Finding Ships That my Merchant Navy Ancestors Sailed

 

Captain Henry Thomas Thorne on the GWR Dolphin, Dartmouth, Devon.
Captain Henry Thomas Thorne on the GWR Dolphin, Dartmouth, Devon.

I have a bit of salt in my blood, especially on my paternal side. This week I’ve been using the Crew List Index Project (CLIP) website to find out a bit more about some of them.

CLIP was set up to improve access to the records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th century and has gathered the largest database of entries from crew lists.

While I was not successful in tracking down a crew list for the particular ship I was looking at this week I did manage to use their finding aids to flesh out a bit more information on a couple of vessels that my family have sailed.

 

On CLIP’s website they have a useful finding aid tool http://www.crewlist.org.uk/data/data.html

Selecting the Vessels by Name I was able to find the Official number for the  S.S. Dolphin and then I could  find her in a list that gave me her date and place where she was built and the address of her owners.

You need to tie a ship down to its official number as there may be several vessels of the same name, as is the case with the Dolphin. Also a ship may change its name in its lifetime but the official number is unique to it and never changes.

I found a reference to the Dolphin in a document in The National Archives which I will take a look at the next time I visit Kew and the TNA.

Using Google Books I was able to call up a Lloyd’s Register of Shipping but this time I could find no entry for this particular Dolphin. I have to say that I am only just starting out on this research and it is turning out to be fascinating. I will put what I learn about the process into a forthcoming lesson within my Family History Researcher course, which can be accessed by clicking the image below.

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The Family History Researcher and Harold P Matthews

Last week I wrote about how a family story had sent me off looking for my great-uncle Harold who served in the RAF during the Second World War and rising from Warrant Officer to Wing Commander in the Technical Branch.

One of my kind readers suggested a lead after they had done a Google search for H.P.Matthews that threw up a person of this name working for the Australian Department of Supply in a document referring to the Blue Streak Missile project. I had also come across something similar in Google Books and so was likewise wondering if there was a connection to Australia.

I set to work doing a trawl of Google search results and found a copy of an article in a 1959 copy of Flight Magazine with a picture of the Australian Government London Representative of the Department of Supply Mr H P Matthews.

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1959/1959%20-%202503.html

Regretfully I came to the conclusion that it didn’t look to me to be the same man. You see I have a picture of my Great-Uncle in my baby photo album! He and my great-aunt Winnie came to visit me in the late 1950’s (I was born in the summer of 1958) and there is one of them with me as a baby.

A further search of Google books have thrown up some snippet views of books that have Wg. Cdr H P Matthews appointed as the managing director of Zwicky Ltd in 1958. This company was a filters, pumps, airport ground equipment, pressure control valves, and hydraulic equipment manufacturer of Slough and Harold Matthews was also the MD of SkyHi Ltd. a hydraulic jack manufacturers also of Slough and possibly related to the first company.

 

I did a search on the website www.forces-war-records.co.uk and here I could see that H.P.Matthews was awarded the MBE, OBE and BEM, 1939-1945 War Medal, 1939-1945 Star and was Mentioned in Despatches, but not a lot else.

I am still at the beginning of cracking this family story and it is a major regret that I didn’t know Uncle Harold better. It would seem he was some sort of an aviation engineer, but I still don’t know what he did in the war that got him such promotion and honours!

http://www.apimages.com/oneup.aspx?rids=b122ed18743d49238762fd28fd2f913b

 

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Investigating my ancestor’s wedding certificate a little more

In the last posting about questions with my ancestor’s wedding certificate I discovered that the parish was not written on the document as I had expected it to be. Instead of St.Mary’s Portsea there was a series of pen strokes that seemed to begin with a P but could not be made out.

If you have read the comments, to that post, then you will see a suggestion from James Mac that it may have been a daughter church of St. Mary’s. He suggested I should try to tie down the incumbent, by using the resources of Crockford’s Clerical Directory. Well this is exactly what I did. In fact I used the 1865 edition that is available to search on Google Books for free.

From the copy of the certificate, that I had obtained from the General Register Office by post, I made out the name of the person marrying my 2x great-grandparents to be W H Rednap. I also noted that the marriage was by “Certificate”.

Ancestor's wedding certificate

Now some folk have pointed out to me that “by certificate” usually means that the marriage was conducted by a Registrar. This is common in nonconformist church weddings and at registry offices. I turned to Mark Herber’s Ancestral Trails and found the line: “From 1837 marriages could also take place before civil registrars, or in chapels licensed under the Civil Registrations Acts. The law permitted the superintendent registrar to issue a certificate (similar to an Anglican licence) authorising marriages (without banns) in licensed places of worship”.

But even though the groom had been baptised in the Presbyterian church in Dartmouth, his wedding certificate indicates that it was carried out according to the Rites of the Established Church by one W H Redknap. Crockford’s confirms that William Henry Redknap was the Perpetual Curate of Milton, Portsea, in the diocese of Winchester from 1859, the year my ancestor’s married and formally the Curate of Portsea.

So then I looked into the history of Milton’s Church and found it was consecrated in 1841 and dedicated to St James, having been carved from the ancient parish of Portsea.

I do not know when in 1859 the Revd. Redknap took up his incumbency at nearby Milton, but my great-great-grandparents married in February 1859, in the early part of the year. So now I am leaning back towards the marriage having taken place in the main church of Portsea, by its curate before he moved to Milton. The Ancient Parish Church is St.Marys; but then this begs the question as to why it was “by certificate”?

I need now to consult the parish records of Portsea to lay this question to rest. Perhaps a trip to the Hampshire Archives is called for!

 

 

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The British Newspaper Archive and Google Books Smash a Family Tree Brick Wall

As many of us find out, when we start to research our family history, our forebears can be a mixture of characters who can come from different walks of life and backgrounds.

In my case I have agricultural labourers, small businessmen, carpenters and brass-founders. There are mariners, soldiers and an intriguing line that “lived on their own means” and are descended from Scottish nobility, albeit in some cases, from the “wrong side of the blanket”.

One of these ancestors, who has always interested me, is a 2 x great-grandfather who appears on the various census as not having an occupation other than owning houses and funds. I had traced Charles Crossland Hay back from Cheltenham in England, where he died in 1858, to his birth in Dunbar in Scotland in 1797 the son of a merchant, who was also called Charles Hay, and his wife Mary Ann Stag. Charles Hay senior then moves his home to Edinburgh and then I pick up the son, Charles Crossland Hay, living at Auchindinny House, near Lasswade, before he marries his bride from Fife in 1832.

Over their life together they have seven children. Two of which are born in Scotland with four born in England and the seventh, my great grandfather, born in France. This last child is registered as a British subject and is christened in Lasswade, back in Scotland, and so his details were to be found on the ScotlandsPeople website.

With the recent launch online of The British Newspaper Archive at http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
I have, at last, gained more information that has allowed me to find out more about the business of my 2x great-grandfather, through a report on the tragic death of one of his other sons: William.

William Wemyss Frewen Hay died at the age of 30 from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney on a visit to the garrison there. In the newspaper article it stated that he was the son of the late Charles Crossland Hay of the firm Hay, Merricks & Co of Roslin.
Hay Merricks Gunpowder on a website
Now I could start using the search engines to find out about the company, but first of all I did a search of the newspapers for the business. I was rewarded by finding advertisements for their “Sporting Gunpowder” in papers from all over the country.

I went on to find samples of the gunpowder for sale at Christie’s and books mentioning the products digitised and on Google books.

Looking at a map I could also see that Roslin is but a stones throw away from Auchendinny and from the Lasswade parish church, so explaining the family’s link to the area.

On Google Books, I came across a Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1837-8 dealing with the effect of fictitious votes in Scotland after the Reform Act brought in by the Whigs. There is a list of voters and how they voted included in the document, something that would be unthinkable today. The four business partners of Hay, Merricks & Company of Roslin Powder Mills, which include Charles Crossland Hay, are all recorded as being voters for the Whig party in the years between 1832 to1850 at Roslin.

So now I have ascertained that my ancestor voted for the Whig party and was involved in the manufacture of gunpowder and all this has flowed from a newspaper report into the horrific, slow, painful death of his second son William in 1867 on Alderney, and who was actually born in 1836, two years before the report on fictitious votes was published.

What this shows me, is how events that occur at different points in a timeline and which get reported, can so easily unlock brick walls that occur at other times in the timeline.

 


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