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Author Archives: Tracey Messenger

‘A splendid mother in every way’

So far my family history research (and writing) has focused on the life of my great-grandfather, Tom Robinson. Tom was certainly a strong character but his wife, Ann Holme, was equally forceful. She is one of a line of formidable matriarchal figures in my family history. This photograph shows Ann Robinson as a twinkly, kindly … Continue reading »

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‘They met at Term Tuesday fair’

The theme of our blog posts this month is ‘romance’. The problem for me, in writing about my ancestors in nineteenth and twentieth century Cumberland and Westmorland, is that ‘romance’ may have been thin on the ground! Life was hard and marriages sometimes a matter of expediency. This is not to say that my ancestors … Continue reading »

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‘My chains fell off, my heart was free’

My great-grandfather’s conversion to Methodism, which happened at Christmas 1905, meant membership of a new community, the Primitive Methodists of Newbiggin-on-Lune, Westmorland. One of the distinctives of this community was its singing. It has often been said that Methodism was ‘born in song’. I know that Tom Robinson loved to sing. It was said that … Continue reading »

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New year, new start

The New Year is traditionally a time when our thoughts turn to self-improvement, whether that is trimming our figures, getting fit or learning a new skill. For my great-grandfather, Tom Robinson, January 1906 saw the start of an entirely new way of life. Just before Christmas 1905, he converted to Methodism – albeit after a … Continue reading »

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Christmas traditions?

At our last writing group meeting, we agreed to try and give our blog postings in December a Christmas theme. For Tracey, this is easier said than done. For the plain fact of the matter is that she does not know how her great-grandfather, Tom Robinson, and his family celebrated Christmas in the early years … Continue reading »

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Surprises in the post, Part II

In my last post, I revealed how a birth certificate debunked a family story about the death of one of my grandmother’s siblings. In the same package as the death certificate for this sibling, Mary Agnes Robinson, who died as an infant, was a birth certificate for her father, Tom Robinson, my great-grandfather, and the … Continue reading »

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Should you believe those family stories?

For many of us, stories handed down through the family are the starting point for our own interest in family history. They certainly were for me. My grandmother’s stories about her strict Methodist upbringing sparked my own interest in her father’s life. However, as Nicola and Margaret have pointed out recently in their posts, writing … Continue reading »

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How tactful do you have to be in family history?

I recently heard a talk on ‘tact’ by Edmund de Waal, ceramicist and author of the best-selling and prizewinning family history The Hare with the Amber Eyes. De Waal pointed out that the word ‘tact’ comes from the Latin tactus, touch (hence tactile) – a connection I had never made before. According to the OED, … Continue reading »

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That first draft …

When should you stop researching and start putting together that all-important first draft? Researching your family history can be fascinating and enjoyable, but at some point you will need to weave it all together into a coherent story. In January, I set myself the task of finishing a first draft by the end of the … Continue reading »

Categories: How we write, Men of God, and of Commerce | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Where Do You Begin?

I’m writing a religious history of my family, beginning with my Primitive Methodist great-grandfather, Thomas Robinson, more usually known as Tom, born in 1879. My interest in him was sparked  by the stories my grandmother Nellie  used to tell about him, in which he figures as a strict ogre and she as a rebellious rule-breaker. … Continue reading »

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