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20 Nov 2016

Scribbles of some importance: primary records and why you need them

With my fading eyes and slightly unclean screen I can just make out words in brackets at the foot of the page. Can you see them? They're not easy to read, particularly as they're squirrelled away in a big bound volume in a box with string round in temperature controlled storage behind a counter beyond a security gate at the end of the District Line.

Let me tell you folks, those words are golden. Eight years on and I have a runaway elopement, a port hugging sloop belonging to my Cap'n Rees Rees, a happy-go-lucky works manager giving babies to everyone except his wife, a Cornish fisherman who calls in falls in love and dies with the mermaids, a series of stoic pattern moulders who knew a good trade and stuck with it, a Methodist works manager's wife who sewed and knitted for the poorer folk, a lively public house which helped even the ugly daughters get married, and fourteen Jennets.

I can honestly, hand on computer, say that I'd still be totally stuck at ancestress Ann Morgan born about 1761 in Cadoxton, without this will. If I did wriggle my way through to the happy-go-lucky works manager and his will, I'd have such a fried noggin I'd need to lie down for eight years to recover.

Even with the scribbled note, can *you* figure out whose will they're referring to. It look five hours of solid googling before as my mother says, I 'struck bingo'.

And another three years before I found Ann's baptism, and an extra two more before happy-go-lucky spotted in (thanks to a very informative gravestone in the floor of Neath church). Then another wild punt to unearth the Swansea pothole.

The scribbled hints exist *nowhere* else.

So folks, shake those family records. Shake 'em good, and consider checking the primary sources just to see what secrets are hid. Maybe an extra witness on a marriage entry missed off or mispelt. It's worth the vending machine coffee, I promise.

The series used was the IR26 series of Estate Duty Records 1858-1903, available in hard copy within an hour, just 3 miles from Heathrow Airport.

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