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EDITIONS
Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 09:58 GMT
'I surfed the 1901 census - briefly'
Liz Mazonowicz got on to the 1901 census website the day before it launched (only to crash repeatedly until it was withdrawn). Here, in our weekly Real Time series, she tells how in that brief time she "found" her long lost great-grandmother.

I looked at a genealogy newsgroup on 1 January and found someone had posted a message saying: 'Hey, you can get on to the [1901 census] site.'

Liz's mother and sister drinking tea
Genealogy is enormously popular on the web
So I had a go and I did get in. Even then it was very flaky and kept bumping me back to the homepage. I persisted and got into the index.

I've been looking into my family tree, and information about my great-grandmother has been missing, so I went straight after her. I was particularly anxious to find out if she was still in the country in 1901.

Her husband had died in 1895, leaving her with eight children, and at some point she ran off to Canada with another man.

Family scandal

No-one in my family has ever talked about what happened. As far as I can make out, she used his name but didn't actually marry him.

Old photos collected by Liz Mazonowicz
As well as family scandals, Liz unearths old photos
This was pretty heavily scandalous so she disappeared into Canada, except to send my mother and her sisters presents from foreign parts.

When I got on the website, I discovered that she was still in England in 1901. She'd had to resort to taking in washing because she had several small children to support.

I'm intrigued to see if she'd also resorted to taking in lodgers - running off with the landlady was a fairly common practice in those days.

If there was a male lodger, I could try to trace her in Canada using his name. But before I could find out, I was thrown out of the site.

Old photo collected by Liz Mazonowicz
Glimpse of the past: Liz's mother and her sisters
Maria was a bit of a wild woman. She'd spent her childhood going around in a caravan - her father was a gypsy photographer. I can tell by where her brothers and sisters were born that they travelled around a great deal.


Her mother, when she was widowed, also took up with a fellow she never bothered to marry

I think she was probably repeating the pattern that her mother set. Her mother, when she was widowed, took up with a fellow who she never bothered to marry but she had twins by him.

All of this I've found out in the past five years.

The furthest back I've got is a brother and sister in Norfolk in the 1750s. He got into a bit of trouble and was transported to Australia, while she stayed in their small village and had five illegitimate children with a man who couldn't marry her for some reason.

Net records invaluable

My research is not entirely online. I spend a lot of time at the Family Records Centre, the Public Records Office, and at the Society of Genealogists - I'm extremely lucky living in London where all the records are held.

Charlie Chaplin
Chaplin: "Music hall artiste" in 1901 census
I had a bad bout of arthritis a couple of years ago and I realised then the value of online genealogy. I had a whole winter when I could barely leave the house, so I concentrated on what I could do online.

The first thing I did was subscribe to a newsgroup, where people recommended that I should try the Genuki website [see Internet links on the right], which has tips on how to start, directions to all the main archives and loads of links.

Addictive pastime

My family history has always teased me. I used to look at old photos, wondering who the people were, and thinking to myself: 'One of these days I'll find out.'


It's this marvellous soap opera, except they are real people

When I turned 60, 'one of these days' turned up. I really only expected it would be something I'd dip into to satisfy some curiosity about a generation or two back.

I had not realised that it is totally addictive - there's all these strange dramas and scandals falling out of the cupboards.

It's this marvellous soap opera, except they are real people and you're related to them. I got completely and utterly hooked.


Real Time gives people a chance to tell their own stories in their own words. If you've got something to say, click here.



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08 Jan 02 | UK
04 Jan 02 | UK
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