Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sentimental Sunday: My Dad Hated Father's Day

Well, at least that's what he said.  Said it was just an excuse for the card-making companies to make more money out of us.  So, the following year I didn't get him a card.  Boy! I never heard the end of it! *grin*  He complained bitterly that I didn't care enough to get him a card. You can be sure I got him a card every year after that.

So, I didn't put up a Father's Day post last week especially to honour his memory.  I'm going to do it this week instead (and with a slightly naughty sense of humour, since he has passed away and can't do anything about it! LOL).

My Dad, Edmund Samuel Murch Haywood, was born just before World War Two in a little Cornish town, where everyone knew everyone else (and was probably related to them as well).  He used to tell of how the village policeman met him coming round a corner, instantly knew who he was, and hauled him off (by the ear) to his mother.  Dad hadn't done anything wrong - it was just in case he was about to be up to no good.  My father was 10.

He trained as a baker and confectioner, then joined the Royal Air Force and became a dog-handler.  When he was discharged, he set up his own security company in London, using ex-police dogs.  He then spent some time in Italy, and finally stayed put in one place in a small Somerset town.  I was always amazed at the way he was never violent towards troublemakers - all he had to do was glare at them and they backed down; even chaps who were bigger, younger, and had more muscles than Dad.  When he took in a 'rescue dog', later in life, she growled at him - so he growled back.  She was so stunned, she adored him for ever more!

My most enduring memory of him is at my grandmother's surprise birthday party.  It was more of a family reunion, actually.  Dad was one of the last to come in the room, and everybody naturally turned to see who was so late.  And everybody smiled.  Everybody!  I thought, "I want to grow up to be like that; when I come into a room, everybody smiles happily".

Thanks, Dad, for making me - and everyone else - smile.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Surname Saturday: Edgcombe

Many, if not most families have a legend that stretches far back linking today's descendants to a noble (or royal) ancestor.  When I began researching my family history, it was the Edgcombe family that was my 'noble' link.  Stories abounded about lords and owners of the Eddystone Lighthouse and surrounding land.

I couldn't find a single link to these mysterious lords, and when I contacted the Edgcombe Family History Society, they had never heard of my branch of Edgcombes either!  I have the sneaking suspicion that I am the product of...well...I'm really not sure.  All I know is that Jephtha Edgcombe, born about 1647 in Ringmore, worked the land at Ringmore and Kingston near Ivybridge, and his sons, and his sons' sons, until my great grandfather became a coastguard (like the family he married into).  Most of great-grandfather John Samuel's children were born in Ireland while he was stationed there - and several of them emigrated to Australia later in life.

Now there are hundreds of Edgcombes in Australia - so our family is truly worldwide.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Follow Friday: Plymouth Data

This, site - Plymouth Data - presented by Brian Moseley in partnership with the Plymouth Local Studies Library, and the cooperation on the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, is one of those gems you occasionally find when trawling the Net for your ancestors.  It calls itself the Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History, and it is just that: it has 1,874 pages on subjects as diverse as wharves and piers, convents and workhouses, lord mayors and mechanics.

The information ranges in date from Saxon Plymouth, through the Domesday Book, via the Siege in 1643, World War II and on to today.

U.S. cousins might also be interested in the pages on the Pilgrim Fathers and American Prisoners of War in Plymouth.

If you are trying to build a history around your ancestor-spotting, and some or all of your ancestors came from Plymouth, this site is definitely worth a look and even a bookmark.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sentimental Sunday: My Grandfather's Sacrifice

My maternal grandfather, William Hubert Ball, was the kind of man who rarely spoke.  He seemed content with his beer and his baccy, and the budgie did most of the talking.  Granddad's main treat of the week was one packet of thumbnail-sized salt biscuits or crackers in the shape of the suits in a pack of playing cards: hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.

When I was small, I caught the mumps.  Or was it the measles?  I was so little, all I knew was that it hurt a LOT, and seemed to last forever.  We were staying with my grandparents at the time, and my mother was despairing of being able to get me to eat anything - until Granddad intervened.  One day he gave me one or two of his precious crackers, and found that I would eat them where I would eat nothing else.  He went without his weekly treat, and spend quite a lot of his old-age pension money on buying more and more packets for me.  This World War One veteran, who was brave in combat and sturdy and strong during his working life, was gentle and compassionate enough to sacrifice his own enjoyment for the sake of a tiny granddaughter's needs.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Surname Saturday: Blagdon

Most of the Blagdon men worked in and around the dockyards of Plymouth, Devon, UK.  Another mystery to be solved: the Blagdon surname originates from Northumberland and Somerset, and stretches as far back as the 14th century as a surname.  Since 'my' Blagdons were working in Plymouth dockyard, it may well be that they had something to do with the ship design and repair that the Dock was famous for.  (Further back in the Haywood past - the family they married into - many of the men were shipwrights).

As far as the Docks themselves are concerned, much information is available on the Plymouth Data website (more will be revealed during my post on this Follow Friday!).  The first stone dock was completed in 1698 at a cost of approximately £70,000 (approx 5 and a half MILLION pounds today).  It covered 24 acres.
(financial data from The National Archives converter)

I am sure some of my Blagdon ancestors worked there from 1698, but the first I have found is John Blagdon, born about 1797.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Follow Friday: South Hams Resources

This is indeed a wonderful site for those with ancestors in the southern part of Devon: the South Hams Resources.  Ray Osborn of New Zealand has set up a website, and from its description, it is a "...collection of indexes and 1841 census transcripts, plus a free lookup service in other census and church registers of all the parishes in the ANCIENT South Hams area of the County of Devonshire."

Ray defines the area as bounded by Dartmoor, the sea, and the Rivers Erme and Dart.  And he includes a map.

These indexes, transcripts and lookups are all FREE *one of my favourite words*.  They currently cover over 50 parishes, and are a tremendous resource, especially if you have no access to one of the paid-for sites.  The site also includes images, links to other relevant sites (such as museums and local heritage centres), directories, and information about parishes that includes names and websites of Online Parish Clerks (which I wrote about last Follow Friday).

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Jane Ball Damerell

Jane Ball Damerell
6 Oct 1831 - 30 Aug 1880
Charleton, Devon, England
(my great great grandmother)

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Jacob and Jane Ball

Jacob Ball - 1796 - 1856, South Pool, Devon, England
Jane Distin, his wife, 1801 South Tawton - still looking for death date
(my great great great grandparents)

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Her Corset Hurt

Minda Mary Edgcombe c1910
(aged approximately 16)
This is one of my favourite photos - because at last I discovered where my face came from! (before this, I wondered who I looked like; it certainly wasn't my parents - then I found this photo of my mother's mother).  Apparently, she looks so miserable in the photo because she had to wear a corset, and it hurt!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Surname Saturday: Ball

Most of my BALL family worked on the land in South Devon, England.  From time to time, there were those rebels who were mariners or blacksmiths (!), but for the most part, my BALL ancestors were described on censuses etc as 'ag lab' - agricultural labourer.  Most people (including me), would groan inside at finding another 'ag lab' - in fact, the name is synonymous with 'my people weren't very interesting'.  But as I continued to research these ag labs, I began to realise just how important they were.

Others may have their celebrity ancestors, their kings and queens, lords and ladies - and that's fine, too.  But where would those kings have been if there hadn't been someone to work the land and put food on the table?  This was especially important some hundreds of years ago, when the southwest of Britain (especially) was an agricultural society.  Pre-Industrial Revolution, and you were looked up to if you were a farmer.

So, when I find another 'ag lab' in my family tree, I won't groan with disappointment that they weren't nobility.  As far as I am concerned - they are on the A-list! the Agricultural List!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Follow Friday: GenUKI and the Online Parish Clerk (OPC) Scheme

This site is of massive interest to anybody with UK family history.  It describes itself as a "virtual reference library...In the main, the information that is provided in GENUKI relates to primary historical material, rather than material resulting from genealogists' ongoing research, such as GEDCOM files."

It is very different from surname lists etc, where people connect to discover mutual ancestors.  If you ever wanted to know all about a particular parish that your ancestors came from, this is the place for you!  It also contains links to sites that hold information on maps, gazetteers, court records, folklore, almanacs and more.  You will be surprised at the HUGE amount of information (or links to information) that this site contains.

But possibly the most important page of all is the Online Parish Clerks page for your chosen county.  Several counties are participating, and various parishes within them have Online Parish Clerks: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Kent, Somerset, Sussex, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.  (An Online Parish Clerk is not to be confused with the official Parish Council-appointed clerks).  An Online Parish Clerk is a volunteer who gathers all the genealogical data they can about their chosen parish, such as Church register transcripts, land tax assessments, census information and more.  So, if you are looking for an ancestor who (you think) was baptised in 1703 in a certain parish but you can't afford to go there, look at GenUKI to see if there is an Online Parish Clerk for that particular parish, and if they have the transcripts!  Write to them and ask nicely (and always remember to say thank you!) and you might have the information you require.  I have had a LOT of success with requests to OPCs; once, the OPC I contacted did not have the information I was seeking, so she nudged the OPC of the parish next to hers - and lo and behold, there was the information!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Monday, 7 June 2010

Madness Monday: Keeping it in the family

Last week I wrote of my great great grandmother, Emma Elizabeth Dunstone Avery, who was confined in Bodmin Lunatic Asylum for thinking that everyone was against her (and her room was 'all in disorder'!).

This week deals with her husband, my great great grandfather, John Dunstone Avery.  He was present at home at the 1891 census, and she was not; then she was home in the 1901 census, and he was not.  I tracked him down to the same Lunatic Asylum (and his patient record even remarks that Emma had already been there!).  He was admitted in 1900 after a head injury, and remained there until his death in 1903 from nephritis, a disease of the kidneys.  It may be that this was caused or exacerbated by the fact that he maintained that his family were trying to poison him. 

Previous censuses have described him as a rigger on Royal Naval ships.  Maybe this was where he got his head injury - from a dangerous job?  Riggers used to move very heavy loads, but the occupation was so highly-specialised that, even today, it is one of the very few that still can only be learned by apprenticeship.  if this *was* how he got his head injury, he must have suffered for several years, because he was 66 by the time he was committed to the Asylum (by his son-in-law).

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Scrounging Bag

One of my favourite stories that my mother used to tell to me was one about my paternal grandmother, Elsie Beatrice Blagdon. 

We were quite poor when I was small, and I can dimly remember visiting my grandmother's house with its outside toilet (she wasn't exactly rich, either).  Later, my mother recounted to me one of our first visits there without my father.

Grandmother asked where mother's "scrounging bag" was, to which my mother, puzzled, asked "what is it?".

"Ye never come here without yer scrounging bag, my love," answered Grandmother, and proceeded to open all her kitchen cupboards and pull out whatever she could find - a cabbage here, a packet of biscuits there, a box of cereal and so on.  She piled them all up on the kitchen table and tucked them into a large empty shopping bag.  Yes, it was charity (and my mother was a very proud woman), but by calling it a "scrounging bag", it got around the pride and made it seem as though my mother was looking out for herself, rather than having handouts given to her.

We have continued the tradition, which is now layered over with a laugh, and when I was away at school, was called a "care package" - a box of totally unrelated goodies that my mother would put together for me to take back with me after I visited.  She never forgot Grandmother's kindness to a young daughter-in-law who was too proud to ask for help.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Surname Saturday: Haywood

I am so excited!  This new blog (the first blog I have ever tried to write) has been announced by GeneaBloggers in its listing of new genealogy blogs.

That said, let me turn my attention to Surname Saturday.  I am starting with my own surname - HAYWOOD - "a very good place to start", as someone once sang (!).  The surname probably arose from a location, and seems to derive from  'an enclosed forest' or 'fenced wood' in Old English, although you will also find that some derive it from the Scottish Clan of HAY and the Viking god of war (Wodin)...

Some have also linked it with the Midlands of England, and certainly my researches have led me either there or nearby.  You see, my HAYWOODs were all potters and brickmakers, and seemed to suddenly appear from nowhere in Devon.  Then, some years ago, I was contacted by someone in Burslem, in Staffordshire, which is one of the pottery towns that now make up Stoke-on-Trent.  Nearby is where Wedgwood designed his famous pottery - and there is a family of HAYWOODs there.  One of their sons, John, was the black sheep of the family, and was thrown out, never to be heard from again - and suddenly, my John appears in Devon as a potter!  I have not yet been able to link him with Burslem, but it is an avenue I will not forget in a hurry.

Down through the years, all the HAYWOOD men (and sometimes the ladies, too) had something to do with the pottery and brick trade.  Brickmakers, tile makers, earthenware painters - they began working in the pottery area of Bovey Tracey in Devon, then rose to manage the brickworks at South Down in Cornwall.  My grandfather was one of the first to break away from this traditional job, becoming a shipwright like the family he married into, who all had something to do with the sea - my father broke away from both those trades, becoming first a baker and then joined the Royal Air Force.  Nowadays, the bottle kilns and surrounding buildings at Bovey Tracey have been redeveloped into the House of Marbles: a museum, glass blowing centre, the home of the largest collection of marbles in the world, and gift shop.  I wonder what great great great great grandfather John would have thought of that...

Friday, 4 June 2010

Follow Friday: Births, Marriages and Deaths in the UK

If you are researching your family history in the UK, and any of your ancestors were born, married or died from 1837 onwards, you're in luck.

Prior to 1837, births, marriages and deaths were recorded by the church.  After 1 July 1837, these vital statistics were recorded by the government under Civil Registration.  This divides the country up into Registration Districts (so individual towns are not necessarily listed) and quarters of the year (Jan-Feb-March, April-May-June, July-August-Sept, Oct-Nov-Dec).

FreeBMD is a volunteer project to index the Civil Registration and put it on the Web.  The FreeBMD Database was last updated on Tue 18 May 2010 and currently contains 185,134,545 distinct records (236,321,351 total records).  You will find the references that will enable you to order birth, marriage and death certificates.  They will look something like this:
Fred BLOGGS, born June quarter 1853, St Germans, 5c 29

For some, just knowing the year is enough.  If you want further details, like the parents' names, exact date etc, then you will need to order the certificate itself.  But the fact that this reference information is searchable on the web is fantastic!

Check out FreeBMD


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