Reporter Ellie Pilmoor finds out about her past at the Portsmouth History Centre online

Archives at Portsmouth Central Library
Archives at Portsmouth Central Library
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

Your chance to trace past family members on the web

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FINDING out about my ancestors was not something I had ever considered doing, despite knowing they have lived in Portsmouth for generations.

But when Portsmouth City Council invited me to its History Centre to discover my past I jumped at the chance.

Reporter Ellie Pilmoor

Reporter Ellie Pilmoor

Sitting down in front the computer with the help of John Steadman, and armed with the full name of my great-grandmother Alice Gofton, we started searching for the history of relatives.

We started with the parish baptism records and found Alice Kathleen Gofton — baptised on May 6, 1900 at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.

Her parents Benjamin Bourne and Kate Clara Gofton were listed, along with their street name in Kingston and Alice’s date of birth, March 4, 1900.

Using this information, we then decided to search for Benjamin Bourne Gofton, my great-great-grandfather.

Again, using the baptism records we found his name listed on the register for St Michael and All Angels’, in Portsmouth, having been baptised along with his two sisters Martha Ann and Alice Marie on June 12, 1876.

Their parents Benjamin Bourne and Martha Ann Gofton were on the records, too, with my great-great-great-grandfather listed as being a shipwright and living in Clarence Street.

We then switched to the Census and, in 1911, found my great-great-grandfather Benjamin Bourne Gofton living in Kilmiston Street with his wife Kate Clara and five children.

As part of the record, it lists the birthplace of the people living in the house and Benjamin had listed Linlithgow, in Scotland, while his wife Kate listed Portsmouth.

The Census also revealed the ages of the family including the children who were 11, nine, seven, six and four.

We managed to trace my family back five generations in around 30 minutes using the range of records on Findmypast. They are easy to use and manoeuvre once you have the basic information on your ancestors like their full name. I was impressed with how simple it was to trace ancestors, with the starting point of just one name and the range of information you can find out about them.

For me, sitting there and seeing the baptisms of relatives I knew nothing about was incredible. Before this I had never really wondered about my past but, now this new system is so easily accessible, I would definitely want to look even further and see just how far back my roots in Portsmouth go.

FAMOUS PEOPLE IN PORTRSMOUTH'S ARCHIVES

n Charles Dickens — the creator of some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and famed author of books such as Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol can be found in the baptism records from the parish of Portsea, St Mary.

Records reveal he was baptized on March 4, 1812 and his parents, John and Elizabeth, are also named.

n Cassandra Austen — the niece of the famous author Jane Austen and daughter of Jane’s beloved brother Francis, can be found within the burial registers.

Cassandra was born in 1814 and died in 1849 with her burial date recorded as May 10, 1849 at Wymering.

Her residence at the time of her death is noted as Portsdown Lodge.

Her father, Sir Francis William Austen, can also be found in the burial registers. His’ entry reveals he was born in 1773 and was buried on August 17, 1865. His residence and burial place are the same as his daughter.

n Henry Edward Bird — a chess player known for making popular an opening move now known as Bird’s Opening.

His baptism is recorded as occurring on August 1, 1829 at Portsmouth, St Thomas. His parents are also recorded on his record: Henry and Mary Ellen.

The image of the original record shows his father was a draper.

n James Hackman — a murderer.

His baptism took place on December 13, 1752 at Gosport, Holy Trinity.

His parents, William and Mary, are also recorded on the register.

Hackman was convicted and hung for murdering Martha Ray, the mistress of Lord Sandwich, on April 7, 1779.