Walking in Ancestor’s Footprints

 

Paddington Street Marylebone This week I was able to take a day out in London to walk in my ancestor’s footprints.

I have know since the 1861 census went online that one of my Devon forefathers had a spell working up in the capital. In that year he was listed as a married man working as a plasterer at 19 Paddington Street, Marylebone in London.

We all have certain ancestors that fascinate us for one reason or another and one of my favourites is George Colwill the son of William, a hatter who had moved from Tavistock to set up as a grocer in Plymouth.

Having a change of career path, when you can see something more lucrative in front of you, seems to run in this branch of the family as by 1871 George had moved back to Devon with his wife and children and had set up as a Baker in Plymouth.

His new occupation seems to have been influenced by his time in London as at number 19 Paddington Street lived a master baker and a journeyman baker, as well as George and his wife Charlotte. Both the bakers were natives of  the same county as George, Devon. Were they friends? I also wonder if my ancestor quickly mover from mixing plaster to kneading dough while living there?

Being a baker in Plymouth was to make George a very wealthy man!

By the time of his death, in 1915, he left a comfortable amount of money to his daughters –  the equivalent of £2.2 million in economic status value translated into today’s money. Sadly, none of this has come my way!

 

While I was in Marylebone High Street, this week, I took a side trip down Paddington Street and found number 19, where my 2x great-grandparents once lived. Today it is a modern building, as perhaps the previous property was demolished after bomb damage in the war. But the rest of the street still gave me an insight into the ambience of the place in the 19th century. The leafy park opposite the building would have been a church yard in George’s day.

I have to report that I suddenly felt a strong affinity with them, as I walked from the doorway of the former shop and up the road to the busy Marylebone High Street. There I did some window shopping before making my way to the railway station and a train out of London for the provinces.

Have you visited your ancestors street and felt the same?

 

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Using the Address Search on TheGenealogist Website

 

IMGP0852IMGP0853I was looking back at some old photographs from the 1970s this weekend.

They are quite faded colour pictures taken on a Kodak Instamatic camera from the time and I was about 18 and starting my first job as a reservations clerk for a tour operator in Birmingham.

This was the house in which I lived. You can’t see my room in either of the photos from the back garden, neither in the summer snap, nor winter one.

The reason was that my room was right up in the attic and had a skylight that was up high and was somewhere near the chimney on the right. If I got up on a chair I could see a flat piece of roof and if I clambered out of the window I could then see distant high rise flats through Edgbaston’s leafy canopy.

This journey into my past made me stop and think about the house and its history.

Thinking about it now, my room must have been intended for a servant to sleep in, and so it had me wondering if I could find, in the census collection, the names of those who had once occupied this house.

One of the great tools that subscribers to TheGenealogist get is the ability to use their address search on any of the census from 1841 through to 1911. There is also the ability to search for a family in the census, which I have found really useful in the past. This is in addition, of course, to the normal name search of the census that you are probably use to using.

So in this case I made a search of “Carpenter Road in Edgbaston” and soon discovered that it had once been known as Carpenters Lane. I easily located the house and discovered that it was owned in 1841 by a 35 year old Merchant called William Bolton, his 25 year old wife and 6 children and looking after them were three servants, one of which must have occupied what was destined to become my room!

Moving forward through the years I discovered that by 1861 it was occupied by a different family, the head of which was a Solicitor and he managed with just two servants.

As the decennial census came and went the occupiers and their servants changed until in 1891 a 52 year old man with the same Christian name and surname of William Bolton is recorded as the head! Looking back to the 1841 census there is no 2 year old son recorded to the first William Bolton. Is this just a coincidence, or is it a member of the family taking back a house that has been leased out for many years? Perhaps I may look into this one day.

Without knowing about the facility at TheGenealogist to do an address search of the census data I would never have uncovered this intriguing fact.

By the way, all the servants that may have occupied my room were females. I do wonder if any had managed to climb out of the skylight, to stand on that narrow piece of flat roof next to the chimney, as I had? With their long skirts I think not!

TheGenalogist has some easy to use search tools and thousands of records to help the family historian find their ancestors. Click on the image below and get started!

 

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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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!

 

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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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Family History Research finds moved house

Sous L'Eglise Summer holiday time can be a great opportunity to look at the places where your ancestors lived.

Quite often I have used time visiting an area to walk down the streets where my ancestors footsteps went before me and just imagining how it would have been in their day.

I will have often have prepared for such a trip beforehand. In most cases using the census collections and copies of trade directories to”get a feel” for the location in their era.

It is important to try and understand the social history of the town or area where our forebears lived, but what about our own history? Shouldn’t we try and document our times for those who follow?

As we grow older we constantly find that things have moved on, streets have changed, businesses have closed up, buildings demolished.

This week I was reminded of this fact by a visit from several cousins of mine to Jersey. A first cousin, his daughter plus fiancé, flew in from Canada, while a first cousin once removed, plus husband, came from the Midlands by plane. (If you find cousin relationships difficult to understand then check out my free report here.)

My elder cousin from Canada had memories of certain shops, that he had gone to with our grandparents and would have liked to have taken a trip to. The problem was that they had long since gone or changed in the intervening years.

We managed, however, to do many of the sites that had family associations for us; but I was still struck at how change in my own lifetime had crept up on my local environment. From the reclamation of land for a cinema, swimming-pool complex, 5 star hotel and housing apartments, which now replaces the beach where my science teacher had taken the class to learn some hands-on Marine Biology, to the house by the airport where my younger cousin (now based in England) had once lived as a child.

This was to be a great story as the Georgian farmhouse had been demolished, as new regulations deemed it to be too close to the airport runway. In actual fact there had been a dreadful air crash when my cousins lived in it, but she and her mother were thankfully away from the house at the time. In the fog a light aircraft had flown into said building with the loss of the pilot’s life.

Yesterday we took a trip to the site of the demolished house and walked around the footprint of the building. It was an eerie feeling as we picked our way over the old foundations.

I noticed the former garden still had flowers and plant bushes in it that indicted its past life as a formal front garden. These hardy specimens fighting through the weeds and wild foliage that aimed to sometime soon take control.

The happy ending to this piece is that the house was demolished stone-by-stone and it has sprung up again in restored Georgian glory as the cladding to a replica house a few miles down the road! The project is ongoing and the people behind it have a website here:  http://savethelistedbuilding.com/

Yesterday we were privileged to be allowed to visit the house’s new site and my cousin, who had once lived within its granite structure, was delighted with the restoration and the positive ambience of its new location.

 

Think of those who will come after us, what stories can we leave them about our times?

To download my guide to Cousins, Step-mothers and Half-brothers click on this link.

 

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