Found an Met Police Officer Outside London in Your Family Tree?

 

MetPoliceHeritage2

I had identified in the Indexes, to Births Marriages and Deaths for 1919, an entry in Devonport, Devon, for the birth of twins.

The problem was that the family were from London and, as I blogged last week, the head of the family was a Metropolitan Policeman. I had found from the The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre the stations to which he had been attached and it would seem he had a continuous service until illness forced his retirement in 1928.

A quite big question had worried me about why these children would have been born in the West Country to a couple, only married a year before in London. From my research I had discovered that the father was attached to Marylebone and then Clapham districts; but nothing had been said of any other service in the First World War.

As most of us know in England there is not a national police force. The County and Borough Police Act was passed in 1856 which made policing compulsory throughout England and Wales and made provision for H.M. Treasury to give assistance to local authorities to establish territorial police forces. By 1900, the number of police in England, Wales and Scotland totalled 46,800 working in 243 separate forces.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_law_enforcement_in_the_United_Kingdom#cite_note-UKPMet-6

 
Many amalgamations of police forces have taken place since then and today policing of England & Wales is mostly run on County lines. Scotland, has in 2013, merged all 8 territorial forces into a single service called Police Scotland, but England has not. The Met, I had always assumed, was only a London force and Devon had its own Police.

At this time (1919) Plymouth was policed by the Plymouth Borough Police force, as I found from a history on the Devon & Cornwall Police website
http://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/AboutUs/Pages/Ourhistory.aspx

“In the 1850s, the Devon County Constabulary and Cornwall County Constabulary were formed, bringing a new professionalism to the policing of the peninsula. These constabularies, along with the Exeter City Police and the Plymouth Borough Police, finally came to together following a series of mergers, which resulted in the formation of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in 1967.”

This birth of twins, to my Met Police Constable and his wife, was in World War I and so I wondered if war service may have accounted for the move of the family. Devonport was a large Royal Navy port in the City of Plymouth, County of Devon and I thought that, perhaps, the Constable had left the Police and joined the navy. Now it seems that he served his country, in the war, by staying in the Police force.

The resulting birth certificates, for the twins, confirmed that I had the right couple and the occupation of the father is given as: “Metropolitan Police Constable of 14a Auckland Road, Devonport.”

So that raised the question of what was a London policeman doing in Devon, in WWI?

The simple answer to this question came from the Friends of the Metropolitan Police website http://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/met-police-family-history.html

“The Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the policing of the Royal Dockyards and other military establishments, Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich from 1860 until 1934, and Rosyth in Scotland from 1914 until 1926.”

Today, the responsibility on forces bases is with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Police; but back then it was with the Metropolitan Police. So this Met Police Officer was enforcing the law at the Royal Navy Dockyard at Plymouth, when his twins were born.

As a general rule a British “Bobbie” is unarmed, even today. True we have Firearms Officers, who attend incidents where weapons are used, and we have police officers on guard at airports, military establishments and the like who carry guns, but the unarmed civilian policeman is part of British psyche. We refer to this as “Policing with the consent of the public.”

From some reading I have done, however, I have discovered that all Met Policeman of the Dockyard divisions were in fact armed. It is most likely that this P.C. carried a .455 calibre Webley & Scott self-loading pistol Mark I Navy. The dockyard police being normally issued with what ever the current side arm of the Royal Navy was at the time, rather than what the Met used on odd occasions in London.
http://www.pfoa.co.uk/uploads/asset_file/The%20Met%27s%20Dockyard%20Divisions%20v3.pdf

The thing about family history is that, along with many others, I find I am continuously learning. No matter how much I think I know I am always reminded that we are all advanced beginners. There is always more to learn!

 

Are you researching your English family tree and have exhausted all the run of the mill records?

Take a course such as Family History Researcher Academy and broaden your research horizons.

Join Family History Researcher

Send to Kindle

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?

Become a more knowledgeable researcher with this course.

Join Family History Researcher

Send to Kindle

Beware Of Family Memories, But Listen All The Same!

 

Manuscript

I’ve spent a few days visiting family and as always keeping my ear open for any tales of ancestors past. It has been very interesting discovering new stories that I had not heard before and even some tales told from a different perspective in the family.

I urge you to look on these opportunities that may come your own way as useful background to your family history, but do always treat them with some healthy scepticism! If possible do try to check the facts in some other way and if possible with some primary records such as official data sets.

I was listening to a rendering of a story when I suddenly realised that I recognised that I had actually been there myself and that I remembered it differently to the teller! The narrator had not even included me in the tale and the subject was treated in a different way than I recalled it.

So having dealt with faulty long term memory then there is the problem of my own poor short term memory. At one of my other visits to see family I found myself thinking that I would remember that useful piece of information as to the change of a person’s surname, to use in my further research into the tree. The trouble is today I just can’t remember what that surname is and as we were eating a meal at the time I couldn’t  just reach for my notepad and jot it down!

Above I have alluded to checking your facts with the primary sources. GRO vital records are a fine example of these and yet these let me down this weekend as well. So before I go I’d just like to issue you with one more warning of something to beware of in this family history pastime.

I was looking for the birth details of one of my cousins to show them how easy it was to use the births marriages and deaths data. They were nowhere to be found in the correct year for their birth and the reason for this? They had been registered with an incorrect spelling of their name! One extra letter had been inserted and on all the genealogy look up sites they appeared spelt in a different way form how they have been known since they and I were children.

I will be teaching more tips and tricks to break down your family history brick walls in my ongoing course for English or Welsh family history:

Family History Researcher Academy

Join Family History Researcher

 

Send to Kindle

The Channel Island Monthly Review

CI Monthly Review

 

The Channel Islands Monthly Review at TheGenealogist.co.uk

I’ve received an up date from TheGenealogist.co.uk to say that we can now search a newspaper containing Births Marriages and Deaths from the time of the Occupation of the Channel Islands on their site.

A selection of issues that cover the period 1941-1945 are available from the time when some evacuated from their homes to England. To keep in touch the refugees produced this journal.

The background is this. In 1940 German forces were threatening the Channel Isles as they advanced across France and the British government consulted the Islands representatives. It was decided then that the islands were not defensible and so they would be demilitarised. A massive evacuation was carried out during late June 1940 and those residents of the islands that wanted to leave, boarded a flotilla of ships to the UK where they settled.

It is a matter of history that the Channel Isles were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during WWII and by the 1st of July 1940 they had surrendered to the German Army.

During the war ex residents kept in touch with ‘The Channel Isles Monthly Review’. These journals listed Births, Marriages and Deaths plus allowed islanders to keep in contact with friends and family. TheGenealogist has now included pdfs that can be searched in their newspaper section of the site and they promise that it will grow as new issues become available.

Just read the following excerpt for a flavour:

Nov 1941 issue “A young Jerseyman has escaped from Jersey. Three days and three nights in an eight foot boat without food.” This was his third attempt and he had previously spent four days on a rock that featured in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” . This attempt he managed to evade two German E-boats that nearly swamped his boat.

Conditions in the island weren’t good as the Jerseyman reported:-
“The food supply is not the best. Fuel is short. Income tax is 4/6 in the pound to pay the expenses of the army of occupation.”
He also said to the Times that food is rationed and very scarce with Jersey butter, cream and other products exported much against the will of the population.

“There is a total absence of fats on the island so there are no cakes or pastry etc. The curfew is at 11pm”
People used the review to publish excerpts from letters about relatives on the islands and give news of family members.

The selection of issues covers 1941-1945 and are available to Diamond subscribers.

November 1941
December 1941
January 1942
February 1942
March 1942
April 1942
January 1943
February 1943
March 1943
April 1943
May 1943
June 1943
May 1945

Take a look now and see this and other great data sets they have to offer at TheGenealogist.co.uk:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Send to Kindle

Even after 1837 Parish Records Can Be Useful

Baptismal font St. Saviours, Dartmouth, Devon, UK.

Baptismal font St. Saviours, Dartmouth, Devon, UK.

Ever since I attended a lecture by John Hanson at the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show, a few years back, I have been aware that, just because we family historians are able to use the births marriages and death records from the General Register Office to find our ancestor’s vital events, we should not ignore the Parish Records for the years following 1837.

Convention has us researching back in the GRO details until 1837 the year that the state in England & Wales took over the responsibility of recording our ancestors BMD’s. Before that date we rely heavily on the church records to find our forebears. But what is often disregarded is that the church has gone on keeping registers of these events and sometimes they can give us little extra bits of information that we have not got from elsewhere.

For example, this week I was looking at my paternal grandmother’s family who hail from Plymouth. I was fleshing out my family tree by concentrating on my grandmother’s brother’s and sisters. Working laterally can often be a useful technique to understanding the family and sometimes can be used to break down a brick wall or two.

I had done a broad stroke tree many years before including six siblings to the chart; but at a recent family get together I became aware that one of her brothers was missing from my tree.

As luck will have it Find My Past has recently added more than three and a half million Plymouth and West Devon parish records to their website with entries that span from 1538 to 1911. The data comes from the Plymouth City Council’s Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.

On my family tree I had George Stephens born December quarter 1888 as the eldest child of Edgar Stephens and Ellen née Colwill. I had found his birth details in the birth indexes for As I had been saving money I had not ordered his birth certificate from the GRO but noted the page and volume number.

On Find My Past’s website I have now been able to see that he was christened George Edgar Colwill Stephens at Christ Church Plymouth in 1888. The name Colwill being his mother’s maiden name. I had not expected to have found this entry in an established church in Plymouth as the child’s parents had married at the Plymouth Register Office the year before.

At the time of writing this piece, however, I have yet to find any of their other children, including my grandmother, in the parish registers that are on line. I wonder what the story is here?

 

 

The websites that I use the most at the moment are Find My Past and The Genealogist.co.uk. To take your family history further I recommend that you to consider a subscription to these websites. Take a look now and see what great data sets they have to offer:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

Send to Kindle