Hacked Off

EAngAncMy other WordPress site has just been hacked; attacked by malicious software & closed down without warning yesterday, just like that. My web site host sent a blunt and somewhat complicated email last night; then relieved me of my monthly renewal fee this morning.

I’m still smarting at the injustice of it. I use an Antivirus; I am ultra- selective when uploading files & I run regular scans so it doesn’t seem fair that some backdoor virus has sneaked its way into the guts of my website. I backed it up, of course – but apparently I am not allowed to use the backups in case the site gets re-infected.

Did I mention it’s a genealogy site? A large genealogy site – I would tell you how large only I no longer have access to the statistics. I can still look longingly at it using the Wayback machine but it’s not the same.

I haven’t uploaded any new data for about 2 years. The site was large enough then but after 2 years of constant research & some fortunate removal of brick walls, I now have 43,892 individuals on my working tree. Take away those who may be living (bad manners to publish the living online) and those with whom I have a historical but not genetic interest, and there are still probably around 40,000 individual relatives. (Does that make me a record breaker in family history terms?)

It took me forever to upload half as many records two years ago and website hosting isn’t free, so I wonder whether it is worth all the time and frustration to put it back together again? And is there any point in a world where websites are destroyed just because somebody can?

I am a writer as well as a genealogist and am currently editing my first book for adults. It is a murder mystery set in the heart of Suffolk, beginning in the 1850’s and concluding during the 1900’s when the suffragettes were active in East Anglia. It is not only based on a true story, but features some of my relatives on www.eastanglianancestors.co.uk – or who would be featured if the site still existed. I would have enjoyed bringing the two ideas together.

So I’m licking my wounds and wondering whether to go through the painful process of reviving my dead website – or let it rest in peace. I am undecided; feedback would help. If you have relatives in Norfolk or Suffolk; if the names Bird, Fairweather, Corben, Dennis or Kersey have any meaning to you, drop me a line. My fragile ego needs stroking before I decide to grit my teeth and get on with it, or consign the website to history.

Update:  It has taken a few days to get over myself, but I have stopped sulking long enough to re-instate the website & although it has taken the best part of 4 days, it was nowhere near as difficult as I first thought.  The original website is back.  I will try to update the last 2 years worth of research in the near future. 

Generating a character name from genealogy

Famhist LogoWhere can a suitable name be found for your carefully crafted character? Having taken the trouble to nurture and grow a creation, learn their personality and develop their story, they deserve a worthy name. It’s fortunate if a name has sprung to mind, but it’s easy to develop a detailed character without knowing what to call them.

Sometimes luck strikes and a suitable name appears out of the blue. In Beau Garnie & the Invisimin Mine, Beau’s best friend Skyle fell into that category. Her name came first and her character was built around the name; but that was an exception.

Some writers use the telephone directory, some use baby naming books and there are several random name generator sites. Follow this link for a site which spawned ‘Thorburn Digby’, a name easily usable in my genre.

I didn’t use any of these resources for Beau Garnie & the Invisimin Mine and the approach I took fitted in with another of my interests. As a keen genealogist I manage a large website containing myriad East Anglian families. The current working database contains over 41,000 individuals so is a rich resource of old English names. Some are commonplace – there are more John Bird’s than you can imagine, but there are also a number of unusual names or names that have fallen from favour.

Beau Garnie’s name was shamelessly ‘borrowed’ from a genealogical source. My 11x Great Uncle Nicholas Fairweather worked for the Sheriff of Suffolk, Nicholas Garneys & Beau’s name is a variation of that. Beau’s father Gwalter was based on my 10 x Uncle Walter Brook; his name appears as Gwalter in many documents.

But there was an extensive choice of names to work with ranging from biblical to those that must surely have been invented. Old male Hebrew names Shedrac, Onesimus, Gad and Jabesh sit side by side in the name index with their female counterparts Jerusha, Kerrenhappuch, Keturah and Salome. I have a Scottish Methuen, old Norman names Ethelbert, Angier and Esmond and my East Anglian ancestor Athelstane Nobbs carries an Anglo Saxon name.

There seems to have been a propensity to use surnames as forenames in Suffolk generating combinations like Catling Fairweather, Pells Kersey, Bosom Abbs and Candler Bird.

The rarity of the names make it is much easier to find information, particularly in searchable newspaper databases. This in itself generates ideas for backgrounds and stories for the characters. I know from records that Rudd Turner murdered his wife and child in 1831 and was subsequently declared insane and that my 4 x great grandfather Minns Riseborough was violently assaulted with a knife by John Buck following accusations of pig stealing.

I have a wonderful resource of female names too. The ugly sounding Grysigono Smith sounds more like a witch than the heiress she was. Eszma Seago naturally conjures up an unappealing woman, perhaps with a skin complaint! In fact she married so was probably quite a normal looking girl. Repeniler Barrett has a name a little too similar to repulsive to invoke a wholesome character. On the other hand Gallindra Bayfield is a wonderful name that trips off the tongue and is well suited to a fantasy character, Haidee Mallett sounds joyful and Fairlino Love must have stepped straight out of the pages of a Mills and Boon novel.

I can’t imagine ever being able to use the obscure ancestral names of Hersee Fosker, Hiwasse Bullock and Thurley Ulph, they are just too ugly but I must find a way to work Sebborn Gonner, Pitcher Belding and Barzillai Brighty into one of my books! My favourite name, for reasons I haven’t fathomed, is the wonderfully christened Scapy Tydeman of Earl Stonham in Suffolk. That name is too good to be lost in the mists of time and a character namesake grows in my mind, even as I type…….