Daring First World War escapees revealed

 

 

TheGenealogist.co.uk
TheGenealogist.co.uk

With Monday being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War there are many new records online.

With all the websites highlighting their records for the war that was meant to be “the war to end all wars” we have quite a choice.

So I was looking for something distinct to look at this week.

Luckily I’ve heard from the team at TheGenealogist about some new records that approach WWI from a slightly different angle.

 

TheGenealogist has just released for the first time two million military records that have uncovered the determined Allied servicemen who escaped from First World War POW Camps.

These new records include both officers and other ranks, listing those men who endured the hardships and often brutal regimes as a prisoner of war. It’s an area of the Great War that is very rarely looked at.

The hardship and disease that became rife in the camps made many men look to escape. The Allied Officers, although held in slightly better conditions, also had an unwritten code that it was every officer’s duty to try to escape and many tried and failed.

The new release gives details of the Allied Officers behind the escape attempt at Holzminden Camp, near Hannover in 1918, where a tunnel was dug for 8 months using cutlery as digging tools. 29 men escaped, 19 were eventually caught but 10 got away and returned to England. Their daring escape inspired the prisoners in the famous ‘Great Escape’ of The Second World War.

Holzminden Camp held a number of high profile Allied servicemen. Conditions were harsh as it was used for the most troublesome prisoners, who made regular escape attempts. Prisoners listed on TheGenealogist’s records include Michael Claude Hamilton-Bowes-Lyon (The Queen’s Uncle), William Leefe Robinson (who shot the first German airship down over London and who was kept in solitary confinement for repeated escape attempts) and James Whale (future Hollywood Director of ‘Frankenstein’).

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, commented:
“Our new unique records are a great resource to track down those First World War ancestors. With our extensive range of military records it’s now possible to find out if your ancestor was a casualty or taken prisoner of war of if they were one of the lucky ones who made it through unscathed. With this being the centenary year of the outbreak of The First World War, it is the perfect time to explore your family tree and discover the war service of your ancestors.”

 

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How To Break Down A Family History Brick Wall

 

Break Down Your Family History Brick Walls
Family History Brick Wall

I’ve got some advice for you to break down a brick wall.

Have you been stuck trying to find an ancestor?

Thought you might have been!

Maybe what I relate below will help you too.

 

The thing was that some while back, I was getting quite frustrated by being unable to trace a person in the records.
I was completely stuck finding this person’s birth, marriage or death and I had tried looking online and off without any luck.

Maybe you are in this position too?

What broke the problem for me?

Well it was a visit to a Family History website while surfing for keywords to do with the ancestor and then a little bit of time spent browsing the transcripts featured on the platform.

Dartmouth-Archives-onscreen

There were some other factors, such as trying different spelling variations of first and second names, as advised by my family history teacher at the time and a visit to an archive.

What it boils down to is using a bit of lateral thinking in our family tree research and most importantly finding out about alternative records to the ones that we might have already used.

This is one of the themes of the Family History Researcher course that I market online.

Thorne-family-tree-web-site

The family branch that has presented me with the most frustrating problems has been that from Devon. I was fine going back through the census years, 1911, 1901 and so on back to 1841 but then it became more of a problem.

Perhaps this story resonates with some of you to?

I had figured out that my 3x great-grandfather was called John Thorn. This was provided in the information he had given to the census enumerators over the years, along with the fact that he had been born in about 1795. His wife, Elizabeth, had been born about 1798.

As I belong to The Society of Genealogists I took a trip to their headquarters in Goswell Road, London knowing that they have the largest collection of Parish Records in the country on microfiche. They’ve also got some transcripts of parish registers in their library, which I thought may be worth looking at.

If you are in the area I highly recommend you visit the Society of Genealogists.

SoG library

The SoG library is a treasure trove and it features often in the Family History Researcher Course and one complete module takes us inside their doors.

Unfortunately for me, at the time of my research, the Dartmouth parish records were not on microfilm at the SoG. But I was over the moon to find a great selection of Devon Family History Society booklets for marriages taking place in the churches of the town, including St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth. Browsing one book for any likely ancestors I spotted that on 13 April 1817 one person called John Thorn got married to an Elizabeth Sissell.

I opened up the internet and began searching using my new lead. My mission was to hunt down any evidence that this was the marriage of my ancestors.

Doing a search-engine query for Dartmouth + family history steered me towards the Dartmouth-history.org.uk website belonging to The Dartmouth Archives. I discovered that this voluntary organisation had a really broad family history section and included a number of transcribed baptisms, burials, marriages and census records.

I could read the very same information, as I had seen at the SoG in London, on this niche site. The data began in 1586 and ran to 1850 and there was the marriage of John Thorn to Elizabeth and this time I noticed that the witness were given as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell.

Funny name, I thought, and today I understand taking transcribed names with a pinch of salt. If you decide to join the Family History Researcher Academy you will learn more.

At the time I made an assumption that this last person was more than likely some member of the bride’s family. Could it perhaps be the father of the bride?

But that name “Sunass” just didn’t seem likely to me. Now I know that it was the best guess by the transcriber as it couldn’t be read properly in the original record.

From the information I knew that they had signed with a mark, thus they were illiterate and so the first name and the second had not been written down by the ancestors themselves.

When you are doing your own research you should bear in mind that our ancestors may not have had the ability to read or write and the minister may have interpreted the name as he had heard it said to him. In my ancestor’s case the surname “Sissell” could possibly have been “Cecil” or something entirely different. Consider saying the name with the regional accent and seeing what you come up with.

As for Sunass – at this point I was clueless!

The Dartmouth Archives website had not got any early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth and so I went over to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch.org and here I did a search for Elizabeth’s christening.

St Petrox, Dartmouth font

I was rewarded by a lead to a baptism in one of the other churches in Dartmouth, St Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. This child was the daughter of James and Sarah Sissill and she was christened Elizabeth Gardener Sissill.

You may notice that the spelling had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e” again pointing to the vicar writing it down the way that he heard it.

I now jumped to a conclusion that the witness to Elizabeth’s marriage could have been her father “James” and this has been interpreted as “Sunnas” because a flowing “J” for James had looked like an “S” to the transcriber and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”. All easily done.

So what I am emphasising here and I continue to do so in modules from my Family History Researcher Course, is to be wary of names and the way they were spelt. If you keep this in mind then some of the logjams we find in our research can be got past.

This breakthrough I had was down to finding that Dartmouth has an active family history website and then using their indexes in conjunction with other internet resources, such as the LDS site.

The first learning point is that you should always find out what other research may have been done, for the area your ancestors came from.

If you find a family history society, or local interest group with a website, can any of their publications or website pages help you with your quest?

Secondly, always keep in mind that names were misspelled in many records. In my own family research I have had to think of other spellings for the Sissells, and indeed names that may have sounded like Sissell in order that I may trace this line back further and break down the brick wall.

Ancestors in Thorne Family tree

I have made some fantastic strides in my family tree research and it is mostly down to learning as much as I can from other’s experiences and finding out as much as I can about what records and resources are available.

Last year I put together some modules for a course of 52 guides, aiming at passing on my experience. Perhaps they can help you become a more knowledgeable researcher?

I had some professional genealogists and data providers also contribute to the project to make it well rounded.

There is a special offer running for readers of this page of a £1 trail for four weeks membership of the Family History Researcher Academy. Click here to learn more.

As you have come to this page I am sure that you must have an interest in family history and I am betting that you to have some brick walls to knock down as well. So take a look at the report below that is based on some of the material from the Family History Researcher course…

 

 

Report3

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A Newly digitised, navigable atlas collection details 500 years of British history

 

County map courtsey of Ancestry.co.ukAtlas shows us how Britain’s landscape has changed over the last 500 years

Looking at this collection of 57 maps and you will be able to find England’s lost counties of Westmorland and Huntingdonshire

Find Parish borders that hark back to when people associated more with their Parish church than town hall

There is a newly published historic atlas of Great Britain online at Ancestry.co.uk that gives the family historian something of a unique view of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales stretching back over 500 years.

Digitised by the family history site Ancestry.co.uk, the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, consists of fifty seven different maps of the counties of the U.K. What is interesting to me about this is it shows how Britain’s ancient parish and county boundaries have changed shape over the centuries.

We have all been there in our research. You may have lost someone from the records of a
particular county and thus you become stuck unless you can see the boundaries as they stood at the time that your ancestor was alive.
I was doing some research for a client whose ancestors came from Northfield. Today that is a suburb of Birmingham and so is in the West Midlands. At the time of their ancestor Northfield was in Worcestershire.

The subject of the research got married about ten miles away in Dudley, which was in Staffordshire at the time and today has its own archive service as it is a Metropolitan Borough. Thus to find the records of a family that lived in quite a small radius needs careful thought as to where to look.

This newly digitised Atlas is navigable online, users are able to scroll over whole counties and then use a zoom tool to go in and out. Useful if you need to identify the various local parishes, towns and the churches.

The original documents used in the atlas are from the resources of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies.

Browsing the maps open up quite an insight into how England’s historical county maps didn’t change much for centuries, before many of the ancient counties were split up to make more governable areas.

In this atlas the county of Middlesex is shown as it was in the 19th century. At that time it consisted of what are today large swathes of modern London and so included the likes of Islington and Chelsea. London itself is a much smaller settlement that is barely more than one mile wide.

The Home Counties appear in their original form before the legislation of the London Government Act 1965  created Greater London. You will also be able to see the original boundary of the counties of Essex and Surrey when viewing the maps.

Other counties that are defunct today but can be traced in the atlas include Westmorland (today a part of Cumbria), and Huntingdonshire, which disappeared into Cambridgeshire following a Government Act in 1971. Lancashire is also to be found here in its original form, comprising of modern day Manchester and Liverpool and also various parts of Cumbria and Cheshire. It was subsequently reorganised and downsized, losing nearly a third of its area in the process.

Before the population of the country grew over the centuries and along with this regional administration developed, people were inclined to identify themselves more with their local parish when considering where they came from. As time moved on and these parish borders changed to such an extent that now it is almost impossible to determine the exact location of some parishes and their records using modern maps.

I have an interest in a small village that sits today in North west Leicestershire, but in years past was divided between Leicestershire but with pockets residing in Derbyshire and completely surrounded by Leicestershire on all sides!

The Atlas is thus an authoritative guide to the drastic changes in Britain’s county and parish borders over the last 500 years and a valuable way of adding geographical context to family history research.

The maps were the brainchild of Cecil Humphery-Smith, a genealogist and heraldist who founded the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, based in Canterbury, which promotes family history both through courses and its extensive library. He is, of course, the author of Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers.

At Ancestry.co.uk, the maps can now be searched and browsed by county.   For family historians using Ancestry’s Lancashire Parish records as well as the 1851 Censuses and Free Birth, Marriage and Death Index will discover that every record in these collections links to a relevant map.

In addition, almost eight million new records have been added to the Lancashire Parish records currently available on Ancestry’s site.

Ancestry.co.uk Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “The borders of the UK parishes and counties have changed so much over the last 500 years and that really makes these maps the key to navigating the past and progressing with your family history journey.”

To search the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, as well as millions of additional birth, marriage and death records, visit www.Ancestry.co.uk.


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650,000 World War One Military Records

All in one search for family historyI got a piece from the team at TheGenealogist today.

It tells of their most recent release of World War I records and the unique nature of the launch that links records of Soldiers who died in the First World War to their war graves.

These War Office records give full details about a soldier and are linked to where they are buried or commemorated on a memorial.

 

For the first time it is now possible to find the death record of an ancestor who fought and died in the First World War and with one further mouse-click, discover where they are buried or commemorated through a unique link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website which provides colour images and details on the War Cemetery including exact location, brief history of the regiments involved and the battles fought.

 

In a matter of seconds it is possible to trace an ancestor and gain an idea of the history of the battle or military importance of the location of where they fell. It really helps speed up your military research.

 

From 16 year old Private John Parr, who was the first British soldier to be killed in action on the 21st August 1914 on a patrol north east of Mons, to the last British soldier to die, Private George Edwin Ellison, who fought in most of the major World War One battles only to be killed an hour and a half before the Armistice on 11 November 1918 on patrol on the outskirts of Mons. Both John Parr and George Ellison are buried facing each other at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery having fought and died in ironically the same area of the Western Front, only four years apart emphasising the stalemate of the First World War.

 

The records link through to TheGenealogist’s other unique military records such as Prisoner of War records, casualty lists and war memorials. For instance you can find the record of Harry Topliffe within this new record set, showing us he enlisted with the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) and was living in Stamford Brook, Middlesex.

 

Harry was posted to Mesopotamia to fight the Turkish Army. A Prisoner of War record shows that he was imprisoned in Kut-El-Amara and a casualty list record shows that he died there, as a Prisoner. Harry is also listed in TheGenealogist’s War Memorial records, on a memorial within the Harrod’s store in London (he was an employee within the removals department). TheGenealogist then uniquely links to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to show that he was buried in the Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery.

 

The 650,000 records of the soldiers who died in the First World War provide full details of the serviceman, including full name, where they were born, place of residence, place of enlistment, their rank and service number, cause and date of death and the regiment they served with.

 

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist.co.uk, comments: “This latest release adds to our unique military collection. These records are great for those looking into what happened to their ancestor in the First World War. With the direct link from the soldiers who died on to the various other collections we hold, along with a link to where they are commemorated, one click gives you the story behind your ancestor’s military history.”

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Looking for ancestors in the Archives

 

Dudley Archives and local history centreI’ve been to the Midlands this week and while I was there I took the opportunity to do some research in the Dudley Archives & local history centre.

No matter what gets put online, and believe me I am a  keen user of online content, when I get the chance I still love to go to an actual archive and do some research in the reading room of one or other of these local authority depositories.

I spent my time in the one run by Dudley Metropolitan Council looking back at parish records in Halesowen and was fascinated, as always, by the extras that are to be found written in the margin of the parish records, or as notes in the front or back.

One note that I saw this week referred to a number of burials on the page and it mentioned that all of the above died of smallpox putting some context onto the conditions at the time. In other records down at the Devon record office I have seen a whole brood of children being baptised together after the family had returned to England after many years in the fishing fields of Newfoundland and a helpful side note by the vicar explaining this.

Another great benefit of a visit to a record office is that they often have books on their shelves that can be helpful finding aids. I was able to make use this week of a set of indexes to the parish records, published many years ago, but with them I could narrow down the dates that I wanted to look at on the microfilm reader.

In my Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh ancestors I have a module specifically about the treasures that can be found in a County/City Record Office. The course can be done at your own pace and comes in 52 weekly downloads that build into a great resource for busting those brick walls in family history.

 

In England and Wales the Record Office is where the records of the local government administrative area are kept. In many cases they also house the ecclesiastical diocese records and, from a family historian’s point of view, they are the keepers of the old Parish Registers collected from the churches of the area, which was my reason for visiting Dudley Archives this week.

A Record Office:

– collects and preserves historical records of all kinds relating to its county,

– makes these records available for research of all kinds by all interested individuals and groups, and

– encourages and promotes awareness of the value and importance of its documentary heritage.

Usually a Record Office will also preserve a great deal of other archival material such as the records from independent local organizations, churches and schools.

There may be papers donated by prominent people from the community, leading families, estates, companies, lawyers and more. If you are in the area where your ancestors lived then go on an pay them a visit. The staff are usually very knowledgeable about their records and the district and so they can be a huge help to the family historian.

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National Wills expert gives us some great family history tips


At Olympia I caught up with Dr Ian Galbraith from the National Wills project and asked him to give us a few tips about what people should do if they are searching for will records.

“Well the big problem with wills is you can not always tell where the will might have been proved.” he said.

“If you know your ancestors came from a certain place you’ve gotta fix on where their birth records might be, marriage records maybe where they died. With a will although in most cases you probably have an idea where it is. Wills did get proved all over the place, maybe very far from  where you think.

“So when you’re trying to find a will you might go for the obvious places and find there’s nothing there. That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a will that’s been proved somewhere else. So it means that if you want to unlock the value of information which is in wills.

“I mean wills are one of the best single sources for the family historian.

“To find it you really need to have access to an index which covers the whole country not just individual counties and that’s what we’ve been trying to do and we’ve got coverage of virtually every county in England.

“Its not complete yet for every county but its the single biggest set of indexes for English probate records.

“That’s complimented also by an increasing collection of digitized images of wills. For example for Oxfordshire, Cheshire, York and a lot of abstracts of wills. Now abstracts make it a lot easier sometimes to find out what’s in a will because somebody else has done the hard work of reading it and transcribing it. They may not put all the text in there but there’s an awful lot of legalese and what they left to the church for candles and so on, masses to be said. But the salient stuff…what they left and to whom they left things that’s in the wills and they are enormously rich things.

“They give you a huge access to the families and the friends of the people who died because they will name them as beneficiaries; so a typical will will contain an average of ten names of other people besides the testator and probably at least half of these people will have different surnames
from the testator.

“So once you get into a will you can suddenly find you’ve got an awful lot more information than you started with. Other leads to follow up. It comes back to the issue of finding them in the first place.”

“Great!” I said, feeling that we had got an enormous amount of useful information from the interview. “And so your website is part of the origins.net?”

“Yes.” he replied. “Yes, Origins.net has been around now for oh, the best part of fifteen years but, erm, we started to concentrate on probate records about five years ago. We already had a reasonable collection but we realized that this is something that we really wanted to look at seriously, because it was one of the big problem areas.

“Births marriages and deaths, parish registers; yeah, there are lots of sites you can go and get really good collections of these. Census records, yeah. Now these are the primary places you’re going to look. You’re going to look at census, you’re going to look at Births, Marriages and Deaths. But where do you go next?

“And one of the major places, perhaps the most important single place to go next is wills; if you can find them.  And bear in mind also even if your ancestor didn’t leave a will there’s a pretty high chance they’ll be mentioned in the will left by somebody else.

“So so don’t worry, oh my ancestors didn’t leave wills. Not true! All kinds of people left wills. They can be very poor and very rich. It is not just the rich who left wills. Some wills you wonder why. This guy’s got nothing but he’d still make a will and leave it to his relations or to his friends mentioned by name.

“So it really is well worth looking into wills.”

“Great; thank you very much. That is very useful.” I said. “Thank you.”

 

 

One of the modules in my popular course in English/Welsh Family History looks at will records. Want to unravel the tangled roots and branches of your family tree?

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Records of 60,000 British civilians killed during WWII digitised

Ahead of Remembrance Day, Ancestry.co.uk, has today launched online the UK, WWII Civilian Deaths, 1939-1945 collection, listing the thousands of British citizens killed on the ‘Home Front’ during the Second World War.

 

The records, originally compiled by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, list almost 60,000 members of the British Commonwealth and Empire who were killed as a result of enemy action whilst going about their everyday lives or while at their posts as members of the Civil Defence Services.

 

The majority of the names listed were civilians killed in the aerial bombings by the German Luftwaffe (air force) as it attempted to bring Britain to its knees. These attacks on British cities, which took place from September 1940 to May 1941 are known collectively as The Blitz and led to around 40,000 deaths.

 

Nearly half of those killed in The Blitz (17,500) were Londoners, but several other cities were also badly hit, with Liverpool next worst off in terms of civilian deaths (2,677) followed by Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Plymouth, Coventry, Portsmouth, Belfast and Glasgow.

 

Among the 59,418 names listed in the records is James Isbister, considered the first civilian casualty of WWII on home soil. He was killed in March 1940, when German bombers attacking Scapa Flow Naval Base, Orkney, jettisoned their remaining bombs over civilian territory as they fled back to Germany.

 

Hundreds of British civilians lost their lives before this point, most commonly in sea disasters when civilian ships hit military mines during the early months of the war. As the war progressed deaths at sea became all the more common, with thousands lost, as Germany used submarines to sink merchant ships in an attempt to restrict supplies to Britain.

 

More than 2,300 Civil Defence Service members also gave their lives whilst on duty, including air raid wardens, home guard, and members of the Women’s Voluntary Services.

 

One of the most notable names in the collection is actor and star of Gone With The Wind, Leslie Howard. He was killed in 1943 when the civilian airliner he was travelling in to Bristol was shot down. Historians have since suggested that the Luftwaffe may have attacked the non-military plane because German Intelligence believed Prime Minister Winston Churchill to be on board.

 

Before the war it was feared a sustained campaign of aerial bombings would lead to more than 600,000 deaths and as a result the 1937 Air Raid Precautions Act forced local councils to make provisions for defence. These varied from a widespread imposed blackout of all lighting from public and commercial buildings to the construction of bomb shelters and provision of gas masks.

 

The government also implemented widespread evacuation of major cities, with Operation Pied Piper responsible for the relocation of more than 3.5 million people – mainly urban children moved to safer homes in rural areas.

Several other famous names of the day can also be found within the digital records, including:

 

  • Albert Dolphin – Dolphin was working as an emergency hospital porter at what is today New Cross Hospital London when a bomb hit the kitchens of the building. A true Home Front hero, Albert rushed to the aid of a nurse trapped in wreckage and protected her as a damaged wall gave way. He was killed saving her life and was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his bravery.

 

  • James Baldwin-Webb MP – Baldwin-Webb, MP for The Wrekin in Shropshire and one of the most famous civilians of the day, was lost at sea. In September 1940, whilst travelling to Canada to fundraise for the Ambulance Corps, his liner SS City of Benares was torpedoed by a German submarine. He stayed aboard the ship to assist women and children onto lifeboats before going down with the ship.

 

  • Arthur Bacon – Bacon was a popular footballer, playing as a striker at Reading, Chesterfield and Coventry City – scoring 71 goals between 1923 and 1935. After his footballing career he served as a Special Constable in Derby where he was killed in 1942 (aged 37) during an air raid.

 

Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.uk comments: “As we approach Remembrance Sunday, it’s important to not only remember those heroes who served and died in conflict but the thousands of ordinary people who lost their lives in Britain and the Commonwealth whilst battling to keep the country running at a very difficult time.

 

“This collection gives people the chance to find out about any Home Front heroes that might be in their family tree, and adds to the millions of military records available on Ancestry.co.uk from the past 100 years and more.”

 

Ancestry.co.uk is providing free access to 3.6 million military records between 8th and 12th November, including WWI Service Records 1914 – 1920, WWII Army Roll of Honour 1939 – 1945, Navy Medal and Roll Awards 1793 – 1972 and Victoria Cross Medals 1857 – 2007. To search for the war heroes in your family tree, visit www.ancestry.co.uk/start_military
 

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Middle Names in Family Tree Research

 

Thorne family from Dartmouth, Devon. I’ve been helping an old friend starting out in researching their family history in this week and he had noted that some of his family all had the same middle name.

The question, that he had, was would it be likely that it was a family surname from one of the female lines and being passed down to honour that family connection.

From what research I have done, by reading around, it would seem that  it was quite common for children to be baptised with a second name taken from a family surname that was, perhaps, the mother’s or grandmother’s maiden surname.

Mark Herber, in Ancestral Trials, The History Press; New Ed edition (1 Jun 2005) makes this point when introducing genealogical research in chapter 1 of this comprehensive book. But hold on a minute, before you jump to the conclusion that the name you have found must be attributable to another branch of your family.

In the picture, that I have included here, from a Thorne family bible  just one of that generation were given names that honoured their forebears surnames and that was Ellen Florence Malzer Thorne, the Malzer name being her mother’s maiden name.

The generation before (Henry Thomas Thorne’s siblings)  were given a variety of conventional second names until the family broke with the C of E and became members of the Flavel Memorial (Presbyterian/Independent/Congregational) church.

At this stage several of Henry’s brothers and sisters were baptised with the middle name of Lemon. I am yet to understand who they were being named after so if any of my readers can put me on the right path then post a comment below or on my facebook page: www.facebook.com/NoseGenealogist

Certainly the parents of these children, John Brandon Thorn and Elizabeth Gardiner Thorn, were usefully named after their mothers and so made the search for them in the parish records all the easier.

So the conclusion is that an unusual middle name may point you to the maiden name of your ancestor or, regretfully, it may not!

 

Another point, that I have noticed, is that people may adopt a middle name and later generations begin passing it on as they assume it to be an ancestral name. Perhaps it was someone that they admired greatly, or perhaps it was indeed a family name.

For someone I was researching this week I discovered that they were not given a middle name in the church register when they were baptised and yet they begin to use this middle name and so do the generations that followed. Perhaps it was someone that they admired greatly, but it was certainly not noted in the parish register at the time of their baptism!

My research this week has been greatly helped by the fact that more parish records have made it online. My friend’s family were from the Birmingham area of Northfields. Now very much a suburb of Birmingham but in the years I was researching between 1769 and 1820 part of the county of Worcestershire.

Ancestry.co.uk have many records available for this area including the images of parish records from a partnership with the Library of Birmingham.



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Tithe Records for Family Tree Researchers

 

Tithe MapI’ve been looking at some of my rural ancestors from Devon this weekend.

I found that they mostly had long lives, provided they survived through their childhood.

For example, one agricultural labourer (ubiquitous Ag.Lab in the census) reached his 91st birthday. Others died well into their late 80s.

By tracing the baptisms, of my direct ancestors in the parish records, I noticed that in the year 1830, before the census officials introduced the term Ag.Lab into general use, that my ancestor John Jarvis of South Huish, was recorded in the register for his son’s baptism as: Husbandman.

A husbandman is, according to the Oxford dictionary online: a person who cultivates the land; a farmer.

Origin: Middle English (originally in northern English use denoting the holder of a husbandland, i.e. manorial tenancy): from husband in the obsolete sense ‘farmer’ + man. Oxford English Dictionary Online.

So then I wondered how much, if any, land he may have had as a tenant and how could I find this out. The answer was the tithe maps, of course.

A quick online search and I discovered that Devon has a project to put the tithe apportionment documents and eventually the maps on the web.

http://www.devon.gov.uk/tithemaps.htm

 

Virtually every parish, from the beginning to the middle of the 1800s would have had tithe maps drawn up for their area. Accompanied by the apportionment records, which is the key to the tithe map. It tells the researcher who owned what pieces of land, what it was used for and the amount of payment due. The schedule is divided into columns:
1.    Landowners
2.    Occupiers – if the landowner, this is shown as ‘himself’, otherwise the tenant’s name is given
3.    The plot number referring to the tithe map
4.    Name or description of the land, premises or field
5.    State of cultivation e.g. arable, meadow, pasture, wood, garden, plantation
6.    The size – in acres, roods and perches
7.    The money due to the Vicar
8.    The money due to Impropriators
9.    Any further remarks.
So what is a tithe?
The word literally means one-tenth. For centuries past the people were required to pay annual tithes, to their local parish church, to support it and its clergy.  To begin with tithes were paid “in kind” which meant parishioners handing over one-tenth of their produce (corn, hay, vegetables, eggs, wool, animals, fish, flour etc.) As you would expect this made tithes unpopular.
In the 16th century the monasteries were dissolved and a great deal of former church property, including the rights to tithe, now passed into the hands of private individuals (‘Lay Impropriators’).

Those tithes that were now due to be paid to the Church of England still caused problems. There were no end of disputes over the values of land, processes and produce. On top of this was a reluctance by members of the other religious denominations to be forced to pay their tithes to the established state church.

 

To bring an end to these disputes, the Tithe Commutation Act was passed in 1836. Tithes were to be based on land values and converted to an annual money tax known as ‘corn rents’ or ‘tithe rent charges’. To get rid of the problem of variations from locality to locality the Tithe Commutation Act now fixed the payment based on the average price of wheat, barley and oats.

 

 

What did I find about John Jarvis?

Well there is certainly a man of this name listed in the ownership column along with that of the Earl of Devon who appears many times along side the names of others. John Jarvis was not, however, the occupier of the Orchards and arable land. This was a neighbour whose occupation on the census page is denoted as a Farmer.

So assuming that, in this tiny Devon hamlet, I have found the correct John Jarvis, then it would seem that he worked as a farm labourer, while renting out his own land to the farmer.

 

One of the lessons in my English and Welsh Family History course covers rural ancestors. Read more about this beginners to intermediate course here:

www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

 

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