Monday, 30 August 2010

Maritime Monday: The Good Guys

Mevagissey, in Cornwall UK, is home to one of the branches of my family tree - the LEY family, which is on my mother's side.  Most of the men were coastguards, and today we would regard them as the 'good guys' - but way back when, they were often regarded more like spoilsports.  Smuggling and wrecking were often viewed as a man's right - his right to feed his family.

The farthest back I have gone so far is Ralph LEY, who married  Honour TONKYN on 17 August 1729 in Mevagissey (so he has recently celebrated his 281st wedding anniversary!).  I do not have a document anywhere which states his occupation, but since his sons, his grandsons, and his great-grandsons were all coastguards, I think it is only a matter of time before my hypothesis becomes fact.  The occupation of coastguard continues on through the family, even via the girls! Amanda Malvina LEY, my gg grandmother and daughter of a coastguard, married a man who became one, and had a son who became a coastguard as well...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Surname Saturday: Elliott

Aha! I have reached the only family where a will exists! (well, one that I have found, anyway - all the rest seem to be ag labs with not even a penny to their name).  John ELLIOTT, my gggg grandfather, was a cooper in South Devon (barrelmaker, among other things), and his will is interesting in that he actually has something to leave.

John had a beloved daughter, Eleanor, who looked after him in his old age.  Because of this, she was left a cedar chest where she used to keep her clothes, a mirror, a dressing-table, John's worktable and the six best hair-bottomed chairs!  and, of course, all the silver plate, plus £100. This is in addition to the £100 that she, her sister Elizabeth and her brother John were all given, which in today's money is about £5,000 - I found this out using The National Archive's excellent currency converter or "what is it worth in today's money?".  He made Trusts for his grandchildren, had land and a house to sell - good grief! maybe there is an obituary for such a wealthy chap...and surely Eleanor got married; after all, she had LOTS of money to attract suitors. 

The ELLIOTTs were interesting for things other than money.  They are the ones that take me furthest back - to 1637, and extend my line briefly into Dorset.  The fierce-looking "Great Aunt Ellen" was actually named Ellen Elliott BALL, and descended from the ELLIOTTs. 

I would like to delve deeper into this family.  Next stop: newspapers for John's obituary.  Tomorrow is Scanfest, so perhaps I will get all my ELLIOTT papers together and use the time to get them scanned...

Will of John Elliott, made in 1820

Monday, 23 August 2010

Maritime Monday: More Fair Hair and Blue Eyes

At the end of July I wrote about the service record of my gg uncle Edmund John HAYWOOD, stating that he had blond hair and blue eyes (unlike the other HAYWOODs I have known).  Now I come across the service record of his nephew, Ernest Murch HAYWOOD - and lo! and behold! he has fair hair and blue eyes as well...

Ernest Murch HAYWOOD, born on 19 October 1897, served for twelve years from 9 July 1913, so he was not quite 16 when his maritime career began.  His service record is covered with VGs (Very Good), and he passed numerous exams and badges.  During the First World War he was serving on board HMS Colossus when she took part in the Battle of Jutland (1916) aged only 19 and the word 'gratuity' is stamped at that point on his record.

The Battle of Jutland was the largest naval battle of World War One.  Fourteen British and eleven German ships were sunk, but both sides claimed victory.  Ernest Murch was one of the more fortunate, returning from the battle to continue to serve.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Surname Saturday: Brooke

At last! a surname that has the largest concentration in the UK!  Next highest is Australia - but then, a LOT of UK individuals and families went to Australia at various times.  BROOKE is also one of the easier surnames when it comes to guessing its origins...and there are plenty of streams, small or otherwise, in England.  After all, don't they say that if you don't like the weather in England, wait half an hour, because it will have changed? LOL

I have met many visitors to this country who have marvelled at just how green everything is.  Er...that's because it is always raining...and the weather seems to take especial pleasure in raining on wedding days, Bank Holidays, and so on.

Anyway, back to BROOKE.  James BROOKE and Elizabeth NOTT (my ggg grandparents) were married on 19 Nov 1822 in Coldridge, Devon, with witnesses Hugh and Richard NOTT. James and Elizabeth proceeded to have eight children in the next thirteen years.  Coldridge itself provides some slight irritation for the genealogist - some people call it Coleridge, and the different spellings over the years in different censuses by different enumerators...

James was born about 1796 in Crediton, Devon.  He is an end-of-line ancestor, so perhaps I need to do some more research on him to get further back.  Of his children, Jane, the fourth child and third daughter, was my gg grandmother.  She married on 29 August 1847 (again, in Coldridge) - quite probably a Bank Holiday? I need to find a date calculator that tells me these things.  She had 11 children; the first four were in Coldridge, and then she and her husband Samuel FARLEY moved to just outside Millbrook in Cornwall. And a good thing, too, because then her 10th child and youngest daughter, Susan Emma, could meet and marry my great grandfather.

My father was so proud of being Cornish; it seems as though his ancestors started out in Devon, then migrated to Cornwall, while my mother's started out in Cornwall, then moved to Devon...and although I was born in London, I consider myself to be a West Country lass.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Follow Friday: Reading old handwriting

This is something we have all come up against: you find the precious record you have been searching for for over 30 years - and then you can't read it!  It's not even in Latin, or Anglo-Saxon or anything, and it wasn't scribbled down, but written so beautifully that only someone from a bygone age could decipher it...BYU have put together a series of tutorials on old handwriting.  Their tutorials cover several different countries including Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal...and England.

The tutorials are free (my favourite word) and point you in the direction of the National Archives as well.  Here is another set of free tutorials covering palaeontology, or old handwriting.  Both sites don't just offer tutorials, they also offer practices and samples.  With the National Archives, you can even learn beginner's Latin!

But don't forget the main ingredient of reading old handwriting.  No, it's not a magnifying glass, nor years of expertise - it's patience.  Often, you will find that if you move your eyes over another part of the page, you will recognise a letter, so that when you come back to the word you were trying to decipher, all becomes clear.  Try it with a census page.

Two things to remember (that I got caught out on early in my genealogical travels):
1.  Double-s is often written with the 'long s', like this:

(Well, I had seen 'Lord' and 'Prince' as names given to children of poor families, so why not 'Jefe' - which, in Spanish, means 'Chief'?)

2.  Some enumerators were pressed for time and, if there was a family with, say, eight children, they only wrote the surname once, for the father - and the rest were dittoed.  Except they weren't dittoed with ditto marks, but with the word 'Do'.  So John Smith had a wife Mary Do, and children Fred Do, George Do, Sarah Do and so on.  For years, I thought I had a new surname in my family tree!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Surname Saturday: Lethbridge

Mary Ann LETHBRIDGE's birth certificate was one of the first I bought (if not *the* first!): 2 November 1845 was the date she was born, in an unfamiliar place near Plymouth, Devon (I couldn't read it, and neither could the GRO clerk who had painstakingly written it out).  She was my great great grandmother, and her certificate gave me information on her parents, James LETHBRIDGE and Mary WEBBER.  I found their marriage certificate for 14 July 1839 (they married in East Stonehouse, Devon) - and that's where I encountered my first brick wall. 

A 'brick wall', as every genealogist knows (and cringes at the mention of) is where you have searched and searched and searched, and found big fat nothing.  Your ancestors just seem to have come out of nowhere, never been enumerated on a census, never registered anybody or anything, and vanished back into the thin air from whence they came.

James and Mary are like that.  I have their marriage certificate - and that's it.  James and Mary are fairly common names, so trying to track them down among all the other James and Marys... are they the couple who baptised in Jersey? or Teignmouth?  James LETHBRIDGE's father is Richard.  Mary's is John.  Sigh.  They don't exist, either.  I was thinking of putting the certificates on this blog, in case anyone could recognise their names - but now I can't even find the certificates.  Oh, well, Scanfest isn't for another couple of weeks. Those certifications are certainly at the head of the queue! (if I ever manage to find them).

Mary Ann went on to marry John BLAGDON on 15 February 1863, and from then on I can document her nicely.  But prior to 1863, she doesn't exist.  Born in 1845, she should appear on the 1851 and 1861 censuses.  Except she doesn't.

My head hurts. ;o)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Follow Friday: The Domesday Book on National Archives

National Archives says: "Domesday Book is a detailed survey of the land held by William the Conqueror and his people, the earliest surviving public record, and a hugely important historical resource."  The National Archives microsite for the Domesday Book has a search facility for you to look for a mention of your own town or village (or where your ancestors came from); information on the Book itself; information on what life was like when the Book was being written; games and quizzes; and resources for teachers and students, including video clips.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Maritime Monday: From Carpenter to Shipwright

Samuel AVERY, married in 1806, was a carpenter in East Stonehouse during the Napoleonic Wars.  One of his sons, George, christened 30 September 1814, became a shipwright - and later, a ship's carpenter.  By the time he was an adult, the Napoleonic Wars were over, but George's services as a shipwright in HM Dockyard at Plymouth were still needed right up until a few years before his death in 1878.  One of George's granddaughters married into the HAYWOOD family - and the tradition of working in the Dockyards continued, with varying occupations - including shipwright.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Surname Saturday: Dunstone

So far I have traced the DUNSTONE name in Cornwall back to the early 1700s.  Next stop...?

The DUNSTONEs lived in and around the St Germans area of Cornwall, then moved to Rame (not too far away!) and I have evidence of them in the Cawsand and Kingsand areas as well.   Emma Elizabeth DUNSTONE (my gg grandmother) was the one who stayed in the Bodmin County Lunatic Asylum and was described as having a room which was 'all in disorder'.

But an even more colourful DUNSTONE was her mother, Thomasine.  In some of the censuses she is enumerated as 'Tamson' - can't you just hear her Cornish accent coming through?  Thomasine was born in 1814 in Cawsand, the sixth child of John and Ann DUNSTONE (who are proving to be another brick wall), with six sisters and one brother.  Thomasine married when she was twenty, to George AVERY, a ship's carpenter then a shipwright (yet another brick wall, as he seems to have appeared out of nowhere!), and the censuses record her living in Cawsand, then Kingsand.  She had ten children, four of whom died when they were tiny, so Thomasine was not a stranger to tragedy quite early on into her marriage.  In the 1871 census, George and Thomasine are listed as living at the 'Halfway House'  Beer House - are they the publicans? Her husband, George, died when their youngest was only 14, but Thomasine did not sink into despair and end up being farmed out around the children or, worse, end up in the workhouse.   Only a couple of years after George's death, she is listed on the 1881 census as being the landlady of the 'Halfway House' Beer House in Fore Street, Kingsand, and she remains there until her death in 1897.  I would like to know more about this brave lady.  The 'Halfway House' still stands and runs as a bar and restaurant, in what they call 'Cornwall's Forgotten Corner', so maybe I will email them and see what happens.  Watch this space...

Friday, 6 August 2010

Follow Friday: War Memorials on Devon

Devon Heritage is a wonderful site with records relating to people and places in the county of Devon.  As part of its treasure chest (perhaps I should have posted this item on Treasure Chest Thursday? LOL), there are pages devoted to the various war memorials that are scattered all over the county.  War memorials were originally erected to commemorate those who died in the 1914-1918 war (World War I), and almost every city and even small town and village had their own monument with the names of locals who had died.  In a way this was to help assuage the huge upswell of grief that followed the war; almost every family lost someone they loved.  Many of those who died were buried in mass graves, or their bodies were never found.

Most parishes have their own page, which includes a photo of the memorial itself, sometimes a photo of the names thereon, and a transcription of those names as well.  Although most Memorials only contain the name of the soldier and where he died, this site also gives some background on the soldier as well.

An epitaph which is frequently found on War Memorials, often quoted in church services on Remembrance Sunday, is part of the poem by Laurence Binyon:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


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