National Family History Month

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Week 1

For the first time, I am attempting to participate in the National Family History Month challenge.  As I’m also completing the free online course “Genealogy: Researching your family tree” from the University of Strathclyde; it will be a challenge.  BTW I am enjoying this course, it is excellent for beginners but for those of us who have been at this game for a long time, we can always do with a refresher.

I came across this interesting census record while searching for someone else and it piqued my interest. It was an ecumenical household living in Warrenpoint, Co Down in the 1901 Irish census which I thought would have been unusual in that period. I wonder what other people think of my assumption.

aaaa1911The owner of the property was listed as James SAVAGE who was a retired merchant and looking after this one man were two servants.  James was Church of Ireland, while his “lady Housekeeper” Sara McFADDEN was Methodist and the domestic servant was Ellen BLACK who was Roman Catholic.

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Funeral Insurance

I was very fortunate to be able to spend a morning at PRONI in September.  It is without a doubt the most friendly and welcoming archive I’ve ever used.  The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is in a new purpose built building in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.  We were welcomed with great warmth by every staff member we encountered.  I particularly enjoyed the initial interview with an archivist offered to all new researchers which greatly helped me plan what resources to use.



I found one will which I found interesting and quirky.  In 1838 Hannah LENNON of Corrague near Portaferry, bequeathed one shilling to her son, John as “he having already received from me at different times Thirty pounds Stg”.  Mmm, mum wasn’t happy with him when she wrote her will. She left all her money and property to her daughter, Mary MAGUIRE, sons Thomas and Patrick and grandson James MURPHY.  She finished by instructing her executors to “finally I desire the Cow to be sold and all my funeral charges to be paid”.

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St Patrick’s Catholic Graveyard at Portaferry



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Famine in Ardrahan parish in Co Galway

Like many researchers I’ve been glued to the National Library of Ireland’s release of Catholic Parish registers this week. I am grateful and impressed they aren’t making any money out of it.

Today I’ve been looking at the parish of Ardrahan in Galway where one set of GG grandparents are reputed to be from. Sadly there weren’t many registers to digitise – there is a note at the end of the 1850 registers saying that in 1907, the 1850 – 1867 register was missing.

But the Marriage register 1843 – 1850 covers the famine and this is starkly reflected in the numbers of marriages which were solemnised each year as tabled below.

1845 – 16
1846 – 35
1847 – 15
1848 – 3
1849 – 6
1850 – 4

I understand that Co Galway was among the worst hit counties during the famine.

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Henley Beach Swimming Pool

State Library of South Australia (B23586)

State Library of South Australia (B23586)

This was an important part of my childhood. It was built out from the Esplanade onto the beach near the Henley jetty. Given it’s location, it’s not surprising that it was filled with seawater.
It’s hard to imagine a pool in that setting now as the area has gone upmarket and is surrounded by several cafes, restaurants and expensive houses.
I went to Learn to Swim lessons there for a fortnight every January for a number of years. Even though I never learned to put my face in the water, I still managed to attain most of the swimming certificates offered.
The highlight of swimming there was undoubtedly the small kiosk which sold the famous “Bush biscuits” with butter on them. I don’t know if this was only available in SA. It was a very large plain (not particularly sweet) biscuit perhaps about 10cm x 6cm. Or perhaps that’s just how big it seemed to a child?
But it was perfect after swimming to fill up on before walking some distance to the bus and then walking again from the bus to our house. There was no such thing as getting lift from your father (my mother never learned to drive which was a common occurrence).  We were all very independent and made our own way day or night.


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Love this curate!

Doing a happy dance here this afternoon. As a result of my research, I located this 1848/49 Burial register from Axmouth in Devon.  The minister and curate have kindly annotated the record with the causes of death.  After several days looking at Devon PR’s, for me this is a very interesting and unique find.


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Food Parcels after WW2

Readers of one of my favourite books 84, Charing Cross Road will recall that Helene Hanff sent parcels of food ordered from New York to the staff of the London bookshop from the late 1940’s.  She did this because she was aware of the severe food shortages that England faced for many years after the end of WW2. 

 Today, during another session of scanning old documents, I came across the inhouse magazine of Chiswick Products – the makers of Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish in London.  It was the Winter 1947 issue in which our grandfather was farewelled on his retirement after 40 years as one of their Lithographic Printers.  Three other members of the family also worked there over several years. 

 I was very moved to read the story of how the staff in Australia and South Africa wanted to send food parcels from each member of their staff – 79 from Australia and 165 from South Africa to the staff in London.  As there must have been many more staff than that number in England, it was decided to put in the names of all staff with 10 years service who had been there during the war and balloted the required number to receive the parcels.  I bet there were very mixed feelings that day in the factory as some received food they hadn’t seen since before the war and others went home empty handed.

1947 Chiswick Products magazine p.82-83

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Emigration with the Salvation Army

My father came to Australia in the 1920’s under the umbrella of the “Salvation Army Lads”. I’ve often wondered how a lad of 17 years from a big mill town in Cheshire found his way to Australia without his family. I’ve recently been in contact with the International Heritage Centre for the Salvation Army in London and they have sent me a couple of interesting booklets from that period advertising the emigration services of the Army. The Army had been sending people from the UK to Australia, Canada and New Zealand in great numbers since 1905 and apparently had a large organisation around the world dedicated to this work.

Under the heading of “Square Dinkum Opportunities” there is the following –
“Come over and give us a hand in this sunlit white man’s country. There’s room for you – thousands of you and we want clean British lads brim full of pluck and adaptability”

As they say the past is another country.

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Keep your stairs in good repair or else!

Gosh, things were tough in Chester in 1604.  I was browsing thru some court archives this week at the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies and these caught my eye.

27th Nov. 1604. Presentment by Jury.
For not coming to the church: Hamnet Benit, tanner, John Whitbees wife, innholder.

For making malt being not free: Mr. Marmeduk Whimchurch, foreigner, Mr. Thomas Harper, attorney in the Exchequer, Widow Edgerton in the Northgate Street.

In Bridgstreet: John Granooe, sherman, for the stairs belonging to his house being broken.

Mr. Roger Horlstone’s stairs next to John Granooe’s also broken.

John Rigmaiden for his cart standing in Copings lane.

Mr. Midelton, Mr. Casse and Thomas Lynicar for their stairs wanting rails on the one side.

John Lea’s stair want rails on both sides.

Mr. Robart Fletcher’s stairs are not railed.
In Commonhale lane
Salomon Smith for letting dung lie at his stable side without in the lane.
Thomas Fletcher, Alderman, for the same.
John Doole, butcher, for the like offence.

Mr. Richard Rathborne for leaving his cart in the lane so that people may take harm at night.

Tho. Woods for suffering dirt to lie against his stable.

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Leech jars

I’ve been reading a great novel about apothercaries in England in the early 1800’s and there was mention of taking leeches from the leech jar.  Of course, I had to google that and I was blown away by how attractive the jars were.


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