It’s the end of our second full month of operation and we have much to report.
First, thank you for your support. During November, still without having really publicized the site, we have gone from 15 to 37 people registered. A year ago I started out with a dream. From the response of many people it seems that I’m not the only one with that dream! Four or five people have been kind enough to use words like “inspiring,” for which many thanks indeed. The rest of this letter is about making that dream a reality: what we’ve done and (as promised last month) some thoughts on what still can be done (and needs to be done!).
What happened in November?
* At some point during the month I updated every page of the site, even adding some interesting weblinks. Do check them out. My favorite is the virtual tour of the Norfolk Broads. Many, many Howes families came from the villages in this low-lying marshy area, once described as “a breathing space for the cure of souls”. I learned to sail on these waters with the Sea Scouts 45 years ago and still race my yacht up and down the rivers and lakes! Look carefully and you’ll see my house on one picture!
* I even had to add a page because I was contacted at the end of October by the Club Historian of Norwich City Football Club. One of the club’s founders in 1902 was named John Howes, born in 1864, and the club was interested in tracking his nearest living relative. Within 3 weeks, with the aid of a few BMD certificates, we tracked down John’s great niece who is still alive. She will shortly receive a presentation on the pitch at Carrow Road on a match day and I hope to obtain a picture for the site. Actually, John William Howes was quite an interesting character. In addition to his many sporting interests, he was the last headmaster of a very special school in Norwich established by a City elder for his descendents in posterity. Do click on the Norwich City logo on my front page to learn more, or look for John William Howes 1864 in the Index.
* We have added nearly 3,500 lives in the last two months, on top of the 5,000 with which we went live in September. There are now families in the database from the US and several counties in the UK beyond Norfolk. (Yes, I really do need to change the front page of the site now!) There are individuals named on the site now from many corners of the world, even Mexico. Check out the distribution of place names by clicking on Places in the menu. If you’ve been there before, you’ll see that the concentration on Norfolk is rapidly falling.
* By month end, more than 425 different users will have accessed over 20,000 page views during the month. Total hits are as of tonight over 127,000. Incredible.
* We now have almost 4,000 different locations in the database. Each one of them needs to be checked on GoogleMaps and given a latitude and longitude so that they can be seen on maps. As of today, I have indexed only 1,000 of these locations. They are the most frequently occurring locations, however. So most individuals now have a meaningful map associated with them. Indexing the other 3,000 names will take a lot of effort.
* We now have 121 birth, marriage and death certificate images up on the site, not all of them from my branches of the clan, honest! Go to Albums or to the records of either Thomas Benjamin Howes for samples of what they look like – click on the thumbnail images. We’d love to have more. See below.
* Most importantly, we’ve made many connections between people. I’m particularly pleased with a chance connection I made with a fellow trustee and board member of the Broads Society, a charity in Norfolk. Much of his family has lived in the same village, Catfield in North-East Norfolk, for 400 years and of the 17 generations he can trace in the village, 11 of them are named Howes! He was able to send me trees for two apparently separate Howes families in Catfield. One of our registered members (can I mention your name, Cheryl?!) has started gradually transcribing the trees and adding in details from internet websites. We will put more information up on the site soon. The Catfield Howes family has three registered members on the site, by the way. Also, by obtaining some BMD certificates for one or two key individuals in that family we were able to definitively answer some questions that had been bemusing that family for some time. I should mention that Cheryl was able to add much detail concerning the journey from Norfolk to Utah of Henry Howes 1786 and his young family in the 1850s (check them out in the database) and their many descendents. Fascinating stuff.
* We, in the shape of my cousin, Ian, were able to add a large number of individuals by working through West Norfolk in the same way that I had started with the area around Norwich. One family in particular, from Methwold in West Norfolk, also has a large number of descendents, scattered around the world, from Bolton, Lancashire to Hawaii!
* Sue in Australia wrote me with a couple of names of forebears asking if I could help. I was able to connect her with ancestors in London and back from there to Smallburgh in Norfolk, now established as her ancestral home (and a village whose pub, the Crown, I know well!). Job done, I hope.
* We’ve had several people send us details on how they can connect to the trees in the database. And completely unsolicited, another Paul sent in a GED file with 1,000 descendents of a Samuel Howes of Great Yarmouth. Thank you so much, Paul, and everyone.
Can you help?
Can you spare a little time to help, or do you have just a little (more) information you could share? There are many things that we would like to do with the site. Please don’t be put off by the number of items below. We do recognize that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We have plenty of time: our ancestors aren’t going anywhere, and if we don’t finish the job, there will be other Howes to follow! So below is a mix of a shopping list and a program of work. My aim in writing it all down is to find something that gives someone some energy. More energy from more people equals a better website and even more people being connected!
* Do you have any certificates for people in your family that you could email me? See my blog or the “working together” page for my size preferences, or just scan them at 150dpi and let me do the rest!
* Does anyone have any interest in collecting photographs of people called Howes, perhaps? I’m not ready to add them to the site yet, but could well be within a few months. I’d love to have someone take this idea and run with it in advance of our being ready.
* Family history is SO much more than the stark facts about our forebears and I’m conscious that there is precious little on the site about the actual people, what they did, how they thought, and so on. Does anyone have an interest in collecting stories on interesting Howes clan members? Just from what we already have in the site, we have a British Member of Parliament, about 20 preachers and clergy, a rat catcher, an actuary, train drivers, a mole catcher, four professional footballers, two film stars and a well-digger, for example. Even the humble shoemakers or AgLabs have stories to tell us if we but look.
* Do you have any skills in web design? I could do with some general website help. I have lots of ideas for extra pages and can’t do all of that if I keep working on adding more data. I’d particularly like to add a user forum to the site where people can exchange thoughts and information. I’m very conscious that virtually all traffic goes through me at present and that wisdom will grow much quicker when we are able to network. (It shouldn’t be too tricky since freeware mail programs are available in PHP, which the site already uses)
* Would you like to help us add more data to the site? What Ian and I have done is typically pick an area in the UK and follow that group through the censuses. There are groups of HOWES families all over the UK. Want to pick a village, or a county, and create a GED file for us?
* How about HOWES families from other parts of the world? For example, is there someone out there in Oz or NZ who might be interested in contacting other Howes families in your country to see if they would like to join in and potentially hook up to distant relatives in the UK, Canada or the US?
* Would someone from another country like to engage with me in dialogue about how best to attack this project in their country?
* Does anyone have interest in tracing HOWSE families in the same way? The good news is that there are many fewer of them, although there is a lot of overlap!
* Within the UK, because of the national registration system, it is possible to construct complete lists of births, marriages and deaths from 1837 through 2006. Ian has made a fantastic list of 12,000+ births from 1837 through 1911, and I have added another 3,500 people born between 1984 and 2006. We are missing the names in the middle and all marriages and deaths. This is a job that someone could pick up and put down regularly over a period of months, but would materially help everyone if we had it. For example, Ian is also gradually checking through that list of births to ensure that sooner or later we have them all on the site! How about other countries?
* How would you like to pick a website or other source and work through that, looking for details of people already on the site and/or connections with other Howes families? Some possible interesting ones to consider: GenesReunited, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Ancestry’s OneWorldTree, FreeReg, IGI, national and county archives, immigration or emigration records, local family history libraries, military sites, national gazettes, local or national newspaper records (particularly “hatches, matches and despatches”!), electoral rolls, tax books, phone books, wills, prison records, burial records, Rootsweb and other mailing lists, family websites with Howes families listed ........zzzzzzz! The list is almost endless!
* OK, pick something I’ve missed instead. Whatever interests you is the key.
* Finally, have you shared your own derivation with me yet? GED files are ideal but anything from paper to electronic would be great. I had a Word document from one person and it’s 20 pages long even after I squeezed it down to a small font, single spaced with no margins. I’m still working through it gradually, Owen!
Yes, there is a MASSIVE amount of work here! I wrote out this large list so that:
-- someone might get inspired enough to help with just one topic, now
-- I can store the list on the site and update it gradually over time, in case someone coming along later gets a hankering to help
As we spend time with our own families over the coming holiday period, just remember: we are the family history of the future. Economic times may be hard, but we can still enjoy ourselves just being with our loved ones. Thanks for listening and all the best to you and yours.