Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2018 10-12 Volume 26 Number 4
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
October - December 2018
Vol 26.4
Contents of this issue.
View From the Chair 1

Keith has found relatives whose forebears had fled the potato famine in Massachusetts in the USA and Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. The next question Keith asked himself was, why were those places chosen?

Chairman’s report for AGM 2018 3
BFHG Accounts 2017–18 5
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speaker
David Robbie on ‘Nobody Mentioned Witches’ 8
Talks given by members after the AGM:
Keith Stanley: Everyone has to be somewhere 10
Mike Jennings: Be thankful for old wives’ tales 11
The Poppy Man 12
Ann Hath a Way About Her... 14
Why Those Brick Walls Won’t Fall 15
Crimson Coast Tour – Reflections 17
This Issue's Cover Photograph 19
Useful Addresses 20
Transcriptions on CD Available for Sale 21
Programme of Speakers - Back cover

View From the Chair

This has been a very eventful few months. In early October, a dozen of us set of on our second battlefield tour; ‘the Crimson Coast’ with Leger Holidays, having been inspired by our first trip with them 18 months earlier. This one covered the coastline where many hospitals were situated, as we had chosen an itinerary that would be different from the last one. We began the tour at the GHQ of the British Army at Montreuil-sur-Mer, from where Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig directed much of the fighting. We then went onto Étaples, where there is a magnificent Lutyens-designed memorial. The following day, we looked at the roles of Dunkirk and De Panne, saw the end of the Western Front and the King Albert memorial, and then went on to see the bow of HMS Vindictive, used in commando raids on the Belgian coast. On our final touring day we went to Poperinghe to look at life behind the lines at Talbot House, which was for many of us the highlight of the tour – a truly beautiful place to visit. We also saw the peace tower, the death cells in Poperinghe, and the ‘Trenches of Death’, where the Belgian army held the line for four years. The tour finished with the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate at Ypres, which was again a wonderful experience. It was an eventful week in many ways and, although nothing could ever have lived up to our first battlefield tour, looking back on it, the things that will stick in my mind will be the wonderful sights we saw and the great times we had travelling as a group of friends. More recently, we had a display of our Memorial Project, led by Pam Woodburn, at our November meeting, which fell, fortuitously on 12 November 2018. We had planned for this over several months, to mark the Armistice. The display came together beautifully, with the College providing display boards to add to our own – to guard against the dreaded Blu-tack. Looking around the room in the evening, there were lots of visitors, all eagerly discussing the project work on display. Later, as the room fell quiet, we could see that this was because our visitors were engrossed in reading the biographies of the soldiers from Burntwood. Refreshments were provided free of charge, and went down well! One of our group summed the evening up as ‘excellent ... excellent’, which captures it perfectly. So thank you to every one of you who contributed to making the evening such a memorable success. By the time you read this, we will have had our Christmas party, to round off a memorable year.     Helen Bratton, Chair, BFHG

Chairman’s report for AGM 2018 by Helen Bratton

The last year… While our talks on the second Monday of each Monday have been generally well attended, numbers on the Thursday evening’s research nights fell and, after discussion at a committee meeting, we decided to move these to a Monday evening, too. This has proved to be very popular, so we are continuing with this. For those who don’t know, there is free Wi-Fi available, as well as access to the computers in the upstairs room, so you can bring your own laptops to work on and make use of the ever popular Ancestry website – so please come along and make use of this facility. Our group’s extensive library is also available on those evenings. The highlight of the year for those of us who went in May 2017 was the trip to Northern France and Belgium, organised by Leger Travel. We visited several WW1 battlefields during our five-day trip, and we had an excellent guide with us for the whole time, which meant we learnt a lot more about the battles in the area. Some of us were able to find the graves of relatives, or at least see their names on memorials. The hotel was very good, and in the evenings we enjoyed going out into the town to get our evening meal (and see if we could remember any French at all, in some cases). It was a very moving experience, and I don’t think we could have found a thing to fault about the trip.If anyone would like to organise day trips to other places of interest next year, please think about doing this for the group. Thanks go to: Jane Leake, our Speakers’ secretary, for booking our Monday speakers; Pam Turner, for running the raffle and organising the prizes; Sheila, for writing up the notes of the talks for inclusion in the Journal.

Although we have now finished our transcription project of local church registers, there is still demand for copies of CDs, which can be obtained from Sheila. Thanks also to Alan Betts, Chris Graddon and Keith Stanley, who have been involved in upgrading our website for us; it now contains lots of information and some local photographs. You may be able to solve some of the questions that are sent in.Thanks go to Brian Asbury for producing our quarterly Journal – but he needs your help if this is to be continued. Don’t be afraid to contribute if you have just a short piece of your own, or you have read something somewhere that is relevant to family history locally or generally. The Journal is the only way we can reach out to members living out of the area and even abroad. Another big thank you to Chris Graddon, our Hon. Treasurer, who has combined this role and is also the Hon. Secretary. He took on the Secretary’s role as we were again short of volunteers for roles on the committee – more of which, later. The Christmas lunch, held at the Wych Elm, was enjoyed by all. Thanks to Pam Woodburn for arranging this for us, and she will be doing this again for us this year. Thanks to Steve Bailey, who seems to have taken over the refreshments each week as well as being our vice-chair, standing in for me when I have not been able to make the meeting. His party trick of climbing through the hatch when we were locked out was very much appreciated. Finally, a plea for people to join the committee fell on deaf ears at the AGM, so I am writing this in the hope that those of you who did not attend can think about this. Committee meetings take place four times a year, and last about an hour, so they are not, in themselves, a major commitment. We would really like a couple of people to join us, to broaden the group. We also need a replacement for Jane as Speakers secretary. Jane has decided to retire, after many years of service, and is leaving this role in a fantastic position, as she has speakers lined up for next year already. She has written up notes on how she gets the speakers and organises this role, and is really looking for someone to take on this now, so that she can hand over her knowledge over the coming year. If you are interesting in joining us, and helping us with the organisation of the group, please come and have a chat to one of us at either of our meetings. You would be very much welcomed.     Helen

BFHG Accounts 2017–18

As presented at this year’s AGM, here is the Balance Sheet for the Group’s accounts from 1st August 2017 to 31st July 2018.

Current A/C b/fwd


Cash in hand b/fwd Balance b/fwd




          Membership fees Jan–Dec 2017                                                                          £16.00
          Membership fees Jan–Dec 2018                                                                         £492.00
          Raffles                                                                                                          £211.00
          Monday meeting/ Monday drop-in entrance                                                         £337.00
          CD Sales                                                                                                         £64.00
          Trips                                                                       (1)                               £3,055.00
          Magazine adverts                                                      (2)                                   £20.00
          Sundry income (sale of pedigree sheets and bookmarks)                                            £0.00
          National Burial Index                                                                                           £0.00
          Donations                                                                                                        £36.90
          Grants from Burntwood Town Council, Staffordshire County Council and
          Staffordshire Community Foundation                                                                   £120.00

Total income





Raffle expenses




CD s + P&P






Magazine printing and postage


Trips                                                                (1)






Xmas Quiz






Burntwood Memorial Project expenditure from Burntwood Town Council Grant (£120)


Room Hire


Staffs Parish Reg Soc


New equipment & supplies:


Photocopying and laminating




Burntwood Memorial Project expenditure from Heritage Lottery Grant (£4000)


Total expenditure                                                                                                        £8,634.91
Income over expenditure                                                                                       –£4,283.01
Balance in the BHFG funds as of 31 July 2018                                                      £3,281.97


Calculated Current A/C


Cash in hand


Calculated total balance


Calculated Current A/C


Outstanding cheques


Outstanding credits to bank account


Calculated Current A/C Balance on Bank Statement


Actual amount on latest Bank Statement


Date of latest bank statement

30 July 2018


1         The total cost of the Crimson Coast Tour of the Battlefields in October 2018 is £5,526. Of this £5,376 has been paid to Leger Holidays in this financial year; the outstanding balance of £150 was sent to Leger Holidays on 17 August 2018. The income figures show the receipt of £3,055 in this financial year; the balance of £2,471 was received in early August 2018 so the trip makes no loss and no profit. If these figures are stripped out of the balance sheet, the revised figures are:

Total income


Total expenditure


Income over expenditure

– £1,995.40

Effective balance in BFHG account

£7,598.19 – £1,995.40 =


This figure of £5602.79 gives a far clearer indication of the state of the Group’s finances.

2         We have a full complement of advertisers for our Journal and Website. However, we were unable to produce our fourth Journal (Oct–Dec) for 2017, so the date for collection of payments from our advertisers has been put back from 1 June 2018 to 1 September 2018. Normally, our advertisements bring in an annual income of £190, and this sum will be collected in the Autumn. The £20 income from adverts shown in these accounts relates to a late payment for the previous financial year. However, this shortage does highlight the importance of producing all four copies of our Journal each year.

The figures on the next page show that BFHG membership has remained reasonably stable over the last two years. There have been four new BFHG memberships this year, all single members. Six former members contacted us to say they had decided not to renew their subscription this year, and reminders have been sent to six members who have yet to renew their subscription this year. Ten former members, who did not respond to repeated reminders in 2017, have been deemed to have let their membership lapse.

BHFG Membership 2018 (1 January 2018 to 31 July 2018)



Number of single paid up members



Number of couples paid up members



Number of Life Members



Total number of memberships



Total number of members



Total Subs collected



Burntwood Memorial Project: Balance Sheet, 1st Aug 2017  to 21 Jul 2018









Current A/C b/fwd





Cash in hand b/fwd






Calculated total balance Insurance                                                                                £0.00              £0.00

Website subscription + website design software



Grants to BMP





Donations to BMP


Donations made by BMP



Printer paper, printer ink,

USB memory sticks



Document wallets and display books



Display materials used for public presentations



Room hire



Resources purchased for soldier biographies









Equipment and repair





Total income                              £0.00                         Total expenditure

Income over expenditure                        –£1,098.33

Calculated amount remaining in the fund as of 31 Jul 2018 *


* This amount comprises £650.76 remaining from the Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £4,000 and the full £1,000 from the Staffordshire Community Foundation grant.

Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers. Reviewer: Sheila Clarke

October 2018: David Robbie on ‘Nobody Mentioned Witches’

David Robbie’s previous talk to the group had been about J.R.R. Tolkien’s connection to Staffordshire. This time, he spoke about his exploration of his own family history over many years. As he said, one never knows what one will find and, if having miscreants, bigamists or babies born out of wedlock in your family would upset you, then steer clear of delving into your family’s past. However, most of us like discovering ancestors with unconventional lives. They are the people we look forward to finding. David was born and brought up in Blyth Northumberland, the son of a man who worked on the river boats there. Blyth port was once the second largest exporter of coal in Britain (the first being Newcastle). He has found his surname spelt many different ways during his research – Roby, Robey, Robe and Robey being some of the variations he has found. His mother’s family name was sometimes spelled Mc Gann, and at others as Magen. The name Pheasant was sometimes Fessant. He pointed out that, in the past, many people were unable to read or write, so any written form would be at the discretion of the scribe. If an ancestor seems to be missing from a census return, for example, try various spellings, or leave out some of the letters in the name, and the elusive individual may be found. His surname could have its roots in Anglo-Saxon, Viking, or Norman. There is a clan Robertson in Scotland. It is always possible to follow the wrong line. Every discovery should be double-checked. When he first began tracing one branch of his family David found that someone he assumed was a great-great grandfather was actually a great-great uncle, as these men had the same Christian name.Tracing his Scottish roots, one skeleton David did not expect to find was a witch. Her name was Margaret Robie, formerly Margaret Ogg. She was married to a John Robie of Birse, and was possibly David Robbie’s 9× great grandmother. In 1597, she and her two daughters, Beatrice Richie and Isobel, were tried for ‘devilrie’ in Aberdeen. At that time, witch hunts were common in Scotland. The court was presided over by James VI of Scotland (James I of England). Being tried were twenty-three women and one man. All but one was found guilty and, in April 1598, they were executed by strangulation and burning. The person who escaped this fate was Beatrice Richie, who was tried on three charges and declared to be ‘aine suspicious persone and nocht of a guid lyf’. She was banished, and was ordered not to come within twelve miles. One of the Pendle witches executed above the town of Lancaster in 1612 was an Isobel Richie of Windle. Was she a relative? David’s 4× grandfather was Francis Robbie (1753– 1839). He joined the 32nd Regiment of Foot, the Cornwall Light Infantry, and became a recruiting sergeant. From a copy of Bible notes sent to him from abroad, David discovered that Francis married a Mary The Pendle witches Small in Birmingham in 1781. Children of the couple were born in different places throughout the country. Mary died in 1786. For some reason, Francis re-enlisted under the name Robinson. In 1788, he married Elizabeth Moon, David’s 4× great-grandmother. Their son, David’s 3× greatgrandfather Charles Robbie (1790–1833), was born at Duncannon Fort in County Wexford, Ireland.

British forces spent ten years fighting against the French. Toussaint L’Ouverture, the ex-slave, revolutionary and statesman, beat both the French and the British in Domonique, which was later renamed Haiti. Both Francis’s wife Elizabeth and his seven-year-old daughter died of yellow fever while there. When Francis returned to Britain, he married a third time, to Isabella Simpson, and went to live in Scotland. He served for 25 years in the army, and so was awarded a Chelsea Pension. He outlived his son Charles Robbie (David’s 3× great-grandfather) who had also served in the army but died of tuberculosis in 1833. Francis had a cousin also called Francis Robbie and also a serviceman, who was killed in the Crimea in 1856. A William Robbie (1827–1913) became a gold prospector both in California and Australia. He fought for diggers’ rights at the Battle of the Eureka Stockade. He returned to Scotland several times. He died aged 91, leaving £30,000. As he had never married, this was left as an educational fund. He had been self-taught, but hoped his fund would enable those from modest backgrounds to have a university education. Another William Robbie (1887–1967) worked all his life as a farm labourer, but he was also an artist. His favourite subject was the Clydesdale Horse. Some of his naive paintings hang in the National Gallery Scotland. David’s great-grandfather Alexander (1881–1916), moved from Glasgow to Blyth. He was a confectioner and sugar boiler with Redhead and Company in Blyth. He was involved in developing the ‘black bullet’, a sweet favoured by miners because of its colour. David’s grandmother was a Rutherford, a surname held by many Border Reivers. Reivers raided cattle and sheep over both sides of the border between Scotland and England. David finished his talk with a short poem he has written about the working men of Blyth – those who worked in the pit, in Border Reivers shipbuilding, on the river and with the soil.

Talks given by members after the AGM (Sep 2018)

Keith Stanley: Everyone has to be somewhere

In his talk, Keith reminded us (those who are old enough), of the Goon Show. During a special edition of the programme in 1972, Eccles made the philosophical statement to Neddie Seagoon that ‘Everybody’s got to be somewhere’. This is something we, delving into our family history, should be aware of when one of our ancestors drops off the radar. One possible reason is an error by the transcriber. An ancestor of Keith with the surname ‘Senior’ had been transcribed as ‘Seymour’ in a census. An Elijah Senior appeared as Maria, although he was still recorded as male. Some of Keith’s ancestors lived in Roscommon in Ireland during the 19th century. In the 1841 census, the population of Roscommon was 253,000. In 1851, the population had shrunk to 173,000 a drop of nearly 40%. During the same time span, the population of Staffordshire had increased from 510,506 to 608,716. The potato famine had decimated the Irish population. Where had these people gone? Some had died, but those who could escaped the catastrophe by emigrating. However, as Eccles said, ‘Everyone’s got to be somewhere’.

Mike Jennings: Beware (or be thankful) for old wives’ tales

During the March 2018 meeting, reviewed in the April–June addition of the Journal, we were entertained by the story of the colourful life of Mike’s ancestor John Blossett. This is the first part of his follow-up talk. As we were told, when John Blossett was 27 years old, he married Elizabeth Aston in Gibraltar in 1805. She was 14½ years old. Her father was a civil servant for the Gibraltarian Government. John Blossett had been born in Ireland. His father, also called John, was a barrister in Dublin, and his mother was Mary Montgomery. John Blossett’s great-great grandparents were Catherine de Hodes de Bougot of Clelles and Solomon Blossett de Loche (1646–1721). They were Huguenot families from France who helped William of Orange in Ireland during the late 17th century and, later, Queen Anne during the early years of the 18th century. One of the relatives was chaplain to William of Orange and was present at the Battle of the Boyne in 1790. Solomon was a brigadier-general in the British army. Solomon’s great grandfather was also called Solomon (1690–1750), and he also served in the British army, but as a captain. His wife, Jane de Cramahé (1701–1783) was the great granddaughter of Jacques de Belrieu, Baron of Virazelle. Her brother, Hector de Cramahé, was the lieutenant-governor of Quebec, and was involved in the Battle of Quebec against the French. The Huguenot families who fled from France were naturalised as British by Royal consent during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

To be continued...

The Poppy Man by Pam Turner

To many people, the name ‘Earl Haig’ has always been associated with the yearly poppy appeal, due to him setting up the Royal British Legion in 1921 to assist ex-serviceman. However, there was another man who was very much involved in the original appeal, and whom I expect many people will probably never heard of. He was called Major George Howson. Major Howson was an officer in the British Army in the First World War; he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 11th (Service) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment in September 1914, and served on the Western Front throughout the war. After being promoted to captain, he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Pilckem Ridge in the Battle of Passchendaele on 31 July 1917 where, despite receiving a shrapnel wound, he encouraged his unit to continue repairing a road under shellfire. George was eventually promoted to major and finally retired from the army in May 1920. In September 1918, just before the war ended, George married Jessie Gibson, who was the daughter of William Gibson, the Australian owner of the Foy & Gibson department stores. The newly married couple quickly became wealthy after William Gibson died in November 1918. After the war ended, the first Poppy Appeal campaign was started, using silk poppies made by widows in France, and this became very popular with the British public, raising £106,000 to support veterans and their families. Seeing its success, Major Howson quickly saw an opportunity to employ British men and, after approaching Earl Haig, it was agreed that George would set up The Disabled Society, along with the MP Jack Cohen, to create the poppies for the next year’s Poppy Appeal. Earl Haig gave George a grant of £2,000, with which he set up a small factory off the Old Kent Road with five ex-servicemen, and it was here that the first British poppies were made. By August 1922, the workforce had grown very quickly, to over 40 men, who had made over a million poppies in two months. Two years later, in November 1924, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) visited the factory; the workforce had made 27 million poppies that year. Most of the employees were disabled and, by then, there was a long waiting list for prospective employees. Within just three years, the British Legion Poppy Factory (as it had become known) had outgrown the original premises as the demand for poppies increased, so it moved to the a site in Richmond on the Petersham Road, using funds donated by Major Howson. Housing for the workers and their families was built on adjacent land and, in 1932, the present factory was built. After ten years, the name was changed to The Poppy Factory, by which time George was employing over 350 veterans with disabilities to make the poppies. George Howson also founded the first annual Field of Remembrance in the grounds of Westminster Abbey in 1928, with a small band of disabled factory workers. They grouped around two battlefield crosses, familiar to those who had served in Flanders and the Western Front, with a tray of poppies, and they invited passers-by to plant a poppy in the vicinity of the crosses. In the first year, there were only two memorials – one dedicated to ‘Tommy Atkins’ – a nickname for a rank-and-file soldier in the British Army – and one to Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, who had died in January that year. Sadly, on 1st June 1936, George Howson died from pancreatic cancer – he was only 50 years old. His coffin was taken to the Poppy Factory and surrounded by colourful wreaths and poppies, and every worker then took his turn to hold an hour of silent vigil in memoriam. George was buried in the village of Hambleden in Buckinghamshire, where he had lived with his family.

Although I have no connections with George Howson, back in the early 1970s my dad’s brother had a car hire business in the London area and he became acquainted with George Howson’s widow who regularly employed him to transport her from her London home to the village of Hambleden, which is a very pretty village situated on the Thames, near Marlow. The village has often been used as a location for films, such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Avengers and Sleepy Hollow, as well as many TV programmes, such as the mini-series Band of Brothers, Midsomer Murders and Poirot. it was also the home of the WH Smith family. During his many trips to Hambleden, my uncle grew very fond of the village and its surroundings and continued to visit it after Mrs Howson had died. In July 1984, my husband and I spent a few days staying with my aunt and uncle in London, during which we were treated to a day out in Hambleden, where Uncle Les showed us around, the village. During our day there, I took several photographs which, sadly, were the last ones I ever took of my uncle. Just a few weeks later, Uncle Les was taken ill and, by the middle of October in that year, he had died, also of pancreatic cancer – the same as George Howson. Because he loved Hambleden so much, his ashes were later scattered around the village. So, each year when I look at my poppy, I not only remember the brave servicemen, but also remember the story of George Howson, whom uncle Les first told me about back in 1984 on that visit to Hambleden. On 14th May 1922, George Howson wrote a moving letter to his parents telling them of the news. Of his poppy idea, he said “I have been given a cheque for £2,000 to make poppies with. It is a large responsibility and will be very difficult. If the experiment is successful it will be the start of an industry to employ 150 men. I do not think it can be a great success, but it is worth trying. I consider the attempt ought to be made if only to give the disabled their chance.” If Major George Howson were around today, I think he might be rather pleased seeing what a wonderful industry his idea has grown into and also, this year in particular, the magnificent displays put on by communities all around the country, using the poppies that he had instigated making all those years ago.

Ann Hath a Way About Her...

Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare. She married at the age of 26. This is really unusual for the time. Most people married young, like at the age of 11 or 12. Life was not as romantic as we may picture it. Here are some examples: Anne Hathaway’s home was a three-bedroom house with a small parlour, which was seldom used (only for company), plus a kitchen, but no bathroom. Mother and father shared a bedroom. Anne had a queen-sized bed, but did not sleep alone. She also had two other sisters, and they shared the bed also with six servant girls (this was before Anne married). They didn’t sleep like we do, length-wise, but all laid on the bed cross-wise. At least they had a bed. The other bedroom was shared by her six brothers and up to 30 field workers. They didn’t have a bed. Everyone just wrapped up in their blanket and slept on the floor. They had no indoor heating, so all the extra bodies kept them warm. They were also small people, the men only grew to be about 5'6" and the women were about 4'8". So they had room for the 40-plus people living in their house!

Why Those Brick Walls Won’t Fall

Found online at Family History Daily

Searching for and locating records about our ancestors is seldom a simple process. Of course, we all have those easy-to-find individuals that seem to appear in every single record at just the right time – but many of us spend most of our time searching for those elusive members of our tree who appear to have avoided being recorded on purpose. If you’ve hit a brick wall in your research, check out this list of common reasons why people fail to find the genealogy data they’re looking for. They are not the only reasons a person might hit a brick wall but, in the vast majority of cases, one or more of these observations apply. If you feel that something on the list describes your research, take the time to address it and you might find that you tear down your family history obstacles once and for all.

1. You’re searching too specifically

If you’re looking for an ancestor by their name as you know it, beware. It is very common for names to be misspelled on old records, or incorrectly transcribed when placed online, but many people don’t realize that this is the rule, not the exception, in many cases. Flexibility is key to making breakthroughs. If you’re searching for an ancestor and continuously coming up short, you may need to stop looking for them by their full name. Think outside of the box – search by surname only, or by first or middle name only, and use locations or birth, marriage or death dates to narrow down results instead. Loosen up your searches to include a wide variety of possible spellings and date possibilities, and add keywords to narrow down results. Omit names completely and search only dates, locations or keywords. Do what you can to make sure you are getting a wider look at the records in any collection you are searching. And if searches don’t work, and you are relatively sure that your ancestor does exist in a record collection, browse instead of searching. It is time-consuming, but worth the investment.

2. You’re searching in all the wrong places

Have you taken the time to truly educate yourself about what records are available to you in the location and date range your ancestor lived in? If the answer is no, then stop what you are doing and find this information now. Each piece of data you need can only be found from a limited amount of possible sources, and these sources vary from place to place, and decade to decade. Know what the sources are for your research needs. Genealogical and historical societies, county websites and regional guides are a great place to start for this kind of data. And don’t forget to educate yourself about a collection, to make sure it covers the exact location and date range your ancestor lived in before searching. Many collections are incomplete, and are missing data for certain years, counties, towns, parishes, etc. Don’t waste time on irrelevant ones.

3. You’re not making use of the data you have

Can’t locate a record or piece of data, no matter how many times you search for it? Then you might be isolating your searches from the data you’ve already collected. It is very important to know your ancestors as well as you can when trying to grow your tree. Create a clearer picture of your ancestors’ lives by sitting down and organizing every single piece of data that you do have. Forget about looking for new information for a while, and focus only on the records you have collected. Open a notebook and scour the sources that relate to a particular ancestor. Write down every piece of information you can drum up about them – name variations, locations, dates, family members, neighbours, occupations, religious affiliations, travel, military service, etc. This data is going to be crucial in your search. Once you have compiled a clear list of all data available, use it to arm yourself with new knowledge. Get to know what record collections are available to you, based on the exact locations, affiliations and dates you recorded. Use it to complete more creative or refined searches, or to connect with new research resources. Always think of your tree as an interconnected web of data, and build on what you have.

4. You haven’t collected enough data

If you were reading the last tip and thinking ‘what data’, then you may need to spend some more time building up a picture of each ancestor. One of the biggest reasons why family historians cannot locate a piece of data they need is because they are trying to find something that they are not prepared to find. It is not uncommon for someone to find a new individual, or set of parents, in their tree, and to immediately set out trying to find the next generation back. While it might be incredibly tempting to grow your tree in this way, it often poses some serious obstacles. When we first encounter a new person or family group, we usually have only minimal information about them – often from just one or two records. Having limited data means that locating the next generation back can be nearly impossible. To find elusive ancestors, we often need to take advantage of every bit of data we have so, if you’re trying to expand the number of individuals in your tree and are stuck, take some more time to fill out the individuals you already know about. Get as much data as you can, and then use that data to create a clearer picture of your ancestors’ life – one that will help you reveal new generations.

Crimson Coast Tour – Reflections

Two accounts of the Group’s second tour of WWI battlefields, inOctober 2018.

1. Bombarded with information By Sheila Clarke

The Crimson Coast tour turned out to be very intensive, and we were bombarded with a great deal of information by our guide. One aspect of WWI that I was unaware of was the part played by the Belgian people and the Belgian Army. We know about the almost total destruction of Ypres during the war, but less is known about how the Belgians tried to remain neutral, while at the same time trying to defend their country. We visited the Yser region, which is a low-lying area surrounding the Yser river. The town of Nieuwpoort is situated at the mouth of the river. After the Siege of Antwerp, what was left of the Belgian Army had been pushed back towards the coast. It was here that the low-lying land and the network of drainage ditches formed a difficult terrain. The Belgians made a stand along the coastal side of the Yser River and canal system. The line stretched 22 miles from Nieuwpoort through Dixmuide, to about six miles from Ypres. At the excellent museum at Yser we were able to see that, when King Albert of the Belgians, who had set up his command post in Nieuwpoort, saw that the Belgian resistance was weakening, he used the fact that several canals joined together nearby to his advantage. The land had been reclaimed, and the water table was just below the surface. Depending on rainfall, the level was regulated by a series of sluices and pumps. The Belgians took drastic measures; in October 1914, they opened the canal locks. The low-lying area gradually flooded, and the Germans were prevented from getting to the coast. They retreated and concentrated their attack on Ypres. We saw a film depicting the flooding of the area and, from the roof terrace, we were able see the canals and the head of the drainage system, which was known as ‘the goose’s foot’.The Belgians were then more able to defend the line until the Allied advance in 1918. This was not without cost. At Dixmuide, for example, we saw what is called the ‘Trench of Death’ – a 300-yard preserved section of Belgian trench, now sanitized. Walls are now made of concrete instead of sandbags, and a walking surface of gravel instead of mud, but it shows that it was only separated from the German trench by the canal. The men served for three days in the trench, followed by three days ‘rest’. They had to be constantly on the alert for Germans trying to cross the canal, while they endured mud, mortars and the ever-present threat of mustard gas. In the museum, we saw photographs from that time, and a film depicting life in the trench. There were eye-witness accounts from the soldiers and from civilians who lived in the area during the war. Some of these accounts are quite harrowing. Before the First World War, Belgium was a forward-looking wealthy country. However, the damage to the infrastructure, decimation of the countryside, and the fact that machinery from their factories was dismantled and taken to Germany, left Belgium impoverished. The reparation made to Belgium afterwards was less than they expected. It seems that this war (like many others) ended because the participants ran out of energy, money and manpower, leaving feelings of resentment and humiliation – particularly in Germany – which were exploited in the 1930s by Hitler’s regime.

2. A sense of disappointment? by Keith Stanley

In May 2017, a group of us went on a trip to the Great War battlefields, which was a resounding success. We wondered whether this year’s trip (Crimson Coast, also from Leger Holidays) could live up to our expectations. Sadly, it didn’t. There were some logistic issues, but the tour suffered from more fundamental problems. The battlefields seen in 2017 were open farmland 100 years ago, and very little has changed. It was easy to let your imagination go. This time we were told that a particular location had been the site of a major hospital. We turned our heads to see a modern block of flats. We were told about the attempt to sink block ships in the harbour at Zeebrugge in 1918. Developments in the last 40 years mean that the site of the action is now covered by concrete, with the sea over a quarter of a mile away. Even the monuments commemorating the action have been moved. We saw where the trenches that ran from the Swiss border met the North Sea (at Nieuport), but there is nothing to mark the actual location in any detail. The town is, once again, a coastal resort. In De Panne, where we stayed, there is only one contemporary building that was part of the extensive medical establishment in the Great War. It sits in the middle of a row of modern blocks. The training camp at Etaples was situated in the sand dunes near the town. The highlight for me was Talbot House in Poperinghe (often referred to as Toc H, which is signaller’s shorthand). It acted as a club for everyone, irrespective of rank, and it has been preserved/restored. It still serves a welcoming, and much needed, cup of tea or coffee for visitors. The garden is a place of calm, just as it would have been 100 years ago. The cemeteries all have a unique quality that is difficult to quantify. For many of the coach party, there was a particular grave that they wanted to see. That alone was sufficient reason for them to make the entire trip.The ceremony at the Menin Gate was another unforgettable moment. Our experience from 2017 meant that we all arrived in plenty of time for the 8 pm playing of the Last Post and the laying of wreaths. It might be the problem is that I lack imagination. Perhaps I need obvious reminders. I would still recommend anyone to go on the ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ tour, but I cannot give the same unqualified endorsement for the ‘Crimson Coast’ tour. I certainly increased my knowledge, but I was left with a sense of disappointment.

This Issue’s Cover Photograph

War Memorial, Chase Terrace and Boney Hay, Staffs. Photograph: Alan Betts

The Chase Terrace and Boney Hay War Memorial stands outside St John’s Church and is an obelisk in the Classical style, listed at Grade II. The memorial was raised outside St John’s Church, Chase Terrace, as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War. The memorial was unveiled on Sunday 6 February 1921 by Colonel V de Falbe and dedicated by the Vicar of Chasetown. Public subscriptions were raised to pay for the memorial and these totalled over £300. This included £50 which was left over from peace celebrations held in 1919, which first led to the suggestion of the creation of a permanent war memorial. Following the Second World War, the names of those men who had died in that conflict were added. Originally located immediately in front of the church door, the memorial was relocated a few metres to its present position in 2009, due to subsidence. At this time, it was also repaired, as movement generated by the subsidence had caused cracks in the marble.

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