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.