Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More High Resolution Post Card Images

Post Cards
Over the last few weeks I have been adding additional post cards to the web site and updating information about others.
  • I have collected some more data on cards by the school photographer Percy Buchanan, including a card of Queenswood School which may well have been taken by him circa 1904 when he was working for the Photo Tourists Association.
  • Frith post card of Ickleford posted in 1939 has a number suggesting it was taken in 1902 - but the image is the same as one published circa 1906 by Blum & Degan - suggesting some business arrangement between the firms. - But what?
  • I have posted an attractive view of Watford High Street, by Hartmann, published circa 1903.
  • I have posted two additional "Children" cards by the Misses M & A Austin of St Albans
  • High Leigh House
  • I have posted a view of the North Front of High Leigh House, Hoddesdon, (no publisher identified) with an interesting frank mark advertising the use of telephones.
Click here to see all recent post card images.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Northchurch (Berkhamsted) grave of Peter the Wild Boy had been listed

The BBC has published an article on the Grave of Peter the Wild Boy, at Northchurch, to record the fact that the stone has been given Grade II listing status.

See an 1822 account of Peter.

Thanks to the LostCousins Newsletter for the information about the BBC news item.

Fault in Donation Address Corrected

A couple of people have recently reported difficulties in making a donation. I have corrected fault - but you can donate directly at

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hertfordshire Parish Registers now online

Parish Registers has published online Hertfordshire records dating from 1538:
Jolly good as far as it goes - as we have been waiting for this for over a year - but when I checked my Aunt's baptism in 1895 I found a bad transcription error - a very clear "Finch" was indexed "Frank" - and, unlike the census returns, FindMyPast has provided no way of submitting amendments. 

I also found that for the parish I am most interested in, Sandridge, the amount covered is very limited - Baptisms 1898-1910; Banns 1824-1928; Marriages 1898-1901; Burials None. Other parishes seem better.

Interestingly if you select a Sandridge baptism for 1910 and view the register pages - you can scroll forward into 1911 and perhaps beyond but these are not indexed. In fact the software tells you that the baptism after 1910 for Sandridge is not found without telling you this is because it is not indexed.

I don't have time to do a detailed survey at present so if you try the new records why not add a comment below as to what you find to help other people find their way round the new facility.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What can be found quickly online - Ernest Murley of the London Orphan Asylum, Watford

Help Desk
One of the delights of modern family research online is that, in many cases, a great deal of information can be found so quickly, from a variety of sources, at a cost which is trivial compared with the time when I started researching, and had to physically travel miles to spend hours searching through two or three unindexed documents. The big problem for many people now is knowing where to look, and how to get the most out of the indexes.
The London Orphan Asylum, Watford
Carole's query about her father Ernest William Murley, who was brought up in the London Orphan Asylum at Watford 100 years ago, demonstrates what can be done in a few hours. I was able to identify her grandfather Thomas William Murley (1870-1908), her great grandfather Thomas William Murley (1840-1899); her 2X great grandfather Thomas William Murley (1805-1884), and with the help of a family tree on Ancestry her 3X great grandfather Thomas Murley (1776-1855) - and a possible route to living cousins. A google search revealed an entry relating to the family business in the London Gazette, while a search in the British Newspaper Archive produced a marriage announcement in the Reading Post. See MURLEY, London Orphan Asylum, Watford, Early 20th century for details of where I found the goodies!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

An early coloured CDV by Lemenager of Bushey

CDV  by Lememager
In the early days of photography a number of the photographers offered to paint over the photograph and I have now added an early example by Henri Victor Leménager of Bushey and Watford - produced when he was at Bushy and dating from about 1865.

[Andy has suggested that if you want to know more about CDV by a particular photographer which I have not covered on this site you could try - which is a pay site which, in some cases will tell you no more than you can find out by looking in trade directories.]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sorry for lack of posts - I am busy on "Brain Work"

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month I have some other things to do and would not be able to post as regularly as I have been doing. However another called on my time has come up. In preparing for a talk on human evolution I came across an article in the Scientific American which proved very relevant to the research I did before I retired from university life.  I have become very excited and as a result I have spent some time preparing a post for my other blog - and have just posted "How the Brain Works".

If you are interested in human evolution, and how the brain works, you may find it interesting - and may even join in with my excitement. If not simply take this post as an apology for my failure to respond to some recent emails, plus the lack of posting on this site over the next few days.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Some Victorian Photographers from Barnet, Hemel Hempstead & Hertford

Hertfordshire Photographers
In building up a collection of carte de visite (CDV) to help you date pictures of your family I have added examples by John Swaby of Hemel Hempstead (from about 1870); Edmund A. Maxwell from Hadley Green (circa 1881, then in Middlesex), and later Barnet; and  Arthur Elsden & Son, of Hertford (circa 1885).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Remember - I am not psychic and I don't know everything

The Help Desk
How To ... Advice
Many people fail to include relevant details when they ask for help on the internet - because they are so deeply involved with their own family that they unthinkingly take it for granted that everyone know what they are talking about. The instructions on my web site indicate the importance of giving information on the background to the query and the sources which you have already checked. It is also important to realize is that for the vast majority of  "Ask Chris" queries I know nothing in advance about the family you are asking about - my expertise is in knowing how to find out ...

I recently had a query where the question was clear and appropriate but there was a complete absence of supporting information. The questioner gave the name of a couple and said they had been unable to trace the death of the wife. Fine except that they did not mention where the couple lived (or even whether it was in Hertfordshire). Not only did they not give any ages or date clues but they did not even identify the century. And of course they didn't mention any sources that they had consulted - which might have given some clues as to both the date and the questioner's experience (or lack of it) ...

As most of the queries I get relate to the 19th century I did a quick check of one of the census returns and the husband's name was not very common. In fact there were only two anywhere near Hertfordshire - living within 2 miles of each other. Allowing for the normal variations they had wives with effectively the same given name, and  virtually the same age, and both the wives were local, having been born within about 3 miles of where they were living! Not only was the question vague - but it was ambiguous as there was no way I could know which of the couples was the subject of the query without more information. Clearly there was no point in trying to answer this question without some clarification from the questioner. As those of you who follow this newsletter know I have been very busy recently and as a result I replied suggesting several sources the questioner might try and if, after checking these sources, they were still stuck, suggesting they should come back with more detailed information.

This is an appropriate time to remind everyone of the advice page "Right Name, Wrong Body". Unless you are on your guard it is easy to chase up the wrong family tree unless your realize that, even with rare names, there may be several people with the same name, and about the same age, living in the same area, and possibly married to partners with the same name. If you ask questions on the internet (particularly if you are only wanting a "free" look up from a "pay" web site) it is very easy for some "helper" (whose knowledge of genealogy may sometimes be limited to little more than being able to take out a subscription to the pay site) to give you the first named person they find as an answer. If you blindly accept what they say your family tree could end up with serious errors.  Way back in the 1990s I started trying to give more professional advice, and the purpose of this web site is to encourage people to think and research for themselves - and not simply be spoon-fed with answers to inadequately worded question - without understanding the dangers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine Cards of Hemel Hempstead

Gadebridge Park, Hemel Hempstead
Valentine published a large number of post cards of Hertfordshire. Not only are most of their cards numbered but they published many of the cards in different formats at different dates. Triggered by a request of high resolution images of several of the post cards of Hemel Hempstead I decided to produce high resolution scans of all the Valentine cards of Hemel Hempstead and district (Apsley, Boxmoor and Bovingdon) I currently have (see menu of all cards added), together with details of their backs. This has been done on an experimental basis and there is no plan to extend this to all Valentine cards in the immediate future. However work has been scheduled to update the layout of the information on Hemel Hempstead.
Boxmoor from Roughdown

Monday, February 11, 2013

Queenswood School, Hatfield - PCs provide useful dating clues

Post Cards
I recently purchased a post card by Percy Buchanan of Beechwood school, Hatfield, and decided to put up a page about it. The research ended up, after some additional searching online, by providing some very useful information for dating Buchanan school cards.

Old News
Queenswood School started in Clapham and moved into Sheepwell House, on the border between Potters Bar and Hatfield, which had previously been occupied by (and possibly built by) Lieut-Colonel Lord Alfred Eden Browne, D.S.O., R.F.A. who died in action in 1918. I have located newspaper advertisements for the time the house was put on the market in 1923 and the expensive furniture sold off in an auction in 1924, and after some building work, became Queenswood School, Hatfield, in 1925.

What I found was that when it was in Clapham Park, Queenswood School has post cards produced by Photographic Tourists Association - which is the organisation that Percy Buchanan is believed to have worked with up to 1907.  Within a few years Percy had published post cards of the school (1911 or sooner) followed by a second batch in/by 1912.
Garden Front, Queenswood - published by P. A. Buchanan
This picture, of the school in Hertfordshire, cannot be earlier than 1925, when the school relocated, or later than 1930 (when a copy was posted). Because it is clear the school regularly had post cards it seems very likely that this picture was taken in 1925 or 1926. As soon as the school had moved to Hatfield a building programme was started - and another card, with a higher reference number, suggests that the photographer returned a few years later to take pictures of the new buildings.

Not only were all the cards I examined numbered, but they all had slightly different publisher address details, and four were posted. The result is a significant improvement in the publication timeline for numbered cards, and I have reworded the wording. 

This shows the importance of looking at the address side of cards for possible dating information.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A view of Ayot St Lawrence

Ayot St Lawrence circa 1905

Ayot St Lawrence is the village where George Bernard Shaw lived, and in addition to adding the above view I have reorganised the pages to make them easier to explore.

Have You Used the Forces War Records web site?

The Forces War Records Web site looks interesting and quite a few of the messages I get have a military interest. Would people find a review of this site useful? As an example,  I could see how easy it was to get information on a Hertfordshire relative who fought in the Boer War, and also some background information about some of the soldiers (and their units) who were based in Hemel Hempstead during the First World War and are mentioned in my book The London Gunners come to Town. The problem is that it is a pay site and to keep costs down I need to plan my approach carefully. If you have any experience of the site (good or bad) let me know by commenting below so that I can plan my review to include areas of interest - and if no one has any comments or suggestion I can move the review to the low priority list.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Old Hertfordshire News from Overseas

Old News
Having given my talk to the Tring U3A Geneology Group this morning I sat down at the computer and immediately found a relevant useful Wikipedia page - which lists web sites round the world which lists online newspaper sites. It only took me minutes to find an article, with picture of Lord Rothschild with his harnessed zebra, in the New York Tribune, and several reference to one of my wife's relative in the South Australian in 1839. So I decided to have a look at what I could find about Tring in the New Zealand Newspapers (PapersPast) and quickly turned up a number of stories). Most of the "hits" were duff (words such as "string" being OCRed as "tring" and quite a lot referred to people named "Tring." See Old Tring News from New Zealand Newspapers for many example of what I found. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More Old News from Tring

Old News
I have completed the preparations for tomorrow's talk  by adding the following additional sample news stories:

1842: Opening of the Tring National School - on the site of the old workhouse.
1849: Stealing a tea-caddy at Tring - 18 year old get whipped and 1 week's hard labour
1861Fire at Miswell Farm, Tring - Buildings destroyed but farmhouse saved - arson suspected
1887Obituary of Benjamin Crouch, of Miswell Farm, Tring - 93 year old farmer had seen 51 harvests at the farm (and his son continued for another 24 years). I have added some biographical details.
1890Sale of Building Land at Tring  - Sale of plots  in the Longfield Road area I have added details from 1897 O.S. map

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Did Charles run off to Australia with the cinema cashier?

Bishops Stortford
Bruce sent me extensive information about his grandfather, Charles Gilbert, who lived in Bishops Stortford for a short time in the early years of the 20th century. For a time he was publican at the White Horse Inn, but was out of work at the time of the 1911 census. However the following year went into partnership with F. A. Dando to open the Empire Picture Palace, which only traded for a short time, with Charles emigrating to Australia in November 1913 with a Mrs Annie Gilbert - but the key question is whether the Annie he emigrated with was the Annie listed as his wife in 1911, or Norah Maddocks, from Bishops Stortford, - who was the mother of the family in Australia!  For details of the complex story, and my advice, see GILBERT, Bishops Stortford, 1902-1914.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Old News from Tring 1724-1900

Old News
As mentioned earlier I am giving a talk on Old Newspapers to the Genealogy group of the Tring U3A later this week and I am selecting a variety of stories from the British Newspaper Archive as examples, including the following:

1724Tring saves money with a Workhouse  This is the earliest I found - and suggests that Tring, together with Berkhamsted, Watford and Aylesbury had been able to reduce Poor Rates by using workhouses.
1740Fatal accident in Tring Park  The son of minister, Rev. Randolph, dies in riding accident in Mr. Gore's park.
1753A Chancery Case involving Joseph Adkins of Tring   This frustratingly short report raises the question of how someone in the workhouse can fight and win a court case in Chancery.
1853Sale of the Tring Grove Estate  Following the death of Viscount Lake this is sold in connection with a case in the Court of Chancery
1881Sale of Farm Stock at Town Farm, Aldbury  A routine sale of stock on a Farm
1900Football at Tring Grove

Over the next few days I will be adding more stories - and updating  the other Tring Old News stories which have been posted earlier.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Post Cards of Fore Street, Hertford

Old Buildings, Fore Street, Hertford

I have just added a page containing a number of different post cards, by different publishers of the Fore Street, Hertford. In almost every case I have been able to date either the publication of the post card, or the date the photograph was taken within a year or two. In each case a higher resolution picture is available by clicking on the image.
Fore Street, Hertford

Friday, February 1, 2013

End of January Short News Items

News from the
 Help Desk
The Regent's Park College, Oxford, has recent obtained a grant to help make a major collection of material on the UK Baptists more available to researchers. Details Here.

Errors occur in all the census transcriptions I have ever seen and in carrying out census searches during the month, on FindMyPast, I have found a number of transcription errors and have reported them. In each case they have been quickly corrected. If you find any such errors, remember to report them, as it helps everyone to find the records in the future. However you should remember that you can only correct transcription errors and errors of fact made over 100 years ago when the records were first created are not amendable.

Anthony, who regularly comments on this Newsletter, has just started his own, very specialized  blog - The Evolving Placenta - based on his professional interests before he retired. I wish him all the best with his enterprise - and hope it can continue to find time to comment here in future.

The recent post They didn't have Page 3 Girls 200 years ago ... referred to the small amount of information found about the Hertford Assizes in 1818. Thanks to Anthony two long accounts have been found and details will be added in the next couple of days.

[There are still some unanswered messages in my email inbox, and some draft new pages, which will have to be carried over into February.]

End of January Report and Future Plans

During January I have undoubtedly spent too much time on the site - with a record 53 posts to the Newsletter (and some other work in the pipeline which I hope to clear over the weekend). The result is that the total number of page views in the month have increased to 7241, compared with 5273 in December, and 2907 in January last year. The number of visitors to the main web site, 25801,  is up by about 1% compared with last year. 

Whatever happens there will be less posts in February. There are several competing claims on my time which I have decided should have priority.  I am giving a talk to our local U3A genealogy group on the use of local newspapers in genealogy next week and later in the month I will be speaking to the U3A science and technology group on the Human Evolution - with an emphasis on mechanisms. Details of this will appear on my other blog - Trapped by the Box - which has been rather neglected of late. I have also offered a related talk (concentration on humanoid fossils and archaeological finds) to the Histroiy group some time in the summer. In March I will be "performing" at the Herts Family History Society open day - and hope to upgrade to a laptop (and possibly different software) before that. I have also just been reminded that this year is the 50th anniversary of the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust - and I really must complete a draft of a paper on the formation of the limestone caves at Buckfastleigh (based on research I was doing 50 years ago) by the summer AGM. I therefore intend to ration myself to a maximum of 5 posts a week, apart from quickie news items, with priorities given to queries and information from users of this site.