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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree February 2019 > DEAR TOM


Explore the serious, sublime and the ridiculous facets of family history in this genealogical miscellany. This issue, Tom Wood reads some colourful obituaries of lives well lived and discovers a unisex name causing confusion!
‘Irish centenarian’ Nance Lee, who died in 1875, was remembered for transporting bread between Tipperary and Emly, travelling 16 miles a day for 40 years on foot

Tales from beyond the grave It’s been a while since I mentioned people in earlier times whose colourful life stories were revealed when their obituaries were published in local newspapers. So I am more than grateful to our regular correspondent Teresa Williams, from Middlesex, who has spent a good deal of her time searching through masses of newspaper archives to dig out some of these priceless snippets. She has acquired a wonderful collection of interesting accounts of famous and sometimes not-so famous people who led extraordinary lives in one way or another. Indeed, where else might you find a man with 27 children from three wives, a lady whose age at death was thought to be 108 but was actually 111 years old, or an aged gentleman who in later life slept in a dog kennel?!

Here is a taste of the remarkable obituaries sent in by Teresa. Her first contribution was published in London paper The Examiner on Sunday 20 April 1844, under the heading of ‘The Last Survivor of the Stuarts’, and reads: ‘The remains of this extraordinary man were on Sunday consigned to the tomb in Tweedmouth Churchyard, Berwick upon Tweed. James Stuart was born in 1728 in South Carolina. His father was a near relative of the Pretender, Prince Charles. About 60 years ago he settled at Tweedmouth and during that period he has travelled the Borders as a minstrel, scraping upon a wretched violin. He had five wives, and twenty-seven children. Ten of his sons were killed in battles – five in the East Indies, two at Trafalgar, one at Waterloo and two at Algiers. His death was occasioned by a slight accident which he received on his hip joint for a fall on the Thursday preceding his death.’

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About Family Tree

What are your family history goals for 2019? Perhaps you'd like to get your family history notes more organised? To be sure you're searching the right ancestors? To take your research back further? To look into your family's lives in more depth? Or perhaps your goal is simply to take that first step and start finding out about your family tree? Our ultimate guide - in this, the Feb issue of Family Tree - has advice to help everyone become the best genealogist they can be... from the newly curious, to those with many research discoveries under their belt already, you're sure to find it a valuable read. Happy researching!