Category Archives: Family History

Five Generations

Five Thompson Generations

Everyone that sees male members of our family remarks how alike we all are and we are, I guess. So I decided to put together a picture of five generations of the Thompson line to see if you could discern the similarities. The result is above (you can click on the image for a larger version) and it is a fascinating snapshot of hair trends through the ages spanning some 125 years.

In the image you can see the following starting with my Great-Great-Grandfather (dates are when the photo was taken with an approximate age):

Ernest William Thompson – 1887 (16)

Ernest Alfred Thompson – 1930 (18)

Michael Ernest Thompson – c.1959 (20)

Neil David Thompson – 1987 (22)

Alexander Mark Thompson – 2010 (18)

A few things are clear from this. Firstly, the use of the “Ernest” name thankfully ceased with my father, secondly, I seem to have bucked the trend and inherited my mother’s curls and finally the “hand on chin” cool look has spanned multiple-generations!

So can you see the trend?


It’s been quite a few years since I last attempted to “do” my family history, close to 20 in fact. In that time an awful lot has changed both in my life and in the wider context of family history research.

Over the intervening years I have seen my children grow-up and either left home or preparing to do so very soon. I have also gone from being an employee to an employer with all the responsibility that that implies.

At the same time the internet has revolutionised the process of doing family history research with so many records now being available for search from your browser (at a price). The internet has also made connecting with others researching the same individuals or families much easier and quicker albeit at the loss of the written letter.

So with all of the above in mind I have committed to start my research again but looking at my records I now realise that the methods I employed previously were not rigorous enough and so I am effectively starting from scratch. I am annoyed for putting myself into this position as now a number of the people that could have verified some of the information I have as fact are no longer with us.

I am also intending to record my journey on this blog, although, given that one of my primary interests is technology I will also be documenting how that has helped me in my research.


As if any more proof were needed that my Doctor Who obsession started early then this is it.

What you see here is a drawing I did when I was seven and sent to my Dad who was away during the week on a training course. It shows, very clearly, a Dalek, next to a leaning TARDIS. Less clear, at the top of the page, is what I can only assume is Bessie the third Doctors car. I can state quite categorically that this was during John Pertwee’s reign as the envelope is franked with a date of June 1973.

Included with this masterpiece was the following letter where, getting my priorities right, I announce that “two of the BBC Daleks are missing”. There is no explanation as to the circumstances of the missing Daleks, just that they are gone. I like to think that Pertwee took them home with him and now they are sit in the living room of his son Sean. Perhaps some passing Whovian will be able to shed some light on the situation. I am not sure I will sleep properly again until I know that they have been returned!

The end of my letter also features a Dalek and a Tardis and is signed “Neil Dr Who” – perhaps pointing to future ambitions!


As already stated elsewhere I am getting back into doing my family history fuelled by my wifes new years resolution. Even better I have now found a way of combining the search for my ancestors with my love for my mp3 player! Strange though it may seem but my iRiver iHp-140 is just the thing for capturing the past.

One of the first things that any family historian will tell you is that the best place to start your research is by speaking with your relatives who are still alive. They will have stories and information on your relatives that no trip to the public records office is ever going to tell you.

So how do you record these conversations? Well in the past you would use a trusty tape recorder or perhaps a dictiphone but now there is another way. The iRiver has a built in microphone and the capability of recording huge quantities of high quality sound. On the model I have (iHP-140) there is a 40gb hard drive – more than enough for my entire CD collection and still have plenty of room to record my family.

The recordings themselves can either be recorded as WAV or a MP3 files. The latter also offering the option of changing the bit rate too. These files can then be transferred to a desktop machine where they can be archived to CD or DVD-ROM for safe keeping. They could also be converted to a streaming format, such as realmedia, and made available on a website.

THe iHP-140 also allows an external microphone to be connected and a clip on mic is included as part of the package. The one final neat feature of the iRiver is the ability to plug in external hardware, such as CD players or, perhaps, a dictaphone allowing these sources to be recorded to a more suitable format. This allows me to make recordings on my Olympus dictaphone and then transfer these recordings to MP3 format via the iHP-140.

I think that this is a great way of capturing your family’s history forever.


Ernest William Thompson So it’s that time of the year again when you make your resolutions that last the first week of the new year and then never get spoken of again…

Now I’m not suggesting that my wife’s resolution is going to be short lived but it has had a profound effect on me. Helen has this year decided to research her family history, which is great as this is something I have been doing for sometime ( and it will be good to do together.

So Helen has spent the last two nights searching on the various on-line resources for details of her family with some success. Most of the work has been done via and concentrating on the census returns. This gives you so much information: a single line can reveal age, birth place and occupation, while the surrounding lines will detail other family members.

When Helen was done I took the opportunity to look for some of my ancestors and, in particular, Ernest William Thompson, my great-grand father. He has always held some fascination for me as he was a Barnardos boy yet clearly had parents who were alive well into his thirties.

Given that Thompson is such a common name it is always difficult to get information without having to wade through thousands of records. Fortunately Ernest’s mother was called Alexina Maria Clarke, not a common name. So searching for Alexina I was able to find details for her in the 1871, 1881 and the 1901 census returns.

In 1871 Alexina and her husband Charles Thompson were living in Paddington, London and it was here, a few months after the census took place, that Ernest was born.

Once again I was able to find Alexina in the 1881 census but this time she and her family were living in North Luffenham, Rutland but missing from her list of children was Ernest who would have been ten at the time.

Both Alexina and Ernest appear on the 1901 census returns. Ernest now 30 and married and living in London. Alexina has moved back to Middlesex but has lost her husband on the way.

There are several questions that arise from this information:

  • What made Alexina and her family move around the country? Was this due to Charles’ job or were there other reason?
  • Why was Ernest William not living with his family when he was ten?

There is a 16 year gap in Ernest William’s life between his birth and when he turned up at Barnardos. It is possible that he was living with other relatives at the time of the census, he could have been living rough Artful Dodger style. It is also possible that we will never know – but I am going to continue to look.