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 Ancestry.co.uk, 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 Ancestry.co.uk, 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 Ancestry.co.uk 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.