28 February 2009

I know it's not a leap year . . .

. . . but today's marriage involves my leap-year ancestor.

The Cambridge Independent Press gave the following report on 5th March 1954:-

Diamond Wedding
Mr & Mrs James Culpin, of Fen Drayton, celebrated their diamond wedding on Sunday. Mr Culpin is a native of St Ives and his wife (nee Miss Freeman) was born at Spitalfields, London. They were married at Hemingford Grey Church on February 29th 1894. Mr Culpin, who is 86, was a blacksmith at Fen Drayton for many years and was Clerk to the Parish Council for over 40 years. Mrs Culpin is 85 and they have lived at Fen Drayton for 51 years. Both are in fairly good health. The event was celebrated on Sunday with a family reunion of 26 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Over 50 messages of congratulations were received, including one from the Queen.

James Culpin, born 29th February 1868 in St Ives, was the second son of Millice & Naomi (nee Fordham) and, as the newspaper report says, he kept up the family tradition of becoming a blacksmith.

So far, so simple, but his marriage to Lydia completely confuses the orderly layout of my family tree. How? Well, Lydia was the daughter of James & Eliza (nee Humphrey) and, if the latter couple seem familiar, it's because they are also the parents of yesterday's birthday girl Esther and therefore, if you've been keeping up with the Freeman family genealogy, it will be clear to you that Lydia is the sister of my great-great-grandfather. And James is the brother of my great-grandmother. So the pair of them are from different generations yet James is still a year older than his wife. And they're both related to me twice - each in their own right and also as each other's spouse!

James died later in 1954 and the Cambridge Indpendent Press again gives us more biographical detail:

Late Mr James Culpin
In the death of Mr Culpin, at the age of 86, Fen Drayton has lost one of its lifelong residents. He spent his life until retirement as the village blacksmith and was Clerk to the Parish Council for 48 years, only resigning from this office two or three weeks ago.

Lydia lived for a further nine years, dying in August 1963, still in the village of Fen Drayton - but more about her on her birthday in May.

They had six children, three sons and three daughters, between 1895 and 1907; the first four were born in Hemingford Grey but a quick bit of digital addition suggests that the younger two will have been born in Fen Drayton - another thing I've only just realised.

It's getting more and more useful to re-visit some of these ancestors of mine - and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who hasn't looked at their own data for a while.

Finally for today, and by no means least - Happy Birthday Mo!

27 February 2009

One of each . .

A quick catch-up on yesterday before I disappear to watch the rugby: first the marriage of my g-g-g-g-grandparents in 1799 in Doddington, Cambs - a village synonymous, in my mind, solely for its workhouse where a number of my ancestors have taken refuge over the years. John Carter, the groom, was born in the village and his bride, Mary Franklin, was born in nearby Benwick. Together they produced seven children, all born in Benwick, and the only one I know anything about is George, through whom the line continues.

Yesterday's birthday girl was Esther Alma Freeman, my g-g-aunt, who was born in 1855 at 47 Chester Road, Lambeth, the daughter of James & Eliza (nee Humphrey). I had no problem finding her when she lived at home but that was only one census year; after that I am fairly certain only of the 1901 and 1911 census entries. I am also fairly certain that she went into, and spent a lifetime, in service and that she remained unmarried (her brother mentions her in his Will written in 1908) but finding her in the late 19th century censuses has been a complete nightmare! I mean, how different ways can you spell her name? Well, there's Esther and Ester, not to mention Hester and Hesther . . . need I go on?

Let's leave her in Hampstead in 1911 and retire quietly to the television . . . !

More soon.

25 February 2009


It's a Culpin-athon today, with two birthdays and one wedding from the extended family. Happy Birthday to Alfred James, born today in Swavesey in the 20th century, who died at the same age I am now, in the year I was born.

The next Culpin is Emma, born in 1883 in the Huntingdonshire village of Elton - I sound there as though I know what I'm talking about but I've never been to the place, only seen it in pictures. Anyway, she was the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth and she appeared in the village in the 1891 census. Other than that, I know nothing.

Last, but probably not the least, today we celebrate the marriage of George Challoner Culpin and May Harriet Fatt who tied the knot in Queensland in 1911. He was the son of Ebenezer and Emily, who emigrated to Australia from Spondon, Derbyshire, in 1887 - one of a number of Culpin ancestors who set out to repopulate the Antipodes.

George and his family travelled on the ship "Orizaba" to Victoria and, at some point, George moved up north to Queensland. Alas, I know absolutely nothing else about anyone in the family. All clues gratefully received!

24 February 2009

Trams of Fancy

Soooo, today's offering . . . . Sarah Squires Barrett, the daughter of William and Elizabeth, was born yesterday in 1823 in Little Downham, Cambs, married Millice Culpin in 1846 and they brought up their children in Stevenage. After her husband died, she moved to West Ham, as you do, where I found her in two censuses (censii?). For no apparent reason she was in Ramsgate when she died in 1915 at the age of 91. Maybe (I've just thought of this) she was meeting one of her sons coming back from France . . . ? By way of cross-reference, she was the grandmother of Ernest, who got a mention earlier this month as surgeon and Commodore of a sailing club in Queensland. Aha, I've got it - maybe she was there to meet Ernest, because I know he was in France.

Moving on before I get involved in too many flights of fancy, Sarah's third cousin twice removed (by marriage, but who's counting) was James Culpin who married Alice Ethridge yesterday in 1913 at St Andrew the Less in Cambridge. James and Alice produced just the one child before he sadly died three years later - in Cambridge, I don't think he was involved in the war.

And finally, a birthday boy today in the shape of Frederick Pates, my second cousin twice removed, the son of George and Mary Ann, born in Biggleswade in 1880. By 1901 he had gone to the great Metropolis, boarding in Islington, and listed as a tram conductor. Presumably, these were horse-drawn trams, otherwise I have a vision of him between the cable and the tram, conducting in a whole different way!

Coming back from la-la-land (must be something I ate), Frederick married Florence Elizabeth Davies in 1906 and by 1911 they're still in Islington, with Frederick's younger brother for company.

Later this week, weather permitting, I'm hoping to get to St Ives so, if I remember my camera, I should be able to get some photos of the Culpin heartland!!

23 February 2009

Three Counties weddings

A quick blast, today, of wedded bliss across the years, which I thought I'd do in chronological order (just for neatness, you understand).

So, come back with me to 21st February 1774 in the village of Elton in Huntingdonshire for the marriage of Richard Culpin and Mary Hayes, my 5xgreat grandparents. Ten children in fifteen years and only one lost in infancy must mean that Mary was strong and healthy; indeed she lived until 1821 when she would have been about 60 years old - not bad for that era.

The next marriage is at the church of St Mary, in Tuddenham, Suffolk, in 1792, between James Freeman and Mary Haylock. This couple managed fifteen children within the next 20-odd years with no apparent loss in childhood. Some of these ag labs were made of strong stuff!!

On to the Cambridgeshire village of Stretham, same day, 1815, for the union of Alice Langford and Henry Porter. Their claim to fame within the family file is that their great-grandson married the lady who was to become my maths teacher at the High School in Ely - how scary is that?

Finally for today . . . let's stay in Cambridgeshire but go a bit west & south to the village of Willingham, for the nuptuals of Rebecca Bullard and Ephraim Thoday in 1847. This one brought forth three legitimate children before Rebecca's early death at the age of 36. She had a son before marriage who will appear in his own right later in the year but I have to mention the names of his children, born in the village in the 1870s; there was Moses Bullard, Nathan Bullard and, my personal favourite, Manoah Bullard. Sadly, the latter died at the age of ten but it is still a magnificent name!

22 February 2009

Happy Birthdays to . .

Loads of birthdays to catch up on so I'll be brief:- Henry Crane, 1st Cuz 6 times removed, was born on 18th February 1797 in Exning near Newmarket; Mary Wright, 4th cuz 7 times removed, was born on the same day in 1738 in Stretham and died in November of the same year.

Slightly less brief:- Nancy Irene Culpin, born 20th February 1907 in St Ives and much closer in terms of relationship - 1st cuz twice removed (her father was my great-great uncle) and I do know a fair bit more about her. However, she has children still living so I shall say no more.

Same name, next door county - Ernest John Culpin (6th cuz twice removed) was born on 18th in Manea in 1889. He went on to marry Lily Bent in the village in 1914 and they had at least two sons, having moved to St Ives. This confused me mightily for months until I was able to sort him out from my "main" St Ives Culpins.

Back to Cambs, remaining on the 18th - Phebe Bigley was born in 1824 in Chatteris, one of many children of John & Mary (nee Smith). She married Edward Wade in 1849 and they went on to have six children in the next ten years. I last saw the family in the 1871 census in Chatteris and I plainly need to go and look for more info on them!

Hemingford Grey 1870 saw the birth of Henry Fordham on 20th February. The son of John and Mary Ann (nee Skinner) he grew up to be a solicitor's clerk, still living in the village but, I guess, working in St Ives which is just a moderately short walk away.

Pause for breath . . . . right, moving on to yesterday in 1870 in the homestead - Tuddenham St Mary, in Suffolk, Arthur John Mace Sparkes was born to William & Agnes. Well, I say William was his father but I just assumed that - he was born before his mother married William but I think the name rather points to his parentage! The last view I had of him was in the 1891 census when he is a railway porter but in the Eastern Hospital in Hackney as a patient. No idea what was wrong with him - no census is that detailed, but I think he survived; at least, I haven't found a death registered yet!

Yet another Culpin - my great-great uncle John Arthur Whatford Culpin, son of Charles & Sarah (nee Whatford), born today in 1853 in St Ives. He grew up to be a carpenter, lived just up the road from me in 1871 and then married Mary Ann Susan Moule in 1880 in Trumpington. They then moved up to Stamford, in Lincolnshire, where their two sons were born. Mary died in 1882 and he remarried - rather quickly, it has to be said, but he did have two young children to look after - in 1884 to Sarah Jennings. Last seen still in Stamford in 1901.

Getting even closer to home, although nothing beats John for "just up the road-ness", Gertrude Ann Murfitt born today in 1873 in Ely and, finally, even closer, Joseph Wolf, born today in 1833 in Girton - about two miles away as the crow flies.

That's it, I've run out of birthdays to catch up on; just a few marriages to think about for tomorrow's entry!!!

19 February 2009

Wedding Bells . . .

Today we're going to start in Stretham where, on 16th Feb 1730, my g-g-g-g-g-grandparents were married. Richard Langford & Rebecca Waller then went on to begat ten children in the next twenty years . . . . and that's all I know about them.

Staying in that far-off 5-great grandparent generation but moving to the next county, James Bullard and Mary Hart married on 16th Feb 1756. Again, I have to admit to knowing very little about them other than the number of children they had - that's six.

Moving on one day and nearly 70 years, Elizabeth Webb and William Burden married in Landbeach in 1824 - and promptly disappeared (well, off all the records I've looked at!). Marginally more visible were Ellen Street and William Levitt who married in 1877 in Old Warden, Bedfordshire. She was a straw plaiter and he a brickie's labourer and, by 1891, they were in Kempston with their daughter Maud.

So far today no-one has moved out of the county of their birth and my next offering continues the pattern: Catherine Fordham and Thomas Ingle married on 18th Feb 1807 in Hemingford Grey. I haven't found any children for them yet (I need to get to the Parish Registers) but they don't seem to have left Hemingford Grey before their deaths.

And now . . . ancestors who buck today's trend! Susan Charlotte Staden, born in Herringswell in Suffolk, married James Waugh Read in Bury St Edmunds in 1858. James was a Station Master so their married life seemed to follow the railway tracks around the area:- first to Six Mile Bottom (Cambs), then Needham Market (Suffolk), then Mark's Tay (Essex) and Camberwell (London). Finally, to that mecca of railway towns, Swindon where they appeared to settle down. In the midst of all this moving about, they found time to have eleven children - can you imagine moving house with that lot? Nightmare!

Need to pause now to take stock and consider the eight birthdays for yesterday and tomorrow. More soon . . .

16 February 2009

Why Smith

Positively tropical weather today; well, it was about 8C and that's warm compared to what we've been having!

Anyway, to Biggleswade first: for the 139th birthday of Martha Jane Pates, one of the ten children of Samuel and Eliza. A laundress in the 1891 census, Martha married William Tobyn in 1893 and they had three (or four) children. I've just found them all in the 1911 census and there's a possible fourth child there. Their daughter Lilian, born in 1896, is in Leighton Buzzard in the census so I guess that she's in service there.

Moving back to my home county and yet another Smith! William, of that name, appeared in 1827 to Nicholas and Susannah. When I first looked at him, I could only find his birth and an entry in the 1841 census so I did some homework . . . to discover, to my amusement, that he married Miss Why. Oh yes, all manner of comments come to mind but I will behave; Jemima Why, also born in Chatteris, married young William in 1848 and I found the pair of them in Slade End, Chatteris, for the next twenty-odd years. Jemima was nearly twenty years older than her husband and she died in early 1881 at the age of 74; I haven't found any more on William yet - I was rather using Jemima as the marker which made him stand out in the indexes amongst all the other William Smiths. I'll put him on the to-do list.

That's it for today. I've got six weddings and five birthdays to report on in the next three days so I need to do some research!

14 February 2009

St Andrew by the Wardrobe

Yesterday and today have brought forth two births and two weddings. The birthdays were, today in 1691 & 1748, of Catherine & Elizabeth Wright respectively. That's all the information I have about either of them but I can tell you that they were my 3rd cousin 8 times removed and my 4th cousin 7 times removed so, with all due respect to them, I think I can say that we're not close!

First of the weddings was yesterday in 1836 when George Fordham and Elizabeth Collings tied the knot at St James, Hemingford Grey. They went on to have six children and I've only traced one of the entire family past the 1851 census; I think I need to do some more work on them!

And now to Australia; well, via Stoke Newington, the birthplace of Ernest Culpin who married Hilda Emma Colman yesterday in 1913 in Queensland. He went off to the Great War with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1915 as part of the Australian Army Medical Corps - he was a doctor, you see. After the war he became a surgeon and also, in the 1920s, he became Commodore of the Oxley Sailing Club in Brisbane. According to the Courier-Mail of March 1934, he and Hilda "entertained a large number of guests at their house in Yeronga" when Mrs C. was wearing "a spray of English honeysuckle with her georgette frock in autumn tonings." This excellent detail came from an online Australian News Index, and I also managed to find some medical papers written by Ernest.

He enlisted again, at Kelvin Grove, Queensland, for the next war and served as a Colonel. Ernest died in 1963 and Hilda died the previous year. As far as I know there was only one child of their marriage: Ernest Keith, who was born in 1913.

The title of today's entry comes from a christening in 1798 which I found in the online IGI. Apparently it's not the next book in the Narnia series but a church in London!

Happy day today; not only did it not snow but also England didn't get too badly beaten by Wales. Phew . . . !

12 February 2009

The Walnut Tree

When we were little we would go to see Uncle Bill every now and again. He lived in Stretham with two of his step-daughters and a visit to them at Christmas was especially treasured as “the girls” would produce the most exquisite mince pies & cheese straws! I do have a photo of us with him but it’s fairly blurred and, anyway, my siblings would probably lynch me if I put it up at the side here!

William Langford (Uncle Bill or, more accurately, great-uncle Bill) was born yesterday in 1879 in the market town of Chatteris and he came to Stretham with the family in the next year or so. He grew up to become a regular soldier and served all over the world (I guess . . . . the map of the world was fairly red at the time) and was back in Stretham by the time of the 1911 census when I found him with the household of his brother John & family in Reads Street. The following year he married widow Sarah Reeve and remained in Stretham (in an old pub with no electricity – I remember the gas lamps) until his death in Chesterton Hospital in 1973.

Also born yesterday was James Bradley Freeman, who entered into the world in the Suffolk village of Tuddenham St Mary in 1828, the son of single mother Martha Freeman. Sadly he lived for only two months, in common, alas, with two of his sisters. More about the family another time . . . . !

It seems to be a day for short lives:- Ellen Jane Fordham, born today in Hemingford Abbotts, was the daughter of Charles & Alice and she lived for only a month. According to my computer, she was my 2nd cousin 4 times removed, which seemed quite distant to me so I checked back. It seems that the ancestor we have in common is my g-g-g-g-g-grandfather (that’s five greats) – which is seven generations back. – so, yep, that’s fairly distant!!

The walnut tree of the title was prominent in the garden at Reads Street and was still there in the early 1990s.

Weather check – snowing again, but I don’t think it will last until morning, thankfully!

10 February 2009

Short & Sweet

Yesterday's entry was very long so I left out Amy Burrows; she was born in Manea, deep in the Fens, in 1873 and somehow made her way to Brightside Bierlow, Sheffield, by the time of the 1891 census. I've recently found that she married William Whitworth in 1896 and by 1901 they have two children. I can find her and one of her sons (well, he's called William Burrows Whitworth and that's the name in the index list, so you can probably say that's all three of the three required proofs in one!) in1911 but I'm far too mean to pay £1 to get the whole household.

And now on to someone who will need so much careful searching and checking - yep, I've got a John Smith, born today in 1813 in Chatteris. There are soooo many Smiths there that I've only got his christening date, so I'm going to wait until I can get to the Parish Registers again before I attempt to find any more about him.

And finally for today (time off for good behaviour after you had to read so much yesterday): Happy Birthday Benjamin/Benje/Ben - 23 today!!!

9 February 2009

Great-great-gramps - blacksmith

Today's birthday boy has already had a mention in the blog (on 6th December, to be precise) but since I couldn't remember without looking it up, I can't expect anyone else to.

So, let me re-introduce my g-g-grandfather:- Millice Campbell Culpin was born in Hemingford Abbotts in 1841, the fourth child of Charles and Sophia (nee Kington). Within a few months he had achieved the distinction of being in that year's Census in two different places and by 1861 he had followed in the family tradition and become a blacksmith. In 1864 he married Naomi Fordham at Hemingford Grey and they started their married life in Bishops Stortford, returning to St Ives by 1868 for the birth of their third child (they went on to have eleven, in all). I think the Hertfordshire link was something to do with their cousins/uncles who were in the Stevenage area but I'm not sure.

Interestingly, I've just remembered that we used to have a couple of paintings of "relatives from St Ives" in the garage when we lived in Ely; no idea why they were in the garage or, indeed, who they were or why we had them but . . . I thought it was interesting!

Moving on, Millice remained a blacksmith or agricultural implement maker for the rest of his life which, sadly, he ended himself in 1899. The Hunts County News had the following rather detailed article on 3rd February of that year:


On Friday morning last the inhabitants of St Ives were shocked at the news that Mr M. C. Culpin, an old and highly-respected townsman, had taken his life by hanging himself from a beam running across the top storey of his implement warehouse situated in the Quadrant. The sad deed was committed between 7:30 and 8:30, evidently whilst the men employed at the works were having breakfast. Mr Culpin rose about 7:30 and, after having a cup of tea, went out by the side door to go, as his wife presumed, to see that the ponies were fed. Not coming in at the usual time for breakfast Mrs Culpin sought him and, mounting the ladder leading to the loft, she was horrified at seeing her husband suspended from the beam. Two men named Crouch and Jeffs were called and they cut the deceased down, at the same time sending for Dr R. W. Grove, who arrived promptly, but only to pronounce that life was extinct. The deceased was one of the best known men of the town and neighbourhood, having for nearly half a century conducted the business of an agricultural implement maker and smith, and as a business man he was respected for the honest and straightforward way he met his patrons and others that he came in contact with. He was a man of fine stature, but for three years had suffered from heart disease and diabetes, and these complaints had evidently unhinged his mind. Deceased leaves a widow and eight children - four sons and four daughters - to mourn him, for every expression of sympathy is shown in their sad and sudden bereavement.

THE INQUEST was held at the Golden Lion Hotel on Saturday morning before Mr C. B. Margetts, Coroner for the Hurstingstone division and the following jury - Messrs W. Wheatley (Foreman), H. G. Parker, W. Goulding, E. Sergeant, J. A. Stevens, E. Collinson, G. Hewson, W. Hurl, A. Hopkins, E. W. Foster, H. F. Corbett, C. W. King and B. Giddings. Supt Rayner, Mr C. P. Tebbutt and Mr J. E. Freeman were also present. The following evidence was adduced:-

Mrs Naomi Culpin, widow of the deceased, who was much distressed whilst giving evidence, said her husband was 57 years old last birthday. Her husband had suffered lately from asthma and violent pains in the head. It was about 7:30 the previous morning when he came downstairs, as he laid a little longer than usual thinking he might be better. She got up about six o'clock and the deceased was then awake. When he came downstairs he had a cup of tea but did not have his breakfast. He was compelled to be particular of what he partook as he suffered from diabetes. After drinking the tea her husband left the house but she did not see which way he went. About 7:40 witness found that he had not got his coat on, and then surmised that he had gone either to his daughter's house or in the adjoining yards to see the ponies. She watched for his coming home and asked her son if he had seen his father. Witness, sobbing bitterly, then said she went to the warehouse and there saw her husband. She called to a man named Alfred Crouch and then came away. Replying to the Coroner, witness said her husband had seemed low spirited and would not converse. He had never spoken of destroying himself. Mrs Culpin, between the sobs, said she did not expect to find her husband there - in the warehouse.

Alfred Crouch, in the employ of Mr Culpin as wheelwright, said he lived at Fenstanton. He was called by Mrs Culpin about 8:30 whilst standing in the smith's shop on the opposite side of the yard. Mrs Culpin called "Crouch, master is hanging here caught by something." He went to the warehouse at once and there he found his master hanging from the beam, with a cord round his neck. (The cord was produced by the police; it was about three feet long and apparently the top end of a leading rein). Witness took out his knife and cut him down, and with the help of a fellow workman named George Jeffs, laid the deceased of the floor of the workshop. Dr Grove arrived a few minutes after and on examination pronounced life to be extinct. He (witness) felt the hands and face of deceased, and they were quite warm. He did not see Dr Mence arrive. The Foreman asked if the ladder was in its usual place and the witness replied "yes".

Mr H. D. Mence, registered medical practitioner of St Ives, stated that he had attended deceased for some time. He had known him for a number of years. In August 1896 witness found that deceased was suffering from diabetes. For the past six months he had not seen him professionally. The tendency of this disease was to induce low spirits, and severe headache was a symptom of the diabetes. Deceased got very thin, and the tendency of the disease was to produce physical inability, mental lowness and nervous and mental disturbance.

The Coroner's remarks were brief. He said it was a very sad case for the jury to attend the inquest on the body of a respected fellow townsman. But their duty was quite clear, for it was for them to say whether at the time of committing this act the deceased was in a sound or unsound state of mind, whether he was capable of forming an opinion that he was acting rightly or wrongly whether he committed the act in a state of insanity or whether it was of malice aforethought. A jury man: I think we are agreed, Sir, as to the verdict. The foreman then asked each individual juror, and all gave the verdict that deceased took his life whilst of unsound mind."

Yet again, I learn something from doing this - when I first read and transcribed the article, I had seen "deceased leaves a widow and eight children . . . " and nodded sagely. Thing is, deceased left a widow and ten children and I only noticed that a few minutes ago.

I guess that confirmation of his temporary state of mind could be inferred from the fact that he died intestate . . . and three weeks later (if only things were that quick now) the estate was valued and granted to Naomi.

I still haven't been to St Ives to take a photo of the house in the Quadrant so it's still on the To Do list . . . . . perhaps when it gets a bit warmer. It's raining now but, alas, the weather men are suggesting that's going to turn back to snow later tonight. Oh deep joy!

Onwards . . .

8 February 2009

Young again

Today I'm going back to Chatteris for the yesterday's birthday of Elizabeth Young, sister to Maria, who was born in 1836. I last "saw" her in 1851 but I can add to what I said the other day about her sister:-

In 1881 Maria is head of the household with two children and a lodger called George Shepperson. Surely a coincidence that the middle name of her younger child is also Shepperson?

No, I didn't believe it either, particularly as she has two more children and then she marries George (1885) and they have three more. They seem to stay in Chatteris until Maria's death in 1897.

Elizabeth, her older sister, married Matthew Wadlow in 1855 and my last sighting of them is in 1891 with their eight children! There was plenty of room for confusion whilst I was searching for these two, because there was another Elizabeth Wadlow born in the same year, living with Matthew - her father.

I read somewhere that the proper genealogist accepts nothing at face value (seems reasonable) and also requires three different proofs of every fact before taking that person into their family (as it were).

Three, eh? Wouldn't it be lovely if life were that simple. I checked on the IGI that the Elizabeth Young who married Matthew Wadlow was the daughter of the right father - that's one. I have her christened as the daughter of that same father - two. But I'm blowed if I can think what the third one might be - I might just go away and think about that one.

More soon . . . . .

6 February 2009

Love & a Soldier . .

Once upon a time, in deepest Lancashire, a young Red Cross nurse met a wounded young soldier and, a few years later, dear reader, she married him.

OK, so he wasn't so much "wounded" as suffering from malaria, which he contracted during his Great War service in India, but the rest is true. Ashton-under-Lyne, convalescent hospital . . . Dora Blackshaw, born today in 1893, married Freeman Langford in 1920; they raised two daughters and remained together until his death in 1971. Dora died in 1977 and her daughter, who sadly died last year, told me the story.

From up north to Biggleswade for Winifred Alice Bygrave, born in 1904, and on again to Cambs for Maria Young, born in early 1851 in Chatteris. My most up to date "sighting" of the latter was in the 1871 census when she's working in the fields as an ag lab, so plenty of scope for more research there!

Quite a lean day for anniversaries (oh, except - Happy Birthday Paul) but again, it's a useful exercise in finding the gaps. The information available online is so much better than when I started hunting ancestors, particularly when one has a subscription to one of the major sites (http://www.ancestry.co.uk).

And it gives me a good excuse to stay inside when it snows . . . . again! That's not to say that I stayed in today; I had to go out while it was snowing (most of the day) but I was pleased to get home and seize up from the unexpected exercise - it was a choice of waiting for a bus and getting cold, or walking and keeping warm.

And the weather people are predicting minus umpteen degrees C tonight so I may have a good excuse for tomorrow!!

Onwards . . . . .

5 February 2009

Snowing again!

Two birthdays today, the first of whom is Violet Staden, sister to Iris and Arthur James who have already had a mention in this blog-thing. Violet was born in 1901 in Steeple Bumpstead in Essex and went on to marry Edward Prosser in 1922.

Moving on swiftly to cover the absence of info, I also present Isabella Mary Sparkes of Tuddenham St Mary in Suffolk. She was born in 1855 and appears in the 1881 census as a Vest Maker; Now that may be an abbreviation for "Vestment" or it might simply be what it seems - and how useful those can be at this time of the year . . . .

Which is quite a good segue into the weather which faced us this morning. More snowy-ness and I saw some rare sights on my perambulations . . .

Children not at school (hardly rare, I know) but any number of them were out playing in the white fluffy stuff on greens and verges.

A couple, about my age, who had just finished building a snowman and were taking photos of each other by it; I took a photo too - the Arbury Snowman to the left here!

Mothers with their toddlers all bundled up - and what a fantastic array of welly-boots!!

The most obvious thing? People were laughing - all except one little girl whose mother had to tell her to stop whingeing!!

Walking in snow, when it squeaks and crunches is great fun but . . . my muscles are complaining now and I am going to use that as an excuse to go back to the genealogy now!!

Stay warm.

4 February 2009

Daily Habits

So there I was this morning, waiting for a bus, in the freezing cold and, thanks to Stagecoach, I was given plenty of time to observe the habits of drivers on mornings such as these. There were those who simply got the scraper out and cleared the frost from their windscreen & others who poured water over it. Then the man who sprayed about a can of de-icer on his windscreen and carefully used a squeegee-thing to clear it all off (personally, I think that's what wipers are for). And, the best were the couple who were taking it in turns to clear the windows in between flicking frost at each other!! All watched over by an ever-increasing bus queue and the chap who came out onto his balcony in his dressing gown to have a cigarette - it was about -4c!!! Hey ho.

Anyway, today's entry is just to confirm that I don't have an ancestor conveniently born on every day of the year; why, there are four days in February alone without a birthday, including Friday the 13th. But I can produce a leap-year baby, born in 1868, so that counts double in my book (or should that be diary?).

So, not only do I not have a birthday boy or girl today, neither do I have a marriage to waffle about and I refuse to resort to "Deaths on this day".

Back to the 1911 census now.

3 February 2009

Family circles?

Ah, I was so enthralled by the novelty of snow which actually settled that I forgot yesterday's anniversary - my g-g-grandparents marriage in 1847 in Doddington, near March. Freeman Quince (1815-1873) was a Benwick boy who went off to be a soldier in the Grenadier Guards and came back to work in the fields; Lydia Burrows (1811-1867) was born in Manea and was quite late marrying (for the time). She'd already produced a son and a daughter, Henry & Jane, and by 1851 all four of them (Freeman, Lydia and her two) were in the North Witchford Union workhouse in Doddington. Interestingly, Lydia and Emma (by then 5 years old) are there again in 1871 but Freeman, husband and father, is living a few miles away in Chatteris!

Doing this blog is certainly educating me - I had completely forgotten this little fact (so much so that I've just checked it again) and now I wonder about it anew. I don't know much about workhouses, other than the shame it usually engendered, so I don't know how a man could leave his family in there whilst he went off to work. Any clues, anybody??

Emma, my g-grandmother, was the second child of Freeman & Lydia with the same name but her sister only lived for about 18mths. Of Lydia's two elder children, I traced Henry to the cotton mills of Lancashire and his sister Jane as far as her marriage to Thomas Welfare in 1862.

Birthday of the day is Frances Eliza Kington Culpin, my g-g-aunt, in Hemingford Abbots, Hunts, in 1838. She made two appearances in the 1841 census and went on to marry William Floyd in St Ives in 1858. Bit of a coincidence here, William was the Master of the Sedgely, Staffs, Workhouse School in 1861 - all riveting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree! He died in 1869 in Staines, after he & Eliza had begat six children; and just to round off this entry with a certain symmetry - Eliza went on to have two more children after his death!!

Oh, and not to miss the anniversary - Buddy Holly died 50 years ago today. The day the music died???

1 February 2009

What's in a name?

I've been pretty lucky with the names in my tree; a number of them are fairly unusual so, apart from some very odd spellings, they've been quite easy to identify.

However, there comes a point in most family historians' research when they come across a Smith or a Jones. Now, don't get me wrong - one of my best friends is a Smith - but there are just so many of them! I was lucky to get back five generations before I found one which needed looking into (my g-g-g-grandmother) and now I have a host of them. Susannah Smith (I have three of these alone) was born today in Chatteris in 1823 and another Susannah Smith was born last Thursday in 1815. And that, I'm afraid, is all I know about them at present. I need to get at the Chatteris Parish Registers and hope that I can identify them.

Interesting fact: The Scotsman, or the Edinburgh Political and Literary Journal, ran the following advert on this day in 1823:-


FORTY THOUSAND POUNDS Sterling on undoubted heritage Security. Apply to . . . . ."

I guess that if you don't ask, you don't get!

Today's other birthday is Annie Louisa Staden, born in 1905 in Cambridge. She's already had a mention in this blog as the child who appears in two different places in the 1911 census and, apart from being mentioned in a couple of funeral reports, I don't know much about her either. I do know where she lived between 1966 and 1971 but that's it.

Weather check:- it's trying to snow and I've seen a few flakes but that's it so far. I've been more interested in watching the Australian Open final - incredible tennis!

So, not terrible exciting today. I'll try to do better next time.