Stoneywell

 

Stoneywell National Trust property.Just back from visiting the National Trust Property of Stoneywell in Leicestershire.

Built as a summer home by Arts and Crafts architect-designer Ernest Gimson for his brother Sydney, Stoneywell zigzags from its rocky outcrop, amid rhododendrons and heather. Every turn conjures childhood memories of holiday excitement, dashing down the winding steps –– one way to the fort, the other to the woods beyond.

The visit to this small National Trust house was a treat for my 90 year old dad, who once-upon-a-time had been an architect himself.

I found it fascinating from the point of view of seeing artefacts from the late Victorian times and up to the 1950s. The way that these everyday household items could spark off memories for both myself, with the more recent ones, and for my dad with the older objects.

It reminded me that seeing a facet of the Gimson’s family history, in the form of this well presented National Trust house, or indeed anybody else’s family life in photos or in a property such as this, can so easily be used to flesh out your own family story. The social influences on our ancestors is just as much a part of of our family story as is the family tree charting names and dates of births, marriages and deaths. By seeing the exhibits in a museum, or the furniture, books, children’s toys or the typewriter on the desk in Stoneywell and matching them to your own forebears, from the period, can help to make the telling of our family history all the more interesting.

Stoneywell pantry Stoneywell typewriter Stoneywell Model Train

 

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Family History sent me round the houses today!

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I was back in the area of Jersey where I grew up today.

It was not my family history that I was researching, but ancestors belonging to someone else.

I had received a request to take a photograph of the house in which my contact’s forebears had lived and so I went to my computer and opened TheGenealogist.co.uk and looked up the head of the household in their Channel Island records.

This site has some “Jersey Almanacs” which are very useful trade directories for the islands and soon I was on the trail.

The Genealogist also has the full run of census data and images, which I next used to quickly find the person in question.

Unless you are new, to family history research, then you will be aware that the census collections are also available on Ancestry and Findmypast as well. I tend to use all three sites, as sometimes the transcription on one may help me better locate a person with a difficult name spelling.

 

In the 1901 and 1911 census it was quite plain that the family in question lived around the harbour at St Aubin, in the parish of St Brelade. The census in each case clearly gave the name of the house, though it was different in 1911 from 1901 so there was the possibility that the family had moved a very short distance. Either that or they had changed the name of their house.

So a simple task, you may think. All I had to do was pop along to the road in question and snap a building. Even if the house name was no longer visible, or had changed, there was bound to be a property in the road that had retained its name and I could use as a reference point. All I would need to do is count down the houses from that one.

Oh that it was so easy! You see the harbour front has some alleyways off it and these had different road names today from the ones used in the census. It seems to me that the parish has gone back to using the older French names for these roads from the Anglicised ones used in 1901 and 1911.

Another problem was that off these alleys were some semi-detached cottages, some of which are reached via foot paths. Also there were a set of steps, leading up to the steep Market Hill that rises behind the harbour, on which three more un-named cottages perched.

Both of the census records ignored the Methodist Church, that sat in the middle of the harbour frontage between one of my reference properties, as is to be expected if it had no residents to be counted. But it was also obvious that, in times past, some of the other buildings would have been warehousing, or other uninhabited commercial buildings and so these too were not enumerated. This made my task of counting down the houses to the ones for which I was searching, difficult.

I consulted the “Description of the Enumeration District” as in some cases this can give you a good idea of the enumerator’s walk. In this case it mentioned the names of the roads, in general, but did not explain how he had dealt with buildings set behind each other or to the side.

By finding some more reference buildings, that is those that have retained their names through to today, I was able to tie down the house in the 1901 to being on one plot. I am not certain that it is the actual building as it may well have been built later, it not having many of the period features of its neighbours to give away its age.

So only a partial victory for family history research this week, but the Description of the Enumeration District can be a useful tool elsewhere and browsing through a road on the census can often be illuminating in other ways. Sometimes you may find more members of the family living close by and a child missing from one house in its grandparent’s or Aunt and Uncles. I remember finding this in my own family in Plymouth.

 

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House History with Census Records

 

5 West Lea I’ve been looking at my house history this week and in particular the people who lived in what has become my home, way back in 1901 and 1911.

To do this I went to TheGenealogist.co.uk and selected that I was looking for an address and then the 1901 census and the palace, in my case Channel Islands as I live on the outskirts of St Helier, Jersey in an area called First Tower.

From my own research I know that the house was only built around 1900 and was near to what use to be a railway station. The railways are long gone from Jersey but around the turn of that century the Jersey Railway ran along the seafront from St Helier to St Aubin.

So it was no surprise to find that the occupants of my house worked for the railways.

In 1911 the head of the household was a 29 year old Ship’s Cook working for the Marine Department of the Railway Company and was born in Portsmouth. His wife was a  24 year old Jersey girl and they had a one year old son. The head’s brother, a single man from Portsmouth, lived with them and worked in a wine and spirit works. To complete the household they also had a boarder as well. Five persons crammed into this small seaside cottage must have been difficult for privacy.

The boarder was another railway worker, a Loco Engineer Foreman from Durham. He was slightly older than the others at 34 and was married, but no sign of his wife in this property. Perhaps he was working away from home to earn a crust?

One of their near neighbours was a Railway Clerk thus indicating to me how the railway was an important employer at this time.

If I look at the 1901 census my house is not yet inhabited, but the neighbours include a Telephone Company worker and a manager of some sort; but no railway workers!

Having found this interesting I may now go and look at some of the other places I have lived in England and Jersey.

Have you looked into your own house history? Why not take a look at what you can find on TheGenealogist by clicking on the image below?

 

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Rate Books for Family History Research

Ancestors in Thorne Family treeFollowing on from the last article here I got a comment posted by James McLaren of the Channel Island Family History Society regarding using Rate books both in his specialist area of Jersey family history research and also for London by using the Land Tax assessments and the Electoral Registers on Ancestry.co.uk.

As my interest was piqued I have done a bit more research on the subject and share some of my findings here.

A rate book is a document that was used to record the payment of property taxes that was applied to both residential and business properties in the U.K. until its replacement with the council tax during the 1990s.

As a resident of Jersey I am well aware that, in our island, Rates are still levied by our civil Parish administration along with a recent addition of an island wide rate collected at the same time. Some part of that rate pays for the upkeep of roads, lighting, bins emptied while a small part of it is still used to upkeep the ancient Parish Church in each of the twelve parishes of Jersey.

I was, therefore, interested to find that rates in England and Wales were originally a levy for the parish church that, by the time of Henry VIII’s Reformation, were also being used for non ecclesiastical purposes such as repairs to bridges and local goals. Many rates collections were to support the Poor Law to maintain the workhouses and provide money for the elderly or incapacitated parishioners.

The theory of rates was that a property would be assessed at what its annual rental value was and each year I am intrigued to see what my house in St.Helier has been deemed to be worth in rent – if I didn’t need to live in it, that is!

Returning to my look at rates collected in bygone England and Wales, some householders will no doubt have objected to the level of assessment of their property. Appeals were then heard by the Justices of the Peace.

The collection, of these land taxes, would have been the responsibility of the parish constable, until the establishment of professional police forces when a full or part-time rate collector would have done the job. It was up to the constable to record the payments, and any arrears, in rate books which were then perused by the parish officials.

My investigation revealed that the earliest rate books stretch back as far as the 16th century, but you would be very lucky to find one from then. Most seem to begin in 1744, which was the year when ratepayers were given the right in law to inspect the rate records. Needless to say not all will have survived the passing of time and so gaps will occur.

So where does one look for rate books? The answer is in the County or City Record Offices and also at local history studies libraries.

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 too 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.

 

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Family Tree Questions Answered from a Visit to Ancestor’s Home Town

The Mouth of the DartI am still fresh from a visit to my ancestor’s home town and although I have been there before, I have still come back with some more answers to add to the story of my forebears.

It is all very well to sit at one’s computer and look at the census documents online or to pour over maps of the area, but there is often more to be gained by taking a look at the physical location where our ancestors lived, worked and played.

Many of my readers will know that my paternal line is from Dartmouth in Devon and I have a 2x great-grandfather that spent 40 years of his working life on the river Dart as the steersman and then Captain of the railway ferry that crosses from Kingswear to Dartmouth.  Today it is the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company that runs the heritage railway from Paignton to Kingswear, but in my great-great-grandfather’s time it was the South Devon Railway Company from 1866 until it amalgamated with the Great Western Railway in 1876.

I decided that this time I’d arrive by train and then cross the river on the modern equivalent of my 2 x great-grandfather’s ferry. Not exactly walking in his footsteps but traveling in his wake, perhaps? With me I had the print outs of the various census data, a map and also some of the birth, death and marriage certificates. My aim was not only to see the roads, where they lived, but also to find the houses they occupied and to visit the churches where they married, baptised their children and were buried. I have come back with many photographs to flesh out the family history story and have touched the ancient font in which some would have been christened.

Consulting with my copy of the 1901 census, I set off for the road where he had lived. There were many houses on that street and I did not know which was the one that he had occupied in that year.

Many people make the mistake of reading the first column of the census as being the house number, when it is actually the schedule number. It is in the next column that the name or number of the house is written but in some cases, including for my Dartmouth family, the enumerator did not give numbers to the various houses in the street. I have a census page in which only the name of the street is written and then duplicated for each separate household without any means of telling which building they occupied.

For 2 x great-grandfather Henry Thorne the census gave me the name of a road which climbs up the hill from the town, but no number. His last will gave me the name of a road, that runs parallel to the one named in the census but again with no number! His Death Certificate gave the name of a house, but no street and so I was flummoxed as to where exactly he had lived until, on my recent visit, I walked the length of the road.

As luck would have it, in a development of Victorian terraced houses, with bay windows looking out over the road named in the will – but in a walk way continuing up from the road named in the census – I found a likely house. Letters painted in the window light above its front door matched the name on the death certificate. It is almost certainly his house and so I took my photograph and went in search of where his parents’ (my 3x great-grandparents) lived down in the town.

Dartmouth Family Tree Researcher finds Ancestor's houseIt is not always possible to visit the home town of one’s ancestors, as I have been fortunate enough to do and so the next best thing is to use the technology that Google Maps provides us with in its very useful Street View facility. With this service you can walk the roads in virtual cyberspace looking from left to right and up and down by using the navigation control on the left top of the window.

 

Has anyone got similar stories? Leave a comment below.

 

 

Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:

 

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.

 

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