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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Genealogy Libraries - 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

The Heritage Hub, Hawick
with kind permission of
Genealogy Libraries   is the latest topic from Amy at  http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, in the series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.

My local archive centre is the Heritage Hub, Hawick which serves the four Scottish Border counties of Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire - broadly the corner of south-east Scotland between Edinburgh and the English border.  It is a region noted for its turbulent cross border history in the  middle ages and later for the development of the tweed and knitwear industry.  Distinctive surnames in the region include   Scott, Turnbull, Armstrong, Elliot and Kerr - and many more.

The Hub opened in Hawick in 2007 replacing a very cramped facility at library headquarters.  It was part of a major urban regeneration project of old buildings, financed with the help of European funding and Heritage Lottery Fund.  It has an active education and outreach policy aimed at attracting non-traditional users, and offers an enquiry service and remote research service.

Besides the standard family history sources of census returns, old parish records and monumental inscriptions, the Heritage Hub also holds unique material not available anywhere else. The key to searching these records is often a census entry giving a clue as to occupation or status.   
  • One of the most popular sets of records consulted relate to the  Poor Law.  The Victorians  were great bureaucrats and the Heritage Hub holds a large collection of Poor Law Registers, Poor Relief Applications and Parochial Board Minute Books, many of which can give a mini-biography of an ancestor, in often tragic circumstances. See the posting Poor Law Records.
  • Police Records for the three Border counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire go back to the 1850's, so if your ancestor was a constable or even  on the other side  of the law,  these are the source to look at  and include mug shot photos of criminals, lists of prisoners, plus constable registers with personal details including descriptions.
  • Being a Councillor might seem rather dull,  but the Burgh Minute Books, which go back to the mid 17th century give a full description of burgh affairs and discussions and can reveal interesting sidelines such as the councillor in the 1880's who was petitioning in support of woman's suffrage, long before it was close to becoming a reality.
  • If your  ancestor was a teacher, then the School Records are the place to look - with Log Books recording daily  school life, and School Board Minute Books and Education Committee Minute Books recording appointments - and dismissals!  If you are lucky you may get a glowing testimony from an Inspector's Report.
  • Was your Borders male ancestor aged around 20-30 in the period of the Napoleonic Wars (1790's-1815)?  Then he might well appear on the Militia Lists, whereby each parish was charged with setting up a volunteer force in the  event of a French invasion.  The lists may give little more than a name, address and occupation but, as with all archives,  there is a fascination in seeing actual handwriting relating to an ancestor, written during his or her lifetime.  They are also particularly noteworthy in pre-dating  the first published census of 1841, so may be  the only record of an ordinary man.

    These are just some of the records available at the Hub  and complement the large collecting of maps from the early 19th century, old postcards of the region and 23 titles of local newspapers (many long since gone), with the oldest 1804.   Most of these records above are available to view in digitised format at the Hub, but are not available online.  
Note:  Date protection restrictions apply to most post-1900 records where personal names are given.

So I am pleased to promote  my local archive centre in this way to show there is genealogical life well beyond the Internet. It is records such as these which can contribute so much to us discovering the stories of our ancestors.  

If you have Scottish Borders connections,  the Heritage Hub, Hawicl  should be top of your  "must contact" list.

An adaptation of a previous posting in the  series "Beyond the Internet"  at Family History Across the Seas,

Monday, 20 February 2012

Nothing Like Some Success - Motivation Monday.

I  am all fired up with enthusiasm after a weekend of successes!

  1.  I have had confirmed the identify of people in an unidentified  photograph (right)  that I featured in on an earlier posting Are These my American Ancestors?   My guess, judging by the family composition and age of the children, was that it showed John Mason and his wife Alice Rawcliffe, (sister of my great grandmother), their eldest daughter Jane and youngest children Florence and Harold.
    I was unaware of any  American connections in my family until a casual browsing of names on http://www.familysearch.org/. revealed that Alice had died in Jamesburg, New Jersey. Alice and James had six English-born children, with a further five born in the USA.   I was very keen to find out more, but meeting with very little success from message boards etc. But I yesterday I heard  from Bonny, the eldest  granddaughter of Florence,  who confirms that the young girl in the photograph above  is Florence, with her parents James and Alice Mason, and Florence's sister and brother.

    I am delighted to break through this brick wall after so many years.  We have made contact and will be exchanging information.

    So watch this space for more on my American connections.
  2. Even better, I took advantage of fellow blogger tips on free weekend access to the 1930 USA Census and found Florence (husband Charles Urstadt)  and family.  Charles was supervisor at a snuff factory where his sister in law Jane was a weigher.  
  3.  I also  also heard this morning from  a Danson descendant who has discovered my blog and got in touch. His great great great grandmother  Elizabeth Danson was the eldest sister of James, my great grandfather.  More to follow here, too.
  4. Finally I discovered that a new book researching the names  on the Poulton War Memorial which features the names of my two great uncles - John and George Danson, so I have sent away for a copy and am eager to find out more, especially about John where the family information was very vague.

It is times like this that certainly give a major boost  to my family history activities!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Researching Rawcliffes - Surname Saturday

My  great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (left) is at the heart of my family history story.  She married James Danson of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire and I have written extensively on my blog about the Dansons who I have traced back to 1736.  

But what about the Rawcliffe side of my family?   It proved to be a story of eight daughters, the early death of their mother,  a step mother with  three illegitimate children, and four half-brothers and sisters. Plus increasing concern that some of my early research may not be correct and needs reviewing!

  • Family knowledge was vague.  My mother knew little apart from the fact "granny" came from "over Wyre" i.e.north of the River Wyre - a network of small villages, but where exactly was not known, plus the fact she had two sisters, Anne who married a farmer and Jane who married a Fleetwood man named Riley. There was also an intriguing anecdote about Granny had a step-brother Jo Brekall.  I also had my grandfather's birth certificate where his mother's name was given as Martha Maria Danson, formerly Rawcliffe - this confusion over her Christian name was to continue with other records. [See  Martha or Maria? ] So not a lot to go on. 
  • This was my first step in serious research and also the days before  computerised records, so I was governed by working from a distance with limited finances,  and limited by time when on visits to my family in Lancashire.
  • My starting point for the Rawcliffe research was the Danson Family Bible (right)  which showed that Maria married James in 1877. 
  • Tracing their Marriage  Certificate proved not as straightforward as I first thought, as there was no record in the  two most obvious places I  first tried.  However I eventually traced it to St. Anne's Church, Singleton, a small hamlet near Poulton - as I knew that James' father worked at a toll bridge there, perhaps I should have thought of this much earlier.  Obtaining their wedding certificate confirmed Maria's father's name as Robert, a farmer  and that Maria  was only 18 years old, so born c. 1858.  Her address was given only as Thistleton - another tiny hamlet, but no occupation was given.  Much much later in the  research I found out that Maria's eldest sister Anne was married to a Thistleton gamekeeper, so I presume Maria was living with her. 
  • The 1881 Census was the next source of free information, available at Blackpool Public Library.  and I found James and Maria living in Poulton-le-Fylde. This gave Maria's birthplace as Hambleton  - a big step forward to know the exact parish.
  • Armed now with strong indications of Maria's birth year,  birthplace, and father's name, I obtained her Birth Certificate -  to find she was born on 15th January 1859 - the same day as her great, great, granddaughter Gillian 114 years later - a source of great delight to me.  Her father's name was confirmed as Robert Rawcliffe, a carter and for the first time, I now had her  mother's name - Jane Carr, who made her mark.
  • 1871  Census - turning back to the Hanbleton census returns, I found Maria aged 12, living at Town Row with her father Robert, a widower at 49, sister Anne aged 23, and Jane 20 - tying in with the family recollections on the sisters.
  • Back to the 1861 Census where Robert was a farmer and carter aged 39, Jane aged 41, with "Mariagh" 2 (the enumerator's idea of spelling her name).   Eldest daughter Anne is not listed in the family home but could well be the 13 year old  house servant in the village. However of most interest was the first knowledge of two more daughters Alice aged 6 and Jennet aged 4.   
  • The IGI, the next source consulted, listed 8 daughters of Robert and Jane - Anne, Jane, Margaret, Alice, Jennet, Peggy, Maria, and  Martha.
  • Fellow Members of the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society also gave contributions and I learnt that Margaret, Peggy and Martha had not survived infancy, their mother Jane died in 1865 at the age of 46 and Robert was the son of William Rawcliffe and Anne (Nanny) Moon.  I was very grateful for this information at the time, but never thought  to double check it.
  • It was time to pay for the Marriage Certificate of parents Robert and Jane  with the date estimated as c. 1846 with the birth of their first daughter Anne in 1847.   The exact date was 14th November 1846  at Hambleton, both of full age with Robert described as a husbandman, father William, a labourer  and Jane's father also William, a labourer. So for the first time I had traced back to my great great great grandparents  on my Rawcliffe side.
  • I also acquired the Marriage Certificate  for  Robert's second marriage to Elizabeth Brekall in 1875  - to find that here Robert's father's name was given as John - the same Christian name as his wife's father.  So who was his father - William or John?
I am now increasingly wondering if my earlier conclusions  on Robert's birth were correct.  All the census returns had consistently given Robert's birthplace as Marton, Lancashire and his estimated date of birth as 1821.  But the only births I can trace online are  a Robert, born 1821 in Poulton, son of William and Anne,  and an 1820 birth in Poulton of a Robert,  son of John and Catherine.    If this latter Robert was "mine",  surely one of his many daughters would have been called Catherine after his mother? 

Was some of the information on Robert, supplied to me  in good faith, wrong?   A major mistake - I never questioned  it at the time.  Some of the infomation on the public trees on http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ adds to this confusion, regarding Robert's parents.

So watch this space, as I review the Rawcliffe  research to try and establish the facts - not helped by the popularity of the Rawclife surname in Lancashire.   I will also be exploring  the lives of Robert's  many children. 

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Movie Moments - Life's A Journey

Helen at http://saveeverystep.wordpress.com/lifes-a-journey-series/ urges us to share our memories from milestones in our life.   This week's theme   - Movies

Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was apparently the first film I was taken to, though my memories of it are very vague.
In the 1950's,  my father was working away from home most of the week, and a family Saturday treat was to go all together to the pictures.    These were family comedies, and the one that sticks in my mind most, because it was my father's favourite,   was "John and Julie" about two chlldren who ran away to London to see the Queen's golden coach at her Coronation. I remember too  "Baby in the Battleship" and the early Carry On and St. Trinian films - before they went totally OTT.

One week whilst Dad and my brother went to a football match, Mum and I went to see "The Wizard of Oz"   - I was singularly unimpressed, I could not "take" to Judy Garland in the small girl role, nor the fantasy story, and that disappointment has continued ever since.

A bit strange, as musicals are amongst my favourite films.  My  first "grown up" film  was on a friend's birthday to see "The Student Prince" , later followed by South Pacific, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oklahoma and Carousel.  I had aspirations  to be a chorus girl, dancing and swishing my skirts!    [The nearest I came to it was as a student taking part in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas].

For my 14th birthday, we went to see a double comedy bill  of Genevieve and Doctor in the House  - and I fell hook, line and sinker,  with  a massive crush on Dirk Bogarde. I was in seventh heaven at Christmas to receive "Girl" Annual with a full page photograph of him! 

So there had to be visits to other "Doctor" films.  I admired his "piano playing" (and romantic costumed looks)  as Liszt in "Song Without End",  and sobbed my way through "Tale of Two Cities".  That was on TV again this New Year, as part of the Charles Dickens anniversary series and has stood the test of time very well, with a great British cast in suppoprting roles.  And yes, my hankie was out again at the end, as our hero climbed to the scaffold declaring  "It is a far far better thing I do......".

The town where I live lost its cinema for a period of 25 years, so movie going has not been a major activity in my married life. Anyway I was bored with westerns and John Wayne, unimpressed with James Bond and shied away from war films and science fiction. 

My tastes  haven't changed much over the years, with fond memories of:
  • Musicals (Sound of Music, Oliver, Grease, Mama Mia, Phantom of the Opera, and even the Rocky Horror Show).
  • Classics - Gone with the Wind, Doctor Zhivago, O What a Lovely War, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. 
  • Chick Lit - Love Story (more hankies out),  Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary, Love Actually.
And the last film I saw at the cinema (twice) - Colin Firth in The Kings Speech.  


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Historical Documents: 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Week 7

Historical Documents  is the latest topic from Amy at  http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, in the  new series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.   Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors? 

Two marriage bonds of 1786,  an affiliation order  of 1810 ordering  support of the "said bastard child", and wills made 1813 and 1833 are the most prized of historical documents in my family history collection - all relating to my Danson family of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire  and acquired through Lancashire Record Office. 

Marriage Bond, 1786

Left is the  marriage bond of my great, great, great, grandparents Henry Danson, aged 19  and Elizabeth Brown, aged 20  who married 29th October 1786.  A Bond could be obtained as an alternative to waiting the three weeks to have the  banns read.  It was a promise between the groom and  a witness (in this case Henry's brother in law John Bryning) that if the marriage proved invalid in the eyes of the law, they would pay the church a substantial sum of money of £200.  

I have a very similar document  for the marriage of Henry's sister Jennet and John Bryning, who married a few months earlier in 1786.  They are the oldest documents in my family papers and pre-date by three years the milestone historical event of the French Revolution in 1789.   It is also very special to see an actual signature of an ancestor.

Affiliation Order, 1810.

A document  (right) of a very different kind relates to Henry's eldest son, John who in 1810 was served with an affiliation order ordering him to contribute to the upkeep of his “said bastard child”  - a daughter by Ann Butler of Marton.   The poor child was repeatedly given this tag in the document which  is fascinating on its choice of language.   The child is not named and so far I have been unable to make much progress in finding out about this illegitimate Danson ancestor.

John Danson's Will, 1813

My great great great, great grandfather John Danson (1736-1821) made his will in 1813.  It conveys something about his standing in the  community, his level of education and confirmed names of grandchildren.  It is the little personal touches which convey a picture such as " I bequeath to my son Henry my desk and all my books...to my daughter Jennet, wife of John Bryning, my corner cupboard now standing in the parlour of my house and my meal chest in the  room above."

The will of Henry Danson (1767-1839)  is dated 1833, six years before his death.  It is beautifully written in copperplate but very short on punctuation.  The will brought first knowledge of two daughters - Ellen and  Margaret (who predeceased her father) and the names of Margaret's  five children.  It also raised interesting questions as middle son Peter, unlike his brothers John and Henry,   is not named as a legatee or executor.  Peter  never married and in the 1841 and 1851 censuses was in the household of his brother Henry until he died in 1855.   Was he perhaps not regarded as fit or suitable?

I have taken "historical documents" in this context to mean offical personal papers, but other more recent documents add to the family story down the generations and include:

  •  A letter on British Expeditionary Force headed paper, written by my mother's favourite uncle George, written just three weeks before he died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, aged just 22.   
  • The collection of World War One cards sent by my grandfather from Flanders - subject of many a blog posting. 
  • War-time correspondence between my parents.  
  • Telegrams sent on my parent's wedding and during the war.
  • My own father's accounts of his childhood and war experiences.
I am very proud to have such documents to bring alive my family history.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Family Heirlooms: 52 Weeks of Abundant Geneaology - Week 6.

Family Heirlooms is the latest topic from Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, in the  new series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.   For which family heirloom are you most thankful? How did you acquire this treasure and what does it mean to you and your family?

Do you,  like me,    gasp in amazement  at the heirlooms that have survived down generations of ordinary families, as shown on  TV's "Antique Roadshow" and  "WDYTYA", or on blog postings.  I marvel in particular at diaries, christening robes,  and artist portraits.  My heirlooms are much more mundane but still mean a great deal to me and can be summed up as stitching, paintings, and postcards,  plus  a copper kettle and teasets.

Postcards from Flanders, sent during the First World War by my grandfather William Danson to his family back home, are the most prized items in my collection of family memorabilia.  They were kept in a shoebox in the cupboard by the fire in my grandfather's house and it was a treat as a child to be allowed to look through them.  They are made more poignant by the pencilled messages from William to his wife Alice and children Edith, Kathleen, Harry and baby Billy, with a favourite phrase "I am in the pink".  They form the basis of many of my  blog postings.  See under the topic "War and Remembrance".
 I remember this copper kettle (left)  sitting in the hearth of my grandfather's house and was always led to believe  it was his mother's - my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe (1859-1919).   I was abolutely  delighted when it eventually passed down to me.

 Complementing the kettle is a teaset (right) which,  according to her granddaughter, Maria acquired by collecting coupons from a newspaper offer. 

Pink seemed to be  the favoured colour for the "best" teaset and I have pieces from both my grandmother Alice  and my mother's wedding china. 

But what about the heirlooms of tomorrow?  I have the account that my father wrote of his early childhood and then his war time experiences, also wedding telegrams and most touching of all letters written between my parents during the war,  which I only disovered after their deaths.

I have  a wonderful legacy of my mother's talent  (below) as described in Kathleen Danson Happiness is Stitching.    LIkewise my Aunt Edith,  whose painting features here.  

Al.ice in Wonderland Applique, sewn by my mother for her  granddaughter

Paining by Aunt Edith
 These heirlooms, may not be all that old (dating only from the early 20th century), but they are precious  to me and  help create a picture of my ancestors and keep them alive in my memories.  I am so pleased to have them, particularly as I have nothing from  my father's side of the family, nor does my husband of his family - such a pity! 

As for me, what am I doing to create my own heirlooms for my little granddaughter?  I like to think this includes a cross stitch sampler sewn on her birth,  a crocheted shawl (below)  and I am now busy stitching a patchwork quilt.  And of course there is the legacy of my family history writings. The past will not be forgotten!

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 4 February 2012

School Records - Beyond the Internet-

Cassmob at Family History Across the Seas, has introduced a new series "Beyond the Internet" to highlight some of the sources for family stories beyond our computer screens.  The latest theme focuses on school registers.

I am beginning   with an admission that I have not used  school registers in my own Lancashire family history research.  And why not?    I agree there is always a fascination in seeing any contemporary record relating to an ancestor, but,   to be honest,  I don't think they would add anything to my already existing knoweldge - in other words I know the names, dates of birth, and addresses of my immediate family, where they went to school and the fact they left when they were 14 years old.    I also have local background material on the school, including photographs,  from chapters on education in local histories.  So the bottom line is, I'm afraid, I simply have not got round to it.    

There are some added factors  -  I  live  150 miles away from the Lancashire Record Office.  Also Data Protection legislation can apply to accessing information under 100 years, relating to children, and this covers the period of time for my mother and her brothers and sisters at school.  Though there is still the option to search for my  grandfather and his many siblings.

However I have been prompted by Cassmob's posting to do an online search at the Lancashire Record Office  for the appropriate school registers, but without success,  so more investigation called for here.  I would also like to find out more about my Aunt Edith who became a teacher and eventually infant head - I presume she began as a pupil teacher, c.1920's,  as I was never aware that she went away to college.

But to be more postive, I now live in the  Scottish Borders amd school records are one of the most popular requests at my local archive centre, the Heritage Hub, Hawick, with much more material available beyond the simple school register.

Scottish  school records date largely from the setting up of school boards following the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872. This opened formal education to all children, and placed local control and funding in the hands of school boards.

Records can be found amongst Council Papers, but largely relate to the many small rural schools that have since closed -  with other  records  remaining with schools still operating and not easily accessed.

The School Log Book was  a diary compiled by the head teacher, recording daily events - attendances (or lack of it due to infectious diseases, bad weather, farm work and estate work etc.), subjects being taught, inspector visits, school accommodation, and special events such as prize giving, holidays or a visit of a menagerie to the town.
The names of teachers may occasionally feature in log books, but individual pupils are only named in the case of exceptional incidents, such as an unfortunate boy at Duns who fell off a sledge and was taken to hospital, with a dislocated hip.

Log Books are a great source for getting a  glimpse of school life. For example:

1895 - At Lindean, near Selkirk, the school master recorded the fact that "had to abandon handwriting due to the intense cold". What an image this conveys of children not being able to hold the pen or pencil in their chilblain hands!

1882 and 1889 - At both Galashiels and Lindean there were entries for Christmas Day, though the children were allowed home early - an example of the Scottish attitude to Christmas with Hogmonay  the more important celebration.

1873 - At Glenholm, Peeblesshire, a school inspector reported "This small school was taught by Mr Grieve in an intelligent, painstaking and efficient manner". We would all love to find such a  testimonial on an ancestor.  [See below]

1881 - Sometimes there was just a note "usual routine" or "no comment". At Wilton Dean School, Hawick, the disheartened teacher wrote in July – "Very dispirited – need my holiday".  

School Board Minute Books – record information on the school management, finance, appointment of staff etc., so if your ancestor was a teacher, these are the documents to consult.

County Council Education Committee Minutes - record aspects of overall management including policy, finance, school appointments etc. Minutes of 1939-1940 were very much concerned with the numbers and impact of evacuees sent to the Borders from the cities on the outbreak of war.

So follow Cassmob's advice - go "Off to School" and hunt out records in your archive centre. They can give  an illuminating  picture of your ancestors' school life. 
  Glenholm School Log Book, 1873 (P/ED/2/1)
With acknowledgement to the Heritage Hub, Hawick  - www.heartofhawick.co.uk/heritagehub