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

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: A tribute to Brenda Prendergast

The theme of today’s Fearless Females post is ‘best friends’, and so I am taking the opportunity to write a small post in recognition of Brenda Prendergast.
When I first began researching my father’s family tree, I wasn’t getting very far. Both of his parents are dead, and my dad and his siblings’ memories of family stories were muddled. I had names and stories, but was finding it impossible to make any kind of order out of it. Then my dad suggested we ask Brenda.
Brenda had been a neighbour of my dad’s family when he was a child, and became friends with my dad’s mum, Fay Rayner. In difficult times, Brenda was there to support Fay, and also often took care of her children. Fay introduced Brenda to her mother, Victorine Rayner (née Hayward) and the two hit it off. From then on, Brenda herself was almost like a daughter to Victorine and her husband Les. For much of this later part of her life Victorine was confined to a wheelchair, and so Brenda would help out around the house. After Victorine’s death and when Les was too frail to take care of himself, it was Brenda who shouldered much of the burden. Brenda also knew Victorine’s mother Mabel Jones née Hall and Aunt Mona May (née Hall) quite well for a few years before they both died.
Meeting Brenda was a turning point in my research on my father’s side. She was able to give me the vital facts I needed to get going (surprisingly accurately as well, given that it was more than twenty years since Victorine had died). More importantly though, she brought this entire family to life in a way that my father’s hazy childhood memories never could. From Brenda I learnt all sorts of things that no genealogical research could ever have revealed, about personalities, family relationships and personal secrets.
It was with Brenda’s help that I was able to track down Victorine’s long-lost son Brian Fox, and I know that she was just as overwhelmed to meet him as I was.
Brenda Prendergast – a friend to me, my father, my grandmother, my great grandmother and my great-great-grandmother.
L x

On the father of Walter Newby

Yesterday I finally began the task of creating the individual records to go with my index. It’s quite a slow process, as it involves pulling information from my Ancestry tree and elsewhere, checking it is complete and making it conform to the standards I’ve defined for recording (and tweaking these as I go along and find out what works and what doesn’t).  To try and myself progress a bit faster, I’ve banned myself from any further research until I’ve got a proper structure in place for recording things... in theory!
Walter Newby is my great-grandfather straight down the paternal line. As I was tackling his records, I noticed that I didn’t have a BMD birth record for him. My date of birth therefore was only based on his age in the 1911 census record and death record, both of which are notoriously vague. So, in the interests of making sure his file was ‘complete’, and thinking it would be fairly straightforward, I clicked on ‘search records’.
Within the first fw records appeared the parish record for his marriage, which I can only assume is a recent addition, as I’ve never come across it before when researching Walter or his wife Margaret. I can be absolutely certain that this is the correct record. However, it throws a spanner in the works because Walter’s father’s name is given as Thomas Henry Newby. Unfortunately, according to my research Walter’s father’s name is Bertie James Newby.
The first question that came to mind was should I ignore it for now and continue with my ‘no research’ policy? I could start a list of research leads as I work through my index, and then prioritise and follow-up at the end. This would be a top priority of course, being such a recent ancestor and impacting so heavily on my other research.
But what would be the point of me filling in all the details I have for Walter and his ancestors if they’re then all incorrect? On the other hand, I have always tended towards keeping a record of ‘incorrect’ info that I’ve discounted, as a) it forms a key part of my research process and b) it might be useful to someone else one day.
I decided that actually a little research would be a good idea here, because it is such a major stumbling block, and I didn’t feel that I could make a decision without more information.
First of all I started trying to work out why I had decided that Bertie James was Walter’s father. It quickly became apparent that there was no finite proof anywhere, and I had made quite a major assumption. However, I could see how I had done it.
I had made a decision about his birth year based on the BMD index entry for his death, which again I had only assumed was the right one. Realistically it is the only possibility, given that I know he died relatively young, before my father was born.  In the event, the newly discovered marriage record still supports a birth year of 1905/06, so I can still have confidence in this death record and that I had his birth year correct.
There are only four Walter Newbys of the right age on the 1911 census, and one living considerably closer than any of the other three to the area where I knew that he had married his wife Margaret (because I had found their BMD index entry for their marriage). Without claiming to have gone into a lot of detail, a quick scan of the other 1911 census entries and marriage / death index entries seems to account for the other Walters and imply that Walter son of Bertie James is the one who married Margaret Thompson. I intend to revisit this assumption more closely, and see if I can actually properly discount them.
The other 1911 census entries for Walter Newbys born in the period 1905–7 didn’t have Thomas Henry as a father either (or even anything close to it). Widening my net, I got one Walter George Newby with father Thomas b. 1900 and living in Lanelly, Camartheshire, Wales. However, he was quickly ruled out by the fact that he clearly married and died in the same area, which my Walter definitely did not. There were no other obvious candidates, nor could I easily see any likely births beyond those covered by the 1911 census.
So, I have a (probably) wrong family tree line, and no likely candidates for replacement. The possibilities are that Walter and Thomas Henry are there in 1911 and I just haven’t found them yet, that they’re not there for some reason but do exist, or that Thomas Henry is a red herring, and that Bertie James is Walter’s father. This second possibility doesn’t seem all that likely. Granted it does say that Walter’s father was deceased at the time of their marriage, but he would still have known his father’s name, surely? And if not, why make one up?
The next step, I think, is to order Walter and Margaret’s marriage certificate, and see if that can shed any more light on things. I’m putting the Newby line on hold until I can resolve this. After all, it’s not as if I don’t have plenty of other ancestors to be recording!
I'm taking this as a warning about making any kind of assumption in genealogical research – in my defence, I probably made this assumption a long time ago, when I was far more naive as a researcher. But, I have learnt the lesson now, and I will be applying it. I’ll be questioning everything as I carry on with my recording – here’s hoping my entire family tree doesn’t come tumbling down around my ears!
L x

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

On Yorkshire dialect

Every so often I’ll say something and everyone will either laugh or look baffled. Having grown up deep in Yorkshire my language is smattered with dialect words. At school it was never a problem because we all spoke the same, but as soon as I moved away for university it became apparent that I was speaking an alien tongue!
One of the first words that caused a problem was ‘mash’, meaning ‘to brew’. It can either be used as ‘the tea’s mashing’ i.e. it’s brewing, or ‘mash some tea’ – make some tea, literally ‘pour the water onto the teabag so it can brew’. The first time I said that at university, no one got it.
When I moved into my second year university house, I was giving my boyfriend directions and said ‘down the ginnel’ – he had no idea what I meant. A ginnel is an alleyway or passage, sometimes with a roof. The word comes from the French ‘venelle’, which itself must be a derivative of ‘venir’, the verb ‘to come’. Interestingly Durham, my university city, is full of vennels’, but it wasn’t until much later that I connected the two words.
Both of these were words that I’d never realised weren’t ‘real’ English. I thought everyone said them. Even now I’ll read somewhere that something is a dialect word, and I had no idea, to me it was just the name for something!
I know that once again I have gone slightly off topic, but I think my visit home at the weekend has given me the urge to celebrate my Yorkshire roots. I like the fact that I have this dialect (which is becoming increasingly rare), and that it connects me to my family history.
Language is connected to place of course , but it is also passed down through the family generations. After all, our first words are learnt from our parents, and their first words were learnt from their parents too. My very local dialect is a fitting reminder that I have 200+ years of family history in the same small area.  If you want to truly understand where your ancestors came from, most genealogists would probably agree that a visit is a good idea. Even though places change over time, they all retain some vestiges of their history and culture.  
This is why one of my next daytrips will be taking in the Forest of Dean, where many of my ‘Welsh’ grandfather’s family came from. It’s right on my doorstep here in Cheltenham, and it will give me a fantastic opportunity to get a feel for the history, culture and language of a branch of thr family that I know relatively little about.
So, for those of you with West Yorkshire ancestors, here’s a little taster of some local dialect. These are a few of my favourites, and ones that I would use without even stopping to think. I’ve essentially cobbled together the spelling based on my instincts, which probably gives you some idea of how I hear them:
‘Buffet’ (the t is pronounced) meaning a stool
‘Clap cold’ meaning gone completely cold, usually of food or drink
‘Frame yourself’ meaning ‘hurry up’ or ‘get on with it’
‘Gip’ meaning to retch
‘Lathered’ meaning hot, usually used as 'I'm lathered'
‘Morngy’ meaning sulky or whingeing, usually of a child
‘Parky’ meaning cold (of the weather)
‘Stalled’ meaning to be fed up or running out of patience – ‘I’m getting stalled’

L x

Monday, 26 March 2012

In memory of Horbury Methodist Church

Not strictly a genealogy post, but certainly of local and historical interest to me and my Yorkshire ancestors.
This weekend I ventured back to Horbury to visit the parents. Sadly, my hometown was not quite its usual self. Structural problems have resulted in the demolition of the Methodist church on the High Street, and so it now stands, a half-unbuilt pile of rubble, looking like a bomb went off.
I can only imagine what a gaping hole there will be when the whole structure is gone. The building was huge and sort of stately – grand and beautiful as a church should be, but also unassuming, as if it had always been there and always would be. I regret now that I never went inside it or even spent enough time studying it.
I haven’t been able to find out much about the building’s history. It wass Victorian certainly, built in the Gothic style. Apparently it housed a memorial to William Baines (1899–1922), the Horbury-born pianist and composer, whose musical father had been an organist in the Methodist church. This plaque will now be moved to the former Primitive Methodist church hall.
I’m not sure whether this refers to the church hall that is located behind the now-demolished Methodist church, or elsewhere, because, as Stan Barstow explains: “There were four Methodist chapels within a couple of hundred yards along Horbury High Street”
He goes on to say of Horbury:

[It was] a puritanical town, of course. What other could it have been under that great weight of Methodism? Drink was a blatant evil, sex a vast unmentionable mystery.
It hardly sounds like the Horbury I know – it has a lot of pubs for such a small place, for one thing! I trust his judgement though, as I’ve never read anything that evokes my home town more than his novels Joby and A Kind of Loving.

In any case, it is true that the Methodist church building will always be a part of Horbury to me; it won’t quite be the same with it gone. I remember going to birthday parties in the church hall when I was a little girl, and taking the little cut through from Queen Street via Ring O Bells Yard that brought you out behind the church – it wasn’t a route we took very often, so it was always a bit of an event if we did. I believe my auntie got married in the church, but I have no idea whether any of my more distant ancestors were of Methodist persuasion.
Lastly, I send my best wishes to the members of the Horbury Methodist congregation, and hope that they can soon raise the funds necessary to build us a beautiful new church to fill the void.
L x

I would like to add my thanks to Betty for allowing the use of this image - Copyright Betty Longbottom and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Friday, 23 March 2012

On Elizabeth Robinson: An update

After I posted about my brick walls on Wednesday, I got a very useful suggestion from Niall McMahon on how I might be able to get over one of them:
Elizabeth Robinson was born in 1877 in North Yorkshire, and married Bertie James Newby in 1899. I found Elizabeth on the 1881 and 1891 censuses living with her grandmother Mary Ann Robinson. In my indexing I have tentatively assumed that Mary Ann is her paternal grandmother, on the basis of her surname, but I’ve as yet failed to trace her parents. Unfortunately Elizabeth Robinson and Mary Ann Robinson are rather too common as names to be able to make educated guesses to fill in the gaps. The next step surely has to be to order Elizabeth and Bertie’s marriage certificate and see what that can tell me.  
At Niall’s suggestion I looked up Elizabeth Robinson's grandmother Mary Ann on the 1861 and 1871 censuses, using the address from the 1881 census.
Unfortunately Newton-le-Willows (in the parish of Patrick Brompton, North Yorkshire, not the one on Merseyside) is so tiny that it doesn't appear to have even had street addresses – the census simply numbers the households, and they're different every time. Fortunately, it's so tiny that it only takes up about a dozen pages of census, so I was able to work my way through and find her quite quickly.
Mary Ann Robinson has two children on the 1861 census – Jane born 1854 and Thomas born 1856. In 1871 Jane is still at home with her mother, an unemployed domestic servant, but Thomas is not. Interestingly, Mary is listed as unmarried on the censuses, meaning that her children are most likely illegitimate.
As the children were born when Mary Ann was in her thirties, I now wonder whether she might have had other children before this who had died or left home by 1861. I trawled all ten pages of the 1851 census for the parish and they’re not there.
There is a possibility on the 1841 census: Mary Robinson aged 20, in the household of Thos Robinson aged 55 and John Robinson aged 25. They are her father and brother, presumably, though the 1842 census doesn’t give relationships. An alternative possiblity is that Mary is married to John and they are living with John’s father, though since Mary Ann is consistently listed as unmarried it seems unlikely.
I turned my attention to Mary Ann’s children, Jane and Thomas.
Having ruled out one possible 1881 census record for Jane, I can use this info to identify her birth with some certainty – registered first quarter of 1854.  
There are three possible marriages of a Jane Robinson within the registration district, Leyburn, all in 1874. To John Coglin in Q3; to Robert Wellock or Thomas Mawer/Mawes in Q4; or to John Clarke or Joseph Donkley, also in Q4. This is going to take some unravelling! However, as there aren’t any possible deaths between 1871 and 1881 in the Leyburn district, I can be reasonably confident that one of these marriages is her.
So, this then suggests that Elizabeth Robinson is more likely to be the daughter of Thomas. She was definitely born after Jane’s marriage, and so if she were Jane’s daughter she would have Jane’s married name, surely?
So then I start searching for Thomas, but this also throws a bit of a spanner in the works.
It appears that Thomas Robinson is married to a woman called Phyllis and living with her and their one-year-old son Thomas in 1881 in Newton-le-Willows. There is a possible marriage in the Leyburn district in 1880, but there are only three names on it, meaning one female name is missing – Phyllis?
By 1891 they have moved to Durham and their family is growing. They continue living together in the Durham area on the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
The 1911 census states that they had seven children altogether, three of whom have died. This in itself is incorrect as there are in fact eight known children. Mary, William Henry and baby Grace, still living on 1911 census, and Thomas, Arthur, Elizabeth and an older Grace, who are not present. Three of them, at least, can be assumed to be dead. Grace seems a likely possibility, as they have given a second child the same name.
This still doesn’t solve the mystery of Elizabeth’s parents, however. She could be Thomas’s daughter by a previous marriage – but why wouldn’t she be living with her step-mother and half siblings in that case? Or, she might be his illegitimate daughter – in which case what has happened to her mother? The other possibility is that Mary Ann Robinson did indeed have other children, and Elizabeth is the daughter of one of them. I think the only thing to do is to order as many of the relevant certificates as possible and see what emerges...

L x

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: My brick walls

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women's History Month

I like to differentiate between a brick wall and a small hurdle – quite often I’ve come to a halt because I know what I need to do to make the next step, but that involves ordering certificates. Unfortunately given the expense I can’t do that many at a time – I think I need to start a waiting list! So, here are some of my current female ‘hurdles’.  Where possible I’m sharing my thoughts on where to go next. If you have any suggestions, don’t hesitate to offer them!
Elizabeth Robinson was born in 1877 in North Yorkshire, and married Bertie James Newby in 1899. I found Elizabeth on the 1881 and 1891 censuses living with her grandmother Mary Ann Robinson. In my indexing I have tentatively assumed that Mary Ann is her paternal grandmother, on the basis of her surname, but I’ve as yet failed to trace her parents. Unfortunately Elizabeth Robinson and Mary Ann Robinson are rather too common as names to be able to make educated guesses to fill in the gaps. The next step surely has to be to order Elizabeth and Bertie’s marriage certificate and see what that can tell me.  
The mother of Mary Ann Birchall is proving equally untraceable. Mary Ann is born somewhere between 1833 and 1836 depending on which census record you believe. By the 1851 census she is living alone with her father John, so I assume her mother has died in the intervening years. Once again, John Birchall and Mary Ann Birchall are too common in Lancashire to easily identify, and the issue is complicated even more in this case because I am searching pre-1837. Without siblings to cross-reference, I am struggling a bit. I think the only way to progress will be to narrow down the area to search and then going to the parish records, and hoping that John Birchall’s profession as a professor of music crops up in either a christening or marriage record, though the Lancashire Online Parish Clerks and FamilySearch have thus far turned up nothing.
Amy Hall is the sister of my 2x great-grandmother Mabel. Amy was born in 1880, but I’ve been unable to trace her beyond the 1891 census. There is a possible census entry for her in 1901, but the name given is Emma rather than Amy, and as yet I haven’t been able to eliminate possible Emma Halls for this record. Also, there is the possibility that she might have married already and thus I don’t know what name to search for. Though she continues to perform under her maiden name, so did her sister Mona after her marriage. I know Amy is alive until 1922, because her name appears on an obituary tribute to her father – unfortunately it is only her first name! I have managed to trace her career quite fully, as I explained in yesterday’s Shining Star post. But despite having a pretty good idea where she was located in both 1901 and 1911 at the time of the censuses, I still can’t find her, or indeed any of the people she was touring with at the time, using the search function. This means that my only way forward is to browse the entire census for the area and try to pinpoint them that way. Hopefully I’ll then be able to verify whether she was married or had any children, to help me trace her life further.
The last one is a slightly different brick wall. My mum’s first name is Ceredwyn, and she was always told that she was named after an aunt of her father’s. Thus far I’ve had no luck identifying who this might be. Despite living in Wales, most of my ancestors tend to have rather English names, and where the 1911 census tells you whether they spoke English, Welsh or both, my ancestors are overwhelmingly English-only speakers with very English names. This might have something to do with the fact that quite a lot of them actually hailed from over the border in the Forest of Dean. However, I have still got a few Hancock and Webb brothers for whom I haven’t identified a spouse yet, so I my mum’s namesake might turn up eventually!
L x

Monday, 19 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: Shining stars

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women's History Month

The stars in my tree are plentiful! However, I’m going to concentrate on Amy Hall.
She was born in July 1879. She appears on the 1881 census with her parents at the age of 1. However, by 1891 she is no longer living with her family. I eventually found her recorded as a visitor in the household of James and Agnes Edwards in Grimsby, some 38 miles away from her parents’ home in Lincoln. Surprisingly, at the age of just 11, she is recorded as an actress.
Also visiting the same household are James and Mary Lampard, actor and actress respectively, both of whom were born in Lancashire, like Amy and her mother. Their daughter, Mary Ann (aged 3) was born in Stoke on Trent, where Amy’s grandfather Joseph Bryan Geoghegan had run a music hall for a short time before his death in 1889, and where Amy’s father Matt Hall would soon move to run his own theatre. Though such evidence suggests a family connection, I haven’t yet proved anything. Nearby households also serve as lodgings to actors, suggesting that the theatre is close by.
Amy Hall then becomes rather harder to trace – as do all her family, in fact. There is a possible census record (but under the name Emma) as a dancer in London in 1901, but I’m not entirely convinced it is her. There is the possibility that she marries, but continues to perform under her maiden name, as I know her sister Mona does.
While I have failed to track her personal life, her theatre career is fairly well documented in the Stage archives.
In May 1889, when ‘little Amy Hall’ is just 9 years old and staring in a drama, Saved from the Streets at the Queen’s in Birmingham. The same production has moved to Blackburn by August.
By 1893 she is performing as part of the Rass Chaliss Company in Liverpool, in a production called Parson Thorne. There is an interesting response by this company to criticism that many actors have a private income and pay to join theatre companies, not having any real talent. The critic seems to have used the Rass Chaliss company as an example of this. The response by Rass Chaliss states ‘not one of these good folks ever dreams of paying to be allowed to act (I only wish they would)’. It also lists the members of the company and how long they have been involved in the business. Amy Hall is said to have been ‘born in the profession’ – a fair description given that her father, her maternal grandparents and many of her aunts and uncles were all on the stage!
Sometime between 1893 and 1895 Amy joins the Leopold Brothers’ Company, with whom she stays for the remainder of her career. She takes the part of Polly in their pantomime of Robinson Crusoe (which strikes me as an odd story to make a pantomime from!), plays Ninette in The Bear, Baron and Sentinel, and, most frequently, as Lucy Buckwheat in Frivolity and New Frivolity (which I think is a later version of the same production).
Frivolity was a very successful stage act, being performed for many years. The Leopold Brothers had even taken it to New York in 1884 (not with Amy though, as she was only 5 at that point!).
Amy gets generally positive reviews, often complimenting the quality of her singing. She also seems to be the eye candy of the company, with descriptions like:
‘Miss Amy Hall is a lively Polly, looking exceedingly tasteful in her gaily-coloured frocks’
‘A pretty and dainty Lucy Buckwheat’
‘Sparkling and attractive’
While Amy seems to be performing around London a lot in 1900 and 1901, the names of her fellow performers don’t match up with those listed nearby on the 1901 census return, so while I can’t completely discount it, nor can I confirm it. On the other hand, Amy is almost certainly in Brighouse at the time of the 1911 census – the list of the week’s productions from 30th March, just two days before the census is taken, gives her company and Amy herself as performing there – and yet I have still been unable to locate her.
Amy appears to be working up until at least the 1920s, with performances in The Wife and the Other Woman and Babes in the Wood, but I don’t know anything about the end of her career, or what she did afterwards.
One other tantalizing clue I have is this entry, from the Charles Taylor Collection, held at the University of Sheffield.
Town Hall Cleckheaton
Week commencing Mon 20 Sep c. 1910s/20s
Excelsior Animated Pictures
Latest Dramatic Sensation ‘A Reckless Life’ and other pictures intersperse with high-class vaudeville
Amy Hall – the pocket Vesta Tilley
Edward Stream, comedian
Printed: Will Jones of Liverpool, Cable Street
Red and blue. 285mm x 885mm
NFA Collection

I suspect this gives us some idea of the kind of act Amy was performing in the later 1910s. Find out a bit more about Vesta Tilley here

There’s still a lot of research to be done here, and excitingly for me, there are lots of other family members’ careers to be traced in a similar way – both male and female!

L x

Thursday, 15 March 2012

On WDYTYA 2012: Follow-up

I haven’t been idle, and I’m slowly ticking things off the list. Here’s my progress update:

Must visit stands and must buys
I am formulating a shopping list / reading list. I will be ordering the FLH Handbook after my next payday. I am still considering storage solutions but intend to invest in the next few months, probably once I’ve got my record-keeping strategy finalised.

Historical Maps – How to find out more about Family History
I have found this rather useful guide to getting started. It’s really a project in itself so I’m saving it for a later date, but I’ll let you know how I get on!

Family history and education
I have been on the Making History website, and I have signed up for newsletter. 

Reading the writing of the past – Paleaography
I will be taking the National Archives web tutorial in Paleography, and also in Latin, at some point in the near future.

Organising your research with technology (12 p.m.)
I actually have been dedicating more time to this than originally planned, and after a bit of research I decided to go my own way. Read about my shiny new index here!

Keynote workshop: Breaking the Barriers with Social Networking – Strategies and Tips
As you might have noticed, Probably Arboreal is now on Twitter – support from my readers much appreciated! A Facebook page will hopefully follow shortly. I have also joined Genealogy Wise, so I’m looking forward to making use of it!

Exploring  Google+ as a Tool for Family Research
I have signed up, but haven’t got much further than that yet! I’m slightly frustrated that if I connect it into my blog my Google+ profile will automatically supersede my Blogger profile. It seems like it’s quite difficult to keep my online identities separate from one another.

Google Search Strategies for the Family Historian
I have done a bit of research – see my recent post On my friend Google for a few tips. I will keep collecting and keep sharing anything useful!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A few useful websites...

Following on from On my friend Google, I thought I would share a few of my online genealogy gems. I hope you find some of them useful...
Ancestor-search is a great starting point for new genealogists, and a one-stop shop for links to the major established information centres across the UK and internationally.
Mad About Genealogy is packed with interesting news and links from all over UK, including a twitter feed. I’ve only just discovered this one and I’m looking forward to getting lots of use out of it.
Genuki should definitely be your first stop for genealogy info on any locality in the UK. Will point you in the right direction for any available sources, online and offline, as well as give you some basic parish info.
Wikipedia is hardly a revelation to anyone, but I would always recommend it for basic fact checks and local history and colour. Do remember though, it isn’t always reliable - I try to back it up with other sources where possible!
I would highly recommend searching the National Archives Catalogue – I have found photographs of my ancestors, divorce records that I would otherwise never have known about, and printed works produced by my ancestors all hidden away – and that’s only from one small branch of my tree! I’m also thoroughly enjoying their new blog, which documents interesting finds, their work and how they can help you. I will be consulting some of their research guides, which I only found out about through their blogging.
I’ve also recently had success on the British Newspaper Archive. Its search function seems to work really well, and you can buy reasonably-priced credits in varying amounts and over varying timescales to suit your needs.
I love GBnames. Search for your surname in 1881 to find out where it is most concentrated in the country. I’ve generally found that a surname location in 1881 is accurate for at least the couple of generations previously, so if someone with a random surname pops up it can give you a good idea of where to look for their ancestors. It’s also just really interesting. For example, the Hampshire surname in my tree is almost entirely clustered n West Yorkshire, so it seems probable that they are all descended from a single family and have been Yorkshire-based for many generations.
Parish records are so important in genealogy, especially pre-1837, which is why I applaud the Online Parish Clerks. These awesome people voluntarily transcribe and make available online parish records from various places across the country. Unfortunately the coverage is fairly low at the moment, but if an area you need is covered it can be invaluable.
However, if your area doesn’t have an OPC yet, FamilySearch can be incredibly useful. They’ve got a shiny new website and search function, which I have to admit I’ve found a bit tricky so far. If you haven’t used Familysearch before, give it a try. But I would warn you to take the results with a pinch of salt, and always try to confirm by referring to parish records etc.
Genealogy forums can also be useful. I have most often used Rootschat, which organises its boards by topic, and Curiousfox, which is organised by location – this can be great for tapping into local knowledge.
L x
I’ve also recently joined Genealogy Wise, a ‘social network’ for genealogists, though I haven’t had much opportunity to explore yet.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

On my friend Google

We all use Google routinely outside of our genealogical research, but I argue that we should be using it as a fundamental part of our research as well. You should be Googling all of your ancestors, and regularly. Here are a few Google Search tips that you might find useful:
If you didn’t already know, putting whatever you’re Googling in double quotation marks will make sure you get that exact phrase. (Single quotation marks won’t work.) For example, if I Google Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, I will get pages containing those individual words, but not necessarily as one complete name. If I Google “Joseph Bryan Geoghegan” I will only get those three words grouped together in that exact order.
In order to make the most use of this, however, I should also be searching him as “Geoghegan Joseph Bryan” “Joseph B. Geoghegan” “J. B. Geoghegan”, “Geoghegan J. B.”, etc. I should also be trying it without quotation marks as well, obviously. Googling an individual is much more time-consuming than you might think, but it can have fantastic results.
I recently discovered that you can also search on numeric ranges, using ellipses (...). So you could search Joseph Bryan Geoghegan 1812...1890 (no spaces before or after ellipses), to search for dates that fall within his lifetime. If a reference isn’t dated it won’t come up, and it does only mean within the page, content, so it’s not 100% accurate, but I’ve found it useful.
Use the minus symbol (-) to omit results that contain a certain word. Search Geoghegan –Ireland (Space after Geoghegan, no space between – and Ireland) to omit all results for Geoghegan containing the word Ireland.
Use the tilde symbol (~) (located on shift+# on my keyboard) to denote ‘similar to’ in a search.  So, ~genealogy (no space) searches on family history, family tree, vital records, census, etc. You can also use it before a URL in the Google search box to identify similar web pages: a search for ~www.ancestry.co.uk brings up find my past, 1911 census and various other useful genealogy webpages.
Finally, Google will generate definitions using define: followed by search term. E.g. define:genealogy  (no space). I have found this search useful for unusual occupations, for example.
Google has other handy functions too. Google Map is indispensable for finding out where exactly your ancestry locations are. Use the ‘get directions’ function to get a rough idea how far away places are from one another. If you’ve got an exact address, try streetview.  It’s not quite as good as being there, but you can get a feel for the area at least!
Google Images can also give you useful stuff. Though you’re fairly unlikely to find a photo of an ancestor, you can easily find old photographs of locations, or photographs from the same era to see styles of clothing, for example – helpful for comparisons if you’re trying to work out the date of an old photo.
I also use Google Calendar to store key dates, which I have then used with a Blogger application to generate the Calendar that appears on this page.
Finally, if you need to share genealogy documents with others online, Google Documents is a pretty good way to do so, though I have had issues with the upload tool. You can the link to this by email or within a blog or other webpage.
L x

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: Working girls

The author Stan Barstow, who was born and raised in the area, said that Horbury (my home town) and neighbouring Ossett were the 'border country' where the north-west of the coalfield merged with the south-east of the wool towns. This is borne out in the occupations given for many of my ancestors on the censuses – the vast majority were either miners or textile mill workers.
The women tend to be employed in the mills – presumably considered more suited to female labour. Job titles include ‘Rag sorter’, ‘Piecer’, ‘Spinner’, ‘Rover’ or ‘Reeler’. By contrast, the older men at least are more often listed as labourers or miners – jobs which sound much more physically demanding or dangerous.
I need to do much more research on this subject, as I know that there were many different types of textile milling going on in the area at this period – wool, cotton, worsted, silk and ‘shoddy’ (woollen rag sorting) – and I have no idea which industry many of ancestors were employed in, or where they were likely to have worked.
My parents now live in part of a converted mill building, so it would be nice to think my ancestors might even have worked there once.
I did look into the history of this building when we moved into it, and it’s really quite interesting. For one thing, at one time the business there was owned by a man named Hampshire, which is one of my family surnames – not a direct ancestor, sadly, but almost certainly a distant relative! In later years the building had various uses, most recently as an engineering works. At one time it was also the only place in the country that manufactured the ticket machines used by bus conductors – a fact my mum loved, because her mum used to be a clippy!
L x

Thursday, 8 March 2012

On the birthday of Matt Hall

In celebration of my ancestor’s birthday – he would have been 162 today – I present you with a summary of his life, not as he lived it, but as I discovered it.
When I went to old family friend Brenda Prendergast in search of information on Victorine Hayward, as well as telling me about Victorine’s life she was able to give me a little info her ancestors. It was here that I first encountered ‘Grandad Hall’, a successful music hall owner whose wealth funded his granddaughter Victorine’s private (possibly convent?) education – at least until he lost all his money, so the story goes.
To find out more about Grandad Hall, I ordered his daughter Mabel’s marriage certificate. While I was awaiting its arrival, I started combing the censuses for possibilities. Initially I had no luck in 1901, and Mabel wasn’t born by the 1891 census. Fortunately, I knew she had older siblings, and had some possible names, so I was able to search for and eventually locate the family in Lincoln:
Matthew Hall, Theatrical Stage Manager, b. 1851 (age 41), Batley, Yorks.
His address, Danes  Terrace, is not far from the Theatre Royal in Lincoln, so I assume that was his place of work. I did a quick internet search for other possibilities, but didn’t find any immediate evidence of other theatrical establishments in Lincoln at the time – but this is by no means resolved yet.
Shortly after I found this record, the marriage certificate for Mabel arrived, and confirmed that Matthew Hall, a theatre manager, was indeed Mabel’s father.
It was an interesting turn-up that Matthew was born in Batley, which is just down the road from where I was born. As far as well all knew Victorine moved to Horbury with her husband for his work, and had no prior connection with the area, whereas we now realised that her grandfather was pretty much a local! It may of course be that she wasn’t aware of the fact, and her family ending up back there was just a coincidence.
On the 1901 census I then found this record:
Matthew Hall, widower, b. 1849 (52), Shropshire, Actor.
He and one of his daughters are ‘visitors’ in the house of Florence Gibson (nurse, age 30) in Burslem, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. There is no sign of the other children, and the birth places are utterly wrong, but as Stoke on Trent is where his daughter Mabel married in 1911, it seemed a good possibility. Note also that Matthew is now widowed, so I assumed that his wife, Kate, had died by 1901.
And on the 1881 census I found this record:
Matthew Hall, b. 1851 (30), Batley, Gas Fitter
Matthew Hall appears here with his wife and eldest daughter. It would seem he is not yet involved in the theatre professionally, but that they have an actor, Ernest Dotteridge, lodging with them. I did wonder whether he was the influence that got Matthew into the theatre.
That is, until I found his marriage record. Matthew Hall married Kathleen Birchall Geoghegan, 1854, West Derby, Lancashire. With a surname like Birchall Geoghegan, Kathleen wasn’t too difficult to track down. Therefore, even before her marriage certificate arrived, I was able to establish that she, in fact, was the theatrical influence; both her father and mother had worked as travelling singers/actors from her birth.
In an attempt to track Matthew a bit further back, I turned to earlier census records. From these I was able to ascertain that Matthew was the son of John Hall of Batley, and Elizabeth Spurr – though John was to remarry later after his wife died. It came to light that John Hall moved his family from Batley to Middlesbrough, at some time between the 1851 and 1861 censuses.
I then made contact with one John Hall on Rootschat.com, who had written that his ancestor ‘Merry Matt Hall’ was a music hall performer who had ended up as a stage manager in Lincoln. John turned out to be a descendant of one of Matthew’s brothers.
He also provided me with this theoretical explanation of Matthew’s father’s move to Middlesborough:
“It would seem that John Hall Jnr, our Granddad’s Granddad, left Batley, West Yorkshire, with his second wife and all his children... Matthew  included, and made a new life in Middlesbrough. His granddad Thomas Hall outlived John’s father John Hall Snr. Thomas Hall was a wealthy wool merchant and farmer born in Liversedge, near Dewsbury. In his will he divided his estate between his children, but as our John’s father was already deceased he missed out on the inheritance and the position in the family he would have received through his father. Thomas left John and his other grand children £10.00. John Jnr would have seen his uncles take over the woollen mill business with their children, his cousins in the better jobs and must have thought he would now be the poor relative. It would be then that he decided to leave the area, to make his future in the new town of Middlesbrough.”
I’m not totally convinced by this, as Thomas Hall died in 1838, at least 13 years before John Hall moved his family to Middlesbrough, but possibly it was a factor. I still need to do more research of my own into this aspect of the family history.
Following this discovery, I began searching for records of Merry Matt Hall as a performer – no luck, unfortunately, although John was able to tell me from old family stories that his catchphrase was "Make way for Merry Matt Hall"!
I did, however, find obituaries for Matthew in the Stage archives:
Hall, - Suddenly on July 23rd 1922, at Barnsley, Matt Hall (Merry Matt). Peace, perfect peace. "To forget is a vain endeavour, A father's love lives forever" – Amy, Marion and Victor Hall.
Hall - On July 23 1922, Matt Hall passed peacefully away. A devoted and wonderful father. Never forgotten by his ever-loving and sorrowing daughters, Mona and Mabel Hall
I also found another record of Matthew working as theatre manager after his time in Lincoln, from the Theatres Trust records. He and a man named Basil Stuart own and manage the Hippodrome in Burslem, Stoke on Trent  from its opening in 1896. In 1908 a new proprietor appears. However, based on Kelly’s directory of Staffordshire for 1912 (available on Ancestry) it appears Matthew continued to manage the Hippodrome for some time.
Around this time I was starting to widen my net. A search of the National Archives turned up Matthew Hall’s petition to divorce his wife in 1896, for adultery with two men. His address is still given as Lincoln at this point, but, presumably, it is the breakdown of his marriage that prompts his move to Stoke on Trent. Interestingly his wife’s father is also based in Stoke on Trent around this period, managing the Gaiety in Hanley, which makes one wonder what the relationship between the two men was like! It also raises a question about Matthew Hall’s marital status as widow on the 1901 census.
Interestingly, on the 1911 census, the nurse with whom Matthew was living in 1901 now appears to be named Florence Hall, a ‘widow’ and ‘boarding house keeper’ with two daughters aged 8 and 5. I haven’t found a marriage record as yet, but it is a possibility that they were a couple for the time and that Matthew may have fathered her children (though ‘widow’ is somewhat misleading). I haven’t managed to locate Matthew on the 1911 census yet, but if and when I do it may clarify things somewhat. I also intend to order the birth certificates for Florence’s daughters.
My final discovery on Matthew Hall’s life, sent to me by a historian I am currently working with, speaks for itself. Perhaps more than anything else I have come across it gives a real sense of his character:
“Not to be forgotten was the old Burslem Theatre, the Hippodrome, situated between the top of Scotia Road and Baddeley Street.  Its popular name was ‘The Blood Tub’, although the ‘Blood Tub’ was originally the Wedgwood Theatre of 1903, which was demolished to make way for the new Town Hall of 1911.  The Hippodrome was a big, and eventually decrepit, one-storey wooden building closed in 1940 and demolished soon after World War II.  In its early days it was run by a man named Matt Hall.  Most of the plays were of a ‘villainous’ nature, alternating with boxing and weightlifting competitions.  One one occasion a pallid potter was trying to lift an enormous barbell.  ‘His futile efforts brought forth derisive yells from his workmates in the audience’.  This so exasperated him that he dropped one of the barbells on the stage, with a huge bang, and shouted to his tormentors, ‘Thee bloddy well come and try!’  Matt Hall was so convulsed with laughter that he became seriously ill and was rushed home!”
From A Sociological History of the Borough of Stoke-on-Trent (1977), Ernest Warrillow, p. 680
L x

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: Heirlooms

My family ‘heirlooms’ are mostly jewellery. I have my nana Margaret’s signet ring and the wedding ring of her sister, my Auntie Mary. I also have a beautiful silver locket and a gold crucifix that belonged to my nana as well. I wear all of these pieces quite regularly, and take pride in their heritage when I do so. My mum also has her mum’s wedding ring, which is a beautiful heavy, chunky piece of gold. It was engraved with moons and stars, but these have all but worn away now. I hope to have it re-engraved or even re-made into my own wedding ring when I get married.
Another heirloom I have is a necklace that belonged to my mum’s father’s first wife, Doris. It’s only costume jewellery, thirties or forties I think, but it’s beautiful and still in wonderful condition. I wear it a lot. They didn’t have any children, and so I think it’s rather nice that her jewellery has passed into her husband’s second family and lives on as a memory of her. I know very little about her or their marriage.
Generally speaking my mum is not a hoarder, and neither am I. It can be rather frustrating though. I love fashion, and so often I see a picture of some dress or shoes or bag I like, only for my mum to say that she, or her mum, once had one just like it. I despair that she didn’t keep any of it! I did receive as a present a couple of years ago a square silk scarf that my mum found in a vintage clothing shop that she said was just like on her mum had. It’s beautiful, and sort of feels like an heirloom even though it isn’t really.
One of my favourite heirlooms came as part of a Christmas gift this year. I’ve recently taken up sewing (badly, so far!) and I saw a gorgeous vintage-style sewing basket that I asked my mum to buy for me. It came filled with all sorts of sewing goodies, but the best bits were the hand-me-downs – a thimble that had belonged to my Auntie Mary, a darning ‘mushroom’ that was my nana’s, and from my mum’s own sewing kit, Wonderweb!
L x

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: Meeting and marrying

I actually know very little about how my grandparents and great-grandparents met and married, except for one story. This is part of the story of Victorine Hayward, as I remember it told to me by family friend Brenda Prendergast.
Victorine met my great grandfather, Leslie Gordon Hayward, at the age of about twenty, in a café somewhere in London. The year was about 1932/33. He was with a friend, whom Victorine took a bit of a shine to.
The three of them got chatting, and Victorine told them her story. She had run away from home (we have no idea where this ‘home’ was) at the age of about 16 when she discovered that her George Jones, the man she had been brought up by, was not in fact her father.
Victorine’s mother Mabel had left her husband William Philip Hayward, an alcoholic actor, when her daughter was young. She subsequently met and set up home with George, who had treated Victorine as his own daughter. It was only on the death of her real father that Victorine found out, by overhearing a conversation between George and Mabel, and upset by the revelation left home. (Mabel and George later married.)
In London, while living with one of her aunts, Victorine had met a man named Fox. They married on Victorine’s eighteenth birthday in February 1931. They had a son, born on Christmas day that year. When the marriage broke down, she left him, taking her baby son with her, and lived for a short time in some sort of bed-and-breakfast or lodging house. But she had little money and conditions were poor. She had no choice but to return her son to the care of his father, where he would be properly looked after. Following this, her husband had deprived her of access to her child, and when Victorine met Leslie she was in despair at ever getting him back.
Leslie’s friend was incredulous and dismissed the story, but Leslie, it turns out, believed her and was sympathetic. The pair fell in love and Victorine was soon pregnant. Her husband divorced her on the grounds of adultery. Once the divorce was finalised, Leslie and Victorine married and Victorine gave birth to a son shortly afterwards, followed by my grandmother a few years later, just after the couple had relocated to Yorkshire. Victorine never saw her other son again.
L x

Monday, 5 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: Names

(I’m playing catch-up, so you’ll be getting a couple of these a day for the next few days!)
My name shares a direct connection to two of my female ancestors.
My first name, Lauren, came at the suggestion of my mum’s mum Margaret Goulding. She was a bit of a film buff, and her favourite actress was the beautiful 1940s starlet Lauren Bacall, and so it was after her that I was named. My mum liked it because it’s hard to shorten. It was quite an unusual choice at the time, though it’s far more common now.
My middle name, Fay, was my dad’s mum’s name – Fay Rayner. However, I never heard her called that. She was always known in the family as Pat. Apparently her father gave her the nickname – she was, although beautiful, rather a dumpy figure, and so he thought Fay, coming as it does from the French for fairy, didn’t really suit her. This always makes me feel a little sorry for her. Fay is also used by an aunt and a younger cousin as a middle name as well.
Generally speaking though, there aren’t traditional family naming patterns for the females in my family – at least not ones that endure today. There are some that seem to have been used across generations earlier in my tree. Amy, Marion and Ellen were popular in one branch and Honor is an unusual one that crops up a few times on another branch. There are an awful lot of Marys and Mary Anns as well, but I suspect that isn’t confined to my family!
There are some beautiful female names in my tree. I hope to use some of them for my own daughters one day. These are my favourites:  Amelia, Bess, Comfort, Edith, Hannah, Isabella, Louisa, Marion, Matilda, Miriam, Nellie, Phoebe, Stella, Violet and Victorine. I might have to whittle them down a bit though – I don’t intend on having fifteen children!
L x

Fearless Females 2012: My favourite female ancestors (and a photograph)

I’ve touched on women and their place in genealogy and history a couple of times already, so when I came across this blogging prompt I decided I wanted to get involved.
I’ve chosen two favourite female ancestors for you today – one from my maternal ancestry and one from my paternal ancestry. They both happen to be great-grandmothers.
First up, Annie Louisa Hampshire (1887–1975), my mum’s maternal grandmother.
She’s a favourite because I heard my mum, my nana and my great aunt talk about her and their family a lot as I was growing up. She was the starting point for my family tree and I suppose that sort of makes her my ‘inspiration’.
From my mum’s stories I have the impression of a witty character – gossipy and sharp-tongued with a youthful spirit even in her old age, and a bit of a man-eater! She provides an interesting contrast with her daughters – my nana and great auntie Mary – who were, I think, altogether more down-to-earth and reserved. But, she also has her stories, including a ‘skeleton in the closet’ mystery that is truly impossible to solve!
My other favourite is Victorine Hayward (1913–1987), my dad’s maternal grandmother.
A rather more complex choice. I love her because she is an equally vibrant character. A striking-looking woman (in the photograph she is aged about 22) with a cut-glass accent and a beautiful singing voice, she was well educated and apparently spoke brilliant French – an aptitude I seem to have inherited! In later life she was confined to a wheelchair, and was the first person in our village to get a motorised one! My parents both attended the same schools, but didn’t really know one another at that point. Regardless, my mother clearly remembers this imposing figure rolling up in her wheelchair and parking herself right at the front of queues and crowds at school events!
I also love her because she was for a long time my biggest challenge! Victorine, also known as Renee, was impossible to track down. I first found her marriage record to my great grandfather, in which her name was Renee V Fox or Hayward. Still more baffling, on the birth records of her two children she gave her maiden name as Jones. With no clue, initially, as to why she had three surnames (four if you count her married name), or which I should be searching for, I floundered hopelessly, going down several wrong leads before I got some help from an old friend of hers and my grandmother’s. The story that unfolded was astonishing – and so Victorine is responsible for and led me to one of my most incredible ancestry discoveries ever…

L x