When you think you know something, look again

Category: Ancestors Corner

My Great-great-aunt Lil on the left
My Great-great-Aunt Lil on the left and my Great-Grandmother, Sarah Geake, on the right

Today's genealogical tip is to keep revising your information and checking sources.

My 2 x great-grandparents, John and Mary Ann Hellyer, lived in the Devonport area of Plymouth for much of their married life and had, what I believed to be, ten children. Twins, Lily Elizabeth and May Amelia, were born on 13th August 1880 and, for a long time, I had thought the lady my mum referred to as her Great-aunt Lil was one of these twins. Not so!

Whilst undertaking a little more research into the life of my Aunt Lil I discovered a marriage in 1930 in the Willesden District of Middlesex. Her husband was recorded as Frederick W Thompson which I knew was the correct name so this had to be my Aunt Lil but her middle initial appeared as 'S' and not 'E'.

Poking around in the 1939 Register, I found the couple living at 16 Trelawny Road, Tavistock, an address I was familiar with. There was no middle name recorded but Lily's date of birth was noted as 19th November 1881. It was now obvious that she wasn't one of the twins.

Further investigation led to the discovery of the burial of baby Lily Elizabeth in Tavistock on 12th June 1881. I already knew they lost May Amelia in March 1882. Throughout this time it seems the family were living in Bannawell Street, Tavistock, quite possibly with John's parents who lived in this street throughout the second half of the 19th century. They subsequently returned to Devonport but this sojourn in Tavistock had originally thrown me.

Finally, I found a baptism for Lily Sarah Hellyer on 23rd December 1881. The family were living in Bannawell Street, her parents were John and Mary Ann Hellyer and her father was a stoker in the Royal Navy. At last I had found my Great-great-aunt Lil.

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Were my Whorwood family well connected?

Category: Ancestors Corner

Wordle

My 7 x great-grandmother, Susanna, was the daughter of Edward Whorwood. She was born in Oldswinford in about 1652 which was during the time of the Commonwealth, before Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector. Researching this time period can be problematic as there are many missing entries in Parish Registers. This phenomenon has become known as the 'Commonwealth Gap' and the difficulty can often extend from the beginning of the English Civil Wars in 1642 through to the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. For this reason, I've been unsuccessful in discovering the name of Susanna's mother as I've not yet found a marriage entry for her parents. Nevertheless, the baptism records seem fairly complete and so I've managed to ascertain that Susanna was the third child in a family of seven.

Susanna York, nee Whorwood, was living with her grand-daughter, Anne Blagg, when she wrote her will in Jan 1728. Susanna died in September that same year and it was her request that she be buried near her husband, Edward York, in the Churchyard at Oldswinford. An inventory taken of Susanna's possessions mentions a brewhouse within her dwelling - the ale and beer were stored in the cellar. Her worldly goods were virtually the same as those listed in her husband's inventory taken seven years earlier.

The Whorwoods were an old Staffordshire family and I've seen references to them going back to the 1400's. They were well connected and influential, owning manors, marrying into the House of Grey, having links to the Dudleys, becoming Members of Parliament, High Sheriffs and Knights of the Realm. The Whorwood name appears in Staffordshire Parish Registers as far back as 1517 when we find a baptism of an Anne Whorwood, daughter of William, in Tipton. However, proving Edward Whorwood's (Susanna's father's) parentage is decidedly difficult.

There were Whorwoods in Kinver, not far from Oldswinford, in the early 17th century but I have an inkling that a baptism in Bobbington, Staffordshire, in 1625 could possibly belong to 'my' Edward. This was the same year Charles I came to the throne. The father of this Edward was a Gerrard Whorwood. One of Edward's sons, born in about 1654, carried this same name. However, this is not enough to go on to be sure I am on the right track.

There may be another clue but, again, this is by no means conclusive. Edward's first daughter, Ann, was baptized in January 1648. A second daughter, also an Anne, was baptized in 1650. It was the custom for a child to bear the name of an elder sibling if their namesake had died but I couldn't find a burial for the first child in Oldswinford. Nevertheless, I did find a burial of an Anne Whorwood in June 1648 in Bobbington, although there is no age listed. Could this be Edward's eldest daughter? Did the family take her back to Edward's original home for burial? We simply cannot be certain.

Finally, if Gerrard Whorwood was indeed Edward's father then it looks as though Edward had a sister named Susan or Susanna. She was baptized in Bobbington in 1630 and married John Knocker there in 1667. Might Edward's daughter, Susanna, have been named after her aunt? The evidence is circumstantial and these conclusions remain purely speculative at this stage.

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18th Century Barbers with a Gruesome Sideline

Category: Ancestors Corner

Barbers PoleCatching up once more with my York family from Oldswinford, Worcestershire, the parents of my 5 x great-grandfather, George York, were yet another George York and his wife, Hannah nee Littleford.

6 x Great-Grandpa George had an unusual occupation. In 1711, he took on an apprentice called Francis Tole so he could learn from George how to become a barber-surgeon and periwig maker. You may be familiar with the red and white poles which would regularly appear outside barber shops. This used to represent the blood and bandages used to clean up bloodletting which was one of the main tasks of the barber-surgeon together with early dentistry (teeth extraction), performing enemas and surgery, selling medicines and not to forget, shaving and cutting hair.

The profession developed in medieval times but eventually surgery became a separate profession and barbers were increasingly forbidden to carry out surgical procedures except for teeth extraction and bloodletting, as if that wasn't bad enough! The two professions were finally separated by George II in 1745 when the London College of Surgeons was established.

George York's father, Edward York, was a tailor by trade, as was another of Edward's sons, Henry York. Henry was the grandfather of Thomas Crane who you might recall from an earlier post was the cousin named as an executor in 5 x Great-Grandpa George York's will.

Another son, John, was described as a victualler living in Amblecote, Staffordshire and later he was an innholder in Stourton, Kinver, in the same county. John was mentioned in his mother, Susanna's will, together with a number of other siblings but he died shortly after his mother's death and before probate was granted.

Besides Edward and Susanna's seven children which I have listed on my tree, there are a number of baptisms for other children who may also have been their offspring. However, there remains some ambiguity about these and so I have chosen not to include them.

Susanna's maiden name was Whorwood and my next post will shed further light on her ancestry.

Did any of your ancestors have an unusual occupation? Please share your stories in the comments section of my blog or on Facebook.

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And I thought the Cornish were Celts!

Category: DNA

I've been tracing Harvey's deep patrilineal ancestral roots (father's father's father's line etc.) through the use of Y-DNA.

Join me as I journey from 'Adam' in Africa through to the 20th century Barnes family living in Newlyn, Cornwall. You'll meet 10,500 year old cattle herders from Mesopotamia, Bronze Age Scandinavians and Iron Age Germanic tribes. Oh, and not a Celt in sight!

Newlyn properties owned by the Barnes family during the 20th century
Newlyn properties owned by the Barnes family during the 20th century

For those who are interested, Harvey's larger haplogroup is U106 and his subclade is R-S18890*.

Read the full story by clicking HERE.

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On This Day in 1992

Category: On This Day...

My Granny Hibbitt with my Dad
My Granny Hibbitt with my Dad

It's hard to believe it's 25 years to the day since I lost my Granny Hibbitt. So long as I live and breathe she won't be forgotten.

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GEDmatch Starter Guide

Category: DNA

I've reorganised the DNA section of my website and now I have an index page available here.

GEDmatch - Tools for DNA and Genealogy Research

There are a few links near the bottom of the page, one of which is a tutorial to help you get started with GEDmatch. This can be found here.

GEDmatch is a free service where you can upload your raw DNA data file with the potential of matching with more cousins than just the ones you see at your testing company. The site also provides some useful analysis tools, not necessarily available at your testing company, and other utilities such as Admixture (ethnicity) tools.

I highly recommend GEDmatch for anyone who wants to make more of their DNA results.

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George York's will breaks down my genealogical brick wall

Category: Ancestors Corner

Will belonging to George York of Kidderminster
Will belonging to George York of Kidderminster

Today's genealogy tip: when you come up against a brick wall sometimes collaboration can be key. It's wise to carry out your own research as much as you can beforehand as it's not fair to expect others to do all the spadework for you. Two heads are often better than one and it may be that you can help other family historians with their research making it a mutually beneficial exercise.

You may recall in a previous post that I was trying to obtain a second will in the name of George York from Kidderminster. Having acquired the first will which didn't belong to my family (he may be an, as yet, unknown distant cousin) I did manage to get hold of the second one via the Worcestershire Archives Digitisation Service. This time I hit the jackpot - the will belonged to my 5 x great-grandfather, George York, who died in 1767.

George's will was straightforward, leaving his four properties in Franche, Kidderminster, to his wife, Hannah (nee Dixon). After her death or remarriage, the various houses were to be divided between George's four children, together with the residue of his estate.

I was able to confirm my suspicion that George, who was a yeoman, had previously been married to Ann Youngjohns. Ann died a couple of years after their nuptials but they had a son called Henry who was mentioned in the will.

A crucial piece of the puzzle in trying to trace further back in time was that George named his cousin, Thomas Crane of Habberley, as one of his executors. Low Habberley, where Thomas lived, is not far from Fanche but there were quite a number of Crane families in the area so it wasn't easy trying to work out who was who. I was fortunate to find a tree on Ancestry constructed by a descendant of Thomas Crane and the tree owner was very helpful in supplying me with the information I needed to confirm how George and Thomas were related.

George was born in 1727 in Old Swinford (called Oldswinford nowadays) which is in Stourbridge. There were quite a number of York families in and around Stourbridge so it was vital to eliminate them one by one, finishing up with Thomas Crane being George's 1st cousin once removed; George's father and Thomas' grandfather were brothers.

One small mystery remains. George mentioned in his will 'my Son in law Job Mitchel' to whom he gave 'two of the largest pewter Dishes that were his Mothers before her intermarriage with me'. I have been unable to figure out how Job fits into the family but it might be that son-in-law meant something different in the 18th century than it does today.

Finding George's will opened doors to several more generations. More on them soon!

If you've managed to break down any genealogical brick walls please share your experiences in the comments section of my blog or on Facebook.

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On This Day in 1916 - A Narrow Escape

Category: On This Day...

Early aviation during the First World War was a hairy business. Harvey's grandad, Cyril Ellen, was involved in two recorded incidents whilst serving with the R.N.A.S. (Royal Naval Air Service) onboard HMS Riviera. Riviera saw service with the Dover Patrol where her aircraft flew spotting missions for naval bombardments off the Belgian coast. Both times Cyril was in a Short Admiralty 184 Type Tractor Biplane Seaplane, often called the Short 225, which was a British two-seat reconnaissance, bombing and torpedo carrying folding-wing seaplane. A Short 184 was the first aircraft to sink a ship using a torpedo.

The first incident was perhaps indicative of the difficulties which often occurred when hoisting seaplanes out of the water. Recorded in a book entitled 'Royal Navy Aircraft Serials and Units, 1911-1919' by Ray Sturtivant and Gordon Page as follows...

8384: Damaged while coming alongside after patrol 31.5.16 (F/L GW Price & CPO Mech3 Ellen).

The repair must have been relatively straightforward as the seaplane was flying again on 3rd June.

Possibly a photograph of the damaged seaplane reported in the incident of 31st May 1916
Possibly a photograph of the damaged seaplane reported in the incident of 31st May 1916

The second incident took place on 18th June 1916 and was potentially more serious...

8357: Engine cut, FL in German minefield 8m N of Ostende, put fire out, attacked by 3 enemy seaplanes which were driven off by Lewis gun fire, towed home by ML105 18.6.16 (F/L GW Price & CPO Mech3 Ellen).

ML105, the vessel which gave the crew a tow, was a Motor Launch of the Fairmile A class.

The action was cited by HMS Riviera's Commanding Officer in a letter written to the Vice Admiral, Dover Patrols, dated 29th July 1916 when he stated that Cyril had "assisted to beat off attacks of enemy seaplanes" and the event also received attention in a newspaper at the time...

Cyril Ellen kept this newspaper cutting of the incident on 18th June 1916
Cyril Ellen kept this newspaper cutting of the incident on 18th June 1916

June 18 - A seaplane was forced to descend, owing to the engine catching fire, into the middle of an enemy mine-field. A hostile aeroplane and two seaplanes attacked it with machine guns, but the enemy was driven off by our fire. Our seaplane was uninjured, and drifted on the tide towards Nieuport, where the crew were safely rescued.

Cyril's ordeal lasted for several hours. Riviera's ship's log recorded how the seaplane was airborne at 3.32pm and did not arrive alongside until 10.15pm. Both pilot and observer must have been exhausted.

Were your ancestors in any close scrapes? Please share your stories.

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My Who Do You Think You Are? Timeline

Category: Sharing Memories

I've created a timeline of my ancestry showing my great-grandparents and grandparents. Come and see. (Click the image below.)

My Who Do You Think You Are? Timeline
My Who Do You Think You Are? Timeline

And click the tree below to view the people mentioned in my timeline.


Click the image for a larger version.

On This Day - Remembering the Quetta Earthquake of 1935

Category: On This Day...

Today, 31st May, sees the 82nd anniversary of the earthquake at Quetta, Balochistan, British India, which is now part of Pakistan. Harvey's grandparents and mother, who was a child at the time, were caught up in the disaster which killed between 30,000 and 60,000 people.

Quetta Earthquake 1935 - Buildings were reduced to rubble
Quetta Earthquake 1935 - Buildings were reduced to rubble

Harvey's grandad, Cyril Ellen, was the squadron leader of No 5 (AC) Squadron which was based at Quetta and his grandmother, Gladys Ellen (nee Gardner), was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Silver Medal for the part she played in the rescue effort.

The earthquake struck in the early hours and the RAF suffered heavy losses in the airmen's barracks. Conditions were horrendous during the days and weeks which followed.

It appears that Cyril remained in Quetta until he took a flight to Karachi on 20th June. The family sailed from India on 20th July, arriving back in England on 9th August.

We have no precise details of Gladys' contribution in the aftermath of the quake but the Muswell Hill Record & Friern Barnet Journal paid tribute to the bravery she displayed in the rescue work.

The Kaisar-i-Hind Silver medal awarded to Gladys Ellen
The Kaisar-i-Hind Silver medal awarded to Gladys Ellen

Handy links:

A web page detailing Cyril and Gladys' story including photographs and copies of documents. I've also transcribed an excerpt from the RAF Operations Record Book giving an account of the earthquake.

Photographs taken by Cyril after the earthquake.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]
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