Lots of updates

Following a recent trip to the UK to meet with family I had not seen for 40 years there are lots of updates to the tree.

Conversations and memories started of a lot of discussions, solving some problems with my memory and opening up new lines of enquiry. There were also a few errors I needed to correct, mostly spelling mistakes in place names which made finding places on the site harder.

With the information exchange came lots of photographs, some have taken time to research who was in the picture and when it was taken. In addition I took several hundred photographs myself, mainly of places ancestors lived and there were several hundred more gravestone photographs which still need to be sorted.

Lots of new family lines are being added, many photographs are also getting added to people and places, maps are one of the biggest updates. I have also got an update to Gramps pushed for the next update that will show more than just BMD data on maps. Gravestones have not been processed yet but will be added as they are deciphered.

Online tree updates are occurring at least twice a week currently, this should reduce to once every week or two by the end of the year.

A family not at war- 1914

Photographs provided by John and Mary Green

A peaceful idyll in New Zealand about 1914. The older man, with a cap, in the centre is John Davies aged about 72 at that time, he died 2 years later. He had had an interesting life, born in Chester the son of a travelling book salesman he married in 1864 in Wrexham, Wales, with Louisa Charlotte Davies, so far she seems to be an unrelated Davies.

I featured some of his life a few months ago in the tale of the tobacconist and hairdresser, but research has added quite a lot to his profile. He lived after marriage in Oswestry, his wife had died in 1900 and he emigrated to New Zealand with some of his daughters in 1907.

Sitting on the swing on the left is his youngest daughter Lillie May with her daughter Vera, Richard Thomas Haylock Daniels, husband and father is standing next to John. John’s second youngest daughter Alice Selina is on the left, she never married but kept house for the family. Lillie was apparently quite a character, she had two shops in Auckland, drove around in a model T Ford and took trips to Seattle.

The other side of the photograph has John’s oldest daughter Louisa Charlotte who was also interesting. It seems she eloped to the US with a cousin, William Henry Davies. There is, so far, little evidence of this apart from a baptism of a daughter Stella Irene in Pennsylvania, she is the young girl on the right of the photograph. They also had another daughter May who was possibly born in New York and died in New Zealand, age 16, her burial record states her birth in Oswestry but this seems to be incorrect, there are no UK or US records.

It is unclear what happened to William Henry but Louisa seems to have met Ronald McDougall Malcolm in the US, he was from Glasgow, he went to New York in 1893 and returned in 1900, he may have stayed with John Davies in Oswestry for a while. There is no marriage record of him marrying Louisa but when she emigrated she was listed as Louise Malcolm. Ronald is sat on the right swing.

It is unclear why John and some daughters went to New Zealand but they seem to have enjoyed life, the family that stayed in England were also quite successful it seems, many ran their own business.

One of my hopes was to find John and his wife were cousins, this might help get around the brickwall of her parents, so far though it seems not to be so. It could be that they link several generations earlier but tracing Davies lines is almost as bad as tracing Jones families.

Just names

I was looking at the name cloud above and got a bit fed up with the big missing surname entry. This looks like sloppy work on my part.

I checked in Gramps and 4% of my database was missing surnames, this is not good. There will always be a few names that are unknown and I could cheat by adding the married name to British women, most names that are missing are from married women whose birth name is unknown and that is a peculiarity of Britain and the colonies, the rest of the world value women higher and they use their birth name all their life. Using a married name though does introduce a chance for errors, there are some cases where cousins with the same name married and they may get overlooked with using married names as birth names.

Some of these missing names will be for ever clouded in mystery, like Agnes, the wife of John Grist. She is only mentioned on her burial record and the baptism of her children. She may have married before the reformation or before the new church of England started keeping records, or they may have been a record that has got lost in the last 500 years. I doubt I will ever find her name or the parents of either of them, common peasants were not worth recording.

With a lot of new parish records coming online over the last few months and the GRO search site now having mothers maiden names back to 1837 there were lots of places where I could fill in names, and in many cases get research back one or two generations. It took some time but missing names are now less than 1% of the total 8000 people in the tree.

It is always useful to go back over old research, new facts pop up all the time and allow a better picture of our ancestors lives.

Potts Trust

December and January, at least here, are cold, I mean really cold, -20 to -30 during the short days, they are also the most depressing time of the year, especially the silly season in the last week of December. It makes it worse as the start of the stupidity gets earlier each year. I avoid it all by not going out and not having any live ‘entertainment’ coming in.  I used to use the time constructively by cleaning the cess pit but now I just hang a ‘gone fishing’ sign on the gate and do something constructive online.

This year I revisited the Potts Trust relatives, to try and bring some order to the genealogy that many cousins seem to have got wrong.

The Potts trust came about because of Thomas Potts who died without children in 1800. Various stories have been told about him, he was a millionaire and a silk merchant, in reality he was moderately well off and a grocer in Edinburgh, he was a grocer at the top end of the market as can be seen from advertising he did and he was involved with the city council, he also got involved in property development and rented homes to dowager duchess’ and other nobility.

Shortly after his death his widow Isabella set up a trust fund for their joint estates. The main provision was that at her death the fund would pass to any of the surviving siblings of Thomas, it appears she have been the end of her line. In any case she lived longer than any of the siblings and on her death the second provision came into force, the income from the fund would be split between any children of the three siblings and their descendants, in perpetuity, which is how came into being an inheritor.

Unfortunately there were several problems created when the trust was set up. The first problem was the size of the fund, it seemed from reading the legal document that half of Scotland was in the trusts control, well at least half of Argyle, with several villages and land in other parts, but that was property deposited as security for a mortgage borrowed by the Lord of Argyl, a loan of 400 pounds. The funds in the trust may have been higher in 1800 but maybe Isabella used a lot to live on for the next 25 years.

The second problem was that many people had 10 or 12 children and the number of people sharing the payout ballooned and as inflation had not been invented then there was no provision made to reinvest some earnings in order to create capital growth.

In the first years the payouts were not to bad, about the same as an agricultural labourer might earn in a year but by the 1970’s people were getting three or four shillings, the cost of administration and sending payments became greater than the income. Perpetuity is not as long as you think it might be, about 150 years.

But it is a genealogical gem, everyone entitled to a payment is a cousin or child of someone else in the trust. I have a copy of a petition to the courts in Edinburgh from 1900, the petition is for the appointment of a new legal factory as the old accountant had died, this needed approval of all members of the trust and they are all listed. Some have an address, one or two mention their marriage partner but all of them list their line of descent, in a convoluted legal way.  The only date is the date of the petition and some people are listed as deceased, just getting the relationships right took two weeks.

Starting with their sometimes vague address in 1900 census records were searched for family groups and moving backwards it was possible to confirm the families as I knew at least one parent. Some were still difficult as they were in South Africa, Naples or Barbados others were easier as they were in the UK or USA and a large number are now confirmed though there are some anomalies that need to be followed up.

Am added bonus was that Lost Cousins had a competition running to add more family members and I could add about 700 which led to finding some living cousins doing research on my lines.

Not working harder, working smarter

With the end of December and beginning of January being the most depressing time of the year I decided to cheer myself up by updating most of my 1881 census people. This is a lot of work, checking everyone has sources and the family details are correct, this is where working smarter comes in. It is a case of adding any that I missed to the Lost Cousins website which gives me a chance to find more cousins who have researched the direct lines of theirs which are only cousin lines of mine.

To start with I used Gramps, the only software that I use daily, to filter my database to only show people born before 1881 and people who died after 1881, this then only shows me people alive in 1881, who will be in the UK 1881 census if they were in Britain. I still had about 1400 people listed, a lot more than the 100 or so I had already added to Lost Cousins, but at least half were from Germany, Nederland and even South Africa or Italy.

The first thing I noticed was half a dozen women with no family name, these were women who married into my tree but I have not found their definitive marriage yet. The new GRO birth search form helps here, as it now lists the maiden name of mothers back to 1837, checking all the children born will confirm the birth records of each child and the mothers name so I could add the birth reference’s that were missing for any children, check I had all the census data added and add them to Lost Cousins if they were not already there and update her maiden name. Knowing the mothers birth name gave a chance to find the marriage record and perhaps census records for her before marriage and so add her parents and siblings.

If I find her or her family in 1841 I can add them to Lost Cousins as well, more chance of finding cousins, it is also possible to find her siblings in 1881 and add them, men of course are easier to find, but that is life.

What made it even better to do this was that Lost Cousins have a contest running the rest of this month, adding people enter you in a draw with things like DNA tests and year subscriptions as prizes, check their newsletter for details. If you are not already a member, why not? It is free and informative.

Lance Corporal Arthur Ellis Davies

In their infinite wisdom and generosity the UK government send me a couple of hundred quid a year as winter fuel allowance, makes up the the woeful pittance they pay me as a pension. My fuel costs for the last 10 years have not added up to the amount they pay me each year so I use it for something useful. This year I ordered a copy of my fathers military records, despite the hassle of them only accepting cheques or bankers drafts for payment, which European banks have not used for 20 years or more, I got a big envelope this week.

Five A3 pages, 13 A4 pages, a covering letter with research tips and a translation guide to the abbreviations used.

So I have been busy with him this week, Arthur Davies, the British records do not cover the year long period he was part of the Allied Forces in Italy, presumably the were kept by the US as they were in charge of the campaign. This means I have no official record of him being wounded while invading Italy or where he was for the next year, but as I visited the places he was, with him, in 1963 and met several people he worked with I ‘know’ these facts, but I will need to find some documents to prove the facts.

I also found out he was based in Oxford a short while after returning from Italy, my mother was based in Oxford, near Bicester. They must have met there as they married a month after he left the army.

Cousins, why bother?

Not much in the of updates this week, a few brickwalls moved a step back with the new GRO search engine, for light relief traced some Australian, New Zealand and Newfoundland lines, about 25 people added and 30 edited.

Of more interest were cousins. I came across 2 colonist cousins who seem to have copied  a lot of my research, except the sources and with one the dates, and put them on their own tree sites. Without sources or dates it has no point and without researching the 2 – 300 people they have I cannot add anything from their trees to mine. Luckily I do have some cousins who collaborate on our joint trees.

Whist muttering to myself about the stupidity of some people I came across a site new to me. Lost Cousins which looks like a great site for new researchers, lots of tips and advice and a major tool to kickstart your research, there are also benefits for more experienced researchers.

The basic helpful tool will match your known ancestors with other peoples and link you to cousins. Many online sites will of course match ancestors for you, some will charge you to upload data, some will charge you for matching or otherwise limit you use of the links as a cash flow for their company. Joining and adding your data is free with Lost Cousins.

Other sites seem to like to give you hundreds or thousands of matches, most being incorrect but Lost Cousins works on a specific format to produce exact matches only and as the data matched has been added by a researcher in your family you are certain of finding cousins. You enter ancestors from specific sets of census data and your relationship to them and see if anyone else has added them. It takes less than 5 minutes to add complete families and I found a new cousin after entering about 60 people, two relatives of mine were direct line ancestors of theirs, a short while later another cousin popped up with four matches, a day later a third cousin was listed but I already knew her.

The main reason this site will help new researchers is many of the census collections are free to view on several sites, once you have people from 1940 US or 1881 UK you can add them and cousins will help your tree grow. If you think you have these people fully researched you may find your cousins have information that you were not aware of.

Once you have added enough people to the site you are invited to join the forum, which is another fun place to visit and learn from.

Only drawbacks to the site is you need to be a member to be able to contact cousins, but that costs less than a couple of cups of coffee a year. The other drawback you might find is the sponsored links, subscription is low as the owner covers costs by referral links, if you are thinking of buying something it will not cost you more to buy through his link, but if you really object to the low key links an adblocker will help you.

In any case it is worth joining for just the newsletter.

Congratulations to the UK goverment

Specifically to the General Register Office (GRO) who have finally dragged themselves into the late 20th century. Not the 21st century yet but still better than the archaic system they have had for 150 years.

There are two important changes, first they have reindexed the registers, using digital images from the abandoned digitisation project and from the original documents, this means less transcription errors, or at least different errors. The GRO site has a new search engine that includes things not seen before, like mothers maiden names going back to 1837 instead of not being available before 1912, also age at death is given for deaths before 1860.

You now have more chance of breaking brickwalls or finding infants that were missing on census entries. I moved several lines back to the 1700’s after decades of being stuck.

The search process is a bit clunky, you need a family name, a gender and a year as minimum requirements, it also helps to have an intimate knowledge of registration districts. I was reinvestigating Edward Davies the family lived in two counties in England and two in Wales in 5 towns at least. Liverpool has more than one registration district, Chester is a registration district but not at that time, it was the Great Boughton and Birkenhead as in Wirral. But I found his wife’s name and confirmed most children, the first two were not born in Liverpool as every census shows, one was baptised there but born in Holywell, the first child is still proving to be a problem.

The second improvement the GRO have introduced is pdf copies of registration details by email. The first bonus is they are cheaper, though they still cost more than paper certificates did a couple of years ago. The second advantage should be speed, instead of the usual three or four weeks they expect to send an email within five days. I got my first pdf on Sunday afternoon 3 days after ordering, there were two people with the same name on the index page and I got two pdf’s, the first was the wrong one so I assumed they had sent two different pdf’s but no they were both the wrong one, so that means another email with 5 day turn around to sort it out.

The pdf by email is only a trial at the moment so it is important to fill in the feedback forms to get the service extended, improved and cheaper. I certainly will not be ordering the 300+ certificates I need at the price they have set now.

Hope in Wallsend

Wallsend is an old place and the clue about it is in the name, it is at the end of the wall. When I was last there, some 50 years ago, there was no clue about the wall visible, lots of walls around shipyards and industry but now archaeology has turned up with a Roman fort and bath house that was at the East end of Hadrian’s wall, one of several attempts the Romans tried to protect their northern border. Hadrian’s wall was the most successful, enduring and still mostly visible.
wallsendI am not saying I have traced my ancestors back to Roman times, although with the amount of sex that has occurred in the last 2000 years most British people will have some DNA from Roman soldiers.

I was looking at my 4th cousin 3 times removed, Eleanor Cuthbertson a beneficiary of the Potts Trust. She married Tysick Hope who was born and lived in Wallsend, and he mirrors the industrial revolution.

In the 18th century, and probably earlier, his ancestors were peasants, agricultural labourers in the wilds of Northumberland. Probably 70% of British people were similar for centuries before, the only respite from the daily drudge of surviving was when the local Lord or King decided to play war and marched them off to fight.

In the 1800’s Tysick’s father Thomas moved his family south towards the industrial centre of Newcastle, Tysick learnt a trade and worked as an iron driller, probably in a shipyard, drilling holes so sheets of iron could be riveted together into great ships. He was still basically a peasant, but had a regular income, his wife would buy food in shops instead of gathering what she could. The beginnings of modern decadent lifestyles. He also illustrated another feature of modern people, lower fertility. The couple had no children, so there was hope in Wallsend but only for one generation.

John Davies, tobacconist and hairdresser

John Davies first popped up in my research a couple of years ago, an odd combination of hairdresser and tobacconist. I was researchinghair-tab some of my grandfathers siblings and found a sister, Jesse Violet, was living with John in 1901, she worked for him as a tobacconist and was listed as his niece.

My immediate thought was he was an unknown brother of my great grandfather, but there was no obvious connection and being a genealogical butterfly I got distracted by a new source book on Ostpreußen lines.

Last month I was furtling around in the Davies line again, I found my great grandmother living with her daughter Jesse Violet, now named Jones and with two children, no mention of a husband. Knowing she was single in 1901 and the oldest child was born in Oswestry in 1905 there were only a few years to search for her marriage in Oswestry or Wrexham – nothing found. A more general search did throw up a marriage to James Bushnell Jones in West Derby in 1903, this seemed a long way away but there were some relatives who lived there so , perhaps this was good.

Further research showed James was born just south of Oswestry, so they may have met when he got his hair cut, but the real gem was I found Violet J Jones with two sons emigrated in November 1911 to the United States, final destination was with her husband J. B. Jones in Indiana. Violets mother died a few years later in a village near where James was born, perhaps she was living with relatives of his.

In the meantime I had gathered a lot more information on John Davies, including another niece Louisa Georgina Davies was living with and working for him in 1891, also a niece from Wrexham, but unknown to me. I found her birth in 1870 and a census record a year later, living with her mother and her mothers parents, no husband again! But they lived at 16 Eagle Street, Edward Davies and family lived at number 15 for many years, I soon found a marriage of my great grandfathers brother Edward to Elizabeth Mumford, but this did not help with who John was.

Out of the blue I got an email from New Zealand, the senders husband was the grandson of  Lillie May, Johns daughter who had emigrated to New Zealand. The tree she has contains lots of information but unfortunately no sources, it does however show Johns wife as being my great grandfathers oldest sister, so John Davies married  Louisa Charlotte Davies, I had not considered two Davies’ getting married, Findmypast did not have the record, as usual they seem to have misstranscribed it, I found it on freebmd, I will need to see a certificate to confirm the marriage but that will also give me Johns father, there are about 40 baptism records for John Davies in Chester around the time he was born and I might get the exact one once I know his fathers name