The 20th Century Diary is the chronicle of the lives of one ordinary family through the hundred years of the twentieth century. It has been compiled from stories told to me by numerous family members and for the sake of narrative continuity it is told in the voices of six of my direct ancestors.

For security reasons this edit for publication excludes full family trees and information about personal sources of photographs, letters etc. However, I am happy to supply copies of the full document to anyone with a legitimate interest. Contact me at

Sections of the site may be accessed by the links in the text (shown in blue underlined) or by the menu at the top of the page.

The Fittons section tells of the life of Bertha Fitton (born 1899) up to the date of her marriage in 1923 and her ancestors back to the start of the 19th Century.

The Boothmans section tells of the life of Edwin Boothman (born 1900) and his ancestors back to the start of the 19th Century. Edwin's story covers his life until his marriage to Bertha Fitton in 1923 and is told as the Boothman Family Story thereafter until 1946.

The Sparkes section tells of the life of Margaret May Sparkes (born 1895) up to the date of her marriage in 1918 and her ancestors back to the start of the 19th Century.

The Swinburns section tells the story of Tom Swinburn (born 1894) and his ancestors back to the start of the 19th Century. Tom's story covers his life until his marriage in 1918 and is told as the Swinburn Family Story thereafter until 1946.

The Swinburn-Boothmans section tells the story of the two families, now united by the marriage of Dave and Muriel, continuing from 1946 until 1950.

The Hales section tells of the life of Isabel Hale (born 1884) up to the date of her marriage in 1907 and her ancestors back to the start of the 19th Century.

The Hamshars section tells the story of Ernest Hamshar (born 1884) until his marriage in 1907 and his ancestors back to the start of the 19th Century and is told as the Hamshar Family Story thereafter.

The Barnard Line section has ancestral details of this line - the full story of the Barnard's is yet to be added.

The Story of a Postcard, Jack's Story and Harold's Story are anomalies. These are stories and memoirs of wider interest with only tangential links to the main family. 

Further material will be added in due course.

Much of the 20th Century information has been gathered through discussions with various members of the family and reference to contemporary photographs and documents. The ancestral background to the diary with information about the various strands of the family prior to 1900 has been compiled from research from the sources listed below.

A note about sources

Census data (C) is available from many online sources - most of which require a subscription. This data is very reliable, as it comprises images of the original census records. These are handwritten by the census enumerator and are sometimes difficult to read. My subscription is with, which is the source for all the census data. The first census was in 1841 and records are available for every decade thereafter up to 1911. The census data is kept ‘secret’ for 100 years so the 1921 census will not be available for a few years yet. Original census records are available (and I have copies) but these are copyright so only transcriptions are given here.

FamilySearch is a service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). It has worldwide genealogical records that predate the UK Civil Registration certificates, which are only available post 1837. Reliability of the data from FamilySearch is variable and conformation of events prior to 1837 would require searches in parish registers. These are available locally or on microfiche in the Family History Centres also provided by the Mormons. The nearest one to me is at Orpington but this information is growing in availability online. Family Search is now much expanded and also includes most of the data that I obtained via Ancestry. Membership is free.

Birth, Marriage and Death (BMD) certificates were first recorded nationally in 1837. They are listed in a searchable form at and the certificates are available from the Home Office Identity and Passport Service at Certificates may be ordered online at a cost of £9.25 per certificate and are dispatched by post within a few days.

The National Archives (NA) is the UK government's official archive. It has scans of documents lodged in the National Records Office at Kew. Their documents can be purchased online.

1939 National Registration - At the outbreak of the war, National Identity Cards were issued to everyone resident in the United Kingdom and the information recorded was made available online in 2015 (excluding the records for those still alive). In 1939 the decision was made to use similar methods as for the census (planning had started for the 1941 census but this was never completed because of the war). On Friday 29th September 1939 householders were required to record details on the registration forms and then on the following Sunday and Monday the enumerators visited every householder, checked the form and there and then issued a completed identity card for each of the residents. The Identity Card was finally abolished in February 1952, but the identity numbers were used within the National Health Service to give everyone an individual number. People who had a national identity number during the Second World War or just after still have the same number as their NHS identity today. When people changes their name during the period of registration (usually through marriage) the original records were amended. 1939 NR data is available from