North Northumberland Family History Society

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Enid Cruikshank gave a short talk on Mad Jack Hall of Otterburn to member of the North Northumberland Family History Society at Bell View, Belford.

Born in 1671, he married the daughter of the mayor of Newcastle.

As a non-conformist, he took up arms against the king. It is said that on hearing that recruitment had started for the Jacobite cause, he was so excited that he rushed out of Alnwick court without his wig.

Captured at Preston, he was taken to London for trial. He denied involvement in the cause but was nevertheless found guilty of treason. He gave a dramatic and emotional speech before his execution and holds the distinction of being the last person to be hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

The subject of this talk tied in well with the theme of brick walls.

Enid has ancestry originating from the area around the present A68 and is searching for further evidence of a link with her line. The idea of exploring whether his offspring left wills was suggested.

The members’ forum theme was brick walls – how to break them down.

Members were asked for examples of brick walls which they had encountered when researching their family history. It was hoped that other members might be able to suggest some possible solutions to long-standing problems.

It was good to hear of a brick wall which had been recently solved.

John has written a book on one of his ancestors with the title, The Globetrotting Ventriloquist.

The missing element was this character’s First World War service.

Amazingly, the solution came from Kentucky where the Museum of Ventriloquism held a copy of its magazine Ventogram from 1966 which included an obituary of said AC Aster with the information he was seeking.

Ancestors who go missing are a common problem. Someone can appear on the census every 10 years then suddenly is absent on the next one, yet no trace of a death can be found. Sometimes an entire family can go missing.

If there is a change of name on marriage or for some other reason, if there is inconsistency about the spelling of the name, both can lead to many hours of fruitless searching.

As always, we were conscious of two basic rules: Always keep a note of what and where you have searched, and always check original records instead of relying on the internet and secondary sources.

Searching overseas records, locating siblings and using all possible variants of a name were some suggestions, but the most important may be thinking outside the box.

An unusual surname can be a huge advantage when other biographical information is sparse. Looking at regional distribution of the surname can help narrow things down.

Our sharing of ideas will hopefully spark off some new routes for searches.

Our next meeting is on Saturday, February 21, at 10am at Bell View, Belford when local historian Mike Fraser will speak on When the Lamps Went Out – Sir Edward Grey, a Northumbrian, and The War to end all Wars. This should appeal to anyone with an interest in the First World War and our local area. Non-members are most welcome.