Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2007 02 Volume 15 Number 2
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
February 2007     
     Vol. 15 No. 2
  Contents of this issue.
From the Chair
News from the Secretary
Amusing Gravestone Inscriptions
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks
Grandma and the Family Tree
Slogans for Genealogists
1911 and All That!
Information Wanted
A Genealogy Wish List
Jessie’s Story (Part 1)
Our Founding Members
Form the Chair

Dear Friends, As you will already know, we have been trying to arrange a visit to the National Archives at Kew sometime during 2007, and some of you have already shown interest in coming along. However, it is far from straightforward and we are encountering difficulties each step of the way.

The committee members involved with organising the visit have been working to make the arrangements and I felt it was time to explain to you the problems we are encountering. For many years we booked trips with Chase Coaches, who quoted us the most competitive price as well as making an informal arrangement which we could cancel without obligation at virtually the last minute. When we heard that they had been taken over by a bigger company, we guessed that booking requirements would be more formal. Jenny Lee has approached several companies to find the cheapest quote and, having done that, was asked to send a non-returnable deposit of £50.00 with the booking form. This is standard practice and not negotiable, but the committee felt that we could not afford to risk losing that amount of money.

The situation regarding a visit to TNA is also anything but straightforward. We chose a Saturday in June as our day of preference, but immediately discovered that Saturdays were heavily booked up until 18th August. Despite it being so far ahead, we booked for the group and also for the coach bay (believe it or believe it not there is only parking for one coach at TNA!). Weekdays are less fraught, but of course many of our members and their friends are working people, so a lot of potential travellers would be ruled out, limiting the likelihood of us getting enough people to meet the cost of the coach.

One way of filling the coach would be to approach members of other local organisations who may be interested in coming along to visit Kew Gardens. The two places are very close, so this would not lengthen the journey time. I have spoken to the chairmen of the Burntwood Heritage Group and the gardening guilds of Burntwood, Hammerwich and Lichfield. Unfortunately their members did not feel able to commit themselves to something happening as far ahead as August, and I do not blame them. However, this leaves us with a problem. Do we risk losing £50.00 and go ahead with the booking, or give up the idea altogether?

I have chosen to use this letter to show you that we are mindful of the requests of members for a trip to TNA and we will be very sorry if we have to call it off, but at least now you will understand the problems that we have encountered. Goodness knows how they will cope at Kew with the extra strain that will be imposed on them if the Family Record Centre does close and people have to travel there to make use of the GRO records of births, marriages and deaths, as well as the census records etc! However, as soon as we have made a decision about the trip, we will inform you.

As I write this, I am looking forward to the first meeting of 2007 and hope you will enjoy listening to the speakers I have booked for you. You can pick up a card listing the names and subjects from the desk on meeting nights for a small cost of 10p, which is to cover the cost of printing (or, of course, they are listed on the back of this Journal and also on our website).

I would like to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and of course success with your research. Jane Leake

Church Newsletters

By popular request of no less than one persons, here’s another couple of genuine cringeworthy moments from church newsletters and bulletins!
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict
Don’t let worry kill you – let the church help

News from the Secretary

The first quarter of our 2006-7 year has seen the group’s membership stabilised at almost the same level as in the previous year. There have been a number of new members who have joined the group since August 2006, but also a similar number who have allowed their membership to lapse. This has been the pattern for a few years now, but usually there has been a small overall increase in membership through the year. Our recruitment of new members comes through several sources: the group website, our ‘surgeries’ at Lichfield Library and courses run by Pam Woodburn at the Mining College Centre.

However, I wonder how much longer we can expect to maintain this level of membership under the pressure that membership of a local group finds itself in when so much information is being made available on the Internet and on CD‑ROMs for use on PCs. Although we have a regular meeting on the fourth Thursday of each month for members to do their own research, with laptop computers, fiche readers and library books to help them, we cannot offer connection to the Internet at our meetings at present. The Committee is looking into the possibility of obtaining a wireless broadband router, which will perhaps solve the problem. However, we must accept the fact that the days when membership of a family history society or group was almost essential to the process of researching one’s ancestors are probably long gone.

One of the side-effects of the expansion of digital communications via the Internet has been the difficulty experienced by the Committee in arranging successful coach trips to London. Although we still endeavour to provide at least one a year, even this is becoming more and more difficult to achieve, as the cost of coach hire rises and demand for such trips falls. We now need to guarantee 35 people on a 49-seat coach at £13.00 per person and the coach companies demand a cash deposit at the time of booking – which is several months ahead of the departure date. If insufficient bookings are made, the group is then faced with the possibility of losing the deposit or losing money on the trip, should insufficient demand materialise or people withdraw after the booking has been made.

One aspect of our coach trips has always been the ability to specify where we want to go. Twenty years ago, all the London research centres were close together in Central London, which meant that a trip could serve people requiring BMD, census or wills information, as well as those who just wanted to shop in London or see the sights. The situation now is that the National Archives is concentrating everything at Kew and, while this is a good thing in some ways, it does make it more difficult to get sufficient numbers for the coach trips. Watch out for news of the next trip, which we are planning to organise later in the year so that people who are interested in other attractions in the same area of London as the National Archives will be catered for. It will, however, be necessary for non-returnable deposits to be paid at the time of booking and there will be a minimum requirement of numbers before the coach can be booked at all. It is also likely that the cost of the trip will be slightly higher than it has been in the past

New membership database

This is now completely up to date. The value of the revised method of renewing and applying for membership of the group has resulted in a lot of information being updated and, for next year, there will probably be some slight amendments to the wording now that we have achieved the initial objects of the revision. Our Treasurer has been looking at the implications of insurance liabilities (we have policies with the Federation of Family History Societies) when people are at our meetings or taking part in our activities. It seems as though it will be necessary for renewal of membership to be effected before the expiry of the previous year’s subscription, in order to be covered by our policy. In practical terms, this will mean that all members will have to renew before or on the night of the first meeting in August, and also that we have to look carefully at the position of visitors to our meetings. It may be that visitors will have to be made temporary members for each attendance and signing the attendance book (with its charge of £1) will be essential. How we ever managed to do all the things we have done over the past years without all this ‘red tape’ is beyond me, but it seems as though the current trend in society of needing to ‘blame’ someone for everything that might happen to one is at the root of these irksome rules and regulations.

Just a reminder – if you change your name (e.g. marry), your address (move house), your postcode (it happened locally a year or two ago for some people), your landline or mobile telephone number (change company) or your email address (get broadband, change your ISP, etc.), please notify the Hon. Secretary (that’s me for the time being) so that the database can be amended

New Members’ Interests list

You should receive your copy with this Journal. Because it has been prepared on the basis of information given on the membership renewal/application form, it should contain the information submitted by you on that form. Unfortunately, some members did not correctly follow the directions on the form and left the bottom section (Surname Interests) completely blank, even though it was quite clearly stated that only information given there would be included in the new list when it was published. If you find that your names are not included, it is most likely for this reason. A supplementary list can, if necessary, be published later this year and you can submit names for inclusion therein to me at any time. Now that a fresh start has been made on the database of members’ interests, it will be revised as required each year and each revision will contain only those names submitted by currently subscribed members at the date of compilation (around the end of October). You will also see in the Journal, from time to time, a list of new members and their surname interests; this information will be incorporated into the supplementary list when it is published and into the revised new list for 2008, provided the submitters are paid-up members at the time of compilation

Membership cards

In the October Journal, I mentioned the possibility of membership cards with the name and number on them being sent to everyone. You will notice that yours has been enclosed with this Journal, and it would be appreciated if you would either carry the card with you or remember the number when attending meetings or requesting the Group’s services (library, fiche reader, fiches, CD‑ROM, etc.)

Help wanted

One of our longstanding out-of-town members, Evelyn Bloor, has said that she would be pleased for any member of the group to write to her if they have anything of interest to tell her about various branches of her ancestry in the South Staffordshire area. You will find all the names she is interested in listed in the Members’ Interests list which accompanies this Journal, as well as her home address in the glorious county of Devon

The name Derry occurs frequently in our members’ interests and we have had a number of Derrys as members over the years. Although I am not a native of the Chase myself, I am personally acquainted with two Derry families. Our member Ray Derry has an extensive database of people of that name worldwide and would be pleased to have contact with anyone with Derry connections

Journal format

We would welcome comments from the membership on the style and presentation of the quarterly journal as modified from Volume 15 No 1. The new cover has a new picture for each issue and is in colour, printed on card and is based on the Special Anniversary Edition. Articles for publication submitted by members are always welcome and can be as long as you wish, though the editors reserve the right to split long articles over several issues if necessary. You do not need to worry about the literary quality, as Brian and Jan always tidy things up before publication. It is the factual content which is important, not the spelling and grammar.
It has been suggested that, in the contemporary digital age, some members would prefer to receive the Journal as an email or posted to them on floppy disc or CD‑ROM. We would like some feedback on this, as there is a lot of work and expense involved in producing, packaging and distributing a paper journal. If there is sufficient demand from members for one of these alternatives, we will consider the practicalities of them for the future. For those of you who have concerns for the environment and the effects of it on waste disposal, CO2 emissions etc, there are implications of such a change which may appeal to you. Cutting the amount of paper and printing ink used, and postage costs, etc, would be a small contribution that the group could make to reducing environmental damage. Geoff. Sorrell, Honorary Secretary

Amusing Gravestone Inscriptions

Another selection of the kind of memorable memorials that we all wish could be found in our local churchyards...

Here lies the body of Jessica Jones

Who died of eating cherry stones.

Her name was Smith; it was not Jones;

But Jones was put to rhyme with Stones.

Here lies Captain Ernest Bloomfield.

Accidentally shot by his Orderly,

March 2nd 1789.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Here lies an honest lawyer;

that is Strange.

(Epitaph of eminent 18th century

barrister Sir John Strange)

By and by, God caught his eye.

(Suggested epitaph for a waiter)

Jonathan Grober. Died dead sober.

Lord thy wonders never cease.

Stranger! Approach this spot with gravity!

John Brown is filling his last cavity.

(Epitaph for a dentist)

In joyous memory of George Jones, who was president of the Newport Rifle Club for twenty years. ‘Always missed’.

In loving memory of my beloved wife, Hester;

the mother of Edward, Richard, Mary, Penelope, John, Henry, Michael, Susan, Emily, Charlotte, Amelia, George, Hugh, Hester, Christopher and Daniel. She was a great breeder of pugs, a devoted mother and a dear friend.

(Hemel Hempstead)

Here lies the body of Emily White,

She signalled left, and then turned right.


Reviews of Monthly Talks

November 2006: David Bishop on ‘Online with your past’ - Reviewer: Jan Green
David Bishop, Wolverhampton City Archivist, provided a useful overview into resources for family and local history available on the Internet. He first described various online genealogical databases containing census, BMD and parish registry data etc, including Ancestry, FreeBMD, Family Search and Findmypast.com (formerly 1837 online). Some of these are commercially run, so a fee is payable. Inevitably the caution was offered that such databases are once-removed from the original records, so users of should be aware of the possibility of transcription errors by volunteers.

Moving on to digitised documents such as wills, photographs and military service records, David told us that normally only those records which are most interesting to look at are selected for inclusion in such databases, which would exclude documents like deeds. Downloads of documents usually cost around £3. Examples he gave of sites offering such documents were the National Archives’ Documents Online (which includes WW1 POWs, Royal Naval seamen, etc), Moving Here (immigration records from all over the world 1800-2000) and those specific to particular areas, e.g. those devoted Black Country and Wolverhampton history (including documents from archives, artefacts from art galleries and museums, etc).

His third category was catalogues and lists of records. These he described as lists of items that are not interesting enough to be downloadable on the Web, so they have simply been listed with details of the places where they are available to view. Examples of such sites are the National Register of Archives (useful to find out what has recently come into the local records office), Access 2 Archives (hosted by the National Archives) and record office websites, e.g. Staffordshire Past Track (includes catalogues, digitalised documents and photos).

David closed with a few more words of caution. Not everything we read on the Internet is true; mistakes can me made in transcribing the names of people and places, and we should beware of the ‘Chinese whispers’ syndrome. Information on genealogical databases goes through several transcripts, and inaccuracies and omissions can easily arise. Also, not everything is on the Net; it would be impossible to digitalise all the available information relating to family history.

Finally, before laying out hard-earned cash for online research, we should remember that the same materials may be available free elsewhere, so it would be wise to shop around different websites and also to check whether your local library offers free access to pay sites such as Ancestry.co.uk
December 2006: Patricia Boyd on ‘Christmas past and present’ - Reviewer: Jan Green

To preface our Christmas Social evening, Patricia Boyd presented a lively talk on Christmas customs. After briefly debunking the notions of Christ’s midwinter birthday, the existence of the Star of Bethlehem and the antiquity of our Christmas traditions (most of which originated in Victorian times), she segued into the origins of Santa Claus. Gift-givers galore sprang from the Turkish St Nicholas of 270 CE, all with long white beards and gifts for the children.

Patricia illustrated the beginnings of our modern Santa with a recitation of part of Clement C Moore’s 1823 poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’, in which he was first depicted as ‘chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf’ with eight named reindeer. She also showed us the first-ever illustration of a red-suited Santa, shown on an 1885 Christmas card issued by American printer Louis Prang.

A facsimile of the first British Christmas card, printed in 1843 by John Calcott Horsley, showed a family sitting around the table enjoying their repast. In Patricia’s view, the Victorians were not nearly as prudish as they are usually portrayed, because some early cards depicted naked elves indulging in risqué activities!

Patricia reminded us how in our own childhoods, festive decorations consisted of simple home-made paper-chains, the Christmas tree, Christmas cards, holly and sprigs of mistletoe. Home interiors were originally decorated with evergreens to enliven them during the cold winter months, and kissing under the mistletoe was an ancient tradition believed to have the power to bestow fertility. The Central European custom of having an indoor Christmas tree only caught on amongst the lower orders when illustrations began to appear in the press of the Royal Family enjoying Christmas with a large fir tree at the centre of their celebrations.

Turning to celebratory foods, she explained how in Victorian times the turkey took over from goose, swan or wild boar as the traditional Christmas meat. She amused us with a slurred recital of a humorous poem about a woman spoiling her Christmas cake as she glugged down whisky which should have gone into the mixture. On a more sober note, she reminded us that 150 years ago there were many poor people who couldn’t afford festive foods, a point which she aptly illustrated with part of George R Sims’ ‘It was Christmas Day in the Workhouse’.

Other themes included the origins of the royal speech, crackers, annual ‘craze toys’, Christmas carols, songs and pantomime. Patricia’s comprehensive talk, leavened with appropriate illustrations and sprightly recitations, left us all feeling far more appreciative of familiar Christmas traditions
Jan 2007: John Yates on ‘Getting the most out of death certificates’ - Reviewer: Jane Leake

John Yates is a genealogist who works at the Birmingham Register Office. He has spoken to us on several previous occasions and we were pleased to welcome him once again to give us a clearer understanding of death certificates. John went through the layout of the death certificate and explained the significance of each part, including some interesting facts. For instance, in the early days, a full address would not usually be given but, if the death occurred in an institution, its title would be given, e.g. ‘Workhouse’. Later, to avoid embarrassment or stigma, the address of the institution was entered but not its name.

Names may be misleading as people did not always use their baptismal name(s) or chose to change the order given on a birth certificate. A mother may have married after the birth and a stepfather’s name may have been taken. If the entry refers to a baby who has not been named, just the surname appears. The ‘Age’ column presents many pitfalls as the informant may not have been sure of the person’s age so made a guess. Also, some people lied about their age. The GRO Index only shows the age of the deceased starting from the March quarter of 1866, and children less than 1 year appear as age 0.

The ‘Rank or Profession’ column shows the occupation of a man, but a married woman is described as ‘wife of…’ and her husband’s occupation is given. In the case of a single woman, her father’s name and occupation would be given irrespective of her age. In the case of a child, the father’s name would appear, and if illegitimate the mother’s name. After 1875, the father’s name could not be written on the certificate unless he was present. Before 1875, the relationship of the informant to the deceased was not stated, but later it had to be stated, though it could be the person who found the body, the inmate of a house or institution, the person responsible for the funeral or person in charge of the body.

At first it was not necessary for a doctor to certify the cause of death, so the informant supplied it. From 1875 all deaths had to be certified by a doctor whose name and qualification are given and who must have seen the deceased within fourteen days of death. A coroner could be involved if cause of death was not clear. If a post-mortem was held, the date would be written on the certificate. There was much, much more besides this and, as usual, we had a good attendance to listen to John and everyone found it very interesting indeed

Grandma and the Family Tree

There’s been a change in Grandma, we’ve noticed of her late.
She’s always reading history or jotting down some date.
She’s tracking back her family, you all have pedigrees.
Oh, Grandma’s got a hobby: she’s climbing FAMILY TREES.
Poor Grandpa does the cooking, and now, or so he states,
That worst of all, he has to wash the cups and all the plates.
Grandma can’t be bothered, she’s busy as a bee,
Compiling genealogy for the FAMILY TREE.
She has no time to baby-sit, the curtains are a fright,
No buttons left on Grandpa’s shirt, the flower bed’s a sight.
She’s given up her club work and the soaps on TV.
The only thing she does nowadays is climb the FAMILY TREE.
Now some folks come from Scotland, some from Galway Bay,
Some were French as pastry, some German all the way,
Some went west to stake their claims while some stayed by the sea.
Grandma hopes to find them all, as she climbs the FAMILY TREE.
She wanders through the graveyard in search of date and name,
The rich, the poor, the in-between, all sleeping there the same.
She pauses now and then to rest, fanned by a gentle breeze
That blows above the fathers of all our FAMILY TREES.
There are pioneers and patriots mixed in our kith and kin,
Who blazed the path of wilderness and fought through thick and thin,
But none more staunch than Grandma, whose eyes light up with glee
Each time she finds a missing branch for the FAMILY TREE.
Their skills were wide and varied, from carpenter to cook,
And one, alas, the records show was hopelessly a crook.
Blacksmith, weaver, farmer, judge; some tutored for a fee.
Once lost in time, now all recorded on the FAMILY TREE.
To some it’s just a hobby, to Grandma it’s much more,
She learns the joys and heartaches of those that went before.
They loved, they lost, they laughed, they wept and now, for you and me,
They live again in spirit, around the FAMILY TREE.
At last she’s nearly finished and we are all exposed.
Life will be the same again, this we all supposed.
Grandma will cook and sew, serve biscuits with our tea,
We’ll all be fat, just as before the wretched FAMILY TREE.
Sad to relate, the vicar called and visited for a spell.
We talked about the Gospel, and other things as well.
The heathen fold, the poor and then ’twas fate, it had to be.
The conversations turned to Grandma and the FAMILY TREE.
He never knew his Grandpa, his mother’s name was Clark.
He and Grandma talked and talked, while outside it grew dark.
We’d hoped our fears were groundless, but just like some disease,
Grandma’s become an addict; she’s hooked on FAMILY TREES.
Our souls are filled with sorrow, our hearts sad with dismay,
Our ears could scarce believe the words we heard our Grandma say:
“It surely is a lucky thing that you have come to me.
I know exactly how it’s done – I’ll climb your FAMILY TREE!
Anon (submitted by Jenny Lee)

Slogans for Genealogists

If you’re looking for a slogan or motto to hang above your desk while you’re working on your family research, here are a few suggestions you might consider:
CAUTION!....You have now entered the Genealogy Zone
I’m not stuck, I’m ancestrally challenged
A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots
Only a genealogist regards a step backwards as progress
That’s strange: half my ancestors are women!
Genealogists live in the past lane
The problem with the gene pool is there are no lifeguards
Genealogists never die – they just lose their roots.

1911 and all that!

It’s a new year and, for genealogists, that means one year closer to the much-awaited release into the public domain of the 1911 census. Government policy prohibits the general release of census information until 100 years have elapsed, but it is now clear that the Freedom of Information Act 2000 empowers individuals to request some of the information from the National Archives (TNA), who hold the census. Here, Geoff Riggs, chairman of the Federation of Family History Societies, explains what this means to us.

Earlier release of 1911 census data - by Geoff Riggs

The Information Commissioner recently upheld an appeal from a complainant who requested information from the National Archives relating to the 1911 census schedules. In that particular case, the Commissioner decided that TNA wrongly claimed exemption under section 41 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 in relation to the requested information. He therefore upheld the complaint and required TNA to disclose the requested information to the complainant.

Unfortunately, the Commissioner stressed that this decision had to be confined to the circumstances relating to the information requested in this case, and cannot be a decision that the entirety of the 1911 census must now be disclosed. Nor does it create any precedent for any other requests for specific information within the 1911 or other census schedules to automatically succeed; each request will need to be treated separately on its merits.

In particular, the 1921 and subsequent censuses are not held by TNA but remain in the custody of the Office for National Statistics, and these were also conducted under the 1920 Census Act, which is still in force and which contains a statutory prohibition on disclosure. If any requests are made for the 1921 census, Section 44 of the FOI Act will be invoked to maintain census confidentiality.

In response to the Information Commissioner’s decision, TNA are launching a service enabling them to deal with individual requests for some information in the 1911 census. This is planned to be made available from 17th January 2007. However, please note the following:

As there is no name index, requests can only be accepted in relation to specific addresses (number/name of house, street, place, county, etc). Requests must be in writing, preferably using the web-based form on TNA’s website – applications cannot be made in person at Kew or by phone.
TNA cannot provide personally sensitive information from the 1911 census, in view of the Data Protection Act. The information will be provided through TNA’s existing Paid Research service, and will be charged – currently £45.00 per address search; The fee is for the cost of carrying out the research work and TNA will not be able to offer refunds on unsuccessful searches.

The far more exciting news that was also released at the same time is that the decision effectively clarifies how the various legislation applies to the 1911 census, and so TNA have advised us they are now able to fast-track the significant plans they have already made to digitise the 1911 census! Before the decision was made, the legislation had been interpreted as preventing TNA from releasing any of the information before 2012.

Instead, they hope to start to offer an online service from early 2009 onwards for the 1911 census, searchable across most fields and enabling researchers to search and download digital scans of images. As with the 1901 census, the online service will be both address and name searchable, and will offer a much cheaper and speedier access to the information than the planned Paid Research service described above.

TNA also advised us that certain key ‘sensitive’ information (a handicap such as mental incapacity, for example) will still have to be withheld until 2012 because of the Data Protection Act. We will continue our dialogue with TNA, through our regular liaison meetings and representation on their User Advisory Panels, to ensure this restriction will only be applied where it is absolutely necessary, so that researchers can access as much information as possible.

It seems some 5% of the 1911 census documentation has suffered water damage, and may be wholly or partly illegible, and that the documentation for one Piece Number is known to be missing completely. Nevertheless, we will all welcome the opportunity to research this information as soon as it will become available.

What TNA says - An extract from the actual press release issued by the National Archives.

The Government is concerned that it should maintain its long-standing commitment to keeping census records closed for 100 years following their creation, on the grounds that this closure period strikes an appropriate balance between the right of census respondents to have information they provide kept confidential, and the access interests of family historians. Information collected during 1921 and in later censuses will be treated in line with this commitment.

The 1911 Census is a huge document; only one copy exists, on paper, in the handwriting of those who completed the census. The National Archives has already made significant plans to digitise the 1911 census for the first working day of 2012 and, as a result of the Information Commissioner’s decision, the National Archives is seeking to fast-track this process. A partner will be selected, and the contract awarded in the spring 2007, to develop an online census that is searchable by address and name. This process is not quick, as the whole census needs to be digitised, and searchable indices created.

The National Archives hopes to start to offer a searchable service in early 2009, with key sensitive information withheld until 2012. This service will enable most researchers to find the information that they want, through a simple search.

The National Archives recognises that the Information Commissioner’s decision means it needs to respond to requests that arrive before 2009. As the 1911 census is currently only on paper, searching it is not simple, so The National Archives has to limit searches to those where the address of the individual is known. (The 1911 census does not have a name index.) Researchers using this service will currently be charged a non-refundable research fee of £45.00 that will cover the costs of each search. For more information on the 1911 Census FOI research service please visit: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/1911census

Information Wanted
Sue Reeves (membership no. 366) is interested in any information about Ada VE Parkes, who was born in Bilston and was a school mistress at Chase Terrace School from 1901 to the 1920s. Sue is the daughter of Eric Evans, whose writings about Chase Terrace appear in this edition of the Journal. If you can help, contact Sue direct (address is in the Member’s Interests List), or contact Geoff Sorrell (01543 684 340 or email gassor@ukonline.co.uk) and he will pass on your information to Sue

The Nation’s Memory Bank

During the Christmas period, the Daily Telegraph ran a feature which consisted of a questionnaire on family history and requested people to send in stories relating to their own. You can download the questionnaire and get further details from www.telegraph.co.uk/familyhistory  The Telegraph has a weekly article in its ‘Weekend’ supplement which reveals details of the ancestry of well known people

A Genealogy Wish List

The following gem by Barbara A. Brown was originally posted in 1994 to the National Genealogical Conference, FIDO bulletin board forum.

A) I want ancestors with names like Rudimentary Montagnard or Melchizenick von Steubenhoffmannschild or Spetznatz Giafortoni, not William Brown or John Hunter or Mary Abbott.

B) I want ancestors who could read and write, had their children baptised in recognised houses of worship, went to school, purchased land, left detailed wills (naming a huge extended family as legatees), had their photographs taken once a year – subsequently putting said pictures in elaborate frames annotated with calligraphic inscriptions, and carved valuable and informative inscriptions in their headstones.

C) I want relatives who managed to bury their ancestors in established, still-extant (and indexed) cemeteries.

D) I want family members who wrote memoirs, who enlisted in the military as officers and who served in strategically important (and well-documented) conflicts.

E) I want relatives who served as councillors, school teachers, county clerks and local historians.

F) I want relatives who ‘religiously’ wrote in the family Bible, journalising every little event and detailing the familial relationship of every visitor.

G) In the case of immigrant ancestors, I want them to have arrived only in those years wherein passenger lists were indexed by the National Archives, and I want them to have applied for citizenship, and to have done so only in those areas which have since established indices.

H) I want relatives who were clubby, who joined every patrimonial society they could find, who kept diaries, and listed all their addresses, who had paintings made of their houses, and who dated every piece of paper they touched.

I) I want ancestors who were wealthy enough to afford, and to keep for generations, the family home, and who left all the aforementioned pictures and diaries and journals intact in the library.

J) But most of all: I want relatives I can FIND!!!!!

Jessie’s Story: 1887-1959 - by Eric Evans - Part One

Sometimes, as I sit and think about the times when I was a child growing up in the 1930s and how the world has changed during the last 75 years, I think about my mother’s childhood, the stories that she told me when she was a young girl and the changes that she lived through in her lifetime.

My mother was already 40 years old when I was born and, although I had all the love and care that anyone could wish for, I think that our relationship was special and that in some ways she was more like a grandmother. She confided to me memories of her life as a girl, perhaps with the hope that they would not be forgotten and that someday they might be passed on to her grandchildren. It was later in my life that I learned more about her family and how they came to be living in Brownhills.

My grandfather, Edward Chapman, was born in 1845 and worked as a coal miner in the village of Pontesbury, in Shropshire. In about 1868 he moved to Brownhills in Staffordshire with his wife Martha, her parents John and Ann Wigley, the rest of their family and eldest daughter Alice, to find work in the mines in the Cannock area, where the coalfields were just being developed. Here there were more opportunities to find employment, with better conditions, and many other families were moving from Shropshire at that time to find work.

Jessie was born at Hednesford Rd, Brownhills West, on November 6th, 1886, and this was where she spent her childhood. The family had prospered, and Edward had bought land which he and his family worked as a small farm. He also kept his job at Norton Green Colliery and started a small business transporting the miners to work at the coal mine. This was a success, and it was this job that Jessie did during her teenage years, driving the wagon loaded with men to and from work. Later this business was extended to meeting commercial travellers from the railway station and ferrying them out to the shops in the local villages in a pony and trap, to collect orders for their goods.

My mother told me many stories about her experiences as a girl living in the late 1800s, when many of the things which we now take for granted were not even thought about. Things like telephones, electric lights and power and motor cars were all in the future, and the pace of life was slower but in many respects harder, as so much of the work had to be done by hand and was thus more time-consuming.

Jessie was the youngest but three of a family of five girls and three boys with ages ranging over 26 years, the eldest child being born in Shropshire and the other seven at Brownhills. Jessie was born in 1887, and having three older brothers probably gave her a more liberated outlook on life than most young women of that time. She attended the local school at Watling Street, the Roman Road which runs from London to Holyhead (now the A5). It was along this road, coming home from school one day, that she encountered her first motor car. She had heard about them, but seeing one for the first time was something that she never forgot. She was so scared that she backed away from it and fell into a ditch by the roadside.

She used to tell me about how they baked bread twice a week and brewed beer every fortnight, with a lighter brew for the children to drink. The brewing and washing of clothes was done in the outhouse at the back of the house, where there was a large copper boiler heated by a fire underneath it. This had to be lit early in the morning to get the water hot enough to use. Each day all the oil lamps had to be filled and the wicks trimmed, ready for use in the evening. The cooking was done on an open fire with a small oven at the side, and the kettles and pots hung from hooks over the fire or sat on the hot coals.

They kept pigs and cured their own bacon. They also kept a cow for milking and, with chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and horses also to be looked after, there was plenty of work for everyone to do. There was a large garden which provided them with most of the vegetables they needed throughout the year. Shopping was done in Brownhills, and the shopping list would include candles, lamp oil, corn for the animals and yeast for the bread. Flour was bought by the stone in linen sacks. Salt came in large blocks and had to be crushed before it could be used.

In the Autumn, canal boats from the Vale of Evesham would arrive in the canal basin at Anglesey Wharf, loaded with plums, damsons, apples, pears and other fruit and vegetables. Housewives would arrive with their baskets, stocking up with fruit for preserving and jam-making and also storing for the winter. It was here that Jessie saw her first tomatoes; she said that people called them new fruit. I don’t suppose that many of the older people had seen them before, either.

Edward and his elder sons would go out shooting in the fields and bring home pigeons and rabbits for the pot, so everyone ate well. When Jessie was old enough, she also had a gun and would join the boys when they went out shooting. She described how they searched for ducks and other water birds in the reeds along the edge of what is now called Chasewater, but which was then known as Norton Pool. She talked about how they used to fill their own cartridges for the guns on the kitchen table, with small brass scales used for weighing powder and shot, as different amounts were necessary depending on what they were going out to shoot. For rabbits you needed heavier shot than when shooting pigeons or partridge, and the amount of powder required depended on what size shot was used. First the cap was put into the cartridge case, then the powder was poured in, then wadding was put in and packed down tight. Next the shot was put in and then more wadding. packed tight. Finally, the waxed cardboard end cap was put in the end which was then crimped all round to secure the contents.

How she remembered all this I don’t know, but she did, and she could even remember where they bought the powder and shot from. What the present-day health and safety inspectors would think about this practice heaven only knows, but I don’t think they would approve of it!

Throughout the year there would be special events to look forward to. Easter was always special, involving attendance at services at the chapel and having friends and relatives to stay. Harvest Festival was another happy time when people got together, filling the chapel with flowers and the season’s produce. After the service there would be a harvest supper to finish off the celebration. There were also Sunday school picnics during the summer to look forward to. The children, all dressed up in their best clothes, would be taken to a local beauty spot for a day’s outing. These outings were looked forward to with great excitement by the children and, although everyone rode in open carts, seated on hard wooden benches, everyone enjoyed the trips.

Jessie told me once of an exciting incident on one such outing. They were returning from one of these picnics when they met a coach coming the other way. It had four horses and people were riding on the top as well as inside. They were in a narrow lane, with high banks on each side and not enough room for two vehicles to pass, and neither driver would give way; the driver of the cart arguing that there was a second cart following behind, and the coach driver complaining that he had four horses to back up. After some argument, the coach driver climbed down off the driving seat and walked away back up the lane, leaving the coach, horses and passengers behind. Finally, some men from the coach uncoupled the horses and pushed the coach back along the lane until it was wide enough to pass. They then led the horses off the road to allow the carts to proceed, amid much waving and shouting from the jubilant children, who sang all the way home. Jessie said that as they travelled along they looked out for the driver of the coach, but could not see him anywhere.

The happiest times that she could recall were those spent visiting relatives in Pontesbury, where she stayed with her grandmother at her cottage on the side of Pontesford Hill. These visits were highlights in her childhood memories. The excitement of getting ready and travelling along the road towards Shrewsbury was to be an experience which she never would forget. She could recite to me the names of every hill or village along the way, and she knew the names of the inns where they rested the horses and where they stayed each night along the way.

The cottage was built beside a little track which ran round the base of the hill on the east side, then climbed up until it almost reached the top of the lower end of the ridge. The view was splendid, overlooking woods and fields, scattered farms and cottages with smoke rising from the chimneys. Early in the morning it was magical – just like a fairy tale, she would say. The water came from a spring which emerged from the side of the hill behind the cottage and flowed into a little stream that ran out across the track and off down the hill. The garden was filled with gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, vegetables and wild flowers. There was a donkey in the paddock at the back of the cottage which was used to carry supplies up from the village. Jessie would ride in a basket on the side of the donkey whenever they went down to the shop.

The upstairs of the cottage was reached by a stone staircase on the outside of the building, and having to go outside to go to bed was something which always amused Jessie. The inside of the cottage was lit with oil lamps and candles. The cooking was done on an open fire, but there was a small bread oven in the room at the back where the baking was done. All the goods which were needed from the village were brought up on the back of the donkey, which was kept in a field near the cottage, and the children used to feed it and play with it whenever they could. It was well known in the village and, when loaded up with shopping, it would find its own way back up the hill to the cottage.

As time went by and the children grew older, when the older members of the family were too busy and had other interests to occupy them, the visits to Pontesbury became less frequent and the length of time between them longer and longer. The last official record of grandmother Elizabeth Chapman living at the cottage was in the 1891 census. She was then 83 years old and living with William Parry, her widowed son-in-law and various grandchildren. Jessie at this time would have been about four years old, so Grandma must have lived for quite a number of years after that for Jessie to have remembered so much about the happy times that she spent there. In the 1901 census it was reported that the cottage was unoccupied, although it is thought that other members of the Parry family may have lived there for a while at a later time.

To be continued...

Our Founding Members

On the front cover of the 20th Anniversary Special Edition of the Journal there was a photograph of six of the founder members of the group. Unfortunately this picture was not captioned, and many of our current members, especially those who are not able to attend meetings, will have very little idea of who they are and why they were chosen to appear on the cover. The photograph was taken outside the Old Mining College in Queen Street, Chasetown, where the group meets twice each month.

Starting at the back row left we have Harold Haywood, Honorary Treasurer. Harold joined the group during the first six months of its existence, has been a Committee Member for many years. On his left is Geoff Sorrell, Honorary Secretary. Geoff. was one of the 42 people who attended the first meeting of the group in 1986 and has served on the Committee since those early days, also being chairman, vice-chairman and meetings secretary at various times. Second row we have Margaret Ford, one-time honorary secretary and committee member. Margaret joined the group shortly after is formation in 1986. On Margaret’s left is our present chair, Jane Leake. Jane has done several stints as chair and is also our meetings secretary at the present time. Jane was one of the group of teachers who proposed the formation of the group and organised the inaugural meeting. The next row has Barbara Williams, a founder member and current committee member who at one time looked after the group’s microfiches and readers, and Margaret Hickman who joined very early on and has been a member continuously ever since. Bottom row are Beryl Eadon, founder member and on her left Pam Woodburn, another of the original proposers of the Group and host of the inaugural meeting in 1986. Pam has served several times as Chair of the Group, has always been on the Committee since the early days and for many years organised the Group’s coach trips. Missing from the picture is Vic Vayro, a founder member who has been the Auditor of the Group’s accounts for a number of years. Vic was away on holiday at the time the picture was taken.

These nine people all have membership numbers with only two digits and would all have had numbers below 50 if Vic had been available. Margaret Hickman is No. 92 and the only other current member with a two-digit No. is Len Owens, No. 98. Our most recently enrolled member is No. 427.