Tag Archives: family history

Neither Waif Nor Stray: The Search For A Stolen Identity by Perry Snow

Following my review of “Teaching Children to Clean“, I was offered the chance to review another title from Universal Publishers for free and my eye was caught by Neither Waif Nor Stray: The Search For A Stolen Identity by Perry Snow. I’ve always had a fascination for genealogy, although I haven’t had time to continue pursuing my own family history since before son1 was born.

Neither Waif Nor Stray: The Search For A Stolen Identity by Perry Snow

Here is the book blurb.

My Father became a ward of the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society when he was four years old in 1913. When he was 15, they gave him the choice of emigrating to Australia or Canada. No one wanted him in England. They sent him to work on Canadian farms as an indentured farm labourer. He was part of the little-known British Child Emigration Scheme in which fifty child-care organizations emigrated 100,000 children to Canada between 1880-1930. An unknown number made their way to the United States. These alleged orphan children were between 6-15 years old and were known as The Home Children. The organizations professed a dominant motive of providing these children with better lives than what they might have had in England, but they had other ignoble motives. Half of these children suffered from child neglect and abuse. The scheme persisted interrupted only by WWI and WWII until the mid-1960s when these organizations sent 15,000 children to Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.

My Father never had a Birth Certificate. He had nothing to verify who he was for the first 33 years of his life. For the next 15 years, he carried a tattered To Whom it May Concern letter that stated his name and identified him as of British nationality. For the first half of his life, he had serious doubts if his surname was really Snow. He wondered if someone had simply invented it for him. When he was 48 years old, he obtained a Baptism Certificate that confirmed his name, identified his Mother, but not his Father. For the next 16 years, this was all he had for identification. When he was 64 years old, he received his Canadian Citizenship. He wrote to the Waifs and Strays Society for 55 years, but they withheld from him the vital information he so desperately sought. Why did they not want him to know who he was? I resumed his lifelong search following his death on his unconfirmed birthday in 1994. The Children’s Society reluctantly released his 82-year-old case file to me. It took me four years to identify his Parents and locate his Family.

Your ancestors may have been British Home Children. You may be one of the four million of Canada’s “Invisible Immigrants.” Your ancestor’s stories do not appear in Canadian school curricula. The British childcare organizations deliberately severed the Home Children’s familial ties. The four million descendants have a potential 20 million British relatives. If one purpose of the scheme was to simply rid Britain of an unwanted element of their society, they only partially succeeded. They underestimated the strength of needing to know who you are – to have an identity. I hope the successful conclusion of my search will inspire others to persist until they re-establish their familial ties. No one should live their lives without knowing who they are and to whom they belong. It is your birthright to know your heritage.

This book is divided into 5 parts. The first part details the life of the author’s father Frederick Snow, separated from his family at age 4 via fostering and Childrens’ Homes and then forcibly emigrated as a British Home Child to Canada at age 15. A tough life continued, lonely too until he met his wife Gert and had 6 children. At last a family again who loved him. Throughout his life, he wrote many times to the “Waifs and Strays”, now known as The Children’s Society to ask for his birth and baptism certificates and for details of his family. He was constantly fobbed off with minimal (mis)information and never received a birth certificate. His baptism certificate was eventually provided many years later in 1957. He died in 1994 assuming that John Snow was his father. This was actually his grandfather.

Part 2 is about the author taking on the search. He started about a year before his father died, but sadly didn’t piece the jigsaw together until after Fred had died. Again he was drip-fed information even though he requested his father’s full case file several times. And it was mainly due to the goodwill of other local researchers helping that he was able to fill in the blanks.

Part 3 is hypothetical and covers how the author would have told his father about his family if he had the opportunity.

Parts 4 and 5 are more general, discussing the psychological impact on the British Home Children and the Universal Rights of a Child.

We are so used to Barnado’s and The Children’s Society being reputable charities that I was quite shocked to discover that their past wasn’t so pure back in the 1920s. And that as recently as 20 years ago, they were hindering applications for information. By then, with the internet, it should have been very straight-forward to assist.

Neither Waif Nor Stray: The Search For A Stolen Identity is available on Amazon, currently priced at £18.95 in paperback. A fascinating read and for more details on the Snow family tree, you may see here.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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The Marriage Certificate – by Stephen Molyneux

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was catching up on my reading from books received for Christmas 2013, as the pile has grown with more received this Christmas. Now that I’ve started, I’m fairly motoring through them.

The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux

Sticking with my recent theme of genealogical fiction, is The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux which I originally heard of via the Amazon widget on the Lost Cousins newsletter. The first little snippet I wish to mention is that the author shares his surname with one of my own ancestral lines and I can see from the front of the book that he too is an amateur genealogist. Who knows, we may even share a common ancestor. I was already starting to speculate before reading whether he had chosen the surname Sefton from his own personal research as I have a small booklet on Sefton Church produced on behalf of the International Molyneux Family Association.

This is what it says on the back cover.

What prompts amateur family historian Peter Sefton to buy the marriage certificate he sees on display in an antiques arcade? Is it because he thinks it should be private and he wants to remove it from public view? Is it the prospect of researching the individuals named upon it? Or is it something else, happenstance perhaps, which leads him towards a potentially lucrative discovery and a long forgotten family secret?

When John and Louisa marry in January 1900, who could foretell how their lives and those of ambitious Rose, the bridesmaid, and confident Frank, the best man, would be changed that day?

Follow their story, through Peter’s research and find out how, with investigative skill and a certain amount of luck, Peter finds himself pulled along to uncover a series of sad and tragic events … events, which connect the marriage certificate to a modern day mystery. But … there’s a complication. In his quest to complete the family tree he learns that he has competition. It’s not just a matter of pride; there’s money at stake too. Should he the amateur give up, or can he really beat the professionals at their own game?

I was drawn into this story right from the word go. It begins in the present with character Peter Sefton buying a marriage certificate dated 1900 at an antiques centre . We then skip back and forth to various times in history setting the scene introducing the various characters. The author carefully weaves everything together. There is even an Heir Hunting company researching an unclaimed estate.

So Peter begins his research from the marriage in 1900 and the Heir Hunters begin their research from a death in 1996. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent to the reader that both are researching into the same family tree.

If you would like a taster of this story, the first chapter is available to read on the book’s own website here.

I could relate so much to this story. Before the boys were born, I used to love to browse around antiques centres including the ephemera sections. And Heir Hunters is one my favourite programmes, which I’m very glad to see back on the TV. I’ve been catching up on my ironing whilst watching it. My own family history research is on the backburner currently, as I have too many other demands on my time, but I do hope to get back to it sometime.

The Marriage Certificate is Stephen Molyneux’s first novel and the paperback edition is currently on sale on Amazon for £7.99.  It is also available in kindle format. I highly recommend this book. It is a gripping read and I do very much hope that Stephen will write another story.

Do let me know if you come across other authors of genealogical fiction. I’m addicted to this genre now.

MamaMummyMum
Weekend Book Club

To the Grave – by Steve Robinson

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about ‘In The Blood‘ by Steve Robinson, a gripping genealogical fiction book that I really enjoyed reading. I had barely finished the first book before I started the second book in the series which is ‘To The Grave’. Although I say series, this could easily be read alone, without having read the first book. They are connected because they share the same central character, the genealogist Jefferson Tayte.

In The Blood by Steve Robson, a genealogical mystery

This is what it says on the back cover.

A curiously dated child’s suitcase arrives, unannounced and unexplained, in a modern-day Washington suburb. A week later, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is sitting in an English hotel room, staring at the wrong end of a loaded gun.

In his latest journey into the past, Tayte lands in wartime Leicestershire, England. The genealogist had hoped simply to reunite his client with the birth mother she had never met, having no idea she had been adopted. Instead, he uncovers the tale of a young girl and an American serviceman from the US 82nd Airborne, and a stolen wartime love affair that went tragically wrong.

With To the Grave, Steve Robinson confirms his status as a master of the taut and delicately constructed historical thriller.

This is the second book in the Jefferson Tayte mystery series, which begins with In the Blood but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.

Once again I was gripped right from the prologue, which leaves the reader in suspense as to the fate of Jefferson who has a gun pointed at him.  I just didn’t want to put the book down. It is written in a similar style to ‘In The Blood‘, moving seamlessly back and forth between a thriller set in the present-day and a genealogical mystery set in Leicestershire during the second world war. Can Jefferson find out what happened to his client’s birth mother. Is she still alive nearly 70 years later to be reunited with her daughter? Why are people being killed? Who is trying to hide what?

I loved this book and highly recommend it although the ending wasn’t what I personally hoped would happen. A real page turner. It is available on Amazon in paperback, kindle or audio formats. And you can find out more about his books on the author’s own website or blog.

Genealogy is one of my own hobbies, so I hope I don’t come across anyone waving guns in my own family history research!

Now shall I read the third Jefferson Tayte book next or do I choose something else from my reading pile?

And another plug for CLIC Sargent’s Get In Character fundraiser. Their ebay auctions commenced today and run until 8th March. You have the chance to bid on ebay to have a character named after you in a book by one of your favourite author.

Steve Robinson is one of the participating authors and he is currently writing his fifth Jefferson Tayte novel, scheduled for publication next year. So if you fancy appearing as a named character in this book, then bid now. Or you can gift it to a close friend or family member.

Regular readers of my blog will know that son1 was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2013. We have had a huge amount of support from CLIC Sargent, so I am more than happy to assist with promoting their fundraiser. They do great work in helping children and young people with cancer.

MamaMummyMum

In the Blood – by Steve Robinson

Having been given some more books for Christmas off my wishlist, I thought I’d better make time to read some of those I had requested and received back in Christmas 2013.

First off is ‘In The Blood ‘by Steve Robinson which I originally heard of via the Lost Cousins newsletter. Being particularly interested in family history, the idea of reading genealogical fiction was very appealing. ‘In the Blood’ is the first book in the Jefferson Tayte mystery series and I have a couple more of these books waiting to be read.

In The Blood by Steve Robinson

This is what it says on the back cover.

A dark genealogical secret locked in the past. A family historian trying against the odds to unlock it.

When American genealogist, Jefferson Tayte, accepted his latest assignment, he had no idea it might kill him. But while murder was never part of the curriculum, he is kidding himself if he thinks he can walk away from this one.

Driven by the all-consuming irony of being a genealogist who doesn’t know who his own parents are, Tayte soon finds that the assignment shares a stark similarity to his own struggle. Someone has gone to great lengths to erase an entire family bloodline from recorded history and he’s not going home until he’s found out why, After all, if he’s not good enough to find this family, how can he ever expect to be good enough to someday find his own?

Set in Cornwall, England, past and present, Tayte’s research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark family secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and they will stop at nothing to find them.

I found this book gripping right from the prologue. I just didn’t want to put it down. It moves seamlessly back and forth between a thriller set in the present-day and a genealogical mystery from over 200 years ago. A family moved from America to Cornwall in 1783, but what happened to them after that? This is what genealogist Jefferson Tayte has been hired to find out. But a killer is trying to prevent him. And I certainly didn’t guess the final outcome.

I highly recommend this book. A real page turner. It is available on Amazon. I’ve already started reading the second book in the series, the third is lined up and the fourth has now been added to my wishlist. You can find out more on the author’s own website or blog.

I just hope I don’t come across anything potentially dangerous in my own family history research.

And finally, I also spotted on Steve Robinson’s blog, that he is one of the author’s participating in CLIC Sargent’s Get In Character fundraiser later this month. Regular readers of my blog will know that son1 was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2013. We have had a huge amount of support from CLIC Sargent, so I do want to promote their fundraiser. You will have the chance to bid on ebay to have a character named after you in a book by your favourite author.

MamaMummyMum