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

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Thankful Thursday: Thanks for 2012

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

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Exciting news

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

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

George Harold Oliver

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

Monday, 17 December 2012

A tale of two discrepancies

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

Sunday, 16 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 4. Father Baxter

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

Friday, 14 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 3. Mystery Wedding

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

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

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

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

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 1. George Jones

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