Sunday, 24 July 2016

#MySundayPhoto number 30


#MySundayPhoto number 30 is of Bear exploring the furnace at Blaenavon Ironworks. On Monday we had a day out at the ironworks which is just a small part of this UNESCO heritage site. We loved it.

Lights represent the molten metal flowing across the floor. No toddlers were harmed in taking this photo ;-)


Friday, 22 July 2016

What's In A Name? Family History Research

What's in a name and why do I ask? It's the first thing you record on your family tree. It's the first entry you put into the search box. A name is not always what it seems and many genealogists have hit brick walls or stumbled down the wrong path due to confusion over names.

Before you start your research be aware of all the variations of the names you are looking for. The variations due to transcription errors, misspelling and illegible writing, the abbreviations, nicknames and other alternatives.

1. Different Names

An ancestor may be known by different names than those recorded on their birth records. Many people were illiterate and so relied on others to write their names and were unable to correct any differences. Even within a family, on the same census or within the same record, they may have their surnames spelt differently. Brown or Browne for example. Each census or other record may bring an unique spelling of their name. Standardisation of spellings only really started in the 19th century with registration of births, marriages and deaths. 

Names vary through the years too. Cowper becomes Cooper, Smythe becomes Smith and so on. According to the BBC if you go back far enough, lets say to the 1400's, then Collins can be derived from Nicholas or from an Irish clan name. To give an example of variations on my Golden Rules of Family History I list 24 variations of the name Phillips. Remember when searching most databases will accept wildcards so instead of the full name just put the first three letters and a* so instead of Phillips put Phi*. Not sure if they were Smith or Smyth? Enter Sm?th.

As your tree grows you will find that certain names were popular within a family and a community, many people could have the same name. This lead to people using their middle name or a nickname instead. 

2. Same Name Different Person

Just because someone has the same name doesn't mean it's the same person. As mentioned above there were favourite names and many people named their children after their relatives. So their sons after their fathers and brothers and daughters after their mothers and sisters. This had the effect of condensing the amount of names in any particular area. An easy mistake to make is to assume that the wife/mother in one census is the same wife/mother in the next. There are ten years between each census and many women died in childbirth. Men would remarry quickly and more often than you would imagine, to someone with the same first name. 

If a child died then quite often the next child would be given the same name. Even if children survived it is not unusual for two children to be given the same first name but be called by another.

3. Middle Names

Middle names can be a bonus, in many areas the middle name of the children was the maiden name of the mother. I found it very strange to come across male children in my tree with the name Rose as their middle name, until I found their mother was Phillis Rose. 

If you find a child with an unusual middle name then it could be a clue to their mothers maiden name.

4. Nicknames, Abbreviations and Alternative Names

A name may have a simple nickname for example Tom for Thomas or more unusual as in Peggy or Daisy for Margaret. 

Many names are also abbreviated in the records, a comprehensive list can be found on Wiktionary 


Many records were written in Latin and so were the names. Common examples are;

William/Gulielmus, Vilhelmus, Willelmus, Gullelmus, Gullielmus, Villelmus
James/Iacobus, Iacomus
John/Iohannes, Ioannes Iohn

5. Female Ancestors

Female ancestors are the hardest to find due to the fact that they change their names on marriage. Many had the same first name, Mary, Elizabeth, Ann so making the search more difficult. It is definitely easier if they come from a small village or town where they may be the only person, of the correct age, with that name. There are tips and tricks to finding your female ancestors which I will share on a future post.

Like to read more tips for beginners?  Then just click on the tree below or the Family Tree tab above.

Have a question? Then ask in the comments, I will do my best to help.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Do we need Vitamin D supplements?


This morning the BBC news reported that everyone in the UK, over the age of one, should take a supplement of 10 micrograms of Vitamin D every day. We go outside everyday, rain or shine, so have never thought about Vitamin D supplements. We get enough sun, don't we? Do we need Vitamin D supplements?
Maybe not, according to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)1  the current guidelines, set in 1991, are not appropriate with current lifestyles and public health advice (eg to wear sunscreen, stay out of the sun).


Vitamin D is necessary for healthy teeth and bones. A lack causes softening of the bones and muscle weakness which can lead to fractures and deformity. In children this is called rickets and in adults, osteomalacia.

SACN has identified those who are most at risk. These are;

  • anyone who does not spend time outdoors 
  • those that do but cover most of their body 
  • those with darker skin

Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin on exposure to sunlight. To do this you obviously need your skin exposed to the sun. Darker skins need longer exposure  as they have natural protection, very fair skins may only need a few minutes. In the UK Vitamin D is not synthesised during the winter months, roughly from October to April.

This made me ask myself many questions and I searched the internet for answers. I hope these answer any questions you have too

How much sunlight do I need?

SACN states;
It is not possible to make any recommendations regarding the amount of sunlight exposure that would be required during the summer..... winter because of the number and complexity of factors that affect endogenous vitamin D production
That didn't help much. Do I need 5 minutes or 5 hours?

What happens if I use sunscreen?

SACN conclude that most of us do not apply sunscreen to all our exposed skin or at the recommended concentration so in controlled situations it did significantly reduce the synthesis of Vitamin D but not so much in normal usage. So if I apply sunscreen properly then I probably need supplements.

Is it better to burn or to be lacking in Vitamin D?

Fairer skin synthesises Vitamin D faster than darker skin, this also fits in with burning so in theory you should be able to get enough Vitamin D without burning. The problem is that sunscreen should be put on 20 minutes or so before being exposed to the sun. I just do not think I would be good enough to sit in the sun for 10 minutes, come in, put sunscreen on, wait 20 minutes and then go out again. What a faff.

Can I get enough in food?

The report thinks not. It states that
S.42 Since it is difficult to achieve the RNI/Safe Intake from natural food sources alone, it is recommended that the Government gives consideration to strategies for the UK population to achieve the RNI of 10 µg/d 
So eating lots of oily fish, meat and fortified foods will not be enough on their own.

What are the effects of too much Vitamin D?

Too much Vitamin D can lead to too much calcium in the blood but levels would have to be very high.
SACN report that it is not possible to overdose on Vitamin D in the UK through food and sunlight. NHS choices recommends that 10 micrograms a day will not lead to overdosing and recommends not taking more than 100 micrograms a day.


I already take supplementary Vitamin D in the winter as it helps with my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and I have had no ill effects only good ones. I probably won't take supplements in the summer as we spend a lot of time outside but I will make sure that some of my skin is uncovered to allow the sun to get to it.

What do you think?

Further reading

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