Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2013 01-03 Volume 21 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 
 
 
 
 
Jan - Mar 2013
 
 
 
 
Vol 21.1
 
Contents of this issue.
 
From the Chair 1
News From the Secretary 2
Vital Sources for Researching Family History 3
A Silver War Badge 4
Ten Minute Talks 5
Bucks FHS Open Day 7
The 'Green Thing' 8
S.S. Teutonic: From Luxury Liner to Troop Ship 10
How Did That Originate? 11
Tell You What You Want, What You Really, Really Want 12
The House with Twelve Chimneys (a sequel) 13
Skeletons 15
Here is the News from 1924 16
This Issue’s Cover Photograph 18
The Search for My Father 19

From the Chair...

Chairman’s Report from the Annual General Meeting, September 2012
 
As most of you will know, we were sorry to lose Carole as our Chairman and committee member. She has done an excellent job and we hope she will, at some future date, come back on to the committee. Meanwhile I would like to send her our very best wishes.
In the interim, Pam Woodburn and I will hold the position jointly until the AGM. Neither of us feels we want to continue after that, as most of you know that we have both worked for the Group in that capacity for several years. We hope you will think about a replacement before the September meeting. Perhaps some new blood could be persuaded to offer their services. The World War I Memorial Project is going on apace, but Pam would love to hear from anyone interested in helping. Next year will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War and, across the country, all types of groups are trying to mark the occasion appropriately. Please have a look at the website for more information, as it could well inspire you to take part. The Transcription Project moves along slowly. We are not now allowed to buy fiche for use in transcribing these records, but we have to go to the Archives Office in Lichfield and do the work there. Bernard Daniels continues with his
2 tireless work and spends hours at the Archives, photographing the fiche and preparing them for transcription. We should love to have more helpers, so please do ask me for more information. In March, Geoff Sorrell, one of our founder members, past chairman and long time secretary will have his 80th birthday, and by the time you read this, we plan to have helped him celebrate it at The Drill public house. On 8th May, we are hoping to run another trip to The National Archives , Kew. Due to the rise in fuel charges, the cost of the coach has increased considerably and we need to ask for £22 per head to cover the cost. Again, there is a sheet for signatures on the table. As always, we are happy to take non-members. Some of our friends at the Cannock Wood and Gentleshaw Gardening Club wish to come along to visit Kew Gardens, so that will help to swell the numbers. Remember, we need your support to run these trips, so spread the news and help boost the numbers. Best wishes to all, Jane and Pam.

News from the Secretary

As you know, this is the time of year that we have to pay our annual subscriptions, so a big ‘thank you’ to all members who sent in their annual subscriptions on time. If you haven’t yet done so, please send your payments to me as soon as possible. It would be a big help if, when sending payment through the post, you could write your membership number on the back of your cheque – or, if you cannot remember your number, please put your address.
 
A grant of £100.00 towards the cost of continuing our local War Memorial Project has been received from Burntwood Town Council. Many thanks to them for their generosity. Pauline Bowen

Vital Sources for Researching Family History - by Barbara Williams

Part 1: Civil Registration

Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates are crucially important for anyone wishing to research their family history.
In 1837, England and Wales were divided up into 27 registration districts, based upon the then contemporary Poor Law Unions. Each district was administered by a Superintendent Registrar and was further subdivided into local districts. The original registration districts were re-organized in 1852 and their number increased to 33, with a further revision taking place in 1946. A Registrar General was appointed to be responsible for the entire system and was originally based in London. The local Registrar would record each birth or death and, originally, it was the responsibility of that official to collect this information. He would be expected to travel through his local district and record each birth within six weeks and each death within five days. As there was no onus placed on the family to report this information, there may therefore be some gaps in the early registers. However, the situation changed in 1874 with the enacting of the Births and Deaths Registration Act. The burden of responsibility for reporting the information now lay with the family, and fines were payable for late or non-registration from 1875 onwards.

Each event was recorded on a special form, with one copy retained by the registrar and one copy issued for the informant. The information compiled locally would be sent to the Superintendant Registrar, who would, in turn, send a copy of all registrations in his district to the Registrar General in London on a quarterly basis. The situation was slightly different for marriages. The clergy for churches that were officially authorized to record marriages were expected to send quarterly returns straight to the Registrar General in London. Non-conformist churches had to have their buildings licensed to perform such ceremonies, with the local Registrar being legally obliged to be present to record the details. However the situation changed, from 1899, thanks to the Marriage Act of 1898, and non-conformist clergy from these churches could also record and submit the information themselves.
 
As mentioned above, it was the duty of the local Superintendent Registrar to forward the information to the Registrar General in London. Therefore, there are two sets of records: the original records, which are held at the Registrar’s Office, and the copies held by the Registrar General. Once the records arrived at the Registrar General’s office in London, clerks would re-organize them, and they made alphabetical indexes for the certificates, broken down on a quarterly basis. Currently, the general public has no legal right to view the original certificates held locally, but only the copies held by the Registrar General, although you can order duplicate copies of the original records from local register offices. The records of the Registrar General for England and Wales are now in the General Register Office (GRO), which is a department of the Office of National Statistics, and duplicates can also be ordered online at www.gro.gov.uk. Separate arrangements exist for Scotland and Ireland, and I will deal with these in a later issue.

Next time: “What do the Certificates contain?”

A Silver War Badge - by Jane Leake

Last year I was given a copy of a paper sent to my great Uncle Horace, which must have accompanied a Silver War Badge. I was most interested in this as I had not come across it previously. This badge was issued in the UK to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness during World War I. They intended it to be worn in civilian clothes. It had been the practice of some women to present white feathers to apparently able-bodied young men who were not wearing the King’s uniform. The badge was to be worn on the right breast while in civilian dress; it was forbidden to wear it on military uniform. The badge bears the royal cipher of G.R.I. (Georgius Rex Imperator; George, King and Emperor). Each badge was numbered on the reverse, as the War Office would not replace any that were lost. However, if one was handed into a police station, it would be returned to the War Office and the original recipient could be traced at his or her discharge address, enabling the badge to be returned to the owner. A similar award, known as the King’s Badge, was issued in World War II. These, however, were not numbered.
 
Ten Minute Talks

The following are based on the ‘ten minute talks’ given by members of the BFHG at our Annual General Meeting on 10th September 2012. Transcripts by Sheila Clarke.

The Finger Post (formerly the Royal Oak Public House, Pelsall) - by Jill Willner

Jill and her husband Peter Willner have researched The Royal Oak, now called The Finger Post pub, which has stood in Pelsall since 1818. It was constructed next to the Wirley and Essington Canal, which had opened in 1797 and it was owned by the York-Willner family for over a hundred years. The humpbacked bridge over the canal is known as York Bridge but, when the Willner branch of the family held the licence, the locals called it Willner’s bridge. The canal was called the ‘Curly Wirley’, because the builders tried to keep to level ground as far as possible to avoid building expensive locks. This meant that the canal took a rather circuitous route. Being close to the canal had its problems. The Royal Oak had very deep cellars and they were liable to occasional flooding. Richard York, the first owner, was also a blacksmith and, later, part owner of the York foundry, which manufactured boilers. He and his wife Mary had many children and their son Robert was married three times, had a large family and was a significant landowner in the area. Robert’s first wife Mary died in 1859. He had a large house known as The Hollies built near to The Royal Oak and, during the construction of the house in 1861, he lived at The Turf public house. He lived at the Hollies with his second wife Mary Ellis and, after Mary’s death, with his third wife, Joanna Shut, who outlived him and survived until her 91st year. Robert’s daughter, Harriet York, had married William Willner at St. Chad’s Cathedral, Lichfield, in 1854, and William was already the licensee of The Royal Oak in 1861. The pub was passed down through the Willner family until around 1925.

The Grade 2 Pelsall Junction Bridge, with its beautiful cast iron latticework construction, spanned the canal, along which, in the 19th century, many iron works and coal mines were established. In 1872, the Pelsall Hall Colliery flooded and 22 men and boys died. After that, the iron industry gradually declined. Most traces of the industrial past have gone, and the area now has a rural look. Some of the nearby land was known in the past as Wilner’s field, and a nearby road on a housing development bears the Willner name. In the 1990s, the landlord was Michael Hughes, who was tragically murdered in his bed in 2003, by men looking for money to buy drugs. The popularity of the pub declined after this event, until it was refurbished and re-named ‘The Finger Post’, after the sign near the junction bridge. Jill gave us the opportunity to look at photographs of the Willner family and where they lived. The photo of Robert Willner shows him as imposing, handsome and stylishly dressed – looking quite the ladies’ man!

Extracts from his life, as told by Eric Priest - by Jenny Lee
 
Jenny recently attended the funeral of her uncle, who had died aged 90 years. He had spent the last period of his life in a hospice and, whilst there, he had been encouraged to dictate his life story. At this point, he had prostate cancer and was totally blind. Jenny was given a copy of his story by Eric Priest’s daughter, from which she read extracts, giving us a brief glimpse of Eric’s life. Eric Priest had extremely poor eyesight from birth. He mentioned half-crown trips with his cousin to the seaside. They would have a competition as to who would see the sea first, a competition which Eric could never win because he was unable to see long distances! He passed the exam for the Grammar School in Lichfield. He would have liked to have played rugby, but the nearest he got was to run onto the pitch with the orange segments at half time. He was a fast runner and reached the final of the 100 yards, but unfortunately it rained heavily as the final was about to begin, so he was unable to see the winning post and pulled up short. He and his family moved to Shrewsbury and Eric left school. His ambition was to travel and write. He decided to take the exams for the Civil Service but, as the results were delayed, he had to take a job in a factory. Later, he heard that he had passed the exam with flying colours. War broke out, and Eric tried to join the Royal Navy, but he failed the medical because of his poor eyesight. It was the same story when he tried other services. However, he was able to work on statistics for the Cheshire Regiment as part of the Civil Service. After the war, Eric worked in the Control Council in Germany. Eric felt that on the whole the German people had been seduced by Adolf Hitler, who had brought the country out of recession in the early thirties, but whose later control of the country stifled opposition. The aim of the Council was to advise on the demilitarisation and de-Nazification of the country, and to see that the administration was uniformly carried out throughout Germany. (This task became increasingly difficult when the country was divided into four separate zones).

Eric recounted a scene he observed, when visiting the Soviet sector, of women trying to clear the rubble of the bomb damaged buildings with just their hands. It was while he was in Germany that Eric met his future wife, who was working as an interpreter. On returning to England, Eric did well in the Civil Service, in spite of his deteriorating eyesight, and had reached senior executive officer level in the Ministry of Agriculture by the time of his retirement. His wife became ill with Motor Neurone Disease and was unable to use her voice in the later stages so, sadly, because he was blind, communication between them became nigh on impossible. We should coax our relatives to tell their life story as Eric Priest was persuaded to do – and, dare I say, we should write about our experiences, too!

Bucks Family History Society Open Day 2013

If anyone is going to be in Buckinghamshire in July 2013, you might be interested to know that the Buckinghamshire Family History Society will be holding an Open Day on Saturday the 27th of that month. The event will take place at The Grange School, Wendover Way, Aylesbury, HP21 7NH, from 10 am to 4 pm, and the society will be making available their research facilities, include their names database, as well as Parish Registers and People and Places libraries. In addition, there will be expert advice on hand, as well as display stalls by guest societies and local heritage groups – plus, suppliers of data CDs, maps, software, archival materials and more will be offering their goods for sale. The society itself will have sales of parish register transcripts and other research aids. Archives and museum services attending will include Amersham Museum, the Centre For Buckinghamshire Studies, and Chesham Museum Wycombe High School Centre for the History of Girls’ State Education (Archives).
For further information, the society has an excellent website at www.bucksfhs.org.uk, or you can email publicity@bucksfhs.org.uk
 
The ‘Green Thing’ - by Brian Asbury and A Friend

Someone I know posted on Facebook recently that, when checking out at her local supermarket the previous day, she was told that she needed to bring her own bags in future. The shop was no longer going to supply plastic carrier bags because “plastic bags weren’t good for the environment”. My friend apologised and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.” The young checkout operator responded, “That’s the problem today. Your generation didn’t care enough to save our environment for future generations.” My friend thought about it and realised that this youth was right about one thing – our generation didn’t have the green thing in ‘our’ day. So what did we have back then? After some reflection and soul-searching on ‘our’ day, here’s what, between us, we remembered we did have:
 
Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the place where they had been bought. They were made of glass, not plastic, and companies washed, sterilised and refilled them, so the same bottles could be used repeatedly (we also got a couple of pennies back from each bottle to spend on our next purchase, as an incentive).
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator or a lift in every store and office building. We walked to the shops and didn’t climb into a petrol-guzzling machine (probably built to carry anything up to ten people but in reality only carrying one or two each time) every time we had to go a few hundred yards down the road.
We washed babies’ nappies because we didn’t have the disposable kind.
We dried clothes on a line outside, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 240 volts – wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back then. We also washed dishes and other kitchen utensils by hand, even at the risk of our hands not being as soft as our faces!
Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing with a fancy label. And most of their toys could be played with without needing to plug them in or insert batteries.
We had one TV, or even just a radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a monstrosity the size of Belgium. It wasn’t on all of the time, either, because we didn’t have 100+ channels broadcasting stuff 24/7 that no-one was watching most of the time – just BBC and ITV broadcasting for a few hours each day.
In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.
When we packaged a fragile item to send by post, we used wadded-up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap (and strangely, fewer things seemed to get damaged in transit...).
When we wanted to cut the lawn, we didn’t plug in the lawnmower or fire up a petrol engine. We used a push mower that ran on human power, and we collected the cuttings in a grass box so they could be used to make compost.
We exercised by working, or by walking (see above), so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. Yes – we drank water most of the time, rather than whatever expensive fizzy drinks were currently fashionable.
We refilled pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced our worn-out razor blades – just the blades – instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
People walked or took the bus to work, and kids walked or rode their bikes to school instead of turning their parents into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest fast food outlet.
And speaking of fast food, fish ‘n’ chip shops (and other food vendors) wrapped their produce in old newspapers rather than in new, purpose-bought paper that would be used once then thrown away (and for the record, no-one ever got food poisoning from old newsprint!).
We also ate more fresh food, because we didn’t have refrigerators and freezers to use yet more electricity to keep stuff cold that we probably wouldn’t touch for months. Many of us also grew fresh vegetables in the garden.
And yes, we burned coal on our fires – but usually we’d only heat the room that the family were actually in – not four or five additional rooms which were unoccupied most of the time. And the fire also heated the water, so there was no need to use gas or electricity to do it.

So isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we ‘old folks’ were just because we didn’t have ‘the green thing’ back then?
 
S.S. Teutonic: From Luxury Liner to Troop Ship - by Sheila Clarke

One of my ancestors served in Egypt during the First World War. On receiving his service record from the National Archives, I read that he reached the demob. camp at Kantara (Al Qantarah) on 12 December 1919 and embarked from Alexandria for England aboard the S.S. Teutonic on 24th December 1919. I was interested to find out more about this ship and how she came to be used as a troop carrier. Teutonic was commissioned by The White Star Line and was built by Harland and Wolf, Belfast in 1889. It was the first armed merchant cruiser, carrying eight 4.7-inch guns. Teutonic and her sister ship S.S. Majestic took part in the Spithead Review by Queen Victoria on August 1st 1889. Also present was the Queen’s grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The eight guns were removed before Teutonic embarked on her maiden voyage to New York on 7th August 1889, though others were fitted during her wartime career. Teutonic was the first of the White Star ships not to have square rigged sails. She and Majestic were extremely profitable carrying, 300 first, 190 second and 1,000 third class passengers.
 
Here is a menu for second class passengers: July 4t 1907. All the passengers were served their meals by stewards in one of three designated dining rooms. 2nd Class Fruit Oatmeal Porridge Cerealine Fresh Fish Broiled Ham Fried Egg Grilled Steak, onion Chips Mashed potato Scones Vienna and Graham rolls Toast Marmalade Jam Coffee.
 
Teutonic won the Blue Riband twice for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic – the first in 1889 at an average speed of 22.25 knots. In that year, the ship was in a minor collision in New York Harbour with S.S. Berlin, a ship belonging to the United States Line, but she incurred only slight damage. In 1900, the ship was used as a troop carrier during the Boer War. In 1901, Teutonic survived a tsunami caused by an earthquake, but two of the crew were swept overboard from the crow’s nest. No passengers were lost, it being night-time when the wave struck.
In 1911, Teutonic was transferred to White Star’s sister company, the Dominion Line, for service between Britain and Canada. In 1913, as the ship was elderly and no longer attracted top class passengers, she had only second and third class accommodation. It was while Teutonic was sailing in thick fog 170 miles from Belle Isle, off the Newfoundland coast, that she nearly suffered the same fate as the Titanic. The captain only narrowly avoided collision with an iceberg by reversing engines and putting hard to port. Even so, the ship passed within 20 feet of the ’berg. The passengers were unaware of this until after the peril was avoided. In August 1915, the British Admiralty bought the ship and she became a troop ship, sailing between England and Egypt, from 1918. In 1920, the ship was laid up at Cowes Roads off the Isle of Wight. Finally, Teutonic was taken to Emden Germany in 1921, where she was broken up and sold for scrap.
 
How Did That Originate?

Some traditions and customs got started in the most surprising ways. For example, have you ever wondered why brides carry bouquets of flowers? It might partially be because of old pagan fertility rites and such but usually, when such things are delved into, a more practical reasoning behind it can be found. Most people in mediaeval times got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in May and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, in case their natural fragrance was starting to emerge, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide any burgeoning body odour. The custom continues today, even though today’s brides do tend to smell better than their 15th century counterparts!
Bathtime in the ‘olden days’ led to at least one other popular saying, too. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then, the water was so dirty that you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”
 
Tell You What You Want, What You Really, Really Want… - by Pam Woodburn

At our recent Open Meeting, I distributed questionnaires and those of you who had time filled them in. Here are the results:
Altogether, there were 23 completed questionnaires and, of those, 18 were from members and five from non-members. Of the non-members, every one said that they would be interested in joining the group. The time that you had been engaged in tracing your family history varied from ‘just started’ to over 35 years! Interestingly, almost 50% of you had ancestors who did not come from this area. When asked what they liked about the Group, the overwhelming answer was “the friendliness and patience of the members and their willingness to help beginners”. Several people commented on the high level of informed knowledge that members of the Group had. Talks were also popular, with more being requested on general family history. Many of you said how much you had enjoyed the coach trips organised with research in mind. Several suggestions for improvement were made.

 Firstly, to find a solution to the old problem – how to get access to Ancestry.co.uk for our Thursday meetings.
 More local history books were requested, and more up-to-date books generally.
 We were very happy to see that absolutely everyone considered the annual subscription to be very reasonable.
 Finally, more workshop sessions were requested.

It was interesting to see how you heard that the Open Evening was taking place. You found out about it from:

 The Lichfield Mercury
 The Group website
 Lichfield Library
 Friends.

Our thanks to those of you who filled in the forms.

The House with Twelve and a Half Chimneys (a sequel)

In 2011, Mike Jennings gave a talk to the Group about Treneere Manor, a small Grade 2 listed Georgian house situated in Cornwall. Built mostly of granite, it has two groups of six chimneys on the roof, with one group of six having a small extra chimney. Built of Cornish granite, it is set in gardens and parkland as well as being surrounded by small farms. His talk was written up for the Journal by Sheila Clarke and, as a result of this article being read by chance by Ann Griffiths, she contacted Mike and he was able to give her lots of information about the house with twelve and a half chimneys. Some of this information is reproduced here. Treneere Manor was bought in 1876 by Joseph Polglase and his brother John, who paid £6,800 for it in gold sovereigns. Joseph Polglase was born at Lelant, near Hayle in Cornwall, in 1840. He was a farmer and also a tin and copper miner, as was his brother John. Joseph married Sarah Carne around 1858. She was born in 1835 at Ludgvan, also near to Hayle. They lived in Breage, near Helston, when they were first married. The two Polglase brothers had gone to the USA as gold miners and later as mine captains. They first went to California, then ended up in Grass Valley, where they made their fortune mining gold. They were probably in the USA for about ten years, from 1864 to 1874. John returned to Britain on the City of Montreal with his wife Frances on 15th September, 1874, and Joseph returned a year later. Joseph had the reputation for always paying for goods in cash, namely sovereigns.

Joseph’s wife Sarah and their three oldest daughters had stayed behind in Cornwall while he was in America. They had four daughters altogether. The youngest, Rosa, eloped in 1904 to get married and only returned when her father needed help before he died in 1922 (Sarah having predeceased him in 1912). When Joseph died, there was a lot of speculation about a hoard of gold sovereigns buried on the estate, and this story has resurfaced several times, but nobody has ever found them. The last Polglase family members to live at the Manor were the four sisters. Part of Mike Jennings’s mother’s family, the Pritchards, come from Hereford, and another branch, the Symons, are from Cornwall. Reginald Symons used to deliver milk to the Polglase sisters at Treneere Manor and he became estate manager for them. He and his wife looked after the Polglase family until the last of the sisters died in 1956. Having no surviving family, she left the manor to Reginald, who continued to look after the estate for the rest of his life.

Mike can remember having holidays at the house as a child and how hidden away it was. The house was full of late Victorian and Edwardian treasures and the house was a “time warp” of that era. Many local people did not realise the existence of Treneere Manor until Reginald’s death, as it was completely screened by woodland. Mike has a series of photographs of Treneere Manor set in beautiful grounds. These show the fine Georgian architecture and the fixtures and fittings which were in the house before its sale. In 2006, Reginald died, aged 95 and, as he had no children, he bequeathed the estate to St. Dunstans (now known as ‘Blind Veterans UK’). St. Dunstans subsequently sold the house on and the manor and its grounds now form part of Penwith College, West Cornwall. John and Ann Griffiths, whose enquiry sparked this sequel to Mike’s original piece, are related to Eliza Jane, the sister of the Polglase brothers. They had very little information about Treneere Manor, so Mike was able to help them with that and also with his recollections of the older Polglase sisters. In return, they were able to help Mike with a lot of information on the Polglase family. However, this may not be the end of the story. Mike reports that there are many other intriguing things connected with Treneere and its owners, including:

 the moving Chinese chess pieces;
 the Rolls-Royce “Phantom” car;
 the St. Germoe Sarcophagus, c. 900 AD;
 the Quarry Team picture;
 the 1897 Jubilee and a model yacht;
 the gold nuggets;
 the ‘Smugglers Hole’ and the secret stairway;
 the stolen garden seat and its return
 the “Concord” Sonic boom;
 and finally: why were there 12½ chimneys?

Hopefully, Mike may be able to enlighten us about some of these mysterious items some time in the future.
 
Skeletons! - by Pam Woodburn

As many of you know, I have been teaching family history for many years. In fact, a number of you reading this may have started your family history research in one of my classes. Cast your minds back to when you started and you were given the advice, “Gather together any family documents that you may have and contact family members to discover how they can help you in your quest”. Sound familiar? So I was more than a little amused the other day to see this letter in our daily newspaper, but at the same time I felt sorry for the couple who had obviously believed what the adverts had told them: ‘Just put in your name on the computer program and it all opens before you’. I mentioned this to one of my current classes and their reaction was, “Well, they can have another interesting year, can’t they?” What a good way of looking at it.
 
Beware those Skeletons
We’ve all seen adverts about tracing one’s family history.
Having retired, my wife and I decided last January to trace our families. It took almost a year, after which, satisfied that we’d done all we could, we found the only thing missing was my birth certificate.
I duly ordered it online and waited. Two days before my 65th birthday, the envelope arrived, but what was inside wasn’t a birth certificate but a certificate informing me that I was an adopted child.
My emotions were mixed: anger that my life was false, sadness that I didn’t know my biological family, gratitude that those I now knew were my adoptive parents had given me all the love they could and more and had forged the person that I had become.
It must have been a burden keeping that secret even to the grave.
I’ve now set the wheels in motion to contact the person I believe to be my mother. After all these years, will she want to make contact? I’ll have to wait for the outcome.
Be aware: skeletons in the family can be closer than you think.
Name and address supplied
 
Here Is The News (from 1924)
 
We wonder whether some of the names mentioned in the Lichfield Pioneer on Friday, February 8, 1924 will be of interest to readers of the Journal? It makes for an interesting picture of life at that time.

BAD ROAD BLAMED
 
That his rear light failed only a matter of three yards before he reached the constable who pulled him up was the successful plea of Herbert Pickering of Ivy Cottage, Hednesford Road, Brownhills, when he appeared at Rushall Police Court on Monday, summoned for failing to have the rear identification plate of his car illuminated. Police-Constable Hewitt said that at 8.50 p.m. on Saturday, January 26, the defendant drove a light motor-van without a rear light past him in The Square, Rushall. Defendant said he had a witness to prove the contention mentioned adding that the main road was in a very bad state, and this must have caused the light to jolt out. He was ordered to pay 5s. 6d. costs.
 
DEAD ORGAN GRINDER’S £600
 
Letters of administration were granted in the Probate Court on Monday to Miss Helen Smith in the estate of her father, Richard Smith, who died intestate on June 13, 1921, at the Union Infirmary, Cannock. Counsel said Smith was an iterant organ grinder, and he plied his calling between Cannock and Manchester. His daughter had accompanied him on his journeys for the last 23 years. When Smith went into the infirmary in 1921, he sent a Miss Eagelhart £597 in Treasury notes for safe custody. Monday had been spent on his funeral, and Miss Eagelhart said she had £575 still in her possession.

SHELFIELD MAN FINED
 
For committing a nuisance in Red Cow Lane, Heath End, Pelsall, on Saturday, January 26, Thomas Cooper (45), of The Moss Pits, Shelfield, was, at Rushall Police Court, on Monday, fined 10s.

LOCAL ENGAGEMENT

An interesting local engagement is announced between Mr. Walter Richard Cunliffe, of 34 The Groves, Boltons, London, and Miss Frances Mary Hamilton, only daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Stuart Shaw, of Lichfield.
 
WORKHOUSE WANDERER’S RETURN

Having been granted two days’ leave, Henry Lucas, an aged inmate of the Cannock Workhouse, returned in an advanced state of inebriation. When he was taken before the magistrates on Saturday morning, it was stated that he lay down in the entrance hall and defied the master’s orders to get up and go to bed. Only when a wheelbarrow was brought round to convey him to the police station did he find his feet. Having given trouble on previous occasions, he was sentenced to ten days’ imprisonment.

SCHOOL ATTENDANCE

William Crisp, a gardener, of 35 Greenhill, Lichfield, was summoned for not sending his son James, aged 9.1/2 years, regularly to school. Mr. J. Bettany, who represented the County Educations Committee, explained that from November 26 the school was open 56 times, and the child was only present 11 times. When witness called, the defendant said the boy had no boots. Defendant told the magistrates he had been out of work two years and could not afford to buy the child any boots. His children were now in the workhouse because they had been turned out of their lodgings. He was looking for another house, as he was now in work. Defendant was let off with a caution, and ordered to pay 4s. 6d. costs.

RUGELEY MAN PUNISHED FOR ASSAULT ON POLICE SERGEANT

At a Special Court at Rugeley on Monday, Harry Hodgkiss, of Elmore Street, Rugeley, was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Horse Fair, Rugeley, on Saturday, and also with assaulting Police-Sergeant Draper at the same time and place. Police-Sergeant Draper said he went up to the prisoner about 11 p.m. and spoke to him about his disorderly behaviour. Hodgkiss then became very violent and struck him. Hodgkiss was fined 20s., or in default 14 days, for being drunk and disorderly, and for the assault was sentenced to six weeks hard labour.

NO LICENCE TO SUSPEND

“This is rather a serious matter. If he had met with an accident or killed anyone, the Bench could not suspend a licence which didn’t exist, and they would be in a predicament,” observed Superintendent Sault, when, at Rushall Police Court, on Monday, Richard Thomas Davis, (23) of Shelfield Farm, Shelfield, was summoned for driving a motor-cycle and sidecar without having a driver’s licence. Police-Constable Leese said he stopped the defendant in Barns Lane, Rushall, at 8.30 a.m. on January 29. Defendant could not produce a driver’s licence and said the machine belonged to his master. Later in the day, witness visited Shelfield Farm, and found the man’s employer was away, and defendant had taken the machine out without his knowledge. Defendant told the magistrates that one of the horses was very ill, and he used the motor-cycle as the quickest way to get to it. Asked how he had learned to drive without having taken out a licence, defendant did not reply. A fine of 10s. was imposed.

SITUATIONS VACANT

Smart boy, about 14 or 15, to assist in cutting room; progressive training for suitable lad. Apply in first instance in writing to: George Key Ltd., Rugeley. Wanted, clean respectable Youth to assist, must be strong and willing; one wishing to learn business preferred. Kibble’s Bakery, Rugeley. Young men who are looking for a manly occupation with good prospects will find it in the Regular Army. Pay on joining: New Recruits (age 18 to 25) 2/9d a day; unmarried ex-soldiers (age up to 30), who served two years or more, 3/6d a day. All kinds of sports; many educational advantages and good holidays on full pay. Apply at: 131 St John Street, Lichfield; 118 Station Road, Hednesford; or any Territorial Drill Hall.

Domestic Servants
Good general required, plain cooking; references essential. Apply, Mrs Hewson, Grant Lodge, Birmingham Road, Walsall.
Wanted at once, strong Girl for Kitchen; not under 18 years of age; between maid kept; Church of England. Mrs Stendell, Longdon Hall, Rugeley, Staffs.

SITUATIONS WANTED
 
Two sisters require situation locally, together if possible, or separate Generals. Apply 38 Arch Street, Rugeley.
 

This Issue’s Cover Photograph St. Michael & All Angels Church, Pelsall - Photo by Brian Asbury

There has been a church in Pelsall since 1311, but it has only been at the present location since the current building was erected in 1844. The building was renovated and extended in 1889 as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Four tapestries in the church commemorate Pelsall’s millennium in 1994, and in the churchyard stands a memorial to the Pelsall Hall Colliery pit disaster of 14th November 1872.
 
The Search For My Father - by Jim Bowen

In the early 1950s, my father decided that life with his family was not what he wanted, so he left our home in Erdington, Birmingham. Afterwards, my mother refused to talk about him, right up until she died in 1999. My sister was not interested in looking for him and did not want me to pursue it either. However, after my sister died, I decided that I would look for him. But it was not until I retired in 2010 that I was able to find the time to research what had happened to my father. I took out a 14-day trial period on Ancestry, but I was not hopeful because I did not have a lot of information to go on. However, I entered my mother’s maiden name into the ‘marriage’ search field and immediately got a ‘hit’. This gave me a year for their marriage, so I decided to take out an annual subscription. Almost immediately I was asked if I wanted to see any other members researching similar family trees. With nothing to lose, I said ‘yes’, and was taken to one other member who had done the same search as me and who had put a copy of the marriage certificate into his file. To my amazement, there was a copy of my parents’ certificate.

As the member had the same surname, I emailed him to say we might be related –would he like to get in touch? The next day I had a reply; he was researching his grandfather and had found that he had been married previously, but could not get any further. I replied, saying I had a photograph of the wedding party, and would he like to see it to verify that this was indeed his grandfather? The photo was sent and he confirmed that it was, indeed, the same man. Thus it was that after 60 years, within a matter of minutes the search for my father was over. He had met another lady and they had three children, a boy and two girls, although they could not marry until 1973 (following a divorce from my mother). He had died in 1997. They were a very secretive couple who would not talk about their early life, and it was only when his grandmother died in 2008 that my newly-found half-nephew had started his research. I met with my half-brother and his family where they currently live in Swindon and, over the next few months, many photos and memories were passed between us. He was shocked that the father he knew could have ever walked out on a wife and two young children. Me? I am simply very happy to have found my father, pleased that he was happy and contented in his new life. What would we have said, had we met? I don’t know. I have never held a grudge against him; I just hope he would have been proud of me for what I have achieved during my lifetime.