Family History group activities - 2015
WHAT WE DID IN 2015
2015 was a good year for the Family History group – we had two outings – the first to Chatham Historic Dockyards and the second to the Imperial War Museum in London. In May 49 of us went by coach to The Royal Dockyard in Chatham. We had our tour of the Dockyard on the coach and our guide told us about the buildings and ships in the dockyard - it was useful to know what we should be looking for when we were free to roam. I doubt whether any of us went everywhere – the dockyard is vast and there is a lot to see, but everyone enjoyed their day. It is well worth a visit. Then in November the family history group and friends went to the Imperial War Museum in London. The museum building is magnificent with planes hanging in the atrium. Once there we went our separate ways, but most people visited the First World War gallery, and were amazed at the technology used in the displays. The museum was reopened in July last year after a major redevelopment to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Again - somwhere else well worth a visit.
We had talks by visiting speakers – Eric Probert and Jane Pearson -Eric Probert gave us his talk called ‘Missing Links’ showing us how to find the illusive missing people in our family. The information he gave us is on his website - http://www.ericdprobert.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Mssglinksum.pdf. An interesting point from Eric’s talk was that in 1783 – 1794 many poor families did not have their children baptised as there was a 3d tax for the American War of Independence. The act was repealed in 1794 and many families then had several children baptised together. At our June meeting Jane Pearson gave her talk about Crime and Punishment in Essex. We were surprised to find that in the 1700s there were 250 crimes for which you could be hanged! But this was intended as a deterrent and magistrates were loath to give this or transportation as a punishment, especially if the man was known to be usually of good character. Hangings were public and were treated by the people almost as ‘festival days’ and thousands would gather to watch, so there was always the chance of trouble in the town. There was no police force and the village constable was likely to be a ‘strong-armed’ local tradesman who lived centrally and who could ride a horse [in case of a ‘hue and cry’]. It seemed his main job was to prevent ‘mobs’ from forming and creating trouble. Prisons were ‘holding pens’ and not places of punishment. The jailers were not paid for the work, but took payment from the prisoners, many of whom were there until someone could pay to get them out.
We also had talks by our own members – Allen and Rosemary - Allen gave us an excellent and fascinating talk about Great Baddow, including enrolling all of us into B.U.R.P. [British Union of Revolting Peasants]! By the end of the afternoon all of us knew more about Great Baddow and its buildings than we previously knew! Who knew that the White Horse, which has a ghost called Albert, was part of Catherine of Aragon’s divorce settlement; that David Cecil Gibbs of Gibbs dentifrice lived in the house called Vineyards; that Molrams Lane is named after Molly Ram, a lady of ill-repute who used to frequent the Crown in Sandon, until her hardworking husband reached the end of his tether and dragged her out, and she was never seen again; and that the Baddow Brewery was owned by the Misses Crabbe, who were against drinking alcohol. Lesley brought in her beautiful paintings of buildings in Great Baddow. Rosemary gave us a very comprehensive overview of the people working and living in the workhouse in a talk on 'Ghosts of the Workhouse'. Most of us have someone connected to the workhouse, so the ‘ghosts’ could be our own ancestors. Her research had ended up in an exhibition when St John’s Hospital closed, and whilst doing it she had met many people who had information about the Workhouse. The names of staff have been used in the St John’s development – Mary Munnion Quarter and Grace Barlett Gardens.
In August we met at the Galleywood Heritage Centre to use their wi-fi. When we arrived, Wendy welcomed us and Christine had prepared lunch – soup, sandwiches and a drink, with some lovely cakes to buy! We were a small group but everyone was busy and we were able to help our two ladies who do not have computers, and find more for them than they had found on the library computers. Everyone else worked hard and, hopefully, with help, made discoveries.
In September once we got the technology right we watched two films about WW1 – one about the navy in WW1 and one called 'Debt of Honour' - about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Then we had our more general meetings. At one meeting we were shown a wonderful variety of heirlooms – Elsie’s school attendance prize awarded not long before she died of meningitis; a beautiful doll from the 1870s; a drill used to drill holes for explosives in a West Yorkshire mine; a watch awarded to a fence-builder for 32 years faithful service at Towcester races; the books that belonged to a court shirt-maker; a navy log-book listing all the ships the sailor had sailed in; bound magazines created by two young brothers before they went to senior school; an exam certificate from 1889 and a shell case with a ball bearing set in the top. We were also shown an heirloom that could be left for future generations – a poppy from the Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red art installation at the Tower of London. Perhaps the most moving thing that was brought along was a tape recording - an appeal to the Radio Humberside Helpline for a long-lost sister who was found within the day – the brother and sister met soon after. In April of us met to discuss successes and problems. Clive told us of his success in researching a family for a friend and gave us a good hint – to start your search on the National Archives website - http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ and if you are lucky enough to find records, there are links if there are sources elsewhere online. Barbara had an interesting document where it was the employer of an orphaned apprentice, who was under 21, who gave permission for him to marry. Alan had found a child with two baptisms – the first a ‘half-baptism’ [at home - a child not expected to live] and then a later one in church. Rosemary had had some interesting results when using eBay – she had searched in manuscripts and found an unusual birth certificate and an original document associated with Maldon. Linda had a birth certificate where her second great-grandmother whose only child born in wedlock was given the wrong surname on her birth certificate and later had it changed!
We had many stories – of bigamy [a woman who probably thought her first husband was dead – she did marry him again once she was sure he was dead and both weddings were witnessed by her mother]; of a murderous attack on a workhouse overseer on official business who was thought to be carrying money; aboutTony’s mother who had glass ware with the Earl of Clarendon’s crest and she didn’t think it was genuine, but Tony researched and found that one of his ancestors was the Clarendon family wet-nurse]; of names that had been passed down through the generations – especially to the first son; and of two men with the name of Cornelius Christopher O’Shea living in Chelmsford at the same time – one a tailor who sat cross-legged in his shop window [a way of advertising that he was a good tailor] and another who had boxing connections.
In December we finished discussing our plans for next year, then we had the memories of Christmas at Hylands of Candy Cannon who lived in Great Baddow and died, aged 101, in October and Lesley brought some Christmas cards that were sent to her grandmother in 1955. Sadly, she died suddenly and never opened them; and neither did her daughter. So Lesley was the first person to open them – the writing was so fresh and the messages very formal. We finished our last meeting of 2015 with a ‘feast’!