About the research

How Raoul tackled researching the historical information for "Our Own World History"


Raoul has been interested in family history since his teens, and he had some helpful starting points in a family tree prepared by his great grandfather in 1902, and another published by Middelmann relatives in the early 1930s.

For many years he collected anecdotes and items of interest when the opportunity arose.

   When in 1967 Richard, our first child was born,
   I wrote to his great-grandmother Julia Holtermann,
   nee Orloff, to write a letter to her first great-
   grandchild. When she did so, she devoted much of
   it to her visit in 1906/7 to St. Petersburg where
   two of her brothers were studying at the university.
   Her reply presented quite a challenge since she
   stayed with, and shared the life of, members of
   the most prominent Russian government elite at
   the time, including Prime Minister Petr Alexandr
However, when he began his research in earnest, it was an enormous challenge.

   In a practical way, for Helen's family I had
   to start at scratch, beginning with data
   gathered from living family members on Helen's

   I obtained birth, death and marriage certificates
   of Helen's direct forebears. I found shipping records,
   a diary, entries in post office directories, miner's
   licences, etc. The challenge in Australia is to seek
   to go back to forebears in Europe. The International
   Genealogical Index of the Mormons provided leads further
   back into time, especially for Cornwall and Suffolk.
   On the German side of the family I have obtained 
   from the Mormons films of the records of several 
   parishes of relevance to the families. I was thus able 
   to correct some information already at hand and to 
   find additional information. I sought to throw light 
   on the Orloff forebears. As a result I am fairly 
   confident that we descend directly from one of the 
   Orlov brothers who were involved in the murder in 
   1762 of Tsar Peter III.
   Further back in history there are tax records in 
   England and Germany, returns of protestations of 
   loyalty (in 1641/2 to Charles I who was beheaded in 
   1649), local histories, etc. Where the issue of 
   dissenting religion becomes important, there are 
   books giving details of pastors/ministers, on strife 
   within churches, etc. Repeated re-orientations of 
   trade routes in England and Germany (from 
   north/south to east/west and again to north/south) 
   allow for insights into likely economic and social 
   pressures our forebears lived under. 
Raoul's research added another dimension to his wide-ranging travels, and over the years his quest for historical information has lead to many fascinating encounters in distant places.
   In one sense nearly all non-work related travel over 
   the past fifty years has been in part related to family 
   Thus in 1961 I visited Castrop and 
   discovered details of the Middelmann land holding 
   in 1826 and met with a descendant. In 1969 Helen 
   and I visited relatives in South Africa. In 1979 I took 
   our eldest to Castrop, visited the house of GG-
   grandfather Proffen, foresters, at 
   Sievershausen/Solling and met with local 
   In 1984 I met with distant Sieben 
   relatives in Aachen and Holterman relatives in 
   Hanover and Lamstedt, saw the Orloff residence in 
   London, met with distant Conochie relatives, and 
   explored Helen's Cornish roots in Cornwall. In 1985 
   Helen and I gathered information on the Holtermann 
   Foundation of 1809 at Dorum. In 1989 I explored 
   the Proffen family around Goettingen. 
   In 1994, together with Helen and, I encountered 
   the traces of forebears at Tuettleben, near Gotha. 
   In 1997 I explored the Holtermann traces in Cole Camp, 
   MO, and Elwood, NE, USA and met with distant 
   relatives. In 1998 Helen and I tracked down Waddell 
   roots at Glasgow, Scotland, Conochie and Meikle 
   roots around Larbert and Ecclesmachan, Stirling, 
   Scotland, Lee roots at Tanfield, Durham, Rhodes, 
   Sykes, etc. at Pontefract, Ackworth and Swillington, 
   Yorkshire, and Hill/Lee roots at Limerick, 
   The most distant place visited of some significance 
   to the family history was Irkutsk, and the shores of 
   Lake Baikal. In 1918-1919, at Harbin, Manchuria, 
   great-uncle Eugene Orloff, a British engineer, was in 
   charge of the assemblage of hundreds of "decapods" 
   (10 wheel locomotives), as part of the Allied support 
   of Admiral Kolchak who was killed in the prison in 
   Irkutsk where his body was subsequently thrown 
   into a hole in the ice of the Angara River. Eugene 
   went west most probably all the way to Perm, west 
   of the Ural, before leaving Russia in Vladivostok to 
   return to Britain by way of Japan and Canada. 
   Places of significance for the family I still would 
   like to visit are Pesochnaya, near Sychevka, Harbin, 
   Vladivostok, Stockholm, Trondheim, Bergen, 
   Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Widnes (Lancashire), 
   Gallipoli (Turkey), etc.
Besides the challenge of getting information about long-ago times and distant places, there were other unexpected difficulties that cropped up in the course of Raoul's research.
   The greatest difficulty I had was getting around 
   the suicide in 1905 in Australia of one of Helen's 
   great-grandfathers, in terms of information on forebears 
   as well as how to refer to it in the book. Also difficult 
   was sorting out the family relations in Durham of another 
   of Helen's great-grandfathers and his parents, and sorting 
   out the different Orlov brothers in Russia and their 
Despite the wealth of detail contained in his book, Raoul's research is ongoing.
  A book such as Our Own World History is never complete. 
   New information comes to hand more or less regularly 
   and more or less by accident, and previously 
   collected information needs to be re-evaluated.
So we may perhaps see a sequel in a few years!


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