Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Way Back Wednesday: Robert MURCH 1687

Robert MURCH, my 7th great grandfather, was born in 1687 in Ottery St Mary, Devon, UK.  In the 17th century, the population was swept up in the incidents relating to the Civil War between the supporters of the King (Charles I) and Parliament (Oliver Cromwell).  Names of battles at Nottingham, Edge Hill, Marston Moor, and Naseby were familiar to most.  But the Civil War was not only fought in faraway counties; it was also fought in Devon.  Royalist regiments under Lord Wentworth were camped at nearby Bovey Tracey, with Parliamentary forces under General Fairfax at Crediton and Moreton, and on 9 January 1646 was the Battle of Bovey Heath.

Plagues such as the Black Death and the Great Sweat, together with bad harvests and outbreaks of cholera which had previously been the biggest killers, were as nothing compared to the up-to-10% that were killed in the Civil War battles in the country.

But in 1688, there was a revolution in England of a different kind.  This was a revolution of religions.  In 1689 the Declaration of Rights confirmed that Catholics were barred from the throne of England.  The Toleration Act allowed 'Dissenters...to hold services in licensed meeting houses and to maintain their own preachers (if they would subscribe to certain oaths) in England and Wales.' (The Victorian Web, David Cody, Associate Professor of English, Hartwick College).

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sentimental Sunday: I Want You to Have It

When I was 15, my grandmother (Elsie Beatrice Blagdon HAYWOOD) died.  When I was 14, she pulled me aside and gave me her eternity ring.  She knew she didn't have long to live, and she said that, when she died, 'the vultures would descend' (her words) and I would get nothing.  So she gave me her ring, a treasured possession.  Because her fingers had grown so fat with her illness, she could no longer wear it, and it nestled in its small velvet box, a gold band studded with tiny rubies and diamonds (or so I thought). 

After her death, I wore it constantly.  So constantly, that the gold wore down and the gems fell out.  I went to a jeweller to ask for a quote to put them back in.  "Hmmm," he said, "garnet chips and zirconiums.  Quite frankly, it would cost more to put them back than the entire ring did in the first place."  I could have been disappointed; disappointed that the gems were not actually rubies and diamonds, disappointed that the ring itself was hardly the most expensive thing in the world...but to me, the Queen of England doesn't have something as valuable as that ring.

Now my fingers are too fat to wear the ring, and I have no children nor grandchildren to pass it on to.  But it is still precious...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Surname Saturday: Nott and Naming Traditions

A curious excerpt from a book states: "James BROOKE and Elizabeth NOTT's wedding in 1822 has a whiff of the shotgun about it; it was "by consent of Parents", which may mean they were both under age; and the witnesses were Hugh Nott and Richard Nott, presumably father or brothers to the bride, Elizabeth Nott.  Were they making sure the marriage actually took place?  After all, the first child was baptised only four months later...." ("A Family Story: Gadens and Graces" by Chris Thomas)

The Richard NOTT mentioned was quite possibly Elizabeth's brother; otherwise, he would have been her grandfather.  Or he could even be her uncle...another Richard NOTT, christened in 1775.  Hugh NOTT, also mentioned, may have been another brother or, more likely, Elizabeth's father, christened 3 August 1777 in Coldridge, Devon.

The NOTT surname makes its largest appearance in Australia, with many New Zealand connections.  But in my Devon family, it is the Christian names which are connected.  These naming traditions can be of great help to the bewildered researcher who is confronted with 68 John HAYWOODs...often, you can tell which is your family and which are your ancestors, by following these guidelines:

Child Namesake
1st son paternal grandfather
2nd son maternal grandfather
3rd son father
4th son father's oldest brother
1st daughter maternal grandmother
2nd daughter paternal grandmother
3rd daughter mother
4th daughter mother's oldest sister

Friday, 24 September 2010

Follow Friday: Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness is based in Nebraska, USA, but is international too.  RAOGK volunteers help out researchers who (for whatever reason) cannot get to the area they are investigating - for instance, maybe you have ancestors who resided in a certain area, but you live hundreds of miles away and have no means of transport; you want a photo of a tombstone and know exactly where it is - you just can't get there!  RAOGK volunteers take photos, look up records, and other things - all in the area they reside in.  They are not workers paid for their time, but you are requested to pay for things like photocopying, postage and so on.

If you need to make a request of a RAOGK volunteer, there are guidelines which state:
You may request one or two items concerning one or two ancestors.
You can not ask a volunteer to do anything outside of their specified location or to do anything for which they have not volunteered.
Volunteers are only obligated to do one look-up per month. If they make more than one request of any one volunteer per month, that volunteer may request a fee. It's up to the volunteer to decide what to charge for this.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Way Back Wednesday: A New Beginning

A new Blogging Theme to help me focus: Way Back Wednesday will zero in on end-of-line ancestors - and, when I run out of them, it can cover ancestors or (family) history from as far back as I have reached.  Such as my 10th great grandfather, James STANTON from St Cleer, Cornwall, born in 1630; or the Civil War between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads which affected my 7th great grandfather, Robert MURCH, in 1687 in Ottery St Mary, Devon.

I will also be describing how I found my Way Back When ancestors, and where I am going to look next.  Although, since some of them have also become brickwalls, I may not actually know where I am going to look next!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sentimental Sunday: There She Is

Thirty years ago I travelled to the grave of my great-aunt, Marion Augusta EDGCOMBE, who died aged only 4 of diphtheria on 21 July 1922.  There was only one train down in the morning from London (where I lived) to Tiverton (where she was buried), and one train back, later in the day.  But I was young and daring, so to me it was a sort of adventure.

I found the cemetery, but it was huge, and I had no idea of the grave's location.  Fortunately for me, the man in charge was actually there, and he took pity on me.  Apparently, the cemetery was in the middle of having all its records digitised (well, typewritten), but they hadn't yet reached the entry for Marion Augusta, so I got to see the original register with its beautifully neat handwriting.  [Side note: although digitising records and putting them on the internet is a boon for many who can't travel, it also removes a lot of the wonder from genealogy when you can't see the originals].

We walked to the grave, but - to my disappointment - there was no headstone, just a patch of grass.  The nice cemetery man pointed to the grave on the left, and the grave on the right.

"Six feet from there, and six feet from there.  There she is, " he said, meaning to be kind, I have no doubt, but I found it rather tragic.  Then and there, I vowed to Great Aunt Marion that I would buy a headstone for her, as soon as I could afford it (even a simple marker would suffice, I thought).  Thirty years later, and I still haven't been able to save up enough.  But at least I know where she is.  Little 'Marie', buried far away from the rest of her family in an unmarked grave, is not lost.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Surname Saturday: Hall

The only time the HALL surname appears in my family tree is when it belongs to my ggg grandmother, Elizabeth Thomas HALL, who was born about 1800 in Plymouth, Devon, England.  The fact that her middle name - Thomas - is usually thought of as a man's name, suggests that it was actually a surname itself.  So maybe her mother's maiden name was THOMAS?  But wait, I have heard of people being caught out like this before.  They take huge genealogical leaps without any concrete evidence.

Now, I know there are times when leaps can become clues, but only if you treat them as such.  If I were to take Thomas as a clue to THOMAS, for instance, and therefore it would make me keep my eyes open for a suitable family, then that's OK.  What is not acceptable is me saying Thomas must be THOMAS, and therefore I will not accept anything else!  I have found that in my own family history.  A child was given the middle name of 'Cornish', but that particular name does not appear anywhere in my tree as a surname/maiden name.  Perhaps it was just the surname of a family friend, or (as often happened), the surname of a wealthy individual, and the family hoped that, by giving their child the wealthy person's name, they would inherit!

So Elizabeth Thomas HALL, who married into the BLAGDON family in Stoke Damerel in 1817, had 10 children, regularly appeared in censuses for thirty years, and died in Plymouth in 1876, remains something of a mystery as regards that Thomas name until I can get to the records that may shed some light on her birth and her parents.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Follow Friday: Historical Directories

This is a project run by the University of Leicester, and is located at the Historical Directories website.

This site contains many databases and a powerful search engine.  It says on their site that the project is "a digital library of local and trade directories for England and Wales, from 1750 to 1919. It contains high quality reproductions of comparatively rare books, essential tools for research into local and genealogical history."

The directories come from all over England and Wales from the 1850s, 1890s., and 1910.  They are working on directories from pre-1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, and 1900s.  

And my favourite thing about it? It's FREE!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Maritime Monday: Ships of the East India Company

This fairly new site: Ships of the East India Company "...aims to provide information on all the ships, voyages and seafarers of the East India Company's mercantile services."  It covers years starting in 1600, and aims to create databases about:
  • ships (construction details, owners, service history, ultimate fate)
  • seafarers (sea service, ships served on, personal details, biographies)
  • voyages (dates of voyages, crew, ports of call, wrecks, captured, missing)
Definitely one to keep an eye on!

Maritime Monday is a Geneabloggers daily theme where you can post anything to do with the sea: ancestors who were sailors, shipwrights, fishermen, or coastguards; images, records and links.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Hercules was my uncle

I have an Uncle Erks (actually, he passed away years ago, but I have a strong belief in an afterlife).  I searched genealogically for years for an 'Erks', until my mother told me this story of how he got his name:

When he was a small boy at school in the 1930s, George Henry Hubert BALL was a thin, weedy little chap.  His classmates teased him and called him 'Hercules', since he so obviously wasn't a strongman.  'Hercules' was shortened to 'Erks'; and that is how I knew him.  The name caused some confusion when I started working on my family tree!

His brother, Walter, was known as 'Wigs'.  How that one came about, I have no idea...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Surname Saturday: Yates or Yeats or Yeates

It seems that, every time I search for my ancestors bearing this surname, there is a different spelling *sigh*.  Sometimes it is used as a middle name on a death certificate, where it didn't appear on the birth certificate.  It makes searching for a brickwall ancestor very frustrating.  But when it comes to the surname's religion...

Johanna YATES (or YEATES or YEATS) was born in 1808 in Chudleigh (my ggg grandmother).  Or it might have been Colridge.  Or Coldridge (even the town can't make up its mind how to spell its name!).  Her mother, Sarah, was unmarried at the time of the birth - and has vanished ever since, so maybe she married another man and I haven't discovered her new surname.  It will probably be something unusual, like JONES in Wales *genealogical cringe*... Sarah was christened in 1780 like many of my ancestors, as an Independent.  Later members of the family were described as Congregationalist.  From Wikipedia:

"In English church history, Independents advocated local congregational control of religious and church matters, without any wider geographical hierarchy, either ecclesiastical or political. Independents reached particular prominence between 1642 and 1660, in the period of the English Civil War and of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, wherein the Parliamentary Army became the champion of Independent religious views against the Anglicanism or the Catholicism of Royalists and the Presbyterianism favoured by Parliament itself.

The Independents advocated freedom of religion for non-Catholics and the complete separation of church and state. During the First Civil War, an alliance between supporters of the "War Party" led by John Pym and moderate MPs brought the Independent faction to prominence in Parliament. The Independents favoured confrontation with the King and an outright military victory rather than the negotiated settlement sought by the Presbyterians of the "Peace Party". The Independents actively supported the military alliance with Scotland in 1644 and the re-organisation of the armed forces that resulted in the formation of the New Model Army in 1645. After Pride's Purge, the so-called Rump Parliament of around fifty Independent MPs sanctioned the trial and execution of King Charles in January 1649 and the creation of the republican English Commonwealth."

Johanna married into the MURCH family, who had been Protestant Dissenters for well over a hundred years.  In fact, looking into the religions of these families is proving to be almost as interesting as finding them was in the first place.   

In 1972, three-quarters of the Congregationalist church merged with the Presbyterian church to form the United Reformed church.  About 600 Congregationalist churches, however, continued to be Independent.  Or independent.  It would be interesting to find out if Chudleigh/Colridge/Coldridge is one of them.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Follow Friday: Online Genealogy Lessons from Pharos

I don't usually like to 'advertise' a pay-for company in my blog, but these people seem to offer courses too enticing to ignore - if only I had the money...  Pharos Tutors offer online courses on English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish genealogy - and a course called Australian Roots and Branches!

From their website: Take a Pharos course and discover:
  • More about the historical background to your ancestors' lives
  • How to search effectively, online and offline
  • Where to find the best free genealogy indexes and fully searchable resources
  • How to make the best use of your time
  • How to save money
I know they are not some scam, because they are partnered with the Society of Genealogists, the Guild of One-Name Studies, and AGRA (The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives).  Among their varied and splendid offerings are courses on wills, writing your family history, DNA genealogy, apprenticeship records, manorial rolls and much, much more.

I am particularly interested in the course on Devon ancestors, and I am especially attracted to the fact that these are online courses.  Maybe I will have to save my pennies, or hope for a generous birthday present later in the year...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Ralph Francis Ley

Ralph Francis LEY
1841-1914
great great great uncle
photo courtesy of Ken Buckingham

Monday, 6 September 2010

Maritime Monday: RNLI - Forever by the Sea

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has a wonderful section on its website - pages devoted to a Forever By The Sea fund, which honours a loved one.  You set up a page in memory of the particular individual, and then you can upload photos, light candles and make donations (which will go towards helping the RNLI charity).

The RNLI, a charity dear to my father's heart and now mine - especially since I have so many ancestors who had something to do with the sea - states on their website: "The volunteer lifeboat crews of the RNLI have been selflessly saving lives at sea since 1824 [they have saved over 139,000 lives and rely on over 40,000 volunteers].  The RNLI receives no financial support from the UK Government.  So today, as always, we depend on the generosity of the public to be able to carry out rescues, and our crews are much busier than ever." 

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Surname Saturday: Ley

This is the most maternal surname I had for many years: my mother's mother's mother's mother's.  And to my delight, the line stretched back from Devon to Mevagissey, Cornwall, where my own mother had spent a blissful holiday many years ago, not knowing that it was the place of her ancestors.  This is the line of coastguards I have already mentioned.  A happy line, I thought, where the only difficulty lay in that my great great grandmother was married to the largest brickwall ancestor in creation (or so I thought).

Amanda LEY appears in the censuses as Amanda and Aminta (and another relative names her Amanda Malvina), and doesn't appear in the 1881 census at all (which would be the most valuable, since she would be a young mother with a husband of only a few years).  On her marriage certificate, she is named Minda (a diminutive of Amanda, and a name given to babies occasionally in our family).   According to family legend (oh, how those stories get distorted sometimes!), Amanda's husband, Joseph BUCKINGHAM, was a well-to-do coal merchant, who was kicked in the head by his horse and ended up in hospital.  His brother (or brother-in-law, depending on who you spoke to) ruined the family business and the girls had to be taken out of convent school.  Except he was a chimney sweep, and went into hospital for something quite different, dying quite young; the children ended up in the workhouse, Amanda had two children by another man, then she ended up in hospital, died in her early 40s and the children were sent to Canada.  My ancestor, Annie Marian, was named Mary by Dr Barnardo's - this is more a subject for Madness Monday!

Back to the LEY family.  Amanda's father, Nicholas LEY, was a coastguard found in Pembrokeshire, Wales in the 1841 census, then Pevensey, Sussex, in the 1851 census.  I have posted his photo before (a Wordless Wednesday), but it bears re-showing here:
I was very excited to be given this picture.  Looking at his built-up shoe - was this because of an injury received whilst a coastguard? or was he born with a disability? in which case, why did the Coastguard Service accept him (I doubt they had discrimination law quotas in those days)?

This line, which started me off with the happiness of a traceable history of ancestors, has now added all sorts of questions to the mix.  And the genealogist in me groans at the thought of all those doubts, while the detective in me shouts for joy!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Follow Friday: The National Wills Index (UK)

The National Wills Index  is a collaborative project to create a single, dedicated, online resource for pre-1857 probate material for England & Wales.  

These are their objectives, according to their website:
  • bringing together into a single database many disparate indexes to probate documents
  • creating indexes to probate documents where these do not already exist
  • making available hard copies of all the indexed probate documents
  • creating digitised images of the original documents, with online access
  • creating full name and place indexes to probate documents. 
This will be a pay-per-view site unless you have a subscription to the Origins net.

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