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

 

 

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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

Advent

My Granny, Emily Eliza Mitchell, was baptised at Shipley, in Sussex, on Advent Sunday in 1888, 128 years ago.

I learnt that piece of information 24 years ago, when, following a fairly traumatic birth, we took our first baby daughter to Church on Advent Sunday for a Thanksgiving Service.  She is partly named after her great grandmother, and my Mum remarked on how appropriate the day was.

I do like Advent.  There’s something about all those great Advent hymns in minor keys (‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’, ‘Come thou long-expected Jesus’, ‘Lo, he comes with clouds descending’ etc), the purple of altar frontals and liturgical robes and advent candles to light.  And of course Advent Calendars.  I remember as a child being thrilled when our neighbours the Madgwicks gave us an Advent calendar (no chocolate ones in those days!) and I still like to have one.  It brings out the child in me to count the days till Christmas!  When our children were small we made a large Blue Peter-inspired one which involved toilet rolls and lots of tissue paper, glue and paint.    It got re-used for a number of years.

Last Sunday being Advent Sunday it got me thinking about what my ancestors might have been doing during that period in years gone by.  Not counting the days with chocolate-filled Advent Calendars, that’s for sure.

David George, my earliest proven ancestor on my Norfolk George tree, married Elizabeth Jefferies on Sunday 7 December 1806 at East Dereham – the second Sunday in Advent, but only a year later they buried their first baby, Mary Ann, on 13 December 1807, the third Sunday in Advent.

David’s son John George married Emily White on Sunday 6 December 1840 – also the second Sunday in Advent.

His son David, my great grandfather, married Elizabeth Mayne in Croydon on a Saturday – the 29 November 1873 – the day before Advent Sunday.

On my Wakefield tree, my great grandfather William Wakefield married Annie Neighbour on 10 December 1893 in Newington, again the second Sunday in Advent.

Caleb Osborne, the cordwainer from Shipley in Sussex, married Mary Botting on the Tuesday after Advent Sunday in 1802 – the 30 November.

My Mitchell and Phipott ancestors, on the other hand, seem to have had a distinct aversion to doing anything like getting married or baptised during the back end of the year – apart from my Granny, that is.

I discovered  when Advent Sunday was in years gone by on this website: www.timeanddate.com/holidays/uk/first-day-advent , where you can also calculate all kinds of dates.

So Happy Advent!  I hope this season is not too frenetic for you and that you can find some space to welcome the coming light:

“O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” 

Advent

 

Defining Moments

 

At a recent church service we were asked as members of the congregation to think about national and international  ‘defining moments’.  I suppose for me I tend to think about where I was when particular events occurred:  the release of Nelson Mandela, the knocking down of the Berlin Wall, the destruction of the twin towers on 9/11, the death of Princess Diana and now, of course, Brexit.  We’ve seen plenty of defining moments during the Olympics this summer, too:  Usain Bolt’s ‘triple triple’; Laura Trott’s four gold medals,  Nick Skelton’s gold medal at the age of 58, the first British olympic gold for gymnastics, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all – Britain actually coming second in the medal table!

Have you ever wondered what the defining moments were for our ancestors?  I have been appreciating the series of centre pull-outs over the last few months in Family Tree www.family-tree.co.uk, a magazine I have subscribed to since 1990 and which I avidly read from cover to cover.  This month the pull-out is a family history timeline, which is a great way of seeing what national and international events our ancestors might have been aware of or been affected by.  Nowadays, of course, we can be aware of international events almost instantly thanks to social media.  Those ancestors at the top of my various trees in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries may not have known about events thousands of miles away until some days after the event, and then perhaps only because someone down at the pub had a newspaper and read excerpts aloud.

Looking at my Norfolk George tree, David George at the top of the tree was 20 before Britain decided to ban involvement in the slave trade.  His second son John, my great great grandfather, was born a month before Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and married just three years after civil registration began. His first son James was a few months old when the 1841 census was taken (the first one of real use to family historians), and compulsory elementary education was still in its infancy when my own grandfather was born in 1878.  This summer’s commemorations of the start of the Battle of the Somme remind us of the huge impact of the First World War on our more recent ancestors’ lives.  Quite apart from the huge loss of life, it meant that many of our female ancestors struggled to find husbands, at a time when that was a really important thing to do.  My grandmother was almost 36 by the time of her marriage, but astoundingly was 40 before she was able to vote!  The Second World War had a big impact on the lives of my parents:  evacuation and disrupted education.  I see that the World Wide Web was created in the same year that I was married, although I’m sure I wasn’t aware of it until many years after that!

We’ve had a number of personal ‘defining moments’ this summer within the family:  a 21st birthday, a graduation, an engagement and two new jobs as well as the less happy diagnosis of a serious medical condition.  My George ancestors will have experienced all of these, too, with the exception of the graduation (since the early males were ag labs almost without exception!).  It helps to feel connected to know that they experienced similar joys and sorrows and were affected to a greater or lesser extent by national and international events.

The 26th August 2015 was a defining moment for me personally as it was when I published my first ever family history blog post!  I am pleased with my achievement of having published a regular blog for a whole year, first weekly and now fortnightly since the spring’s added pressures of elderly parent care.  I have found that I very much enjoy the process and creativity of writing, and I hope that you, my readers, have enjoyed with me the journey so far.   Thank you for reading  and please do continue to post your comments!

John George born 1815
John George, born a month before the Battle of Waterloo