Monday, December 31, 2012

Website Update in Progress

Between now and midnight I will be uploading a large number of changes to the web site. This should not affect this Newsletter - and most of the pages on the main site should continue to work during the upload process.

Over the rest of the week there will some testing but I hope to get this process over by the coming weekend - with reports of progress here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Enjoy your Christmas Dinner.

A Christmas Card from 1907

Following the success of last year's
I have been asked to do an encore!
The Duck went into the oven at 9.45 - So now to get the vegetables, etc., ready

12.45 - Cooked and ready for action
It was delicious

And now time for a good sleep ...

Christmas Greetings from the Hertfordshire Regiment

When the First World War broke out the Hertfordshire Regiment mobilised and went to war stations in the Bury St Edmunds  area of Suffolk. The 1st battalion left for France on 5th November, 1914,  leaving the 1st Reserve Battalion in Suffolk to train new recruits. This card shows Stowlangtoft Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, and the picture was drawn by "R.G.G." for Christmas 1914.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm taking it easy for Christmas

Posted in Hemel Hempstead 23/12/1915
Christmas is coming, the duck is getting fat, and we are having a visitor for the holiday - which means I must find a home for the part of my library that has invaded the spare bedroom ... and there will be plenty of other distractions.

This Newsletter is therefore going off the off the air  until January 1st. I will continue to answer queries, on the main web site as far as I have time, and hopefully I will get a lot of messages relating to pictures of First World War troops.

So have an enjoyable time at Christmas - Enjoy exploring the Genealogy in Hertfordshire Web Site if you have not already done so, and the best of luck researching your ancestors over the holiday and into the New Year.

And finally, a great thanks to everyone who has donated to help the mentally ill of Hertfordshire through the Herts Mind Network. There is still time to give if you have not done so. Remember that for many who are mentally ill, and who are living on their own at Christmas, the festive season can be a very sad time spent reflecting on a happier past. My online Collecting Box  is still open - and as I write we are still well short of the target for 2012. 

Something to do over Christmas

Valerie's grandfather was in the London Scottish Regiment and she has kindly supplied a picture of some of the soldiers who were trained in Hertfordshire during the First World War, photographed by the Watford photographer, Harry Cull, who took so many photographs of troops training in the area. The negative number suggests that the picture was taken after the first line of the London Scottish went to France, and this picture may show new recruits of the second line. 

Such contributions to this web site can help to make it more useful to more people. So how can you help over the Christmas Holidays?

My current plans are to significantly increase my coverage of the First World War in time for the anniversary of the outbreak of war in August 1914. I would like to include one or more pictures of soldiers in each of the units who trained in Hertfordshire, and also of the military hospitals. and not just Napsbury, but some of the many smaller Military Hospitals based in large private houses, such as those at Boxmoor, Gustard Wood and Kings Walden. Pictures of camps such as Britons Camp and the one at Hitchin, and of military training will be included when I can get them.

If your ancestor was in the First World War and was trained in Hertfordshire, or was a member of the Hertfordshire Regiment, why not.over the Christmas holiday, look out any relevant photographs to add to the online Centenary collection I am preparing. Tell me what you have, and I will send you instructions for sending digital copies - and I may be able to tell you more about what he was doing or what the picture shows. Simple information, such as the address where he was billeted can be useful, while messages home on the back of post cards can be most helpful in revealing .

In addition, if you know of web sites or books which have World War 1 pictures of troops training in Hertfordshire tell me the URL or book details. The more information you can let me have the better we can celebrate what our ancestors did to protect this country in 1914-1918.

The British Newspaper Archives on Find My Past

I have added a discussion on using the British Newspaper Archives  via FindMyPast to the end of my earlier report. I list the many problems and restrictions and conclude:
Despite my very critical comments the facilities provide a wonderful lucky dip facility - and if you are lucky you may find out things about your ancestors you could never have found in any other way. It could well be that the easy to use (at the lucky dip level) interface which lacks the tools to ask serious questions is deliberate - to ensure that any serious research is carried out on the British Newspaper Archive web site. However a number of the failings also apply to that site as well. Factors such as the size of indexed blocks seem to be more relevant to minimizing the amount of manual work the firm scanning the newspapers has to do - while having the effect of maximizing the time wasted by searchers using the system.

Newspaper reports on Amwell Bury. 1800-1850

Following the recent work on Gamels Hall, Little Amwell, Anthony suggested that there was further useful information if you searched the Archives for "Amwell Bury". I decided to do a detailed search and have not posted a detailed press summary on the manor house.

News Items on my Great Great Grandfather, Francis Reynolds.

As part of my writing a review on the British Newspaper Archives I decided that the case of my ancestor Francis Evered Reynolds was worthy of attention. What I knew was that he appears to have abandoned his family and was involved in some way with horse racing. I successfully discovered that he effectively went bankrupt in 1843 but that one of the horses he trained won a race at Swaffhan in 1861. However I suspect that there are other racing references in the Archive which I could not identify.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Bundle of Books about Harpenden

I have just posted a page which includes details of a large number of books about Harpenden. In most cases there is a review page for the books - but in many cases the review has not yet been written. This works on a "priority" system. If you are interested enough to tell me you want a review I will write it, looking particularly at whatever aspect of Harpenden you are most interested in (assuming you tell me who or what you are interested in). This reduces my work load, as I never have to write a review for books that no one wants to know about. So the more people who are not interested in the history of the places where their ancestors came from the less work I have to do! 

 Please note that 
this list relates to 
books I have easy
access to, and is not
 a comprehensive
list of books on
If you do want a review just click on the book - and if there is no review tell me or write a comment below, and I will add the book to the "Review in 2013" list.

If you have a copy of the book and would like to write a review that will also be very welcome.
You can also suggest towns where you would like a similar list of books.

Rural Relaxation: A Spectacular Canal Walk

Frost-covered Trees at Marsworth Reservoir
Adjoining the Grand Union Canal, near Tring.
By the Canal near Startops Reservoir, near Tring
On Wednesday last week my car was due for service at Lower End Garage. Marsworth, and I planned to drop the car off when it opened and walk back to Tring along the canal, having breakfast at the Garden Centre at Bulbourne. Very low temperatures and freezing fog had been forecast so I dressed warmly and took my camera. When I arrived at the garage the fog had gone and the countryside had been converted into a winter wonderland - with everything covered by a thick layer of hoar frost.

As a result I ended up with a large number of photographs of the Grand Union Canal, Startops and Marsworth Reservoirs, plus some other views. There were close-ups of frosted leaves - rimed with ice crystals, and the birds were not ignored. The best pictures can now be seen, in high resolution, on Geograph. One of the pictures, "Its warm inside - and bitterly cold outside," was selected as the picture of the day on December 16th.

Lock 44, Grand Union Canal
The pictures were all taken with my new camera, a Canon Powershot SX40 HS camera, and in view of the interest in my earlier First and Second impressions of using it, I provide a Third impression, after using it for three months - below the fold.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Take care of your Daguerreotypes

The very earliest photographs in your family archives could be Daguerrotypes - which are firmly mounted in a glass photo frame to protect them.  The photograph is on the surface of a silver plate, with the light areas being silver/mercury crystals (which reflect the light and appear white) and plain silver (which appears dark). There is no negative - so each one is a "one-off" and they can be irreparably damaged if not looked after carefully. After some deteriorated when they were shown to the public in a museum, some detailed research was carried out to find out why they were so sensitive.

If you own such precious pictures from about 1850 you may be interested in an article "The Case of the  Disappearing Daguerrotypes" in this month's Scientific American. There is also a slide show of what can go wrong on the Scientific American web site.

Early Cricket in Hertfordshire

I am currently carrying out a series of searches in the British Newspaper Archives with a view to writing a guide to some of the techniques for getting the best out of them. One search was for records of early cricket in the county. I came up with the following two entries from 1737:
Last Wednesday a great Cricket-Match was play'd at Stanstead Abbot in Hertfordshire between 11 Gentlemen of the Corporation of Hertford and 11 of Stanstead, for 200 Guineas, when the Gentlemen of the Corporation were beat, There was up to 1000 l. won and lost on the match.
Derby Mercury, Thursday 14 July, 1737
On Friday last a Cricket Match was play'd at Ware in Hertfordshire, between eleven Gentlemen of Burntwood inEssex and eleven of Hertford, for 200 l., when the former won by six Notches; and it was generally believ'd that they would have beat them at one Innings, had they not met with ill Usage by a Mob of Bargemen. It is said the Bets which were laid on both sides amounted to 2000 l.
Derby Mercury, Thursday 25th August, 1737
I then looked for an early reference to cricket being played in Tring and found:
A Week or two ago was played, for a considerable Sum of Money, on Bohawk-Hill, Wendover, a great Match of Cricket between Wendover and Tring, which was won by the former by a large Number of Notches, at one Innings, notwithstanding Tring was allowed two famous extra Players from another Place. Wendover is soon to play another grand set Match, for a number of Silver Cups.
Northampton Mercury, Monday 3 July 1775
I then looked later for the earliest match I could find involving Tring that named the players and found one played at Tring Park between Tring and Berkhamsted in 1835, published in the Hertford Mercury and Reformer. [Full details - including the names of the two teams].

Some real difficulties were encountered in carrying out these searches and I will be reporting on these later.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Was your ancestor a Church of England Clergyman?

If your ancestor was a Church of England Clergyman, or you want to know more about the clergyman who married (or baptised or buried) your ancestor the Clergy of the Church of England data base may be just what you are looking for.

I have just carried out a search for Clergy who serves at Aldbury and was given the following list:

If you click on any of these you will get a summary of the individual and "+" tick boxes for more information.

One complication is that you need to know the diocese - but for most Hertfordshire parishes it is Lincoln - and for the rest London.

A Century ago at Radlett

The Schools & Church at Radlett
Card published by Coles of Watford

There is a higher resolution image of this card on the Radlett Pages.
Larger images of other cards can be made available. Please ask.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Was your ancestor a victim of "Burking"?

Picture from
Dr Robert Knox
While looking for something completely different I came across a "headline" (in as far as the papers of 1832 have headlines) "More Burking" in a Hampshire paper describing an incident at Amwell, near Ware, concerning a missing cow boy called Henry Willis.

I was intrigued. A couple of months ago I asked you "Has your Ancestor been Resurrected?

And if. instead, your ancestor had been "Burked" they fetched a better price if they were quickly taken to the surgeons in London.

Don't Forget, Wood was a commercial crop.

It is important to remember that wood was an important crop in 19th century Hertfordshire, and would be widely used, especially in rural area, as fuel and as building materials, and with pigs eating up the beech nuts and acorns. In addition small woods would have been kept as cover for foxes - as fox hunting was had a strong following among the rural well-to do. There were regular sales and this advert from the Herts Mercury gives details of oak trees being sold from several estates in the South East of the County. Many of the older woods that survive today have only survived because the trees were regularly harvested. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More about Little Gaddesden

Little Gaddesden Church in about 1830
The earlier reformatting of the pages for Little Gaddesden has made it easier to add new material and I have added details of a very informative church guide from about 1980 and a detail from an enclosure map which names fields as they were in 1838.