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!