Thursday, May 31, 2012

A mystery involving the Darton Family of Temple Dinsley, Preston, near Hitchin

This advert appeared in the Bedford Times in August 1854, and is typical of the kind of sales when someone gives up farming. He is selling the crops in the field, the livestock including horses, cattle, sheep and pig, and the agricultural equipment  you would expect to see around a working farm. He is also selling off surplus household furniture, suggesting a move to a smaller house. Perhaps, you think, Thomas Harwood Darton, of Temple Dinsley, Preston, was retiring, and if you check the records he died 4 years later, but at the early age of 46.

On its own nothing too out of the way until you realize that his grandfather Jospeph Darton probably died in his 40s; his father Joseph Darton died aged 40, and his sons died at the age of 33 and 37.

So was it a co-incidence or was there a genetic weakness on the male line? To be honest I don't know - but when you are researching your family tree it is always worth looking for the out of the ordinary - and you never know what you will find.

The Bedford Times coverage of Hertfordshire News in 1854

The heading on this paper reads The Bedford Times and General Advertiser for Beds, Herts, Hunts, Bucks, Cambs, and Huntingdonshire. It looks interesting ...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Most Popular Posts on this Newsletter

I decided to review the newsletter to see which were the most popular postings during the period September 2011 to April 2012, and as a byproduct have drawn up a list ranking the top fifty posts. One of the most interesting features of the list is that postings relating to the First World War attract a significant number of views, as did the posts on the medieval field systems.

Rank: Views: Date: Title

 1  234 24/02/12 Herts Parish Church Registers to be digitised
 2  167 22/10/11 Harry Cull of Watford, World War One Photographer
 3  151 08/09/11 Buying Hertfordshire Wills Online
 4  138 01/01/12 Site activity for the year 2011
 5  136 22/04/12 We want to register our children's births (1829)
 6  127 23/10/11 Medieval Field System exposed in Wilstone Reservoir
 7  113 16/09/11 A Book on Gustard Wood, Wheathampstead
 8  109 21/09/11 Post Card Views of Shenley
 9  106 12/10/11 Mental Health Records in Hertfordshire
10   92 28/09/11 Our 50th Wedding Anniversary
11   90 26/01/12 New Post Cards of Aldbury
12   89 02/12/11 Xmas Challenge - The Lunatics at Harpenden Hall 1851-1901
13   88 15/09/11 Some More St Albans Football Clubs wanting Dates
14   86 19/12/11 Some WW1 Officers in Watford
15   84 27/10/11 Isle of Wight Rifles at Watford, Summer 1915
16   84 28/11/11 More WW1 Army pictures by Cull of Watford
17   82 17/04/12 A celebration dinner, the very rich, carts and the railway
18   75 18/10/11 School Group Photograph, Boxmoor School, Hemel Hempstead
19   75 09/02/12 Why I groan when I get a query from the USA
20   75 20/01/12 Make the most of FREE genealogy sites
21   73 25/10/11 Little Berkhamsted War Memorial and St Andrew's Church
22   70 07/04/12 William Harold Cox of Luton & St Albans
23   69 22/04/12 Relaxing in Tavistock Square (off topic)
24   69 05/03/12 The Latest Issue of Hertfordshire People
25   68 05/02/12 St Stephens Brickworks, Bricket Wood
26   66 03/10/11 Major update of Watton-at-Stone web page
27   66 28/01/12 Congratulations to Wikipedia for spotting this spam
28   66 23/01/12 William George Bennett, St Albans Brickmaker
29   65 16/12/11 William Walby's Inquest, 1890 and Warren Wood, Hatfield
30   63 02/03/12 Can anyone read shorthand?
31   63 04/11/11 William Harold Cox, Photographer of Luton
32   62 18/04/12 Hertfordshire History Meetings, May 2012
33   59 20/09/11 Poaching & Petty Thieving in St Albans
34   58 09/12/11 Even this faded card can tell a story
35   57 03/12/11 Stagenhoe Park Photographs saved for posterity
36   55 18/09/11 Meeting my Great Great Great Great Grandfather
37   54 23/02/12 A Post Card with surprising Football and Princely Connections
38   54 03/12/11 More Evidence of Medieval Fields at Tring Reservoirs
39   54 06/09/11 I attend an Old School Reunion
40   53 13/03/12 Did you ask Grandma about it?
41   52 31/03/12 I will see you all, far more clearly, in a week's time
42   52 01/10/11 High Resolution Images of Old Hertfordshire Post Cards
43   51 10/04/12 A unknown school near Hitchin
44   51 25/02/12 The Cream of Curiosity by Reginald Hine
45   51 07/02/12 Bricks & Beer at St Albans
46   50 24/04/12 What did your parish church own in 1552?
47   50 28/02/12 Tombs with Trees in Hertfordshire
48   50 26/02/12 Can you help me identify this Post Card?
49   50 21/11/11 The B.P. Swimming Club visit Hoddesdon in 1910
50   49 13/04/12 An Important Index of Historical Hertfordshire Articles

One post, from last September only had one view? Can you guess what the subject was?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mentmore, Buckinghamshire

Mentmore Towers
As part of the plan to include brief details of Buckinghamshire places close to the Hertfordshire border I have added a page for Mentmore, including old pictures of Mentmore Towers and links to modern pictures of the church and village.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Some quickie answers re St Albans, Berkhamsted & Tring

In addition to the answers I publish on this site there are often other perfectly good questions which are handled by emails, because I can only give limited help.

Hannah is researching a house on the estate which was built between Sandridge Road, St Albans and St Saviour's Church in the 1881-1901 period. While I researched parts of this estate in my studies of Bernards Heath, I did not collect any information on the house in question although its location suggests it might have been built as a manager's house in connection with the nearby brickworks. Fortunately Hannah lives in St Albans so I was able to tell her that the St Albans Central Library has copies of old street directories on the open shelves from 1880 and she could probably find the answer to her question by looking through these.

Robert's ancestor, John Wheeler was born in about 1735 and lived in Harlington, Bedfordshire - but has drawn a blank when trying to find information on his birth in the Bedfordshire records. He wrote asking if a John Wheeler baptised at Berkhamsted St Peter in 1733 could be his man and I had to tell him that the Militia Lists and a will suggested he was a butcher who stayed in Berkhamsted.

Nicky is researching a house and while she has tracked down several old maps she has been able to find where there is a copy  of the Tring Tithe Map from the 1840s. In theory there should be three but all seem to be "missing". Tim has provided some additional information relevant to the Tring Town Council records and if a copy turns up, preferably with the schedule, I will happily publish details on this site.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Little Hadham has been upgraded - and a new UNCLE link

I recently acquired a 100 year old post card of The Ford, Little Hadham, which had been posted by Kathleen Jones, the housekeeper to the widower, Charles Poile - who was giving her a week off at Christmas. Kathleen's mother was Sarah Lydia Uncle so may be related to the family earlier described in UNCLE, Much Hadham, early 19th century The card was sent to Nellie, the wife of Leonard Ballard, a London Metropolitan Police Constable, and while Kitty and Nellie were obviously friends the nature of the friendship is not known. The card was published by the J. Houghton, of the Little Hadham post office.

I used the opportunity to upgrade the Little Hadham pages - providing it with a dedicated menu and creating a new page for the pictures of St Edmunds Church (now rededicated to St Cecilia) 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Shah has been added to the pub crawl through Barley.

Why not go back 100 years, and while walking through Barley stop and be greeted by Benjamin Bullen of the Shah, Nathan Chapman of the King William IV, Alfred Stanley Oxley of the Fox and Hounds, and William George Saggs of the Waggon and Horses. A quick detour down Church End will find John Dilly ready to welcome you at the Three Crowns, while continuing along the London road you will find William West at the Woolpack, followed by James Chuck at the Chequers. If you are still thirsty you might backtrack to Smith's End to enjoy the company of Jacob Hayes at the Hoops.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Candles for Lucy

I pause at the computer and look out of the window and into the garden. The horse chestnut tree is in flower with more florets than ever. 
Memories come flooding back

When things get difficult - Which Joseph is which??

Diane has hit a brick wall. Joseph Norris married Mary Wheeler and had a number of children  baptised in Berkhamsted St Peter. The problem is that there were two baptisms for Joseph, and a detailed analysis is unable to reliably identify which Joseph married Mary. My answer NORRIS, Berkhamsted & Northchurch, 18th century contains information which could be relevant to anyone with a similar problem in the 18th century - when there is no census returns to help, but where militia lists can be useful. The case is a classic  Right Name, Wrong Body" , and all I can suggest is what I do when I hit a serious brick wall in my own research.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Did Theresa remarry leaving her first husband in Leavesden Asylum?

Alison reported that Louis Flatau was married Theresa Newstadt in 1881 but in 1892 Theresa remarried Albert Waddell but the only death found for anyone called Louis Flatau was in 1906 at Leavesden Asylum. I checked the 1891 and 1901 censuses and there was no sign of any Lewes/Louis Flatau or any likely mispelling of Flatau in the Asylum. In any case the death indexes contain many errors and the failure to find a death circa 1890 does not mean the he did not die then, and other records support the idea that he was dead. My first reaction was to suggest that the Louis Flatau whose death was recorded in 1906 could not be him. However a later rethink, suggested there is something of interest. As a result I have appended an expanded and tidied up version of my original rough notes to the detailed analysis of the Louis Flatau case.

Leavesden Lunatic Asylum circa 1915
Basically there was a patient in Leavesden  in 1901 who fits the general description of Louis Flatau (age, occupation, place of birth) but his name is recorded as Louis Woolf.  So what - there were hundreds of people in Leavesdon which came from exactly the same part of London - so it could just be a coincidence. But wait a moment. Louis Flatau's mother's maiden name was Woolf, so perhaps Louis's full name was Louis Woolf Flatau and the Flatau was dropped when her was admitted to Leavesden. The complication is that the Flatau and Woolf families seem to have been immigrants from Eastern Europe, living in a close-knit community and there are a number of genuine Louis Woolfs who could also have been the patient in Leavesden Asylum.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don't assume the information you have is correct.

Keith reported that his ancestor Irving Henry Fisher was born in October 1844 at Standon, Hertfordshire, and emigrated to America between 1867 and 1877.  He wrote that he could not find details of Irving's birth or parents and asked for help. While Fisher is quite a common name Irving is unusual and the Irving Henry combination is probably unique. I quickly confirmed that a straight search of the online censuses and FreeBMD drew a bank.

Fortunately the newly released baptism records on FindMyPast came up with an "Irving Henry Fisher" who was baptised on 30 October 1842 at St Mary's, Ealing, Middlesex, the son of Michael and Adelaide Fisher. Using this new information allowed me to find the registration of the birth of  "Irven Fisher" at Brentford in Oct-December 1842. Irving's parents Michael and Adelaide Fisher could quickly be found in the 1841 census, revealing that Michael was an agricultural labourer. The 1851 census showed 8 year old "Ervin Fisher" in Ealing with his widower father, a housekeeper who was to become his step-mother, and several siblings.

The 1861 drew a complete blank with a search for "Irving" and variants - despite using all the tricks of the trade for likely errors, as he was not with his father and step-mother. So I decided to look for "Henry."  I could not find a "Henry Fisher" born in Ealing and there were too many born in Middlesex of about the right age to be absolutely sure. However many could be ruled out simply by looking at the full household details and there was a promising 17 year old "Henry Fisher" candidate incarcerated in a reformatory in Wandsworth, Middlesex. If the reformatory did not reform him he may have had a good reason for wanting to leave England ...

There are some lessons to be learnt from this example. Around the middle of the 19th century many working class families could not read and write and less common names were often misspelt (and also sometimes misindexed). In addition people who left the country with a blot on their character could well have provided deliberately inaccurate information in their new country, to make it harder for their past in England to be traced. This may not have occurred in the case - as I am not 100% sure that the "Henry" in Wandsworth was "Irving Henry" from Ealing. One the other hand, in the days before centralised computer records, claiming you were from a completely different county could be sufficient to separate you from your past.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Accident on the Railway in 1841

The Reformer reports on a railway accident 
near Broxbourne in 1841.

Many workers got injured in building the railways and it is probably impossible to identify James Thompson/Green, assuming either was his real name.

Grissell & Peto were major building contractors - but do you know of any other work they did in Hertfordshire?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Alas poor Tom, who died at Hunsdon in 1735

A typical 18th century gravestone

Here lies Tom King old Dad of fame
Who knew his Gun and eke his Game
The fact whereof both Ball's and Luton
Now can fully prove the truth on
He loved his Bottle and his Friend
Which he enjoy'd unto his End
He Dy'd at last alas poor Tom!
Behold at last his Slab and Tomb.

An epitaph from Hunsdon recorded in Cream of Curiosity

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pannonica Rothschild & Tring Park

Last September I posted details of the book Nica's Dream, The life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness, by David Kastin. Now Hannah Rothschild has just published a book The Baroness: The search for Nica, the rebellious Rothschild. and I note that the Daily Telegraph Review includes the following:
Appropriately enough for someone who would live by night and be drawn to the flames, Pannonica was named after a moth: her father, Charles, was an entomologist and the childhood home, Tring Park in Aylesbury – one of the “huge three-dimensional calling cards” built by the Rothschilds to announce their arrival – also housed her uncle Walter’s private collection of stuffed kangaroos, whales and giant tortoises. Nica would later live in what Hannah calls “an animated version” of Tring Park, when she shared her modest New Jersey house with 300 or so cats.
Tring Park is not in Aylesbury, Bucks, it is in Tring, Herts, and one of things that distinguishes it from the other Rothschild houses in the area is that it is not "one of the three dimensional calling cards built by the Rothschilds to announce their arrival."  It was a much older house which was given what could be considered a comparatively conservative upgrade. I don't know if these errors are in the book or in the review but such inaccuracies in facts which are trivially easy to check give me no confidence in the reliability of the book. It will be interesting to see if the Daily Telegraph publishes a correction.

The Parks and Gardens of West Hertfordshire

The Parks and Gardens of West Hertfordshire is one of the excellent books published by the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust. It is well illustrated, with many garden plans, some dating back to the eighteenth century. Over 40 West Herts parks and gardens are mentions, in some cases in considerable detail. I was most impressed with the information on Tring Park, where I was walking only a few days ago.

If your ancestors were associated with one of the larger houses in the area, perhaps even as a gardener, this book could be of particular interest, and by getting a copy from the Trust you would be helping the excellent research into historic gardens which they are doing.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Buntingford Pictures lost in fire - Can you help?

 A plea for help has recently appeared on Rootsweb relating to Buntingford and I have decided to repeat it here

"Beedan" ( is looking for photographs taken by a Mr Philip Plumb and writes: My Grandfather lived in Buntingford 1925 -1932. I have a copy of his extensive his obit which is the only info I have on his life. All our family photos were destroyed in a fire here in Australia in 1960 (moved to Australia  in 1954) I am sure that there are photos of my father and his siblings available during their time in Buntingford. I want to try and find someone in Buntingford who would be willing to help me.  

Obviously most of the pictures on Buntingford on my site show the place before his grandfather was there, but perhaps someone has the right contacts to see what is available. I am asking Beeden to supply some more information on the people who might appear in pictures by posting details as a comment.

There is an additional general point. Have you digitised you old family photographs, with documentation to identify the subjects, and made multiple copies to be held by different members of the family in case tragedy strikes ...

The Cave Family of Abbots Langley

Last year I posted a picture, and some background, on Arthur William Cave, a fishmonger of Abbots Langley. A relative, Janet, has supplied  some detailed information on the family and and number of photographs, which have been appended to the original page.

These include a picture and information of the young Herbert Bushby Cave, 1896-1916, who died on the Somme. 

There is also information on the Dolamore of Abbots Langley and Leavesden.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Wesleyan Minister with links to the West Indies and China

In 2001 a query from Adrian lead me to investigate how many people living in Hertfordshire at the time of the 1881 census had been born in China. This showed that two children of the Rev. John S. Parkes, living in Bishops Stortford, had been born in Canton. 

Flora has now written to ask if I could throw any light on the father of  John Sowter Parkes of Bishops Stortford. It turns out that he was the son of another Wesleyan Minister, John Parkes, who was in the West Indies when his son was born - while the grandfather was probably a Marmaduke Parks of Derby. Some of this information came from recent correspondence on Genes Reunited

The detailed story throws a light on the way that Wesleyan Methodist ministers regularly moved from place to place, and further connections with Hertfordshire involving the Ashwell family. It also reveals the existence of what is best described as a small dames school, of the type where it is often hardto prove they existed. I looked at the origins of the three pupils in 1911 and the two I could identify came from families where I would not expect the parents to send a child to a boarding school in Hertfordshire, which raises a number of questions.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sometimes I am a Grumpy Old Genealogist

Sometimes I am a Grumpy Old Genealogist
In recent years many people of all ages have started to research their ancestors online and often they don't realise the problems that were faced by people who researched their ancestors a generation or more ago. This was brought home to me by a recent email request I received.

The request came from a very distant relative about the marriage of a common ancestor who married in 1668, and not linked to Hertfordshire. Unlike many other geriatric genealogists I was very early in the use of computers for genealogy - and the last computer capable of processing my earliest files was scrapped nearly 25 years ago - and the detailed biographical information on some 6000 relatives, on some 1000 pages of listings has not been transferred to a modern genealogy package. I am therefore in a similar position to many others who started researching their families over 30 years ago without the use of computers. I have a vast pile of unindexed paper notes and records, many in rough note form, in filing cabinets in my office and in boxes somewhere inaccessible at the back of the garage. Even a simple request which could be answered by supplying a copy of a thirty year old photocopy can be very time consuming - and in many cases a new copy can now be ordered online for a few pounds. So should I spend several hours of my time shuffling through tons of paper when the questioner can buy another copy of the original online for a few pounds and five minutes at the keyboard.

More general questions, such as "tell me all you know about our common ancestors", can mean even more work. In such cases there can be a real desire to provide the information but because of the amount of work the queries have to be put on one side, with other similar requests, to be answered when (if ever) there is time ... Instead I will be try to post details of one or more of my ancestors a month - and if you are a distant cousin I will hopefully get to our common ancestor before I finally flake out. Alternately I may try and digitise some of the old computer listings to make it easier to share the old information I collected.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Buntingford pages upgraded

I have carried out a major upgrade of the Buntingford pages, so there is now a dedicated menu and several pages of information/pictures.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another hidden message on a post card

Yet another card with a coded message. Can you read the message? 
Note the angle of the stamp.
See Hidden Messages 
for the decoded version and the identity of the sender.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Franco's Fancy Post Card Frames

Frank A Markham was a wood carver living in Sumatra Road, West Hampstead, London, and the son of a Baptist minister who lived in St Albans circa 1878. The frames would appear to be wood block engravings and all the examples I have found relate to Hertfordshire (mainly Aldbury/Tring area) and the views I have seen all appear to be of subjects with potentially low volume sales.  I would expect that a small number were printed in or before 1910 and there was no follow up publishing. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal

The Grand Junction Canal, and its branches to Wendover and Aylesbury, played a significant role in the development of the towns and villages through which it ran. In addition much of the relevant industrial archaeology is still visible. However early post cards and other pictures are hard to come by it is impossible to illustrate many of the historically interesting features with 100+ year old pictures.

On the other hand in recent years I have spent much time relaxing by walking the canal  (initially with Franci). recording the surviving features photographically. Selected pictures have already been posted on Geograph to form a connected record with many more waiting to be posted. Some of these pictures will be available as high resolution images, and will link to other views of the same feature, often with added historical notes.

Bridge 3 at Wilstone
I have decided the best way forward is to continue to post modern photographs on Geograph but include feature lists for various lengths of the canal on this web site - starting with the locks and bridges. Once I have covered the basic framework I can then link old pictures to the relevant key features, and include special pages on specific aspects of the history of the canal system and the associated reservoirs.

You may start the exploration of the canal system on Geograph here.

Lock 15 at Aylesbury
The following feature lists have so far been added to this site in outline form

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hertfordshire Hatchments

Hatchment in Wheathampstead Church

Diamond-shaped funeral hatchment first came into vogue in the 17th century and examples can be seen in many Hertfordshire churches. They are of considerable interest to those who understand heraldry and provide information on the ancestry of the deceased.

There is a series of books on Hatchments in Britain and I recently came across a new copy online of Volume 6 covering Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Middlesex at a known-down price and decided to have a look. The descriptions are hard to understand unless you are familiar with the language of heraldry - but in each case identifies the name of the deceased and the families represented on the hatchment. I have listed the Hertfordshire churches with hatchments on the review page.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mental Heath and Lunatic Asylums in Hertfordshire

Issue 18 of Herts Part and Present includes an article Unfit for General Society: a history of mental health care in Hertfordshire by Gary Moyle. The abstract reads:
As Gary Moyle remarks, Hertfordshire is notable for the many mental hospitals within its borders. Here he offers an overview of the care of mentally ill from the fourteenth century to the present, showing how responsibility has passed from the Crown to the community, via the parish and private asylums. Along the way he notes those humanitarians, such as William Tuke, whose efforts improved conditions for the afflicted.
This site already has several pages relating to mental health including Early Mad Houses in St Albans and Harpenden,  The Long Stay Hospitals of the St Albans Area, and Hill End Asylum.  Some of you will already have made a donation to the Herts Mind Network, read what happened to Lucy and Belinda, and understand my personal interest in the subject.

Hill End Patient, 1902
So on to the article - Gary works at HALS and has been actively involved in sorting out the information on Hill End and has produced a very useful summary of the sort of information available at HALS.  It would seem that until about 200 years ago all but the most unmanageable mental cases would have been looked after in the community, although licensed asylums were available for those who could afford to pay. The County Asylum Act of 1808 lead to Bedfordshire opening an asylum for pauper lunatics and Hertfordshire joined in in 1828. The Three County Asylum was built in 1860 and Hill End opened from Hertfordshire patients in 1899. Perhaps the main lesson from the paper is that if you have a Hertfordshire ancestor who ended up in an Hertfordshire asylum the place to start is at HALS

However I should add a rider - as there were also a number of asylums built in Hertfordshire for Middlesex/London patients and their records are not in Hertfordshire - See The Long Stay Hospitals of the St Albans Area

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pupil Records for Christ's Hospital, Hertford

Christ's Hospital, Hertford, 1830
It is always nice to know about old school records that have survived, and Mike has emailed me to say that there is a complete admissions register of pupils entering Christ's Hospital from April 1563 to date, as well as some further records about each child admitted. These include children who were educated at Hertford. The original register up to the end of the 19th century is kept at the London Metropolitan Archives, and thereafter the register is kept at Horsham. In the Christ's Hospital museum, we have a microfilm copy of the admissions registers and other records, and our volunteers deal with queries about CH pupils which are sent to There is no specific charge for dealing with queries, but we invite donations (for the benefit of the museum), as you do on your website.

As a result I have updated the main Christ's Hospital page on this site, and also revised the answer I gave about GURR, Christ's Hospital, Hertford, 1860s.

Henry Graves goes to the grave in 1702

A typical 18th century

Here lies in one grave more than one Grave;
Envious Death at last has gained his Prize;
No Pills or Potions here could make him tarry,
Resolv'd he was to fetch away old Harry.
You foolish Doctors could you all miscarry!
Great were his actions on the tempestuous waves,
Resistless seas could never conquer Graves.
At Colchester he met this overthrow,
Unhappily you lost him at a blow;
Each marine hero shed for him a tear
St Margret's now in him must have a share.

An epitaph from Stanstead St Margaret church to Henry Graves, who died in 1702 as recorded in Cream of Curosity

Sunday, May 6, 2012

To be honest Family History research really is dirt cheap ...

O.K. I can hear some of you newcomers to the hobby grumbling about the cost of subscriptions or the cost of page views - but you don't know how very expensive it was in the past. I was reminded of this by Peter Calvar's article Is the cost of your hobby going up? on the latest LostCousins Newletter. He compared the cost of a subscription to a site like Ancestry 10 years ago with the current subscription for very much more information at your finder tips. Basically he was saying that the present day "Bucks per Bang" today is very much bigger than it was when he paid his first online subscription.

If you go further back the costs of researching your family tree were very much higher - which meant that you had to send very more time and more money (allowing for inflation) to make even slower progress.

First World War Military Career - The Case of James Humphries

Now that more and more military records are coming online it is becoming increasingly easy to trace the likely movements of your ancestor during the First World War - particularly if there is a relevant published history.

With Anthony's help in finding some key records on Ancestry and FindMyPast it is possible to trace the movements of James Humphries. He was the "J" who sent a postcard to Miss M. Rowe in 1909 - which was the starting point of a mystery post card  investigation. In one way his case is simplified because he joined the Watford Battery of the 4th Herts Brigade R.F.A. of the Territorial Force - and almost certainly stayed with it all through the war - although it had been renamed the 270th Brigade R.F.A. by the end of the war. It is also helped because the history of the Hertfordshire soldiers have been well documented by J.D. Sainsbury, in this case in The Hertfordshire Batteries Royal Field Artillery. See James Humphries' Career

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Frederick Sanders - The Orchid King of St Albans

Frank Sander (1847-1920) came to St Albans in 1876 and became a major supplies of orchids to late Victorian England - including many European Royalty. The book Frederick Sander: The Orchid King provides an insight into the world of orchid collecting. It was written by Arthur Swinson in 1970 and I say something of the St Albans connection on the Review page.

Why not share what you know if your ancestor worked for Frederick Sander - or brought orchids from him.

And a big Thank You to Mary - who provided a copy of the book.

A very unusual car in Hertfordshire

In January I asked if anyone could identify this car, and also passed a request on to the Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society who are skilled in the identification of old cars. This proved a challenge but one of their number  reported that it was a 1908 GC Light Car with Sultan 8HP engine made by Automobiles G. C. ,  H. Guyot et Cie, Paris, - and only in 1908.

There were two other cars on my Motor Car page and they kindly identified these as well. The car on a postcard in Colliers end was also a French car - a 1925 Citroen 5CV Model C - but made in Slough, while the bullnosed Morris was a 1925  Morris Cowley  Two-Seater with Dickey. [SVVS Identification Page]

In each case the date of car manufacturer can be identified to the year - which shows how useful cars can be in identifying the earliest possible date for a photograph.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Straw Platting in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire

A straw plaiting peg doll
from Tring circa 1895
Straw plaiting was something women and children could do at home to supplement the family income and in many Hertfordshire villages, particularly around the St Albans area, it was one of the commonest occupations in the mid 19th century. Much of the plait was uses to make hats in St Albans and Luton. If your ancestor was a farm labourer in the area 150 years of so ago his wife may well have plaited straw, and his children as well.

The FindMyPast blog has recently published the following request for information.
‘Are you, were you, or do you know, a master hat–maker? If yes, we tip our caps to you, and hope that you might have something to share… We’re currently researching the hatting and straw plaiting industry in southern England - the commercial hub was in Luton, but the trade was also vitally important to people throughout Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Essex. If you, or anyone in your family, worked in the trade and would like to share your memories or any photographs, we would love to hear from you – you can contact the author directly at’
If you add a comment below about your straw plaiting or hat making ancestors I will forward the details to Katie.

A First in the Family

Yesterday I was booked to go to London in  a coach trip with the Tring U3A Genealogy Group to visit the London Metropolitan Archives or possibly the Society of Genealogists but I was distracted by the news that the youngest member of the family was doing something that, as far as I know, none of her ancestors had ever done. She had a picture hung in a London Art Exhibition! So when the coach arrived in the City the archives were forgotten for a couple of hours as I slipped out and caught a bus to the Royal College of Art.

OK, Hanaa was only six when she painted it and it may only be a coincidence that it provides a surreal image of the desolate high rise housing estates that were built in London 50 years ago. The important thing is that the Annual Young Art Exhibitions at the Royal College of Art not only gives children at some 80 schools in the London area a chance to show what they can do, by also raises money for cancer research.