Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 29 July 2008

As I write this entry the rain is beating down outside my house with extreme force, accompanied by the repeated cracks of thunder and lightning. A really spectacular storm is signalling the end of the five days spell of gorgeous, summery weather that we have enjoyed in the UK. The rain is much needed, however - at least the garden won't need watering for a few days.

The open air performance of Shakespear's Hamlet that we attended at Stafford Castle a couple of weeks ago was absolutely great. Amazingly, given the prevailing weather at the time, the evening was dry - so the cast did not get a soaking. However, it was very cold. Jan and I felt so cold that we were shivering - in July!

The play itself was performed superbly, by a fine cast of professional actors and actresses. The director has proved in previous years that he has a genius for extracting the maximum comedy from Shakespeare, and after being brought up on the 1940s Olivier film of Hamlet, it was a revelation to me to see how much humour is actually present in such a tragedy.

Our next open air event is Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival near Bangor in North Wales. We are going to the Opera Gala on 23 August, and hoping for a warm, balmy evening to match what will undoubtedly be a spectacular event. It always is!

On to treeing matters.

Anybody who has followed my family history interests will know that the Haberdashers' Company is central to my research. John Bankes was Master of that company, and the company administers the Bankes Trust, from which many Bankes descendants have benefitted over the nearly 300 years since Bankes died. In fact, I recently found out that even today there is at least one Bankes descendant now living who is a Freeman of the company.

In 2002 the Company moved from its old Hall in Staining lane in the City of London to a newly build Hall near St Barts Hospital. Although I had visited Staining Lane on a number of occasions, and in so doing enjoyed the benefit of using the Company's archives, I have never yet managed to visit the new Hall. Hopefully I shall be able to rectify this omission on the weekend of 20-21 September, when the Company has an open weekend. I shall certainly do my best to get there, and enjoy a tour of the new hall. I can see from the pictures on the Company's website (see above link) that it is a magnificent building.

Incidentally, in case you are wondering, the Haberdashers' Company has handed over pretty well all its records to the Guildhall Library, so if you want to research them that's the place to go to.

In my last entry I told you briefly of our visit a few weeks ago to meet Hugh and Judy. What I didn't mention was the wonderful source that Hugh showed me. It is a document written by Thomas Hunt the Lawyer (c1723-1789) entitled Truth Faileth so that Equality Cannot Enter: Exemplified from a short Abstract of the Proceedings in a Cause in the High Court of Chancery.

This document is a polemic, clearly intended to expose what Hunt saw as corruption that he had encountered in representing Bankes descendants in the Court of Chancery proceedings that concerned the Bankes Trust, and showing how his attempts to obtain just settlements for the people he represented were being thwarted at a very high level.In making his case, Hunt recounts certain experiences he had when serving as a Customs Officer in London between 1748 and 1757. Evidently after serving an apprenticeship as a lawyer he became a customs officer, and he only started to practice as a lawyer after he had left the service of the customs. He claimed that whilst he was a customs officer he had uncovered irregularities in the trading activities of the East India Company, involving gross avoidance of customs duties. He had left the service with a glowing testament as to his honesty and integrity from the then commissioners.

This is fascinating stuff, and provides great scope for further research. I shall be trying to follow up on this information when I next go to The National Archives, Kew.

This is a printed document, clearly intended to show its author as an honest, upright citizen, and a number of eminent people he had encountered as corrupt. Thomas Hunt was, in the words of the old analogy, "banging his head against a brick wall" I wonder what he really hoped to gain from the exercise of printing and distributing it and, indeed , to whom it was distributed.

Having read this document, and also read the material outlined on my website relating to Thomas Hunt Baptist Minister, I think I can see certain similarities in the characters of this father and son. Both seem to have been unswerving in pursuit of what they saw as the truth, and very strong characters. Fascinating stuff.

That's it for now. Happy treeing to you all.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 10 July 2008

As I write this blog entry you find me working on the next edition of the Shropshire FHS Journal - due out in September. I have to prepare each edition a couple of months before the publication date, and it usually takes me up to four weeks to put the thing together. Of course, in addition to this quarterly demand on my time there is also the day to day editorial correspondence, and the business of reading and editing material sent to me for possible inclusion in the journal. When you add to that the other business that arises from membership of the society's committee you can see that the job of editor for a family history society is quite a large one.

Why does one do it?

Good question. To a certain extent I suppose it is altruism, but I would not be telling the truth if I pretended that the wish to help others is my only motive. I have always had a love of writing, and although the editor's role mainly involves dealing with other people's writings, it does give me a certain amount of opportunity to write content myself. I also enjoy the challenge of putting together a publication, which I hope is of reasonable quality, to a deadline. In addition to these factors, I have to say that being editor of the society's journal brings me quite a number of personal advantages in my research. For instance, I develop more contacts, so when I need a bit of help or advice I have a fairly large pool of expertise available to me. I also get to hear of new developments in the world of family history a little while before people who are not serving on a committee, including the availability of new resources. Perhaps the most valuable gain to me from my role as editor is the way in which my knowledge of our hobby gets extended through contacts with other researchers. You would probably be surprised to learn how often I have gained a new insight that I can use in my research from something that has arisen through helping somebody else with their research. Believe me, this happens a lot.

Our own society is having great difficulty in filling a number of important posts at present, and I know that other societies are experiencing similar problems. I urge you to consider involving yourself in the affairs of a family history society. Believe me, the more you put into a society the more you will get out of it.

I've had an exciting time since I last updated this blog. Firstly, I have been to two superb concerts. One was at Milton Keynes, and featured the Milton Keynes City Orchestra conducted by Sian Edwards. They were a fine bunch of musicians, and the evening was enhanced by a performance of Brams' Piano Concerto No 1 by the wonderful Freddie Kempf. Superb!

The other concert was, if anything, even more enjoyable. We went to our usual venue - Symphony Hall, Birmingham, to hear the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven's 9th (Choral) Symphony. The orchestra was joined by solo singers and the CBSO Chorus, and the sound created was truly wonderful. This was Sakari Oramo's farewell concert as conductor of the orchestra, and he could not have had a better send off!

Last Wednesday we were on Wimbledon Centre Court to see the men's singles quarter finals. We were there to see Andy Murray's campaign come to an end against Raphael Nadal, and to see Roger Federer beat Mario Ancic. What a treat to see these wonderful exponents of the game. I was never any good at tennis myself, but that doesn't stop me admiring these people. Our next engagement is tomorrow evening, when we go to see an open air production of Shakespeare's Hamlet at Stafford Castle. The open air Shakespeare productions at Stafford are always extremely good, with excellent casts and direction. However, the weather forecast for this event is rather poor, so somebody could be in for a soaking! Not us, however, as one of the most attractive features of watching Shakespeare at Stafford Castle is that the audience is under cover but the cast is not!

On the treeing front I've been as busy as ever of late. On a very wet Saturday morning the other week Jan and I spent a few hours at Stafford Records Office, collecting another batch of Blagg entries in the Cheadle parish registers. We made great headway, and I think that one more visit will probably complete the job. Then all I will have to do is type them up and send them off to Richard. It has taken me much longer than I expected to complete this job, but we get there in the end.

On 7 June it was the Shropshire FHS Open Day at the Shirehall, Shrewsbury. I was on the Help desk, with a number of other colleagues, and we were kept busy all day, trying to help visitors to the event with their research queries. This is an annual event, and always well attended. This year we had two excellent speakers. In the morning Colin Chapman spoke on the Poor Laws over the centuries. Colin is a very well known personality in the world of family history, and is best known for being the man who created the Chapman Codes - the three letter codes that are used to denote the various counties. In the afternoon our speaker was Nick Barratt, who is best known for his work on the BBC TV programme "Who do you think you are?". He gave a lively and very interesting presentation on the background to the tv series and other related matters. Everybody I spoke to said that they thoroughly enjoyed this talk - finding it both informative and entertaining.

Ten days ago Jan and I went to visit Hugh and Judy at their farm in Lincolnshire. Hugh is a descendant of Joseph Rand, half brother to John Bankes, on the Welsh line, so he is only distantly related to me. It was a pleasure to meet Hugh and Judy, and their lovely family, and we were treated to quite wonderful hospitality. We had a fine time, chatting about Bankes and the relevant parts of the Bankes Pedigree, and came away with some more very promising research ideas.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Howard, in Australia - another Bankes descendant of the line down from Joseph Rand, half brother to Bankes. He was good enough to share the details of his family tree with me, thus further expanding the Bankes Pedigree. He also gave me the exciting news that one of his family was a Knight of the Realm. How exciting! In the words of Howard

"Sir (William) Emrys Jones (1915-2001) became chief agricultural adviser to the Minister of Agriculture from 1967 to 1973, and was knighted in 1971. An obituary in the Telegraph states 'he played a leading role in boosting post-war agricultural production and probably had a greater influence on British farming than any other individual.’"

If you are interested, you can find a more detailed obituary to Sir William Emrys Jones on the Independent newspaper website, at