Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2014 01-03 Volume 22 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 
 
 
 
 
January - March 2014
 
 
 
 
Vol 22.1
 
Contents of this issue.
 

From the Chair 1
The Good Old Days 2
News From the Secretary 3
Chairman’s Report to the AGM, 2013 3
Gene Passage 4
Oh, Calamity! 5
More from the Good Old Days 6
That Last Missing Piece of the Jigsaw 7
The (Weird and Wonderful) Name Game 10
Every Picture Tells a Story 11
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks 12
The Richards Windows 18
This Issue’s Cover Photograph 19
Genealogy Wish List 19
 
From the Chair
 
Dear Members, A warm welcome to members old and new from a new man in the Chair! My name is Steve Bailey, and I’ve lived in Chasetown and Chase Terrace all of my life, even before the separate villages expanded into the town we know as Burntwood! As you are all probably aware, no-one came forward at the AGM to fill the vacancy in the chair. I did consider putting myself forward but, without consulting the managing director at home (the present Mrs Bailey), I could not do so. After consultation, she said she was happy for me to put myself forward. Otherwise, we could have had a repeat of the Edward VIII abdication situation, a man who could not carry on his duties without the support of the woman he loved. I intend to see this position through as long as the group wants me. For those of you who don’t know me, I came to the group as an ordinary member about five years ago, with an interest in where my families came from and how I came to live here – probably like most of you. I became more interested in history than I ever had been before, coming to the Monday night meetings and listening to the wonderful and varied speakers we have had here. After a couple of years with the group, I then volunteered to look after the microfiche reader, CDs and laptop computers, which I still do, bringing them to our Thursday night research meetings.I’m still on that journey of discovery, hitting brick walls, finding surprising, some happy, some sad and unexpected things along the way. Thank you to all members of the group, committee past and present, and anyone else who has helped me along my journey.
 
I hope I can keep up the high standards of the previous occupants of my position and repay your faith in me by leading the group on another successful year. This year is an important one for this group and many others around the country, with the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. As you know, we have a Memorial Project Group researching the war dead of Burntwood Town, headed by Pam Woodburn. This is gathering pace, so much so that as more and more soldiers’ biographies are added to the BFHG website, a sister site may be required in the near future. There has been interest from outside parties in our Memorial Project, which is very pleasing for everyone involved. Please approach me on any of the Monday or Thursday night meetings if you have any comments or suggestions about how we can improve our group, or if you require any assistance. We also have a new Vice-Chairman, Colin Waldron, who has not been with the group too long, so please welcome him and give him your support too. Remember family history is a thing of the past! Steve Bailey, Chairman BFHG 2013–2014
 
The Good Old Days
 
Back in the 1500s, people cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: ‘Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old’. Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over they would hang up their bacon, to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, ‘Bring home the bacon’. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around talking and ‘chew the fat’.
 
News from the Secretary
 
 As many of you will know, Jane Leake and Pam Woodburn have stepped down from the committee at the AGM in September. On your behalf I would like to say a big THANK YOU for all the hard work and dedication that they have put into the running of the group since it started and, on a personal note, thank you both for all the help, friendship and encouragement you have given to me since I started as the Secretary a year ago. You will be pleased to know that Jane and Pam are still going to be regular members of the group and will be present at the meetings sharing their knowledge and expertise. Also, as many of you will know, Jeff Wilson has been very poorly over the last few months, and has reluctantly had to give up being the treasurer for the time being. Thank you, Jeff, for all your hard work and dedication over many years and again on a personal note, thank you for the help and friendship you have shown to me. We all wish you a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing you at the meetings in the near future. In the last journal I appealed for articles for the journal, so thank you to those who responded, and please keep the articles coming in, either via email to me or direct to Brian (Editor). Please can I remind you all again that subscriptions for January – December 2014 are now due in. Please pay me at the January meeting or send cheques (payable to Burntwood Family History Group) to me at 8 Larkspur Avenue, Burntwood, WS7 4SS. Please include your membership number or full name and address with your payment. Thank you. Finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. Pauline Bowen, Secretary, BFHG
STOP PRESS: It is with great sadness that I have to report that Jeff Wilson, our treasurer, passed away on 22nd December 2013. He worked tirelessly for the group as treasurer for many years. He was a kind, friendly, gentle, man who will be much missed by us all and I have, on your behalf, sent our condolences to his family. His funeral will be at Streetly Crematorium at 10.30am, followed by a memorial service at Aldridge church at 11.00 am on Monday 13th January 2014. A donation from the group will be made to The British Lung Foundation in memory of Jeff.
 
Gene Passage
 
Extracted from the work of Richard Llewellyn “How Green Was My Valley”  “I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me, those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front, to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes. As I felt, so they had felt, and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever. Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning, and no end. And the hand of his father grasped my father's hand, and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right hand, and all, up and down the line that stretched from Time That Was, to Time That Is, and Is Not Yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, made in His Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father.”
 
Oh, Calamity! by Pam Woodburn
 
My apologies for missing the AGM and consequently being unable to bring members up to date with various activities that I’m involved with. Firstly, contrary to ugly rumours, I was not held as a political prisoner in France for a week! As some of you will now know, my passport disappeared from my handbag on the Thursday before the AGM just as we were about to fly home from Biarritz in the evening, and I wasn’t allowed to fly without it. I was obliged to get an emergency passport from Bordeaux but, because the Consulate was closed from midday Friday and Bordeaux was several hours’ train journey away, this necessitated me staying in France from Thursday until the following Monday. An unexpected pleasure! So, to catch up:
The Memorial Project Some three months ago, after spending many, many hours filling in forms and collating information, I submitted a claim for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund. I based our claim on the fact that it is almost the centenary of the outbreak of WWI and the idea is to continue the Project until 2018, completing as many soldiers’ biographies online as we are able and also producing bound copies. If we are successful, the money would be used to present exhibitions at various venues around the district and also to provide our stationery needs to produce the mini-biographies for the soldier’s family, Staffordshire Archives and our own group. I have since had a phone call from the Heritage Lottery Fund, informing me that our application was successful! In the meantime, volunteers are continuing to work hard producing the biographies of soldiers who lost their lives in WWI. Some of these will be on display at our Thursday meetings. Do come and look at them. If you would like to join the Memorial Project team, you just need to have a word with me.
The Lichfield Surgeries We have been asked by Lichfield Library to continue providing our Surgeries on a monthly basis. The day has been changed from the last Wednesday in the month to the last Tuesday (1.30–3.30). We never know in advance how many people will arrive looking for help with their family history, as it is run on a ‘drop in’ basis. We do need more volunteers to help out with this. Please contact me if you think you can help. The arrangements have been changed slightly as regards parking at the Library. If you come by car, you will need to get through the security barrier. Instead of giving us the pin for this, we now have to ring the Library on 01543 510712 and they will send someone out to open the barrier for you. At present I have on my list of volunteers: Jim Bowen, Bob Houghton, Geoff Sorrell, Jane Leake, Jenny Lee, Chris Graddon, Janice Hunt and Sheila Clarke. If your name is there and you can no longer do it, please let me know. I have been approached recently by people (at meetings, whilst swimming in the Leisure Centre and on the street*) who would like me to organise classes at the Library specifically for them to learn how to use the Internet to familiarise them with genealogy websites and for family history research. I have already discussed this with the staff at Burntwood Library and they are happy with the idea. Do let me know if you are interested and if enough people would find this useful we can try to get something organised. Beginners family history classes continue to be provided at Burntwood Library. If we have any members who need help with their research or are not quite sure of the best way to go about it, this may be for you. Have a word with me.
* I presume Pam doesn’t mean to imply she goes swimming on the street. That would just be silly... (Ed)
 
More from the Good Old Days
 
Getting back to the 1500s, bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or ‘the upper crust’. It wasn’t all good for people with money, though. They had plates made of pewter, and food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous. Lead cups were also used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ‘Holding a Wake’.
 
That Last Missing Piece of the Jigsawby Chris Graddon
 
Family history research can be a fascinating and rewarding pastime, but sometimes it can drive you around the bend. This is never truer than when you are sure of all the details for a particular branch of a family tree but cannot find the last piece of the jigsaw that will complete the picture. I have in mind a case in my own family tree that continues to bug me – but, on the bright side, it did lead to the discovery of a relative in Queensland, Australia who shares my passion for genealogy. My great grandfather, John Graddon, was born in Somerset about 1826. He married twice, his first wife Emma Hill dying in Aldershot in 1874, having given birth to the five children shown on the 1871 census: Emma, Walter, Alice, Fanny and my grandfather Charles. But then, on the 1881 census, another daughter, Eliza, appears, then aged 16 – so why did she not appear on the 1871 census? There was no sign of Eliza Graddon on the 1871 census, for example staying with relatives, nor on the 1891 census, and I could find no marriage or death for her. She seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly. Recently I was checking back through various details on my family tree, verifying facts and correcting earlier mistakes, and realised that I hadn’t found out much, if anything, about Eliza Graddon – she was a complete mystery. John Graddon married his second wife, Elizabeth Mary Murphy, at Farnborough on 6 March 1874. She was an army schoolmistress, and at first I assumed that John had married her to ensure that his children were both cared for and well educated. Searching for information about her, I discovered that she was born Elizabeth Mary Dinnin and had been married before, at Colchester, Essex, in 1861, to Timothy Murphy, a sergeant with the 88th Regiment of Foot. I found the couple on the 1871 census, and Timothy and Elizabeth Mary Murphy were shown living in Colchester, with a daughter Eliza Murphy. Well, that solved that mystery, didn’t it?

After Timothy Murphy died in 1872, and Elizabeth Mary Murphy married my great-grandfather John Graddon in 1874, the couple had obviously adopted Eliza Murphy, or at least she been known then by the surname Graddon. If only it were that simple! The Eliza Murphy shown on the 1871 census was aged 6 and was born around 1864/5 in Cape Town, South Africa. The Eliza Graddon on the 1881 census was aged 16, so the birth date was the same, but the birthplace was given as Colchester, Essex. Given that Elizabeth and Timothy Murphy had lived in Colchester, this seemed an understandable discrepancy, and surely Eliza’s birth certificate would clarify the matter. However, search as I might, I could find no trace of a birth for Eliza Murphy or Eliza Dinnin in the Colchester area. There also remained the question of what had happened to Eliza Dinnin/Murphy/Graddon after her appearance on the 1881 census. Again, I could find no trace of her under the name Eliza Murphy on the 1891 census, and no feasible marriage or death for her under that surname. I had already drawn a blank for similar searches under the Graddon surname. John Graddon died in Cosham, Hampshire, in 1920. Although I cannot be absolutely certain, I am pretty convinced that this photograph is of my great-grandfather. If so, it is the only one. Elizabeth Mary Graddon died shortly thereafter, in Portsmouth in 1923. The records for her will showed that probate was granted to a builder called Walter William Burt. Curious! Who was he, and how did he fit into the family?

It was about this time that I learned through Ancestry that another researcher had also discovered this information. I am always very wary of Ancestry’s family trees, as they can be extremely unreliable, but this researcher provided such a high level of detail and corroboration that I decided to make contact. The tree owner, Lesley Townsend, is a great, great, great granddaughter of Elizabeth Mary Dinnin’s parents Matthew Dinnin and Mary Ann Peters. I guess this makes us relatives, but quite what the specific relationship is I have not been able to figure out. Anyway, I had a brisk reply from Lesley and she was searching for answers to the same questions that were buzzing around in my head so we decided we should pool our information and try to solve the ‘Eliza’ mystery together. The 1891 census showed a Walter William Burt living in Cosham. More significantly, he was married to Eliza Burt and the census showed that she was born a British subject in the Cape of Good Hope. Perhaps we were getting somewhere at last!! The 1901 census showed the couple still living in Cosham, but now they had three children: Bessie, Walter and Arthur Burt. The birthplace of Eliza was shown again as being the Cape Colony. Sadly, Eliza died in 1904 and, unfortunately, her death certificate – aside from again giving Jane as her middle name – shed no new light on her maiden name. Walter William Burt had married again by the time of the 1911 census, so it seemed that any hope of finding evidence that Eliza Burt was indeed our Eliza Murphy/Graddon would be through her children. So I decided to send off to the General Register Office for their birth certificates.
 
While we were waiting for those to arrive, Lesley discovered a possible marriage for Walter William Burt to Eliza Jane Clayton in 1890. Could this be our missing Eliza? I had also spotted this marriage, which took place in Exeter in Devon, but initially I discounted it because of the distance between Devon and the Hampshire area where Walter and Eliza Burt had set up their home. There were tenuous links to Devon amongst the Graddon ancestors, but these came from the Dulverton area on the Somerset/Devon border, about 40 miles from the St Thomas area of Exeter where the wedding took place. However, an 1890 marriage could explain why there was no sign of Eliza Murphy/Graddon on the 1891 census. And then the children’s birth certificates arrived – talk about gold dust! The eldest child of Eliza Jane and Walter William Burt was Bessie Eliza DINNIN Burt, the middle child was Walter Leonard CLAYTON Burt and their youngest was Arthur Victor GRADDON Burt. In each case, the father was Walter William Burt and the mother was named as Eliza Burt, formerly Clayton. The inclusion of the surnames Dinnin, Clayton and Graddon was momentous so far as we were concerned. It was obvious that they were important to Eliza, too – why else would she have included them? As a result, the marriage that Lesley had found, between Walter William Burt and Eliza Jane Clayton in the District of St Thomas, Devon, now seemed far more significant, so I requested a copy of the marriage certificate from the GRO and waited impatiently for it to arrive. When it did, I thought at first that it was a marriage for a different couple altogether, as it showed Eliza Jane Clayton’s father as Thomas Clayton, a mason, but then I noticed that the marriage witnesses were Elizabeth M Graddon and John Graddon, i.e. my great-grandfather and his second wife. There was now no doubt that all these pieces of information fitted together. The jigsaw was almost complete.

But one piece of the jigsaw was missing, and – as I write this article – it still eludes us. Eliza Jane Clayton’s marriage certificate shows her as a spinster, and her father also had the surname Clayton, so we were not looking for a previous marriage for her as we had surmised. We were convinced that Eliza Murphy/Graddon and Eliza Jane Clayton were one and the same person, but what was the Clayton connection? We have not been able to find a birth certificate for Eliza Jane Clayton, but we are still looking. Although he was born in Ireland, Timothy Murphy was a soldier in the British Army, serving with the 68th and 88th Regiments of Foot. My great-grandfather John Graddon became a grocer, but prior to that he, too, had joined the army, serving with the Royal Artillery at the Siege of Sebastopol. So our best guess, at present, is that Eliza’s father Thomas Clayton was either a British soldier or a British official serving in the Cape Colony, that for some reason his daughter was sent home to England, where she was looked after by Elizabeth Mary Murphy and her first husband Timothy, and then by Elizabeth and my great-grandfather John Graddon. That John and Elizabeth were the witnesses for Eliza’s marriage to Walter William Burt, together with the fact that she gave her children the middle names Clayton, Dinnin and Graddon, shows that there was a lasting and loving relationship between them all regardless of the curious circumstances that brought it about. As you can imagine, there is a lot more detail to this story, including extensive details of the military career of Timothy Murphy that Lesley discovered. But the last piece of the jigsaw – well, that’s still out there, waiting to be discovered. So if anyone can shed light on the birth of Eliza Jane Clayton in the Cape Colony in the 1860s, we would be absolutely delighted to hear from you.
 
The (Weird and Wonderful) Name Game by Jane Leake
 
I came upon these unusual names taken from the Parish Registers of Hednesford, St. Peter’s whilst checking transcriptions taken from 1910 to 1925.

Uriah Fereday - Doris Mafeking Howell - Arden Shepherd - Shadrach Eccleston - Nellie Ladysmith Talbot - Israel Sirdefield - Moses Jones - Eusabious Thacker - Baden Powell Cook - Noah Fereday - Harriett Pretoria Shelley - Florence Tortoishell - William Shakespeare - Caleb Beardsmore - Ashmael Zyros Ward - Egbert Ephraim Sundland - Francis Verdun Winfindale - Colonel Alfred Tomlinson - Lavinia Kitchener - St. Swithin Evans
 
The Bible was a favourite source of names for children of either sex. Names of places which would have been familiar to the population from wars of the early 19th Century and, of course, the First World War, were also utilised. The most unfortunate name was given to a female child and that was Alsace Lorraine.
 
Every Picture Tells a Story by Geoff Sorrell
 
I was delighted to see the picture on the front cover of our last Journal. The ‘pit pony’ was modelled for the sculptor by a pony which belongs to my daughter, and my own grandfather was an ostler in one of the local pits, who would probably have been able to model for the handler if he had been around. However, he died in 1929 at the age of 60, probably as a result of his time underground with the ponies. The pony is a Welsh Section A, bought as a yearling straight off the hill in Wales. He was used by my daughter as a breeding stallion and produced lovely foals from various mares also owned by her. Unfortunately and very sadly, three of his progeny died before reaching maturity, but there are two others still living in the local area. Because he is too small for my grandchildren to ride, he has now been loaned to another home, where he is having a happy life as a child’s riding pony. The statue is so well produced that if it were painted his colour (bright chestnut), it would be difficult not to think it was alive. He was chosen for his quiet temperament and, during the design and maquette process for the Memorial, he was quite happy to pose whilst photographs were taken from various angles. His proper name is Brolawen Taran, and he is typical of the small Welsh ponies that did such a magnificent job for the miners in earlier times. They are so willing to please and are very even-tempered. During the fundraising period, Taran also attended functions to publicise the Memorial. I doubt if there are many more such ponies enshrined in bronze, so he is quite a historical feature – far more so than the ‘Tin Man’ at Brownhills. Like all such ponies he could not care less about his fame, and prefers to have an easy life eating grass!
 
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
 
October 2013: Chris Upton on ‘Birmingham and its Workhouses’ Dr. Chris Upton lectures at the Newman University in Birmingham, and has for many years written amusing and informative articles for the Birmingham Post, many on local history. Dr. Upton pointed out that a 21st century Poor Law would look no different than that which has existed in the past:
 the problem of homelessness;
 affordable care in old age;
 striking a balance between incentives to work and social support;
 how to get those on welfare into work;
 improving the management of mental illness;
 preventing serial family reliance on the State;
 the level of public/social services society is prepared to pay for.
We were shown two images, the first a token issued by the Birmingham workhouse of 1801. Small change then was in short supply and a penny had to be produced from a pennyworth of copper, so many such institutions, Birmingham and Halesowen for example, produced their own. These tokens could be spent alongside normal coinage. The second image was an illustration of Oliver Twist asking for more gruel, which was watered-down porridge. The two pictures illustrate that then, as now, it all comes down to cash, and the historical records which survive are mostly concerned with the cost of the care provided. Even so, it is still possible to glean interesting glimpses of individuals who fell on hard times, as well as of those who ran the institutions, or provided goods and services. In 1601, during the reign of the Queen Elizabeth I, the first Poor Law was created. It became the responsibility of each parish to care for their vulnerable inhabitants. Overseers of the Poor were appointed by the parish to collect rates from each householder, depending on their house’s rateable value, and to manage the distribution of relief. The amount and frequency of the collection depended on the needs and number of poor at a particular time. In 1601, the ‘poor’ were classified as: 1 The impotent poor; those unable to support themselves through age, or infirmity (being mentally or physically unfit). 2 Able-bodied poor; those who, due to a dip in the economy, were out of work. 3 The casual poor – called, through time, vagrants, beggars, and tramps. The Poor Law, with minor tweaks, remained largely unchanged until it was formally abolished by Clement Atlee’s introduction of the National Assistance Act in 1948.
 
In 1833, Yardley overseers provided ‘outdoor’ relief such as shoes, stockings and a ‘pinbefore’ so that a girl could enter service; and tools to enable a man to be gainfully employed sloughing (digging ditches). By 1723, workhouses were established. Parishes cared for children who were orphans, and one case from Yardley mentioned children who were returned to their mother after she had spent some time in a house of correction for lewdness (soliciting). The accounts for Birmingham parish in 1833 divided relief for the poor into ‘in house’ and ‘outdoor’. In-house, there were 474 in the workhouse, 155 in the infirmary and 310 in asylum (a term which meant a house for infant poor). It was thought at the time that putting the children of the workhouse poor in a separate establishment where they could learn skills that would enable them to be employable would break the cycle of dependency that leaving them with the adults would bring. ‘Outdoor’ there were 947 aged or infirm, including 661 widows being helped in their own home, and 4,000 casual poor. It can be seen from these numbers that the majority of poor did not go into the Workhouse. In Northfield parish, a Mary Wheeler, aged 24 in 1830, admitted herself to and discharged herself from the workhouse several times during the year, also breaking a window and being imprisoned during January 1831 for a short time, perhaps to get into a warmer place. Many of the Wheeler family were nailers, and this trade was in recession at the time; perhaps she was one out of work. During 1830–1837 Northfield was one of the few parishes which listed workhouse inmates by name. In 1731, parishes around Birmingham consisted of Birmingham itself; Aston, which stretched from the Sutton Coldfield border; Harborne; Kings Norton; Sutton Coldfield; Yardley; Edgbaston; Handsworth; Northfield; and Sheldon, which, being small, paid for a nearby parish to deal with its poor. Chris Upton has discovered where all the Workhouses were except for Handsworth, though he thinks that it was in the mediaeval house which can still be found in Slack Lane behind Soho Road. Edgbaston workhouse in 1786 was in Pritchett’s Road. It has survived and the handsome house is now a family home. The Edgbaston Workhouse was too small so moved to Somerset Road at the time St. Peter’s Catholic Church was built. The Harborne workhouse was in Lordswood Road on land which is now occupied by a row of detached houses. Kings Norton workhouse was opened in 1803 by John Gardener, Governor. The building has gone, but the fence which can be seen on an old photo is still there, bordering a grassed area. Northfield built a workhouse in 1805; the site is now a Macdonald’s. In 1837, the nine remaining inhabitants of Northfield workhouse moved to the new workhouse in Kings Norton. Sutton Coldfield built a workhouse in Mill Street in 1738. It later became a municipal building and now houses a dental practice.
 
The overseers ledger for Yardley shows the cost of the building project – £455 for the building £4 for the store house and £61 for the offices. There are records of the provision costs for Yardley. Beef was the cheaper meat, especially offal; mutton dearer. A bill for tea and coffee is listed. These beverages were not for the inmates, who drank beer (water being hazardous), but for those who did some work in the Workhouse – a ‘perquisite’, now called a perk.
Birmingham Workhouse opened in 1733 in Lichfield Street, later renamed Corporation Street. Local historian William Hutton wrote an almost contemporaneous account of the Workhouse but was mistaken in his belief that the Infirmary was a later edition and not built until 1776. Chris Upton has found that the infirmary can be seen on maps dating from 1750. An asylum for the infant poor was established in Summer Lane. In 1825 the children were classified thus:
 67 bastards;
 63 orphans;
 17 deserted by their father;
 11 deserted by their mother;
 7 deserted by both parents;
 20 undergoing punishment;
 21 infirm/sick /or insane.
Some of the trades the children learned were Nottingham lace making and straw plaiting for bonnets; boys were set to work attaching the heads to pins. We were astonished to learn the numbers of people who slept in each room and in each bed!
Work undertaken in workhouses included shoe making; nail making; spinning and needlework; agricultural and gardening work; corn milling; oakum picking; and stone breaking. Sometimes local trades objected to some of the work undertaken because they feared being undercut in their prices and thus ending up in the workhouse themselves.

The diet enjoyed by inmates varied from workhouse to workhouse. The food served to those in Kings Norton was extremely monotonous, consisting mainly of bread and cheese, with 6 oz of meat once a week. In Birmingham, breakfast was rice milk together with bread or porridge. Two pints of soup or broth was served for supper with 6 oz of bread. The food varied from day to day and meat was included more often. The inconsistency of provision countrywide resulted in the passing of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. This combined parishes into larger units, Poor Law Unions. Officers known as Guardians were elected to manage each institution, and the whole managed from Somerset house in London by three Poor Law Commissioners. In Birmingham, Aston Union covered the north, a mixture of urban and rural parishes; Birmingham itself was large enough to remain unchanged; Kings Norton covered an area from Smethwick to Balsall Heath, with the Union building later becoming Selly Oak Hospital. In 1869, Aston Union workhouse was built off Gravelly Hill. It is still visible today, the tower often being mistaken for a church. In 1852 Birmingham Union Workhouse was built at Winson Green and is now part of Dudley Road Hospital. Dr. Upton’s talk was both thought-provoking and amusing, and we look forward to further talks by him. I am sure many of us can remember older relatives resisting going into one of the hospitals converted from a Union Workhouse, because of the stigma which existed far beyond their change of use.
 
November 2013: John Yateman on ‘Looking at Birth, Marriage and Death Records’ John Yateman’s talk was both informative and amusing. He began by telling us that 9th April 2013 had actually been Middle Name Day. I don’t believe many of us knew this, which was not surprising because, as John went on to tell us, the idea for this commemorative day had been instigated in the USA. He then mentioned unusual names such as those given to the daughters of Bob Geldof, Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Pixie. Bob Geldof himself had been registered as Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof. Chancellor George Osborne’s first name was originally Gideon, but he changed it to George, maybe because he assumed Gideon would not be a favourable name for a politician. Sir Alex Ferguson has the middle name Chapman; Daniel Craig, the actor, the middle name Wroughton, which was also the middle name of his father. Even Donald Duck sports a fancy middle name, ‘Fauntleroy’. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby, George Alexander Louis, has the surname Cambridge, but his father William was registered without a surname, and is listed under ‘Louis’, his last forename. However, William’s father Prince Charles was registered twice, once with the surname Windsor, and also with the surname Edinburgh. The Birmingham Register Office, which opened in Holliday Street in 2006, was built on the former Corporation Wharf. A famous occupant of the wharf stables had been Trigger, Roy Roger’s horse, when the duo came to Birmingham. In the foyer of the new building is an androgynous sculpture depicting a wedding group – appropriate as civil partnerships are also conducted there.
 
The Office moved to its present site from Broad Street, which had been the Register Office after the office sited in Edmund Street closed. We were shown a photo of the Edmund Street Register Office, which took over part of an adjoining bank in 1942. Nearby was the Hope and Angel public house, to which many wedding parties convened after the ceremony. There the bride was presented with a set of six Apostle Spoons, boxes of which were kept below the bar by the licensee. Prisoners who were due to get married were brought in a van from prison early in the morning before the Register Office was open to the general public, and were returned to prison after the marriage. John Yateman went on to mention unusual names which have been inflicted on some children. Twin girls, one registered as Cherry, the other as Blossom. A boy was given the name Alien. Children have been given ‘car’ names; Mercedes (which was originally the given name of the carmaker’s daughter) and Peugeot. In 1933, Hearty Hake married Comfort Waite. A boy called Little had the surname Paul; Polly had the surname Kettle; David Lloyd George had the surname Smith and his brother was later registered as Napoleon. It seemed to be the fashion at one time for chemists to give their offspring a medical name; hence, a Doctor Nicholson and a Professor Hydropath Mort. Military names were also popular, such as a Major Owen and a General Hadley. John showed us a marriage between Charles Sergeant and Lucy Pepper, which occurred many years before the Beatles were on the scene! William McGregor, who was a director and later Chairman of Aston Villa, died in Birmingham on 20th December 1911. A native of Perthshire, he had moved to Birmingham and set up a drapery business. He was the founding father of the Football League, which was set up in 1888. George Auden, the poet, also died in Birmingham.

Registrars were sometimes called upon to go to the local gaol to register a birth. In 1867 there were two such births. Sometimes pencil notes can be found in the margins of registers. One example occurred when adoptees registered a birth instead of the single mother. The registration was declared illegal and the mother was required to register the birth herself. John suggested that the occupations listed often throw up interesting snippets. There is the case of the brewer whose cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver. No surprise there! A clerk in Holy Orders had the bracketed note (no curer of souls), which meant he did not have his own parish. A pencilled note in the margin of one marriage entry stated that although the marriage had been in existence for many years, the wife was proved a bigamist in 1924. On one entry where the vicar had failed to sign the certificate, someone had written ‘not valid’. This was, however, erroneous, as the marriage was legal from the moment the couple made their vows and then signed the register. Civil registration for marriages began on 1st July 1837. Birmingham recorded the first marriage on 9th July, which was by special licence. The reading of banns would have taken 21 days. It is often thought that people did not live as long in the past as they do now, but it was child mortality that lowered the average life span. John Yateman said that there were many examples in the registers of people living to a ripe old age. An interesting entry was of a man named Esau Smith who died aged 92. His address was given as The Black Patch. This was an area of land off Foundry Lane used by gypsies. After death, a gypsy’s body would be burned in their caravan. Legend has it that the gypsies had the deeds to the land, but the deeds were inadvertently destroyed during a cremation.

We were asked if we could help with a real conundrum. John told us of two entries in the registers. The first was the death of a woman in March; the second was the registration of the woman’s daughter who was born the following April. All the names, addresses and informants match. To date, none of the scenarios John and his colleagues have investigated have solved the puzzle. Until after the war, census returns were signed by registrars. We were told of some odd entries. In one house where the householder did not know the name of one of the residents, the following description was given: ‘He is a man with a big nose’. The occupation of one woman was given as kept mistress. In the column for ‘where born’, one man’s answer was ‘Don’t know, don’t care’! The returns for the 1911 census can give family historians extra information not asked for. Householders sometimes entered the names and dates of all their dead children as well as the living. Where one would expect to see infirmities, one man listed himself as ‘short of cash’, his wife was said to be ‘bad tempered’, and another family member as ‘stinking proud’. Emily Wilding Davidson (who was later fell to her death under the King’s horse at Epsom), managed to be recorded as being in two places at once on the census night of 2nd April 1911. Her landlady recorded her as being at her home, while the Clerk of Works of the Houses of Parliament recorded her as being there after she was found hiding in the crypt. Even if someone actually dies in the Houses of Parliament, their death cannot be recorded as happening there. Their body is taken to St. Thomas’s Hospital and the death recorded there. Even Airey Neave, assassinated by a car bomb outside Parliament on 30th March 1979, and whose remains were not moved for several hours, was recorded as having died at St. Thomas’s. John Yateman reinforced the advice we have had previously, to get a photocopy of the original register entry. It is also possible that the registrar would then say if there were any pencilled additions present.
 
The Richards Windows by Geoff Sorrell
 
A member of the Group with ancestry in our area had grandparents who were very much involved in the activities of the Methodist Chapels in Chasetown. She discovered that they had donated stained glass windows to the old Chapel in High Street, Chasetown, and asked us if we could find out anything about them and what happened to them when the new building in Lawnswood Avenue was opened. It was established that the windows had, indeed, been removed from the old building and reinstalled in a prominent position in the new one. At Ana’s request, I contacted the Church and arranged to go there and photograph the windows. I was quite surprised at the size of them and the quality of the glass. I was fortunate in having a strong light behind the windows and they photographed very well, with the inscriptions being easily legible. Ana was very pleased with the photographs when I sent them to her. If anyone reading this has connection with the Richards family, or knows of current residents with that surname who might be related who would like to get in touch with Ana, please contact me and I will do the rest.

These kinds of research are so important to the ‘fleshing out’ part of a family history. Please keep them coming in as I am sure many of our members will be fascinated by the range of enquiries and their results. Having more or less exhausted my own research and given up being your Hon. Secretary, I can find time to follow up these enquiries and keep you all aware of them. So can anyone help with one of my own? William Alfred Lockley (descendant of one the Cannock Lockley families) was born on 19th January 1898 and baptised at Blue Lane Methodist Chapel a few days later, but Walsall Register Office have no record of his birth being registered there. Exhaustive searches of the PRO Birth Registers have found no trace of his birth being registered elsewhere, although there are many ‘similar’ matches on the Ancestry website which do not fit the criteria. Other records (Census, Marriage and Death) for his are complete. So how did he manage to go through life in the 20th Century without a birth certificate? You may remember that I gave a short talk about him to the Group and mentioned that he enlisted in the South Staffordshire Regiment under age in September 1914, so he may not have produced a valid birth certificate at that time. He also managed to disappear from Army records between 1916 and 1919 whilst still in the Army, having been wounded in July 1916 and ‘demobbed’ in 1919.
 
This Issue’s Cover Photograph - The Martyrs’ Plaque, Beacon Park, Lichfield - Photo by Alan Betts
 
The Martyr’s Plaque is a piece of sculpture in the Museum Gardens within Beacon Park in Lichfield. A plaque adjacent to it reads as follows: “The Martyrs’ Plaque is the remains of a sculpture originally set into the façade of Lichfield’s 18th Century Guildhall. It takes its inspiration from the city’s common seal. The plaque portrays three dismembered kings who, according to legend, led 999 Christians into battle against the Romans in around AD 288. The kings were defeated, became martyrs, and part of local folklore. It also shows Lichfield Cathedral, the slain kings’ weaponry, a lion, and Borrowcop Hill, thought to be the burial place of the kings. During the Victorian rebuild of the Guildhall, the plaque was taken off the building and later moved to a rockery in Beacon Park’s Museum Gardens. The plaque lay in the rockery until 2010, when it was conserved as part of the Lichfield Historical Parks project, led by Lichfield District Council in partnership with Lichfield District Council. The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund contributed £3.9 million towards Lichfield Historic Parks project.”
 
Genealogy Wish List
 
 I want ancestors with distinctive names like Rudimentary Montagnard or Melchizenick von Steubenhoffmannschild, not William Brown or John Smith!
 I want relatives who managed to bury their ancestors in established, still-extant (and indexed) cemeteries.
 I want relatives who ‘religiously’ wrote in the family Bible, journalising every little event and detailing the familial relationship of every visitor.
 I want relatives who served as councillors, schoolteachers, county clerks and town historians.
 But most of all: I want relatives I can FIND!