Saturday, 31 March 2018

Week 12 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


Many of the events, I mentioned in the life of my grandmother, may be considered to be a misfortune. All of them involved a premature death in some way due to illness, accident or war.

However, there may also be instances when something happens which causes pain, disfigurement or otherwise upsets our everyday lives. The loss of a job in times of high unemployment or something which means we are less able to work can have a huge impact.

We are fortunate that in today's society the state can provide relief but this was not always the case.
Family and friends were often the first port of call when hard times struck and many were reluctant to go to the parish unless they were desperate. The Workhouse was avoided wherever possible.

My 3xgt grandparents lived in the village of Britford, Wiltshire. This was in the  Alderbury poor law union and they both died in the Alderbury workhouse which was also known as Salisbury workhouse. The local archives hold records and I shall be checking how long they were resident in the workhouse before their deaths. This appears to be one of the better institutions of this type, as this was the only place where the poor could obtain help when they became unwell, it may have been that their stay was short and spent in the infirmary.  

However, despite dying in the workhouse both of them were buried in Britford.

Many poor persons died in The Workhouse and would have had a paupers grave. I have not checked for any headstones, but I doubt that the family could afford this luxury, by this time surviving children, had moved away.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Week 11 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


Two lucky ladies who won their registration the first time they came to Rootstech.
Robbin Smith and Hilary Gadsby

The ancestor who I highlighted last week could be classed as being unlucky so this week I will be highlighting the opposite and talking about lucky finds and contacts and good fortune.

If I had started my research earlier I think my luck would have been so different. I could have spoken to my mother in law about her family and would have had grandparents who could have helped with personal experience and family stories. 
Judy G. Russell aka The Legal Genealogist gave a presentation at RootsTech and highlighted how quickly the knowledge of our ancestors disappears. So we all need to start our research as early as possible and record it before we lose it or we lose the ability to record it. Don't forget family members do not have to die for us to lose their stories. Speak to everyone you can they may each have something to add.

I lost my father before I had thought to speak to him and my mother lost her ability to speak due to illness. Fortunately, I did manage to interview my father's older sister who was the record holder for her generation and she told me about things that do not show up in the records correctly. She also told me about a missing child who I have now tracked down see my post.

I have also found records at an archive by chance such as the settlement examination for my 3 x gt grandmother Louisa Richards see more about this in my earlier post and my other blog

If I look back at my research I will also find other instances where luck has intervened. 

I think for me the luckiest thing to happen since I started to research is the way that the internet has changed genealogical research. Contacting others who I haven't, and may never, meet but can provide me with breakthrough information has never been easier.

Don't rely on luck, it is great when it helps but most breakthroughs are due to good research and understanding more about how to do things right.
Speak to others, attend classes and watch webinars. 
If something has helped another researcher it may help you. 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Week 10 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Strong Woman

Today is International Woman's Day and March is Women's History Month. 
This is my maternal grandmother Florence Ann Roberts nee Compton. 

I am going to tell you more about events in her life that meant she had to be a strong woman.

Florence Ann Compton was born on 17 February 1901 in King Street Warminster.

She first appeared in the census on 31st March 1901 with her parents and siblings the youngest child of Edmund John and Thirza Ann (Robbins) Compton.
She was baptized in Christ Church, Warminster on 16th May 1901.

When she was only 5 years old her father died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Pleurisy & Pneumonia & Asthma, he was only 51 years of age, and this left her mother a widow, at the age of 41, with 5 children, the eldest being just 14 years of age.

Less than 16 months later, Florence and her siblings were orphaned, when her mother, failing to cope, took her own life. I have found a report of the inquest in the local paper. It appears that her mother had been unwell, she was reluctant to leave her children to be supported by the parish, whilst she received treatment in the hospital.
With all the older siblings being boys, close relatives being unable to take in all the children, the family was split up. My grandmother went to the Mullers orphanage in Bristol and her slightly older sibling Ernest Roy Compton was finally found on the 1911 census living in The National Children's Home.

Fortunately, I know that she kept in contact with at least three of her brothers. 
My uncle obtained a copy of her orphanage records and they contain a letter from her brother Sidney Herbert Compton and several from her eldest brother Walter John Compton.

When she left the orphanage it was with Walter and his family that she lived initially. The record stating that on 19 May 1917 she was taken by her brother Mr Walter J. Compton to live at 8 Jubilee Terrace, West St., Warminster, Wilts. as he wished to provide for her. 
On the 23 February 1917 her brother Ernest Roy Compton who had joined the Hampshire Regiment had been killed in action in Mesopotamia.

UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 
Then on 28 August 1917 her brother Sidney Herbert Compton died of wounds in Flanders he is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery,  Poperinge, Arrondissement Ieper, West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium.

UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929

So by the end of WW1 Florence Ann had lost both her parents and two of her four brothers.
But this is not the end of her story she was to encounter further tragedy when her eldest brother died in the flu epidemic in 1918.
Her one remaining brother lived to the age of 90 and died the year after her.

Stanley James Compton 1895-1986

Grandma at my wedding

In 1927 my grandparents were married the following year their son Kenneth Alfred Roberts was born.

Kenneth Alfred Roberts

In 1929 tragedy was to affect the family one more when Charles Henry Roberts the youngest brother of her husband Alfred Roberts was killed in a road traffic accident.

Newspaper cutting

Death of Charles Henry Roberts Newspaper Cutting


The burial service of Mr. Charles Henry Roberts, who met his death with tragic suddenness on December 28th, was conducted by the Rev. G. Percival at the Primitive Methodist Church, Totton, on January 1st. Deceased was 24 years of age, and though the youngest of eight children, was the first to be taken from the family. Mr F. Harrison played during the service, and the hymns chosen were “My faith looks up to Thee” and “Jerusalem the golden”.
The mourners were Messrs. W. G. Roberts, A. Roberts, and J. Roberts (brothers), Mrs J. Smeeth and Mrs. J. Allam (sisters), Miss A Denniss (fiancee), Mr. H. Roberts (nephew), Mrs. Maton and Mrs. Savory (aunts). Mr. J. Smeeth (brother-in-law), Mrs. W. G. Roberts and Mrs. A Roberts (sister-in-law), Mrs Denniss, Mr. S Dance (representing Messrs. Dance and Sons), his workfellows, and other family friends. The coffin was borne by his chums, Messrs. W. Green, J. Stares, F. Godwin, S. Aslett, R. Blake, and F Nutheem. The floral tributes included a cross from Mother and Dad, brothers and sisters, and others from Aunt Alice, Uncle Albert. and family; Lily and Eva; Mrs Savory and Willie; Alvina; A few of his chums at Totton; C. and S. Dance (employers); The Staff and Workmates; Primitive Methodist Church and friends; Mr. and Mrs. Denniss and family; Mr and Mrs Blake and family and Mr. Sillence; Mrs Sparrack; Mr. and Mrs Bayly and family; Mr. and Mrs. Knowlton and family; Mr. and Mrs. Aslett; Mr. J. H. Drew; Mrs. Russell, Nelson and George; Reg. Cronan; Mr. and Mrs. Rose; and W.  Nordy.

Killed 28th December 1929.

Charles Henry Roberts

On 5 January 1944 the day before my mother's birthday her eldest brother Kenneth died. I had been aware that he had died young for a long time and decided to do a search of the newspapers to see if I could find more details. 

This was from Southern Daily Echo Saturday 8 January 1944 Vol. LVI No. 17108 p.7 accessed at the Southampton Special Records Collection Library in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 5 March 2008.

Finally, if all this was not enough my grandmother lost her husband at the age 61 when she was only 58. She died at the age of 84 in 1985 of Bronchopneumonia, Chronic Obstructive airways disease & Ischaemic Heart Disease.
During her lifetime she had experienced the loss of both parents, 3 siblings, a brother in law, child and spouse. We all expect our parents to die before us but all of these events can be classed as premature and several as sudden events. War, disease and poverty may have shaped, most of, these events, each will have made her the woman I knew as my grandmother. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Week 9 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Where There's a Will

One of the things that we all need to do is "kill off" our family. That is finding the death and burial records that may exist. Many also left wills and these can be quite revealing. In most cases we look to wills to fill in the gaps and give us indications that there has been a name change particularly with women as they often took on their husband's surname.

Descriptions of who is to have what such as in this will for my ancestor Abraham Othen.

Dated 25 October 1869 
Proved 11 December 1869
This is the last Will of me Abraham Othen of Bitterne in the County of Southampton Laborer I direct my funeral and testamentary expenses to be paid as soon as can be after my decease I give and bequeath unto Thomas Othen (my son) of Lake Farm and to my son in law John Tudgey of Bitterne the sum of eighty pounds secured to me upon Mortgage on property belonging to Mr William Barfoot of Shirleyheath in the Parish of Droxford Upon trust thereout to pay the following legacies that is to say Ten pounds to the said Thomas Othen and Twenty five pounds to my daughter Sarah the Wife of the said John Tudgey Ten pounds to my daughter Mary Ann the Wife of James Martin Ten pounds to my daughter Eliza the Wife of John Biggs Ten pounds to my daughter Maria the Widow of the late Joseph Oliver also Ten pounds to my granddaughter Alice Tudgey and Five pounds to my grandson John William Tudgey the children of my said daughter Sarah Tudgey I also direct my said Executors to hand over to my said Grandson and Granddaughter the children of my said daughter Sarah Tudgey a Watch each now belonging to me And as to all the rest residue and remainder of my estate real and personal I give devise and bequeath the same unto my said Executors Upon trust for the absolute benefit of my said daughter Sarah Tudgey and I appoint the said Thomas Othen and John Tudgey to be the Executors of this my Will In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this twenty fifth day of October one thousand eight hundred and sixty nine

The Mark of X Abraham Othen

Signed and declared by the Testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us who in his presence at his request and in the presence of each other all being present together at the same time have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses.

Charles Phillips
Thomas Vare of West End

Proved at Winchester the eleventh day of December 1869 by the Oaths of Thomas Othen the Son and John Tudgey the Executors to whom administration was granted The Testator Abraham Othen was late of Bitterne in the parish of South Stoneham in the County of Southampton Laborer and died on the twenty seventh day of October 1869 at Bitterne aforesaid

Under £200

Whilst everyone will be thrilled to find a will describing their family sometimes a will can be revealing in what it does not include. If you have found that there were 5 children in a family why was the whole estate left to just one person? 
I will not share the will here, but I wonder why my grandfather left everything to my uncle John. He was the only one of his children who never married and had any legitimate children.
My father and his siblings did get along with one another although my grandfather and his brother fell out. I was aware that my father had 2 cousins on his paternal side and had met at least one of them. When we were children our 2nd cousin was in the same Girl Guide company as my sister and me. She recently reconnected with me as she was interested in the family and I directed her to this blog. The reason I mentioned this is that, apparently, they fell out because their mother was buried whilst one of them was away at sea. Family disagreements can be reflected in wills but this cannot be assumed.
When my uncle John died my father had predeceased him. I need to take a closer look at the date of his will, I know there had been some falling out before my father died, but I thought it was more of a fall out with his sister than his brother. My uncle having inherited his father's estate then went on to leave his entire estate to the younger of his 2 sisters. Again no mention of his other 3 siblings here. She did look after her brother and had been a widow for over 20 years when her brother died. I suspect this was to insure she could be comfortable for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, this was to be short as she followed her brother the following year. As she only had 1 son he inherited the entire estate of his mother. However, he knew that I wanted all the family photos and any records not pertaining to his immediate family. I was given a whole box full of items. Many of the photographs are still unidentified or are from my cousin's paternal family that are from Ireland. 
For me, Wills are nice if you can find them and they can help with reconstruction, but like any document, we use, we must not draw conclusions just because someone is not mentioned.

Finally, early Wills can be difficult to decipher but unlocking the information within them can be key to family reconstruction.
An inventory, if available, can be so interesting.
I have yet to transcribe this 1638 Will, which has a separate inventory.

  However, older Wills and inventories are often written in such a way, that you need to go on a course to read them.

Look for Wills, as each one may be the key to unlocking your "brick wall".