Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2006 02 Volume 14 Number 2
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
February 2006     
     Vol. 14 No. 2
  Contents of this issue.
Chairman’s Message
1901 Census Instructions
News from the Secretary
Family History Surgeries at Lichfield Library
Reviews of Monthly Talks
The Boy’s Story or Where’s the Town Centre? (Part 1)
Have you read ... ?
Who Really was to Blame?
Doncaster Ancestors
Online Survey to Research e-Genealogy
Bad News about the 1911 Census
Request for Genealogical Help

From the Chair…

The Christmas holiday period did not feel the same without our customary trip to London. When the decision was made to cancel it, we were a long way off getting the required minimum number to break even with the cost of the coach, but a few days before the actual date, several people phoned to book seats and were disappointed that it had already been cancelled. However, we do have to give the coach company enough notice so that they can inform drivers of their working schedule in good time. Our next planned trip is 10th June, so look out for the booking list if you are hoping to come along. Please do sign up in good time to ensure we have enough interested people, and don’t forget to tell your friends about it!

We have a full programme of speakers in place for 2006 and hope you will enjoy listening to them. Don’t forget to support our meetings, held on the fourth Thursday of each month, when you can borrow from our ever increasing store of CDs to peruse at home for just a small fee. The money goes towards the purchase of more CDs.

This year, unbelievably, is the twentieth anniversary of the Group’s founding. Several of our founder members continue to support us, and some are still serving on the committee. If you have any suggestions as to how we should mark the event, please pass on your ideas to a member of the committee. We have already decided to produce a special anniversary edition of the Journal, so will be asking for your contributions as soon as possible.

Most of you will have heard about the sessions being organised at Lichfield Library on the last Wednesday of each month to promote family history research and to offer help to anyone interested in beginning their family history. There have been two held so far and the attendance has been excellent, keeping the two or three member volunteers busy all afternoon. If you feel you could help, please put your name forward to a member of the committee for inclusion on the rota.

May I take this opportunity of wishing you all a happy and healthy 2006, and good luck with your research. Jane Leake

1901 Census Instructions

An extract from the Lichfield Mercury, Friday 22nd March 1901

Here are the instructions that were given to everyone in preparation for the 1901 Census.

On Monday next, enumerators throughout the length and breadth of the land will commence their work of taking the census by bringing to every inhabited house an occupier’s schedule, which such occupier is bound to fill up.

The schedule has ten columns as follows:

1, Name and Surname; 2, relation to head of family; 3, condition as to marriage; 4, sex; 5, age last birthday; 6,7,8, profession or occupation; 9, where born; 10, infirmities.

Sunday night, March 31st, is really the census night, when this list of the members of every family, visitors, boarders, servants, who sleep or abide in any occupied dwelling must be filled in ready for the enumerator who will call for it the next day, April 1st. The national importance of the census should lead everyone to take an active and willing interest in assisting towards its correctness. As there may be an isolated instance where a residence is missed by an enumerator, it is the bounden duty of the occupier to inform that officer, or the register of births and deaths for the district, of such an omission which, at once, will be set right. It is recommended that all householders carefully read the instructions before filling in their schedule, and that it be completed prior to bedtime on Sunday night, 31st March instant.

... well, this is what they were TOLD to do – but we wonder how many of them got it right?
News from the Secretary

Welcome to the year 2006. This year the Group will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary; a time for reminiscences. There are a few of us who were there right at the beginning who are still active in the Group at the present time, but there must be many others who will remember being members in the early days (or in the years between then and now) and who may like to contact me between now and June of this year with their recollections of those early days and the people who they knew then. There is to be a special edition of the Journal in July and this will need to be full of ordinary members’ contributions.

Sadly, there will be a few notable names missing as they are no longer with us. I am reminded of Christine Elson, one of my predecessors as Honorary Secretary and the first editor and producer of our Journal; of Tony Wallington, a regular contributor to the Journal and always ready with a question for our speakers; and Mary Farmer, who quietly went about her way within the group, helping wherever and whenever she could. There are probably others whom our readers will remember and, if so, perhaps you would remind me of their names so that they can be mentioned in due course.

Membership renewals

Once again it has been noticeable that a considerable percentage of the membership which was on record at the beginning of the group’s subscription year did not renew their memberships until much later than the required date of 1st August. There are still one or two names which I would have expected to be on the current membership list but which are not there; and also one or two faces which I see at the meetings belong to people who have not renewed their membership.

I seem to have been making this point for several years, and it is a source of amazement to me and to your honorary treasurer that even long-standing members sometimes do not renew their membership until they are personally reminded late in the year, i.e. October or November.

At the end of the current subscription year, in July 2006, all currently subscribed members will be sent a renewal reminder and a request that their subscription for the year ending 31st July 2007 be forwarded to the honorary treasurer before the end of August 2006. Failure to comply with this request will mean that membership has lapsed, and no privileges of membership will continue beyond that date. If you do not receive a membership renewal form (it will probably come with the July Journal) by 31st July, please contact the Hon. Treasurer, Harold Haywood, as soon as possible after that date. You will find his telephone number on the front inside cover of your Journal. There have, in the past, been occasions when apparently lapsed members have maintained that they have paid their subscription. If you pay by cheque, you have only to look at your cheque stub or bank statement to confirm that you have paid, and Harold will be able to trace your payment. If you pay cash, you must ask for a receipt and retain it as evidence of payment. No one is infallible and mistakes can occur, but they are very rare, and following these procedures can ensure that they are put right without acrimony.

New members and interests

We have a steady flow of new members coming into the group, at the same time as others are not renewing their memberships for one reason or another. What seems to happen is that around the end of the subscription year in July, the total membership has climbed to well over 100, but by October it has dropped to below 100. After that month, new joiners will continue to arrive during the year, so that by the following July we are probably looking at a membership of something like 140. From these figures it can be seen that there is an optimum point at which it becomes necessary to issue a new Members’ Interests List, otherwise the new joiners will not have their interests communicated to the rest of the membership. Over the past two or three years, a supplementary list has been issued around the middle of the year, and a complete update has been published in January/February.

The new list should have arrived with this Journal, so please have a look at it as soon as you can. Firstly, look at your own entries and check that they are correct and up to date. Secondly, see if there any new members researching your names since the 2005 List was published.

If you perceive any errors, please send them to me and I shall make the corrections immediately on my database. Anything serious I shall try to get into the next Journal, which will be published in April/May 2007 along with the interest of any new members who have joined during the three months since publication of the 2006 List.

If you have found an entry which you wish to pursue, you will find the addresses of the submitters at the end of the List. You will not find telephone numbers or email addresses there, but some members will have agreed to allow their email addresses to be included on our website. Also, a telephone call or letter to me will enable me to pass on your phone number or email address to the other person.

This may all sound a bit ‘cloak and dagger’, but it does give some protection against those nuisance companies and individuals who, should they obtain digital information or phone numbers, use them to make unsolicited approaches – some of them of a highly dubious nature.

Special bi-centenary issue of the Journal

I mentioned this briefly earlier. Now for a few more details. The plans are for a much larger than usual issue, hopefully running to 48 or more pages. The cover will be different, on better quality paper and in colour. The main contents will follow the usual format, but we are hoping to include colour pictures and a more ambitious selection of graphics, etc. Our advertisers have been promised a double-sized advert each (half page instead of quarter) and I would like to have lots of articles with references to the trades which our advertisers follow. For example, Staffordshire Angling Supplies could be linked to an article by someone with a connection to Isaac Walton, whereas Everall’s Fireworks could appear alongside an article from a descendant of one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot.

Contributions from our long-distance members would be particularly appreciated, particularly if our group has been instrumental in tracing an ancestor who arrived in our area as an ‘immigrant’ during the rapid expansion of the Chase in the middle of the 19th Century, but who has subsequently been traced before then, in another part of the country, or whose descendants were emigrants to the Colonies or other parts of the world in more recent times.

I know from the correspondence with members that I have dealt with over the years that the Chase gained greatly from its immigration and that since the decline of the coal mining industry, many of our local families have seen much movement away from the area. I myself can vouch for movement away to Canada, the USA, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and France.

Transcription Project

This was started ten years ago to celebrate our first decade and is still ongoing. The original project resulted in the production of Index Booklets for some of the local Parish Registers and Censuses. Subsequently, the information collected for these booklets and all the subsequent work has been produced in the form of 3.5" floppy discs. It has been noticed that many computers now being produced do not have a floppy disc drive, so there is a proposition being put to the Group Management Committee in the near future that we should switch to CD-ROMs and that the floppy discs should be phased out. There would be no increase in cost as a result of this change, and in fact it would probably result in some parishes being less costly as it would be possible to put all the transcribed records on one CD rather than on several floppies.

If you have any comments or suggestions to make regarding this change, write or email me, even if only to say “yes – go for it” or “no way – stick to the floppies”. The group belongs to its members, and we try to follow the wishes of the members so far as it is possible to do so. Geoff. Sorrell, Honorary Secretary.

Family History Surgeries at Lichfield Library

You may have heard us talking about these Family History Surgeries at the meetings and not been too sure what it was all about.

Lichfield Library approached us last autumn and asked if we would be willing to work with them by providing a session at the Library when anyone who had an interest in family history, either as a beginner or as someone who had done a certain amount of research and wanted to know more, could come and talk to members of our family history group and obtain help from them.

The Committee discussed it and we agreed with the Library that a Wednesday afternoon session would be set up on the last Wednesday of the month. As you are probably aware, you were asked if you would be willing to take part.

Thanks to those of you who volunteered, I was able to draw up a rota and, to date, we have held two very successful sessions. There is no shortage so far of people who would like our advice. All sorts of questions have been asked – some easy, some not so easy – but we did our best to answer them and promote the Group at the same time. Fortunately, the Library allowed us to use three of the computers in their computer suite as well, and we were able to assist in some online research for those who weren’t sure how to do it.

The next session at the Library will be on January 25th, from 1.30pm until 3.30pm, and we’re hoping that the enthusiasm will continue, especially as Who Do You Think You Are? has returned to the television. Beryl Eadon and Jennie Lee are going to be the advisors on the day.

If somehow word hasn’t reached you and you would like to help, I would be delighted to add your name to the rota, if you contact me. It is a very enjoyable two hours and nobody expects you to know all the answers. I’ll be waiting to hear from you! Pam Woodburn (pam.woodburn2@virgin.net)

Reviews of Monthly Talks

October 2005: Judith Farrington on ‘My Granny’s Box’

Just imagine how you would feel if you knew there was a box in the keeping of a family member which contained what could be fascinating information!  When Judith Farrington asked to be shown the contents of such a box, her request was refused and her aunt claimed not even to know where it was. Her grandmother had given birth to about fifteen children and Judith knew a bit about most of them, but as far as she could see there was no secret to be hidden. Eventually all of them died and Judith’s mother told her to run upstairs and look in the airing cupboard, behind all the clean linen. Lo and behold, there it was at last – Granny’s box!

Feeling very excited, Judith began to delve amongst the letters and certificates, and soon found out why she had not been allowed to see them. The birth certificate of the eldest son came to light and showed that he had been born before her Granny had married, so was illegitimate. Of course, this was something to be ashamed of at the time, and they had gone to some lengths to conceal the fact. Luckily for the lad, he had been accepted by the man who married her and took his name.

Also in the box were some letters from the War Office, informing the family that one son had died in action in France, and later that another was missing. There were ‘Death Pennies’, inscribed with the names of the two brothers, and some medals. From the information Judith was able to find where they were buried, and she and her husband had been to visit their memorials in Flanders. In fact, they had been several times, and she felt that this would have been sure to please the late aunt, who had tried so hard to keep the family secret by guarding the box and its contents from everyone while she lived.

November 2005: Mary Bodfish on ‘How We Lived Then’

Mary Bodfish offered us an invitation to ‘step into a time machine’ and travel back to the late 17th century for a guided tour of Bells Farm, the dwelling-house of a prominent yeoman. A one-time churchwarden, he had been wealthy enough to send his eldest son to university for education as a gentleman. Via a slide-show we were shown how furniture and decorations in the house could provide insights into the functioning of the household and the lives of its inhabitants.

Mary, a local historian from Smethwick, had returned to primary sources and studied probate inventories in her exploration of how people of the period lived. She explained that prior to 1858, jurisdiction concerning wills was primarily exercised by church courts. Thus the deceased’s will could be made to serve the Church’s purposes, enabling them to make good any omission in payment of tithes and also intercept money from land sales to enrich the Church’s coffers.

About one in five people made wills, so we can only find out about the possessions of certain classes of the population. Gentlemen, farmers, shopkeepers, merchants, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters and similar produced wills, but it was uncommon for labourers to do so. A few wills can be found for widows and single women, but rarely for married women, because before 1882 a married woman’s property was regarded as belonging to her husband. Even the widow’s clothing had to be included in a married man’s inventory!

A 1529 Act of Parliament laid down that anyone who died with an estate worth £5 or more must have an inventory presented to the church court before the executors could administer his will. This inventory was a detailed listing of all the deceased’s portable goods and livestock, including household items and furnishings, farm animals and equipment, craft and trade tools, the contents of his shops and his and his wife’s clothing. From such inventories we can learn much about early modern houses and their furnishings.

Appraisers had to go through every room in the house and prepare a list, then allocate a nominal value to each item in the list. The list would include items and livestock in adjoining barns, sheds and land. At the end of the inventory would be added the line: ‘Things forgotten out of sight, 1/-’. Sometimes items were lumped together, e.g. ‘all pewter in the house – £2’, which is disappointing for the researcher who wants to know details of every single item in order to be able to visualise what each room was like with all its contents in situ.

The inventory would then be taken to the appropriate church court with the man’s will, and a copy of each was retained there. The main period when inventories were produced was following the Act of 1529 through to the 1720s-1730s, and they were rarely made after the mid-18th century. However, they do survive in very large numbers from the previous 250 years, although survival rates vary greatly between different parts of the country. Mary told us that Wolverhampton inventories had all entirely disappeared.

A researcher fortunate enough to find an interesting inventory, then, has to embark on the tricky task of interpreting the ‘secretary hand’ in which it was written. This was a handwriting style used throughout England in the seventeenth century, and even when neatly written it is not easily legible to modern eyes.

December 2005: Adrian de Redman  on The Battle of Hastings

As a special treat, for our Christmas Social we invited back Birmingham’s Honorary Armorist Adrian de Redman to give us a talk on the Battle of Hastings. This waggish showman did not disappoint us; his lively account of a pivotal battle in Britain’s history was as flamboyant and memorable as we had expected it to be. Adrian’s account of the events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings was leavened by the inclusion of many amusing or chilling details.
According to Adrian, it tended to be the younger sons and idiots of noble families who were sent to fight in William’s war, which was “rather like Max Boyce taking on the English rugby team”. Adrian’s description of William’s army as “a bunch of skinhead/football supporter-types”, and its ultimate triumph over all adversaries despite such initial inadequacy, was both soul-stirring and horrifying.

He described how young William, Duke of Normandy, known as ‘the Bastard’ prior to the battle and ‘the Conqueror’ afterwards, had been trained by his dead father’s steward to be a ruthless ruler, knowing precisely which parts of the body were best attacked by the sword, the dagger, the garrotte or the battleaxe.

It was, however, amusing to hear that his arrival on England’s soil was undignified. When he landed in the South of England, William climbed out of his boat and raced up the beach, only to fall flat on his face. He hauled himself up, grabbed a scoop of soil in each hand, and shouted: “Look how I seize England in my own hands!”

Godwin, Earl of Mercia, was depicted as “a cross between Arthur Scargill, Genghis Khan and Tony Blair – devious, ruthless, extremely violent, cunning, manipulative, but ultimately flawed because of his temper”. Godwin’s son Tostig was “like his father, and would fall out with his own reflection; very disruptive and ‘off the planet’.” Harald Hardrada’s housecarls, six feet tall, immensely muscular and armed with huge axes, were “a cross between the SAS and Yeomen of the Guard”. Each man had sworn an oath to the body of the King and “could cut down a mounted solder complete with his horse”. How could we forget such idiosyncratic verbal portraits?

We were told that the Bayeaux Tapestry does not confirm the myth about an arrow going through Harold’s eye, instead showing it entering his helmet. Harold is, in fact, depicted by Bishop Odo, who commissioned the tapestry, as “a scrawny little git who got his come-uppance”, and is shown being hacked to pieces.

I couldn’t help thinking that if all history teachers were as proficient as Adrian at enlivening dry historical facts with amusing images, or by drawing startling parallels between historical and modern events, how much more easily they would engage the full attention of their students!

The Boy’s Story or Where’s the Town Centre? (Part 1) - Extract from a story by Eric Evans
“You could help with this, Dad.” This was an odd request to be made to someone who, at the age of 77, is prone to making unhelpful suggestions rather than contributing anything useful at all. However, it sparked off my interest and the more I thought about it, the more I began to remember things I had not thought about for years.

Susan, my daughter, who was starting a new project tracing her ancestors, said that according to the books, the best way to start is to consult elderly relatives and find out what they can remember about family history. She chose me first. This I thought would be a failure from the start. I have difficulty remembering things that happened last week, so I would have no chance of remembering what had taken place 60 or 70 years ago.

However, the more I thought about how things were in the past and the people I used to know, the more I realised that I could remember lots of things from my childhood that maybe would be worth recording. It was at this point that I got the ‘bug’, not just for tracing ancestors but also for recalling things I remembered from my childhood and about the place where I grew up in the 1930s – a mining village called Chase Terrace.

I left Chase Terrace in 1957, 48 years ago, to move closer to my place of work. Since my parents died I haven’t been back very often – just the occasional drive through in the car. I did attend a Scout reunion about 20 years ago and met a few people who I still remembered from my Scouting days, but most there were from after my time and were strangers, and I felt sad that the people who I could still remember so well were gone and forgotten.

Having had little contact with Chase Terrace for so many years, and knowing that many changes had taken place, I decided that it was time I took a trip down memory lane and revisited some of the places that I used to know to take a closer look. It was the middle of January and, although the views across the hills were clear, the weather was cold and cloudy – not the best of days to have chosen as my wife and I set off across Cannock Chase. First I got mislaid among the maze of new roads between Hednesford and Heath Hayes. These were places that I thought I knew very well, but that was 40 years ago and things had changed. Finally we arrived at Five Ways Corner in Heath Hayes. Great! Now I knew where I was, and it was straight on for Chase Terrace.

As you come over the top of the hill and down towards where the Wooden Stables used to stand, the long field on the left was the one where, before the war, some time in the mid 1930s, an Air Circus was held. It was run by someone who was reputed to have been a famous pilot in the First World War. The aircraft were mostly old biplanes, except for one called ‘Flying Flea’ which was a very small monoplane. The show consisted of stunt flying, looping the loop, flying upside down and parachute jumps. There were also flights over Norton Pool at two and sixpence a go. This event was something that most locals had never seen before, and it was talked about for months afterwards.

At the next junction was the road that led to Norton. Now there is a large traffic island with signs pointing in all directions, new roads and building all around. When I was young, all that was here was a railway crossing and a group of old wooden buildings known rather appropriately as The Wooden Stables. This is where the pit ponies that worked on the tramway were kept. The tramway brought the coal from the pit at Wimblebury to the Plant Pit, where it was cleaned and loaded onto railway wagons ready for transporting. Straight on and further along the road was a road sign which read “Town Centre”. Which town centre? I wondered.

I carried on past where the New Plant Inn used to be, going past groups of new houses and old ones. To me, the latter looked a bit out of place with their new coats of paint, all so different from how I had remembered them. When I was young, the local power station was around here, at what was known then as Fives Pit. The boilers which drove the generators and the screens for condensing the steam stood along the side of the yard, where the coal was sold to coal merchants and members of the public. I can still remember a large steam-driven lorry which used to deliver coal from there to the mental hospital at Bumtwood. It had small wheels on the front and large ones at the back with solid tires. The children christened it “Mental Mary”. One of the hospital patients used to ride at the back on top of the coal and help the driver to load and unload it. As they passed by, we used to shout after him, and he would wave his arms about and throw lumps of coal at us.

The yard was also the place where the coal allowance which each miner received as part of his wages could be collected. The allowance coal was usually collected by the coal drawers. These were men who made a living out of delivering the coal to where the miners lived. They worked hard, loading and delivering to houses all around Chase Terrace, and their horses and carts loaded with coal were a common sight. Some of the coal would have to be tipped onto the pavements in the front of the houses if there was no back access for the cart. The coal would then have to be gathered up and taken round the back in a wheelbarrow when the man of the house came home from work.

Some of the men who delivered the coal also ran other businesses. Uncle Sam Ireson was the local undertaker, with a hearse and carriages; he also ran a horse-drawn furniture removal business, as well as his coal deliveries. All three activities were done using the same horses. When I was about 10 years old, he would pay me sixpence to clean all the harness and polish the silver buckles when he had a funeral to carry out.

The railway crossed the road again just past the entrance to the coal yard. This was the line which ran through the centre of Chase Terrace down from Rawnsley, collecting coal from the pits along the way. The railway was a great attraction for the children. There was an old wooden footbridge over the line near the children’s playground and we would gather there to watch the trains go past, the engine puffing out smoke and steam and the trucks all full of coal. We used to collect lists of names of the owners of the trucks and would try to guess where they all came from. The engine which was most popular with us children was named Griffin. I wonder if it is still in existence somewhere? We used to put halfpennies onto the line to see if, when the wheels ran over them, they would flatten and get bigger to look like pennies. They never did.

The coal was taken along the line to the canal basin by Norton Pool. This was known as Anglesey Wharf and a constant stream of barges were loaded here each day. Some of the trucks also went on down to the Anglesey Sidings which were on the main railway line at Newtown Bridge. I began to think about the huge enterprise it must have been, transporting the coal output from the whole of the Cannock Chase Coalfield. Canals, barges, railways, rolling stock – the amount of engineering work needed for all this would have been tremendous. As the amount of coal being mined increased to meet the demands of the expanding industries and towns, so the distribution network also needed to be expanded. Looking back, the whole of the mining industry on the Chase lasted about 130 years. Now the mines are all gone, most of the railway lines have been dismantled and many of the canal branches are stagnant and silted up. The mining villages, however, are still there. They have grown in size, with new roads, business parks and acres of new housing, but some still retain a little of their original character.

Sankey’s Corner was my next surprise. Was this the town centre that the sign was pointing to? There are a lot more shops than there used to be, and they’d renamed it Bumtwood, not Chase Terrace, but what was missing? The Chase Cinema was missing, for a start. It is now a block of apartments, complete with coffee shop, and where the Co-op used to be is a shopping precinct with a café, a bakery, a butcher, an optician and a chemist. What happened to the Co-op grocery shop, where I used to stand with my mother and watch the assistants load the sides of bacon onto the slicing machine and then ask what thickness you wanted it cut to? The butter came in barrels and was tipped out onto the counter in a big lump, ready to be cut up and weighed into whatever amounts you asked for. This was all before the war, of course – no pre-packed, plastic-wrapped food then. Most things were weighed into paper bags or wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, all very fascinating to a small boy.

And what has happened to the trees which grew on the opposite corner, where the library now stands? Surely they ought to have survived. I still remember playing there after we came out of the pictures on Saturday afternoons. I remember helping to fill sandbags there when the first air raid shelters were being dug at the start of the war, and taking part in a civil defence exercise. I was bandaged up to look like a casualty and sat in the dark for ages, waiting to be rescued by the air raid wardens.

The Chase Cinema is where we used to go to the Penny Matinee each Saturday afternoon, to watch our favourite heroes chasing Red Indians, fighting off cattle rustlers and rescuing young ladies from in front of trains. It was the main event of the week for us, and we would re-live all the adventures that we had watched on the screen in our games over the following week. Then the baddies always wore black hats and the goodies wore white ones, so if the noise got too loud for you to hear what was going on, you could always tell who was winning the battles on screen by the colour of their hats. It was exciting stuff in those days.

I can still remember the atmosphere inside, before the film actually started. Peashooters, missiles such as apple cores, orange peel and toffee papers all contributed to the noise and general confusion. We were packed in tightly, sometimes two to a seat, and when the lights were dimmed everyone cheered, whistled and shouted until the film started and things settled down. Often it wasn’t long before someone got bored and started to disturb everyone else by throwing things. They threw them at rival groups or gangs, or just at anyone who happened to get in the way. It was then that things usually got a bit out of hand and the lights would be switched back on again, so that the people in charge could sort out the trouble-makers and evict them. Often the film would be left running, and this added to the general noise and shouting inside the cinema. The cowboys continued to ride back and forward across the screen, shooting off their guns and adding to the afternoon’s entertainment. The adults in charge must have dreaded Saturday afternoons, but us lads wouldn’t have missed it for all the world. As I said before, all exciting stuff.

Is this the town centre? I suppose it used to be!

Quote found on the Staffordshire mailing list

Remember me in the family tree – my name, my days, my strife;

Then I’ll ride upon the wings of time and live an endless life.

Have you read ... ? - By Jenny Lee

Sorting out our bookshelves to make room for new Christmas books has made me realise just how much my family history hobby – or obsession! – has spilled over into my reading habits.

Biographies have always appealed to me (though the fictional Little Women was one of my first loves), and a look at my shelves shows how much I enjoy books about family life in all its variety.

Home by Julie Myerson, published in 2004, is the ‘story of everyone who ever lived in our house’ – a house first occupied in 1873. Julie works her way backwards from her own family's tenure of 15 years to unearth a wealth of human stories experienced by previous inhabitants. The house is a three-storey Victorian terrace in Clapham, and has itself undergone several transformations from family house to bed-sitters to subdivisions into flats and back again. Julie spent hours at the Family Records Centre, Kew, Somerset House, etc, and certificates, letter-writing, and phone calls cost her a small fortune, but she also had the invaluable help of something called an Info-Disk. It's a fascinating read.

Born 1900 by Hunter Davies, published for the Millennium, is sub-titled ‘A Document of Our Times’. As the name suggests, it contains a series of chapters written after interviews with various people who were actually born in 1900: the captain of an ocean liner, a Cambridge University Professor, a Manchester mill worker, a former brick-maker and veteran of both World Wars and the Queen Mother, to mention just a few. It’s a wonderful account of the variety of life in 20th Century Britain.

Quite a different read is Kate Adie's Nobody's Child – or ‘Who are you when you don't know your past?’ Each chapter asks a question such as, ‘What is your name?’, ‘Where were you born?’, ‘Have you any brothers or sisters?’ It then shows how some remarkable adults who were abandoned as children have had to face up to questions like these all their lives. In many cases, they have never found the answers.

These are just three of the books I have really enjoyed. Perhaps some of them may appeal to you. If not, there are several more I can recommend!

Who Really was to Blame? - By Pam Turner

When I started my family history research nine years ago, I tried to glean as much information from existing relatives as possible. My Mom, who after supplying me with numerous bits of ancestral detail, then stated, “Of course, Uncle Albert was a bigamist.” Although this piece of rather scandalous information was very tempting, I decided to leave it lingering in the back of my mind for a while, until I had become more established at researching. It wasn’t, therefore, until three years later that I finally got around to seeing what I could find on Great Uncle Albert and his supposed bigamous life.

My initial research into Albert told me that he was born in Walsall in 1891, and that in 1911 at the age of 20 he became a sailor based in Liverpool. However, just prior to the start of World War I, there was a big strike at the Liverpool docks, so Albert joined the Army, enlisting with the Dragoon Guards. At first Albert was sent to India, but after the war broke out in 1914 he came back and was relocated to France, where he spent most of the following three years. At the end of 1917, Albert was wounded in action and awarded the Military Medal; he was then sent to a convalescence home in Eastbourne, Sussex at the beginning of 1918.

The next piece of the jigsaw revealed that in the middle part of 1918, Albert got married in his home town of Walsall to a lady called Florence from Eastbourne, who I assumed he must have met while recuperating from his wounds. At this point, however, I didn’t know if this was his legitimate or bigamous marriage. I then discovered that Florence had given birth to a son, who was born in the early part of 1919 in Walsall, but I then hit a brick wall. After endless searching through the St Catherine’s index and parish registers, I could not seem to find any other marriage for Albert, although I went back as far as 1910 and forward to 1930. So I then decided to give it a rest.

During the following few years, I often thought about Great Uncle Albert, but didn’t pursue any further research until two years ago, when I had some amazing luck. While I was looking through some old copies of the Walsall Observer on microfilm at Walsall Local History Centre, I came across an article headed ‘Woman Bears the Blame’. As I glanced briefly at the details, I realised that it was an account of a bigamy court hearing, with great Uncle Albert’s name being mentioned. When I read it in full, I found that the big surprise was that the bigamist was not Albert (as my Mom had thought) but Florence, the lady from Eastbourne, whom he had married in 1918. The article gave a very detailed account of the case brought against Florence at the Police Court after her arrest.

The story goes:

Florence had married her first husband in 1908, and in the following years she had given birth to three children. The family then relocated to Canada for a while, returning to England at the outbreak of war in 1914 to enable the husband to enlist. While her husband was away, Florence resided in Eastbourne, which, as I had already surmised, was where she met and became friendly with Albert. Apparently, Florence didn’t see the need to tell him she was already married, because she thought she would not see him again after his recovery and departure from the town.

After Albert had recuperated and left Eastbourne, he, however, still wished to continue the relationship, and therefore returned after a short while for a weekend stay. Inevitably, the result of this liaison was that Florence discovered she was expecting a baby, so Albert made arrangements for them to be married. Florence recalled, in her statement to the court, that although she was in a very awkward position, she still did not feel the need to tell Albert that she was already married, so continued with the relationship and second marriage. The couple then moved to live with Albert’s parents in Walsall, prior to the birth of their child in early 1919.

Around that time, Florence’s legitimate husband returned to Eastbourne from the war, only to find her not there. After making various enquiries, he managed to find out that she had moved to Walsall and came to find her. Inevitably he discovered the reason for her disappearance. At this point, the article does not make it very clear what exactly happened next; but, reading between the lines, Florence and her husband returned to the south. Within a short time, she was arrested by the Newhaven Police, brought back to Walsall and charged with bigamy. Florence was also charged with falsely obtaining over £20 from the Postmaster General, in the form of allowances made to wives of serving soldiers, which she had claimed twice for both husbands.

During the ensuing Police Court proceedings, Florence did admit the charge against her, giving a full statement including reasons for her crime, including blaming Albert for his persistence at pursuing the relationship with her. She also asked the court for leniency, as she maintained that she had not previously been in any trouble. The presiding magistrate at Florence’s hearing. after reading the statement, concluded that “It was a pathetic document, and one that cannot be read by a feeling man without sympathy. Assuming what she says is true, it only shows the woman bears most of the blame”. The magistrate then committed her to trial at the Assizes, although he did allow her bail. On the lesser charge of obtaining money under false pretences, he imposed a fine of 40s.

So finally, after numerous years, the mystery about Great Uncle Albert’s alleged bigamy has been solved. It just goes to show how facts and truth can become distorted throughout the passing years, and there was no one more surprised than my Mom when she discovered the real story behind the scandal. There are still a few questions that I would like to find the answers to, such as what happened to Florence? Did she stand trial? Did she go to jail? How come she was able to leave three children in Eastbourne and move to Walsall? So I still have some more research to do. As for great uncle Albert, I do know he moved away from the Walsall area and married again, although I still haven’t located the marriage details.

I have no doubt that Albert and Florence’s tale was not unique at around the time of the Great War and there were probably many other similar instances of bigamy brought about by the uncertainty of those very unhappy times. Florence was obviously the main culprit in this sorry tale; however, I cannot help but feel that maybe Albert was not entirely blameless in the affair. I am sure that there must have been some indication that all was not right with Florence, and he should have picked up on that. I doubt whether that is something that anyone will ever really know.

Doncaster Ancestors - by Pam Turner

If anyone has ancestors who originated in Doncaster, I have some records purchased from Doncaster Family History Society which may prove useful. They are:

FROM PILLAR TO POST Settlement examinations in the Archdeaconry of Doncaster 1730 – 1846 Volume 1 (A – H): Full Details in Book Form

SETTLEMENT CERTIFICATES in the Archdeaconry of Doncaster 1692 –1846: Index of Names in Book Form

BURIALS Doncaster St George (names Chapman to Fevers): Microfiche 5 and 6 of 18

MONUMENTAL INSCRIPTIONS (All Doncaster Churches): Microfiche set 7A, 7B, 7C

If anyone would like to look at these items, I am willing to bring them along to a Thursday meeting to be viewed.

Online Survey to Research e-Genealogy

Your Journal editors recently received the following letter:

‘My name is Kate Friday, and I am a research student at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. As part of my PhD research, I have recently launched an online survey for those using UK internet resources for their genealogical and family history research. I would be grateful if you would please consider the short news article about my research below for publication in the next edition of your journal/newsletter. If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Many thanks, Kate Friday.’

The survey

A PhD study is under way at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, examining Internet family history resources and their users. This will investigate the users themselves, how users view both e-genealogical resources and libraries, and how these resources are used within the research process. One of the eventual aims of the project is to highlight methods of promoting the ‘added value’ of UK Local Studies Library Collections, increasing their visibility to users online. The research also aims to identify, categorise and examine the available resources, developing specific evaluative criteria and promoting increased awareness and understanding within the library community in order to maintain a quality level of service for genealogical researchers in libraries.

The first stage of the project is a five-minute online survey which hopes to gather more information about anyone accessing UK information online for their research into family history. This survey can be found at http://www.researchingegenealogy.co.uk

For further details, please write to Kate Friday, Research Student. Dept of Information Management. Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen AB10 7QE or email: prs.friday@rgu.ac.uk.

Murphy’s Law in Genealogy

You know the great god Murphy is influencing your research when you find...

Ø Ink fades and paper deteriorates at a rate inversely proportional to the value of the data recorded.

Bad news about the 1911 Census - by Brian Asbury

We’ve all been looking forward to the release of the 1911 Census when the 100-year rule expires in 2011, but we may be in for a shock, if there’s any truth in information which has been circulating recently on family history forums. One of the forums to which Jan Green subscribes recently carried the following from Rod Neep:

‘1. The 1911 census will not be released early. Period.

 2. When it is released, there will be problems. HUGE problems.

The 1911 census is not like ANY other census you will have seen! All the censuses that you have seen so far are the census enumerator’s books. The enumerator went round every house collecting pieces of paper called householder’s schedules, and then copied them into his book.

With the very rare exception those schedules are all gone. Not preserved. All that remain (from 1841 onwards to 1901) are the enumerator’s books. Those books have several households per page. Often as many as 5 to 8 households. You’ve seen what they look like.

Now... in the case of the 1911 census, it is TOTALLY DIFFERENT. There are *NO* census enumerator’s books! All that remains are the householder’s schedules. A double sided piece of paper for every household. Written in different handwriting by each head of household.

That means that there are millions more pieces of paper involved than in the older censuses, and they are going to be a real proverbial pain to read. They still need sorting and classifying.’

As if that wasn’t bad enough, he goes on to say that they are very incomplete. Many are missing. The ones that survive are screwed up and dog-eared; a great number are incredibly damaged with parts of the pages missing, torn, ragged, water-stained... and literally rotten! People who work at The National Archives and have offices close to them know where they are – by the smell!!

They have never been microfilmed or digitised. The cost of filming them will be about ten times the cost of the original filming of the 1901 enumerator’s books.

‘And before you go blaming The National Archives for not preserving them in better condition,’ Rod says, ‘it is not their fault! That’s how the bundles of paper came to them. (By the way, have you any idea how much space is taken up by those millions of rotten pieces of paper?)’

That’s the facts of the matter according to Rod Neep, who says he knows someone involved in this. Thus far, we haven’t been able to track down any further information on the matter, although I did speak to a couple of people from the National Archives at the recent BETT exhibition in London and they said they didn’t know anything about it.

Whatever the truth, this is very worrying to any amateur genealogist, and if any of you have come across any more information relating to this, we’d appreciate you passing it on for inclusion in the Journal.

Request for Genealogical Help - Frances Jones (frances.jones@blueyonder.co.uk) writes:

“My mother’s family’s name was Ross and they lived in Burntwood. I have traced them back well into the early 1800s, but I am having problem tracing a Ginny (Jenny) Ross who would have been born around 1900 and died sometime before 1936. She was found drowned in a canal near Burntwood after being missing for some time. Can anybody tell me how I might find newspapers records of the time and perhaps coroner’s inquest records. Any help would be appreciated. I am willing to pay for research if need be.

Jenny (Ginny) was one of a large family which included my mother Phoebe. Her father’s name was Harry and her mother’s name was also Phoebe.

My mother has been dead now for several years and I regret not obtaining more details from her before it was too late. I guess this is common with all of us. I would love to uncover details of this intriguing family mystery.

Thank you in anticipation of a reply. Sincerely Frances Jones.”

Murphy’s Law in Genealogy

You know Murphy has really got it in for you when you find...

Ø The only census containing a record of your ancestor John Smith lists three in the same area, all the same age, all married to an Elizabeth and all with a son named Thomas and a daughter named Mary!

Ø Your great-grandfather’s obituary states he died leaving no known issue.