Monday, 31 January 2011

Amanuensis Monday - A strong Dorset accent

This is the will of my 8x great grandfather, Richard Keats or Cates, (1648-1698), who lived at East Lulworth, about three miles from the famous Lulworth Cove, in Dorset. The spellings are idiosyncratic, not to say bizarre, and seem to be the direct transliteration of a strong Dorset accent.

East Lulworth

July ye 18th 1697
In ye name of God amen I richard Caetes of East lullworth Being veary sheke & weacke of bodey but of good & parfecket Memory doth commit my bodey to ye earth & my sole into ye handes of God all Mitey & my bodey to be Bueried in ye Churchyard of East Lullworth
Imprimis I gave to my daftar anne ye wiufe of willam peney ye some of on shilling  It I gave to my sone willam caetes all ye colle bages  It I gave to my sone Richard Cates ye some of on shilling  It I gave to my daftar Rachell ye some of one shilling  It I gave to my sone tomas cates ye some of one shilling  It I gave to my daftar sushana ye some of one shilling  Itam I gave to my sone Edward cates ye some of one shilling
Imprimis I gave unto my sone James Ceates all my goodes & Cheles & Leses & stocke & goodes with thien & without that I dey prosest of home I make my sole Executar of this mey Laste will & testment & all bondes & billes & deptes
I desiear my good frinde home I make & desiear to be my trostee of this my Laste will & teste ... Dunning to stand frinde to my pooear Chidren home I shall Leave in ye handes of my Execter
The marcke of Richard (R) Ceates
sined & delivered in ye presentes of us
Edward Dunning
the Marcke of Marey Whamey
21o May 1698o
Juirat fuit Extor
Qod Nobis
Car Sloper
(Dorset Record Office: MIC/R/188 DA 1698 23)
If you are not familiar with the Dorset accent, this recitation of Thomas Hardy's "At Lulworth Cove a Century Back" will give you a good idea of how it sounds. The poem is about John Keats, who last set foot on English soil at Lulworth Cove in September 1820. He was on board a ship bound for Italy which was becalmed in the Channel and Keats and his friend, Joseph Severn, took the opportunity to go ashore. Keats told Severn it was "a part [of England] he already knew". This has led to speculation that the origins of the poet's family, which he deliberately obscured, may have been in that area of Dorset, where the Keats surname is common. How fascinating to think that John Keats might be my distant cousin.

Update: 10 January 2012
Unfortunately, You Tube have removed the video of Thomas Hardy's poem because the person who posted it on You Tube did not have the right to do so. You may therefore want to listen to this recording, made by the British Drama League during the 1930s, to get an idea of how the Dorset accent sounded.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The Date I Was Born

Another Saturday night, another fun challenge from Randy Seaver:

1) What day of the week were you born? Tell us how you found out.

I was born on a Tuesday. My Mum told me that when I was very small. She used to quote from the old rhyme, "Tuesday's child is full of grace". Just to make sure I hadn't got it wrong, I checked my birthdate in the calendar in The Master Genealogist (TMG). It agrees that I was born on a Tuesday.


Tuesday's Child 3


2) What has happened in recorded history on your birth date (day and month)? Tell us how you found out, and list five events.

I Googled "on this day 6 July" which produced 393 million results. Forced to choose only five events, I decided on:

  • 6 July 1189: Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) became King of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, on the death of his father, Henry II. I saw Richard's beautifully decorated tomb when I visited the Abbey of Fontevraud in France in 2008. (Source: Wikipedia)

  • July 1535: Sir Thomas More was executed for treason, having refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging Henry VIII as Supreme Governor of the Church in England. On the scaffold he declared that he died, "The King's good servant, but God's first". (Source: Wikipedia)

  • 6 July 1785: The United States Congress unanimously: "Resolved, That the money unit of the United States be one dollar.” (Source: The Freeman)

  • 6 July 1942: Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in the "Secret Annexe", a sealed-off area above her father's office in an Amsterdam warehouse. The day before, Anne's older sister, Margot, had received a call-up notice to be deported to a Nazi "work camp." Anne was 13 when they went into hiding. (Source: History Channel & Wikipedia)

  • 6 July 1964: The Beatles' first film, "A Hard Day's Night," premiered in London. Perhaps they chose the day because it was exactly seven years after John Lennon and Paul McCartney were first introduced to each other, on 6 July 1957. (Source: On This Day).

France 036

3)  What famous people have been born on your birth date?  Tell us how you found out, and list five of them.

As for (2) above, I Googled "on this day 6 July" and found:

  • 6 July 1747: John Paul Jones, American naval commander. On 23 April 1778, Jones attacked the port of Whitehaven in Cumberland. Today there is a pub named after him in the town, which I visited in 2009. (Source: Wikipedia).

  • 6 July 1781: Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. I lived in Singapore from 1965 to 1968. (Source: Wikipedia).

  • 6 July 1939: Jet Harris, bassist with Cliff Richard's backing group, The Shadows. As a child I had a huge crush on Jet and his quiff! (Source: Jet Harris)

  • 6 July 1946: George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States - and Sylvester Stallone on the same day. (Source: Wikipedia)

  • 6 July 1907: Frida Kahlo, Mexican painter. I love her naive, folk art style paintings. (Source: Frida Kahlo).

DSC00892 (2)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hey, kids, look what I've just found out about Grandad!

Thomas MacEntee recently suggested on Facebook that we should talk to our children about genealogy. I've been talking to my children about genealogy since 1985. Their eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the word. They believe compulsory childhood tours of graveyards were a form of child abuse. I may soon be arrested!

My husband shows his love by recognising my need to share family history stories and accepting that he will be the main audience. But even when the stories are about his own ancestors he sets firm time limits. Exceed ten minutes and he adopts the strategy of the 1950s People reporter: "I made my excuses and left". On our very first journey together I took him to Tipton, of all places. Whilst I photographed a gravestone, he made the unwelcome acquaintance of an old man in a ginger wig. He is still traumatised by the experience.


Tipton, Sandwell, West Midlands


My husband and son also speak bitterly of the time I booked a holiday in Scotland and forgot to tell them it was an old ancestral stamping ground. They didn't seem to appreciate that the holiday cottage was on an estate once owned by my family. Surely that made up for the owner being a control freak, personally trained by the Stasi? And I truly believe that, in amongst all the touristy stuff, one teeny graveyard visit a day was not excessive. The two hours I spent in the graveyard in Broughty Ferry were an aberration. They didn't have to wait lunch for me. And in any case they were in a pub. Since when did British men complain about spending two hours in a pub?


Fishermen's graveyard Brought Ferry


The family member with the most interest in genealogy is my dear mother. She implanted my love of history when I was tiny. She told me all the family stories over tea time toast and honey. In the early days we even shared research trips to London. But now, aged 91, even she has her limits. If I witter on too much after Sunday lunch, I can see she is thinking longingly about her nap.

Which is where the distant cousins come in, bless them. Those wonderful souls who have also inherited the recessive genealogical gene. Those co-addicts who would rather spend their days with a microfilm reader than visit the sights of London or Edinburgh. We email each other with discoveries in the middle of the night. We compete to follow up on a new research lead. We argue over possible ancestral motivation and bond over shared ancestral secrets. And, when we finally meet, we always have something to talk about.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Australia Day: Gateway to a new and better life

It was the evening of Friday, 30 June 1837 and William Tomlin was outside his house at Newcastle Coal Wharf, Limehouse, London.  William was a prosperous, self-made man, the owner of a fleet of lighters and barges which transported coal and timber from ships in the Thames at Limehouse up the Regent's Canal.



Being high summer, it was still very light when, around 8pm, William saw four youths sitting on a grassy bank about 100 yards away. They were pointing at William's house excitedly, in a way which aroused his suspicions. He watched them for nearly an hour and called his wife and son to take a look at them, saying that, if his house was broken into, these young men would be the people to do it. They did not realise they were under observation, because William and his family were hidden by some trees.

When William went to bed at 11pm, he made sure that he locked up well. Nevertheless, sometime after midnight the youths managed to break into the house through the kitchen window, using a knife to dig out the putty so that they could partially remove the glass and undo the catch. They then reached their hands over the top of the shutters to unfasten them. Once in the house they stole:

  • a £20 banknote;
  • two silver table-spoons, five tea-spoons and a mustard-spoon, valued at £2 12s;
  • two pairs of spectacles, valued at £2;
  • a coat, valued at £1 10s;
  • three silk handkerchiefs, valued at 9s;
  • a pair of shoes, valued at 5s;
  • a silver thimble, valued at 1s; and
  • two fourpenny pieces.

The total value of £26 17s 8d would be the equivalent of over £2,000 today.




William Tomlin was woken around 3am on Saturday, 1 July, and found the desk from his sitting room lying outside on the Wharf. It had been broken open with two chisels which lay nearby. Several papers, the £20 bank-note and the two fourpenny pieces were missing from it. One of the fourpenny pieces was very distinctive because William had bored a hole through it with a drill, in an attempt to place it on a ring.

Meanwhile, the burglars had not gone far with their haul. At about 4.30 am a brick maker found the four of them asleep in the straw in his brickfield, a short distance from William Tomlin's house. He threw them out and, in leaving, two of them made the mistake of passing close to the scene of the crime. They were recognised by William, who gave chase and caught up with them about 400 yards away, in Salmon Lane, Limehouse. He pointed them out to a policeman and they were arrested.

The two were John Burton, aged 17, and George Williamson, aged 18. Samuel Weatherstone, aged 16, a known associate of Burton and Williamson, was arrested on Monday, 3 July, having been spotted loitering outside the police station. The police found these three in possession of most of the stolen property. Burton had a table spoon up each sleeve, the handkerchiefs under his shirt and the shoes on his feet. Williamson had the two pairs of spectacles and the silver thimble and he was wearing the coat under his own clothes. Weatherstone had 14s in his pocket and the fourpenny piece with the hole in it on a scarlet ribbon round his neck. The fourth accomplice was never traced.

Weatherstone, Burton and Williamson were brought up before the magistrates for examination on Tuesday, 4 July. According to a reporter from the Times:




The three were tried for burglary at the Old Bailey the next day, Wednesday 5 July 1837. The evidence against them was overwhelming but, in order to avoid the death penalty for burglary, the jury found them guilty of the lesser charge of breaking and entering. All three were sentenced to be transported for life.

Samuel George Weatherstone sailed on the convict ship Earl Grey from Portsmouth on 27 July 1838, arriving in New South Wales in November. He was granted a ticket of leave in 1846 and pardoned in 1849. He remained in Australia, where he married Letitia Doherty and had six children. He died in Grafton, New South Wales, in 1888, aged 70. By the time of his death he and his family owned considerable amounts of land and cattle.

George Williamson was transported on the ship Lord William Bentinck, departing from Portsmouth on 14 April 1838. He arrived in Tasmania on 26 August. His transportation documents record that he was tattooed with a mermaid and anchor, which suggests he was a sailor. In 1841 he was working for Mr J McArthur in Launceston, Tasmania. By 1846 he had a ticket of leave and by 1849 he had been granted a conditional pardon. He married a fellow convict, Hannah Tillotson, in Launceston in October 1846. According to a descendant, George and Hannah "settled down, raised a family and became good, solid citizens".

John Burton, who was lame, had his life sentence commuted to seven years. He was transported on the convict ship Asia, departing from London on 25 April 1840 and arriving in Tasmania on 6 August. In 1841 he was working in a party of convicts at Southport in the extreme south of Tasmania. By 1846 he was free on a certificate.



From the mistakes they made before and after their crime, it is hard to believe these three were the professional thieves that Weatherstone, at least, was made out to be. Almost certainly they were driven to steal by extreme poverty. Today they would not even be sent to prison for a first offence of this nature, yet in 1837 these three young men only escaped the gallows because of the clemency of the jury.

Life in the hulks during the long months waiting for transportation must have been utterly ghastly. Penal servitude probably only slightly less so. Yet, following their release, two at least were successful in the new, young country of Australia. Their punishment was unbelievably harsh but it removed them from the squalor and misery of poverty in London's East End and, in the end, turned  out to be the gateway to a new and better life.


My connection to these three young men is that William Tomlin was my husband's 4x great grandfather. William died in London on 15 June 1850, survived by 10 of his 11 children. He left nearly £45,000 in his will - at a conservative estimate, the equivalent of over £4 million today.

I initially learned about this case from a report in the Times dated 5 July 1837, which I found online in the Times Digital Archive. I then found the report of the Old Bailey trial at the Old Bailey Online website. I found information about the transportation and subsequent lives of the three young men on Ancestry, in both the historical records and the member trees.

I wish all my Australian cousins a very happy Australia Day. Here in the UK our thoughts and prayers are very much with you in the aftermath of the recent terrible floods.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Every Picture Tells A Story

Last November a cousin in Canada emailed me with exciting news – her sister had found an old photo album containing photographs of our Lowe ancestors in Coupar Angus, Scotland, dating from the 19th century.

My cousin sent me a copy of a picture from that album showing five young girls – the daughters of my 2x great grandfather John Lowe, a Coupar Angus solicitor, and his wife Cecilia, nee Malcolm. The girls were Georgina (my great grandmother) b. 1853, Marjory b. 1855, Cecilia Anne (Annie) b. 1857, Catherine (Kate) b. 1860 and Maria b. 1863.

5 daughters of John Lowe & Cecilia Malcolm

I was thrilled to have this photograph. Georgina died in May 1890, one week after giving birth to my grandfather, Lawrence, and his twin sister, Georgina. Only one photograph of her had passed down to us, dating from the time of her marriage in 1876. I had never seen any photographs of her sisters.

Judging by the girls’ apparent ages in the photograph, I guessed it was probably taken in the second half of the 1860s. Looking more closely, I realised that all the girls were dressed entirely in black and had black ribbons in their hair. They were also wearing crosses on black ribbons or necklaces round their necks. Clearly they were in mourning.

That sent me scurrying back to the family tree to try and identify a family death in the late 1860s. The one that seemed most likely was the death of the girls’ older brother, John James Lowe, in September 1867. I had his death date from a gravestone in the Kirkyard of the Abbey Church, Coupar Angus, so had never bothered to purchase his death certificate. Now I decided it was time to do so.

I quickly found the death certificate for John James Lowe on the Scotland’s People website. Reading it pulled me up with a start.

John James Lowe 1867 death certificate, part 1

John James died at 4.10 pm on the afternoon of 9 September 1867 at the General Railway Station in Perth. His death was certified by Dr George W Absolom who had entered the cause of death as “Probably Heart Disease?”. It looked like John James had dropped dead from a heart attack or heart failure in the railway station.

My next stop was the family's local newspaper, the Dundee Courier. Fortunately for family historians, the British Library has put a large number of 19th century newspapers online, including several from Scotland. And I am one of the lucky people who has free access to this database from home, courtesy of my library’s subscription.

John James Lowe, 1867 death announcement

I found a death notice, published on 11 September 1867, which confirmed that John James had died suddenly. Sadly, there was no other report - probably because, as the death certificate shows, there was no inquest. There certainly would be today, if an apparently healthy 16 year old dropped down dead in a railway station. The death also took place at a time when a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was taking place in Dundee. The columns of the Dundee Courier were so full of the doings of the eminent visiting scientists that there was little space for anything else.

However, the Dundee Courier did provide me with an unexpected bonus in the shape of a railway timetable for September 1867. This shows that the Highland Railway train from Dundee arrived at Perth Station at 4.10 pm - the time of death given on the death certificate. It would seem that poor John James died as he got out of the train.


The informant on the death certificate was John James' 17 year old cousin, Henry James Lowe, who registered the death at Perth on 11 September. Since he gave his place of residence as Coupar Angus, I can think of no reason for him to be in Perth, registering the death, other than that he was John James' travelling companion on the ill-fated train journey. He must have been in a state of shock, as he could not remember his aunt's first name.

Lowe John James 1867 death certificate section

The moral of this tale is, of course, that one should always purchase the death certificate - particularly for deaths in Scotland, where the certificates are so informative. Had I not done so, John James would have remained just a name on a gravestone.

A footnote for those familiar with Scottish research - Henry James Lowe went on to work as a clerk in the Register House in Edinburgh, up until his own untimely death in 1886. Now that's another certificate I must buy.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Do Some Random Research

I decided to take up Randy Seaver's Saturday night genealogy challenge to do some random research.

  1. I went to The Random Name Generator and obtained the random name Cornelia Dalton.
  2. I searched for the name at
  3. The results showed only one Cornelia Dalton, who appeared in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses.
  4. Using various sources (see below), I put together the following research report:

Cornelia Chisholm Neale Dalton was born on 2 December 1875 at Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, England.  Her parents were Rev William Edward Dalton (1841-1928) and Matilda Harriet nee Chisholm.

She came from a distinguished family. Her uncle, Rev John Neale Dalton, was chaplain to Queen Victoria and personal tutor to the future King George V. Her first cousin, Hugh Dalton, would later become Chancellor of the Exchequer. Her brother, Llewellyn, became Chief Justice of Tanganyika.

Cornelia was recorded in the census on 3 April 1881 at Eye, Suffolk, where her father was the curate of the parish church. In 1890 he became vicar of Glynde, two miles east of Lewes in Sussex. The living was in the gift of the Dean and Canons of Windsor and gave him an income of £180 a year, plus 12 acres of glebe land in addition to the vicarage.  In the census of 5 April 1891 Cornelia was recorded as a pupil at school in Albion House, Albion Street, Lewes. 

She was recorded in the census on 3 March 1901 as a nurse at St George's Hospital, London. It was probably there that she met her husband, Frederick William Longhurst, a consultant anaesthetist, whom she married on 3 August 1907 at Lewes.

Their son, Geoffrey Dalton Longhurst, was born in the June quarter of 1909 in London.

Frederic, Cornelia and Geoffrey were recorded in the 1911 census at 4 Hobart Place, London SW1. 

Geoffrey married Patience Mary Gaubert in Calcutta, India, on 30 June 1947. At the time of the marriage, Frederic and Cornelia were living at Shalford, Surrey.

Dalton Geoffrey 1947 marriage snip

Frederick died on 19 April 1955 at their home in Fowey, Cornwall. His obituary appeared in the British Medical Journal on 14 May 1955.

obituary 2

Cornelia died in the June quarter of 1958 at Eastbourne, Sussex.


1881 Census, RG11/1855; Folio 84; Page 6, William E Dalton & family

1891 Census, RG12/798; Folio 36; Page 32, Cornelia C Dalton

1901 Census, RG13/90; Folio 165; Page 24, Cornelia Chisholm Neale Dalton

1911 Census, RG14PN436, Frederic William Longhurst & family

Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976, Geoffrey Dalton Longhurst, 1947 marriage,

British Medical Journal, 14 May 1955, page 1225, Frederic William Longhurst obituary,

GRO Births, 1876 Q1, Winslow 3a 601, Cornelia Chisholm Dalton

GRO Marriages, 1907 Q3, Lewes 2b 395, Cornelia Chisholm Dalton, Frederic William Longhurst

GRO Deaths, 1955 Q2, St Austell 7a 165, Frederic W Longhurst

GRO Deaths, 1958 Q2, Eastbourne 5h 260, Cornelia C Longhurst

Kelly's Directory of Sussex, 1899,

Barker, G. F. Russell, comp. The Record of Old Westminsters, 1927, Chiswick Press, London, 1928, volume 2, page 590, Frederick William Longhurst,

Wikipedia, John Neale Dalton,

Wikipedia, Hugh Dalton,

Wikipedia, Sir Llewellyn Chisholm Dalton,

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Scanning Saturday - My new Flip-Pal

Yesterday I received my new Flip-Pal scanner, thanks to the kindness of a friend in the United States. For those who haven't yet come across this gadget, it is a small, portable, battery operated scanner that can be used to scan a wide variety of objects.


Small photos and documents can be placed inside the scanner in the usual way. With the lid removed and the scanner "flipped", it can also scan photographs whilst still in their albums, pictures in their frames, fabrics, wallpaper and three dimensional objects such as medals, coins and jewellery. There is even this You Tube video of someone scanning a bottle of water by rolling it under the Flip-Pal:

For any object larger than the Flip-Pal's 10.25″ x 6.5″ dimensions, the scanner comes with software which will stitch together a large image from a series of smaller, overlapping scans. This is ideal for scanning old maps or deeds which are larger than the traditional flat bed scanner.

I have been experimenting with the scanner for the past 24 hours and thought I would share some of the results with you.

This is a tiny photograph, measuring 2¼ by 3¼ inches, given to me by my mother. On the back she noted that they were on holiday in her father's taxi, in the late 1920s:


The scan quality was so good that I was able to enlarge  a section of the picture to see the number plate of the taxi and the people inside - my grandfather behind the wheel, wearing a driving helmet, with my mother in a straw hat beside him and my grandmother in the back:

Taxi enlarged

I used a picture of my grandmother which is larger than the scanner to test the photo stitching software. I scanned it in six overlapping sections, which I cropped to eliminate all traces of the background on which the photo was lying:

stitch 1 stitch 2
stitch 6 stitch 5
stitch 4 stitch 3

I then used the stitching software which comes with the scanner to put the photograph back together. I think you'll agree that the result is amazing:

Stitchstitch 1-stitch 6

Finally, I used a free photo editing program, PhotoScape, to trim the jagged edges and auto level the colours. The resulting photograph looks as good as the day it was taken:

Dora 2

For my last experiment, I tested the Flip-Pal colour restoration software on the most faded picture in my album. This is an even smaller photograph - only 1¾ by 2¾ - and has lost so much colour that it is almost impossible to make out the subject with the naked eye. I was delighted that the initial scan enabled me to see quite a lot of the detail:

Original scan

Then I used the automatic colour restoration program which comes with the scanner. The result was so much clearer that I immediately recognised the location - St James' Park, London - from the government buildings behind the line of trees in the background:

Colour enhanced cropped

The last step was to apply auto level and noise reduction in PhotoScape:


I think the picture is of my grandmother with my mother on her knee and must have been taken in the spring of 1921. I shall ask my mother when she comes to lunch tomorrow!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Names


The names I am researching, as seen by Wordle

Strange sources and freakish footnotes

Family history information can be found in the oddest places. The strangest source I've used is The Book of Duck Decoys: Their Construction, Management and History, written by Sir Ralph William Frankland-Payne-Gallwey (you couldn't make that name up) and published in 18861.

According to Sir Ralph:

A Decoy is a cunning and clever combination of water, nets, and screens, by means of which wildfowl, such as Wigeon, Mallard, and Teal, are caught alive. A Decoyman is the man who works and manages the Decoy, and who by his art, as well as by his knowledge of the birds and their surroundings when in the waters of the Decoy, entraps them.


In 1831, my 3x great grandfather, James Munden (1790-1855), was employed as a decoyman on the Charborough Park estate at Morden, Dorset, owned by the Drax family. Sir Ralph's book contains a map of the decoy where James worked:

morden decoy

He also provides some useful information about the demise of the decoy:

Morden, 6 miles N. of Wareham, on the property of Miss Drax of Charborough Park. There used to be a Decoy here until 1856, when it ceased to be worked, and since then the shooting around it having been let, the place has been too much disturbed to admit of the Decoy being successfully carried on.

Today the old decoy pond is part of the Morden Bog National Nature Reserve. The curved arms of the pond can still clearly be seen in this beautiful photograph:


This is a landscape immortalised by Thomas Hardy as Egdon Heath in novels such as The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge. It must have looked much the same in James Munden's time as it does today, though the wild people of Hardy's novels have been replaced by the wild creatures living on this Site of Special Scientific Interest:

Near the pond there is a Grade II listed building, called the Decoy House. It is described in the listing as:

Detached cottage. Late C18-early C19. Brick walls, thatched roof with brick parapets to west gable, brick stacks. One storey and attics. Ground floor has central casement window with glazing bars - replacing original door, and 2 C20 metal windows. Attic has 2 dormers with casements with glazing bars. Cl9 single-storey wing on west, of brick with slate roof. 2 ledged doors, 2 casement windows with glazing bars and one C20 metal window. Internally, main ground floor room has large open fireplace with timber lintel. Possibly the Decoy Keeper's cottage.

If this was the decoyman's cottage, then James, his wife Elizabeth (nee Snelling) and nine children would have been living there in 1831.

And the freakish footnote? If I shared the genealogy world's obsession with "correct" citation, it might look something like this:

1. Frankland-Payne-Gallwey, Sir Ralph William, "The Book of Duck Decoys: Their Construction, Management and History," (Online: John Norris, 1999) [originally published as The Book of Duck Decoys: Their Construction, Management and History, London: J Van Voorst, 1886], page 73, <>, accessed 19 January 2011.

But I don't - and that's a subject for another post.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Amanuensis Monday - A letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

A letter which my 2x great grandfather, Rev Frederick Davis, wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Campbell Tait. It illustrates the many obstacles to becoming a clergyman in the mid 19th century, for someone without wealth or connections:

The Manor House

30 August 1875

My Lord Archbishop,

Two years since, I took the duty of ministering in the fields to the hop pickers at Ospringe, at the instance of Canon Griffin. On that occasion Mr G promised that he would always in future look to me first for such assistance, I having given him & his parishioners complete satisfaction. I was, then, surprized the other day to see him advertizing for such help, & wrote to him. His reply was the enclosed1.


Now my Lord, for 12 years I have ministered in your diocese, with acceptance to clergy & people alike, in several cases with your Grace's written permission, & never have I given offence but once – to the Churchwarden2 at Offham, where I officiated for 4 months – by simply determining to do my duty & obey the law. At the death of the late Rector he desired me to make changes. This I positively refused to do, saying that, as a mere locum tenens, I had neither right nor authority to do so. He then quarrelled with me, and wrote me several ungentlemanly letters.


When in charge of Thurnham last year, I wrote to your Grace, asking you to renew your permission to me to officiate in your diocese, as your former permission had lapsed. Your reply was that I must first produce certain papers, which I could not clearly understand. The ordinary papers for the past three years I could certainly procure when necessary. But it seems to me that your lordship required papers from the diocese in which I was ordained, & from the Bishop thereof.


As I had then only one or two Sundays more employment in your diocese, & I knew not when I should be called upon to officiate therin again – for it has only been at long & distant intervals I have been so – I determined not to trouble your Grace, nor my friends, for papers till occasion should arise requiring them. Had then Canon Griffin sought my services I should certainly have at once complied with your Grace's requirements with great cheerfulness.

I now write to say that I can certainly procure the ordinary papers required by law, which I respectfully imagine are all your Grace can require. But papers from the diocese where I was ordained I cannot obtain for very satisfactory reasons, though I can send you a letter from the Bishop who ordained me, who though being dead yet speaketh. I send you herewith printed papers, the originals of which I can furnish if necessary, which will show you my history, & prove the truth of my allegations.

After serving to the best of my powers the Church, both in my own person & in those of my whole family, for many years, I was strongly recommended for ordination to the late Bishop of Exeter, who ordained & licensed me to the Curacy of S. John's Torquay. At this place I was living, keeping a school. I was a widower with eight children – but doing well with the school. I was to receive no stipend for my curacy – but the Incumbent sent me some half dozen scholars before my ordination on the ground that I trained them as choristers taking them to Church on all occasions.


After my ordination he refused to pay me as before for the scholars holding that I was now as Curate bound to teach & train them. Added to this he was appointed Chaplain to the Cemetery and then insisted upon me taking nearly all the funerals. At Torquay, my Lord, these are, as probably you know, very numerous3 & I can say truly, that nearly every day of my life, Sundays not excepted, I had to walk three miles to the place, & three miles back so that in addition to taking the service, & often waiting, the half of every day was occupied. This naturally told upon my school which descended below paying point.

Having proceeded more than 12 months, & fearing that by getting into pecuniary difficulties I should bring disgrace upon the Church & myself, I petitioned the Bishop, who went thoroughly into the matter, to allow me to leave the diocese to come here, where there was an opening for a school & a prospect of success. With some hesitation, because he desired to make my Incumbent comply with his wishes, he released me giving me the enclosed letter. I was told by the Bishop's chaplain that that letter would satisfy any bishop, which it certainly did Bishop Wigram, when twelve years ago I showed it to him.

Now, my Lord, that Vicar of mine was obliged soon after my leaving him to resign the living, & is now non-est; the senior Curate seceded to Rome, & is now a Romish Priest in that neighbourhood, one Churchwarden is dead, & the other removed to where I cannot find him. Your Grace will now see that I can do no more than send you the letter of the late illustrious bishop.

Why I did not proceed to priest's orders is easily explained. When I came here I had no dependence but a small uncertain school to depend upon for the maintenance of myself & eight children. I was obliged to ? myself heartily with work interests to keep so many persons. Bishop Wigram offered to ordain me priest, if I could get the necessary title4. The title I was offered by several - but they could offer no stipend &, moreover, I must reside. Under the circumstances neither would suit, so I went on from that time to the present attending to my work here, & employing my Sundays as you will find from my printed papers.

The school was given up by me after several years in favour of keeping a Temperance Establishment2, which I was asked to undertake as being a man likely to carry it on successfully. This has gone well and I have now six inebriates of noble families & lineage. Hence – my Lord – being now 60 years of age5, with a great & responsible work upon my shoulders, I have not time to prepare for priest's orders & don't intend to seek them.

But being strong & able, I desire to serve the Church as I have always done, on Sundays, & with such views I seek canonical authority. I remain idle, & to cease officiating somewhere, or somehow, is utterly impossible; therefore, since I am entirely independent of the income I receive from the Church, which has never been more than an average of £50 in my life, I do hope & trust that your Grace will not force me to consider my position & duty in regard to doing God's work by refusing me the lawful & proper authority. I have never done anything to forfeit it, & I always conform to what is the rule of the Church to which I am called.

I would mention that I have two sons clergymen, another to be ordained in September, another at College with a view to orders; a son in law who was an officer in the army, now about to be ordained, that my daughters have been trained to be deaconesses, & that my wife, as the Bishop of Oxford6 will tell you, died in doing the Church's work.

With the above before me I must, with all humility, maintain that I have a right to work, with authority, in & for the Church I have so long laboured – & it will be a source of great thankfulness & pleasure to me to receive your Grace's license. If refused, the greatest stumbling block & discouragement of my life will be placed in my way, & I cannot yet see the result.

I write thus strongly because I am hurt by the writing of your Lordship's secretary to Canon Griffin.

I remain, my Lord, your faithful servant,

Frederick Davis


Lambeth Palace Archives, Tait 207, Folio 206.


1. Now lost.

2. See previous post.

3. Torquay was evidently then, as now, popular with elderly retired people.

4. Appointment to an ecclesiastical living or benefice.

5. He was actually 54!

6. Frederick and his wife, Charlotte, had run the church school in the parish of Tardebigge, Worcestershire during the 1850s, whilst John Mackarness was vicar there.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Googling for Grandma - Old News is Good News

Newspapers are my favourite sources. They put flesh on the bones of our ancestors, turning dry and dusty genealogy into living, breathing family history. They cover all aspects of society and all areas of the globe and you are as likely to find a dustman as a duke in their pages.

Newspapers find their stories wherever there is human interest. With far less access to information than today, newspapers in the past frequently copied material from each other, and this practice crossed international boundaries. So although my family history is focused on the British Isles, I have found gems of information in papers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. In the case of newspapers, it really does pay to "search outside the box" - and this is where Google comes in.

In 2008 Google launched an initiative to digitise historic news archives and make them searchable and accessible online. Content is drawn from global media such as the BBC, Guardian, Time Magazine and the New York Times but also from hundreds of small local publications. The period covered by each news archive varies - some only cover recent years, whilst the New York Times goes all the way back to 1851 - but all this information can be accessed in one place using Google News Archive Search.

Headline 2

I have had particularly good results when searching for my policeman great grandfather, John McCarthy. His promotion to be head of the CID got a good deal of coverage. My favourite is this article from a Newfoundland newspaper, the Harbor Grace Standard, dated 21 August 1912. The details are delightful:

Nobody who has met John McCarthy grudges him his promotion. He is a man without enemies, unless they be some of those desperate international criminals whom he has tracked down and arrested ... this jolly looking man with something of the farmer squire about his appearance ... Tall and broad shouldered he is built on a generous frame above the average in physique. He has the twinkling blue eyes of the Irishman ... Latterly he was busy with the suffragette agitations, and such was his charm of manner and courtesy that the women agreed that it was a pleasure to be arrested by Mr McCarthy.

But I learned from another newspaper that John had been tempted to jump ship at an earlier stage in his career. The St John Sun of New Brunswick reported on 1 April 1907:


During a visit to England, King Alfonso XIII was apparently so impressed by Scotland Yard detectives that he decided to revolutionise Spanish police methods. John McCarthy was offered the job of heading the new CID in Madrid, on a salary of $5,000 a year plus expenses. According to the newspaper, he was reluctantly obliged to decline the offer because he had been specially chosen to protect King Edward VII.

Of course, these articles concern a man in a prominent position in public life but I have had equal success finding information about more obscure family members. My great grandfather's brother, Clement Lawrence Scott Davis, disappears from the English records after the 1871 census. A handwritten family tree records that he ended up in the Nokomai region of New Zealand, prospecting for gold. The Google News Archive includes material from Papers Past in New Zealand and a search on Davis and Nokomai turned up an article he had written for the Otago Witness in 1886, describing a prospecting expedition:


Shortly after writing this, Clement disappeared on another prospecting trip in the mountains. A young man in his 30s, he left no family, no photographs and few details of his life have come down to us. This lengthy newspaper article is the only link we have to the man and his personality.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Follow Friday: Audrey and Annie

My favourite reading over the past week has been "The Family Recorder", written by Audrey Collins of The National Archives (TNA):

  • Saturday: a post about old houses in Fetter Lane. Fascinating for me because my 2x great grandfather, Julius William Fritz, lived in Fetter Lane from 1865 to 1887.
  • Sunday: an excellent piece examining the new Family Search website from the point of view of British researchers.
  • Monday: a beautifully drawn map of an enumerator's route, found amongst  the 1861 census returns for Marylebone - to which a 20th century hand has added a stick figure saying "oh!" Since the stick figure is on the site of Lord's cricket ground, he really should be saying "howzat!".
  • Tuesday: an introduction to, which generates amazing pictures from the most frequently used words in your blog.

Two weeks ago, Annie Barnes of left a comment on my post about Rev Frederick Davis. Last night I finally found time to check out her website - and what a treat it is. It has to be one of the best designed family history sites I've seen. I was so impressed that I searched the site to see what software she used - and so came across her Follow Friday post last week about GED-GEN.

GED-GEN is a program which creates family group sheets for your website from a GEDCOM file and is sophisticated enough to offer all sorts of customisations. I was so taken with Annie's site that I downloaded the free trial and, after a couple of hours playing with it, I bought the registered version. At only $20 I thought it a bargain. When registering my purchase I mentioned some trouble I was having with the non-standard GEDCOM file produced by Family Tree Maker 2011 and received an instant, helpful response from Mike Voisin of GED-GEN. I sent him my GEDCOM and he again responded very quickly and positively today. I am seriously impressed with both the program and the customer service. Thank you so much for the introduction, Annie.

Monday, 10 January 2011

10 things my ancestors did to annoy me

The Society of Genealogists sells a booklet called "My Ancestor was a Bastard". I have to admit that is often the way I feel about my own kin.

Here are 10 things they did to annoy me:
  1. They settled where three counties meet. That way they could get married in one county, baptise their children in a second and be buried in a third, all without travelling more than a few miles from home. But I have to travel to three different record offices, miles apart, to have any hope of tracing their complicated genealogy.
  2. Namesake cousins married namesake girls. I am either descended from John Coles and Mary Holloway, who married at Damerham, Wiltshire on 23 October 1737, or from John Coles and Mary Holloway, who married at Damerham, Wiltshire on 16 December 1738. I bet they are all having a good laugh about that one at the great family reunion in the sky.
  3. They were not wise children and did not know their own fathers. Mary Ann Baldwin gave her maiden name as Blakey but her father's name as William Clayton. It took years to find the marriage of Susannah Blakey and William Clayton which proved he was her step-father. William Prebble Barnes invented a bank manager called George Barnes as his father. It took decades to find his illegitimate birth to Elizabeth Prebble.
  4. They moved around. Joseph Bentley served as a Methodist minister in 17 different places. Frederick Davis lived in nine different counties and three different countries.
  5. They baptised their children in batches, in a place remote from where they were born. Susannah Baldwin was born in Portsmouth and baptised four years later in Gravesend. Thomas Heale baptised his first four children as babies but made the last two wait over twenty years until he had died.
  6. They left the country at census time. Thomas Bluett went all the way to New Zealand to avoid an entry in the 1841 census which would have told me whether or not he was born in Ireland.
  7. They lied about their ages. Frederick Rayman claimed to be 23 when, aged just 15, he married his pregnant 21 year old bride. Catherine McCarthy stayed 40 for two successive censuses. Alice Wiles was 55 in one census and 72 in the next.
  8. They kept just off the page of any printed pedigree. The Red Book of Perthshire contains detailed family trees for the Haldanes, Haliburtons, Reids and Stewarts which stop just short of connecting with my own proven research. Douglas' Baronage of Scotland mentions two of the children of John Smith of Glasswall, but not the daughter through whom I am descended.
  9. They disappeared. John Winn sailed to North America, where he vanished. Clement Davis went out prospecting in the Nevis mountains of New Zealand and never came back.
  10. They spent all the money. When William Winn died in 1891 he left £82,446 12s 9d, the equivalent of £5.5 million today. His son, William, inherited one quarter. By the time he died in 1906 it was all gone. In the space of 15 years he had squandered the equivalent of over one million pounds on yachts and gold plated taps.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Googling for Grandma

Googling for Grandma was the title of a lecture by the incomparable Cyndi Howells which I attended on the 2007 Wholly Genes Genealogy Conference and Cruise. Cyndi's excellent lecture equipped me with many new and exciting Google tools for extending my family research into the nooks and crannies of the internet.

Googling for Grandma

In time, I became proficient enough to give my own talk on the subject to our local U3A Family History Group. I hope Cyndi will forgive me for stealing her catchy title. At the end of my talk I invited members of the audience to give me family history subjects, about which they would like to find more information, for me to Google then and there.

The first request was from a lady who had recently discovered that her ancestor, William Cooksley, ran a factory in Bristol. Would there be anything about him or his factory online? A Google search on <+Cooksley +factory +Bristol> immediately threw up a hit which stunned us all. William Cooksley's modest Bristol nail making business was mentioned in the pages of Karl Marx's "Das Kapital":

Kapital 2

In my experience, this kind of spectacular result is far from unique. I have already blogged about my black sheep ancestor Rev Frederick Davis and his unlicensed lunatic asylum. I first became aware of this story because of Google Books. A search on <"Manor House" +Northfleet +Davis> led me to an article from the German psychiatry magazine Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie und psychisch-gerichtliche Medizin, Volume 35, 1879. (Google Translate tells me that this is the General journal of psychiatry and psycho-forensic medicine.)

German magazine

Only a "snippet view" of the article was shown but it was enough to inform me that Frederick had appeared before the magistrates at Rochester, Kent on Friday 29 June to face a charge by the Lunacy Commissioners under the Lunacy Act. From this, I was able to do further research.

Last Wednesday marked a further stage in my Google education, as I attended a webinar by the equally awesome Thomas MacEntee on Google for Genealogists. It is Thomas' fault that I have not blogged since then - I have been too busy trying out all the new Google toys he gave me to play with. But chatting with Cyndi and Thomas after the webinar gave me the idea for a series of blog posts about how Google has helped my genealogy research, of which this is the first. I hope that, as the series goes on, you will learn some new tips and tricks and make some new research discoveries of your own. Please let me know if you do.