Two problems solved

John George 1815 – 1901

Recently I read in Family Tree Magazine that the GRO are currently running a pilot scheme whereby you can order a pdf copy of birth and death records for certain periods. When an actual ‘certificate’ is not needed – just the information contained on it – then the vastly reduced price of £6 is quite an inducement to buy when normally a certificate costs £9.25.  Currently the records available in this format are births 1837 – 1916 and deaths 1837 – 1957.

I was aware of a couple of events on my George tree where the GRO information would be very useful: the actual death date of my Great Great Grandfather John George in 1901 and the birth of a William George who is recorded in censuses living with John’s parents David and Elizabeth and apparently a grandson.  I have not been able to place him properly, so information on his parentage would be very useful.

Finding the GRO references for both was very easy using the search facility on the ordering site https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/ and cross-checking with the Freebmd site for good measure.  Having set up an account I placed my order and exactly seven days later I got an email to say that the pdfs were ready to download!  I was impressed with the speed of the process but even more excited about the results.  It’s some years since I ordered a certificate by post, but the excitement (“what am I about to find out?”) was still the same.  I was not disappointed.

It turns out that William was born on the 25th of October 1838 to Mary George, the older sister of my G G Grandfather John.  Her illegitimate son was born in the workhouse at Gressenhall, Norfolk.  Now Mary was not a teenage mum – she was 30 when she had William.  Although I have not located her in 1841, subsequent censuses show her as a servant in various farming households in the area.  Her parents were obviously happy to take the boy in and bring him up – at some point I will see if I can find what happened to him in later life. Mary never married and lived to the grand age of 95, dying in Gressenhall and buried in the churchyard there.

As for John George, well he died on the 14th February 1901 of ‘senile decay’, apparently aged 89 years (although I think that should have been 85).  Where did he die?  In Gressenhall workhouse!  That was a surprise.  Poor John.  Perhaps when he developed what we might term dementia his wife Fanny was unable to cope with him at home, I thought.  Wondering what happened to Fanny, I did a bit of digging around and eventually realised that she died first – in 1894 – while visiting or even living with her daughter Martha in Fakenham.

Possibly, then, John was admitted to the Workhouse some years before he died and Fanny went to live with her daughter. Unfortunately the Admissions records for that period do not seem to have survived as far as I can tell so that is probably as far as I can get.  Except that a very helpful Volunteer Researcher at the Gressenhall Museum was able to tell me that the burial ground at the workhouse went out of use in 1900.  I will need to do a bit more hunting to find where he was actually buried.

This workhouse, unlike some others which have been turned into luxury appartments, survives and thrives as a museum and we visited it just the other year, little knowing then the personal connection I had with the place. https://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/gressenhall-farm-and-workhouse .

I think that was £12 well spent to have discovered the answers to those two outstanding questions. I wonder what other problems I can resolve while the pilot lasts?

Gressenhall Workhouse
The former workhouse at Gressenhall
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Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor…

Well it’s that time of year again when the A Level students are submitting their university applications.   Psychology, Sports Science, Marketing, Chinese with Economics, Film Production, Linguistics, Aeronautical Engineering – you name it, you can do it at university these days.  Shall I  be a journalist or an Events Manager?  Should I go into digital marketing or nanotechnology?  For the most part these are choices our ancestors just did not have.  And whatever you apply for, whether a degree course or one of the increasing number of higher or degree level apprenticeships, the application process can be increasingly complex.

Back in my day, you applied for university on a paper application form written in black ink. I suppose we must have written a personal statement, but I really can’t remember doing that.  The choice of courses and universities was not vast.  Going to open days in advance of applying was definitely not a thing – you were invited for an interview and if you were lucky you might get to see some accommodation while you were there.  Today, of course, all the universities are after the same, currently small, pool of students and open days are big business.  If you applied for an apprenticeship forty-odd years ago you would almost certainly not have had to do a psychometric test or attend an assessment centre and would definitely not have had to do an interview by phone or skype as part of the selection process.

If I look through my family trees at ancestral occupations I can see that ‘agricultural labourer’ is far and away the most common. In rural areas the choice was limited – your father was an ‘ag lab’ so that’s what you went into too.  Not much family wealth, not much education, not much choice.

Ag labs

There are some more diverse occupations that occur on my family trees: stonemasons in Oxfordshire, bricklayers in north London and dyers in Derbyshire.  Creating a report through RootsMagic on my George family also reveals a French Polisher, a brushmaker, a blacksmith, a Police Constable and a gardener’s labourer.  (No tinkers or tailors).  Of course that’s just the men.  What about the women?  That same report shows a laundress and a Headmistress.  In other family groups there are women basically supporting their husband’s business, whether that was running a pub or shoemaking, but basically following marriage it was assumed a woman had occupation enough with running a home and raising a family.  And of course for women in some occupations (like teaching in the early days) it was forbidden to continue once you were married.

Mum was looking through her 1947 diary recently. She applied for teacher training and made a note in her diary that she received a letter from Furzedown College near Streatham on a Friday, inviting her for interview the following Monday!  Not much time for preparation.  She noted the timings of her fairly lengthy journey there on the Monday and reckoned the interview can’t have lasted more than a quarter of an hour judging by the time of the return train!  Certainly times have changed – nowadays a Primary Education application involves passing skills tests in English and Maths and the interview day may well include a written task, a presentation, a group exercise as well as an individual interview.

Mum’s diary also notes that her father’s cousin Edith (who is the Headmistress referred to above and whose village of Leigh in Staffordshire we visited earlier this year) came to visit that year and gave Mum 10 shillings! I wonder if she passed on any teaching tips?!

Tinker, tailor……. The choice of occupations is greater for today’s school leavers, but so are the hoops they have to jump through to get there.

 

 

Back to Norfolk

Is there some unwritten law that says that you are bound to make your most interesting discovery at any archival repository in the last few minutes before closing time?  Is that your experience too?

We do like Norfolk, and this year’s summer holiday there was a chilled mixture of family history and touristy things.  Staying just outside Norwich made accessing the city centre easy, but was also a great base from which to travel to the North Norfolk coast.  And on the one day when it was properly hot I did indeed swim in the sea.

Early in the holiday we spent a day at Kirby Hall, the research base of the Norfolk Family History Society.  This time I systematically looked at monumental inscriptions (MIs) and graveyard plans for some of the villages surrounding East Dereham:  Yaxham, Scarning, East Bilney, Gressenhall, Wendling, Swaffham, Ovington, Watton, Carbrooke and Shipdham.

For most of these there was no one with the surname George at all, but I was pleased to find an MI for Eliza George, the wife of Francis, at Gressenhall, who died in 1898, though it was strange that there was no mention of Francis himself, nor of his older sister Mary.  There were a few Georges at Wendling, who turn out to have hailed from Great Massingham, so they’re not mine.  I was surprised to find none at Ovington, but the name did crop up in Watton and Carbrooke.

Looking at a number of Parish Register transcripts enabled me to see that there were loads of George baptisms, marriages and burials at Watton.  I was particularly interested to find the marriage of David George and Ann Tennant (of West Bradenham) on 9 March 1717.  This is a David George I’ve not come across before and as the Christian name David does not seem that common, it’s an entry I will endeavour to follow up.

The Carbrooke parish register transcript is not indexed, but it contains masses of entries for George.  I ran out of time, so I just hope they are on NORS!

You never know who you will meet at these places, and a fellow researcher at Kirby Hall, on enquiring of my line of research,  told me that a Douggie George used to keep the Duke of Wellington pub in Dereham.  I’ll file that bit of information away for future reference!

Following our visit to Kirby Hall we were able to do a village tour to take photos and look for graves.  We were lucky at Carbrooke that cleaning was taking place, so we were able to see inside the lovely church.  Others were all shut up with no clue as to when they might be open or how to obtain a key (Ovington, Watton and  Wendling).  At Gressenhall there was a notice to say the key could be obtained from the shop in the village. Scarning Church is open on Fridays, so we timed that just right.  Eliza George’s grave at Gressenhall was interesting as the headstone quite clearly showed the name of Francis’ sister Mary as well, who died in 1897, so I’m not sure how that had been missed in the transcription.

Grave of Eliza George at Gressenhall Church

The staff at Norfolk Record Office were pleasant and helpful, as they had been two years previously.  I have been well and truly stuck at the top of my George tree for some years now, since I have failed to find a baptism for David George, who was probably born around 1786 in East Dereham.  That being the case, I wanted to broaden the type of documents I looked at, in an attempt to find other mention of the surname.  The Vestry Minutes 1778 – 1806 and 1837 – 1863 were not particularly name-rich.  The Alphabetical Account of Proprietors and tenements 1765 for East Dereham did not yield any Georges, and neither did the East Dereham Apprenticehsip papers 1705 – 1851; unfortunately the records of Scarning School were predominantly of a much later date.  The East Dereham Rate Books were more fruitful than the title had suggested:  In July 1856 James, David, Widow, Ann and Frederick George were all mentioned, with the owner of the property, its location and the rate payment collected.  This appears to be an Assessment for the Relief of the Poor.  In 1822 David, John senior and John George were all mentioned and two John Georges in 1819.  None of this was massively helpful, but at this stage of the research anything is worth a try!  My George research is fast becoming a bit of a mid Norfolk One Name Study.

So why is it, I wonder, that there appears to be some law that you make your most interesting discovery in the last few minutes before closing time?  In this instance I stumbled upon the Archdeacon’s copies of the East Dereham parish records.  Are these the same as Bishop’s Trancripts?  I’m not sure, to be honest.  But what was interesting was that there seems to be a gap in the recorded baptisms between 1777 and 1789.  Is this the same in the original set? If so, it could well explain the missing baptism of David George.  But, alas, I was out of time to check this out.

Which can only mean one thing.  We’ll just have to go back to Norfolk.  It’s a tough life.

Inside Scarning Church

 

 

Upton cum Chalvey

A weekend away in Buckinghamshire was an excellent opportunity to stop off in Slough, that must-see tourist destination just off the M4 motorway.

Well, to clarify, it wasn’t really Slough as such that was the attraction but a couple of places now within the Slough connurbation which pre-existed its development and where I have ancestral connections.

Upton and Chalvey (sometimes known as Upton cum Chalvey in the records) lie to the south of the present town and, from small farming hamlets, grew hugely in the nineteenth century particularly after the coming of the railway.  My connection with the area is principally through the Mayne family.

Edith Mayne (who I wrote about a little while ago – the one who trained as a teacher and moved to Staffordshire) was born in Chalvey, as was her father Thomas, her grandfather, James, and probably her great grandfather, Thomas, a blacksmith who was born around 1769.  Edith’s aunt Elizabeth (my great grandmother) was also born in Chalvey but married David George in Croydon, where they were both working at the time. Shortly afterwards they moved to Chalvey Grove and it was there that my own grandfather, Alfred James George, was born in 1878 along with his twin sister Alice.  It was therefore to Chalvey Grove that I headed first.

By all reports Grandad was born in a wooden house!  Well I don’t think there are any of those remaining in Chalvey Grove these days!  The area will have changed out of all recognition since 1878:  today it is very multicutural and I passed the Hindu temple on the way.  I spotted one house with the date 1900, but I don’t think any would have been in existence when Grandad lived there.

From Chalvey Grove I found my way round to St Peter’s Church, Chalvey, which was opened in 1860.  The exterior looked pretty unloved, unfortunately.  The church was locked, but inside I could hear that someone was practising the organ.

St Peters Chalvey
St Peters Chalvey

Later on, I drove over to Upton where I parked outside St Laurence’s Church.  This was the orginal church for the area and is where my Grandad was baptised and where many of the Mayne family were buried.  Prominent notices warned visitors not to stray off the paths in the churchyard, due to the danger of subsidence!  This was a shame as I couldn’t properly examine names on graves.  Again the church was all locked up.  Across the roundabout from the church is the Sixteenth century Red Cow Inn.

St Laurence Upton
St Laurence Upton

In between, I paid a visit to The Curve in the town centre.  This is basically the library building – a very nice, new, modern facility – where local history information is also kept.  If I had had more time I could have browsed the local history books, but I did enjoy looking at the ‘pods’ where different aspects of the area’s history was displayed.  The maps were particularly interesting as they helped me to understand the urban spread and visualise how things would have been in the days of my ancestors.

An 1879 publication by Mortimer Collins, ‘Pen Sketches by a Vanished Hand’, describes Chalvey very unflatteringly as “a very dusty and unhappy looking village” but where the brook had a reputation for producing “excellent eye-water”.  At that time there were apparently no more than 50 houses in Chalvey, but the area grew rapidly, assisted by railway communications and various local industries.  Being just across the Thames from Eton, the residents of Chalvey had regularly found employment there, and my Mayne family was no exception.  After their marriage Elizabeth worked as a laundress there and David as a gardener.

Perhaps the employment and housing prospects were better in the Croydon area as by 1881 David and Elizabeth George were settled back there with a second set of twins arriving in 1882.

I enjoyed my time looking around Upton cum Chalvey and trying to imagine how the area might have looked at the end of the nineteenth century.  How times have changed!

Borough of Slough 1880 – 1900, photographed at The Curve, Slough

 

My mystery object

I mentioned in my New Year blog post that my recent write-up of the George family history had resulted in my Mum presenting me with a  small family-related artefact.

It was as a result of my discovery that Len Lansdowne, my Mum’s uncle, had worked for Dunn & Co in Croydon as a sales assistant in the early part of the 20th century.  She recalled, and promptly found, the item pictured here.   It is 2.5 inches/6 cm long, the lower part curves in both directions,  and it bears the inscription “Britain’s Best Bowlers by Dunn & Co”.  But what is it? I have to say, I am mystified!

I decided to post my query on the Norfolk Family History Society facebook page.  Family Historians are so helpful to each other and I was grateful and encouraged to receive a good number of comments and replies.  Suggestions have included a shoe horn (not big enough, and the two-way curve doesn’t work), a button hook (no hook), a ‘rounding jack’ for re-shaping a bowler hat (sounds plausible) or a smoking pipe ream (could also be possible). I googled ‘rounding jack’, but all the images are for a much larger implement.  Pipe reams seem to vary a lot in style, but I could see it might work in that function.

Someone else suggested contacting a hat museum, and lo and behold I found there is such a place in Stockport, so I have emailed them to see if they have any ideas.  The fact that it has the company’s name inscribed on it might suggest it was some sort of promotional item, but I do feel that the strange shape means it must have had a specific use.

I have also emailed the details to Family Tree magazine and gather that my query will appear in either the April or May edition, so I’m looking forward to any further suggestions that might generate.

Other than that I’m at a loss what to think about it, so if you have any bright ideas do leave a comment!  I continue to be intrigued by my mystery object.

Dunn & co mystery object
Dunn & Co mystery object

 

 

New Year’s resolutions

 

This time last year I decided that my New Year’s resolution would be to complete my George family write-up.  Well, I’m pleased to report that, despite the difficulties of the year, I did achieve this goal, and a number of family members received a copy for Christmas.

It documents the George family of East Dereham from my earliest proven ancestor David George, born around 1786, through two more generations born in East Dereham to my great grandfather (another David George) and his move south to Croydon and his marriage and family there.  I’ve included my hypothesis that John George and Ann Gallant were the parents of David George senior, but, despite many years of research, I have been unable to prove this.  I’ve also included as an appendix what I know of the family of Astey George, buried inside East Dereham church, but with whom I believe my own family has no connection.

George family of East Dereham

Although a family history is never finished, I do think that it is good to bring everything known so far together and to disseminate what is known among wider family members.  It has already produced a new snippet of information from my aunt and a small family-related artefact from my Mum.  I will also send a copy to Norfolk Family History Society at Kirby Hall in Norwich.  All of this will hopefully mean that, even though there are loose ends, what I have been researching for getting on for 40 years (I did start in my teens!) will not be entirely lost if something suddenly happens to me.

george-family-write-up-2

I was interested to read in this month’s Family Tree magazine www.family-tree.co.uk  of various contributors’ family history-related resolutions for the coming year.  It is heartening to know that even a professional researcher like David Annal has decades-worth of papers waiting to be organised!

This year, once I have finally tidied up the George papers and filed them away neatly, I plan to re-visit my Wakefield research.  In particulary I want to update my research on my grandfather Jack and his brother William, both from Woking, who were in Flanders in 1918 at the same time, though in different regiments.  One was killed and the other was captured, and I want to be able to upload their stories onto the Surrey In the Great War website www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk and also the IWM Lives of the First World War.  It would also be great if I could locate the graves of their parents in Brookwood Cemetery, and I gather there might be a finding aid at Surrey History Centre to help with this.

So that’s the plan.  No doubt I will get sidetracked along the way, but that’s the fun of family history, isn’t it?

Happy New Year!

 

Christmas toys and games

It’s lovely the way people play games at Christmas in a way that they don’t at other times of year.  Granted we often take a couple of board games away with us in the caravan on regular holidays, but at Christmas in our family there are other sorts of games to look forward to.

Mum’s ring board makes its annual outing!  I’m not actually sure how old this is (1940s?), but it has given hours of amusement over the years as people attempt the deceptively hard art of throwing rubber rings at the hooks on the board, the first team reaching a score of 101 being the winner.  We took it to family parties at Aunty Betty’s in the 1970s and played it at home when Granny came to visit.  Despite only having sight in one eye, she was remarkably good at the game.  No doubt when the furniture is finally moved in Mum’s house we will find the missing rings down the back of the bureau!  This year the ring board had a very successful outing to Hertfordshire, when we visited my husband’s family.

My Granny (Emily George, nee Mitchell) was also a great one for a game of cribbage.  She had learnt as a girl in Sussex, looking over the shoulders of the menfolk in her family who played.  Her mental arithmetic, even in her 90s, was as sharp as anything.  The cibbage board came out this Christmas when my Mum and my daughter had a game.

Despite the somewhat eventful year that she has had, my Mum still somehow managed to put together the annual newspaper headlines competition, and the ‘feely sock’ kept people amused in between the washing up on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day was also an opportunity to talk about the tradition of Christmas stockings.  We always had stockings as children, as did my Mum as a child and I did (oh, sorry, Father Christmas filled) stockings for my daughters once more this Christmas although they are somewhat beyond childhood.  Mum said that as a child she always liked mechanical toys and one year she had a clockwork steam roller in her stocking.  She remembers winding it up and running it on her bed until the fluff from the blanket made it grind to a halt.  Her father had to remove the fluff from the cogs before she could run it again on the lino of the landing floor.

Well I hope Father Christmas visited you this Christmas and that you enjoyed the festive period, whether you had games and toys or not!

My Granny playing rings in 1982
My Granny playing rings in 1982
The same ringboard in use Christmas 2016
The same ringboard in use Christmas 2016

 

 

Cribbage
Granny playing cribbage in 1981
At home with the cribbage board, probably a different Christmas
At home with the cribbage board, probably a different Christmas