Encouraging children to take an interest in their genealogy

What motivates children to take an interest in genealogy?

I remember being about 11 or 12 and sitting in the front rooms of both sets of maternal Great Grandparents and being completely bored by tails of the war years. Whilst one Gt Grandfather saw action in Egypt and other places, whilst the other was with the Home Guard, yet to my child ears, they were so utterly boring.

As a child, I didn’t want to know about ‘The War’. It meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t comprehend the date, why people would want to fight each other, and certainly not the scale of what actually took place. My mother was the same – she too had spent many hours listening to the very same stories as a child, and had not been interested either.

Now, as an adult, with those Great Grandparents all deceased, I’m left with a gap. An unrecorded gap in oral history, in personal history, and with only a few pay-to-view scanned documents sitting in sites like Ancestry or FindMyPast.

I was in Cambridge earlier today, picking up a few last minute Christmas presents when I spotted the following book from the Who Do You Think You Are? brand. I generally don’t buy genealogy books, as I rely on online information, but this one was different – it was aimed at children.

Be A Family Tree Detective book
Be A Family Tree Detective

I picked it up and flicked through, to find that it was full of colourful pictures, flaps to reveal information, and more along the lines of a pop-up book (without the pop-up bit).

inside the Be A Family Detective book
Inside the book – open the envelope to look at Census, lift the magnifying glass to reveal a tip. 

I wondered what it was that inspired me to start (although admittedly i was 16/17yrs old) – knowing that it wasn’t anything like this. Had it have been, i would most likely have been hooked and written down the stories (or at least listened and perhaps remembered some of them) at a much younger age.

I also got home to find that Who Do You Think You Are? magazine had also landed on my doormat – the January edition – and inside was a great tree chart from FindMyPast – encouraging people to fill in their ancestors. What a great way to help inspire kids to think about the past lives of their family?

The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.
The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

What was it that motivated you, and at what age?

POLL: At what age were you when you started your family tree/genealogy research?

POLL: At what age were you when you started your family tree/genealogy research?

I fall outside of the reader demographic for most genealogy magazines, as well as the demographic of genealogy websites. So, I was wondering at what age you first started your family tree/genealogical research?

There’s something about Mary…

A few weeks ago I wrote about my Clarke/Bailey family at Hartismere Union Workhouse. In that posting, I mentioned that whilst I had located the Bailey/Clarke family group, the wife (my gtx4 grandmother – Mary Bailey née Clarke) was missing from the group.

Well, thanks to a combination of help from Ann Berwick, who commented on that posting and gave me the first hint of her whereabouts, the good people at RootsChat.com, and the very helpful Steve at Ipswich Record Office, I have been able to locate Mary Bailey and an additional Bailey child called Emily.

Mary was in prison.

This is the first time that I have uncovered a relative in prison, let alone them being an ancestor. Naturally I wanted to know why they were serving time in Ipswich County Gaol.

After hearing from Ann that Mary may have been serving time for a crime, I checked the 1841 census and sure enough found Mary and a 6mth old Emily Bailey listed at Ipswich County Gaol and House of Correction. Ipswich Record Office was my next point of call to see what kind of records were available for the gaol. Shortly after emailing, I receive a reply from Searchroom Assistant, Steve, who provided me with the following information which not only proved that she was the correct Mary Bailey, but gave a hint at the crime she committed.

Age: 29
Father: William Clarke
Crime: Ill-using Children
Abode: Botesdale
Sentence: 6 calendar months
Year 1841

Further details can be found in the Gaol Book. Reference 609/31 page 277. A copy of this is held on microfiche.

I was pleased to see William Clarke and Botesdale mentioned, as I had not revealed this to the archivist… but “Ill-using children”?

I really wasn’t expecting that – I was expecting to read about how she’d stolen a loaf of bread to feed her growing brood and narrowly escaped transportation. I had to know more. However, whilst I’m about to employ a researcher to dig deeper in the Ipswich Archives to get the real nitty-gritty gaol details, I moved over to the exceptionally and eternally helpful folks at RootsChat.com (who have smashed so many of my brickwalls in the past) to ask for their thoughts on this ambiguously named crime.

Not long later, forum user “suffolk*sue” joined in the thread and through her own research found a newspaper article in the Ipswich Journal, dated 13th March 1841 relating to the crime. She warned me it was long and harrowing. She was right.

When reading the news article, it turns out that William Bailey (Mary’s husband) was also charged with the same crime –

William Bailey, 35, labourer, Botesdale, was charged with not having provided sufficient food and raiment for his children, Louisa Bailey, 5 years of age; Ellen Bailey, 8 years of age; and Emma Bailey, 11 years of age; whereby they had become sick, and ill, and emaciated. There was another count, containing a charge of assault.

The report goes on to explain how both Emma and Louisa were found bruised, hardly clothed, dirty and hungry in Botesdale and Stanton respectively.

Louisa was brought back to the house [Hartismere Union Workhouse] , nearly naked, and very much beaten about the head and face – she was a complete skeleton. There were three or four severe bruises to her head and her right eye was black. She was placed under the care of a surgeon, but could not bear any food in her stomach, until she had been in the house three days. There were two children by the second wife [that’s Mary’s children with William], who were fat and well clothed – the prisoner [William] having five children in all.

Emma Bailey explains to the jury how she and her sister Louisa would sleep on a sack with straw in it, whilst the younger children (of William and Mary) would sleep in a bed. She also explains how these younger children would be fed well and that food would be taken away from her and her sister. The prosecution and the witnesses also detail the public flogging that William would enact upon his children with sticks and belt straps.

William was charged with assault on his daughter Emma Bailey and sentenced to two months in Ipswich County Gaol, with the second month in solitary confinement.

Now it was the turn of Mary.

Mary Bailey, 29, the prisoner’s wife, was then charged with having, on the 15th October last, assaulted Emma Bailey her daughter-in-law [mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are old terms for step-mother and step-daughter].

The Bailey’s neighbour Elizabeth, wife of John Smith was called as a witness and described how she had regularly heard cries from the house nextdoor and how in the previous July she had tried to intervene but was told by Mary that she should mind her own business. Mary responded:

“It is all wrong. I only boxed her ears because she told me I was a liar. Mrs. Smith said if I did not leave off she would call the police. I told her she had no right to knock at my window, and that if she knocked at mine, I would knock at hers.”

The jury found Mary guilty.

Mary was then indicted for an assault upon her daughter-in-law, Louisa Bailey, on the 26th October last.

Mr John Thornton , governor of the Hartismere Union House,  said that Louisa was brought to the Union House on the 27th January last, very much marked by violence, Her eye was very black, and there were two distinct wounds upon her head.

“Her sister did that by shoving her down against the door” – Mary Bailey

Mr W. Miller, assistant to the Union’s surgeon said that there were bruises to her face, neck and shoulders, and that these would have been caused by a beating rather than a fall.

Emma Bailey then stood in the witness box and spoke out against Mary, saying that the bruises were caused when Mary had shoved Louisa “down upon the bricks when she took a piece of bread from her father”. She also added that one day, whilst their father was at work, that Louisa had gone to the pantry for some water, when Mary had knocked her against a post.

“That is quite false. You did it yourself. You said you would murder her. You said if you went into the workhouse with her, you would cut her throat.” – Mary Bailey

“I always said my mother-in-law did it” – Emma Bailey

“Did you ever say that you would cut your sister’s throat?” – Mr Palmer (Prosecution)

“No Sir.” – Emma Bailey

The jury found the prisoner guilty and both were placed at the bar.

The Chairman (E. Godfrey Esq) concluded:

William Bailey, you and your wife have been found guilty of this abominable offence of half-starving and mal-treating, those children of your first marriage. There is no doubt in the world that the offence has been mainly committed by your wife; but you could have in some respects, controlled her, and indeed, in some respects, it appears that your conduct was better than hers, for you did give them bread. This cruelty and mal-treatment took place occasionally whilst you were at work; and it is considered in your favour that, until your second marriage you treated your children kindly, and that you were a respectable man.

The sentence of the Court us, that you, William Bailey be imprisoned for two calendar months, the last month solitary, and then discharged; and that your wife be imprisoned and kept to hard labour, as far as she is capable, for six months, first and last months solitary confinement.

This is just a selection of pieces from the article, which is very long and detailed, but it really shows Mary Bailey to be a ‘wicked step-mother’. I’ve always had pride in my ancestors so it was a shock to find that actually I really don’t like this person at all.

Her prison sentence certainly explains why she was absent from the family in 1841, with William having already served his sentence by the time of the census in June 1841. Mary was only half way through her sentence.

I am hoping that the Prison Gaol Book will give me further information about her time in prison, and perhaps also give me information that is hard to find elsewhere – like her hair colour, height, health….

As sources go, this newspaper report is very well written and highly details. It includes quotes from the children, both William and Mary, their neighbours, descriptions of their income, their clothing, their home set-up and really gives an insight into how the family lived and struggled. It’s a shame that it is such a harrowing account and I am unable to feel any respect for Mary or William for what they did.

I am only pleased that Mary’s eldest child Caroline Clarke escaped the family and started afresh.

Littleport Society forthcoming events calendar

The Littleport Society shieldI’ve just received the latest Littleport Society magazine and they are currently confirming the following calendar dates – all of which take place at 7.30pm at the Village Hall.

  • 4th December 2009 – Society Bookstall at the late night Christmas shopping
  • 5th January 2010 – Tessa West – Life of a Huguenot family in the Fens in the 1600s.
  • 2nd February 2010 – AGM and a chance to view the Littleport Master Plan – followed by a slide show by Bruce Frost.
  • 2nd March 2010 – Gordon Easton – Growing up in the Fens – a humble tiller of the soil.
  • 6th April 2010 – Bill Wittering – History of the royal mail

Please check with the Society before travelling long distances – they reserve the right to cancel/change the schedule of events at short notice.

Family x2 x2 x2 x2 and so on…

I like to think that I can pop back many generations on both sides of my tree and name all the surnames that I’ve been able to ‘collect’ – apart from those where there’s illegitimacy.

I’m going to type out my ancestral surnames now as far as i can remember them off the top of my head. The first line is always my own – Martin and the next line is whoever the bride was. On the second generation i list (a generation back), I start again with Martin and add that generation’s bride’s name. Then move on to the ancestors of the bride in generation 1. Still with me?

Oh… well, take a look at my list of the first few from the top of my head… hopefully that’ll make it clearer.

  • Martin
  • Dewey
  • Martin
  • Newman
  • Dewey
  • Barber
  • Martin
  • Burnell
  • Newman
  • Gilbert
  • Dewey
  • Moden
  • Barber
  • Yarrow

This gives me eight surnames (those of my Great Grandparents – 4 of whom i was lucky to know) before i hit the first illegitimacy blocker…

  • Martin
  • Giddings
  • Burnell
  • Barker
  • Newman
  • Cooper
  • Gilbert
  • Howlett
  • Dewey
  • Boulter
  • Moden
  • Cross
  • illegitimate line (with Barber)
  • Barber
  • Yarrow
  • Bishop

Had there have been no illegitimacy, that would have given me a complete set of 16 Great Great Grandparent surnames.. but we’re down to 15 now, due to illegitimacy in the Barber camp.

The next generation of 32 Great Great Great Grandparents not only stretches my memory a bit, but also brings in a few more illegitimacy lines, taking it down to 28 surnames due to 2 new illegitimate children and the line from the previous generation.

  • Martin
  • Tingey
  • illegitimate line (with Giddings)
  • Giddings
  • Burnell
  • Babbage
  • Barker
  • Head
  • Newman
  • Levitt
  • Cooper
  • Fyson
  • Gilbert
  • Brightley
  • Howlett
  • Clarke
  • illegitimate line (with Dewey)
  • Dewey
  • Boulter
  • Moden
  • Moden
  • Freeman
  • Cross
  • Taylor
  • illegitimate line (the paternal line from the Barber one from the previous generation)
  • illegitimate line (the maternal line from the Barber one from the previous generation)
  • Barber
  • Dewsbury
  • Yarrow
  • Gothard
  • Bishop
  • Bowers

I’m going to stop there, but can you name this far back? I do know further back, in fact, i’ve got about 13 generations of the Barber family up my sleeve and almost the same number of Cross too… but how do you fare?

Visiting the tree of knowledge

In May this year, I return to education.

I’ve been toying with it for years but I finally sent off the paperwork (and cheque!), so I begin my way up the Undergraduate ladder.

At the moment, my first module of study could lead me to a BA in History, a BA in Humanities or even an Open Degree (that would enable me to study both History and Psychology and would award a BA or BSc depending on how many points in which type of study modules I am awarded most).

My first module is in Family History and will see me looking at things like deciphering photography, primary sources and secondary sources.

Crossing the Royal Standard

Taking a trip back in time to Mr Cross’ tea shop on Forehill.

Cross Advert 07-11-1930, originally uploaded by familytreeuk.

The other weekend, amidst the constant drizzle of a wet Sunday in Ely, I decided that it was about time that I went to The Royal Standard pub on Forehill.

I’m tee-total, but my reason for going in there was not so much to warm up over a nice cup of tea or their incredible sunday lunch (check it out)… it was actually to step back in time and visit the very location where my Cross relatives opened Ely’s first tea shop.

My mother has always wanted a tea shop herself, so when I discovered that the Cross family had kept one, she was excited by the news.

The shop, based in a 16th century building about halfway down Forehill (now the right hand side of The Royal Standard), was opened by Frederick Thompson Cross in about 1892. He originally intended the shop to be a picture framing business but after adding a side-business of a bakery, it was clear what Ely wanted most.

The bakery expanded, selling fine cakes and sweets and Mr Cross reaped the rewards.

In his spare time, with his son Frederick Vernon Cross (F. Vernon Cross), he would search places like Roswell Pits, in search of antiquities like fossils. His son, Vernon, was also a keen performer and he traveled the country performing magic tricks and ventriloquist acts (his father made the dummies – and they have been preserved in Ely Museum).

I went on to find a copy of F. Vernon Cross’ autobiography “Crosswords” on eBay (only to find further copies for sale at Ely Museum – but we’ll come to that bit in a moment)…

With the bakery taking off, and their collection of historic items growing too, Vernon began to blend the two together after his father’s death and combined a small museum and bakery.

Upon Vernon’s death, his collection was donated to the Ely Museum, where it forms an important part of their exhibitions. They have even named a function room after him.

I was pleased to recently find the above advert on the top right front page of the Ely Standard, dated 7th November 1930. It seems that Vernon ran several consecutive advertising campaigns on the newspaper header. The cake certainly sounds very appetising.

It was a nice feeling when I saw that The Royal Standard, although under new ownership, still had the “Frederick Thompson Cross” wooden shop sign and a framed photograph on the wall. I didn’t mention my connection but instead tucked into a huge Sunday roast on a plate that was almost too big for the table – another satisfied customer!

I have yet to establish where his Cambridge shop was located.

The Mystery and The Monkey

James Martin (1851-1934), originally uploaded by familytreeuk.


The December issue of the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine features my photograph in their ‘Over To You’ section (page 36).

I’m pleased to see it in print – it’s such an interesting/amusing photograph – showing a real mixture of characters. There appears to be four railwaymen (like my Great Great Grandfather, James Martin who appears at the top of the photo with the monkey on his shoulders), but also some sailors too (their hats read ‘Albert’).

I think that the photo was taken in 1887. My reasons for this are that this was the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee (hence ‘Albert’ on the hats) and the jumpers of the ‘sailors’ appear to have “RTYC” (Royal Thames Yacht Club?) embroidered on them and they raced in 1887…..

“Ocean races officially organised by clubs were unknown until 1887. That was the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and a race ‘the like of which had never been known in the annals of yacht racing’ was announced by the Royal Thames Yacht Club over a course of 1,520 nautical miles round the British Isles. Later meetings at the Albemarle Street Club House refferred to this event as the Jubilee Yacht Race.” – Royal Thames Yacht Club history

I also think that my Gt Gt Grandfather looks like he’s in his thirties.

I’m amused by the ‘dwarves/smurfs’ at the front of the photo and also of the very scary looking ‘black beard’ pirate character lurking towards the back.

Who were they? What was going on? When was this? Where was it taken?

Hopefully the magazine will throw up some answers in the show’s web forums.