Thursday, 31 December 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 31 December 2009

So here we are, on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 2009. I hope that this year has been a good one for you. It has for me, in so many ways. I have enjoyed some super holidays, and a number of musical / operatic events, and generally had a pretty good time. This is in spite of all the economic gloom that has confronted us in the UK on TV and in newspapers each and every day.

As far as family history research is concerned, it has been a very productive year. I’ve mentioned before the immense boost to my research that was given by the arrival online of the London Parish Registers on the website. I have spent the last few months going through all the items I found among these records, cataloguing them and adding the detail to my family history records. I guess that I am about one third of the way through this work now, but I am sure that if I embark on another trawl of these records sometime I will find still more gems. So far I have met a number of new forebears, some of whom I’ve mentioned before in this blog. I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned Hannah Mary Elizabeth Smith (b 1885), a further child of my great grandparents, James William Smith (1853-abt 1908) & Hannah Guyatt (1857-1903), or Michael Archer Smith (b 1863), another son of John Brown Smith (1829-1875) & Mary Ann Archer (b 1830). These are just two of the many new discoveries I have made, and I can hardly wait to see what I can find out about them in 2010.

Apart from these discoveries the year has brought me a number of other pleasures on the treeing front. I was contacted by Mary, a descendant of Samuel William Archer (1790-1870), and we were able to help one another fill in some of the gaps in our respective Archer researches. Then I had the pleasure of getting back in contact with Shelley, who is descended from Jessie Mary Elizabeth (Smith) (1880-1941) & Thomas William Walter Codd (1877-1945). We believe that Jessie and William had fifteen children, but up to now we have “only” accounted for twelve. In truth, Shelley has done most of this research, and I am very grateful to her for sharing her results with me. We both hope that in 2010 we may be able to find the missing three children, and are working jointly towards that end. Through Shelley I am now also in touch with Jennie, another Codd descendant. Hopefully I shall be able to meet both Shelley and Jennie during 2010.

I have been delighted to get back in touch with Dulcy, my American cousin. We had lost touch with one another over the past couple of years, but I am thrilled to be corresponding with Dulcy again. Then there is Jim – another US descendant of Robert Mitchell Collyer (1787-1859) & Elizabeth Dugarden (b 1798). He contacted me after visiting the Geoffs Genealogy website early last summer, and we have been in regular correspondence since. He has been so generous in the information he has sent to me, it is quite amazing. I hope I have helped him to some extent, because he has certainly helped me! I look forward to continuing this friendship in 2010.

Mention of the Collyers brings to mind that wonderful character Robert Hanham Collyer (1814-abt 1891), who I have mentioned in this blog several times previously. I have had the great pleasure of working with two US academics who have been studying this extremely colourful and interesting character, and I have benefited more than I can say from the insights that I have gained from AJ and David. I hope, very much, that I shall hear from them again in 2010.

Apart from these people I am indebted to a number of other people who have helped me to further develop the Bankes Pedigree during 2010, and others who have kept in touch through the year – some of them quite close cousins, others less closely related but cousins, nonetheless. I do not have space to mention you all, but I do thank you all.

My aim is always to update the Geoffs Genealogy website at this time of the year, to update the material that is already there and add some new content. You will not be surprised to learn that I am behind schedule, and do not expect to be able to update the site for a few weeks. I shall do this as soon as I can, however, and will announce the updates in this blog.

I close for this year by wishing all my fellow researchers a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2010.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 29 November 2009

I'm still working my way through the many London parish register entries that I gleaned a few weeks ago. They really are most illuminating, and some of them are entries that I had sought for a long time. In this entry I discuss briefly a few of these entries, and how they have proved of value to my research.

George Clayton Collyer was born in 1879, the son of Joseph Collyer (The Younger) and Dulcybella nee Clayton. He was a surgeon, practising over many years in Old Street Road, London.

We knew, from the Bankes Pedigree Book, that in about October 1817 George married Elizabeth Shelton, and discovered from other sources that this couple had one child - George Clayton Collyer Jnr (b 1825). That was as much as we knew until I searched the Marriage Licence Allegations at the Society of Genealogists some years ago. These records revealed two subsequent marriages. A marriage licence allegation dated 1842 showed that at that time George was intending to marry a certain Louisa Nelme, suggesting that his first spouse had probably died before that date. That was not all, however. I traced a firther marriage licence allegation dated 1844, which showed that George was then intending to marry Esther Homan. This indicated that George's second wife had probably died before that date. When George died, in 1852, his will named his then wife as Esther, so I assumed that Esther Homan had survived him.

The evidence of the Shoreditch parish registers gives us the detail to complete the picture re these events. George's first wife - Elizabeth (Shelton) was buried in January 1842 at St John Baptist, Hoxton. She was, apparently, aged 48, which suggests she was born c1794 - a little earlier than I had thought.

George's second marriage - to Louisa Nelmes - took place on 15 October 1842 at St John Hackney. This was only nine months after the burial of his first spouse. However, Louisa died twelve short months later. Her burial took place at St John Baptist, Hoxton on 21 October 1843, aged 55.

George's third marriage was at St Stephen Coleman Street, London, on 27 November 1844. His bride, Esther Homan, was a widow. Her father's name was William Nutting, so presumably her maiden name was Esther Nutting. As mentioned above, Esther survived George Clayton Collyer, and I have no idea when she died. For all I know she may have married again, but I have not found any evidence of that. I did, however, find the burial of George Clayton Collyer, which took place on 20 February 1852, aged 64.

In terms of hatches, matches and despatches, this family is now nicely tidied up. How I wish that the same could be true of so many other families on the Bankes Pedigree!

Then there is the case of Evan Edward Evans.

Some years ago, working in concert with Christopher Browne, a Bankes descendant on the Herbert line, we realised that the very respectable Herbert family of Llansaintfraed in Cardiganshire contained an element of scandal. William Herbert (1795-1893) was for most of his life vicar of Llansaintfraed, succeeding his father - David Herbert (1767-1835). The church in this small coastal community celebrates the long service of the Herbert family, and contains a commerative plaque in their memory. This plaque mentions Frances Elizabeth Herbert (1829-1895), the spinster daughter of William.

In the course of our joint research we obtained a copy of the will of Frances, and in this document she named as a beneficiary her son - Evan Edward Evans. What was all this, we thought? The vicar's unmarried daughter having a son? We resolved to find out more about this.

Although there was no trace of the baptism of Evan Edward Evans in Llansaintfraed, we managed to trace a likely candidate on the 1881 census, living in lodgings as a student Living at Christ's College, Brecon. This person was aged 18, and said to have been born at London. This all made sense, after all the vicar's daughter was hardly likely to give birth to an illegitimate daughter at home! In London she could be quite anonymous. Christopher contacted Christ's College at Brecon, enquiring about this person. A most helpful reply told us that this man was born 1863 and after attending the college had later had a career in the civil service, dying around 1926.

We traced Evan on the 1891 census. This time he was at Sheerness, Kent, a Customs Officer, born C1863 at Bermondsey in South London. It all fitted, but no actual proof that this was the right man.

The 1871 Census recorded Evan living as an eight years old child at Garnfach, Llansantffraid. The head of the household was Daniel Evans, aged 66, a farmer of 66 acres, and Evan was recorded as his grandson, born Bermondsey. It all fitted. Presumably Daniel's son was the father of Evan, but who was he?

On to the 1901 census. Evan was enumerated as a Boarder, living on his own in one room at Highgate in London. He was aged 37, born Bermondsey, and an Examining Officer Customs.
Bearing in mind the evidence of Christ's College, Brecon, I next looked for records of his death in 1926. I found a notice in The London Gazette of 1 March 1927 (p 1398):


EVAN EDWARD EVANS, late of 2, Prospect-road, St. Albans, Herts, whi died there on the 6th November, 1926

I found the relevant entry in the National Probate Calendar:

Evans Evan Edward of 2 Prospect-road St Albans Hertfordshire died 6 November 1926 Administration London 23 July to the solicitor for the affairs of H M Treasury.Effects £1490 – 13 – 6d

Evan, apparently, had died intestate. There had been nobody to inherit his estate, so it reverted to the Crown. Rather sad, I thought.

I had pieced together a pretty comprehensive account of the life of Evan Edward Evans, but still not proved beyond doubt that this was our man. This proof came recently, courtesy of the Baptism registers on Ancestry. The register for St Mary Magdalene Bermondsey contains the following entry:

9 August 1863
St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey
Child: Evan Edward Evans (born 7 June 1863)
Parents: Evan & Frances Elizabeth Evans, Clapham
Father’s Occupation: Schoolmaster

So Frances Elizabeth Herbert had morphed into Frances Elizabeth Evans and she and her "spouse" were resident in Clapham, South London. Fascinating. I have searched for their marriage entry but so far, not surprisingly, failed to find one.

It has taken six years to put together the pieces of this jigsaw, but it has been an interesting pursuit. The next task is to trace Evan Evans, the father of Evan Edward Evans.

Was Evan Evans really the father of Frances's child? For now we have to assume so.

Was he the son of Daniel Evans of Llansaintfraed? That remains to be seen.

I lost contact with Christopher Browne some time ago. If you should read this, Christopher, please get in touch with me. I'd love to hear from you.

Now it's on to other things. That's the beauty (and frustration) of this hobby. There are so many loose ends to be tied up. It's never ending!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 31 October 2009

This month has mainly been taken up with work on the December 2009 issue of the Shropshire Family History Journal, and looking at the results of the research I have done on, searching the London parish registers that have recently become available on that website. The journal is now almost completed, I'm pleased to say. Just one or two queries to be ironed out in the next few days before I can place the order with our printers.

I had intended to work on arrangements for a reunion of John Bankes descendants, which I had hopes of holding next year, but I simply have not enough time to do this, so at this stage it looks as though it won't happen in 2010. If you are a Bankes descendant and have any thoughts on this project - positive or negative - I'd be interested in hearing from you. Personally, I think it's an idea with great potential.

It's almost time for me to think about preparing updates for the Geoff's Genealogy website. I have found so much "new" material this year that it is hard to know where to start. At the moment I'm concentrating on updating my family history data, so that when we next upload the tree to the website it will be as up to date as possible.

Now to the London parish registers.

My 2 x great grandfather was a certain John Brown Smith (1829-1875). He married Mary Ann Archer (1830-aft 1880), a Bankes descendant, and they had several children. For much of his career John was an Excise officer, and as such was moved around England a lot. Excise officers were moved from one place to another quite often because their role in levying taxes on maltsters left them open to bribery, so it was deemed prudent for them not to be in one place for too long. This means that tracing the births of the children of Excise officers can be problematic - you don't know where to find them!

Some years ago I obtained details of John Brown Smith's Excise postings and therefore became aware of the places he had been posted to during his career. With the help of a fellow Smith researcher I was then able to identify the births of all his children. It all tied in with the census returns, and seemed to be a "done job". However, Helen & I were looking at the London baptisms that recently appeared on, and were amazed to find an event in Clapham, South London, on 13 March 1864.

This record chronicles a double baptism - two children of John Brown Smith and Mary Ann. One of them we already knew about - George Smith (1858-1937), but the other was a complete surprise to us, as it introduced us to a new figure on our family tree - Michael Archer Smith (b 17 August 1863). I looked him up on Free BMD, and it seems that his birth was registered in Shoreditch registration District. Shoreditch was the usual stamping ground of my Smiths, and was where the family was recorded on the 1861 census. I haven't yet been able to trace Michael Archer Smith on any other sources, but be sure that I shall be trying!

John Brown Smith was dismissed from the Excise service in December 1860, "following feigned survey at maltsters and other neglects and irregularities" whilst stationed at Wantage Ride, Reading. The evidence suggests that he then made his way to London, bacause, as mentioned above, in April 1861 he was at Shoreditch. His occupation on the 1861 census was recorded as "Wine Cooper", so presumably he was putting to use his experience of the booze trade. The civil registration entry for the birth of Michael suggests that the family was probably still at Shoreditch in August 1863, but by the time of Michael's baptism - March 1864 - it seems that the family was at Clapham, in south London. Not only that, but John Brown Smith's occupation was described as "Clerk". It seems likely that the family's situation had changed considerably. The 1871 census shows the family back at Shoreditch, John again being recorded as a "Clerk". However, when his son, John Henry Smith (1855-abt 1909), married in August 1874 John Brown Smith was described as a "Railway Clerk", and when he was admitted to Fisherton Anger Asylum in Salisbury in October 1874 he was described as a "Ticket Collector".

Given the above occupational information about John Brown Smith, it seems to me quite possible that "Clerk" is synomynous with "Railway Clerk" or "Ticket Collector". This theory is strengthened a little by another Smith find in the London parish registers on Ancestry.

John Brown Smith's father was James Bayly Smith (abt 1800-1850), another Excise officer. He married Alice Brown (abt 1801-aft 1851) in Edinburgh, and they had a number of children. As was the case with John Brown Smith, we had thought that we had found all of his children, but we now have to add another twig on the tree.

The discovery Helen made was a marriage between Michael Bayly Smith (age 42) and Ann Eason at St Saviour, South Hampstead on 1 January 1870. James Bayly Smith, Gentleman (deceased) was shown as the groom's parent. Definitely our man! We searched Ancestry for more information about Michael Bayly Smith. There he was, on the 1851 Census, a lodger, born at Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, c1828, living alone in Melksham, Wiltshire. Occupation: Railway Station Clerk.

So far we have failed to locate Michael on the 1861 census, but by 1871 he was married to Ann, and they were living at Brixton, South London. Michael's occupation was "Railway Superintendent of Goods Traffic".So this man, like his brother, was working on the Railway. I wonder whether there is a connection there. Maybe when John Brown Smith was down on his luck, having been dismissed from the Excise and looking for an alternative career, his brother helped him to get a job with a railway company. Is it significant that Clapham, where John Brown Smith was apparently living in 1864, is not far from Brixton, where Michael was in 1871? Bear in mind that we have so far failed to find Michael in 1861.

The death of Michael Bayly Smith was recorded in the Civil Registration Indexes in June quarter 1873, just three years after his marriage. We searched the online catalogue of The National Archives, and found a reference to a staff record relating to his service with the Great Western Railway Company (RAIL 264/3/20). The description of the source states: "Michael Bayly Smith, age on joining as clerk: 20; date of entry: Aug 1846; last date of salary increase: July 1861; cause of end of service: Resigned Aug 1862". As you may imagine, I shall be looking at this item when next I go to TNA, Kew, but for now we can draw from it the conclusion that when the census was taken on 7 April 1861 Michael Bayly Smith was probably still living somewhere in the West country of England. The 1871 census entry tells us that his resignation from the GWR was not "the end of the line" for his career on the railway. He may well have left GWR to take up a post with a London railway company, and this would lead on to the information on the 1871 census entry I referred to above.

This lengthy narrative outlines the difference that just a couple of finds among the London parish registers that are now viewable on have made to my research, and how they have led on to further sources and lines of research. There are many other great finds I could tell you about, but I've probably rambled on for far too long already, so I'll spare you that.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 30 September 2009

On the whole 2009 gave us a disappointing summer in the UK, but the UK weather in September has been good - dominated by high pressure that was conspicuously absent during July and August. Now, however, the autumn equinox has passed. The leaves on the trees are turning brown, and soon they will be falling to the ground. There are things I love about the British winter - some lovely scenes as the sun shines on a frosty ground from a blue sky, the football season at its peak and the five nations rugby to name but three. However, on the whole I tend to spend the winter looking forward to the spring and summer, in the vain hope of some good weather.

From a treeing point of view September has been quite an exciting month, for a number of reasons.

In the middle of the month I went to The National Archives for a day's research which turned out to be interesting on a number of counts.

I had placed an advance order online to ensure(?) that a couple of original sources were available for me to view on my arrival at TNA, so I made my way to the Map Room to look at them. One of the items I had ordered was a Court of Chancery Bill of Complaint dated 1846, relating to the cause Collyer vs Ashburner (piece no c14/503/C118). According to my interpretation of the TNA catalogue this source comprised one document, but in the event when I opened the bundle I saw that there were, in fact, half a dozen items to look at. I know, from past experience of looking at Court of Chancery documents in the causes relating to the John Bankes Trust, that these documents come in all shapes and sizes, and are often covered in dust! They can be very hard to handle, due to their size, and equally hard to read. On this occasion I was helped greatly by a member of the TNA staff, who perspicaciously realised that I was likely to have difficulty handling this bundle of documents and came to my rescue, showing me the best way to tackle the job.

I had no prior knowledge of these particular Chancery proceedings, but I did know that members of the Collyer family had been named as beneficiaries in the Will of Robert Pounds, which was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in May 1846. It was clear from this Will that Robert Pounds was a significantly wealthy man, and the bequests to the Collyers were of high value by most people's standards. I had seen that a certain John Ashburner, of Wimpole Street, Middlesex was named as an executor of Robert Pounds' will, so assumed that these proceedings were in relation to this matter. I was correct in this assumption.

The original Bill had been raised in 1846 in the name of Sarah Ellen Collyer (1824-1847) and her siblings Robert Pounds Collyer (1832-1851) and Dulcybella Jane Collyer (1829-1861). They claimed that the executors of the will were dragging their heels in paying out the bequests of Robert Pounds, and asked the court to force them to pay her out without further delay. As Robert & Dulcybella were minors, their mother - Mary Collyer (c1787-1864), widow of John Collyer, Carver & Gilder (1783-1840), was named as their representative in the proceedings.

The next document was the response of Ashburner to the Bill. This stated that although he had realised many of Robert Pounds' assets, he did not think that he had sufficient funds to pay out the sums bequeathed to the beneficiaries of the will. This response certainly rang bells with me, because in the 1720s the executors of the Will of John Bankes (c1652-1719) used an identical defence when answering the Chancery Bill raised by my ancestor, Mary Mitchell (c1668-c1739). It would seem that it may have been a common legal device in days of old in such cases.

Tragedy struck the Collyer household soon after the Bill was raised, when Sarah Ellen Collyer died suddenly in 1847. This caused the proceedings to be abated (ie stopped), and if the beneficiaries wanted to restart them they needed to raise a Bill of Reviver. This they did, later in the same year.

I do not know how the action progressed, but in 1851 Robert Pounds Collyer died, and again the proceedings were abated. They were restarted later in the same year, thus the only people now named as oratrixes (female plaintiffs) were Dulcybella Jane and her mother, Mary Collyer.

The documents in the bundle told me all this, and they included several other pieces of information of the type that we family historians thrive on - dates of birth and death, addresses, relationships and the like. As it happens I already had most of this information from other sources. What I really wanted to sort out was the nature of the relationship between the Collyers and the Pounds family. They were obviously very close. A couple of the Collyer children were given "Pounds" as their middle name, and the two Pounds wills that I have obtained both mention members of the Collyer family. However, these documents did not help me to answer this question. I shall have to look for other ways of tackling the problem.

As I mentioned above, these documents vary greatly in size. Some are very large indeed, and others merely large! In the time i had available at TNA it was not possible to study them in depth, so I wielded my trusty digital camera and photographed the most interesting looking of them, for future study at home.

Most of the rest of my day at TNA was spent searching the 1911 census. Things have changed since my last visit, in May. The 1911 census is no longer treated separately from other censuses. In searching it you use the same computers as you would for any other census. Similarly, TNA no longer provide staff dedicated to helping 1911 census searchers. The available staff now work on all the censuses. Personally, I wasn't impressed with the help I received when I asked for it, but no doubt others would disagree with that comment. We speak as we find, after all.

You may know that Ancestry have placed on line a collection of parish registers for London. These are baptisms, marriages and burials for varios dates in the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They are fully searchable, and you can study them either in your own home (for a fee) or in a large number of record offices and libraries around the UK (free of charge except for printing costs). I have been busily working through these over the past couple of weeks, and by doing so am managing to fill some of the gaps in my family history and the Bankes Pedigree. I am particularly pleased to have solved a few long standing research queries:

1. I found the previously elusive marriage of Thomas Hunt (1798-1879), the doctor, and his first wife - Martha Mary Colam (1808-1861). This ceremony took place by licence at St Sepulchre Holborn, in London on 8 August 1727. Interestingly, the bride was aged under 21, so would have needed parental consent to marry Thomas.

2. For many years I have been seeking the marriage of John Collyer (1783-1840), Carver & Gilder, to his wife, Mary (mentioned above in relation to Collyer v Ashburner). The Bankes Pedigree Book states Mary's surname as Powell, but I wanted to verify that. I wondered whether her maiden name may have been Pounds, in which case it would explain the connection between the Collyer & Pounds families (mentioned above). Well, I found the record of marriage, which took place on 28 September 1823 at St John Hackney. This confirmed the bride's name as Powell, and also showed that the groom was a widower. This set me off looking for John Collyer's previous marriage, which I found. He married Frances Fell by banns on 9 September 1819. I could not trace Frances's death, but it seems likely that she died within four years of the marriage.

3. Some years ago I noted that in his will, proved in 1871, Samuel William Archer (1790-1870), a brother of my ancestor Nathan Archer (1793-1845), named his wife as Ann, and his brother in law as James Woosnam. The relevant entry on the 1841 census also showed Samuel's spouse as Ann. As the only marriage I have ever found for Samuel was to Alice Blandina Hawkins at St Pancras church in 1831, I deduced that he was most likely to have had more than one marriage in his life. However, frustratingly, I have never been able to find a second marriage - Until now!

By searching the records on Ancestry I found that in 1835 at St Mary Islington Samuel, a widower, married Ann Woodman - not Woosnam - my reading of the Will was incorrect. I then searched for the burial of Samuel's first wife and duly found it, Alice Blandina Archer was buried at St John, Hackney, on 11 September 1832. The baptism records for St John Hackney show that Samuel and Alice's daughter - Alice Blandina Archer - was baptised on 10 October 1832. It therefore seems reasonable to hypothesise that Samuel's first wife died as a result of childbirth.

I have previously identified another son of Samuel William Archer - William James Archer (c1835-1857). He was recorded on the 1841 and 1851 censuses, and was buried at Abney Park Cemetery in London in October 1857, having died at the age of 22. Whereas I had previously assumed that William was a son of Samuel's first wife, it now appears that this was not the case. I have not managed to trace his baptism, but presumably he was the offspring of Samuel and Ann Woodman.

So there we have it. More and more research material is becoming available on the internet, and gradually many of the long standing queries are being resolved, which is great. However, my biggest two posers remain. Who were the parents of John Culshaw, born c1760 in the Ormskirk area, and who were the parents of John Bankes and his half siblings?

Maybe I'll find out one day.

If you think you can help me in the search you know where to find me!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 3 September 2009 (As 31 August 2009)

August was a busy month as far as family history is concerned. Not particularly in terms of research done - I haven't made any excursions to visit records offices, or spent much time researching online - but in terms of contacts made and correspondence.

I was delighted to renew contact with Shelley, who is a fellow descendant on the Smith line. She is descended from Jessie (Smith) Codd (1880-1941), and Thomas William Walter Codd (1877-1945). Jessie was a sister of my grandfather George William Smith (1886-1940), and therefore an aunt of my mother. Shelley and I have never met, but were in contact with one another in the 1990s, sharing research information. In the intervening years we have both made progress, trying to piece together the history of the Codd family. I think I've mentioned in previous blog entries that we believe there were fifteen children born to Thomas & Jessie, and that many of them died young.

Not surprisingly, given that the Codds were Shelley's direct forebears, she has made more progress than me with this research, but it is good to see that on the whole our research findings coincide, so there is a fair chance that we have drawn the correct conclusions. Assuming that there were fifteen Codd children we still have three left to trace, but hopefully we shall be able to do that between us.

Another recently established contact is Jim Smith, who hails from Pennsylvania, USA. Isn't it good how this family history lark brings us in contact with new friends across the globe?

Jim is descended on the Collyer line. Among his forebears he has Robert Mitchell Collyer (1787-1859) and his wife Ann Dujardin (1798-aft 1864), the parents of Robert Hanham Collyer (1814-abt 1891) . The family migrated to the US from England in 1836, having lived for periods in London and on the Channel Isle of Jersey.

Jim sent me the most fantastic collection of 47 family photographs portraying his forebears, accompanied by a fifteen pages long commentary. I have never before received such a fantastic volume of material in one go, and I really don't know how I can possibly reciprocate! I shall have a good dig through my records, and try to do justice to the task.

You may be able to imagine how daunting is the task of studying and archiving all this information! I can see that I am going to be occupied fully for the forseeable future.

In a couple of weeks I am off to The National Archives at Kew, for one of my twice yearly visits, courtesy of the coach trips run by the Shropshire Family History Society. These trips are fantastic value at £18, and (traffic permitting) enable me to enjoy about six hours research time at TNA. This time my efforts will be focussed on the 1911 census. I need to spend some time before the visit compiling a list of targets, and will spend as much time as I can looking for them. The beauty of searching the 1911 census at TNA is that it is free. All you pay for is the cost of the printouts which, at 20p each for each A3 sheet, are a bargain. There is also lots of help available in the search rooms, in case you are having difficulty using the facilities.

I also have a number of other items to look for at TNA, but need to organise my ideas on this.

You may be aware that the UK Government is looking for savings in these straitened economic times, and TNA has formulated plans to play its part in this. As I understand it, the plans involve the closure of the building on Mondays, the reduction of staffing levels, and the introduction of car parking charges, all of which, I believe, are quite worrying.

The argument for the Monday closures seems to be that more and more records are becoming available on the internet, so there should be less demand for actual time in the search rooms - a somewhat superficial view, I would say, and if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion we could end up with increasingly more restrictions on search room availability.

The proposed car parking charge, effective from January 2010, is £5 per day. This can be justified as a form of "green tax", but it is disingenuous, I think, to do so. The powers that be originally said that the charge would be set at a level that reflects the costs of providing parking facilities, but according to the Federation of Family History Societies, the breakdown of the costings indicates that TNA have actually set the charge to cover the costs of maintaining the grounds as a whole - not just the car parks.

As we may expect, there is the opportunity for members of the public to express their views re these issues, but one has the feeling that it is unlikely that any protests will have much effect on the decision. The need to raise money trumps all arguments, after all!

I fully understand that the country is in an economic mess,and that there is a need to look for extra ways of raising money, hopefully with minimum damage to essential services. I understand that to many people the services offered by TNA are not "essential", and are therefore a bit of a target. What concerns me is that the facilities at this wonderful institution will gradually be watered down, and public access will be reduced. To me these changes are "the thin end of the wedge", and will be followed, in due course, by further dimunition of services or increased costs. After all, what happened to the digitised Births, Marriages & Deaths civil registration indexes that we were promised when the Family History Centre in Islington closed?

Enough of this. I'm sorry this entry is a bit political, but I am afraid that I do not trust the UK powers that be - of whatever political persuasion - enough to believe that they will adequately defend the interests of TNA researchers when considering these matters.

To conclude on a slightly brighter note, I was recently carrying out a sweep of the internet, searching on "John Bankes, haberdasher", when to my amazement the wonderful Google came up with a source relating to the Bankes Trust that I would never have found by any means other than an internet search. This was an item in the Children's Newspaper dated 12 August 1933, entitled John Banks and his Money
. The item referred to "kind-hearted John Banks", the bequests he made in his will, and the Court of Chancery cause. It reported the end of the Chancery actions after 200 years of litigation, and the reversion of the fund to the Haberdashers' Company. What a fantastic find! I had already discovered in The Times newspaper that the final act in this litigation had taken place in July 1933, and mentioned this in my biography of Bankes on Geoffs Genealogy, but I had never before thought of the Children's Newspaper as a possible source.

It just goes to show that you never know where the next piece of information will come from!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 4 August 2009 (as 31 July 2009)

I'm rather ,late with this blog entry, which is a eflection of the busy time that I had in July. I won't bore you with the details - you would surely find them rather tedious - but suffice to say that family history has had to take second place to other things over the past few weeks.

We went to France for a week during the second half of July - to the Loire valley. This was a really smashing break - our first visit to that part of the world and certainly an experience that would be worth repeating. We visited a number of chateaux and other places of beauty or interest, and the trip also included our first experience of Paris. We only had a few hours in the French capital, but that was sufficient to convince us of the necessity of a return visit of longer duration as soon as we can make it.

Jan and I tried to speak French as much as we could during this trip. We had been having French lessons since last autumn in preparation for this holiday, and we very much enjoyed trying to converse in the native language of our hosts. It was good fun. I don't say that we were all that brilliant, but we could make ourselves understood, and on the whole we understood the people with whom we were conversing.

Some of my kinfolk have suggested to me that there is French blood in my ancestry. This may or may not be true, but I've found no evidence of it as yet. My mother used to say that Hannah Guyatt (1857-1903), my great grandmother and the wife of James William Smith (1853 - abt 1908), was of French descent, and this belief has been repeated to me by some of my other cousins.

What I know for sure is that Hannah was born in London, and neither of her parents were French. Her father - John Guyatt (b abt 1827) was born in High Wycombe, Bucks, and her mother - Caroline Smedley (b 1820) was born in Walworth, Surrey. I don't know where her grandfather was born, or who his parents were, but it seems that he and his spouse migrated to High Wycombe
from somewhere else.

The available information on surname distribution in the nineteenth century suggests that most people bearing the name Guyatt were recorded in the south of England - in Hampshire and Wiltshire - so my guess is that the identity of my Guyatt 3 x great grandparents may lie in one of these counties. However, I haven't yet worked out how to pin down my forebears. This is on the back burner at the moment, pending a moment of inspitation!

What is apparent, however, is that although it is possible that the Guyatts do originate in France, we have to go back a number of generations to prove it.

Continuing the French theme, last Saturday Jan & I went to the Maliphant Jamboree at Bristol, which was attended by about 33 people in all. This was the first such event to be organised, and was in fact a gathering of the Maliphant clan. You may be wondering who the Maliphants were / are. Well, they appear in Jan's family history. Jan's 2 x great grandmother was a certain Ann Maliphant (1836-1916), and she married Evan Hughes (1834-1916) in 1855 at Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire.

The history of the Maliphant clan has been traced back a very long way indeed - back to the father of Henry Maliphant (d 1590) who was named Jenkin Maliphant (dates unknown). There is then a gap in the records - I believe of about 200 years - before more Maliphant sightings were found. I have to say, here and now, that neither Jan or I can claim credit for this research. Most of it was carried out by Gordon Maliphant who, I'm pleased to say, attended Saturday's jamboree, which was organised by one of his sons, Bruce. Bruce is in the process of taking over the custody of Gordon's records, so if you want to know anything about this clan he will be the person to contact.

"Where's the French connection?" I hear you ask. Well, it has long been assumed by Jan and I that the meaning of the name Maliphant is derived from the French "bad child". The story, which I assumed had some basis in research, was that the Maliphants probably came over with the Normans. However, in conversation with a number of attendees on Saturday, Gordon said that this theory of the origin of the Maliphant name was conjecture. He has never been able to put it to the test. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Anyway, we very much enjoyed our visit to the Maliphant gathering, and thank Bruce very much for arranging it. We met a number of people who we have never met before, and Jan was able to meet up with a long standing correspondent and friend - Mavis.

All this leads me to one or two general comments.

Firstly, I never cease to be impressed at the helpfulness of family historians. We really are a very friendly lot - most of us are happy to share our knowledge with others, so you should never be afraid to ask for help. Mostly it is a reciprocal thing, in my experience. The process of helping others often results in you gaining a bit of extra knowledge or learning a new technique.

Secondly, most family historians have a taste for the exotic. If we can find a criminal among our forebears, that is just great! If he or she was transported to Australia that's even better! Gipsy ancestry is usually welcomed, and whatever reservations the English & French people may have about each other according to national stereotypes, the prospect of French ancestry is something that certainly seems to whet the appetite.

Lastly, be wary of family folk lore, or uncorroborated stories. Don't dismiss them out of hand, but bear in mind that they can be very diverting, in more senses than one!

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 30 June 2009

June has been a very busy month for me. As it is the height of the gardening season I’ve spent much of my time working in our garden, which always looks at its best at this time of the year. We’ve also been away for a short break, and on the first Saturday in June I was busily engaged on the Help stand at the Shropshire FHS Open Day. Unusually, this year it rained on the first Saturday in June – in fact, it hardly stopped raining throughout the whole day. This did not put a damper on the occasion, however. The attendance figure was every bit as high as usual, and all the stalls seem to have enjoyed a successful day. On the Help desk we were as busy as ever. It is always interesting to talk to visitors to the event – both members and non-members - about their research, and to try to help them where we can. Often the process of doing this helps us with our own research queries.

We had two first rate speakers at the event. In the morning a large gathering was entertained and informed on all things probate by Else Churchill, a well known Genealogist, who has spoken, broadcast and written widely of family history related subjects. After lunch a similarly large audience attended our second talk, which was given by Geoff Swinfield, another well known professional genealogist and family history speaker. His talk, entitled “I’m Stuck”, was a most interesting tour de force of different research strategies we can try when our research reaches the proverbial “brick wall”.

Of course, we all have “brick walls” in our research. There are a number in my research, which I’d dearly like to resolve. Firstly, of course, there is the problem of John Bankes’s parentage. This has always been a brick wall to me, from the first day I started treeing over twenty years ago. I haven’t got a strategy to solve this one, either – even after listening to Geoff Swinfield. The sum total of all my efforts on this subject is that I know that my man was apprenticed as a carpenter somewhere outside the City of London, and he went to work on the rebuilding of the capital after the great fire of 1666. He became Free of the Haberdashers’ Company by redemption in 1673, so we know that he was in the City at that time. The fact that the estimated date of his birth – c 1650-1652 - was during the Interregnum, when parish records were often not kept, does not help the quest! I, and my fellow researchers, have tried so many leads over the years that I really think we need a huge slice of luck to resolve this research problem. That doesn’t stop me trying, however.

Then there is the Culshaw impasse. When I started researching the Culshaws I was helped by my good friend, Dr George Wilson, and quickly traced the male line back to John Culshaw (c1760-1841). Research seemed so easy! Then, wham! I hit the brick wall. I still have not managed to identify the parents of John Culshaw. I have checked all the seemingly relevant Wills, but these were quite ordinary folk (insofar as anybody is ordinary), and it seems that they did not leave a will. I have not checked all the parish chest documents, and it may well be that if I did that I may find the answer to my problem, but the fact that I am about 100 miles from the records, does not make it easy for me to spend the necessary amount of time on the research . I really must get back on to this research, however, as surely there must be a way of advancing it.

There are other Culshaw “brick walls”, I’m afraid. My great grandfather was John Culshaw (yes, another one – there were lots of them), who lived from 1855 to 1924 in the Farington / Penwortham area of Lancashire, just south of Preston. He married a certain Elizabeth Bennett (1854-1931). They were Catholics. It took me years to find their marriage certificate, and when I saw it it did not tell me the name of Elizabeth’s father. Census records consistently tell me that Elizabeth was born in Leyland, but I have not been able to trace her birth or her family on the census. There are several Bennett households on the Leyland censuses, but I have so far failed to identify the correct one. Obviously, the fact that Elizabeth’s father was not named on the marriage certificate suggests that Elizabeth may have been illegitimate, so maybe the bastardy orders may help me with this research.

This same Culshaw family provides me with another of my research posers – not yet truly a “brick wall”, but at this stage it looks likely to become one. John & Elizabeth had four known children, two of whom – John (born 1889) and Elizabeth (born c 1885) are a bit of a mystery. I found Elizabeth as a 6 year old on the 1901 census, but have not yet traced her on the 1911 census. Of course, it seems quite possible that she may have married by 1911. John, on the other hand, can be traced on the 1911 census at Barton upon Irwell (now the Trafford area of Manchester). He was living in the household of John & Lucy Cunliffe, and was said to be a nephew of the household head – John Cunliffe (born c 1866 in Preston). I am trying to work out how the Cunliffes were related to my Culshaws.

As a young man my Dad knew the Cunliffes, but he didn’t know what the connection was between them and his family. I’ve had a scan through marriages of the relevant period, and also looked at some censuses, but so far have not found the key to this. I think that a bit of family reconstruction is called for here, and this may turn into a long term project. Hopefully I’ll get there in the end, but if anybody out there thinks they may be able to help me I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update - 31 May 2009

I'm a bit late with my blog entry this time. That's because we have been away for a week - on holiday in the beautiful Scottish Borders. We had a great time - lovely scenery, lots of places to visit, and lovely cooked breakfast each morning. Sadly, though, the week has passed quickly, and now it's back to work. Oh well, it was ever thus!

In the middle of May I paid a visit to The National Archives at Kew, taking advantage of a day coach trip organised by the Shropshire Family History Society. I decided to focus my attentions this time on the 1911 Census. This has been available online for a few months in ever increasing state of completion. As I think I've mentioned before, I had been resisting the temptation to avail myself of the online facility, as I believe it to be very expensive. However, I'm afraid I did succumb early in May and bought myself £25 worth of uses. These lasted me about 90 minutes, buying me nine census entries - the original entries, not the transcriptions - which confirmed my view that the use of this site is rather expensive.

If you use the same 1911 census facility at TNA, you do not have to pay these charges. All you pay is the standard TNA charge for each printout - from memory this is about 20p per sheet - and you can have an A3 printout for that as well! Your use of the 1911 census is limited to one hour at a time, but you can have more than one block of time. I had two separate one hour spells of use.

The system has been planned very well, to make it as user-friendly as possible. I was fortunate that when I took my seat the gent on my right gave me very full step by step instructions on using the system. He was a very experienced user, and was printing rucks of copies as he pursued his one name study. Good for him! If you are not fortunate enough to have such help available from your fellow users rest assured that assistance is never far away - there are a number of members of staff constantly around the area, whose job is to help 1911 census users.

How did I get on?

Very well, actually. As ever, I had a lengthy list of targets with me, and I managed to look for all my priority entries. No, I did not find them all, but at least I started the quest, and I returned home with eighteen relevant printouts on various different lines of research - Smith, Culshaw, Hewitt, Hunt etc. I haven't had a chance yet to sort them all out and catalogue them, but will get around to that soon, I hope.

Apart from the cost, I have two other reservations about the 1911 census online:

The results you see on screen when you carry out a person search do not show birthplace information. This is a serious omission in my view, as birthplace information can be a massive help in trying to ensure that your search has identified the right person, and avoiding wasting money by viewing records that are irrelevant. For instance, if you are searching for John Smith, born London, without the birthplace information you will be faced with a long list of people named John Smith, maybe living in various parts of the country, but you will probably have little idea which is "your" man. As it stands you would need to look at the transcription to check each of these candidates until you find the one you want. At a cost of 10 units per look (over £1), this does not come cheaply, and could easily cost quite a lot of money. The cynic in me makes me wonder why this vital birthplace information has not been made available freely by the 1911 Census people. As it is provided freely by other census websites, I assume it is a deliberate policy.

Searching at Kew enables you to view the transcriptions and records without cost, and thus obtain the birthplace information.

My second reservation about the 1911 Census online concerns source references, which are not handled very well, in my opinion. If, like me, you opt to see the full census entry you will not see the source reference on the document that you see on screen and print. If you save the jpeg file to your computer the file name automatically generated is, in fact, the source reference, but if you are working at TNA you will not get this option. The only other way to get the source ref is by viewing the transcription, and maybe printing it. This is ok at TNA, as you would only pay 20p for the printout, but if you are working at home, by doing this you will eat further into your precious credits, as you have to pay to see the transcriptions.

I am usually a stickler for recording source references, but on this occasion am severely lacking in this regard, I'm afraid. Next time I go to TNA I need to reprise the entries I have obtained, seeking the references.

In addition to the 1911 census, I managed to squeeze in some other research at TNA, continuing from my previous visit.

For many years I have been seeking the final Master's Report in the first Court of Chancery cause relating to the Bankes Trust. This is important to my research because many items of evidence date family events by reference to this report, eg "so & so died before the final report in the first cause" etc. The most recent evidence I have re the date of this report comes from Thomas Hunt's tract Truth Faileth; so that Equity Cannot Enter, which stated that it was dated 1727.

On my previous visit to TNA I had checked the indexes for these sources, and ascertained that there were seven Master's Reports dated 1727 (source ref C38/388) and a further five such reports dated 1730 (source ref C38/403). I had tried to look at these last October, but ran out of time, so I made a point of searching them this time.

In fact, when I searched the files I found that the number of items relevant to the first Chancery case re Bankes's estate were far fewer in number than the indexes had indicated. C38/388 contained only one document, while C38/403 contained three. Most of these items were quite short, but one of the C38/403 items, dated 1730, is fairly lengthy and deals with arguments arising from the order dated 4 August 1727 - indicating that that was the date of the final report in the first cause. Why had I not found it in C38/388, which is supposed to include all 1727 reports? I wondered.

Convinced that I must have missed this document, I re-searched the file but - no - the document was not there. There was only one thing for it, I would have to ask somebody where the missing report may be.

I asked two people before finding a member of staff with the necessary knowledge - Chancery records are quite specialised, and not many people are really knowledgeable on the subject. Ultimately I was told that the documents that were not in the files I had searched had probably been re-used in subsequent Court proceedings, and then filed with the then current records. In other words, I can have no idea where they may turn up!

Maybe I'll come across the missing Masters Reports some day, by accident, but in the meantime, piecing together the pieces of evidence I have, and noting the wise words of Thoimas Hunt, I feel fairly confident that that the date of the final Master's Report of the first cause was 4 August 1727. Now all I have to do is seek out the relevant individuals' records in my files and see what effect that information has on their dates of birth, marriage, or death.

Sorry if this has been a bit tedious to read, but I wanted to pass on to you what I have learned, as it may save you some work sometime. If you have any (polite) comments to add, please feel free to share them with me.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update - 11 May 2009

Great news!

We have now uploaded the updated Robert Hanham Collyer Chronology to Geoffs Genealogy. This is the last of our updates to the website (for now, anyway).

This Chronology is greatly enlarged from its predecessor, but is by no means the final version. In fact I doubt whether there ever will be a definitive final version, such was the amazing life of this talented and colourful character. As the resources on the internet develop we are becoming aware of new information about this man, almost on a weekly basis. One day we will get around to writing all this up, but at the moment I have no idea when that may be.

I hope that some of you will find this Chronology of interest, and useful. Please let me know if you do.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update - 30 April 2009

To return to a constant theme of this blog, "how time flies"!

Yet another month has nearly passed, and as ever, I don't know where the past 30 days has gone.

Most of my time this month has been spent preparing the June edition of the Shropshire FHS journal. I've just about put it to bed now, having reviewed the proofs and given the corrections to our printers. I think this edition will prove interesting and entertaining to our members as, thanks to our contributors, we have lots of interesting content.

So what has happened on the treeing front in the past month?

A few weeks ago I made my long planned sortie to London - a rare opportunity to delve into the archives at the wonderful records offices in the capital. In Shropshire we are lucky to have an excellent rail service which runs from Wrexham to Marylebone, and I took the 6.15 train from Cosford, as that would get me to Marylebone nice and early, allowing me lots of treeing time.

My first port of call was the Guildhall Library, in the City of London, where I spent a few hours researching the fire insurance registers of the Sun Fire Office Insurance company. These registers have been indexed. for the period 1809-1839, and you can search the index online at I had done this before my visit, so travelled with a list of seemingly relevant source references.

I had not used these records previously, so did not really know what they would tell me. I was able to look at records relating to Nathan Archer (1793-1845) and his brothers Thomas Archer (1786-abt 1866) and Samuel William Archer (1790-1870). Also John Collyer (1783-1840), the Carver & Gilder of Frith Street, Soho,and David Price (1774-1840), who carried on his wool trading business at Dowgate Hill.

These entries record people who had fire insurance cover with the company, and tell you the relevant address, the value of the cover provided, and in general terms the nature of the items covered. The addresses can enable you to track a person's movements, and the valuations enable you to form a view as to their wealth. You can also get an idea of the period in which an ancestor was in business, and the names of their various businesses.

In 1816 my direct ancestor, Nathan Archer, was trading from premises in Long Lane, West Smithfield. The record shows that he was at this address with a certain William Thomas Archer, and that they were trading as printers & stationers. I do not know who William Thomas Archer was - presumably a relation. In 1818 William Thomas & Nathan Archer were recorded at the same address, but by then they were trading as "watch maker & stationer". I know that Nathan was a printer, so assume that William was a watchmaker, in common with a number of other members of the Archer family.

From 1817 to 1821 Nathan was recorded at 39 Goswell Street. Seemingly he had branched out in business on his own. Note that in the period 1817 to 1818 the registers show him at two addresses simultaneously. Note also that he had married Mary Ann Stephens (1792-1885) in June 1817. In November 1821 he was recorded in Shoreditch, trading in partnership with a certain Arthur Catherwood. We know from an entry in the London Gazette that this partnership was dissolved in 1823, and in November of that year we find a record of Nathan trading at Tabernacle Walk in the parish of St Luke, Finsbury. The last business address for Nathan that we glean from these records was 15 Old Street Road, Hoxton, which is where we find him in January 1839. This was where he was enumerated when the 1841 census was taken, in June 1841.

Hopefully you can see how these records help to build up a picture of Nathan's business activities, sometimes providing fresh information and at other times confirming information that we already had. I hope that the indexing project for these registers is continued, as I am sure that there must be much more information about my forebears for me to find, and as I rarely get to London it is unlikely that I shall find an opportunity to search the registers in the old fashioned way.

I have encountered a research problem regarding the marriage of Elizabeth Benrose (b 1755), daughter of John Benrose (b abt 1708) & Mary Deane (b abt 1711), to Edward Hymas (dates unknown) in 1783 at St Botolph Aldgate. This marriage is noted in the Bankes Pedigree book, so one assumes that the Haberdashers' Company must have seen evidence to corroborate it. Furthermore, the fact that these two people were husband and wife was referred to in the Court of Chancery proceedings relating to the Bankes Trust. However, when I looked at the entry in the parish register I found that that bride was described as a widow. This cannot have been correct if she was the grandaughter of Anne Deane, half-sister of John Bankes.

Whilst at Guildhall Library I took the opportunity to look at the Banns entries re this marriage. These confirmed Elizabeth's marital status as "widow".

I'm not sure where this leaves us. I do believe that this is the correct marriage, and that the evidence supporting that belief is reliable. I can only think that either the marriage and banns records are in error in this regard, or that Elizabeth had been married previously but her spouse had died and she reverted to her maiden name. This would not be particularly surprising today, but does it seem likely in the late eighteenth century?

If anybody has any views on this do feel free to share them with me.

After enjoying a successful few hours at Guildhall Library I moved on to London Metropolitan Archives, where I researched some parish registers. Apart from having a general search of some parish registers using old fashioned search methods - ie trawling through an unindexed microfilm - I also had a look at a number of entries that I had identified on the IGI as likely to be "ours". I recorded a couple of Hazeltine baptisms at St Matthew, Bethnal Green dating from the 1870s (the Hazeltines feature on our Guyatt/Smedley line), and also the marriage of Charles Benzoni (abt 1811-1885) to Eleanor (Brannan) Crow (abt 1809 - 1889) at St Luke, Chelsea in 1832. I also had a look at the marriage between James Matthews and Lucy Wildman at St Luke, Old Street, Finsbury in 1825. I'm very confident that this couple were the parents of Lucy Matthews (b abt 1826), who married William Holliday (abt 1818-1874) in 1841, but it would be nice to find further corroboration.

Apart from all this, I also had a look at some of the online records that are available at London Metropolitan Archives, and found a number of eighteenth century adverts for the literary works of Joseph Collyer the Elder (abt 1714-1776). These were in the Burney collection, an archive which is available at certain records offices and libraries.

All in all, a successful day.

Apart from this, I have been delighted to be kept quite busy by three correspondents in the USA who are each studying the life and works of Robert Hanham Collyer (1814-Abt 1890). More on this another time. We are still aiming to get the updated Robert Hanham Collyer Chronology updated to Geoffs Genealogy soon. We're having a problem with it because the file is now rather large, but hopefully we shall resolve this before too long.

Lastly, for today, I'll just mention that the Bloomsbury People project, run by Carole Reeves, now includes a section on Dr Thomas Hunt (1789-1879) and his family. Most of the material is derived from Geoffs Genealogy, but Carole has added some more information and presented it all very well, I think.

I wish you all happy treeing!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update - 25 March 2009

It seems ages since I last wrote a blog entry. I've been so busy lately - on a number of fronts - that I have had to neglect this blog, I'm afraid. Still, here goes ....

In the last entry I gave brief details of the updates that went live on the Geoffs Genealogy website during February. Although I say so myself, there is some good stuff there, so I think it's worth commenting on some of it.

I'm particularly pleased with the photographs of the children of Thomas Hunt and Martha Mary Colam that I've featured on the Thomas Hunt Doctor page. I am so lucky to have these, and my thanks go to Richard Bradley for sharing them with me, and also for allowing me to display them on the website.

As the internet develops there are more and more texts appearing in cyberspace that relate to the work of Thomas Hunt, the doctor. The Times Digital Online website holds many such items, as does the Google Books website. I haven't yet found the time to do justice to all this material, but hopefully I shall get around to this before too long.

The portrait of a young Robert Hanham Collyer on the RH Collyer page is another very valuable source, and I'm grateful to David Schmit for making me aware of this, and to the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA, USA for allowing me to include it on the site. We have another picture that is said to be of Robert Hanham Collyer as an older man, and we Collyer researchers have been comparing this to the image on Geoffs Genealogy to try to see whether they both portray the same man. It is fair to say that opinions differ about this, but Helen and I believe that they are both of the same man. The sad truth is that we shall probably never know!

When we were updating the website we came to realise that the Robert Hanham Collyer Chronology was in great need of an update, such is the amount of material about this man that we have gathered since the chronology was placed on the website. Fortunately for me, Helen volunteered to carry out this work, which she has now completed. I just need to get it uploaded to the website, which I shall do as soon as I can - hopefully in the next couple of weeks. The updated chronology is about 80 entries longer than the version on the website at the moment, so you will understand that it adds quite a lot to our knowledge of this amazing man.

I created a new page in the Hunt section, displaying our current knowledge about Mary Ann Stephens and her spouse - Nathan Archer. In this text I write about the cause of Nathan's death - suggesting that his demise may have been due to dementia caused by syphillis. Cousin Alice in the US has expressed the view to me that his condition may have been caused by the chemicals he may have used in his daily work as a printer, a thought that, I must confess, had not occurred to me. This seems to me to be at least a possibility, but as I don't know anything about the chemicals that a printer would have used in Nathan's time I really can't comment on its likelihood. If anybody reading this has any knowledge on this subject I'd be very pleased to hear from you.

Another exciting new piece of information on the website concerns that text written by Thomas Hunt the Lawyer - Truth Faileth so that Equity Cannot Enter. I've included in the website a few lines about this wonderful source, and a transcription of the document. I really can't tell you how excited I am by this document. It is such a rare source, and tells us so much about Thomas Hunt. It's more than a bit frustrating that I have so far not been able to find a way of developing research into Thomas Hunt's life as a Customs Officer, but maybe I'll manage that sometime.

Last week the speaker at the Shropshire FHS monthly meeting was John Titford, the well known genealogist. This was the third time I've attended a talk given by him, and he was as informative and entertaining as ever. If you get the chance to hear him speak I recommend that you do your best to attend. He really is very good indeed.

The talk was entitled Barking up the Wrong Tree, and was based on case studies from John's research - both his own research and work he has done for clients. He showed how easy it is to end up researching the wrong family, and how one can try to avoid this situation, and one comment by John threw the search for John Bankes's parents into a new context for me.

Anybody who has read my Biography of Bankes will know that after some 21 years of searching - some by me and some by fellow Bankes descendants - I still have not identified his parents. They really are that elusive! I have worked out that he was born about 1648-52, and was aware that this was just at the time of the Interregnum and the execution of Charles I. I also know that during the Parliamentary rule the practice of entering baptisms, marriages, and burials into parish registers ceased. However, I had not thought through the logic of that, which is that it is extremely likely that no record of Bankes's baptism exists!

If we are ever to resolve this genealogical poser it is likely to be by means of sources such as Wills or other legal documents, rather than the baptisms register.

I thought I'd share this with you as an example of how in our research we often fail to see the obvious, even when all the facts are there for us! Needless to say, the hunt for John Bankes's parents continues .....

Lastly for this entry I'll just mention the treat that Jan and I had last night, when we went to see a performance of Mozart's wonderful opera - The Marriage of Figaro, by Welsh National Opera at the Hippodrome, Birmingham. This was absolutely wonderful. Although I have reservations about setting the action in a 1930s set, I must say that the singing was wonderful - I include the whole cast in that, the acting was super, and the orchestra just great. It made for a super night out.

When I was a lad I thought opera to be very "highbrow", and never ever would have given it passing consideration. Then, in my early thirties I took an Open University course which featured study of Mozart's sublime The Marriage of Figaro. To my surprise I found that the more I began to understand the piece, the more I got out of it. Thanks to the OU, Mozart and Figaro I became a great opera fan, and my love of this art form has only grown since then. One of the many ways in which the OU changed my outlook on life.

I really do think that if you don't give this art form a chance to work its magic on you you are missing a wealth of joy.

Anyway, I'm so hooked on opera now that tomorrow Jan & I return to Birmingham to see WNO perform Donizetti's The Elixir of Love - another wonderful piece. I can't wait for the curtain to go up!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 23 February 2009

I'm pleased to say that the latest set of updates to the Geoffs Genealogy website have now been uploaded. The following is a summary of the changes:

I have carried out a pretty comprehensive review of the site, tweaking the content on most of the pages, and in some cases added extra images.

There are three new pages:
  1. A Haberdashers' Hall page which is accessed via the Bankes Button. This includes a short account of our visit to Haberdashers' Hall in September 2008, and a selection of photographs taken on that occasion.
  2. A Siblings of James Jacobson Broker page, which is accessed via the Mitchell & Jacobson button. This contains information about the brothers & sisters of my direct ancestor, James Jacobson (c1692-1759) . These people were not Bankes descendants, but are of great interest to me.
  3. I have added a page entitled Mary Ann Stephens m Nathan Archer, which can be accessed via the Hunt & Stephens button. This lays out what we know about this couple, who feature among my direct ancestors.

In addition to the new pages I have made very substantial changes to the following pages:

  1. Thomas Hunt Lawyer. Visitors to this page will now find information about a most fascinating source that came to our attention during 2008, and which I have mentioned previously on this blog - Truth Faileth (its abbreviated title) is a pretty unique document, telling us much about the career of Thomas Hunt the lawyer, and his society.
  2. Thomas Hunt Doctor. Thanks to the generosity of Richard Bradley I have been able to include photographs of many of the children of Thomas and Martha Mary Colam, and have also taken the opportunity to write a short account of the lives of each of these children.
  3. On the Arthur Ackland Hunt, Artist page I have added some information about the children of Arthur and his wife - Emma Sarah Blagg.
  4. The Articles section has an extra article linked to it - my Shropshire Review.
  5. I have added a number of links to the Links page.
  6. The information in the Tree has been updated to date. Hopefully I have included all the material that has come into my possession since the last update. If you are able to add to the tree please do drop me an email. There are a number of links on the website to enable you to contact me.
  7. As I write we have some more work in hand, extending the Robert Hanham Collyer Chronology, and we hope to be able to upload the updated Chronology to the website before too long. However, we have been able to include a lovely lithograph of Robert Hanham Collyer on the Chronology page, which can be accessed via the Collyer button. I'm sure you will agree that it is a superb addition to the website.

I think that's about all I can usefully tell you about these updates for now. I hope that you all enjoy using the website, and look forward to hearing from some of you.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update, 28 January 2009

This has been a very busy month for me.

I've been wearing my editorial hat - preparing the March issue of the journal of the Shropshire Family History Society. At the same time I have been working on the next batch of updates for the Geoffs Genealogy website, earning a crust, and also attending to all the day to day things that everybody has to attend to.

The website updates are coming on quite well, if a little slowly. I have worked my way through most of the existing content, updating where appropriate, and prepared one new additional page. I still have lots to do, however, as there are articles to add, plus some photographs and, if I have enough spare time, I may add another page. With all this to work through it is likely to be a few more weeks before the site is updated.

One by-product of reviewing the content of the website is that I get reminded of some of the areas of my research that still need attention. When I was looking at the section on Thomas Hunt, the Doctor (1798-1879) (THD), I was reminded that I have never found out anything about of his son - Thomas.

To be honest, I don't know for a fact that this Thomas was a son of THD - that is, I haven't seen a record of his birth. In 1992 I received some information about THD from the Royal College of Surgeons, and included in this was a photocopy of a page from the Medical Directory of 1861 (p 154). This listed a certain a certain Thomas Hunt Jnr, who became a MRCS in 1859, and he shared the address of THD - 23 Albert Place, St Giles. Middlesex. I have not actually traced this man's baptism, although I am aware of an entry on the IGI that looks extremely promising. I need to check this out at London Metropolitan Archives when I get the chance:

Baptism 12Dec1819, Dulwich College Chapel - Thomas Hunt, son of Thomas Hunt & Martha

Given the patterns of naming children that often applied in families up to fairly recent times it would not be surprising if THD and his spouse named their eldest son Thomas. After all, Thomas was the name of his father and grandfather.

The date of birth that I have put on my family tree for this Thomas is 1826. Educated guesswork on my part, but one has to start somewhere. Similarly, as I have never yet traced the marriage of THD and Martha I have recorded it as "before 1826", assuming that they were married before the birth of their first son.

I know that some people would say that it would be better if I left this information out of my records until it is proved, and I would not argue with that. I can only say that my method of doing this suits me. It stands to remind me of unresolved research items. I always include a note in my research files to explain these situations.

Incidentally, this is a point to bear in mind when looking at the tree that is on my website. Some of the detail in that tree may be "estimated", and you would be unwise to just take it as fact. I have noticed that some people have copied information from Geoffs Genealogy and used it on their own website without any acknowledgement of the source of the information, or reference to me. Not only is this very impolite - plagiarist, even - it is also quite unwise unless you have checked the information before using it.

Anyway, to return to my subject, although this Thomas Hunt MRCS appeared in the Medical Register listings up to 1875, and was always listed with the 23 Albert Place address associated with his father, I have never yet managed to sight him in any census records. This is in spite of the fact that I have records of his father's family on the censuses of 1851, 1861 and 1871. Very strange! Bear in mind, however, that if he was born about 1819 he would have been over 30 by the time of the 1851 census, and it seems quite likely that he may have already ceased to reside with the family, whilst practising medicine from the same address as his father.

It would help my attempts to trace him if I knew where he was born. If he was the child whose baptism was recorded in the above mentioned entry at Dulwich College, I may be able to fill in that gap. As it stands, there were so many Thomas Hunts in the records that without some reliable basic information to found my search on it seems unlikely that I shall find him.

The fact that I have not found Thomas Hunt Jnr listed in the Medical Register after 1875 suggests that possibly he may have either died shortly after that date, or he may have moved overseas. As I have been searching this source online at, and Ancestry has not put online the Medical Registers for the period 1876 - 1879, I do not know whether Thomas Hunt MRCS was listed in any of those years.

Bearing in mind that the Medical Register was probably compiled one year in advance, I have searched the civil registration indexes of deaths from 1874 to 1880, looking for Thomas Hunt, possibly registered at St Giles, Middlesex. I have found one entry that almost fits the bill:

Deaths June 1877
Hunt Thomas age 47 St Giles 1b 313

This may or may not be my man, but I am presently deterred from buying the certificate by the age recorded in this entry - 47. If my man was baptised in 1819 this is unlikely to be him. On the other hand ...

So many ifs, buts and maybes. I'll let you know if I ever resolve this poser.

In the meantime, it's back to the website editing.