The Littleport Society Open Day 2015

The Littleport Society Open Day takes place at The Barn, Littleport, Cambridgeshire, on Saturday 19th September 2015, 10am – 4pm, with FREE ENTRY.

The Littleport Society crestThe Littleport Society are opening their doors on Saturday 19th September 2015 – with free entry to a range of specially built displays.

I’ve known the Society for many years, having helped them with their first web presence back in 1998.

Earlier this year I was co-opted onto their Committee, and this is allowing me to help them with digitally cataloguing their huge archive of items which ranges from dinosaur fossils, right through to Manorial Records, wartime documents, and the latest community leaflets and photos from 2015!

The Open Day will give you the chance to learn more about your Littleport ancestors, find out what your ancestors may have done, and how The Great War affected the lives of those in Littleport.

Entry and parking is FREE, and the doors open at The Barn (off Main Street) from 10am until 4pm.

For the latest information, check out The Littleport Society website.

My Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014

My Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014 – 365 days of intentions for family and social history research.

Following on from last year’s list of ‘genealogy resolutions’ here’s my list for 2014. If you missed my post from the other day, you can check to see how I got on with 2013‘s.

1. Find More Photos

I’m going to renew my search for family photographs of the siblings of many of my Great Grandparents, and their nieces and nephews. This will see me contact a number of distant cousins.

Here’s a few photos that I’ve got a tantalisingly poor photocopy of a photocopy of a…. etc, and really want to capture a hi-res scan of the photos included in what was a self-published 90’s family history book. The original author (a very distant cousin), is unwilling to go back through his notes, so I shall try the closer cousins instead.

The main photo i’m after, is a wedding photo of my Great Grandparents Alfred Newman and Clara Gilbert in 1909, which you can see in the photo below:

1909 Newman Gilbert wedding group
My Great Grandparents’ wedding on 2nd June 1909 – the only photo I have or have seen (of at least a 2nd generation photocopy) is on the wish list.

As you can see, it’s in a bad way, and as I also have another (high quality) group Newman-only photograph, I should be able to identify quite a number of the Newmans in this photo if it was also of a higher quality.

Fingers crossed!

2. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

Yes, she’s back.. or rather, she’s still out there somewhere. As per 2013’s resolution, Mary Clarke ended up in court and eventually prison for neglecting, abusing, and playing the role of wicked step-mother to her husband’s children (he was also found to have caused neglect) during the 1840s. Whilst my Great x3 Grandmother Caroline Clarke (featured in the wedding photo above) escaped this, by being the much older first-born who went into service, the rest of the family ended up in poverty – including stints at the workhouse, where I think some of the children were also born.

Mary vanishes after 1881, by then a widow… but I will find her.

In a way, I will be relieved to find how she met her end, and feel like I personally, also get to put an end to it, as the court session report in a newspaper, which includes direct quotes from her and the abused children, is quite harrowing.

3. Spending 3 Days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

I’ve booked my ticket for the entire 3 day show at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live show in London’s Olympia in February (not long to go!).

Stands at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013
View across Olympia lower court at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013.

This will be my first time that I’ll have stayed for longer than a day, and so I hope to be able to meet lots of people who i’ve come to know through my research, through the contacts that i’ve made at the wonderful genealogy magazines and companies, as well as taking part in the #TweetUp, and attending lots of the workshops and panel sessions.

Right, i better book my hotel!

4. Sorting out the babies

There are two concentrations of births and deaths of infants in amongst the available certificates, and I want to work out which child belonged to which family. Parish records for Stretham and its neighbouring hamlet of Little Thetford aren’t necessarily revealing which Yarrow child belongs to which couple.

Similarly, in Little Downham, there’s a confusing number of Martin infants getting birth and death certificates, but without names and dates that completely tally-up.

Some of the children might never have reached the parish church for baptism, hence a lack of church records.

I already have a few of the certificates, which reveal scarlet fever, tuberculosis and other causes.

The only way to sort this out is to go on a spending spree over at the General Register Office (GRO) website to see what can be found.

5. Write that book (or at least start!)

So I have been collecting more and more stories, and have even drafted a few thousand words for a book, but my ideas and thoughts of this book has since become hazy.

What goes in it? Who does and doesn’t get their stories in it? What level of reader?

I’m currently sitting in the frame of mind that I’d like to write a book that contains a lot of visual content – which might be expensive in both rights, and in print, but I want to do a good job, and inspire people like me – who are motivated by shape, space, imagery (my interest in genealogy was very much sparked by finding a handwritten tree, and a load of glorious Victorian photos of mystery relatives). I want something that’s going to be picked up many times, that has big images running alongside text.

Keeping up with the Joneses - Valerie Lumbers
Reading how others have written up their research, has been fun and thought-provoking.

I don’t imagine that this will be easy, but working for a publisher, and having been a designer, and being friends with a number of people who have been published and have self-published, I hope to find a route through it. I’ve also tried to read family history books, including this one ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’ by my friend’s aunt, Valerie Lumbers.

Firstly though, I need to focus on what the book is. And re-visit that couple of drafts i’ve written to see what can be pulled out and polished to help the book begin.

I’ve also been reading a number of eBooks on writing up family history, including: How To Write Your Family’s History‘ by Bartha Hill, and ‘Your Life Story: How To Turn Life Into Literature‘ by Kay Rennie.

What are your Genealogy Resolutions?

Last year, after posting my resolutions list, it seemed to spark interest amongst others including Valmay Young (hey Valmay, how did you get on?). Let me know if you’re taking part this year by leaving me a comment below, and perhaps a link to your list.

Have a very happy new year, and I wish you every success in your research this year.

Andrew 

Surname Saturday: GILBERT

Surname Saturday: GILBERT – The Gilbert family of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire are the focus of this week’s meme day.

This week’s Surname Saturday post is that of my paternal Gilbert family. My connection is through my paternal Great Grandmother, who was born in 1884, in Littleport, Cambridgeshire.

With the help of the research of distant relative Colin Tabeart, the tree has been found to stretch back through time as far as 1694 when the family turns up in Abbotsley, Huntingdonshire (now part of Cambridgeshire). It is here that they are noted in the parish records and taxation records.

It appears that the earliest Gilbert I’ve found (with, as yet, an unproven connection) was in Abbotsley, Huntingdonshire in 1605, when a John Gilbert takes his daughter Maria to be baptised in the parish church of St Margaret on 24th February.

Abbotsley Church
St Margaret’s church at Abbotsley, Cambridgeshire.

By the beginning of the 18th century, the Gilbert families in Abbotsley were booming with each seemingly having at least 9 children, and up to as many as 13 children over a 24 year period – as was the case of James and Anne Gilbert between 1752 and 1776.

In 1767 at Abbotsley, Elizabeth Gilbert (née Hale) – the widow of James Gilbert – is noted as paying a Land Tax of £1, 19 shillings to a Mr Robert Edsope.

In 1828, the son of my Gilbert line – William – leaves Abbotsley and heads about 40 miles North East to Littleport in Cambridgeshire, where he married Elizabeth Brightly. The couple settle down in Burnt Chimney Drove – an area of rich agricultural fenland just to the North West of Littleport, where William becomes a farmer. The couple bear 12 children, although sadly a few of these don’t survive their early years.

Whilst William’s relocation may well have been because of his love for Elizabeth, his parents – Edward and Susan Gilbert have fallen on hard times –  by 1851 they are both noted as ‘paupers’ and are living with their daughter Mary and her husband Thomas Cade. Susan has become blind, but goes on to live another 8 years. Edward only lived until 1852.

Elizabeth Howlett and James Gilbert
Elizabeth Howlett and James Gilbert

Despite this hardship, William and Elizabeth were making progress for themselves and managing to live outside of poverty thanks to farming. Their 9th child (also Edward and Susan’s grandson), James, was my Great Great Grandfather, and he survived his two older brothers. In doing so, and in an act not unusual or unlike primogeniture, he inherited his father’s farm in 1879, which by 1871 had grown to 40 acres and employed one family.

By this time, James had got married to Elizabeth Howlett – and they had already bore two of their eventual family of nine children.

The family still lives and farms in the area today.

Surname Saturday: BURNELL

The Burnell family moved from Somerset to London, on to Bedfordshire and then on to Cambridgeshire.

Travelling around 300 miles, the Burnell family went from Devon to Somerset to Middlesex to Bedfordshire and on to Cambridgeshire.

When looking back at the families in my ancestry, few are more travelled (so far) as the Burnell family. The family have covered 5 counties in just over 200 years. That doesn’t sound like such an achievement by modern day standards, but in the 18th and 19th centuries, this was a journey. It was a journey for work – a journey for survival.

Back in the 1790s, the family was living in Combe Florey, Somerset. Robert Burnell and his wife Martha (née Evans – a Welsh connection?) were married in the parish in January 1816. It appears that Robert had come from Morebath, Devon, whilst Martha was a resident of the parish.

The couple had at least four children, with Samuel as the oldest – born just 2 months after his parents’ wedding. I have no record of what became of Samuel’s three sisters: Caroline, Mary and Maria – although each are born years apart, suggesting that perhaps there were more siblings.

Samuel Burnell married Mary (neé Babbidge) at Combe Florey on Christmas Day in 1839 (both illiterate) and together they bore a total of 12 children, including my Gt Gt Grandfather George Burnell in 1850. By 1861, Samuel is noted as a ‘road contractor’ and the family (by then almost complete) are living in poor houses.

The road to Middlesex

Their son and my ancestor, George, went off to work in what was then Middlesex, but is now absorbed by Greater London. In 1880 he married Miss Mary Ann Barker of Barkway, Hertfordshire. They married in All Saint’s Church, St John’s Wood on 9th May 1880, both naming residence as ’46 Abbey Road’ – a road that would find fame around 80 years later.  In 1885, my Great Grandmother Daisy Burnell was born in the Stables in Abercorn Place, London – an area that Charles Booth categorised in the two highest categories (‘Middle class well-to-do’ and ‘Upper-middle and Upper classes. Wealthy’) of his Poverty Classification system.

However, whilst this sounds like the family may have hit wealth in this part of London, they were undoubtedly servants to the wealthiest people of London.

A new start in Bedfordshire

By 1889, the couple and their four children left for Dunstable, where George became the landlord for ‘The Royal Oak’ in Church Street, Dunstable in Bedfordshire. Sadly, George died soon after in June 1891, leaving his pregnant widow with a young family and £75 13s 4d (worth today at about £4,500).

Seeking Hope in Cambridgeshire

Seeking to make ends meet, a pregnant Mary took her young mourning family off to Littleport, Cambridgeshire. Here they made a new start in the company of The Hope Brothers – a clothing manufacturing business.

Mary later re-married to James Smith, and appears to have died in 1929.

2010 Littleport Show taking place this Saturday

This Saturday (24th July) sees the Littleport Show – an annual day out for the family from 9am until 6pm at Highfields.

Included in the line up of this excellent show is the return of The Littleport Society marquee – where you can meet members of the Society’s team and find out more about your Littleport family roots. Perhaps you’ll spot a familiar face in a photograph or parish record?

Check out the event site.

Littleport Society announce 2010-2011 meetings calendar

I’ve just received the Summer 2010 (Issue 77) of The Littleport Society magazine and with it came the calendar of their meetings at the Village Hall in Littleport from 7.30pm.

They are as follows, but please note that you should check before travelling and I take no-responsibility for any changes made to the line-up below. Non-members are always welcome.

2010:

  • 7th Sept: Brian Jones – “William Harrison the Fenland Poet”
  • 5th Oct: Veronica Bennet – “The National Trust Properties of Cambridgeshire”
  • 2nd Nov: Stephen Kelley – “Life in Britain during WWII”
  • 7th Dec: Iain Harvey – Christmas organ concert – this will be in St George’s Church rather than the village hall.

2011

  • 4th Jan: Ken Wallace – “Autogyros and other flying adventures”
  • 1st Feb: AGM and Members’ Short Talks
  • 1st Mar: Janet Morris – “19th Century Rural Paintings”
  • 5th Apr: Les Millgate – “The History of RAF Duxford”
  • 3rd May: Tony Kirby – “Technology and the Victorians”
  • 7th Jun: Susan Oosthuizen – “Cambridgeshire from the air”
  • 5th Jul: Michelle Bullivant – “Poison and powder – cosmetics through the ages”

Elveden and the Brightwells

One of the family trees that I am currently climbing has a bit of an evolutionary name. The most recent incarnations in the late-19th century are ‘Brightle’, ‘Brightley’ and ‘Brightly’ as found in Littleport and Little Downham fenland, Cambridgeshire.

The latter two are clearly pronounced ‘bright-lee’ as in, ‘well lit’, but the first version seems a little odd. Perhaps it still is ‘Bright-lee’ but with just one ‘e’. However, after stumbling across a note that my ancestor John Brightly was born in ‘Elden, Suffolk’, I decided to see what I could find. Not only did he have this changing surname that I wanted to follow, he was also from outside the county – which in my genealogy is quite rare.

I already had a hunch of where ‘Elden’ was but checked it out on Genuki, which confirmed my suspicions.

Much to my delight, my ancestors appeared to be from the same Suffolk village that I had grown up in, gone to school in, and enjoyed living immensely – Elveden, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. I havent’ lived there for more than 20 years now but this chance coincidence feels like a full circle! Do you ever get that sense of pride or excitement when you visit a place that your ancestor would have known well?

Fortunately, the village is in Suffolk and also classed as West Suffolk, which means that the parish records are deposited at the record office in Bury St Edmunds, so I knew I could easily pay them a visit to check up on the claim of John Brightly’s birthplace.

I found ‘Brightwell’ to be the chosen spelling, and several family members were listed in the births, marriages, and burials – including a Robert Brightwell noted as being a farmer in 1785. ‘Brightwell’ fits with the ‘Brightle’ spelling – if you think of it being pronounced as ‘Bright-all’ – not far from ‘Brightwell’ which with an accent could easily sound like ‘Bright-wall’.

The parish records are copied onto microfiche and it was easy to claim a reader for use. Unfortunately, the mid-late 1700’s registers were subject to some fading (or bad microfiching!) and some dreadfully wafty and artistic handwriting from George Burton the Rector. The earlier entries from the 1600s were immaculate though – clearly written, well organised, and the spelling was perfect.

After collecting up a few Brightwell entries that I could glean from the microfiche I departed, pleased to think that my Brightwell ancestors had lived in a place that I enjoyed living so much, and that I had re-trod their steps quite literally and obliviously by chance, some 200 years after them.

I was also interested to see in the 1700s, that the village was home to three family names that were there when I was a child and I think are still present there today: Harper, Turner and Gathercole – That’s more than 300 years of their family history!

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.

New season of Littleport Society meetings announced.

I’ve just received the latest edition of The Littleport Society magazine, so thought i’d share the event info with you that covers the next few months. I’ve been a member of the society for years now and they are exceptionally helpful.

2009

  • 1st September: Alan Litshel – “Bottles 1870-1920”
  • 6th October: Hilary Ritchie – “History of nursing at Addenbrookes Hospital”
  • 3rd November: Malcolm Gaskill – “The Devil in Cambridgeshire – the witch hunting campaign 1645-1647”
  • 1st December : Iain Harvey – Christmas organ concert (in St George’s Church)

2010

  • 5th January: Tessa West – ‘Companion to Owls – life of a Huguenot family in the fens in the 1600s’
  • 2nd February: AGM and member’s short talks
  • 2nd March: Gordon Easton – ‘Growing up in the fens – a humble tiller of the soil’
  • 6th April: Bill Wittering – History of the Royal Mail
  • 4th May: Peter Carter – The Last of the Eel Catchers
  • 1st June: Gerald Siviour – East Anglia Railways – the last 50 years.
  • 6th July: Mike Petty – ‘Fenland History on your computer – the library on your laptop’

All meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month (except for August when there are no meetings) at 7.30pm at the Village Hall, Victoria Street, Littleport, Cambridgeshire. Non-members are welcome.

Please note that events/talks are subject to change.