Sunday, 25 November 2012

Old mysteries solved

Looking back at my last post where every avenue proved fruitless, it is lovely to find myself finally re-starting my blog with the story of a successful genealogical few days.

Back in the mists of time I started looking at my 3 x great grandparents, Alfred Beckett and his wife, Susannah Vitty.  I knew quite a bit about the Beckett side of the family, but Susannah was a mystery to me other than her name.  I had a link to her as a person as my grandmother had given me a tiny spectacles case which belonged to Susannah, and had been given to her by "the Upper Chapel Sewing Society as a token of our appreciation of long & valuable Services" on January 3rd 1867.

The other mystery I had with regard to this couple was why their two eldest sons were named Joseph Shaw Beckett and James Smith Beckett when there were no Shaws or Smiths that I could find, maybe these were names of friends, but it is generally more usual to have a family link.

So in an attempt to discover more, back in January 1984 I ordered the marriage certificate of Alfred and Susannah.

All the details with regard to Alfred were as expected, I already knew his occupation, and that of his father, Joseph, but it was Susannah where I hoped to learn more. Her father was given as Bryan Vitty, which at the time seemed a promising name, and his occupation was given as woolcomber.  The only other thing of note was that one of my mysterious men, Joseph Shaw, was a witness, but obviously that still left me with no idea as to the relationship between him and the happy couple.

At that time, I searched in vain for references to a Bryan Vitty but couldn't find anything and for the past 26 years I've checked around every so often to see if there were any new clues.  I work full-time and have a family so chasing around record offices wasn't really an option and I was reliant upon online sites.

A couple of weeks ago I thought I'd give the search for Bryan another go, and this time when I used Ancestry a couple of possiblities were appearing.  There seemed to be a Bryan Vitty being buried in Leeds in 1815 aged 28, which tied in age-wise with Susannah being born in 1811, and a Bryan Vitty living in Manchester in 1825, and later dying in 1830, which again was possible.  The problem was that according to all the censues Susannah was born in Sheffield, which didn't tie in with either of the possible fathers.

The Manchester Bryan was aged 68 when he died which made him less likely, but the Leeds Bryan was aged 28 which made him born around 1787.  I could see on Family Search that there was a Bryan Vitty baptised in December 1786 in Bedale in Yorkshire, the son of John Vitty and his wife Dorothy, but no proof that this was definitely the Bryan dying in Leeds.

I had come across the Yorkshire Indexers site and found a thread on their forums about the church in Leeds where one of the Bryan's was buried, so I put a message on the site asking if there was any monumental inscription - in the hope that he might be "the loving son/husband/father" of someone! 

In the meantime, I tried a search on Ancestry to see if I could find anyone with a father, John Vitty, and a mother, Dorothy, and came back with three answers.  Brothers, George Ascough and Thomas were the sons of a John Vitty and Dorothy Longstaff, and baptised in Addingham, Yorkshire in the parish of St Peter.  Ancestry had copies of the registers for this parish and they were a wonderful source of information giving the ancestry of both parents back a further generation or two, and also showing that John Vitty, the father, was a woolcomber.  This suddenly rang bells as my Susannah's marriage certificate had her father's occupation as woolcomer as well.  Not exactly proof that this John was the father of my Bryan, but certainly a promising co-incidence, but when I looked closely at the additional ancestral infomation given on the Addingham registers I realised that Dorothy Longstaff came originally from Bedale, which made baptising their first child in her home village seem a very logical occurance.

The following day I received a reply from the Yorkshire Indexers site to say that they had checked their records, and not only was there a Bryan Vitty buried there, but there was also a John Vitty buried in 1818, with the same address of Top Close as his address.  This John Vitty was aged 66, which made him a good candidate for father of the Bryan who had lived at the same address.

Things then got more confusing as George Ascough Vitty appears to have moved to Manchester, so perhaps the older Bryan was related after all.

My next reply on the forum said that they had looked through some Sheffield newspaper articles and found three which mentioned Susannah, two about her being the victim of a robbery and one about her marriage, which said she was the neice of the late Mr James Smith of Bridge Street. Suddenly one of those mystery names was popping up - was James Smith married to a sister of Bryan Vitty, or was his sister Susannah's mother?

The articles about the robbery in 1834 seemed to imply that Susannah was living or staying at the Punch Bowl Public House in Sheffield when five broches and a silver watch were stolen from her.  As the pub was in Bridge Street, which is where Susannah gave as her address on her marriage, it seemed more likely that this was her home and that possibly she lived with her uncle, James Smith.  This time I simply tried a google search on "Punch Bowl James Smith" which came up with a link to the Sheffield History website forum which told me that James Smith was the keeper of the pub in 1834, and an Ann Smith in 1837.  I then looked at the 1841 census for Bridge Street and found that Nancy Smith, was the publican and she was living there with her three daughters and one servant.  I know that Ann/Nancy are often interchangeable names, so was Ann/Nancy the widow of James Smith? 

On the basis that she might be the sister of Bryan Vitty I did a search to find a marriage between a Smith and a Vitty and came up with one in Yorkshire between James Smith and an Ann Vitty in 1823.  This seemed to point to her being the sister, but when I went back to the censuses to discover what happened to Nancy Smith and her daughters in the hope that they might give a clue. Nancy was born in Pontefract and I couldn't find a birth for her as Nancy or Ann.

One final possibility had occured to me, that it was odd that Susannah was living with her uncle and aunt and not with her mother, so I wondered if perhaps Nancy might in fact be her mother and not her aunt.  This would mean that after Bryan's death in Leeds she married James Smith and moved back to Sheffield.  Having had no luck with finding the birth of Nancy Vitty in Pontefract, I thought I would give it one last try and just try looking on FamilySearch for the birth of Nancy in Pontefract in 1789 and I was astounded that the first entry which appeared was that of Nancy Shaw, daughter of Joseph and Susannah Shaw!  A swift search for a marriage of Nancy Shaw around 1811 came up with her marrying Bryan Vithy in Sheffield Cathedral in 1810.  Just one letter entered incorrectly and therefore missed from my searches.

So after almost 30 years everything had fallen neatly into place.  Nancy Shaw, daughter of Joseph and Susannah Shaw, although born in Pontefract, moved to Sheffield where she met and married Bryan Vitty.  Soon after they had a daughter Susannah, named for her maternal grandmother.  The family then moved to Leeds, probably to join Bryan's father, John, who was living in Top Close.  Sadly Bryan died within a few short years and at some point after, Nancy and Susannah moved back to Sheffield, possibly living with or near her parents.  Eventually, when Susannah was about twelve, Nancy re-married and the two of them moved into The Punch Bowl with Nancy's new husband, James Smith.  Susannah later married, and clearly had so much affection for both her grandfather and step-father that her two oldest sons were named for them.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

An unsuccessful week

Ever had one of those family history weeks that starts out full of enthusiasm and ends up in disappointment?  Well this week was just that for me.

Following on from my discovery last week that the very record office that I needed to go to to find out about the career of my husband's ancestor, William Tell Milner, was only a minute away from where I have worked for the past 21 years (I would like to point out that I am not blind, merely that I have never approached the building along that particular road!), I took the brief walk on Monday lunchtime to the Post Office Archives

Things started very promisingly with a very helpful gentleman who got me signed in and pointed me in the right direction.  He started me off with searching the Pensions and Gratuities records from 1869 backwards as William had been born in 1808 and would normally have retired at the age of 60.  I also knew that in 1861 he was listed in the census as a Clerk in a Post Office Department, and by 1871 he was not employed so that all seemed to fall in to place. 

The records for that period are all on microfiche which was a real blast from the past as I've not used these for years and it brought back memories of straining my eyes at IGI fiche at the Society of Genealogists.  The writing was faded in places, but not so bad that you couldn't read it, and I worked my way backwards from his regulation retirement age back to when I knew he was still employed.  Not a sign...I went back and checked each page again, but still nothing.

Next lunchtime my new helpful friend suggested that as not everyone was eligible for a pension it might be worth checking the appointments records to see if William could be found at the start of his career.  This proved to be a bit of a problem as the Appointment Books only start in 1831, and employees would normally start at age 18, which for William would have been 5 years earlier.  I hoped that William might be a late started and checked from 1831 up to 1841 when I knew he was employed but nothing.

My final attempt for the week, was a check on whether maybe William had left his employment by dismissal rather than retiring.  Unfortunately the only records seem to be where there was legal action taken, and this option proved fruitless as well.

I'm not entirely sure where I go from here.  But I'm wondering whether I'll need to work out which office William was working in and see if there are any local records, and one thing that my friend did point out was that William described himself as a Clerk at the Post Office, rather than a Postman so maybe there was a Head Office nearby.

So I've ended this week with more questions than answers, just a typical family history week!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A necklace and three Marys

I've always loved the detective side of family history, looking at the documents and trying to piece together the story and links behind it all, it all seems like one glorious jigsaw puzzle.

We were visiting my husband's aunt Jay a few years ago, at a time where I had done little work on his side of the family when she mentioned that her mother had told her about a necklace with a jewelled pendant with either the letter M, or the name "Mary" on it which had been given by a husband to his wife.  This necklace had then been handed down from mother to daughter for several generations, but for some reason by the time her mother gave birth the necklace was gone and she was named Ellen rather than Mary.

This naturally caught my attention as a nice genealogical clue, and I started my detective work when we got home.  I knew that Ellen's mother was Mary Harris before she married her husband, Thomas Smirthwaite, but I hadn't followed the line any further back.  The marriage certificate from 1906 gave me only the information that Mary was 21 years old and that her father was William Harris, a deceased Coal Miner.  Luckily I also had Mary's date of death and the indexes then informed me that her birth date was 24 August 1885.  I was then able to search through the indexes and order up a certifcate with checks against the date of birth with a father named William.  I struck lucky and the certifcate came back giving William a middle name of James, and giving Mary's mother's name as Mary Jackson. 

I then searched for the marriage of William and Mary and found this in 1878.  Mary was the daughter of a Henry Jackson which suddenly rang a bell.  I had searched for the family on the 1891 and 1901 census records but not been able to find a definite match, but amongst all the census possibilities I had looked at was a Mary Harris who was the granddaughter of a Henry Jackson and his wife, Mary.  The necklace clue was there again with a third Mary, maybe she was the orginal owner.

The next step was to track Henry and Mary's family back through the census records to see what I could find.  1881 seemed to give me little new information, except that Mary senior was away from home, but in 1871 Mary junior was still at home and there was a visitor in the house, a Lilly Milner.  One of Henry and Mary's daughters was also called Lilly so I hoped that this mysterious visitor might prove to be related.  

I decided to try to see where Mary senior was in 1881 and found a Mary Jackson with the right date and place of birth as a visitor in the home of a Hugh McCarton and his wife Lily.  It would appear that Lily had given birth to a son, James, the day before and along with Mary Jackson there was another visitor in the house, one Lilly Milner, only she wasn't just a visitor she was given as the mother-in-law of Hugh.  I could see that Lily McCarton and Mary Jackson had both been born in Gateshead and were of the right date to be sisters, which would probably make them both Milner's by birth.  It would also be strange to have someone in the house the day after giving birth who wasn't family, but I neeeded to be sure.

There was no trace of Lily Milner in 1861, but in 1851 she was at home in Gateshead with daughter, Lily three sons, James, Joseph and William, and her husband, William Tell Milner.  The youngest two children were under ten, but finally in 1841 I found William Milner with his wife Lilly, sons James and Joseph, and eldest daughter Mary. 

Finally, to confirm it all, I did a search for a marriage for Henry Jackson and Mary Milner, and sure enough the certificate came back with their marriage in 1856, and Mary's father was William Tell Milner. 

It looks as if Henry Jackson must have purchased the necklace for his wife, maybe on his promotion to coal mine inspector in the late 1870s.  When the necklace left the family, and where it is now, is a mystery, but the story had enabled me to move back through 3 generations of Marys.

The obvious follow-up is with the delightfully named William Tell Milner.  A quick search through the IGI found his christening in the parish of St Martin Pomeroy in London in 1809 as the child of Joseph Milner and his wife Jane.  The naming policy of this couple seems a bit haphazard.  Other children of the same couple who were christened at the same place were Jane (1803), Emmerson (1806), Joseph Holroyd (1806), Caroline (1809) and George Washington (1816).  As yet I've not discovered where the Holroyd, Tell and Washington bit came from, but Emmerson Milner was named for his mother, as I found the marriage of Joseph Milner and Jane Emmerson in 1802.

Moving William forward his marriage to Lilly Blakey took place in 1830 in Ormside in Westmoreland, which is now Cumbria.   It would appear that the Milner family moved there a few years before, as this is where Jospeh Milner died in around 1826, and he was buried in the same grave as his son, Joseph Holroyd and later his wife Jane in 1856.  Why the family moved there from London is currently a mystery, and what Lilley Blakey, Gateshead born, was doing in Westmoreland is also another puzzle to be solved in the future.

My next task is to trace William's career with the Post Office.  This is something that I had put on my long mental "to-do" list thinking that it would be complicated to trace, only to discover when I was thinking about this article that the Post Office Archives instead of being in some out the way place, is actually 2 minutes walk from my work!  So my challenge for this week is to make that walk and find out more about his career.  At the moment I am imagining that is he is someone like the character Thomas Brown from Larkrise to Candleford, altough that is set a little later than William's time. 

I'll report back next week on what I find, I'm hoping that they photographed their staff, but I think that is a bit unlikely.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Surname Saturday - Pyman

My interest in this surname comes from my great grandmother, Jane Pyman Pyman (yes, so good they named her twice!).  Her family can be traced back into the 1600's to a village just outside Whitby in North Yorkshire called Sandsend.  Her grandfather, George Pyman (seen below), rose from being the son of a fisherman, to being the mayor of West Hartlepool.

I've tried on and off over the past 30 years (which makes me sound much older than I am, but I started my interest in family history when in my teens), to find a link between my own Pyman family and any other Pyman's around the world.  I've gradually collected odd bits of information here and there and find that the name seems to have three sources.  There is a small family of Pyman/Peyman people in Berkshire and Oxfordshire around from 1650 onwards, my own Yorkshire gang from a similar time, and another ground in Suffolk/Essex which seem to go back slightly further to around 1550. 

There are tales amongst the Yorkshire Pyman family members that we "came over from Scandinavia", but nothing, other than being on the East coast of England, to back that up.

Moving forwards the Suffolk Pyman branch seems to be the most travelled as there are now large branches in Australia, Canada and the US, whereas my Yorkshire clan seems to have made to the US but nowhere else in any great numbers, and the Berkshire group have all but died out with the Pyman name rather than Peyman.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Where did he go?

Following on from my snapshot into the life of my Moore ancestors, I'm following that line a bit further forward in time to tell the tale, such as I know it, of John Edward Moore, son of William in my first blog.

John was born, four years after the events at the Tollgate, in the house on Timber Hill.  He was the fourth of five children born to William and his wife, Frances Palmer.  His elder two brothers, William and Thomas, and his younger brother, Arthur, all followed their father's footsteps by becoming bakers and grocers in Melton Mowbray, but John appears to have had different ideas. 

In the 1881 census John has moved down to Wanstead in Essex and is a bookseller.  He was still following this profession when he met Lottie Fanny Cullen who, oddly enough, was the daughter of a local baker and confectioner, so maybe thoughts of home led John to the local baker's shop!

They married when Lottie was just nineteen, but the marriage was a disaster. Knowing how much his wife would have prefered to have been called Charlotte Frances, John insisted on christening their daughter Lottie May. Before the baby was a year old he left them for good.

Lottie, faced with earning a living, boarded the young child with a Quaker couple who lived at Leamington and herself went back to nursing. She nursed privately a Mrs Kitchin of Sheffield after whose death, Hannah Kitchin, her unmarried daughter, persuaded Lottie to come as companion. They set up house at Summerfield, Curbar, Derbyshire, moving in 1935 to Sylvan Cliff, Buxton where both died.

Both women were very religious and lived their religion, giving home to Belgian refugees in 1914-18 war, and later to furloughing Missionaries. They were both strong teetotallers (Lottie's brother was a drunkard and they aided his neglected family). Nina was a woman of means and both ladies travelled regularly, Nurse, as Lottie was always called, acted as housekeeper and cook.  

Nothing more is known of John Edward after he deserted Lottie, and I have tried in vain to track him down in the censuses that followed but no sign. I keep hoping that one day he will turn up, like a bad penny and tell me where he has been for the last 120 years!

Lottie Fanny Moore (nee Cullen)

I owe a great part of this story to my grandmother, Mary Beckett (nee Bell), who has recorded the story told by John and Lottie's daughter, May, who was her mother-in-law.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Peppermint Billy - a brief follow-up

This is just a mini-blog, as I had planned to start off just writing once a week, but I'd mentioned in my first blog that JamaGenie had started me off on this whole process, and naturally she is the one who has now found some extra clues that I missed first time around.

Five years ago The Ballad of Peppermint Billy was written by Kevin Wood which tells the tale of Billy and his misfortunes.

In addition there is a book Death by Peppermint by Tim Randle which tells a fictionalised version of Billy's life. In the first few pages (which you can read via Amazon) the story goes that Edward Woodcock was the local Bailiff and responsible for evicting the Brown family from their home in Scalford.  Whether Mr Woodcock also played a part in Billy's later conviction for theft which had him transported isn't clear but apparantly Tim Randle's own family lived in the tollgate in the late 1800s, so I'm going to do my best to contact him and see whether my Moore family crop up in his research.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

A few days in June 1856

Well, here goes for my first ever blog! I've been inspired by reading the various genealogy blogs around to add my little bit about family details I've found. Particular inspiration came from JamaGenie of the Saturday's Child blog who has linked me to previously unknown Beckett family details over the last few months.

I am starting off with an example of the amazing way the internet comes up with odd snapshots into the lives of our ancestors. Like many other people I occasionally google random ancestor names and places in the hope that something relevant comes up. This time I tried the name "William Moore", my g-g-g-grandfather, and "Timber Hill" where he lived in Melton Mowbray in the mid 1800s. Part way down the page was an entry which sounded very promising "WILLIAM MOORE will prove as follows: I am a Baker residing at Melton Mowbray...".

The link led me to a copy of the Leicestershire Summer Assizes for 1856 and a murder trial brief for the case against William Brown, alias Peppermint Billy. There were pages of witness statements from everyone involved in the case, along with a statement from the accused. Among the witnesses was my William who apparently had known the accused as they were both from Scalford, a local village.

William Brown had recently returned from Van Dieman's Land having been transported there for a ten year year sentence. He had, according to witnesses, sworn to murder the person who had sent him there, and it appears that following a brief stay with his brother John and his wife Ann in Leicester (where he seems to have spent rather too much of his time with his sister-in-law!), that is what he did.

On arriving in Scalford his first action appears to have been to search out my g-g-g-g-grandmother, Amy Moore, who by that time was widowed and working as a servant at the Lodge. He found her and asked after her children, and upon discovering that William was living in Timber Hill and keeping a Bakehouse he said that he would go and visit him. On his way he seems to have stopped off at every local house and asked whether anyone kept the local gatekeeper company at night.

It is not clear from William Moore's statement how pleased he was when returning home one evening to see what appeared to be an old friend, but he gave him some supper anyway. The next day William Brown turned up at the house again and was given breakfast before leaving with Henry Reed, the servant of my William. He then spent the day assisting Reed with some work in the fields before coming back to be fed supper and given one shilling and three halfpence in an effort by my ancestor to get rid of him.

William Brown then seems to have returned to the field where he had been working that day and spent some time resting in a Hovel in the field before walking through the mown grass towards the Thorpe Road Toll Bar, where he then murdered the gatekeeper, Edward Woodcock and his grandson, James.

Justice seems to have followed pretty swiftly as Brown was arrested a couple of days later, and then tried and executed the following month.

So far I've tried in vain to find details of Brown's original trial where he was deported to see if there was any mention of Edward Woodcock's involvement.

On a more cheery note, I also discovered that this very Toll Gate was also part of the origins of the phrase "painting the town red". Back in April 1837 the Marquis of Waterford and some fo his friends returned back at the tollgate at Thorpe End after a day at the local races. The toll keeper, whose name is sadly not known, would quite rightly not let them back into town until they had paid the proper tolls. The young men took exception to this and then nailed the toll keeper into his house and proceeded to paint the toll gates red.

The drunken crowd then carried on through the town painting various other things red, culminating the in the Marquis himself being lifted up in order to paint the statue of a swan outside a local hostelry red as well When the local police tried to stop the madness they were also painted!

The Marquis later, once sober, was made to pay for the damage done and the phrase has remained in use ever since.

Amazing what you can find on the internet!