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

Saturday, 30 June 2012

On Peelers

A particularly apt post today, given my current detective theme!

I have recently made progress on the Rayner branch of my tree, by identifying the probable parents of William George Rayner.
William George consistently claims that he was born in 1844 in Chelsea. On investigation, there seems to be only one likely birth, with a corresponding baptism record giving his parents names as Henry and Mary Ann Rayner. Two siblings, Mary Ann and Rachel, were baptised at the same time. I then managed to track down the family on the 1841 and 1851 censuses hiding under the variations Reynard and Reynar, which allowed me to identify more siblings. This discovery also led me to a second marriage for William George, in 1898, and finally to a probate record for Henry in 1878.
Henry Rayner was born in 1808. He and his wife both came from Ireland, and gave birth to their eldest daughter Eliza there in about 1831. Frustratingly, no town or area is given... thankfully, however, they were giving birth to children right into the mid 1840s, so one of their birth certificates will hopefully furnish me with Mary Ann’s maiden name at least, and we can assume that they married in Ireland in the period 1825–31, so there’s hope yet!
Their next child was born by 1833 in Middlesex (in the mysterious 'Ratchell' - any ideas welcome!), which allows us to pinpoint their arrival in England to the period 1831–33. After this point all of their children are born in Chelsea, and we know from the censuses that they lived at 27 Paradise Row, which I have discovered is now Royal Hospital Road, from at least 1841 until 1851.
The most interesting, and useful, thing I know about Henry, however, is that he was a policeman from at least 1841. As well as being a relatively unusual occupation and therefore helpful for spotting him in the records, it also seems likely that I might actually be able to find out more detail about his life based on this, as the Metropolitan Police do have an archive.
Henry’s probate record states that he is a police pensioner, suggesting that he stayed with the force for all of his working life. I discovered that the National Archives hold records of met police pensions, and a after a few search attempts I discovered a record for ‘William Reynar’ from the period 1853–1855, which has been added to my list of things to order.
The Met’s website tells me:
Records of Metropolitan Police pensioners who retired or resigned between 1852 and 1932 and who were granted or (after 1890) qualified for a police pension are to be found in class MEPO 21. These contain detailed personal records, including physical description, date and place of birth, marital status, dates of service. Before 1923, names of parents and next of kin are also given. To use this class it is necessary to know the approximate date of retirement.
I’m particularly looking forward to the ‘physical description’, and also names of parents and next of kin will be extremely helpful!
Henry must have joined the force within ten years or so of its inception, in 1829. Wikipedia provides some detailed information on the history of the force, including listing the divisions. I can conjecture that Henry was most likely in division B – Chelsea.
I particularly like this snippet:
The original standard wage for a Constable was one guinea (£1.05) a week. Recruitment criteria required applicants to be under the age of 35, in good health, and to be at least 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m). Working shifts lasted 12 hours, 6 days a week, with Sunday as a rest day. Until 1897, Metropolitan Police officers did not receive a boot allowance.
It also gives this 1850s picture of a ‘Peeler’ – who knows, it might even be Henry Rayner himself!

L x

Detective work 4. Location, location, location

It’s one of the most frustrating things to have to deal with – your ancestor goes a-wandering but you have no idea to where.  It can be tricky but there are a few things worth considering.
Firstly, identify the most likely places your ancestors would move to. The foremost reason they would move is for work, so look at areas where there might have been similar employment – textiles workers might move from the Cotswolds to Yorkshire or Lancashire, coal miners from South Wales to the North-East, and of course just about everyone was pouring from the countryside into the cities. Look for common migration patterns from your area of interest – where were other people from that area going? Some basic historical research might give you some interesting possibilities.
It’s also worth considering other possibilities though. They might have moved to the area that their spouse came from. Bear in mind also that sometimes women would go back to their family in order to have the baby, so keep an eye out for people living in one region but born in another, to find out where their family might originate from. On the other hand, families often tended to move together, so if you find a sibling who has moved away, look nearby for people who seem to be missing from their original location. Also, sometimes you get grandchildren living with grandparents or other family members, which might give some indication of where someone has moved to or from.
Bear in mind that the further away an ancestor moves from the place they were born, the vaguer the census entry for place of birth may be. Census enumerators were unlikely to have been familiar with far-off localities, so often just wrote down larger places they had heard of or even just the county. Sometimes it all gets a bit muddled for no apparent reason. Don’t discount a possible ancestor just because his or her place of birth is a little off!
On the other hand, look out for recurring locations and addresses – if there seems to be a pattern, it’s highly unlikely that it’s random. Families would often move very short distances within their locale, so if there’s someone with the same family name on the same street, there’s a strong chance their connected somehow, even if you can’t figure it out yet. Similarly, I often find children who marry end up living very lose to their parents, so if you can’t track a marriage down, try looking at the neighbours of known family for possibilities.
L x

Friday, 29 June 2012

Detective work 3. If the date fits...

Dates are, of course, the backbone of ancestral research – they are essentially the thing we are looking for, and the more we can narrow them down the better. This is why I think looking at dates in context is really important: a genealogical reconstruction of events, if you will.
Keep an eye out for any specific date you can attach to your ancestor, even if it’s not an event that has much effect on their own life. Even just a passing mention can help give you some clues as to where your ancestor was and what they were doing at that time
As part of my indexing project I am creating a timeline for each ancestor and plotting as many events onto it that might have been relevant to their life as possible. It’s easier in some cases than others. In my own family tree, Amy Hall, the eldest sister of my 2x great grandmother Mabel, was a touring actress, and theatre archives enable me to pinpoint her movements pretty much continuously for twenty-four years, even though I can’t positively identify her on two out of the four possible censuses in her lifetime. (Frustratingly, in 1911 I know where she was just two days before the census was taken, but no luck so far...) A more general set of records you might be able to achieve something similar with is the electoral rolls.
This ‘time-lining’ been quite an eye-opener, just in terms of the new perspective it has given me – people having children just days before the death of a parent or even a spouse, for example. All too often, I think, we consider an individual ancestors life as self-contained, whereas in fact the lives of their family would have had a huge impact on them. A more careful consideration of this could bring all sorts of new possibilities to life, particularly those details beyond the fundamentals of birth, marriage and death.
Individual dates also have their uses as well. One of the most important ways to use dates though is to look out for larger gaps between siblings and consider why this might be. Did their parents have other children? Were the parents apart for a period – for work, in the military, even in prison...?
It’s also worth picking apart the various birth years given for children on censuses to narrow them down a bit. Logically, your ancestor is just as likely to have been born the year before the census entry suggests, because they turned the age they are on the census any time in the year leading up to that point. As the census tends to be taken in the first half of the year, this means that someone who is aged twenty on the 1881 census was born in either early 1861 or late 1860. Considering when the census was taken and any discrepancies in ages on various censuses and other documents can help you narrow down a likely birth date. Alternatively work through the data for an entire family or families to weed out errors and identify likely records where there are multiple possibilities. Check out On James Wade, mason for one of my attempts at this!
L x

Detective work 2. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know...

Or rather it’s who your ancestors knew!
Pay attention to the families living close by on the census, everyone in the household – even unrelated people, and most definitely the servants! If you’re struggling to locate a family on the census, but you know where they were living ten years before or after, try searching for their neighbours – it may be that they’ve been mistranscribed, but they’re still living in the same house. I have found this to be a much faster way of locating people than browsing a census manually to find the right address.
Also keep an eye on marriage witnesses and will executors. They often crop up multiple times, and can help to confirm family links. For example, I recently confirmed that I had indeed found the right female ancestor because her spouse appeared as a witness at the marriage of her younger sibling. It’s hardly surprising really. Intermarriage between two families brings them together and creates new alliances. Or, there was already a level of friendship between the families, which was part of the reason for the marriage in the first place!
One of my ancestors, the travelling actor William Hayward (AKA Hedgcock) was a nightmare to locate. I only had him on the 1901 census, living in a boarding house. There was one other actor also living there, and I managed to find someone researching this man. They weren’t able to say whether or not there was a link between them, unfortunately, but it was worth a shot.
I keep a list of all the theatrical people I come across in my research on this branch of the family, because I spend quite a bit of time on message boards / forums full of people looking for theatrical ancestors, you never know when I might be able to lend a helping hand. For example, I found an 1891 census transcription of one Frank B Audas (and family). I was sure it was wrong, couldn’t decipher it from the original entry myself either, but when I was then tracing my own ancestor’s theatrical career through the Stage archives, I was able to find the right name: Frank Danvers. I very much doubt that anyone out there looking for Mr Danvers would have searched for him as Audas, so hopefully one day this useful snippet will come into its own...
I always feel that what goes around comes around – the more you can do to help other people in their research, the better it is for your own. Evidently, the ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ mantra doesn’t just apply to your ancestors, it applies to you too! Get talking to older family members, or, if they’re not around, maybe someone knows of an old family friend. You might even be able to track down some distant cousins who are involved in the family tree, or simply someone who knows something you don’t! Think of all of these people as your ‘witnesses’, and interview them with care!
L x

An aside on the mystery of names

In the course of writing my post Detective work 1. The clue is in the name, I noticed that actually names also seem to be responsible for a lot of my family mysteries too:
1. Why does Mabel Hayward née Hall become ‘Mrs William Hayward (Mabel Hall Narlian)’ in one instance? Is Narlian a stage name, or perhaps her mother’s name on remarriage (see 3. Below)
2. Did Florence Gibson marry Matthew Hall – if not why is she called Hall by 1911, is it just a coincidence?
3. What name does Kathleen/Kate Hall née Geoghegan take following her divorce from Matthew? Does she remarry?
4. Why do the entire Geoghegan family suddenly adopt the name Heyes on the 1881 census?
5. Is William Hedgcock’s change of surname to Hayward a stage name or something else? If it is his ‘stage name’, why is his marriage registered under it, and why are there so few entries for him in the Stage archives etc.?
6. Why does John Jayne’s mother adopt the name Ann Richard on one census before reverting to Ann Jayne on the next?
7. Are husband and wife Richard Winter and Sarah née Winter related?
And that’s just for starters...
L x

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Detective work 1. The clue's in the name...

We all know that genealogy is about fact-finding and evidence. But sometimes when that evidence just doesn’t present itself, we have to turn detective in order to make that crucial leap forward.
First of all, names:
It was traditional, in the Christian religion at least, to name your children after your parents, so it’s always helpful to look at children’s names to help you get back a generation, particularly the older ones. It can be particularly helpful if you have two possible sets of parents for your ancestor, to look at what that ancestor named their children. Of course, you do need to take into consideration that there are four grandparents for whom they might be named – but then that might be twice the help, if you’re lucky!
Similarly, middle names often pass through families, and can be really useful when matching up parents and children. It can also be a bit of clue to a mother’s maiden name, particularly if it’s not a traditional Christian name. 
Then there are those generic family names. Examples from my own family tree include Honor and Ezra Hampshire, both of which occur more the once across the Hampshire generations. Particularly in an area where there are apparently distinct families with the same surname, this can be a really useful way of starting to group them together.
Both middle names and children’s names, can also be used this to identify possible cousins. You can then work back that way to find the common grandparent. Remember, just because you can’t make the link back from your ancestor doesn’t mean you couldn’t find a way back from a possible cousin!
Of course, there’s always the possibility that the clue is absolutely not in the name. Name changes can be a nightmare! Christian names were shortened in a variety of ways, some of which seem completely arbitrary: Mary or Mary Ann often became Polly for instance. Bear in mind too that Harry can be short of Henry or Harold, Teddy for Theodore or Edward, and Elizabeth can be shortened in an almost infinite number of ways.
Similarly, surnames change for lots of reasons – oddities of spelling are especially common, from a time when a lot of people were illiterate and before spellings generally became standardised. Often these are unpredictable – I’ve come across spellings of names that I would never have thought to search for in all of my ‘wildcard’ attempts! People might adopt an alias or a stage name, and women remarrying might do so under their maiden name or their former married name, and sometimes both. Illegitimate children might take their mother’s name, their real father’s name or a step-father’s name at any point in their lives. Switching between names was not uncommon.
Basically, you have to keep an open mind. Just because the name is different doesn’t mean it’s not them. Weigh up all the other factors before dismissing them.

L x

Z is the end of the alphabet

I absolutely gave up on trying to pull a post together for Z, so I suppose that yesterday’s Y is for Yorkshire will have to end my alphabet posts. It’s been an interesting project, which has forced me to look again at parts of my tree I had neglected and think about what I need to do to progress on many of my branches.
Following on from this project, I have begun a new list of ‘research priorities’, which I am adding to as I work through my indexing. Indexing is taking an incredibly long time actually, but it too is highlighting gaps and raising questions about some of my assumptions as well.
Of course, top of the list is the Newby line. My aim is to at least identify both of Walter’s parents and any siblings, to give me a base from which to work. The mysterious Thomas Henry Newby and Walter’s mother are the only 2x great grandparents I haven’t got now, so I’d like to at least complete the set before I do anything else.
In blogging terms, my next set of posts is about ‘turning detective’ – i.e. what we do when the evidence is hard to come by. Some of this is probably rather obvious, especially to the more experienced among you, but I hope there might be the odd useful tip in there. I also hope it will be an opportunity for me to learn from your thoughts on my ideas.
L x

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Y is for Yorkshire

What else could Y be for, really? Yorkshire is my home county, but more importantly, it has also been home to many of my ancestors – on nearly every branch I’ve managed to find at least one Yorkshire resident!  It shouldn’t be that surprising. Yorkshire is the largest county in England (when all its parts or combined), and so I suppose there’s a good chance that everyone has the odd bit of Yorkshire in them!
The great thing about having Yorkshire ancestors is that there are loads of really useful records, and lots of them are online.
The not so great thing is that it can be utterly baffling trying to wade through so many possible records, particularly if you’re not familiar with the country. The strong Yorkshire streak in my mother’s family was what encouraged me to start with them: I was comfortable with the names and the places. I could spot which were the most likely families based on geography without having to resort to a map every five minutes.  One of the most useful resources for those without this knowledge is Genuki’s Where is it in Yorkshire? page. This is absolutely invaluable for identifying the correct parish for your tiny Yorkshire place, and I also find it a very helpful list if you’re struggling with handwriting or transcription errors, as it’s pretty definitive.
Another possible complication for non-Yorkshire folk to get their heads around is the sub-division of the county, which has changed over time. Once upon a time Yorkshire was divided into three ‘ridings’. The term is essentially derived from ‘thirding’, meaning ‘a third part (of a county)’.  The three ridings were the North, West and East. 
However, modern Yorkshire was formed in 1974 from North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire, with the eastern part becoming Humberside.
South Yorkshire was formed mainly out of the southern part of the West Riding, as well as parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Humberside took in parts of the former East and West Ridings as well as places previously in Lincolnshire. However, after the abolishment of Humberside in 1996 a new local government district called the East Riding of Yorkshire was created. This includes most but not all of the old East Riding.
Other parts of the former West Riding became part of North Yorkshire, Lancashire and even Cumbria, leaving West Yorkshire now a much smaller area than the old West Riding, while the North Riding lost some of its territory to County Durham and Cleveland in the north.
Effectively, it is only the last six years that one can accurately refer to North, South East (riding of) and West Yorkshire! There is a useful map roughly showing how the old and new boundaries compare here.
What is so wonderful about Yorkshire as a country is the variety you can get in such a (relatively) small area. You have vast hills and moorland, particularly to the north and west, while in the south and east the landscape is generally gentler, stunning coastline which is made up of both rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, and you have vibrant metropolitan cities like Leeds contrasting with beautiful historic towns like York and the spa town of Harrogate.
Yorkshire was also historically home to a vast variety of industry and commerce. Agriculture dominated the rural north, while to the west there were coalfields but also centres for trade in textiles of all kinds. Fishing, unsurprisingly, dominated the coastal region, and Sheffield in the south was renowned for the steel industry. Much of the confectionery industry also developed here, and one West Yorkshire area was known as the Rhubarb Triangle! Of course, it is this variety that led to its attracting people from all over the country – my ancestors moved from South Wales to Yorkshire for the mines and from Lincolnshire to the steel trade in Sheffield, as well as to work on the railway, which of course was tied in with this explosion of industrial activity.
I could write on and on about the history, dialect and culture of Yorkshire, and I have already touched on it in a few other posts (ive given them all a Yorkshire label, so click on Yorkshire at the bottom to find out more).  If you do want to read a bit of general background, I would recommend the Wikipedia page, which gives a good overview. As you can probably tell, I’m really quite passionate about my home county! I think it’s impossible to come from Yorkshire and not be though – it’s testament to the character of both people and place that Yorkshire as a whole continues to be recognised despite all the divisions and name changes that have taken place in its history, and despite the vast differences in the landscapes and economies.
L x

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

X is for illiteracy

Unsurprisingly, there are no surnames beginning with X in my tree! However, I came up with an ingenious solution: X is for illiteracy.
I can only imagine that pretty much every genealogist out there has come across the obligatory X in a parish record or on a certificate, often followed by ‘his mark’ or ‘her mark’. So I decided to do a little research on the history of illiteracy.

Studies carried out in 1961 (W. P. Baker) and 1973 (Schofield) based on parish marriage records have shown that male illiteracy was about 40% from the 1700s, and had declined to around 33% by the mid-1800s. By the 1900s it had all but disappeared. However, female illiteracy was around 60% in the 1700s, and had only declined to 50% by the 1840s. The decline in female illiteracy was much more gradual, but male and female rates were about level by the 1870s.
Of course, the problem is that parish marriage records don’t actually prove literacy, only whether or not you were able to sign your name. For that you wouldn’t technically need to be able to read or write any more than that! Generally, we assume that if you can write you can therefore read, so that these parish records studies might actually miss out those who can read but not write. But I also think lots of people might have been able to write their names and not much else. They only give us a very limited view, whereas in fact there would have been lots of degrees of literacy.
This useful Wiki from Leeds University, has the following to say:
“Reading was seen as a primarily passive skill and one which could be taught by more or less anyone who could themselves read, many children in the eighteenth and nineteenth century could read by the age of seven or eight. Writing, however, was seen as a vocational and primarily male skill usually taught by male tutors who also taught arithmetic and often other basic business or trade skills: throughout the 18th and much of the 19th centuries, very few children had learned to write by the age of seven or eight. Beyond that age access to education fell sharply for children of working parents as this was the age widely seen as the point at which a child's labour may be considered valuable enough to utilise. In 19th Century England, approximately 33% more children were able to read than to write.”
The gender bias here is interesting, and backs up roughly the figures from the parish registers. Boys were more likely to have been taught to write as a vocational skill. When it comes to couples where the man signs but the woman doesn’t, of which there are certainly examples in my tree, perhaps the women were not wholly uneducated, but simply could not write? I can’t think of an example in my own tree where the man can’t sign but the woman does. I’d be intrigued to see if anyone has?
The other thing that strikes me is the connection between literacy and work. Contrary to our modern society, where literacy is almost imperative to work, in the nineteenth century children were sent to work from a young age, at which point their meagre education, perhaps by one of their parents, seems to have stopped. Only those who were expected to go onto bigger and better things were taught to write, which effectively makes literacy a class barrier. Hardly surprising then that some middle- and upper-class people were against education for the poor, fearing that it would lead them to revolution!
The other side of the argument was usually from protestant groups, who felt that educating the masses gave them direct access to religious writings and therefore would increase morality, reducing crime and other social problems. And it would seem that most parents wanted to give their children some sort of education, but had to put the economic needs of the entire family first.
By the mid-nineteenth century the state was becoming more active on education, and others like immigration and health – it’s at this point that the state as we know it is born, I suppose, and ‘education education education’ quickly becomes a central tenet of its responsibilities. Between 1870 and 1880 legislation was passed that all children aged between five and ten must attend school. This date obviously ties in with the rise in literacy rates recorded from the parish registers , though obviously the children who began their compulsory education in the 1880s wouldn’t have married until around 1900 at the earliest (implying that in fact literacy began to improve of its own accord at an earlier point – perhaps public feeling led the policy rather than vice versa?) Presumably then it wasn’t until the early to mid-twentieth century that illiteracy declined to the 1% rate of today.
By chance my blog feed also brought up this post today, on the same subject, showing how reforms in education began at a local level at a much earlier date. I found this particularly interesting as my boyfriend actually went to Farmor’s School.
I can only say thank god I was born in this day and age really. I love reading, and can’t imagine not being educated, not being able to write this blog!
L x

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

On famous ‘cousins’

A nice bit of family history from BBC News here. I’m not sure I’ve quite grasped why the BBC thinks this is important, but it’s certainly very interesting.
My Lancashire songwriter ancestor Joseph Bryan Geoghegan wrote a song entitled Brigham Young (1875), so perhaps he was inspired by the events this article describes? I haven’t seen the lyrics, so I really don’t know!
Sadly I haven’t yet uncovered any famous cousins of my own, but  I do sometimes wonder, particularly about some with more unusual surnames that also appear in my tree. The example that instantly springs to mind is singer Ellie Goulding, as it’s quite an unusual surname. However, Wikipedia informs me that her family is Jewish, which doesn’t really fit! You’ve got to be wary about purposely trying to trace back a link, it’s all too easy to make an assumption and join up the wrong dots to make it ‘true’.
I suppose, given name-changes and marriages, the truth is you’re just as likely to be distantly related to someone with a surname you’ve never even heard of as someone with the same surname as you.
L x

W is for Webb

Nearly there with the alphabet now – having come so far I am determined to complete it.
There were quite a few options for W, and I really wanted to write about the Woffendens, because apart from anything else they have such an interesting surname. However, a quick count up shows that in the course of this blogging project I have somewhat neglected my mother’s paternal family – only the H is for Hancocks post has addressed this branch, and of course there is so much more to it than that.
So, I’m going to talk about the Webb family. Miriam Webb was my mother’s paternal grandmother. In 1908 she married Philemon Hancocks, and together they had three children, the eldest of which was my grandfather Horace James Hancock. Miriam lived into her eighties, and according to my mum she was, to put it gently, a bit of a character in her old age!
Miriam was born on 15 June 1886, to parents James Webb and Miriam Jayne.  The couple had six other children: Sarah Ann Webb (b. 1867), Francis J. Webb (b. 1869), John Webb (b. 1872), James Webb (b. 1874), Thomas G Webb (1) (b. 1879) and Thomas G Webb (2) (b. 1881) – I’m reasonably sure that these last two were separate individuals. Miriam was their last child, and perhaps she was a somewhat unexpected one given the large gap between her birth and those of their older children.
The children were all born in Wales, but alas my mum’s dream of Welsh ancestry is once again dashed when we see that James Webb senior was born in ‘Bristol Pill’ in 1844. Luckily for my mum, James Webb’s wife Miriam Jayne was definitely Welsh!
Pill is a village just outside Bristol on the south bank of the Avon, an area that was mostly involved with industrial pottery.  I asked my boyfriend if he’d ever been there and what it was like; he described it as ‘plain’! I take this to mean that it’s not exactly a quaint and picturesque old-English-style village.
James’ father was named Samuel Webb (b. 1819), and his mother was Charlotte Dyer (b. abt 1816). They had five other children: William Webb (b. 1846), Henry Webb (b. 1848), Jane Webb (b. 1855), Martha Webb (b. 1857) and Harriet Webb (b. 1859). Given the seven-year gap between Henry and Jane in particular, I speculated that there might have been other children in the family.
(Since I originally drafted this post, my speculation has been rewarded by the discovery of two more Webb children: Elizabeth D. Webb (b. 1842 – D for Dyer, perhaps?) and Ann Webb (b. 1852), who were living with their mother’s unmarried brother Samuel Dyer and sister Harriet Dyer in Easton in Gordano, just outside Pill, in 1861.)
I’ve still got a bit of work to do on the Webbs. For one thing, nowhere do I seem to have recorded what either Samuel Webb or James Webb did for a living, but I would to hazard a guess that they were in some sort of manual-labour job, and probably in mining once the family moved to Wales!
L x

Monday, 18 June 2012

V is for victory

V was tricky as I don’t have and V surnames at all in my tree. So I decided that V should be for Victory – a blog post dedicated to my ancestors in the military. I haven’t got that many, and I haven’t come up with any really exciting stories but here’s a quick look at what I do know:
Starting on my father’s side, my paternal grandfather John Newby was too young to have served in the Second World War. However, I believe that he did his National Service in Burma - we have old photographs of him with Buddhist statues and things (a bit vague, I know, but as they’re at home with my parents I can’t describe them much better!). National Service was  introduced after the Second World War. Initially these young men went for a year, but this was extended to eighteen months in 1948, and to two years in 1950, as a response to the Korean War.  At the age of eighteen they had to register for service, but if they were doing an apprenticeship or any sort of training for a career they could opt to defer until they were twenty-one. John would have turned eighteen in May 1949. However, he was in the building trade, so there is a possibility that he was doing an apprenticeship and may have deferred his service until 1952. Either way it seems probable that he served two years, sometime in the period 1949–54. I don’t know much more about this, but it might be worth investigating. 
Going back a generation, John’s father Walter Newby would have been in his thirties during the Second World War, but I have no idea what he was doing. On his marriage certificate in 1929 Walter was described as a motor driver, so perhaps he also became a driver of some description during the war?
My mother’s father, Horace James Hancock was born in July 1909, so he would have just turned thirty when war broke out. However, he didn’t go into the armed forces, but worked as a fireman in Brighton. I can’t be sure why this is. He might have failed the medical or perhaps because he was in his thirties he wouldn’t have been immediately called up anyway. In either case, perhaps he joined the fire service because he wanted to contribute to the war effort in some other way – but why Brighton? As far as I’m aware he didn’t live there before or after the war.  A bit of research has revealed that the Fire Services Training Centre was based in Brighton during the war, so maybe that’s what he was doing there? Again, it is something to find out a bit more about.
Down my Rayner line, I know that Leslie Gordon Rayner had moved to Wakefield with his family by the mid-thirties. Leslie I think was in the forces, but more in an administrative capacity. I believe he was stationed at Nostell Priory, just outside Wakefield. I imagine he would have been very thankful to be so close to his young family rather than being sent abroad to fight.
I have talked a little before about Leslie’s brother Alec Maxted Rayner, who joined the Royal Fusiliers in 1908 aged just fourteen, and their father William Henry Rayner, living in a Barracks in Isleworth in 1891, leaving his young bride to return to her parents. A little research tells us:
[in the late Victorian period] Restrictions on the number of soldiers who could marry were eased, and all soldiers' wives could accompany their husbands when they changed station (though not on campaign). However, there was official and practical discouragement of soldiers (and officers) who wished to marry while young. (Wikipedia)
So for William to have married at eighteen was quite unusual. Perhaps he even kept it quiet. It is quite probably the reason that William is wrongly recorded as unmarried on the 1891 census, despite the fact that his wife had just given birth to their first child.
The Wikipedia entry also tells us:
Following the Cardwell Reforms [in 1870], most soldiers served only a few years with the regulars before passing into the reserves. This minimum period of regular service varied over time and with arms of service, from as little as four years in the infantry, to as much as eight in the cavalry and artillery. (Wikipedia)
Might we then conclude that William was in the cavalry or artillery, rather than the infantry? It’s certainly tempting, but I don’t think it can really be conclusive!
That’s really just about it for my ancestors in the military that I know of.
(Stereo)Typically for a girl, I have to admit that I’m not particularly fascinated by military history. I say that  despite having worked at the (amazing) Royal Armouries museum for about six months – perhaps I have a slightly greater appreciation of it than I did once!
I think it’s perhaps because I find it easier to empathise with my female ancestors and their lives. But also, I’ve never felt that it’s a big part of my ancestral story. I knew, for example, that my neither of my grandfathers fought, and as far as I know none of my great-grandfathers were heavily involved either. Btu then again, I don’t have the whole story, so perhaps there is a war hero lurking somewhere in the branches.
That said, I visited the First World War battlefields of France and Belgium with school at the age of fifteen, and that had a profound effect on me. When you stand in the cemeteries, the sheer numbers of crosses are just astounding, the ‘Last Post’ at the Menin Gate is so emotionally charged, and some of the museums exhibits I saw still haunt me. But the strongest memory is of standing at some of the grand memorials, like Thiepval, and just staring at rows and rows of names of missing men. 
I found some Newbys, of course, and wondered if perhaps they were relatives. Even then, six years before I began my genealogical quest, I couldn’t help but wonder about them…
L x

Thursday, 14 June 2012

I'm back!

A bit of a delayed return to the blog, so massive apologies, though I’m not vain enough to think you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for my next post!
I’ve totally had the post-holiday blues for the last week or so, but I was jolted out of my lethargy when I read Elyse’s post on The Genealogy Generational Disconnect, and the message thread to which it refers, though not all of it – there are ALOT of responses! That was what struck me the most actually, the fact that the subject of ‘young genealogists’ provoked so much reaction.
Once again, I’m happy to have reaffirmed that I’m not the only young person doing genealogy, nor am I the only one who feels a little bit alone in being a young  genealogist. I have to say that while I’ve never felt as patronised as Eva suggests, I have on occasion been subject to the assumption that I’m  inexperienced and need even the basics explaining to me. I’ve never attended a conference like Eva describes, though, and I have no idea what the reaction would be if I did. I did once attend my a meeting of my Local History Group, but I found it incredibly strange being the only person under fifty (literally) in the room – I just couldn’t relax in the same way as I would have been able to in a group of my peers.
In this respect, the not-very-serious suggestion on Elyse’s comments that they should form a club sounds like a genius idea. And I would completely support the tiara-wearing. Joking aside though, maybe such a group would be the ideal breeding ground for new methodologies and tools in genealogy? On the other hand, such unnecessary ‘divisions’ within the genealogy community would perhaps not be helpful to this kind of mutual non-understanding between the generations? I would love to hear your thoughts on this people!
Beyond that, a couple of quick updates.
1. In my post L is for Lumb, I mentioned that I hadn’t progressed much past Mary Ann Lumb. However, breaking my own rules I did a bit of sneaky research, and have now identified Mary’s parents as John Lumb and Mary Beaumont. Sadly, I suspect I may not be able to get very much further back from John for now, as there is some confusion over his birthplace. Is he from Kirkheaton or Thornhill? And if he is from Thornhill, how do I distinguish between the two John Lumbs born within months of each other in the parish? (Though one of their father’s is Robert, the same name as John’s eldest son, which might be a hint.)  Obviously there are possibilities – finding his gravestone or a bit of detailed census work to disentangle two lines, relying on sibling information for example, but I think it’s going to be a tricky one.
2. The father of Walter Newby (for the back-story see here, here and here!) I have come up with another possibility... I set out to check all the Walters of the right age on the 1911 census, and came across four-year old Walter Kingswood living with, as far as I can tell, his mother Ellen and her new husband Thomas Henry ‘Newbown’ (it might possibly read Newbourn) and their one-year-old daughter Alice May, in Barton on Humber, Lincolnshire. I have no particular reason to think that my Newbys have Humberside/Lincolnshire connections. And Thomas Henry is a cycle repairer, not the market gardener I’m looking for.  However, this was the only strong(ish) possibility I found in this particular line of enquiry. My plan is to order all of the very few possible Walter Newby birth certificates, to see if I can eliminate for certain that he was born ‘Newby’.  Given that this is my direct paternal line, I’m weirdly unsettled by the possibility that I might not actually be a Newby after all! We shall see...
L x