Monday, 26 March 2007

Geoffs Genealogy Update 26 March 2007

I'm a bit late writing this week's entry on my blog. Maybe that's because we lost an hour in the weekend just passed! I have never liked the practice of adjusting the clocks by one hour in Spring & Autumn, but there we are - I just have to put up with it!

The highlight of the last week was my visit to London on Thursday. One of the many fine aspects of the Shropshire Family History Society is that they run several research trips to London each year, and as I have many London research interests I always try to go on these trips when I can.

This time I spent most of my time in the library of the Society of Genealogists. The SOG library in London is a wonderful treasure house of things genealogical. Non-members, such as myself, can use the facilities on payment of a fee. I paid for four hours use of the library. I had carried out some research in advance of the visit, and went armed with a series of references of documents to look up.

The main focus of my research was the archive of Marriage Licence Allegations, issued by the Faculty Office and the Vicar-General's Office, that are held by the SOG on microfilm. I found most of the items I looked for, and actually got a bonus - the 1836 marriage licence allegation for a certain Isabard Kingdom Brunel and his intended bride, Mary Elizabeth Horsley. This document has nothing at all to do with my research, but as I came across it I could not resist taking a copy!

When I had completed my work on the Marriage Licence Allegations I spent some time looking at the Wills Calendars of the Principal Probate Registry. I had a list of Bankes descendants to check out in these records, and found quite a few of the entries.

I was also able to look at some monumental inscriptions on the counties shelves. I won't bore you with the details - suffice to say that I did find something of interest.

As I still had a little time left after leaving the SOG I visited the Family Record Centre at Islington. Here I looked up the civil registration reference for my mother's aunt - Ophelia Kerr/Smith (nee Worthy). I wrote about my research into her in my blog entry a couple of weeks ago. Since my visit to London I have ordered a copy of Ophelia's birth certificate and the marriage certificate re her first marriage. If the content of these documents meets my expectations they should prove my theory re this lady's life story. Fingers crossed!

Having accomplished all these tasks, I spent the last few minutes of my visit to London checking out some more entries in the Wills Calendars of the Principal Probate Registry, and found a couple more items of interest.

All in all, this was a most successful excursion, and to cap it all we had an excellent trip back to Shropshire - arriving at Telford in record time!

Unfortunately the powers that be are closing the Family Record Centre by April 2008, so we shall lose our coach trips to central London. Shropshire will presumably still run trips to The National Archives at Kew, but although that repository holds many things of interest to me, it is well outside central London, and I shall find it more difficult to visit the records offices in central London that have been so valuable to me over the years.

See you next week.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Geoffs Genealogy Update 18 March 2007

Here we are again, another Sunday evening - the end of the weekend. Another working week beckons, but first I need to spend a few minutes updating this blog.

I have one or two items to mention re this week's developments.

Firstly. I was delighted to hear from my distant cousin - Joao in Brazil. He is descended from James Frederick Holliday (1853-1938). James emigrated to Brazil in 1880, and generally speaking the Holliday clan prospered in their new homeland.

I have had some problems communicating with Joao over the past year. His emails to me arrive fine all the time; mine to him always fail to reach him. I have no idea why. I seem able to email all my other correspondents successfully, but not Joao. Anyway, Joao has contacted me by using a different email address and I have successfully reached him with my reply. This may seem a very small thing to you, but to me it is great. I can now resume contact with my South American cousins and hopefully learn more about them!

Joao sent me some lovely portrait photos that were among his grandfather's possessions. They presumably portray family members, but he has no idea who they were. What a shame! I think that all family historians know the feeling of frustration that comes from unattributed family photos. I really must take the time to annotate my photo collection, in case any of my descendants is interested in my family history in the future.

My other bit of news also concerns a photograph. My contact in Canada, who is descended from Robert Hanham Collyer (RHC), phrenologist and showman etc, has sent me a photo of his great grandmother - Emily Jeans Clements (b 1847) - who was one of the wives of RHC. RHC married her when she was just seventeen years old and he was fifty. The marriage ended in the divorce courts in 1874.

The photo shows Emily as a young woman, and is really lovely. How wonderful to be able to look at somebody who until yesterday was just a name on the Bankes Pedigree. Photos add a new dimension to our family trees, and we should never waste an opportunity to get hold on them.

Have a good week.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Geoffs Genealogy Update 11 March 2007

If there is anybody out there who can help me with an aspect of my research that has puzzled me for twenty years I would be so pleased to hear from you.

On my website you can read about John Bankes, Citizen and Haberdasher of London, who died in 1719 and in his Will left various bequests for the benefit of members of his family and their descendants. One of his half sisters - Mary (Rand) Mitchell - was my direct ancestor.

I know a great deal about Bankes and his business affairs. I have details of properties that he owned, I have seen his portrait and have samples of his handwriting. However, the thing I am struggling with is his parentage. I have drawn a complete blank on this.

The record of his Freedom (gained by Redemption in 1672) says, in effect, that he moved to London to work on the reconstruction of the city after the fire of 1666, having previously served an apprenticeship as a Carpenter. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but if you are looking at a set of apprenticeship records any time - inside or outside London - I would be obliged if you would look out for a John Bankes, born circa 1650, apprenticed as a carpenter.

I can't offer a prize to the first person to find such an entry and let me know, but I can promise my heartfelt thanks!

Have a good week.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Geoffs Genealogy Update 4 March 2007

This has been a pretty quiet week for me, but one item that may be of interest concerns Dr Thomas Hunt (1798-1879).

You can read about him on my website (

I have traced him on all census returns in the period 1851-1871, but have never found him in 1841. I decided to have a go at this. Information I already have, from the Royal College of Surgeons and the records of baptisms of his children, leads me to believe that he was living at Herne Bay, Kent, at that time. To confirm this I found him in Pigot's Directory of 1840, at 11 Marine Terrace, Herne Bay.

It should be an easy task to find the census returns for Herne Bay, using However, I could not find them. I looked at all sorts of research aids, including the listing of census districts in Kent in 1841 on, various reference books that I have at home, and internet sites such as Wikipedia and Genuki. No luck. I know that births of the children of Thomas were registered in Blean registration district, so I looked at CEBs for Blean. No trace of Dt Hunt! I then tried searching Census Enumerators' Books (CEBs) for Herne. Again, no trace of the elusive doctor.

I have searched the index to the 1841 Census Returns on, looking for Thomas, his wife, and several of the children. No trace of any of them. I can quite accept that the family may not have been in Herne Bay on 7 June 1841, but surely, I thought, I should be able to find the census returns for Herne Bay!

When I looked at Pigot's Directory for Kent, published c1850, I started to think of a possible reason for this problem. The description of the township told me that Herne Bay was fairly new creation, and had really not existed as a town before the mid 1830s. This raised the possibility in my mind that I was looking for a place that, as far as officialdom was concerned, did not exist in 1841! If this was the case, maybe the people who lived in Herne Bay were not enumerated, or alternatively, they may have been enumerated under the name of a nearby settlement.

I decided to ask the locals. Finding the website of the Kent Family History Society I sent an email, asking whether they could kindly tell me where I can find the 1841 CEBs for Herne Bay. I received a reply in no time! It said that Herne Bay did not really exist in 1841. I then asked whether they could suggest to me where I may find the relevant census returns, and I await their reply.

I have gone through all this in some detail in order to demonstrate two points.

Firstly, it is often that case that what seems at first to be a routine piece of research can surprise us and take us into areas that we don't expect. It seems likely that in order to research the Hunt clan in 1841 I need to be aware of something of the local history. Part of the joy of family history for me is that we learn so many other things in addition to who our forebears were, and we shouldn't expect the often excellent indexes that we have at our disposal to provide us with every answer.

The other point I want to make is the great value of family history societies. I realise that as I serve on the committee of my local society I can be said to be biased, but these organisations are worth their weight in gold, believe me. They provide fellowship, and access to vast amounts of knowledge in a variety of forms. Invariably, a request for help to a family history society is met with a positive and helpful response, and I recommend that all of us should (a) join at least our local society and (b) make use of the great resources that they make available.

It is a sad fact that in these days of growing internet research resources, less and less people are joining family history societies, and if it comes to the point at which societies start to fold we shall all be the poorer for it.

I visited my local LDS Family History Center on Thursday last, only to find that the film that awaited me was not the one I had intended to order. Instead of containing Baptisms at Monkwearmouth in the early - mid nineteenth century it contained Burials for the nineteenth century and late eighteenth century. As I had already transcribed the burials entries that interest me, there was very little I could achieve by using this film. I therefore searched a twenty year period in the late eighteenth century that I had not seen previously, and then returned the film.

I have ordered the film containing the baptisms that I do want to search, and hope that it will arrive in a couple of weeks time.