"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Thankful Thursday: Thanks for 2012

It being the final Thankful Thursday of the year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to thank some of the people who have been most helpful, supportive, and just plain entertaining in my world of genealogy. So here goes:
First up, thanks to you lot for reading – blogging would have been pretty dull without you! Also, thanks to those of you who write the fantastic blogs in my blogroll and beyond, genealogical or otherwise – you’re all inspiring!
Thanks to the archives and websites who work hard to bring us new resources, to geneabloggers and everyone else in the genealogy world for spreading the word about them, and to the twittersphere for endless tips, fascinating stories and pure entertainment (@rudegenealogist anyone?)
I also have to thank friends old and new for taking an interest in the blog this year, for asking interesting questions, and in a few cases for asking me to hunt things down for them – I love a new challenge!
Thanks to the miscellaneous researchers who have helped me solve mysteries or added to my understanding of my family tree, particularly Mark Dearnley and everyone at mudcat.
And of course, I have to thank my family. I’ve discovered some distant ‘cousins’ this year, including Helen McClure, Joy Wodhams, Angela Morrison and Keith Lockwood – thanks to all of you for the info and the interest. And finally, to my parents and the rest of my family for answering my endless questions and for taking an interest in my genealogy obsession!
It’s been a great year – bring on 2013.
L x

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Exciting news

In my post On my brief visit to the Forest of Dean, I mentioned that we were there to pick up some exciting post. I can now reveal the exciting news, finally, without jinxing it ... my boyfriend and I have officially bought our first house!
What does this have to do with genealogy, I hear you ask. Well, short answer, it doesn’t really. However, it has prompted a new line of historical investigation for me – house history.
I have done a little bit of this before, when I did some investigatory work into my parents’ new house a few years ago. However this was slightly different because what I was investigating wasn’t the history of the house, but the history of a working mill. This time, I’ll definitely be looking at proper house history.
The starting point for a house history would usually be the title deeds. However, we have a minor problem in that ours only date from 2004 (when it was purchased from the council), when clearly the house is much older than that. I suspect it’s Victorian, but it could be as late as 1930s possibly (I’m not great on architecture – it’s definitely old-ish though!) So, I may be forced to contact the council and see if they can tell me anything more. I don’t exactly relish the prospect, as they’ve been mostly useless during the house-buying.
However, I have done a bit of research around the street already. A document form the Cheltenham Museum informs us:
Sherborne Street is one of a number of small streets of artisan houses that were created on the fields to the north-east of Cheltenham town centre during the early 19th century. The street was named after Lord Sherborne, the Lord of the Manor of Cheltenham, and was laid out by a High Street grocer named William Gyde from 1808 onwards; no. 43, on the east side of the street, was probably built in 1818.
It seems to have been a very working-class street with lots of chimney sweeps living there. The museum document tells the story of a sweep’s sign that it has in its possession and traces the connected family, the Fields. They didn’t live in our house (no. 40), though they must have been close by. They began at no. 15, at the other end of the street (which probably no longer exists, I would guess), before they moved into no. 39, which today is no. 43. I assume this is across the road from us somewhere.
This does give me an interesting clue that there has been some change of numbering on the street, which doesn’t really help me in tracking down our house. However, the document says that number 15 was on the west side of the street, and number 39 was on the east. We are situated on the west side (I think, the street doesn’t exactly run due north to south though). With some comparison of the house numbering today, it may be possible to conjecture about what number our house was originally, but I think I might have to contact the council to find out more specifically about the history of the house. I’ll keep you posted!
L x

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

George Harold Oliver

Another day, another fascinating discovery from my family tree!
Continuing with work on my descendancy of Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, I went back to the marriage of George Harold Oliver and Ellen Christina Bennett to see whether I could come up with any children. I had found them living in Derby in 1911, with George Oliver listed as a motor mechanic. There were no children given, but the couple will still very young and had only married the previous September so it wasn’t too surprising. Derby wasn’t a surprise either, as this was where the marriage record tells me George was living at the time of his marriage. However, he was apparently born in Pendleton, c. 1887.
I first went to the birth index to search for Oliver children with mother’s maiden name Bennett, but predictably there weren’t any strong leads. One possibility appeared for Derby, which I made a note of, but beyond that there were multiple options, including strong leads in Stoke-On-Trent, which left me wondering whether the family connection in the area had continued with the Olivers.
So, I decided I would Google Ellen and George, and see whether there was anything that might help me. The first thing that came up for George Harold Oliver was this Wikipedia entry. I clicked on it, not really expecting it to be remotely relevant. The first sentence reads:
George Harold Oliver QC (24 November 1888 – 22 September 1984) was a British engineer, barrister and politician who was for a longtime Member of Parliament (MP) for Ilkeston and served briefly as a junior government minister.
I thought, well the birth date is close, and Ilkeston is in Derbyshire. I read on.
Oliver was born in Bolton and educated at Holy Trinity School in the town. He became an engineer working as a gear cutter for Rolls Royce, and when the works were moved to Derby, he moved with them.
Bingo! It all made sense – age, occupation, move from Lancashire to Derby. I will need to verify the place of birth – Wikipedia says Bolton, while George himself says Pendelton on the census. I think he may well have grown up in Bolton, as did Ellen, but I’m more inclined to support his personal claim of a Pendleton birthplace than Wikipedia’s unsupported statement.
So, my great-great-grandmother Mabel’s cousin Ellen Christina Bennett married future Labour MP George Harold Oliver. They had perhaps met following the marriage of Ellen’s mother Annie Bennett née Birchall Geoghegan in 1903. They would have been around 15 years old at this time.
 His career was that of a moderately successful junior minister, and I enjoyed reading about some of the causes he supported, including a 1932 motion for a national minimum wage. He also initiated a debate on the development of civilian air transport, which perhaps contributed to me being able to fly off to sunnier climes for my holidays! He retrained as a Trade Union lawyer (hence the QC) in 1927. At the 1931 general election, he lost his seat by only two votes – the equal closest election result during universal franchise.
However, my favourite snippet was this:
In February 1952 he was chosen to be one of the members of the House of Commons to call on the Queen Mother to extend Parliament's condolences on the death of King George VI.
He met the Queen Mother – albeit under rather sad circumstances. It’s my first (and very distant) genealogical brush with royalty!
All of this seems to confirm that George and thus presumably Ellen stayed in the Derby area at least until around 1965, when George stood down from parliament. So, I conjecture that they only had the one child.  A scan of Ancestry’s suggested connections confirms this, and the most detailed tree appears to suggest that their child is still living, so I won’t go any further on that subject for now, though I’ll be tracing it as far as I can for my own purposes.
George Oliver lived to be 95, dying in 1984, just a year before I was born.
L x

Monday, 17 December 2012

A tale of two discrepancies

I try to avoid relying on other people’s information, particularly others’ Ancestry trees, but on occasion I do have a look, because you never know when it might present something new that you didn’t know about. However, it’s always worrying when you then find something that contradicts your own info. On a couple of occasions in recent days I’ve been forced to investigate others’ info for myself, to see how they got their data and where they went wrong – or indeed, where I went wrong.
First up was James Thompson. I was looking at some of his grandchildren for one of my previous posts when I decided to click on the little shaky green leaf for their father, James’ son Albert Thomas Thompson, and check out his ‘hints’. On tree gave Thomas’s parents, whom I don’t have yet, so I was excited at the prospect of new info. However, when I had a look at the tree, it immediately became obvious that most of the info was utterly incorrect. James is given the correct wife, Sarah Ann Semley, but this tree claims she died in 1860, and then James moved to Shiloh, Texas, where he died in 1862.  An interesting theory, but since Albert wasn’t born until 1870, I don’t really see how that works! It also gives completely incorrect siblings for Albert as well.  
This kind of sloppy research really makes my blood boil. I’m very understanding when it comes to new researchers perhaps make unjustified assumptions or get careless about recording sources – we all have to make this kind of slip-up in order to learn – but less so when they try to bring people back from the dead!
Of course, there was very little evidence attached to this tree either, which would have set alarm bells ringing even if it hadn’t been for the obvious errors, and I would always proceed with caution, because people make mistakes all the time – I know I do. In this case, I was slightly relieved that this tree was so obviously wrong that I didn’t have to waste any more time verifying half-baked research!
I’m very much an advocate of ‘speculative’ genealogy, because sometimes I think it’s the only way to make progress. If you never take a gamble on something being the right record, you might struggle to get anywhere at all. But speculating that someone gave birth to a child ten years after they died is just plain stupid!
Take, for example, my Newbys (yes, them again!) If I hadn’t taken a punt on the birth record of Walter Newby, I can’t see how I would ever have tracked down his parents. And indeed, my second discrepancy was on this very line...
Walter’s mother Sarah Jane Newby actually appears in several online tree; it was quite a large family, and I have yet to explore the full extent of the parallel branches. However, I decided to check out her shaky green leaves – I forget why – and I discovered another tree that had her husband as a George Winters, and a daughter Olive Winters born in 1910.
After a bit of investigation, I concluded that Sarah Jane was not in the main line of this researcher’s tree, and he had probably just speculated on her marriage with this being the most likely candidate. I think  actually he was being a bit too speculative, as the 1911 census clearly says her birth place was Leeds, which is not entirely consistent, but even so, I can’t argue with the rest of his logic. It does remind me that I really mustn’t assume that all of my speculative marriages and children for siblings are 100% correct.
Whereas I was justifiably bemused and slightly irritated by the last discrepancy, this time I was sympathetic. This poor researcher wasn’t to know that Sarah Jane had gone off and had an illegitimate son or three and then pretended to be married on the 1911 census, had two more children and finally married in 1922. How could he? Even I’m not even 100% sure all the details are right yet!
Anyway, I sent the guy a message over the Ancestry message system, explaining to him my own findings about Sarah Jane and my process for getting there, and inviting him to help himself to info and records from my tree. Hopefully he will take it as the gesture of help it’s meant as. I know I would certainly appreciate a gentle correction on anything I’ve got wrong in my tree, and I thought this was the probably best way to handle it. However, I didn’t bother correcting the other tree-owner, on the basis that their tree was so clearly wrong that no one would ever take it seriously anyway!
L x

Sunday, 16 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 4. Father Baxter

Today’s old photo mystery comes from my mum’s side. The photographs on this side are much better documented – i.e. my mum actually knows who they all are. Plus many of them are labelled.
However, this post focuses on my great grandmother, Annie Louisa Goulding née Hampshire. There are many photographs of her in our collection, though most of these were taken when she was elderly. In one of these pictures there is a man. I asked my mum who he was, and she said ‘Oh, that’s Father Baxter, her second husband.’ I had no idea she had been married a second time, though my mum insists she had told me before!
My mum didn’t know anything much about Father Baxter apart from this slightly archaic-sounding name. I thought he must have been some sort of clergyman, but my mum said not, just that this was what they all called him. So, I set out to investigate.
Annie Louisa’s first husband Thomas Goulding died at the age of 60 in 1938, and my mum said that her grandmother remarried well before she was born in 1963, so I guess we were looking at 1940s or ’50s. Thankfully Annie Louisa Goulding is a relatively uncommon name, so it didn’t take me long to identify a marriage. It took place in Scarborough in the last quarter of 1948. It’s slightly outside of my usual area of focus, but I was aware that the some of the family did live on the coast for a while, on a farm at Osgodby I believe, though I probably need to ask my mum more about that as well! So, Scarborough wasn’t completely unexpected. In 1948 Annie Louisa was 61. Her new husband’s name was John J. Baxter.
Finding this marriage and thus her new surname also helped me to identify a death for Annie Louisa – I hadn’t been able to before, and now I know why – in Wakefield, in the first quarter of 1974, at the age of 86. It also furnished me with her exact birth date: 16 Jun 1887.
I now want to find out more about Father Baxter. I started with Scarborough, as this was the only concrete piece of information about him, and of course an assumption that he was of a similar age to my great-grandmother. I found a couple of likely deaths first: John J Baxter, died Scarborough in 1954, aged 71; and John Baxter, died Lower Agbrigg in 1955, aged 71. Helpfully, Ancestry had identified a probate record that matched the Scarborough death, and this confirmed that John James Baxter of Haltona, Osgodby Lane, Cayton, Scarborough, had died on xx September 1954, leaving his widow Annie Louisa Baxter a sum slightly in excess of £400. So, I can be fairly confident this is the right John Baxter, even though it doesn’t bring me any closer to identifying his parents or any other family.
That’s as far as I’ve got for now, but I’ll be continuing with this little project, so I’ll keep you updated on any interesting findings!
L x

Friday, 14 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 3. Mystery Wedding

Mystery number three is more recent. I came across a lovely photograph of my dad’s parents, John Newby and Fay Rayner, with my grandfather’s parents, the mysterious Walter Newby and Margaret Thompson, pictured outside the front door of what appears to be a church. I then found another photograph clearly taken at the same event: the same church appears, and all four are wearing the exact same outfits, down to the headband/fascinator worn by Fay.
The event in question is a wedding. The second photograph quite possibly pictures all of the wedding guests; it is a very large group photo. Given that two generations of the family are in attendance, and that the photograph was kept for such a long time, it seems likely that it’s the wedding of a family member or a very close family friend. Of course, I’m now determined to come up with a probably identity for the bride and groom, so let’s look at the evidence:
No date is given, but I can fairly easily deduct that it was most likely taken some time in the late 1950s. My grandparents married in the summer of 1956, and separated when my dad (b. 1963) was aged two or three, so it couldn’t have been much later than 1965-ish. To my (admittedly clueless) eye, the fashions look more fifties or early sixties, so I’m leaning towards earlier rather than later in the period 1956–66
On their marriage, my grandmother was only seventeen, though my granddad was older at twenty-four, and I’m under the impression that it all happened fairly quickly. With that in mind, I think it’s unlikely that this photograph was taken before their marriage. My dad’s oldest sister was born around a year later in June 1957. The next child, a daughter, was born in October 1958, her third child, a son, in the summer of 1960, and finally my dad in August 1963.
Given the young age of my grandmother in this photograph, I would assume it was taken within a couple of years of their wedding. As she’s not visibly pregnant in the photograph, I would be inclined to rule out the periods of early 1957, mid- to late 1958, and early 1960. So, we’re looking at either the first half of 1956, the July 1957 to spring 1958, or any time during 1959.
I think it’s doubtful from their ages in the photograph that it was taken much later than that, but as I can’t be sure, I have to consider the possibility that it was taken some time from late 1960 to the end of 1962, or even after the birth of my dad, into the mid-sixties.  However, I’d still guess earlier rather than later.
The next thing is location. Now, ordinarily identifying a church on the basis of an image of its front door, given that it could be taken almost anywhere in the country, might be rather tricky. The church has a sort of triangular shaped ‘porch’, with the church sign (too small to read, even with my trust magnifying glass) affixed to it. However, we’re helped somewhat by the presence of a pub with a clearly legible sign in the background: The New Inn. One of the photographs is taken from a slightly different angle, and we can also see the side of a building, probably a house, alongside the pub.
I’ve started with the likelihood that the church was fairly local to my grandparents, somewhere in the Wakefield area. It can’t be proven of course, but I needed a starting point for investigation and close to home seems sensible, especially as the families in question had all been fairly local for a couple of generations by now as far as I know.
I asked my dad about local pubs by this name, and one suggestion was at Durkar, roughly five miles from my home town of Horbury, where John and Fay were living at Sunroyd Hill in the early years of their marriage. Google informs me that the New Inn at Durkar is located on Denby Dale Road East. A search for churches in the vicinity reveals the Primitive Methodist church a short way down the road. The nearest C of E church is too far away. However, this brick building doesn’t look right – I would have said it was stone (bearing in mind I don’t have access to the photograph and I’m doing this from memory) – and I can’t see the triangular-shaped entrance porch. Also, studying  the relative locations of pub and church on both Google Maps and Geograph convinced me that the church was too far from the pub for its sign to have been visible in the photograph – indeed, I’m not convinced that the pub would be visible at all from the church. Also, looking the pub, it doesn’t quite look right.
So, I tried a generic search for pubs called the New Inn located in West Yorkshire, and then scanned the images and locations for likely candidates. And, by Jove, I think I’ve got it! There is a pub called the New Inn on Shay Lane in Walton, roughly 6½ miles from Horbury. And, whitin the first few Google images, I found this image With the caption: The Methodist Church, view towards the New Inn, Shay Lane. There is the stone building with triangular porch and a sign affixed to the wall. And there is the pub, clearly visible in the background – at least from this angle. The pub does look sort of right, if my memory serves me. I am a little concerned that this pub is still a bit too far away. The foliage beyond the front door, in the middle distance between the two, wasn’t there (the tree might have been), but that could have been planted later.
However, I’m not sure whether there’s enough space between the door and the wall and railings for my photograph to have been taken there, unless they are also later additions. This is possible, though they do look quite old. I haven’t been able to find any older photographs of the church to check this. I suppose an older local person might remember, or I might have to try a local publication. I could even contact the church and ask if they know when they were added.
Overall, I’m about 90% confident I’ve found the right church. My dad knows the entire area very well, as he drives around it for work, so I intend to ask him what he thinks – he might even be able to take the photograph with him on his travels and do the comparison for me.
I’m very intrigued by the fact that this was a Methodist church. Though my home town has quite a strong Methodist tradition, the only evidence I have of any kind of Methodist leanings in my family is that my dad’s older sister got married in the recently demolished Methodist church in Horbury in the late seventies. I wonder if there was a hint of Methodism on my dad’s side after all – after all, I’ve only scratched the surface on his grandfather Walter’s side. And, given the presence of Walter and his wife, it seems likely that this wedding was on his side of the family. However, Margaret and Walter married in an Anglican church.
So, who got married at Walton Methodist church in the 1950s? I'll certainly be checking out Ancestry's Yorkshire non-conformist records, though I'm not sure how up-to-date they come.
It’s definitely not the marriage of Fay’s brother Leslie Gordon Rayner, as his wife was an Italian Catholic. Plus, I would definitely recognise them.
It could possibly be the marriage of John’s brother Trevor Newby, who married Brenda Hartley in the first quarter of 1958. It fits into my schedule of likely dates. However, I think my dad would have recognised them in the image. On the other hand, Walton falls under the Lower Agbrigg registration district in which their marriage was registered, so perhaps I’ll get him to take another look.
Alternatively, it could be a cousin. Walter had, I believe, four brothers: (you can find out more about this on Another Piece of the Puzzle), while Margaret was one of twelve children?. I think I need to devote some time to chasing down the marriages of the various siblings and see if I can figure out who it could be!
L x

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 2. Dad’s Army?

Continuing the military theme of part 1, among the photographs from my dad’s side of the family is a rather rag-tag-looking group of a dozen or so men in military uniform. The only information given is a date: 1939.
When I asked my dad if he knew what the connection was, he had no idea, but on closer inspection he remarked that to him they looked more like home guard. Certainly the uniforms look incomplete, except that most of their hats match up, and they’re certainly not dressed to military standards. Also, my dad pointed out that there were some older men in the photograph, whom you wouldn’t necessarily expect to have been the first to be going off to war – not ancient, but certainly in their late thirties and early forties at least. However, there were also some much younger men mixed in amongst them. Unfortunately research quickly informed me that the Home Guard weren’t actually formed until 1940, so that rules that out. I suspect that this is an off-duty photograph, and so that explains the slightly unruly state of dress!
After much studying of this and other photographs with a magnifying glass, I think that the man front and centre of the photograph is my great grandfather, the formerly enigmatic Walter Newby. Though most of the other photographs we have of him are taken from a greater distance, and when he was much older, I can see a similarity particularly in his quite prominent chin, which has a deep horizontal line across it. My father never knew his grandfather, who died relatively young, so he’s only ever seen him in photographs. However, the entire family agreed that there was a resemblance between this man and others of Walter. (Though perhaps that was just to stop me thrusting the magnifying glass at them and asking questions!)
As I noted in my post V is for Victory, Walter would have been thirty-five when war broke out and therefore was likely to have seen active service. I’d say that was consistent with the age of the man in the photograph as well. His marriage certificate tells us that he was a motor driver before the war, and so perhaps he continued to work as a military driver as well?
I need to have a hunt around Ancestry’s military records for clues about Walter’s time in the military, methinks!
L x

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 1. George Jones

Last weekend I had a lovely extended stay with my parents, mainly for the purposes of Christmas shopping with my mum. However, while I was there I also had a hunt through some old photograph albums. I’ve seen all of these pictures before, of course, but they really come alive after making some progress, particularly on my paternal side.
Unfortunately I have no means of scanning any of the images at the moment, and of course they’re all at my parents, but I intend to get some copies made, and eventually get myself a scanner too – it’s shameful for a ‘serious’ genealogist to be without one! However, I thought I’d write a few posts about some of the images I found. In particular, the ones that provided more questions than answers...
First up, a copy that my mum had made of a photograph that is in fact in the possession of my father’s cousin. It is believed to show George Jones, the second husband (?) of my 2x great-grandmother Mabel Hall. Firstly, I question ‘husband’, because no one seems to be entirely convinced that they were married. However, Mabel’s death was registered with the name Jones, and I have found a potential marriage in Tunbridge Wells in the 1930s. This certificate is on my list of urgent things to order.
I believe they did marry in the 1930s, following the death of Mabel’s first husband William Hedgcock AKA Hayward, whom she had never divorced. Mabel and William’s daughter, my great-grandmother Victorine, was born in 1913, but Mabel must have left William (apparently an alcoholic) not long after this, and then quickly met George Jones, as Victorine apparently grew up believing that George was her father.
The photograph is professionally taken, apparently coming from a series of photographs of aviators. The name of the photographer is given, but I forgot to make a note of it. George Jones stands beside one of those really old-fashioned planes, in what can best be described as typical WW1 flying gear (need to swot-up on my military history!). On the back of the original, George addresses the photocard to ‘to my darling “Little Wife”’.
Though they apparently didn’t marry until the 1930s (if at all), “Little Wife’ is generally believed to be Mabel. She was later known as ‘Little Nana’. Indeed there is another photograph of Mabel’s son-in-law Les in WW2 military uniform addressed to her as such.
(Given that Mabel’s sister, the actress Amy Hall was on one play poster described as ‘the pocket Vesta Tilley’, I suspect that all of the Hall sisters were small of stature!)
Beyond the question of whether this is indeed George Jones and whether or not he was married to my great-great-grandmother Mabel, is another question: Was he really a WW1 pilot? The way forward would be Ancestry’s military records, or the Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificates, 1910–1950, also to be found on Ancestry, but I’m not sure how far I’ll get without further information – certainly nothing stands out on a basic search at the moment. Ideally I would need a birth record, as you can search the Aviators’ Certificates on birth date, but that may take me a while to track down given how common his name is!
I’m also a little concerned about the timings. Mabel’s daughter with William was born in February 1913, which doesn’t leave much time before the war for her to meet George. Even if you accept that he quite likely didn’t join up straight away, there is evidence in the form of a playbill that William and Mabel ere performing in the same theatre troupe (and thus presumably still married) in June 1916, which squeezes the timescales further. On the other hand, if Victorine really did grow up believing George Jones was her father, as the story goes, then George and Mabel can’t have met much after early 1917, as Victorine would have been old enough to know her real father by then, surely?
Or perhaps George wasn’t a military aviator but a 1920s pilot? Though whether this was then really a ‘career’ I’m not sure?  Everyone who looks at the photograph seems to assume it’s First World War and it certainly can’t be much later than that (because of his age apart from anything else), but there’s no date or anything visibly military on there either. Perhaps I need to do some comparisons with other military photos from the period for more info?
The rest of George Jones’ story is equally muddy. Most of what I know about him was told to me by old family friend Brenda, who first furnished me with enough information to get started on my dad’s side of the family. Apparently, he later went to work as a chauffeur in America (Detroit, possibly?), where he was sadly killed in a car accident while working. His employers, a wealthy American couple I seem to remember, wrote a letter to George’s widow Mabel, which she kept for the rest of her life. Brenda saw this letter in the early 1960s, when she first befriended the family and shortly before Mabel died. Sadly, though unsurprisingly, we no longer have it, and therefore the fate of George Jones is perhaps lost forever. The dates are woolly (anytime from mid-1930s to early 1960s), and I have no idea why George was in America instead of at home in England with his wife. Though of course, perhaps she was out there with him? It is only the fact of them having written a letter that gives me impression that she was still living in England.
It’s an intriguing half-story that certainly needs some further investigation!
L x

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

On chasing wild geese

You might have gathered by now that I have a tendency to flit about in my research, picking up and putting down different projects as my mood changes, and one of the things I have been working on for a while, on-and-off, is a descendancy of my 4x great-grandfather, Joseph Bryan Geoghegan.
I’ve mentioned JBG, as I usually shorthand him, in my post G is for Geoghegan. He’s my absolute favourite ancestor, because he had a long, fascinating and semi-famous life. He also effectively founded a dynasty, having two wives and fathering 20 known children altogether. (Some sources quote 22, but I only have 20 in my tree so far.) Plus, he has a nice unusual name to work with: the ideal candidate for my descendancy experiment.
As you already know, I do have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about extended family, and I routinely try to identify siblings’ marriages and children. However, I rarely go further than this, or go on off on a wild goose chase if I can’t find them easily, unless I’m looking for a particular piece of info that contributes to my wider genealogy. To try and investigate all the descendants of an ancestor just for the fun of it is a bit bonkers, to be honest!
So far I have identified 125 possible descendants of JBG (across all generations). It’s kind of tricky, as I’m essentially doing genealogy backwards, but actually it’s teaching me to think outside of the box, to focus on useful information that I tend not to pay that much attention to (father’s occupations and marriage witnesses have proved key) and to use my usual sources in different ways. It’s also turning up some fascinating discoveries.
I came across a second marriage of JBGs daughter Annie Birchall Geoghegan, which I would probably never have found otherwise, to a William Proctor Oliver in 1903. He was 26 years old. She was 44 but claimed she was 38, and she continued to lie about her age on the 1911 census as well!
Then I discovered that Annie’s daughter Ellen Christina Bennett had married in 1910 to a George Harold Oliver – some relation to her stepfather William, perhaps? George Oliver’s father is given as Emmanuel Oliver on the parish record; I have yet to identify what connection, if any, there is to William Proctor Oliver.
The parish record also gave one of the wedding witnesses as Charles Phillip Bennett. I assumed that this was Ellen’s brother Charles, though I’ve never come across the middle name before. However, as Charles was still unmarried in 1911, I took a guess that I’d probably be able to find him on the 1911 census, and went to Ancestry to do a search, on the logic that from this I would be able to find an occupation that would help me to identify him in marriage records – and also just ‘cos I was curious!
Ancestry brought up the following:  Charles Bennett, b. abt. 1890, Bolton, Lancashire. Boarder at Woolpach Hotel Inn, 29 Commerce Street, Longton, Stoke On Trent. Marital Status: single. Occupation: clerk, china factory.
I was immediately excited, because it is yet another family link to Stoke on Trent, where JBG had a music hall just before he died, and where his son in law, my 3x great-grandfather Matt Hall also had a music hall around this time.
However, then something else struck me. I had seen this address before; this was where Matt Hall’s daughter Marion Hall was living and working as a barmaid... on the 1911 census. I was sure of it. Yet she wasn’t listed in the household here. (I was slightly scuppered by the fact that this was in my lunch hour, today, and I don’t have flash on my work PC so I couldn’t see the original)
Looking at my entry for Marion on Ancestry, I discovered that I hadn’t found her in Ancestry’s version of the 1911 census, which meant I must have found her on the ‘old’ 1911 census website. I went back to the website, which very kindly allows you to see records you’ve already viewed without paying for them again, and found the household (again, only the transcript, I hadn’t paid for the original in this case).
Both Marion Hall and Charles Bennett appear here, along with Jane (or ‘Lane’, as Ancestry has it) Rowe, the cook and Charlotte Sullivan, the manageress, who doesn’t appear on the Ancestry transcript either. However, it doesn’t feature the 6 members of the Tattersall’s family to be found on Ancestry’s version – who, it turns out, all lived at number 27 Commerce Street.  I assume Jane Rowe and Charles Bennett have somehow been accidentally tagged onto the wrong household by Ancestry.
Had it been the 1901 census, it would be more understandable, as the households followed on from one another on each page, and I’ve frequently found instances where two households have accidentally been lumped together in transcription. But since the 1911 census is made up of individual forms for each household, I’m not sure how this could have happened. I’ve still been unable to find Marion or Charlotte Sullivan, and I can only assume they have been completely missed from the transcription by Ancestry, which is somewhat frustrating. But it does remind you of the importance of checking multiple sources! And to keep a track of addresses!
Anyway, having solved that little mystery, I was delighted to find out that Charles, whom I had originally taken to just be a guest at the inn, was in fact Marion’s cousin! I suppose it could be coincidental that they ended up in the same place, but it hardly seems likely. So their mutual presence goes some way to confirming the relationship on both sides. I couldn’t be 100 per cent certain that this was the correct Marion before, and nor could I have been completely certain that this was the correct Charles Bennett without Marion’s’ presence either! And as well as corroborating one another’s identities, this meeting sheds some light on an issue that had previously played on my mind.
In 1896 Matt Hall divorced his wife Kate for adultery, and she subsequently disappears from my family history. I’ve found no trace of her at all following the divorce. In 1901, Marion is living with her father in Stoke on Trent. Her brothers and sisters are not fully accounted for, but I believe that they were travelling and working in theatres at this time, and that they were mainly in the care of their father. In 1922 Matt Hall dies, and all five children contribute warm and loving obituary messages to the Stage publication. All of this is testament to their very close relationship with a loving father. But given that so many members of their mother’s large family were also heavily involved in the theatrical world, I had often wondered what relations were like between them. Seeing this glimpse of Charles staying with his cousin Marion is enough, I think, to confirm that they remained in contact with the maternal family.
I have still to find a marriage for Charles Bennett. I think I already have a marriage for Marion, but I need to order the marriage certificate to be sure. But even if my descendancy never fully ‘descends’, my wild goose chase will have been worth it to have discovered this tiny but vital piece of my story.
L x

Thursday, 15 November 2012

100 posts of genealogical joy

This is my 101st post. To mark the occasion (it’s an achievement of sorts) I thought I’d take the time to look back on my blogging career so far. Here I look, rather selfishly, at what genealogy blogging has done for me.  
I started the blog back in February, after nearly a year of thinking about it. Having gone into it not knowing what to expect or what I hoped to get out of it, I’ve found it incredibly rewarding.
One thing that I was looking for was to engage with genealogists nearer my own age. Though it still seems that we young genealogists are a rare species, I have come across a few (Niall, Katelyn, Elisse, Elyse, Lianne, Jess and Tina) and I want to thank them all: you’ve made being a twenty-something genealogist a much less lonely pursuit! I’m sure there are still others I haven’t discovered yet, so if you’re out there get in touch – we can start a little club!
Blogging has helped me to engage more with the genealogy community as a whole. There are some great blogs out there that I really enjoy reading – too many to list here. I’ve begun using Twitter, which has been a revelation. I particularly like the real-time tweeting as breakthroughs are made and mysteries are solved. I’m also engaging with genealogists both pro and amateur around the world on LinkedIn and enjoying some of the thought-provoking discussions on genealogical etiquette, problem solving and methodology. Genealogy can be a rather solitary activity, so it’s nice to be able to share the joy and the frustration with like-minded people of all ages.
I’ve found that blogging really helps me with my research too. As I encounter a problem or an interesting story to discuss, and begin to formulate a blogpost about it, I find that it crystallises in my mind where there are gaps, where things need verifying or elaborating, and how I can take it further. I’ve talked before about how I have found writing a narrative about my genealogy useful, but it never occurred to me that blogging would magnify that further, because of course it’s not just for you but for the rest of the world. By opening up your research to closer scrutiny from the blogging community, you force yourself to be a more detailed, more meticulous and more critical of yourself. I have made errors on my blog, but I accept that and I try to correct them where possible. Also, the input from readers has been really useful as well, and I’m so grateful for that.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of my genealogy blogging is that I’ve found that my real-life friends have read it and shown an interest. Weirdly, though genealogy is a big part of my life, it’s not something I’ve talked about much to them, because I thought they wouldn’t be interested or that they would think it was really geeky – which it probably is, and I’ve never really been ‘cool’ so no one should be surprised!
Actually, what I’ve found is some of my friends have said they have found it really interesting. Then they often launch off into their own family stories – usually prefaced by ‘my mum/dad/grandpa/etc. did their family tree and...’ A few people have even asked me to look things up for them, or how they should go about finding certain people. I even succeeded in getting my boyfriend interested briefly. It has made me realise that a lot of people are actually interested in their family’s past, they’re just not that interested in researching it themselves at this point in their lives.
The most common questions I get asked also reflect this: ‘Where do you find the time?’ and ‘how do you know where to start?’
My responses: I find the time from the same place as you find time for zumba/golf/hockey/photography/the gym etc. and knowing where to start comes easy when it’s something you’re really interested in – you just teach yourself. After all, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start at the gym even! And that’s the key I think: I love genealogy, and blogging about it just adds a whole new dimension. Perhaps it’s a bit like having a single running machine at home and then going to a huge gym with all the bells and whistles?
Anyway, thank you all. It has been 100 posts of genealogical joy, and here’s to many more!
L x

Monday, 5 November 2012

Remember, remember...?

So, I was planning on making this, my 100th blog post, rather more reflective, but I will postpone that until next time in order to concentrate on some rather more timely subject matter – Bonfire Night.
The reason for this is that there is an old family rumour that one of my ancestors was in some way involved with the Gunpowder Plot. Exciting as this may seem, as yet I have found no evidence that it is actually true.
The rumour originates from my paternal family, but I haven’t been able to narrow it down much beyond that, which means 50% of my ancestral lines are currently implicated.  If I was ever to narrow this down – or even get that far back on most of these lines – I’d be very impressed, and I don’t hold much hope, to be honest. However, it is rather interesting to consider that if the rumour were true it would imply Catholic recusant ancestors, and the recusancy rolls are a potential source of information that I am aware of, many thanks to my degree, so you never know...
In an attempt to possibly suggest where the connection might be, I have looked in a little more detail at the plot and two potential connections immediately present themselves:
One possibility is the Wintour, or Winter,brothers, Robert and Thomas, who were among the key plotters. The name Winter occurs in my Father’s maternal line, which is where I sort of get the impression the story comes from (though I can’t be certain).
If it were on my father’s maternal line, the Winters would seem the most likely candidates. The Rayners came from Ireland in the early 1800s and so that’s half of my great-grandfather’s side accounted for. On my great-grandmother’s side, again we can discount the Geoghegan line, which also came from Ireland, and I have enough second-hand information on the Hall line back into the 1600s to suggest that they’re improbable. It really only leaves either the ancestors of Emma Winter (both of her parents were also Winters, quite probably related) on my great-grandfather’s line or the ancestors of William Kipping Hedgecock on my great-grandmother’s line.
The possible problems with the Winter connection are that Winter is a fairly common name, so alone it is hardly compelling evidence. This is further compounded by the fact that Wikipedia tells me that historian Antonia Fraser (for whom I have great respect) in her book about the Gunpowder Plot (which I may have to purchase) points out that the brothers never used the spelling Winter themselves; it is usually found spelt Wintour or Wyntour. Obviously, spelling was quite variable back then, and I suppose it was still relatively fluid by the time I encounter my Winters in the nineteenth century. However, my Winter ancestors are consistent in the spelling of their name, which doesn’t really help my case.
Further to this, the location is wrong – the Wintour brothers came from the West Midlands, whereas my Winters were based in Surrey. Again, though people did move around, the location evidence hardly helps any argument for this being the connection, so I have to concede it isn’t likely.
A stronger possibility, I have to concede, is on an entirely different branch of my family, which has strong roots in the right area. My Buswell line as far back as I’ve been able to trace it originates around Whichford in Warwickshire, before migrating southwards into Chipping Norton and Banbury. Whichford is roughly thirty miles from Coughton, the base of the Throckmorton family, to whom many of the Gunpowder Plotters were related or connected. Though it’s not particularly close, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine part of the family moving a relatively small thirty miles over a couple of hundred years, and/or being connected by marriage to a family within such an area.
The problem with this possibility is that the Buswells feed into my Thompson/Newby line, which is my paternal grandfather’s side, and as I say, if anything I had the impression that the connection was on my dad’s maternal line.
On his paternal line, I can discount the Thompsons, also Irish, and the other possibilities are the Newbys/Wallingers, about whom I know too little to guess either way.
What I can say without any hesitation is that nowhere in my family lines have I encountered anyone who can seriously be called a gentleman of the rank that the Gunpowder Plotters were (with the exception, perhaps, of William Kipping), so whichever branch it was, they must have had some financial problems somewhere along the line!
Just to be clear, this is all very much conjecture, just for the fun of it. I have absolutely no evidence that this particular rumour is even true, never mind the means to identify the ancestor! Indeed, many such rumours do turn out to me completely untrue, or at least exaggerated considerably. Given that my most famous real ancestor’s granddaughter ­– J. B. Geoghegan, grandaughter Mabel Hall – only died in the 1960s and yet the man was never mentioned, it would seem improbable that a true story so much older would survive!
I think the most likely explanation is that my ancestors may have ‘supported’ the plot – i.e. they were recusant Catholics, hoping to put a Catholic monarch on the throne ­– rather than being actively involved in it, and over time, this expression of support became exaggerated into something more sinister.
That said, I have no evidence whatsoever for any kind of recusancy or nonconformity in my family either. Almost all of my ancestors baptised their children, married and were buried in the Church of England (despite the fact that many of them lived in strongly Methodist areas). Beyond that, I have found no evidence of anyone actively involved in the church or showing any strong faith. As a fair complement of my ancestors was Irish, some of them may have had a catholic background, but that wouldn’t really tie in with the Gunpowder Plot in any case. The vast majority of them seem happy to tow the Anglican line, to be honest!
It just goes to show that there’s only so much that genealogy can uncover. The vast majority of our family history must remain unknown, and many of the myths must remain unresolved. It’s rather nice to have the possibility that I really do have such an exciting background, though, and with a bit of luck I might one day make the breakthrough that proves or disproves it!
L x

Friday, 2 November 2012

The teeny tiny fruits of a teeny tiny breakthrough

I was using the 1911 census on Ancestry a few days ago, when I noticed something: Occupations appear in the transcribed information.
This interesting for 2 reasons. For one thing, it isn’t always the case for censuses that it does, and I like having it there for easy reference. (Especially at work, where I can’t see census images due to lack of flash – most annoying when I’m trying to do a bit of research in my lunch hour.)
The real reason this intrigued me, though, was that if it’s transcribed then it will show up in a search, and this fact opens up new options for locating people whom I couldn’t find back when I was using the original 1911 census website. In particular, my Hall family have generally been most tricky to locate, because of their peripatetic lifestyle as music-hall performers. In 1911, I only had two out of the five children – Mona and what I believe to be Marion ­­– and had not found their father either.
So, I put the 1911 occupation search to the test on the remaining three: Mabel (my 2x great grandmother), Henry Victor and Amy, as well as their father Matthew. No luck with either of the first two, or with their dad. But, with Amy I came up trumps.
Now Amy has always been a matter of some frustration. Of all the siblings she does seem to have had the most prolific career, which I have tracked steadily through mentions in the Stage publication.
Born in 1879, by November 1887, at the age of eight, Amy is already forging her stage career with performances as Jim in Saved From The Streets with the W. H. Sharpe company. She then takes up a position with the Rass Challis company from around 1893. There is a bit of a gap for her in the Stage archives between 1890 and 1892, but she was definitely still touring on the 1891 census. Between 1893 and 1895 – again, there’s a bit of a gap – she moves to the Leopold Brothers company, and stars in various production, including  the long-running show Frivolity. I have also found evidence of performances alongside her sister Mona between 1904 and 1906, and a slot in her father’s production Unknown in 1896 at his Music Hall. Her career stretches into the 1920s, when she would have been in her forties. But, despite all this, finding out anything about Amy’s private life has been utterly hopeless. Until now.
The 1911 census was taken on the night of Sunday 2 April. From the Stage archives, I knew that Amy was performing in Brighouse, just three days previously, but she certainly wasn’t there by the time the census was taken!
Now, searching for Amy Hall born 1879, Liverpool, with ‘actress’ in the keywords box, threw up the following: Amy Hall, born about 1880, Liverpool, an Actress. She is staying in Chorlton, Lancashire, in the household of a Mrs White, some of whose children and grandchildren have the surname Elliott (I have yet to unravel the relationships in this household). Also lodging there is a married couple, Horatio and Annie White, both also actors.
She gives her name as Amy Hall. But intriguingly she says she is married . So, it doesn’t give me much clue, and there’s no sign of anyone who might be her husband, but apparently she is married – I’d always wondered. Like her sister Mona, it seems she continued to use Hall as her (stage?) name. Now I just have to find the marriage record – no mean feat. However, it’s one of the very few tidbits of information I do have about her personal life, so it’s very welcome.
Plus, I can add the Sinclairs to my list of connected theatrical people to look out for on my travels; you never know when they might come in handy.
I’m now wondering whether Amy might have had children as well, and also considering whether gaps in her career might tally with marriage and/or pregnancy. On the basis that Amy was about old enough to marry from the age of 16, anytime from mid-1895 onwards is plausible. Looking at gaps in mentions in the Stage, there are holes from December 1895 to Jun 1896; March to Aug 1897, Jun 1899 to Aug 1900 and Nov 1906 to May 1907. From late 1907 the mentions slow down radically – there are none at all in 1910, for example. There are, I think two possibilities her.
One is that Amy did indeed marry sometime in the period Dec 1895 to Jun 1896, at the tender age of sixteen, and perhaps gave birth to a child in the gap between March and August 1897, and perhaps again in 1899–1900. On the other hand, perhaps she was rather young for this to be a strong possibility. Also, in 1896 Amy’s parents divorced, when her youngest sister Mabel was just five years old, and her father moved from his post s stage manager in Lincoln to the managerial position at the newly opened Burslem Hippdorome, so perhaps it was these family difficulties that kept the young Amy busy out of the limelight. You might even conjecture that perhaps the Stage diligently chose to avoid mention of the family at this difficult and potentially scandalous time for them, well-known as they were in the Music Hall community.
On the other hand, perhaps the possible slowing down of reports on Amy’s career from 1907 onwards is because she had a new family and responsibilities that kept her from the stage. She would have been in her mid-twenties by now, a much more likely age of a marriage, especially in someone so career-driven.
Of course, it can’t be proved that just because there were fewer mentions of her Amy’s career had slowed down, or that gaps meant she had stopped performing. As I previously mentioned, in 1891 she was on tour at the time of the census, and yet I have found no mentions at all of her in 1891 in the Stage. However, when you look at the frequency of entries at other times, it is hard to believe that the gaps have no significance. For example, there are thirteen mentions of Amy in various performances in 1898, and eleven mentions in 1901 – and yet from mid-1899 to mid-1900 there was nothing at all?
Whatever the truth of the matter, it never ceases to amaze me how the slightest bit of new information can reopen a mystery that you thought was pretty much a closed case. This just highlights the importance of improving the information available online, both in terms of getting new records digitised and in improving on the digitisation of those collections that do exist.
You can read more about Amy and her career in Fearless Females 2012: Shining stars
L x

Monday, 22 October 2012

Another piece of the puzzle

Of course, I’m referring to the puzzle of Walter Newby’s parentage. If you remember, I did find his mother Sarah Jane Newby, and his father Thomas Wallinger, but I had still spectacularly failed to find Walter himself on the 1911 census.
Now, I know that the census record itself isn’t the goal so much as finding detail to piece together Walter’s life, but I did feel quite strongly in this case that the census was really the only reliable source that would tell me something about Walter’s childhood and what happened to both him and his mother following his father’s death when he was just a year old.  
Given that I couldn’t find either of them under the names Newby or Wallinger anywhere on the census, or by tracing their families. I then began various searches to identify children of roughly the right age, called Walter, with mothers called Sarah also of roughly the right age. And yesterday (on my birthday no less), after lots of fruitless attempts, I finally struck what I hope is gold!
Walter Barker is aged six, giving him a birth year of 1905, which ties in nicely with a September 1904 birthdate – in April 1911 when the census he would indeed have been aged six. He was born in Wakefield, which is a strong match for his birthplace of Snapethorpe. His mother Sarah Barker is 34, meaning she was born roughly around 1877, which is a match, and her birthplace is given as Kellington, which is also a direct match.
Her husband Henry Barker, is aged 38 (b. around 1873). He works as a ‘cowman’ on a farm and the family live in Hemsworth, which is roughly halfway between Wakefield and Doncaster.  Yet Henry was born in ‘Ardsley, Wakefield’, which is to the north of the city, on the way to Leeds.
Sarah Barker claims to have been married to her husband Henry for eleven years, and they have three other children – Tom, aged nine, Charles, aged eight, and Albert aged three. Of course, none of this makes much sense in the context of what I know about Sarah Jane and Walter – Sarah Jane certainly can’t have been married for eleven years, because she was still Newby on the birth certificate of Walter in 1904.
However, this is where it gets interesting: The census states that Tom and Charles Barker were born in Blackpool – where we know that Sarah Jane and Thomas Wallinger were living in 1901, and where it would seem Thomas died in 1905.
So, here’s the theory: Walter was not Sarah Jane and Thomas’s first child – I had assumed he was. But I know they were living together from 1901 and Sarah Jane could potentially have been having children from the mid to late 1890s, so there was no reason to think that she/they hadn’t had other children. Tom (named for his father?) and Charles were born while the couple were living in Blackpool in 1902/03. By late 1904 they had returned to Yorkshire, where Walter was born. Following Thomas’s death in late 1905, Sarah, effectively widowed, met Henry Barker, giving birth to their first child Albert in 1908. (The census indicates only four children, all accounted for).
Alternatively, Tom and/or Charles were the children of Henry Barker from a previous marriage. Henry was in Blackpool, with his children, and it was here that he and Sarah Jane met following the death of her husband
On his marriage certificate, perhaps Walter took his own surname and combined the names of his father and stepfather to ‘invent’ a fictional Thomas Henry Newby? (This still doesn’t explain where the ‘market gardener’ came from, as it doesn’t really describe either father figure, though both were in farming at one time or another.)
Now to test the theories.
An initial search for relevant marriages shows a Sarah Jane Newby marrying a Henry Barker in Dewsbury... in 1922.
Dewsbury would make sense. Walter Newby marries Margaret Thompson in Chickenley just 7 years later, and the parish record describes him as ‘of this parish’, so he was living in the Chickenley area, which is in Dewsbury registration district, by 1929.
Did Sarah Jane and Henry not marry until 1922? If not, why not? Money? Or was Henry married already? (It reminds me of Mabel Hall, who couldn’t marry George Jones until later life when her estranged husband William Hayward (AKA Hedgcock) died. ) If so, why did they lie on the census? Sarah Jane and Thomas never lied about their marital status, so why would she do so now with Henry?
The next step is to order this marriage certificate and see if I can confirm that this is indeed my Sarah Jane, based on her father’s name and occupation and any marriage witnesses. It should also shed some light on Henry’s circumstances, whether he was previously married, etc. I also intend to search for potential births for Tom and Charles in Blackpool, and also Albert’s birth in Badsworth (not far from Hemsworth) and see what names their births were registered under.
I have quite a strong instinct that I’m on the right lines here, so fingers crossed!
L x

Friday, 12 October 2012

On the criminal element

I begin with a caveat, otherwise you might get something of the wrong idea: Thus far in my family history, my ancestors appear to have been generally decent, law abiding citizens (with the exception of Sarah Ann Semley, possibly).
However, I have begun investigating my newly identified Wallinger branch, and it would seem they are a BAD lot!
My 2 x great-grandfather Thomas Wallinger was born to parents William Wallinger, ag lab, and Alice (maiden name unknown) in Hanslope, Buckinghamshire in 1844. Alice was William’s second wife, and he would marry again in later life to Harriet Hensman. Eleanor gave William a son, George, and Alice went on to give him five more sons.
Two of Thomas’s brothers, Benjamin and Thomas (the elder, in memory of whom my Thomas was presumably named) died young, but some of the other Wallinger boys, it seems, were not the best behaved!
I’ve already talked a little about Thomas, who left his wife Charlotte for the much younger Sarah Jane Newby, with whom he had a son, my great grandfather Walter. The year after Walter was born Thomas was summoned to court for debt, and he died shortly afterwards. I still don’t know what happened to Sarah Jane and Walter. Until Walter married in 1929, his life is a mystery.
Thomas’s brother William was married to Rosannah Cook, with whom, presumably, he had his daughter Clara, in Yorkshire. On two censuses William is in jail, in London in 1871 and then in Surrey in 1881. As yet I’m not sure what he was convicted for.  I can only assume that he had abandoned his family. Rose ,as she appears on the 1861 census, completely disappears after this point. His daughter Clara, born 1860, is not present either, and nor does she appear again until 1891 when he elderly father is living with her and husband George Surby.
More shocking and intriguing though, is Peter Wallinger. In March 1845, at the grand old age of ten, he is convicted of arson – on ‘stacks of [illegible]’ – and sentenced to transportation for fifteen years. At this time transportation meant to Australia. This isn’t an area of genealogy I’ve encountered before, but initial searches don’t reveal any trace at all of Peter Wallinger following his conviction, either in Australia or the UK, so what happened to him is, for now, something of a mystery.
With more Wallinger brothers still to investigate, who knows what else they got up to?!
L x

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Clifford: connection or coincidence?

So, I’ve set to work on the family of Sarah Jane Newby, and this time I’ve started as I mean to go on, trying my best to get a handle on all siblings and relevant parties in a methodical manner rather than getting sidetracked. I’m hoping that tracking down as many relatives as possible might lead me to where Sarah Jane and Walter are hiding on the 1911 census, but no luck so far.
However, my searches have revealed something else rather interesting – the recurrence of the name Clifford.
In 1896, Sarah Jane’s older sister Clara Newby marries a man with the surname Clifford. In 1911, Sarah Jane’s father Henry is living with the Clifford family.
Occurrence number two of the name is in 1895, when Sarah Jane’s mother Elizabeth’s brother, Mark Lockwood, christens his son Clifford Lockwood. My first thought was that this was a sort of family tribute, as I have started to notice a few reuses of names in the family. However, Clifford is baptised a year before Clara marries into the Clifford family. And Clifford definitely isn’t Mark’s wife’s surname, which was my other thought – so where did it come from?
Only two possibly unconnected occurrences in the immediate family so far. However, during my searches for the Newbys I have also come across a family of Clifford Newbys not too far away.
Strangely, though this is most likely a coincidence, I also note that Clifford has been used as a middle name for one of the Semleys – Charles Clifford Semley, nephew of my direct ancestor Sarah Ann Semley. And it is Sarah Ann’s granddaughter, Margaret Thompson, who goes on to marry Walter Newby in 1929.
Am I now facing one giant Newby/Lockwood/Clifford/Semley/Thompson knot? Or is it all just a big coincidence? Only genealogy will tell!
L x

Thursday, 27 September 2012

I have a confession to make

Sometimes I worry that I am a bad genealogist
I worry that my research isn’t rigorous enough. That sometimes I hypothesise and don’t immediately have the evidence to back it up. That don’t obsess over county boundary changes when recording some ancestors’ place of birth and, shock horror, I might occasionally forget to record the full details of every source I use.
All this makes me feel guilty. I did a degree in history, and I should understand the importance of small details, and citing my sources. Indeed, I do understand the importance.
The thing is, I’m not a natural organiser, and I don’t particularly revel in the ‘recording data’ side of my family history adventures. Even my index, which I was so enthusiastic about when I started, is unfinished and hopelessly out of date, and I tend to rely on the quick record features offered in ancestry to keep track of my data. Even then I’m sloppy about the details.
What I love about my research isn’t the need to meticulously record everything, it’s the stories that the evidence reveals.
Who wants to stop and worry about whether this village was in West or South Yorkshire on a particular date when they’re busy trying to piece together what was the relationship between these two people, who was the father of that child, what happened to this ancestor...? The information I’m worrying about at that point is the vital clue that’s telling me what’s going on, and it’s unlikely to be what county a village happens to be in at that time – well, I suppose it could be! But my point is I only worry myself about such details when they become vital to my research.
I reason with myself that one day I will fix it all. That I’m so young that I’ve got years ahead of me to tighten up my records! I still worry about it though.
Once upon a time, before the internet, no one else would have known my guilty secret, but now everyone can see my badly-kept tree.  They probably think that it’s poorly researched and that I have no grasp of the Genealogical Proof Standard or how it should be done. It’s not that, it’s just that I’m bad at it.
And then I get cross because this is my family, my hobby, and I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about how I treat my genealogy. I’m only doing this for me. Everyone else should just be glad I make my tree public really!
Please, fellow genealogists, don’t judge me for the gaps in source citations and muddled up name spellings! I’m aware of my shortcomings, but I promise I’m not a bad genealogist. I’m just a poor record-keeper!
L x