Guest Blog: 7 ways family research brings a smile

Fanny Cushion

Fanny Cushion

Thanks to one of our ace researchers, Kassie Foran, for this week’s blog post.

Aside from the sheer pleasure of discovering your family story, there are many ways that researching family history can bring a smile to your face. Here are my reasons to smile:

Unfortunate names

Alongside the plethora of Johns, Marys and Elizabeths, every so often I discover a real gem of a name which makes me chuckle. My favourite from last week was the young lady, unfortunately named ‘Fanny Cushion’.
For more smiles, check out our previous blog ‘Our Top Ten Fabulous Names’, as well as a trip around the UK in ‘Weirdly Wonderful British Place names’.

Marrying the boy next door

When looking at marriage certificates, I often wonder how the couple met, and it always makes me smile when I find a young couple who lived in neighbouring properties of the same road. It’s really sweet to imagine them kissing on the street corner.

Jobs which make me chuckle

We see a lot of agricultural labourers, but occasionally we find a job on a census which makes us smile. We are familiar with fishmongers but the other day I stumbled upon a man who worked as a cheesemonger and it sounded funny to me! Or how about clodhoppers (ploughmen), knock knobblers (dog catchers) or a saggar maker’s bottom knocker — you can click the link to read the article to find out what he did!


Pedantic form fillers

Our job is always made easier by people who were consistent and accurate in their form filling. Sometimes we stumble upon records which the individual has filled in pedantically e.g. a birth record saying “born in the back bedroom, 3 Spinney Terrace, at 3:26 in the afternoon”.

When a pedantic person crosses the path of a pedantic enumerator, the results can be amusing. A real battle of wills! Lots of information (perhaps too much?!) supplied by the form-filler, and lots of crossing out by the enumerator!
When the census becomes a political battleground, it becomes really interesting! Check out the findmypast blog on suffragettes and the 1911 census.

Familiar names

It always makes me smile when I read a familiar name on a census. My two children have names which appear all the way back to the 1841 census, and I’m always interested to read what they were doing back in the 19th century. We also find names of present day celebrities or household names – makes me smile to read what they were doing in another era.

Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton

Mistakes and errors

As frustrating as it is, incorrect information on old documents can sometimes be a source of amusement. Misspelt names and wrong ages can sometimes make us chuckle – but only if we know the actual truth. I recently found a marriage certificate, where the groom had merrily signed his name on the next couple’s marriage certificate, only for the vicar to have to cross it out. It made me laugh, imagining his bride hitting him with her wedding bouquet complaining that he couldn’t do anything right!

Happy endings

And lastly, one of my favourite ways to make me smile is to discover a happy ending. A sad tale of a widowed father left with his six young children meant he had to employ a housekeeper. Ten years later, the same family group were still living under one roof, although the spinster housekeeper had become their step-mother. Ahhh, happily ever after!

What things make you smile when researching your family history?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.