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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.