Sources & Methods
As with most family research projects, the starting point has been our relatives: their stories, letters, pictures and diaries. And, as so many others have also found, our great regret has been that we didn't start all this a long time ago.
For the Tatham family, the most valuable resource has been the book written by Henry Curtis in the 1920s, covering the history of the family , or at least the name, since Saxon times.
Recently, most of our research has been done on the internet, including, for England and Wales, the census records 1841-1911, and the register office indexes 1837-2006. For these and other online resources we have relied much on the specialised websites - ancestry.com and a few others Other online sources we have found useful include FamilySearch (the LDS/IGI database), National Archives (TNA ex PRO), especially for pre-1857 wills, British Library for India Office records, Scotland's People, etc.
We have made good use of other people's research, both online and offline, especially for research into families outside England, such as Tathams in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The trees posted on ancestry.com and Genes Reunited have been sometimes helpful as well.
Much of the more recent information has come from members of the extended Tatham family. We'd like to thank these cousins for all their help. Most are still living, and so are referred to only by their initials.
As a firm principle, we have tried to cite at least one source for every name, date, fact or event. Sometimes these are informal or oral sources, rather than written, verifiable documents. Sometimes even they are estimates or guesses, in which case we always say so.
All family historians have their own individual ways of recording and presentation. We hope we are not thought to have been too individualistic. This is an informal site, intended just to be a notebook and, we hope, a useful resource for other researchers. While we have tried to follow standard practice for the most part, sometimes we have taken our own approach, because of time or resource constraints, or simply personal preferences.
Originally this site was intended to cover several different families. It now focuses just on the Tatham family of County Durham.
The starting point for the tree is the family of Ralph and Dorothy Tatham, who lived in Kirk Merrington in the early 1600s. These may not be the earliest recorded ancestors of the line, but are the first with solid documentation and some details of their lives. Thereafter the tree includes only:
- Direct descendants of those ancestors;
- Spouses of those descendants;
- Parents of those spouses.
So it doesn't include:
- Other spouses of spouses;
- Siblings of spouses;
- Remoter ancestors of spouses.
This is just a general rule and there are a few exceptions - for instance, to show the connection where spouses are related to each other.
We follow the convention of recording each person by the name given at birth. That name remains the one in the database, regardless of marriage and remarriage. If it is later changed, other than by marriage, then the change is recorded as a "Name Change" event.
Spelling of surnames is usually kept consistent, so as to simplify searching, even though in earlier centuries there may have been several variants - for example, "Tatham" has been spelled in at least six different ways.
Where a birth surname is not known, we record the name used later, enclosing it in round brackets. This happens when we don't yet know a wife's maiden name, only that of her husband; or, occasionally, the other way round. This practice is deprecated by some genealogists but is felt to be the least bad solution.
When a forename isn't known, we enter some description, again in brackets, e.g. (First Wife) or (Son), though this happens quite rarely.
We follow normal genealogical practice in recording dates - in the form dd mmm yyyy - wherever possible. However there are a few things to be mentioned:
Where the exact date isn't known, we use the conventions: "About", "Before" and "After" (the last two quite sparingly). For a known time period (e.g. years at a school), we give the start and finish dates separated by a hyphen, eg "1914-1918". Where the dates aren't known exactly, or where an event took place around a certain time, we again give 2 dates, separated by a hyphen and with "abt." before them, eg "abt. 1930-1940"; this means that both dates are uncertain.
For birth dates estimated from ages in census returns, we take the census year minus the stated age, recorded as "about". This is the method used by most genealogy web sites. It is criticized by some, because given that all UK censuses after 1841 were taken in late March or early April, the calculated birth year will be one year too late in 3 cases out of 4. That is true, but we thought it best to follow the practice of the majority here, while taking care to record the stated age as a note to the census citation.
For birth, marriage and death dates taken from Register Office quarterly indexes, we have recorded these as "About" the month in the middle of each quarter (e.g. "abt. Aug 1875" for 3Q1875). Again, practice varies - this seemed the least bad solution.
We decided to put a date of birth for every individual in the tree. Sometimes this date has to be an estimate, based on little evidence, even none at all. Some people strongly criticise this practice, others (e.g. Genes Reunited) insist on it. It's a personal choice. When a date is an estimate, we always say so.
Our recording of places is not entirely consistent, and differs from how some genealogists work, which is to record in a standard format: Town, County, State, Country.
We wanted to keep entries as brief as possible, while avoiding ambiguity. Bearing in mind that most of the places in the database are in the UK, we have not recorded the country unless there is a need to. Within the UK, we have not usually recorded the county either - counties are always a source of confusion since successive governments keep changing the boundaries. So most often we record just the name of the town or village, plus the house or street if known. Outside the UK we try to add the name of the country, or, in USA, Canada and Australia, the abbrevation of the state or province; unless the location is sufficiently well known, eg Paris or Chicago. This method has kept entries brief but may not be simple for visitors to follow.
To make things easier, all places have now been geocoded using Google Maps. Clicking on the Search button after the place name will open a window showing the place on the map and a list of the people and events associated with it. It is easy to enlarge or reduce the scale, and to change from map to satellite view, and even to see it at ground level using Street View in Google Earth.
In the past we used FTM (Family Tree Maker). It is neither the best nor the worst of the desktop genealogy programs, and does have the advantages of being easy to work with and widely used.
For the past 3 years we've been using TNG - The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, written by Darrin Lythgoe, and now on its 9th version. We cannot praise it highly enough. Ease of use, design, consistency, stability, support, all are excellent. We hope it has allowed our visitors' experience of this site to be a pleasant one.