Can’t see the Woods for the trees

PatMatMatMat Great Great Grandmother, Caroline
Caroline Coe (née Clarke, formerly Howlett)

Caroline Clarke, my paternal great, great, great grandmother, had presented me a problem for many years, but 2009 appears to have ended the mystery of who she was and where she came from.

After deciding to unravel the mystery of where ‘Watchfield’ might be, I posted a message to RootsChat.com and was soon replied to by ‘DebbieG’ who gave me information from the 1841 census of Botesdale.

Now, I had often searched the 1841 census, in which Caroline would have only been 5-6 years old (if her marriage certificates were reliable). The 1841 census gave me the following:

William Bailey 35
Emma Bailey 10
Ellen Bailey 7
Louisa Bailey 5
Ellis Bailey 2
Caroline Clarke 6
Edmund Clarke 4

At first glance, I noticed that the two Clarke children were motherless and therefore wondered how they could possibly be the right ones. Having said that, in 1859, at Caroline’s second marriage to Robert Coe, an ‘Edward Clarke’ is one of the witnesses. So, so far, there was one connection.

Next up, Botesdale (Suffolk) is close to Wattisfield – a place I’d been meaning to check out due to its similarity to ‘Watchfield’.

I decided that I needed to try and find some baptisms for the Bailey children and this soon threw up a marriage on 8th November for William Bailey and Mary Clarke.

I then found baptisms on Ancestry.co.uk for Caroline Clarke (1835) and Edward Jarman Clarke (1837) with the mother named as Mary Clarke (no father named). I then found that William had been married to a Sarah (and found several of their children in baptism records). This left Ellis Bailey as the child that Mary Clarke had with William Bailey.

The lack of Mary on the census suggests that she had died between 1839 and 1841 but her exact death date currently remains a mystery.

I’d often looked at the census search results for 1851, looking for Caroline Clarke, just 4 years before she married my Gt Gt Gt Grandfather Thomas Howlett at Mildenhall, Suffolk… yet found nothing. Again, RootsChat.com found a solution for me when a ‘Caroline Bailey’ born in ‘Watchfield, Suffolk’ appears on Mildenhall as a house servant to Mr Flowers.

Looking to Botesdale in 1851, seems to show that Mr Bailey may have died, and finds his daughter Louisa in the workhouse with Edward Clarke.

As for Caroline, well, in 1855 and 1859 she names her father as “Alfred Woods”. In 1855 he is ‘deceased’ but by 1859 he’s become a publican (how’s that for ‘serving spirits’??!). Question is, did Caroline know who her father was and was unashamedly naming him… or was the name just made up? Did her mother know?

That’s something I’ll never know too.

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.

Our Brave Men

Herbert Martin (1884-1917)
Herbert Martin (1884-1917)

11th November was Armistice Day. It has now been 90 years since the First World War ended. A war that claimed the lives of around 20 million people.

This means that it has been 91 years since the death of my Great Grandfather, Herbert Martin. He was a Private in the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment but was killed in a train accident in Boulogne, France on 17th October 1917. The Battalion landed in Boulogne in September 1915. He was 33 and a father of four sons, all under the age of 8yrs.

His little brother Albert died the following year in Germany, apparently as a Prisoner of War in a coalmine (but that remains to be proven). He was just 19.

His sister and brother-in-law, Emma and John Goodge also died during the War.

This is just one part of my family that was touched by the First World War. Every single person lost someone and every family dreaded to hear that their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons would not be coming home again. I can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like, and I hope I never do.

These were exceptionally brave men. Heroes. Thrown together into an impossible situation in which a large number of them didn’t stand a hope in surviving. I am immensely proud of my relatives who fought for their future – our future.

There is seldom a day that passes where I don’t think about our brave men.

Climbing Up The Vines

Vine Elizabeth Moden (1893-1980)There are a few strange names in my family tree – Yarrow, Moden, Tingey, Gotrop, Babbage and many more but none are quite as strange as the female firstname of Vine.

My Great Grandmother’s older sister was born as Vine Elizabeth Moden in Ely in 1893. She married a Frederick Newell of Ely, where she remained until her death in 1980. She has always been referred to as ‘Aunt Viney’ – but it has often occurred to me as to what a strange first name that is.

Often, strange names like Vine, are simply a maiden name of a maternal ancestor re-used – and I’ve seen them occur as middle names but rarely the first name. I decided that I should try and find out where the name Vine came from.

The 1870 birth certificate of Mary Ann Cross (Vine and my Great Grandmother’s mother), gave me their parents – George Cross and Vine Taylor. This was backed up by the Census returns for 1871 onwards. “Vines” Cross was the landlord of The Eagle and Lamb pub on Cambridge Road in Ely during 1899-1904, preceded by her husband George from 1892 until his death in 1898. The pub has long since been demolished (although I’d love to see a photo of it).

Having seen the census returns and found the burial entry in 1916’s Ely Cemetery for Vine Cross (née Taylor), I decided to try and find her birth certificate. However, no ‘Vine Taylor’ was indexed as registered in Cambridgeshire and searches at FindMyPast, the IGI and Ancestry.co.uk brought me no closer with their wider UK searches.

With Vine Taylor having been born in the 1850s and married with a 1yr old Mary Ann Cross by 1871, 1861 was to provide the clue I needed that would link Vine Taylor to a Taylor family… but, ah.. the flood. The critical record I needed was the one that was destroyed by flooding years ago.

Stuck.

Stuck until a chance comment on RootsChat.com (where I post most of my awkward puzzles that magically get solved in hours) when a forum member suggested I tried variants of ‘Vine’ – real big strange variants – and that brought up a ‘Sabina Taylor‘ – born in Ely at about the right date (1852). Quite how you can go from Sabina to Vine in 10 easy steps, I’m not sure.. but I gave it a go and ordered ‘Sabina Taylor’s’ birth certificate. I soon found that Sabina was the illegitimate daughter of Susan Taylor of Cutter’s Yard, Ely and that she also bore the middle name of Steadman.

‘Susan’ linked nicely in with my tree too – with my Gt Grandmother and her deceased infant Aunt also having this name.

With another name thrown into the midst, I started tracing Susan Taylor, to see if Steadman or Vine played a role in her family tree… in a bid to confirm that this Sabina was the right person in my tree and if so, to then find the Vine link. I found no trace of Vine there, having found myself in the mid 1700s.

After browsing through marriage records, I stumbled across the marriage of Sabina’s mother to a William Steadman in Ely, in 1856. This made me feel certain that the ‘Steadman’ appearing on Sabina’s birth certificate was right – confirmed by this, their eventual marriage.

Still, no mention of Vine though…

…until I started looking at William Steadman’s ancestry (afterall, at that point in my research, I was quite enjoying the potentially ‘surrogate’ family). I soon found a baptism for William Steadman’s younger sister, and there it was…… Vinecrow Steadman. She was baptised on 13th August 1836 but lived only the age of 1 year.

Again, expecting to find that the mother of this Steadman family once used the maiden name of ‘Vine’, I was proven wrong. In 1829, James Steadman married Elizabeth Murfitt in Ely… but at second glance, there it was again.

Witness to the marriage was a Vine Steadman!

..so the trail continues…….

The Gilbert family at Littleport

Earlier this year I was given this incredible photograph showing three generations of my Gilbert family outside their house at Burnt Chimney Drove, Littleport, Cambridgeshire.

Second from the right (not counting the dog!) is my Gt Gt Grandfather, James Gilbert – farmer of Littleport. His wife, Elizabeth (née Howlett) stands proudly next to him. My Great Grandmother, Clara Gilbert is 6th from the right, with at least two of her sisters next to her.

Third from the left, is Caroline Coe – my Gt Gt Gt Grandmother – Elizabeth Gilbert (Howlett)’s mother. She married Thomas Howlett in nearby Mildenhall, Suffolk but when Elizabeth was at most, 2yrs old, he died in his mid 20s. Caroline re-married to a Robert Coe and they lived next door to the Gilbert family in this photo.

I’m identifying the photo as being about 1910-1916. It has to be before 1916 as this is when both James Gilbert and his wife Elizabeth died. Caroline Coe died shortly afterwards.

It’s impressive to find a photo with so many relatives in it AND outside their house. I previously had no photographs of any of these people with the exception of my own Gt Grandmother.