Brick Walls: Unknown Birthplace

Unknown birthplaceOne of the most frustrating brick walls in genealogy is when you cannot find an ancestor in the local baptism registers, and they have died before the 1851 census when specific places of birth were given.  You might even have found that in the 1841 census they are described as ‘not born in county’, which is about as helpful as a chocolate teapot.  This is especially difficult when the name is a common one.

While this can sometimes be an almost impossible brick wall to break through, there are some strategies you can carry out to make sure you have turned over every stone.  Here are a few that I use:

Check the Marriage

From 1837, marriage records give the father’s name, which can help considerably, but is still a problem with common names as, for example, there will be several hundred William Collins, son of John, born in about 1790 throughout the country.

From 1754, marriages in the parish registers have the signatures of two witnesses.  Make a note of these witnesses.  Often they are relatives of the bride or groom, so they are worth following up.  If you can find these on the census, or other records, you may be able to get some idea of where they were from, and therefore, particularly if they are siblings, where your ancestor is from.

Poor Law

If you think your ancestors were poor, then it is very worth while checking the Poor Law Records in the local record office (or do a search on the National Archives Discovery search engine).  If your ancestors were receiving parish relief they may have had to make a statement to prove why they were eligible for relief in that parish.  In some cases, they and their family may have been removed back to a parish where they were born.  These are known as Settlements and Removal Records.  These records can be extremely useful where you have no other records to tell you where they came from, and often give detailed accounts of the person’s family and circumstances.

Wills

On the other hand, if your ancestors were wealthy, then you should always check any wills indexes (Ancestry, National Archives – plus local record office indexes).  If your ancestor left a will, he may not mention where he came from but the places where he has property may be a clue, and also you can look at all the relatives he mentions in the will (particularly any siblings, cousins or older relatives) and you then then research them and find out where they are from.  Also look for any wills who might be relatives of your ancestor to see if they mention your ancestor.  You can then get further information about your ancestors’ family, and where they might be from.

Apprenticeship Records

If your ancestor had a trade, then it is worth checking to see if he was an apprenticed to a master when he was younger.  FindMyPast has a good collection of these.  Sometimes apprenticeship records give the name of the apprentice’s father, and some cases the master is the father, so they can be useful to identify a parent, and hopefully from there a place of residence.

Newspaper Records

This is unlikely unless your ancestor was involved in some sort of incident, or was important enough to warrant an obituary, but it is always worth checking newspapers and see if your ancestor has been mentioned for any reason.  FindMyPast has a good collection of newspaper archives – and you can also try the BritishNewspaperArchives.  This is a bit hit and miss, but you never know, and an article or obituary may just mention where the person was born.

Once you have exhausted these possibilities, and you still have not found your ancestor, then the chances are you will have to leave this one for a while, and hope that something else comes to light at a later date.  I never like to totally give up on an ancestor, but sometimes you do have to let go – at least for a while!

 

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Short History of Immigration in the UK and how to search the records

In the light of recent political events, immigration is a subject that has been very much on my mind lately.  While not wishing to get on any kind of political soap box here, as a professional genealogist I am very aware that many, if not most, of us are the descendants of immigrants, without, perhaps, even realising it.

Jewish refugees – Liverpool 1882

Some of us, in fact, owe our very existence to those brave souls who left their homes behind to escape war, discrimination or famine, and make a new life in this strange, rather wet and cold new land, having to face the problems of finding work, fitting in, and learning a new language, not to mention being looked on with suspicion by the local natives.  Most of them would never see their homeland, or those they left behind, again.

My own ancestry includes several Irish immigrants, most likely escaping the potato famine that swept Ireland in the 1840s and 50s and caused thousands of families to die of starvation.  I also have an ancestor who came from the United States of America, who himself was descended from early 17th century settlers in Massachussets, originally coming from Lincolnshire in the UK.  My best friend has ancestors who came from Prussia in the early 19th century, possibly political or religious refugees.

Britain’s culture has evolved and been created by immigration from its very dawn of existence right up to the present day.  Some of the things we think of as being inherently British were in fact introduced by immigrants.  Fish and chips, for example.  You can’t get more British than that can you?  In fact, fried fish was introduced by Spanish Jews in the 19th century, and first sold with chips in the first fish and chip shop in London, by Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe.

Wherever you look, much of our British culture has been introduced from outside the UK.

1963 Mini

Tea, of course, was introduced from China, Christmas trees from Germany, curry from India.  The Mini – probably the most iconically  British car – was designed by a Greek assylum seeker.  Our own Royal Family of course have a heady mix of European blood.

Here is a brief chronology of immigration into the UK, starting with the Romans:

  • 1st Century BC: Romans invade Britain, settling and creating many of our place names.
  • 5th to 7th Centuries:  Anglo-Saxon invasion sees migration of Germanic peoples into Britain.
  • 8th to 11th Centuries:  Viking invasions bring people from Scandinavia who settled in much of East Anglia.
  • 11th Century:  The Norman Conquest of 1066 brought much of the French aristocracy into Britain, and with them the beginnings of many of our surnames.
  • 11th Century onwards:  Jews, often fleeing persecution, settled in the East End of London.
  • 17th Century:  Huguenots – French protestants fleeing persecution settled in North and East England, the East End of London and elsewhere.
  • 17th to 21st Centuries:  Indians seeking work, many settling in Port towns and London
  • 18th to 21st Centuries: Africans, originally brought in slave ships.  Later on fleeing from war, and in recent years many have come seeking work.
  • 18th to 19th Centuries:  Germans, often political or religious refugees, settled in the North of England and elsewhere.
  • 19th century:  Russian Jews fleeing persecution, setted in East London.
  • 19th century:  Irish immigrants fleeing from famine.  In fact, the irish have steadily arrived in Great Britain throughout history, but the early 19th century was the largest wave, when they settled in Manchester and London.

Huguenot Weavers’ Cottages, Canterbury

There is no such thing as pure British blood.  We are truly global citizens.  Immigrants have not only enriched our blood, but have enriched our culture.  We would not be who we are without them.

If you are searching your British ancestors, then you are very likely to come across at least one ancestor who came from elsewhere in the world.  Whether they were Irish, Jewish, Huguenot, or other, there are genealogical sources that will be of some help.   For example, there are the Huguenot Society and The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.

Census records can sometimes give you the country, or if you are lucky, the town, of origin.  Make sure you check every census your ancestor was on to see if any of them give more specific details.  From there you should search any available immigration records such as passenger lists or natualization records.  These are available to search on websites such as Ancestry.co.uk and FindMyPast.co.uk.

For baptisms and marriages outside of the UK, your first port of call should be the FamilySearch website, which is made up mostly of the International Genealogical Index.  Not every country, or every area of a country, is covered, though.  So if you can’t find your ancestor indexed on that site, you may need to seek expert help.

Some Irish records can be searched online (although Irish records can be patchy because so many were destroyed in a fire), but other countries are not always so easy, especially if their websites are only in the language of that country.  Once you have exhausted the searches you can do online, then you will need to consider contacting a genealogist in the country of origin of your ancestor and find out how feasible further searches would be in that country.

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Brexit, Trump and Pandora’s Box – some thoughts on 2016

Pandora

Pandora

This is a little bit of a deviation from the usual subject matter of genealogy here.  But in the aftermath of the American Election, I felt the need to put pen to paper and post it somewhere.  However, it does have a link to history – in that we don’t want to repeat it.  So – here it is:

I have never thought of myself as a particularly political person, and I admit that I do not always understand political systems and the nitty gritty of party policies.  I don’t know everything, and I don’t pretend to.  But I do know about integrity, decency, compassion and love, and when I see any politician or party ignoring or opposing these basic human essentials, then I usually grumble and sign petitions and vote and perhaps have the occasional political discussion with like-minded friends, but on the whole I don’t put my head above the parapet, and usually am just happy to get on with my own life and hope that things will get better.

Then along comes 2016.

The whole strange grimy mess of this year appears to have started on the day that David Bowie left the planet.  A whole host of beloved celebrities followed him, and following that we had Brexit, and the long drawn out terror of the American Election.   It really did feel to me as though Pandora’s Box had been opened, and all the evils of the world flown out.  Did those celebrities know something we didn’t?

With Brexit and the American Election, suddenly, I’m a raging, ranting Ms. Angry Person, posting and sharing on social media, shocked and dismayed by the seemingly sudden upsurge of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and stupidity that have gone hand in hand with the UK vote to leave the EU, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States (I still can’t believe I’m actually writing those words).  I am not by any means saying that everyone who voted to leave the EU, or vote for Trump, is a racist or any of the above.  However, one cannot help but notice that there is a deep correlation between racism and those particular votes.

I can fly off the handle at times; I will say what I feel at the time.  On the morning of Brexit, and in the last few hours on the morning of Trump’s triumph, I posted some bleak and generally ‘pissed off’ posts.

It is easy to feel angry with the world when things do not go the way we feel it should.

But I am also a philosopher, and after stomping around and throwing my toys out of the pram, I tend to sit down and have a think about things, and being a positive optimist at heart, I like to pick out the silver lining.  I like to try and work out what’s going on, and why.  And what we can do about it.

To go back to Pandora’s Box, in the myth, when Pandora managed to close the box, what was left inside was Hope.  There are several interpretations of why Hope was left – some of them pessimistic (i.e. Hope was left behind, therefore the world is hopeless) – and what was Hope doing amongst all the evils anyway?  But there are some more optimistic readings, in the sense that Hope was left for the human.  Let us in this instance go for the more optimistic reading.

If those liberal open-minded humanists among us can let go of all the anger and hurt many of us are feeling right now, we might be able to begin to see the positive sides of all this.  Let’s calm down and review the situation.  It is what it is.  The worst has happened.  What can we make of it all?  What can we hope for?

Firstly, what we have seen this year is a huge protest both in the UK and the US – a kind of bloodless revolution, if you like.  It’s a protest against the establishment, a protest from people who feel left out and unheard.  Unfortunately, the only people who appear to have been listening are the kind of politicians who believe that a modern Fascism is the answer, and sadly, they have fed them more fear and discontentment, blaming the problem on immigrants, Muslims and other groups.  The same thing happened in Germany in the 1930s – but then the problem, according to Hitler, was Jews.

Many of us may believe that they are misguided and misled by these right-wing politicians and tabloid newspapers (don’t get me started on that one), and if we do, then perhaps it’s time the rest of us started listening, so that we can provide a better answer.  In a democratic country, we should all be listening.

And if we listen, we then have to start to understand the reasons behind what they think.  This is a wake-up call for the rest of us.  If, instead of reacting with anger and despair, we approached the problem with compassion and understanding, we might go some way to heal divisions.  It seems to be that large sections of our society are not quite ready to be global citizens, to embrace other cultures or come to terms with changes they see as elitist, damaging or irrelevant in their world.

It’s as if someone somewhere has put the brakes on.  We thought we were going one way, towards a more unified and tolerant world, but there are more people than we thought that don’t want to go that way, and they are currently calling the shots.  They have stopped the train.

The main cause of this revolution is fear – and a fear that has been fuelled by the likes of the Farages, Trumps  and Daily Mails of this world.  If we do not address this fear through compassionate listening, a more intelligent media and education, then this train is not going to get started again for a long time.  Being angry and ranting on social media does not change anything, and generally creates more division.  I’ve seen the slanging matches, and they’re not pretty.  Nobody comes out looking good.

Something far more profound and long-term must be put in place.  Saying that of course is a lot easier than actually doing it.  How, exactly, do we address the fear, anger and disillusionment that has created the rise of far-right politics in the UK, US and now possibly France?  How do we address violent racism and hatred towards minority groups, without being heavy handed and/or patronising, and while the politicians in power seem to either be joining them, or at best, ignoring the problem?

So, to get to the Hope part.  Some great things can come out of hard times.  Perhaps, if we can be optimists, we can see the Brexit vote and the election of Trump as a wake-up call to change.  It’s a bit like getting a severe pain, which makes you go to the doctor to see what’s wrong, and only by finding out the problem behind the pain can we then find out what the cure is.  Though we probably shouldn’t leave it too long…

There are intelligent campaign groups, such asthe UK’s Hope not hate, and Global Justice Now, which give you the opportunity to take action in the world and your local community.  Joining groups like this can make us feel less helpless in the face of growing divisions and prejudices.  They also aim to educate and spread love and compassion.  We can all feel better doing that.

Those writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers amongst us can use our art to express how we feel as well as educate.  I feel that perhaps new protest movements, such as there was in the 60s, are about to grow again.  I’d feel proud to be part of that, because I was a little too young for the first one.

If I can go back to the comparison with Hitler’s Germany again.  In the 1930s much of the world ignored what was going on hoping it would go away, or didn’t know, because not enough people were talking about it.  This lack of action against a dangerous state led to WWII.  In today’s world things are thankfully different.  I believe there are enough recognising what is happening, and hopefully it is enough to stop it escalating to similar consequences.

So, if 2016 was the year the alarm went off, perhaps 2017 will be the year we get up and start going to work to get that train moving again.

And as for Pandora’s Box.  Poor Pandora.  She wasn’t a bad girl – she was just curious, like all humans.  Perhaps it is human nature to shake the world up a bit just to see what will happen.  Well, the world is certainly shaken right now – let’s see what happens.  Perhaps – just perhaps – it may not be as bad as we thought.  Let’s Hope so.

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How to deal with a Wobbly Ancestor

Wobbly ancestorWe probably all have one.  And I don’t mean an ancestor who drank too much (though we probably all have a few of those too!).  What I mean is an ancestor who you are around 70-90% sure is your ancestor, but you do not have that crucial record to make it 100% certain.  Perhaps there is a person where you have been unable to find a baptism, but there is a couple of the right child-bearing age in that parish who you think are ‘probably’ the parents.  Do you carry on and trace those parents, or do you leave it there?

In my experience as a professional genealogist, this kind of thing happens more often than I could possibly keep count of.  It is always difficult to advise the client in these matters.  It would be unprofessional of me to say, ‘Yes, I’m sure this is your ancestor – let’s carry on’, but on the other hand, being an optimist, I like to think that there may be a way of proving the missing link, or at least find more evidence to increase the odds.  My response is usually to say that there are a few searches we could do, but on the understanding that it may never be possible to prove it.  If I can only ever be around 80% sure that we have the right family link, I always leave it up to the client whether they wish to continue, with the proviso that they understand there will always be a query over that part of their tree.

So, once you’ve hit this kind of problem, when you cannot find a definite link between an ancestor and what you think might be their origins, here are a few strategies that I use in these circumstances:

  • Get to know the family. Siblings and other family members can be extremely helpful in proving links, which is why you should be adding them to your tree as a matter of course.  Where you have family members that you know of (e.g. those mentioned on census records, or mentioned in a will), then track down their   If you are lucky, it might be that their baptism has survived where your direct ancestor’s hasn’t.

If you don’t know your direct ancestor’s siblings, then look at the children of the couple who you think might be your ancestor’s parents.  Trace their movements.  Do they end up in the same place as your ancestor?  Do they have similar occupations?  Do the parents die where your ancestor was living?

  • Check Marriage Witnesses. Whenever you find a marriage, you should always make a note of the witnesses.  Sometimes these are just clerks, but quite often they are family members – perhaps a married sister.  Search out these witnesses, by checking their marriages and origins and see if you can link them up with your probable family.  Don’t check just your direct ancestor’s marriage though – look at those marriages in the parish with the same surname.  Perhaps your ancestor signed as a witness, thus proving a relationship.
  • Search for wills. Even if your known direct ancestor did not leave a will, it may be that one of his relatives did, and possibly mentioned him/her in it, and so proving the link.  Look for wills in the same surname and area as your direct ancestor and within their lifetime.  This might be time-consuming if it is a common surname, but can be very useful when the surname is more uncommon.
  • Check apprenticeship Records. If your ancestor had a trade, then it can be very worthwhile checking available apprenticeship records.  Quite often the father’s name is mentioned when the young apprentice is signed to a master.
  • Check Newspaper Records. If an ancestor was noteworthy within his community, there might be an obituary detailing his origins; or if he/she was involved in some crime or newsworthy event, there might be some family details.  Also, if you find that your ancestor got into trouble with the law, this may lead you to trace the court details, which might also give names of family members, especially if the culprit was quite young.
  • Poor Law Settlement and Removal Records. Poor families who relied on parish relief had to be born in that parish to be eligible.  Settlements and removal records include statements by family members to prove their eligibility, or by the authorities where a family has been removed from a parish.  Where they have survived, these records sometimes giving very detailed accounts of family members and their circumstances.  If you know that your ancestor was poor, it is well worth looking for these in local record offices.
  • Continue the line. If, after searching all the above records, you are still no wiser about your direct ancestor, then carry on up the line that you think he may belong to for a couple of generations.  In doing this, you can find further records that might link to your ‘wobbly’ ancestor.   You may find family members who had the same occupation as your ancestor, who moved to the same town.  You will also get a good idea of naming patterns within a family, and see how they match up with your known ancestor’s children.  While these things may not completely prove the link, they may certainly give you a little more confidence that you are on the right path.

Sometimes a wobbly ancestor will remain wobbly, not matter how much research you do.  If the documents are not there, they are not there.

In that case, then you have to make the decision whether to leave your research where it is, or whether to continue with the ‘possible’ line.  If the latter, then it is very important for anyone that may read your research, that you make it clear that this part of the tree is not absolute.  Put forward your reasons for believing who the actual family is, but never state your beliefs as the truth unless you have the documentary evidence to prove it.

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Are you in the Family of Lancelot “Capability” Brown?

Lancelot ('Capability') Brown by Nathaniel Dance, (later Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Bt) croppedThis year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot Brown, who went on to create some of the greatest landscaped gardens of England.  He designed some of my favourite gardens: Stowe, Charlecote and St. James’ Park, to name but a few, and there are many, many more. A comprehensive list is available here.

The son of a yeoman farmer and a chambermaid, Brown worked as a gardener at the local big house on the Kirkharle estate in Northumberland before he went to Stowe and took charge of the fabulous gardens and architecture there.

His ancestry is not easy to trace, and most of the family I have been able to research are his direct descendants.  Howevver, if you have BROWN or HALL ancestors in this area of Northumberland, or if you have HOLLAND or BOURDILLON ancestors, then read on to see if you might be in his tree!

Badminton House

If you have any further information about the BROWN ancestry, please leave me a comment below.

BROWN

Lancelot was born in 1716 in Kirkharle, the son of William BROWN and Ursula HALL.

William BROWN worked as a land agent for Sir William Loraine, the local landowner, and it was at his country house in Kirkharle that he met Ursula HALL, where she was working as a chambermaid.

William’s parents were Lancelot BROWN and Dorothy (surname unknown).  William’s parents were Lancelot BROWN and Dorothy (surname unknown). Unfortunately, that is as far back as online research can take me as far as specific ancestors go.   However, According to Jane Brown’s Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown: The Omnipotent Magician, 1716-1783, William’s ancestors were from Redesdale.

HALL

Lancelot’s mother was Ursula HALL. She was the daughter of John and Ursula HALL of Girsonfield, the Halls being descended from Border clans. Again, this is another very common surname and extremely difficult to trace without very meticulous research. If you have any further information about the HALL family, please let me know.

DIRECT DESCENDANTS.

I have only been able to find information about two of Lancelot’s children, though he had at least nine children with his wife, Bridget WAYET, whom he married in 1744 at Stowe.

Tracing descendants with this surname is almost impossible using only the internet, so if you do have further information about descendants, do let me know.

Children and known descendants:

BROWN, HOLLAND & BOURDILLON:

Bridget BROWN m. Henry HOLLAND 11 Feb 1773, St. Georges, Hanover Square.  Issue:

Lancelot HOLLAND. B. 1782. M. Charlotte Mary PETERS.  Issue:

Emma HOLLAND 1813. No further info
Louisa HOLLAND 1823. No further info.
Sophia HOLLAND 1818. m. Francis BOURDILLON.  Issue:

Francis William BOURDILLON. m. Agnes Watson SMYTH.  Issue:

Francis Bernard BOURDILLON 1883, Wadhurst.  Needs further research
Sophia Louisa Nicolette BOURDILLON m. Robert B CHATWIN.  No issue known
Robert Benedict BOURDILLON m. Harriet Ada BARNES.  Issue:

Thomas D BOURDILLON 1924 (mountaineer –  died in climbing accident 1956) m. Jennifer E C Thomas Issue: 1 son, 1 daughter.
William H BOURDILLON 1926 (no further info)

Sophia BOURDILLON (no further info)

Bernard Keene BOURDILLON m. Laura Elizabeth Providence TOWNSEND 1880, Harrogate.  Issue:

Sir Bernard Henry BOURDILLON (1883, Tasmania) (Governer of Uganda)
Helen BOURDILLON (1885, Tasmania)
Lancelot Gerard BOURDILLON (1888, Cape Town)

Frederic Lancelot BOURDILLON (no further info)

Emily HOLLAND (no further info)

Henrietta HOLLAND (no further info)

Eleanor HOLLAND (no further info)

Wilmot HOLLAND m. Margaret WELLS Bromley, Kent 1857.  Issue:

Frances E HOLLAND 1859 London (no further info)
Herbert Wilmot HOLLAND 1864, Beckenham m. Jennifer MONCUR.  Issue:

Herbert Dingwall HOLLAND-RAMSAY m. Dorothy Courtenay (Issue)

Mary Frances HOLLAND. m. Sir Robert CRAUFURD 1800.  No issue (known)
Henry Holland, architect. (no further info)

Lancelot BROWN MP. b.c. 1748 Stowe, Buckingham. (MP for Huntingdon) m. Frances FULLER 1788, Lausanne, Switzerland

I could not find anything else about Lancelot the younger – and I don’t know whether he had any children – I could not find any. If you know different, please let me know.

William BROWN, b. 1750, Stowe, Buckingham.

Adam John BROWN b. 1751

Thomas BROWN b. 1761

Margaret BROWN

Lancelot actually had nine children, but I have been unable to find any information about the names of the other three, or what happened to the named ones above. The Browns moved to London in 1751, so all the children born after that date would have been born/baptized in the Hammersmith area of London.

SIBLINGS:

Lancelot was the 5th of 6 children all born in Kirkharle. Again, tracing the name BROWN is fraught with difficulty, but this is what I have managed to find out about his siblings:

Dorothy BROWN b.c.1704
There are several possible marriages in Newcastle on Tyne – or a possible marriage in Hartburn, which is not too far from Kirkharle. However, this is in 1738, so she would have been about 34, which is quite old for marriage at that time. The spouse’s name is Mark HALL – another fairly common name, and possibly a cousin, but if you have HALL ancestry going back to this marriage, it might be worth checking this out.

Mary BROWN b.c. 1706
Again, this is too common a name – and I can find no marriage in Kirkharle.

John BROWN b.c.1709 (Estate Surveyor) m. Jane LORAINE (daughter of Sir William LORAINE, 2nd Baronet of Kirkharle. Loraine was the landowner that Lancelot was apprenticed to as a gardener in his youth.)

I can find no children of this marriage, and considering that Jane was about 41 when they married, it may be that there was no issue.

George BROWN – mason-architect. B.c. 1713 Kirkharle
As with the sisters, the name is too common to be sure. There is a marriage to a Dorothy FORSTER in Hartburn in 1748, and other possible marriages in Stamfordham and Haltwhistle. Further research needs to be done to eliminate the wrong ones

Elizabeth BROWN b.c.1719 Kirkharle
Same problem as above.

Obviously there is plenty more research to be done here, but the online research is very limited given the common surnames and availability of documents.  Please feel free to leave comments if you have any further information.

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The 1939 Register – Why is It Important?

The Evacuation Scheme in Britain, 1939 D1939AI am very excited about the forthcoming release of the 1939 Register on FindMyPast.co.uk. This is going to be very useful for people tracing ancestors and relatives after the 1911 census – and not only that, future genealogists will find it indispensable to bridge the gap made by the lack of census records between 1921 and 1951.

The 1920 Freedom of Information Act made all census records unavailable for public viewing for 100 years after they were taken. At present, therefore the latest census we can view is the 1911 census. The 1921 census should become available in 2021 or 2022. All well and good, but the following decades have a problem. The 1931 census was taken, but due to bombing in World War II it was completely destroyed (which almost reduces me to tears – all that information….). Because of the war, the 1941 census was not taken. That means that there is a gap of three decades after 1921 before anyone will be able to see the 1951 census. OMG – I will be 98!

This is a tragic loss for all genealogists, whether professional or amateur. But thanks to the 1939 Government deciding to find out about the population at the start of the war, the 1939 Register was created. This meant that realistic plans could be made for the safety of the public during war time, such as evacuation, identity cards and rationing. The register was taken on September 29 1939, and contains information about around 40 million people.

The register is not a census and does not contain as much information as the usual census. From what I can gather it will not give place of birth or relationship to the Head of Household, so it will probably be similar to the information on the 1841 census, but that is a lot better than no census at all. It does give addresses, dates of birth, marital status and occupation. An extra bit of information will be whether each person was a member of the armed services.

The register is due to be released before the end of this year and you can go to the FindMyPast website to sign up and get an email when the register will be ready.

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Can You Trace Ancestry for Free?

Of all the enjoyable hobbies or pass-times you can choose, tracing your ancestry is probably one of the least expensive to start as there is no essential expensive kit or equipment to buy.

But to answer the question of whether you can trace ancestry for free more thoroughly, Maud Reid's baptismmy honest answer would be: Yes, at the beginning, but in the long run, no. As you build your family tree you will find that if you wish to make a thorough and accurate job of tracing your ancestry, there will be necessary expenses (e.g. ordering birth or marriage certificates), and some expenses that may not be necessary, but will make the process a lot easier (e.g. family tree software).

I would also stress here the importance of viewing original documents. Many free genealogy websites will allow you to search, and when you come up with a result, you will see either an index entry or a transcript. It is not usually possible to see an original document unless you on a paid subscription site or you can get to the appropriate archive. While online transcripts are very useful, there can be errors, and not only that, the original document may contain useful information that is not on the transcript. If you are starting out just using free sites, then you should make a note of all the references and make sure you get to see the original document at a later date when you want to spend money. Professional genealogists ALWAYS use original documents where they are available, and so should you if you want to do a good job.

If you are thinking of tracing your ancestry, you may be wondering exactly what and how much you can do for free, and what the minimum amount you will have to spend if you continue with your tree for the long term.

If you are lucky enough to live in the same county that your ancestors came from, then you can visit your local record office for free, carry out searches and view original documents without paying anything except for any photocopying you may require. However, this is very rare and most of us live long distances from our ancestors’ homelands, making it necessary either to travel or pay a professional researcher to visit the archives for you.

It is very difficult to say how much you will need to spend. It all depends on what documents, such as wills, your family have left and whether they are available online, or whether you need to order copies. If you hit a brick wall, or need to access documents in archives miles away from you, you might want to hire professional help. Each family tree is completely unique and it is almost impossible to predict what you might need until you start doing it. You may be able to go a long way on a tight budget, but on the other hand, those people who are willing to spend a lot of money paying for access to original documents, and using professional services when necessary, will usually get the most satisfaction and the more accurate and complete family tree.

I hope that the following information will give you some idea of what you will be able to do for free, and give you some idea of how much you might need to spend if you decide to get into this hobby in a more serious way. This is a short list just intended to get you started, and there are many more websites dedicated to genealogy.

The free genealogy websites I have suggested will also allow you to ‘dip your toe’ in and see if tracing ancestry is something you want to do. However, many sites that advertise themselves as ‘free’ are actually just free to search, and you will need to pay for credits to actually view a transcript or document. I have put these under SUBSCRIPTION WEBSITES.

FREE GENEALOGY WEBSITES

FREE UKGEN Projects:

FreeBMD
This is a free SEARCH service for Civil Registration (Birth, Marriage and Death) indexes that have been held in England from July 1837. However, once you have found the entry you are looking for, you will only have an index reference number. You will need this to order the relevant certificate from the General Registry Office. Each certificate can be ordered online at a cost of £9.25 for UK residents (see below).

FreeCEN
A free census search engine. Currently, only 1841 to 1891 censuses are available, and it is not complete. The results will give you a transcript, which is very useful, but you will need to see an original document using subscription websites at a later date.

FreeREG
A free parish register search engine. Again, it is not complete, and you will only see a transcript in the results. This is very useful for initial searches, and the transcript usually gives a lot of information, but you must look for the original document at a later date.

FamilySearch
Probably the best known and most useful of the free-to-search websites holding the largest collection of free genealogical data on the web. This is the service initially set up by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose mission is to connect families and ancestors all over the world. The service is totally free and you can make searches all over the world (though of course not all countries have complete records). Results are in transcript form, so you will need to search for original records later.

FamilyHistoryUK
A community portal where it is free to post details of ancestors you are searching for. It also has links to free search websites – but most of these are free trials for subscription sites, which I have listed below.

National Archives
This site has lots of useful, free information about tracing ancestry. You can carry out a free search using their Discovery catalogue. Some documents can then be viewed online for a small fee – but you will find that many larger documents are usually only available at the National Archives at Kew – or at various record offices around the country. However, sometimes the information given on the index results can be quite useful without actually ordering the document.
SUBCRIPTION WEBSITES

Most paid websites have a choice of a membership fee where you pay a certain amount either annually or monthly – or a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system whereby you just pay for credits as and when you need them. If you are planning on spending time on your family history very regularly, at least a few hours a month, then a subscription is your best choice. However, if you are only going to be able to spend a little time now and then, it may be better to consider using pay-as-you-go credits.

FREE TRIAL WEBSITES

Ancestry
Probably the best known genealogy website due to its strong TV advertising and large collection of indexed material and original sources. They have a 14 day free trial, after which you can pay for a year’s subscription, or in monthly payments. Alternatively, you can use the ‘pay-as-you-go’ system.

Ancestry also has a service which allows people to upload their family trees which can then be searched and viewed by other members. Be very careful with this. Finding your family on someone else’s tree is NOT research. You have no idea whether their tree is properly researched or accurate. If you find an ancestor on someone else’s tree be sure to back up your finding by doing the necessary research.

FindMyPast
A good site with many indexes and original sources, and also has a 14 day free trial. Much of their data is also available on Ancestry, and Ancestry probably has the larger collection. However, FindMyPast has a better newspaper archive and very good military records. The subscription rates are slightly cheaper than Ancestry – but if you’re serious about family history it’s well worth using both – or subscribing to one and using pay-as-you-go on another.
SUBSCRIPTION WEBSITES with Free Search – No Free Trial

RootsUK

This site has many records to search, but you will need to buy credits in order to view original sources.

UKCensusonline

1851 Census - John W Bott pg1A full census and BMD research website – but you will need to pay a subscription depending on your requirements, and whether you want to pay monthly, quarterly, 6 monthly or yearly.
In summary, you can trace ancestry for free for a short while, which will help you understand the process and find out what’s out there, but if you intend to do this seriously and make sure you are tracing the right family, it will be essential to spend money. So, make sure you give yourself a monthly budget, take it slowly, and you will have a hobby that will give you pleasure for many years to come.

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Are You in Lord Nelson’s Family Tree?

 

Lord Nelson's family treeOne of England’s greatest heroes, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was responsible for numerous naval victories during the Napoleonic Wars, wounded several times, and finally killed during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

I have attempted to find as many descendants as possible of Nelson, his parents and grandparents.  However, this is a large family, and there are some gaps.  If you find anything missing, please do let me know.

Horatio Nelson was born at Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk on September 29th 1758, the son of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and his wife Catherine Nelson (nee Suckling). His grandfather was also Edmund Nelson, the son of William, the son of another Edmund, all clergymen. At this point the line gets a little dodgy. It is thought that this Edmund was born in about 1610, the son of a Thomas and Elizabeth, and the line may go back to 16th century London and 15th century Lancashire, but I have been unable to substantiate these earlier records.

If you are a descendant of Nelson (the only living descendants will be via his illegitimate daughter, Horatia), you are likely to already know about it as the name Nelson was carried though the generations in well documented families.

If you are wondering whether you are connected to Nelson via a less well known family link, then you will need to scroll down to see details of his siblings and his parents’ siblings.23 Pairs of Chromosomes. One Unique You. Get your DNA story at 23andMe.com.

If you are tracing your Nelson family name in Norfolk, great care needs to be taken, as there are several families with this name, so you should not assume a close link with the Admiral unless you can prove it without doubt using original sources

Descendants of Nelson

(Surnames that may have living descendants: WARD, SOMERSET, WEEKES, and JOHNSON)

Nelson married Frances Herbert WOOLWARD, the daughter of William WOOLWARD in 1787 at Montpelier in St. Nevis, but the marriage produced no surviving issue.

Emma HamiltonHowever, Nelson’s famous ongoing affair with Emma Hamilton (nee LYON) did produce a daughter, from whom there were descendants. This child was Horatia Nelson, and she married the Reverend Philip WARD in 1822. The WARD family is as follows:

Horatio Nelson WARD. Married Elizabeth Martha BLANDY in 1856 in Tooting, Surrey. Their children were:

Elizabeth Horatia Anne NELSON-WARD – Married Raglan Turberville Henry SOMERSET and had issue.
Horatio Nelson NELSON-WARD – No marriage.
Marmaduke Philip Blandy NELSON-WARD – No marriage found.
Hugh Herbert Edward NELSON-WARD – No marriage found
Admiral Philip NELSON-WARD – Married Hon. Dorothy CAULFIELD. No issue.
Rupert William NELSON-WARD – Died in infancy.

Eleanor Philippa WARD – did not marry. Died in 1872

Marmaduke Philip Smyth WARD – No marriage

John James Stephen WARD (died in childhood)

Nelson WARD – Married Jessie WARD. Their children were:

Nelson WARD – No marriage
Rose Nelson WARD – No marriage
Florence Nelson WARD – No marriage
Jessie Nelson WARD – Married Arthur WEEKES in 1888 and had issue in India and England.
Mary WARD – No marriage found
Kathleen Nelson WARD – No marriage
Agnes WARD – No marriage found
Maurice Suckling WARD – No marriage found

William George WARD – Married Toriana BLANCKLEY. Not sure if there was issue – please let me know if you have further information.

ADDENDUM – (Added 14th September 2016) – a descendant of William George Ward has very kindly emailed me with the following information:

Lieutenant Colonel William George Ward married Catherine Parker Toriana Blanckley (the only daughter of Captain Edward Blanckley RN and Harriet Matcham, Lord Nelson’s niece) on 15 Nov 1864 •Clevedon, Somerset, England.

They had six daughters (great-granddaughters of Nelson & Emma Hamilton and Nelson’s sister, Catherine and George Matcham).  Their first five daughters were born in India, where William Ward was stationed.  The first five daughters were:

Ellen Catherine Ward 1865 – 1938

Ethel Mary Ward 1866 – 1946

Caroline Gertrude Ward 1868 – 1941

Evelyn Hervey Ward 1870 – 1961

Ada Blanche Ward 1871 – 1911

Their sixth daughter was born in Pinner, Middlesex in a house near William’s mother, Horatia.  She was:

Alice Lilian Ward 1873 – 1911

William Ward died in Hastings on 10 Au 1878.

My 2nd great-grandmother, Tori, took her six daughters to live in Lutton House, a country house her father, Edward Blanckley had built near the village of South Brent in Dartmoor, Devon.

Of these six sisters, the only one to marry was the youngest, Alice.  She married the village doctor, Frederick William Style on 24 Jun 1903 (please see attached Exeter and Plymouth Gazette announcement).

Alice and Dr Frederick Style had two children:

Professor Derrick William Style 1904 – 1979

Phyllis Horatia Style 1907 – 1987

Phyllis remained a spinster, but my grandfather, Derrick married:

1) Lilian Langford (1903 – 1946) in Sept 1940 in Westminster.  They had one child: my mother, Ray Vanda Style (1942 – still living)

2) Hilde Frönwiesser (1918 – 1967) in Dec 1946 in Paddington.  They had one child, Eric Frank Style (1948 – 1964)

3) Mary Whittaker (1923 – 2013) in Sep 1969 in Wandsworth, Surrey.  They had no issue.”

(If anyone would like to see the copy of the marriage announcement in the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette, please email me at info@tracingancestors-uk.com).

Edmund Nelson WARD (died in infancy)

Horatia WARD – Married William JOHNSON in 1858. Their children were:

William Horatio JOHNSON – Married Mary Tress CURTEIS and had issue (Kent)
Margaret JOHNSON – No marriage found as far as I know.

Philip WARD – No marriage found

Caroline Mary WARD – No marriage.

Nelson’s Paternal Family – Surnames include NELSON, BLAND, ROLFE, GOULTY, HOOD, ROCHFORT, LAW, COOK, WILLIAMS, STILWELL, SHIRLEY, PURVIS, BENDYSHE, WALDY, CROWTHER, MASON, BOLTON, GIRDLESTONE and possibly the name CLAGUE and BUSSELL.

Nelson’s grandfather was Edmund NELSON. He was married to Mary BLAND (see below), and his other children were:

Thomas Bland NELSON (1719). No marriage found.
Martha NELSON (1726) Died in childhood.
Alice Bland NELSON (1730). Married Robert ROLFE. Their children were:

Ellen ROLFE(1761), Edmund ROLFE(1763) and Robert ROLFE (1767).  If you can find links to these children you can claim to be a cousin of Nelson.

Thomasin NELSON (1732). Married John GOULTY. Their children (all born in Norwich) were:

Edmund GOULTY (1758) – No marriage found
Thomasin GOULTY (1759) – No marriage found.
William GOULTY (1763) – Married a Sarah WALLIS in 1785. Anyone tracing lineage back to this couple could claim to be cousins of Nelson.

John NELSON (1736). Possibly married Mary INANS in Hingham, 1758 – though needs further evidence.

Mary NELSON (date unknown). Several possible marriages – needs further research.

Nelson’s father Edmund married Catherine SUCKLING (see below). Nelson’s siblings were:

Maurice NELSON (1753). No marriage.

William NELSON (1757) – Married Sarah YONGE. Their children were:

Charlotte Mary NELSON – Married Samuel HOOD, 2nd Baron Bridport, in Marylebone in 1810, and became Duchess of Bronte. Her children were:

Frances Caroline HOOD – Married Sir John WALROND MP. Their children were:

William Hood WALROND (1st Baron Waleran) (1849)
Arthur Melville Hood WALROND.
Charlotte WALROND – Married Horace ROCHFORT in 1845 (probably in Ireland) and their children were:

Amy ROCHFORT – married Thomas P LAW and their living descendants may be found in Ireland and possibly in Northumberland.
William ROCHFORT – No information available.
Alexander Nelson ROCHFORT (Major General) – Did not marry.
Henry ROCHFORT – No information available.
Alexander ROCHFORT – married Mary Penelope, Viscount Bridport and they had the following children:

Mary ROCHFORT – No information at present.
Harriet ROCHFORT– No information found
Jane Sarah ROCHFORT – married Sir Charles HOTHAM KCB but there was no issue.

Arthur Wellington Alexander Nelson  HOOD, 2nd Viscount Bridport – married Lady Maria Georgiana Julia Fox-Strangways and their descendants should be found in the London area.   I do know that their daughter, Mary Nelson HOOD, married married Sir Herbert Frederick COOK, 3rd Baronet, and became Marchioness of Hertford. Their son was the artist, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th Baronet, who married 7 times, with children still living.

Suckling NELSON (1764) Died without issue.

Edmund NELSON (1764). Died 1799 without issue.

Catherine NELSON – married George MATCHAM. Their children are as follows:

George MATCHAM – married Harriet EYRE in 1817. Their children were:

Horatio Nelson Eyre MATCHAM (died without issue)
Catherine Eyre MATCHAM – married Henry Blackstone WILLIAMS. They had 10 children and descendants will originate in Wiltshire and Dorset, and will include the surnames STILWELL and SHIRLEY.
George Simon Eyre MATCHAM (died young)
William Eyre MATCHAM – married Mary Elizabeth LONG. Their descendants can be found in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
Louisa Harriet Eyre MATCHAM – married Fortescue Richard PURVIS. Their descendants may be found in Essex, Hampshire, Shropshire and Wiltshire.

Henry Savage MATCHAM – I have no further information about him.
Catherine Anne MATCHAM – married John BENDYSHE and their children were:

John BENDYSHE (died without issue)
Richard BENDYSHE (died without issue)
Nelson BENDYSHE – married Charlotte BRODRICK. Their descendants may be found in Australia and Devon.
Caroline BENDYSHE – married John GIBSON (not sure if they had children)
Laura BENDYSHE – married Charles Richard William WALDY and their descendants may be found in Surrey and Essex.
Thomas BENDYSHE – no issue
Susannah BENDYSHE – married William CROWTHER Their children were born in Worcestershire.

Edward Nelson MATCHAM – I have no further information.
Elizabeth MATCHAM – I cannot find a definite marriage or death for her.
Francis Griffith MATCHAM – Died in 1808.
Horatio Nelson MATCHAM – Died in 1821 without issue.
Nelson MATCHAM – Did not marry. Died 1886.
Horatia MATCHAM – She married Henry William MASON. Their children were:

Mary Eliza MASON – no marriage or children
George Nelson Pomeroy MASON – married Marian ROUSE. Their children were born in Kent.
Susan MASON – I have no further information.
Horatia Nelson MASON – no marriage or children
Charlotte MASON – No further information
Augusta P MASON – No further information – probably did not marry.
Anne L MASON – no marriage or children

Frank MATCHAM – no further information
Harriet MATCHAM – No further information.

Anne NELSON – Possibly marriage William CLAGUE – but I have found no evidence. Please let me know if you have further information about this.

Susannah NELSON – married Thomas BOLTON. Descendants of this line also have the name NELSON, as their son Thomas took on the famous surname (see below). Their children were:

Catharine BOLTON – Did not marry, no issue.
Jemima Susanna BOLTON – Did not marry, no issue. Died 1864.
Anne Nelson BOLTON – As far as I know, she did not marry, and died in 1830.
Thomas BOLTON (NELSON) Esq. (later 2nd Earl Nelson) – Married Frances Elizabeth EYRE, and their children were:

Horatio NELSON (3rd Earl Nelson) – Married Lady Mary Jane Diana AGAR. Their children were born in Wiltshire. Their son Herbert was the Viscount Trafalgar.
Rev. John Horatio NELSON – Married Susan Spencer-Churchill. Their two children were born in Scottow, Norfolk.
Frances Catherine NELSON – Married Robert John BUSSELL – I have found no children for them and have no further information.
Susannah NELSON – Married Alexander Calvin BLUNT – but there seems to be no issue from this marriage.
Maurice Horatio NELSON – Married Emily BURRARD. Their children were born in Hampshire and Wiltshire.
Edward Foyle NELSON – Died young in 1859 without issue.
Henry NELSON – Died young in 1863.

Elizabeth Anne BOLTON – Married the Rev. Henry GIRDLESTONE. Their children, all bon in Earlham, Norfolk, were:

Henry GIRDLESTONE – Married (1) Caroline Warren PIGOT and (2) Eliza MASON. He emigrated to Australia in 1872, and their children were born in Queensland.
Elizabeth Ann GIRDLESTONE – Did not marry, no issue.
Horatio GIRDLESTONE – Married Ellen Catherine BOLTON. Their children were all born in Norfolk.
Charles GIRDLESTONE – Probably unmarried.
Nelson GIRDLESTONE – Married Caroline Warner (surname unknown) – probably in Nova Scotia. Their children were born in Norfolk, Gloucestershire and London.
Maurice Nelson GIRDLESTONE – Married Katherine Alice LINKLATER. They had just one son, Arthur Nelson, born in Streatham Hill, London.
Susanna Catharine GIRDLESTONE – no further information.

Eliza Nelson BOLTON – No further information.
George BOLTON – Died at sea in 1799. No issue.
Susannah BOLTON – Did not marry, no issue.

BLAND

Nelson’s paternal grandmother was Mary BLAND, the daughter of John (a baker) and Thomasin, born in 1698 in Cambridge. Her siblings may have been Thomazin (1706), Alice (1708) and Thomas (1711), though there may have been more, and they were probably non-conformists. If you have BLAND ancestors going back to these dates in Cambridge, then you may be able to find a connection.

Nelson’s Maternal Family – Surnames include SUCKLING, TURNER, WODEHOUSE and WALPOLE

SUCKLING

Nelson’s mother, Catherine Suckling, was the daughter of the Reverend Maurice Suckling and Mary Ann TURNER, and the sister of Captain Maurice Suckling who became Comptroller of the Navy in 1775. He was married to his cousin, Mary Walpole, the daughter of Robert Walpole, Earl of Oxford, but she died in 1766 and they had no children.

The only other sibling of Catherine’s who may have survived, was William, but I can find no marriage for him. There are therefore no descendants from Catherine’s generation. However, the father, Maurice had at least 13 siblings, most of whom seem to have survived to adulthood, so there may well be Suckling families who could be traced back to the parents, Robert Suckling and Ann WODEHOUSE of Norfolk in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

TURNER

Nelson’s maternal grandmother was Mary Ann TURNER, the daughter of Sir Charles TURNER, 1st Bt., and Mary WALPOLE. Her only sibling was John TURNER, who died without issue. There does not seem to be much information about Charles’s parentage, but possibly if you can trace a TURNER line to Norfolk of the late 17th century you may have a chance of finding a connection there.

If you think you may have connections to Nelson’s tree and would like some professional help, please view my services on my Services Page before contacting me.

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Women of World War I – Dorothy Read – Woman of the Future

Women of WWIThis is the last in my series of blog posts about my grandmother and her six sisters.  This one is about the youngest, but perhaps most enterprising of the seven girls.

Like her older sisters Dorothy was born in Harpurhey and was baptised in April 1895. She was christened Dorothy Benson Read, the Benson being after her paternal grandmother, born Mary Ann Benson in Dublin.

As the youngest, Dorothy was only two years old when her father died, and had a rough time of it in her childhood as her mother went to pieces and ended up in the workhouse infirmary. Like my grandmother, she was fostered out, and at first I was not able to find her on the census as her surname was changed to the name of the family who fostered her.

However, once I found her marriage, I discovered her foster name. She is the Dorothy B Read who married Augustine Morgan in 1927 in Manchester North, and luckily the index for this marriage gives an alternative surname of Parks. I therefore looked up Dorothy Parks in the 1901 census and found her with the Parkes family – not far from her own home in Harpurhey. Allan Parkes, her foster father, was an Irish bookkeeper for a cotton mill, and her foster mother, Veronica, was a draper working at home on her own account, also Irish. The residence was also a shop, and there is a clue here to Dorothy’s later life, as we shall see. I think she learned a lot from this family.

In 1911 I found her as Dorothy Parks living in Bradford with her adoptive sister-in-law Veronica, who had married Alfred Henry Gardner, an estate agent’s clerk. Dorothy is described as a machinist in a shirt factory.

I am sure that Dorothy did her bit during the war. Given her character, she may have signed up for the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, or perhaps worked in a munitions factory. Whilst searching any other records, I found that the Red Cross site now have an online search engine. At the time of writing, only surnames from A to E were available so I was not able to search for Dorothy or the other sisters, but they should shortly have all surnames available, which will be extremely useful: http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War

From here, I have a piece of information about Dorothy that dropped into my hands a few years ago. When our cousin Alice died, we inherited some scrapbooks of hers, and amongst these was a reference to her Aunt Dorothy. This told us that she had worked as a buyer in Lewis’s, and had at one time had to buy and arrange a dinner service for a royal visit to Manchester.

Women of WWIWe have an interesting photograph of Dorothy, with her oldest sister Maude, shown here. Maude (in foreground) is pointing at a photograph. I have looked at this with a magnifying glass, and although it is difficult to see, I believe it is a picture of that dinner service. It may be that Maude had helped her with the task. The two sisters look proud, and it is my theory that they look out at us from their early 20th century viewpoint, and say ‘Look at us. We are women, and see what we can achieve.’

In the 1929 Kelly’s Directory for Manchester and Salford, Augustine is entered as a ‘Manager’, living at 46 Edale Avenue, Moston, Manchester. This is very close to Harpurhey. In the same year, a Mrs Dorothy Read Morgan is listed under Milliners at a different address: 48 Ashton New Road, Beswick, which is further south. According to StreetView, this is a rather shabby looking street, with a few run down shops, many of which are currently boarded up. My guess is that Dorothy had set up her own business here, with her husband perhaps as the manager, and they lived and worked between the two properties.

It is obvious that Dorothy was interested in having a career. So where did the job at Lewis’s fit in? Unfortunately, Dorothy’s left hand is obscured in the photograph, so I cannot see whether she was married by this time. However, judging by the women’s clothes, this definitely looks earlier, even before the 1920s. This looks to me as though it was taken perhaps during or a little after the war. The blouses are still quite Edwardian looking, but while Maude still has an Edwardian looking hairstyle, Dorothy has a more modern bob. My guess is about 1919-20. If anyone can give a more expert opinion on this I would be grateful.

So Dorothy probably was working at Lewis’s before she was married, and later went into business with her husband. Reading between the lines, I think she must have been a very determined and forward thinking young lady. She would have welcomed her enfranchisement and was ready to grasp with both hands the new opportunities that were becoming available for women.

I could find no children for Augustine and Dorothy in the registers, though I do know that they had a son called Austin, because my mother remembers him quite well. She also remembers that they spent some time in Australia.

I have not found a death record for Dorothy in Manchester, and because the name is fairly common, it is not easy to find out what happened to her after these dates. I know that they travelled, and went to Australia. Also, in 1957 I found Augustine on a passenger list returning from a trip to Boston, Massachussets. His permanent address is still the one at 46 Edale Avenue and he is described as ‘retired’. Dorothy does not appear to be with him. I do hope that she did not die young.

Of the seven sisters, Dorothy is the one with her feet most firmly planted in the future, the one who seems to have taken the new opportunities run with them. What she achieved may seem modest by today’s standards, but she was born in a time and place with very little choice for women, and she was determined to get through that small chink in the door that came with enfranchisement and new working opportunities for women. I say, good on her – and I am proud to have her and her sisters in my family tree.

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Women During WWI – My Grandmother – and a Mystery Sweetheart?

Women During WWIIn my series looking at my female ancestors and their experiences of World War I, we have now come to my own maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Reid. Obviously I knew a bit more about her before I began my research. She was born on 28th December 1892 at Harpurhey, like her sisters, and baptized the following February. They were living at 222 Conran Street, a rather bleak looking side-street these days which looks as though most of it has been cut off and re-built so I have no idea what the house might have looked like.

Her father died when she was 5, and on her 8th birthday her mother entered the workhouse infirmary after turning to drink after the early death of her husband. My mother can remember her telling her about being dragged through the streets by her mother with nowhere to go. What a bleak and horrible few years my grandmother must have had in her early years.

After her mother went to the workhouse she was fostered by the Carroll family. In the 1901 census she can be found under her own name with the Carrolls and described as their ‘adopted daughter’. However, she took the name Carroll for some time – several years after her mother left the workhouse. We have postcards written to her as ‘Lizzie Carroll’, and I believe she was known as Lizzie for most of her life. I think she had quite an interesting and happy time with them. They took her on a trip to Australia with them, which must have been quite an adventure at that time.

Now, for the war years we have a bit of a mystery. My mother owns a locket of Nanna’s with a picture of her husband Francis on it (see below). However, on the reverse is a photographic portrait of a young man in soldier’s uniform. The locket came to my mother in an envelope with the following handwritten text on it:

2483 Lennard
miniature
Photograph – Tester Bros?
Seaford
(Nr. Brighton, Sussex)Jack Lennard?

In pencil on the side is written the name ‘Jack’. We think that this gentleman must have been my grandmother’s ‘boyfriend’, perhaps even a fiancee, who was killed during the war.

I have searched and searched for a Jack Lennard in the WWI military records, and for the regimental number of 2483, but found nothing that fits all elements. I have searched the census records for someone living in Manchester, and I also looked up the Tester Brothers and found that they did a lot of portraits for the local training corps in Sussex – so presumably Jack or John, or Mr Lennard/Leonard, was based here for military training. There was a Jack Lennard born in Sussex, whose service records I have seen, and who died after the war in 1923 – but I have no idea how my grandmother would have known someone in Sussex.

Sadly, it may be that his records are part of the many WWI records that were destroyed during WWII bombing.

We tend to think of the mothers, wives and children when we think of those men who died, but what about the sweethearts? Those would never receive a war widow’s pension or have that status of wife of one who served; those who were robbed of the chance to live with their beloved as man and wife. I think my grandmother was one of those women, but it is nice to know that some time after the war she met Francis Manley (see my blog post), who was 30 years her senior and probably a bit of a father-figure whom she would feel would look after her. Francis was a widow with several grown up children and was already retired from his job as a Railway goods clerk.

They married in 1923. My mother Joyce was born in 1924 and two years later my Aunt Dorothy. Soon after Dorothy’s birth they moved to the Isle of Man and my mother had a very different childhood to her mother’s – growing up next to the sea and playing on the beach nearly every day.

Sadly, Francis was to die of a stroke just 12 years after they were married, but according to my mother those 12 years were very happy, but it is sad that once again my grandmother was plunged into financial difficulty, and they had to move from their home to somewhere less pleasant. My mother left school early and had to work to bring in an income.

Women during WWIIn later years my grandmother was more settled. I remember visiting her in her house in Douglas, which always smelt of China tea – something she was particularly fond of. She had a poodle called Chico who was a terror to all who came near him.  I also remember  that she had a constant wheeze (which I now realise was probably from her years in Manchester).  She was a worrier, but could also be quite fun, and I remember sitting next to her at the dinner table at Aunt Dorothy’s and her digging me in the ribs and giggling at some risque joke.  Despite all the difficulties of her life and all her worries, she was always able to laugh and have a bit of fun.  Nanna died in 1980 in a nursing home in Douglas, Isle of Man.

And possibly, it is our ability to laugh and have fun that helps us all survive the bad times. I get the feeling that all those sisters had a sense of humour, which may have helped them get through the war and all the other difficult times.

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