Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2008 04 Volume 16 Number 3
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
April 2008     
     Vol. 16 No. 3
  Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
The Elizabeth Simpson Award
News from the Secretary
These Old Hands
Researching My Family
Reviews of Visiting Speakers’ Talks
Bucks Family History Society Open Day
Member’s Profile – Jane Leake
Murphy’s Law in Genealogy
Look Out For Unexpected Errors
The Bowden Family
Back cover
From the Chair...

Dear Friends, In the last Journal I mentioned a change we were about to make to the Thursday meetings. I am pleased to report that the computer evening was a great success, though one or two members were disappointed not to have access to the library books and fiche.

However, we are now, hopefully, able to please everyone. As a result of the grants of £100 from Burntwood Town Council and Lichfield District Council, we are in a position to rent both the computer room and the small committee room for each Thursday meeting. We shall need the support of people with computer skills to help others to make the most of the evening, and also a couple of people to be in the small committee room, to help anyone with questions. I hope you will support us in this new venture to ensure its success.

The trip to Kew has proved to be very popular and is already sold out (early April as I write this letter). We also have quite a long list of reserves who are willing to step in, if anyone has to drop out at short notice, so please do let Jenny know, so that she can fill your seat and refund your money. Due to the popularity of the trip, we may run a second trip later in the year.

We have been invited to take part in three History Fairs already this year. The first was at Stafford High House on 23rd February, and the volunteers had a busy morning. Perhaps you would consider giving up an hour or two to help out on our stall at the next two? The first is to be at the Museum of Cannock Chase, on Saturday and Sunday 10th and 11th May, and the second at Lichfield Library, on Saturday 13th September. Details can be obtained from committee members. I hope you will join us.

Due to matters beyond our control the speaker for June, Mrs Barbara Andrew, is unable to come, but she will be with us for the October meeting. The speaker booked for that evening, Mrs Delia Wyres, has kindly agreed to give her talk in June. Luckily it was all resolved speedily and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief!

You will find a new feature in this journal – a profile of one of the committee. I cannot remember who had this idea, but you can guess who drew the short straw and has been asked to go first! We hope it will be of interest and that others will be willing to take a turn in the future!

Best wishes for a successful trip to Kew for all those travelling. I hope it will be a great day out, wherever you are planning to go. Jane Leake

The Elizabeth Simpson Award

The Elizabeth Simpson Award was first introduced in 1979 and is awarded annually to the society whose journal has made the best contribution to family history during the preceding twelve months.

Judging takes place in the first half of the year and the results will be announced at the Federation General Meeting on 30 August 2008 at the University of Essex, Colchester.

The deadline for entering your society journal for the 2008 award is 30 April 2008. Full details and an entry form are available to download from: www.ffhs.org.uk/awards/awards.php

Sponsorship for this event is being provided by Family History Monthly magazine. The winning society will receive a £100 cheque and the winning editor a year’s magazine subscription.

Maggie Loughran, Joint Administrator, Federation of Family History Societies (www.ffhs.org.uk).

News from the Secretary

Once again you will notice that your Journal is a little late, but this is mainly due to the previous issue being late and the fact that we have not had sufficient input of articles from members to fill the optimum number of pages.

We always produce four issues per annum. In order to fulfil this obligation, the first issue in any volume cannot be produced before October, due to the group’s annual subscriptions being due for renewal before the Monday meeting in August, the AGM being held on the day of the Monday meeting in September and the new Committee not meeting until mid-September.

This sets the sequence for the journal, which should be produced in October, January, April and July. In the current year, the January issue appeared in February, and consequently this issue will probably not be with you until May – leaving us with only a few short weeks to produce the July journal on time to complete Volume 16.

The editors and I know how much the journal is appreciated, particularly by our distant members who are unable to attend meetings. I would therefore appeal to everyone – including those aforementioned ‘distant members’ – to send in any contributions they can muster whenever they can. We don’t care how much surplus material we have, as we can always increase the size of the journal by four pages once there is enough to fill them. On the other hand, if we reduced the Journal by four pages, it would be a very disappointing publication and might create the criticism levelled at some newspapers the ‘it has more adverts than content’.

In this issue you may find some rather boring content submitted by me – this is the penalty for not having enough contributions from you!

Members’ Interests

All subscribed members should now have the new Members’ Interests List to hand. After some difficulties being suffered by our webmaster Alan Betts, all current interests should now be on the group website.

Since the last Journal was published, and since the Interests List was compiled, there have been a number of new members who have joined the group. Their names are listed later in this article, with details of their interests.

I believe that some copies of the Interests List had pages omitted or which were illegible. If you were unfortunate enough to receive one of those, and would like a replacement, please write me a letter or email me and I will send one to you.
My postal address is: Geoff. Sorrell, Honorary Secretary, BFHG, The Annexe, Green Lane Farm, Green Lane, Burntwood, Staffs, WS7 9HB. My email address is: gassor33@talktalk.net

This also applies if you spot any errors in your own details, but please do not send in additional names, as these can be written on the back of your subscription renewal form when you send it in July. Errors reported to me will be listed in the July Journal.

Group Activities

You may find details elsewhere in this Journal (Chairman’s Report, etc.) of the success which the group is having following the conversion of our local transcriptions into CD-ROM form, of the huge response to the coach trip to the National Archives and Kew Gardens – which has prompted the Committee to set the wheels in motion for a repeat performance later this year – and of the increasing workload on your committee and group volunteers, due to requests from various sources to run ‘surgeries’ and represent the group at family history fairs and exhibitions.

We have received grants from both Burntwood Town Council and Lichfield District Council, for which we are very grateful, and our thanks are due to the efforts of Jane Leake and Steve Bailey, in particular, in securing these grants. We are in the process of submitting an application for yet another grant which, if approved, will make it possible for us to continue to hire two rooms for our Thursday meetings for the foreseeable future. This will mean that we shall be able to make the Library available at all Thursday meetings, in a small separate room where it will be much quieter (more like a library in fact) than it tends to be in the computer suite. We held a very successful meeting in that room in February, but there was insufficient space for all the visitors, let alone the library. So if you want to find out more about using the Internet and software for storing and accessing all your family history data, come along to the Thursday meetings and see for yourself what is on offer.

New Members - Recently joined members include:

Derrick Duval (membership no. 442), 23, Dam Streeet, Lichfield, WS13 6AE. Interests: anything about ‘Duval’.

Alison Bird Starkey (443) 36, Browning Road, Loughborough, LE11 4JL. Interests: Hollingworth, Tonks, Bacon, King, Smith, Slater.

John T. Catliff (444), Hedgerow Cottage, Princess Close, Burntwood, WS7 1BP. Interests:  Catliff(e), Stockley, Ashley.

Philip & Susan Dutson (445) 52, Maxholm Road, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3SU. Interests: Farrall, French, Dutson, Mannering, White, O’Brien, Reynolds, Armstrong.
Linda Bagnelle (446), 5, Bentley Drive, Parkhill, Lowestoft, NR32 4WA. Interests: Styche, Bagnall, Bradshaw.

Angela Ellis (447), 5, Chase Road, Burntwood, WS7 0DS. Interests: Ellis, Gee, Carthy.

Gillian Stilgoe (448), 102, Hospital Road, Hammerwich, Burntwood, WS7 4SG. Interests: Morris, Eden, Sandford, Tabberner, Stilgoe.

Anthony Shaw (450), 42, Albany Drive, Rugeley, WS15 2HP. Interests: Daniel, Shaw, Plumb, Mortimer.

Geoff Sorrell

These Old Hands - by Malcolm D Wright

They used to hold a dummy that once did comfort me,

And wiped away the tears when I wanted my mummy;

They also seemed so grubby, when I came in from play,

I had to scrub them oh so hard when nanny came to stay.

They fashioned endless toys I helped daddy make for me,

And they went and lost their grip, when I fell from a tree.

They were there so trembly when, out on my first date,

I held a girl so tenderly while kissing by the gate.

Then came the time to place a ring upon my sweetheart’s hand,

Filled with pride, came down the aisle, the proudest in the land.

They held a little baby as he flickered into life,

No better present to a man from his loving wife.

No lesser too, two more babies, entrusted to their care,

To guard and guide and cherish, all their lives to share.

But now they show the rigours, with the passing of life’s sands,

And getting gnarled and wrinkled, and wearing magnet bands,

But still a greater pleasure comes with grandkids three,

Another precious moment that my life did lend to me.

But what about the future, as these fingers start to bend,

Swollen joints, severe pain, and all that age can send?

Some would say, why pick on me? please take away this hell –

I wouldn’t change a part of them, for they have served me well!

Researching my family - by John Catliff - Where do I begin?

I have only been a member of Burntwood FHS since January this year, but I have been interested in researching my family surname for some years now. Like many people, I just never seemed to find the time. Then I lost my parents and suddenly found myself the head of the family, with no other relations except a sister who probably knew less about the surname than I did.

A couple of years ago, I attended Pam Woodburn’s ancestry classes, as a taster. From then on, I think I have gone from strength to strength, although my wife would argue that it has become some sort of dementia! It does, however, keep me from under her feet now that I have retired.

I decided not to follow the maternal line as they came from Penkridge and Stone, so not really that far away. I have since found that most of them were ag. labs. and domestics, as so many people used to be.

But what did I know about my grandfather? I did not even know his Christian name or my Gran’s surname. I had, luckily, obtained my father’s birth certificate, and from that point I was able to start my sleuthing.

The only thing I knew about my grandfather was that he was a doctor; and of the family, that they were traders who travelled to India. I knew these things because they were stories that my Gran had told me.

I have been a little lucky, in that a researcher sent me a twenty-page document relating to a gentleman born in 1715, and it appears that somehow the two families came together through marriage. Armed with this document I found my great-grandfather, but not his first child, my granddad. I now have his birth certificate, so have confirmed that my information is correct and that he should indeed be there. Perhaps even the professionals can miss things?

The next three children were born in Calcutta. They must have returned home, because his wife then died in childbirth, also losing the baby. Great-grandfather must have waited a couple of months before remarrying and returning to India, where two more children were born, before returning to London, where his wife had another child.

There is so much I would like to know about this period of travel and trading. This document has also helped me follow a couple of TV directors, a top judge in Canada and his son, a football star, also the head of the Helly Hanson corporation, all of whom carry my surname.

Czar Nicholas II and his family

Another bit of luck occurred when a person from Australia contacted me for information concerning an earlier relative. To my surprise, he sent me in return several transcribed letters from Granddad’s aunt, who went to Russia as a governess to a prince and princesses, the children of the Czar. He even sent me a photo of her. She was there from 1877 to at least 1917, living through the reigns of three Emperors – Alexander II and III and Nicholas II.

My research took me to Southwell, where the family figured in the late 1700s. What a lovely place to have lived, unless you were in the Workhouse. The Minster in Southwell is breathtaking.

My grandfather married a widow in 1893 and they had a total of 11 children, some of whom died early. I have managed to find marriages in the early 1900s for these.

I am still trying to piece together what happened next. Did his wife die? How did my Gran, his second wife, appear on the scene? And did my father know about his step-siblings? He certainly didn’t talk about them.

I am trying to think back to the early 1950s. Just who was Aunty Gladys? Was she perhaps the first daughter of Granddad’s first family? The age might fit, and his wife’s first child was called Gladys. Hopefully the 1911 census may enlighten me, when it is released.

Through Genes Reunited I have managed to trace a sprightly 73-year-old relative from Granddad’s first family. Recently we had a wonderful surprise meeting, which had been set up by her daughter-in-law at the Crufts dog show. Obviously neither of us knew of the other’s existence, so the first thing she said was, “You are the image of my brother!”

Along the way I have managed to trace my Gran’s birth in Hartlebury, Worcester, after a helpful person told me she came from Cheshire.

The one thing missing from my story at the moment is a picture of my grandfather. Surely one exists somewhere?

Reviews of Visitors’ Talks - February 2008: Michael Taylor on ‘The Fact in Fiction’ - Reviewer: Brian Asbury

Michael Taylor is a writer of romantic fiction, and one question he is frequently asked is ‘Why is a bloke doing this?’ The fact is, he explained to us at the beginning of his entertaining talk, that it wasn’t what he started out to do. Admittedly, he was inspired by reading books such as Lorna Doone at school, and the Beatles’ Paperback Writer made him wonder if writing was for him, but he didn’t do anything about it until the late 1980s, when he bought a computer and decided to sit down and write what he modestly calls ‘the greatest novel in the English language’! Needless to say, over 20 publishers that he sent the book to had a different opinion of it, and he failed to sell it.

However, one publisher advised him that he might have more success if he wrote something set between 1890 and 1929, and he promptly did so. Unfortunately, he wrote all the dialogue in a Black Country accent and prospective publishers didn’t understand it. Undaunted, he re-wrote it, and also wrote a prequel about his heroine’s mother, which did get published – except that the publisher promptly went bankrupt!

A few years passed, and then, surprisingly, the first editor he had ever contacted called him and asked to see the sequel. She liked it and gave him a contract for three books! Since then, he has written a string of romantic novels set in past times – and here’s where the relevance to family history comes in, because he quickly found that he had to do an enormous amount of research in order to get historical details right, as readers will delight in pointing out even the most trivial errors.

Michael comes from the Black Country, and he said that most of his characters come from there, too – and most of them are trying to get away from the place. That has led him to research all sorts of weird and wonderful facts about the historical periods he writes in, and he has had amazing luck in finding some of the material he needed, including getting hold of plans of the Queen Mary and memoirs of a steward on that ship written in the very year he planned to write about!

He has also had to do research on the history of powered flight and the early days of the railways, and he quoted some incredible statistics, such as the fact that the Victorians built 20,000 miles of railways in just ten years between 1835-45, including all the necessary tunnels, bridges, etc. He has travelled far and wide to visit the places he puts in his books, including a trip to Bristol to find a job for one of his characters (he ended up helping to rebuild a church spire).
Some sobering facts also came to light, including the fact that in the late Victorian period, one-fifth of all women between 12 and 62 in London were prostitutes, and that in the 1890s, a man’s horse had more rights than his wife!

All in all, this was a most enjoyable talk which gave us some insights into just how much careful research can uncover.

March 2008: Mary Pochin on ‘Estate Papers and the Elusive Thomas Kington’ - Reviewer: Sheila Clarke

Mary Pochin’s painstaking detective work tracing the life of farm labourer Thomas Kington gave us ideas for discovering facts about our ancestors from humble beginnings. Her talk was extremely interesting and informative.

Thomas Kington was baptised in Bodenham, Herefordshire in 1795. His father and grandfather also bore the name Thomas. The poor accounts show that on several occasions both his mother and grandmother were in receipt of money from the parish. Surveyor’s records of 1806 show that a Thomas Kiton, (Kington) was, on two occasions, paid for labouring work on the bridge over the river Lugg, and in July 1817 was paid for ‘losing water from roads’ after floods. Which of the Thomas Kingtons did the bridge work we have no way of knowing. Children of parents who had received poor relief had, on reaching the age of ten, to be apprenticed, and this may have happened to Thomas. Kington did learn to read as was apparent later. Mary illustrated her talk with photographs of John Benbow, a wealthy and influential farmer who became a friend, and at whose farm Kington lived for a time; Bodenham and its bridge; Dynmore, where Thomas lived after his marriage; and other relevant places.

Thomas Kington became a Primitive Methodist and a lay preacher, and was described in a magazine of the time as a charismatic preacher. Around 1830, he set up the United Brethren, and between 1830 and 1840 there were up to 600 converts and over 30 preachers; churches were set up in houses in and around Herefordshire. A copy of one such licence requested by Thomas Kington and paid for by John Benbow was discovered by Mary. A preaching plan showed that the church was well organised.

In March 1840, John Benbow took an American Mormon, Wilfred Woodruff, to preach around the United Brethren churches, and people came from far and wide to be baptised into the Church of Latter Day Saints, including some preachers. What Kington thought of this we can only guess, but he may, at the very least, have been put out. Eventually he met with Woodruff and said that he would think about the message that Woodruff was preaching, and would take two weeks to consider whether or not to recommend the new church to his congregation.
He decided in favour and was baptised into the Mormon Church. Almost all of the United Brethren also joined. Using the well-organised preaching plans of the United Brethren, groups of the new Herefordshire Mormon churches were organised into conferences. Kington became the president overall. Brigham Young stayed at his home. 1800 people left Herefordshire for the United States, decimating the workforce in the county. Newspapers of the time contained innuendos against Kington and his part in the exodus, without mentioning him by name, and children in his home village sang an unpleasant song about him. Many small farms were put up for sale.

Kington himself moved to the USA via Bristol, where he bought land in the new town of Nauvoo. Unfortunately his wife died only two weeks after their arrival. He was later made bishop of a new town, Kington Fort, north of Salt Lake City. He remarried and has descendents in America.

Mary trawled through the estate papers of Hampton Court, Herefordshire, an estate bought by Richard Arkwright for his son and run with the precision and efficiency of a factory. In July 1820, a Thomas Kington was recorded as being paid for six days hay making. Was this Thomas Kington the preacher? A Thomas Kington was given an allotment of land on Dynmore Hill. This turned out to be a blind alley for Mary, as this Thomas Kington was at least forty years too old. However, Mary concluded that the preacher would probably have been unable to work on this particular estate because the regime was so rigid

For example it was pointed out that one of the tenants, Mary Wood, was living in a cottage which was falling about her ears and leaking rain onto her bed. The repair was refused. Joseph Westwood was unable to plant his corn and requested to plant beans. The request was denied, as was his later request to turn the subsequent crop into straw as it had failed.

It is clear that estate papers can give us an insight into the lives of our ancestors who worked on them, and the relationship between the owners and their workforce and tenants. We may even find our ancestor mentioned by name – a wonderful bonus!

April 2008: Dave Podmore on ‘The Travelling Fun Fairs of Great Britain’ - Reviewer: Sheila Clarke

Dave Podmore is a member of The Fairground Association, a group of about 1,500 enthusiasts interested in the history, and workings of fairs, fairgrounds, and the showmen and women who run them.

The funfairs of today have grown out of several hundred years of weekly markets and the Charter Fairs instigated by the Church and the Crown. These were developed to raise revenue which was divided between the Church and the King. For example, Henry III granted 3,600 charters to bishops, who would then allow a fair to be held on the saint’s day of a particular church. Tolls and rents were collected on those days. The annual fair was the big event of the year, when the population of a town would be augmented by people flocking from outlying districts, thus swelling the coffers of Church and State.

These fairs later developed into horse, sheep, goose, onion; or hiring and mop fairs, the forerunners of Jobcentres. At these, prospective employees wore different coloured ribbons on their lapels to denote their trade. A week after a Mop Fair, a Runaway Mop was often held so that those who had left their new master’s employ for what ever reason could have another chance at finding work. Warwick, Banbury, and Ashby were examples of Mop Fairs, and Lichfield’s Greenhill Bower, the charter of which dates back to 1150, was used to recruit soldiers.

During the industrial revolution, the importance of the fairs began to wane as the population became more mobile. The Church was happy to let some fairs lapse as they had become magnets for drunkenness and debauchery, with which the church obviously did not wish to be associated. However, when the railways developed, Rugeley Fair, whose charter had been granted by Henry III, grew into a large horse fair because Irishmen could travel direct from Holyhead to buy their horses.

The fairs began to change as showmen introduced exciting rides. In 1865, Frederick Savage of Kings Lynn developed the ‘galloping horses’ roundabout. As time passed, rides and sideshows became more complex. By 1890 the fairs had become so popular again that the government saw a massive business but no revenue for the state. A Van Dwellers Bill was put before Parliament, so, in 1896, a van dwellers’ association was formed by the showmen to look after their interests. This was later renamed the Showmen’s Guild and is still in existence today, with 99% of show people belonging to it. The country was divided into ten sections and each showman paid dues to the guild according to his wealth. The guild was run democratically; for example, ‘gazumping’ was curtailed, thus ensuring that the best pitches were not the prerogative of the wealthier showmen. If a pitch had been held by a showman at a particular fair for two years, it became his own to use from then on, so long as he followed the rules of that fair, and no-one could offer more money to oust him. Few from outside travelling families have become members of the guild, but many old travelling families who have now ‘settled down’ remain members.

Dave showed us extracts from a video of film footage taken at fun fairs in Lincolnshire from 1915 until the late 1960s. We were able to see the ‘flatties’ (non-travelling casual labour) engaged in helping erect the structures. Travellers’ sons were trained in the running of the rides and driving the traction engines, which they were often doing regularly from the age of 12, something which has been curtailed by health and safety regulations today; and travellers’ daughters were trained in the financial aspects of the business. In the early years of the 20th century, people appeared to wear their Sunday best when going for a day out at the fair.

There were many links to showman families and fairground machinery in the Midland area. Orton and Spoons of Burton made many of the rides. Supercars of Warwick made dodgems, which were introduced by Billy Butlin in 1932. Today they are made in Italy. Waltzers became popular in the 1930s and are still so today. After World War II, rides became faster and more daring as steam traction engines were replaced by diesel motors, and many vehicles were bought from army surplus by the travellers. Travelling families from this area include: Pat Collins, who, though born in Ireland, moved to Walsall and became Liberal MP for the town; the Jervis family, who opened the cinema at Sankey’s Corner in 1930, just as the Talkies came in; and Billy Bagnell, who ran the fair at Chasewater. Showmen were among the first to open bingo halls and discos. Families such as Mills, Harris, Silcox, Shipley and Danter were also mentioned.

Many fairs today are run by town councils, who can receive fees from the Showmen in excess of a million pounds, whatever the weather during the event! Others are run by show people themselves. Although many of the larger fairs are going strong and will continue to do so, it is possible that some of the smaller concerns may close because of the cost of fuel and fees which have risen sharply recently, together with the competition of video games.

Dave Podmore’s enthusiasm for his subject brought back happy memories of the fun of the fair for many in our group, even if we haven’t travellers in our family tree.

Buckinghamshire Family History Society Open Day

Bucks FHS will be holding its annual Open Day on Saturday 26th July 2008, 10 am to 4 pm, at The Grange School, Wendover Way, Aylesbury (southeast of the town, between the A413 and A41).

There will be many attractions for Bucks researchers, including full Bucks FHS library and databases, guest societies and commercial suppliers. Admission and parking are free. Tea and coffee available, bring a packed lunch.

The event will also feature special guest speaker Dr. Nick Barratt, from TV’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

See www.bucksfhs.org.uk for more information.

Member’s Profile no. 1 - Jane Leake, Chairman

As some of you will know already from my family history research, I was born in Nottingham and educated at Lilley and Stone Girls’ High School, Newark. My school day was quite arduous, as I had to make a fifty-mile round trip by bus every day.

It was almost by accident that I decided to become a teacher, having been short of ideas as to what I should do on leaving school! I did my training at Ripon Training College in Yorkshire, which was more like a girls’ boarding school with strict rules. We had to be in by 9.30 pm during the week and by 10.30 pm on Saturday night. Boyfriends were not encouraged, but if they did visit, students had to push their beds out into the corridor and could only have such visitors in their rooms for an hour, after introducing them to the lecturer in charge first. Three visits by the same man and she would write to inform your parents!

In 1960 I married Brian at Lenton Parish Church, Nottingham, where both of us had been baptised. To continue with another coincidence, both sets of parents had also been married there. How’s that for family history trivia?

At this time we made our move from Nottingham. In the next few years we lived in Wiltshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire, before moving to Staffordshire. We had only meant to stay in Burntwood for two years! I taught in various schools in those places, and enjoyed most of them, but when we moved to Staffordshire I soon settled in at Chase Terrace Junior School. I worked there for many years, until the education system in Staffordshire changed. That was the start of the most enjoyable period of my teaching years.

I didn’t move far for my next post, ending up at Chase Terrace Middle School for the next twelve years. I worked with some excellent colleagues and have made many friends for life. The children were, on the whole, a pleasure to teach, so it was very sad when Staffordshire reverted to the old two-tier system. Again, I was fortunate to find myself appointed to Gentleshaw Primary School in 1988, where I remained until I took early retirement in 1994.

Since we retired, we have found plenty to keep us occupied. As you may know, we try to find somewhere warm to spend a few weeks in the winter, and this year we had a wonderful time touring New Zealand. About nine years ago we bought a static caravan in South Devon, and we have spent many happy holidays down there.

Another interest is county cricket. We still support our original ‘home’ side, Nottinghamshire, and spend quite a lot of time at Trent Bridge supporting them, as well as attending the international matches played there each year.

I enjoy reading and gardening, but of course my main hobby is researching family history, and this has grown amazingly. I have followed up several family lines on both Brian’s side and my own, most of whom have been ‘honest sons of toil’ working on the land, or as framework knitters and such like. However, I did discover a convict who was transported to Australia, and I had an amazing time following up his life story. Hopefully, there is still information out there that will help me to add to my family history.

I think that one of the most interesting things about the hobby is reading up background history on the lives our ancestors lived. It does help to make them real, and perhaps to aid our understanding of their hopes and fears, joys and sorrows.

Our son, Richard, is quite interested in hearing about the family history, but I think it will fall to one of our four grandchildren to take on the task of safeguarding the information and perhaps even adding to it in the future. I would hate to think that it would all be consigned to the dustbin once I have gone, but I remain optimistic.

It is twenty-two years since Pam and a few of our colleagues had the idea of forming a local family history group, and it has been astonishing to chart its progress over the years. There have been frustrations aplenty, but many rewards as well. It can be hard work and takes up an inordinate amount of time, but I wouldn’t have missed any of it, and I hope it will continue to flourish for many more years. Above all, I value the friendships I have made as a result of it.

Lastly I must mention Brian, and the support and patience he always gives to me and my hobbies! I have been unsuccessful in trying to interest him in becoming a family historian, but perhaps it is enough to have one in a family.

I will call a halt to this epistle now and hope it will inspire other members to write their profiles in the future. I look forward to reading them.

Murphy’s Law in Genealogy

You know your genealogical efforts are being ‘Murphyed’ when...

Ø The one document that would supply the missing link in your dead-end line has been lost due to fire, flood, or war.

Ø None of the pictures in your recently deceased grandmother’s photo album have names written on them.

Look out for Unexpected Errors - by Geoff Sorrell

During the course of most people’s research they will come across ‘brick walls’. These are best described as points at which, despite any amount of searching through all the normally reliable record sources, you fail to find a record which you know must exist. If I quote some examples of these brick walls, it may help you to come to terms with the fact that it may not be your fault; it may be the fault of the recording authority, or it may be that your initial information is incorrect or misleading.

Firstly, I apologise to anyone reading this who has already heard of these instances through talks that I have given to the group, previous articles in the Journal or conversations with me at meetings. I hope that anyone else will take heart from the fact that persistence in the face of apparently incontrovertible evidence (certificates, census returns, etc.) sometimes pays off.

As far as Great Britain is concerned, central government records commenced in 1837, and from that date onwards it should be possible to obtain documentary evidence of every event covered by those records. However, in the early days not everyone was fully aware of the law regarding declaration of those events, and many people made false statements in their declarations for reasons connected with morality and social stigma. The following is an example of a false declaration of the birth of a child who was one of my great-grandparents born in 1840 – three years after the start of Civil Registration.

The family residing at Mill Lane, Cannock, in the 1841 census consisted of John, Ann, Charlotte, Edward and Reuben Lockley (plus other children whom we need not consider in this instance). I had already traced the family through to Cannock from earlier church records, which told me that Ann was formerly named Grosvenor and that Charlotte was a daughter born in 1819. The census of 1841 confirmed what I already knew about the family, but that census did not give the relationship to head of household of the other members but in 1851 both Reuben and Edward were listed as ‘G/child’ – not ‘Son’ of John and Ann. I did, however, know that Edward was certainly the father of my grandfather Alfred from later census records. As I was collecting the written evidence of the various events in my ancestry, I went to the Register Office in Cannock to obtain a copy of Edward’s birth certificate and was told that there was no birth recorded in the registers which confirmed the details I had provided.

This seemed strange, but I had to accept what I was told and went away to continue my research into early Lockley generations. Some six months later, having put a lot more time into the earlier Lockleys, I decided to return to Cannock Register Office and ask for a further search as I was convinced that there had to be a birth certificate in the records for my great-grandfather. I saw the same lady and reminded her of my previous visit and asked if she would look again in the registers. She came back with the same answer – no birth registered with the details given. I then asked her if there was anything similar at about the same time (I did not have the exact date of birth, of course) and she said that there was something similar but it was definitely not the person I was looking for. I then said that I would like to see the entry, but she was not able to allow me to do that, so I said that I would pay the appropriate fee and buy a copy of the similar entry.

The certificate I received read as follows: 15th August 1840 at Mill Street, Cannock: Edward Lockley, boy; father James (not John); mother Ann Lockley formerly Grosvenor (correct for his grandmother but not for his mother); occupation of father, bricklayer (correct); signed with an X (mark of Ann Lockley, mother, Mill Street, Cannock; registered 14th September 1840.

With a date of birth for this child I now had a second chance of proving that this was indeed my great-grandfather, if I could find a baptism at the local church, which was St. Luke’s – just a few yards from Mill Street. To my amazement, I found it almost immediately in the baptisms register on the same date as the birth certificate was issued – 14th September, 1840 – reading as follows: Edward, natural son of Charlotte Lockley of Cannock, a single woman.

So there you have a blatant example of civil registration not providing a true record due to fraudulent declaration being made, presumably, to cover the shame of an illegitimate birth, by the child’s grandmother.

My second example also concerns a birth certificate, in this instance that of my paternal grandfather, Arthur Sorrell. I had a considerable amount of information on him from various sources, including living relatives, but after obtaining four certificates from St. Catherine’s House for persons named Arthur Sorrell issued in the year in which he was born, none of which could not be him for various reasons (suicide before my Arthur died, wrong mother’s name, etc.), I decided to contact the Registrar in the Whitney District where two of Arthur’s siblings had been registered.

My telephone call elicited the following information: There was no registration for Arthur in their register! There was, however, a registration of a birth with very similar details. This time the Registrar was more cooperative and read out the details of the entry for me: 16th May 1869: Martha, girl; father Robert Sorrell (correct); mother Ann Sorrell formerly Davis (correct); father’s occupation coachman (correct); signed by A. Sorrell, mother, Burford (correct); registered 16th June 1869.

Once again it was necessary to try to obtain corroborative evidence that this was Arthur and not Martha. A letter to the Oxfordshire County Record Office, which held the Parish Registers for Burford, produced the baptism record: 1870, April 8, Arthur Sorrell s. of Robert & Ann, Burford, coachman (it was not a ‘twins’ birth as the certificate did not have the time of birth on it as well as the date).

So here is an example of a vital error in the civil records, where no amount of searching the indices for Arthur could have produced a result. BMD records are not the only ones that contain errors. We rely very much on transcribed census records in our research, but there are many pitfalls when using such facilities. Following are two examples of this:

Arthur Sorrell, who I have mentioned above, was doubly unlucky. I already had his full history from microfilmed Enumerator’s Sheets from the 1871 and 1881 censuses, so I knew exactly where to look when the GSU (Mormons) produced the CD-ROM transcription of the 1881 Census. When that was made available on the Internet through Family Search, I decided to test it by putting in a search for Arthur Sorrell, Kingston Lisle, Berkshire, age 11 – and got ‘no results’. I tried again with wider criteria and was given a list of Arthur Sorrells, but none of them was the one I wanted to find. I scrolled through all the Arthur Sorrel (one ‘l’) entries (because I knew that the named was spelt like that in the 1881), but there was still no result.

Almost in desperation I carried on scrolling through the Sorrel(l)s with forenames starting with A, and eventually found him under Aurther. When I went back to look at the photocopy of the Enumerator’s Sheet, that is exactly how it is written by the enumerator – ‘Aurther’.

Tee-hee! This’ll confuse ‘em!

Jabez Hague was my maternal side great-grandfather, and at the time of the 1881 Census was aged 13 and living with his parents and siblings in Pelsall. I had a photocopy of the Enumerator’s Sheet and he is there quite clearly, but the enumerator’s initial ‘J’ looks like a ‘T’ and his final ‘Z’ looks like a ‘Y’, so understandably the transcriber for the Mormons recorded him as Toby. Once again, reliance on the CD-ROM transcription could not deliver a result for Jabez.

I have given four examples of vital errors in just three generations of one family. How many more must there be, just waiting to cause puzzlement and frustration for genealogists? The moral is, “Don’t give up at the first brick wall – you may find the answer behind it somewhere.”

The Bowden Family - A chapter taken from The Travelling Miners by Gwen Wilkins

Bowden was my mother’s maiden name and her ancestors originated in Bilston and Dudley, which were then part of Staffordshire but are now in the West Midlands and Worcestershire respectively.

Dudley was an industrial town, with many of its population working in the coalmines or nail making. The latter was a trade employing mostly women, who often worked in their own homes. St. Thomas and St. Luke’s Church, Dudley, was where most of the early family were baptised and married. It was called the Top Church by the people of Dudley, probably because it is at the top of High Street in the town and is the town’s parish church. The large stone building looks very black and towers above the town. It was built of stone, with a cast iron frame, and was consecrated in 1818, but there has been a church on the site since 1182.

William Samuel my great grandfather was born in Bilston, Staffordshire on 7th September 1846. His father was James, born in 1797, also in Bilston, and his mother was Elizabeth, née Chivers. Not much is known about the young William Samuel, but he and his father were miners, so William probably also went to work in the mines after leaving school. Later, on 5th June 1870, he married Mary Churchill at St Thomas and St. Luke’s Church, where Mary was born in 1850.

The couple must have moved to the Cannock area of Staffordshire soon after their marriage, as my grandfather William Emanuel Bowden was born in Chase Terrace in Staffordshire on 26th March 1871. The 1881 census shows them living in Princess Street, Chase Terrace:






Where born

William Bowden




Coal miner

Bilston, Staffs

Mary Bowden




Dudley, Staffs

William Bowden



Chase Terrace, Staffs

James Bowden




Chase Terrace, Staffs

Fredrick Bowden




Chase Terrace, Staffs

Arthur Bowden




Chase Terrace, Staffs

Herbert Bowden



Chase Terrace, Staffs

Mary Bowden



Chase Terrace, Staffs

Chase Terrace and the adjoining Chasetown were villages with housing built on what had been heath land near Cannock Chase in the mid-1800s by the mining companies for the workers in the nearby coalmines to rent. A school was built in Cannock Road by the Cannock Chase Colliery Company Ltd and was opened in 1875 for 300 children of mineworkers. In 1878, the school was taken over by the School Board as the company could no longer afford to maintain it. Parents were charged 1d a week for each child, though the parish paid if they couldn’t afford it on production of a letter from the mining company employing them. The children of William Samuel probably attended this school, being the nearest to their home. The school was closed in 1931 due to mining subsidence and was demolished soon afterwards.

St. Anne’s Church was built in Chasetown, also by the company, and was consecrated in 1865. Built in the Romanesque style, the architect was Edward Adams of Westminster. The church was originally lit by gas, but was later one of the first churches in the country to be lit by electricity in 1883, when a cable under the road took the power from one of the company’s mines to the church.

Although the Bowden sons were married at St. Anne’s, I didn’t find any of their baptisms until I visited a meeting of the Bumtwood Family History Group in 2005. It had occurred to me that the Bowdens lived in the same street as a Methodist Chapel they may have had their babies baptized there – and sure enough, there were most of their names:

William Emanuel                                    c. 09.04.1871    by Henry Davis

Frederick Bowden                                   c. 09.10.1873    by Wm.Titeley

Arthur Bowden            b. 25.09.1876    c. 13.11.1876    by Thos.Richards

Herbert Bowden           b. 24.03.1878    c. 28.04.1878    by Thos.Wright

Mary Bowden               b. 30.04.1880    c. 30.05.1880    by Henry Covington

Elizabeth Bowden         b. 29.09.1881    c. 30.10.1881    by Jas.Whitehouse

George Henry Bowden b. 24.07.1883    c. 26.08.1883    by S.Leese

For some reason James, Ernest, Albert and Agnes were not in the records.

The members of the group were very helpful and welcoming, and I would go to the meetings more often if we didn’t live so far away in Warwickshire. I queried the fact that all the baptisms were performed by different people and the explanation was that they were probably visiting lay preachers who travelled from one chapel to another. The chapel is still there in Princess Street, but is now named Burntwood Methodist Church.

In the 1891 Census, William Samuel was found to be living in Eastgate Street, which ran between Ironstone Road and Princess Street, with his wife andfamily: William 20, James 18, Frederick 17, Arthur 14, Herbert 13, Mary 10, Elizabeth 9, George Henry 7, Ernest born in 1885, Albert born 07.07.1887 and baby Agnes, who was born on 13th July 1889 but died later that year aged two years. William and the four eldest sons were listed as miners. In 1901, the family were back in Princess Street, where the widowed mother Mary ran a grocer’s shop left to her by her husband. James and William were married by this time and both also lived in Princess Street, with James and his wife Alice living next door to William and Rose. William Samuel, Mary’s husband, died in November 1898 and was buried in St. Anne’s Churchyard.

When they were first married in 1895 in Beighton, Derbyshire, William and Rose Bowden, Mum’s parents, lived in Rugeley Road, Boney Hay, Staffordshire, a village adjoining Chase Terrace, where grandfather worked in the nearby coalmine. Their first child, a daughter named Agnes, was born on 20th September 1897. She was followed by William, born on 14th April 1898, and brother Albert born on 10th June 1901. Agnes Bowden, my aunt, remembers falling off a chair aged 3 and fracturing her elbow. Her grandmother, probably Mary Bowden senior, took her to hospital in a pony and trap. Agnes mentioned her grandmother had a shop, which fits in with information in one of the census, which stated William Samuel was a grocer, though he was earlier a miner. It is said that Agnes’ mother Rose was very strict with her, perhaps because Agnes was headstrong, as she appeared to be in later life!

By the time Mum was born, the family had moved to Yorkshire, where the menfolk worked as coalminers and presumably went to work there when the mines opened. Maud, my mother, was born on 24th March 1905 in Pontefract Road, Cudworth, South Yorkshire. The family later moved to George Street, Cudworth. Maud would probably have attended the nearby school in Cudworth when she was small, although she was absent rather often due to ill health and fainting fits, probably due to anaemia, from which she suffered much of her life. She told of the time she fainted and her mother told her off for watching a pig being slaughtered, a common sight in the neighbourhood, where most families kept a pig. Her father always kept an allotment with pigs and chickens and probably grew vegetables to feed his family.

The Bowdens were the first part of the family I researched which led me to gather information about my other ancestors and to write my book, The Travelling Miners, which I completed recently and thoroughly enjoyed writing.

This Issue’s Cover Photograph

This issue’s cover photograph depicts Edial Hall, which is situated just outside Burntwood on the way to Lichfield. In 1735, Samuel Johnson established Edial Hall School, where he taught Latin and Greek to young gentleman. It only had three pupils, one of whom was David Garrick, and it was only open for about a year, after which Johnson was forced to close it due to a lack of funds.