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25 Dec 2014

Sketches of rural Somerset 1860s by James West


There are more like this. This may be in Butleigh or Glastonbury.

20 Dec 2014

Split lines: finding half-kin in the family tree

My grandfather having three male half-cousins complicated the tree. Where did they sit? Their grandchildren were somewhere between 3rd cousins and 4th cousins.  Though as is always the way with these special relationships, they were reasonably close: closer than my grandmother was to most of her cousins, that's for sure.

The presence of half-kin in the tree turned out to be exceptionally rare.

Padfield: the love match of Joseph and Mary, 1794, produced all the Padfield family that we knew about, and even more besides once we'd learnt beloved Joe had a posthumous son with plentiful offspring. Both the couple brought shady daughters to the marriage, from previous spouses, who were never mentioned, and whose innumerable descendants were either miners or impoverished printers. Half-kin to be ignored.

Rapson: Margaret Trewhella had such an incredible name that her mother's, Miss Thomas, disappointed. That was until we learnt the young widow had had nine further children with a second husband. Somehow these seemed even more exotic and cohesive than Margaret's own full brother. One was associated with a poisoned Cornish pasty and with a male wizard; another had a boy Jack Rapson whose distinctive likeness reminded us strongly of Grandpa. Another may have been the wool sempstress whose mill provided the workings of Eliza's tapestry, 1820s. And a branch of these came to settled in my rural mid-Devon where I spent a few seasons 'on the land', away from the tedious seaside. Half-kin to be explored.

Dinah: this time round a previous marriage netted us only one half-sibling, Dinah. Listed as a grandchild of seventeenth-century farmer Ed: Murrow, it took some skilful weaving of documents to establish she was Elizabeth's eldest child, and thus half-sister to all four Speed children. She had only one child, too, and having succeeded her aunt in her husband's affections was liable to be cast out of the family unit. History atones for put-upon Dinah, numbering among her descendants, a canon in Leicestershire, a gloving hero, the late châtelaine of du Maurier's Menabilly and the wife of Thatcher's Ambassador in Washington. Half-kin to be fêted.

Mary Lane: I spent a holiday wrapping up the last of Thomas Creed's nine children, two of whom married in London.  We always knew he'd had an illegitimate daughter born just after marriage. He had wisely not married the mother, who went on to have another child by his cousin, a few years later. The baby girl was pinned down, despite having the wrong name listed on her marriage, by the modern-day parish clerk of Butleigh, Somerset at  Predictably we are immediately in a realm of farm labourers, shoe workers, painters and sometime publicans. Half-kin by whom to be bored.

Gorran Churchtown: like roses in winter, a new branch was made known to us on the Lowry side. Our Henry Lowry died in 1861 leaving no siblings, just a stepmother. His father had recently died, leaving the widow and also two half-sisters. These half-sisters were the children of Henry's grandfather, also lately deceased, by his wife a woman from Gorran. With the birth and death of Henry's half-sister when he was 35, these Gorran-women were the only other family from our branch of the Lowrys. The elder girl was sent to her mother's people at Gorran where she married her uncle's heir, William Williams Richards, no direct relation, blacksmith, also, in Gorran churchtown. Only one child continues the line, a third Henry. His children went to Barry in Wales, to Liverpool and there is still a remnant in Cornwall. We never knew them, and they don't know their Lowry lineage. Half-kin to be educated.

Jennet: gift from rural Wales. My Welsh side is dominated by towns; and the danger of leaving these  nineteenth-century monoliths is you are then plunged into a pre-surname obscurity with no leads or clues at all. Jennet saves us from this fate, and provides us with the liminal limberland of rural Wales waking up to its potential.  A single will knives through the impassable chronology: Elizabeth Morgan (Pengilly) in 1825. A devout Methodist and family lady she reveals the presence of half-kin eventually proven to be children of her mother, Jennet. It was while basking in Bat'umi on the Black Sea coast that I finally found a descendant of his kinnagery, who told me she was the fourteenth Jennet. A line from half-sister Gwenllian dies out in the 1990s. And half-brother Rees loses his exciting granddaughter another Jennet to disease in the 1840s, leaving no heirs.  Half-kin needing to be located.

Eleanor: another great half-sister. Her vibrant genes kept her going long after her brothers had all died. She was listed as matriarch in the 1861 census with a Gibson grandson, a Gibson nephew and apparently a Gibson stepfather. It was all most puzzling. It seems the son took the name Gibson so he could inherit property from his half-uncle, who had a smallholding nearby.  The mists above the Tyne cleared and we learnt that Ellen was the child of Ann Charlton before her marriage to Lancelot Gibson. Thus Ellen, through her census entries, was revealing the place of origin of her mother, who had died long before the censuses came out. So we are glad of the extra characters, the south Northumberland ancestral line and the help she provided. Half-kin to be venerated.

Bohemia: this fantastic name is surely connected to Behenna, and unlikely to be any connection at all to the ancient province in Germany. We decided our ancestor Jane Bohemia would be a hardy perennial if she were planted in a family allotment. Little did we know that she too hid a split-line family of descendants.  Way back in the 1990s I corresponded with a Colonel Morley in the US, and suggested from the naming pattern that Jane might have remarried to a second Hambly and produced a number of offspring including Morley's forebear. This was strongly refuted and a marriage in far-off Duloe posited as the correct one for the pair.  It is sometimes nice to outlive wrong-headedness. For two years ago I became aware of the will of Jane Hambly junior which would shed light on this story from 250 years earlier. Indeed Jane Bohemia must have married secondly to William Hambly, brother of relative of her first, Hugh, and gone on to have children with him, including a Hugh and Jane. When Jane died she referred to her Hunter niece, a relationship which fits only with this explanation. So Jane Bohemia's place and story in the garden is now ready to be told. Half-kin belatedly.

Barton: unexpected fruit of my sudden determining of James Carline's parents was the will of his grandfather, available dead easily at Kew. This grandfather's estate duty abstract was sufficiently detailed to list my forebear Mary and her half-kin John Barton of Stapleford and Sarah Henderson? of Matlock. I am not quite sure how I stumbled on tumble-down James and Mary Carline (sr)'s relationship and inferred they'd not baptised a second son, James. Naming patterns fitted as did the later discovery that James had married his first cousin, whose siblings twice performed the same feat.  The half-kin like the curate's egg had family who were digestible in small doses. One line found in England dies out leaving its money to a cousin's son, Arthur Greasley whose connection goes back to pre-1837. This Arthur is found on his bicycle in an online photographic archive, and his son's cruel treatment of a housekeeper also survives on the pages of the web. There are doubtless other tales to be told. We end where we began. Half-kin: unexpectedly.

Moses: to borrow from a spiritual, way up in Cumberland, let my Moseses go! One of this family became Duchess of St Albans. The old patriarch Joseph Moses of Morland Hall Farm eclipsed his wives and it would be unapparent to an observer which one was the mother of his children. In fact my line is from the Scottish Margaret, while two half-sisters were produced from a union with his cousin, Mary Moses. Hannah the elder daughter was known to plant pear trees. Mary the younger daughter was finally proven to have married a Dickinson after a number of circumstantial clues were collected together.  She married very wisely and slowly, unlike the sister who rushed into servitude. From this line come rather slowly, the Thompsons, like tortoises peeking out of their shell, of whom E P is best known. With the death of old Moses, my people were free to escape to western Northumberland, to the exact centre of Britain's landmass, to begin a new chapter in their lives. There remain half-kin, to be counted.

In the catalogue of forebears of mine who had issue by more than one person, I should acknowledge the fact the following male menfolk had had first wives who either died childless or had infant children which died, or who came along for a pivotal role later on: William Bond, William Bagshaw, William Francis, John Airey, James Lowry, Lancelot Gibson. And best stepfather award goes to John Johnson of Old Town. Henry Smith and Samuel Flowers provided stepmothers of greater or lesser degree.  I ought to acknowledge the support and enthusiasm of my own half-kin in compiling this research.

15 Nov 2014

South Sea Island cousins

I vaguely knew the 3 Beck boys, or some of them, had left England and gone to Australia, but hadn't followed up, and brief searches in's database hadn't been productive.
I had been reading about a German family settling in the Galapagos islands, and badly wanted some island connection myself!
I turned over the metaphorical page in Google and there was the entry about Charles Percy Beck, from Burton on Trent, below. It told of his evacuation from the Japanese offensive and arrival in Brisbane Australia, 1942. Intriguingly, the article reveals he had left a brother back in the South Sea Islands, specifically the Solomon Islands.
A clue emerges, this time in the British newspapers of 1931, where details are given of Burton boy Harold Beck, revealed as a copra plantation farmer in an island within the Solomons. The paper gives the place as Ganouga, and it takes some gazetteering to reveal the correct name as Ranongga, indeed pronounced with an initial 'g'.
We can now find there were two Beck boys in the late thirties, Bobby and Pete, on this island, at school with Gideon Zoleveke, whose account of wartime Solomons is well worth reading. Peter did well, and one wonders if he is the father of Collin Beck, the islands' ambassador to the US, these last ten years.
Burton Museum may have been split between the brewing experience venue and the county museum at Shugborough. Staffordshire archives confirm that one deposit from Harold survives. Not his 1931 mementoes, whose fate is unknown, but a tortoiseshell comb, apparently made for a lady back home.when he was the only white man on 'his' island.

31 Oct 2014

Would woods yield wood connection?

The Kentish Weald is heavily wooded, with coppiced hazel, wild cherry, ash and oak formed in a series of 'shaws' no matter the approach you are at once shielded and navigating around one of Britain's superior natural resources.

It was wonderful passing through in a taxi, as I headed, but little did I know, closer and closer to the man in the family who knew more about wood than any other.  My great-great-great-uncle William Smith (1851-1921).  Long dead, his likeness was preserved at the rendezvous in Kent where I was to learn more about the family archive.

To reprise William's story, earlier given, he took his £180 (minus tax) on the nose at 21 and was getting married a matter of days later.  His only remaining relative, his father, was not in a position to refuse him.  He took the money from Mr Riches who ironically had booted the family out of their birthplace, Mulbarton Hall, just ten years earlier.  His trade was carpentry and the village of Jamestown, USA, population 5,336, and not yet a city was eventually to become 'furniture capital of the world' with one in six people working at its furniture factories.  His wife's uncle Jonathan Crick had arrived forty years earlier and was living in the tiny village of Gerry, NY, just nine miles away.

What a delight to find his smiling countenance on good quality black card with the name of the photographer 'Black', likely taken around 1900.  He looks very similar to his nephew Frank Lowry, himself about to emigrate - to farm in South Africa.  These gentlemen, together with Smith's great-uncle and benefactor, John Lain, all share my mitochondrial DNA.

If anyone has a high-speed internet, perhaps they could check if the Black photographic studio is listed in this 1903 Jamestown directory.  Found the reference: T. Henry Black, studio over 12 E 3rd, house over 20 Derby.

There was a William Smith who was a plasterer in Jamestown and returned to England 1886 with a woman named Sarah, to Barnsley Yorkshire.  Coming back to Jamestown their ship the SS Oregon sunk off the coast of Fire Island.  I am not yet convinced this was our William.  The 1880s directories should provide an answer.

William's obituary of 1921 correctly recalls he had one brother and three sisters, an unusual combination.  But it is the survival in our family of his photograph that proves it all.  I had independently figured out the Jamestown connection some while ago, and as we earlier saw, it is pretty water-tight.  It remains to be seen if his family in Florida and upstate NY will want to know more about his origins in England.

Best photographer in town:
Joyce, Pauline Lopus tells the story in Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie, and in her autobiography Lucy (Lucille Ball 1911-89) herself writes, "...DeDe [her mother] sent me to the best photographer in Jamestown, T. Henry Black. It was Mr. Black who was quoted as saying, 'It's very difficult to get a satisfactory picture of Miss Ball because the lady is just not photogenic!'" (p. 30) The pictures Lucy references are from when she was in the Miss Celoron bathing beauty contest as a teenager.

A Lain less Wandered. Diss-Connection

It never rains, but it pours.  Sheets and sheets of it.  How the buckets poured down, and the wearer became the sluice-gates.  They say there's no such thing as bad weather: only poor clothing.

My genealogical clothing was meagre: I wrapped the thin scarf of conceit around me further, my belt of certainty slipped away, and my hat of pride was knocked off in the deluge.

The archival discovery in question was that of Miss Daisy, who had died in 1972 aged 96.  As well as outliving any member of the family past or present, and surviving all but one of her younger sister's family into the bargain - she had known a generous selection of the women who cascaded down from her castrator great-grandfather Samuel Flowers.

Flowers had had eight daughters, none of them needing castration, but unfortunately, only two of them produced daughters.  These were just the kind of family members that interested Miss Daisy.

The staggering finding was the photograph of John Lain 1787-1867, brother-in-law of the castrator.  Interesting as he is both genealogically remote (my mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's brother), and sharing my mitochondrial DNA, and also that the family he called his own, I would barely recognise.  He listed as nephews and nieces people who I would consider pretty peripheral to my tree.  We have no idea who his grandparents were and can readily classify him as pre-Victorian, as he was 50 when the future empress ascended the throne and had wrapped up his life and affairs long before Disraeli had Victoria's realm declared an empire.

His large photograph is taken in Diss, a town I'd never really heard of.  So tiny, it easily became a member of Cittaslow.  Rather amusingly, May, Lain's great-nephew's granddaughter came to Diss a few years ago from Bethnal Green, believing it to be the birthplace of her father - in fact born at Deopham.  Diss was the nearby market town where Lain's land was sold in 1867, and checking a map, it really was the logical place for the folk of South Lopham to come for their weekly shop, market, catch-up and to catch the train if needed for Norwich or Ipswich.

It was thanks to Lain that my Smiths ended up being born at Mulbarton Hall, and he effectively provided a home for Smith's pregnant bride and luckless partner around the time of their marriage, Christmas 1850.  So it was that one pregnant sister dodged disgrace and became chatelaine of an old country manorhouse in Norfolk, while her older sister (who survived her 20 years), had to wait until her mid-forties to shake off her first husband and cash in her hard-won property in Macclesfield Street, Soho, for the protection of a businessman in nearby Horse and Dolphin Yard.  Quite a difference in pattern.

Lopham Fen: last remaining fen river valley in England

So, we thank the mapping folk for making it apparent that Diss is the connection, and Miss Daisy for hanging onto a photo her mother (married at 18) must nearly have lost.

And Mr Lain for emerging from the centuries, not too battered at all, clearly a force to be reckoned with, and a reminder of life a very long time ago.

1787 - year of his birth.  Events in this year: the US constitutuion was signed and three states joined the union.  Doomed Captain Bligh sets sail on a two-year voyage from Spithead on the HMS Bounty with his motley mutinous crew.   Mozart opened one of his first symphonies in Vienna.

18 Oct 2014

A sense of place

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

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

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

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

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

The Changing Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 Sep 2014

Viewing blogspot, blogger posts on Windows Phone devices

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

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

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

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

13 Sep 2014

In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire missing records might just happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 Aug 2014

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

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

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

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

To begin at the beginning....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 Aug 2014

The X chromosome and its family history surprises

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

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

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

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

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

I, Miss Dinah Widdows

As told to...

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

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

17 Aug 2014

What a difference a decade makes

Censuses can baffle.  A happy family all living together in 1871 in Kyo, Durham were topsy-turvy in-between times and all squeezed up together with barely any shared constituents in 1881.  The surviving thread was Sarah Ann Southern.

1871 Kyo, Durham
William Southern, wife Ann, child Sarah Ann

1881 County Durham
Ann Southern (widow), daughters Sarah Ann, Elizabeth Ann

It appears the two Anns were the same, but no!  The ages nor the birthplace, neither match.  Ann was the *second* wife of William.  So in the space of ten years - a child had been born, the first wife died, a second wife arrived and the father died.  Whew - good going Southerns!

In Norfolk, Maria Haythorpe's long-awaited death fails to appear, she marries John Brown moments before her death and he remarries, it seems even as the clock chimes the census enumerator's visit.  Not a clue left of that brief relationship.

In Cornwall, Elizabeth Davies of Hayle helpfully lived with her aunt Sally the entire time, who had a rare name and made pinning them down pretty easy.  One of her daughters married in Dorset, and we're still hunting the other one (Mary).  Elizabeth herself doesn't reveal her death easily - till we find that she too made a deathbed marriage, and is buried under this name - without passing a census year on the way through.
Picture my surprise at learning our respected uncle Joseph Carline was at the centre of a bitter custody battle over a deceased infant when he was very definitely a grandfather and a widower - or so I thought! Kindly Joseph was a widower in 1861 and on 1871, but not in-between. He'd raced up the aisle of crooked spire Chesterfield church knowing that any child he produced would inherit the sickly bride's lands, even apparently if it later died. He got to work and by 1871 the whole episode had gone, wife, son, land, Chancery case. Until I hauled the surprising paperwork out from the Cheshire mine some time last year. Curiously, his actual grandson a Ford worker at Dagenham was given the infant heir's name and died fairly recently.
In Somerset, widow Ann Brown was happily living with her children Frecia and Effie and others in 1871.  Ring - bong - all change.  In 1881 the family have apparently reconstituted as:
1881 Ditcheat: William Stride, wife Rachel, stepchildren Annie and Ellen Brown!

What exactly has happened in between!  Only three events have happened this time 'tween the enumerators' call, though we have apparent name changes to deal with. Can you tell what's gone on?

11 Aug 2014

Diocese of Durham wills go online at FamilySearch

I was able to go back one or two generations with my Gibsons of Colwell Farm, Chollerton, up north of the wall in Northumberland.  The diocesan wills covering the period from late mediaeval times up until 1857 were indexed some years ago at North East Inheritance, a University of Durham project, and for years there was no news at all, as the original publication date of 2010 receded deeper into the distance.

The will of my ancestor Lancelot Gibson the first, dated 1789, proven 1794, show show brutal the choices were for people.  His eldest son having died, the widow was given the choice of arguing that the farm should go to her son, or taking the money with a large number of conditions - children were to be well behaved with a keen eye watching them from age of 14 upwards; Ann was not to remarry; she was to conduct herself and not to ever challenge the ownership of the family farms.  Then, and only then, when the boys reached 21 they would get £50 between them and the girl would get a fiver.  In addition though, Gibson would provide for their education (if warranted) and give them somewhere to live.

This useful document ties together a number of the family, and finally explains who Lancelot Gibson Dobinson was.  I'd noticed him in the GRO indexes, but a cursory investigation, which must have been extremely cursory, ruled him out as being of interest.  How wrong was that!  He is a great-great-grandson of Lance the first.

Another useful dataset well worth waiting for.

Dates of birth from 1900 to 1916

Unless you're very likely and have inherited the family's birthday book with all the birthdates of everyone who ever popped in to say hello, birthdates can be hard to find.

Birthdates are helpfully given in the indexes of deaths taking place here since 1969.

Why are they useful?  Well, take my relative Jessie Smith.  By finding her birthdate (from the London parish registers at Ancestry), I was able to pick out her death entry very easily, even though she had got married and changed her name in the meantime.

I've used a birthdate to help prove people are related, including Caroline Jones who lived to be over 100 - I was initially rather suspicious of this, but the family bible confirmed the birthdate given at her death.

Another source of birthdates was published last month, the names of minor children given when soldier's registered to fight (Enlisted) in World War One.

Among those was William Chappell of Penzance, whose daughters' birthdates are both given.  Also Charles Chipperfield of London Docklands - in this case the daughters' birthdates helped me bypass the fact they married under subtly different names.

Grandmother's special connection with her son's daughter

There's a few articles explaining why a grandmother is specially close to her son's daughter.  The granddaughter has 1 pair of sex chromosomes (so 1/12 of the total) and of that pair, one of those (1/24 of the total) is an exact copy of her grandmother's.  An X chromosome has been passed down intact through the two generations.

It's calculated in total the granddaughter has 26% of her DNA from her paternal grandmother, not much extra, but a little extra closeness built in.  A quick look seems to suggest that the little girls only get 24% of their DNA from their father's father, but I've not verified the numbers.  However they often get his surname, so hopefully that balances it all out a bit.

image from:
Nice animation on unrelated genetic topic about flies:

Facebook's useful experiment for family historians is closed

In 2012 Facebook offered you the chance to message its users for 65 pence, if they were not already your Facebook-friend.  I found this pretty useful and sent messages off to my future housemate (who didn't know me), plus a new cousin in Sydney and one in rural Massachusetts.

The pennies spent guaranteed my Hello would reach their Facebook inbox and not go to a hidden folder.

I had great responses from Sydney and rural MA, and consider it money better-spent than had I dusted down the stamps and posted a big long letter.  In the event, the cousin in Sydney never replied to the Facebook message, but tracked me down on my website and sent me an email.

So a good experiment. Update, 2015, it's back and boy have I made use of it.

11 Apr 2014


Following from my day of industry, that just leaves the British newspapers, which gave my some surprising results.

I couldn't store any of the researches I'd found onto memory stick.  The full-text articles I quickly pasted into a textbox on my website to get it back easily later.  I memorised the rest, and will at some point go back and get hold of the snippets.

* Joseph Barnett's death notice 1856 described him as a man of industry and integrity
* Henry Smith posts a notice in the local paper about his wife Ann, two years after marrying her, that he is not responsible for any additional debts she incurs
* William Giles Collins is shown to have had considerable financial support (£800) from his father-in-law James Compton of Kingston Deverill (whose eighth daughter he had married) and, his latest enterprise having failed, and not having a job, he was allegedly living in Bath with a married woman.  The wife arranged to have him found and for maintenance for his family.  He said he had a mind to 'hook it to America' - indeed he married a Bristolian girl out there the very next year (1873).  He was back in Somerset by 1881 and staying with his mother; his two wives were elsewhere!
* Cornelius Collins, his brother, by contrast, was a denizen of virtue.  It may be he that was considered for funding to go to Bruton Boys' School in 1846 (then age 10).  He's described as the son of a widowed farmer's wife; but he lost out on this occasion to a Master Peacock.
* Charles Carline, my forebear who was a policeman in and around Ilkeston, Derbyshire.  He was on the edge of arresting fisticuffs, with criminals telling him that 'no policeman in Derbyshire can arrest me!'.  He was still very young (21) and faintly noble, but likely turned to drink which probably cost him his job and then he got a girl in Eyam pregnant (unclear what he was doing there - possibly estate managing) and came to Salford.
* Joseph Carline, Charles's uncle, is confirmed as having had a brief second marriage in 1861, in between the censuses so quite easily missed.  (His marital status remains widower by 1871 and there were no surviving children.)  He married at Chesterfield parish church and the issue of the marriage was subject to a Court of Chancery action, which I have already seen.  The Chancery index said it was a Yorkshire case, but I recognised the surnames involved and knew that not to be true.
* John Johnson, farmer of Old Town, Catton, Allendale gets several mentions in the Newcastle Courant.  At his death (1885) and also as the official who people wrote to: for example, he was told that cattle plague was coming and he should close his show, but the advice turned out to be incorrect.
* Mrs Mary Collins Tayler, the saddler's wife from Catherine Street, Salisbury has a fairly lengthy obituary in a Hampshire paper at her death 'on New Kent Road', London in 1835.  She was a granddaughter of the murdered Martha Tucker and her seven affectionate children went a good way to strengthening the female line of this family, perhaps because of their determination to respect their womenfolk.
* The South African papers courtesy of the Readex portion of let me see the two soccer-playing Cotty brothers (Syd and Victor) one of whom was injured in a mining accident around 1907; the marriage of Charles Commins Haine was reported at length in 1907 at Germiston, his brother L. P. being best man.  I'm more convinced than ever that the assault of a young white girl in Kimberley 1913 led to the assailant assuming his mother's name, and also of the family likely moving away to Pretoria.
* Properties were sold - Mr William Lain's estate in 1832 was subdivided: including his public house The Three Boars at Spooner Row, and one heir was Samuel Flowers; Giles Grist's property at Faulkland was sold about 1845 (he'd been suffering from ill-health in 1840).  Flowers's daughter was confirmed as dying at the Boar i.e. Blue Boar, Walsham-le-Willows, which had been saved from fire and now serves Thai food.

These are just the highlights - there will be other discoveries that I didn't note down but which will prove to be useful.  All found from the Newspaper eresources page of the British library.

The other snips were the bootlegging of alcohol in 1907 by Charles and Jose Dunkerton (his wife I believe) in Fort Scott, Bourbon, Kansas.  Also the appearance of the enigmatic Miss Melisande Bell as a child in 1910 in Tanglin, Singapore dressed as a red pierrette.  Her father was the Postmaster-General.  She would later be thanked by Philip Ziegler for her information about the Duchess of Windsor in his biography.  The Straits Times archives are online.

10 Apr 2014

A day of industry

An extraordinary 24 hours in the world of family history...  I found out a whole bunch of stuff.

* I had a reply from JM in Barrow whose wife was the family historian.  I was pretty sure she was the daughter of John Thompson and Mary Taylor - Mary being the one of a handful of Isabella Barton (1830)'s family to have had issue.  And so this proved to be.

* I had a reply from JD in Sherborne whose mother Ivie was born in Durban, South Africa, the child of Cornish parents.  It turns out Ivie had 5 children in the 1930s, all of whom are still living, and that she passed away in Zimbabwe.  I first heard of Ivie in the will of her grandfather, 1923, Bellevue Terrace, Tuckingmill about 15 years ago.  Only now is there this opportunity to find the family.

* I had a reply from AL in Dronfield, Derbyshire with very good information about my Kiveton Park relatives.  It turns out my Grandpa's grandma Shugg had a first cousin Grace Emmerson who lived at Kiveton Park.  This was not a country house but a mining village in the parish of Wales.  Her husband was not only a miner and preacher but builder too, and a son-in-law I understand became the colliery manager.  A granddaughter moved to the Dales immediately north of Harrogate where there are some large farms.  One of the family married in Jerusalem in 1942 when it was under the British Mandate.  The relative was working in the hospital there - it was wartime.

On the bus yesterday to a dear old cousin in the Mendips, the First Great Western bus wiggled its way past THREE of my relatives in the housing estates of south-west Keynsham.   Broad streets and plenty of bungalows with retired people actually sitting outside ('in their front gardens!').  I think K. Pearce is somewhere on Lytes Cary Road, but he didn't get my letter or so it seems.  Then there was Hutton Close which was home to my Mendip cousin's cousin Barbara, and then the very same bungalow became the property of a Mrs G. Alkins from Halesworth in Suffolk.

The thing is, GA is quite a bit more closely related, being descended from my 3xgreat-grandfather Smith's older sister, of whom he was quite fond.  To make it all worse, Smith died it turns out at the childhood home of GA's mother - who lived to 92 and who would certainly have remembered him.  I decided long ago I would no longer pursue contact with Mrs Alkins (now herself 90) because of advancing age.  It was nonetheless galling for the bus to gaily trip past Hutton Close and know that the only human memory of ggggfather Smith was there for the asking inside that bungalow.

In Bristol the same day, I twice jogged past CreedBet, which information online confirms is run by the son and grandson of my Granny's first cousin L G Creed, described at his father's death as 'turf accountant'.  Who would have thought that the betting gene would run through 2 more generations.

Two other short bits of story resolved themselves in the morning: the father and son both named Peter Hill, of Penzance were found, the father having passed away last year at Praze-an-Beeble.  I find it interesting that it was only the Rodda children who moved away from Crowan that had family there - Mary left in 1841 and Thomas the same year, yet the brother who remained has no family in Cornwall whatsoever (one, in Reading, only, and the rest in Australia).

The other puzzle being the deaths of William and Catherine Bell, Methodist minister and his wife, both of which took place in 1925 as per the Methodist records at John Rylands Library, Manchester.  Catherine's took place first a matter of weeks before her ancient aunt Jane; while William (who'd been ill for at least 15 years) struggled on till the end of the year looked after by their daughter Florence Sloss.  Catherine's early death dispels my fancy that she lived on until the war.  It renders impossible that any of the Sloss family in Bangor, Co. Down, would remember the Bells at all.  Florence's next of kin are none other than the Butler-Slosses of judicial fame.  It seems then that both Catherine and her eldest sister Arundel had, despite producing many children and some grandchildren, no heirs to continue - and that both lines are now extinct.  A most unusual situation.  The only grandson in America said he had no family and was buried by the Veterans' Bureau.  I spoke to 2 of Arundel's granddaughters on the telephone, before the line was extinguished.  But it is Catherine's line I'd really like to have known.

I messaged Yvonne F. in Florence, Massachusetts the granddaughter of Judith Marshall from Bodmin.  Judith was brought up by great-uncles and aunts as her parents had gone up to Ashton-under-Lyne with all the other children.  Judith alone remained down in Cornwall and died aged 97 in or near Newton Abbot.  Yvonne would certainly remember her.  On her Facebook page she had Exeter College listed as a previous place of study.  As I ran past this earlier in the week, I thought Yvonne would like to know.

The biggest mystery of the day to crack was the 3 Rose sisters of Decatur, Illinois.  I've been over the data, that I now have, and don't see how I'd have gotten anywhere without the October 2003 Decatur Herald and Review obituary that I located today.  I was at the British Library, renewing my pass (for another 3 years - hurrah!) and had had some success with the British papers.  I had definitely tracked down US papers from the available databases (ProQuest, Gale &c) and was determined to get something out of them again.

I followed the links to British newspapers from Newsgroup and then backtracked out of UK records to the US and was very surprised to find Decatur's Herald and Review on the list of available papers.  It claimed only to cover the last 10 years, but I found records back to 1992 or more.

My first search (under the Rose girls' father's name) yielded a result straightaway and I quickly went to the page (the above obituary in 2003) so I could capture the information before it could disappear.  The obituary (which was for the eldest Rose girl) gave me sufficient information which coupled with, and the Washington State marriage indexes up to 2004, meant I could construct trees down several generations.  The Rose girls were in a strong position to take forward the mitochondrial DNA of their ancestors the Murrows, though only the middle one is known to have granddaughters, but as these are married, the line may well continue.

Looking back over the resources, I definitely could have found this from GenealogyBank's collection (1990-) but would have had to pay a monthly recurring fee, so am kind of pleased I didn't know they had this article.

That just leaves the British newspapers, which gave my some surprising results, see next entry.

6 Apr 2014

Making work for the postman

Of the 14 letters I finally sealed up today, 10 were to new cousins.

They were scattered around the edges of England with a disproportionate number (33%) in what was once Lancashire.

Few of the addresses were in the phone book - but luckily was on-hand to help me locate them.  After learning the postcode area (for example DH7), I've taken to using a house price website called Proviser (example pages are from Bradford), to capture the full list of streets within that postcode area.

I also consult Google maps to see if there are other clues - relatives living nearby, or a geographical feature that would make one part or other of the area more likely.  Within Proviser I note down the names of village settlements, for example within Blackburn there is Mellor.  I double-check that the address I need doesn't include a village name.

Now I can whip through the list of streets in Proviser - including or excluding the villages as found by my earlier checking - and quickly narrow the field to the correct street.  Possibly the longest search was for a relative in Walks Avenue (Manchester).  It's a big old postcode area, couldn't easily be split up and W is right at the end of the alphabet.

Sometimes it makes sense to do a visual.  When looking for an address by the Lakes, there just seemed to be a tonne of possible addresses - so I picked out some likely streets from looking at the map, and was proven correct.

If you are unlikely and your relative lives on a densely populated Old London Road (which tend to be rather long) there could be a lot of houses to the one postcode.  Or worse, finding a relative lived in a tower block in Plymouth - there were at least 10 floors and in the order of 90 different properties all occupying the same thousand square foot.

It's useful if somebody on the property is in the phone book (not necessarily the person you expect) and if somebody's ever held a directorship.  One trick I used in Liverpool at a down-at-heel neighbourhood, once very grand, was looking in the 1984 phone book to see if the address was given there.  It was.

On the whole, it needn't take that long to search a postcode.  The bulkiest areas can be divided into villages - and postcodes for central urban districts might only cover a few dozen streets.  The worst area I searched was BB2 - 10 pages of addresses mostly all in Blackburn itself, so few could be eliminated (or focussed on) by determining if the address was/ was not in a surrounding village.

It can be embarrassing when you've spent ages pinning down your postcode and got the address only to find that the person was in the phone book all along.  I was looking for a Richards family member in Romford and missing a possible entry in the phone book was understandable as it was just such a common name.

Another trick is to know the combination of names of a couple.  I mentioned here how knowing that John B Jones had a wife Ann E enabled me to focus-in on the only couple in the country who shared this name-combo.  (Name slightly changed to keep them anonymous.)  For this highly mobile couple who'd lost contact with relatives 30 years ago, and had left their Midlands address 20 years ago, I needed a miracle to pin them down.

The site to use for comparing addresses with postcodes and vice versa is the Royal Mail's Postcode Finder.  It used to offer only a measly 10 searches a day - which got you nowhere, particularly if you're still struggling to understand its search boxes.  It's considerably more relaxed now, particularly since it's been sold out of our hands to the lowest bidder!

Once you've found your address, you still need to write the letter, prepare and include copies of documents, keep a photographic record of what you've sent and muster up sufficient envelopes, pens, stamps, paper, printer ink, and power cables to get the show on the road.  In fact I recommend writing the address on the envelope as the very first thing you do - then at least the myriad documents can be filed in the correct place as you prepare for dispatch.  I would certainly recommend sending a stamped-addressed envelope, unless you strongly suspect you'll be getting an email response.

As for writing the letter itself, some tips on this business can be found a few pages up.

It's now slightly more work than it used to be when I got all my addresses from wills, and later in the brief periods when electoral roll full results were easy to come-by.  But I'd rather have all the information relatively easily than just a portion of the information ridiculously easily, which is how I'd describe family history 20 years ago...  (Plus you never used to know until too late, just who was hiding behind those terse phone book entries.)

For today - some folk I've been hunting nearly 20 years, others turned up yesterday when I took a detour down a branch I'd not known existed.  We will have to see what comes back.

Matrimonial mischief in Somerset

Tusk and tusk - what a to-do!

Thomas Creed the farmer set his friends and went after information concerning the servants.  The servants were paid handsomely one supposes for their hard work, and this is what they found:

Catherine Clement, Catherine Lane and John Ludwell were the servants.

Lane pretended to be asleep on the chair.  After her mistress had ensured the servant was asleep (what kind of house is this?), she and her paramour Webb went to a back door, unlocking and unbarring it. There was a way through to the Oxstall. The mistress returned a quarter of an hour later, Webb having made his way home. This had happened often in the past, Clement had
noticed straw on Mrs Creed's back several times...

The full story is available here: Creed contra Creed
For more examples see: Marriage Capers

Miscellaneous marriage thoughts - Wales in Yorkshire

From the miscellaneous marriages listed on Ancestry:

I also found my lass from Wales, Kiveton Park, marrying in Jerusalem where she was working as a nurse in World War Two.  Yes the name Wales, Kiveton Park is probably the most confusing ever; even more so as it's often written Wales, nr. Sheffield, or Wales, Nottinghamshire or Waleswood.  Most county boundaries skirt neatly between towns, but Kiveton Park was a colliery that happened to sit on a border I'd never heard of - Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.  So it was able to flout the carefully planned registration districts, poor law unions and electoral constituencies.  It's heart and soul seem to belong with Sheffield, not Worksop (its notional mother town), but I could be wrong about that.

See Kiveton Park and Wales history for more.  I only stumbled on all this by accident, yesterday.  I was about to wrap up a letter for a South African cousin (now in Dorset) when I noticed at the top of the tree the string of SHUGG siblings, from Gwinear, who'd multiplied considerably through to the present day.  I noticed I'd never found marriages for Jane (1821) or Mary (1823).  Could modern research tools help me locate them?

I was embarrassed to find this:
Clearly showing that there were not exactly many of the name anywhere.  This was a great surprise.  I'd a notion there were legions of Jane Shuggs in St Ives all with the father's name of John and thoroughly muddying the picture.  The bad old days had you scrabbling with heavy volumes at St Catherine's House and locating one-off entries such as the one below, and having really no idea who they'd married, who they were (a widow, perhaps) or where they were going next.
The excellent Cornwall Online Parish Clerk database was actually my first port-of-call.  Confirming that Mary Shugg had died age 12, and that Jane was the only one of her generation, I was then launched into her modest-sized Trevaskus family who'd left Hayle, Cornwall for Devonport.

Missing from the censuses was their pint-sized daughter Grace who I eventually surmised had gone with husband Emmerson up to Kiveton Park shortly after her marriage.  The mines there were some ten years old: her sister had had an earlier spell at Harthill, 3 miles away, but the sisters only overlapped for a year as the elder one decided to go back to Devonport after she was widowed.

Their daughter married a mining engineer and it was their girl who worked as a nurse in Jerusalem during World War Two, coming back to England for the birth of her daughter who still lives in the wider area.

Some clarification about the counties from Wikipedia:
Kiveton Park lays claim to being in Rotherham Borough Council, has a Sheffield postcode, a Worksop telephone code, and has [Derbyshire's] Chesterfield Canal running through it, it also lays claim to being the smallest place in Europe with two railway stations.

Miscellaneous marriage thoughts: Paris matches

There was not a single Jenkins-Jenkins marriage in Llandovery for over 40 years.

I have had a look at the miscellaneous overseas marriages included since September 2013 on Ancestry.  I did find my waiter Joe Makepeace from Marylebone marrying in Paris & Vicinity (don't know that town) to Marie Alexandrine Mere about 1873.  He had likely met her at the Castle in Perthshire where he was second footman.  I also found my Mary Bagnell marrying 1867, in the English Episcopal Church, Rue d'Aguesseau 'in the house of the Ambassador' with his consent.  Her place of origin is given as Attanagh, Queen's County (now Laois).  This was useful.  Her groom was from Dover and her brother had married at Sittingbourne.  The Earl of Orkney is shown as the absentee landlord of Grenan townland, Attanagh with Mary's mother Rebecca occupying and sub-letting.  The family must have approved as her brother the doctor witnesses.  (Their son later got hit with a viscountcy while on the Pyrenees.)

5 Apr 2014

Searching for burials - summary of the UK websites' offerings

Gravestone records are becoming a bit of a minefield out there.

Deceasedonline is the only UK-centred site, and probably the most determined to sign up local authorities and to make money.  They look strong for Wiltshire, Wakefield, Bolton, Cheshire West, London Boroughs.  I should mention it gives only burial registers, not gravestone transcriptions.

Billiongraves are good in some very specific parts of the UK: Sandbach, Nuneaton, Kensal Green, Beaconsfield, Leigh, Hindley, Lowton (these in Greater Manchester area), Stockport, Bangor, Conwy Valley, Llandudno is ubiquitous for the US, and its results now pop up in Ancestry searches.  However, I've never found any UK entries - it claims to have 27000 records, though this might be cemeteries.  I gave up trying.  Possibly the dropdown county box for England works in other browsers (not Chrome).

Gravestonephotos has Devon, Durham, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Surrey and North Yorkshire.  It will shortly release Wymondham Abbey gravestones, which I'm excited about. is very patchy and doesn't appear to have had any new content for awhile: it is strong in Durham and Bedworth (Warwickshire) with some 'select' graves listed for Burnley, Colne and some parts of Greater Manchester.  It also has reasonable Cleveland coverage.

Findmypast may have some monumental inscriptions (the same thing as gravestone transcriptions) but the results are mingled up with the burial registers, so it's hard to find what you're looking for

Other useful sites:
Australia Cemetery Index - made a good breakthrough on here, seems strong for NSW
Ontario cemetery project - have never found anyone on this
South Africa - truly useful

Searches on my site

The following are the searches on Google last month.

I am not exactly sure how some of them ended up on my site.

hayter haymes
william day south cadbury
george bearne chapman
frost family wincanton somerset clement frost
jane burfitt joseph burfitt
widcombe and flambert
henry poole slade newfoundland
edward spencer and ann dafter newton st loe
castle cary dawe
pontifex deptford
anna elizabeth sorensen john rodda
hugh follitt somerset
burdis family in westoe
hester dafter twerton somerset
langport somerton louisa edwards obituary
samuel sillifant
haynes old dairy north road dibden purlieu
mary beck artist sidmouth
amos pedwell somerset
parsonage farm sutton montis
mary ann hine longman
hookland road porthcawl
walter maidment cardiff
thomas chambers from wincanton
elm house lydlinch
salisbury donne
george poole newfoundland slade cox
mary elizabeth farthing wincanton
was george pullen buried at shepton mallet within the last 2 months
annie pickard 1800 s yorkshire westmoreland
jane ann curran or jane ann curran or curran jane ann
william rowden died 1860
castle cary barreners
who was joseph creighton in coventry england
isgar jesse sommerset
biggleswade chronicle obituaries stratton way cemetery
stoney farm langford bristol
henry lawry marshall
solomon martin cotnwall
tubal-cain dorset regiment
crowan rodda bawden
sarah sherring of puddletown
william rowden 1860
treloggen walton somerset
dr. lester harold rhymes m.d.
southwick sussex obituaries 1933
john creed pig farmer 1900 s
ion family bampton
william rapson oates

Tidal wave

Whoomph - the wave comes in and smashes into the defences.  Soak!  The deluge from Cornwall hits us on the chin and we stagger back.  Bash!  Another wave comes in from Wales.

This has been the last week of news from the Western portions of my tree.  Cousin Ray wrote in with surprising news - that distant uncle David Francis (1805) who was known to have gone to New York with his family from Wales, had sired a child by his second marriage aged around 70.  It took him about a moment to find that line, kinda thriving, in San Diego, California.  This is somewhat poignant for us - as months earlier Ray had found the last of the original line (from first marriage) dying with no known relatives in that exact same neighbourhood.

When Thomas Hitchens married Miss Thomas at St Blazey in 1838 we could see his sister was witnessing the marriage under her married name.  Three more sisters appeared out of the rubble, marrying at Blazey or in Tywardreath.  The last time we'd seen this family was in 1820 at Gwennap.  One of the sisters left a will, in 1879, naming a bunch of relatives and identifying for certain sure, that Sarah Hitchens wife of Martin Verran was Thomas's sister.  The whole lot are now the family, reunited, of my Sarah Hunter of Redruth (1782) by her first marriage to miner Hitchens.  It was only by sitting down and looking at this tree, that I got it sorted.  Somewhat embarrassing that it took me 15 years to get around to it.  So far we've only found family from the Verrans, in Shiraz- and olive- growing Clare, South Australia.

I've been lucky enough to hear from the Verran's great-great-grandson John Symonds in New South Wales, now 90, with one or two stories and photographs to help bridge that gap since 1820.

Then came a surprise email out of the blue from Henry Hunter, of the Goldrush towns out in British Columbia.  He left Cornwall age 12 in 1837 and for a while we thought he might be a missing sibling who would just slot right in to the tree.  Not to mention explaining the rumour of the uncle who disappeared and never said where he'd been.  But it's now thought he's the son of Henry senior a mariner from Mylor, near Falmouth, which would have given him plenty more opportunity to jump on a ship.

These Western districts of the UK sure have the capacity to surprise, and laugh at our supposed grip of events from the 1800s era.

Additional surprises came in the form of William Rapson Oates's life story (from a researcher who I spotted on my website) and in contact from the family of the centenarian on my Pearce side, Elizabeth Moss Bray.  (And on the same branch, Arthur Gordon Bartlett's wife finally becoming known - grew up, possibly on Robben Island and daughter settled in Zimbabwe.)  And how could I forget - finding my missing John Rodda, not in Africa or America, but in a pub on the Acton road.

27 Feb 2014

Come on Eileen

I don't know what it is about the name Eileen.  I worry that they'll be proper Irish and not interested in their English family.... except there's never been anyone called Eileen on my Irish side of the family.  In fact, nobody of any other name has been consistently half as helpful:

  • Eileen D took my phone call and helped me find the rest of the Chappell family.
  • Eileen D2 told me the eldest Chappell boy gambled away the family farm in Yeovilton.
  • Eileen F proved for me that Francis Scott Boyce the coachman from Somerset, was indeed first cousin of 2 of my great-great-great-grandparents.
  • Eileen M told me that grandpa Tabor died transplanting swedes on Christmas Day 1909.
  • Eileen N wrote to me recently with information about her late father, who grew up in the orphanage in Blackburn.

And now I'm hoping Eileen G will be able to tell me all about my relative Sarah who died age 36 in Edinburgh.  She is the great-granddaughter.  So, come on Eileen, tell us all about it!

Of course - with a name like Eileen, our correspondent was always going to reply.  And what a great reply we've had.  Thank you!  Now the big question on my lips, is which Eileen shall we hear from next - there's still at least 20 letters of the alphabet left to go.  Come on, Eileen Z!

19 Feb 2014

Ann, 18, not in South Africa (1858)

Excuse me google, have you seen my relative.  She's about 18, she used to live in England, and I think she went to live in South Africa?  It's just gone 1861 and I haven't seen her anywhere in the census so I think she must have left home.  Can you help me?
Google couldn't help me.  But FamilySearch did.

The story starts with William Frampton Cotty who disappears with his wife and children somewhere between 1851 - when he's at South Street, South Petherton, Somerset - and 1861, when he's not in the country at all.  No website had any records on him, but by googling I found references to the family in South Africa, and by checking their National Archives 'NAAIRS' catalogue, I slightly bulked out what I knew on him and his boys.  The youngest girl by a fluke marries in Bristol, has a baby in Lancashire and returns to South Africa (odd).   But of the oldest girl Ann, there was nothing.

A new site, South African Settlers, popped up in my internet browser with extra info on W. F. Cotty.  His entry had been indexed from the Cape Death Notices and was modestly informative.  By this time, I already knew or had surmised that his cousin the housekeeper had become his partner and later his wife, but I didn't know this:
That Ann had a middle name of Martha.  In 1851 she's down as Ann M, but her birth shows her as Anne.  I'd even signed up to the Crewkerne Yahoo Groups which has since deluged my mailbox in the hopes of getting the baptism at Hinton St George and finding that possibly useful middle name.

A few days after finding this, having fruitlessly combed South Africa for Annie Marthas who had children in the 1860s, I thought of putting her name into FamilySearch.  It's worked before.  I now have a claim to the firstborn male of Mount Vernon, NY, as a relative because I put a married couple's name into FamilySearch.

So off do I try it again.  And, no!   Can this be?
Not expecting to find anything, I pick up Ann as mother of a girl born around 1865 in Springfield Illinois.  Well for a girl born 1840, that's about right.  It's more than about right, it's spot on - Ann's aunt and uncle lived in Springfield, and of all the places in the US, this is one it makes all the sense in the world for her to have gone to.

She lies buried at Boone, Des Moines, where she'd gone to live with her husband Gus.  She had 5 children, not the 2 stated in 1910, and 4 were living in 1900 (as correctly stated there) - Anna, Mae, Lotta and Earle but only the eldest has family - children Genevieve Eichenberger and Ashley Bowers.  Ashley's grandson is in England not far from his roots; while Genevieve's are still in Glen Ellyn or retired elsewhere in the States.

Ann is not the first relative I've come across who's balked at the chance to go overseas with her widowed father or mother.  Elizabeth Swanton and her cousin Sarah Mullins both said 'no thank you' to the chance to go to Australia (in 1852) and Ohio (in 1836).  Sarah was already married, so the decision wasn't hers.

Ann was only 17 and had the perfect opportunity to emigrate while single, just as her aunt Hannah had 17 years earlier:
It's no coincidence that Anna was the name of her first child.  Had she waited any longer she would have been rushed off to Cape Province, before you can say 'gold'.

Ironically, maybe her life was harder in America than it would have been in Africa.  The Cottys did well and money was flowing in.  Whereas Ann had to return to Chicago after years out in Des Moines - was she happy about that I wonder.  Her aunt and cousins were around, and hopefully stayed in touch: newspaper articles would confirm.

Facebook for finding cousins

I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but thank goodness for Facebook.  It may have no content whatsoever but it does glue people together in all sorts of interesting ways.

It really doesn't much matter if your security settings are set to (what you think is) maximum, chances are you profile pictures at least are shown to everyone.  And if you're female, one of your friends is very likely to have commented on it.

Plus about two-thirds of people show who all their Friends are anyway.  I have lately been using Facebook to help find members of highly mobile families who just aren't in the same place for long.  Or whose street addresses change more than their email address.

I had a target-list of several branches of mine that have disappeared from touch any time in the last 50+ years:
* the Rev'd L S Creed of Cape Town
* Mr F B Lowry of Durban (both uncles of my Granny)
* the Busherts of Rock Island
* the Eichenbergers of Glen Ellyn (both in Illinois descendants of my Ansford Felthams)
and of course the Haine family of northern Natal

Facebook came through with all of them.  I picked the most unusual names in the tree and hoped to find them - in some cases I was going back to when my uncle was in Botswana and captured the details from back then, 40 years ago.  I found the people I hoped to find, in Canada, and in S. Africa.

I was particularly keen to find Mandy, born 1959 in northern Natal, and she appeared as if by magic.  I was searching through all the Haine's were listed as from Africa, and one family stuck out - listed as a friend for one whose friends were public was Mandy, clearly an aunt, living in Alaska.  When I checked her middle name, that was a match, her maiden name also popped up on another site, the year of birth matched, and the place of study in Natal.  I plan to send a letter in the post - the old-fashioned way.

Not a bad result at all.  I should have done this years ago - but had resisted as it felt far too close to spying on people.  I plan to keep this for overseas relatives where the options for finding them are more limited.

Jamestown Pearls

Main Street, Jamestown NY 1914, from Wikipedia
The full story is now pieced together so tight I can nearly tell what great-uncle William had for breakfast.  The day he set sail with new wife Anna for a new home in the States.

We know he was 70 years 4 months and 2 days old*, when he died, on 1 August* in the year 1921.  Had he lived a mite longer, he would have overlapped with his niece's baby, my grandmother, born in October.  It mightn't've made any difference, as he only appears once on our family's tree and in other places is just a question-mark, or not even mentioned at all.  In this family, by the time the 1920s rolled around, the sisters only had each other.

I had a strong genealogical certainty that the boy married at Garboldisham, Norfolk, was our missing William, just 21, even though none of the family were there - his father's occupation was wrong, and we'd never heard of his wife.  And neither had the family history databases - the couple clean got away.

After eliminating a tonne of William and Annas in England, I turned to the States, to find there was only ONE couple that fitted - in Jamestown, New York.  Everything fitted, except for Anna's age - but after her husband's death she regained the lost 8 years, perhaps she'd never told him?  Some years later Michael Crick of Salamanca, NY, contacted me through his cousin and it turned out had done a shed-load of work on this family - certificates, burial records, newspaper cuttings, the lot.  Anna was not the first in the US - her uncle Josiah* had come out thirty or more years before.

William's mother died in March 1869 and his father remarried later that same year.  His father's wife was unpopular and he himself was also deaf, so in my view was squeezed out of the picture.  The eldest girl married at 18 the next year, and William days after turning 21.  His bride being some seven years older would have upset the family, though it was an exact mirror of his parents' situation 20 years earlier.  His uncle John Lain had left the Smiths a lot of money - specifically with instructions that William's father couldn't touch it.

It's my belief that William's determination, Anna's bravery, his mother's money and his father's indifference brewed the cocktail to 'push' the Smiths out of the UK.  In addition Jamestown was crying out for carpenters - it becoming furniture capital of the world, and Anna's uncle was there with family ready to welcome the young couple.

I knew none of this when I started reading the letters of William's sister Ellen.  Not a mention is there of this brother, to whom she must once have been close.  More emerges - his only son died a year before him; he was one of the 800 passengers all rescued when their steamer the SS Oregon sank off Island, New York in 1886 on a mild March morning, on its way BACK from Liverpool.  Had he made his final visit back home?  Who did he see?  I presume this event put him off further travel and contact with him.  This gem must have made its way to us from the Jamestown newspapers.

I can compare the photo of smiling Victoria Smith (looking more like an Alice) with that of her non-smiling aunt Ellen - who terrified her young granddaughter, and who presided over family events despite her supposedly lowly status as a widow.

Ellen may never have mentioned her brother, but she did mention her almost royal birth at Mulbarton Old Hall in Norfolk, which kept generations of family wowed about her roots.  But Ellen's brother did mention her.  In his obituary (1921) his wife makes plain that he had a brother and 3 sisters in England, and as that was the truth, there was not a thing Ellen or the others could do to unprint it.

For those struggling to place Jamestown NY, I append a link with great description of its somewhat isolated location, its weather and its cultural burden.