Having an unusual surname as I have, I’ve always been intrigued by where it came from, what it meant, and so on. As I grew up in the Welsh mining town of Abertillery, I learned a little about my Nixey family because of what my father had told me. I knew for example that his father, “Ernest” had been born at Bath in Somerset, that his uncle Will had been a policeman in London, and that his grandfather Edward had been born in Slough, the son of Joseph who was a Tailor. He’d also told me about W. G. Nixey, the inventor and patentee of the world renowned Nixey’s Black Lead, but he didn’t seem to know where in our family tree he fitted in.
Unfortunately, I inherited an eye condition from my mother, Retinitis Pigmentosa, which was to gradually steal my vision until I was registered completely blind at the age of twenty. Wanting to learn more about my family’s history though, leads one to ask how on earth could I possibly develop such a hobby, let alone be successful at it.
In 1993, my attention was grabbed while visiting blind friends in Hampshire. They had recently purchased a computer, and amazingly, the computer had a programme on it that spoke text out to them! I was awestruck! On returning home, I was telling my father all about it, and, before I knew it, he’d bought me my very own computer! Back then, the computers were very slow with low specifications, but as computer technology developed, it helped me to be able to develop my interests too, not just in family history, but in other keen interests I had, such as music and the Bible. In time, I even began designing my own websites, learning the often complicated html coding that is essential to website design.
For several years now, I’ve used a wonderful screen reader package called JAWS, which stands for Job Access With Speech, and is developed in the USA by Freedom Scientific ( http://www.freedomscientific.com ). There are many other such programmes out there, but I find this one to be the best for me. Window’s Narrator which is available on all Windows 8 and 10 computers is a really good programme for doing the basics and of course comes free as part of your Windows installation. Another programme that I’ve tried from time to time is NVDA, which stands for Non Visual Desktop Access and is also available for free ( http://www.nvaccess.org ).
As far as my family history is concerned, I’ve been enjoying doing my research for what must be nearly twenty years now. A great assistance for me was the Rootsweb mailing lists
( http://www.rootsweb.com ) where I could email my queries to the appropriate list and receive assistance from sighted people. Over time, I began subscribing to such websites as Ancestry UK ( http://www.ancestry.co.uk ) and Find My Past ( http://www.findmypast.co.uk). Unfortunately, the amount of details that are transcribed varies greatly. To ensure my research was accurate, the assistance of sighted people giving me the additional details that could be found on the images that hadn’t been transcribed was absolutely vital. In many cases, it proved that my research didn’t add up, and so I had to continue researching until I’d found the correct details. On times this could be quite exasperating, but the overwhelming feeling of success when I’d managed to piece together a chunk of my family tree, and particularly when I’d cracked what is termed a “brickwall,” is hard to put into words.
The obvious thing to do, when you’re as interested in family history research as I am, is to expand your scope to your wife’s family, which in my case at least led to some very interesting finds. Needless to say, I’ll be sharing some of these on my blog. To begin with, though, I feel it’s most appropriate to detail the family line from which I inherited the eye condition, and this will be the subject of my first blog post, entitled, My Godwin Family And The Cause Of My Blindness.
Finally, if you have any comments regarding anything you read on my blog, please do get in touch, especially if you have some additional information or constructive criticism.
Please feel free to email me at: jon.ofhs5790 (at) gmail.com
And if you are a Nixey researcher, you will be fascinated to visit my website at ( http://www.blackleadking.org ) entitled “The Blacklead King – The Story of William George Nixey. You may well be interested in this website even if you are not a Nixey researcher as it contains a wide variety of subjects from religion to royalty, the armed forces to freemasonry, and much much more.
Jonathan Nixey – Tuesday 3rd January 2017