Monday, 12 September 2011

UK Genealogy News & Views: 12 September 2011

Essex Ancestors Update

The planned launch of Essex Ancestors on 30 August has been put back to 3 October. This means that you have an extra month to view the digital images currently online for free, as explained in my previous post. Don't miss this opportunity whilst it is available.

Genhound - a little known resource

I read a lot of genealogy blogs and follow many genealogists on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. Some sites get mentioned repeatedly but I rarely see any reference to Genhound. That is a pity as it is full of useful content which is growing fast. Records include parish registers, monumental inscriptions, newspapers, obituaries, wills, military records, court records, land records, biographies and much more besides. You can see a complete list of databases here. At the moment there is a little bit of everything, so it's a real lucky dip. As someone who's stuck in late 17th century Scotland, I am particularly keen on the Scottish Deeds Index, which now covers the period 1675-1696. But I've also found relatives in poll books, directories and school records. Genhound is extremely reasonably priced. You can buy 60 Credits for £3 and they have no expiry date. The average record costs just 10 credits (50p) to view. Do give their search engine a try today and let me know how you get on.

New Crew List Records on Find My Past

Find My Past have recently added records from 1881 and 1891 to their database of Crew Lists, 1861-1913. This database is potentially very valuable. It contains indexes to around 33,500 lists of crew members on board British merchant vessels and around 413,500 records of individual crewmen. Information available in the index includes name, age, place of birth, rank, previous ship, current ship, dates of voyage, details of the vessel, details of the owner, master and other crew members and the reference number for the original crew list at the National Archives.

Unfortunately, the usefulness of the index is seriously undermined by the limitations of the search function and the poor quality of the indexing. It is not possible to search by the birth town, only by the birth county (usually not in the original but added by the indexers). You must select from a list of counties which covers England, Wales, two counties in Ireland - Cork and Dublin, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Overseas. The database contains a large number of crew members who were born in one of the other Irish counties, or in Scotland, but it is impossible to search for them by birth county.

Birth towns have also been incorrectly allocated to counties. Whilst ploughing through 28 pages of Andersons to find my Scottish relatives, I came across Falmouth indexed in Cork instead of Cornwall, Ferryden in Overseas instead of Angus and Arundel in Norway! There are five whole pages out of the 28 where the places have not been allocated a county at all. Many of these birth places are blank, abbreviated or obscure, but others are instantly recognisable, such as Morpeth, Tipton, Halifax, Glamis, Kirkcaldy and Pontypridd.

Unlike most of the other Find My Past databases, there is no facility to submit corrections to these indexes.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Merchant Navy records: Wreck, Rescue & Racism

My son in law's great grandfather, Leonard Harold Glenister, 1904-1995, was a merchant seaman. So when Find My Past released their new collection of Merchant Navy records last week I looked him up.

The records are index cards created by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen for all those serving on British merchant navy vessels from 1918 to 1941. The front of each card contains biographical information plus a description and, if you are lucky, there is a photograph on the back, together with details of ships on which the person served.

I duly found a card for him, covering the period 1918 to 1921. He joined the merchant service as a "Deck Boy" in 1918, aged 14.  He was only 4 foot 7 inches in height, with light brown hair and grey eyes. He looked very solemn and worried in his photograph.

Glenister Leonard Harold 1918

Find My Past have included a helpful link to the Crew List Index Project, to identify the names of ships from the official numbers used on the index cards. From CLIP I learned that Leonard's first ship, which he joined on 23 January 1919, was the SS Zealandic. Constructed by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, she was launched in 1911 and owned by the White Star Line, of Titanic fame. Her home port was Liverpool. In 1917 she was commandeered by the Royal Navy for the transportation of troops and was still being used for that purpose when Leonard joined her, sailing between Liverpool and Wellington in New Zealand. Troops returning home were carried in one direction and meat from New Zealand in the other.

SS Zealandic

On 13 January 1920, Leonard moved to his second ship, SS Athenic, also owned by the White Star Line. She was a passenger liner, built in Belfast by Harland and Wolff and launched in 1901. She carried 121 passengers in first class, 117 second class and 450 third class. The ship was equipped with electric lighting and cooling chambers for the transport of frozen lamb. Like the Zealandic, she sailed on the New Zealand route.

SS Athenic

Leonard Glenister's voyage on the Athenic turned out to be rather eventful. I have pieced together the following account of what happened from  newspaper reports in the United States and New Zealand.

On her outward journey from London to Wellington, via the Panama Canal, the Athenic was carrying 500 homebound New Zealand soldiers. On 2 February they were docked in Newport News, Virginia, where an influenza epidemic was raging. The soldiers were forbidden to go ashore but 50 of them defied the order. Their commanding officer promptly reported them to the local police and they were arrested as deserters. According to the newspaper report, "They resented the charge of being deserters, but were herded back to their ship without difficulty after a brief stay in the police station". Athenic was due to sail the following day but was kept in port for a further three days by a fierce storm which brought 50 mph winds and huge waves.

Björn Larsson's Maritime Timetable Images

The return journey was even more dramatic. On Sunday 2 May 1920, an American steamer, the SS Munamar, on a voyage from Antilla, Cuba to New York, ran aground on a reef off San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. The ship was in a very dangerous position and taking on water fast, so the passengers were all put into the lifeboats. Athenic was in the vicinity and received Munamar's SOS call about 9pm. The first Athenic's passengers knew of the incident was when her engines suddenly stopped. It was too dark to effect a rescue but fortunately it was a calm night, so the Munamar's passengers sat in their lifeboats, whilst the Athenic circled, waiting for dawn. At daybreak on 3 May the 83 passengers from the Munamar were rescued, and their baggage and the mails salvaged from the stranded ship. The whole operation took about two hours.

Björn Larsson's Maritime Timetable Images

Athenic had a full passenger list and no empty berths, so the Captain ordered beds to be made up in the public rooms for the new arrivals. Unfortunately, this led to an ugly display of racism. 30 of the rescued passengers were black and the other Munamar passengers objected strongly to sharing accommodation with them. They "made a great many complaints" but the Captain of the Athenic stood firm. No doubt all concerned were very relieved when the Athenic landed the Munamar's passengers at Newport News, three days later. From there they made their way to New York by train.

The Munamar was eventually floated off the reef, after 2,000 bags of sugar from her cargo were thrown overboard, and taken to a dry dock in Jacksonville, Florida, for repairs. She then returned to service between Cuba and New York. Some time later, Captain Crossland of the Athenic was given a gold watch by President Warren Harding, in recognition of his ship's rescue efforts.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

SNGF - Ahnentafel Roulette

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver is:

  1. How old would your great-grandfather be now, if he had lived? Divide this number by four and round off to a whole number. This is your "roulette number."
  2. Use your pedigree charts to find the person with that number in your ahnentafel. Who is that person?
  3. Tell us three facts about the person with that "roulette number."

My great-grandfather, Rev Alban Edgar Brunskill Davis, was born in 1852. Had he lived, he would be 159 years old. Dividing this number by four gives me a "roulette number" of 40.

Number 40 in my ahnentafel is my 3x great grandfather, William Eaton, 1777-1857.

My three facts about William are:

  1. He was a carpenter in the small village of Dean in Bedfordshire and also had a side line selling beer. He was the fifth in an unbroken line of seven generations of Eatons who were carpenters in Dean, spanning the period 1679 to 1898.
  2. He married three times.
    • His first wife was Elizabeth Hardwick, 1779-1814. Elizabeth was from Great Staughton in Huntingdonshire, where they married in 1801. William was two years older than Elizabeth.
    • His second wife was Martha Windsor, 1796-1820. They married in Dean in 1815. William was 19 years older than Martha.
    • His third wife was my 3x great grandmother, Elizabeth Panther, 1802-1868. William was 25 years older than Elizabeth.
  3. As a result of these three marriages, William had 17 children over a period of 39 years, from 1803 to 1842. His last child was born when he was 65:
    • With Elizabeth Hardwick he had eight children:
      • Sarah Eaton, 1803-1803
      • William Eaton, 1804-1824
      • Thomas Eaton, 1805
      • Samuel Eaton, 1806
      • Mary Eaton, 1808
      • Hannah Eaton, 1809
      • John Eaton, 1811
      • Joseph Eaton, 1813-1814
    • With Martha Windsor he had only one child:
      • Elizabeth Eaton, 1816
    • With Elizabeth Panther he had eight children:
      • Robert Eaton, 1822-1898
      • Sarah Eaton, 1823-1832
      • Ann Burgess Eaton, 1825
      • Emma Eaton, 1828
      • William Eaton, 1829
      • Mary Eaton, 1832
      • Sally Burgess Eaton, 1839
      • Samuel Panther Eaton, 1842