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!

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