Posted by: Christine | July 5, 2015

Proud Home

“Good morning/afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Rugby. My name is Christine and I will be leading your tour today. Can everyone hear me?”

This is one of the phrases I have been memorising in the last few weeks.

It continues with a mention of the Rugby World Cup, which is being held in this country this year. When you live in the town where the game was invented, things are  starting to get a bit frantic.

The town has been awarded the title “Proud Home of the Game” because nearly two hundred years ago (1823 to be precise) a schoolboy called William Webb Ellis, caught the ball and ran with it. The local council is expecting thousands of visitors and a lot of them will want a tour of the sights.

Statue of William Webb Ellis outside Rugby School

Statue of William Webb Ellis outside Rugby School

A few weeks ago they advertised for volunteers – I was one of them. I didn’t really want to volunteer, but as a member of the Rugby Local History Research Group, I felt it was my duty to check that they had their facts right. After that I would quietly withdraw – the tours weren’t going to start until September.

I should have stayed well clear. The first training session was about the history of the town. They asked me to give a talk to everyone about it. Well at least I can’t now complain if they get anything wrong. We learnt the routes, we were trained about health & safety (If anyone collapses call 999!) and we were taught how to be a proper guide by Roger, a proper blue badge guide.

Then they started talking about “practice”. Rugby Festival of Culture was coming up. There would be Guided Walks everyday at midday – what good practice. The FoC runs from 26 June to 12 July, details here. We are halfway through and I have done three walks. I have only lost two customers so far – I think the sale at Marks and Spencer was more attractive! For the third walk no-one turned up – apart from four guides.

There are three different walks: Sporting Heritage, Literary Heritage, and General Heritage. If you are in Rugby in the next week, come along to the Library Foyer at noon. They’re free!

Chaise Longue - a stop on the Literary Tour

Chaise Longue – a stop on the Literary Tour

Small groups of trainee guides can be seen around the town, telling their friends and relations about William Webb Ellis; discussing whether the Christian name of the Rugby School Headmaster and Archbishop of Canterbury, after whom the Temple Speech Room (opened in 1909 by King Edward VII) was named, was Frederick or William (it was Frederick). How many teams are taking part in this years Rugby World Cup (20) and where are they from? (I’m sure I’ve got it written down somewhere.)

Trainee guides practice at Queens Gates (opened by The Queen in 1967)

Trainee guides practice at Queens Gates (opened by The Queen in 1967)

We will have official jackets (we have been told) and official umbrellas.

The whole town is being re-painted. Flower displays are everywhere. New statues spring up overnight.


In September the town will have a FanZone, with giant screens to watch the games. I doubt I’ll be there – I’ll be at home soaking my feet. After all, I can’t back out now. Can I?

“Finally, there are toilet facilities here if anyone needs to use them before we start. Are there any questions before we start the tour?

Posted by: Christine | June 2, 2015

Holiday in Somerset – Part 1

After several busy months, we left for a welcome holiday. We were heading for Burnham on sea in Somerset. Not a long journey so we had a leisurely start in our red MGF – much more fun for a holiday, although it makes you think carefully about how much luggage to take. The weather was not perfect, but good enough to have the roof down as we travelled down the Foss Way and through the Cotswolds. We had picked a National Trust property, Newark Park, to visit for lunch and a break. The visit turned out to be longer than expected.

We left the M5 at junction 13 (an omen?) and as we drove through narrow lanes, there was a bang. The driver had problems with the gears but we managed to reach the car park at Newark Park. It was about midday.

In the car park, trying to discover the problem.

In the car park, trying to discover the problem.

We found that the car now had only one gear – third. No reverse, neutral or anything else. It appeared to be a broken cable. We called our breakdown service who said they would send someone. In the next hour we had something to eat (sandwich from the cafe) and made some phone calls. There was an MG recommended garage not far away, who said it was something that could take several days to repair. By the time the local breakdown truck arrived we knew that we would need to return home. He confirmed that there was nothing he could do and he didn’t have facilities to take us home. In fact he was low in fuel and had problems starting his vehicle. At 2 pm the rescue control centre told us that a truck was coming, from Rugby, to pick us up. It would be there by 5 pm. We called the hotel to say we would not be arriving that night. We now had plenty of time to explore Newark Park.


The house at Newark Park

The house at Newark Park


A folly in the grounds

A folly in the grounds

Walk in the grounds - the House on the hill

Walk in the grounds – the House is on the hill

A bank of  wild flowers.

A bank of wild flowers.

We went round the house and followed one of the paths through the grounds. It’s in a lovely situation on top of a hill, but we rushed back to the car by 4.30, in case the truck was early. It wasn’t!

We had been having regular phone calls from the control centre and at shortly after 5 pm they said the truck was at junction 13 of the M5. We relaxed and expected it to arrive soon. It didn’t!

It was after 6 pm that we rang the control centre to find out what was happening. Of course, by this time, phone batteries were running low and the signal was very erratic to start with. They checked back with us several times and then just after 8 pm we started getting calls from the pick up truck driver. He didn’t know where we were, he was worried about the narrow lanes. He stopped to ask locals (The was a language problem – he was not British). How would he turn round? We assured him that there was plenty of room to turn round. The gates were not closed and we were in the middle of an empty field.

The sun starts to set and we're alone in an empty National Trust car park.

The sun starts to set and we’re alone in an empty National Trust car park.


Chicken and wild garlic. Prospective dinner? Anyone got a match?

Chicken and wild garlic. Prospective dinner? Anyone got a match?

Finally, he arrived at 8.33 pm.

Help arrives - At last

Help arrives – At last

The journey was uneventful and we arrived home some time after 11 pm.
We had a bite to eat and went to bed, exhausted, ready to start again the next day. Even more in need of a holiday.

To be continued



Posted by: Christine | March 30, 2015

Away from the Screen

I seem to have spent a lot of time sitting in front of the computer (unfortunately not posting on this blog),  so it was nice to get away from the desk for a few days.

Last week I went, with other members of Rugby Family History Group to the NEC. It was the Hobbycraft Exhibition and we were doing our biannual turn of duty on the FFHS stand. I always enjoy this trip, as it is a chance to promote Family History and Family History Societies to non-believers. We are extremely popular with men who are being dragged around by card making wives – you can almost see the look of relief when they spot something different. We meet all types.

There are those who, when asked if they are interested in Family History, answer “Yes – I’ve done mine”. We try to explain that they haven’t done it all. Have you ever worked out how many ancestors you have once you go back a few generations? 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents – go back just 10 generations (about 300 years – say around the time of Queen Anne) and you have over a thousand.

We always get one person who has got back to 1066, if not further, and is related to every famous person, ever. I ask them if they have proved every single link.

Then there are the people who have done a bit, but have got stuck. A father who was  adopted, an illegitimate grandmother or that awkward ancestor who appeared, fathered a child and disappeared again – I sometimes think they must have been aliens. We try to help, or at least point them in the right direction.

The people I like most are those who have thought about researching their family history, but don’t know where to start. We can explain the first steps, hand them a copy of the FFHS “Really Useful Leaflet” (download a copy of the latest issue here ) and point out the list of member societies. I feel quite nostalgic, all those new ancestors to find, new relatives to meet and fascinating stories to discover.


Members of RFHG help visitors to the FFHS stand

Members of RFHG help visitors to the FFHS stand

I ended the day tired but satisfied I had done my bit for family history.

The next day was also spent away from my computer screen – and again on FFHS business. Their AGM and General Meeting were held in Portsmouth. A long way to go for a meeting, but it had been some years that I had last visited. I have been itching to see the new Mary Rose exhibition, so I booked a hotel for the night and took my husband with me. He’s been spending too much time in front of a screen too – anyway it saved me driving!

We arrived in plenty of time for the meeting, so I was able to have a wander round the Royal Dockyard attractions, before making my way to the National Museum of the Royal Navy for the meeting. I must say that it was one of the most interesting meetings I have been to. Not what was said, but the views from the windows. To one side we overlooked HMS Victory and on the other, the river. Whenever a ferry passed it appeared that we were sailing away.


View from the deck of HMS Victory. Museum is the building in the centre.

View from the deck of HMS Victory. Museum is the building in the centre.

After the meeting I had a cup of tea and a flapjack, before meeting my husband (he had been looking at submarines) and checked into our hotel, the Royal Marine Club. We were just in time to watch the last of the three Six Nations rugby matches of the day. Exciting match but not the right result!

We had dinner at the hotel and then had a walk around the area.

The bright lights of Portsmouth

The bright lights of Portsmouth

After a good nights sleep, we were waiting at the dockyard gates when they opened. Thanks to a half price ticket (Perks of attending the meeting – you didn’t think I went just for the meeting?) we could visit any of the ships or museums, but headed straight to the Mary Rose. I feel a connection with this ship. I watched the raising of the wreak in 1982 on television. Early next morning my eldest son was born. We visited some years later when on holiday in the area. It was a rather underwhelming experience, just a pile of wood with water dripping from it. The ship is still behind glass but the water has stopped. It is now being dried out – expected to finished by 2017.

Wreak of the Mary Rose. Decks drying out.

Wreak of the Mary Rose. Decks drying out.

The main reason for visiting now, is that all the artefacts found on board have now been conserved and are on display. Much can be seen in a reproduction of the decks opposite the originals. Cannons poking out of port holes, surrounded by the shot and implements for firing. Low down in the ship was the kitchen and barrels filled with stores. At either end of the museum were display cases containing possessions of the crew, their chests and tools. Even their skeletons and reconstructions of their faces. There were piles of bows and stacks of arrows. Sets of plates owned by the officers and knives and combs used by the crew. Unfortunately, it was too dark (and too crowded) to take photos but see the Mary Rose website for pictures.

Lovely weather to visit  HMS Victory

Lovely weather to visit HMS Victory

After a late lunch (they have very nice Chelsea Buns there!) we had a look around HMS Victory. I think last time we were there we had a guided tour, but this time we went round by ourselves. It was interesting to see how life and the equipment used was little changed from what we had seen on the Mary Rose. By then we were all shipped out, so rescued our car from the car park (opposite the hotel and convenient for the dockyard) and headed for home.

Three busy days that left us tired but refreshed. On Monday it was back to normal, back to the computer but at least we’d had a break away from the dreaded screen.

Posted by: Christine | January 21, 2015

George Everard: Week 2 of #52Ancestors

Week two of the challenge (see – I’m already behind!) has the theme King.

I started my family history, one family name I researched was Everard.

Here is my great grandfather George Everard in 1881, aged 21. He was living with his widowed mother Hannah in Boreham, Essex.

George 81 (RG11/1765 /144/15)
He was born there and later lived in nearby Danbury, where he was a gamekeeper and then a carter.

I had purchased a birth certificate, but the parents were wrong. Turns out there were two George Everards born in Boreham in 1860 and for a long time I couldn’t find the birth certificate for “my” George. (I eventually found a birth certificate for George. He was born on 28th February 1860, in Boreham, son of Hannah Everitt – no fathers name entered. He was baptised George Everett on 6th May 1860 in Boreham.)

I did have his marriage certificate, to Ellen Poulton, in 1887. This gives his father’s name as George King. This was obviously a clerical error!
George - Ellen M1887+

I had gone further back and found the marriage of William Everard to Hannah Howard on 9th August 1845 and found the family in 1851 with daughters Frances and Caroline. William was a farm labourer in Boreham.

William and Hannah, plus other Everards  (HO107/1776/362)

William and Hannah, plus other Everards (HO107/1776/362)

In 1861 Hannah (listed as Everitt) was a widow living with her father and brother. Frances (13)  and Caroline (11) were there, together with George (aged 13 months)
By 1871 the daughters had left home and Hannah was now housekeeper to her brother. She now had three sons, George, Charles and Claude – she was still a widow.

George with his mother, uncle and brothers (RG10/1654/p2)

George with his mother, uncle and brothers (RG10/1654/p2)

It seemed husband William had died somewhere before the 1861 census, but I couldn’t find a death or burial. And who was the father of Hannah’s three sons? George King?

There was a George King living in Boreham in 1841. Aged 20, he was a servant on the same farm as Diana King aged 50. They were on the page before the Hannah Howard.
In 1851 Diana King was still a servant in Boreham, and  George was a farm labourer on a different farm there –  age 35 and unmarried.
By 1861 Diana and George King are together in Great Leighs, Essex. They were mother and son. There was also a sister Elizabeth.

George King with mother and sister (RG9/1081/p4)

George King with mother and sister (RG9/1081/p4)

I can’t find George King in 1871, but in 1881 he is in Little Waltham, a 65 year old Agricultural Labourer, with his sister.
By 1891 he and his sister are  in the Chelmsford Union Workhouse, aged 76. He died in 1896 and Elizabeth in 1900.

Hannah Everard also died in Chelmsford Workhouse on 18th October 1916. She was 89 and the cause of death was Senile Decay, Heart Failure (Fracture of Thigh, three weeks).

So did Hannah’s husband die or did he leave? (I have an idea but that will be another post)
Did she not marry George King because she knew her husband was still alive?
Could George King not marry because he had to look after his mother and sister?
If George King was only the father of George Everard, who fathered Charles and Claude and why were the three boys born five years apart?

For the record, when Charles Everard married in 1894 his father’s name was left blank and on Claude’s marriage certificate (1892) his father is given as William Everard (deceased).

So … should the surname of my great grandfather George be Everard, Everitt, Everett, Howard .. or King?

Posted by: Christine | January 7, 2015

Fresh Start

After my last post, I realised that I really should make an effort to post more regularly – but how to force myself to do it?

Last year, on Twitter, I kept noticing a hashtag #52ancestors – this was a challenge to genealogists to write about 52 of their ancestors in 52 weeks.
This has now finished, but they are starting again see here.

I will take up this challenge!

I will be blogging on Madders, not all my own, plus some of my other ancestors.
Optional themes are being given for each week’s ancestor – Week One is Fresh Start.

My first Ancestor has to be William Madder. The person who first got me interested in family history, over 40 years ago now.

William Charles Madder was born in Brooke in Norfolk and baptised there on 18th September 1815.
He died in Ipswich on Christmas Eve 1890.

A simple person to research, you might think. Most of his adult life spent in the period of Civil Registration and regular Censuses.

You would be wrong.

He never used the forename Charles, but was known as William, George or Benjamin. Apart from Madder, he also went by the surname Smith.

He had ten children and he moved from place to place, leaving descendants of various names scattered across Eastern England (and Canada).

His life can be tracked by the list of sources I have used to research him:

18.9.1815 Brooke, Norfolk christened William Charles
20.3.1838 Brome, Norfolk married Louisa SPILLING William Madder
27.5.1839 Topcroft Norfolk Son William born (AKA Charles) William Madder
30.5.1840 Thurton, Norfolk Son Benjamin born William Madder
1841 Thurton, Norfolk Tailor, Age 20, Thurton Street, born in Norfolk (census) William Madder
12.6.1842 Brooke, Norfolk Mother died
19.5.1846 Bergh Apton, Norfolk Wife (Louisa) died William Madder
4.3.1851 Norwich, Norfolk Full age, Tailor, married Emily WANN William Madder
1851 Bergh Apton, Norfolk Tailor, Youngs Building, Father living with family, born Norfolk, Brook (census) William Madder
19.3.1853 Heckingham, Norfolk Father dies in workhouse
25.3.1853 Brooke, Norfolk Father buried
22.5.1853 Bedingham, Norfolk Son George William born (AKA William) William Madder
23.11.1854 Brome, Norfolk Son Henry born (AKA Harry Smith) William Madder
1.5.1857 Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk Son Thomas born   (AKA Thomas Smith) Benjamin Madder
1858 Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk Beer retailer (directory) Benjamin Madder
1860 Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk,                                   Out Northgate Twin Daughters Martha & Mary, born & died Benjamin Madder
1861 Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Northgate Road, Beer Seller, age 44, born Norfolk, Brooke (census) Benjamin Madder
1864 Edgefield, Norfolk Farmer and Tailor, North St. (directory) George Madder
15.8.1864 Edgefield, Norfolk Daughter Emily born George Madder
1870-1878 Chelmsford, Essex Tailor, Hill Cottages, Springfield     (directories) George Smith
25.6.1870 Chelmsford, Essex Son Arthur Edward (SMITH) born George Smith
1871 Chelmsford, Essex Springfield Hill age 53, Tailor, born Norfolk, Broome (census) George Smith
1.2.1875 Chelmsford, Essex Son Henry married George Madder
8.6.1878 Castleford, Yorkshire Son Thomas married George Smith
29.4.1881 Canada Son George William married
1881 Ipswich, Suffolk, 6 Freehold Terrace age 66, Tailor, born Norfolk, Brooke (census) William Madder
1885 Ipswich, Suffolk, 135 Spring St Tailor (directory) William Madder
1888 Ipswich, Suffolk, 246 Spring St Tailor (directory) William Madder
24.12.1890 Ipswich, Suffolk, 35 Stoke St, Died, aged about 82, Wardrobe Dealer William Madder
27.12.1890 Ipswich, Suffolk Inquest William Madder
31.12.1890 Ipswich, Suffolk Buried, St. Mary, Stoke William Madder
13.4.1891 Ipswich Son George married William Madder
1891 Ipswich, Suffolk, 246 Spring Rd, Wife Emily, age 60, widow, Perchaser Wardrobes
9.7.1894 Ipswich Daughter Emily Isabel married William Madder
1901 Ipswich, Suffolk, Woodbridge Rd, Wife Emily, age 70, widow
15.10.1908 Ipswich, Suffolk, St Johns Rd, Death of wife (Emily) William Madder

You can read about William’s time in the Bury St Edmunds Beer House in my previous post about using on-line newspapers.

Next weeks theme is “King” and the post will be about one of my non-Madder ancestors.

Posted by: Christine | January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

I have just checked, and I have not posted on this Blog since August, Why not?

Excuse 1: Well to start with, WW1 intervened. As I mentioned in that last post I have been organising a project for Rugby Family History Group to research all the men listed on the Rugby Memorial Gates. This is going well and we have remembered  12 men so far on the Blog  RugbyRemembers . Only 400 men and 4 years to go! We decided to start adding reports from the local newspaper to pad out the blog, which led to

Excuse 2: Photographing, transcribing and indexing news of anything connected to the war, from the films of the Rugby Advertiser in Rugby Library. Luckily someone else “volunteered” for the transcribing, but I have been doing most of the indexing. If you have a  new blog, you need

Excuse 3: Publicity. RFHG has attended the West Midlands Family History Fair in Worcester in August. We also set up our stall at local events to commemorate the start of WW1, in Caldecott Park (it rained!)

WW1 display set up in Caldecott Park

WW1 display set up in Caldecott Park

and also in the foyer of Rugby Library for Heritage Open Days in September – I’ll come back to that. Earlier in the year we were approached for help in researching WW1 soldiers by school children, which led to

Excuse 4: Visit to Cawston Grange School, to inspect their projects and show them the medals of Thomas Fletcher. Thomas was my husband’s grandfather, who died early in the war and is listed on the Gates. Which led to

Excuse 5: Rugby Council decided to commemorate the 11 men researched by the school by inviting 11 children (from year 11) to plant 11 trees on 11th November. It was cold and windy, but my husband is pleased that his grandfather has had a tree planted to remember him. (Pity we can’t find a photograph of him.)

Thomas Fletcher's tree with school pupils, British Legion, Mayor and poppies

Thomas Fletcher’s tree with school pupils, British Legion, Mayor and poppies

Excuse 6: Other RFHG work – our usual transcribing of local parish registers (we’re getting a bit behind with the checking – I wonder why?) and monthly computer evenings, now moved from Friday evenings to Mondays, thank goodness – I didn’t like missing my Friday Gin and Tonic.

Excuse 7: Local History. Since I took over the leadership of Rugby Local History Research Group, we have been talking about producing another booklet (eight had been published since 1975). In September I announced it would be published before Christmas (leaving myself a way out by not specifying which Christmas!). We did it, and had the launch at the Percival Guildhouse November Fair on November (of course) 22nd. We printed 100 copies and we have now sold out – reprinting shortly, if anyone is interested.

RLHRG Book Launch - guess which is the new book.

RLHRG Book Launch – guess which is the new book.

Excuse 8: I wrote two articles for the book. One was about the events leading up to the opening of war memorials in Rugby – more searching through the local papers.

Excuse 9: Remember the Heritage Open Days I mentioned earlier? Well the Local History Group also had a stand – right opposite the one for Family History. I spent several days in a schizophrenic daze, dashing from one stall to the other.

Rugby Library Foyer - Local History to the left, Family History to the right (we won't mention Transport History at the end)

Rugby Library Foyer – Local History to the left, Family History to the right (we won’t mention Transport History at the end)

The Local History Group also

Excuse 10: Held a Day School at PGH on the Victorian History of Rugby. Talks on the development of the town and a walk along the High Street (Slide Show and Physical)

Excuse 11: As a break from all the history, I continue to do a bit of painting and one of the paintings I put into the PGH Art Show was used in their 2015 Calendar

PGH Calendar 2015

Excuse 12: We went on holiday to Derbyshire for a few days at the beginning of September, another subject immortalized in paint.

Mam Tor

Mam Tor

Excuse 13: Writing. Not the articles for the Local History book or for the RFHG magazine (Did I mention I won the Harry Batchelor Prize for best article in the magazine in 2013?)

Prize for best article in RFHG Magazine

Prize for best article in RFHG Magazine

Excuse 14: I have continued the Writing Fiction course at PGH and my Anglo-Saxon Historical Novel is coming along (very) slowly. Examples of writing by the group can be found at Tellingtalesonthursdays . Earlier in the year I also did an online writing course at FutureLearn – hard work, but it gave me lots of ideas.

Excuse 15: (This is a good one!) We got a new computer. It was a big jump from Windows XP to 8.1. E-mails were lost and found and scattered to diverse locations (apologies if I haven’t replied to someone.) Programs stopped working or looked different. I think I’ve got the hang of everything now!

So, no more excuses. It is a New Year and my resolution is to post on this Blog more regularly.

… And update my Madder-Roots website, and the RFHG website, and the RLHRG website (better check the book for mistakes before reprinting.). Oh and I’d better set up a post for tomorrow on  RugbyRemembers ….

May I wish everyone a Happy and Peaceful 2015 and hope you achieve everything you set out to do.


Posted by: Christine | August 12, 2014

Looking for Smiths

I’ve just noticed it has been nearly three months since I last posted here. Like a lot of family historians I have been busy with the First World War. In my case, Rugby Family History Group is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. We realized this coincided with the centenary of the start of WW1 and so, as a special project, we would try to find out more about the names of the men on the local Memorial Gates. It turned out there were more than 400 men and the list gave just a surname and initials. My job was to find a name and date of death of each, so that our members could pick a name (or names) to research. This research would be published online on the centenary of each man’s death. (If you are interested you can see the result at No-one has actually died yet, although I’m feeling a bit tired!).

A big job, and there is still a handful of names we haven’t found yet. When I needed a break from this, and with my newly acquired expertise in WW1 research, I decided I should try to find out more about my own relatives who died. I started with Alfred Smith.

I would have had no chance in finding anything about this man if I didn’t already have a valuable source of information – my great grandfather’s  grave stone. Henry Madder lived in Springfield, near Chelmsford in Essex and called himself Henry Smith. I had already found Henry’s grave in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in Springfield (in the shadow of Chelmsford Prison). Apart from details of himself and his wife, it mentioned their two sons who had died in the war. Alfred died in Alexandria (Egypt) and Joseph was killed in France.

Grave of Henry (Madder) Smith mentioning his deceased sons.

Grave of Henry (Madder) Smith mentioning his deceased sons.

With a date and place I had manged to find Alfred’s entry on the CWGC website and had purchased a death certificate – very informative.

Death Certificate of Alfred Smith, died 1915

Death Certificate of Alfred Smith, died 1915

I had his birth, as Alfred Madder, in 1881 and he was in the 1891 census aged 10 with the rest of the family (all Smith) in Randolph Terrace, Springfield. I had also come across a possible Alfred Smith in the army in 1901. Apart from his death, that was all I had. You try looking for an Alfred Smith!

Henry had 15 children and most left the area. The elder ones especially used the Smith name thereafter. My grandfather was in the middle and stayed in Chelmsford and his descendants, including me,  ended up Madder-Smith. This name is the reason I started family history research – I wonder what I would be doing now if I had been born a Smith?

I started by looking for Alfred’s service record. It turned out to be one of the few that survived the bombs of WW2 remarkably unscathed. He was a driver in the Army Service Corps. The first page gave me an address for him, 7 Park Road, Plumstead and an occupation, Grocers Carman. It also stated he had previously spent 6 months in the 19th Hussars (which just happened to coincide with the 1901 census!)

First page of Alfred Smith's service record, Feb 1915

First page of Alfred Smith’s service record, Feb 1915

The second page gave me a brief description and details of his marriage to Ethel Mary Partridge and dates of birth of their six children.

Second page of Alfred Smiths service record

Second page of Alfred Smiths service record

With this information I could find then on the 1911 census:

Alfred Smith and family in Plumstead in 1911

Alfred Smith and family in Plumstead in 1911

The address was 74 Princes Road, Plumstead and Alfred was a carman for a Furniture Remover. by the time he signed up in 1915 he was working as a grocer’s carman. Not surprising he ended up as a Horse Transport Driver. Judging by the date, he was transporting supplies for the Gallipoli Campaign.

This wasn’t the end of the interesting documents in the service record. There was an envelope that had contained some coins in his possession at death, with a note of their return to Woolwich.

Envelope that contained coins belonging to Alfred Smith.

Envelope that contained coins belonging to Alfred Smith.

… And the letter from Alfred’s wife acknowledging receipt of them.

Letter from Ethel Mary Smith on receipt of coins.

Letter from Ethel Mary Smith on receipt of coins.

The other important document was a report from the hospital in Alexandria about his death.

Report on the death of Alfred Smith

Report on the death of Alfred Smith

Not a very pleasant death, but he had done his bit for the war effort. He had served for about six months.

I decided to see if there was any record of his previous military service. All the previous records had been found on Ancestry, but earlier service records can be found on Findmypast (British Army Service Records 1760-1915). I found Alfred’s record there.

Attestation of Alfred Smith, Jan 1901

Attestation of Alfred Smith, Jan 1901

His place of birth confirmed I had the right man, and I discovered that his occupation had been as a fishmonger. I also got a full description.

Description of Alfred Smith.

Description of Alfred Smith.

The later service record mentions the “Mole Right Shoulder Blade” but not the “Scars Right Groin” – perhaps the medical wasn’t as thorough!

The record also includes his discharge, after six months, stating that he was “Medically unfit for further service”

Medically Unfit in 1901

Medically Unfit in 1901

His conduct and character had been “Very Good” though!

This is not quite the end of the riches I found in this document. Details of next of kin were required.

Details of Alfred Smith's next of kin in 1901

Details of Alfred Smith’s next of kin in 1901

His father I knew about. Brother Charles I had also come across – he was also a Smith but I had been contacted by one of his descendants and had been given information about his family. But I had nothing about Henry (another Smith!). Apparently in 1901 he was also living in Plumstead. I quickly found him boarding at 61 High Street, he was single and working as a General Labourer, Arsenal. I was then able to find him in 1911.

Henry Smith in 1911

Henry Smith in 1911

Henry was now a conductor for Erith Council Tramways and living in Belvedere, Kent with one daughter Doris Olive, aged 8. He says he has been married nine years and has had five children, three who survive. Where is his wife? Where are the other children? Of course they are Smiths and difficult to track down. If anyone knows them, please let me know.

Returning to Alfred, I have been unable to find out what happened to his wife and children. I did a search of the family trees on Ancestry and found a match. It turned out to be a website researching the Chelmsford War Memorials. Alfred is mentioned on the site but is not on the memorial in Chelmsford or in Springfield – his brother Joseph is! As far as I can tell Alfred is not on one in Plumstead. There is an Alfred Smith buried in Plumstead Cemetery, but he won a V.C. and died in 1932 – definitely not mine.

This post will have to act as his memorial.

Posted by: Christine | May 19, 2014

Lives of the First World War

Recently there was an announcement that the Lives of the First World War website was live, so I decided to have a look. This site with its Imperial War Museum branding is, in fact run by a partner D C Thompson Family History Ltd. My heart sank – this is the parent of Findmypast (recent chaos),  Scotlandspeople (no money, no info) and British Newspapers Online (Brilliant site but still have to pay). I proceeded with caution.

I started with the search box and put in Madder – 20 results. One was Madder as a forename, so I discarded him, with a note to come back to him another time. This left me with 19 names, which I printed off. First mistake – the print was large, only five names per page. I then compared the list with information I already had – Medal cards, military records etc. It soon became obvious that the names on the site were obtained from the Medal Index cards. Sapper Arthur Edwin Edward Madder is actually Arthur Edward. Checking my copy of the card (there is only a transcription on the site) it is clearly written Arthur Edwin, with “Edward?” written under Edwin.

Medal Card of Arthur Edwin Edward Madder

Medal Card of Arthur Edwin Edward Madder

Arthur Edward is one of my Madders so I dug out all the information I had about him and the next day returned to the site to add facts and “remember” him. First I had to register with the site – no problem, although reading the terms and conditions indicated that money might be required at some point.

I spent a lot of time going round and round the site trying to work out how to add information but eventually realized that I had to add a source before I could enter anything. I had certificates for Arthur Edward so uploaded those. This turned out to be easy – either select the image on your computer or just drag onto the page, then round and round again to find out what to do with it (tip, scroll down the page a bit for instructions!). As I started to enter the information from the birth certificate, I found that Arthur was one of my Madders who had actually been born Smith. What to do? Well I was testing the site, and it said to add what was on the source, so that’s what I did. I added details of marriage and death and then left to carry on the next day.

It was while looking at Arthur Edward’s military record as I tried to work out how to put it onto the site (first page, all pages?) that I discovered my error. The Arthur Edwin Edward Madder on the site was not Arthur Edward Madder, or even his son Edward Arthur Madder (who is on the site as Edward A.) but his nephew Arthur Edwin Madder. Arthur Edward was not listed at all – understandable I suppose as he served as a tailor in Glasgow. Tip – always check the service number agrees.

Disaster. I had entered the wrong information. Could I change it? I logged back onto the site and looked for Sapper Arthur Edwin Edward Madder – he wasn’t there! What had I done? After a bit of thought I wondered if the birth information I had added had affected the entry. So I searched for the same name but with the surname Smith instead of Madder. Up he popped. Hurriedly, hoping no-one had noticed, I deleted the certificate sources I had added to his name. The information disappeared with them and I was back where I had started.

I decided to stick with this man and add the correct information. I didn’t have any certificates for him, just the GRO index references. What to do? There are four different methods of adding evidence: Search Official Records, Add an External Reference, Upload an Image (which I had done with the certificates) or Use you Personal Knowledge. I had a look at the Personal Knowledge method but it seemed to be for memories of the person – not quite right, so I tried the Search Official Records. This produced 8 results of Arthur Edwin and Arthur E, a mixture of Arthur Edward and Arthur Edwin, but I knew which were which. The list looked very much like results from Findmypast, but I could not look at any of them unless I became a “Friend” – at a cost of £6 for a month or £50 a year. These were records I could have seen via my subscription to Findmypast!

Back to the Add an External Reference. This gives you a choice of Website, Book or Copy of original document (this is where I should have put my certificates!). I picked Website and on a separate tab, opened Ancestry, and searched for Arthur Edwin Madder. Using the links here I could go to, for example, the correct GRO birth index page then copy and paste the URL as my source. I could have used FreeBMD or Findmypast as the source, but everything I needed was on Ancestry: BMD, census and, most important, his military record. Although Findmypast has just announced the addition of military records to its site (WO 363 and WO 364), I couldn’t find them there.

So far I have added Birth, Death, Probate, and War record to Arthur Edwin. I could also add census entries or anything else. Will I? I don’t know. I suppose I should go through all the 19 Madders on the site and add at least the basic information. It seems a very laborious process and takes a lot of time that I could better spend elsewhere.

If you don’t already have a subscription to Findmypast or Ancestry etc and you have a lot of WW1 relatives to remember, it might be worthwhile subscribing (sorry, become a friend) to this site, just to access the records. As it is working at the moment, I’m not sure if I will bother.


Posted by: Christine | May 5, 2014

East India Company Records

This week I watched Dan Snow’s programme about the East India Company. One of the main points made was how the EIC was not interested in anything except the business of making money.

A couple of years ago I visited the British Library to look at some of the Company records. To start with, I discovered that the British Library is much more difficult use than the TNA, which I am more used to. At the TNA you search the catalogue, find a document you want and click to order it; at the BL, it seems you have to know what you are looking for and where it is – once you have the reference you have to go to the online ordering section, enter the reference and then hope you did the right thing! No photography was allowed and if you wanted a copy of anything, it wasn’t available until the next day (or by post at extra cost). That’s if it was allowed to be copied – some kind of weight limit? After two tortuous visits I haven’t been back.

The reason for my visit was, as usual, to do with Captain John Madder (see previous posts). Of course his death was caused by the East India Company; the conflict between the English and Scottish Companies, although I won’t go into that again. The ship that he sailed on, the Worcester, was not an EIC ship but an independent trader – something which had only recently been allowed. As such it would have been of great interest to the EIC factories in India and if, as accused, it had been involved in piracy, the company would have known. I went through the letter books for 1702-1704 and found nothing. This proves that the crew of the Worcester were innocent.

On another visit I looked at the books for another event. After the trial and conviction of the Worcester crew, an affidavit was sent to the court alleging that the signatories had been in India at the same time and knew that there had been no piracy. One of these witnesses was George Madder, John’s brother. I had already found a lot of information about this particular voyage from a later Chancery case (TNA C 6/354/10 Law V Dennett). The ship had sunk and for various reasons the seamen had not received part of their wages.

I will write more about this another time, but the basic facts are that this ship, the Rebow, was hired by the EIC to deliver a cargo from London to India. This was completed and the ship then headed to Persia to trade on their own account. En route the ship sank. Most of the crew, including 2nd Mate George Madder,  survived  and found their way (with the treasure chest) to the Maldive islands. They eventually got back to England, in time for George and the purser, Salathiel Rolfe (wonderful name!) to make their unsuccessful affidavit.

In the EIC records is a copy of a letter from Captain Thomas Dennet of the Rebow, reporting his arrival at Surrat on the Malabar coast. He ends by saying that they are “at this time almost laded and ready to Sayle for Persia“. This is dated 30th April 1702.

A later report in the letter book, dated 11th June, states:

“23. Loss of ship Norris wth a cargo of £110,000 – whether the silver or any part of it will be saved are as yet uncertain. There is also a Report by the same ship as if the Rebow Frigatt should have been lost upon the Rocks called the Chawgoes but having no letter thereof wee hope it will prove a mistake or if not wee suppose our loss will be little or nothing there, being lett out on freight as you advise.”
IOR/E/3/94  f. 236  (Letter Book 11 (New Company) 1699-1709)

No concern about whether anybody had survived. Just relief that the company hadn’t lost anything. It was reported later that the wreak of the Norris had not been found (bet that made a dent in the finances!), but no further mention of the Rebow.

Posted by: Christine | April 15, 2014

My Second Conference

I have returned, tired and exhilarated, from the Guild of One-Name Studies 35th Anniversary Conference and AGM. This was held this year at the  Ashford International Hotel, in Kent. This was the wrong side of London for us (and probably a lot of other attendees) but we braved the journey down the M1 and round the M25. We had a diversion along the M11 and A12, because of the lack of signs at a junction and then delays on the Dartford crossing. Shattered by this experience we stopped for lunch at Emmetts – a National Trust garden near Sevenoaks. Here we found bluebells in flower and a very nice scone for lunch.

We continued the journey via the A20, having had enough of motorways, and arrived at the hotel about 4.30. There was a buffet dinner from 6.30 and then after a break (we decided not to attend the review of the Guild’s Constitution!) there was a talk on Kent in the 19th Century. This was a very entertaining talk by Bob Ogley – a writer, broadcaster and expert on everything Kentish. He introduced us to some of the characters who were born, lived or had connections with the county.

Next morning we were up early for breakfast – an almost infinite selection of different foods. My non-participating husband then left to explore Canterbury and the Conference opened with the AGM. During the AGM, awards were made to those people who had joined the Guild when it first started and had been members for all 35 years.

Awards to Guild members who have been there from the start.

Awards to Guild members who have been there from the start.

I should point out that most of the presentations will be available online, so I won’t go into too much detail. After Morning Coffee, the first speaker was Dick Eastman. He needs no introduction as I am sure everyone follows his Online Genealogy Newsletter . The talk was about the “Book of Icelanders” Because the population of Iceland is so interconnected, a database has been set up combining family trees, DNA and health records. People can then check whether someone they meet has the same great grandparents – there is even an App for it. Dick suggested that, eventually, this type of system will spread worldwide and one-namers will be an important part of this. Very thought provoking.

Keynote Speaker Dick Eastman with technical operators Bob Cumberbatch and  Colin Spencer

Keynote Speaker Dick Eastman with (right) technical operators Bob Cumberbatch and Colin Spencer

Following straight on was a talk by Dr Paul Cullen about the “Family names of the United Kingdom”  (FaNUK) project at the Bristol Centre for Linguistics, University of the West of England. This has been looking into the origin of surnames, especially the relationship between names and landscape. Unfortunately the results will not be published for two years. The good new is that they have received funding to continue the research. An interesting talk.

Not your ordinary Family History speaker - Dr Paul Cullen takes a break

Not your ordinary Family History speaker – Dr Paul Cullen takes a break

By now it was 1.00 and time for lunch. One of the things I love about the conference is that you can sit down, on your own, and almost  immediately you are joined by other people, with whom you have an interesting conversation. On this occasion, we almost missed the start of the afternoon session! It was only later that I realized I had been talking to my fellow Blogger Nicola Elsom. Perhaps we should add “Blogger” to our name labels, to recognize each other.

After lunch was a Panel Session: How I run my Study, chaired by Bob Cumberbatch. Three Guild members, Paul “He’s got a big one” Howes, Colin Spencer and Tessa Keough discussed various aspects of their One-Name Studies and how they dealt with various aspects. A good example of how every Study is different – there is no right or wrong way to do it. Tessa joined us from the USA and the technology couldn’t quite manage to cope with showing her live, but we could hear her and she could hear us.

After Afternoon tea (more food!) we had a choice of Breakout Sessions provided by Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage. I attended the Ancestry one. Afterwards, there was an unplanned gathering to announce the election of a new Chairman. Corrinne Goodenough was replacing Kirsty Gray. We returned to our rooms to prepare for the Banquet.

The Banquet this year was much better than last year. I think complaints had been made about the loud music which made it impossible to chat. This time the band was in a separate area and the talking could continue – we didn’t leave the table until 11. The food was very good. Cream of woodland mushroom soup with stilton rarebit, Duet of Lamb: slow toast shoulder and lamb medallion, tomato & herb crushed potato with seasonal vegetables, Chilled lemon souffle, raspberry sorbet, tuile biscuit (although, come to think about it, I don’t remember the biscuit – perhaps I was too busy talking!). The wine was good as well. It must have been as I was inspired to have a quick go on the dance floor

Table 4 and the rest of the room at the Banquet

Table 4 and the rest of the room at the Banquet

The band and dancers

The band and dancers

Not too much wine was had, as I had no problem getting up the next morning. There was a bit of confusion with changing times and rooms but eventually the second Breakout Sessions started. Today there was a choice of Ancestry, FamilySearch and FindMyPast. I opted for FindMyPast as there have been so many complaints about the recent changes to the site, I thought it would be entertaining.

Myko Clelland told us all about the reasons for the changes – forced on them by the increasing number of their databases. He explained how the search methods had changed and how to get to go direct to the different databases. It all seemed to make sense although some people didn’t seem satisfied – there was no violence though. I think a lot of the problem is that people (especially genealogists) don’t like change. If you’ve searched a website in a certain way and then everything changes, of course you don’t like it. Also, with a website that big, it takes time to make the changes and something is bound to not work for a while. Go away and do something else for a week or so. I’m sure everyone will get used to things eventually. We also heard about some of the new records coming soon. These included Shropshire Parish Records, WW1 service records (with a completely new index) and surviving Irish census records, 1821-1851.

Myko Clelland from FindMyPast in defensive posture

Myko Clelland from FindMyPast in defensive posture

During the morning, news had been received that the next speaker, Jayne Shrimpton, had been delayed, so the programme was rearranged and Bob Cumberbatch did his talk on Tools and Techniques for your one-name Study. His top ten free tools were: Evernote, Outwit Hub, Google Drive, Dropbox, Google Fusion Tables, Google+, WordPress/Blogger, Google Sites, Picasa and Flickr. I already use some of these (you are reading this on WordPress) and have been thinking about others, so this was a very useful presentation. Bob also mentioned something called LastPass which looks after all your passwords – I’ll definitely be looking at this.

Time for lunch. I should mention here that the food was good throughout the weekend, apart from the broccoli. Now I quite like broccoli but there seemed rather a lot of it. At lunch on Saturday, it was included in the mixed vegetables and was too hard. Today, there was broccoli soup, the vegetarian option was broccoli pasta and the mixed vegetable included a lot of – you’ve guessed it – broccoli. Anyway, through the broccoli, I had an interesting discussion about DNA.

After lunch there was a return to the programme. Dr Tyrone Bowes: Mapping Surnames – hints and techniques for mapping your one-name study data. Dr Bowes has set up his own business Irish Origenes to research Irish surnames and discover the place from which they originated. He uses a combination of traditional genealogy, DNA and mapping. For Ireland he uses the 1911 census, as surnames were standardized by then, but most of the population still lived on the land. For the rest of the UK (England and Scotland) he uses farmers in the 1841 census. With detailed study of maps he has discovered the area or areas, sometimes the actual townland the name came from. He has obtained some very impressive results, but I am not sure if this technique would work as well outside Ireland. He has not yet attempted Wales!

By the time it came for the final presentation, we had heard that Jayne Shrimpton was unable to attend, so Dick Eastman stood in and gave a second talk: Cloudy, with a Chance of Genealogy. The fact that he was able to give this talk was a good demonstration of the advantage of cloud computing. He had a talk that he had given before, back home on his computer, which he downloaded from the cloud, onto his tablet. He made a few changes (converting prices for dollars to pounds etc) and gave the talk from the tablet. I won’t go into details as you can download the slides yourself from here. Another fascinating and thought provoking talk. (I think I have been converted and have started backing up my documents on Google Drive already.) Inspired by all this inter-connectivity, I tweeted a picture live from the audience of the talk.

Dick Eastman talking about using Cloud Computing for Genealogy

Dick Eastman talking about using Cloud Computing for Genealogy

The conference was then closed, and after a cup of tea, we departed for home. It was an uneventful journey, but I was glad I had a driver. I just sat there, my head a whirl of people, names, computer programs – so much information! It had taken a couple of days to come down to earth and report on the event. Many thanks to the organizers – another fantastic event.

Just a final note. The hotel was very comfortable. The fact that our room was up two flights of stairs and along what seemed like several miles of corridors, somewhat offset the amount of food eaten (have I mentioned the food?). I am already looking forward to next years Conference – see you there!

PS. My husband would like to thank the Guild for organizing the conference, enabling him have a few days exploring Kent. I’m told the weather was very good outside the hotel.

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