Posts Tagged ‘Genealogy’

A footballer in the family

November 16, 2015

I suspect many of us make similar mistakes when we start genealogy. We all seem to like to collect names. Sites like genes reunited seem to make play of having a big family tree and I know, from asking questions of people, that many have people on trees that are relatives of in laws – so not really related to them at all.

Well Joseph Frost is related to me but maybe he’s more distant than I’d bother too much about these days. He is a fourth cousin once removed. This means that we share less than 2% of our ancestry and we are therefore 98% not related. But here we’ll just hang on to that not quite 2% for I have a photo which I think is Joseph. It came from a book about Heathfield.


Young Frost is sitting on the right hand end of the middle row of three players. He was a member of the Heathfield United Football Club for the 1909-10 season. Heathfield is in East Sussex.

Joseph was born in about 1885 in Burwash. In 1911 he was living in Heathfield with his parents and a brother. Joseph was a house painter by trade.

However distant, it is lovely to find an image of a relative in a local history book.

Heathfield Chapel

June 15, 2014


This chapel, on Cade Street, Heathfield was known to have been a favourite place of worship for members of my ancestors called Clarke including my Great Granny.. There has been a chapel on site since 1769 although only the pulpit, shown below, remains from that early chapel.


It has always been understood that there are family members buried in the graveyard, but on 2nd June 2006 I found none although a member of the Clarke family (Adelaide) did marry into the Leeves family.


The Baptismal, marriage and burial records show that the old family tradition was correct, though, for Sarah Clarke, née Palmer was laid to rest in the chapel on 5th February 1870. She was 83 and was my great great great grandmother.

The records also record the happy events – the births of members of the Clarke family, and also the more sombre deaths – often children. I’d guess the chapel only became licensed for marriages towards the very end of the 19th century.

Intriguingly, there was a speaker, who officiated at burials, in the 1920s and 30s with the surname Clarke

On a slightly different theme, my brother Matthew writes

Dad told me years ago that there was a rumour in the family that we were related to some of the martyrs burned at the stake in Lewes during the reign of Queen (bloody) Mary (1530 ish). Their names are recorded on a memorial stone at Cade Street Chapel.

I went looking for it when I was seeking inspiration about whether or not to go and work for a church when I graduated from UCL. It doesn’t have much on it – I only remember an out of context quotation from the New Testament “Jesus only” (Luke 9:36).

For the record, I have no knowledge of any link to the martyrs for the events took place (actually 1557) before records were kept. But one of the martyrs was called George Stevens which, perchance, was the name of a great grandfather of mine but born 300 years later.


Ann Scrace

February 13, 2014

Meet the Relative

Actually, there is no photo of this relative that I have. But who knows, putting her on this blog might just bring one to me.

Ann Scrace was a cousin three times removed. That means her grandfather was my great great great grandfather. She’s a cousin, but three generations older than me.

Ann was born in about 1837 in the parish of Frant in Sussex. It is her 1861 occupation that fascinates me. Her address was given as Bayham Abbey. She was housekeeper for the Marquis Camden but where he was in 1861 I don’t know. It seems that 24 year old Ann was in charge of Bayham Abbey. She had a housemaid with her and they were the only occupants.

I have tried to gather together postcards and images of places where family lived. Postcards are obviously much more recent so they don’t show an 1861 version of the abbey. Here is the Bayham Abbey card I have.


Now I rather like these artist created cards but was Ann really housekeeper of these ruins?

Probably not for there is also a Bayham Abbey House. A grand country pile and Ann was the singularly youthful housekeeper there.

Ann married John Batemen in 1865. They had two sons, William and Charles. By 1891 Ann was widowed and was living with her very aged parents back on the Bayham estate.

I think she died in 1898.

Charcoal burners

November 30, 2013

My original home county of Sussex was once heavily forested. When iron stone was found as well, charcoal was needed in large quantities for the iron smelting business. Charcoal ‘burning’ became a steady occupation for men willing to live in rather temporary shacks out in the woods. It was actually a skilled job to get the wood carbonised into charcoal, but not to allow it to really catch fire. The charcoal fire needed round the clock attention for several days. Here we see a post card of a charcoal burner’s home in Arundel Park.


My family didn’t live in that part of Sussex, but even so, this is a family postcard.


This card was sent to my Gran, Ethel Stevens in January 1905. The address was that of my Gran’s own granny, Helen Stevens. The sender was my Great Aunt Eliza. She was in service in Firle.

The message really reflects how postcards were the text message of the day. It is really a brief message more or less saying, ‘see you at five o’clock at the station tomorrow’.

In 1903 Eliza had ‘got into trouble’. She had a child!  I have the feeling, from some postcards, that my gran, still a youngster, did quite a lot of caring for baby Ernie for Eliza had to work. But I note on this card that Eliza says, ‘hope all are well as it leaves us both the same’. So Eliza seemed to be writing on behalf of two people, but the second one might have been Will Hughes who she married in 1906.

Whatever the situation, it’s a cute card which perhaps great great granny might have remembered seeing in her area, and like all messages, it adds just a little to family knowledge.

The will of Anthony Burnett

November 22, 2013

Anthony Burnett was a distant relative (actually of my wife).He came from the Ripon area of Yorkshire and was born in 1754.  He was in fact a 6 greats uncle or as the Americans say, a five greats grand uncle. Many wills were made more or less on death beds. This one is dated the First f march seventeen ninety nine. This was twenty years before Anthony died – at Littlethorpe, a village just south of Ripon. Here is the will and a reminder that an enlarged version – big enough to read – can be seen by clicking on the picture.


We can sometimes learn quite a bit from a will. So here we learn that Anthony was a flax dresser by trade, that he had three brothers, Peter, William and Christopher and there sisters, Elizabeth Postell, Ann Walls and Mary Burnett.

The brothers and the married sisters were each to get five pounds and Mary was to get the residue. As probate valued the estate of Anthony at £20, it could be that Mary did badly out of this.

Anthony died in 1819.

Ann Walls, by the way was my wife’s 5 greats grandmother. That means it was a direct ancestor who received the legacy of £5. In today’s terms that is worth anything between about £320 and £16000 depending on how you do your calculations.

Four Fisher men

November 14, 2013

Meet the ancestors.

Today we have a four in one ‘meet the ancestors’ page. These are ancestors of my wife and they have the surname Fisher

Four generations of Fisher men

Four generations of Fisher men

On the left we have James Fisher who had the nickname of Feathers. James was born in 1845 in Gawsworth in Cheshire. In 1863 he married Maria Mottershead and the couple went on to have five children. James became a member of the Manchester Police Force. He rose to the rank of Inspector before retiring, back to Gawsworth. In 1911 he styled himself a farmer. He lived until 1927, two years after this photo was taken.

On the right hand side we have James’s son, Abraham Rathbone Fisher – and what a boon that middle name of Rathbone was when researching the family. Abraham Rathbone Fisher sounds like a posh name, but it seems Abraham, nominally a postman, liked the insides of pubs. He was born in 1871 and married Mary Ann Robinson in 1893. They had three children.

One of his sons, James (again), is sitting in the middle.

James was my wife’s grandfather and he was born in 1893. In 1911 he was a draper’s assistant, but The First World War came along  – a war he came through with some distinction. He married Doris Shaw in 1921 and in 1923 they had Douglas, the little lad on his knee in the photo.

Douglas served with the RAF in World War two as a radio operator. He was my wife’s father. Sadly, he died much too young in the 1960s

Photos like this one help me to connect with the past. I knew both Douglas and his father, James. Here we see that they knew the older James, born in 1845, when Queen Victoria was still quite freshly on the throne. Somehow it brings me in contact with 1845 – not that James would have remembered that year. Maybe, though, he visited the Great Exhibition in 1851. The Fishers had a small farm so may have been able to afford a trip to such a special event.

Aunt Ruth acquires a Postcard

November 7, 2013

Many of the collection of postcards are very definitely family by origin but here’s one sent from someone – I have no idea who – to someone else who is not a family member. Well, it is a lovely card.


Now I have had a lovely experience of Loch Lomond – the time I travelled it on the paddle steamer called Maid of the Loch. On other visits I have found the banks to be less than bonny – but I have been travelling by car and there really seem to be so few places to stop for casual passers-by. But this artistic card portrays an idyllic scene quite delightfully.

The card was sent and has a message.


The card was sent to Miss M Stonley of The Gables, in Bexhill by L S. in the summer of 1912.

Looking up on the 1911 census we can see that Miss Stonley was running a small, private school  for children aged 6 to 9. My Great Aunt Ruth, older sister of my grandfather, was the cook there when my dad was little in the 1920s and she must have acquired the card for my dad’s, or more probably his sister’s collection. Ruth was a spinster at the time and it seems she quite doted on her nephew and niece.

My dad, in his memories, wrote about visits to Miss Stonley’s school.

In my childhood she was cook at The Gables in Cantelupe Road, advertised as a ‘Pre-Preparatory School for Boys aged 4 to 7’ .I understood that these were children of parents who lived in unhealthy parts of the Empire; I wonder now whether some were there on account of unorthodox family backgrounds. The school evidently met a need because it was always full.

I sometime visited The Gables when the boys and the two Mistresses were away. The semi-basement kitchen housed one of those massive cast-iron kitchen ranges that one sees today preserved in Stately Homes open to the public. It must have shifted a good deal of coal. I knew of houses with electric front door bells; this one had one loud bell but many bell pushes and an indicator high up in the kitchen showed which one had been pressed. There was also a speaking tube between the upstairs dining room and the kitchen and, with Aunt Ruth’s help I was allowed to try it. If the dining room wanted to talk to the kitchen the bung, which contained a whistle, was pulled out of the mouthpiece on the wall and the caller blew into the mouthpiece. This blew the corresponding whistle in the kitchen whereupon a maid withdrew the bung and applied an ear to the tube. Speech could then be transmitted downward and by interchanging mouths and ears, replies or questions could pass upwards. The bungs were tightly replaced when conversation was over.

I think I was presented to the proprietors/teachers -Miss Biggleston and Miss Stonley; I have a hazy memory of these somewhat forbidding ladies. The staff included the Matron who probably did most of the work in caring for the boys. She caused me semantic confusion because, while a matron, was clearly a sort of nurse, advertisements for womens’s clothes described some as suitable for ‘matrons’. I did not know at the time that they meant middle-aged women in general.

Any relatives of Miss Mary Stonley out there?

Meet the Relative – Great Uncle Sam

October 26, 2013

This blog celebrates its first anniversary today.


If I ever met Great Uncle Sam I don’t recall it. That’s a shame for it seems I was almost ten when he died. Had he lived a little longer we’d have had a family car and might have got to see him.

So my knowledge of Sam is based on what my dad wrote – and here is his paragraph about Sam.

UNCLE SAM. Sam was dad’s brother nearest to him in age and was the most obviously bright of the brothers, not necessarily more intelligent but more of what would now be called a lateral thinker. He had risen to the rank of warrant officer during the war when the others had all remained as privates or gunners. We did not see him often but in some sense he was my favourite Uncle. He was Recorder for East Sussex Milk-Recording Society travelling around to check the reliability of records maintained on member farms. (He checked my weighings once during the war when I was looking after a herd.) In my childhood he lived at Hadlow Down which had the disadvantage of being difficult to reach from Bexhill by public transport. His wife, Nell (Unsted) was a bit sharp spoken and I never felt wholly at ease with her. When I last saw her in 1941 or 42 she was a distressing site being warped by arthritis; she died soon after. Sam kept the home going but he died of a coronary around 1958.

I can comment on the inconvenience of travel in times past. It was but 15 miles in a straight line between Sam’s house and the Bexhill home of my grandparents and dad. But the journey was nigh on more than could be achieved in a day. They’d have needed a bus to get to the central station in Bexhill, followed by a train to Lewes and another on from there to Buxted. Then they’d have needed a bus to Hadlow Down and still something of a walk to Sam’s house. That public transport journey worked out at about 38 miles, hardly a major distance, but it involved four different buses or trains and waiting times. It would have taken hours.

So Sam and his family remained a bit of a hazy set of people. But of course, I have photos although Sam seemed not to be in the Edwardian family postcard writing set.


This must be Sam, the new recruit, ready to go off to fight in World War 1. By then he was already married to Nell and they had two sons.

Sam was promoted in the army.


This family photo shows Sam the sergeant and Nell with sons Aubrey and Don.

I have no photos from Sam’s later life.

Leigh, Kent

October 16, 2013

Like any place, Leigh, a village near Tonbridge in Kent, will mean different things to different people. It is a quintessential English village with a green. In the summer that famed sound of leather on willow can be heard as games of cricket unfold. Cricket bats and balls are (or at least were) made quite locally.


For me it is a family history place. A number of relatives lived there and some died there and are buried in the churchyard. According to a plan my great aunt Mabel occupies a spot somewhere in this photo.


It’s the gap where there isn’t a stone.

I’d love to know more about Mabel’s somewhat short and varied life. She was born in 1893 in Sale in Cheshire and came south with the family in the early years of the twentieth century. In 1916 she had a daughter who never knew who her father was. In 1919 she married Robert Baker and had a daughter called Beryl. Robert died in 1920 and probably should be regarded as a victim of the First World War. He took his own life and it would seem he suffered from what we now call post traumatic shock syndrome – then, more simply, called shell shock.

In 1922 Mabel had another son. Again, the father is not known.

Mabel died in 1937. Daughter Beryl followed in 1939. It sounds a sad, tormented life, yet my uncle, who lived there when his mother died, found it a wonderfully warm and friendly household.

I’m pleased to say I have a picture of Mabel on a seaside jaunt.


Mabel is on the right. The other lady is Alice Smith, mother in law of Mabel’s brother, Stan. I think that is a wonderfully charming photo.

But do you know, my main thoughts of Leigh centre around a true gentle man (deliberately two words although he was also a gentleman) who lived there. He was a family friend called Dick Wood and I must write about him one day.

Crawley, Hampshire

October 11, 2013

My home town, for most of childhood became Crawley in Sussex. I say became, because Crawley grew as the New Town was built and our little village of Ifield became a part of the much larger town.

But there is another, smaller Crawley, not far from Winchester in Hampshire. We used to pass quite close to the place quite frequently.

And then it became a place with genealogy interest. My wife’s great great great grandfather was Nicholas Lanfear. We can only imagine he was a rather restless character from the limited information we have.

‘He was born about 1795 but his place of birth and parents remain a mystery.  He was working in Crawley, Hampshire in about 1808 (from a settlement examination).  He married Mary Limbrick at Gloucester in 1818.’

With that in mind, back in 2003 we deviated from the main road and went into Crawley, Hampshire. These days it seems a grand sort of place. You’d think the people were definitely pretty prosperous. Nicholas, we know, was a hurdle maker and he probably was in and out of work and living on, or more probably below, the breadline.

We weren’t sure what, if anything the Nicholas of 1808 would have recognised 200 years later. Perhaps it might have been the church.


There we have an idyllic, peaceful, rural English scene

Of course, we don’t know if Nicholas was a church goer. It certainly doesn’t seem he was baptised here.

We have looked at the story of his transportation to Australia earlier on this blog (click here).