Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Geoffs Genealogy Update 31 March 2010

Another month gone, and still no updates to the Geoffs Genealogy website.

I'm still trying to get as much data entered on the tree as I can, so that when it eventually does appear on the web it will be as up to date as possible. I've been using online resources to find births, marriages and deaths in the civil registration indexes. I'm taking a bit of a chance in this, as without buying the relevant certificate there is always a possibility of adopting the wrong index entry. However, the cost of buying certificates en bloc is prohibitive, and my experience tells me that the number of errors I have made using this method is very small. Where I am in doubt about an entry I either omit it entirely or add a query to the record. Hopefully I am not undermining the validity of our research.

Mention of the cost of BMD certificates in England & Wales leads me to mention the quite extortionate increase that the UK government has applied with effect from 6 April. From this date the cost of a certificate will rise from £7.00 to £9.25. Really, I realise that our nation is skint, but this is ridiculous! Apparently the official line is that this quite exhorbitant increase is justified by the need to make sure that the fee charged reflects the cost of producing the certificates. I ask you, does it really cost £9.00 to copy a certificate and post it out? If so, I would suggest that some changes are needed in the way the General Register Office (England & Wales) operates.

I explained, in my last blog entry, how the 1911 census record for my great grandparents told me that John (1855-1924) & Elizabeth (1853-1931) Culshaw had had three children who had died before April 1911. Prior to this I had no knowledge at all about these extra Culshaws, each of whom had been born and died between censuses. I explained that I had identified the three missing children from civil registration indexes and also from the records of baptisms at St Mary RC, Leyland. The next logical step was to send off for some of the relevant certificates. I wanted to prove that I had records for the right people, and also to find out what caused the deaths of these poor souls.

The forthcoming price increase led me to order four certificates while the price is still £7.00, and these documents enabled me to piece together these details re my Culshaw forebears.

I now know that Abel Culshaw died at Preston, Lancashire on 11 August 1876, aged 6 months, the cause of his death being "Marasmus Pneumonia". According to the web page "Causes of Death in the Late 19th Century mentioned in the Register of Deaths, 1893-1907 " Marasmus was a "Progressive emaciation and general wasting due to enfeebled constitution rather than any specific or ascertainable cause." Abel was John Culshaw & Elizabeth nee Bennett / Eastham's first born child, my grandfather was their second born.

James Culshaw was born in August 1879, and was no doubt named after his grandfather - James Culshaw (1834-1923). He died only nine weeks after his birth at the family home in Farington, just south of Preston. The cause of his death was "Convulsions 24 hours". I don't know what may have brought about the convulsions. The above website suggests that tetanus could have been a cause, but doesn't really offer an explanation. Possibly James was suffering from a fever.

Amy Ann Culshaw died at Farington on 5 October 1884, aged one year. She had been suffering from meningitis.

All these deaths were registered by John Culshaw, father to the children, within two days of the events. John had been present at all the deaths.

Finds such as these remind us just what a dangerous place the world was in the nineteenth century, and bring home to us the very high rates of infant mortality that existed in those days. If you are interested in this aspect of our research you may like to look at my work on late nineteenth century infant mortality, which is available on my website. John Culshaw was an ordinary working man. As far as I know he was not particularly poor, by the standards of the time. I doubt whether the living conditions of his family were particularly poor. Yet three of his seven children died so young.

I wonder about the attitude of people towards infant mortality in those days. Nowadays in England a child's death is quite rare, and rightly viewed as a disaster, but when infant mortality was so much of an everyday experience social attitudes towards it must have been different.

In addition to all the information we have found recently about the Culshaws, we have in the past few weeks filled in much information about the Eastham family. If you are interested in all this you will be able to see these records on the tree when we eventually get around to uploading it to the website.

These new breakthroughs in our Culshaw research came about thanks to our recently established contact with our long lost Lancashire cousins. A couple of weeks ago we went to Preston and met these cousins. It was a real pleasure. They made us very welcome, and we had a fine old time, talking about various family topics. My Dad met his first cousin, with whom he used to play as a lad, for the first time for about 65 years! You can imagine that it was quite an occasion.

It's really great when our hobby leads us to such a joyous conclusion. Truly the icing on the genealogical cake.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Geoff's Genealogy Update 28 February 2010

The Who Do You Think You Are Live family history show at Olympia, London took place last weekend, and I was there on Saturday and Sunday, lending a hand on the Shropshire Family History Society stand. I have no idea how many people visited the show over the weekend, but believe me, the figures are bound to be hugely impressive. Our stand was manned by five people on Saturday, and we were all kept busy for most of the day. We still had time for a look around, however.

A large number of commercial websites were present. All the familiar names like Ancestry, Find My Past and S & N Genealogy had large stands with lots of merchandise on sale, lectures being given, and lots of information available. Family Search also had a big stand, and plenty of people available to help punters. I have always found the people who man the LDS family history centres around the country to be extremely helpful, and that was certainly true of the people who manned the stand.

I was a bit disappointed by the number of family history societies that were present. In particular, it seemed a shame that some of the larger societies - Birmingham and Lancashire, for example, had not attended. Judging from the interest in the Shropshire FHS stand, I'm sure that their attendance would have been well worthwhile, and appreciated by their members in the south east of the country.

It is a commonly held belief in my family that the Guyatt name is of French origin (my gt grandmother was a Londoner named Hannah Guyatt [1857 - 1903]). I have traced the Guyatt line back to 1800, and am awaiting the next moment of inspiration to enable me to make further progress, but have not yet found any evidence of French ancestry. However, I do believe it quite likely that the name originates from France. My main reason for this belief is the reference to the name in A Dictionary of English Surnames (Oxford). I am quite sceptical of surname dictionaries, as I think that many of them are not very well researched, but I do consider the Oxford version to be one of the best around, as it carries lots of citations and appears well researched. Anyway, whilst at WDYTYA I took the opportunity to ask the people from the Huguenot Society to check their database for the Guyatt name.

The outcome of the search was that the Huguenot Society's database contained eighteen references to the Guyot name, but none to Guyatt or Guyat. It seems quite possible that Guyot could be a variable of Guyatt, but to find out more about these references I would have to buy more information. I'm not about to do that at the moment, partly for cost reasons and partly because I have loads of other treeing research on the go at the moment.

All in all the WDYTYA show was a great success for our society. We had loads of visitors to our stand, and hopefully were able to help many of them with their research. It is very likely that we shall be able to return to London for next year's event.

As far as my ongoing research is concerned, the most striking thing about the past few weeks has been the progress we have made with our research into our Lancashire Culshaw forebears. I have mentioned in previous entries that we had been rather flummoxed for a number of years in our efforts to find out more about the family for my great grandparents - John Culshaw (abt 1855 - 1924) and Elizabeth nee Bennett (abt 1853 - 1931). In my last blog entry I thimentioned that we had recently made contact with one of my father's Culshaw cousins. Well, the information she has given us has provided the answers to many of our long standing posers, and enabled us to further develop this line of research by filling in the detail of the siblings of my grandfather, William Henry Culshaw (1877-1925).

We now know that Elizabeth Culshaw (b abt 1885) married Matthew Birtwistle (b abt 1877) in 1910, this couple having one child. We also know that John Culshaw (b 1889) was married in 1915 to Mary Ann Rigby. As far as we know this couple had just one child.

The 1911 census entry for John Culshaw & Elizabeth nee Bennett informed us that their marriage had produced seven children, three of whom had died. This was a considerable surprise to us, as we only knew of four children, including my grandfather. Well, recently I was browsing the catalogue of microfiches currently sold by the Lancashire Family History & Heraldry Society, and decided to buy some of them. These were records relating to chapels and churches in the Leyland / Farington area, which I had not previously searched. I already knew that John & Elizabeth were Catholics, having found some family baptisms at St Mary's RC Church, Brown Edge, so I bought the fiches relating to St Mary RC church in Leyland. We struck gold, because the baptisms fiche contained the records of the baptisms of the three children of John & Elizabeth who had died before the date of the 1911 census:

1876 - Abel Culshaw
1879 - James Culshaw
1883 - Amy Ann Culshaw

I then searched the civil registrations deaths indexes on the Lancashire BMD website, seeking the deaths of these unfortunate children, and came up with:

1876 - CULSHAW Abel 0 Preston Preston PRES/170/42
1879 - CULSHAW James 0 Longton Preston LONG/11/64
1884 - CULSHAW Amy Ann 1 Longton Preston LONG/12/89

Yes, I know that I need to obtain the death certificates to be absolutely sure that I have identified the correct records, but there seems little real doubt about it.

So there we are, another few twigs on the tree. Now on to the next conundrum......

Happy hunting to one and all.