Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2005 11 Volume 14 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
November 2005     
     Vol. 14 No. 1
  Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
Chairman’s report to the AGM
News from the Secretary
Strangers in the Box
Reviews of Monthly Talks
Requests for Genealogical Help
We are the Chosen
Arising from Coal Dust (Part 7)
Computer Usage Survey results

From the Chair…

The turnout for the AGM is often very poor, but this year it reached an all-time low with only 20 members attending. Luckily the outgoing committee members were all willing to stand again, so we have almost a full complement for the coming year.

After the meeting, Eric Grimshaw, who sells the raffle tickets, expressed a desire to help and will be co-opted at the committee meeting on 19th October. It is good for the group to have new people involved in the running and it isn’t too onerous to attend about three committee meetings a year. Please do consider volunteering to help out next year, as the same people cannot go on for ever running the group, even if they wished to.

Another area of concern is the attendance at the Thursday meetings. This has decreased markedly lately and I am wondering if it is worth carrying it on as we pay full price for the room and it eats into our funds. I have always felt it is an important part of our club to provide the opportunity to do some research where there are people always willing to give time to help should you need it, or even just to chat about family history. We would value your comments on this aspect of the club.

Please remember, if you borrow CDs, to return them at the next meeting so they are available for another member to use them. If you keep them any longer, you will be asked for a further £1 contribution in the future.

The Christmas social evening will be a little different this year. Those of us who heard Adrian de Redman’s very entertaining talk on heraldry earlier this year thoroughly enjoyed the evening. He is a wonderful speaker, so I was interested to find he gave other talks, though not specifically linked to family history research. Adrian’s driver said his talk on the Battle of Hastings is very popular and amusing, so I thought it would make an entertaining Christmas talk for a change and booked him before his diary filled up. We shall need to start at 7 pm for that one evening and will have the usual Christmas refreshments afterwards. I do hope you will all make a note in your diaries to attend what I am sure will be a memorable evening. Best wishes to all, Jane Leake.

Chairman’s Report to the AGM

For those of you who were unable to attend this year’s AGM, here is what our Chairman, Jane Leake, had to say:

In the past year, Burntwood Family History Group has continued to move forward. There has been an increase in membership, though this has been mainly due to an influx of postal members. The Monday meetings have on the whole been very well attended, but we would like to see more support for the Thursday evenings.

The group’s website, created and managed by Alan Betts, continues to prove its worth and several people have joined as a result of discovering it. If you are not familiar with it, please do have a look as I am sure you will be impressed by the information it contains and the wide range of useful links which you can access. Alan is always on the lookout for new links to add to it, so any suggestions would be well received. It is our only way of publicising our group nationally and, of course, it is a means of selling our transcriptions and indexes. Please accept our thanks and congratulations for the work you have done, Alan.

Work on our transcription project is now in its tenth year. The PRs for St. Michael’s, Lichfield have been completed, and work on Rugeley PRs is almost ready for publication. St. Chad’s is in progress and Shenstone is next in line, so the work goes on. The price of the floppy discs has been pegged at £2 for members and £3 for non-members, which seems to be a bargain. None of this work would be possible without Bernard, who spends many hours in front of his computer, so I would like to thank him on your behalf and also the people who transcribe and check the information. Despite his health problems, Len Wenman continues to cope with the orders so efficiently.

We have bought a number of census CDs this year, mainly for Midland counties, and they are in great demand. More are on order and will be available as soon as we receive them. Thanks go to Pauline Stanley for the work she did looking after this valuable resource, but due to ill health she has had to hand over to John and Jenny Hodgson. Thank you for your time and effort, Pauline. It took a while to find some one to take charge of the fiche readers and microfiche as they do take up a lot of storage space and are heavy to move around. In March, John and Jenny Hodgson volunteered for this job and we gratefully accepted their help. Thank you very much for taking on this important part of our service to members.

Harold Haywood has, as usual, kept his meticulous financial records on our behalf to ensure that the committee know exactly where we stand in financial terms. Many thanks, Harold, for all your work on behalf of the group.

Geoff Colverson continues to look after our library despite the storage problems. Thank you, Geoff, for your time and help.

Our speakers have, on the whole, been interesting and informative this year, the high point being the evening with Carl Chinn in May. The arrangements for next year are almost complete, and hopefully I can provide a list of names and topics for the next meeting. The Christmas social and quiz seemed to go well and a small group of us enjoyed a festive meal at the Park Gate Inn. Thanks to Alan for making the arrangements.

The two London trips were successful and we managed to keep the price to £12. However, it has been decided that it will be necessary to increase the fare for the December trip due to the increase in the price of fuel. An evening visit to St. Michael’s Church was well supported. Thanks to all who made these visits possible.

Our Honorary Secretary has as ever worked extremely hard in supporting all aspects of running the Group. I would like to express our thanks to Geoff for his unfailing support. Thanks must also go to Maureen Hemmingsley for her work as Minutes Secretary. She makes sure we are all furnished with agendas and relevant minutes for committee meetings.

Many thanks also to Brian Asbury and Jan Green for the work they do to produce the Journal. It was nice to find some colour in the last one, but this does make it more expensive to produce. Please keep the articles coming to make their work easier.

Thanks to all the people who have helped sell raffle tickets at the meetings, particularly Eric Grimshaw. The amount raised in that way helps to pay for the hire of the room.

Several people have volunteered to make coffee and this is always appreciated, but more volunteers are needed. It is not very demanding, so please do take a turn in the kitchen.

Sadly we lost two of our members this year – Mary Farmer, and one of our founder members, Tony Wallington. Flowers were sent on behalf of the group but they are sadly missed.

2006 is our twentieth anniversary year and the Committee have been trying to think of ways to mark this event. We shall probably have a special edition of the Journal, but any other ideas would be welcomed so please give it some thought.

A new venture is planned to start very shortly. We have been asked by Lichfield Library to provide an advice desk at the library on a regular basis to help people with their research and answer questions. Anyone who feels they can offer some time and expertise should speak to Pam, Geoff or Jane. Also, the Mormon Church in Lichfield needs some help to run their library and have asked for volunteers. A few of our members have been helping for the last year and it has worked out very well. Please see me about it if you are interested.

To end with, I would like to thank the committee and all the members for the support they have given. I hope the Group will continue to go from strength to strength in the coming year.

News from the Secretary

I nearly always find myself reporting to the AGM that the Group has made significant progress during the preceding year, and this year was no exception. What seems to be happening is that there is a general resurgence of interest in family history research amongst the general public, which has been fostered by a number of programmes and events organised by the media. We were represented at a BBC event held at the Millennium Point Centre in Birmingham, and at several other locally organised events, members of the Committee manned information desks for the benefit of the general public.

Overall, the membership of the Group has increased to well over 120 during the year, and this would indicate that this figure will be maintained for 2005-6. Increasing membership means that we have more income from subscriptions and other fund-raising efforts, such as raffles, special events and hire fees for equipment and software. However, while your Committee is doing its best to utilise the extra funds to provide additional research facilities, we do need input from members regarding what they feel the money should be spent on.

The other factor in increased membership is the necessity to produce more copies of the group’s publications, the quarterly Journal and the Annual Members’ Interests list. It was necessary to issue a supplement to the latter in July, as there were so many additional names added during the preceding six months. The Journal is now a cooperative effort between myself, the editors, Jan Green and Brian Asbury, and Carol Yapp. The printing of the Journal was experimentally contracted out for two editions during 2005 and this will almost certainly have to become a permanent arrangement, as the print run now needs to be over 150 per issue – two years ago it was less than 100! Another experiment during the year involved using colour for the advertisement pages, and this was very well received by the advertisers. We receive excellent support from our local businesses, some of which find it difficult to survive the competition from supermarkets and DIY Stores. It would be very encouraging for the advertisers to know that they are gaining some benefit from their support, so if you give them your custom, please mention the Journal.

While the group was initially formed to serve the research needs of residents of the local area (Lichfield, Burntwood and Cannock), the expansion of Internet resources, combined with our continuing Transcription Projects, has resulted in many of our members being recruited from far distant places. This has been brought home to me because I see all the membership application forms and members’ interests. They show that our local area received so many ‘immigrants’ in the early part of the 19th Century, and again in the middle of the 20th Century due to ‘overspill’ from the West Midlands, but was at the same time exporting people to many parts of the British Isles and overseas.

I must conclude with the usual heartfelt request for some of our younger members (younger in this context means anyone under 60) to come forward as helpers in providing our services, even though you may not want to serve on the Committee, welcome as you would be there. There are several functions which have to be provided, and some of them necessarily require a year of two of experience in order to become familiar with them. The main ones are Secretary, Treasurer and Chair, with subsidiary responsibilities being for Speakers, Journal Production, Transcription Project, Fiche and Reader hire, CD-ROM hire, Publications and Minuting Secretary. At the present time all these positions are filled and the people doing the work are prepared to carry on, but – and this is the problem – where are the ‘understudies’ who could take over in the event of any one of them being unable to carry on, for whatever reason? It is something that the membership must think about seriously, and accept that eventually they have to be taken on by someone.

This year’s AGM talk

As ever, when it comes to the AGM we have to fill a half-hour or so with a short talk from one of our Members. This year the honour fell to me.

I have been researching my own family history now for 20 years – slightly longer than my membership of this group. In the early days it was hard work, but I was fortunate in having one line of research which had been started for me by a distant relative who was not known to me, but who contacted an elderly uncle looking for information on my mother’s side of the family. By adding this information to that which I had acquired myself by local research (Stafford Record Office, Lichfield RO, Walsall Local History Centre and local register offices), I soon had two lines of ancestry on that side of the family completed as far as it seemed possible to do so.

At about the same time as this, I heard about the inaugural meeting of the Burntwood Family History Group and attended the first meeting, organised principally by your present Chair, Jane Leake, and Pam Woodburn. Over a period of years I went on numerous coach trips with the group and spent many hours in the old St Catherine’s House search rooms and the Public Record Office Census research rooms in Portugal Street. I also made many trips to other Record Offices under my own steam, in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Essex. Birmingham Central Library, and the new Public Records Office at Kew.

In those days there was very little that one could find on the Internet (did it exist in 1986-8 and when the LDS Church embarked on its transcription project of the 1881 Census?). I was glad to contribute something in return for all the transcribed records that I had been able to use up to that point. The group began to acquire microfiche – IGI for local counties was a major acquisition – and readers. When completed, we acquired most of the 1881 Census on microfiche from the LDS.

All these aids led me to a point where I had very little else to do apart from what I call ‘linear’ research, i.e. research which goes sideways from one’s parents, grandparents and great grandparents, rather than straight dawn the ancestral line.

By now I had become Honorary Secretary of the group, which was collecting and publishing an annual list of members’ interests, for which I was responsible. This gave me a golden opportunity to see names and associate them with other members’ interests, so that I frequently contacted new members to acquaint them with the fact that we already had their names in our Interests List.

Eventually the age of digital communications arrived, and people were able to communicate via the Internet and do research though various websites. As a result of someone looking at the BFHG website, I had an email from a lady enquiring about Sorrells in the Burntwood area. Naturally enough, I had to contact her to see whether she was part of my own extended family.

At this point I must go back almost 50 years, to when I was little more than a teenager. I had always had contact with two cousins, sons of my father’s younger brother, from an early age – and I remembered them well. At about the time that I left school, I heard that my uncle’s marriage had broken up and the boys had gone with their mother to live elsewhere. The rest of the family ceased to have any contact with them at that time, and although in more recent times I had wondered what had happened to them, I was unable to trace them at all.

I return now to the enquiry which I had replied to. When the reply came, it was to say that the lady’s husband was named Alan – which was my cousin’s forename. A phone call elicited the fact that he had a brother named Bernard. Bingo! I had found my long lost cousins thanks to the BFHG. The family were living at Walton, near Stafford.

More recently I had an application far membership from a lady in Bloxwich, who listed her interests in Pelsall. The names were Lockley, Burgess, Hooker and Blackmore. Once again, a telephone call confirmed that the Lockley was my great-grandfather, Edward, and the Burgess was his wife, Louisa. I was able to add considerably to the details of the Lockley family which our new member had already collected.

The name Hooker was also in our Members’ Interest List for Jan Green, and I knew that her family was in Pelsall in the 19th Century. It transpired that it was the same family. The final name – Blackmore – also appears in our list of members, but to date I have not discovered whether or not there is further connection.

The moral of this is that a group such as ours can, by recording our members’ interests, help to find information that would otherwise never be found. So – use it or lose it! Geoff Sorrell, Honorary Secretary.

Strangers in the Box

Author unknown: contributed by Pauline Stanley from Cumberland Rootsweb

Come look with me inside this drawer,

In this box I’ve often seen,

With the pictures, black and white

Faces proud, still, serene.

I wish I knew the people

These strangers in the box;

Their names and all their memories

Are lost among my socks.

I wonder what their lives were like;

How did they spend their days?

About their special times and lives

I’ll never know their ways.

If only someone had taken time

To tell who, what, or when;

These faces of my heritage

Would come to life again.

Could this become the fate

Of pictures we take today?

The faces and memories

Someday to be passed away?

Make time to save your stories,

Seize the opportunity when it knocks,

Or someday you and yours could be...

The strangers in the box.


Reviews of Monthly Talks

July 2005: A P S de Redman on ‘An Introduction to English Heraldry’

APS de Redman, Honorary Armorist to the City of Birmingham, and self-portrayed in his brightly striped shirt as ‘disguised as a deckchair but very amusing’, presented us with a most entertaining introduction to the subject of English heraldry.

He defined ‘armory’ as embracing all the work done by a herald, colourfully summarised by him as ‘designing coats of arms and drinking copious quantities of best claret’. He insisted that heralds never appear flourishing trumpets, as so often depicted in ancient illustrations. Rather, they deal with the history of armorial bearings, rules controlling their employment and transmission and their relationship to titular rank and family pedigrees. Mr de Redman succinctly described pseudo-heraldry as ‘cobblers’, because using arms that do not belong to you is rather like wearing false campaign medals.

He outlined how arms became formally regulated in England during the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was proclaimed that they were only lawful if bestowed by the monarch on individuals who had been vetted by heralds. Since then, arms must always be registered at the College of Arms in London, which he described as ‘a better-spoken St Trinians’. Heraldry is regulated by the Kings of Arms, under the authority of the Earl Marshal. Every herald is appointed by the Queen and has to be approved by the Earl Marshal on her behalf.

Mr de Redman outlined the various elements of armory and opined that the finest heraldry is simple, bright, colourful and immediate, though heralds of yore often didn’t know where to stop. He described how Lord Nelson’s arms began with the family cross, then the herald went to town and added a sailor and a lion tearing the Spanish flag. The stern of a captured Spanish man-of-war became Nelson’s crest, and following the Battle of the Nile in 1798, a new motto and the Turkish crest were added. The shield also acquired a palm tree, a ruined fort and a disabled ship, and over all this was placed Nelson’s viscount’s coronet. In all, 17 fussy elaborations were made to the original simple design.

A P S de Redman warned us that an interest in heraldry, “though it doesn’t carry a health warning, is very addictive”. It is a hobby that can be picked up and put down at will, and though it has its serious and significant side, primarily it is meant to be pleasurable. And, above all, the authorities haven’t yet found a way to tax it!

August 2005: Patricia Boyd on ‘Upstairs and Downstairs’

Patricia Boyd commenced by giving us a brief description of the ‘downstairs’ part of a Victorian household. This was presided over by the Butler, who was in effect the manager of the household on behalf of the family. He had considerable responsibility and was usually the only servant trusted with the keys to the wine cellar. Unfortunately, in some cases this trust was not totally justified, and some butlers were often to be found in a state of inebriation.

Next in line was the Housekeeper. Most housekeepers would be middle-aged or elderly ladies, usually single, who had worked their way up through the ranks from the lowliest under-maids to be where they were. Because the lower orders were treated so badly, housekeepers often became formidable tyrants when they reached their position of authority, and ruled over the domestic staff with rods of iron.

Responsibility for preparation of food for the household lay with the Cook. The lady of the house took no part in acquisition or preparation of food, but gave precise orders as to what had to be served for each meal. On the occasion of a dinner party with a number of guests, a major operation would be mounted, involving all the domestics.

In some households, once the children started to arrive, the Nanny was a key figure. Nannies were often recruited from the ranks of educated middle class families, and were given almost total responsibility for the care and upbringing of the children in their charge. Because of their work, they often remained single for the rest of their lives, being passed on from household to household by word-of-mouth recommendation. Nanny would be outside the control of the butler, housekeeper and cook, having her own power to order meals for the children from the kitchen.

At the bottom of the pecking order were the under-servants, male and female. The lady of the house would have her own personal lady’s maid to help with dressing, hairdo, make-up and selection of clothes. The materials used for clothing were totally different to those we are used to today and required much care to ensure that they remained in good condition. Other maids were designated according to their jobs – House, Kitchen, Scullery, etc. – and there would be boys or young men with responsibility for menial tasks around the house.

The poorer families were always anxious to get their eldest female child into service from the age of 12 onwards. This was sometimes done by displaying them at fairs where the prospective employers could look them over. Good looks were not so important as good strong arms, legs and backs. Some of the working conditions they had to endure in the days when there was no such thing as health and safety regulations were horrendous. Imagine carrying a tray loaded with expensive dinnerware, silver, etc. up two flights of stairs to a dining room with a doorway not much wider than the tray, all to be negotiated without assistance!
It was essential to keep in favour with your employer, whatever harsh conditions you had to endure, as it would be impossible to find further employment should you leave without a good reference. Staff would move slowly up the ladder, provided they did not marry. Marriage was assumed to be a full-time responsibility and female staff were certainly not allowed to continue in employment should they be found to have a serious relationship, even if it was with someone in the same employ.

One of the saving graces of the situation was that everyone ‘knew their place’, including the employers themselves, so they would not allow their wives to do any domestic duties for which servants were employed. This led to ‘Upstairs’ being very boring. Upper class women often spent their time playing music, doing needlework and visiting the poor. If they left the home without their husbands, it might be to make some purchase at the local shop, such as dress materials. Much importance was attached by the shopkeepers to these expeditions and everyone at the shop would be ‘on duty’ at their respective counters, ready to jump to the requests of the customer. The lady having made her selection, no money would change hands at the shop. The goods would be carefully parcelled and sent along to the house, with an account to be settled later. She would return to her carriage empty-handed and travel back home to await delivery of her purchase.

One major responsibility which was not delegated would be the arrangement of a dinner party. Protocol decided who should sit where at the dinner table, and woe betide the hostess who got it wrong and sat the wrong guests alongside one another. Such an occasion would be very stressful for the lady of the house, and she would have the downstairs staff running in all directions for days beforehand, to make sure that everything ran smoothly on the night. With as many as seven separate courses to be served, as well as different wines at different times during the meal, the butler and cook were under great pressure, and the lower orders of the staff were made to suffer accordingly.

In conclusion, this talk gave us a good insight into the massive changes in lifestyle that have occurred in the 100 years which have passed since the end of the Victorian era and the present day.

Last Words

Alan Betts came across this epitaph on a gravestone in Durham:

Poor Martha Snell! Her’s gone away,

Her would if her could, but her couldn’t stay;

Her’d two sore legs and a baddish cough

But her legs it was as carried her off.

Requests for Genealogical Help

An appeal for information - Sue Hardy (102 Lowmoor Road, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Notts. NG17 7BJ, tel: 01623 721905) writes:

“In the past I have intended to write up some information [on my family] for the group… My main connection to Burntwood was Daniel Unsworth and his family. It seems he was born in Liverpool/Lancashire – worked as a groom then in the mines, fighting in the Crimean War, fathered numerous children and was injured in a fight that killed him aged 45. The case came to court as assault and on the morning of the trial, Daniel died.

His widow, Lydia, remarried (aged 48 in 1881 census) to Redfin and kept her younger children with her. One of Daniel and Lydia’s daughters, Alma, married into the Gent family and extracts from a son’s diary mention men from Burntwood going to America to find work (1881 census has wives/servants/ children born in USA. Has anyone done any research on this?).

The Gents moved to Bramcote, Nottinghamshire to work at Trowell/Stapleford in a new colliery, and over time spread out over Notts/Derbyshire coal areas, including Hucknall (Torkard), Nottingham. A friend helping me with family history also had Burntwood/Chasetown roots (the Davies family). We haven’t found a mutual link yet.

Does anyone have information on the Burntwood Unsworth, Gent (and possibly Davies) families for Sue?

The Bisbeys of Burntwood - Jackie Carroll (jackie.carroll@waihi.co.uk) writes:

“I have received an email from Alan Betts in response to mine regarding the Bisbeys of Bumtwood. I have been researching these for a couple of months (fairly new to this) and was wondering if there were others chasing the same family.

Basically, I'm interested in finding out more about my Bisbey family who lived in the Burntwood/Chasetown area in the late 1800s/early 1900s, predominantly in Princess Street and Rugeley Road.”

We Are The Chosen - Author unknown: contributed by Pauline Stanley from Cumberland Rootsweb

We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the storytellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us, “Tell our story!” So, we do.

In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors, “You have a wonderful family: you would be proud of us.” How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying, “I can't let this happen.” The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish, how they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.

It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought and some died to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us birth. Without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach.

That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do.

With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers.

That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those whom we had never known before.

Arising from Coal Dust (Part 8) by Alan Brookes

About once a week, Chase Terrace and Boney Hay would be visited by the Rag and Bone men. These were gypsies who were usually camped at ‘Rough Dicks’, a small lane and secluded copse at the side of Gentleshaw Common. Compared with our rag and bone men, TV’s fictional ‘Steptoe and Son’ were like travelling agents for Harrods or Fortnum and Mason’s. The ragged gypsies who plied their trade from their horse and cart were suspicious-looking, to say the least; they seemed to have a different pony every time they appeared, each one as tired-looking and old as the previous one. Dad told us the gypsies continuously worked them until they dropped dead, and then they ate them for their Sunday lunch! This was borne out by the fur covering the bottom of the gypsies’ carts – it exactly matched the colouring of their current beleaguered, toiling pony.

The gypsies ambled around the streets shouting “Rag-bone! Rag-bone!” Later in the day they would return, this time shouting even louder. Sitting on top of all the rubbish piled high on their wooden carts would be a dirty-looking, half-starved whippet dog. Hanging from hooks beneath the carts were the wild rabbits the dog had driven from the warrens around the common for its uncaring owners. Accompanying the rabbits there were sometimes bloodied chickens and poultry, dripping their life fluid to the floor in a grisly trail behind the ever-advancing carts. The blood was usually fresh, so the poultry had probably been stolen from the gardens and sheds of the gullible clients they had previously visited.

As they systematically progressed along the streets, men and women appeared from their houses signalling them to indicate they had rubbish they wished to dispose of. The gypsies collected literally anything – old clothes, scrap metal, firewood, old fencing, cookers, old newspapers and so on. It seemed they would accept anything that other people were prepared to discard. As payment for the rubbish they collected they handed out live, yellow, day-old chickens.

It was rare indeed that the rag and bone men ever visited our house, but on one occasion Dad donated some rubbish and accordingly received five day-old chicks. Upon rearing them in the shed they all turned out to be cockerels. This was the case with every chick the rag and bone men gave away. They obviously kept the hens to breed, to produce other one-day old chicks to enable them to continue and prolong their dubious business.

Accompanying the rag and bone men on foot were the ‘Madam gypsies’. These rough-looking, dirty old women with suntanned, wrinkled faces and brightly coloured headscarves would follow behind their menfolk selling ‘lucky heather’ and wooden clothes-pegs. The heather they had previously gathered from Gentleshaw Common, and the clothes pegs had been cleverly made from whittling willow sticks.

“Cross my palm with silver” was the focus of their hoarse sales talk. Not copper, but silver! Therefore the minimum payment they considered adequate was sixpence. “You will have good luck if you buy my heather!” was how they freely blackmailed the people of the Terrace, the implication being that if you told them to clear off (which happened frequently) and didn’t buy their goods, you were bound to have bad luck. When someone purchased their wares, the lucky customer could have his or her fortune told – for a fee, of course.

It was common knowledge how streetwise the gypsies were. As they visited the houses door-to-door in the Terrace, they would also keep a lookout for an opportunity to steal anything. They were only too aware, when visiting houses in the daytime, that the majority of the menfolk would be working in the coal mines, leaving their wives exposed to the rag and bone men’s incessant beguiling. Being gypsies, though, they suffered a great deal of injustice and prejudice. My schoolmates and I held the bigoted belief that when they became desperate for food, they stole young babies to eat by their campfires!

A frequent visitor to our infants’ school was the education health van. As a result of the van’s deliveries, every morning at school we received a spoonful of horrible cod liver oil followed by a glass of delicious orange juice. At the afternoon break we had a glass of milk, followed by thirty minutes lying down on coconut matting on the hall floor. I think this was intended more to give the teacher a break, rather than for us ‘Terrace tearaways’ to have a rest. The positioning of the children on the floor matting was very important! The boys used to have to lie down on the mats first and then the girls would lie on their mats afterwards. The girls’ heads were always next to the boys’ feet. This was because, positioned the other way round with the boys’ heads next to their feet, the girls used to complain that the boys would look up their dresses. They knew that was true, because afterwards the boys always knew what colour knickers the girls were wearing. As if we would do that!

Everyone respected funerals in those days. As the hearse travelled slowly along the street, all came to a standstill. Men and boys would doff their hats and face the hearse. Shopkeepers would draw the blinds of their shop windows. Everyone showed as much respect for the dead as for the living. When someone died in Chase Terrace, another woman performed the grisly task of quickly ‘laying out’ the dead person’s body in a prone position before rigor mortis occurred.

It was a much more civilised world then, with little or no vandalism or graffiti despoiling the village. Everyone helped each other. I remember when a young teenaged mother who lived by us found she could not produce sufficient natural milk to feed her new-born baby. A woman who lived further up the street, who had massive breasts and produced a lot of milk, willingly helped her out by wet-nursing the baby.

In his retirement, my Granddad Brown was a shoe cobbler and had a workshop at the rear of the house. His workshop was a converted, wooden, single-decker bus. This was one of Gus Sanders’ original ‘Silent Knight Charabancs’. AP (Gus) Sanders, of the Spot Garage at Chasetown, had a successful fleet of charabancs in the 1920s.

The interior lighting of the old bus, which once had used to illuminate paying passengers on their journeys around the Terrace, now shone for Granddad in his ‘workshop’. He seemed always to be seen sitting at his lasts, repairing someone’s footwear. The unique smell of his workshop came from leather being burnished with hot shoe paint. Six cast iron shoe lasts of varying sizes were permanently mounted on his workbenches, so that he could easily repair any size boot and shoe. Granddad used to cover the soles and heels of my and my brothers’ shoes with studs, to make them more durable. Our normal boots became hob-nailed boots, with the soles and heels completely studded with hardwearing steel tips. When these became worn down, other studs were fixed by Granddad, so prolonging their use.

With people coming to the door to collect their shoes, or to purchase fruit and vegetables, or to hire a caravan at Rhyl, The Chequers was an ideal place to observe the comings and goings of the Terrace folk.

Correspondence Grace Darby (geedarby@btinternet.com) writes:

“I have the will of John Sault, who describes himself as Schoolmaster of Brownhills in the County of Stafford. The will was proved in 1811 therefore I deduce that there must have been a school in the mid to late 1700s to early 1800s. Have any of your members any suggestions as to how I could obtain information? As it was long before universal education I deduce that the school must have been either private ,or attached to the church. I am willing to share details of the will if this would help to enlarge local history resources.”

Computer Usage Survey

There were 42 replies received to the recent computer usage survey, of which 10 were submitted by postal members. Results were as follows:

1. Which version of Windows do you use?

Win98            10  members                 Win 2000          5

Win Me            4                                 Win XP           23

2. Do you use a Family History program?

Family Tree Maker   17                      Generations        4

Master Genealogist     1                      Family Historian  1

3. Do you have a CD  or a DVD drive?

CD drive        40                                 DVD  drive      26

4a.  Do you use the Internet for your research?

Yes                37

4b. Which websites do you recommend? Top sites were:

FamilySearch            22               www.familysearch.org

Free BMD                 17               www.freebmd.rootsweb.com

1837 0nline               15               www.1837online.co.uk

Ancestry.com/co.uk    8               www.ancestry.com, www.ancestry.co.uk

Genuki                        7               www.genuki.org.uk

Staffs BMD                 6               www.bmsgh.org/staffsbmd

1901 Census               3               www.1901census.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Genes Reunited           2               www.genesreunited.com

A further 7 sites received a single vote each.

5. Do you have an email address?

38 members said yes and included it on the form

6. Would you be interested in attending a meeting to learn more about the efficient use of the computer for family history research?

26 said yes

7. Which counties would you like to see covered by the group’s resources?

Top choices were Derbyshire & Warwickshire (9 votes each), Shropshire  (8), Staffordshire  (7), Yorkshire, Cheshire  & Leicestershire  (4 each). A further 20 counties received between 1 and 3 nominations each.

Friends, As I write this I am still excited by the success of our ‘Evening with Carl Chinn’. He is certainly a gifted speaker and was enjoyed by all the people I have spoken to. The venue turned out to be ideal and all tickets were sold well beforehand. In fact we could have sold more, had they been available. On behalf of the group we gave Carl a book token for £20, as he did not ask for a fee and we felt that it would be appropriate to show our appreciation in some way. Hopefully he will come again, but due to his commitments it won’t be until 2008! Meanwhile, if you were unlucky enough to miss Carl, you can read a review of his talk on pages 8-9.

After covering our expenses we made a profit of £690, so our bank balance is looking healthy at present. We hope to use the money to purchase more CDs of census returns and other useful research aids, but would like to hear from you if you have any other suggestions that would benefit the group as a whole. Please give your ideas in writing to any member of the committee for consideration.

As you probably know, John and Jenny Hodgson have taken over the care and organisation of our microfiche library and the fiche readers, after a long spell without anyone being responsible for this important resource. It will take some time for them to do a thorough check, but already they have found that some fiche are missing. If you find that you have any of these at home, please do return them as soon as possible.

The London trip on 11th June was a great success, with several people finding helpful information. The traffic was light and the driver excellent, so we were able to make the most of the visit. Even the Family Records Centre was hassle free, and it was relatively easy to find a space to work in (see page 7).

This will be the last journal before the AGM in September. so it is a good time to remind you to consider standing for the committee next year, as we do need fresh ideas. Even if you do not wish to stand yourself, you may well know a member who would be interested and would be prepared to spare a little time to help with the running of the group. It is not very demanding as we only have four meetings per year, so please give it some consideration. Best wishes to all. Jane Leake