12 Days of Christmas #5

Twixmas is rapidly approaching New Year. While many people are beginning to crave the routine of getting back to work I’m realising that my future stretches out in front of me without structure imposed by others. University terms and deadlines will provide some, but I can study, blog and research at any time of day that I like. Ensuring that I put in enough hours might become a challenge, though maybe the challenge will be knowing when to stop.

The Society of Genealogists 12 days of Christmas, continues with Five Gold Wells Wills rather than Rings.   The Society holds an index to the wills for the Diocese of Bath and Wells that were destroyed in 1942 including people with the surname Gold. It is a reminder that if the obvious records can not be found there is always somewhere else to look. If a birth certificate is not available maybe there was a birth announcement in a newspaper?

On the fifth day of 12 Days Wild I began making a wreath for the birds which I will hang in the apple trees outside my office window. Who knew how sticky apricots and raisins get when threaded on florists wire.

Tony thought I had gone quite mad when I mixed lard and peanut butter, then stirred in bird seed. I spread the mix onto pinecones I have been collecting on my walks. Tomorrow, after a night in the fridge I plan to wire them onto the wreath as well as bits of greenery I have been collecting. All picked up from the ground, not picked off trees!

I have a Beanies Coffee 12 Days of Christmas calendar. Day 5 was a Mint Chocolate “All-in-One” Hopefully there will be some more regular instant coffee tomorrow.

Beginnings My family Pentrefelin wildlife

12 Days of Christmas #1

I’m pleased to say I have not received a Partridge in a Pear Tree, though I have received some lovely gifts, including a Harry Potter knitted jumper which I’m delighted with.

Apologies for radio silence in December. It has been an exciting and emotional month. I handed in my notice at Ffestiniog Travel. 17 years is a long time to work anywhere and I was sad to say goodbye but returning to the office after 18 months on furlough convinced me that it is time to move on. I will still be doing some tour leading, hopefully taking a group to Mallorca to explore the narrow gauge railways and trams in 2022. I have always enjoyed the job and the people, but I would always regret it if I didn’t give genealogy a try.

I’ve decided to follow the career advice of Katharine Whitehorn, a British journalist:

‘Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.’
Observer, 1975

The Society of Genealogists are sharing their own 12 days of Christmas, beginning today with Partridge in a Pear Tree, or their version, a Partridge in PCC Admons. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

I am joining in 12 Days Wild and I began by walking off Christmas lunch, just enjoying the peace and quiet outside today. I found some festive Pokemon as well as festive plants. The road was surprisingly busy but the sky looked amazing.

I have a Beanies Coffee 12 Days of Christmas calendar. I do enjoy a flavoured coffee, but don’t like the sweetness of syrups so these are just right. Today I have Nutty Hazelnut and Orange Chocolate flavoured coffees.

As well as my sibling Max having their birthday today we have a surprising number of ancestors with Christmas Day birthdays.

  • 3rd great grandmother Jane Diamond was born today in 1839. She lived in Cumberland, now part of the Lake District. In 1905 she was living at Rainors Farm.
  • Her mother-in-law, my 4th great grandmother Ann Stewardson, was born today in 1810. She also spent her entire life in the Lake District.
  • On the same day my 3rd great granduncle Christopher Thomas Wadworth was born in Wickersley, West Yorkshire.

I plan to spend the rest of the 12 days of Christmas catching up with #52Ancestors and setting up Rhos Helyg Family History Services.

Operation Bletchley Pentrefelin wildlife

12 Days of Christmas, day 9

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

I decided that my “wild” challenge today would be to check on the various wildlife homes around our garden. The birdboxes, which housed bees or wasps this summer, have already been taken down and cleaned. We’ll put them back up in early spring. The birdbath I noticed was full and looked reasonably clean.

We have a number of insect houses dotted around, two were birthday presents last summer, the others more established and I noticed plenty of use over the summer. We also have a bat box, which was a wedding present. I’ve not actually seen a bat use it, but we do see bats flying around the garden so I suspect it does provide some shelter.

I managed to get quite a lot of Lego done, both last night and this morning, and now have completed classrooms and work is well underway on the other wing. I had thought I might finish it today, but I think it will take at least until tomorrow.

Late morning I put a few of the leftover chocolates in my pocket and headed out. I first walked to the war memorial (I have run out of Pokeballs so spinning the Pokestop was vital today!), and back towards the house, which ticked off my first mile.

I then set off up the hill in a direction I haven’t walked since beginning the Operation Bletchley challenge. I caught up with some neighbours and walked a little way together, but I turned left and they carried on. I continued for another mile up the hill. It was tough and I had to tell myself just keep putting one front in front of the other. The views were well worth it though, and the mile back down to the house was much easier.

So three miles chalked up in total today and hopefully two sets of codes will arrive tomorrow morning. I am aiming to receive the final set of codes with plenty of time to work out the final answers before midnight on 6th January.

I solved the 9th Junior and Codebreaker levels without much difficulty, but the Cypher Expert is baffling me for now. I’ll come back to it!


12 Days of Christmas, day 6

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

I woke this morning to a winter wonderland. Not a blanket of snow, but there must have been a frost, followed by hail. Even now at 4pm the grass is covered in a layer of white. It is pretty if cold, and not very motivating to get outside.

We were running low on milk so made a quick dash into town this morning. It turned out not to be as quick as we hoped after first scraping all the ice off the car windows the car slid around on the icy road outside the house. Our little estate doesn’t get gritted. I ended up getting out to push.

When we got home the sun was out so I set off on a walk, As my random act of wildness I had a close look at the ice, it is very pretty, both from a distance and underfoot.

I also noticed this intriguing phenomenon on the pavement.

Each circle has a small pebble in the middle. They must have held some heat and caused the frost around them to melt.

By the time I had spun the Pokestop about half a mile from home it was raining, and once round the block it was hailing. I decided it was just too unpleasant to be out and came home as rapidly as the slippery pavements allowed. As most days I’ve walked just over 2 miles I think I’m still on target for 24 miles in 12 days.

As on previous days I woke to another set of codes to break in my inbox. The Junior one was very straightforward, and the Codebreaker didn’t take me long. The Cypher one though, lets just say I had a lot of help from Mum, and Google. I got there in the end though. That is half way through the challenge so right on target.

Hogwarts now has a giant chessboard, a potions classroom and a room of requirement. I had forgotten how much I enjoy building Lego.

Happy New Year to everyone reading. I hope that you are able to find a way to celebrate if you wish to do so. I’ll be taking part in a Zoom quiz with my pub quiz team.


12 Days of Christmas, day 5

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

Life has actually settled into a bit of a Twixmas routine, wake up late, make a coffee, have a look at the newly arrived Operation Bletchley codes and then set my computer up to earn a few pennies on Swagbucks, while I get on with Lego quietly until Tony wakes up. Have you ever tried building Lego quietly? It adds a whole new dimension to searching for the right tiny brick.

Then it is breakfast while doing the Harry Potter quiz on Alexa. Once I have hit my daily target on Swagbucks I head out for my walk. Then home, some lunch and a nod to some housework before spending the afternoon and evening building Lego, relaxing, eating Christmas treats, and TV.

So, it was really good last night to break up the routine a bit by meeting up virtually with my Mum and siblings for an escape room. We’ve done a few over the various lockdowns, and as we’re all now in the Welsh Alert level 4 where nothing fun is allowed, or English Tier 4 areas, it seemed like a good time for another. We chose Santa’s Christmas Rush from Escape Rooms Durham and really enjoyed it. We had to use Google maps and Street View to solve clues helping Santa deliver the last few presents around the world. It was great to virtually visit Lapland. Two clues were in places that I have previously visited, the boardwalk in Santa Cruz which I loved, and Bergun in Switzerland with its toboggan run and railway museum. Highly recommended, and we’ll be back to do some more. They have a free “Mr-X” trial if you would like to give it a go. You’ll need something like Zoom, and each household joining in needs to be able to access Google Maps and Street View. If that is on a different device to the video call that might be even better.

I had to call into a Post Office today so used the essential journey to begin my walk away from home. I was able to play Pokemon, including a successful raid while walking my two miles. I walked mainly in Coed Nyseri, which gave me a chance to search for fungi. I found two bracket fungi which, from iNaturalist, I think are Chondrostereum. I’m more than happy to be corrected.

I also spotted a tree with a few Christmas decorations, it really made me smile that someone had taken the trouble to do that.

I have just done some calculations and I think I have now walked 13.5 miles so I should have another set of Operation Bletchley codes in the morning, and perhaps two sets on New Years Day. A little reminder that I would love to receive some sponsorship for this challenge. I solved the 5th Junior code with no trouble at all this morning, but struggled with the Codebreaker level until Mum helped with a little prompt. I’ve not attempted the Cypher Expert level as yet, I can see what needs doing, and that type of puzzle I find really difficult. I’ll definitely come back to it at some point though.

As for the Lego, I’m now about half way through book 3 of 4, and bag 25 of 37. This morning I built Professor Snape’s dungeon potions classroom. The detail achieved continues to impress me.

Spot the wonderful Harry Potter bunting, a present from my sister.

I’m eagerly awaiting an email to find out the details of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2021. I’m looking forward to completing an entire year of blogging about my ancestors, and researching their stories.


12 Days of Christmas, day 3

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

Today was one of those beautiful, crisp, clear winter mornings. Blue sky, a dusting of snow on the mountains and cold, but dry air. I didn’t need much motivation to put on my coat, hat and gloves and set off on a walk. I know some places in the UK had snow overnight, my sister sent pictures of the snowman my nieces built.

Snow on the mountains and a beautiful blue sky.

After all the rain we have had in the last few days I decided to walk up to St Cynhaeren church today as it is paved all the way. I have no idea why the church was built a mile out of the village but it makes a nice walk now.

As usual I first headed to the War Memorial which is the village Pokestop (vital for Pokémon players!), and then pocketed my phone and just listened as I walked. At first there was some traffic noise, mainly car engines. Once I left Pentrefelin village even the birds were quiet and for some of the time literally all I could hear were my own footsteps. I loved the peace today. I couldn’t resist whipping out my phone to use as a camera a couple of times, the snow topped mountains, and calm sea were too pretty not to take a snap.

A calm sea in the background.

Once up at the Church I checked on my geocache, and found the logbook a little wet. With hindsight I should have brought it home to dry it out. Duh! Guess where I’ll be walking again tomorrow!

I could hear the “caw” of some crows up at the church, but surprisingly no sheep today. I took pictures of a few more gravestones ready to transcribe them in the new year. Walking back down, I thought I heard a cuckoo but that would be unlikely this time of year, maybe an owl? I’m not sure. I stopped briefly to chat to a neighbour, just the inevitable conversation about the weather.

Approaching the main road there was a single car horn, and a few more car engines. Then there was a very loud tractor making its way along the main road. Walking back towards home there was an immense chatter of birds in the hedge. At first glance I couldn’t see them, but a minute or two standing still and I got my eye in. Just sparrows, but lots of them.

A couple of the noisy sparrows in the hedgerow.

The last sound I noticed as I approached our house was a solitary dog bark from up at the farm.

That was another 2.6 miles towards Operation Bletchley so I can expect the fourth code email to arrive shortly. I have submitted answers for Junior and Codebreaker levels for all the codes received so far. I think the third cryptic code has something to do with binary but I haven’t cracked it yet.

Yesterday I completed another challenge that I had almost forgotten about. Weeks ago I signed up to the Snowman Sketch Challenge for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. The idea being to map a walk or run using Strava or similar to make an image of a snowman. A challenge that is probably easier in an urban environment with a plethora of footpaths to choose from. Here I had to be a bit creative, but I hope you like my effort.

It isn’t too late to have a go yourself, just submit your picture by the end of the year, or if you prefer, make a donation to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation here.

The Lego Hogwarts Castle is progressing too, I’m almost at the end of book 2 of the instructions. By the end of the book I think the tower containing moving staircases, Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom and Dumbledore’s office will be complete.

My family

Family history gold dust

I had a lovely walk this afternoon with my nieces. We sat for ages at the local war memorial catching Pokémon, then they found 7 geocaches including the one I hid a week ago. There was a horse in the field by that one. I’d already found the other 6 caches but it was fun to help them find them. They were really keen and wanted fewer and fewer clues for each one. We carried on and the girls helped me find a good location to hide cache at St Beuno’s church.

My niece hunting a geocache.

I had a bit of time before getting dinner ready, so having spent the week working on my sister’s house history I decided to spend a few minutes checking off a “to do” item from my old list on Legacy. The top item on the list was to find a death date for my 1st cousin 3 times removed Annie Stewardson. I knew she was born in Cumberland around 1908, and that she emigrated to Canada when she was very young. I’d seen her on the 1921 census of Canada but nothing further.

I typed her details into Ancestry and just wow, I hit the jackpot! Not only a death date but an incredibly detailed obituary. There was no doubting that this was for the right person. So I now have her sisters married names, I know which siblings were still alive in 2003, I have both her husband’s names and so many more clues.

I wonder how long it will take to trace those 12 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren. A webinar i watched during the week confirmed how important making connections like those can be for DNA assisted genealogy.

What an exciting evening! Needless to say I was late putting the roast dinner in the oven tonight.


How it all began

Well this is scary…. I’ve never written a blog before, and writing text was never my strong point in school and university. Please bear with me while I figure out how all this works.

I thought I remembered that I had starting tracing my family history when my Grandmother inherited a widow’s ring, but while searching for something else I realised that it goes back further than that. I can tell you the exact date I began, 13th October 1984, thanks to a book I discovered buried in the bottom of my “family history box”. I’m surprised by how much of the book 10 year old me filled in. Another item added to my ever growing to-do list is to work through the book ensuring that all the information I gathered back then, when I could actually speak to my grandparents, is included in my family history.

Front page of Trace Your Family Tree by Margaret Crush completed by Ruth.

I had a copy of Trace Your Family Tree by Margaret Crush for my initial foray into family history research. It was all completed by interviewing family members, back then there was no Ancestry website, and I certainly didn’t visit any archive offices, I doubt I even knew what a census return was.

Here is 10 year old me, sitting on Hadrian’s Wall. Back then I wrote in the book that I lived in Macclesfield, had two sisters, brown hair and blue eyes, that I didn’t like spellings, but did like maths and trains. Well some of that has changed. I now have three siblings and have more or less mastered spelling. I did a degree in maths and education before moving to North Wales, where through the Ffestiniog Railway I met my husband, Tony. Trains are still very much part of our lives, he runs Rhos Helyg Locomotive Works a garden railway specialist and my full time job is as a tour consultant for Ffestiniog Travel, booking holidays for rail enthusiasts.
My other loves include Harry Potter, Jane Austen novels and fanfiction and our cats. During furlough I’ve been walking regularly, visiting the graveyards in Pentrefelin to transcribe the headstones, finding geocaches and Pokemon.

10 year old Ruth at Hadrians Wall
10 year old Ruth at Hadrian’s Wall