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

Thursday, 27 September 2012

I have a confession to make

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 Even my index, which I was so enthusiastic about when I started, is unfinished and hopelessly out of date, and I tend to rely on the quick record features offered in ancestry to keep track of my data.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

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Newby mystery solved!

On Friday I finally received a birth certificate for Walter Newby.
I had ordered this certificate, registered Q4 1904 in Wakefield, on the basis that it was close enough to match the birth on the marriage certificate (circa 1905); it was in my home registration district (while I had no evidence that Walter was born there, he had married nearby and certainly died in Wakefield, so I had no evidence that he wasn’t born there either); and it seemed to be the only birth of a Walter Newby that I couldn’t account for.
The birth was registered in December. Here is the information as it appeared on the certificate:
Name: Walter Newby
Date of birth: 20 September 1904
Where born: Snapethorpe Farm, Lupset
Father’s name and occupation: Thomas Wallinger
Mother’s name and occupation: Sarah Jane Newby, Housekeeper Domestic
(at Snapethorpe Farm, Lupset, as the informant section went on to show)
As I had long suspected, it seems Walter was illegitimate!
Interestingly, this means that had Sarah Jane married Thomas Wallinger (the writing is quite legible, despite having been crossed out), my surname would have been Wallinger rather than Newby, which I find quite strange. Though at least it is an interesting surname!
Of course, now it was time to investigate Walter’s story. There were quite a few Sarah Jane Newbys and Thomas Wallingers, so it did take a bit of searching and unravelling before I could get the full picture, and there are still lots of things to learn, but here goes.
Sarah Jane Newby was born in in around 1877 in Kellington, Yorkshire (which is to the east of Pontefract, out towards Goole). Her parents were Henry Newby and Elizabeth Lockwood, both of whom were also local. Henry worked as a farm labour in his younger days, before working in a malthouse. Sarah Jane was the fifth of ten known children.
Thomas Wallinger was born in Hanslope, Buckinghamshire, some thirty-three years before Sarah Jane. In 1876, around the time that Sarah Jane was born, Thomas married Charlotte Johnson, of Carlton le Selby, Yorkshire, less than ten miles from Sarah Jane’s place of birth.
How Thomas and Charlotte met is something of a mystery, but I can say that Thomas is not in his home town of Hanslope on the 1861 census, and instead is possibly lodging with a family in Treeton, a village now on the outskirts of Sheffield – in Yorkshire, but still well over thirty miles from Carlton. This is unproven as yet, though.
By 1901 both Thomas and his wife Charlotte are in Blackpool, running boarding houses – but apparently separately. Charlotte is alone in her household other than a servant, Alice Held, also born in Yorkshire.
And in the 1901 household of Thomas Wallinger is none other than Sarah Jane Newby and her younger sister Dinah. The relationships in this 1901 household have been mangled. Thomas is listed as ‘head’, Sarah Jane as ‘sister’ and Dinah as ‘servant’. Sarah Jane does give her occupation as housekeeper, however. It was only when I found this particular record that I could start to unravel both of their family backgrounds further.
By 1904, of course, Sarah Jane is back in Yorkshire, living about 15 miles from her home town at Snapethorpe Farm. A Thomas Wallinger appears to have died in Q2 1905 in the district of Fylde, Lancashire – so I thought he was probably still living in Blackpool.
However, when I googled Snapethorpe Farm out of curiosity, it came up with something from the London Gazette of 17 February 1905, namely a list of ‘First meetings and public examinations’ of debtors. Thomas Wallinger, Farmer, of Snapethorpe Farm, Wakefield was due in court on Mar 2 1905.
So perhaps Thomas and Sarah Jane both returned to Blackpool in spring of 1905, and then Thomas died. But what happened to Sarah Jane and Walter? And where on earth were Sarah Jane and Walter in 1911? I still can’t find anything on the census.
This story leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but it’s certainly a start! Hopefully more will be revealed as I investigate my exciting new Newby, Lockwood and Wallinger lines further...
L x

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Where’s Wally?

If you happen to have seen my Twitter feed towards the end of last week, you might have detected a scuffle of excitement as I once again turned my attention to the saga that is my great grandfather Walter Newby and his father, the mysterious Thomas Henry. (If you want to catch up on the story so far, the easiest way is probably to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Newby tag, which should bring you all the related posts!)
Previously I had focused on finding Walter on the 1911 census, because I know that he should be aged about five at this point, and he must be alive somewhere. However, I can’t find him, either with his father or without!
Having had absolutely no luck with the son, I turned my attention to the father. My knowledge about Thomas Henry Newby is limited: He was a market gardener, and he was dead by the time Walter married in 1929. Of course, this means that I can’t even be sure that Thomas Henry was alive in 1911. But, I thought, perhaps I can find a Thomas Henry with a son of the right age who has been badly mistranscribed, explaining why my searches haven’t found him.
And, after a lot of searching, using various wildcards, I came up with something: Thomas Henry Norbury, nursery and seedsman.
 OK, so he doesn’t appear to have a son of the right age. But he is located in Clayton West, which is local, roughly ten miles from where Walter later marries. Though I don’t have any evidence to suggest that Walter was definitely born locally to where he later lived, nor do I have any reason to believe that he wasn’t. (It does give rise to questions about the assumptions one should make during a genealogical investigation...)
Now, Thomas Henry Norbury and his wife, Eleanor, have four living children in 1911 and one who has died. They have three children living with them on the census, none of which are Walter. I located them on the 1901 census, and there they have a fourth child. However, this could be the one who has died. Thus, possibly, Walter could be the elusive fifth?
One problem regarding this family is in fact that Eleanor is a little old to have a six-year-old son in 1911. But perhaps she isn’t his mother ... ? And of couse there’s the slightly bigger problem – where the heck is Walter in 1911?!
Of course, the Norburys could be a red herring, but with nothing else to go on, I reckon they’re worth investigating further. I’ll keep you posted...
L x

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

On my brief visit to the Forest of Dean

Last weekend I had occasion to travel to the Forest of Dean, which is about 30 miles out of Cheltenham, in the direction of South Wales. It’s an area I’ve never been to before, but it also happens to be where many of my supposedly ‘Welsh’ ancestors actually originated, before their move to Tredegar, South Wales, in the late nineteenth century. It was a somewhat impromptu visit, to meet my boyfriend’s mum, (who happened to be working there) and pick up some exciting post (on which more very soon, hopefully...!)
Anyhow, as it wasn’t organised, I hadn’t had the time to gather together what I needed in order to make it a research expedition, though I am planning to go back there for this purpose at some point – it’s almost inexcusable that I haven’t done so already, given how close it is! However, it did give me a chance to scope out the area, and I came away with some interesting impressions.
The Forest of Dean is a Crown forest of about 42 square miles and today attracts a lot of tourists, for the stunning woodland and outdoor pursuits such as walking and cycling. However, while it may sound like a rural idyll, in fact the area has a long history of mining, both for coal and iron. While there I also discovered that there was a gold mine in the north of the forest.
The forest has an interesting tradition of free miners – men who have have earned the right to mine for coal or iron on personal plots, known as Gales. The practice is regulated through a  unique system of rules, and some free miners continue to operate today. Here is the eligibility rule:
"All male persons born or hereafter to be born and abiding within the said Hundred of St Briavels, of the age of twenty one years and upwards, who shall have worked a year and a day in a coal or iron mine within the said Hundred of St Briavels, shall be deemed and taken to be Free Miners."
We arrived at a place called New Fancy View (a viewing point that was formerly a mine called New Fancy). Here there is a large ‘map’ set into the ground, showing the locations of all the mines in the Forest, numbered with a key giving their names. I found this really interesting, and of course it made me resolve to find out, if I can, where my ancestors worked, or where they may have worked. I don’t have any reason to believe that they were operating as Free Miners, from the censuses, though of course, it may not have been stated.
They did seem to move around the forest a lot, however, so I may be able to map this against the opening and closing of mines to see if I can see any pattern. And of course, they eventually began to drift off into South Wales. Interestingly, they did all seem to move to Wales, but not all at the same time – perhaps it became apparent that their family members were prospering there, and so one by one they began to follow them?
I was also struck by the names of the gales, many of which, like New Fancy view, were obviously locally named. Here are a few of my favourites: All Profit, Brazilly, Breadless, Mystery, Oddfellows Delight, Potlid, Strip And At It, Trafalgar, Tormentor, True Blue, Uncertainty.
While some of them are named optimistically, such as ‘All Profit’, or ‘True Blue’, others give a hint of the Free Miner’s life of hard work ­­– ‘Strip and At It’ –­ and instability– ‘Mystery’, ‘Uncertainty’, ‘Breadless’ or ‘Tormentor’. Others  are affectionate – ‘Oddfellows Delight’; patriotic – ‘Trafalgar’; or just plain incomprehensible – ‘Brazilly’ and ‘Potlid’!
I found this useful site, which allows you to browse known information about these gales. I’ve read a few, and some of this history is quite interesting, with what seems to be some personal testimony about the mines, such as this one, from the page about the gale ‘Uncertainty’:
Colliery such a serious loss to me and other members of family.  My father involved us in difficulties in spending so much money to get coal out but found hardly any to be seen.
However, there’s no sign of any of my ancestors at first glance, which probably means I was right that they weren’t working as Free Miners.
The towns and villages of the Forest are not particularly picturesque, having been mostly pit villages, and today they are areas or relative poverty. My boyfriend commented that they reminded him of the towns and villages of the Welsh Valleys, like Tredegar, where my grandfather was born. I agree, they do have the same feel to them, and after all, it was an area with the same mining heritage, and just over the border. In the Dark Ages, parts of the Forest of Dean might have been within the Welsh kingdoms of Gwent and Ergyng, and the boundary remained uncertain until Offa’s Dyke was built in around AD 790. I can imagine that movement between the two areas was frequent and family ties numerous.
This is really just a starting point for further research, but it definitely gave me a feel for the area I’m dealing with.
L x

Monday, 10 September 2012

On the Gouldings' move to Yorkshire

Last week I promised you a story from the sibling tidy-up of one of my ancestors.
The ancestor in question is Thomas Goulding, my maternal grandmother’s father. I already knew from my original research that Thomas moved from Nottinghamshire where he was born to the Wakefield area, sometime between 1891 and 1901. He didn’t move to marry my great-grandmother as they didn’t marry until 1910. However, his sister Amelia Goulding had married a local man, Charles Edward Coop in 1892, and in 1901 Thomas was staying in her household. Frustratingly, I haven’t been able to find Amelia on the 1891 census, so I don’t know whether she was in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire or elsewhere. Also, while I know that Amelia and Charles married in Amelia’s home town of Gringley on the Hill, I have found evidence that the Banns were read in Charles’ parish of Ossett Holy Trinity, which I’ve never seen before. Their eldest daughter was born in Gringley in 1892, but by 1894 they were back in Ossett.
My mum was able to confirm that she had heard the name ‘Milly Coop’ mentioned in the family without knowing what the relation was. With no indication of how Charles and Milly met, but the certainty that she was the earliest of my Gouldings in the area, I had simply conjectured that it was simply a case of Thomas moving for work and living with his sister, or even just visiting occasionally, meeting my great grandmother and then settling more permanently in the area.
However, when I started investigating his siblings, it seems he wasn’t the only one to follow his sister to Wakefield.
Their sister Nellie Goulding moved there sometime between 1901 and 1904, and their brother Arthur Goulding had moved there by 1907. Again, there’s no indication as to why, but presumably  they did ‘follow’ Milly and Thomas. It also seems likely that their father may have died around this period, so perhaos this had an impact on their freedom to move?
It’s funny, because while I knew that my direct maternal line was very local, I’d never heard other Gouldings in Horbury mentioned, so I’d never thought that there were local relatives on that side, whereas now it seems quite likely that there are.
However, it would explain why, when in the early days of my family research I briefly made contact with a Goulding descendant of the Nottinghamshire branch, she was convinced that she had also been contacted by someone else in the area, but the names she gave didn’t quite add up with what I knew about the family – chances are, it was a descendant of Arthur Goulding she had encountered.
There’s another fairly interesting aspect to the story as well. Thomas Goulding’s wife-to-be Annie Louisa Hampshire might not have been considered the ideal bride for many. She had had an illegitimate daughter at a relatively young age. To this day the father is unknown, and the daughter was brought up by Annie Louisa’s parents, even after their daughter’s marriage. Also, unusually, Thomas was about 10 years older than Annie Louisa.
Interestingly, of Thomas’s other siblings who moved to the area, both had similar stories. Thomas’s sister Nellie had an illegitimate daughter of her own in 1896, eight years before she married yorkshireman James Thorpe at Horbury Bridge. They went on to have two sons.
And Arthur Goulding’s Wakefield-born wife Mildred Ambler had also had a an illegitimate daughter two years before she married Arthur – though the daughter went on to take the name Goulding, so perhaps Arthur was in fact the father? They went on to have four more Goulding children.
Is this just an odd coincidence, or is there a connection to be gleaned here? Did Thomas and Arthur have more sympathy towards the unconventional lives of their brides because of their sister’s experience? Or, perhaps, having moved away from their parents and being new to the area, with no longstanding family reputation to worry about nearby, they just worried less about any ‘stigma’? Perhaps the entire Goulding clan was just of a rather more ‘modern’ mindset than some of their contemporaries? Or maybe it really was just a matter of chance? I also can’t help but wonder what Mr Coop made of his wife’s slightly scandalous family? We’ll probably never know, but if I hadn’t investigated Thomas siblings’ movements, I would never have had these questions to ask!
L x

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

On the sibling tidy-up

Yet again, I have to being this post with a massive sorry that I haven’t blogged for aaaages – this time of year is mega busy in my job as we try to get books out in time for Christmas, so I don’t have the time to blog in my lunch hour as I often do, and when I get home from work I’m just too shattered to write proper sentences after editing all day!
However, I haven’t given up on the genealogy. One of the things I’ve been doing with my tree recently is a sort of sibling ‘tidy-up’. I’ve blogged a bit about researching non-direct lines, i.e. siblings, before. However, although I’ve often preached its importance, I’m no saint when it comes to practising what I preach, and I find I have often left these particular loose ends undone, especially in the more recent branches of my tree where I’ve been in a hurry to work backwards.
Also, as new records are coming to light all the time, I’ve actually found lots of extra siblings that I didn’t have previously.
The fun thing about sibling investigation is that it’s often fairly simple, and so it makes for some nice easy genealogy – perfect for my current state of exhaustion! It involves lots of census checking, which a) I like and b) I don’t seem to get to do so much these days, as I plough backwards into the mists of time!
My strategy when it comes to siblings is to identify their spouses and as many of their children as possible, and cover them off on as many census records as possible as a family. I don’t particularly intend on investigating their spouses’ backgrounds or their children’s marriages, for now at least, as you have to draw the line somewhere. However, sometimes it can’t be helped, and I’m not going to say no to some instant records now, am I?! For example, the spouse’s father’s name and occupation is given on the parish marriage records in many cases. If nothing else, it’s interesting to get some idea of their background.
There are a couple of routes to do so, and I’ve used both, depending on which came easiest / bore the most fruit really. Firstly, you can trace your sibling forward on the censuses to find them living with a spouse and children, and then use this information to identify a marriage record and births for their children.  Or, you can go straight to the marriage records (usually parish for free and instant access) to identify their spouse, and then trace them on a census to find the relevant children and get their births that way.
As I’ve been working with late nineteenth-/early twentieth- century ancestors for the moment, I’ve often been able to use the mother’s maiden name in the later BMDs to find children born after the 1911 census. The only thing to remember here is to check (as far as possible) for marriages between other couples with the same name that might lead you to confuse their children. If this does arise, the only recourse is to the certificates, which isn’t a high priority at the moment to be honest. In this case I’d be keeping a note of them for future reference, but probably not adding them into my tree. Thankfully, I’ve not had any glaring problems here, though there are one or two close calls!
Also, as a quick aside – I’ve been working backwards through my tree for this, because it is easier to tackle. Moreover, for the moment I’m only going down my maternal grandmother’s side. This is only because it is the first line I researched, and it was one of the easiest for me – therefore the most neglected where this particular aspect is concerned within my current tree. However, I did have some of my original old index cards with some of this info, which has proved useful (although of mixed quality, to be honest)!
The sibling tidy up is useful for a few things.
First, I’ve often talked about siblings providing useful clues if you’re stuck regarding the life of your direct ancestor. Though this hasn’t been the case in any of my tidy ups so far, it’s not difficult to grasp that if I also had a missing sibling, there’s a good chance they might be found together. Or, that they show up as a marriage witness, for example.
Even if you’re not stuck, having the full picture of their siblings lives is useful as supporting evidence that you’ve got the right family when they show up on a census. Or just for adding flesh to the genealogical bones – for examples, I find more and more that my ancestors lived extraordinarily close together and stayed within the same few addresses for generation after generation – meaning that at one time entire streets were full of my extended family! It certainly gives an interesting picture of how they lived. Particularly in my home town, it’s also fun to see familiar local names creeping into the edges of my tree, and wonder whether I am distantly related to people I went to school with or our neighbours and so on.
The sibling tidy up is also useful for solving those one of those little genealogical problems we all come across – the mystery grandchild or niece/nephew. I get these all the time and they drive me mad. Because all genealogical programmes identify people by their ‘next of kin’, it’s extremely difficult to add in a (figurative) ‘orphan’ child and then identify their parents later. What I generally find happens is that you work through the sibling’s family and then suddenly ancestry starts waving a little leaf at me to connect bits of households together – proper jigsaw genealogy!
The best sibling tidy ups, though, are the ones that throw completely new light on the ‘story’ you thought you already knew, as happened to me recently....
On which, more tomorrow (or as soon as I can manage it!)
L x