Their Finest Hour

Category: General

Last November, Harvey and I attended an event at Plymouth University in order to contribute to a new online archive called 'Their Finest Hour'. The University of Oxford project was devised in order to preserve stories and take photographs and videos of items which may have been passed down to ordinary members of the public by their families and which are related to the Second World War.

The website was launched on 6th June. Unfortunately, I had to contact the archive to correct the information we had supplied as the volunteers we saw on the day had misunderstood what we told them and some of the details were either incorrect or lacked context. I'm pleased to say that the revised information is now live on the website.

Our stories can be viewed at the following links:

21st Devon (Post Office) Battalion, Home Guard - Charles George Hibbitt
A brief outline of my paternal grandfather's time in the Home Guard.

A Ruined Homecoming - William Hellyer Geake and, wife, Phyllis
The story of my maternal grandfather's homecoming after being away for four years in the War.

RAF Technical Training during WW2 - Air Commodore Cyril Norman Ellen D.F.C.
Details of Harvey's maternal grandfather's contribution to the RAF's Technical Training Branch in which he was in charge of three schools related to Electrical & Wireless, Radio and Signals.

Their Finest Hour event held at Plymouth University on 23rd November 2023
Their Finest Hour event held at Plymouth University on 23rd November 2023


Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

It's official - Grandpa was in the Dad's Army

Category: Ancestors Corner

I'd long been intrigued by what looked like a certificate which had been issued by the Home Guard amongst the papers belonging to my Grandpa Hibbitt (Charles George Hibbitt). However I'd never had any success in finding anything out about any potential service in this local defence force during WWII. That was until recently.

The Home Guard Certificate which belonged to Charles George Hibbitt
The Home Guard Certificate which belonged to Charles George Hibbitt

A huge project of ten million service personnel records are gradually being transferred from the Ministry Of Defence to The National Archives. It used to cost £30 to apply to the MOD for a deceased person's record but now you can perform a request at https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-records-of-service/apply-for-the-records-of-a-deceased-serviceperson. If you apply online for a British Army or Home Guard record, the MOD will check if they hold it and, if they do, they'll send it to you free of charge. If they don't have it, you'll be told to check The National Archives.

At the end of July, I sent for my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard record as well as my Grandpa Geake's Army record. I was fortunate in that both were still with the MOD and even more fortunate that they both turned up within a couple of months. Initially I was told that nothing could be found for the Home Guard record so I sent back a copy of the certificate that we have in our possession and a couple of weeks later the record came in the post.

My Grandpa Geake's Army record is quite comprehensive with a lot of abbreviations and will take me some time to fully explore.

By contrast, my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard record consisted of two sides of one piece of paper with scant information on it. This isn't unusual but at least now I had official confirmation that Gramps had served in the force. I also discovered that he was with the 21st Devon (Post Office) Battalion, H.G. This made perfect sense as he was a General Post Office Telephone Engineer. His occupation on the form was noted as SWI POE Dept which stood for Skilled Workman Class I, Post Office Engineers Department.

The top of my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard Service Record
The top of my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard Service Record
(Click the image above to see a larger version.)

A search on the internet proved almost fruitless. The only information I could find was that the 21st (33rd GPO) Battalion, Devon Home Guard had their headquarters in Plymouth and was made up of employees of the General Post Office. They wore khaki uniform and were tasked with protecting the communications equipment of the GPO.

My Grandpa lived in Tavistock, about 15 miles north of Plymouth, and was working there at the time too. Nevertheless my dad remembers Grandpa would drive down to Plymouth three or four times a week to carry out emergency work. Apparently the office was full of maps. The bombs would drop in the streets and the circuits would need to be rerouted by the jointers. A few plugs would be put into the telephone exchange and they could then change over to another route. It wasn't unheard of for the rerouted circuit to be knocked out at a later date and the same process would have to begin again. Grandpa later said his near-sight suffered as a result of reading all those plans during the blackout.

I imagine this work could have contributed towards Grandpa's Home Guard service although it's quite possible he was actively engaged in these activities before he was officially part of the force.

Originally, all members of the Home Guard were volunteers but in 1942 the National Service Act made it possible for compulsory enrolment to be applied in areas where units were below strength. There was a wealth of experience within the Home Guard. For example, in 1940 and 1941, approximately 40 percent of volunteers were World War I veterans and my Grandpa was no exception, having enlisted in the Royal Engineers on 6th November 1916, a month before his 18th birthday, and mobilized on 1st March 1917.

The Home Guard was eventually stood down on the 3rd December 1944 and from this date they became an inactive reserve unit. The archive online catalogue for the Box in Plymouth contains photographs of the Home Guard Stand Down on Plymouth Hoe dated 27th November 1944. Perhaps Grandpa was in attendance at this event. The Home Guard was finally disbanded on 31st December 1945 and ceased to exist from this date.

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

Hibbitt Family Tree Updates

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

I've recently carried out another upload to my family tree at http://www.hibbitt.org.uk/familytree/index.html and have added 52 more people in the process.

WORGAN

Amongst the new additions are my 7 x great-grandparents, John Worgan and Anne Worgan - Anne appears to have had the same maiden and married name. It seems as though they had five children in Woolaston, Gloucestershire, but it was quite difficult sorting out who was who as there were other Worgan families in the same area. To compound the problem, there was a coupe called John and Margaret Morgan having children at the same time as my 6 x great-grandparents, John and Margaret Worgan, and the letters 'M' and 'W' are not easily deciphered in the parish registers. In the end, a process of elimination helped me to move back to the previous generation.

BROAD

I managed to go back a further generation on my mother's Broad line. Mary Broad was my 4 x great-grandmother and she married William Sillick in Tavistock, Devon, in 1792. There was no baptism for Mary in Tavistock and so I'd left it at that until I looked again more recently. At that point, I found a couple called John Broad and Thomasin, nee May, about ten miles away in Bridestowe who'd had a daughter, Mary, baptised in the right time frame. They'd married in nearby Sourton and their first five children were baptised in Bridestowe. Nevertheless, I managed to follow the family to Tavistock for the baptisms of their sixth and seventh children and John and Thomasin also died in Tavistock, but not before Thomasin had been widowed and remarried to William Waterfield.

WEAVER

My mother's 5 x great-grandfather, Robert Weaver lived in Curry Rivel in Somerset and was married to Anne Toogood, from whom I'm descended. Some time after Anne died, Robert married again, this time to Sarah Munkton. I knew this wasn't her maiden name as she was a widow when she married Robert. After a little digging I made a surprising discovery. It turned out that Sarah was Anne's first cousin. Sarah's maiden name was Ostler. Her father was Samuel Ostler and his sister, Elizabeth, married Robert Toogood, who were Anne's parents.

The 1787 marriage of Charles Munkton and Sarah Osler/Ostler as recorded in Pallot's Marriage Index
The 1787 marriage of Charles Munkton and Sarah Osler/Ostler
as recorded in Pallot's Marriage Index

HALL

I have, at last, placed Sydney Herbert Hall on my tree as the son of my 2 x great-grandfather, William Elbert Dando. DNA evidence points to either William or possibly his father, Joseph Dando the Younger, being Sydney's father and I'll post about this in greater detail in due course.

MURCH

Finally, I've extended my Murch branch. Ann Murch was my 4 x great-grandmother and she married Joseph Dando the Elder in Bristol in 1801. I've undertaken some detailed research on this family line and added three further generations of Murch ancestors. The web pages contain significant additional information together with footnotes. I'm in the process of writing a narrative on the Murch family in preparation for a forthcoming trip to Bristol where I'm going to be meeting a couple of others descended from Joseph and Ann.

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

On This Day... 1st April

Category: On This Day...

The 1st April was no fool's day for Harvey's grandad as it popped up several times during the course of his career. Here I list a few examples.

Cyril Norman Ellen joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915. On the 1st April 1918, the RNAS merged with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to become the RAF (Royal Air Force). At that time Cyril was serving in Stavros in Greece. No 2 Wing, RNAS, 'D' Flight (Stavros) became D Squadron in late 1917 and on 1st April 1918 (upon the creation of the RAF) it became 221 Squadron, 62 Wing RAF. His rank changed from Observer Sub-Lieutenant to Lieutenant 'O' RAF that same day.

On 1st April 1921, No 45 Sqn officially came into being. Based in Iraq, Cyril joined the squadron that day, having just completed his pilot training. He received authority to wear 'Wings' a couple of weeks later. Whilst serving with No. 45 Sqn, Cyril was engaged in the Cairo to Baghdad Airmail route.

In 1945, on 1st April, Cyril became the Director of Signals in the Air Division for the Control Commission for Germany. After he completed his signals task in the following February he was sent to Berlin to assist the Deputy Chief of Air Division on all matters until his retirement in May.

Badge and medal ribbons on Cyril Ellen's uniform
Badge and medal ribbons on Cyril Ellen's uniform

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

In Search of Harvey's Huguenot Origins

Category: Ancestors Corner

Following on from my previous post about Harvey's 5 x great-grandfather, Josias Harley, I travelled back in time and discovered his parents were John Harley and Magdalen Lenoir. Actually, when Josias was baptized in the Huguenot Church they were named as Jean Harley and Madelaine Le Noir but I then found a Marriage Allegation and Bond with the alternative names/spellings.

Extract of the baptism of Josias Harley showing his parents as Jean Harley and Madelaine Le Noir
Extract of the baptism of Josias Harley
showing his parents as Jean Harley and Madelaine Le Noir

Those wishing to marry without the calling of banns in church could apply for a Marriage Licence. The applicant was usually the bridegroom but not always, and he would provide a bond and an allegation. The allegation (or affidavit) was a formal statement by the applicant about the ages, marital status and places of residence of the parties, usually including some statement of the groom's occupation, to which was added an oath that there was no legal impediment to the marriage. The bond was sworn by two witnesses, usually the groom, his father or a friend, in which they pledged to forfeit a large sum of money if there was any consanguinity (ie. if the couple were too closely related by blood to marry).

John Harley's allegation states he was of the parish of St Dunstan, Stepney in Middlesex. He was a weaver by trade, consistent with many people of Huguenot descent, and it turns out that he was also a widower. His signature on the allegation and bond would imply that he was literate too.

John Harley's signature on his marriage allegation
John Harley's signature on his marriage allegation


John Harley's signature on his marriage bond
John Harley's signature on his marriage bond

When part of the great wave of Huguenot religious refugees settled in Spitalfields in the late 17th century, the area still belonged to the large parish of Stepney. While the master weavers inhabited fine houses in Spital Square and its adjoining streets, the jobbing weavers, who carried out piece work for their employers, lived and worked in weavers' garrets, or in two-roomed cottages in Whitechapel or Bethnal Green.

Magdalen Lenoir was of the parish of St Thomas The Apostle and she was a spinster. St Thomas the Apostle was a church located in St Thomas Apostle Street but it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was never rebuilt. Instead, the parish was united with that of St Mary Aldermary and this was the church where John and Magdalen were married on 19th May 1743.

I don't know the name of John's previous wife and, besides Josias, I've found no other children belonging to John and Magdalen.

There was a possible burial for Magdalen Harley in 1751 in St Anne's Church, Soho, but equally, a widow of the same name married a Daniel Sirman in St Mary, Acton, Ealing in 1762. Perhaps neither of these were Harvey's ancestor but if I had to choose, I'd pick the 1751 burial.

There are a few possible baptisms for John/Jean Harley, including in the French Church in Threadneedle Street, but I don't know exactly when he was born so, at this stage, it's difficult to progress his lineage. Likewise, Magdalen/ Madelaine Lenoir/Le Noir also proves to be elusive. As such, I cannot say when Harvey's ancestors first arrived in this country but we know their descendants made their home here.

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

Harvey's French Connection

Category: Ancestors Corner

It's been quite a while since I looked at Harvey's family tree but recently a new DNA match popped up in his results and it inspired me into doing some further investigation on one of their common family lines.

William and Maria Harley were Harvey's 4 x great-grandparents on his maternal side of the family. I'd previously stopped my research at this couple but now I decided to delve deeper. Their daughter, Maria Sarah Harley, (Harvey's 3 x great-grandmother) had been born in Chelsea in about 1801. Harvey supports Chelsea Football Club (as do I) and, who knows, perhaps his allegiance was always lurking somewhere in his genes, ha ha?

Initially, I found the Bishop's Transcript for William and Maria's marriage in St George, Hanover Square, Westminster, on 26th August 1800. Maria's maiden name was Howell and there were two witnesses listed, one being James Howell and one which looked like Jonas Harley. It should be noted that Bishop's Transcripts are records which were copied from the parish registers and sent off to the Bishop once a year. Therefore, it's quite possible to encounter a transcription error between the two original sources.

Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell as they appear in the Bishop's Transcripts
Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell
as they appear in the Bishop's Transcripts

There were no more conclusive records for a Jonas Harley and so I thought this might be the end of the line. However, I subsequently found the parish register on Ancestry and discovered that the signature of what had been transcribed in the Bishop's Transcripts as Jonas was actually Josias Harley. This put a whole new complexion on matters. I went on to find William's baptism in 1779 and, sure enough, his father was Josias. Incidentally, Maria's father was indeed James Howell.

Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell as they appear in the Parish Register
Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell
as they appear in the Parish Register

Working backwards, as all good family historians should do, I found a marriage between Josias Harley and Ann Russell. They too, married in St George, Hanover Square, on 13th January 1777. Josias and Ann had four known children between 1775 and 1785. Yes, it would seem their eldest daughter was born more than a year before they were married. They named her Magdalen, after Josias' mother.

I couldn't find anything more on Ann Russell but I discovered Josias had been born on 16th February 1749 and baptized on 2nd March that same year. It turned out the baptism was recorded in two churches and I'm not completely certain which one was the actual location where the service took place but the churches were linked to each other. They were listed as Threadneedle Street, London (French Huguenot) and Spitalfields, Middlesex (Walloon or French Protestant), an exciting discovery as this was the first time I'd made any potential connections with ancestors from the Continent in either Harvey's family or my own.

Walloons were French speaking people from a region that is now part of Belgium who came to England during the 16th century as refugees. Huguenots were a religious group of French Protestants who held to the Reformed, or Calvinist, tradition of Protestantism and who came to England in a couple of waves during the 16th and 17th centuries fleeing religious persecution. Most Walloons and Huguenots were well received because they were seen as allies and fellow-Protestants and were granted citizen's rights. At a time when English Nonconformists and Catholics were not allowed to worship freely, Walloons and Huguenots were allowed their own churches.

They settled mainly in London and the south-east of England, often setting up communities in distinct areas such as Soho in London, and brought much-needed skills and wealth that helped to boost England's economy. One particular skill was wool and silk weaving. In places like Canterbury and Spitalfields, Huguenot entrepreneurs employed large numbers of poorer Huguenots as their weavers. The Huguenots contributed overwhelmingly to the development of the textile, gun-making, silver, watch and clock-making industries, to the creation of the banking and insurance business as well as to the sciences and the arts. It's not surprising to find Josias was a watchmaker and also his son, William, who followed in his father's footsteps.

Although many welcomed Huguenot refugees, there were also some who reacted negatively to their arrival. Weavers, clockmakers and other craftspeople feared their jobs were threatened, while others resented the special favours given to the newcomers. During this period, there were occasional anti-foreigner riots, when poorer Huguenots were attacked.

The French-speaking Walloon church was founded in 1550 in the heart of the City at Threadneedle Street, and was widely considered throughout its long history as the Mother Church of French Protestantism in England. The second church building, erected by the congregation within three years of the original premises being destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, was to serve its congregation for over 170 years.

Following James II's Act of Indulgence in 1687, a significant number of Huguenot temples were built in Spitalfields to accommodate the new arrivals. Until then, the refugees had worshipped at Threadneedle Street but the Nonconformist Mother Church was becoming overcrowded. In 1729, Christ Church Spitalfields was consecrated, and Spitalfields became a parish in its own right. Over time the Huguenot population moved on and was assimilated, and by 1815 most of their temples had closed as congregations dwindled, or merged with the Mother Church at Threadneedle Street.

Josias Harley took on a couple of apprentices, one in 1779 when he was located in Pimlico and again in 1783 when we find him in Chelsea. In 1784, his residence was Ivory Farm in the Parish of St George Hanover Square where he was eligible to vote. Until 1832, most voters were freeholders and others who could meet property requirements so Josias must have been doing alright for himself.

He also appears in the Land Tax Records between 1795 and 1800 where he was resident in Chelsea and his proprietor was the Lord of the Manor. One record mentions Lower Sloane Street. This area was newly built at that time and was not far from the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The area was redeveloped in the 1870s-1890s and none of the original buildings remain.

Josias died at Cowley Street, Westminster, in 1812, a stones throw away from The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. His burial service took place on 13th December at St John the Evangelist in nearby Smith Square but the church was never used for burials. Instead, the church's burial ground is situated around the corner in Horseferry Road and is designated St John's Gardens. The remaining grave-slabs, now much eroded, are arranged around the perimeter of the garden and it's not known whether one bears the name of Josias Harley.

Cowley Street, Westminster, where Josias Harley died (Google Street View)
Cowley Street, Westminster, where Josias Harley died (Google Street View)

Next time, I go in search of Josias' parents.

References used for background information:
BBC Bitesize
The Huguenot Society

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

A 1921 Census search proves tricky

Category: Ancestors Corner

Continuing with my searches in the 1921 census, I next decided to investigate the whereabouts of my Hibbitt family. It should be noted that I'm not the only one to notice the poor job that's been carried out in transcribing this particular census.

Although the original record shows the correct spelling, I found my paternal grandpa (Charles George Hibbitt) recorded under the name Hibbits. He was boarding with a family called Hill at 25 Trevanion Road, Wadebridge, Cornwall. At 22 years old, he was an Unestablished Skilled Workman in the Post Office Engineering Department. In other words, grandpa was working as a telephone engineer. He joined as a youth in April 1914, had a brief spell in the army at the end of WW1, and then went back to the G.P.O. until he retired. It's uncertain how long my Grandpa Hibbitt spent in Wadebridge but he was living in Tavistock, Devon, where most of his service took place, by the time he married in 1931.

My Grandpa, Charlie Hibbitt, at the telephone exchange
My Grandpa, Charlie Hibbitt, at the telephone exchange

My great-grandmother was Alice Hibbitt, nee Ridley, and I discovered her at 23 Clarendon Place in Plymouth. Although the road is no longer listed on modern day maps it was in the vicinity of Athenaeum Street, the Crescent and Crescent Avenue which are very close to the famous Plymouth Hoe. Alice is recorded as a housewife and, living with her, was her 24 year old daughter, Nellie, who later married Charles Martin. Mother and daughter lived together for much of the time, especially during the war and after my great-aunt Nell was widowed in 1942.

Alice and Nell Hibbitt at Wembury Beach
Alice and Nell Hibbitt at Wembury Beach

Although Alice and Nell appear as one household in the 1921 census, there was another family also residing at 23 Clarendon Place. Alice and Nell occupied three rooms and the Rendall family, consisting of two parents and a child, had two rooms. I know the Hibbitts were at Clarendon Place until at least 1923 because Alice's eldest son, Alfred Joseph Hibbitt, was mentioned as residing there in the court papers when his wife was seeking a judicial separation in January of that year.

What I haven't mentioned so far is the whereabouts of Alice's husband, Alfred Charles Newbold Hibbitt. Finding him in the 1921 census proved much more challenging than I'd expected. Alfred was a Chief Officer Coastguard in the Royal Navy and I already knew that he'd been invalided out of the service on 20th March 1920. Furthermore, I suspected he wasn't present at Nell's wedding in 1927 because my grandpa gave her away. I also knew Alfred had died in the Royal Naval Hospital at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, on 17th March 1928 and was buried in Caister Cemetery, located about 4.5 miles from the hospital. There's an interesting website about the hospital at http://www.rnhgy.org.uk

Inputting Alfred's name into FindMyPast's search didn't bring him up, no matter what name variation I tried. I needed to take another tack. I'd often wondered how long he'd been in the hospital before he'd died so I decided to look up the Royal Naval Hospital on the census. First, I went to Google Maps to see what street it was in so I could undertake an address search. Great! It appeared to be on Queen's Road or The Great Court but there was no mention of the hospital using the standard address search.

Not to be defeated, I did a bit of Googling to find out how to look up institutions in the census and I came across this web page. I was now armed with the Piece and Enumeration District numbers and was finally able to find the hospital pages in the census. The name of the Registrar was Lucy M Peaton and it so happens that she was the person who subsequently signed Alfred's death certificate. Looking through the transcribed names, I saw A Hilbert and thought this must be him. To be fair to the transcribers, in this case, the handwriting was awful and it's a wonder they even came this close. His age and marital status were correct and he was recorded as a Chief Officer C.Gd. in the R.N. I'd found my great-grandfather.

Alfred Hibbitt's name as it appears in the 1921 Census
Alfred Hibbitt's name as it appears in the 1921 Census

To me, it seems very likely he was in the hospital all the time from his retirement in 1920 until his death eight years later.

Great Yarmouth is about 350 miles from Plymouth and consequently, I wonder whether any of Alfred's family managed to visit him whilst he was there. This, we shall probably never know.

Alfred and Nell Hibbitt
Alfred and Nell Hibbitt

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

Where were Smale my ancestors a century ago?

Category: Ancestors Corner

Having recently subscribed to the 1921 Census with FindMyPast, I've been looking up various branches of my family to see what they were up to back then. Today I'm concentrating on my Smale family who branch off my maternal line.

My first port of call was 22 Ford Street in Tavistock, Devon. There were 8 people at the address occupying a total of 4 rooms. For the purpose of the census, the rooms enumerated are the usual living rooms, including bedrooms and kitchens, but excluding sculleries, landings, lobbies, closets, bathrooms, or any warehouse, office or shop rooms.

The address was the home of my 2 x great-grandparents, William Henry Smale and Grace Smale (nee Martin). William was 56 years old and he'd had many occupations which included a farm servant, railway labourer, groom, mail cart driver and omnibus driver. However, in 1921, he was a Roadstone Quarrier and his place of work is stated as Devon County Council although this might actually be in the wrong column and the council might have been his employer, I'm not entirely sure.

William's wife, Grace, was older than him at 64 years of age and her occupation is shown as home duties. Likewise, her daughter (my gran's mother) Florence Weaver, nee Smale, is also recorded as undertaking home duties. The census was taken on 19th June 1921 and Florence was a 33 year old widow. Little would anyone have known that she would die within 2 months. The cause was mentioned in a contemporary newspaper as meningitis of the brain which she'd been ill with for about a week.

Number 22 was the address where my Granny Geake was born. In 1921 she was there as a 4 year old named Phyllis Grace Weaver. Her father is recorded as dead - he died in WW1 - and there's no mention that she might have begun attending school by then.

Grace Smale, nee Martin, with her grandaughter, Phyllis Grace Weaver, believed to be photographed on the doorstep of 22 Ford Street, Tavistock
Grace Smale, nee Martin, with her grandaughter, Phyllis Grace Weaver, believed to be photographed on the doorstep of 22 Ford Street, Tavistock

Also residing in the house were two of Florence's younger brothers, Charles Henry Smale and Percy Smale who were both serving in the Royal Navy. Two other men were boarding with the family; Clarence Hawkin, a cinema operator, and William Maunder, who was an out-of-work labourer.

Elsewhere, another of Grace Smale's daughters, Edith Ellen Martin (Martin was both her maiden name and her married name), was living with her husband, John, an unemployed carpenter's labourer, and their two children, (I knew them as Auntie Hilda and Uncle Jack), at 21 Fitzford Cottages, Tavistock. Hilda's husband-to-be was living not far away at number 18. I'd previously found the Martin family in the 1911 census residing in Curry Rivel, Somerset. John and Edith may have introduced my great-grandmother, Florence, to her husband, Henry James Weaver, as Curry Rivel was his home village. My gran went to live with the Martins after her grandmother, Grace, passed away in 1925. I can't be certain if they were still at Fitzford Cottages or whether the family had already moved to 43 Crelake Park by then.

Edith Ellen Martin at the front door of 21 Fitzford Cottages, Tavistock
Edith Ellen Martin at the front door of 21 Fitzford Cottages, Tavistock

Grace Smale's eldest son, William Martin, was living with his family not far away at 29 Exeter Street, Tavistock. Ten years earlier, in 1911, they'd been at 1 Vigo Bridge, Tavistock, which was previously the home of Williams' wife's family.

By 1921, William Martin's half-brother, Bertram Smale, was at the same house, 1 Vigo Bridge, with his wife and two sons. Bertram was an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy working at HMS Defiance in Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth. I too worked at HMS Defiance (now part of HMS Drake) over twenty years ago when the bank sub-branch was there.

William and Grace Smale's second daughter, Emily, was married to Peter Ingram and they were based at the Army Barracks & Military Hospital in Bodmin, Cornwall. They'd already had their first four children including two year old twins girls who my gran always kept in touch with.

My gran's Uncle Tom (Thomas Smale) was described in 1921 as a visitor (with 'boarder' crossed out) residing at 13 Killigrew Street, Falmouth, Cornwall. He was a signal porter with the Great Western Railway at St Dennis and later worked as a signalman in Tavistock from 1937 until he retired. Uncle Tom was the only one of that generation who I met as he lived until he was 95 years old and was still riding his bicycle around Tavistock when he was in his 90's.

This leaves two more sons of William and Grace. First there was Stanley George Smale who was boarding at Walkhampton with a family called Harris. Stanley was a groom, working for a J Woodman, horse trainer, at Yennadon near Dousland. Yennadon Down is a favourite area where I frequently go walking which overlooks Burrator Reservoir.

Finally, Philip Henry Smale was a 19 year old driver in the Army located at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Dundalk, Ireland. By a strange co-incidence, my paternal grandfather was born in the same road in 1898 about a mile and a half away in the coastguard cottages at Soldier's Point, Dundalk. Small world, as they say.

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

Why might James Geake have been brought up in a family which was not his own?

Category: Ancestors Corner

In a previous post I demonstrated how DNA revealed that my great-grandfather, James Geake, wasn't the son of George Geake and Maria, nee Dearing, as was previously believed to have been the case. Today I'm going to explore what might have led to James being brought up by the Geakes.

Looking at old census records, we see various terminology to describe relationships. Take, for instance, the term, step-son. This was used correctly on the 1891 census for William Martin, who was the son of Grace Smale nee Martin because the head of the household and Grace's husband, William Smale, was not William Martin's father. Go back ten years when Grace was living with her own father, Philip Martin, William and his illegitimate sister, Edith, were described as son-in-law and daughter-in-law. Clearly they were Philip's grandchildren so it's surprising to see them referred to in this way.

Returning to the Geakes. James was listed as a son when he was living with George and Maria in both the 1881 census when he was just two months old and also in 1891. The interesting thing is that in 1868, George and Maria had a daughter called Sarah Ann who went on to have an illegitimate child in 1889 called Arthur. By 1891 Sarah was working as a domestic servant in Lifton with a family by the name of Colville. Arthur was living with George and Maria Geake near Peter Tavy and was correctly described as a grandson. He was still with his grandparents in 1901 but this time he was recorded as a son on the census.

In those days it wasn't unheard of for an unmarried daughter to have a baby which would subsequently be brought up as a child of her parents, ie. the grandparents would stand in as parents, but clearly Arthur's true relationship couldn't have been that much of a secret to have originally been described as George and Maria's grandson. The takeaway here is that relationship descriptions on census records can't always be relied upon.

So, is it possible that James was the son of one of George and Maria's children, Sarah Ann perhaps? The answer is that it's very unlikely for two reasons. Firstly, Sarah was the eldest and she was still only about 12 or 13 years of age when James was born. Secondly, the DNA match I referred to in my previous post who I named Emily was originally thought to have been a second cousin to my mum and others of her generation. If James had been the son of a child of George and Maria then this would make Emily my mum's second cousin once removed and would likely share DNA with James' descendants which she doesn't.

Descendants of Robert Geake and Mary Arscott
Descendants of Robert Geake and Mary Arscott

I next went on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for possibilities on another branch of the Geake family. George Geake's grandparents were Robert Geake and Mary Arscott. One of their sons was Walter Geake who'd served in the 64th Regiment of Foot and eventually became a Chelsea Pensioner. It must have been whilst serving in Ireland that Walter met Maria Boyd who became his wife within the Diocese of Elphin in 1840. One of their daughters was subsequently born in Sligo. Descendants of James Geake show connections to the Sligo area in their DNA.

Walter and Maria had four daughters who all eventually married. None of the grandchildren were old enough to have been James' parent so this left the daughters themselves. Again, DNA came into play. If James was descended through Walter's line we might have expected to find DNA matches to the Geakes and the Boyds. Remarkably, some of my relatives do in fact have tentative matches going back several generations which appear to match on the Geake and Arscott lines. However, I would have hoped to have discovered closer matches to descendants of Walter and Maria if this was how we fitted in. It still remains a possibility that we could have come down through Walter and Maria and just have been unlucky to date that no-one more closely related has taken a DNA test but I am not yet convinced.

I'm not writing off any involvement that Walter and his Irish wife, Maria, nee Boyd, might have had though. Because the DNA has a strong connection to Sligo, I wonder whether Walter and Maria had an influence in bringing James (or his birth mother) to Devon. Perhaps his biological family knew the Boyds. It's difficult otherwise, to see how a child with close genetic links to the Sligo and Mayo areas of Ireland might have ended up in Devon.

Might his mother have died in childbirth? Could she have been unmarried or too poor to support him? What about his father? Were the Geakes financially compensated in any way? Adoption wasn't legalized in England until 1926 so could the informal arrangement have been organised by a third party? There are still many unanswered questions. Only DNA may be able to resolve some of them one day as no documented records are likely to reveal the truth.

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

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

DNA goes some way towards uncovering the truth

Category: DNA

For some time I've been working on a family history mystery. The records for my great-grandfather, James Geake, state he was born in 1881 at Wapsworthy, a small farm a couple of miles away from the village of Peter Tavy and about five miles from the town of Tavistock in Devon. He was purportedly the son of George Geake and Maria Dearing, both of whose ancestry traces further back in Devon. However, DNA analysis suggests all is not what it seems.

I have access to a number of DNA kits belonging to people who descend from James Geake but I've not been able to find any useful DNA matches on either the Geake or the Dearing side. Most of these relatives have a lot of Irish and Scottish ethnicity in their DNA which I suspect is on James' line and this doesn't fit at all with James supposedly having ancestors from Devon.

Here are the Irish and Scottish AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates for my relatives.

My mum - Ireland: 30%, Scotland: 20%.
My aunt - Ireland: 28%, Scotland: 21%.
My mum's 1st cousin No.1 - Ireland: 38%, Scotland: 12%.
My mum's 1st cousin No.2 - Ireland: 30%, Scotland: 65% (we are related to this person on her father's side but her mother was from Scotland so this would explain the higher Scottish ethnicity).
My mum's 1st cousin once removed No.1 - Ireland: 23%, Scotland: 16%.
My mum's 1st cousin once removed No.2 - Ireland: 18%, Scotland: 15%.

AncestryDNA Genetic Communities for the descendants of James Geake
AncestryDNA Genetic Communities for the descendants of James Geake

The map shows the Irish DNA genetic communities at Ancestry which are specific to some of these relatives. Mum's 1st cousin No.1 has all of these regions. My aunt has all but the small region of North Leitrim & East Sligo. My mum shows North Connacht and the region of North East Mayo & North West Sligo but not North Mayo and no Central Ireland. Mum's 1st cousin No.2 just has North East Mayo & North West Sligo but no other Irish regions. The two 1st cousins once removed don't have specific Irish genetic communities but my mum passed the North East Mayo & North West Sligo region on to me. This demonstrates a strong connection to these areas amongst the four of James Geake's grandchildren who have tested. There surely has to be something in this!

It's worth noting that my mum and aunt do in fact have Devon genetic communities as does one of the 1st cousins once removed. This can be explained by the fact that James Geake's wife had Devon ancestry so Devon ancestors will be common to all of the above mentioned relatives. James Geake and his wife, Sarah May Hellyer, were my mum's paternal grandparents but there were North Devon ancestors on my mum's maternal grandmother's side too.

All these ethnicity estimates and the lack of the expected DNA connections was pointing in the direction of James Geake not being George Geake and Maria Dearing's son. Now I wanted to find some further evidence to substantiate my theory.

James Geake had an older sister called Maria Geake who married Henry Albert Carpenter. My mum knew her as her Great-aunt Maria (pronounced Mariah as in Mariah Carey). Mum has always known Maria's grand-daughter who I'll call Emily to protect her identity. Emily kindly agreed to take a DNA test and the results came back showing no match to any of the descendants of James Geake. Emily should have been my mum's 2nd cousin and all 2nd cousins should share DNA. Even half 2nd cousins would be expected to share DNA but there is no match to any of Emily's four supposed 2nd cousins.

Emily has DNA connections on the Geake and Dearing lines so this indicates that James was the odd one out. In addition, she only has 6% Irish ethnicity and no Scottish ethnicity. Therefore, my long-held suspicion that James Geake was not the son of his documented parents seems to be correct.

I would add that there are one or two distant DNA matches that we have in common with Emily which I think are likely to be co-incidences. Emily has a lot of Devon ancestry and, as previously stated, so do we. Autosomal DNA can't tell you which family line you are looking at when you see a match so a lot of time is spent studying family trees to find ancestors in common with your DNA matches. There's a good chance that our DNA might match with descendants of Devon ancestors which also match with Emily but on different branches of our families. At first glance, they look like Geake and Dearing connections but we now know this is unlikely unless we have a more distant connection to these families back in time.

It's disappointing to discover that we're not biologically related to Emily and her family but, nonetheless, her ancestors are still part of my own family's story as James was brought up in the Geake household as one of their own. In my mind that makes Emily's ancestors my 'adoptive' family and there are still descendants of James who bear the Geake name to this day.

One final anecdote - a relative once told my mum that James Geake used to celebrate his birthday on the 23rd January but, much later in life, he obtained a copy of his birth certificate. This was when he discovered he was actually born on the 25th. It makes me wonder if he really was born on the 23rd before being handed to the Geakes a couple of days later. What's more, did James ever know they weren't his biological parents?

Please feel free to follow my Blog on Facebook

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]
«Prev || 1 | 2 | 3 |...| 36 | 37 | 38 || Next»