Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2009 01 Volume 17 Number 2
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
January 2009
 Vol. 17 No. 2
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
Record Office Etiquette
News from the Secretary
Known Knowns and Known Unknowns
The Twelve Commandments
Reviews of Speakers’ Talks
It Pays to Advertise
Sharing the 1911 Census
A Battle of Waterloo Survivor
Christmas Memories
Burntwood Brothers at War
This Issue's Cover Picture
From the Chair…
Dear Friends, Time is flying by and I cannot believe that it is time to write another letter for the Journal! Since our last edition, we have had another successful visit to the National Archives at Kew. Again we had almost a full coach, thanks to our friends from Cannock Wood and Gentleshaw Gardening Group, who came along to visit the famous Kew Gardens. The new coach company we employed, Solus from Tamworth, seemed to be eager to fulfil our requirements and everything went smoothly this time. Many thanks to Jenny Lee, who did all the organising for us. Our monthly surgeries at Lichfield Library have continued to take place throughout the autumn, but have not been very well attended. After the Christmas holiday we shall be deciding whether to cut down on the number of surgeries. This would be a shame, but it is unfair on the volunteers who so generously give up their time if only one or two people turn up. We have already cut the Burntwood surgeries to quarterly meetings, and Pam will be making new rotas. If your name is on the list, please let Pam know in good time if you are unable to attend so that she can find someone else to step in. It is difficult if one person has to hold the fort, as you can be sure that several people will turn up, all needing your attention!
If you haven’t bought one of the cards listing our speakers for 2009, look out for them on the table when you sign in. If anyone hears of someone who can speak on a subject connected with local or family history, please do let me know. It is very helpful to have some names to call upon in the event that a speaker has to drop out. We were unfortunate in 2008 in having three such happenings. That has not happened previously, but luckily I was able to change speakers around or find someone willing to step in at short notice. Also, if you have ideas for other ways of making Monday meetings interesting, or there are subjects not already covered on which you would like to hear a talk, please do let me know.
By the time you receive this journal, we shall be into 2009. I wish you all good health and happiness for the coming year and, of course, exciting discoveries about your family history. Jane Leake
Record Office Etiquette by Pam Woodburn
As we listened to Andrew George, the Lichfield Archivist, at a recent meeting, it dawned on me that some people sitting there had probably never been to a record office and might not really know what was expected of them when they did. Andrew did mention some points that you needed to remember before you tackled your research there, such as booking in advance, taking two forms of identification if it was your first visit, preparing for your research in advance and not handling original documents without gloves. But there are other, unwritten, rules that make it easier for other users: Turn off your phone. Even if it is safely in a locker, the ring tone can seriously disturb the concentration of other users. Only use a pencil to prevent documents being damaged by ink. Do feel that you can ask for help if you come across a word or phrase that you just can’t make out, but don’t expect the search room assistants to translate a whole document. Do ask, if you’re not sure. The staff are usually very approachable these days and only too happy to share their greater knowledge with you. But remember, as in most other things, attitude makes a lot of difference. Do talk as little as possible. There is nothing more annoying than a couple of people working together who find it necessary to chat all the time when you’re concentrating hard trying to work out a sixteenth-century document. I speak from experience! If you remember all these things, your visit to the Record Office should be a very pleasant, and let’s hope, fruitful one.
News from the Secretary
What a good year 2008 turned out to be for us. After the AGM in 2007, the first committee meeting had quite a gloomy report from our Treasurer, and membership was 25% down on the previous year. However, following lots of hard work by the various people in the group who work tirelessly to ensure its progress – and, indeed, survival – we ended the financial year on a high note with our financial position completely restored, with room to spare for spending some of your membership fees on further improvement to the service we offer you.
Group meetings
Through 2008, we have been providing much better facilities for members to further their research at our Thursday meetings by obtaining the use of the IT Room at the Old Mining College, where it has been possible to assist people who either do not have a computer or who need to know more about the research information available on the Internet. It is hoped that this arrangement will continue for the foreseeable future, due to the grants given to us by the local authorities. Whilst no guarantee of success can be given, if any member who is unable to attend our meetings has a specific problem in locating an ancestor, please send an email to me at gassor33@talktalk.net and I will endeavour to look in our own digitised records and on the Internet on your behalf.
Members’ Interests List
Now is the time of year when I update our annual publication of our members’ interests. In the past, this has always been done on my home PC, but our Treasurer has authorised me to seek quotations for producing the next list by a professional printer. We have a firm in Chasetown which is supporting our Journal by advertising in it, and the Members’ Interests List which accompanies the current issue of the Journal will, hopefully, be more professional and therefore look better and be more legible than some previous lists have been. The content is based on information given by currently subscribed members, so anyone who had not renewed by 1st November may find that their information is no longer there. I try to ensure that everything is correct, but please do let me know if there are any errors or omissions which require correction and these will be published in a future journal. The details you have given will also appear on our website, unless you have specifically requested that they should not be. So far as I am aware, no one has ever made this request, but some members have requested that they are not contacted by email, which is why their email addresses do not appear on the website. The Members’ Interests list does have names and addresses printed in it, together with the membership number of the submitter. Once a contact has been made with a member through the post, it is up to the recipient to decide whether they wish to continue to use the post or to either telephone or email for further contact. Anyone who has acquired an email address of which they have not notified the group, and who wishes to use it as a form of contact, can notify me or our webmaster, Alan Betts, and the necessary amendments will be made.
Publications on DVD
We are continuing with our project to convert all our publications to digitised format, and the latest addition to the collection is the St Matthew’s Hospital Burials Index. This was originally in printed form, following a transcription from the original registers, which were loaned to the group when the hospital was demolished for housing development some years ago. The burials were of inmates who died whilst they were patients at the hospital, and whose relatives did not have them interred in churchyards or public cemeteries elsewhere. For those of our readers who do not know the history of St. Matthew’s Hospital, or who had relatives who worked there (employees were drawn from a large area of the West Midlands), this publication may be of considerable interest. Included in the DVD are census records for the hospital, and these cover some staff members who were presumably living in, although it is possible that some people were enumerated at the hospital and not at their home address. The current register being worked on is that of St. Mary’s, Lichfield. This is a register which was not previously transcribed by the group and published as an index, and is therefore new ground for us. Information on the group’s publications can be obtained from Jeff Wilson, whose telephone number is on the inside front cover of the Journal, or it can be obtained from me at the email address given above or the telephone number on the inside front cover.
May I take this opportunity of wishing all our members and readers a belated Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. Geoff Sorrell
Church Newsletter Bloopers
The Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. Please use the back door.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
Known Knowns and Known Unknowns
A request for genealogical help from Suzie Woodward We all have ’em – brick walls. Some are small, with just a few cracks which break down easily, while others are tall, sturdy and tough as battlements! Mine is the latter variety and has been around for some years, so now I am hoping that some reader might have the appropriate sledgehammer in their locker! James Compton was my great-grandfather and I have more ‘don’t knows’ about him than ‘knows’! He married Emma Greasley, aged 22, on 2nd July 1876 at St Modwen Parish Church, Burton-on-Trent. She was his second wife because, on his marriage certificate to Emma, James was shown as a widower aged 28. He named his father as James Compton, a carpenter, and James himself was described as a labourer. Both Emma and James gave their address as ‘High Street, Burton’, which is not exactly helpful! The witnesses were Henry Clements and Ann/Annie Arthur(s), neither of whom has been successfully identified on the 1881 census. After their marriage, James and Emma went to live in Hanbury, Staffordshire, where their daughter, Hannah Compton, was born just two months after their wedding. Hannah’s birth certificate states the father’s name as James Compton – well, that’s what the mother said! Four years later, James was dead. His death certificate is dated 25th December 1880 (he wasn’t thoughtful enough to wait until the 1881 census, which is really annoying)! The certificate states  that he died of phthisis/TB after being ill for two years.
The death was registered by a ‘cousin’, Thomas Dunn. James, aged 33, was buried at Hanbury on 31 December 1880, this fact being confirmed in the parish register. Emma Greasley, James’s second wife, was born in Griffydam, Leics, the sixth of eight children born to John Greasley and Hannah Yates. Her father and brothers were all miners. After James’s death, Emma and her daughter went back to Leicestershire and on the 1881 were living with her widowed mother in Thringstone. In April 1881, just four months after James’s death, Emma married George Brewin. Emma’s older sister Mary Ann married George’s brother, John Brewin. So those are the known facts about James; but what about the unknowns? Where and when was he born? Who was his mother? Who was his first wife, and were there any children of that first marriage? I estimate his year of birth to be 1847 or thereabouts, so there should be three possible census sightings – 1851, 1861 and 1871. Using Ancestry, I have searched in vain all around the counties of middle England, but cannot find him. Perhaps the death of James’s first wife was a trail to follow, but I had no first name and no age to go on. Just looking for a ‘Mrs Compton’ is a bit tricky. He could have married a young woman who perhaps died in childbirth, so I looked for a Compton infant who died between 1865 and 1876. No joy there either, but then he could just as easily have married an older woman – who knows? The ‘cousin’ who registered James’s death, Thomas Dunn, was a carpenter, the same trade as James’s father, so I thought there could be possibilities there.I checked for a Compton/Dunn or Greasley/Dunn marriage in the previous generation, which would have made them proper cousins, but I couldn’t find one. Thomas was born about 1835, so was about 10–12 years older than James.
Thomas’s father, George Dunn, was a master carpenter. Did James’s father work for him, I wonder? Is that how James and Thomas knew each other? Thomas never married and lived in Hanbury all his life; he died in 1901. On the 1901 census he was a dairy farmer and a carpenter. Two of Thomas’s sisters married Benjamin Williams, who was firstly a miner at Brownhills and later a farmer. Benjamin married Mary Dunn at Hanbury in 1861 and then he married Cicely Dunn in 1874 – that later marriage took place in Liverpool! I have comprehensive details of that huge Dunn family; they were a complicated lot, believe me, but I couldn’t find a logical relevant connection to my James. Maybe there are some connections in the Brownhills area, but I’ve not been able to find them.
So to the final painstaking elimination game. I listed all the James Comptons on the 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses. The first step was to eliminate all those on the 1881 showing on previous censuses, as they could not be my James. I looked for ones with a father James; I found wives, family, etc. and all seem to be accounted for, so where does that leave me? Totally frustrated – that I can write all this about James Compton and name nine other people connected in some way to him, and yet seem to have more unknowns than knowns! Oh, yes – and I’ve looked at all possible name variants as well! Finally, to completely confuse matters, a friend found the following entry in the Hanbury PR. Entry No 1105. Baptised 25 April 1847 (The date fits beautifully!): James (no surname) Parents: Mary SMITH and Joseph BOWCROFT resident in Draycott-in-the-Clay. No occupation given for the father. I think at that point I just reached for the gin bottle! Do any of these names mean anything to anyone reading this? Can anyone prevent me going insane? If so, please get in touch with me on email: vestlaybanks@btinternet.com Suzie Woodward from Orkney – the Edge of the World!
The Twelve Commandments - Rules which most of our ancestors seem to have lived by ...
1. In every generation, thou shalt name thy male children: James, John, Joseph, Daniel, Richard, Thomas and William. Naming at least five generations of males and dozens of their cousins with identical names is guaranteed to totally confuse future researchers.
2. In a similar vein, thou shalt name thy female children: Elizabeth, Mary, Jane, Martha, Anne, Emma and Sarah. Thou shalt leave no trace of said female children, but if thou must, then it is always good to name them Martha Elizabeth and refer to them in all documents as Jenny Mae.
3. Thou shalt, after naming your children from the above lists, call them by strange nicknames such as: Ike, Eli, Polly, Dolly or Gus – making them difficult to trace.
4. Though shall not use any middle names on any legal documents or census returns; but if it is necessary to do so, thou shalt use only initials on legal documents. Also be certain to use different dates and ages for all family members on successive censuses.
5. Thou shalt learn to sign all documents illegibly, so that thy surname can be spelled, or misspelled, in various ways: Hicks, Hics, Hix, Hucks or Kicks. Whether thou canst write or not, use an X whenever possible.
6. Thou shalt, after no more then three generations, make sure that all family records are lost, misplaced, burned in a fire, or buried so that no future trace of them can be found. And should by some miracle they be found, be sure they have been thoroughly water-soaked, torn and have large pieces missing.
7. Thou shalt propagate misleading legends, rumours and vague innuendos regarding thy place of origination. Thou mayest have come from somewhere vaguely in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales or Iran.
8. Thou shalt leave no cemetery records, nor headstones with legible names.
9. Thou shalt leave no family Bible with records of birth, marriages or deaths, but always have cousins or aunts who have seen it.
10. Thou shalt always flip thy given names around. If born James Albert, thou must make all the rest of thy records in the names of Albert, AJ, JA, Alfred, Bert, Bart, or Jimmy L.
11. Thou must also flip thy parents’ names when making reference to them, although ‘Unknown’ or a blank line is an acceptable alternative.
12. Last but not least, thou shalt embellish all stories and enter dates which indicate that all children in thy family have been born to twelve-year-old girls fathered by eighty-year-old husbands.
Reviews of Visitors’ Talks
October 2008: Barbara Andrews on ‘Grandma was a Suffragette’ Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
Each year, when Barbara Andrews was a child, her grandmother, Thirza Cove, came to stay with her family during her two weeks’ holiday from her job as a housekeeper in London. At the end of one such holiday, she stayed on. Barbara’s father had received a letter from Thirza’s employers to say that they thought that she was too old to carry on in their employment at the age of 82. The arrangement was not a very happy one. Grandma had to share a room with the seven-year-old Barbara. She would not talk about her past, nor join in with family activities. At 84 she bought her own home, where she lived until she died aged 90. Barbara was left a writing slope which had belonged to her grandmother. At 14, she was disappointed with this legacy, and even when her father told her his mother had been a suffragette the word meant nothing to her. Only a photograph took her fancy – Thirza aged 21, a young woman with kindly determination, so different from the withdrawn and distant old woman Barbara remembered. Years later, Barbara’s own daughter, Nell, came home from school and said her class was studying the suffrage movement. She had told the teacher that her greatgrandmother had been a suffragette and that her mother had some of her grandmother’s artefacts. The teacher asked Nell if her mother would give a talk to the school history group. Barbara, a reluctant volunteer, knew very little about the suffrage movement, so she had to find out as much as she could before giving the talk. The word ‘suffragette’ was first coined by the Daily Mail in 1906 as a term of contempt. However, many women embraced the word and used it about themselves, while others preferred the word ‘suffragist’. Thousands joined local Suffrage Societies or Suffrage Unions. The largest and best known were the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), founded in 1896, and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded in 1903. The latter was the most militant and the one to which Thirza Cove belonged. She knew Emmeline Pankhurst and was almost certainly a friend of her daughters Sylvia and Christabel, founder and secretary of the WSPU. They were on hunger strike in Holloway prison at the same time, and Thirza was forcibly fed. In the writing slope was the purple, white and green sash worn by Thirza during rallies, together with a similarly coloured silk scarf and metal badges of the movement. The colours were adopted in 1808. Purple represented justice; white, purity; and green, hope. There were also papers, adverts for rallies, linen ‘steward’ badges and photographs showing Thirza and fellow suffragettes. There she was carrying a flag during a procession; sitting down to a meal; helping to pull a carriage carrying those recently released from Holloway; and, most poignant of all, running away from the gates of Holloway, joy on her face, almost certainly towards the love of her life (Barbara’s father was born nine months later). There was also a photograph of Barbara’s father as a small boy, together with a younger brother who later died. Their father left and Thirza had to bring up her children alone. Today, the reasons given for not giving women the vote seem incredible. Women were viewed as unable to look after their own affairs, own property or to enter universities or join professions. If a marriage broke down, custody of children went automatically to the husband. Some men were in favour of votes for women, but some women, including Queen Victoria, were opposed to it! However, the status of women gradually improved, and the campaign for votes for women was part of a slow and steady emancipation process. From 1908 until 1914 the suffragists used more robust methods to try and force MPs to take their demands seriously. They heckled meetings, threw stones and bricks at government buildings, chained themselves to railings, and held many marches, often pulling carriages decked like carnival floats. Rallies were held, with 300,000 attending one in Hyde Park in 1908. Emily Wilding Davison died trying to disrupt the Derby and falling under the hooves of the King’s horse. The campaigners paid a high price for their actions. Gangs of men set upon them and the police used rough treatment. Sylvia Pankhurst, for example, was imprisoned 15 times. Barbara showed us two views of a prison cell which her grandmother had drawn during her incarceration. When they went on hunger strike they were forcibly fed, a potentially dangerous practice. Barbara remembers that her grandma could only eat on one side of her mouth. However, during World War I, all suffragette prisoners were released and Mrs. Pankhurst called a halt to militant action and urged supporters to help defend their country. Women entered the world of work in great numbers, and kept factories, farms and infrastructure working while the men were at the front. In 1918, their tremendous contribution was recognised, and the government granted voting rights to women aged 30 and over. Ten years later, the Equal Franchise Act was passed in the year Mrs. Pankhurst died at the age of 70. Barbara pointed out that we are not as progressive as we think. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote on the same basis as men in 1893; and yet Swiss women had to wait until 1971! Our group enjoyed Mrs Andrew’s stimulating and thought provoking talk on the suffrage movement, and found her grandmother an intriguing character.
October 2008: Andrew George on ‘Lichfield Joint Record Office’ Reviewer: Jenny Lee
Our November talk was a vivid reminder that one’s family history cannot all be gleaned from the Internet, useful though a computer may be. Andrew pointed out that the Lichfield Joint Record Office is part of the Staffordshire Archive Service and it opened in the late 1950s. Because Lichfield was the hub of a large diocese, they have documents going as far back as the early 1800s relating to some areas outside Staffordshire, such as North Shropshire, North and East Warwickshire and parts of Derbyshire These diocesan records are of three types:
1. Bishops’ Transcripts. Transcripts of births, marriages and deaths were prepared every two or three years and are back-ups of the Parish Registers Because of large variations in their sizes, these have not been microfilmed. One therefore gets more of a sense of history when reading these.
2. Wills. Until 1857 these were proved locally, and fortunately about half a million have survived and are held in the Record Office. Of these, quite a few have an inventory with them, which can be extremely useful in providing an insight into how people lived and the possessions they owned, as well as recording their relatives who inherited such items.
3. Tithe Maps and Schedules. Many of these, from the 1840s, are quite large scale, and numbers on the maps tie up with the schedules; it is therefore possible to see who owned or who were tenants of particular fields, and to see how a particular area has grown. Andrew also mentioned school records which may prove helpful in our research. These could be log books, the contents of which can vary enormously, or admission books, which can often be more useful. What is available can be quite patchy, as some records are retained by schools, while others were lost or destroyed, but it is well worth checking to see what is there. Alas, as Andrew pointed out, only a small percentage of information ever survives, and what does survive must be meticulously preserved for future generations. It was fascinating to hear of the great care taken with all the records by Lichfield Joint Record Office and the strict controls maintained for their preservation, such as acid-free storage boxes, strong-rooms with carefully controlled temperatures, a warning system for air, fire, water, inert gas, etc. The public can help in various ways too, for instance by suggesting information they think may be worth preserving or by giving some time to helping with transcription projects. The staff, in their turn, are always happy to welcome the public and help them to get the most out of their research. They have an ongoing programme of further digitisation – as funds permit of course! After Andrew’s informative talk, we were able to browse, look at and touch a wide variety of original documents which he had brought along, many of which covered the Burntwood area. Judging by the interest shown in these by our members, the pleasure we gained from ‘real history’ rather than ‘computerised history’ was obvious.
My Family and all the Red Herrings - From a talk given to the BFHG by Pauline Stanley
In 1981 I rescued the family Bible, containing family records, from my brother’s loft. After a speaker at one of our meetings suggested that we used parish records, the IGI and census returns before buying costly certificates, I embarked on my research. by using Walsall Local History Centre in Essex Street, Walsall and the Latter Day Saints’ records at their temple in Purcell  Avenue, Lichfield. From the family Bible I noted that my great-grandfather James’s father was named William Turner. I purchased the marriage certificate for James and his wife Ann Graham, which revealed that his father William was a farmer. I then started looking in the sources for a William Turner, but this turned out to be a major mistake, aggravated by my mother, who said that William came from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. When a cousin sent me a copy of my grandfather John’s birth certificate, it showed that the family was indeed living in Newcastle. I looked at the 1891 census returns at Purcell Avenue, and there was the family in Newcastle with my grandfather John, aged 3. However, it showed that his father James came from Kirklinton in Cumberland. I had previously come across a family of Turners at Rigghead Hethersgill in the IGI and the 1851 census showed them at Kirklinton. I noted that an Isabella Musgrave was living there with her grandmother Rachel Turner, and when I looked at the IGI for ‘Musgrave’ I found the baptism of a female child of a single mother of that name in that parish. The copy of the baptism record from Kirklinton showed that Isabella was the illegitimate child of Catherine Musgrave and John Turner (the son of Rachel) of Rigghead. In the IGI there were also three baptisms: James (my great-greatgrandfather), Sarah and Jane – all children born to a single mother, Isabella Turner of Rigghead, Kirklinton. None of the birth certificates mentioned a father. I therefore have to conclude that the name ‘William’ on James’s and Ann’s marriage certificate was added to spare blushes. However, I have just discovered that Ann Graham’s father was himself illegitimate. The deaths of James and Ann were not recorded in the family Bible. Perhaps it was because, as James’s death certificate showed, he committed suicide. The certificate reads, ‘James Turner of 9, Moat Street Brampton, retired railway man, died on 4th April 1926; cause of death, suicide by hanging whilst of unsound mind’. I travelled to Carlisle to see if this event was covered in the press. The headlines were: ‘Brampton man’s suicide; imagined he was going blind’. His will left his son John, my grandfather, £362.12s.5d. Trying to take this research further back, I found my 4-x-grandfather, also a James and aged about 80, living at Rigghead in 1841 with his wife Rachel, aged about 75, their son John, aged about 45, and Isabella Turner, aged about 15. Using the IGI and parish records, I was able to find all of James’s and Rachel’s family. I asked a man who lived in Carlisle to trace the family further back and he found the marriage of a James Turner to Margaret Johnson in 1755, also the will of their son, my 4-x-grandfather James, who left his property at Rigghead first to his wife Rachel and then to his grandson Richard. So what happened to the Rigghead property? A copy of the will of one of the descendents of my grandfather’s sisters, Maggie Turner (nee Murray), was given to me by a relative, Murray Watson, who was living at Rigghead at the time the will was written. He had lived in the cottage as a boy, with his grandmother who rented it. He bought the cottage in the early sixties for £1,200, worked on it and sold it for £2,000. In 2008 it was for sale at £245,000!
IHGS Diary 2009
If you haven’t yet acquired a diary for 2009, there’s still time to purchase the 2009 Family History Diary from the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies. Set in navy blue with gold block lettering and a hard backed leatherette cover, this year’s diary contains a wealth of information for the family historian and genealogist, useful to both beginner and expert alike, including a list of genealogical events throughout the year, useful addresses, important historical notes from 1066, details of family history societies, UK road maps and many other items of interest. The 2009 diary costs £4.95 plus a self-addressed A5 (16cm x 23cm) envelope stamped 55p. for each diary order. Overseas orders should add £1.95 p.&p. airmail or £1.10 surface mail. Please allow 28 days for delivery. Please send a cheque (payable to ‘Trustees IHGS’) to IHGS, 79-82 Northgate, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1BA or order online at www.ihgs.ac.uk
It Pays to Advertise by Roger Smethers
All of us, unless remarkably lucky, come across the proverbial ‘brick walls’ during our researches. We get just so far, get stuck and cannot see how to go forward; or should that be ‘backwards’? Does the desired information reside somewhere, but you don’t know where – or it just does not exist? The records office that holds the parish registers that might be of help is just too far away – or you could employ a professional researcher at £8.00 an hour plus extras. This was the situation I was in not many weeks ago. Although my name is Smethers, my true name should have been Smithies. My paternal grandfather’s birth certificate says Smithies, although his two marriage certificates say Smethers, as does his death certificate. Many years ago, when charges were more modest, I did employ a researcher to solve this name change confusion, but she failed and I eventually solved it myself. But back to the present and my latest ‘brick wall’. I have been trying to identify one of my g-ggrandmothers and find more about three great uncles and aunts, whose names I know, but little else. All would have lived in the Ribble Valley area of Lancashire in the latter years of the 18th Century or early 19th. The answer for the first could doubtless be found at the County Records Office in Preston, but I do not drive and several visits might be necessary. I have noticed, from time to time, letters in local papers asking if any reader knows anything about ‘someone or other’. I decided to do the same thing but in more detail than in any I had previously seen. With Clitheroe being the main town close to where these people had lived, I did a computer search and quickly found that the local newspaper was the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times. The following letter to the editor was drafted and sent off:
Do you, perhaps, share my ancestry? My grandfather was John Smithies b. 1860, son of Richard Smithies [1807-82], a farmer of Chaigley, and Esther Howard [1824-85]. John was one of ten children, nine of whom survived to adulthood, and the other to at least adolescence. I have managed to trace something of what happened to James, William, Jane, Richard, Edmund, John, and Frederic, but next to nothing about Alice, Henry and Sager. The father of Esther was James Howard, an innkeeper at Mitton, but I do not know her mother or anything else about James and his ancestors. I would love to hear from anyone who has any link with these families. I supplied my name, address phone number and email address and sent it off, wondering if I should get any response at all. I knew that the paper was published every Thursday. One week passed with no reply, and I was getting a little despondent. Then things started to come in. First was a lady who was a ‘Howard’. She had received some old family names from a cousin whom, she said, was researching that family. She gave me his phone number. A promising start! A long conversation ensued, which included a promise to send me his family tree. It duly came – in a large, bulging envelope. When opened, it extended for 14 feet! It did help me, but it was short of some of the detail I like to have about people (e.g. where they lived and what they did, etc.) and, especially, source evidence. Next was an email from a woman whose elderly father had lived in Chaigley and remembered Sager Smithies, who had died in 1933. I had a long conversation with him and his memory was excellent. Sager would have been my great-uncle.
Then came an email from another Howard researcher. I spotted that it contained an attachment, which suggested that there was some serious stuff included. There was; not a lot, but very useful and with sources. The next email was from an Eastham researcher and showed that my ‘missing’ great-grandmother was an Alice Eastham. Another attachment – good! Ten pages! It revealed more thorough researching and recording. A real help, indeed. The best of all came last and was particularly special as it was of my own family name-line. Quite a big attachment this time. I looked forward to opening this one. This was really the ‘Smithies Saga’, for it extended to no less than 95 pages, all, again, thoroughly researched and recorded. It took back my line to 1681, three generations earlier than I had previously known. Not a bad return for a short letter and a 2nd class stamp – and I have made some new friends. Would I do this kind of thing again? Certainly, and I’m in process of preparing it now.
Sharing the 1911 Census
As many or most readers of the Journal will know, some (but not all) of the information on the 1911 Census will be made publicly available this year. There’s no news yet on exactly when this is likely to be, but in the meantime, did you know that a few very small snippets are already available for free? From last year, it has been possible to pay the National Archives a fee of £45 for a limited search of the census based on a given household, and some of the people who have done just that have agreed to share the information they have obtained. If you go to www.1911census.info/sharing.htm, you can find the records from 1911 which have been shared. As yet, there are only 16 records on the site, plus a link to a 17th, but it’s a start... and you never know your luck!
A Battle of Waterloo Survivor - by Barry Ebdon
How strange the way a story unfolds! I had gone to church one Tuesday evening in May of last year in order to conduct the 7.00 pm service of Compline, but before I had a chance to go into the church to start my preparations, I was summoned to the oldest part of the churchyard by the Vicar, who was surrounded by Brownies being supervised by Brown Owl, Akela etc. One young Brownie said, “Look what I’ve just uncovered!” The ‘discovery’ was a headstone which had been laid flat, and which had been covered by grass. When I read the inscription, I was intrigued by what I read –
‘In Loving Memory of James Robinson, A Waterloo Veteran, born 1790, died 24th December 1878, aged 88’
Needless to say, the word ‘Waterloo’ jumped out at me, and I vowed to make some enquiries regarding this old soldier, and so my quest began. The Internet is an excellent way of beginning research, and I had recently taken advantage of a cut price offer to join the findmypast.com website. I firstly accessed the births, marriages and deaths section on this site and, having found the only entry for a death of a James Robinson whose age fitted my particular search, I applied to the General Register Office for a copy of his death certificate. This duly arrived some four days later and described James as ‘Pensioner, 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards’ and that he had indeed passed away on Christmas Eve 1878 in Chase Terrace, Burntwood, the cause of death being given as chronic bronchitis. James had been 24 or 25 when the Battle of Waterloo took place in June 1815. I then set about accessing the census records in order to gather more information regarding this local man, and to construct a family tree to see how much I could discover. In the 1841 census, he was living at Woodhouses (then described as being in the Parish of St. Michael, Lichfield) with his wife Mary and six children, and was described as an ‘agricultural labourer’. In the 1861 census he was living with Mary at School Green in the Parish of Burntwood Edgall (sic!) and Woodhouses, still described as an ‘agricultural labourer’. He was then aged 69 and his wife 65. The children had obviously flown the nest between 1841 and 1861.
In the 1871 census, James was at Oaks Villa, Stapenhill, Burton upon Trent, then aged 79 and described as ‘Assistant, Waterloo’. The head of the household is William Glover, whose wife was Elizabeth Glover née Robinson, aged 43. There is an interesting note in the enumerator’s record to the effect that James was ‘blind left eye from battle’. I did write to the commanding officer of the Coldstream Guards at Knightsbridge Barracks, London, asking whether the regiment could supply any further information, but as yet I have not received a reply. Invaluable assistance also was provided from the Parish Registers Transcription and Index of Christ Church which covers baptisms 1820–1905, marriages 1845–1905 and burials 1820–1905, compiled by members of the Burntwood Family History Group, to whom I am indebted.
If any reader is going to The National Archives at Kew in the not too distant future, I wonder if they’d do me a favour and access the Regimental Records there? One other point springs to mind. There are presumably relatives of James Robinson still living in the area and I am sure that, given sufficient time, I could trace them. However, perhaps one of our readers can provide a short cut – it would certainly be interesting to find out more about this veteran. Any further information gleaned will be reported in due course. However, after this article was published in the Spring 2008 edition of the magazine for Christ Church, Burntwood, I was contacted by Paul Adams, a podiatrist who advertises with us, who tells me that he has a keen interest in Napoleonic memorabilia and was able to provide the following additional information: ‘James Robinson was a member of the Light Company, 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, who would all have been fit young men. There were ten companies in each battalion and the strength of the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Waterloo was 1003 officers and men, of whom 55 were killed in action and 249 wounded. Each soldier who fought in the battle would have been awarded two years’ additional pension and would also have been awarded the Waterloo Medal’. But where is James’s medal, and where are his descendants?
Definitions of Genealogy
What is this thing called genealogy? Here are a few possible definitions...
Chasing your own tale!
Collecting dead relatives and sometimes a live cousin!
Confusing the dead and irritating the living.
Tracing yourself back to better people.
Christmas Memories - by Pam Turner
Every year on Christmas Day, I always wear my paternal grandmother Minnie’s engagement ring, one of the few items that belonged to her that still exists. My reason for doing this is because it was on that day in 1922 that she married my grandfather Joseph Oakley, and I would like to think that she would have appreciated this small gesture of remembrance. Whilst recalling Grandma and Granddad’s marriage, which took place at All Saints Church, Bloxwich, I realised that she would have only had to walk across the road to get to the church. Her home at that time was Bloxwich Police Station, which was situated directly opposite the church; Minnie’s father Alfred  Haycock was the inspector in charge there. After the ceremony, I should imagine that there would have been some kind of celebration back in the living quarters at the station, and maybe they listened to the radio, which relayed the first broadcast of a religious nature on that very day. I was only five when my grandmother sadly passed away in 1960. However, I do have some personal recollections of her, along with numerous black and white photographs. Another item which has helped me to keep her memory alive is a tape recording of her voice made by my father on an old reel-to-reel machine in about 1958. Many years later, my father was able to transfer the recording onto a cassette, which he gave to me shortly before he died. Also on the tape are the voices of my grandfather, father, mother, and great-uncle, as well as myself as a rather highpitched 4-year-old. Although this item of memorabilia has absolutely no monetary value, for me it is priceless to be able to listen to those voices from the past. As Christmas 2008 approached, I started to think about my grandparents’ marriage in 1922 and to wonder how they met. I know that Granddad was not Grandma’s first choice, as she had been previously engaged to a young man called George, who was killed in the First World War. I also know from family stories that George had a job as a gardener on a large estate, and his employment came with a small cottage in which he and Grandma were able to start their married life. Of course, Grandma wasn’t the only young woman to suffer the loss of her betrothed at that time, and I often wonder how many of us would be here today if that war had not taken place. So, how did Grandma and Granddad meet? Sadly I do not have any real theories other than they lived in the same area of Bloxwich; however, some research into my ancestry did turn up a piece of information that proves they were in fact distantly related to each other, so maybe they were introduced via a family connection. It turns out that Grandma and Granddad had great-grandmothers who were sisters born in Penkridge in 1794 and 1802; however, over 100 years later their respective descendants had made their homes in Bloxwich via two very different routes. Of course, there is the possibility that they did not know they were related and had met via an entirely different route. Somehow, I doubt that I shall ever know the answer to that question. Another thing I started thinking about was how many other events in my direct family history had taken place at the festive time. Firstly, my own christening took place on Boxing Day in 1954 and my mom was born on Christmas Day in 1925. Mom always has a little moan about her birthday and Christmas being on the same day but I have to say that, over the years, she has done very well from it, receiving birthday presents from acquaintances who would not normally have bothered, had her birthday been at a different time of the year. December 27th, 1892 saw the marriage at Blakenall Church, Walsall, of my great-grandparents Samuel Oakley and Sarah Allen, and Sarah’s parents George Allen and Jane Hurlstone had been married on December 28th, 1854 in High Ercall, Shropshire. The most distant Christmas event I could find in my tree was a marriage that took place on December 27th, 1764 in Church Eaton, between Thomas Tilsley and Elizabeth Machin, who were 5th great-grandparents to me and 3rd great-grandparents to both Grandma and Granddad With regard to deaths that have occurred around Christmas time, the only one I could find on my direct line was on December 29th, 1839 of my 3-x-greatgrandfather Joseph Oakley. Joseph was only 45 at the time and his cause of death was given as ‘diseased lungs’, which was probably due to him working as a miner. Due to various reasons, my family history has had to take a back seat during 2008; however, I am hopeful that 2009 will allow me to start doing some more research, and maybe I will come across a few more events that I can add to my list of Christmas events and memories.
Bucks FHS Open Day
Bucks FHS will be holding its Open Day on Saturday 25th July 2009, 10am to 4pm, at the Grange School, Wendover Way, Aylesbury (south east of town between A413 and A41). Many attractions for Bucks researchers including full Bucks FHS library and databases, guest societies and commercial suppliers. Free admission and free car parking at the school. For more information, email Rebecca Gurney at rebeccagurney@btinternet.com
Burntwood Brothers at War - by John Gallagher
As many local historians know, the research element can be tiring and frustrating. But a trail – in fact, any trail – can bring such remarkable events and lives to us that those hours spent trawling are invaluable. Over the course of the last couple of years, I have researched the names on the World War I memorial in Beacon Street, Lichfield, amongst the churches and schools of the city. In due course, my researches will be fully published and will hopefully be a useful tool for many family historians. As with many other memorials countrywide, many of the men listed were believed to be locally born and bred. However, this myth has now been broken in regards to Lichfield, and I have been able to prove that the names are from all over the United Kingdom. With this in mind, I was intrigued by the soldiers listed as being from Burntwood and Chase Terrace. Even more enticing was the fact that four of them were brothers. After delving deeper into their lives, I have been able to create a small pen picture of them and who they were. Who knows? They may still have relatives located nearby. The first soldier to be killed was Charles Fenn, born in Chase Terrace in June 1878, but on his attestation papers he recorded it as 3rd Feb. 1879. The eldest son of Enos and Mary, he followed his father into the mines while the family lived at Eastgate Street, before moving to Lichfield Road a decade later and still mining. Charles must have left England to find work in Canada before the last available census, as I have been unable to find him. For the next 15 years he remained working as a miner, still unmarried, before he enlisted on August 20th 1915 in Vernon, British Columbia as part of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He returned to his homeland fighting and lost his life just over two years later on October 30th 1917. Charles’s youngest brother Thomas had been born in Chase Terrace in 1899. His parents became the publicans of the Holly Bush in Tamworth Street in 1902 and remained there until 1925. It seems Thomas was quite athletic and sporty, a member of the Lichfield Boys’ Football Club before finding employment at the bottling factory at the top of Greenhill. This could not have been for very long, as he was a young lance-corporal in the Essex Regiment when killed in action on August 8th, 1918.
The other brothers were George and John Powell of 85 Beacon Street. Born in Burntwood in June 1886 to Thomas and Amy from Edial, George, like his father, was a farm worker. By the time he was killed in Mesopotamia on 25th January 1917, he had risen to the rank of sergeant in the North Staffordshire Regiment. He left a wife, Mary, at 5 Holmes Terrace, Lichfield His younger brother John had been born in Burntwood in June/July 1888 and also achieved the rank of sergeant. He had been a regular soldier since 1907 after he had worked on the railways for the L&NWR. With the North Staffords, he had spent the greater part of his service in India before dying of heat exhaustion in the heart of Chkadara on July 8th 1916.
These four men have become part of the city’s memorial and now, as we have reached the 90th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities, even if this tribute remains within the knowledge of a few, it is appropriate that their home town’s local history society also know. The final Chase lad was George Harold Sloman, a Sapper of the Royal Engineers. Only 20, he was recorded killed on September 26th 1915. He was last seen entering a German trench by mistake, the enemy entering the same trench shortly afterwards. He was born in Chasetown in December 1895 and was living in Union Street on the 1901 census with his stepfather and his mother, who had remarried to Jonas Woolridge after George’s father Herbert had died in September 1896. An ex-St Michael’s School pupil, George was an employee of Dawes Brewery in Sandford Street when he enlisted in Wolverhampton, and was living at 80 Stowe Street in Lichfield.
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
Christ Church, Lichfield. Christ Church’s parish is actually Leomansley and it was formed in 1848 from parts of the parishes of St, Michael and St. Mary. The church is built with red sandstone (a material readily available in the district) and it was extended in 1887 with the addition of north and south transepts. The parish was created a vicarage in 1868. At the time of the 1851 Census, the congregation was 100 in the morning and 210 in the evening. Christ Church, Lichfield is one of the few remaining local parishes for which the BFHG does not hold microfiches of the parish registers, and the possibility of remedying this is currently being considered.