Thursday, 23 June 2011

Geoffs Genealogy Update 23 June 2011 - Bankes Reunion

Our Reunion of John Bankes’ Descendants took place last Saturday, 18th June 21011, at Coulsdon United Football Club’s clubhouse in South London. After a downpour the previous day, which caused difficult travelling conditions for some of the attendees, the weather on the big day was much improved – showery with sunny intervals.

The Reunion was attended by 43 descendants of the half siblings of John Bankes, Citizen & Haberdasher of London (c1650-1719), who came to Coulsdon from far and near. Their ages ranged from 12 to 96!

Our ice breaker was a game of Bankes Bingo, organised by Helen (Culshaw) Mitchell. This provided some light hearted amusement, whilst enabling us all to learn a bit about the lives of some of our forebears.

This was followed by a talk, given by Geoff Culshaw, the writer of this blog, on John Bankes. I outlined what we have learned about Bankes over the course of some 24 years of research, and how we have obtained the information. I also mentioned some of the things that we don’t know about Bankes. Basically, we know quite a lot about his business life, but lack information on the dates and whereabouts of his birth and first marriage.

It would be lovely to think that we may solve this conundrum one day, but it does not seem likely at present!

After a period of mingling, including a splendid buffet lunch, we reconvened for our second talk. This was delivered by Helen (Culshaw) Mitchell, and had as its subject the amazing Robert Hanham Collyer. A glance through the Robert Hanham Collyer Chronology on the Geoffs Genealogy website is sufficient to tell you that this was no ordinary Bankes descendant. By turns he was a medical doctor, a showman, a gold prospector, an inventor, and a host of other things as well. Helen related his life story in an informative but lighthearted style, and provided all of us with a most entertaining talk.

There was then a little time left for further mingling before the attendees started to wend their way to their homes. All said that they had enjoyed the event very much. Many of them had learned something new about their family or the Bankes Pedigree, whilst others had met "new" relations or become re-acquainted with people they had not seen for many years..

I must just mention the enormous family trees that adorned the walls of one of the rooms at our disposal. There were three trees, which Helen and I had specially produced for the occasion - one each for descendants of our eighteenth century ancestors Mary Rand, Anne Rand, and Joseph Rand. They took up three of the four walls of a very large room, and people were able to enjoy looking at their own section of interest. Attendees were encouraged to write on the trees, adding information that was missing, or correcting any errors that they could spot. Many people did this, I’m delighted to say, and it will be my task to assimilate this extra information into my records.

Attendees were told that if would like a copy of their section of these trees they should contact either me or Helen. We will then provide them with specially formulated pdf file and the name of the printer who produced the tree for us, so that they can obtain a copy themselves.

As soon as we can manage it we shall post the slides from the two talks on the internet. We will let everybody who came to the event know when we have done this. We also plan to make available the notes that were used for the Bankes Bingo game.

One disappointment for me was that my photographs of the event did not come out at all well. I have therefore asked whether anybody has some photographs that they are happy to share with me. I have already received one positive reply to this plea, from Don Bates, and I thank him very much for that. If anybody else can help me I shall be very grateful to them.

After all the months of planning, it seems strange to think that the Bankes Reunion is over. Now, on to the next task - preparing the September edition of the Shropshire Family History Society journal. That will occupy me through most of July.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Geoffs Genealogy Update 31 May 2011

On 19 May I went on the Shropshire Family History Society coach trip to the National Archives, at Kew. I had a few things to reprise there, plus one new source to look at.

Some years ago my daughter, Helen, went to Kew and researched the Admiralty records relating to Bankes Mitchell, who died at sea in 1763. When Helen did this research it was not possible to take photographs of the source material, and I thought it a good plan to have a look at these most interesting records myself, and photograph them.

The records are quite fascinating. The Captain’s log gives you so much information about the day to day whereabouts of the ship, damage sustained by the vessel and consequent repairs, and the deaths of seamen. It is quite compelling reading. I was amazed to see that in 1763 the voyage from the UK to the West Indies took a mere six weeks. This seemed to me remarkably fast progress, so I checked several voyages. The time at sea was roughly the same in all cases.

Bankes Mitchell died a mere two days before the Hampton Court anchored off Plymouth on 20th August 1763, and was buried at sea at 10 o’clock am.

Before starting its voyage home in July 1763 the Hampton Court had been moored in Havana harbour for the best part of a year. Presumably the ship was part of the British force that secured Havana after its capture from the Spanish in 1762, during the Seven Years War. In the Treaty of Paris of February 1763, which ended the worldwide conflagration, Havana passed back to the Spanish.

As I’ve said before, it’s always good to place the lives of the people you encounter in your research in their historical context, and this piece of research certainly did that.

Next I reprised the great big box of records relating to the Court of Chancery case that resulted from the dissatisfaction of some of the beneficiaries of John Bankes’ will. This box (TNA source ref C105/21) contains various written artefacts that were presented as evidence in the case – a real mixture – Bankes’ accounts, rental agreements, indentures recording the transfer of property, tradesmen’s bills from Bankes’ lifetime, Bankes’ will, and loads more. I recall how excited we were when we first came face to face with this box a few years ago, and although I already hold photocopies of some of the items I relished the opportunity to photograph as many as I could.

How wonderful to handle the very documents that our forebears handled all those years ago, to see their signatures etc. Fantastic. I now have digital images of many of these items and face the not inconsiderable task of cataloguing them! That will have to wait until after the
Bankes Reunion.

Lastly I looked at the divorce papers relating to the proceedings brought against Edwin Claringburn by his wife – Mary Jane nee Lambert – in April 1909.

Apparently in 1905 Edwin had left Mary Jane and set up home with a certain Florence Farrel. The liaison between Edwin & Florence had produced a female child before Florence died in February 1909. There was no reply to these accusations from Edwin Claringburn, and the divorce was granted by the Court.

The thing about this that I found surprising is that the papers relating to the case included a copy of the marriage certificate relating to Mary Jane Lambert’s marriage to Edwin in 1897, and a copy of Florence’s death certificate. Her death was registered in the name of Florence Clarke by Edwin Clarke(!). That would have been very hard to trace by normal means.

This proved, once again, how valuable Court records can be. If you get a chance to use them in your research you will be lucky indeed.

Also, always remember to take your digital camera to you when researching at TNA. Unlike most archives, there is no fee to pay if you want to use your camera, and they even provide camera stands to combat our shaky hands!

Bankes Reunion is now only 18 days away, and we are still working towards what we are sure will be a really enjoyable event. Here’s hoping that the sun shines on us, that all the people who are attending have safe journeys, and that we all have a jolly good time!

See you there!