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18 Oct 2014

A sense of place

There is a restaurant in Covent Garden ' a sense of place'. What more apt phrase for our time could there be. Half our troubles are from not knowing where we fit in, holding out for treats and surprises that aren't coming, and wondering where the money'll come from and the friends are going.

Harvest Day might be a time for reflecting that all our food and everything we need is coming from the ground, and let's include the sea in that.

I've been reading a detailed photographic tour of Ironbridge, one of those terrific small-town, countryside-nestling gems of a place. Pork pies in the market, a smattering of Victorian industrial remnants, an old-time pharmacy and chance of a walk along the river or open-skied hill-land.

Today I'm checking out the Midlands. I've been impressed for years with my Ellen Bagshaw's aunt, the first Ellen Bagshaw that went to Birmingham in her twenties and two (Irish) husbands later, started all over again in Stoke on Trent, running a lodging house. Her children got stuck into life here and the youngest girl especially had a hard life. Second husband was a coal miner in Werrington village, but she it was that died. It's her descendants, the Cookes, I'd be keen to call in on while I'm in Stoke.

Place and geography are important. My grandmother's family collected an assortment of unusual birthplaces as they moved around the country; moving every three years, being Methodist ministers. My uncle was born 1909 in Kidsgrove and his sister a few years later in Burslem. Their mother came into the world at Retford, some other Midlands town. The canal network, the yellowed tufty grass, warm glow from the redbrick buildings, the suddenly rising light industrial blocks; all giving a flavour of the landscape and place where people live.

The Changing Net

I really enjoy putting my feet up and having a good google. Almost as much as I enjoy typing blog entries in bare feet sitting on the train. What's happened? The formerly to-be-found text-heavy informative pages have disappeared! I used to love stumbling on someone's nice long chatty account of the specialist interest the compiler had researched.

These old pages were, unquestionably, ugly, but what joy as a fellow enthusiast to stumble-upon them. I found an ancient page pulled together in the nineties by an Australian professor now himself in his nineties. He proved just as erudite and informative when contacted by email. This in sharp contrast to those innumerable snippety web accounts on show these days where you are fortunate if you spy a whole sentence pieced together.

We've for years seen, possibly at a distance, MSN offering a load of cobblers about celebrities, usually a photo with a paragraph of made-up (readable) nonsense. How I crave those heights of journalism today!

Alighting on the tourist information and Lonely Planet (!)  pages for Stoke on Trent, I couldn't find a single sentence in among the drop-down menus, clickable images to sub sub sub pages.

I have still found a number of websites by googling. There's a search engine that will actually ignore the top hundred websites leaving you in peace to find some decent content. The Geocities and Angelfire sites of old were chockfull of wording, with a couple of boxy rectangular 2d pictures to wash it down with.

The data on Ancestry is terrific, but needs a writtem narrative to make sense of it all. In the meantime, if you find a site with journalistic-length content, give them a thumbs up.

14 Sep 2014

Viewing blogspot, blogger posts on Windows Phone devices

As I, apart from the members of the Honourable Society of Spammers, am the only person alighting on these pages, this is largely a note to self.

The trick to accessing blogspot posts on a Windows Phone is refreshingly simple.

Take the web address which appears in your browser, for example:

... and change that last digit of 1 to a 0. Hit return, and that's it! Google's under-investment in Blogger technology successfully papered over.

13 Sep 2014

In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire missing records might just happen

For those following the saga of my wonderful 3 Dibben sisters from Tarrant Gunville, Dorset, Eliza Doolittle's rhyme now has new meaning:

Their first marriages, of course, haven't yet turned up.  However, Hertford records gave us a clue about Jane's husband. And believe it or not, Hereford is the repository that can tell us about Rebecca's husband. The two counties are sufficiently far apart culturally and economically that they are rarely mentioned in the same breath; hence the perceived peculiarity of the My Fair Lady rhyme.

Hertfordshire, a built-on brownscape; roundabouts taking the place of market gardens, lonely hairdressers and dentists filling in for the warm noisesome jostle of 19th century coaching hostelries. This county's proximity to Europe's premier city never more than a blink away.

Ah, Hereford, golden valley in motorway-less terrain, not en route to Wales, the Cotswolds with cow byres, cider presses and SAS dorms the only infrastructure for miles. Driving it is a forgivable pleasure. Small wonder the two counties are rarely conflated.

There is a rumour, baselessness or not an irrelevancy, of an excited family come to research their Welsh border ancestors, and taking the train from Stansted Airport to the royal town of Hertford believing it would hold Hereford's records.  Disappointed, they went on their way.

At Hertford, Ellen Williams's marriage age 38 is recorded at pretty St Mary Cheshunt. Her father revealed as John Williams, 'gentleman', 1864.

At Hereford, Rebecca Cox's marriage age 37 will reveal her father Mr Cox in the wedding registers of Little Hereford, near Tenbury Wells, 1852.

The two men having allegedly married Jane and Rebecca Dibben respectively.

And Hampshire? Well, Rebecca's third husband lived with her at Ringwood in that county, and left a will in 1837 - unlikely to add much to the sum of knowledge but nonetheless worth having, in the effort to make sense of these sisters and their peregrinations.

27 Aug 2014

Dibben my toes in Guernsey; fresh fish sustains marathon record hunt

The 3 Dibben sisters are daughters of Mary Speed born 1770 in Ansford, Somerset.  I'd assumed they'd all died young, and even found some possible atrocious marriages in the Dorset parish registers or a death which seemed to fit of one of the girls in Shaftesbury, possibly in service.  I had a nice tidy date of death for the father, too, at a modest 35.  Wrong on all counts!

The Dibben girls were mostly born and all were brought up at, Tarrant Gunville, shortened to Gunville in the censuses I found out (eventually) somewhere in the area known as the Cranborne Chase.  Much prettier than the Blackmore Vale, and somewhere my grandfather used to like taking us.  There's a pretty airfield at Compton Abbas which we visited.

There was actually a fourth sister but she wasn't as interesting - for starters, her marriage is actually right there in the registers at Sturminster Newton, in plain sight.  Ha - that was *not* the case for her three sisters, none of whom stayed in Dorset.

To begin at the beginning....

Does combing an entire island's records for Joneses sound completely bonkers? That is what I found myself doing after popping into Kew for 'an hour' to read two wills.  Seven hours later I staggered into Kew Fish and Kebab Bar (somehow managing its two separate identities) for deep refuelling after a marathon hunt.  It all started with: 'I give £50 to my niece Mary Jones of Guernsey'...

I quickly pinned down Mary, and her mother (born 1791 in Henstridge) to the island, and found aunt Elizabeth (missing from the 1851 census elsewhere) living with some of the family.  I was annoyed, having searched for Elizabeth and the Henstridge lady on Ancestry, but neither entry showed up as they were in the Channel Islands.  Ancestry doesn't always give you the answers first time round...  I still feel the Guernsey leap is beyond most researchers, so feel proud of cementing the link.

(To put the hunt into perspective Guernsey has a similar population to Guernsey County, Ohio, a county which I must confess I'd never heard of!)

So, I had fun discovering that my Mary Dibben, who'd sat on my tree ignored by me for decades, had married a Mr Jones (no record found) and gone to live in Guernsey.  All thanks to that will snippet.

I feared the whole island would be a black hole, as the census grabbed by Ancestry seems to be the only window on its world, and even that 'stops talking' after 1911.  But incredibly, the whole island's civil registration records are on 3 tidy, titchy, microfilms in the LDS corner at Kew.  I paid attention for a bit to the indexes then decided to fly solo.  That's when I combed 13 years of deaths from 1891-1904 for any Jones mentions whatsoever.  And boy did that pay off!  

Bang bang the two Jones sisters were listed, dying of 'decadence naturelle' - pretty sure this isn't quite right - with *parents* listed as William Jones and Mary Dibben.  But here was a third sister, listed as Jane Jones widow, and the husband's name was Giovanni Leone.  Oooh!  Thank you Guernsey for listing both parents on the death record.

Jane Janes (widow) is listed in the English probate indexes with her heir as Salvator Leone.  Oooh!  Did she, I wonder, step out to Naples as a young woman, and rear a family in Italy?  Are there still cousins swinging on the vines who own a nice bit of the south?  Of course not: it was an autumnal marriage, perhaps in the US.  Salvator was a charming and much-loved stepson, and a leading member of a crime gang in the (fictional) Grand Theft Auto series.

Neither Jane nor her mother, or 2 Dibben sisters of her mother, have marriages which turn up anywhere.  

Aunt Jane Dibben said she was a spinster when she snared a Barrister of Chancery aged 38, so either she never married her first husband (a soldier) or she was 'keeping things simple' when she remarried.  Aunt Rebecca Dibben was with her second husband for 3 weeks in total, but out of her 4 marriages, it was the only one that produced offspring.  Possibly the long trip to the groom's home town of Cockermouth finished him off, while the tough bride gave birth and returned to Dorset simultaneously.  Her son Abraham was later cuckolded by the Marquis of Bath's young cousin; the Baths cranked into action pretty swiftly.   They talked young Thynne out of marrying the upstart Exeter girl; having the lady and her infant chaperoned out to sunny sweaty Australia for a nice life and at least a thousand pounds in the kitty.  She would keep her mouth shut and just please to notify the solicitors when she was dead.  Thynne bounced back though from his troubles, marrying the playwright Sheridan's twiglet and producing a bunch more Carteret Thynnes.  Poor Abraham, whose birth was confusing enough, is found at the same hotel as his mother, in Brighton, stated as 'unmarried' and finally marries his housekeeper after news reaches England that he is at last a widower.

(There is just a chance that the father was Thynne's younger brother, who was spookily despatched to India six months later, on the very same boat that took care of the mother-and-baby!  He was described as 'very good-looking' which sounds dangerous.  He was dead within the year, and for good measure so was the boat, catching fire in Liverpool docks.)

Poshly-named Sophia Henrietta Carteret Thynne, born in London and technically the legitimate grandchild of Rebecca Dibben, became Sophia Henrietta Cartwright Goodfellow, a labourer's wife in colonial Australia.  (No other births fit: I'll need the certificate to prove it.)

Contrastingly, Jane Dibben's illegitimate daughter Ellen Williams from the sticks became a very wealthy woman, still a catch age 40, with a £2000 marriage settlement, a lovely wedding in Cheshunt's flint-faced church, a cook, governess and housemaid and a husband working right on Covent Garden piazza.  Life's not fair, is it?

(Her household gets an unexpected mention in a website about Gorran in Cornwall where her cook E Liddicoat hailed from.  Very interesting diaries there by Mr Sanders, including by coincidence details of a fight where my Blacksmith Richards at Gorran twists someone's 'harm'.)

As to the Guernsey mob from Mary Dibben, I've set my sights on her daughter Mrs Tau-de-vin, a lovely Channel Islands name.  I wrote to the Greffler of Guernsey who is passing me on to the Ecclesiastical Court, who like a bit of French in their work.  I am hoping for a will to explain where the Taudevins disappeared to: they maybe became Toadvins.  One son died in Queensland the same year as Jane Dibben's boy (who was actually a victim of foul play).  I suspect coincidence, but all is not yet revealed.

I realise now why I failed to find Mary Dibben's death: it would have been indexed under her maiden name.  Very confusing this island business of women keeping their maiden name: the Scots have a similar custom.

The elder Jones boy, another cabinet maker (like his cousin Robt Dowding), sailed for Tasmania in 1857 with his growing tribe and wife Emma Mary Ann Dale.  Two junior Jones girls went out to Australia: Rebecca responded to extensive advertising and emigration agency work in the island to sail in 1854 on the government ship as a servantmaid knocking a few years off her age.  Families with a preponderence of girls like the Joneses had priority.  The clear motive from the Bishop of Adelaide was to curb crime and immorality resulting from large numbers of single men and unsuitable women!  Rebecca arrived in October on an alcohol-free vessel which only saw one death.  There would be poor harvest that summer, and it took her 6 years to find the promised husband - a shoemaker from Devon.  Her younger sister went out later and married the widower of the Mount Barker Inn in the Adelaide Hills, age 36.  The whole family were fertile fairly late, so this was not obstacle.

The two lucky Guernsey girls attained very good ages in Adelaide and in Surrey Hills.

Here endeth the saga!

But not quite -Rebecca, who was first out the gate to Adelaide, chose to give her first boy the middle name of Welford...

24 Aug 2014

The X chromosome and its family history surprises

I learn recently that the X chromosome contains no material from a man’s father and none from your father’s father if you are a woman.  This leads to the curiously imbalanced chart below, which you will spot contains a Fibonacci pattern.

Table 1.  This table shows the contribution ancestors make to the total (pair) of X sex-chromosomes for a female: I have italicised the female’s father’s contribution.

In my family, the female (my mother)’s F-M-F-M-F-M (father’s mother’s father’s mother’s father’s mother)and F-M-M-M-F-M, are by complete coincidence, the same person, Elizabeth Cock born 1770 in Gwithian Sands, Cornwall.  Elizabeth accounts for three-eighths of the material on one of my mother’s X chromosomes, and thus three-sixteenths of my X chromosome.  This is either 12 or 24 times what she ‘ought’ to contribute being only 1 out of my 128 5xgreat-grandparents.

My X-chromosome is made up of my mother’s two X-chromosomes combined.  My Y-chromosome has been passed down from father to son, down to myself, so my father did not pass on to me an X chromosome.

My sisters have a second X-chromosome, from their father, which is made up of their paternal grandmother’s two X-chromosomes combined.  A stonking quarter of this comes from one lady, Ann Charlton, born 1785 in Whittonstall, south Northumberland, our 4xgreat-grandmother.  She is their F-M-F-M-F-M.  As there are 64 people in this generation, Ann is oversubscribed by a factor of 16, or of 8 – if you treat this X-chromosome as being strictly on the paternal side.  Were Ann to have other son’s daughter’s son’s daughter’s son’s daughters (which she does, the Embletons), we could in theory identify genes on the chromosome for which she was responsible.
As the pair of sex chromosomes are only 2 out of 46, the fact that some grandparents did or didn’t contribute makes very little difference overall.

I, Miss Dinah Widdows

As told to...

I, Miss Dinah Widdows do note the pitiful number of descendants which I have left. You can find many in family from my husband’s daughter Grace. Her poor mother died at 27 but she still has more in family than I.   I have lately been spending a month or more getting acquainted with them, and golly me, it took me by surprise to meet them all. I did not think they expected to see me, a lady born in 1712, one hundred years before Waterloo.  I also took a moment to look at my sister Sarah's family but I didn’t keep up with them. No sooner I contacted them then had another infant been born. They do say as one of her descendants is born every single week that passes. I don’t know. I can’t imagine looking at the girl why nature works so.  Now you will probably all be thinking that I am own sister to Martha Widdows, and you may know all about how she died, done in by her rotten husband.  Ha!  Well you would be wrong and mighty awkward it is navigating around the tree, I must say. Why I could barely find a record my even having been alive. Which I surely was, an I brought up that ungrateful Sarah and the silly brothers the Lord cursed me with. You would have to be a magician to know that I married George Dyke but even guesswork won’t tell you my father’s name. Oh no that is one secret which is very well kept. And if you find out where I was born well I wish you’d tell me. But no, I must grudgingly admit I am not of any genealogical consequence whatsoever.  I had 2 or 3 very good grandchildren, I let them disappear from the records without trace. I tried asking the earth but I’m not getting any answers, even my other sister who never fussed about getting married, even she managed to produce grandchildren who stayed in the records. Oh well tut tut. You see there are matriarchs or fat old queen bees as I call ’em! Even among Sarah’s offspring.  But what’s this I see.  A GenesReunited message saying my grandson George got off his hindquarters and sired a massive breed?  And now here’s FindMyPast trying to tell me granddaughter Martha went off and kept an inn in Emeld Empsty.  And Google shouting that the US Ambassador’s wife was a Miss Dyke, one of George’s lot.  That’s something little Miss Sarah can’t boast about.  Well now I can sleep in peace.

Dinah and Sarah named in the will of Edward Murrow, Almesforde, Somerset 1732.  Lots of information about Sarah, but nothing on Dinah.