Tracing Family Histories

tracing family history
Sgt Thomas Wilkes

Tracing family histories is a fun hobby but for some people it becomes a passion. Maybe its because learning about our family helps us understand our place in the world. In the digital age there has never been so much information available to the public. This has resulted in the birth of a new industry devoted to helping us find the old records we need.  I’m sure you will have seen the ads on TV. But rather than get lost in data, why not just ask people.  Whether that’s family members or local history groups. For example, talk to older relatives. They will know family names and previous addresses. They will also know family stories, which will give you the first clues in your  search.

Sam Harvey posted on the Aldridge History Group Facebook page because she needed local information. She lives in South Yorkshire and had found that her family was living in Aldridge in the 1830s.  Following a phone call we featured her in our magazines.  Hilary Wilkes was also looking for information on her family history. Regarding her grandfather Sgt Thomas Wikes (pictured) who had lived in Walsall. We also featured her story in our January magazines.

How We Help Trace Family Histories

We will be having a regular feature in our printed magazines to help people tracing family histories. So if you would like to tell your story and get some local help, email Please let us have your phone number and a brief overview of who you are looking to trace. We can also share your Facebook posts.

Top Tips For Tracing Your Family Tree

  1. Ask Family Members
  2. There are online tools, census and registers
  3. Use other people’s research
  4. Use the free online Births, Marriages & Deaths directories
  5. Search parish records and visit churchyards
  6. Ask for information on social media
  7. Get in touch with Pioneer Magazines & Great Barr Gazette

Below we have listed some websites and social media groups to get you started. We would love to hear from you if we can help you trace your family tree.

Useful Websites/Social Media Groups

Aldridge History Group

Walsall Places, People, Pictures and History

Yours locally

Editor Great Barr Gazette


Tackling Loneliness Locally

Aldridge MagazineTackling lonliness locally is difficult in a normal year. The onset of winter, dark evenings and Christmas are when many people, especially the elderly, feel loneliness and isolation most acutely. Before the Covid pandemic research was already showing that loneliness and isolation was on the rise.  Now as we enter another national lockdown the impact on the health and well-being of the elderly is incalculable.

Tackling Lonliness Locally

In September 2018 Age UK published their report on Loneliness in Later Life. Follow this link to access the report

Two of the main findings were firstly, there will be a predicted 49% increase in the number of over 50s suffering from loneliness by 2025/2026. Mostly because people are living longer.  Secondly, the research found the risk of being ‘often lonely’ is much higher among people who are widowed, do not have someone to open up to, or are in poor health.

A couple of years ago Walsall Council held a meeting for local residents. The over-reliance on the internet as a source of information was identified as an issue.  At The Pioneer and Great Barr Gazette we agree. If you are not on the internet or IT savvy, this can lead to feeling isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. Yes, we do have our website, but we are passionate about our printed community magazines. We know our magazines provide a life-line of information for many of the elderly residents of Aldridge, Walsall and across our area.

Covid-19 has made 2020 a horrible year.  The cancellation of clubs and events. The day care services provided by organisations such as the Stan Ball Centre in Bloxwich, disrupted. Many of which have only just re-opened, has been a grave cause for concern. People, especially the elderly and those caring for others, rely on these activities for companionship and support.

Help Is At Hand

We believe it is our mission to inform and involve everyone of all ages, but especially the elderly, in what is going on in our local community. Throughout the Covid pandemic we have published articles on many local support groups. Such as Linking Lives Aldridge and Making Connections Walsall and how they have adapted to deliver their services either on the phone or in Covid-safe ways. We’ve also promoted community groups such as the Anvil Chorus in Great Barr and The Aldridge Shed to name but two.

The Community Support organisations in our local area have been outstanding in reaching out the vulnerable and elderly. Here are a few organisations you can contact for help. You can always phone us on 01922 660022 and we will signpost you to someone who can help you.

Linking Lives Aldridge – a befriending service offering friendship and support across Aldridge. Email or call 07307 865973

Making Connections Walsall – aiming to address loneliness and social isolation and other issues you may be facing. To discuss or make a referral ring 0121 380 6690

The Stan Ball Centre – a community centre for older and vulnerable adults operated by the local charity Bloxwich Community Partnership. Call 01922 403351

The Aldridge Shed – a UK initiative for people from all walks of life to come together to pursue their interests and hobbies. or contact Barrie on 07985 188256

If you are feeling lonely please do not suffer in silence, reach out to any of the organisations above and the many others in our area, some are listed on our Communities Directory.  And to all local residents look out for each other and especially the elderly at this challenging time.

Yours locally

Editor Great Barr Gazette

The Unintended Consequences Of Covid-19

Dr Ron Daniels
Dr Ron Daniels

I know I am not alone in wondering what the collateral damage of Covid-19 will be. Especially when we assess the damage to our high streets, local economy and to our overall health and wellbeing.

In our September/October issue we have an article from Dr Ron Daniels an intensive care doctor working in our local NHS hospitals. I share his concerns about people not seeking medical attention and as a community publisher The Pioneer is doing all we can to spread the word that the NHS is open and don’t leave it too late to go and get help!

The whole of Dr Daniels’ article is below but to summarise. The NHS is reporting that people are leaving it too late to seek help for heart attacks, cancer, pneumonia, and sepsis. Dr Daniels describes it as “…seeing severe pathology.” In layman’s terms the NHS is seeing people who are in a very bad way.

The over-riding message from Dr Daniels is ‘please seek medical help early’. Don’t be put off by news headlines because the reality is that there are few people in hospital with Covid now. And, you are not being a bad person, putting the NHS under pressure, if you seek help because right now they do have the capacity to help you.

In fact, if you don’t seek help and leave it too late you may well end up costing the NHS more. Not to mention suffering unnecessarily.

Dr Daniels is also Founder and Executive Director of The UK Sepsis Trust. He says in his article that in adults the symptoms of sepsis can be mistaken for Covid-19, flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. He is seeing young, healthy people who have developed sepsis as a consequence of pneumonia.  Sepsis can be fatal if not identified and treated early with at least 48,000 people losing their lives every year. To put that into perspective it’s more people than are reported to have died from Covid-19.

If you are feeling unwell, please seek medical help.

Yours locally

Editor Great Barr Gazette





Feeling Ill? Seek Medical Attention

A West Midlands NHS doctor is urging people to seek medical attention straight away if they are feeling unwell, following growing evidence that people are going to GPs and doctors too late.

Dr Ron Daniels BEM, an intensive care doctor at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, working at Heartlands and Good Hope Hospitals, said it was imperative that people laid aside their fears of “catching Covid-19” at GP surgeries and other healthcare facilities.

“We are now in a position of unintended consequences and after effects on mental health as a result of lockdown, which means people are not presenting with symptoms early,” he said.

“We’re not seeing a holistic approach to these conditions, perhaps because we’re focusing unilaterally on Covid-19. In making decisions around reopening or restricting society, we need to look at PCR tests <which test for viruses and viral fragments> in the context of case fatality rates, ICU occupancy and how many tests are being done.

“There is a perceived fear around Covid-19 but this has to be balanced by issues caused by other health problems. We’re seeing people come into hospital who are severely ill who would’ve presented earlier, were it not for Covid-19 and this is a massive problem because we’re seeing some severe pathology.

“There’s huge anxiety among the population at the moment even when there are very few patients in hospital with Covid-19.”

“Of course, we have to be mindful of Covid and follow the guidelines but the NHS has capacity and it is open for business – we are urging anyone who is unwell to seek medical attention.”

Dr Daniels, who is also Founder and Executive Director of The UK Sepsis Trust, said clinicians are seeing late cancer, sepsis, pneumonia, and heart attack presentations.

“We are also seeing young, healthy people who have developed sepsis as a consequence of pneumonia,” he said.

Dr Daniels also warned that there is potential for as many as 20% of Covid-19 survivors to be at risk of sepsis within 12 months of being discharged from hospital.

The UK Sepsis Trust has launched its Blurred Lines campaign to raise awareness of the problem, which could save the Government millions of pounds and save lives.

Dr Daniels said a £1 million investment in awareness of the symptoms of sepsis, made right now, could save as much as £200 million in treatment and benefits.

About 245,000 people are affected by sepsis in the UK with at least 48,000 people losing their lives every year.

The UK Sepsis Trust and the York Health Economics Consortium have calculated that for every patient who is diagnosed early there is a cash saving to the NHS of more than £5,500, which means that 20,000 sepsis patients could cost society more than £1 billion in patient care and benefits.

Dr Daniels said: “Covid-19 is a disease caused by the immune system over-reacting to infection, which is exactly what sepsis is. The question to ask is: if I feel ill, could it be sepsis?”

In adults, sepsis may feel like ‘flu, gastroenteritis, or a chest infection at first, with early symptoms including fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing.

Other symptoms of sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion or disorientation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and cold, clammy, and pale or mottled skin.

For details about The UK Sepsis Trust, visit


Slurred speech or confusion

Extreme shivering or muscle pain

Passing no urine (in a day)

Severe breathlessness

It feels like you’re going to die

Skin mottled or discoloured

It is vital to seek medical attention immediately if you or another adult has these symptoms.

Local Community Groups Strengthen Our Area

Walsall Orchestra
Walsall Senior Citizens Orchestra

A good community is one where people are encouraged to come together, get involved participate and feel included.  That’s why we do so much to support our local community groups. This is our ethos and this underpins why our magazines and community website exist. Our team lives and works in the areas we cover.  We are the only local publication that can say that and this is important to us because this is our community and why we are so passionate about it.

The Promotion Of Community Groups Just Got Better

We promote our local community groups on a double page in every printed issue, for free. This is titled Community Pages, look it up in our latest editions.  In February we launched our new community website. This means we now promote our local groups online. This facility is brilliant because much more information can be included.  For example, in print we are limited to basic information only, because we want to include as many community groups as possible.

On our website each community group has their own profile page. We charge £30 per annum which helps with our admin costs.  On their profile page groups have space for:

  • A logo
  • A .pdf
  • 5 images
  • Details of what they do
  • Where they meet (with a Google map)
  • Contact details
  • Website and social media links

If you are not technically minded, we will create the profile at no extra cost.

We’ve made our local Community Groups easy to find via a big menu that you can search by category and we’ve got a site-wide search too.

Local Community Events Are Easy To Find

We’ve always had a Community Notice section in our printed magazines, where community groups can advertise their events. This is free of charge.  All we need is information and we need it in good time for each issue, please.  Our deadlines are on our Advertise page. However, with our new website events can be added at any time and this is a free service offered to groups, charities and not-for-profit events with an entry fee of £7 or less. Simply click on Submit Event and put the details in.

The What’s On section on our website lists All Events and can be searched by keywords, by date, month or year which makes finding what’s going on really easy.

Where possible we will promote your events on our social media.

Feature Articles On The Local Community

We take every opportunity to write articles highlighting the great work of our local community groups and charities.  For example, in every issue we feature helpful advice from West Midlands Police and Fire Services, doing our bit to keep people safe. We’ve written and published articles for Aldridge Sailing Club, Aldridge Shed, Walsall Photographic Society, Pelsall Common Folk, Streetly Eco-Festival, Stonnall Gardeners’ Guild, Sutton Road Allotments and Walsall Senior Citizens Orchestra to name but a few.

Get Involved In Your Local Community

Through our mighty efforts we hope more people will get involved in local events and join our local community groups. Together we can reduce the number of people feeling isolated and excluded. We really believe that a lack of knowledge and awareness is the biggest problem.  If people don’t know what’s happening and what’s available to them, how can they join in and be part of their local community? That’s why we started The Pioneer Magazine 15 years ago and we are still striving to connect all things local.

Until next month.

Yours locally

Editor Great Barr Gazette


The Power Of Community & Localness

The Power Of Community & Localness

Local CommunityNothing is more important to us than the local communities that we serve. We believe in inclusion and accessibility for all. We want to see local businesses thriving and local people finding the help and information they need whether that’s for home improvements, general wellbeing or finding a great place to go out for a meal!

The power of being part of the local community is that we as individuals can help make where we live, work and play even better. A strong community is a force for positive interaction and change. We don’t want to see our high streets declining or elderly people feeling lonely. We don’t want to see our young people getting a bad press – again. There are so many positive things being done by fantastic people all around the local area so, at the Pioneer Magazine and Great Barr Gazette you will find positivity for our local community positively flowing!

I was recently asked “What problems do you solve for your readers?” That took me back to the reasons we launched our first magazine in Walsall in 2005. It was because we as a family didn’t know what was happening on our door-step and when we needed help of some kind, we didn’t know where to look.

Localness is paramount. For us localness means that what we publish on our website and in our magazines is relevant and accessible for local people. Accessibility leads to inclusion. If something is local, then our readers are more likely to find it useful and if it’s a local event our readers are more likely to be able to get to it.

Doing things locally and buying from local businesses is better for the environment, whether you are buying your vegetables or booking a plumber. And, fewer miles travelled means lower carbon emissions. But a blog on the environment is for another day!

Across our website our magazines you will see the many ways that we provide helpful information and do out bit for the benefit of our local community, much of which we do for free. However, the reason we can do so much community promotion is because of our advertisers. Through their local advertising and the excellent service, they provide they are also playing a huge role in supporting their local communities.

Whilst other publications have remained static or have folded altogether, we have continued to grow, and I firmly believe that it is our firm support of community beliefs and values for all who live and work here that has enabled this to happen.

Yours locally

Editor Great Barr Gazette