Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update 30 June 2009

June has been a very busy month for me. As it is the height of the gardening season I’ve spent much of my time working in our garden, which always looks at its best at this time of the year. We’ve also been away for a short break, and on the first Saturday in June I was busily engaged on the Help stand at the Shropshire FHS Open Day. Unusually, this year it rained on the first Saturday in June – in fact, it hardly stopped raining throughout the whole day. This did not put a damper on the occasion, however. The attendance figure was every bit as high as usual, and all the stalls seem to have enjoyed a successful day. On the Help desk we were as busy as ever. It is always interesting to talk to visitors to the event – both members and non-members - about their research, and to try to help them where we can. Often the process of doing this helps us with our own research queries.

We had two first rate speakers at the event. In the morning a large gathering was entertained and informed on all things probate by Else Churchill, a well known Genealogist, who has spoken, broadcast and written widely of family history related subjects. After lunch a similarly large audience attended our second talk, which was given by Geoff Swinfield, another well known professional genealogist and family history speaker. His talk, entitled “I’m Stuck”, was a most interesting tour de force of different research strategies we can try when our research reaches the proverbial “brick wall”.

Of course, we all have “brick walls” in our research. There are a number in my research, which I’d dearly like to resolve. Firstly, of course, there is the problem of John Bankes’s parentage. This has always been a brick wall to me, from the first day I started treeing over twenty years ago. I haven’t got a strategy to solve this one, either – even after listening to Geoff Swinfield. The sum total of all my efforts on this subject is that I know that my man was apprenticed as a carpenter somewhere outside the City of London, and he went to work on the rebuilding of the capital after the great fire of 1666. He became Free of the Haberdashers’ Company by redemption in 1673, so we know that he was in the City at that time. The fact that the estimated date of his birth – c 1650-1652 - was during the Interregnum, when parish records were often not kept, does not help the quest! I, and my fellow researchers, have tried so many leads over the years that I really think we need a huge slice of luck to resolve this research problem. That doesn’t stop me trying, however.

Then there is the Culshaw impasse. When I started researching the Culshaws I was helped by my good friend, Dr George Wilson, and quickly traced the male line back to John Culshaw (c1760-1841). Research seemed so easy! Then, wham! I hit the brick wall. I still have not managed to identify the parents of John Culshaw. I have checked all the seemingly relevant Wills, but these were quite ordinary folk (insofar as anybody is ordinary), and it seems that they did not leave a will. I have not checked all the parish chest documents, and it may well be that if I did that I may find the answer to my problem, but the fact that I am about 100 miles from the records, does not make it easy for me to spend the necessary amount of time on the research . I really must get back on to this research, however, as surely there must be a way of advancing it.

There are other Culshaw “brick walls”, I’m afraid. My great grandfather was John Culshaw (yes, another one – there were lots of them), who lived from 1855 to 1924 in the Farington / Penwortham area of Lancashire, just south of Preston. He married a certain Elizabeth Bennett (1854-1931). They were Catholics. It took me years to find their marriage certificate, and when I saw it it did not tell me the name of Elizabeth’s father. Census records consistently tell me that Elizabeth was born in Leyland, but I have not been able to trace her birth or her family on the census. There are several Bennett households on the Leyland censuses, but I have so far failed to identify the correct one. Obviously, the fact that Elizabeth’s father was not named on the marriage certificate suggests that Elizabeth may have been illegitimate, so maybe the bastardy orders may help me with this research.

This same Culshaw family provides me with another of my research posers – not yet truly a “brick wall”, but at this stage it looks likely to become one. John & Elizabeth had four known children, two of whom – John (born 1889) and Elizabeth (born c 1885) are a bit of a mystery. I found Elizabeth as a 6 year old on the 1901 census, but have not yet traced her on the 1911 census. Of course, it seems quite possible that she may have married by 1911. John, on the other hand, can be traced on the 1911 census at Barton upon Irwell (now the Trafford area of Manchester). He was living in the household of John & Lucy Cunliffe, and was said to be a nephew of the household head – John Cunliffe (born c 1866 in Preston). I am trying to work out how the Cunliffes were related to my Culshaws.

As a young man my Dad knew the Cunliffes, but he didn’t know what the connection was between them and his family. I’ve had a scan through marriages of the relevant period, and also looked at some censuses, but so far have not found the key to this. I think that a bit of family reconstruction is called for here, and this may turn into a long term project. Hopefully I’ll get there in the end, but if anybody out there thinks they may be able to help me I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Geoffs Genealogy Update - 31 May 2009

I'm a bit late with my blog entry this time. That's because we have been away for a week - on holiday in the beautiful Scottish Borders. We had a great time - lovely scenery, lots of places to visit, and lovely cooked breakfast each morning. Sadly, though, the week has passed quickly, and now it's back to work. Oh well, it was ever thus!

In the middle of May I paid a visit to The National Archives at Kew, taking advantage of a day coach trip organised by the Shropshire Family History Society. I decided to focus my attentions this time on the 1911 Census. This has been available online for a few months in ever increasing state of completion. As I think I've mentioned before, I had been resisting the temptation to avail myself of the online facility, as I believe it to be very expensive. However, I'm afraid I did succumb early in May and bought myself £25 worth of uses. These lasted me about 90 minutes, buying me nine census entries - the original entries, not the transcriptions - which confirmed my view that the use of this site is rather expensive.

If you use the same 1911 census facility at TNA, you do not have to pay these charges. All you pay is the standard TNA charge for each printout - from memory this is about 20p per sheet - and you can have an A3 printout for that as well! Your use of the 1911 census is limited to one hour at a time, but you can have more than one block of time. I had two separate one hour spells of use.

The system has been planned very well, to make it as user-friendly as possible. I was fortunate that when I took my seat the gent on my right gave me very full step by step instructions on using the system. He was a very experienced user, and was printing rucks of copies as he pursued his one name study. Good for him! If you are not fortunate enough to have such help available from your fellow users rest assured that assistance is never far away - there are a number of members of staff constantly around the area, whose job is to help 1911 census users.

How did I get on?

Very well, actually. As ever, I had a lengthy list of targets with me, and I managed to look for all my priority entries. No, I did not find them all, but at least I started the quest, and I returned home with eighteen relevant printouts on various different lines of research - Smith, Culshaw, Hewitt, Hunt etc. I haven't had a chance yet to sort them all out and catalogue them, but will get around to that soon, I hope.

Apart from the cost, I have two other reservations about the 1911 census online:

The results you see on screen when you carry out a person search do not show birthplace information. This is a serious omission in my view, as birthplace information can be a massive help in trying to ensure that your search has identified the right person, and avoiding wasting money by viewing records that are irrelevant. For instance, if you are searching for John Smith, born London, without the birthplace information you will be faced with a long list of people named John Smith, maybe living in various parts of the country, but you will probably have little idea which is "your" man. As it stands you would need to look at the transcription to check each of these candidates until you find the one you want. At a cost of 10 units per look (over £1), this does not come cheaply, and could easily cost quite a lot of money. The cynic in me makes me wonder why this vital birthplace information has not been made available freely by the 1911 Census people. As it is provided freely by other census websites, I assume it is a deliberate policy.

Searching at Kew enables you to view the transcriptions and records without cost, and thus obtain the birthplace information.

My second reservation about the 1911 Census online concerns source references, which are not handled very well, in my opinion. If, like me, you opt to see the full census entry you will not see the source reference on the document that you see on screen and print. If you save the jpeg file to your computer the file name automatically generated is, in fact, the source reference, but if you are working at TNA you will not get this option. The only other way to get the source ref is by viewing the transcription, and maybe printing it. This is ok at TNA, as you would only pay 20p for the printout, but if you are working at home, by doing this you will eat further into your precious credits, as you have to pay to see the transcriptions.

I am usually a stickler for recording source references, but on this occasion am severely lacking in this regard, I'm afraid. Next time I go to TNA I need to reprise the entries I have obtained, seeking the references.

In addition to the 1911 census, I managed to squeeze in some other research at TNA, continuing from my previous visit.

For many years I have been seeking the final Master's Report in the first Court of Chancery cause relating to the Bankes Trust. This is important to my research because many items of evidence date family events by reference to this report, eg "so & so died before the final report in the first cause" etc. The most recent evidence I have re the date of this report comes from Thomas Hunt's tract Truth Faileth; so that Equity Cannot Enter, which stated that it was dated 1727.

On my previous visit to TNA I had checked the indexes for these sources, and ascertained that there were seven Master's Reports dated 1727 (source ref C38/388) and a further five such reports dated 1730 (source ref C38/403). I had tried to look at these last October, but ran out of time, so I made a point of searching them this time.

In fact, when I searched the files I found that the number of items relevant to the first Chancery case re Bankes's estate were far fewer in number than the indexes had indicated. C38/388 contained only one document, while C38/403 contained three. Most of these items were quite short, but one of the C38/403 items, dated 1730, is fairly lengthy and deals with arguments arising from the order dated 4 August 1727 - indicating that that was the date of the final report in the first cause. Why had I not found it in C38/388, which is supposed to include all 1727 reports? I wondered.

Convinced that I must have missed this document, I re-searched the file but - no - the document was not there. There was only one thing for it, I would have to ask somebody where the missing report may be.

I asked two people before finding a member of staff with the necessary knowledge - Chancery records are quite specialised, and not many people are really knowledgeable on the subject. Ultimately I was told that the documents that were not in the files I had searched had probably been re-used in subsequent Court proceedings, and then filed with the then current records. In other words, I can have no idea where they may turn up!

Maybe I'll come across the missing Masters Reports some day, by accident, but in the meantime, piecing together the pieces of evidence I have, and noting the wise words of Thoimas Hunt, I feel fairly confident that that the date of the final Master's Report of the first cause was 4 August 1727. Now all I have to do is seek out the relevant individuals' records in my files and see what effect that information has on their dates of birth, marriage, or death.

Sorry if this has been a bit tedious to read, but I wanted to pass on to you what I have learned, as it may save you some work sometime. If you have any (polite) comments to add, please feel free to share them with me.