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News: 11 December 2017


Focus on Family History - Meeting the ancestors (or at least where they lived�)
Images of England Communications Officer, Alexandra Saxon, talks about using the website for family history research.

Combined with some of the other powerful family history tools on the Internet, Images of England can help when researching family history. During research on my own family I have relied heavily on census information to provide the names and ages of missing or newly discovered family members. But when I have been researching my family history I have often felt disappointed about how 'flat' the results can be. From finding out their names, age and place of birth you don't really find out much about what sort of life that person lead.

Samuel Vincent (right) with his second wife, Alice, and their son Maurice. Photograph courtesy of Mrs M. Vincent But now by using a combination of the census returns and the Images of England website I feel as though I am getting closer to who my ancestors might have been. For example, my main interest recently has been my great- grandfather, Samuel Vincent. All we really knew about Samuel was that he had been married twice, with my grandfather as the only child from his second marriage, and that he had been a chauffeur. By looking at the census I managed to find out that in 1901 he was still living with his first wife and their two daughters. Of course the census also gave me an address!


Rather than just looking at maps I decided to try and see whether the property (a stables in Reigate) that Samuel had been living in was listed on the Images of England site. Although the search did not find a photograph, I did manage to find out from the list description that the stables had once belonged to Wray Park Hall. This would have been the house that Samuel was in service to as a coachman. A photograph of Wray Park Hall is featured on the Images of England website so it was a strange feeling to be looking at a building that would have been so familiar to my great-grandfather.

Although there is currently no photograph of the stables where Samuel and his family lived on the Images of England site, I am looking forward to being able to see it when there is. Images of England is ensuring that today's researchers and future generations are able to see where their ancestors lived and worked, putting flesh onto the bones of ancestors we were not fortunate enough to meet.
Wray Park Hall, Reigate. Grade II listed  - IoE number: 289258 © Mr Noel Cahill LRPS

Have you found a photograph of where your ancestors lived on Images of England? E-mail me with your family history stories at alexandra.saxon@english-heritage.org.uk


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