignant to see slides of Peter and Barbara's visit along with several members of the Towle family to the battlefields of the First World War where, among many memorable visits, the most moving for them and for us was the sight of present day family members standing beside the grave of Peter's uncle who died during that war.

Andrew took a different approach and, after summarising his family tree, concentrated on his paternal great-grandmother’s family. He described how he found out from a family scrapbook that his grandmother was the only one of her family who did not emigrate from the family farm in Dumfries-shire to the U.S.A. after the death of her father. By coincidence, four days after he read the scrapbook, a letter was received from friends in the U.S.A. saying they were moving to the very place where the family had settled, Lake Bluff, IL. A holiday ensued, and photos taken of their home and great-grandmother’s grave. Other coincidences followed – e.g. a genealogist, Anne Darrow, contacted to find more information in Illinois, turned out to have ancestors from Fenwick, so information was traded to give two generations forward for Andrew and two generations back for Anne. A birth certificate found by Anne showed that Andrew's great aunt had moved to Mission, TX., so another holiday ensued which resulted in the discovery that the undertaker in Mission still had records of his great-aunt’s burial. His talk demonstrated that family history can be part painstaking research and part fortuitous coincidence!

Sheila Dinwoodie

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