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Books we’ve read

‘From the City, from the Plough’ by Alexander Baron

D-Day was 69 years ago this week, but that was only the start of some of the most bitter fighting of the war as the Allies struggled to retake France. This  campaign is the subject of the novel by Baron. Born Joseph Alexander Bernstein in 1917, his father was a Jewish refugee from Russia who … Continue reading »

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A 19th Century Questionnaire

One of the hardest things I’ve found when trying to write my family history is imaging their thoughts; lucky are those who have decades of letter and diaries to refer to, I have largely anonymous photographs which do not give me a window to the soul.  But recently I acquired a book that may help … Continue reading »

Categories: 19th Century, Books we've read, How we write, Journeys | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Why I Write – Thanks to George Orwell

I’m having a bit of sabbatical from writing about Arnold, Joseph and Alexander van Aken (Heacken).  Instead I’m reflecting on some of those niggling questions  – which of the several spellings of the brothers’ name to use, is Arnold truly one of the brothers, where did the three recurring dates of birth come from and … Continue reading »

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Using Literature as a Historical Resource

Finding myself unexpectedly stranded at Eastbourne Railway Station I was seduced by a WH Smith’s book promotion of ‘buy one get one half price’.   I gathered up ‘The Soldier’s Wife’ by Joanna Trollope, herself a piece of history as a descendent of the famous 19th century writer Anthony Trollope who was quoted as saying: “What … Continue reading »

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Portraying the Family

I am currently reading Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace – The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale.  It is an investigation into the sad, frustrating and desperate string of events that lead to the very public, and in the 19th century, notorious divorce of Henry and Isabella Robinson. As with Summerscale’s other non-fiction books, … Continue reading »

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Problems and pitfalls researching family history (continued.)

In a previous post I questioned why William Slaughter was missing from the 1891 census. Had he thrown himself into his ever-expanding and demanding business after the tragic death of his wife, leaving his sister to care for his young family?  Perhaps he was simply away on a business trip at the time of the … Continue reading »

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Motherhood – a risky proposition?

Earlier in the year, there were celebrations of Pride and Prejudice, marking the bi-centenary of its publication.  This set me off on what has become a veritable feast of Jane Austen, rereading all the major novels, also John Mullan’s What Matters in Jane Austen, then Paula Byrne’s The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small … Continue reading »

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How to Make Solid Data a Joy to Read

In an uncertain writer’s frame of mind about the structure of my story following two MA tutorials by two different writers in the same week, I stopped writing and read a book instead.   I chose Inspector Minahan Makes a Stand by Bridget O’Donnell because it is the true story with a lot of solid ingestible … Continue reading »

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This is your story

When I embarked on the Faber course, Writing Family History, that spawned this blog, there were some texts we were recommended one being Jacob’s Gift by Jonathan Freedland. In it Freedland posed a question to a rabbi about what Jewishness meant to him. The rabbi replied, ‘This is your family, this is your story, this is … Continue reading »

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Sugar in the Blood, by Andrea Stuart

  Delighted to see that ‘Sugar in the Blood’, by Andrea Stuart, our tutor on the Writing Family History course, has been published to favourable reviews.  Congratulations to Andrea from all of us.  It was so encouraging that you were actually finalising publication while teaching us – and passing on to us your own recent experience of … Continue reading »

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