My Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2015

Here’s my 2015 genealogy resolutions to take me through my family history research over the next 12 months. What will yours be?

For a couple of years now, I’ve been setting myself some ‘Genealogy Resolutions’ – some to-dos, tasks, brick walls – all challenges for me to try to solve in the following 12 months.

Whilst i’ve already summarised my progress of 2014’s resolutions, here’s my 2015 ones…

1. Source and scan even more photographs

iPhoto showing Faces of ancestors I've scanned
My iPhoto is already home to 258 relative faces.

I just about managed to get a few more photographs in 2014, but not the specific ones I wanted – namely of my great grandmother’s Gilbert family, and in particular of her wedding in 1909. I didn’t even get round to writing to that part of the family to ask them if they had copies of the images.

So, in 2015, this will be my first mission. Also, my father’s oldest brother has contact with his aunt still, and this connection had previously given me access to a wide range of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian Martin family photographs.

Back in 1995 when I first saw these images, I had to pick and choose which photographs to borrow, have sent away to have negatives made for, and then printed. Scanners were not cheap or readily available for home use. But now… there should be no stopping me making high resolution scans of all of the images I can lay my hands on.

2. ‘Kill off’ Mary Clarke

For those who have been reading a while, you might have seen me refer to an ‘evil’ gtxX grandmother Mary Bailey (née Clarke) who just seems to have dodged dying for a long time. After her stints in prison for child abuse, neglect, and cruelty of her step-children, and a few stints in the workhouse too, I have failed to find her death.

One clue has arisen – leading me several miles off piste in Suffolk, that might pitch her as dying near Lowestoft in Oulton Union Workhouse. If that is the case, then she may now be buried beneath or amongst a housing estate.

I’ll order the certificate, and if that fails, I may well be calling upon the paid services of a researcher to hunt this ancestor down. I’m determined to kill off Mary.

3. Delve into new record sets

A few days ago I wrote about feeling overwhelmed by the vast avalanche of records that are being made available – millions of new bits of data are out there, and it’s made me feel like I need to climb back down my family tree, and then learn to climb it again – looking for every new detail.

Mrs Alma Marchant with children from Wilburton Primary School, c.1904.
Mrs Alma Marchant with children from Wilburton Primary School, c.1904. My Great Grandmother Maude Yarrow is 5th from left, on the second row from the back.

I aim to go back and explore School Records and Wills more in 2015 for relatives much closer, as well as continue my research in newspapers – which has given me some real delights through 2014.

What would also be great, would be to find some records for Market Traders in Cambridge, Brewery Records for a pub that my ancestor ran in Ely in the 1890s,  and Great Eastern Railways records detailing the tragic accident that killed my Martin ancestor in 1868.

4. Write more

It’s been on my mind for ages now. Whilst some not-even-half-baked scrappy attempts at starting off some writing sits in various text editor programmes and apps, I’m not much further forward on the whole approach.

Juan de la Cosa's World Chart - from Dorling Kindersley's GREAT MAPS book
Dorling Kindersley’s ‘Great Maps’ book takes their highly visual approach – something that appeals to me… but does it work for genealogy?

Part of me wants it to be something very visual almost like a coffee table styled Dorling Kindersley visual encyclopaedia (as it was an old draw-out tree and a set of Victorian photographs that lured me into genealogy back in 1995), but part of me wants it to be more novelised so that I can flesh out context and livelihoods, whilst another part of me wants to write it as a more factual biography.

I want my effort to be read, but also to be interesting to those who have a casual interest in genealogy and perhaps not in the specific families I’ve researched. Deciding the angle to the writing is more of a challenge than deciding what goes in it.

5. Complete Simpson Bishop’s timeline

2014 led me to discover that a branch of the family that I had believed had remained in the village of Wicken, Cambridgeshire throughout their life, had actually shifted up to Lancashire to work in the cotton mills. This then led to the revelation that there were also two more wives, and two more children (at least) that I’d never known about.

Simpson Bishop‘s story expanded considerably, and it’s not finished yet. Why was he living near, but separately, from his third wife Sarah Washington (née Brown) in 1871 and 1881? What became of him and his wife after 1881? Did they divorce? Did Simpson die up in Lancashire or did he return back to Wicken (or somewhere else) to end his days?

A few more certificates and rummages should hopefully bring a conclusion to this surprise 2014 revelation.

What are your Genealogy Resolutions for 2015?

This is my third year of setting Genealogy Resolutions, and I find it quite fun to see whether I manage to solve these or even just progress them a little further each year.

How about setting yourself some too?

Leave your resolutions or links to your blogged/Google+’d resolutions in the comments below and let’s check back in 2016 to see how we got on.

Happy New Year!

Andrew

Those top 5 genealogy resolutions of 2013

Catching a time-travelling grandmother? Killing off a child-abusing step-mother in 1841? Writing a book? …..Take a look back at how I’ve fared with my 2013 Genealogy Resolutions.

Last year, I made a list.

I’m not normally a resolutions type of guy, but I thought that it would be fun to do to try to help me focus on my research. It worked a little, but not as much as I would have liked, as I find it easy to go scrambling off on a tangent and chasing branches through different records. Before long, you find yourself about 7 surnames away from where you started.

However, it was overly productive, so I plan to have another 5 resolutions for 2014.

Before I reveal what I plan to do, I’ll just recap on the 5 resolutions from 2013

1. The Missing Bowers

I planned to crack my mystery Bowers connection. With my Gt Gt Gt Gt Grandfather Henry Bowers seemingly appearing out of nowhere, as a teenage groom at Wicken, I wanted to find his family. His subsequent Bowers family clearly have a Burwell connection, but whilst there are plenty of Bowers in both villages, and they seem to mingle, I’ve yet to find a mention of Henry.

In a bid to get further with this, I’ve looked at the parish records for Wicken and Burwell, alongside the census records, to try to see if there are any cross overs that would suggest that the Wicken Bowers family were living with Burwell Bowers on census nights, or appearing as witnesses etc at church events. This is a long, slow, arduous task, but one that I’m determined to complete. – INCOMPLETE

2. My time-travelling Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother

Elizabeth’s headstone in Stretham churchyard, suggests that she was buried alive when compared to dates in burial registers.

My Great x5 Grandmother, Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright) seems to defy time by dying and being buried on a range of dates within a couple of years – thanks to a lack of death certificate (it was 1837, the year the certification was compulsory, but she seems to be missing), a headstone, and two differing parish burial registers. Her demise remains a mystery, with the only lead for her London death, turning out to be a small child of the same name. – INCOMPLETE

3. Writing that book

Writing a book when you’ve been researching an entire family tree for so long, can be hard. Sure, there’s plenty of material – heartbreaking stories, funny instances, and wonderful photographs and sources, but where do you stop and focus?

That conundrum aside, I’ve continued to collect material for this and hope to use 2014 to flesh out the ideas and the stories. – IN PROGRESS

4. Visiting places familiar to my ancestors.

With the benefit of living amongst the villages that my family have lived and worked in over at least the last 430 years, it means that I’m always visiting places that they would have known, and seeing the landscapes they would have worked.

I managed to make several trips to places they would have known, including one to try to find the location of my Great Grandmother’s (Daisy Burnell) birth in The Stables, Abercorn Lodge, Abercorn Place, London. No obvious sign of the Lodge itself, or the stables (even though they might have been absorbed by something else), so I assume that they have since been redeveloped into something else, but I enjoyed a sunny afternoon visiting the area, and imagining what it might have been like back in the 1880s when she was born. – ACHIEVED

Abercorn Place sign

5. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

My step-child-abusing wicked Great x4 Grandmother, Mary Bailey (née Clarke) went to prison for her crimes in 1841. After serving her time and living a short family life, she ended up back in the workhouse twice, which is where I last saw her, as a widow. She continues to roam, and I won’t rest until i’ve bumped her off. – INCOMPLETE

As you’ll see from above, there’s quite a few incomplete ones there… so to help sort that out, I’ve just borrowed a friend’s research tool to help speed things up…

Andrew Martin makes genealogy easier by flying the TARDIS into research brick walls.
I’ve found that genealogy is easier when you fly a TARDIS into research brick walls, although I my Great x11 Grandmother loves my iPad Air.

2014’s resolutions…

Tune in tomorrow for my top 5 genealogy resolutions for 2014.

If you like this idea, then leave me a comment and/or link below to your resolutions blog post.

Have a wonderful end to 2013. And I wish you a prosperous, family filled, 2014!

Andrew

My Top 5 Genealogy ‘to-dos’ for 2013

My top 5 genealogy things I hope to achieve in 2013 – a mixture of visits, writing and demolishing those research brick walls.

I don’t really go for New Year’s Resolutions, as I like to challenge myself on a daily basis, but I thought that I would put down 5 areas of my family tree research where I hope to make progress in 2013.

1. The Missing Bowers

If you use RootsChat.com, you may have spotted me trying to unravel the Bowers family of Burwell, Cambridgeshire. There’s quite a lot of them there during the 19th century, and amongst them i am sure, *should be* my Great Great Great Great Grandfather, Henry Bowers – yet there’s no sign of him in an appropriate part of the baptism registers, and unhelpfully he was born in about 1812 (so, well before that helpful 1st July 1837 date) and there’s no parents noted on his 1832 marriage entry in nearby Wicken. Henry’s children’s Burwell connections are frequent, yet he himself has yet to appear.

I feel that I’m beginning to make progress though, by researching all the Bowers in Burwell by cross-referencing the registers to census returns. Annoyingly, my favourite census – the 1851 for Burwell – is missing, and so this leaves a hole in the data.

I am determined to crack this one. Somehow.

2. My Time-traveling Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother

Elizabeth Yarrow‘s birth, death and burial dates and place of death is open to discussion as none of the key sources corroborate. A death in London, a burial in Stretham, a date of burial in Stretham differing from the date of burial (randomly) noted in the register for neighbouring hamlet Little Thetford, date of death and age different between burial registers and gravestone.

It’s all a mess… and with her 1837 death year, there’s also no suitable certificate to help iron it all out (the one i did excitedly find was for a small child). My 5x Great Grandmother’s life and death might be impossible to unravel unless I get my hands on some newspapers and some railway records.

3. Writing that book

So, for quite a while now I’ve been toying with writing up research into a book, but then the genealogist’s work is never ever finished – so at what point do I start and end the book? What do i include and omit? Having several friends who are published authors themselves helps, but I hope to be able to work out how, and start, to turn my years of research into something that can be shared in print and in eBook.

If you’re a published genealogy author – drop me a message – i’d love to hear about your experiences.

4. Visiting places familiar to my ancestors

I’m quite good at this, mainly because few strayed from Cambridgeshire. Top of my list is to find the building (or site) of my Great Grandmother’s birthplace – The Stables, Abercorn Place, Kilburn. I’ve meandered the streets via Google Streetview, and I’ve been in the neighbouring streets (including the famous Abbey Road) where the family lived and worked… but this place remains unvisited.

5. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

My Great x4 Grandmother, 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 during the mid-1800s. She’d already bore my Great x3 Grandmother and a brother outside of marriage and before becoming the wife of William Bailey of Botesdale, Suffolk. This was to be to their advantage, as they went on to escape the miserable family life that followed. No wonder my Great x3 Grandmother Caroline Clarke changed her name and hid her parentage. Meanwhile, after a couple of stints in the workhouse, and one in prison, Mary vanishes after 1881… but I’ve yet to kill her off.

Mary, i’m coming to get you!

What genealogy brick walls are you hoping to demolish in 2013? Is there something special you hope to achieve in the coming year?  Let me know in the comments below.

Alternatively, join in the conversation over on LinkedIn.

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.

The Workhouse

It’s unlikely that anyone would have wanted to go to the workhouse unless they’d lost all hope of finding support elsewhere.. but after two illegitimate children (Caroline and Edward Clarke), and an 1838 marriage to widower Mr William Bailey, Mary Ann Clarke and her family ended up in the Hartismere Union – which had workhouses at Eye and Wortham, Suffolk.

Mary is notably missing from the family nest in the 1841 census (no idea where she went!), but the rest of the new family are present and living together at Back Hills, Botesdale.

The family must have hit on hard times, as they are broken up by the time the 1851 census arrived. It’s unclear at the moment as to when the family entered the workhouse, but the births of a series of children may provide the clue as to the date after viewing their birth certificates. I’m assuming that at least one – Alfred – was born at the workhouse.

The 1851 census shows that Mary (39) and her youngest children Ameila (5), Francis (4), and Alfred (1) are living amongst the inmates of the Eye Workhouse. On another census folio, her husband William (45) appears. It was common practice to keep the men and women separate, although young children were often kept with their mothers until they were old enough to enter the houses of industry, or the boys were old enough to move into the mens part of the compound.

Over in Botesdale, and at the Ling House of Industry, was Mary Ann’s oldest (and illegitimate) son, Edward (14), having adopted the Bailey surname. He’s listed with other boys, some as young as 6yrs old. His step-sister, a daughter from William Bailey’s first marriage to Sarah named Louisa (18), is also in there too. The whole family is caught in the workhouse system… except for one – Caroline.

Caroline, my ancestor, and Mary Ann’s first illegitimate child, has escaped the workhouse. She’s the breadwinner in a way at the age of 17, although she’s far away from the family in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. She appears on the 1851 census at Mildenhall Road, Littleport, as a ‘House Servant’ at the home of Henry Flowers – a farmer of 250 acres and employer of 10 labourers. She too has adopted the Bailey name, and it’s this job as a servant that saved her.

In 1861, things are on the up. William and Mary appear on the census at Botesdale Street, aged 56 and 46 respectively. William is noted as an ‘Agricultural Labourer’, as is his 18 year old son Philip. Included in the household are Fanny (13), Alfred (11) and Charles (9). Living next door is son Ellis Bailey (21).

By 1871, William Bailey has died, leaving Mary Bailey as the head of the household. She appears on the 1871 Botesdale census as a 60yr old widow with her sons Philip, Alfred and Charles.

But by 1881, Mary, noted as a 68 year old widow and working as a housekeeper… is back at the Union Workhouse in Eye, Suffolk.

Today, the site of the Eye Workhouse, which was built in 1835 on Castle Hill (see map 1904 map below), shows no sign of its former workhouse architecture. In fact, modern development has hidden this piece of history with a number of houses.

Map showing location of Hartismere Union Workhouse at Eye, Suffolk in 1904.
Map showing location of Hartismere Union Workhouse at Eye, Suffolk in 1904.

The only slightly positive thing was that the family eventually left the workhouse and were able to support themselves for a few years before Mary returned there some 30 years after she had first arrived.

The workhouse had a purpose, and whilst conditions were undoubtedly grim for anyone that entered through their doors, they provide some basic conditions – food, clothes, a roof, and basic healthcare that would certainly have helped to keep the Bailey family alive.

I hope to visit a Norfolk workhouse at Gressenhall soon, and to delve further into what life may have been like for the Bailey family 150+ years ago.