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26 Dec 2013

Clues from the cousins #2

It's very nice to get one's own detailed family tree back with a few amendments.  In the case of 87 year-old distant cousin Ted W, the additions were limited to a couple of pen strokes.

Next to Robert Boocock I'd optimistically put a ? in case there were any other siblings.  Ted just put a red line through that.  Nice and clear.

I nearly missed it but under his uncle William Young, he'd put something.  It was definitely his writing and not his young nephew's.  It was the three letters ADA in capitals.  Well that was something, didn't know about her.  Also the digits 23.6.  I guessed this was Ada's birthdate - the 23rd of June.  Not much to go on - but a whole new unexpected family group to add to the tree.

Sure enough I checked the birth records and censuses and found William - with a completely different age and a very different wife from the one I expected.  I put Ada on the backburner, happy to have at least found a record of her birth on the banks of the Tyne (Northumberland).

Then I thought - I can't just abandon this information.  Surely a record of Ada's later life can be found?  I teased out information concerning all the Ada Youngs who married on the Tyne and one fitted the best.  The next challenge came for her daughter, listed as Dollie J (name slightly changed).  I might have used Findmypast's excellent marriage finder, but in this case I employed an alternative tack.  Looking for all the children with the right mother's maiden name born near the Tyne, I found only candidate that fitted and this led me to the missing marriage.  Now I have Ada's two children to write to, living not far at all from where there grandfather William Young was in the 1911 census.

Sadly Ada has now long been deceased, but she was remembered I'm guessing affectionately by her elderly cousin Ted, and it's time now to see if her children would like to know something of her family background after such a long gap.

Postscript: No Tynesider will be surprised to hear that Dollie knows Ted W, and is in touch as I am with Ted's nephew Dave.

Clues from the cousins #1

I write the letters, I enclose the trees, I post them off.  This takes at least a week.

I enjoy contacting new cousins, as they can tell me anything that I really ought to have known but which has slipped between the cracks of the records.

And so it was with Annie Whitehead.  She was well known to her nieces but completely missing from my clever-clever tree.  Turns out she was born before her parents' marriage as Catherine Ann Nevitt, and had two children herself around the same time her Dad was just finishing up his (2nd) family.  Dad was a railway platelayer in Abergele, on the Welsh coast.

How on earth was I supposed to find out what happened to her child, Catherine A Roberts, born 1920?  There are 18 of this name who marry in the 1940s.

Well, as luck would have it, a clue - the only clue, came in the form of the North Wales birth index.  This gave me Catherine's middle name of Amy.  Sadly, I concluded she was likely to have passed away so I checked the death indexes for the period 1969-2006 and just searched on the firstnames 'Catherine Amy' and the birth year of 1920.

Believe it or not, there is only one entry across the whole of England and Wales, in Suffolk.  Unusual, but an explanation came along.  It seems Catherine had married in Suffolk, 1945, and indeed that her mother, my original 'Annie', had died in Suffolk visiting her daughter when aged 60.  (This is very different from the, also true tale, that Annie had lived in rural North Wales.)

It was then fairly easy to locate Catherine's family in Suffolk and hopefully there is a grand story to be told.

Incidentally, this family at a stroke, knocks ten years off the previous record for oldest relative on my generation.  Five generations of producing children at 23 puts them nearly 60 years ahead of me - easily my oldest fifth cousins; sadly deceased even before my own birth.

23 Dec 2013

Newspapers part 2 - man bored in Springfield

Take these snippets from GenealogyBank concerning my Richard Feltham ostensibly of Springfield, Ill., Dakota and Seattle, but really of Alaska:
Richard Feltham 1889 and bride Maggie Van Deren returned from bridal tour
letter from husband 1898... Klondike... frozen
daughter dies of typhoid 1907
wife sues for divorce 1909 remarries 1911
both move to Seattle to start a business there
husband dies in Alaska
We can add to this with the 344 words rescued from Google’s snippeting tool:
on a/c of ill-health had to go to the Klondike.. and chase buffalo across Dakota (for more)

I haven’t made up my mind if this is some kind of homosexual cover story or just a set of extremely unfortunate events followed by another set of unfortunate events that don’t really undo the first; or a typical story of a climber always away from home; or the male/female/Springfield divide.  Woman happy with husband doing well in Springfield.  Man bored of Springfield.

His great-nephew Homer White was not expected to have family as none appear in the censuses, yet his father’s obituary tells of Miss Josephine White prompting me to look a little deeper.  Sure enough he has a girl somewhere in Tennessee with his first wife – see the Tennessee Delayed Birth Records 1869-1909 and let me know where!

Newspapers part 1 - a burning tale

Farewell this week to free snippets from GenealogyBank.  They’d cottoned on to the fact that free snippets was maybe not the cleverest way of displaying newsprint.  Some of the articles are barely half-an-inch deep, so why pay to get more, when there wasn’t any more to be had?

Back in 2005 I learnt of the death most likely of Esther Symes (born 1817 Hornblotton) at a fire in her home in Ohio, some time in the 1840s.  This was reported fifty years later – come on, journalists! – at her husband’s own death, 1896.  (This in itself odd, as the widower had sired and lost a whole other family in the intervening decades.)  Genealogybank kindly filled in the gaps for me.  The Canton Repository writes: On the 2d inst. [2 Nov 1846] the house of Thomas Cook of Lordstown, Trumbull co. Ohio, was destroyed by fire, in the absence of Mr. Cook. His wife and family had got out, but the wife returned to the building to secure a pocket book &c. when it fell in and she perished.

That’s it.  No more to be had, but pretty useful.  Superfluous information such as the lady’s actual name can be had elsewhere.  A natty finger points to the entry just in case you miss a genuine news item amongst the accounts of turnip growing or whatever else occupies regional newspapers.  We can tease out that 2 Nov was a Monday, likely wash-day, so Esther would have a lot on her plate with the infant and 2 other children under 4 to keep busy.  Tragedy would strike as the boy was killed in the Civil War, while the infant was to herself die in childbirth.  Minnesota was exceptionally mild in that month with persistent south-easterly winds and no frosts – with the warmest weather overall for 85 years.  Might these facts explain our story in Ohio?

Excuse me there's a dot there - punctuation of initials

We seem to have a difference of opinion over our use of initials in the UK.  In the US, they like to put dots after everything.  With ordinary speech, we know Americans like to use ‘air commas’ but why do we never see kung-fu punctuation in the same way.  They must be itching to punctuate.
‘Mr. Jas. M. O.’Dowd.,:’ 
might be a typical greeting on a letter.

One poor boy was given the middle name of J – that’s it.  His whole life Americans wanted to punctuate it, and he yelled out them, it doesn’t take a period, it’s just ‘J’.  To which the other Americans nodded, and mentally added a full-stop.  (His name was Clinton J Parkhouse.)

This stuff matters if you’re searching Google Books.  If you have a Richard Welch Feltham, in England he’d be either:
Feltham, Richard W.; or
R. W. Feltham
In the US, he’d usually be ‘Richard W. Feltham’.  Yes, you’ll spot that older UK records included punctuated initials.

So if you read of a W H Morgan or W J Roberts, what are their names?  Well for sure that’s William Henry and William John.  And F W Jones – well that’d be Frederick William Jones, or just possibly Francis William.  Interpreting initials is a fairly easy business.

I needed to prove that a BGH Jones living in Lancaster was married to a woman called Elizabeth A.  (This was to prove Elizabeth wasn’t my Elizabeth A Jones born 1949 in Wolverhampton.)  If you need to work with initials, the findmypast marriage finder (link) is the place to go.  Sure enough Bonar Glyn H Jones turns up as marrying a lady called Elizabeth.

Last of the line - goodbye to some overseas cousins

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, all links to the old South Africa are going.  I do have cousins over there, and what’s strange for me is that many of the addresses I had came from old address books back here in England.  I wrote to Beth Ahrends twenty years ago, and she wrote that the government was changing and ‘the old awful policy of apartheid is going’.  She worked with others in the township of Khayelitsha teaching African women to sew and so to make money and improve their living standards.
It’s not been easy to locate her granddaughter Thomasin, and I thought I caught a glimpse of her in Australia at a bomb-scare at a school in Melbourne.  If it’s truly her, then Beth’s great-granddaughter told me a lot – she ‘didn’t want to be named’ in the story.  That certainly sounds like she’s tough enough to be Beth’s family.

I have finally found that my grandmother, 92, is indeed the last of her cousins, and there were 25.  It took the internet to establish this as the last three died in – Bermuda, Cape Town and Vancouver.  My grandmother, brought up in less than exotic, but still with a seaboard, Lancashire, lives in none of these places.  Her stillborn brother died in 1912, something of a stark fact – the year of the Titanic and all.  We definitely didn’t get to know him at all – such is the roll of the dice.

Bogralin - clue to Scots ancestry lies in a strange place-name

This is another thread of my hard-to-pin down Scots ancestry.  Fresh from the delights of finding ‘Scotland’ emblazoned across the census entry for Colby, Westmorland – being the birthplace of the heart-still-beating Margaret Moses (81).  It was fifth-time lucky as she’d presumably been counted in all the other censuses since the dawn of time (1801) and this really was the last time to catch her.

Clues came in thin and slow after this.  Today the word ‘Bogralin’ jumped into my head.  It’s almost certainly gobble-dy-gook but I searched my laptop for it – no dice.  Then I searched my sent items in email (known not to have been downloaded) and hey presto, an email that ought to be carefully filed, but isn’t:
Carlisle Record Office writing to my cousin Roger in 2009:
There is an entry in the marriage bonds.  It reads:
16 August 1783
Moses, Joseph, Netherton, p. Hayton, wdr, yeoman
Rae, Margaret, p Hayton
Rae, John, Bogralin, yeoman [Bondsman]

Cryptic!  A few thoughts emerge from this.  The square brackets are not translations – so Bogralin is not just another word for Bondsman.  Traditionally the third person listed was not a marrying party, but was the bondsman – clear enough.  The last square bracket is the place where the marriage was expected to take place.  Sometimes, as in Return of the Native, the marriage does not occur as expected at all.
It’s extremely unusual for the parish for ‘Bogralin’ not to be stated – was it meant to be within Hayton?
The couple were married the following day at Hayton and John Rae witnesses  (as does Joseph’s married sister).

Assuming, dare I?, that Bogralin is a mis-transcribed place in Scotland or Ireland, this might indicate that John Rae was expected to be in town only for a few days.  So, can’t wait to view films 90694 and 412603 at the research centre in Kew to resolve the matter.  With luck the latter is a film of the original, and I can be left to interpret the word, and my only true proven (0.8%) Scots origins, for myself in a tranquil setting by the Thames.

(The third piece of Scots heritage comes from the Mellrays of Kentmere, who were almost certainly earlier the Millreas of Kirkinner, Wigtownshire.  Fanciful – we hear them crossing the Solway Firth some time before 1735 – but utterly unprovable, or nearly. ~DNA for the Mellrays if still living, might prove it.  Though this is 0.4% of my ancestry and no guarantee I got any genes either from it.)

Digging up the past - an unusual hunt for DNA

My Scots ancestry has proved hard to pin down.  My grandfather shared a bedroom with his Grandpa Hunter in the 1930s – he neglected to steal any DNA, but instead garnered that the Hunters were from Scotland.  More reliable information from a line of females still in Cornwall, says that they were from Ireland.  Since the last male Hunter died in Bendigo, 1970, we’re not likely to know the answer any time soon.  As to the man who arrived in Cornwall about 1770, he might have been a Scotsman born in Ireland – that would make both stories correct.

The other relative I’d like to dig up lies in Mount Jerome, Dublin.  By comparing his DNA with my cousin in Mount Avenue, Ealing, we’d know for sure if the massive Urch and Harding families were related to us.  I believe the vicar of Baltonsborough was probably drunk on communion wine and that’s why my Sarah Lucas appears to have been baptised as Mary, Christmas Day 1804.  Though I admit that checking the microfiche at cousin Hala’s house in Walthamstow is probably easier than telephoning the Irish gardae for a reburial.

Ironically one of the Lucas family *was* actually dug up, by accident, in Adelaide a few years ago, see our earlier tale.

Working with very little information in family history

This is useful as I’m largely researching families which would have been impossible 15 years ago.  I started with my Somerset farmers who were all in the area, all left wills, all had distinctive farm names, left lovely useful obituaries and were well remembered by almost everybody still living in the area.  Very handy with only the 1881 census (available by postal search), a letterbox, the phone (if parents out) and the probate office (for 15 minutes after school 2 days a week).  If I wanted more – I could drive to Barnstaple (not close) to pin down the odd rogue marriage.  I could order the marriage odd certificate as well – but they rarely gave me hot leads.  I could go to the record office and library at Taunton fairly easily and indeed did so.  I must add in that 1990s oddity, the International Genealogical Index – on microfiche at the local library (now morphed into the hugely larger familysearch).

Now I may well be looking for a Jenkins in the middle of Merthyr Tydfil.  No wills – no addresses, nobody remembering them, no obituaries, no indexed chapel entries, nothing useful locally and only a very generic story, though useful, available in the local library.  Your prime lead is the census – which you use with extreme caution.

I don’t really blame a lot of modern hobby genealogists for getting things all in a twist.  Anyone who’s ever tried to write a crime story and have all the characters lined up doing the right things at the right time knows the impossibility.  Your murderer is on the phone to somebody she doesn’t meet for another two hours.  With lots of online trees, people’s murderers are indeed on the phone to somebody they won’t meet for two hours.

If somebody is unmarried in the 1871 census, they absolutely can’t have married in 1870 – sorry.  Well, actually they can.  I can think of three people who are at home when they had kind of secretly got married – Ann Pearce (1841 Cornwall), Elizabeth Edwards (1891 Northumberland), Alma Barrett (1881 Somerset).  But usually, it’s a case of people picking the wrong family to be their ‘ancestors’.

Ann married Pearse and so blends in rather easily into those at her parents’ house.  Elizabeth is listed as ‘M’ (married) but no married name given – I missed that valuable ‘M’.  Alma is not only at home apparently unmarried but her child (born legitimate) is edited out of the census completely.  Where is she!
There’s also plenty of cases of people being given their step-father’s name in the census – just to keep you on your toes.

It took me absolutely ages to figure out who Leah and Annie Nicolas were, listed in the 1911 census for their grandmother’s hotel in Bodmin.  Both their ages were overstated by a year, the last name was Nicholls (though they later used McGuigan) and Leah was the elder girl’s middle name.

Getting past missing marriages or incorrect marriages in family history

I have been bedevilled by missing marriages that slow the whole research programme down.  I proved Marjorie Joan Sargeant from Croydon married as Margery J (in distant Plymouth).  I found Stephen N Waller marrying as Stephen N Wallis, Jonathan Gibson as Jonathon Gilson, Marian Thomson as Marianne Thomson; Harriet Hichens as Harriette Hickens; Conrad Spencer as Conrad Spenser.  I observed Ella H marrying as plain Ella, Elizabeth as Lizzie, Samuel as Sam.  Not to mention Miriam C becoming Caroline M and Gladys P becoming Peggy G.  These reversals of forenames can be tricky to spot.  Most times findmypast’s excellent marriage index can help you find these as it automatically looks for initials as well as full names.

The Sargeant marriage was particularly gratifying as I used the birthdate from Ancestry as the key reference, as shown.  Unfortunately it’s not possible to use this approach on findmypast as you need to know the married name of the party – with over a million British surnames to choose from, this could take you a lot of guessing.

Getting old messages from Genes Reunited

It bothered me for years that I had tonnes of valuable information tied up with Genes Reunited and on Ancestry messages.  I haven’t solved what to do with the Ancestry messages.  I hope I shan’t have to copy and paste them all.  Some websites would consider deleting my records if I stopped being a member, for example.  I realised that the Genes Reunited problem was simple – each message or thread of messages had a unique URL (web address).  All I needed to do was capture these 1000 URLs and then load each webpage (ideally automatically) and capture the contents from my web browser’s cache.

I quickly ended up with 1000 copies of webpages and initially thought – let me import these into a Word document (I realise now I can put the HTML into one webpage so they all load as one page then scrape that more easily).  I’m actually happy with these as a series of webpage files.  I will of course need to back these up, as otherwise the process is pointless.

The sixteenth letter of the alphabet

I met Joan and Diana, Muriel Haine’s daughters in 1996 in Devon, then in their 80s or approaching that age.  But Muriel was one of 15 Haine children baptised at Churcham, Gloucestershire (one in the ruins) who scattered across the Empire as they buried their parents.  Sure, I don’t expect a huge amount of detail about the boys in South Africa, but I would like to find their children.  We met Ernest Haine’s grandson at Belgo Centraale in London with his charming wife.  But what about Fred Haine’s daughters? I had to wait for the shipping records (below) to confirm their birth years.

As you can see I was lucky to find Doreen’s birth (in England) in 1914 but I moved on and missed an important clue.  I jigged around with the name of Dyment, looking for more but that was a dead end.

Coming back to this record I realised the clue lay in the middle initial.  I had literally worked all other avenues.  When I zoomed in on the middle initial, I knew exactly what that name would be: PR_ _ _ Y, an old family name.
I punched those first two names, Doreen P_____,  into Ancestry Death Indexes (as firstnames) and up came the result I needed – the lady had died in England in the last few years despite living almost everywhere else in between.  I then googled for more information and traced her last address to Sturminster Newton in Dorset, plus an obituary in the Daily Telegraph.  I was then able to check the address on, find the property on a local plan, and photograph the property with Google Streetview.  An email from family took a week to come trundling in with all the missing news. I went from knowing absolutely nothing to full information in just a moment.  Guessing the 16th letter.

Finding Thomas Jones born 1895 in Wales

I love Wales for its mountains, and also its impossible naming pattern.  How on earth to sensibly look for my Thomas Jones born 1895 in Morriston, Swansea?  He turns up in Bishops Castle, Shropshire 1901 and Queensferry, Filntshire 1911.  I now know he enlisted in WW1 (where?), married in Manchester, settled in Eccles, before moving back to Queensferry, then to Deeside, and sailing for Canada in 1952.  Phew.  To have seen him safely off these shores is a relief.

The only reason we know any of this is my cycle trip to Mold.  Rhona, his first cousin’s daughter, was 84 and not answering the door-bell.  Luckily I saw a whip of orange silk across the road as a neighbour kept watch.  Oh no, she’s in!  Knock a little louder.  Enjoying tea thirty minutes later, having absorbed my letter in the last few weeks, she was ready to tell me:
Oh yes, Tom Jones!  He had two children and they both went to Canada.
To be sitting in a Welsh town, and be told ‘oh yes, Tom Jones!’ is hilarious.  Rhona was a Jones herself, and cousin Mary married another Jones, but Tom was a completely separate Jones and she knew it.  I first heard about Rhona in 1998 but literally lacked the computer hardware and transcribed data to crack her location.
I sat on my parsed data for ages.  I got the address of Tom’s grandson in Canada within weeks.  But we still lacked his wife’s name and also that of his daughter.  I found an electoral roll entry that completely contradicted Rhona and later turned out to be the wrong family.

Hello Ancestry shipping data!  I found that Tom had emigrated with his son and grandson in 1952 (that was new).  This gave me his wife’s name – but I still couldn’t find a matching marriage.  After getting the certificate, I went back into the same shipping record: thinking if Tom can emigrate with his son, perhaps his daughter Margaret Jones could come along as well?  I had her age (33) but not her married name.  I searched for all Margarets, 33, sailing on the same ship and lo-and-behold, there was Margaret Roberts of the right age and also the same address (!) indexed in another part of the record.  Thank you Empress of Canada for this shipping record!  I then went back one more time into shipping records and found the Robertses returning alone to England in 1956 (as they’d promised in 1952) with dates of birth, occupations and full names given for them, plus an address in Ewloe, near Deeside.

I think that’s as much as I can get without hearing from the Canadian cousin.  There’s one other clue – the family’s religion – given in faint pencil back on Lazarus Cohen’s army records, and no it wasn't Judaism.  I would also like to find Tom Jones’s military record.

God is love but get the certificate

Never has so much been owed by so many to so few certificates.  The aha moments came years ago, but now it’s time to prove it.  Imagining that I could swim a kilometre, and imagining the certificate ensuing, is no fun compared with this A4 documentation.  I’m extracting four from Wales, one from Suffolk, and one from Blackburn.  Wales, Suffolk and Blackburn!  Not places with a good deal (anything?) in common.

Minister of surprise

I’d no sooner transcribed the 1846 certificate, Merthyr, for cousin Ray in Gwent, commenting on its thoroughness, when he sent me a photo of the Baptist minister that had conducted the service, whose photo had been kept by the family in Manhattan.  He was clearly an influential man, this Thomas Davies of High Street Baptist Chapel, Merthyr.  Of the five Francis sister marriages, the rest were in Anglican churches and often lacked basic detail.  Not this one.  We have precise places of residence, detailed occupations (no ‘iron worker’ here) and the father approved as he attended the marriage.  In a world with corrupt, absent politicians; despicable, cruel employers and dead, illiterate fathers, perhaps the ministers alone provided a way through God through the hell-hole that was 19th century Merthyr Tydfil.  (The only question being how Thomas Francis, labourer, or farmer till nearly 40 in the far west of Pembrokeshire, can become a fitter in Merthyr Tydfil bringing his whole family to that town.)  This was certainly not the last we'd hear of Baptist Minister Davies.

A dozen Marys - two dozen husbands

There were 12 Jenkins girls called Mary that married in Merthyr across the five-year period in question, and no word of which bloke they married (choice of two each time), and even if we assumed that Mary Jenkins married, say, William Jones, how to find what happened to them?  Yuk, yuk, yuk.  So I turned the whole thing on its head and just ignored that as a ‘finding aid’.  I decided to conduct the idiotic search of all Marys age 22, in Merthyr Tydfil in 1861.  Puzzlingly, I found her straight away – the most likely candidate was Mary Bromham (formerly Jenkins).  I’m having to wait a little longer for this certificate.  It's now arrived - and fits neatly into our tree.  The bride was 17, the minister Davies (remember him?), the witness a cousin and the father's name correct.

Don't ignore Cohens

There was only one Donald Jones born in Queensferry, Flintshire, and I believe he was the only one married in the district too.  Donald was the name given by cousin Rhona (two years his junior) as son of Tom Jones, but could I find Tom’s marriage!  Or the birth of older sister Margaret?  No.  Actually little did I know I’d found, and rejected Tom’s marriage to Mrs Cohen, 1919, Manchester as the last name just seemed too alien for our Welsh family.  But it was the right one.  I’d also been misled by an electoral roll entry for Sealand which looked right, but was actually another family entirely.  Really, the one piece of evidence I didn’t have, was the name of Cohen.  It turned out the first husband was Lazarus Harris Cohen born two years after his parents’ arrival from Russia.  No less than 5 Lazaruses were born to Cohen families in the Cheetham district of Manchester.  The whole street was Russian (most probably actually from Lithuania).  Lazarus was working I believe in Purfleet hospital as part of the Royal Army Medical Corps, contracting flu ‘which is raging all around here’ and dying in 1918.  He had been working as a tailor in London and was not strong physically.  His widow remarried near her home town of Eccles (to Tom Jones) the following year, moved to his hometown of Queensferry; her younger sister later joining them in Flintshire.

Death of a Smith

Did kind-hearted Harriet Blowers take in an errant deaf uncle as well as her 3 orphan granddaughters?  Despite having a daughter in (then) attractive Yarmouth, another in pretty working Cheshire and another selling frocks in Crouch End, it was with none of them that Henry Smith, aged 78, died, a lowly ‘farm laborer’.  He also had sons somewhere, but probably was appalling at keeping touch.  He was never mentioned by anyone, and at times ran a pub.  The connecting factor in all of this is his deafness (source 1881 census) and the fact everyone hated his wife (who died at some point).  What’s nice though is he must have been close to a sister that he followed to Suffolk, and it was her daughter who witnessed the death.  Harriet is a great character and it’s lovely to have her gate-crashing into our family.  I wonder what Henry’s daughters thought.  Harriet had 3 Australian granddaughters to bring up (plus the last of her 13), was the village’s unofficial midwife and ran the post office despite being illiterate.  She drew the line at 2 grandsons ‘one of whom later ended up in prison’ (true?).  But what a great send-off for Henry, at the Greyhound Inn, Ilketshall St Margaret.  It was while googling ‘Henry Smith’ and Ilketshall that I came across his burial in the village church there.  Once again I knew that Harriet would be on the death certificate (just call me psychic) but it was wonderful to see it printed and worth the tenner/ Harvester meal for the privilege.  I got in touch with Harriet’s granddaughter some years ago.  She knew everything, even more than what I’d already guessed; but she would now be 89.  I’ll have to settled for imagining her knowing all about Henry, as nobody else does, that’s for sure.

Local BMD records lead the way

Continuing the trend of certificates telling you things you already knew, we have Alphonso Jennings.  I had no proof that he was a relative and no clue from the censuses who were his parents.  Yet thanks to this website I was able to extract this information about him.  That’s right, two previous names for the mother.  It took me no time to home in on Margaret Teresa Riley who’d married Simon Burrows (that had died the previous year).  I also guessed that Alphonso Jennings (b 1864) was the father.  He moved around a lot and we can’t find him at all in 1891, perhaps he’d married overseas and that’s why he couldn’t marry Margaret.  More likely they just got together in urban Blackburn, and maybe split up after.  When their son was born, they said they were married, but Margaret doesn’t keep the name Jennings.  This was a repeat performance for Margaret, who’d pretended to be the wife of Thomas Maskell, (Irish?) iron labourer, in 1885.  The certificate bears all this out for the 1897 baby.  It’s not often one spots a person’s birth and thinks ‘oh they must be related let me find out how’.  Alphonso had tough early years but we think did well later in life, moving to Bradford, Yorkshire.  He was a wartime soldier and his great-grandson also fought, in Afghanistan.  He may have had a horse named Foxiburrows.  A great addition to the tree.
Postscript: his mother’s sister Mary Lorn left over £1000 and two houses at her death.  Does any of this money or property go to Alphonso?  No – to his illegitimate brother and his sister Margaret.  It’s maybe possible Mary didn’t know about Alphonso – or more likely, she chose her heirs based on their need: Margaret was unmarried and the brother was renting from her and had a small family.

Jonesing for a lead

More guesswork.  Richard Whitehead born about 1877 in Wales turns up in Bolton at 35 staying with his aunt Sarah.  This got me thinking – who on earth is he!  I suspected the eldest boy Thomas (1853) who is back at home mid-life described as ‘married’.  The only Richard I could see was John Richard born in Abergele on the North Welsh coast.  Sure enough Thomas is there with him in 1881, though never after.  The marriage certificate confirms things nicely – the occupations of father and son, leather dresser given which is exactly as they were in all censuses.  Ages is the main discrepancy – Thomas was 19 but gave his age as 24.  The bride, Miss Jones, was late twenties and possibly pregnant.  Thomas slowly loses his inflated age and by 1911 is only over-stated by a year.  It’s still a bit odd that he’s forty (not 37) when living with his mother, who ought to know her eldest boy’s age.  The nice extra clue is the couple’s only census together with Thomas middle initial of T correctly given.  In a twist, she later forbids her own son from marrying until he's 21.

Howard I know?

The last in this septology is not a certificate at all, but carries the same weight.  I knew that Joan Walker most likely married in Kensington, around 1971.  There weren’t really any other suitable candidates, except possibly in Scotland.  This lady went to live at Kingswood, Surrey, which was exactly the ‘family centrale’.  I hoped that the probate indexes could provide me with the one clue I needed – Joan’s middle name ‘H’.  I was certain it would be Howard.  If so, this would really give me sufficient ground for getting in touch.  Sure enough, in the Royal Courts of Justice court 38, the 1980s computer screen flashed up on the probate indexes with next of kin Joan Howard Walker.  A nice result.

Postscript.  As punishment for citing Wales, Suffolk and Blackburn (Lancashire) as unlikely matches, I now find that Annie Roberts from Lancashire married in Wales and that her step-daughter (Mrs Roberts) died in Suffolk.

Method in their nonconformity

Ancestry have started acquiring datasets that were formerly only on other sites.  The migration index 1890-1960 was for years only on findmypast with its ugly faceless index.  And the non-conformist baptisms were only at an unusual site called The Genealogist, complete with a top hat.  While searching for relatives of mine named Lancelot, this dataset  popped up.  I realised that all the non-conformist baptisms on the old IGI (and now on familysearch) would be available – as images.  I admit several were very dull and/or I’d seen them before.  I hadn’t appreciated that two of my Cornish forebears (but on different sides) appear together at the Copper House Chapel, Hayle, 1827, well six months apart.  One was fantastic giving my Mary Pearce born 1790’s parents.  The other did not name Margaret Trewhella 1784’s parents, even though the husband definitely knew the names and one was allegedly still living.

It was good to iron out Lancelot Gibson’s peregrinations along the Tyne.  The independent chapels gave both date and place of birth, which explains why son Charlton often gave Winlaton, it being near the real place ‘High Spen’, I believe.

Mixed blessings came in the form of the Martin family.  Thomas Martin was a Methodist minister and it was a delight to find pages of his writing – him being the officiating authority.  The puzzling child at Portsea was resolved – one of ours, Thomas Edward.  Another Thomas Edward came along six years later.  In both cases Martin had the boys also baptised in the church at Tywardreath – heaven knows why.  This honour was not given to the girls.  Clearly only the younger survived.  The vicar at the time was a Pearce, Thomas – one of our TM’s wife’s family?  I found a lot of data about this Pearce on the Herald’s Visitation of England volume 5, and in the notes.  They were bankers in Holsworthy and later in Camelford.  They were fairly well connected and there was even a marriage in St Austell.  But were they related to our Pearces (of St Austell) despite the similar names?  I’m not sure.

Not obviously related was William Martin born Tintagel 1781.  He appears to have taken over from my Thomas Martin as minister of Morrice Street Wesleyan Chapel, Devonport in the 1820s and died there, or nearby.

A tragic queen of Denmark was Caroline Matilda of Wales.  (Could this German princess actually point to Wales on the map?)  Yet in 1822 Martin baptised two children Caroline Matilda.  One was his own daughter, at Worcester in March.  The other was his brother Solomon’s daughter, at Devonport in October.  It was nice for me to see that ‘my’ Caroline came in first.  This was not the only time Solomon copied his brother.  He was rubbish at choosing names and possibly yielded to his brother’s suggestions.  Maria Thanetta the first (mine) was born and baptised on the Isle of Thanet.  Her cousin, similarly named, had no connections with Kent.  She also had no descendants despite a fine marriage at Holy Trinity Highbury.  The first Caroline trumped them all with a marriage at Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields and a move to posh Hackney.  There is a cousin living at 89 who was named after Caroline – the first, naturally.

Streets of sunshine

It’s amazing.  I can see the view Rita took every morning as she watched the great ships come in, go out, from the hill in Queenstown.  The countryside around north Wales is beautiful but as I cycled through – in the rain – there was no time to stop for pictures.  No problem – I can follow my route along the walled lanes and rousing bends on StreetView.  I’m still looking for a beautiful farm I saw for sale -  in a marvellous location.
Once you start you just can’t stop.  I found where my grandparents lived in Guildford – looks still the same, and tried to follow the walk we talk to the nearby park.  All those questions about places and I no longer need to drive there, or to ‘walk’ the route.  I can do it all on my tiny laptop.  I also checked out our old holiday cottage in Swanage, which I have to say looks a million times better.  It used to have tonnes of buddleia out front, which became one of my favourite plants, but it’s almost impossible to strip out.

I genuinely am amazed they’ve covered all the villages.  I wanted a photo – random I know – of where my prize Haine relative ran to from South Africa, having been the hardest to find ever on that branch.  This was in Marnhull in Dorset.  I ‘drove’ up and down the street looking for Anvil Cottage and found it (with the help of a local authority local plan).  You can zoom in on house numbers – though I don’t think you’re supposed to.

I was mooching around Bargoed which doesn’t look like one of the most deprived communities in the UK (well, that’s Aberbargoed across the way).  A couple of lads in trackie bottoms take pictures of the Googlebot.  Somebody waves at ‘me’ as I scour out our old Airey family grocery in Windermere (now with ugly red windows).  Then they wave into the camera, which is a bit less friendly.

I spent ages on geograph looking for photos of rural Crowan.  It’s a massive parish in Cornwall with several distinct settlements and our relatives lived near-ish to Leedstown.  With StreetView I can take hundreds of photos and follow the route to Pendarves Mill where Mary Rodda courted her husband (or vice versa).  I missed the public footpath that shows where her brother mined ‘Wheal Crowder’.  I wasn’t sure if I could plug in grid references into StreetView.

Moving into Camborne I saw a car reverse down the hill, and then continue reversing for half-a-mile.  I realised I was going the opposite way to the Googlebot and I was observing its rear-view mirror.
I think it’s like the culmination of the Doomsday project of 1986 which some imaginative schools held.  A supreme photographic archive of early 21st century Britain.  The very last thing I did was check out a county I’ve never visited – Norfolk and the two Ilketshalls where my son of Norfolk, Henry, later lived.  The church of St Lawrence rises splendidly above the fens.  What a shock for my Cornishman relative to come here to marry his bride.  Dull they may be, but our neighbours the Dutch gave us them for free.  And did you know smugglers reported worked the area (coming in off the Waveney at Bungay or Beccles).

I also like the way Google gives out both parish boundaries and postal boundaries on its regular maps.  The maps are not a patch on Ordnance Survey – with far too much tundra-like mass unaccounted for.

3 Dec 2013

The Betsys yet to come

An innocent wedding entry - so many questions.  Mary Barton a young widow of 44 was remarrying in pretty St Mary Church in Applethwaite.  It was 1842 and signing the register were a number of people that...
I couldn't be bothered to read.

Fast forward 12 years and the names again caught my eye - Betsy Barton and Betey Airey.  I pushed Miss Barton out of my mind and didn't worry too much about Betey either, as Mary had a sister of that name, so no need to question or investigate.  None.

Betty Airey born 1804 at Bowness, Westmorland was hiding pretty well from investigators like me.  The tramp tramp tramp of the researchers' feet had reached her sister Annabella and they were getting closer to Betty.  Lucky for her, she had a common name and slips through our grasp at any early age.

It was come-clean time for Betsy Barton.  I woke up one day determined to find her.  She was definitely a three-coffee problem.  In favour of my finding her was the fact she signs the register.  Against my finding her was the fact I'd already looked (sort of) and found nowt.

Barely into my first coffee (herbal tea, actually), I spotted Elizabeth Barton marrying 1846 in Kendal (possibly the Catholic chapel) and via some helpful trees on Ancestry, to the 1851 census for Ambleside:

This was embarrassing.  John Barton, the brother, had been on my tree since the mid-nineties.  How on earth had I missed this entry which clearly tells me of sister Elizabeth?  Well I draw comfort that Betsy had been quietly waiting for me to notice her all this time, and as we'll see, she was probably waiting for me to find all the other Betsys at the same moment - because there was more than one to hunt out.

I turned my sights more aggressively on Ancestry and its 1841 census and there was Elizabeth, Betsy, transcribed as Elisabeth living at an address in Kendal age 16, with some Whiteheads.  Ah lovely, and end of story.

Well - no.  Despite nobody in the household having a decent family name at all, something prevailed on me just to find out who these Whiteheads were.  A quick check and I was not at all surprised to find another Betty revealing herself.  Mr Whitehead, the ostler had married a few years earlier in Kendal to, drumroll.....

Betty Airey.  Gosh this coffee is going to my head.  So not only do we have Betsy Barton to add to the tree (born in the gap 1822-1830 between known children of Mary), it looks like we have her aunt Betty Airey (born 1804) who married Mr Whitehead.  This is confirmed by a later birthplace given as Bowness.

Ancestry trees are positively garrulous about both Betsys.  Betsy Barton had four married sons and Betty Airey had at least four married children as well.  Betsy Barton's family lived in the Lakes, on the Piccadilly line, in Wellingborough and in Canada.  Betty Airey's family lived in the Lakes and just for variety - in Blackburn!

I worked with a tiny precise well-groomed lass from Blackburn some years ago whose pursed lips and tiny script bore witness to a certain sort of upbringing, and I always wanted to know more of this town.  Now here's my chance!

My only annoyance is the beautiful tidy tree of all the Aireys old and new has been wholly breached by these two new additions.  They have more descendants than the rest of the family put together and only appeared at the 11th hour like cheeky aunties at a wedding buffet with at least six kids wanting cake.

Betsy Barton ended her days in Wales at the age of 86, and everyone in her house emigrated to Canada later that year.

Betty Airey died in Blackburn.


All wrapped up?  That leaves just one mystery - if Betty had married back in 1827, then who was the Betey Airey of 1842.  Believe it or not there are six possibilities.

Betty Airey - no,

but her illegitimate daughter also Betty born 1821 - yes.  Except Betty the mother had a new daughter Elizabeth (later Betsy) born 1841, so this assumes that Betty born 1821 was now dead.

Betsy Airey, niece, also 18 like Betsy Barton and probably not sure how to write her name - this is my best Betsy bet.

Elizabeth Airey mother of Betty and of the bride and grandmother of Betsy and Betsy.  She was now 77, three miles away, and unlikely to be signing any registers to be blunt.

Elizabeth Airey, niece, 4 - I really don't think so.  Though some trees on Ancestry would have her married herself at this age.

Betty Airey, now 74, a cousin of the bride - no!  (And no longer an Airey having married many moons before.)

And final mystery.  Is the migration of 3 Lewis girls from Troutbeck Bridge, great-granddaughters of our initial blushing bride, to Blackburn to work in service in the 1890s entirely connected to our brand-new Whiteheads.  Or had close contacts been retained.  Their great-uncle William Barton lived a matter of yards in Chapel Hill from William Whitehead at Busk, and both men were stonemasons.

24 Nov 2013

Lost memories

I am still cross nearly 20 years later about a missing letter.  My great-grandmother had several cousins and most of them had names that fitted her own social standing - Joyce Summers, Una Hatch, Ellen Glover.  One of these, another Una, wrote to me in 1996 at Burchett's Green College, Berkshire.  I can just see the letter now, perched behind the bar which was where all student correspondence was kept.  Slipping down behind a steamy dishwasher or falling into a pile of bills.  Never to see the light of day again.

After Una's death, her son remembered the letter. Yes she had written one, he said, and it had been full of family information.  At the time he hadn't been interested, but now that he was, could he have a copy of the letter!  I suppose I could fax him an image of a nice clean beer glass, post him a box of big blue cleaning roll, or hand him the keys of the now-closed college for him to search himself.


It was something of a shock to discover that a large number of Gladys's cousins weren't upper middle-class at all.  Some of them weren't even middle-class.

Much of the blame for this lies on uncle Arthur Smith, who is edited out so fiercely from the family tree, that leaves you wondering if the official records are in error.  Gladys claimed there was only one uncle and he was variously listed as '?' or William. Clearly you weren't expected to ask too much about him, still less enquire if there was yet another uncle.

But there was, and he'd come to London during the gasworkers' strikes of the 1890s, to work as a blacklegger.  He stayed long enough to sire 12 children, before allegedly going off to Australia (this story borne out by two separate branches of the family).  It says a lot for the widow that most of the children survived and several fought in the First World War.  They didn't really leave Bermondsey much, and the thought of them ever meeting their Muswell Hill cousins does leave one pondering.  It would be about as socially awkward as the Edwardians could devise.

A tidal wave of news came pouring in from Bermondsey - I even rang up one of the cousins who lived in the towers near Millwall.  A pint at the Hobgoblin got us going, but I'd need more than a pint to take in 90 years of missing history.  These memories weren't so much lost as scattered to the four corners of south-east London.

I don't feel the 92 boxes of Jim Mortimer's life as trade union leader and Labour Party official fit into my notion of my family at all - yet he had been married to Arthur Smith's granddaughter.


With all this talk of Arthur it was easy to forget there was another brother, William Smith.  What had happened to him?  I knew that he was born in England in 1851, and surprisingly, this was pretty much nearly all that was required to find him - in Jamestown.  Hard-to-find?  I don't think so.

This time he brought yet another factor into the equation.  Supposing all my calculations are correct, Gladys now numbers among her cousins the wonderfully-named Victoria Ulander, wife of Axel.

A sense of who she was

It bothered me for ages that more and more data was accumulating about the lives of the Chappell children - who were orphaned in 1867 and who did more and more interesting things.  Several new members emerged as well.  All of these were notionally under the auspices of their mother and grandmother Mrs Jane Chappell who survived until 1925 age 95.  This age may not be so remarkable today, but consider her oldest brother left England in 1832 to practically found the colony of Tasmania.  That she survived the majority of her nephews and nieces (one of whom left her a legacy in her will as if resigned to the fact she would live forever).  And because many of the generations rolled around so quickly, there was barely a year after 1900 when some new significant thing didn't happen.

We got closer to real human memories with a surprise letter from great-granddaughter Eileen.  It shouldn't have been a surprise as it was in reply to mine- but I was innured to non-response.  I'd phoned great-great-granddaughter Eileen who was interested to see there was this other Eileen.  But other Eileen wrote me screeds and I left it too late to meet her, I think.  Not sure of Jane's role here, but her eldest son apparently lost her the farm.

James Chappell's will from 1867 records Thomas Haine as a witness.  And one of the Haine boys later took over his farm, Manor Farm, now the site of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at Yeovilton.  So if the Chappell boy gambled away the farm, how did one of the Haine's get it?

58 years later, Jane's obituary tells us nothing at all - she is absent from it.  The closest we get is her own son's obituary in Decatur, Illinois.  He'd done well for himself and the paper wrote at his passing (and boy did he look tired) of his venerable mother back in England.  I feel this gave Jane a role and in lieu of photographs, stories, this is at least something.

For other female members in this family, there's nothing.  I have a character-filled photograph for one, a clearly chequered life for another, a decent obituary here, but for one or two women there's nowt.

Turning it around

When cousin Joyce died a few years following first contact, my heart sank.  She'd never after all told me anything of her mother's eight siblings, only that they existed.  I had no names, or if I did that's all there were.  It was tough to get any information.

One Christmas, 19 years after finding out about them, I decided to interrogate freebmd, and emerge with some credible identifications of the Taylor siblings that I knew about, including Mary L.

Incredulously, I found only one Mary L Taylor matched.  The data seemed to tell me she died in Queensferry, Flintshire in 1951, leaving a will.  That was one sibling sorted.  It was all ok, but everyone was dead.  The one thing Joyce had revealed was a cousin Rhona still up in North Wales.  Combing through all the births in Wales showed only one girl who matched.  Lucky or what?  I did write her a letter, but chances like this needed another approach.  By bicycle.  I cycled off the border hills and into Mold, and was able to get an hour with Rhona at her bungalow.  She even guided me back down the hill into Queensferry as a bonus.

The short of it is that 120 years after Grandpa's aunt died, the resulting Taylor offspring have now been pinned through stories and photographs and those nearly lost memories have been properly found.

Old news travels slowly

My secondary title could read: but it arrives eventually.
In the initial rush to document all the new entries of the family tree, we google, we cut, paste, punch the same data into the same search engines in the hope it'll give us different results.  (Er - which it might...)
Only afterwards is there time for us to question the data supplied, to consider the original sources and to turn a jumble of facts into a coherent story.

This particular story takes in a huge number of really quite disparate places.  I shovelled them all onto the tree and never really expected to get an explanation of what was going on.
Bayford, England
Joe Feltham was born at the main street of Bayford, England in 1823.  I'd known that for years, as soon as I'd ventured into the parish of Stoke Trister's baptismal pages.  3 of his sisters I'd resolved but not him, nor the fourth one, Anna.  Plugging his details into familysearch showed him living with Anna, by now married, in Springfield Illinois - rumoured to be home of the Simpsons.  He later leaves Springfield for the Black Hills of Dakota where he dies.  Here's the gravestone, put up by a granddaughter:

So what on earth was Grandma (and Grandpa) Feltham doing in Buffalo Gap in this tufty-grassed cemetery? Surely moving to the Prairie State met their needs, without moving to some actual prairies, a view of Mount Rushmore - and little else.

(And here is the information from GenealogyBank):

I'd been ignoring the Historical Encyclopaedia of Illinois.  Possibly a worthy enterprise.  I have been speculating that these treasure troves of genealogical information may not have served a wider purpose - and this article on American County Histories does refer to these volumes at times as 'mug books'.  You had better stump up the publishing costs as a subscriber if you want your family's flattering biography to make it into print.

I then had to play a game of cat-and-mouse with Google, having decided after all I did want to play with its Books collection.  The rules of snippet view are - if Google has 30 million books, then a whole page of information about your family is definitely way less than a snippet.

We've already seen elsewhere in this article how GenealogyBank's excellent newspaper collection can render up short articles in full with a little neat typing.  Google Books is less predictable.  However, to figure out how Joe Feltham went from pretty Bayford to opportunistic Springfield to windswept Buffalo Gap, we needed to have a go.  Here is our snip.  Initially the snippet view served me up this:
Page 1678

Pretty useful - we're looking only at the right-hand column here.  But we want more!  We plug the left-hand column biography into Google Books search and it kindly spits it all back out again, with the extra few words 'prevented by ill health'.  Great - new text.  Let's search for that inside the book, and hey presto the next episode of the Feltham saga is revealed!
I indeed ended up with the whole page, which is reproduced on Richard W. Feltham's page.  Feltham drove cattle across the plains to Flintstone's Bedrock (Custer County, S.D.) - but his wife missed home.  Though his father by contrast thrived out there in the drier air.  All this is to be found.

The Daily Alaska Dispatch (29 Apr 1915), adds a little more: R. W. Feltham, one of the pioneers of the interior of Alaska, passed through Juneau last night on the Admiral Evans.  Mr. Feltham came to Alaska in 1907, but left a few years ago for the flesh pots of the south.  He is representing the Seattle Grocery company and will return to Juneau in about two months.

We can add that the journey from Seattle to Juneau was a week, and that the steamship Admiral Evans ran aground 3 years later off Juneau with 91 passengers on board (taken to safety).
Admiral Evans steamship (c) State of Alaska
The saga is by no means complete.  Despite the rosy glow portrayed in the paid-for biography of Sangamon County, all was not well.  The eldest daughter had died 1907 from typhoid fever.  Mrs Feltham used her husband's letter from him being frozen in the Klondike 1898, as evidence for desertion and divorced Richard in 1909.  In 1910 as only child of Rebecca Van Deren, Mrs Feltham was entitled to sell her mother's estate.  She had some small private income as a nurse, and two young girls at home.  When she fell ill, Richard (by now in Seattle), received word and returned to Springfield and remarried Mrs Feltham.  The whole family moved to Seattle to run Feltham Groceries on the corner of 700th and 7th Ave NW, and Richard was within easier reach of Alaska.  Many years later Margaret died at Bremerton Hospital across Puget Sound from Seattle, and was sent for burial back in Illinois.  But Richard, to no-one's great surprise, lies at anchorage in Alaska, two years after the cemetery was opened.
Richard Welch Feltham
To find his girls, I searched for all women born in Illinois living west of Puget Sound, finding one, who worked in the Navy Yard at the time of her marriage.  He does leave family, still in the Bremerton area of Washington State.  But they may not know of this relentless travel and betterment and of the pleasant places found along the way.  It's old news, and it's taken awhile to get here.

The best things in life are free

It was great to resolve a long standing puzzle concerning my Scotts.  The whole family unit had disappeared and the fairly distinctive names of Edith Maria and Martha Gertrude were yielding absolutely nothing.  I knew that various in the family had gone out to Australia, and decided to test the Australian Death Index 1787-1985 to see who would appear.  Although it's initially off-putting that you get a 'deny' screen and lots of blank details, it's amazing what you can get.
I reconsidered my information and realised Edith Maria born in Kensington was actually Edith Mary Ann born in Kennington.  I looked for Edith Mary Ann's death in Australia with parents' details as given (yellow-underlined).  The maiden name of Scott isn't shown on-screen but is hidden information in the database.
Fresh from this success, I then thought - well, why not take it to the next level?  What about Edith's own children?
I then was able to get a tiny bit more information from the Trove newspapers, from the companion Australian Births Index 1788-1922 but this was certainly a Great Leap Forward.  For some data (such as the marriage of Edith Mary Ann's youngest daughter, 1924) I had to use the Electoral Roll to make an educated guess, and then check the details for sure on the very tight-lipped Victorian BMD index.

I then solved a year-long mystery about the identify of 'Casie B'.  She had been driving me crazy- was she Charlotte, Catherine, Caroline, Cassie, Cassandra.  Step up, the extremely useful Victoria Passenger Lists 1852-1923.

As you may be able to see from this, the two records broadly match.  The shipping records has Jessie B (alleluia), while the 1881 census entry written 18 months earlier has 'Casie B', where I think the C is intended to be pronounced 'Ch' (though I can't think of a single English word that uses this form but the Italian cinto).

It's then an easy matter to find the girl as Jessie Beatrice in freebmd, and then to go in whichever direction (Trove, the deaths index), to find her death at 43 as Mrs Dunlop widowed mother of two deceased children.

The father of all these children is possibly in Kings Cross England age '35' in 1891, though this smacks of coincidence.  He and Mary Ann had another child together after arriving in Australia (who died).  He lived to see all three daughters marry before dying at 53 in Melbourne.

Conversely, his father, Thomas Scott senior was still very much alive back in England and about to move house.  Senior's will makes no mention of these Australian shenanigans; instead earmarking all the £600 estate for his relative in England, S T Bennell - child of a deceased daughter.  In fact all of senior's 3 children predeceased him.

So, if anyone is researching Walter Addison Block or Herbert Graves Harrison, Alexander Leonard Turner, Stanley Watson Wray, Hugh Fred Williams Coulter, their wives and families, thank you to those large websites for the free data, and do get in touch.

24 Aug 2013

padding around in the Padfield history

I'd taken a 15 year break from the Padfields as they weren't quite what I expected.  My Benjamin, the youngest of the tribe, was a yeoman farmer as were all his offspring.  This was because he'd inherited the family farm from his father, and despite a maid burning the farmhouse down (about 1857), he was able to maintain his position in the parish leaving nearly £1000 at his death.

He also left a journal filled with writings, notes and recollections of his father - and these are wonderfully golden and detailed, it was unlikely, living nowhere near, that I'd be able to find anything more of significance to add.

Then came the disappointments - none of Benjamin's new siblings had any children.   The ones that got uncovered seemed to have none of Benjamin's personality, longevity or standing.  They were just dropping off the social cliff.  I then found that his mother was a Hill; there was doubt over his half-sister's children, and family refused to accept the findings that the journal didn't 100% match the reality of the parish registers.  I didn't feel that the patchy Padfield family as shown in the records matched my imagination of generations of popular Padfields toiling the Somerset soil.

Also the other researchers had no names that matched at all, and a lot more miners and a lot fewer friendly faces.

Rays of light came in, though - dear Joseph the young man felled by a slocket, left an unborn baby boy according to the registers.  A new half-sister had a boy called Eli (very significant) too.  A cousin found some papers which named, surprise indeed, both Robert and his boy Francis Padfield - names from the registers and missing from the journal.

Today, about 20 years later, I again scouted out these branches.  Benjamin's sister Ann Wilcox looks pretty secure and her family were as fun as I remembered and more so (a travelling salesman added to the loop today).  Benjamin's other sister Betsy is sitting there with a tribe of descendants waiting to be unearthed and no real problematic gaps.  The Hill mother turned out to be much more than met the eye (shouldn't have been a snob about the very ordinary name) - a nephew was a vegetarian Belgian confectioner who liked writing to the papers.  The older Padfields are almost all now slotted in - and Robert and Francis were progenitors of very varied Padfields.  None farmed the soil and none led me to the Essex lines, but we have some worsted weavers in Bradford and lots of new researching cousins, which was just the tonic needed.

23 Aug 2013

Evans above, Bassaleg

Have been very lucky with the above.  My forebear Margaret Evans listed as born about 1792 'Basilica' in the census - and this was the name some people called Bassaleg.  Couldn't find her baptism at all till signing up with MonGenes and there she was in 1792 and with a twin Blanche to boot.

Blanche was the name of Margaret's first child (my direct line) and the name has carried on down the generations in Pennsylvania and in Bargoed, near Merthyr Tydfil.

I didn't expect to find anything much about the siblings of Margaret but it turns out one of them - Mary - was listed on Ancestry as having married secondly in 1837 in Newport.  This was really helpful as in 1837 the father's name (Charles Evans, fireman) was given, so proving she was my Margaret's sister  - the age and birthplace in the census helped to match all that together.  This meant Mary must have been the Mary who'd married Rees Edmunds.

Then - on MonGenes I had the bright idea of searching under father's name.  This enabled me to find marriage of Rachel (widow) to Mr Wixey in 1887 at Bassaleg, with her father's name given as Rees Edmunds.  This meant she was a child of Mary, even though there's no baptism at all.  Rachel's first marriage (found on findmypast) also says the father was Rees.

So there are some twigs and pieces of the Evans line and details of the occupation of Margaret's father which isn't bad at all.  Plus it appears that her mother (and a stepfather?) witness her marriage in 1810 (age 18) which would fit - as the birth of Blanche (though not baptism) follows shortly after, I'll assume she was expecting and the parents stood over her to watch the marriage happen.

No word of what happened to the twin.

8 Jun 2013

Exhumed but not identified

There was a right rumpus in 2005.  The developers rammed their bulldozers into an old family crypt at Highfield, Burnside, South Australia.  It's a heritage area, and it sounds a bit embarrassing.  It took a bit of effort to identify the bodies and the next of kin of the Drews (who used to own the property) were found and added some helpful hints from old letters they had.

I stumbled on all this via a google search for Sophia Dauncey and her husband Joseph.  Last seen at their wedding in Somerset in 1810 and not leaving any obvious traces since that time.  - Until the discovery of their bodies in 2005 and the subsequent newspaper coverage and web traffic.  There was even a headline 'Who was Mrs Dauncey?' asked by the residents of Kangaroo Island, seemingly in possession of a main street named after Sophy.

Well I got onto it.

There were lots of clues, but the one thing I knew for sure was the Edward Drew wasn't the brother of Sophia, who I was pretty certain was a Lucas.  However when I looked for marriages for Edward, one name and location jumped out at me 'Bristol, Sophia Cook' in 1830.  This seemed possible.  When I looked for possibles for Sophia's baptism, I found myself as I usually do, back in Baltonsborough, Somerset.  In this case, the year was 1804.

When I shook the database a little bit more, I found out yet again that Sophia's mother was a Lucas.

So, good.  We have two Sophias.  One was the wife of Edward Drew, and the other was her aunt, Mrs Dauncey.  All fairly tidy - but enough to confuse a lot of newspapers and by no means as quick to pin down as this little blog implies.

So to recap,
Carey Lucas and his wife Susannah married in 1772 and had a nine-year gap, then:
* Elizabeth Lucas was born 1781 at Baltonsborough 'Bolsbury' and evidently baptised as part of the Hardman Chapel circuit (died 1839)
after some more kids, came:
* Sophia Lucas born 1791 and baptised 1792 at Mr Hardman's Chapel (evidently in South Petherton)
she witnessed my ancestor's marriage in 1805 in Baltonsborough
and introduced the name Sophia into the family
and married herself in 1810 to Joseph Dauncey, later the farm manager at Highfield.  No kids.

(I still have no idea why my distant aunt gave her child the name Sophia Lucas in 1818 as there was no quick connection to this Sophia.)

Elizabeth Lucas (1781-1839) married James Cook of Keinton Mandeville (d 1850) and had four children Sophia, Mary, Matthew and Sarah of whom only the first two were baptised (and Matthew as an adult).

Sophia Cook we believe married Edward Drew at 1830 in Bristol and emigrated to Australia on the Lalla Rookh together, with their 2 children and with Drew's nephew Samuel (from Stoke sub Hambdon).  Drew himself was from Odcombe near Yeovil, son of Samuel Drew senr and Jean Geard, who'd married at Montacute.

Mary Cook may have married John Pippen at East Pennard in 1830, and had a daughter Jane who quite probably married Thomas Stafford the stoker at Bristol 1852 and most likely died 1855 leaving no issue.

Edward's descendants may have died out, but the tale of the overgrown crypt hasn't quite, yet.  So that wraps it all up.  And if anyone wants to quibble about the beautiful stone inscription (above), there's no need. Sophia would have been a sister to Edward, even if the actual explanation involves a lot more people.

Postscript, found this on Ancestry:

Elizabeth Drew with the Daunceys in 1841, Martin Street, Baltonsborough:
Ann Waterman was born in Somerton, daughter of Charles Waterman and his wife Frances Maria Dauncey (from Baltonsborough) - who were with their other children in London.

COULD the contact below pls contact me again - ideally with email address.  Comment won't go live but I can then pick up the message and contact you direct.  Elizabeth and her mother both named in Sophia Dauncey's will...

30 Mar 2013

Is it true?

In theory we're all cousins, writes Peter Calver, on his site (which boasts an authoritative must-read newsletter, by the way). 
He says that you'll find find 3rd, 4th, and 5th cousins on his site.  Well, sir, I have to say that I already knew who all my 3rd-4th-5th cousins were before getting on the internet.  They are far from lost - I know all about them.  I would need to be given more tempting bait before carrying out the serious amount of work involved in creating a presence on another family history website.

On the second point that the relatives we're most interested in are those researching their tree.  I'd emphatically argue the contrary.  Thanks to Who Do You Think You Are, a lot of people have SOME interest in their family - and even more would do so if the death of a rich relative in their favour seemed possible.  It's up to you the researcher to worm out the information.  Researchers will always find each other.  What's needed is a tool to rapidly find the next-of-kin, the photograph-hoarders, the storytellers.  Many of whom are absolutely not researchers as they possess a completely different skillset.  I never learn anything from fellow researchers - but rather from the real people who inhabit the lives of their ancestors.  Who are still born in the house their grandfather built - who remember their grandfather getting a visitor from Australia in 1915.

One of my cousins runs a chippie in Swindon and I'd been looking for her for ages.  I finally tracked her down and my letter came through the door just while she was watching that great British programme Heirhunters.  Do you think she was 'actively researching her tree'?  And was she exactly the person I needed to contact?  By heck she was.

A final factors is that researchers are often keen to research, not to communictae.  Finding other researchers may not be their goal at all.  For myself I'd rather spend time online researching, or sleuthing virgin source.  Keying in data into researchers' match-making sites is way down the bottom of the list.  Let's wait and see what solutions technology can bring to the more basic puzzle of reuniting people with data that they want - Data Reunited?