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30 Nov 2011

A tale of two grandmothers

I can see I will have to go to Furness, the isolated bit of Lancashire accessible only by coast, from Morecambe, and now swallowed up by Cumbria.  My grandmother worked at Bassenthwaite Hall during the War, inland, and later married at Ulverston Methodist Church, Furness.

Strangely, I do turn out to have family members in Furness, but nothing to do with this grandmother.  It was my OTHER grandmother, born at Turnpike Lane (on the Piccadilly line) in the London suburbs, who has the Lakes ancestry, although she never lived there, and rarely had the chance to visit.  She was the granddaughter of John Airey the grocer of Windermere.  Or Winandermere, to give it its full name.

It was formally known as Applethwaite, or Lower Birthwaite, but I think it had always been known locally as Windermere.  When the God-given railway arrived in the 1840s, up went the sign WINDERMERE, and in came the visitors.  Hill-walkers, Wordsworth enthusiasts, consumptives, artists laden with oils and canvas, all the wealthy from Leeds, Manchester and London, were keen to visit England's biggest inland body of water.  John had just bought a site on Victoria Street, built by an uncle, and had forty very good years in the town.  The town also became a home for Annie, whose father had been crushed to death in the North-East aged 30, John's future wife.

John Airey also had two grandmothers, and the younger of these gave me much puzzlement.  She was Betty born about 1779 in Troutbeck round the corner from Windermere, long before the tourists got in.  She had clearly married, to Joseph Barnett, and had a slew of children, and descendants, most of them in the Furness pensinsula.  There were several Bettys born about 1779 in the parish, but none of them looked very interesting.

That was until a rogue tree on Ancestry made me consider Betty might after all have been someone already on my tree!  That is: Elizabeth Airey baptised in 1780 at Troutbeck.  Timing was very very tight as a girl was supposedly born 16yrs later.  But if we ignore her, that buys us more time.  She still has to marry at 18, for the true firstborn of 1799.  The censuses scream that 1780 is just too late, but they're wrong.  Elizabeth Airey DID marry, in 25 Feb 1798 at Troutbeck, to Joseph Barnett.

We are fortunate to know so much about a 4xgreat-grandmother.  She and her sisters all survived until the time of the censuses, and various family names were passed around which may lead us yet further back.  Of course we now descend from the Aireys of Westmorland twice over, and so it's for us even more a tight-knit family, centred around the beautiful unspoilt village of Troutbeck.

28 Nov 2011

The Tuckingmill Hotel and the Return of Eliza

The Tucking Mill Hotel, March 1851
A new arrival
At the hotel in 1851, someone is about to arrive, my great-great-grandfather, who will be a bouncing baby boy, the only one to survive the depressing wet, cold and stony damp. Cursed from birth with the Hunter need to travel, and travel far, it's fitting that in these waiting months, a visitor should emerge bedraggled at the young publicans' door.

Enter Eliza
Eliza Hunter, the publican's sister. She is one of the great unsolved threads in our tapestry.  Even here she is casually tripped over, listed most unhelpfully as Elizabeth Richards, widow, age 25, but seemingly on hard times, and not expected to survive, I would imagine.

A dangerous hotel
We see her here as a widow, stopping over with her brother who had the Tuckingmill Hotel, presumably not long for this world. She coughed and sneezed, it was a lot colder than she had been used to. This same hotel would I'm afraid kill the next 2 Hunter children, and the family would quit its ornery ways by the end of the decade for Bogota, Columbia, to let their travel genes run free. Maybe Lady Luck will be kinder there (ha ha ha).  Eliza we must leave with her widowed weed's tramping her way to the workhouse. Perhaps.

Many years later, in a mining town far away
Twenty years later one of the family was finding his feet in the gold mining boom-town of Bendigo. A young lad called John Hunter. Having lost his father in Columbia (a trip that hadn't worked out so good), John was now doing quite well thank you very much, being on his way to management in a factory. The factory made fuses to help blast rock away in the mines. A young girl caught his eye, Miss P, a Cornishwoman. Wise move, as it was the mysterious Mrs P who got John up the ladder in the factory. It is now 1870, twenty years after the stranger arrives in the Hotel.

What's the story?
Wanting to lay Eliza to rest, I rummaged around to find how Eliza had became a widow in the first place. She had gone out to Adelaide at 22 and returned two years later. She had lost both husband and son out there in Oz. This was not fair. Her cousins Amelia and Cecilia, born the same year, had followed Eliza out to the the great continent under the sea.  These girls had over 95 grandchildren between them, scattered around the gold fields. Eliza did not. She was sent home early. Back to the Hotel. Rain had stopped play.

The End of Eliza?
Was Eliza really ready for the long walk to the workhouse age 25? Was life finished with her? Tin and copper were at rock-bottom prices. But even Thomas Hardy wouldn't send her to the chop. I'm not so sure she dies, does she?

Eliza's Decision
We look back at that census from 1851 with the dingy old hotel holding the family together. The brother was ready for Colombia. Eliza could watch her brother sail and then offer to house-keep for their grumpy father. She did not. She did not sit on her laurels and mope! She married again.

The moment the 1851 enumerator left the Hotel with a 'kerchief over his nose, Eliza made her approaches to the tin miner Perry. She needs to marry him immediately. Timing is very tight. Two girls are born here, Eliza (now Mrs Perry) gets back on the boat for Australia and is out of the country leaving no ripples by the time the 1861 census rolls around. Vanished! No trace!

Clues lying dormant for decades
I say no trace... but I was missing a clue. Someone had been watching me. It was in fact Eliza who turns out to be the mysterious Mrs P, John Hunter's benefactor in Bendigo. As Mrs Perry, she had produced Catherine Perry barely a year after the census. They sailed together to Australia in Eliza's second trip out there. When her nephew John Hunter came out, it was ELIZA who proved his fairy godmother. She knew he would be gladly gifted the factory to own and run, provided he had a wife, Kate Perry say?, a niece of the currently elderly owner.

Because Kate Perry had been born in England but after the census years, rather than in Victoria itself (where parents names are publically online), I had no idea she was the child of a Hunter.

What we missed
The Return of Eliza, a woman not to be written-off, was there in the records all along. But so hard to piece together, it took myself and great-great-grandson Brett Pierce to put our two halves of the story together. We worked out this incredible woman emigrated TWICE, to different states/territories of Australia to become one of its matriarches: like her two cousins Amelia and Cecilia, fellow women of 1825.

By match-making her daughter to a trusted individual, the in-law's factory would come to him (her own sons being too darn young to succeed), thus looking after her own old age. She was not getting dumped in Australia twice!

Just one example of a hardworking Cornish woman destined for Australia who would not give up until she had got the better life, and would not settle until her future and her family's, was provided for.

Further notes: Eliza's later children were born in Australia, with her maiden name of Hunter clearly announced. But what Brett in Australia didn't know, was where Eliza came from, as of course details of her first marriage never reared their head second time around. He definitely didn't know she'd come out before.And what I didn't know in England, was that Eliza had had this second marriage at all, as guessing the name of a new man, and then further guessing that they had gone BACK to Australia, were all beyond my powers of imagination.  I was just sure she'd passed away, in England, leaving no trace, and no family. Eliza had eleven children all told and many descendants who are just learning of her double emigration.  Her fertility is not quite in the same league as her fellow 1825 cousins, whose descendants recently tipped the 1000 mark; but still quite respectable and matriarchal.  She was now based in Victoria and it was through her brother-in-law Charles Perry that our young orphan hero got the work in Perry's Fuse Factory, Bendigo. The main mystery left is where her mother, Mary Richards of Wendron came from and grandfather Hunter. Perhaps we can solve it someday. You can read more about the Fuse Factory here. I have downloaded a copy in case the link disappears over time, like a lot of mining ghost towns.

This article appeared in November 2011.  The following month, a few weeks before his passing, my grandfather remembered something of the Tuckingmill Hotel from his own grandfather, born there in 1852 just a beat too late to know Eliza. I found myself travelling back 160 years to the clattering streets of Tuckingmill, and my grandfather and I across the table from each other as he described the room. At least I think he did, but tea was served and we moved on.

Pearce sorrow

Lots has happened since the last blog.  Most of it in the last day.  Two bits of information came fluttering in from Australia, the land of surprises.  #2 first: browsing a highly unlikely tree on Ancestry with much of its information from the remarkable Australian Cemeteries Index, see the attached photo.  Piecing together the information, I found that Edward Pearce 1819-1860, farmer of Musquito Creek, Gwydir district left five children, when he died.  Did the mosquitoes have a hand in his death?  His widow remarried.  His only son was shot by Jack Brady in 1884, named Gwydir after the district.  One daughter died following the birth of twins, aged 26, another (the only one named in family wills) lived to be 54 a spinster.  That just leaves one of the twins plus her aunt Jessie Pearce to continue the line.  The tree online, the cemeteries index, the New South Wales vital records, helped make up for the usual problem: how do you find a child born AFTER the census, but before the emigration overseas?  It was this very child Jessie who is the matriarch, even when it appeared there were none left of this side.  I googled 'Musquito Creek' like crazy, but had I searched for Pearce and Gwydir, the story would have come out that much sooner.  For the boy cut down in his prime, is carved in stone: 'he cut me down in my strength and shortened my days'.  Whether this is a reference to God or to Brady depends on your reading of this piece of family sorrow.

1 Jun 2011

the Wells Tavern meeting

the public house in Well Walk, Hampstead was in the family in the 1881 census and a few years either side of this. If the following headline from the Hampstead Voice spells truth then that well known Irishman President O'Bama has also popped in for a recent schnifter. I can't imagine why. It looks pretty fine at night in winter as you approach it from the west, but the mahogany veneer interior is tinny and oppressive. Despite terrible reviews on, we had friendly if rather scared-looking waiting staff last night.
Amid our tasty pub grub lay the papers of a hundred years. Death dates were recorded back to dear Mary Tayler in 1835. We had a choice of two baptisms for Mary, 1775 at Mere Wiltshire or 1778 at Leigh in Worcestershire. I had always burnt a candle for the Mere child. She was being carried by her mother at the time of her grandmother's murder in Ansford, June 1775, which is so significant I'd like our Mary to have had that honour. The Leigh baptism is quite likely unrelated though could well be a second baptism for the same child. The evidence was Mary's death listed in Lambeth as 1835 age 59.
Right at the end of the evening cousin Ann remembered something else, as a child she'd had a penpal in Bronte Sydney who was a cousin. Ann even remembered the name. Sure enough Polly Bailey's second son Charles did sail for Sydney in 1914. A profitable evening.

hi Viscount

from the stormy seas of the Haine family I think I see security, a stronghold, a comfy seat and a sunny spot in the mountains. Yes it's the 8th Viscount Exmouth! He's only just visible through the foliage of other family trees but hello anyway. Those familiar with my Haine's will know I have two. One resulted in a website, a book and two trips to the States. The other resulted in Emily Grace Lister a ward of Chancery, barrister's daughter, descendant of Edward III and defendant in the celebrated Lister v. Lister trial of 1864 which her lawyers lost but which remains as a key ruling in estate law. She then got married and at her death is listed as resident of Pau, Basse-PyrenĂ©es. However all this comes to an abrupt terminus at Chandernagore where the Haine's only fruit drops dead at 22 and we all cast about for some other project to fulfil. As did her husband. He was in the 12th of Foot and has a son by a German woman in 1870 for whom he provided. Emily leaves nothing to her mother but instead her sister in law Mary Elizabeth Bagnell is the second residuary legatee. Mary was mother of the Viscount. I only found this out when googling the name of her father, priest in the Church of Ireland in Co Tipperary. As a twist another of the Count's uncles married Miss Cocks of Leigh in Worcestershire relative of a colleague of mine. So we have gone halves on the nobleman. Though he only got the title after a lifetime in France aged nearly 80 so is unlikely to reply were I to say 'hi Viscount'.

Faith, Hope and Ancestry

I'm just so glad to have solved this puzzle, and found a title for the post which really does fit the facts, as you'll see.

I don't care if it seems I'm singing the praises of Because perhaps I am! Much as I'm annoyed with the cynical moneymakers at an extraordinary url in itself,
The proprietors of (that's Ancestry) have run a pretty effective dragnet over the 19th century. Your ancestor was living in a cave with no roads nearby to escape any entry in their database.

My three Welch sisters ran the water mill at Alhampton maybe 15miles south-west of Bath after their widowed father's death (1880), then they drop right off the radar in 1884. It was all change. Eldest girl gets married and kind of retires, dying with no clues. One girl marries (age 31) and my guess is emigrates somewhere although with the other sister.

I was beginning to wonder which uninhabited island they'd colonised when the answer came from searching All Names on Ancestry . . . New Zealand!

Middle girl Jane (thank goodness) pops up on the newly released electoral rolls down there, as, on closer inspection does her married sister Louisa Ann Smith. Yeh - I'd not have spotted her so easy.

But Louisa was my real target. Just 31 when she married there was a real hope that she might have family. Considering her backstory, I really needed her to have family.

(Her own mother, a lifelong family servant was never supposed to get married but at pushing 40 'stepped in' to help her sister's widowed husband out and ended up married, but also ostracised. Louisa the youngest was taught her letters and helped run a school in Stroud before taking on the watermill.  Atta girl.  But where were they?  Was this the end of the road)

Meanwhile in New Zealand,...
Hope arrived. What an apposite name for the Smiths's eldest child. We now see that Jane, Louisa and Mr Smith sailed almost immediately the minister closed the wedding service. Paperspast tells us they arrived in Christchurch 1884 only to jump on board another vessel going along the coast to Lyttleton. Mr Smith was I believe a grocer.

The NZ birth indexes to my joy listed Hope and Faith as the names of the first two Smith babies. Then followed Ruby and a fourth daughter - with a somewhat less exciting name, sadly.

The trail limped on (I'm not sure how) to Sydney, where I finally arrived at the door (via Facebook) of a descendant.... Huzzah.

Update: I'm meeting one in England in six weeks [August 2015], who was held as a baby by her great grandfather, the very Mr Smith who emigrated with Louisa in 1884.

Note: Ann Feltham (1810-1862) is a Cinderella story. Whilst her daughter Louisa must have had it tough losing mother age 8, going on to school in distant Stroud, and then running a watermill with her sisters, now orphans, in her 20s, she was a true Victorian - setting out for New Zealand in 1884. The story nearly never began. Ann Feltham (her mother) witnessed almost every single marriage going - cousins, aunt, younger sister. She's shown in old letters as caring for her aged uncle. But when her sister dies, suddenly in 1844 marriage comes a-knocking. She settles at Broadfield Down as a farmer's wife, where Louisa arrives in 1853. But Ann was almost certainly banned from returning to Ditcheat, where she had buried a child, and where her own mother had wobbled up the aisle just 8 days before her own birth. Visiting another big farmhouse, this time in Kent, as a guest, not as a servant, she likely had too much cream and died. Ironically it was a 15 year-old domestic servant girl who found her, the rest of the family being out.

Crimes and Rimes

Mary Creed was born in a village near Glastonbury in 1810. She was the last of her siblings to fall to the power of a findmypast search. I found a possible marriage at Pylle, Street on the Fosse, a parish which does not hand across data readily. I ran some possible names through findmypast, and Rimes came up with a matching entry. Mary had married Daniel Rimes, likely while in service in the village. They'd had a large family and bounced around the villages seemingly getting poorer with each passing census. I realised that Julia Amelia one of their several girls was known to me, being housekeeper for many years to Rufus Maidment in fact we now know they were cousins. In the fuss of the 1901 census release I never looked at the original document scans and so missed Julia here, where she's clearly listed as cousin. In fact her middle name was Creed which would have been a big giveaway, had she used it. Grandson Ernest Rhymes was on the board of a Seventh Day Adventist sanitorium in Napa Valley California living in the idyllic surrounds of St Helena later running a small business I think selling smoothies. The grandsons in Australia did the name proud played cricket entered themselves clearly on Trove the newspaper archive, and have lately held reunions between the Sydney and Adelaide branches of the family. In short it is a series of research crimes which kept me from knowing this family sooner!

Mines of Solomon

for years clues have been waiting for me to run and catch up. Rev'd Thomas Martin my ancestor left no trace of his family but did write a fat load of poetry. In his 1833 book, the Stranger at Home he writes about his brother Edward now passed away - at sea - and Mr Solomon Martin is one of the subscribers who promised to buy a volume. I fretted over these details for a decade or two but the answers have just broken through the cloud of poor deduction. Solomon lived in Devonport near Thomas and gave his two daughters exactly the same fanciful names as Thomas's: Maria Thanetta Martin, Caroline Matilda Martin.  He also confessed to being born in Penryn which is just a splash from the mouth of the Fal and Thomas's declared natal place. This data is being mined further. As a fan of Ned Kelly, the Australian Irish outlaw and scourge of law enforcers, or at least the Carey version, I was appalled to learn that Solomon's grandson Edward Castidine Martin of the Age newspaper had elbowed his way to Kelly's execution and thus an exclusive for his paper. He witnesses the death as do a lot of happy lawmen and compounds the ghoulishness by putting on a sellout play. But I'm glad this long pending mystery is now resolved thanks to the mines of data about Solomon.

2 May 2011

Celtic connections

I have the following connections with Scotland:
1. Stephen and Ann Read, a soldier who worked at Stirling Castle and retired to Glasgow.  Their son-in-law was Postmaster General of Straits Settlements about 1910 and then at Glasgow.
2. John Wood of Hamilton, who married in Surrey to Theodora and whose children were born in Hamilton.  Only one decided to come back and live there.
3. Dr William Lyall of Edinburgh who married in Bromyard Worcs to Marion and had several children.
4. Robert Park of Edinburgh who married in Dorset to Augusta and whose children all married in Scotland though two moved on, one to Cheltenham, one to Nyborg Denmark having married a corn merchant.

I have the following connections with Ireland:
1. Rev'd William Lea, born in England, married Burton-on-Trent to Elizabeth and who came to Ireland to be the clergyman of Foxhall, Co Longford. Source: googlesearch, Irish census
2. My grandfather, born in Stockwell, descends from Walsh, Dawson, Cleary, Carroll of Co Limerick, Co Cork, Co Tipperary in no real known order.
3. Edwin Brown of Poole, engineer for the Belfast tramway, married in Bath - still there in 1926, but hard to get more information as Northern Ireland has own records from 1922. Source: familysearch
4. Thomas Richards, jeweller, Wexford Town, married in Dublin to Annie, from Somerset, his second wife.  They had an only child Sylvia. Source: 1890 Wells Journal
5. Sarah Urch, printer's daughter from Wells, who married in Galway 1857 to Michael Harding.  Her younger brother must have followed her to Ireland.  He had arrived in Dublin and found a wife, by 1870.  Robert Urch became supervisor of the Inland Revenue in Dublin and is buried at Mount Jerome. Source: will of Lucas Urch, familysearch
6. Moira Kelly, daughter of an Irishman, returns to Ireland in the 1950s living happily in County Meath.  Her father was a clerk in Crouch End in 1911, and from his birthplace I found him living in 1901 in Meath.  His grandchildren are still living at the same place today, their stint in England being over. Source: cousin

Two-thirds of these connections are from my Somerset line: they had names sufficiently rare for me to track them around very easily.

11 Apr 2011

The Maternal Line of Mary Murrow, Almesforde, Somerset - some offshoots

Ned Dike haulier Ansford b 1735
Dinah (#2)
William Speed overseer Ansford b 1728
Abraham Slade wheelwright later accountant coal mine Midsomer Norton b 1784
Agnes (Betty(#2))
Francis Ireson Morrish farmer NSW b 1819
Elizabeth (#44)
William Hutton churchwarden Bourton b 1791
Henry Hutton Plaister hairdresser Cambridge b 1835
Richard Henry Plaister cycledealer Totnes b 1905
Bessie (#46)
Robert (Bob) King teadealer Spalding Lincs b 1870
Charles Barlow b 1865 of Shades Hotel Spilsby
William Symes Hockey b 1829 farmer Charlton Adam
Frederick Symes Crocker b 1835 baker Somerton
Mary Gear Crocker b 1842 baker’s wife Somerton (sister of #52)
Jane (#50)
Louisa Ann Smith schoolmistress Alhampton b 1853 (#52)

Eustace Welch grocer Midsomer Norton b 1872
Jane (#59)
Herbert Leaver tanner Yeovil b 1872
William Exton Treasure fmr Brewham b 1857
Edward Bond fmr Brewhamfields b 1744
Vera Green fmr Ibberton b 1917
Amy (#76)
Edgar Exton Jackson fmr Saskatchewan. b 1884
Annie (#75)
John Haine fmr Stone E Pennard b 1847
Jane (#73)
William Haine fmr Westholme Pilton b 1806
Elizabeth Edney died Port Antonio Jamaica 1828 b 1801
Jim Bryant fmr Stratton b 1877
John Lockyer cattle dealer Motcombe b 1908
Susan (#80)
Victor Duffett farmer Dorset b 1905
Elizabeth (#83)
Egbert Creed fmr Evercreech b 1871
Geoffrey Green fmr South Somerset b 1920
Joseph Padfield fmr Birtsmorton Court Worcestershire b 1842
James Scott Boyce meat salesman Islington b 1806
Thomas Creed carpenter Woolwich b 1811
Frederick Maidment fmr West Bradley b 1857
Sarah (#89)
Julia Rhymes housekeeper to Rufus Maidment Henstridge b 1841
Sidney Martin fmr Suddon Grange Wincanton b 1849
Miriam (#89)
Patty Tucker b 1722 murdered wife of Reginald who hung at Wells #17

Michael Collins linen draper Bridport b 1770
Frances Miller landlord’s wife Wells Tavern Hampstead b 1844 #37

Dora Lewis and sisters died in likely fire Catford 1920 b 1854
Richard Phipps draper Bracknell b 1846
Edwin Eades blacksmith Charlton Adam b 1827
Benjamin Kingston b 1792 fmr East Pennard

The Maternal Line of Mary Murrow, Almesforde, Somerset

I've been on the trail of the descendants in the female line of Mary Murrow, farmer's wife of Almesforde, now Ansford, Somerset.  She it seems died in 1756 well on in her eighties having survived all of her three daughters, Elizabeth, Frances and Mary.  In red are the only ones we think might be left to continue the line, despite the hive of activity in the 19th century.  Edith Barlow of Shades Hotel Spilsby produced a daughter when she was forty, and may have family living.  Sophia #92 was in Australia, died aged 31, but is the best chance of having family in this line.  The large red box is doing very nicely, and only found out about them in December.  I think Anna #50 may yet surprise us: I have found one of her daughters in Springfield Illinois, and she may lead us on to the others.  Emily, daughter of #55 could be in South Africa.

24 Feb 2011

The strength of weak paper

My inbox has become awash with messages from new cousins, in a way not familiar since the early days of GR (not George I but Genes Reunited, then known as Genes Connected or, now, Genes Untied).

I have just been browsing the guru James Caan's book about careers in the Puzzles section at Foyle's, St Pancras International. How are these two facts connected?

Well the magic medium is PAPER. Not only was Caan's book printed on the stuff, but in addition he recommends the fusty tree product as the best way to get something to him.

So it is with the Royal Mail, which should be knighted for services to family history. I messaged cousin Julie through Ancestry and then through the ghastliness that is Mrs AOL-Time Warner (divorced) but my little dweebie message just got lost along the way. Presumably as I wasn't a trusted sender, not being, say, Mr PayPal.

Sir Royal however just picked up my letter to Julie, delivered it, and on the morning of its arrival, bang came an instant reply to my email inbox.

There are huge benefits of sharing information. I despaired at lacklustre late-night lowbrow e-mails from GR, Ancestry, often where the owner was struggling with basic family structure and should have stuck with darts. Yet, the paper correspondents are trumping me in leaps and bounds, have private houses in exciting locations, offspring in Switzerland, family Bibles and FamilyTreeMaker in the guest room and a sense of there being no rush: I suspect these were the winners of the second marshmallow in the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment. Our shared interest is building into good conversations about a variety of issues.

Julie - here is proof that our Davieses were indeed from Atherton
Debra - look forward to meeting up when we're back from Switzerland
Tim - will be chatting with my Mum (90) about the Cornish village where we came from, shortly
Tracey - your letter has made my year, mate!
Paul - my mother and I were both very interested in your letter...

And all these contacts came about by my writing letters. The last word to cousin Mike in Dorset - 'thanks for writing. We sold the rights to the china clay to English China Clay in the 1950s', and ECC do what with that clay, that's right, make paper!

5 Feb 2011

Pearced resolve

I reckon I'm edging up to 40% of my letters returning to me with news or good wishes. I'm close to nailing most of the family of Joseph Padfield who fell down the old mineshaft in 1835. He left no family at all at his death, but a few weeks later his son junior was born and that boy's 8 children made all Wessex their home. I've almost pinned down all the Pearce children, thanks to some having their babies in Chew Magna; one marrying in Bristol: registers nicely transcribed onto familysearch. And also a bit of database crunching to find Mabel Pearce's issue. I'll need to get a marriage certificate to prove one of the men's marriages but this floating tribe of relatives is soon to be boxed in.

24 Jan 2011

Finding lost cousins: the power of the internet

This second post is in response to Peter Calver's posting on Lost

I fully endorse the importance of contacting living relatives against the impotence of transcribing public records which have already been indexed.

The one-stop shop for me to locate distant cousins is I have been happily using this site for years. I recently traced a relative to the Sevenoaks postal area. The address format was House name, road name, village name, town name (Sevenoaks). It didn't take long to establish the cousin lived in London Road, West Kingsdown. I then had dozens of relevant postcodes to try followed by ten or more possible house names, but I got there. Many times people opt out of the electoral roll but the phone book reveals they're still at their 2002 address, or nearby. I do a cross check to ensure that the phone book entry doesn't refer to another family listed elsewhere on the roll.

In the good old days 192 would serve up the full postcode if you just guessed the first three components e.g. TW10 8. Also you could guess place names by their format try this one XX. XXXX-XX-XXX, XXXX. But that wasn't ideal as in those days the postal area and county were not shown, so it could be a long hunt.

A later bug on meant you could copy and paste the concealed address into Notepad and the full latitude and longitude of the address would appear. That was an early Christmas present from the company.

I still use the site and have two useful tips for family history searchers:

1) In some browsers you are not restricted on the number of searches you can make. This helps when you are trying to find someone but have limited information.

2) That by monitoring where your cousin appears in the ranked list of results, and having a local streetmap at your side you can work out in which cluster of streets your relative lives, with just a few searches. I use Proviser to get all roadnames from a given postcode prefix.

I have heard back from a woman in New Zealand who has overcome disability to secure paid work for herself (a true heroine). She was shocked and excited to learn she had family in England, and we can now put her in touch with her uncle here thanks to these four sites:

a) Genes Reunited for helping me find Ellen, born 1852 in Buxton, grandmother of the two siblings. Very hard to find because she married four times nowhere near her birthplace.
b) for providing the address of the uncle's daughter in Cheshire at no cost
c) NZ government for the death cert for the long lost sister, who had married in that country
d) Google for an address for the niece in North Island

So get in touch with your cousins today!

Finding lost cousins: the strength of weak bonds

The Lost Cousins website is terrific. I am 'agnostic' about the matching service itself, as I'll explain. I avidly read the regular newsletter which comes out in good chunky quantities. I am perhaps destined to be a late adopter of the website.

I find the most rewarding research partnerships come from finding cousins who haven't got years of experience, as these are greater in number and much more likely to have a dormant or incomplete profile on Genes Reunited. I have posted over 120 letters to new cousins I've proactively sought in the last year, most residing in England, most found through either an address at probate or a search for free at, and importantly, most replying. On LostCousins I found two relatives who match my attributes rather precisely, middle-class, administrators, web savvy. Whereas what provides the synergies in research are acquaintances you barely know, the 'strength of weak bonds', so called. And what could be a weaker bond than 6th cousinship! I have dined like a prince next to Queens Park golf course, had a personal tour of the Free Church N2 and to show it's not all posh, carried an inebriated (lost?) cousin up the steps of his tower block shortly after he confided some valuable information to me in the pub. So these weak bonds powerfully opened the doors to new terrain.

I prefer to be pro-active in my research. I hunt for specific cousins on Genes Reunited who are most likely to be able to help. I've even extracted data from Genes where the cousin themself was reluctant to tell me anything. They hinted of their descent from a couple, Mr and Mrs Smith, who I knew were uncle and niece. Despite the common name, from the information publicly available on Genes I was able to discreetly identify the line of descent, though I've no wish to alert them to the irregular marriage.

My goal is usually to identify a good cousin, who is likely to reply to my letter, and then to retrieve a mailing address for them and write to this warm lead.

20 Jan 2011

I run the Virgin London Marathon for charity - help me raise £1700!

7 Jan 2011

pubs, gyms, parks, churches, roads, closed... but not the mighty pen

this has been a very long Christmas, betwixmas with an interminable crawl back to civilisation following the nadir of New Year's Eve. And so it has proved useful to have 24 letters to pen to new cousins around the world. It takes something of military planning to create and despatch these packages but I shall expect a rich return when I do. I ploughed through all my notes from this Christmas's bumper plunder. I tried to pick a shortlist of one person from each twiglet of the tree. My Swansea Harrises yielded 8 new cousins. My Salisbury Taylers served me 4 new correspondents, Cornwall, Derbyshire and Somerset fished up 4 each across sundry other lines. Many of this last group were the result of intensive work to bring mid Victorian forebears down to the current generation. I especially salute 1) the Times which let me work around Lt Col Hudson's service overseas with the 9th Gurkhas 2) UK phone books on Ancestry which gave me the initials of E H Pearce's
widow in Somerset 3) the LMA marriage records on Ancestry which found me the missing Broad sister, Louisa's, nuptials and thus her offspring hitherto unknown to add to a colourful tree.

3 Jan 2011


My aunt gave us a treasure trove of photographs a few years back.  One of these was cousin Joyce's wedding photograph in the Gower peninsula.  We had no idea of the date but I eventually found the marriage record, and Joyce herself, in 1999.  Her mother was one of my Grandpa's large Taylor clan, born in Swansea around the time of the 1901 census.

This last Christmas I decided to sit down for a day or two and worry away at the Taylors.  I've made one or two positive identifications and found several possibles.  I'm proudest of John Jones who lived in Pierce Street Queensferry and married Ellen Louisa Taylor in 1920 - I even have John's date of death (5 Jan), and now an address for his great-grandson. I may have stayed up till nearly 3am.

This could have been a frustrating task as Joyce wrote only a brief letter, told me a few cryptic points on the phone and now, I sadly see, died in 2005.

Update: her major clue, which at the time seemed like wilful withholding of data, was the firstname of her cousin 'in North Wales'.  Believe it or not, this firstname was enough for me to locate her cousin, twelve years later, in her final years, and from this source get all the missing information, and much more.