St Stephen’s Church, Ootacamund

March 4th, 2013

Recently, I received a fascinating email from a client, Evelyn Nelson, who had followed up on my research by visiting her family’s former hometowns of Chennai/Madras and Udhagamandalam/Ootacamund.

Her first stop was Chennai, where she found the family vault of her ancestor, Richard St Leger Mitchell. She also visited churches of event for more recent members of the family, and the location of the school where Richard was master, in the former ‘Black Town’ area of the city. In 1906, this area was formally re-named ‘George Town’.

To find out more about her mother’s family, Evelyn and five of her cousins then headed for Udhagamandalam, or Ootacamund. This hill station in the Nilgiri Hills,  known as ‘Snooty Ooty’ in the days of the British Raj, was a popular escape from the heat of Madras below. Evelyn visited St Stephen’s Church, where her mother’s was first married. I had been unable to find any records for Evelyn’s family relating to this church in the India Office Records or on Family Search. Evelyn thus took the opportunity of meeting the priest to ask if any records were held at the church itself. Amazingly, the priest replied by inviting Evelyn to visit his house the following day. 

 

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When Evelyn arrived at the priest’s house, she was shown the church register on a shelf in his study. The priest kindly allowed Evelyn to consult the register, in which she was delighted to find not only the marriage record but all the baptism records of her mother’s siblings.

 

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I am often asked by clients where they should search if they cannot find a record in the British Library or The National Archives, or online at sites such as the FIBIS database, Family Search, Find My Past, Ancestry, or India Office Family History Search. The answer I have to give is, “Contact the church in India.” This is not always possible for some, and not everyone is in a position to visit. However, Evelyn’s experience shows what successes can be made and that with family history, you should never give up!

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As a postscript to this, the memorials inside St Stephen’s Church have been transcribed by Kae Lewis and can be found on the website: http://www.kaelewis.com/database/ooty/searchpage.htm

 

Review: Tracing Your Black Country Ancestors by Michael Pearson

December 10th, 2012

“The Black Country, black by day and red by night, cannot be matched for vast and varied production, by any other space of equal radius on the surface of the globe.” Elihu Burritt, American Consul in Birmingham 1868

As roughly half my family is from the Black Country, I was very pleased to receive a copy of Tracing Your Black Country Ancestors by Michael Pearson. The latest in Pen and Sword’s Tracing Your . . . series, this book fills a gap in family history bibliography. The Black Country is a relatively small area, but its unique heritage, culture and dialect warrant further attention from historians. The region is geographical rather than administrative, which can prove nightmarish for the family historian with BC ancestors. We have to move around between four archives, three counties and four metropolitan boroughs, encompassing Wednesbury, Darlaston, Wednesfield, Bilston, Coseley, Tipton, Dudley, Brierley Hill, Halesowen. West Bromwich, Olbury and Smethwick. It must be noted, though, that the Black Country never includes Birmingham. Furthermore, the BC is within, but does not fully cover, the counties of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Confused? Thankfully, this new book benefits from a clear layout, with its chapter on archives and resources, and a detailed appendix on local government providing a comprehensive overview for researchers.

 

Although Black Country people know where they’re from, as Pearson notes, there are no “officially defined borders” of the region, with its four archives lying in the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The origins of its name lie in the rich black coal seam of its lands. The book dedicates a full chapter to mining, including a useful list of mines in the region, clearly tabulated. In fact, the use of tables and charts throughout is one of the reasons for the book’s clarity. Other helpful details in this chapter are the definitions of jobs such as hewer, butty and bellman, and the dates of local mining accidents.

 

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 My great grandfather, Edward Billingham (1874-1950), worked as a miner and lived in Coseley.

 

The Black Country is renowned for its contribution to the Industrial Revolution. Pearson observes that “the wealth generated by industry meant people did not leave the region to work elsewhere”. My family lived in the area for centuries. Like many of them, most Black Country inhabitants worked in industrial jobs. My ancestors worked as miners, steel workers, iron puddlers, nail makers, hand loom weavers and brick makers. All of these areas are covered in detail, with the chapters on iron and steel, and industrial diversity. The latter is particularly useful, with details like the 21 out of 43 brickworks in the region being in Sedgley/Kingswinford. As my brick-making ancestors were women, I’m pleased that Pearson recognizes women’s contribution to the industrial revolution and to the growth and culture of the Black Country. He reveals, for example, that in 1883, 16,000 of the 20,000 area’s nail makers were women.

 

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 My great great grandfathe, Noah Hingley (1848-1926), lived in Coseley and worked as an iron puddler.

 

Other chapters examine transport, BC off-duty (an assessment of leisure, shops and so on), religion (non-conformism was very popular in the region) and Black Country life. This last chapter covers the remarkable local dialect. I have a particular interest in this as my great uncle Harry Harrison wrote fluently in the dialect, and kept the words and humour alive in regular talks and performances. He was one of the founders of the Black Country Nite Out Show. I can remember as a child finding one of his poetry books on my grandparents’ shelves. I couldn’t understand a word! Thankfully, Pearson provides a guide to some of the most commonly heard words and expressions. Some of them, like “yo’m” (“you’re”), recall the way my grandfather used to speak. To try and get an ear for the dialect, say aloud this line from my great uncle, still proudly displayed on the website of a Droitwich butcher, “Dunn’s mate is really great!”

 

As a retired West Midlands Police Inspector, Michael Pearson is unsurprisingly strong in the Crime & Punishment chapter. Despite his non-genealogy background, Pearson’s extensive knowledge of the area is evident. He demonstrates personal insight and local knowledge throughout, from local foods like faggots and “greay pays” (maple peas simmered with bacon and served with bread) to the BC sense of identity (“those born and bred here . . .still see themselves as coming from their village”).

 

The book is also well-illustrated, not least by the many images of the Black Country Living Museum, near Dudley, a must-visit for those with ancestors from the region. This open air museum, which opened thirty-four years ago, is spread over a twenty-six acre site with over sixty separate exhibits, such as a chainmaker’s forge and a school. All the historic buildings in the ‘living’ village have been moved brick by brick to be rebuilt exactly as they once stood.

 

Racecourse Colliery at the Black Country Living Museum

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Summary: this is a book that cannot fail to aid those researching ancestors from the Black Country.

Historic Newspapers

December 3rd, 2012

Anyone who has spent hours poring over fragile, yellowing sheets in local archives or at Colindale knows how engrossing old newspapers can be. The popularity of the British Newspaper Archive, which recently celebrated its first year online, proves how keen many of us are to explore the past through the contemporary press. For family historians, enjoyment comes not just from seeing our ancestors’ names in print or learning about the worlds they inhabited, but in reading the very words they read. Depending on the nature of the publication, this can give us insight into popular opinion or into the mind of the establishment.

Much as I enjoy using online newspaper databases, which I do at least once a week, I was delighted to receive a couple of old newspapers from Historic Newspapers at http://www.historic-newspapers.co.uk/

The pleasures of holding a full-size paper, feeling the thickness of the pages, and being able to judge just how tightly my ancestors had to squint to read the fine details of Mr. William Shadforth’s “Special” Heart and Nerve Tonic are rare, and something I miss in the digital experience.

Although companies like Historic Newspapers market their papers for special occasions, such as anniversaries or significant birthdays, the possibility of choosing a specific title from a specific date can be useful for family historians. I have collections from local archives of photocopied newspaper columns featuring my ancestors: my great grandmother’s obituary in The Stage, the inquest into my great great grandfather’s death, and more recent cuttings of the achievements of close family members.

Sometimes I’d like to keep the entire newspaper, to see my ancestors’ activities in the context of what was happening around them. This is possible with companies like Historic Newspapers, although it can be more expensive than visiting a local history centre and copying from a microfilm or scanner. Occasionally, the cost may be weighed against the issue that dedicates an entire page to an ancestor’s military bravery or a detailed obituary, and that features a death announcement and a letter on the event elsewhere. Given how easy it is for researchers and library users to find an article in The Times Digital Archive or the Daily Mirror online, it is not surprising that these titles are the most popular with Historic Newspapers’ customers.

One of the papers I was sent was the Sunday Pictorial of 25 April 1926. With smallish, thick pages and heavily illustrated, this is markedly different from other newspapers of 1926. I chose this particular edition as I was keen to see how contemporary newspapers reported the F.A. Cup victory of Bolton Football Club – captained to a 1-0 victory by my great grandfather’s cousin, Joe Smith. As mentioned in the post on the National Football Museum, my grandmother claimed to have drunk out of the F.A. Cup when she was 15. On the back page of the Sunday Pictorial was a large picture of the Bolton player, David Jack, draining a draught from the very cup. And at the bottom of the page was a smiling Joe Smith, surrounded by helmeted police officers, carrying the cup to the Bolton dressing-room at Wembley Stadium.

The FA Cup final took place on a Saturday and was reported the following day. Copies of Sunday newspapers are harder to find. Historic Newspapers holds fewer newspapers for Sunday than for the rest of the week, and they are consequently more expensive. There are lesser-known titles among the Sundays, however, like the Sunday Pictorial.

My favourite article in this issue is titled, “Is Dancing Overdone To-day?” This feature by Clifford K. Wright on the dance craze of the period begins:

Has dancing to-day become an obsession?

Do we dance too much? One would

imagine so from the frequent attacks to which

this form of enjoyment is subjected.

When at the conclusion of the Great War

people welcomed dancing as one of the easiest

avenues to forgetfulness it was pointed out

that wars and social cataclysms like the French

Revolution were frequently followed by some

similar craze. It was though that this out-

burst also would prove a mere craze and be

short-lived. yet in 1926 we find that the cult

of the dance is pursued by everyone with un-

abated zest and enthusiasm,

Wright ends with the defence:

But most important of all are the mental re-

actions produced by dancing. It is the ideal

cure for a fit of the blues. Through it we can

find an escape from the usual groove of our

lives into a secret and magical world of our

own.

Sources:

Historic Newspapers has the largest private archive of British newspapers in the world. The archive has been built over many years from various sources: initially from the newspaper group’s original archives as they moved out of Fleet Street in the 80s, and continues today, as virtually all the national Scottish and English newspaper titles send us their daily editions. Papers are also continually being sourced from libraries and other collections from all over the world. The newspapers are stored in leather binding, from which they are carefully removed when sold, and sent out in presentation boxes. The company will sell the last paper for a date, but have scanned leading titles in order that an original archive remains.

Historic Newspapers is offering readers of this blog an exclusive 15% discount on anything on the site by using the code: 15TODAY.

 

Naming for Empire

July 20th, 2012

In the course of studying for an MA in Imperialism and Culture, I have been examining how enthusiastic working class Britons were about the Empire in the period 1870-1914. This debate has long exercised historians, such as John Mackenzie, Bernard Porter, and Antoinette Burton.

Mackenzie, a pioneer of cultural imperialism argues that the working classes were enthusiastic about empire and that they were particularly influenced by propagandist media, such as music hall songs, popular newspapers and juvenile literature. He highlights the adventure stories and heroes of empire, and the fervour with which many working class people greeted them. He quotes Mafeking night, 18 May 1900 (when impromptu parties took place across Britain to celebrate the relief of besieged British forces), as a striking example of this imperialistic passion.

 

In contrast, Bernard Porter writes dourly, “For the working classes who participated in Mafeking night the whole occasion was probably little more than a celebration of the safety of their comrades in uniform.”1 Richard Price challenges them both by arguing that the enthusiasm emanated more from the lower middle classes and that this was evident in the voting patterns of the ‘khaki’ election of 1900. The boundary between the upper working classes and the lower middle classes can be difficult to distinguish but at the time of the war in South Africa, four fifths of British society is believed to have been working class.2

 

Wherever the balance of the argument falls, there is no denying that a passion amongst the British people for the heroes, military successes and adventures of empire grew hugely up to the turn of the century. In the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, this enthusiasm reached its peak. And it was in this period that an interest in current affairs spilled over into the naming of children.

 

In my Naming Napoleon blogpost, I look at the popularity of the name Napoleon during the nineteenth century and why this was so. In assessing these, I came across siblings or middle names of the Napoleons which indicated an interest in heroes or military adventure. Napoleon’s British foes, such as Horatio, Nelson, Wellington and Wellesley were all in evidence, as were as the names of mythical heroes such as King Arthur. In the 1899-1902 period, names such as Arthur and Horatio, as well as those of Saxon kings, Alfred and Harold, were common.

 

By 1898, however, Horatio was becoming associated with another Horatio Herbert: the hero of the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan, then Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Although Kitchener preferred to use his middle name, both forenames saw a surge in popularity in the birth registrations3 from this date. From 1900 (as he progressed to Chief of Staff during the Boer War, eventually being appointed Secretary of State for War in 1914), the hero worship of Horatio Herbert continued along with the popularity of his forenames. In 1892, a Horatio Herbert Bryant was registered in Bradford West, with several more following in subsequent years. Even ‘Kitchener’ was used as a forename; first appearing in the GRO birth registrations of December quarter 1898: Kitchener Sladden of West Ashford. There was a marked increase in Kitchener related names in 1902, but no Kitcheners4 were registered between 1905 and September quarter 1914 – the onset of the Great War. The imperial link also seems clear with Horatio Kitchener (Goole, 1898) and Horatio Baden (Hendon, 1900).

 

The connection of Kitchener with the then Colonel Baden Powell continues with Kitchener Baden P R Coleman, who was registered in Ipswich in September 1900 (4a, 973). Baby boys with the names Baden, Baden Powell and Baden Mafeking appear regularly in GRO records between 1899 and 1920, when post war socio-cultural values began to turn against overt references to military imperialism. The GRO birth indexes for England and Wales5 show that between 1837 and the beginning of the Siege of Mafeking in October 1899, only ten children were registered with the first name Baden. In contrast, from the December quarter 1899 and the outbreak of war in 1914 there are hundreds of Badens, several of whom were given the middle names Powell or Mafeking to emphasize homage to the hero of the siege.

 Checking some of these Badens on the 1911 census6 shows many of them were from working class families, with fathers who were miners, labourers and factory workers. There is a sense that by making a lasting public statement of their enthusiasm for Baden Powell, and possibly support for his military and imperial activities, that the parents of these children wanted to show the wider world that they were part of the empire-supporting community.

 

Besides Kitchener and Baden-Powell, other heroes celebrated through babies’ names include Field Marshal Fredrick Sleigh Roberts (1832-1914), commander of the field army in the Boer Wars, who was nicknamed “Bobs”. Kitchener Bobs Thornton in Headington (1902), Bobs Baden P Ellis from St Saviour (Sep 1900) and Bobs Baden Jones of Fulham in the same quarter are all clear examples. The forename “Bobs” appears in the GRO birth registrations from March quarter 1900 through to September 1901, and then reappears in March quarter 1915. This posthumous reappearance may show respect for Roberts’ death7 in France, three months into the Great War, when visiting troops from his birthplace of India.

 

The registration of a Bobs Germiston V Sargeant in Lexden, 1900, highlights an enthusiasm for naming children after imperial places or scenes of military adventure. This phenomenom appears to have been particularly prominent during the Boer War specifically. Previous wars do not seem to have had the same effect: between 1854 and 1901, for example, only five births were registered in the name of the Crimea (Tayler, Ebers, Evans, Boswell and Price) and another five after Balaclava (Tucker, Gibbins, Lofthouse, Smith and Smith).

 

Germiston is a city in the East Rand. Roberts commanded forces to attack there on the 29th August 1900, enabling the capture of Johannesburg two days later. Master Sargeant’s parents may have been influenced in their name choice by the overtly biased reporting of the time, as evinced in Winston Churchill’s The Boer War: London to Ladysmith Via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton’s March (Longmans Green, 1900): 

 

Advancing with great speed and suddenness through Elandsfontein, Lord Roberts surprised the Boers at Germiston, and after a brief skirmish drove them in disorder from the town, which he then occupied. So precipitate was the flight of the enemy, or so rapid the British advance, that nine locomotives and much other rolling stock was captured . . .

Although the macho exploits of Roberts, Kitchener, and Baden-Powell were feted in newspapers and boys’ own literature across the Empire, there was one woman whose name became celebrated in this period. This was the war correspondent, Sarah Wilson8. Lady Sarah Isabella Augusta Wilson (1856-1929), to give her her full title, was the aunt of Winston Churchill (at the time, he was a war correspondent for the Morning Post). ‘Sarah Wilson’ was a common name, even when used as forenames, but in the period from June quarter 1900 to March quarter 1901 there was a marked rise in the number of female children registered thus with the GRO. More evident are the births of “Lady Sarah Wilson” (June 1900: West Bromwich and Hastings) and “Lady Sarah W Hunter” (Sep 1900, Middlesbro). Significantly,

 

Sarah Wilson wrote for The Daily Mail, which was even then known for its sensationalist coverage and large working class readership. Its influence in 1900 is difficult to over-estimate. One history of the paper states: “By the start of the Boer War its circulation had risen above a million, far higher than any newspaper in the world.”9. When Sarah Wilson wrote in gushing terms about the heroic adventures of Baden-Powell, therefore, thousands of working class people would have either read or heard about them. It is probably no exaggeration to suggest that her writing10 influenced the naming of some  of the “Baden”s mentioned above.

 

“Sarah Wilson” aside, parents tended to stretch their imaginations when choosing to name girls after imperial themes. Several opted for place names, like Ladysmith and Pretoria. The reasons behind giving children these names are less obvious than in the case of naming for adventurous heroes. These parents may have wanted to celebrate the relief of sieges or British successes in the War, but in some cases (e.g. “Colenso Peace”) middle names suggest a less enthusiastic attitude to military activity. Some of the parents may have wanted to demonstrate their Britishness or to mark celebrations that they associated with the events of war. In the case of Pretoria, it may just be that they thought it sounded pretty as a name.

 

From census returns and middle names, we know that most Pretorias were female, but there were exceptions: Pretoria Fredrick Adams from Devon, Pretoria Harold Banting from Gloucestershire, and Pretoria Mafeking Robert Randall from Berkshire. The most common combination for girls was Pretoria May – according to FreeBMD there were two hundred and nineteen registered between March quarter 1900 and September quarter 1908. British troops, under the command of Roberts, took Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal, on 5 June 1900, but preparations had begun in the previous month. Other interesting, and obviously imperial combinations were Pretoria Mafeking Blomfom11 Ellis in Lancashire, Pretoria Anna Ladysmith Sexton from Erpingham in Norfolk, Pretoria Victress Spencer from North Yorkshire, and Pretoria Baden Wiseman in Bury St Edmunds.

 

Some of the imperially named children had parents with a military connection. They may have wished to express support for British troops or demonstrate their association with their former regiments. Pretoria May Pritchard, for example, was the daughter of army pensioner, James Thomas Pritchard, and another was the child of a drill instructor. There are examples, too, of parents who had lived in various corners of the empire, such as the family of Pretoria Madge Taylor, whose brother, George A, was born in Dalhousie, India.

 

Other parents seemed keener to give their children grand or distinctive names, not necessarily linked to the Empire: viz Pretoria Maud South (b1900), the daughter of Cartridge Foreman in Kensal Rise and her brother, Lord Algernon South.

 

Before 1900 no child was registered in England and Wales with the name Mafeking. In May 1900-September 1901 forty-nine children (boys and girls) were registered in England and Wales with Mafeking as their first name. There was also a Mafeking Henry J Jones in Edmonton June 1905 and a Mafeking V Diskett in Dorchester June 1921. This Mafeking’s mother’s maiden name was Cawley; her mother may have been the Mafeking Cawley who was born June 1900 in Sherborne, making her naming less imperial and more familial. Middle names for earlier Mafekings, however, included Baden, May, Victor, Herbert, and Roberts.

 

Between March quarter 1900 (when the Britains besieged in Ladysmith were relieved by troops under command of Lord Dundonald12) and Sep 1900, the births of twenty-four Ladysmiths were registered. There was also Ladysmith Winifred R Taylor, June 1902, in Islington, Ladysmith May Lambert, Sep 1903 in Sheffield, and Ladysmith J Lynas in Leyburn, 1931. This last may have been the daughter of Ladysmith Iceton of Darlington, who was born 1 March 1900 and died in Kent in 1972. Of the other Ladysmiths, the only middle name that stands out is that of Ladysmith Shamrock and Thistles Dujon of Peterbro’. As the shamrock and thistle were the national flowers of Ireland and Scotland respectively, this may suggest support for these nations or specific regiments. Miss Dujon appears to be of imaginative parents with a brother named Prince George Alexander Dujon (1910-1988) and a sister named Princess Edna A(E)lvizea Dujon. The name choice may indicate eccentricity, but also an emphatic patriotism from her father who was born outside Britain but within the Empire. John (later Julyan John) Dujon was from the West Indies but settled in Peterborough, where he was working as a labourer in an iron foundry in 1901. By 1911 he was working there as a greengrocer hawker.

 

Not all families were keen to name every one of their children after imperial themes. However, it was amongst the working classes that these unusual naming practices most commonly appear. Plumber’s daughter, Ladysmith Lack, for example, had a younger brother named Buller – named after Victoria Cross hero, Major-General Redvers Buller. The name Redvers was extremely popular between 1900 and 1902, both on its own and in combination with the imperially-associated Bullers, Gordon, Victor, Baden, Stanley, Kitchener, Nelson, Cecil, Roberts, Hector, Macdonald13 and Colenso14.

 

Kimberley is first recorded as a first name in June quarter 1896 with Kimberley George Foster of Totnes. The next set of Kimberleys were boys and girls registered after the relief of its siege, between March 1900 and June 1901. The name re-emerged in June 1915, but only regained popularity in the 1950s.

 

Naming children for empire was more common than the examples here may suggest. Although names in this post are distinctive and show an obvious connection to the Anglo-Boer War and the Empire, many more children were named after imperial heroes with common names. Thus, children born in this period who are named Cecil after Cecil Rhodes can be difficult to distinguish from those named for non-imperial reasons. Where middle names are checked, the link appears stronger. “Cecil Rhodes” appears fairly regularly between 1882 and 1897 when larger numbers appear. 1900 saw thirty-five Cecil Rhodes, whilst the June quarter of 1902 saw the registration of twenty-two. The numbers of boys registered as “Charles Gordon”, for example, saw a marked increase in numbers from February 1884 when General Charles Gordon, Royal Engineer and Christian zealot was sent to the Sudan to ‘rescue’ Egyptian forces from the Mahdi, but soon became besieged in Khartoum. After his death, or popularly perceived martyrdom, in January 1885 to December 1910, hundreds of boys were registered with his name.

 

Peace came to South Africa on 31st May 1902. After this, the obvious naming after imperial heroes faded away. Evidence suggests that this explicit imperial fervour reached its peak during this war. However, some of the overt support for militaristic imperialism was reinvigorated in the Great War and names such as Kitchener made a limited return after 1914. Naming for empire may have been short-lived, but it was significant. Unlike Winston Churchill and other establishment figures mentioned here, most of those who named their children after imperial themes never contributed consciously to history books. Through their children’s names, however, these parents were able to indicate to future generations how they felt about the War, and of the impact it, and its representation in the popular newspapers of the time, had on their lives.

 

1Bernard Porter, The Lion’s Share: a short history of British Imperialism 1850-2004 (Harlow: Pearson, 2004)

 

2 Michael Blanch in Warwick, Peter (ed), The South African War. The Anglo-Boer war 1899-1902 (1980), p210

 

3 Birth registrations in this post are based mainly on the records of the General Register of England and Wales (GRO). The indexes of these records can be accessed via a number of online sites, including www.ancestry.co.uk (Ancestry), www.findmypast.co.uk (FindMyPast), www.FreeBMD.org.uk (FreeBMD) and www.thegenealogist.co.uk (TheGenealogist).

 

4 As a forename

 

5 Accessed via www.freebmd.org.uk

 

6 Accessed via www.findmypast.co.uk

 

7 Field Marshal Lord Roberts died 14 November 1914 of pneumonia in St Omer, France.

 

8Wilson’s South African Memories can be read online at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14466

 

9http://www.dmgt.co.uk/uploads/files/The-Story-of-the-Daily-Mail.pdf

 

10For an example of her support of Baden-Powell, see Wilson’s article: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/9542340

 

11Presumably a reference to Bloemfontein

 

12The Relief of Ladysmith took place on 1 March 1900. Winston Churchill entered Ladysmith at the side of Lord Dundonald.

 

13 Major General Hector “Fighting Mac” Macdonald (1853-1903) – Hector a very popular name: in Scotland in 1900 it was the 25th most registered boy’s name, but from September quarter 1899 there are hundreds of ‘Hector Macdonald’ forenames.

 

14 The Battle of Colenso (in Natal, on the Tugela River) took place on 15 December 1899. It was one of the worst defeats of the war for the British, and thus may seem an unusual choice of name for British parents. Colenso appears in the GRO records in 1894. Up to March quarter 1904 there are four recorded. In 1902 a male child, Colenso Peace E Chipping was recorded in December quarter in Chertsey. His father, James Chipping, was a bricklayer.

 

The National Football Museum

June 6th, 2012

Next month heralds the long-awaited launch of the English National Football Museum in Manchester. Opening on 6th July 2012, the Museum describes itself as a “world-class cultural attraction” in the perfect location, with football already bringing thousands of visitors to the city each year and being “very much part of Manchester’s DNA”.

There will be plenty for current football fans to admire, from the shirt that referee Howard Webb wore in the 2010 World Cup final, to recent photographs in Stuart Roy Clarke’s Homes of Football exhibition. But it is the varied historical collections and extensive archive that give this Museum its significance. Amongst these are the collections of the UEFA Library, the Football Association, the Football League, the Littlewood Pools and the FIFA Collection. The last is apparently the finest single collection of football memorabilia, assembled by the late journalist and football fan, Harry Langton (1929-2000). There are also trophies, medals, caps and other memorabilia from two of the founders of the Football League, Bolton Wanderers and Preston North End.

Perhaps the most interesting items for social and family historians are those of the People’s Collection. Comprised of over 6000 objects and ephemera donated by members of the public, the collection features magazines, trophies, player contracts, programmes, song sheets, cigarette cards, scarves, autograph books and tickets. The Museum welcomes enquiries from family historians and has a dedicated web page for genealogy research: http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/collections/family-history/ I was particularly excited to note that the Museum is digitising some of the FA and Football League records in their collections and look forward to hearing more on this over the next year.

I have a personal interest in football history as my great grandfather’s cousin, Joe Smith (1889-1971), was one of the best professional footballers of his generation. He is second only to the legendary Nat Lofthouse as Bolton’s top goalscorer, and his 38 goals in season 1920/21 remain a club record. I first heard about him as a child when my grandmother claimed that she drank out of the FA Cup after one Joe’s FA Cup wins in the 1920s (Bolton won in both 1923 and 1926). Grandma always swore that this was true, but I’d love to have proof. Perhaps it’s hiding somewhere in the Museum’s archive . . .

emmie-gertrude-billingham-1920s.jpg Grandma in the 1920s

Joe Smith signed for Bolton in 1908 when he was just 18, having begun his career as an amateur at his local team of Newcastle St Lukes. He was capped for England five times. After retiring as a player, he managed Blackpool FC, guiding them to a tight 4-3 win over his old club, Bolton, in the celebrated FA Cup final of 1953. This final is also known as the Matthews Final, in tribute to the outstanding performance of  Stanley Matthews.

Joe Smith  Joe Smith

Today, in this age of astronomical wages and accusations of clubs buying titles, my favourite Joe Smith anecdote centres on his early years. Joe’s father, Joseph (1856-1914) and his sister (my great great grandmother), Sarah, grew up in the industrial Black Country. Joseph went on to work in the hot and dangerous iron industry as a puddler, whilst his wife, Rosina, raised their three sons in a four-roomed house in Newcastle under Lyme. When my sons pester me to buy them aero dynamic balls or the latest kit, I remind them that their ancestor became a footballing legend by practising in the local streets, kicking rag balls made by his mother:

I used to volley balls into the net from a few feet off the floor. I was deadly with them. And do you know how I developed that? When I was a junior, my mother used to make rag balls for my brother [Phillip Smith, also a professional footballer] and I. We couldn’t afford a real ball.
We used to play against a wall, and kick from the street, about twenty yards out. Quite a few people used to watch us every time we went there. My mother could make a decent ‘ball’ with stockings, and fill it up with rags. We’d chuck it out of the hand, and you’d have to volley it before it dropped to the floor. We didn’t dribble with it. It was just for chucking out, just for shooting. That’s how I developed my goal-scoring.

  (as told the Blackpool FC’s chronicler, Robin Daniels).

With thanks to my (and Joe Smith’s) cousins, Adrian Sherlock and Lynn Smith.

The official website of the National Football Museum is http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com and you can take part in the countdown to the opening at http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/join-in/the-countdown/

Other useful websites for researching football ancestors are:

Scottish Football Museum http://www.scottishfootballmuseum.org.uk/

Homes of Football: http://www.homesoffootball.co.uk/

Scottish National Team Archive http://www.scottishfa.co.uk/scotland_fixture_archive.cfm?page=823

Scottish Football Historical Archive http://scottish-football-historical-archive.com/

Post War English & Scottish Footballers Careers http://www.neilbrown.newcastlefans.com/

Find historical football reports at at http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/   

Sources

Robin Day, Blackpool Football, The Official Club History (1972)

Brian Belton, The Lads of 23- 1923 FA Cup Final, (2006)
Stanley Mortensen, Football is my Game (1949)
Stanley Matthews, The Way It Was (2000)

Ann Langton (ed.), Saved: A Rare Anthology of Football from Homer to Gazza (2006)

 

Streets of Dickens

March 2nd, 2012

For fans of Charles Dickens and those who would like to know more about him, this  bicentenary exhibition is not to be missed. Streets of Dickens: Holborn, Hampstead, St Pancras is the latest celebration of the author to open in London, and can be seen at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, on the second floor of Holborn Library. The Archives are situated conveniently around the corner from the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street (due to close from 10 April-December 2012).

As described in my article for London Historians, ‘Charles Dickens in Camden’, the novelist had many associations with the area. Further links have been discovered by historian Ruth Richardson and are explored in her new book, Dickens and the Workhouse (OUP, 2012).

 

The exhibition is one of the largest I’ve attended at the Archives, and is well illustrated with copies of photographs, prints and drawings in the collections. Amongst the original items featured are letters by the novelist from the 1830s and 1855, an 1857 Tavistock House Theatre poster, a 1924 drawing of Mr. Pickwick by Joseph Clayton Clerk, and a Burial Register of Highgate Cemetery showing the April 1851 entry of Dickens’ baby daughter, Dora Annie.

 

All Dickens’ local residencies are covered, such as the now-demolished 16 Bayham Street with its views ‘over the dust-heaps and dock-leaves and fields . . . at the cupola of St. Paul’s’ (John Forster). For those unfamiliar with dust-heaps, the exhibition helpfully provides a print of those in Somers Town 1836 and displays Dickens’ description of them in Our Mutual Friend.

 

Streets of Dickens is open now until 21 December 2012. Camden LS & Archives, Holborn library, 32-38 Theobalds Road, London is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10-7; Saturday 10-5. Free entry.

Lessons in Nursing Care from the Early Years of the NHS

February 20th, 2012

 

The first series of Call The Midwife ended last night on BBC 1. The show was a huge ratings success, with its final episode being watched by 9 million viewers. Much of its appeal lies in the fairly accurate recreation of 1950s Poplar and of its realistic scenes of childbirth.

Today, with UK healthcare under threat from the NHS bill, this portrayal of the Service’s successful early years may hold some clues as to how it could more simply be reformed. There have already been calls for the NHS to go ‘back to basics’, with the return of matrons and a focus on patients’ essential needs. Could a return to 1950s methods of nursing care, whilst retaining 21st century scientific and technological advancements, be the answer?

Decades before the NHS was created the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, regarded open windows as the hallmark of a healthy hospital ward. Open windows were much in evidence on Call The Midwife, both in the hospital wards and in houses of the East End.

This basic policy is supported by an article in today’s Independent, which reports on a microbiologist who believes air conditioning and an ultra-sterile environment are harming patients by contributing to infections. Jack Gilbert of Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago and head of the Earth Microbiome Project, explained the science behind his theory:

Open windows let bacteria in from outside and you will either dilute out the pathogens, or you are not allowing the pathogens to establish themselves because there is too much competition for the nutrients and energy that the bacteria need to survive. . . There’s a good bacterial community living in hospitals and if you try to wipe out that good bacterial community with sterilisation agents and excessive antibiotic use, you actually lay waste to this green field of protective layer and these bad bacteria can just jump in and start causing hospital-borne infections.”

Contemporary scientists are not alone in their praise of basic practice, as seen on Call The Midwife. My godmother, a retired chief midwife, was impressed by the authenticity of the breech birth scene in episode two. Mothers on the babycentre.co.uk webchat, agree. They believe that the 1950s method of covering the baby’s head with a towel, in order to keep it warm and prevent it taking a breath in the birth canal, was preferable to their experiences, which had resulted in lung pumps and incubators.

Having been through childbirth twice, I agree that the birth scenes in this programme are the most realistic I’ve seen on any television drama. Happily, like mine, most of the births shown in the series ended successfully. However, one of the most tragic scenes was that in episode 4 where middle-aged headmaster David loses his beloved wife Margaret after she suffers eclampsia. Eclampsia and pre-eclampsia remain dangerous conditions. As now, good ante-natal care is key to identifying present and prospective complications. Sadly, Margaret was shown to have left her ante-natal appointment before being seen by the midwives.

In the early 1970s, my mother saved the life of a farmer’s wife from a remote area who was admitted with pre-eclampsia:

“We had to take her into a single room with the blinds down and keep her sedated. Suddenly she began fitting and her heart stopped. With no second to spare, I had to give heart massage until we felt a pulse. After this, she was given an emergency caesarean section, and both she and her premature baby survived.”

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My mother, who began her training in 1963, warmly remembers the camaraderie of the early years:

“There was much more of a family feel than there is in today’s nursing. There were many people aged 18, mostly young women, with very very few men in general nursing. We were all enthusiastic, really loved the patients and all the young ones felt we were in it together.”

Like the midwives who lived together at Nonnatus House, my mother and her colleagues lived in a nurses’ home where hierarchy was much in evidence:

“We were awe of the sisters, and the matron could sometimes be quite terrifying! We were issued with so many dresses, so many hats and so many aprons. There were the hospital laundries which did all the laundry and starched your hats. This helped keep infections down. The matron and sisters were very strict about hair being kept back, and absolutely no wearing of jewellery.”

Community and personal relationships are seen as central to nursing care in the television series, and were very much key values for nurses of my mother’s generation:

Everything was about caring for people, the care of the person. Especially as young nurses, we got to know the patients and their families. Great emphasis was put on nutrition – also the going out. The fluids in and the fluids out, as it were. Anyone who wasn’t up and about, we had their charts and went around making egg and milk drinks, making sure they were all well-nourished.

I trained in a big hospital where we rarely saw the matron, but the assistant matrons did daily rounds. We had to make sure that we knew everything about our patients. The senior staff would walk round and ask any question at all. We had to be particularly alert with one, who asked the blood results of each patient, which we had to know without looking. Also, we looked after the whole ward so we knew every patient there.”

This later changed, with nurses only being assigned a small number of patients on each ward.

Some viewers have expressed relief that they do not have to give birth, drug-free, in a bug-infested slum in the bomb-shattered East End of post-war London. But many more are attracted to the positive experiences shown on Call The Midwife: the strong community, inexhaustible humour, and, above all, the patient-centred nursing care. On a day when so many are criticizing and heckling the Prime Minister and the Health Minister for their planned reforms, it seems appropriate to remember the value of high quality nursing in those early years of our National Health Service.

The Guardian’s obituary of Jennifer Worth (Jenny Lee), who died shortly before the series was filmed, can be read at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/06/jennifer-worth-obituary

For more on the local history aspect of Call The Midwife, see the The Sugar Girls’ blog: http://www.thesugargirls.com/call-the-midwife/ 

 

 

Family History For Kids: New iPhone App

January 9th, 2012

As a genealogist and mother, I am keen to encourage my two boys, aged 6 and 8, to explore their ancestry in whatever way they can. So far, we have made family visits to exhibitions, living museums, and the former homes of ancestors. We watch history programmes on television, and period films. The 6 year old made a picture family tree chart by chopping up copies (I emphasize COPIES) of old photographs. And the 8 year old consulted census returns for a ‘family homes’ school project. But what they really, really like is playing with gadgets.

Imagine their excitement when they were let loose on my usually prohibited iPhone to test a new app, Records Their Stories. This app is designed to aid family historians interview and record their relatives’ memories, using a list of over 100 suggested questions covering a range of topics.

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I gave the boys full control of the process. The 8 year old downloaded the app from iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/record-their-stories/id483574271?mt=8 He worked out how to select the questions he wanted to ask, and how to flip back to them during recording (press the question mark on the microphone). We found keeping all the questions on the phone easier and tidier than having loose papers everywhere. Once everything was downloaded and they had worked out what to press, the children found the app very easy to use. They could enter their own questions via ‘edit Questions’ but they were both happy with the range offered. Their grandfather also enjoyed the process, with the iPhone adding distraction and levity to the interview.

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Although the app contains its own editing device to cut out all the pauses, coughs and interruptions that are inevitable when children interview their grandparents, we opted for the professional editing service from the Record Their Stories team. The finished edit included a polished mix of the interview, and numerous additions, such as the soundtrack to their grandfather’s favourite film – Singin’ In The Rain – and a bicycle bell and crashing noise to highlight his most embarrassing moment. Our edited version was just over 2 minutes long, but we’d recorded for at least quarter of an hour. In order to make the most of the professional edit you will need to record for as long as you can with as many relatives as possible.

When my grandmother was still alive, I tried recording an interview with her using a cheap cassette with sellotape over the holes. We gave up after a while, as she tired easily and became confused. Thinking back, I know I would have recorded more with her if I didn’t have to lug around a radio-cassette player. If I’d owned an iPhone then, I would definitely have used Record Their Stories to interview Grandma whenever I could. Even though I lived with her for 15 years, I’m beginning to forget the way she spoke and her many expressions that I never hear anyone use now – ‘Dolly Daydream’, ‘a five and twenty to six’ . . . My children have already backed up their interview with their grandfather, and plan to record interviews with other older relatives whenever they see them.

After listening to the edited interview, I asked the 8 year old how he had found the process and what he thought of the App. He replied simply: ‘Awesome!’

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The Record Their Stories iPhone app is available to download now. Professionally produced bespoke CDs from the RTS team start at £90 per recording.

Website: www.recordtheirstories.com 

Demo Video: http://vimeo.com/32479136 

Fresh Air Production is a team of award winning radio and audio producers, with clients including The BBC, UKTV, BMW and Channel 4.


A British Christmas in India 1780

December 24th, 2011

Eliza Fay (1756-1816) is one of the best-known female chroniclers of European life in India during the late eighteenth 
century. Although she was no Jane Austen, Eliza's writing was fresh and perceptive. What her letters lack in finesse, 
they make up in directness and humour. And, whilst she was not sophisticated, Eliza was adventurous and keen to learn
 about India, its cultures and people. Her enthusiasm is conveyed through the letters she wrote after her arrival  in India 
with her lawyer husband in May 1780. 


More than a century later, it was this freshness and eye for detail that inspired EM Forster to arrange for the British 
publication of Eliza Fay's letters in 1925.



After their arrival in India, Eliza and her husband settled in Calcutta. It was there that she was living at the Christmas of 
that year. Eliza detailed her first Christmas in India in a letter to her sister on 27th January 1781 (Letter XVIII):
 
My Dear Sister,— Since my last we have been engaged
in a perpetual round of gaiety. Keeping Christmas, as it is
 called, though sinking into disuse at home, prevails here with
all its ancient festivity. The external appearance of the
 English gentlemen's houses on Christmas Day is really
pleasing from its novelty. Large plantain trees are placed
 on each side of the principal entrances, and the gates and
pillars, being ornamented with wreaths of flowers fancifully
 disposed, enliven the scene.
 
All the servants, from the Banian down to the lowest menial,
bring presents of fish and fruit ; for these, it is true, we are
obliged in many instances to make a return perhaps beyond
the real value, but still it is regarded as a compliment to our
burrah din. A public dinner is given at Government House
to the gentlemen of the Presidency, and the evening concludes
with an elegant ball and supper for the ladies. These are
repeated on New Year's Day and on the King's birthday. I
should say have been, for that grand festival happening at the
hottest season, and every one being obliged to appear full
dressed, so much inconvenience resulted from the immense
crowd, even in some cases severe fits of illness being the
consequence, that it has been determined to change the day
 of celebration to the 8th of December which arrangement
 gives general satisfaction. I shall not attempt to describe
 these splendid entertainments further than by saying that they
were in the highest style of magnificence. In fact such grand
parties so much resemble each other that a particular detail
would be unnecessary and even tiresome.
 
Eliza then goes on to describe a social event of 'some time ago' giving further insight into the social mores of the Georgian 
British abroad:
 
Mrs. Hastings was of the party. She came in late, and
happened to place herself on the opposite side of the room,
beyond a speaking distance: so strange to tell, I quite forgot
she was there ! After some time had elapsed, my observant
friend, Mrs. Jackson, who had been impatiently watching
' my looks, asked if I had paid my respects to the Lady
Governess? I answered in the negative, having had no
opportunity, as she had no chance to look towards me when
 I was prepared to do so. '' Oh !" replied the kind old lady,
" you must fix your eyes on her, and never take them off till
she notices you. Miss C— dy has done this and so have I.
It is absolutely necessary to avoid giving offence." I followed
her prudent advice, and was soon honoured with a complacent
glance, which I returned, as became me, by a most respectful
bend. Not long after, she walked over to our side, and
conversed very affably with me, for we are now, through
Mrs. Jackson's interference, on good terms together.
She also introduced me to Lady Coote and her inseparable
friend, Miss Molly Barrett. It was agreed between them
when they were both girls, whichever married first, the other
was to live with her : and accordingly when Sir Eyre took his
lady from St. Helena, of which place her father was
Governor, Miss Molly, who is a native of the island, accom-
panied them to England and from thence to India, where
she has remained ever since. Thus giving a proof of steady
attachment not often equalled and never perhaps excelled.
 
A few months after this was written Eliza Fay and her husband separated. The split left her struggling to maintain her 
social status. She tried her hand at a number of dubious business investments, several of which required her to continue
her travels. She was later to record journeys to England, New York and India. 

Sadly, after several bouts of bankruptcy, Eliza died insolvent on 9 September 1816 in Calcutta, where was buried 
the following day (British Library ref. IOR:N/1/9-10).

 


				

Dickens and London

December 8th, 2011

… the great heart of London throbs in its Giant breast. Wealth and beggary,

vice and virtue, guilt and innocence, repletion and the direst hunger, all treading

on each other and crowding together, are gathered round it. Draw but a little

circle above the clustering house-tops, and you shall have within its space,

everything with its opposite extreme and contradiction, close beside.

Master Humphrey’s Clock, 1841

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Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, but lived much of his life in London. Although he died in Kent, his remains lie in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey where he was buried on 14 June 1870. The city fed his imagination and Dickens spent decades reproducing London’s streets, sights, smells, sounds and people in his many written works.

As part of the 2012 bicentennial celebrations mentioned in the previous blog, the Museum of London has created a stunning exhibition celebrating Dickens’ links with the capital. Exhibits are drawn not just from the Museum’s own extensive collections, but from museums and archives across Britain. There are also particularly notable items, such as Dickens’ writing desk, from private collections.

              Copyright Museum of London

From 1822, when the Dickens family settled in Camden, to 1860 when the author took permanent residence at his Kent home of Gad’s Hill Place, London was his home. He explored it by day and, often, by night. As he walked mile after mile he planned stories in his head. Visitors to the Museum can hear a reading of Night Works, Dickens’ description of London after dark, whilst watching William Raban’s 19 minute specially-commissioned film, The Houseless Shadow, made in October 2011.

Throughout those four decades, Dickens’ life changed dramatically. He went from schoolboy and then impoverished son of a prison inmate to the greatest celebrity of his time. His peers changed from workhouse orphans working alongside him at the blacking factory by Hungerford Stairs to famous authors, millionaires and aristocrats from across Europe and the United States.

Hungerford Stairs 1830 by John Harley. Copyright Museum of London

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It is thus remarkable that the Dickens and London exhibition captures so much of his own varied life along with the lives of his characters. We see blacking pots, for example, like those Dickens’ worked with in his childhood employment, sitting not far from the author’s bank ledger – a reminder of his later riches. There are displays on the theatre, which Dickens adored, including a footlight from Wilton’s Music Hall. Also featured are themes of childhood, death, transport, wealth and poverty.

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Copyright Museum of London

The full geographical area of the capital is covered: there is ‘A copy of Verses from the Year 1835, humbly presented to all the worthy inhabitants of the Parish of St Pancras’ in the north to household items excavated in 1996 from Jacob’s Island in Rotherhithe in the south east. St Pancras parish included Camden where Dickens lived and which inspired scenes from David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities. Jacob’s Island is probably most associated with scenes from Oliver Twist, particularly that of the dramatic death of villainous Bill Sykes.

Unlike in the British Library exhibition, the displays here are concerned with Dickens’ world – what many refer to as ‘Dickensian London’ – rather than a detailed focus on what he wrote. However, this does not detract from its success. And those who are interested in how Dickens wrote will delight in the presence of three original manuscripts: Dombey & Son (1847) and Bleak House (Nov 1851) from the Victoria & Albert Museum,

Bleak House manuscript. Copyright V&A Images 62-dickenss-manuscript-for-bleak-house-c-va-images-and-victoria-and-albert-museum.jpg

and Great Expectations (1861) lent by the Wisbech and Fenland Museum. Visitors can also experience Dickens’ work like its first readers by flicking through a replica copy of an instalment of Little Dorrit (Copyright V&A Images).

 

 

 

 

 

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I once researched a family who lived around the corner from Charles Dickens in Holborn. One of my first thoughts was did he ever know them or see them? Did they inspire any of the characters in his novels or short stories? Although it is almost impossible to find out, this reminded me that many of those who inspired Dickens are the ancestors of people living today. That specific family would have recognized a watchman’s box in the centre of the exhibition, that stood outside Dickens’ old home at Furnival’s Inn – the home that neighboured theirs.

For family historians who have at least one ancestor who lived in London between 1820 and 1870, therefore, Dickens’ writing is a unparalleled source of relevant social and domestic detail. This exhibition provides an extension of that. The exhibits bring Dickensian London alive.

Overall, for anyone with even a passing interest in either Dickens or the social history of Victorian London, this exhibition is not to be missed.

Useful Links 

www.Dickens2012.org

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/dickens

http://www.dickensmuseum.com/

http://charlesdickenspage.com/dickens_london.html

http://charlesdickenspage.com/ruth_richardson-cleveland_street_workhouse.html

http://www.bfi.org.uk/whatson/bfi_southbank/film_programme/january_seasons/dickens_on_screen

http://twitter.com/Dickensbookclub

Dickens and London tickets

Adult £8 (£7 advance booking);Child/concession £6 (£5 advance booking);Under 5s FREE; Friends of the Museum FREE; Flexible family tickets are also available