Breaking Down Walls – With Help

You know those walls you hit in your research? The ones where you’re looking for a John Smith, son of John Smith etc? Well this week I finally broke down two of them and one of them was indeed a John Smith.

For quite a while I’ve known that my 5th Great Grandfather, John Smith, was the schoolmaster of Keyingham and that he married someone called Mary and they had several children, including another John who was my 4th Great Grandfather. But that was where it stopped. I had no idea where John Smith came from, or even when he died or which particular Mary he married.

I had come across a marriage licence/bond from 1807 (which I have ordered a copy of) and seen John Smith listed as schoolmaster of Keyingham on Baine’s directory of 1823. After 1823 though, everything goes blank.

That is until I stumbled across a burial in Preston whilst looking for something else. It was John Smith, aged 52 and, the exciting bit, the schoolmaster of Keyingham, being buried in Preston churchyard in 1823. No wonder everything was blank after that. Buried with him was his wife Mary, who died in 1860, aged 84.

I know it only gives me their ages, but the ages more or less match what the index says is in that marriage bond, so, fingers crossed, somewhere on there will be that magic word “schoolmaster”. I’ll let you know.

The second wall is a bit more definite. This one involves the tale of two vicars. The first being the Reverend Thomas Atkinson, first curate and then vicar of Sancton and Newbald, born in 1751 in Kirkby Ireleth, Cumberland, and my 6th Great Grandafter. Thomas married Jane Fisher in a place called Lorton. That was all I had to go on and not a sniff of any parish records from Lorton.

Thankfully I found a historian (whose name I will not drop) local to the area online and he sent me transcripts of the parish records pertaining to the name Fisher. He highlighted the marriage in question and the baptisms of all the Jane Fishers, except for one. I queried why he thought that particular one wasn’t relevant, as I matched up the father, Thomas Fisher, with a Monumental Inscription I had found for a Thomas and Ruth Fisher in Lorton. Thomas Fisher was the curate of Lorton (which kind of fits things), and I am descended from Ruth Atkinson (a long shot I know). Anyway, the historian said that the two Thomas Fishers were not the same as the father’s occupation would definitely have been noted on the baptism, which it was not. He was probably right.

So that was that. I had quite a few Jane Fisher’s to choose from, and she could have been any one of them.

Months later, more than a year I think, I came across a probate for the Reverend Thomas Fisher of Lorton, dated 1800, the year on the inscription I had found, on Find My Past. I’d ordered probates before from Borthwick in York, but hadn’t realised you could do the same with Lancashire/Cumberland records. Anyway, I sent for it, more on a hunch than anything. It cost a little bit more than Borthwick and they send them in the post on a CD rather than via email, but they were pretty quick. Less than a week anyway.

When I looked at the document I was expecting it to have been a waste of time but I ended up doing a little happy, victory dance. The Reverend Thomas Fisher is definitely my 7th Great Grandfather and that baptism is definitely Jane Fisher. Not only does he mention her in his will (she died before him), he mentions Thomas Atkinson, clerk of Newbald (which he was at the time the will was drafted in 1790), he also lists all of their children in age order, Ruth Atkinson included.

So I was right, but I would never have got there at all without the help of a local historian from Lorton.


PTE. William Bugg

I have finished researching my latest WW1 life and started another already. This is the life of William Bugg:

William Bugg was born in 1883 in Thearne, the third of James and Fanny (nee Etherington) Bugg’s ten children, only seven of whom survived into adulthood.

On the 29th of Januaray 1905 William married Fanny Palmer, the daughter of a beckside labourer. Later that year their daughter Doris was born and, in 1908, after they had moved to Hull where William was a lighterman, Mavis came along but sadly died the same year and, in 1910, Claude was born. Claude passed away in 1911. In 1912, Ida was born.

William and Fanny continued to have children through the war and afterwards. In 1916 Horace came along and another Claude in 1918. 1921 saw the birth of James and 1923 Dora. Freda was born in 1926 and passed away in 1931. Jean, their last child, was born in 1929.

William enlisted as private 4213 in the East Yorkshire Regiment on the 10th of September 1917 but was sapper 333057 in the Royal Engineers when he was discharged with a silver badge on the 9th of January 1918.

For his part in the war William was awarded, along with his silver badge, the British War and Victory Medals.

William’s brother, James, was killed in action while serving with the 12th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment and is remembered on the Beverley War Memorial.

After the war William and Fanny moved back to Beverley where William was a keelman on the beck and a keel captain by 1939 when they were living at 5 Sparkmill Terrace. Many of their children were married in the Minster.

Ida married Robert Sidney Pougher, a clerk and the son of a local painter, in 1932. Horace, in 1943, while a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, married Vera Hardcastle of Bolton, a private in the Auxillary Territorial Service. Their wedding was covered by the Beverley Guardian the same week. In 1951 James, a machine operator at the time, married Mabel Dukes of Morley’s Yard, the daughter of the late William Dukes, a tailor. Also in 1951 Jean married Arthur Patrick Farnell, a 23 yeard old brass finisher from Cranbrook Avenue in Hull. Arthur’s father was a master mariner.

William Bugg passed away in 1942 in Beverley, the only thing to mark to his passing being a thank you for the sympathy note from Fanny in the Beverley Guardian.

On a side note, William’s brother, Harold Etherington Bugg, earned a place in history in 1947 when the Beverley Guardian ran a snippet about him and the first Beverley Race meeting of that year. Harold was a shoemaker and it seemed he’d had a habit of displaying racing tips chalked on bends of leather hung outside his Beckside shop. He’d been doing this since 1913, but rarely had a flutter himself. His tips for that particular day were Star Blossom, Game Kid and Orach.

The Men Who Wouldn’t Give An Inch

I have recently researched the life of a man called Joseph Herbert Speight Moore as part of the Beverley Treasure House’s WW1 Lives project.

Moore was in the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards when it was all but destroyed during the Battle of Hazebrouck.

Here is his and his comrades’ incredible story:

Joseph Herbert Speight Moore was born on the 9th of July 1897 in Hull, the youngest of Walter and Jane Ann (nee Downes) Moore’s three children. He was baptised on the 15th of August 1897 in Leeds, his parent’s home town.

Joseph was educated at Newland Avenue County Council School and went on to become a clerk in the Estate Department of the North Eastern Railway Company.

He enlisted as Guardsman 28195 in the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards on the 29th of November 1916 and served with the Expeditionary Force to France and Flanders from the 18th of August 1917. In October 1917 he suffered from trench foot and septic poisoning and was treated in hospital. He rejoined his battalion the following February.

Between the 12th and 14th of April 1918, the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards took part in an action at Vieux Berquin during the Battle of Hazebrouck. Joseph was in number two company, under the command of Captain Pryce, one of around 120 men who spent twelve hours holding back two German Battalions whilst surrounded and cut off from the rest of their battalion.

It started with the company fighting house to house in the village, capturing both prisoners and machine guns, but the enemy quickly counter-attacked and pushed them back into a defensive position. The actions of the company and their commanding officer are best told in the Battalion’s war diary, in several different accounts but, according to a single, unnamed corporal, who was the sole man to escape, the company was surrounded, their left flank having being compromised and redeployed by Captain Pryce. They were massively outnumbered and fought until there were only thirty men left then, by the time the company was down to their last eighteen men, they ran out of ammunition.

Their last act was to fix bayonets and charge, managing to push the German line back before the enemy counter-attacked and, ultimately, number two company was destroyed.

In the action at Vieux Berquin the 4th Battalion lost all of their officers either dead, wounded or captured and 504 other ranks, 90% of their full strength. Of the losses of number two company the Battalion war diary says “only 14 men of this company of over 120 strong were ever heard of again,” and those, all but that one, unnamed corporal, were wounded and taken prisoner.

Joseph Herbert Speight Moore was one of those 120 men who refused to give an inch of ground to the enemy and fought to the very last. He was killed on the 13th of April 1918 and is remembered with honour on the Ploegsteert Memorial, The Beverley War Memorial and the Beverley Minster Memorial.

For his sacrifice he was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals.

Captain Pryce, already a holder of the Military Cross with Bar for Gallantry, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his exemplary leadership and sacrifice. His body, as well as those of most of his men, was never found.

In the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards war diary much praise is heaped upon the Battalion for the action at Vieux Berquin and the names of all the men lost are listed in full, regardless of rank.

Latin Parish Registers

Just lately I’ve taken my family tree back into the early 17th century in a few places. I’ve noticed, as well as a dearth of information, the further I go back, the harder things are to read. Not because the records are old and faded, though most are, but because many are in Latin, and some in some kind of half baked Latin that puts ‘us’ or ‘ii’ at the end of random words or with bits of Latin scattered amongst English.

I’m not going to give any lessons on how to translate parish registers (I’m still learning myself), there are a few already out there that will show you all you need to know anyway, so I’ll point to those instead:

Firstly is the very good word list at Family Search. This gives enough detail without giving you a headache and teaches how to translate times and dates too. This is probably the best place to start.

Family Search

Some notes on Genuki go into a bit more detail, but double check the date translations with the above as I think there are some mistakes there.


And this one is great if you can’t tell your William from your Gulielmus. It’s a lengthy list of common names in Latin and English

British Genealogy

I’m starting to get the hang of it now at last and don’t need to look at my notes quite as much or ask for help in archives, but I still stop and shake my head sometimes.

It feels such a great privilege to handle documents that old but I do wonder just why some curates and priests chose to write their registers in Latin at all, as not all did. It smacks of pretentiousness at times as I often find the odd line of Latin thrown in amongst a page full of English. There really was no need for it. If, as some believe, it was to stop the masses from reading them, they needn’t have bothered. Most people wouldn’t have been able to read them in English either back then.

At the same time though, I do feel a small stab of pride in myself that I can actually read them when I do find them. And I’ve learned something new, or old, depending how you look at it.

More Questions Than Answers

A couple of posts back I mentioned wills and probates and that I was waiting on one arriving, via email, from the Borthwick Centre. Well it arrived.

It was the last will and testament of Robert Otley of Lund, dated 1729/30. Robert died the previous year and was my 8th great grandfather through his daughter Alice. Alice was married to William Wallis and they were, yes you guessed it, my 7th great grandparents.

The will didn’t tell me much that I didn’t already know, save that a couple of his sons weren’t mentioned. I deduced, and in one case proved, that they had died before him. It was odd though, just who he left his money to. His youngest daughter was taken care of, as was his eldest daughter and couple of his grand children. His eldest son, who I expected would inherit the bulk of his estate was left a single shilling and most of the estate went to William Wallis, who he described as his son.

I have no idea why the eldest was pretty much written out of things. Perhaps he was already well established in his own right, or maybe his father had other reasons. I doubt I’ll ever know.

I am now, and this is probably going to become a habit, waiting on another probate, only this time I’m really not sure what I’ll find out. This one is for William Thompson of Kilham. I think he died in 1811, but I’m not certain as the Memorial Inscription that goes with the burial says he was the parish clerk when I only have evidence of him being a shepherd. He and his wife are buried together and the names and ages match. The probate I’ve found though is from 1837, which is a long time after their deaths. They did have a son called William, so it might well be him. I’ve already got further back on that particular branch of the tree, so just when he died is not that important in the scheme of things. But was he really the parish clerk and is that his will, being well and truly dragged out? Or is it his son or someone completely unrelated and have I just wasted thirteen quid?

Tune in soon to find out!

50 Lives of the First World War

The book to accompany the WW1 Lives research project is now available from Beverley Treasure House, priced at £4.50. I received a copy the other night at the volunteers Christmas get together.

Three of the lives I researched are in there, albeit edited to fit. We were all of us, the volunteers, asked to name our favourite three, which was difficult as we’ve done almost a thousand lives between us and, by the time we’ve finished, there will be well over that many.

My first pick was William Hirst Briggs, the son of one of the founders of Briggs & Powell, one of Beverley’s oldest businesses. In researching him I also found out quite a bit about the business and Brigg’s father and grandfather. There were a few skeletons in that particular closet.

My second favourite was the Oldfield Family, a father and five sons who all served. Between them they gave me quite a few weeks of work. Only Arthur is in the book (all six was probably too much to ask for). He was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal. When a nearby platoon was pinned down by enemy fire because their machine gun was broken he went to get them another. He came back with two German machine guns and ammunition.

Lastly I chose my only civilian, Mr William Stainton who went down with the Lusitania. Much of the information I found on Stainton seemed to suggest that he was buried in a mass grave in Ireland, along with many others, but I found a snippet in the newspaper that reported his body being returned to Beverley and, after a little hunting around, I found him buried in Etton next to his grandparents.

The three I chose seemed to have been heavily edited, though I do tend to put as much as I can into the write ups. There is much more information in the individual research folders for all of them, as I suspect there will be for all the others. I suppose, after all, you can only fit so much on a page.

Thankfully some of the research has been entered into the Beverley Treasure House online system and can be searched using the finding number WL. At the moment it looks as though they are adding them alphabetically and seem to have got to F, but I’m sure the rest will be there eventually. All of the research can be viewed in the archives and the full biographies of the ones I did can be seen following the link in the main menu.

Moral Dilemma

I’ve recently finished researching a life for the WW1 Lives Project. The man in question was one Harold Ramshaw. His father was a butcher for many years, as he was for a while and his brother too. His nephew was a Spitfire pilot killed in the Battle of Britain and he himself served in World War One from the outset.

There was quite a lot to research on this particular life, mostly on his family, but the thing that really stood out was something that left me with a bit of a moral dilemma.

I found a 1923 newspaper article where he was being sued for arrears. Having read the article through it turned out that these arrears were for maintenance of a child. It seemed that Harold had had a child with a married woman the year before and had been ordered to pay maintenance. The twist was that the child had been registered under the woman’s husband’s name.

I managed to find the woman’s marriage. At first I thought that she may have had a bit of a thing with Harold and then gone on to marry someone else, but that wasn’t the case. She had been married for eleven years when the child in question was born.

My moral dilemma came about when I found out who the child was. Did I add this into the usual biography we write for each life or not? In the end I decided on something in between. I mentioned the court case and elected not to mention any names, as I have done here.

It just struck me that the child, who would have been 96 years old by now if he was still alive, might not have had any idea that the man on his birth certificate was not his father, and who was I to point it out to him and his children and grand children? I’ve dug up a few unexpected skeletons in my family tree, but this research is not mine as such and I decided that it was not my place to air someone else’s mucky linen for them.

I have left what I found in the research so, if any of his descendants happen to want to look into it, it can still be found. It’s all there in the public domain anyway, but at least it isn’t printed in big bold letters for all the world to see in the corridor of the local library.