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22 Dec 2010

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29 Oct 2010

A photographic haul at the station

Very excited as just come back from trip to cousin in Devon with large haul of 500 digital images- photos, postcards, documents, letters. It is pretty comprehensive for my Carlines and Aireys, who were Northcountry folk, while our component branch rested for the main part in North London. There were some oddities - my grandmother turns out to have been baptised at the church where I have for the last two years helped run a Cub Scout Pack. My small cousins are evidently at school in a very lovely setting in Dorset which I know intimately from having walked around it with my sister on our 'early morning runs'. Kath Davies writes a letter of condolence to her aunt on the death of her uncle. Kath's last remaining child died a week ago, (74 years later). Kath could never have written that letter of condolence.

Finally there is a photograph for grandma's grandma Ellen Carline, and she is sitting in her chair to boot - was the photograph thus taken at home? I have seen the chair, a Windsor, much more comfortable than it looks. Ellen looks a stoic as well she might having seen off an alcoholic husband yet provided so fully for her children that her estate was not finally resolved until 1976, three-quarters of a century after her demise, and around the time of my own birth. I was further able to compare her photograph with that of her cousin W B Hannan, the Jamaican farmer, and I was pleased to report a significant similarity. Their cousin 'H E C' sends a postcard of the Eyam Plague memorial service of 1902 with a pinhole through the likeness of herself and her (deceased) husband. Having scanned in the image, I'm now not sure where the pinhole was.

Another postcard begins with the words 'Dear Cousin' and is signed E Turner, of Woodseats, Sheffield 1911. It may be that the word 'cousin' is my fevered imagination, but I'd like to yet think that Mrs Turner might prove to be a granddaughter perhaps of John Bagshaw, needle grinder of Sheffield - Ellen's uncle (update: unfevered and corroborated).  It's most pleasant to have this deluge of information from the past, though I'm sanguine that it may be the last for a little while.

3 Oct 2010

Meat in your surname soup

I am focussing these days on my father's family in Manchester and the northern towns. They possessed common lastnames but no middle names. They left no wills. You can't search through the small and neighbourly parish records as you can in southern villages, nor are they in and out of each other's houses at census time.

You really have to work to tease out the data.

Yet I have traced marriages for these people with rather common names: Ann Gibson, Jane Bell, 'Sarah Stevenson', John Jackson, Elizabeth Ann Jones, Edward Jones (no relation).

Thanks to the census, principally, one can follow families through fairly persistently. It would have been an impossible exercise without today's finding aids:

* the census (for a birthplace for Jane Bell)
* a parent's will viewed for free at LDS (for Sarah Eleanor Stephenson)
* checking the original registers having found a possible marriage in a named parish on LancashireBMD (for Edward Jones)
* the 1900 census for the US (which told me that John Jackson had married about 1878 and that his wife's name was Mary Jane)
* the Ancestry probate index which allows you to search for a few towns (like Birkenhead) but mostly only counties: it yielded an administration for J T Jones in Birkenhead with his daughter Elizabeth's married name
* the Newcastle Courant newspaper available free at BL/LDS which yielded an announcement of marriage for Ann Gibson with the crucial information: daughter of Charlton

All these tools helped enormously, yet they've only recently become available, due to the rising revenue from family historians, which stems in part from the hard work of those who have transcribed records accurately and shared them freely.

Mystifying motives: the 1911 census index

Interestingly the 1911 census has twice listed relatives on the form and then these were crossed off so they DON'T appear in the index! One of these was Ellen Elizabeth Cooke (really Cook) who was a nurse in Stoke on Trent living with her aunt Hannah. Ellen must have got called in to the hospital or something as she is deleted from the form and missing entirely from the indexed census. Very strange. Without that deleted line I would never have found Ellen's lovely granddaughter a piano teacher in Derbyshire who has her photographs and stories.
Ellen was born in 1881, and her parents died shortly afterwards. She isn't living at home in 1891 nor in 1901, so without the 1911 census, we'd never have known about her.

Reply from BrightSolid 18 Sept 2010
Good afternoon,

Thank you for your email.

If the entries are crossed out on the original page they will not be included in our transcript as the individuals would not be present when the census was being recorded.

Best regards,

FindMyPast Support Team

Here’s my gruntworthy reply from the usually on-the-money bright solid. The whole point of the index and indeed the interest family historians have in the data, isn’t to know precisely whether a given relative was at home though this is nice, nor to have an exact list of who WAS at home (with the implicit assurance that those who bedded down elsewhere must strictly be omitted). No! It’s to capture all and sundry data which could be useful genealogically. An index which omits this data to satisfy notional and conflicting criteria does not serve the genealogical community well!

25 Sep 2010

The written word is back: in praise of letters

I tread a different path from Churchill's daughter Lady Mary Soames, who recently eulogised the late letter, whose estate has been entailed to its fast thoughtless cousin, E Male.

I have had some success in contacting family relatives by letter, from across the chasm of time, and a couple of hundred miles and several regional accents in space. It can take as little as half an hour to find a cousin on the internet these days, and yet you can make your letter look as if you've been scrabbling through gravestones and quaint newspaper cuttings to beat a path to their door.

People will on the whole be very happy to have a letter from you, but it may take time to reply, and they may never get round to it. It could take a couple of years for a reply to arrive, perhaps from a grandson or cousin who is given the letter at a later date.

I might upload some sample letters that have worked, to this blogosphere. However, there is no template. Success could be as high as 70%, and it depends on a few factors:

1) Making sure the letter is properly personalised, tailored to the recipient. I tend to do a slightly different style for men than I do for women.
2) Making sure you have the right address and that the recipient is still alive and is in fact the person you seek.

3) The letter needs to make sense to the person receiving it, which means:
• Giving a bit of a handle on what kind of person you are through tone of voice, old world courtesy or by clearly siting yourself at the friendly end of the inquisitive/psychotic spectrum
• Mentioning some names, places or an occupation which will ring bells with the recipient and put them at ease, or give them a warm fuzzy glow
• Remembering that people are enormously trusting and won’t doubt you, particularly if you are penning your letter by hand with a British residential return address
• Avoid starting your letter with ‘Dear Mr Starcher, I am studying all the Starchers in Englandshire, and my book is priced keenly at £19.95 making an enormous coffee table gift for you and a loved one’... or anything that looks like a sale/con/chain letter

4) Leave the door open to future communication, but don't indicate that you expect anything. Make some options for their response subtly apparent: they can email back, use the self-addressed stamped envelope, 'add to the tree', write back a short note, pass the letter on to cousins who ARE interested, or they can decide not to get in touch at all. Once you've established contact, do maintain it, and be prepared for a second wave of revelations. You might find sending out a questionnaire could be useful. I’ve never done this myself, but , but I've seen examples where it has worked. Questions might be: What was your father's occupation. At which addresses or streets did the family live? What did your parents do during the War?

5) Select your target carefully: there are myriad considerations. Do you write to the eldest or youngest child, man or woman, those living near or far from the ancestral homeland? Are there any upsetting facts which will determine to whom you write and what you tell them? The ideal candidate is about 40, has watched Who do you think you are? has seen the Genes reunited ads on Friends reunited, is female, has a parent living (perhaps nearby), has time to answer your letter, has a working computer (or no computer at all), is at home a fair bit, isn’t busy when your letter arrives, lives near to the ancestral homeland but not in it, has occasion to have pleasant recollections of impressions of the past, and has a story of their own that they can (proudly) tell. They might also be interested in history, or they might live near good walking country. I found a piano teacher living on her own in the Peak district, and I was sure she would reply, as indeed she did. Our ideal correspondent needs not to have inherited property by stealth, else they possess the parallel attribute of barking frostily at callers ‘how did you get this number?’

6) If you must call, get ready for rejection, and run through roleplay endlessly until you feel sick. I've done this twice as an adult and felt very ill before and elated after. The two key people I called were fairly useful (invaluable at the time), but in hindsight I’d picked the wrong targets. Write letters instead.

Good luck with your letters - I'm sure they will go down very well.

20 Aug 2010

Glossop folks

Glossop folks
I started out with 13 Bagshaw siblings – now I’ve run them all to ground except one who was yet unmarried at 46, so I’m not too worried about her – but where did she go I wonder!
The children were: John, William, Mary Ann, Edmund, Sarah, Ann, Ellen, Mary, Millicent, Hannah, Elizabeth Jane, Edmund, Joseph Nathaniel
Mary Ann – not living in 1841
Edmund – not living in 1841
Edmund – not living in 1841
Joseph Nathaniel – confirmed by deaths index for 1840
We know that nine children were living in 1843 from their father’s will and we know that these must be: John, Ann (from gravestones), Sarah, Mary, Millicent, Hannah, Elizabeth Jane from the 1851 census. William and Ellen were still alive in 1841 living respectively with their parents, and sister Ann. This does not prove that they were still alive in 1843 (and thus two of the nine), but we now know this to be the case anyway.
John – buried with his parents, date of death given as 1855 which ties him in as husband to Tabitha Handley and needle grinder in Sheffield. Also his youngest sister Jane was living with him there age 10. Died before his mother
Ann – buried with her parents, given as wife of Hugh Carr, who’d married at Bakewell in 1839. Died 1859, before her mother. Thanks very much to for getting my started with these siblings.
Ellen – found in 1861 census as Ellen Hannan in Birmingham. Subsequently found her marriage and a remarriage both in that city, and the full story including her move to Stoke-on-Trent, where the majority of her descendants still live. She named two children after her parents and her father’s occupation as miner is given on her marriage. Died 1878.
Mary – had a daughter Hannah Berresford who appears as niece in the 1881 census with her aunt Hannah. Tracking back to the 1871 census we guessed that her mother was Mary Bagshaw and we then found Mary’s marriage in 1866 in Sheffield which proved this. Mary was then 42, and had already had a son out of wedlock many years earlier. Died 1873.
Hannah – (died 1901)
Jane – found their double marriage (at Eyam) in 1861, the year after their mother’s death. We then found them in the census and could see Jane had many daughters – one (Hannah) became the wife of one of the Carrs, linking the two families together further. Died 1916 – having survived many of the next generation. She lived in Slatelands Road, Glossop, hence the subject of this post.
William – the last to be run to ground, William. We found the record of his probate entry on Ancestry, conducting a probate index search for Bagshaws in Derbyshire. This document not only proves his death details (in 1848 in New York State), but links him firmly with his Eyam origins, and identifies him as the father of Elizabeth Bagshaw Benson. Finally it provides a current address for her mother twenty years later, under her new married name. Died before his mother.
My own great-great-great-grandmother, Millicent, who died 1881. We knew what happened to her.

This was the home of Elizabeth Jane Bagshaw, who had four married daughters. Of the three surviving, only Ann lived in Glossop. Ann’s grandson still live on High Street West.
Millicent Carr (daughter of Ann) had several children born in Glossop, and one of them (Robert Knott) married Eveline Jane Higginbottom in 1911.
Christine Margaret, a descendant through various Margarets and Ellens, from Ellen Bagshaw, has moved back to Brassington, Derbyshire from her native Stoke-on-Trent.

8 Aug 2010

Maternal lines and DNA

This tree shows my father's maternal line.  We knew of Kay Lee and her siblings as relatives, but didn't know they also shared a maternal line, until recently.  Thanks to the gravestone transcriptions for Eyam, the plague village, at, which point us in the right direction for Ann; and also my Grandma, whose notes I came across which state that Aunt Lilla was 'a cousin'.  
We are looking for volunteers to solve the next two riddles.  Were Elizabeth and Mary Hill sisters?
And was Granny from Old Town (Jane) the sister of Mary?
It would be nice to resolve these two puzzles.

4 Aug 2010

Finding Edward Jones

I've had some luck with my Bagshaw Carr connection. T G Carr left a will in 1919 naming lots of known relatives and a couple of new ones, particularly one, nephew 'Edward Jones', who had been plaguing me ever since this will arrived in the mail. I have finally found Edward. It turns out T G's eldest sister Martha Ann was the responsible party. The 1881 census for Liverpool makes it all look so easy, provided you knew what you were looking for. Martha A Jones is listed, with a son Edward, plus some daughters too. Her birthplace, Eyam, and age given match also. Still without specifically looking for her as Jones in this particular census you would have come a cropper. She married in Sheffield in 1862 and then remarried at Bootle in 1877 finally becoming the much needed Mrs Jones. I would like to acknowledge Lancashire bmd for hurtling me down this genealogical bobsleigh. I asked it which Carrs had married a Jones and it thoughtfully provided the Bootle 1877 couple listing Martha as both Healey, a corruption of her first married name, and Carr, her well beloved maiden name. I've found a Jones child, Erminie, wife of Harold Robert Butler. I plan now to run Edward to earth despite his fiendishly common, or in Heirhunters parlance,'bad', last name.

I have now found Edward's baptism and marriage and made a dangerous assumption that he had a son lately living in the Wirral, bp: 26 Oct 1879 St Martin in the Fields Liverpool; marr: 23 Jun 1901 St Athanasius Kirkdale, Liverpool.  I will now get the will of his sister which would struggle to add to the recent haul.

Update: the sister's will and existence confuses everything. Her heiress Ilene is upset at the illegitimacy involved. A third sister's existence in Manchester is stated and proving hard to iron out. Edward Jones, our original man, got his son through Wharton and lived to see his super-feminist granddaughter Barbara G Jones (Walker) born.

27 Jun 2010

I believe in free will(s)

These were obtained *for free* at London LDS family history centre in an afternoon on Tuesday 11 August 2009.  Who says you have to pay for family history – this would have been £90 in wills had I bought them (which I never would).  It’s amusing that the biggest leads came from the references to ‘Jane Williams’ and ‘Mary Price’.  Ok Mary had a massive telltale middlename of ‘Orledge’ which made it sodding impossible *not* to find her, and her helpful will names all seven children in full which again made misidentification really tricky – particularly as there just weren’t many Welsh Prices still less English ones in English Enfield Lock.  Jane Williams was a bit less of a cheat.  Sure I knew from the context that Jane was born a Hambly in Gwinear, Cornwall, 1826 so using some of this information helped me find her marriage (Jane Hambly, Samuel Williams, 1847 Cornwall) and the rest of this information plus the husband’s name duly discovered, to find her in 1861 Hampshire (Jane Williams born about 1826 Gwinear, wife of Samuel) and then with the family details listed to find her in the 1881 census where she is just Jane Williams born about 1826 ‘in Cornwall’.  Eeks!  Again very few Williamses in Hampshire, still less Cornish ones.

8 Jun 2010

Evans above- glazing Neath

Just a plea for any information on William Evans, plumber and glazier, Wind Street, Neath.  He was there in 1811, 1822 and quite possibly some time after this.  He was born 1770-1790 so most likely dead by 1841 census.  His wife Mary (Rees/Morton?) was the niece of Elizabeth (Rees) Pengilly, wife of Thomas Pengilly, Superintendent of the Neath-Abbey Iron-Works.

Pengilly died in 1822 and his widow three years later leaving a few pounds to niece Mary Evans.

The death duty registers show that Mary was the daughter of Elizabeth's sister, and my money is on her being the daughter of David and Ann (Rees) Morton of Neath or Cadoxton.

I descend from David Morton of Merthyr Tydfil who was either Mary's cousin or her brother.

6 Jun 2010

On being, irrr, 26, and facing death duty indexes

Oh what fun we had.  This is the sort of totally gemsmithery you can yield from a day digging at TNA's luscious IR26 reserves.  You don gloves, foam pads and reader-ticket, and then the page-turning records are all yours.

Check out this beauty: next of kin are named as the legatee died in the testatrix's sister's lifetime, before the money could be shared out to her.  This name's Frances Buck's daughter as Mary Lane, which we knew, but not for certain - it also confirms that there were no other surprise children for Frances.

You would look up the testatrix on's Death Duty Indexes (IR27) which you can do if you know the year the will was proved and the last name of the deceased.  Here is the entry for Rosamond Lane of Wymondham, confirming probate happened in Norwich in 1844 with the magic folio number (241) being given at the end of the line.
You can now go to the new IR26 catalogue at where you can thus identify IR26/1680 as being the one you need - see this snippet as an example.

I had about a dozen IR26 records I wanted to check at Kew and couldn't believe how difficult it was to get the appropriate references.  One had to guess one's way around TNA catalogue by putting in what reference you THOUGHT might cover the required year and surnames.  A few other people had had problems, or had considered making a separate trip to Kew purely to consult the printed catalogue.  I spent two solid days in the heat making it my mission to extract the catalogue entries relating to IR26, which I was successfully able to do.  At one point I was on a train from Doncaster to Newark Northgate, where I knew I had only 3 minutes to change trains.  I shouldn't have even been in Doncaster but I guess I missed my stop.  On this leg of my journey I was standing up, holding the laptop as I used the 20mins and fading battery for yet more valuable processing time.  At one point I was struggling with four 200 MB files, with just my MS-DOS friend 'ssr' for company.

I did get to Kew last week with my reference numbers and a bill (not a phone bill - though it doesn't say so on TNA's site) and saw some pretty awesome records.  My favourite is will of 4xgreat-grandpa Lancelot Gibson who leaves £50 to the representatives of his brother William Gibson, legacy to be paid after the death of his widow.  These are named in the estate duty records as being: Mary Tate, Ann Gibson and two male Gibsons.  I was able to find the marriage of Mary Gibson, Q3 1860 Carlisle RD, to Thomas Tait and corresponding entries in the censuses thereafter which seemed highly likely.  For a long time I thought the 1860 marriage was too late as Lance was dead by then, but in fact though he was dead his estate carried on recording pertinent facts which are completely missing from the will.  I could never have positively identified Mary Gibson were it not for this document, nor would I have known about the Tait connection, as the Carlisle marriage was nowhere near the Gibson heartland.
In the event I found out lots about 'Mary Tate', including obtaining a recipe book written by her granddaughter at the time of World War One.

John Lain's IR26 record listed the children of his niece, who, being a woman was given only a life interest in his residuary estate - the children are certainly not listed in the will
William Whittock's IR26 record shows the children of his late brother, who had died in Philadelphia.  In the will the wording is terse - we certainly don't get the full married names provided here.
So, should anyone ask, YES, it is worth exploring IR26 records, but do make use of finding aids and get organised so that your day at Kew with the old books is a profitable one.

31 May 2010

Counting and tabulation

Third cousins
I have
- 3 siblings
- 7 first cousins
- 12 second cousins
then my parents have 56 great-aunts and uncles (or maybe even sixty)....
so we start to get the big numbers
= 160 third cousins

Who else knows how many 3rd cousins they have?

Seize quartiers
To marry in France you ought to know your grandparents' names and all their grandparents' names, too.  Do you?  I do but as one was illegitimate and we lack birth records for the four Irish, going further back would be rather tricksy.

I can't think of any other things to count, but if anyone can think of any?
My poshest relative is..... Emily Grace Bagnell a barrister's daughter, descended from Edward III and a young heiress with too much money and the consequent short life expectancy
My least posh relative is.... William Smith who was living with his niece, after his father died - she was the housekeeper - when the inevitable happened in Norfolk

#10 Trick to help your family history

Pinpoint your Jones using local records to help

I knew that my John E Jones was six in 1891, born in Tranmere, according to the census, but which one of the four possibles could be mine?
From using, and I divided them up
1884 - one was born in Tranmere, and died Q1 1885 Tranmere aged 0 (not ours)
1884 - one was born in Wallasey (not ours)
1885 - one was born in Q1
1885 - one was born in Q4 (too young, he would only be 5 in 1891)

Therefore Q4 1885 was not ours and therefore born in Wallasey
and Q1 1885 was ours, born Tranmere
If I have a spare £9.20 to spend, I could check.  The Cheshire baptisms listed at are very helpful too, for filling in gaps and identifying which parent had which child.

#9 Trick to help your family history

Try ALL the censuses

Look in all censuses for your missing relative, not just the first one after they leave home.  Edwin Padfield born c 1866 Glastonbury is not to be found in 1881, 1891 (misindexed as Ella) but does show up in 1901, 1911.  Richard Shugg isn’t at home at all after the age of 20 but he returns to England after his mother dies (according to her grant of probate), and sure enough he is in Cornwall in 1911 with enough information to work out where he has been in the intervening years.

#8 Trick to help your family history

Guess the name of the child
I had no idea what the name of Mr and Mrs Macdonald's child might be, and no easy way of finding out, so I guessed, and you can too.

I searched 1910-1915 for a child who had a middle name beginning with Manse.... (because the child's grandmother was Miss Mansell).  Success: one entry.  I found out that the child was called Margaret Mansell Macdonald, and it was very easy to move forward from there.  However be aware that the index chops off firstnames if they are too long, so it chopped off the last 'l' of Mansell.

#7 Trick to help your family history

If it sounds right, it is Wright

Drop some of the letters in the marriage search, Samuel Swift married as Sam; Catherine Lawry Marshall married as Catharine Lawry Marshall (looks the same doesn’t it!); Margaret Fewster married as 'Meggie'; Robert Hoskins married as Robert Hoskins Norman (in this case because the priest knew that he was illegitimate and wanted to humiliate him...)

#6 Trick to help your family history

Turn a death entry into an address

John Burnett James died in 1986 in Brighton but didn't leave a will.  I had hunted for a marriage but not got very far.  So, I found Jack James in the Brighton phone book then found a lady listed in the current electoral roll under that same address.  Jack's widow!

Yes she was still there even though she had died.  This led me to a number of places including the discovery that his widow had made the gloves for the present Queen's honeymoon in 1947.

#5 Trick to help your family history

Confirm the name at birth before you do anything

Ensure you have the right name.  I found that ‘Caroline Creed’ was really Catherine Creed after a lot of aggro.  The child was only at home in ONE census, and when she was, her name was given as 'Caroline' sending us on a wild goose chase, until I worked out she must have been Catharine.  I found that Mary Jones was born Edwyna M H Jones by guessing the registration district of her birth and looking for likely people.  As Edwyn was a family name, I knew I had the right lady.  I was stymied for a long time by her aunt listed as 'Ellen Jones' in the census.  She wasn't Ellen but Eleanor.  So, confirm the birth if you can before you go anywhere.  This is assuming the birth was registered of course (compulsory from 1870 onwards).

#4 Trick to help your family history

Leapfrog over that missing marriage

Find your relative in the census if you can’t find their marriage: I found that Elizabeth Stone married Thomas Lakin even though that marriage probably happened in India (and still hasn't turned up there); I found that Laura Emily Collins married James Young even though that marriage probably never happened at all.
Here's Laura at home in 1891 - I only spotted her as she was in the same household as her sister (who later proved her will).  I'd not have found Laura or her wonderful will without this census entry.
I had heard that Elizabeth settled in Oxford and had a lot of boys (mostly girls, actually!) But I couldn't find her marriage, or anyone in 1901 that matched her description, born in Secunderabad.  So I searched all Elizabeths born in India, and was later able to prove that Mrs Lakin was ours.

#3 Trick to help your family history

Make freebmd work for you - even when it's wrong

Don’t give up, not all freebmd marriages are recorded correctly.  I found the marriage of Jane Gibson to John Johnson even though it wasn’t coming up on freebmd.  I knew they'd married in Durham/Northumberland between 1851 and 1861, and you can hopefully spot the marriage below among several possibles.  Beatrice Keddell was wrongly indexed as Beatrice Kedde (now corrected).  Double check the reference numbers given on freebmd, one of them may be wrong which could mean, like me, the marriage you seek eludes you!

PS I didn't give up once I found the South Shields marriage - I stumbled on George Bell's transcriptions of St Hilda, the largest parish, and found the actual date and place of the Johnson marriage on this link

#2 Trick to help your family history

Match the marriage with the births

Here you can see marriages being matched for Olive M Skinner - you can't always be sure which one is which, but you can confirm things with the death indexes.  In this case, I found that my Olive married in Mitford, which I later proved from other sources.  What have you got to lose?

#1 Trick to help your family history

Hustle to get the modern day address you need for free
Not so long ago, you could copy and paste the results from into Notepad, and the grid co-ordinates would magically appear in the text: that's right the grid co-ordinates of your relative's house.  You could use streetmap to turn these into a postcode which would be within 100m of your relatives' house. This loophole has been closed but there may be others!

29 May 2010

A good few weeks

Time passes and Stuff happens.

Like how I met Mik Pearce in Praed Street, Paddington....

Mik is a descendant of William Pearce 1770, the builder of St Austell Methodist Chapel and convert to Wesleyan Methodism. My ancestress Mary was his sister, twenty years younger, and she retired to London, having in her youth married a Methodist minister and walking with him nearly 60 years.  William's boy and Mary's girl lived by chance, perhaps, in the same street, ten doors away, in Porchester Terrace - guess where.  That's right, round the corner from Paddington in Lancaster Gate.

While Mik and I were talking I answered a question about the status of being a genealogist by courtesy of membership of the Society of Genealogists.  A huffy man in the same cafe, said excuse me, but I'm a member of the SoG and it confers enormous status upon me (or words to that effect).  While we had drinks from the juice bar and examined Mik's excellent photograph collection, I glanced out the window to see a gentleman in a rugby shirt emblazoned 'Pierce' just sitting outside the cafe.

.... and Mrs Barrabrith at home in Hampstead Garden Suburb.  I would have met Jean the same week as Mik only I'd tied myself in a knot, and forgot that I might actually have to return to work after the Easter holiday.

I have a slew of Welsh cousins courtesy of my Cornish grandfather having summoned most of his ancestors to Wales in order for him to have been born there in 1925, the same year Jean R Williams was born a few miles away in the same town.  It was my task to find Jean and as you can readily divine, I did so.  Fortunately she had the middle name of Rodda and also there were scarcely any other Jean Williamses around (something of a surprise).

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Suburb from Jean's daughter and son-in-law who are intimately involved with the Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church perched in a delicious location at a certain distance from the Anglican Church a few yards away. It was to this (Free) church that Jean came with her husband, a Congregationalist minister, in 1961.

I also learnt of John Harvey Rodda's death in Mexico.  He was a mine manager and Jean's grandfather.  When things got too hot during the second revolution he sent his wife and family home to a house in Swansea, where they remained.  They never heard from John again.

I believe in free wills

In double-quick time I got nearly 100 transcripts of wills proven between 1858 and 1925.

These were obtained *for free* at London LDS family history centre, 20 on the afternoon of Tuesday 11 August 2009.  Who says you have to pay for family history – this would have been £90 in wills had I bought them (which I never would).

It’s amusing that the biggest leads came from the references to ‘Jane Williams’ and ‘Mary Price’.  Ok Mary had a massive telltale middlename of ‘Orledge’ which made it impossible *not* to find her.

(Curiously there is an 'Ordnance connection' - Jane's sons-in-law worked for Ordnance Survey in Southampton.  Mary lived in Ordnance Road, Enfield Wash.)

Jane Williams was a bit less of a cheat.  I knew from the context that this Jane must have been born a Hambly in Gwinear, Cornwall, 1826 so using some of this information helped me find her marriage in freebmd (Jane to  Samuel Williams, 1847 Cornwall) and this led me to find her in the 1861 census (Jane Williams born about 1826 Gwinear, wife of Samuel) and then with the family details listed to find her in the 1881 census where she is just Jane Williams born about 1826 ‘in Cornwall’.  But there are very few Williamses in Hampshire, and fewer Cornish ones, so I was actually able to find not only Jane but all bar one of her children's marriages (to William Tawse, John White, Betty Stoneley, Richard Jones, Rosa Burden, Charles Morris, Frederick Lewington).

Mary Price's own helpful will gives the full names of her seven children which again made misidentification really tricky – particularly as there just weren’t many Welsh Prices still less English ones in English Enfield Lock.

I wrote a little program to help people find wills like how I did -

Willed away

Somewhat cheaper than my foray into propping up the government with my certificate order (£210), the 14 wills I lately purchased weighed in at 'only' £70.

In fact one of them wasn't even a will but a single sheet grant of administration, purchased to learn the address of the intestate lady's nephew Arthur Ward in Peterborough.

This was one of the seven wills (and grant) which I would class as very useful, the remainder letting me down as follows
1) no relatives were named
2) no mention of the testator's sister or her family
3) very cryptic with no relationships given and no clue as to where people fitted into the tree, if at all
4) everything was left to a known individual

BUT on the whole the seven that were very useful led me to major family history breakthroughs
1) to living descendants of Emily Padfield (Hemmings) who have photos, stories to tell and an interest in family history
2) to the only known descendant of Sergeant Stephen Read by his Cornish wife, through Quebec, Glasgow, Liverpool, Clevedon and now Denmark
3) finally a lead to the family of Henry Young of Andover and his wife Lucy, whose 15-odd children born in the late 1800s had proved surprisingly difficult to bring down to the present day
4) closing the door on the 'spinster' daughters of my Charles Warren of Maperton, two of whom had taken husbands late in life in locations I would not have expected and could not have traced
5) a small step forward in finding Tom Garner's family.  I could have got their address way back in 1993 when I first learnt about the Garners from Dad's cousin Tom, however I had no idea then, that they were related.  Still this will moves me slightly closer to regaining this lost address
6) the wonderful will of Rowena Homily, three-times married and of uncertain parentage.  No clue who many of the recipients are, but I'm sure we'll find out as we zone in on the records.
7) the address of Arthur Ward as above

Most of the 400 wills I've bought (and seen many more) were acquired at least ten years ago when they were practically free, but I'm confident I'll be using this great resource again soon, adding as they do so much colour to our family trees.  (And no-one really knows much about how to use them, yet!)

Truly certifiable

The price of birth, marriage and death certificates took a hike recently from £7.00 to £9.20.  So I decided it was time to donate a pot of gold to the government and buy a lot of certificates while they still cost less than a starter at the Ivy.

Of the thirty certificates I ordered I had problems with seven:
1) Joseph Carter born 1919 Hull turned out not to be the son of Minnie Hebbard but of Gertrude Hebbard.  This was carelessness
2) Robert Gray born 1924 Salisbury turned out not to be the son of Mary Annie Maidment but of another Miss Maidment.  This too was carelessness
3) Jane A Gibson died 1923 Kendal was not mine - I'd not combed the death indexes properly so mea culpa again
4) William McKee died 1927 in Liverpool turned out not to be mine - but it was tough to have known for sure, so I'll let myself off here
5) Irene Antony died 2002 - they sent me the wrong certificate (which they are going to replace, though it's taking two months, there's no rush)
6) Catharine Creed married 1871.  I mistakenly ordered the certificate under her married name of 'Bell', so this is another wasted buy - though they did refund me £3
7) Alice Dauncey married 1917 wasn't my Mabel Alice but another woman.  I couldn't have known for sure though, so I'm glad I got this document.

Two further death certificates gave me precious little information as the partner was still living, or the deceased person was living in a nursing home with no named heirs.

The remaining 21 certificates were all full of useful information.

The BIRTHS gave me address, father's occupation, child's date of birth
Child's date of birth ought to have been stunningly useful, to enable me to find their subsequent death using this search field and their first names.  But there were NO Ethels born 20 Aug 1908, Kathleen 14 Jan 1917 nor Patricia 8 May 1923.  Very unhelpful and mildly vexacious!

The DEATHS gave me cause of death, family unit reconstruction, address, brother (brother-in-law) and children's address, circumstances of death, occupation, maiden name and new family information

The MARRIAGES gave me the leads I needed to move confidently forward with researching my five relatives Tamar Barnett, Ada Bray, William Samuel Jones, Rita Smith and Mavis Wood.
I had already contacted Ada's grandson but now I knew for sure he was a relative.
I was able to find Mavis living in East Grinstead so despatched a letter to her.
I couldn't find Rita Smith, but I was able to work out details of her husband's parents and brother which will help track her down.
And Tamar married into the Thompson family of Ancliffe Hall, so more details are expected in time.

In preparing my (flawed) list of thirty certificates, I did rule out 5-10 other buys, which I figured I could avoid by pursuing other, cheaper, genealogical search angles.  Further, I wanted to wait a couple of years until GRO certificates pre 1900 will finally be free, or very nearly.

I will avoid hitting the 'make payment now' button for quite some time on the GRO website, which in any event was truly Cthulian in its labyrinthian ordering structure.

2 Feb 2010

Pearsed pride

I feel duty bound to report on a clue which was just trying to get itself in my head.
Ann Pearce is living with her father, aged 31, in 1841, or so it seems.
Here is the census entry:

1841 Church Town Lanteglos-by-Fowey HO107/153/9 fo19 p7
William Pearce 70 farmer, Ann 31, Susan 30, Edward 21, Emma 20, Fanny 15 (all b Cornwall), plus servants

It turns out though that I wasn't reading the census entry correctly.  Ann had actually gotten married the previous year to Thomas Pearse, of Bodmin, and sure enough they are living together in 1851.

You wouldn'a thunk it, but Ann Pearce was Ann Pearse in the 1841 census.....

7 Jan 2010

you go and save the Hester last

Alright so Amy Dunkerton had already amazed me. She died in 1831 in Pilton, Somerset aged 40 but that hadn't stopped her fiesty daughters from carving their own futures:
* Caroline Amelia, married 1847 St James Piccadilly to a waiter
* Charlotte, married 1838 Sussex Gardens to a jeweller
* Sarah, married 1842 St Pancras Euston Road to a police constable

Excuse me weren't these ladies supposed to be home by five o'clock and what pray were they doing in London. Shouldn't they have been making sheep's eyes at the local farmer's sons back in Summerzet?

I have spent several dozen man-hours following up on the London descendants, and now for something unexpected.

The girls' father William Dunkerton left a will in 1855 and had then six daughters living, so in particular what had happened to the youngest, Hester? Died? Married young THEN died? Where was the marriage.

She'd married at St John's Chester (of course?!) in 1856 aged 31, to a young innkeeper and gone to bring up another slew of daughters at the Rossett Bridge Inn between Wrexham and Chester before dying ten years later (neatly avoiding most censuses). Thank you for this useful marriage entry.

These girls were every bit as interesting as their mother and aunts, here they are:
* Esther married 1886 Chester St John, a plumber of BANGOR
* Mary Ann married 1882 Wrexham, a tailor of WREXHAM
* Eleanor married 1884 Manchester, a labourer of NANTWICH
* Caroline married 1892 Islington, a restaurant cook of LUTON

Thanks to this lost and missing marriage entry I now have relatives in eastern Cheshire and in North Wales which is new and exciting territory.

One of the granddaughters was called Nellie Evans, but she proved absurdly easy to trace in Wrexham, to a sad death aged 29 in childbirth. I think I have had a very blessed couple of hours researching and should probably quit while I'm ahead.