My Grandmother’s Century

In the midst of the First World War, on 11th November 1916, my Great Grandparents Alfred Newman and his wife Clara (née Gilbert) became parents again for the fifth time. This time they welcomed another daughter – Edna – my Grandmother, to their little Ely family.

Today, in 2016, marks what would have been her 100th birthday.

2016 has been a hard year, although I’m sure that 1916 was harder. However, partly as a result of the four family funerals I’ve attended so far this year, I’ve found myself in what was once her family home, and for the first time seeing the mass of photographs, keep-sake tins of bits and bobs, letters, a passport, and other ephemera.

My grandmother would certainly know hard times too – witnessing her older brother Wilfred being sent home to die in 1929 after exhaustive treatment in hospital for septicemia and tuberculosis when he was just 16yrs old, and hearing the news that her little brother Owen had died on a Japanese hospital ship after it was struck by a torpedo off Singapore. There would be more.

In particular, these photographs are letting me see my grandmother for the first time in her younger years. So far, the youngest photo I have found of her is when she was bridesmaid for her older sister Phyllis, and she stands beside her, and their brother, in 1935. This is my grandmother at 18/19yrs old – just a teenager – but to me, she’s unmistakeable.

Phyllis Newman and Sidney Fitch wedding group in Ely, 1935.
Phyllis Newman and Sidney Fitch at their wedding in Ely, 1935. My grandmother is second from right, with their brother Leslie Newman on the far right. Photo: Andrew Martin.

Within two years she would walk down the aisle with my grandfather Percy Martin, although perhaps somewhat hurriedly, as my uncle was born just 6 months later.

Their family grew in Little Downham, a village near Ely, but it wasn’t without difficulties.

Until a fortnight ago, as I had watched her oldest son’s (my uncle’s) coffin be lowered into his grave, and eventually turned to walk away, my mother tells me that this uncle was not the first to be buried there. This confuses me, but she relays the snippets of information that my aunt has told her and my father over the phone just days beforehand. There was another sibling – Malcolm – who my aunt (being his sister) believes is buried somewhere there too.

Edna and Percy, my grandparents in happier times. Probably Hunstanton during the 1950s.
Edna and Percy, my grandparents in happier times. Probably Hunstanton during the 1950s. Photo: Andrew Martin.

It was a shock. I thought I knew all my aunts and uncles, how had I never known about this one, and how had I not just spotted it anyway in the records? So I’ve set myself the challenge of identifying his burial plot. That’s in progress, and will need my detective work to find the cemetery plot map.

The next day, I searched through the birth and death indexes at freebmd, and sure enough, baby Malcolm Paul Martin was there. His birth in a neighbouring county hospital, his death in the hospital at the city of Cambridge – away from where the family’s other children had been born, and far outside of where I’d suspect him – if I’d ever suspected there was another child to find!

The sadness of spring 1958 was revealed.

This must have been so very hard on my grandparents, with my grandmother, now in her early 40s, giving birth prematurely to her final child. He hardly stood a chance – not just because he was premature (there’s no indication of by how much), but he would have been struggling to feed and grow strong due to having a cleft lip, and his weakness meant he stood no chance against the pneumonia. He was just 2 weeks old. My father hardly recalls him (as he was only young himself), my aunt remembers only a little more. My uncles never said a thing.

After the breakdown of her marriage to my grandfather in the early 1970s, she remained living with my uncle, and was already a doting grandmother to my aunt’s children, but clearly missed them dearly as they were based in the USA. As my sister, my UK-based cousins, and I came along, she proved to be just as doting to us.

I remember staying with her and my uncle on a few school holidays and playing with the kids next-door. I remember where my grandmother kept the sweets (in plain paper bags on the tray on the sideboard) which caused me to develop my light-footedness in aid of the liberation of countless aniseed balls.

Edna with Claire and Andrew, circa 1984.
Edna with my sister and I, c.1984. Seems the Christmas excitement turned me into a demonic child that year. Photo: Andrew Martin

I remember (and still have) a couple of the Christmas toys she saved up to buy me in my childhood – and I found a letter just last week whilst clearing my uncle’s house, where my mother is explaining to her what the toy was that she’d paid for in 1983. That was quite a lovely little find.

My parting memory of her is sleeping in a hospital bed. The same hospital where she’d had Malcolm almost 40 years earlier. I didn’t understand what was happening as an 8yr old in 1986, but my memories can take me right back there in an instant.

I wish we’d known each other for so much longer, but I cherish the memories of the time we shared.

Happy 100th Birthday, Grandma.

Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Three)

About 18 months ago, I undertook the Ancestry autosomal DNA test. I’d been completely sceptical of what use it would give me, but after seeing lots of talks from Ancestry, other DNA test providers, and genealogists at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in 2015, I decided to pick up a test for me and for my mother.

We both took the test and after about 6 weeks received our results.

At the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 show, I picked up a third test – again avoiding the expensive P&P cost, and this time for my father. He’d been interested when my mother and I received our results, and had enjoyed reading the historical analysis of how our DNA had gotten into such a mixture through invasion, war, and trade routes.

After dribbling into the AncestryDNA tube just before lunch (in a bid to avoid me seem to descend from a ham and mustard sandwich!), I posted it off.

My parents are Daily Mail newspaper readers. This irritates me a lot, as it is somewhat of a toxic, bigoted, racist, baby-boomer brain-washer (and i’m being polite here), so their news always comes with poorly written and sensational stories that show people of other countries, but mostly Eastern Europe, in a truly horrific way. The only justice in their newspaper habit is that the paper either gets used to light fires, or to line their cat litter tray.

My mother’s DNA result gave her a 1% Eastern European, and 2% Finn and Russian DNA ethnicity, which amused me endlessly, given her newspaper reading habits.

Mother's AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result in Lego
My Mother’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result.

I didn’t inherit the Eastern European DNA, but I did benefit from the Finn and Russian.

My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate in Lego
My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate

But what might my father have?

I received the results.

My father’s AncestryDNA result

I picked up the phone, taught my mother how to go hands-free, and then said (in Daily Mail language) ‘Mother, you’ve only gone and married a bloody foreigner’ – we all laughed.

My father, who has an affinity with Scotland (but no known ancestral connection), actually turned out to be just 46% Great Briton, and yet 24% Irish. Compared to my 61% GB and my mother’s 68% GB, that’s quite a difference.

My Father's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

My father was somewhat pleased to see that Ireland (24%) and Scandinavia (19%) made up for where his GB DNA had decreased. He feels even more Celt/Viking than ever, even if I’ve yet to find any ancestor with a hint of Irish ancestry in them. My only suspicions might be our Newman (which seems more German to me), Tingey (which seems more French to me), or Clarke ancestors.

My Mother’s DNA remains the most varied, with 7 ethnicities estimated (and they are estimates, remember).

What you can see above, courtesy of my Lego depictions of the three of us, is that I dodged Iberian Peninsula DNA despite it being present in my mother (5%) and my father (3%).

My sister – who has not been tested – has a darker complexion to me, so maybe Iberia plays more of a role in her DNA, or maybe the Italian/Greek? Obviously, she could easily have none of those ethnicities at all – as it’s completely a 50/50 gamble as to what DNA you inherit, and which ones fall by the way-side.

My (decreasing) blond hair, and my gingery beard suggests that I’m a carrier of the red hair gene, and science has found that it has a high frequency in Ireland and Scotland. Maybe this suggests that I have inherited that from my father’s DNA. It’s also clear that I inherited my 4% Italian/Greek ethnicity from my father (his was 3%).

My mother’s high Western European DNA ethnicity (13%), and my father’s lower 5%, played little role in my DNA, which came as a surprise to me, as I’d have guessed that I had some Germanic DNA via my Moden or Gothard ancestors.

What next?

I could try to test some other relatives – they’re certainly curious, but the more distant I get in a bid to see results, the more ‘other’ DNA is being introduced via non-biological Uncles and Aunts.

I was pleased to see Ancestry match me up with a paternal second cousin, once removed, who I already knew their position of in my tree, but had never had contact with before. There’s also a few more distant cousins emerging, which is allowing me to fill in some contemporary generations from distant relatives.

The whole DNA testing exercise has been interesting for us as a family, and it’s a great conversation piece. I’m guessing my parents are having a great time telling their friends about what they’ve discovered. It’s certainly nice to find people who have a link to you, although there’s so many test results that match, and yet the users don’t have trees, or they never reply.

I guess to some degree, it’s a bit of a genetic tourism. Pay > Wait > Oh wow, i’m XYZ > Done.

I think I’ll keep my mind open, and see who else I can cajole into being tested (hopefully either my maternal aunt, or my sister).

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

Cambridgeshire Family and Local History Fair 2016

The Cambridgeshire Family and Local History fair returns for 2016!

The Cambridgeshire Family History Society’s Family and Local History Fair returns on Saturday 22nd October 2016.

Once again, the Glebe Primary School in Girton, on the North West of Cambridge, plays host to this genealogy feast day with doors opening 10am until 4pm, and as usual it’s free admission and free parking!

Expert genealogy and history talks

There’s a great line-up of guest speakers at this year’s fair, and it’s going to be very tempting to stay all day! These talks aren’t free, but are usually well worth their £2 fee:

  • 10:30 – Robert Parker: Our Ancestors 1939-1945
  • 12 noon – Mike Petty: Reflections on Eight Decades researching Cambridge
  • 13:30 – Myko Clelland: Making the most of FindMyPast
  • 15:00 – Gill Blanchard: Behind the scenes of Who Do You Think You Are?
The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair. Photo: Andrew Martin
The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair. Photo: Andrew Martin

I’ll be making my shopping wish list up in the next few weeks, so that I can peruse the trade and society stands without accidentally buying duplicates (like i have done with a few certificates lately, oops!).

As the fair gets ever closer, check out the Cambridgeshire Family History Society website for the latest info.

Day Two: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

As the sun sets on Day Two of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016, I take a look at some of my favourite bits.

Having walked more than 10,000 steps around Day Two of Who Do You Think You Are? Live, I’m now sat in my hotel with my feet up as we head towards the finale of this, the show’s 10th Anniversary year.

As with Day One, I threw myself into the DNA themed talks again, and enjoyed some great sessions from Maurice Gleeson who gave a fascinating guide at how to identify which bits of your family are giving you which bits of DNA, and in turn help you work out where your DNA matches match up with you.

Maurice Gleeson explains how to identify which bits of your tree give you your X and Y matches.
Maurice Gleeson explains how to identify which bits of your tree give you your X and Y matches.

Later on, I returned to listen to John Reid talk about the case of Richard III and how research led to a 99.9994% certainty that the skeleton was the former king.

John Reid examines the evidence in the Richard III case.
John Reid examines the evidence in the Richard III case.

Each step in his talk presented the varying pieces of evidence, at which point he’d ask if we believed it was the dead king without doubt. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t until mt-DNA that the audience felt reassured that the body wasn’t just someone random. John made the great point that ‘DNA is not a trump card’, and emphasised that it’s just another source to examine and consider.

As a tech nerd, who builds websites and loves using tech to tell stories, a talk titled Technologies For Timelines led me to stand for a few minutes in the morning for my £3 workshop ticket.

Ron Arons talked impartially about a wide range of online tools and desktop software that can be used to turn family history data into interesting interactive content – maps, timelines, and map timelines hybrids.  He also covered a few of the pros and cons too.

Speaking of timelines, I bumped into Steve Bardouille  from the team at Famberry, who showed me their latest demo.

Famberry logo

The site’s interface has changed somewhat since I last saw it, with a load of customisation features for users, and a really slick timeline and tree building feature.

I was also really excited to see what looks like a new idea to reach the geneasphere – pulling in the data from unclaimed estates, and looking for matches.

FamilySearch giving talks on search at their stand.
FamilySearch giving talks on search at their stand.

I returned to the Society of Genealogists section, to find the Lincolnshire Family History Society, and with my iPad to hand carrying my synced Reunion11 tree, the team on the stand were exceptionally helpful and kindly spent time with me to see if I could extend my Watson family tree knowledge. I came away with an index CD for records covering the parish of Fleet and its neighbours, and a handful of leaflets.

Once again, the show allowed me to meet and catch up with geneafriends old and new (or perhaps longstanding and recent is better), and I look forward to tomorrow’s final part of the WDYTYA? Live 2016 trilogy.

Tips for tomorrow:

  1. There were plenty of train delays for arrivals coming in from Birmingham New Street, and a few from Coventry. If you’re coming by train, give yourself plenty of time if you’ve paid for your workshop tickets already. In theory, delays tomorrow could be horrific given the potential visitor levels for a weekend day.
  2. The Breakfast Sandwich (bacon and fried egg – yum!) from the café is a great set-up for a busy morning, but have a wander around the NEC complex as there’s plenty of less busy and competitive food outlets…including a quiet Starbucks down some stairs.
  3. The wifi is unreliable, but I was able to find the battery-eating 4G. If you’re hungry for wifi, simply step out of Hall 2 (re-entry is permitted with a hand-stamp).. there’s loads of stable, powerful, free wifi there.
  4. Look out for deals – Pen & Sword Books had some great deals on today.
  5. If you’re a Twitter user (follow me on @familytreeuk) then look out for tweets with #wdytyalive and #tweetup – giving you opportunities to meet fellow genea-nerds just like you, over a coffee in real life.

Until tomorrow, happy tree surgery!

Andrew

Day One: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

Day One of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 is over…. So what is this year’s show like?

The first of the three days of the 2016 Who Do You Think You Are? Live (or WDYTYALive to cut it short) show in Birmingham has passed, and day 2 is galloping towards us…

Ask the Experts - kind of like speed dating for genealogy answers.
Ask the Experts – kind of like speed dating for genealogy answers.

Now into its second year at the NEC, the show has certainly made its home here, and the days of the two floor Olympia are now heading further into my foggy reminiscence.

This is also the 10th Anniversary show, not that you can tell yet, but whilst it took me a few years to start attending, the years have seemingly flown by.

As I wandered around today, I got the feeling that maybe the stands were a little more spread out, or maybe simply less imposing. It felt like there was plenty of space to move around, and it was pretty easy to get up close to talk to people or browse products.

MyHeritage stand at WDYTYALive 2016
MyHeritage stand at WDYTYALive 2016

Gone is the exciting 1939 themed café that marked Find My Past’s launch of the 1939 Register, and the number of WWI themed stands seemed to have reduced a little. However, the formation of the Education Zone (including a lecture theatre, and close-up WWI artefacts) feels like a great addition to the show.

WW1 in the education zone
WW1 in the education zone

Ancestry, the show’s sponsor, dominates the entrance again with what feels like a stand that’s twice the size of last year. This year they are still showcasing their DNA autosomal test (yeah, I bought another one), and this time they’re offering it at £59 – that’s abt 40% off and cheaper than last year (£70 I think).

DNA is still a hugely hot topic, and there’s plenty of other stands offering kits and advice on this subject. There’s also a specific DNA lecture theatre, covering a range of topics and a range of levels.

 

Prof. Mark Jobling of University of Leicester talks demographic history.
Prof. Mark Jobling of University of Leicester talks demographic history.

Having discovered what appears to be my surprise Jewish ancestor, I had plans to seek advice today – and the team at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain stand, who were able to give me a few pointers as to where I could seek more records to help unravel the mystery.

It was also great to see what the Societies were offering, and I made sure that I visited my home teams of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire to see what they had to offer.

Myko Clelland (FindMyPast), presenting in the Education Zone.
Myko Clelland (FindMyPast), presenting in the Education Zone.

There’s always so much to take in with the societies, because they produce such a wide range of materials or publish some fantastically niche record sets of which some are so specific and small scale that the larger companies would never find them financially viable. You also get to speak with people with that specific local knowledge – go see them!

Couple of down sides this year:

  1. The wifi was very unstable and mostly useless. In previous years it’s worked a treat.
  2. There was a theft of a purse and a camera, so it’s a reminder to keep your valuables close to you at all times

On the up side this year:

  1. The show is in exactly the same place as last year.
  2. There’s some great offers on this year, so have a good browse before you commit.
  3. There’s a beautiful Spitfire parked up at the back of the hall. I heard Else Churchill (Society of Genealogists) landed it there herself.

The lost and unloved Rowe family bible

An old Rowe family bible sits lost and forgotten in an antiques store… will it find it’s rightful home once more?

I always find wandering around antiques stores and ‘antiques’ stores fascinating. Maybe whether it’s because I like to see whether things from my own childhood are classed as ‘antique’ yet, or whether I quite enjoy seeing the kinds of things that I remember my Great Grandparents having in their homes.

One thing I’ve never seen in my family is one of those big hefty family bibles. The kind that’s leatherbound, complete with gold gilt edges and a lock, and big enough to be classed as an intimidating weapon against intruders…

So, whenever I see one in an antiques/’antiques’ store, I always just have a peep at it, because these books can be of interest to the genealogist.

Many people would write in their family events – births, deaths, marriages, into the front section, and so stumbling across this information can be wonderful.

I recently did this for a Nokes family bible, and ended up with descendants finding this blog post, and contacting the store.

So, whilst aimlessly browsing Risby Barn antiques, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk over the Easter weekend, I stumbled across another big bible filled with family history data.

I didn’t buy it (it’s not my family), so if you’re looking for this, it would be worthwhile giving them a call. I didn’t check the price-tag, but it’s a heavy but delicate book, that needs some love once more.

It seems that this family bible was once owned by the Rowe family:

National Family Bible
Front of the Rowe family’s National Family Bible.
rowe-family-bible-register
The bible’s ‘Family Register’ has been filled out with the names of Dennis and Florence Ada Rowe, married 1st November 1899.

The bible seems to have been given to Dennis Rowe (b.1872) and his wife Florence Ada (b.1877), who were married on 1st November 1899. There’s no locations mentioned here, but a quick check on FreeBMD puts this as Dennis Walter D Rowe and Flora Ada Waldon of the Downham district of Cambridgeshire/Norfolk. Surprisingly, this book hasn’t strayed too far from home, and puts the couple living in amongst my own ancestors (no connection – I checked).

Moving on a few more pages, there’s more information…

Rowe family births.
One Rowe family birth for Cyril in 1906.

Only one child made it to the births page. Maybe there were more, but weren’t added in for some reason…

And then on the the deaths page:

Rowe family deaths
Rowe family deaths

Sadly, it seems that their son, poor little Cyril Robert Rowe, died after only a few weeks of life.

Florence’s own death in 1938 is noted here, but no sign of Dennis.

On the pages that followed, there were a number of photograph sections, but there were no photos added. It seems that the manufacturer of this bible had realised that families would want to write their family events inside the bible, and decided to make some quite impressively ornate sections for them to do it – how innovative. Sadly, this family’s false start perhaps led to it’s eventual existence languishing in antiques store.

Maybe, as I’d like to think happened with the Nokes family bible, this old family bible will eventually be reunited with its family once more.

Happy Tree Surgery,

Andrew

Get ready for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

The 10th annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live UK show is almost here, but what will this year’s show bring?

When I booked my tickets to the 2016 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, it felt like such an unbearable time to have to wait for, but as my tickets plopped onto my doormat this week, I realise it’s almost time to go, and I feel ill-prepared for it!

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 logoIn just a few days time (7-9th April), the Birmingham NEC will be host to a veritable banquet of genealogical talks, services, suppliers and societies, and thousands of genealogists and family historians.

Last year I was apprehensive of the shift from London’s Olympia to Birmingham, but as with that old saying of ‘you don’t know until you try‘, I tried and found that actually it was quite a nice simple alteration to my annual pilgrimage.

WDYTYA? Live 2016 ‘hot topic’?

I’ll be there for the best part of all three days again, and I’m hoping to attend plenty of keynote and workshop talks, catch-up with a number of genealogy chums, and enjoy immersing myself into the show’s 10th year.

Last year’s show was full of stands and talks all about the First World War centenary, and DNA testing (I bought two kits from AncestryDNA), and I don’t doubt that this year will see any decline in conversations about those two subjects.

National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015
National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015

WDYTYA Live is also a great place to get to see brand new or forthcoming new record sets and online tools. Last year was the 1939 Register that was proudly unveiled by FindMyPast and The National Archives (the video below includes some of the launch entertainment). The year before, it was the Lives Of The First World War project from The Imperial War Museum and FindMyPast.

I’m wondering what this year’s ‘topic’ or theme is going to be?

Finding new ideas and tools

Personally, I’m looking for storage solutions – both physical and digital. Yes, there is Dropbox and Google Drive, and those acid-free wallets and photo pouches etc, but I need something along the lines of ResourceSpace (Open Source and free) with Dropbox attached to it, at a family historian price-tag level, not a Reuters photo catalogue price-tag. I’ll also be looking out for ideas with my Assistant Archivist hat on for The Littleport Society, as we have a ton of artefacts to store.

I’m also keen to find out about Jewish records, after an unexpected twist in my Tabraham tree seems to have suggested that I have a Jewish part of my family. A group of Tabraham surname-holders turn up in a parish church baptism record – each have their parents un-named, and each comes with the note ‘a Jew’. I’d like to find out whether this was a common practice, and why, and whether there are any Jewish records that compliment these Anglican church baptisms that might have a bit more information.

I’m also interested in finding out more about accessing divorce records or simply just seeing if a divorce is recorded as having happened (yes, I’m trying to determine whether I’ve found a bigamist with two concurrent growing families in my tree), and I’m hoping that the GRO will be back again to talk about it’s aims of turning their postal certificate service into an order/download service similar to the Find A Will service.

I’m also looking forward to seeing all the Society of Genealogists stands – I find these stands fascinating as there’s usually so much knowledge at a local level, and you don’t get that with the larger silent pay>click here>download genealogy big brand services.

Tweet Ups

As ever, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for some of the many #tweetups that take place over the three days where Twitter users meet each other IRL (that’s ‘In Real Life’ in web-speak) for a ‘hello’, group photo, and extra tweeting camaraderie over a coffee.

These are usually tweeted out a while in advance, so keep your eyes peeled for them. Here’s a little one I went to last year:

So, let me know if you’re going too, and feel free to say a ‘hello’ IRL (or via Twitter if it’s less awkward for you) if you see me wandering around.

Happy Ancestor Hunting!

Andrew

Happy Easter, vintage style

I’ve found a vintage happy Easter postcard (unused!) in my grandmother’s papers, and thought it was a nice little piece to share. Happy Easter!

Amongst the various papers and ephemera that I’ve acquired from my late-grandmother and great-grandmother, was this wonderful little Easter postcard.

vintage easter card

I like its simplicity and lack of the garish colours and cartoon chicks and lambs that litter modern mass-produced cards. The Easter message is embossed, making it not so great to scan, but I thought i’d share it with you.

I’m now in full Who Do You Think You Are? Live prep mode (my tickets arrived earlier this week), so for now, Have a happy Easter weekend.

boy eating easter eggs 1980s

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew

Surname Saturday: The Howlett family

Today’s ‘Surname Saturday’ post takes us back in time to meet the Howlett family.

The Howlett family are part of my paternal family tree, and give me one of very few tickets back through time beyond the fenland of Cambridgeshire.

Okay, admittedly it’s only to the adjoining county of Suffolk, but compared to most of the rest my ancestry – that’s the equivalent of the moon!

My most recent Howlett ancestor was Elizabeth Howlett. She was born to Thomas Howlett and his wife Caroline (née Clark) on 3rd March 1856, in the small parish of Kenny Hill – not far from Mildenhall, Suffolk, England.

Elizabeth Howlett with her husband James Gilbert, Burnt Fen, Cambridgeshire.
Elizabeth Howlett with her husband James Gilbert, Burnt Fen, Cambridgeshire. Photo: Andrew Martin

Thomas was the 6th of the 7 children of John Howlett and his second wife Elizabeth (formerly Goodings, née Poll), and the 8th child for Elizabeth after her first marriage to Michael Goodings ended with his premature death at just 27yrs.

John Howlett – my Great x 4 Grandfather, born in about 1786 in Ashfield, Norfolk is currently the extremity of my research. Likely suspects for his parents remain elusive.

At the ripe old age of 38, John married widow Eizabeth Goodings (née Poll) on 17th May 1824 at Wymondham, Norfolk, England, and around 3 months later she gave birth to the first of their eventual 7 children:

  • James Howlett b.1824
  • Hannah Howlett b.1827
  • Robert Howlett b.1828
  • Ellen Howlett b.1832
  • Honour Howlett b.1832
  • Thomas Howlett b.1835
  • Elizabeth Howlett b.1838

For John, this was his second marriage, and as I look back through my file, I see that I don’t yet know who my earlier Step-4x Great Grandmother was… or whether there was an earlier flock of Howlett children. I suspect there may have been – 38yrs in the 1820s, was probably leaving things a bit late!

Weaving in Wymondham

John is noted as a Weaver in 1824, and again in 1828 – just like his new-found father-in-law, Ishmael Poll (who is specifically noted as being a silk weaver). Wymondham had a booming weaving industry, and therefore once mastering weaving, there would have been plenty of looms around. Trade via Norwich, and Norfolk’s plentiful coast, no doubt aided this.  By 1841 though, he’s left weaving, and Norfolk, and appears on the 1841 census for Lakenheath, Suffolk, and has become a ‘labourer’ – undoubtedly on the fertile land surrounding his new home. He’d stay in the Mildenhall area of Suffolk until his death in February 1861.

Meanwhile, by the mid-1800’s John and Elizabeth’s children are marrying and bringing new branches to their family tree. All seven marry – some twice, and most have children.

Thomas’ little sister Elizabeth Howlett (1838) married George Gipp in 1854, and together they had 11 children – including the wonderfully named Rainauld Ishmael Gipp – presumably a nod to the child’s maternal silk weaving great grandfather.

Thomas Howlett

Thomas meanwhile, is working as an agricultural labourer. He married my 3x Great Grandmother, Caroline Clark in Mildenhall on 25th May 1855.

Thomas Howlett and Caroline Clark marriage register signatures
Thomas and Caroline were illiterate, both signing the marriage register with an ‘x’.

Ten months later, their daughter (and my 2x Great Grandmother) Elizabeth Howlett arrives. Life would have been hard for this young little family in the fenland, but it was about to get harder.

Caroline Coe (formerly Howlett, née Clark) - my Great x3 Grandmother c.1911.
Caroline Coe (formerly Howlett, née Clark) – my Great x3 Grandmother c.1911. Photo: Andrew Martin.

Thomas died aged 23 on 28th May 1858. Just days after his 3rd wedding anniversary, and just weeks after his daughter’s 2nd birthday.

He died at Whelpmoor, after suffering from Phthisis (essentially, Tuberculosis) for 9 months.

He must have been in severe pain, whilst desperately trying to provide for his family. Caroline was by his side as he died.

In later life, Caroline would go on to re-marry, to Robert ‘Dadda Bob’ Coe, and this new couple would spend their later years living next-door to her daughter Elizabeth as she married and raised her own family – this time with the Gilbert name.

 

 

Breathing new life into an old photograph

I thought i’d try out a photo restoration service to see if it could breathe new life into an old WWI photograph of my Gt Grandfather – here’s the results!

You might remember that during my 2015 Genealogy Resolutions, I aimed to grow my collection of family photographs.

The up-shot of that is that I have about a dozen old original photos that are creased, flaking, distorted, torn – I’m sure I’m not alone in having these. I also have a few that are modern prints of damaged photographs – where I’ve been able to temporarily borrow a photo to copy it.

Each one of these is just that little bit imperfect that it doesn’t quite make the grade when it comes to enlarging, printing or framing.

As the new year chimed in, I received an email out of the blue from Pick Nick Photo Restoration Services, in Kent, here in the UK.

Pick Nick Photo Restoration Services logo

I’d not really prioritised my photo restoration, as I can meander my way around the likes of Photoshop okay-ish and have made some improvements to the lesser-damaged images in the past, but nothing too adventurous. I think I’d mentally filed the more damaged images in my ‘to-do’ file… you know, the one that must be huge and probably has a 10yr waiting list. That one.

Trying out a photo restoration service

So, on the offer of a freebie, I thought that I’d give it a go. Why not? I get a photo repaired and Pick Nick gets a photo to show off in their portfolio. Everyone’s happy.

So, let’s take a look at the original – this is a photograph of my Great Grandfather, Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey. He served as a Private in the First World War, with The Suffolk Regiment, The Royal Munster Regiment, and The Royal Irish Fusiliers, and saw action in Gallipoli.

Pte Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey on horse (before)
BEFORE: My Great Grandfather Pte Ernest Dewey on a horse during the First World War. Photo: Andrew Martin.

…and within a few days, I received an email back from Pick Nick with the photo restoration job done.

Pte Ernest Dewey on horse - after photo restoration by Pick Nick
ABOVE: My Great Grandfather’s WWI photo looks as good as new after Pick Nick’s restoration (the watermark is purely to protect this image online – i have one without).

I’m really impressed at the result. The photo is much crisper and the sepia level is less aggressive, but those creases have been removed, and the missing bits of the photo that have long since flaked away, have been replaced – seamlessly returned to their rightful place about 100 years since the photograph was first taken.

To feed my curiosity (I’m never one to shy away from such nerdery), Pick Nick sent me a video link that shows the photo restoration done in 3 minutes. From my own dabbling experience, I know it would have taken hours rather than the 3 minutes to do – it’s a very tricky art to master!

So, bringing new life to an old photo has inspired me to rummage and find some more photos that could do with a new lease of life in 2016.

For now though, I definitely know who to recommend if I’m looking for someone to restore my old photos in future.