Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2006 04 Volume 14 Number 3
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 April 2006     
Volume 14
Number 3 April 2006
 Vol. 14 No. 3
  Contents of this issue.
Chairman’s Message
Amusing Gravestone Inscriptions
News from the Secretary
A Chance Meeting
Review of Guest Speaker’s Talk: Ruth Hanslow
Convict Number 1059
Church Newsletters
Arising from Coal Dust (Part 9)
Sexist or What?
Beware of Old Wives’ Tales
The Federation of Family History Societies
From the Chair…

How time flies! I can hardly believe that it is time to write my letter for the next journal.

The thing that stands out in my mind about the year so far is the way we are reaching out to people in the wider community. First to come was the invitation from Lichfield Library to help with their forthcoming meetings for people who are interested in beginning their family history. These meetings take place on the last Wednesday of each month from 1.30 to 3.30pm in the reference section of the library which is on the first floor. They also make three computers available for our use. We have been amazed at how many people have turned up – some beginners and others with extensive family trees already researched. At times there has been a queue waiting to speak to one of us! It is interesting that quite a few younger people have turned up. Most of them would find it difficult to come to an evening meeting as they have young children.

Our second invitation was from the St. Mary’s Centre in Lichfield, where they have a small group of elderly people eager to find out more about researching their family history. It is an entertaining two hours and we are made to feel very welcome by the organisers. This takes place every Monday afternoon from 2.00 until 4.00pm. They, too, have a computer for our use, which helps a great deal, and there is a person available to feed in the information if required.

In February a few members went along to the Mailbox in Birmingham to take part in the meeting organised by Radio WM as a result of the screening of the second series of Who Do You Think You Are? This was very well attended and admissions had to be regulated to prevent the venue from becoming too overcrowded. We had a table near the entrance on which we arranged information about the group and family history in general. Jenny Lee, Pam Woodburn and Geoff Sorrell were also interviewed on the radio by Carl Chinn as part of his weekly radio programme which is broadcast from the Mailbox.

As the year goes on, there are other activities which we hope to send representatives along to, but of course to keep up with all these commitments we need plenty of volunteers; and we must not forget our own help sessions, held once a month on the fourth Thursday. Please do consider giving us a little of your time. It does not have to be every week, but Pam and I would be glad to fit you into a rota whenever you can offer a couple of hours. I am sure you would enjoy yourself.

As you will know, Burntwood Family History Group is this year celebrating twenty years since its founding in 1986. If anyone has any ideas for ways in which we can mark this milestone, please let us know. We are planning a special edition of the Journal in June, and maybe an anniversary dinner in the summer if we get enough support. Please do not hesitate to put forward ideas. I look forward to hearing from you. Jane Leake

Amusing Gravestone Inscriptions
Here lies Mary Sexton
Who pleased many men
And ne’er vexed one
(not like her under the next stone)
(Bideford, Devon)
Here lies the body of Dame Margaret Pegg
Who never had issue except in her leg.
So great was her art, so deep was her cunning,
While one leg kept still, the other kept running.
(Epitaph for an old lady suffering from an ulcerated leg)
Here lies the body of Mary Anne
Safe in the arms of Abraham.
All very well for Mary Anne
But what about poor Abraham?
(North Devon Churchyard)
Deep in this grave lies lazy Dai
Waiting the last great trump on high.
If he’s as fond of his grave
as he was fond of his bed,
he’ll be the last man up
when that roll call’s said.
News from the Secretary

Since our last Journal was published, we have had a number of new members, some local and others from outside our area. As these new members just missed the publication of the 2006 Members’ Interests List, I am starting off my contribution to this Journal with a list of their names and addresses and their surname interests. If anyone has similar interest or feels that they can assist our new members in their research, please contact them directly by post to the address given. If you feel that you could communicate better with someone via the telephone or the Internet, please contact me and I will pass on your contact details to the member concerned. We do this to preserve a certain amount of confidentiality for our members, who might well receive unwanted communications if we were to give their telephone numbers and email addresses in the Journal.

Ø Mr R D Harris, 12, Ashleigh Crescent, Wheaton Aston, Stafford, ST19 9PN – Harris, Wilde (Bilston, 1900-1910)

Ø Mr & Mrs Townshend, 11, St. James Close, Longdon, Rugeley, WS15 4QP – Mills (Lichfield, Ogley Hay and Kirkham, and Alton, before 1900)

Ø Mr. B. Baker, 9, Manor Rise, Burntwood, WS7 4TR – Baker, Cartwright, Flowers and Thornton (Aston, Warks, pre-1900)

Ø Mr. M. H. Craddock, 76, Brynmawr Avenue, Ammonford, SA18 2DA – Clarke, Craddock, Pickering (Burntwood and Brownhills, any information welcome)

Ø Mr D Dickson, 41, Littleworth Road, Hednesford, WS12 1HZ – Dixon (Cootehill, Ireland), Killeen (Woolwich, London), Spencer (Coleshill, Warks)

Ø Mr P Parson, 4, Blue Ridge Road, New Park, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot, TQ13 9FB – Fell (Hoare Cross, from 1890 and Coneysthorpe, Yorks, pre-1840)

Ø Mrs. J. Roberts, 20, Water Street, Chasetown, WS7 1AN – Roberts, Bickley (Cannock, any), Harris (Bilston, 1855-1865), Brearley & Sampson (Stoke-on-Trent, any)

Ø Mr. A, J. Horton, 202, Main Street, Stonnall, Walsall, WS9 9EB – Horton (Wednesbury, Darlaston pre-1891), Griffiths (Aberdare & Merthyr Tydfil, pre-1891)

Ø Mr. & Mrs. Neilson, 5, Thornes Croft, Stonnall, Walsall, WS9 9ED – Young (Yorkshire, any), Blunden (London, any)

Ø Mr. & Mrs Trelfa, 15, Swallow Croft, Lichfield, WS13 7HE – Trelfa (Derby, pre-1900), Sloper (Penge, pre-1900)

Having read so far, have you noticed anything interesting about the surname interest listed above? Have another look now and then when you reach the end of this item, I will tell you what you should have noticed.
Membership renewal

In the previous issue of the Journal I drew attention to the fact the we have an annual renewal date of 1st August for all subscriptions. In the intervening period I have received renewal subscriptions from two members whose membership had lapsed when their subscription had not been paid by 31st October 2005. Both of them were for the reduced subscription, which we allow for NEW MEMBERS who join the group after 1st February.

Obviously this is still causing some confusion, and at the last meeting of your Management Committee it was suggested that this concession could be withdrawn. and that one flat rate subscription of £10.00 should be introduced, renewable on 1st August each year. Our subscription has only been increased once (from £5 to £6) since the group was formed in 1986, and the service and facilities which we provide now are vastly superior to those which existed in the early days. No-one like things to increase in price, but for a group like ours there are not too many ways of increasing income on a secure basis – so, although we do not operate to make a profit, we do have to ensure that our regular commitments can be honoured. If you have any views on the question of the subscription rate or related matters, please put them in writing and pass them on to me or one of the Journal editors, Jan Green or Brian Asbury.

Local history news

It has come to my notice that an area adjacent to Burntwood is to get its own Local and Family History Centre, where people with an interest in these subjects will have access to maps, books and records, together with expert assistance. This Centre is to be set up as part of the Brownhills Heritage Project, and will be based in the old Brownhills Council House, which is currently being refurbished. It is due to open this summer. Interested were invited to go along to a meeting on 12th April at the Activities Centre, Chester Road North, on 12th April, at which further plans were discussed and a talk given by Cath Yates, from the Walsall Local History Centre. You can contact Pat Thomas of the Brownhills Local Committee, on 01543 360 016, for further information.

So it looks as though Brownhills, which is in the West Midlands county and part of Walsall Borough Council, is to get a facility which Burntwood (a much larger area and population), in Staffordshire and part of Lichfield District Council, would find very welcome. The Pelsall History Centre is already fully operational, so it looks as though the will is there in Walsall, but not in Lichfield. Our counterpart organisation, The Burntwood Chase Heritage Group, would certainly be as pleased as we would be if Lichfield DC could come up with a way to accommodate our two organisations under one roof on a permanent basis.

Pleas for help

A letter appeared in the local press recently regarding a person by the name of Chris Eccleston. He was in the RAF at St. Mawgan, Cornwall between 1950 and 1953, was believed to come from Cannock, and would now be in his seventies. He is thought to have tried to contact the correspondent via the Friends Reunited website, but he did not see it and now has no details. If you know of a Chris Eccleston you can contact Charles Stagg, 559, Dividy Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST2 0BX with information.

We have also had a request from Richard Rhodes for any information on the history of Jack Hayes Farm, now demolished but which formerly stood near the junction of Rugeley Road and Padbury Lane, Burntwood. Richard’s family owns the land on which the farm stood and its foundations still exist. It was at one time an inn called the Robin Hood and in the middle of the 19th Century may have been owned by a Mr Lane. The same area also used to have a row of cottages known as Tub and Bucket Row. Anything you can add the story of this property would be of great interest to Richard, and can be passed on the him via our webmaster, Alan Betts, or me. Richard’s email address is rhodes@jr2907.fslife.co.uk

Also on the subject of inns, I was approached at the BBC Family History Event by a Mrs Viv Barnes, who was looking for information about her ancestors with the name Woods, who at one time owned the Nag’s Head. She has found the appropriate census entry (I think in 1861) which lists Woods at the Nag’s Head, Green Lane, Burntwood. This is incorrect, as the Nag’s Head is some distance from Green Lane, but the error is probably that of the enumerator or some subsequent transcriber. If you have any connection with the Woods family who were farmers and innkeepers in Burntwood in the 19th century, please contact Mrs Barnes at 27, Linforth Drive, Streetly, B74 2ER, or on 0121 580 9061.

Member no 1348, Barbara Moore, writes as follows: “I am researching the Webb family (my grandmother Charlotte Illidge lived in a cottage in Church Road and her mother was a Webb). I have a reference to the death of Josiah Webb in 1764 and a location ‘Nevis’. It is not apparently the island of Nevis or Ben Nevis. It could be a misprint of something similar, or more likely a village in Staffordshire which no longer exists.” Has anyone researched the Webbs who were connected with Burntwood through Charlotte Illidge, or a family of Webbs in Walsall around 1697? Any information would be much appreciated by Barbara.

Answer to the ‘quiz’

Two of the new members listed have an interest in the surname Harris in Bilston. Perhaps Mrs Roberts and Mr Harris will keep us informed of any connection that may eventually be revealed. Geoff Sorrell

A Chance Meeting - by Pam Turner

This time last year I was booked into Walsall History Centre on a Friday morning at 9.30, but when I got up I felt a bit under the weather. I therefore cancelled the reservation and made a booking for the following Friday, at the same time. When that Friday came along, I arrived at the centre and the clerk allocated me reader No 5, which I was not keen to work on, so I asked if I could change to another. The clerk very kindly offered me the choice of two other fiche readers, and after a short deliberation, I chose No 8, on the other side of the room to where I should have originally been.

That particular day, the office was quite busy, and all the machines close by me were taken. After I had been there about an hour, I overheard the man sitting next to me tell his friend that he was unable do anymore research without a birth certificate, as the person he was researching was born in Blakenall and he didn’t know where exactly. At the mention of Blakenall, I became quite interested in what this gentleman was saying; I thought I might be able to offer some advice, as I had personally done quite a lot of research in the area. After a short conversation, the man told me he was new to family history, and that he was trying to find out exactly where his late wife had been born in 1929. He thought it was probably in Blakenall, although her family had moved a few years later to Stanley Street, Bloxwich.

I then told him that my father had been born in Blakenall in 1924, and that he and his family had also moved to live in Stanley Street. At this point, the gentleman got out his notebook, flipped over a few pages and pointed to two names written down. He asked me, “Do these mean anything to you?” To my complete shock and surprise, written in his book were my grandparent’s names, Joseph and Minnie Oakley! To say that I was speechless would be an understatement. After a short pause I told him who this couple were, and produced a rough copy of my family tree to confirm it. At that point, he became even more speechless than me!

To cut a long story short, this gentleman (whose name was Len) turned out to be the husband of my Dad’s cousin Edna; her father, Harold, was my grandmother Minnie’s brother. In 1928, following his marriage, Harold and his wife had lodged with my grandparents, so Edna was born in the same house as my Dad. Len had retrieved my grandparent’s names from the electoral registers, but he had had no idea who they were. Around 1930, when my father was aged 6 and Edna was aged 1, both families had moved from the same house in Blakenall to live in separate new council houses, three doors apart in Stanley Street, Bloxwich. My grandparents remained living in Stanley Street for the following ten years, subsequently moving to the southern part of Walsall, on its boundaries with Wednesbury. Edna’s parents had remained in Stanley Street for more or less the rest of their lives.

Up until that day at the History Centre, I had never met either Len or his late wife Edna, although I do recall my father mentioning his cousin once or twice. For me, what is so spooky about this tale is that, had I kept my original appointment, I would never have met Len; and if I hadn’t changed readers, I would never have overheard his conversation! Although I am not in the habit of listening to other people’s conversations, where family history is concerned it can sometimes result in a ‘chance in a million’ meeting.

Brenda Molyneux (brenda.bmcg@ntlworld.com) writes: “Hello. I am looking for baptism details of my grandmother Hannah Weir who was born in Green Jones Brow Chapel Lane Burtonwood in Aug 24th 1891. The family were Catholic. can you please tell me where I might find the details? Many thanks, Brenda.”
Malcolm Redgrave (mredgrave@talktalk.net) writes: “Whilst researching a Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire, project I found an entry in the parish register which may be of interest to somebody who has lost a John Johnsone. From the burial register for Bishop’s Castle for 1628 for 25th October – ‘John Johnsone of the paryshe of Aldersse nigh unto Litchfield in Stafford shyre beeing stayd upon suspicion of stealing a mare and putt heere in pryson for the same hanged hym selffe and was heere buryed’. Malcolm Redgrave, a member of South West Shropshire History Society.”
Dianne Llads writes to let us know that: “Birmingham Register Office has now moved to: Holliday Wharf, Holliday Street, Birmingham, B1 1TJ. Telephone no. 0121 675 1000.”

Review of Guest Speaker’s Talk, March 2006: Ruth Hanslow on ‘The Hanslow Family History’

Ruth Hanslow had always wondered why family history buffs became so obsessed with their research. It wasn’t until a visitor to the Lichfield Record Office, where she worked, gave her information about her husband’s Hanslow family that she became interested enough to launch herself on her own genealogical quest. She had no idea what murky family secrets she was about to uncover.

Starting with knowledge of her husband Leonard’s father (also named Leonard), Ruth turned to the Chasetown Parish Registers, where in 1898 she found the marriage of Leonard’s grandfather Simeon Hanslow, a miner aged 22, to Mary Ann Wright, in Chase Terrace. A photograph of Mary Ann was the only one Ruth possessed of anyone of that generation.

Other records revealed a series of children to Simeon and Mary Ann, including two previously unheard-of. Simeon’s death certificate told Ruth he had worked at No. 8 Pit at Heath Hays and died in 1912 of fatty degeneration of the heart. The Lichfield Mercury reported that Simeon had a 12 year old child who was practically blind.

Simeon’s marriage record provided the name of his father, Charles Hanslow, who had married Betty Marklew in 1865. One evening, the Times newspaper was free on the Internet, and Ruth found more information about Charles. On 31 Oct 1868 he had been caught poaching. Accounts in other papers described in detail the capture of a whole gang of poachers in Repton, Derbyshire. At the trial, Charles Hanslow received two months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

Charles died in 1890, at the age of 55, of chronic bronchitis and asthma. On the 1891 census Betty was living on her own with all four children, including Simeon. She died at the very ripe old age of 91!

George Hanslow, Simeon’s brother, was the next subject of Ruth’s research. She found the deaths on the same day recorded in June 1908 of Hyla George Hanslow and his wife Maria of Brownhills, so, out of curiosity, she sent for their death certificates.

Meanwhile, a book about Brownhills revealed a Maria Hanslow as licensee of the Anchor Inn, Catshill, so Ruth began to do some digging about Maria, who had been born Maria Seedhouse in 1867. She had married Thomas Humphries in 1887 and had six children. Thomas died in 1906 of cirrhosis of the liver. In his will he left everything to Maria, so long as she remained a widow. Nevertheless, in 1907 she married Hyla George Hanslow.

When Ruth finally received the death certificates, Maria’s certificate showed she had died of a gunshot wound, wilfully murdered by Hyla George! George’s revealed that he had ‘suicidally shot himself with a gun while of unsound mind’! There had been an inquest for both, so Ruth, in great excitement, investigated the local newspapers for that time.

She found the event recorded in June 1908 as a domestic tragedy in Brownhills in which a husband and wife had been shot. They had quarrelled the previous day because Maria wanted to visit the grave of her first husband at Stonnall and George could not understand why she wanted to do this. They had only been married the previous November.

A very self-pitying letter was found after George’s death. It suggested he had meant to commit suicide, so the shooting of his wife must have been on impulse. In the letter he stated that he had known no peace since his marriage; he apologised for his ‘rash act’, but insisted he could not help it. His wife was said to be ‘the best on earth if she would keep herself right’. She would not let him go back to work, though people said he was a ‘rodney brother’ (an idler). He felt hated and thought he ‘would settle it’. He believed himself to be ‘put on by everybody’, and signed the letter ‘George Nobody’.

The Coroner summed up that both had been in a hysterical state, and George had, in the spirit of the moment, ‘shot his wife whilst suffering from a temporary insanity’.

Ruth managed to obtain two excellent photographs of the hearse setting off for Maria’s funeral from outside the Anchor. One newspaper photo, from the Brownhills Gazette, December 1992, was labelled ‘The Brownhills Tragedy’. The other had been used to illustrate a postcard, with the comment that ‘it is the picture of Mrs Hanslow’s funeral’. Rather a tasteless subject for a postcard, we thought!

Hyla George and Maria were buried at Stonnall, and Ruth later discovered that the murder is still a subject of conversation in the Anchor Inn today.

And there was a lot more besides this about Ruth’s research into what turned out to be a fascinating family. This was arguably one of the best Monday evening talks we have ever had!

Convict Number 1059 - by Jane Leake

In December last year I decided to treat myself to a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk. There were several family members that I needed to locate on census returns and this is the best way of finding people who have strayed from the family village.

The Hand family lived at Orston, a small village in Nottinghamshire for several generations and later moved to the city of Nottingham in the 1870s. My great-great-grandfather had a brother, Charles, whose baptism was recorded in the parish registers and who appeared on the 1841 census, but no further trace of him had been found. Imagine my surprise when I looked for him in the 1851 census on Ancestry and there he was at Millbank Prison, Westminster, a convict, aged 21, unmarried, carpenter, born Orston, Notts. One of my uncles had always said we had a convict in the family who was transported for stealing a loaf, so there was some truth in the old tale after all – though his crimes were a little more serious than uncle was lead to believe!

The website which gave information about Millbank Prison said that prisoners were held there awaiting transportation, first to the prison hulks at Portland, and then put on ships for Australia. The prison no longer exists today but the Tate Gallery stands in the site.

Charles was evidently the ‘black sheep’ of the family. We can only imagine what it must have been like for his parents to have a son who was so disgraced. His father, Richard Hand, was presented with a large Bible by a local person in 1843 and described as a worthy and reliable man, so it must have been a great shock for them to find they had a raised a thief.

We were able to discover more about Charles from ships’ records, which told us he was convicted of felony at Leicester Quarter Sessions. Within a few days we were off to the Record Office at Leicester to look at the relevant papers.

Evidently this was not a first offence, as a note was appended which referred to a previous trial at Nottingham Quarter Sessions on Monday 1st. December, 1849, when Charles was convicted of stealing 20 pecks of walnuts, value £4. I am puzzled as to why he stole so many walnuts! His sentence was to be put in a solitary cell for eight days and to be whipped once. This, however, did nothing to deter him, for a year later he committed a more serious felony along with an accomplice, Joseph Burrows. They broke into the house of William Twinbury at Bottesford, Leicestershire, and stole five silver spoons, value 10s, a pair of silver sugar tongs (5s), two rings (4s), three old silver coins (2s) and three other pieces of silver (2s), all the property of William Twinbury. They also robbed the housekeeper of a gold brooch, value not given.

The trial took place on 24th December 1850, and sentence was passed on 30th December. Not a happy Christmas for anyone involved! Charles was sentenced to ten years’ transportation, and Joseph to seven as he was not found guilty of stealing all of the items. An account of the trial was published in great detail in the Leicester Journal and we were able to read this fascinating account on microfilm at the Record Office.

Prison records gave us further information. Charles sailed on board the convict ship ‘Marion’, which was purpose built in India for the transportation runs. He does not appear in the notes of the ship’s surgeon, so evidently was pretty fit. The ship docked in Fremantle Harbour on 30th January, 1852. Charles was unmarried and a carpenter, so his skills may have been used to help with work in the new colony of Western Australia. Evidently the authorities had refused to accept convicts until they needed skilled labour to help build the town of Fremantle and they were able to stipulate that all convicts should be skilled craftsmen.

On 1st August 1853, he was granted a ticket of leave, enabling him to work outside the prison, and his sentence was completed in November 1861. Evidently he committed a minor offence in 1856, but no details were recorded.

In an effort to see if I could find out more about his life in Australia, I contacted a research firm called Swan Genealogy and they were very helpful and charged a reasonable price. However, there was not much to discover as Charles never married, so left no known descendants in Australia. He died on 7th July at the Mount Eliza Invalid Depot near Fremantle, aged about 50. Evidently this place was home to most of the single ex-convicts, and it is likely that he had worked on the building of the Depot until his health deteriorated. I wonder if his parents, brothers and sisters ever discovered what had happened to their son?

Church Newsletters

Once again, here are some actual sentences found in church bulletins and newsletters:

Ø Next Sunday, a special collection will be taken to defray the cost of the new carpet. All those wishing to do something on the new carpet will come forward and get a piece of paper.

Ø The 1991 Spring Council Retreat will be hell May 10 and 11.

Ø Pastor is on vacation. Massages can be given to church secretary

Arising from Coal Dust (Part 9) by Alan Brookes

Growing up in a miner’s family meant that pocket money for me or my three brothers was a luxury our parents couldn’t afford. If we wanted some pocket money we had to go out and earn it. Thank goodness we were brought up with that ethic, for I can think of no better way for a young person to learn the value of money. I quickly learned how hard it was to come by, how to savour it, and not squander it on frivolous things. I think I received a far better perspective on life than so-called ‘privileged’ children who received free pocket money every week. As a fulsome testimony to this upbringing, all my brothers today have secure lives, obtained through the efforts of their own hard work.

The easiest way for a young boy to earn money in Chase Terrace in 1955 was to deliver newspapers. The one newsagent in the village was a combined post office and paper shop owned by Mr Trevor Davies. This was situated on the corner of Princess Street and Eastgate Street.

To be eligible to be a paper boy meant attaining the age of 11. There was a waiting list; Chase Terrace was not a large place, and there were only six boys employed at any one time. At aged 8 and 10 respectively, Peter and I already had our names on the waiting list. At 10½, my chance came when one of the regular newsboys was taken ill. I received a ‘call up’ to go and see Mr Davies. My first employment was on a trial basis only, until the other boy returned following his illness. He did so after about three months, but by then I was so entrenched in the job I was retained as a regular by Mr Davies. I held the job until I left secondary school, at 15 years of age.

For the first two months I was placed on any round where extra papers and magazines needed to be delivered, or as a stand-in for boys who failed to turn up any morning. I realised I was on trial, so I took each and every opportunity to deliver papers anywhere and whenever I could manage, outside school hours. Mr Davies knew he could always depend upon me, and I tried to make myself indispensable to him.

At that time I lived at The Crescent, Boney Hay, so when that round became available I welcomed the chance to become Boney Hay’s newsboy, thus reaping my reward for my earlier ‘general factotum’ duties. I now had a permanent, stable paper round of my own.

Over the next four years I came to know every nuance of the area, and all the perks and dodges concerned in delivering newspapers:

Ø where the best tips could be obtained;

Ø who owned a dog that could be dangerous;

Ø the particular newspaper and magazine each household received;

Ø where the shortcuts were to save walking around pathways;

Ø how much money to collect on a Saturday;

Ø where I could obtain a cup of tea; and

Ø where the nicest girls lived.

The Crescent, as the name implies, is a council housing estate that was built in a curved shape in 1938. Two arcs of semi-detached houses stand on a ridge at Boney Hay, overlooking Gentleshaw Common.

Each morning, from Monday to Saturday, I delivered 60 newspapers and magazines for the fabulous sum of 1½d per household. At the end of the week I was rich, with 7/6d in my pocket. At Mom’s prompting I straight away opened a post office savings account, and each week saved 5/- to deposit into it.

It was hard work having to get out of bed at 6.00am and deliver the newspapers in all weathers before being ready for school at 8.30am. Sometimes I would be late for school, with no time to have breakfast or a wash. On arrival at school, following my apologies to the teacher, I would wash black newsprint from my hands.

At 12 years of age I accepted another round and progressed to delivering the Sunday newspapers around Boney Hay as well. On reaching 13, I added the Saturday evening sports papers round to my repertoire. The Sporting Star and the Sporting Argos cost 3d, and were printed on pink paper. They contained all the Saturday football scores, cricket matches and horse racing results.

Most working miners in Boney Hay were avid supporters of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion, Walsall or Stoke City. I soon got to know which customer supported which team. Before delivering the pinks, I familiarised myself with all the football results and what the implications would be for each club. If Wolves were second in the league, a win that day could put them at the top; Aston Villa, at the bottom of the league, needed a win to avoid relegation. Issues like that were important in developing a liaison and close familiarity with customers. I soon found out such expert knowledge paid a real dividend.

A typical Saturday evening of delivering the ‘thre’penny pinks’ would go as follows. Upon knocking Mr Perry’s door at number 22 (who I knew supported Wolves), I would greet him with the pink paper and the good news that “They were fantastic today, Mr Perry, they won 4-0 away at Tottenham – another goal for Billy Wright!” This was the icing on the cake for him, as he would already be in a good mood after listening to the radio sports report of the results. Because of such ingratiation I would receive an extra 3d tip, together with the 3d for the pink, from an elated Mr Perry.

At Mr Johnson’s house, number 57 – he supported West Bromwich Albion, who had only drawn 1-1 with Manchester United – I would sympathetically say that, “They had some hard luck today, Mr Johnson; I think the referee lived in Manchester.” If he handed over sixpence to me, I would say, “Sorry, Mr Johnson, but I can’t change that at the moment.” Buoyed up by my enthusiastic comment, which alleviated his slight disappointment at the result, he might reply, “Never mind son, you keep the rest.” If West Brom had lost that week, he would have probably asked for the change. I would then have concentrated my attention on Mr Harrison, at number 22, who supported Aston Villa, who had won.

So it went on, some weeks better than others. It seemed a rare occurrence for all the Midland football clubs to all have a bad day at once; there was always some good news which I could emphasise. I think today, the term given to this sort of approach would be ‘streetwise’, or perhaps ‘having an entrepreneurial flair’. I just saw it as common sense and a natural perk of the job. Through acquiring this knowledge, I did also develop a genuine interest in football myself.

Christmas was the best time for tips of course, and I usually finished my paper rounds with about £5.00 extra. By the time I was 15 years of age I was earning £1-1-6d per week, with tips on top of this. That was fantastic money in those days, considering that when I did leave school, my first week’s wages from full-time employment was only £3-12-3d.

Some of the old newspapers don’t exist anymore, the Daily Sketch, the News Chronicle and the Daily Herald, together with the Daily Mirror, were the working men’s papers, or tabloids, of their day. Only two households in The Crescent received ‘posh’ newspapers; one had the Telegraph, the other the Times. At both houses, I had to knock their doors because the papers were so thick they wouldn’t fit through the letterbox. This took up valuable time and became a nuisance, especially if I was already late for school.

I used to dread Tuesdays. This was the day the women of The Crescent received their women’s magazines. My bag would be three times as large and heavy as normal, and it would take twice as long as when I only had the newspaper to deliver. Fridays were nearly as bad, with the comics – the Dandy, the Beano, the Eagle and the Rover – adding to my burden. Looking back now, I realise that I should have negotiated a special rate with Mr Davies for deliveries on those days, as so much more effort and time was required.

People at some houses would occasionally invite me in for a cup of tea. My favourite was Mrs. Doris Brookes at number 24. We believed in those days that this Brookes family was no relation to our family, but through my subsequent genealogical research I proved that Doris’s husband, William Henry Brookes, and my dad, William Thomas Brookes, were in fact second cousins, in that they had a great-grandfather in common. William Brookes, of Farewell, had moved to Chasetown to become a coal miner.

Mrs Brookes had a daughter, Glenys, who was gorgeous. She had long, wavy, blonde hair, and always seemed to know when my hand was just about to shove the newspaper through their door. Then she would open it, with a lovely smile, and say “Oh! What a surprise! I was just going out to the toilet. You may as well come in for a cup of tea now.” This became my only ‘watering hole’ stop on the round, and subsequently Glenys became my first girlfriend, still unaware that she was my third cousin. Subsequently our families became great friends.

Approaching 15 years of age and the end of my school days, I knew my time as a paper boy was coming to an end, so I turned the round over to my brother Peter. When I left, Mr Davies told me I was the best and most reliable boy he had ever had and he wished me luck. With a sly wink, as he shook my hand he surreptitiously pushed a £5 bonus into it. Mr Davies was renowned for being particularly tight-fisted with his money, so I felt highly honoured to have received this terminal bonus. In view of his furtive action, he obviously did not want anyone else to be made aware of his uncharacteristic generosity!

Sexist or what? - by Anne Ormerod

It seems that in 19th century America not everyone was happy with the idea of women being appointed as census-takers. The following rather sarcastic piece appeared in The Ashton Reporter, dated 8th May 1880:

In many parts of America women will be appointed as census enumerators, with the probable result something like this:

Neatly dressed woman of an uncertain age, with big book under her arm and pen in hand, rings the door bell. Young lady appears at the door.

Census enumerator: “Good morning. Lovely morning. I’m taking the census. You were born ...?”

Young lady: “Yes ‘m.”

Census enumerator: “Your name. please. What a pretty dust cap you have on. Can I get the pattern? It’s just like the one the lady in the next house has. Let’s see ... your name?”

“I haven’t the pattern. Don’t you get awful tired walking round taking the census?”

“Oh, yes, it’s wearisome, but I pick up a lot of information. How nice your dinner smells cooking. Plum pudding?”

“No, I haven’t plum pudding today. I’m looking for a new recipe – “

“I’ve got one that I took down from a lady’s cook book across the way. Are you married?”

“No. Want an invitation to the wedding, don’t you? It will be a long time before you get it. You can keep your plum pudding recipe, thank you.”

“I should think it would be some time. Have you chil- oh, of course, I forgot. This hall carpet is just the pattern of Aunt Prudy’s. She had it more than twenty years. How many are there in the family?”

“If this hall carpet don’t suit you, you can get off from it and go about your censusing.”

“Well, you’re an impudent jade, anyhow. You haven’t told me when you were born, or what’s your name, or when you expect to get married, and there’s ten dollars fine for not answering census-takers’ questions, and if I was you, I wouldn’t be seen at the door in such a slouchy morning dress, so there.”

“Oh, you hateful thing. I’ll pay $10 just to get rid of you, and smile doing it. It’s none of your business, nor the census either. No, it isn’t. You can keep your pattern, and your pudding, and your saucy, impudent questions to yourself.”

“Good morning, I must be getting on. I haven’t done but three families all the forenoon.”

And an energetic bang of the door just missed catching a foot of her trailing dress skirts…

It is not recorded whether the author of this piece was later lynched by local feminists, but we wouldn’t have been surprised!


Beware of Old Wives’ Tales

(They may be true!) - by Mike Jennings

Extracts from my research have been published in this journal before, in July 1997, April 2002 and November 2003, and I have also given a talk on the subject to the group. On those occasions there were still questions remaining to be solved, but this time I can reveal to you the final twist.

I have now probably answered all the questions that resulted from a meeting with my mother’s cousin Phyllis in 1990, which resulted from my response to an advertisement about the Arnold family in the Hereford Times. These questions mainly concerned the origins of the family, my great-great-grandfather in the Army, a duel that he was supposed to have had, and an unusual family Christian name.

Phyllis had some information about the family already and was able to add many stories of her own, most of which I had never heard before because my mother’s side of the family had lost touch following a family rift over a will. Phyllis knew that her grandfather was named Thomas Eyre Blosset and was a policeman in Herefordshire in the 1850s. She also told me that Thomas’s father, John Blosset, was an officer in the British Army in the early 1800s. He was supposed to have married a Spanish girl whom he met at sea while returning to England, and was also said to have taken part in a duel. Phyllis also mentioned an unusual Christian name – ‘Devirazelle’ – which had often been used in the family.

My mother had very little knowledge about these stories, and died shortly after the meeting. The rest of the family knew nothing at all about them.

Over the following fourteen years I managed to trace the great-grandfather, who had been a Superintendent of Police in various parts of Herefordshire. He had retired in 1875 and moved to Nelson, South Wales, where he died in 1882. I also managed to trace his father, John Blosset, who was an officer in the British Army for 26 years (1795-1821). This period included his marriage, on 17th September 1805, to Elizabeth Aston, a Gibralterian girl. Further research has revealed that she must have been only 14¾ years old at the time, as she was born in 1791! This is probably the source of the Spanish story.

By chance, in 2000, I wrote to someone with the surname Blosset whose address I had found in the Hereford telephone directory. I received no reply for four years, then had a telephone call from the gentleman’s daughter. She apologised for the delay but said that her father had died shortly after my letter had arrived, so it had been overlooked. Now, however, they would like to meet me.

From this meeting I learned that she had an uncle who had completed a family tree, which had been passed to the Society of Genealogists after his death. I have now been able to see this tree, and have also met his friend who donated it to the SOG. The uncle’s research shows that the Blosset family were Huguenots who originated in Normandy. During the religious persecutions in France during the Middle Ages, they had moved further east and finally settled in the Grenoble area of eastern France. Many of them were soldiers, both in this era and later on. During the 17th century they were forced to flee from persecution again, travelling via Holland and Germany to the Dublin area of Ireland. Some of the family subsequently moved to London.

In Ireland, they helped William of Orange and Queen Anne with their campaigns and married within the French community. It was here that the Devirazelle name appeared, as it was the surname of Jeanne-Maria de Cramahe’s mother’s family. Jeanne-Maria married John’s grandfather, Soloman Blosset, in 1722. It transpired that John was probably born in Dublin in 1778, and was the Officer-in-Charge of the British Expeditionary Force to Venezuela and Columbia in 1821. He was killed while fighting a duel in South America, and my research has revealed that he had been involved with other duels prior to his death.

The research held by the SOG also traces the family name Blosset back to 900 AD Normandy, although the precise connection at about 1560 has not yet been worked out.

Sadly, after I had managed to uncover all of this information, in 2004 Phyllis died in Essex aged 97 years. She had always been thrilled to hear the latest instalment, and was delighted to see me whenever I could visit her. Her family have stayed in touch.

Finally, without any previous contact, I received a surprise telephone call last year from a person who turned out to be yet another distant relative. He had found my previous article on the Blosset family on the BFHG website. His research revealed other Blosset connections, as well as confirming mine. One such marriage was into the family of Tyrone Power, Hollywood film actor.

So, from a chance response to a newspaper advert has emerged a family tree which has proved that Old Wives’ Tales can sometimes contain a great deal of truth.

Simplified Blosset family tree


Antoine de Blossett

m. France

Anne de Chypre


Guillaume de Blossett

m. France



Paoul de Blossett

m. France

1645 Buissard

Olympe de Jougay


Brigadier General


Soloman de Blossett de Loche

m. France

St Baudile et Pipet

Catherine de Hodes de Bougot

Army Captain


Soloman Blosset

m. Dublin


Jeanne-Maria de Cramahe


John             "

m. Minorca 1750

Mary Montgomery

Army Major


John             "

m. Gibraltar 1805

Kings Chapel

Elizabeth Ashton

Superintendent of Police


Thomas Eyre Blosset

m. London 1836

St Mary’s Lambeth

Eliza Nichols


Bessie Louisa Emmeline     "

m. Kington 1871


Charles Arnold


The Federation of Family History Societies
by Maggie Loughran, FFHS Administrator (our guest speaker in January)

The Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) is an international organisation based in the United Kingdom. It has a worldwide membership of 200 societies representing a total membership of about 250,000. Membership is open to any society or organization specialising in genealogy or a related discipline. Members include organisations in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and USA, plus specialist and one-name societies.

The Federation was established in 1975. Its principal aims are to coordinate and assist the work of societies or other bodies interested in genealogy and heraldry; and to foster the spirit of mutual cooperation by sponsoring projects in these areas. The FFHS is at the forefront in discussions with government bodies concerning records and record-keeping related to genealogical sources.

It strives to initiate, coordinate and support national projects, enabling the work of its members and others to be integrated, published and publicised. These have included the transcription and indexing of censuses, parish registers (especially marriages), and monumental inscriptions and War Memorials. One of the latest ongoing projects is the National Burial Index for England and Wales (NBI).

FamilyHistoyOnline (www.familyhistoryonline.net) is the latest development from the Federation.  This website presently contains over 60 million records enabling access to genealogical data for England and Wales on a pay-per-view basis, including indexes (plus further details) for: baptisms, marriages, burials; monumental inscriptions; census returns; and other records of relevance to genealogical research. Searching the index is free; you only pay to view the entry of your choice, either by a pre-payment voucher  (£5 or £10), from  the FamilyHistoryBooks.co.uk website or by ‘virtual voucher’ (credit card) online. Vouchers last six months. Almost all the net receipts from accessing the information is paid to the organisation providing the database concerned.

To encourage high standards amongst its member societies, and to help educate and encourage the younger generation, the FFHS presents two prestigious awards each year, which are presented at the FFHS GM in September:

Ø The Elizabeth Simpson Award for the best overall journal

Ø The FFHS Web Award for the best website

The FFHS has a separate Publishing Company, Federation of Family History Societies (Publications) Limited, which commissions and publishes its own books, CDs and other research materials.  Its catalogue includes these plus those of other publishers, including over 100 family history societies and other organisations.

The Federation supports half-yearly family history conferences, usually hosted by one of its member societies.  The next is 1-5 September 2006 and is organised by Bedfordshire FHS & Northamptonshire FHS.

To find out more about the FFHS’s activities you can subscribe to the FFHS-NEWS mailing list by sending an email (any subject, no body text needed) to ffhs-news-subscribe@maillist.ox.ac.uk. You will receive a message to which you must reply to confirm your subscription.

With its international network of member societies and its reputation as the voice of authority in British Isles genealogy and record keeping the Federation of Family History Societies is the leading organisation of its kind.

The Federation’s website, at www.ffhs.org.uk, includes a wealth of information if you are looking for a family history society in a specific area, one covering a specific name, a professional researcher to help you or to access a series of online information leaflets. This and further information is also available from the Federation’s Administrator: Maggie Loughran, PO Box 2425, Coventry CV5 6YX, UK; email info@ffhs.org.uk