There was then a break in my travels for some tracing action through birth certificates which took me back to 1853 when my GGGrandfather – George Willingale had been born. No father was recorded, but the mother was Elizabeth and the parish, Southminster in Essex. So come Easter and off to Southminster I went to look for parish records. The church proved particularly interesting for a naval officer, as in the vestry were some large items of furniture which had been bequeathed to the parish by Admiral Lord Nelson. The parish records were patchy and the period of immediate interest to me – the 1830s – had been reconstituted by a later incumbent who was more conscientious than the one resident at the time. Nevertheless I was in luck and found her record of baptism in 1835. There were quite a few Willingales recorded (with a variety of spellings such as W’gale), and these were transcribed in case of future relevance. I was told that previous records had been lodged in the county archives at Chelmsford, so that was the next stop.

Chelmsford is the end of the line for this story as in the county library I discovered a good report of the Thomas Willingale saga in the Essex Naturalist. It showed me that if we were directly related then I should have discovered the evidence during the work I had already done. So it was back to the office to try to make the pieces of the puzzle fit. They didn’t, my motivation for further investigation was therefore decreased and the requirement to spend time at sea before being posted to Scotland meant that the opportunity for further research did not occur. This was, after all, before the advent of the Internet.

The tatty records of the above interlude were stored away until one day I discovered Steven’s personal web site. I posted a message on his board to which Graham responded. Graham had done much research and had the answer to my relationship to Thomas Willingale along with details of Elizabeth’s forebears. It was a eureka moment and it was clear that I had been saved a lot of work. Since my early efforts the internet had come of age, and had transformed the availability of information. As a result, genealogical societies were blossoming as the obvious way to share information and thereby reduce the duplication of effort which otherwise occurred when tracing family trees.

Consequently it was decided to form a Willingale Family Society with the objective of organising research effort and sharing results, and that is where we are today.

Reproduced from the Lopping Times Vol1, Edition1, December 2002