Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2019 01-03 Volume 27 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
January - March 2019
Vol 27.1
Contents of this issue.
View From the Chair
Death By Surprise
More Than You Can Shake A Stick At
A Victorian Cotton Mill
An Amazing Coincidence
Strange But True in World War Two
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers
The Burntwood Memorial Project
Finding Time to Marry
What Our Questionnaire Revealed
Go to Stalag, Go Directly to Stalag
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
Useful Addresses
Transcriptions on CD Available for Sale
Programme of Speakers
Back Cover
View From the Chair
We have kicked off 2019 with a great start. Our first two talks of the year have been packed out, and our research evening has the computer suite at the Old Mining College being fully utilised. Membership renewals are going well, and Chris Graddon, our Treasurer, tells me that we are ahead of where we were this time last year. When we met at our recent quarterly committee meeting, a few of us had turned up with ideas for trips, and we floated these ideas at our Monday meeting on February 11th. We felt that, having done two battlefield tours, it was time to look closer to home, and research done by Pam Woodburn [via her questionnaire] ascertained that trips would be a good idea, so we did some research and took a list to the meeting. The most popular suggestions included:
Spring: A National Trust trip – Middleton’s do a trip to the Southwell Workhouse and are running one on 7th May – we may be able to take advantage of that.
Summer: The Genealogy Show at the NEC on 7–8 June – we think we have enough to fill a minibus and are looking to organise this. Autumn: Imperial War Museum North – we had a fair bit of interest in this, and it is a relatively short trip with a lot to see around it (e.g. Salford Keys, the Lowry), so we are thinking of organising this trip in the Autumn, which gives us a bit of time to plan it. We are also thinking of putting on displays at both a U3A event at Chasetown Methodist Church on 5th April, and a stand at Chase Wakes, which is on 30th June this year. The date has moved again, perhaps as the Council attempt to find good weather! So, another great year ahead to look forward to. Helen Bratton, Chair, BFHG
The National Civil War Museum
Have you traced any forbears who were alive during the Civil War? The National Civil War Museum in Newark is well worth a visit. It also incorporates an exhibition concentrating on the fascinating subject of the battlefield medicine. Who would have thought that the idea of a universal health service perhaps stemmed from 1642, when Parliament passed an Act assuming responsibility for the medical care of soldiers and their families? The first military hospital was also established. This benevolence sadly lapsed after the Restoration. We also assume that the idea of treating post-traumatic stress as a medical condition is fairly recent. During the Civil War, soldiers suffering from the condition were given a prescription for trips to take the waters in such places as Bath!
Death By Surprise!
Here are some more death-related facts that will come as a surprise to most people..
In New York, more people have committed suicide over the centuries than have been murdered.
Malaria is thought to be responsible for the death of about half of all people who have ever lived.
More Than You Can Shake A Stick At! by Kaye Christian
I’m hoping that some of you will have had DNA tested for yourself and other family members, following my article in the Jul–Sep 2018 edition of this Journal (Vol. 26 No. 3). The older generation’s results will be the most useful, should you be lucky enough to have parents, grandparents, or maybe even great grandparents still living. I hope my article didn’t have the opposite effect from that intended and put you off testing your family’s DNA. I mentioned in that article that I have found Ancestry DNA to be the best company to test with for ease of use. Their autosomal test is the perfect tool for family historians wishing to find new cousins, to prove paper-based research with known ancestors, or even to find completely unknown ancestry where, say, a child’s biological father is not known. The latter involves a lot of analysing of results, using common names and places, but many have had great success with it. In fact, the wife of a distant cousin in Australia helps people all over the world find closure in their difficult unknown parentage, linking them with relatives that they didn’t know they had. It is very specialist, she doesn’t charge a cent, and she is obviously inundated with requests. For me, she is typical of the lovely people with whom you come into contact in the genealogical world.
The way Ancestry is set up, once your results are in, you will get lists of people with whom you match, with numbers denoting how much DNA you share. You don’t need to understand the numbers – just that the higher the numbers the better. I consider a match of 90cM to be a good match (about 3rd to 4th cousins), but some of my husband’s matches are 200–400cM (about 1st to 2nd cousins). I’ll cover that in a later article. You should upload or link an existing family tree on Ancestry to your DNA test. This is very important as, without a family tree, your shared matches will not have the slightest clue as to where the match could be among their family’s history, and vice versa if they do not have a linked family tree. As for the term ‘cM’ – no, it isn’t centimetres, but centiMorgans, and it isn’t necessary to understand exactly what they are – but, in time, you may wish to delve deeper into the science behind DNA matching and to understand better the technology and terminology.
The best way to analyse your results is by using Peter Calver’s DNA Masterclass, as I mentioned last year in my previous article (https://www.lostcousins.com/newsletters2/wedding18.htm#Masterclass). If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend you visiting his website (www.lostcousins.com) to sign up for his excellent newsletter and input some of your family census details as another way to find lost cousins. 3 Ancestry has ‘Shared Ancestor Hints’, as indicated by a leaf symbol among your matches. This is a facility that automatically matches shared family trees. It couldn’t be easier: click on one of the leaf matches and you’ll see a portion of your family tree and the matches from someone else’s tree side by side, showing each generation with the couple that you both share in your ancestry at the top. You can then message your match and, hopefully, share free information that you perhaps wouldn’t normally have access to, such as photographs, documents, etc. At the moment I have 16 Shared Ancestor Hints, all of which reassuringly link our paper research to our shared DNA.
The main reason for having my family’s DNA tested was hopefully to link my Staffordshire MANN family to a Mann family in Shropshire. I already had contact with a descendant of the Shropshire Manns who had his DNA results on Ancestry but, alas, despite each of us having three family members tested, no DNA match has been found. However, using Ancestry’s facility to search my matches using the surname Mann, I now have a match with a gentleman who has that family name in his Tree, but from Warwickshire. There are a lot of Mann wills for Warwickshire, so maybe I will make a connection via that avenue in the future. One early success that I had with my Ancestry matches was quite surprising, as I had found a baptism for an Ann BURNDRED who could be my 4× greatgrandmother, but from a different area of Staffordshire than the generation that would be her offspring. However, I could find no further records for Burndred, which seemed odd. When both parties of a DNA match have linked family trees, then you automatically get a list of shared surnames that you can look into.
While searching all the surnames for a match (not just the shared ones), I spotted the surname ‘Brundred’, and quickly searched the match’s family tree for the individuals with that surname. Surprise, surprise, they were from the same place in Staffordshire as Ann Burndred, and a paper relationship was quickly acquired to back up the DNA match. Obviously, the usual websites haven’t got their algorithms set up to search for ‘Brundred’ when someone types in the surname ‘Burndred’ – such a simple transposition of two letters. I hope I’ve helped to give some members the confidence to have their family’s DNA tested and I wish you all well with your matches. I’m sure the Group’s members would love to hear if any of you have used DNA testing to assist in their research along with any successes, hints or tips you may have acquired. I know I would.
A Victorian Cotton Mill by Ann Wheeler
Daniel Collinge was born in Oldham, Lancashire, in 1810. Daniel married Mary Ann Dixon on 13 November 1831 at the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, St. Denys and St. George – now Manchester Cathedral – and, a year later, their eldest son John was born. Altogether, Daniel and Mary had eight children, of whom six survived into adulthood. Daniel died on 5 July 1875 and was buried in the cemetery of St. Chad’s Church in Saddleworth. In 1842, Daniel went into partnership with Samuel and Nathan Marsden and, in 1844, together they purchased a mill site at Fold, near Greenacres Moor, Oldham. Their partnership was dissolved in 1855 and, for a year, Daniel went into partnership with Thomas Powell, trading under the name Daniel Collinge and Company, known locally as Dan Coll’s Factory. In 1859, Daniel transferred part of the ownership of Moor Hey Mills to his son John, and the company then traded as Daniel Collinge & Son. This partnership was dissolved in 1871, after which Daniel continued to run the business alone. The 1871 Census describes him as a cotton manufacturer employing 300 persons.
The business continued operating after his death in 1875, and in 1893 the Moor Hey factory was extended. It is believed that it ceased production around the turn of the 20th century. 5 Daniel Collinge The business manufactured and patented Cotton Shadings, and also Budding and Grafting Cottons, but diversified into a variety of other products, including sponge cloths. The company’s Cotton Shadings are believed to be the forerunner of the fleece that gardeners use to safeguard delicate plants and to protect late and early crops from cold weather and frost, as well as from insect pests during the normal growing season. The Cotton Shadings were originally made for private use, but word soon spread, and gardeners took to them throughout the country. Gardeners’ testimonials poured in, as the selection shown below (one of six such pages) shows.
TESTIMONIALS From Mr. Geo. Cooper, Gardener, to C. Austin, Esq., Brandeston Hall, Wickham Market, Suffolk. I feel quite satisfied that your Shadings will be found to answer all the purposes for which they are intended. By using the different Nos. from 1 to 5, you have Shading for Plant Houses, Protection to the Blossoms of Wall Trees from Winds, Frost, Hail, &c.; Ripe Fruit from Birds, Wasps, Flies, &c. From Henry Thorold, Esq., Cuxwold Hall, Caistor, Lincolnshire. From the experience I have had of your Horticultural Shadings, my opinion is that they fully answer the purpose they are intended for.
From Mr. Wm. Jackson, Blakedown Nursery, Kidderminster. I beg to state the Shadings you supplied us with are the best we have used; they are alike suitable for Shading Greenhouse Plants in Bloom, or as a Protection for the Trees from Wind and Frost.
From Messrs. Wood & Ingram, The Nurseries, Huntingdon. We have used your Shading for a Hardy Fernery, and have much pleasure in saying the plants have done remarkably well under it.
From Mr. P.H. Bracher, Wincanton As a covering for Strawberries, Raspberries, Currant, and Wall Fruit Trees, it answers well. It keeps off Birds, Wasps, &c., and admits air, light, and sun. Fruit will ripen nicely under it.
An Amazing Coincidence by Kent Parson
My father left a whole lot of bits and pieces behind when he passed away. There were books with Sunday School plates inside with his name on, as well as some with his father’s name inside. There were also memories of his time in the RAF during the war: the cap badge, the woven wings, the Morse code keys! There were also a number of pairs of eye glasses: a pair of pince-nez opera glasses minus the stick, and a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. The spectacles had a hallmark which dated them to around 1880. This meant they almost certainly belonged to my great-great grandfather, Dr Edward Kent Parson (1821–1890). Some time ago, I took the box of memorabilia to our youngest son, Tom (29) in Manchester, because he wanted to have something from his grandfather as a keepsake. We looked through all the bits and pieces and eventually came to the spectacles. “These are cool!” he said and tried them on. He went quiet and touched my arm. “Dad,” he said, “these are my prescription!” He had most definitely found the keepsake he was after, but from his greatgreat-great grandfather.
Strange But True in World War Two
Some little-known weird facts from wartime...
Leonard Dawe, a crossword compiler for the Daily Telegraph, used D-Day operation code names as the answers to his puzzle a month before D-Day. MI5 interrogated him only to discover that it was a random coincidence.
Two doctors in Poland discovered that the Nazis would not deport anyone to a concentration camp who tested positive for typhus, for fear that the disease would spread. The two injected Jews and non-Jews in their city with a vaccine containing dead Epidemic Typhus that would test positive but have no adverse effects. This act saved approximately 8,000 lives.
Juan Pujol Garcia was awarded both the German Iron Cross and the British MBE. Codenamed ‘Garbo’, he was a double agent, supposedly working for the Fascist Spanish government while secretly in the pay of MI5!
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
October 2018: Tim Coltman on ‘William Coltman VC’
Tim Coltman described his great-grandfather William Coltman as not only a most highly decorated soldier from the ranks who served in WWI, but one who had gained these honours without raising a rifle and without killing or wounding anyone. He volunteered for the army in January 1916 and served with the North Staffordshire Regiment as a stretcher bearer throughout the war. He was not a conscientious objector, but he refused to take up arms because of his deep Christian faith. Tim remarked that there were two crosses in William Coltman’s life – the one he won while serving in the army, and the cross on which he believed Jesus Christ died for all mankind. This cross, and what it represented for William, far outweighed the importance of the award, because it was the foundation of his whole life. William was born on the 17th November 1891 in Rangemoor, a village near Burton upon Trent. He worked as a market gardener. He became a Sunday school teacher in his village, and he married his wife Eleanor in 1913. Stretcher bearers usually worked in groups of four or six to carry a wounded man on a stretcher, but five foot four inch tall William preferred to work alone, unhampered with a stretcher, searching for wounded men, dealing with their injuries and carrying them to the trench on his back, giving further aid there. Tim outlined the development of the war, from the successful recruitment campaign by Lord Kitchener to the horrors the optimistic young men encountered in the trenches. Wet conditions, caused trench foot, while lice, rats, and disease were ever-present. One way used to reduce the rat population was to cage a rat, starve it and then introduce another, which the first would promptly eat. This would be repeated several times until the ‘cannibal’ rat was released, after which it would continue to kill and eat rats in the trench. Men feared being buried alive in a collapsing trench, and even used the bodies of dead comrades to reinforce the walls. A short film was shown where men could be seen going ‘over the top’ during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
Apart from there being 57,000 casualties on July 1st 1916, during the conflict 250,000 combatants suffered partial or full amputations. We were shown a picture of the first aid kit stretcher bearers carried. To our eyes, the kit looked similar to the basic one we have in our home. Used bandages were often boiled and re-used. 8 William Coltman was mentioned in dispatches several times prior to any award. In February 1917, he was awarded the Military Medal. A wire-cutting party, taking advantage of the prevailing mist, came under heavy enemy fire when the mist dispersed. The officer in charge sent the men back to their trench, but he himself was wounded. William shielded the officer’s body, pretending to be dead until, under the cloak of darkness, he was able to return the man to their dugout. Around July 1917, William received the DCM for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, evacuating wounded from the front line at great personal risk under shell and persistent gunfire. His action inspired the rest of the men. William had also crawled in darkness to remove the bottom part of the dog tags of the dead, so that their families could receive a pay-out from the government. A bar was added to William’s Military Medal for several acts which took place during June that year. On 5th June, a mortar bomb landed in a store of bombs and rockets; William averted an explosion by removing the bombs and the Very lights. The 7th June saw company headquarters set on fire by trench mortars. William rescued and attended to the wounded.On 14th June, a communication tunnel was blown up and collapsed, trapping twelve men under the debris. William Coltman organised a party to dig the men out. For his actions on 28th September 1918, near the St. Quentin Canal, William was awarded the bar to his DCM. He dressed the wounds and carried many men while under fire and, over the following days, he did not rest until he was sure the sector was clear of wounded. Between 3rd and 4th October 1918, after a retreat near Mannequin Hill, Lance Corporal Coltman heard that wounded men had been left behind. He went back alone under fierce enfilading fire, found the casualties, dressed their wounds and, over 48 hours, he carried men back to safety. He attended Buckingham Palace after the war and received the Victoria Cross from King George V.
William Coltman was a self-effacing, quiet man. The day he was to return home after the war, the dignitaries of Burton upon Trent planned a magnificent ceremony to greet their hero at the railway station. William got to know about this beforehand and, to avoid all the fuss, he got off the train at the previous station and walked quietly back home to his family and to his job as a gardener (he worked for the Burton Parks department). On 11th November 1920, the coffin of the Unknown Warrior was drawn on a gun carriage through the streets of London and laid to rest in Westminster Abbey. William was one of the one hundred recipients of the Victoria Cross, together with one hundred women who had lost a husband or son during the war, who were invited to the ceremony and flank the grave. William Coltman died in 1974 and is buried alongside his wife Eleanor in the churchyard of St. Mark’s Church, Winshill, Staffordshire. A tree in Lance Corporal Coltman’s memory was planted at the National Memorial Arboretum. A replica of a WWI trench at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield, is named the Coltman trench. Coltman House, also at Whittington, houses the Defence Medical Services Regulator, which oversees the health welfare of servicemen and women – a fitting tribute (though he would probably not have wanted it to be given his name).
February 2019: John Calley on ‘The Nostalgic Film Show’
At the meeting of the Burntwood Family History Group on Monday 11th February, John Calley showed a compilation of films spanning the eras from the development of moving pictures until the early 1960s. The films were made up of: trailers; newsreels featuring royalty through the reigns of Queen Victoria until George V1; comedy; musicals; and sport. Motor racing newsreels showed how hair-raising the Indianapolis 500 was in the 1920s, with no consideration of health or safety for competitors or spectators. It made the present-day Formula One races look tame by comparison. We saw the risks taken by people in the pursuit of fame and fortune, particularly in the days of the Depression – driving cars through glass or fire, or riding on the wings of an aeroplane, for example. Roller skating competitors, both men and women, used any tactic to win a race. There seemed to be no rules. Pushing and tripping was prevalent. Women, for instance, were liable to end up fighting to settle a score. At least, though, they wore some sort of head protection, which could not be said of the racing drivers, the motor cyclists or the cyclists.
Musicals were cited as boosting morale during the depression. Busby Berkley and his extravaganzas were a form of escapism. The complicated dance routines often involved tap dancing. The popularity of Fred Astaire spanned more than thirty years and, although he was partnered by many film stars, his collaboration with Ginger Rogers is most remembered. Singers featured included Jeanette McDonald, who later partnered Nelson Eddy, and they became a popular duo of the time. Another favourite was Bing Crosby. I am sure that to many of us, the commentaries of the newsreels of the past featuring the Royal family seemed particularly obsequious by today’s standards. However we still feel a certain schadenfreude following the fortune and misfortune of ordinary citizens and the famous, particularly those whom we watch taking part in game shows and programmes such as ‘Big Brother’.
September 2008: Part II of Mike Jennings’s AGM talk
At the AGM in October 2018, Mike Jennings gave a talk entitled ‘Beware (or be Thankful) for Old Wives’ Tales’. The first part of this talk was reviewed last issue. This second part of Mike’s story concerns one of John Blossett’s sons, a Thomas Eyre Blossett, who was Mike Jennings’s 4× great-grandfather. He was baptised on 1st January 1814, at Fort Cumberland, Portsea, Hants. At the time, his father was an army captain. Mike visited this Napoleonic ‘Star Fort’ when it was open to the public. As his father was in the army, Thomas must have lived in various places in this country and abroad. However, by 1828 he had joined the Royal Navy. He was about 14 years old when he enrolled. On 15th February 1836, he married Eliza Nicholls at St. Mary’s Church, Lambeth. The couple lived with Eliza’s parents in Palmers Village, Middlesex. They were traders at Covent Garden Market, and Eliza’s father had previously been a mariner. By 1838, Thomas had become a Beadle at Covent Garden Market. The following year, he was a constable under the Duke of Bedford. In the 1841 census, he was listed as living at two different addresses with his sisters and their families. In 1843, he was a clerk in the House of Commons. He lived in Horseferry Road and Regent Street with his wife and four of his surviving children. One of his brothers-in-law was an officer in the House of Lords.
In 1844, he became a Superintendent Constable in Ross-on-Wye. When the Herefordshire Constabulary was formed in April 1857, he became a third class superintendent of police. He was given special permission to join because of his age. He was promoted to second class superintendent and he moved to Abbey Dore, Herefordshire in 1858, Harewood End in 1862 and, finally, Kington in 1868. He retired through ill health in 1875 and lived in Hereford until 1880. A further six children were born in Herefordshire, two of which died in infancy. Thomas and his wife moved to Llanfabon, Nelson, Glamorgan, to be close to one of their daughters. Thomas died on 27th June 1882. His police record reveals that he was 5 feet 7½ inches tall and his hair and eyes were brown. He had a dark complexion and a scar on his left leg. He was of stout figure and round visage. When he retired, he received a pension of 3s 1d per day. While at the ‘Who do you Think you are?’ show at the NEC, Mike was able to find out the position of Thomas’s grave in Llanfabon churchyard and also those of his daughter and family who had the unusual surname of Rusbatch. Mike was able to visit the area and, while there, he visited an old cousin of his mother and heard about stories from her childhood, which meant he was able to add another chapter to his family history.
Family History Websites by John Catliff
I have compiled a list of websites, mainly for our newer members who, when going online, are diverted to the main players such as Ancestry.co.uk, FindMyPast, etc. These are very useful, but will charge subscriptions. One of the advantages of the BFHG is the monthly evening session in the computer room, which gives you access to these sites as part of your group membership. I think you are all aware that the main proof you will need when constructing your family tree is BMD certificates. Also be aware of taking other researchers’ trees as gospel, as it is easy to be diverted down the wrong garden path when using sites such as Genes Reunited, etc. Some of the free sites can be used to cross-check information you have gathered. The list below contains some sites I have used, but there are many more on the internet. Also, don’t forget that various sites are updated daily with the valuable help of volunteer transcribers. The list does include some subscription sites.
Cyndi’s List – free site
General Register Office (GRO)
Familysearch.org (Latter Day Saints, the Mormons’ Site); free – just sign up
StaffordshireBMD – free site
FreeCen, FreeGen – free sites
Genuki – free site for UK and Ireland genealogy
Historical Directories – free site
Lincstothepast – free site
Online parish clerk – free site
My Heritage.com – tools to build a tree with (you can have about 200 relatives on before they suggest a payment. Tip: split father’s name from mother’s line and you can have twice as many)
Family Tree Builder
Genes Reunited – costs about £10 a year; just be aware of the Hot Matches and check them before adding to your tree
Parish Chest – free site
The Churches of Britain and Ireland
Old Bailey (old court records; free)
AA London map (app – access on your iPhone or iPad
FindMyPast (also FindMyPast school registers)
unionancestors.co.uk 12
LongLongTrail – many of the group have used this site while researching local soldiers for our centenary Ancestry project Electoralregisters.org/poolbooks – free site
Britishnewspaperarchives.co.uk – partly free
British library newspapers – partly free
www.workhouses.org.uk – free site
www.hearthtax.org.uk – free site
www.Londonlives.org – free site
www.nationalwillindex.com (many sites exist for will research)
Roots.com Ø UKBMD – free site
Telephone directories
CWWG.org – again used by BFHG researching for our project
About.com – free site
AfriGeneas – free site
Archives. corn – free site
Atlas of historical county boundaries – free site
BillionGraves.com – free site
Find A Grave – free site
General Land Office Records – free site
HeritageQuestOnline – free site
www.fibis.org – families in British India
Emigration and immigration – many free sites exist to track early relatives
Good hunting, everyone.
The Burntwood Memorial Project by Pam Woodburn
In 2011, a new idea for the Burntwood Family History Group was born. At that point, we were not sure if it would be feasible, but we decided to discuss it with Group members and see where it took us. The centenary of the start of World War I was fast approaching, and it seemed a good idea to research the names of some of the men from the local area who gave their lives in the conflict and, if possible, to produce a printed biography for those family members remaining. Volunteers were sought, and several members declared themselves willing to have a go! Alan Betts did the photography and produced copies of the local war memorials throughout the area. These were shown on the Group website and are still available. Like most new projects, it started with enthusiasm. Slowly, the work on the biographies progressed as the soldiers’ families were contacted and showed interest as the project was explained. It didn’t move quickly, but the work produced was diligent and was presented, upon completion, to the soldiers’ families in A4 booklet form.
A second booklet was also produced for the use of the Family History Group, to be displayed at Open Evenings, etc. and some of the completed work was displayed in film form and projected onto the walls of St. Anne’s Church, Chasetown and Chase Terrace High School. These were produced by Peter Walker. The work progressed slowly and carefully during the years that led up to the centenary of the end of World War I. Finally, to mark the centenary of the Great War, an exhibition was mounted at the Old Mining College, and the public invited to attend. The room was packed! It was a pleasure to see so many people interested. Several said how impressed they had been! Not wanting to leave it at that after so much effort had been put in, the display was dismantled and moved to the Burntwood Library. Again, several people commented on how impressive they found it. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on producing the biographies. It took a great deal of effort, but it was a fitting comment on the bravery and sacrifice made by local men.
Finding Time to Marry by Pam Turner
My paternal grandparents Joe Oakley and Minnie Haycock were married in Bloxwich Church on December 25th 1922. It wasn’t unique to get married on this day, as it had been a popular tradition going back as far as the 18th century to marry at Christmas. However, most couples who chose this day for their wedding rarely did it for romantic reasons, but usually out of necessity. Quite often, Christmas Day was one of the few days a year that young working class couples were guaranteed to get time off from work. In the 1800s, most people worked six days a week and didn’t get paid when they took time off – so, of course, the vast majority of people could ill afford to do so. Also, in inner city areas, it was a tradition that churches offered free marriages and baptisms on December 25th, which often gave couples an incentive to marry on that day. In those early days, most weddings were simple, small affairs, with few guests and none of the expensive trappings and traditions associated with modern weddings. The couple and guests would have worn their best clothes, and a short service would have been followed by dancing and making merry at home, or maybe in the local barn or pub. The process our ancestors went through in order to arrange a marriage was fairly simple, with just three readings of the banns on three consecutive Sundays being all that was required to announce their intention to marry. The readings provided an opportunity for anybody to declare a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place. Going back to my own family tree, in 1815 my 3× great grandparents Joseph Oakley and Sarah Roberts had their banns read three times in one church in the springtime, but then didn’t get married until six months later, on October 13th and in a completely different church several miles away. I have pondered over this many times but, as yet, I still have no concrete answer to why this happened, as it was usual for couples to marry as soon as the banns had been read. I thought maybe Joseph may have been called away to fight in the battle of Waterloo (June 1815), but I have not found any evidence to suggest he was a soldier, so I dismissed that idea.
My best guess is that, at the time the banns were read, Joseph was a minor, aged 20, and was also 14 years younger than his bride – so it is possible there were some family objections. I think that maybe the couple delayed the wedding until Joseph became a fully fledged adult at 21. Looking at October 13, 1815, I found it occurred on a Friday, so obviously Joseph and Sarah were not superstitious! It is often assumed in England and Wales that Christmas Day is a bank holiday. 15 However, it is not and never has been – it is a traditional or common law holiday. Bank holidays came about because a banker and politician called Sir John Lubbock, who loved his cricket, couldn’t stand the idea of competitors gaining an advantage by trading on the days he and his staff went to support or play in their local village matches. In 1871, Lubbock introduced the Banking Act, which recognised four official bank holidays – Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day. Additionally, Good Friday and New Year’s Day are both traditional holidays, with the latter coming into force in 1974. In England and Wales the two terms ‘bank holidays’ and ‘public holidays’ are often used interchangeably although, strictly and legally, there is a difference. Scotland and Northern Ireland apply different rules, according to their national customs. I have often wondered if before bank holidays came about, public holidays were granted for special occasions – the reason being that on 10th Feb 1840, my 2× great-grandfather William Oakley married for the first time to a Mary Fowler in Bloxwich, Staffs – the same day that Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. The day itself was a Monday and, by all accounts, huge crowds gathered from early dawn and thronged the streets from Buckingham Palace to the entrance of St. James Park, even though the weather was very rainy. As Mondays would have been very much a working day, especially for my William (he was a Stone Miner), I can only think that it must have been declared a public holiday, although I have not found any information which confirms that.
In recent times, royal weddings have been declared as holidays, such as in 1973, when Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips, and in 1981 when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer. A bank holiday was created for both events, and in 2011 a special holiday was created for Prince William’s marriage to Catherine Middleton. My ancestor William’s marriage to Mary did not last as long as Queen Victoria’s. Mary died the following year in 1841, followed shortly afterwards by the couple’s only daughter Sarah. William remarried in 1845, to Catherine Ball and they had ten children, of which their youngest was my greatgrandfather Samuel Oakley. When grandparents Joe and Minnie married in 1922, Christmas Day weddings were beginning to fall out of favour. It is possible that they chose that day because Joe was a steel worker and would not have had much holiday entitlement. In the 1940s, Christmas Day weddings had a brief resurgence, as the lives and romances of many young couples were thrown into turmoil by World War II. As the majority of young men were in military service and a significant number of women were conducting essential war work, leave was hard to come by, so many couples used their Christmas home leave in order to wed before they were separated and sent off to face uncertain futures. Due to improved working conditions and reduced availability, December 25th weddings are virtually unheard of today. Also, the increase in cost of essentials such as venues, catering and staff during the festive season is obviously another factor in the Christmas wedding decline. Of all my known ancestors, only Joe and Minnie got married on Christmas Day, but I do have several others who married around the festive season and other holiday times.
What Our Questionnaire Revealed by Pam Woodburn
At a recent meeting, members were asked to complete a questionnaire which they found on their seats. Not everyone chose to do it, but the results were quite revealing!
Fifteen people who completed the questionnaire were members of the Group and, of these, their membership varied between 30+ years and three months.
Nine people supported Group Trips and eleven said that they would if there were any. Places that members would like to visit include the National Archives, Stafford Record Office and the Memorial Arboretum.
Ten people had contributed to the Journal and six never had.
When asked if they read the Journal, almost everyone said that they did and one person added ‘Cover to cover’.
Very few members attend the Research Evening on the 4th Monday each month, with others adding ‘Sometimes’ or ‘Occasionally’.
Only eleven members took any part in the WWI Memorial Project.
Surprisingly, only five people claim to have used the Group website regularly. (Come on the rest of you. It’s there for your benefit!)
Ten people told us that they were still researching their family history. Most research is done online.
Suggestions for improvement included:
Try to increase membership by advertising to younger people.
Organise more trips, e.g. National Archives, NEC, Records Offices.
Thanks to you all for your contributions. They will be discussed at the next Committee Meeting.
Go to Stalag, Go Directly to Stalag...
Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the government was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape. Now, obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end would be a useful and accurate map, one showing not only where stuff was, but also showing the locations of ‘safe houses’ where a POW on the run could go for food and shelter. Unfortunately, paper maps have some real drawbacks – they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly and, if they get wet, they turn into mush. So, someone in MI5 got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It’s durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads, unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise whatsoever. At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort. By pure coincidence, Waddingtons was also the UK licensee for the popular American board game, Monopoly. As it happened, ‘games and pastimes’ was a category of item qualified for insertion into care packages dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war. Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop in the grounds of Waddingtons, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany or Italy where Allied POW camps were located. When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece. The clever workmen at Waddingtons also managed to add: 18 · a playing token containing a small magnetic compass; · a two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together; · useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian, and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money! British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first mission, how to identify a ‘rigged’ Monopoly set, by means of a tiny red dot, cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square. Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWs who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war. The story wasn’t declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddingtons, as well as the firm itself, were finally honoured in a public ceremony.
This Issue’s Cover Photograph Miner’s Lamp Memorial, Hednesford, Staffs. Photograph: Alan Betts
The fact that Hednesford was an important coal mining community for over a century is commemorated in the town centre, where a giant Miner’s Davy Lamp was erected in 2012, surrounded by a wall with individual bricks giving the names of former miners. The Cannock Chase coalfields once supported as many as 48 coal mines, with the last, Littleton, closing in 1993. The lower part of the town became the focal point as the community grew with the mining industry. The memorial originally named nearly 1,500 miners who worked in the Cannock Chase coalfields. The names were engraved on individual bricks at a cost of £20 each, and have been planted round a garden in Hednesford town centre. The memorial was dedicated in 2012. Further names have since been added, and they now total over 3,500. The iconic lamp is illuminated at night and sits atop a wall. The Memorial was undertaken by Chase Arts in Public Spaces and was paid for by public subscription. A visit here could be combined with a tour of the nearby museum of Cannock Chase, which has a gallery devoted to the coal mining industry.
Transcriptions on CD Available for Sale Easily searchable CDs of the following transcribed records can be purchased from the Group. Enquiries should be addressed to: Mrs. S. A. Clarke, 4 Blackroot Close, Hammerwich, Burntwood WS7 0LA. Tel: 01543 675446. Parishes transcribed so far:
CD1 Burntwood, Christchurch CD2 Burntwood, Methodist Chapel CD4 Gentleshaw, Christchurch CD5 Chasetown, St Anne’s Church CD6 Hammerwich, St John the Baptist Church CD7 Farewell, St Bartholomew’s Church CD8 Norton Canes, St John the Great Church & Heath Hayes, St John’s Church CD9 Lichfield, St Michael on Greenhill Church CD10 Brereton, St Michael’s Church CD11 Stonnall, St Peter’s Church CD12 Ogley with Brownhills, St James’s Church CD13 Rugeley, St Augustine’s Church CD14 Chasetown, St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church CD15 Lichfield, St Chad’s Church CD16 Pelsall, St Michael and All Angels Church CD17 Shenstone, St John the Baptist Church CD18 Burntwood, St Matthew’s Hospital CD19 Lichfield, St Mary’s Church CD20 Armitage with Handsacre, St John the Baptist Church CD21 Hednesford, St Peter’s Church CD22 Cannock, St Luke’s Church
Please note, there was no CD3. It was left blank in case ‘Burntwood School Admission Books – Burntwood No. 1 Board School’ was ever taken from paper and floppy disk copies to CD, but it wasn’t. There are no copies of this left now. The Index used for searches also contains some information from census records for the County Asylum at Burntwood. Others to be transcribed in due course (microfiche only available at the present time): Whittington and Hednesford. If you know of any other parishes in the Lichfield, Cannock and Burntwood areas for which the registers have been microfilmed and are available for purchase by the Group, or which you personally have purchased and would allow the Group to use for transcription purposes, please let us know so that we can consider future additions to our publications.

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