2016 - what we did that year!
Once again we had a good year with a variety of meetings. At our first meeting of the year Olive kindly provided our refreshments – months ago she was contacted by a firm of ‘heir-hunters’ and as she had received her share of the legacy, she treated us from her ‘inheritance’. It was good to hear that ‘heir-hunter’ type stories do have happy endings. At most meetings Martin set up his laptop so that anyone with queries could talk to him at tea-time.
We had several speakers during the year
• Clive gave us an excellent presentation showing free sites that can be used to store family history information and create a tree, make reports and lists of people, etc.
• John Howden, an independent film-maker showed us a variety of films –– my favourites were the one about the restoration of Aubyns, the timbered house on Writtle Green, and one about the Olympic Games maker – it brought back so many memories.
• Linda gave a talk on David Theophilus Hanbury, brother of John Mackenzie Hanbury who bought Hylands. He was an explorer, adventurer, writer, whose life changed when he married a 20-year old telephone girl in California!
• Dr. Jane Pearson came to us again with a talk about witchcraft and told us how she accesses the Essex Standard – it is possible to access the 19th Century newspapers using a library card to access any of the papers - http://www.essex.gov.uk/Libraries-Archives/Libraries/information/Pages/Reference-library-online.aspx#newspapers.
• We had a very entertaining afternoon with Barbara Faulkner who brought along lots of photos, books, hop pellets and flakes, and beer and gave us a talk on ‘Hop picking at Horseman Den’ .
• About 30 of us met on Armistice Day and once again when we needed dull weather we had brilliant sunshine! Rob Parker [http://www.myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/] gave us a talk called ‘We will remember them’ based on his research into his Great Uncle Alfred. Alfred’s story.
We had a very successful trip out in October when forty-six members of the Family History Group and friends visited the Museum of Docklands on the Isle of Dogs, that tells the history of the River Thames and the growth of Docklands. It is an amazing place with ten free galleries to see. There were short themed talks and tours at various times and, being U3A members, many of our group took the opportunity to join in. Most of us spent a lot of time in the first gallery – ‘London – Sugar and Slavery’. The museum’s building was built at the time of the transatlantic slave trade, to store the sugar from the West Indian plantations where enslaved men, women and children worked. We had been told about the Wetherspoons, almost next-door to the Museum, in the Ledger Building, but hadn’t thought about the fact it was Friday – ‘TGIF’ – the busiest day of the week, so the restaurant was full of city workers. However, many of us managed to find tables and thought that the meal was very good value – beautiful fish and chips for many of us! Some gave up on waiting for a table and ate in the Museum’s own restaurant – ‘Rum and Sugar’ [slightly more expensive!]. Some of our ladies even managed to fit in a visit to the shops and went into ’Tiffany’s’ but told me they didn’t buy anything!
As usual - when the family history group show a film the sun shines brightly, but a week after the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme, 20 of us did manage to watch 'Spirits of the Somme 1st July 1916 – the blackest day' - a film that probably taught us all something new - even if it was that the Germans were so established in their lines that they had electricity!
Fifteen of us met at Galleywood Heritage Centre and after a lovely lunch in the garden, set to work; and once again we did have successes and it is good to be able to work on research together.
We had a couple of meetings when we discussed our successes and ‘brick walls’. We had several stories about people who were in the Workhouse – Pauline’s Fanny Brightwell who was in and out of the Workhouse for years [records from Workhouse registers], and Clive’s Funnells – the family lived in the Blyth Union Workhouse where the father was the schoolmaster [records from the censuses]. Barbara had a sad story of a gentle Workhouse schoolmaster who was thought to have committed suicide, aged 32, soon after taking up his post - perhaps after teaching in a village school, he found teaching the Workhouse children difficult [records from newspapers]. Jan’s fisherman in Rye left his children in the Workhouse but then sent a parcel with a present for one of them – it was thought he would have been better supporting his children financially than sending story books! Linda had found her 3rd great grandfather in newspaper reports – he was an assistant overseer at the Otley Workhouse and his pay was increased from £60 to £80. However, when he resigned, the post was advertised with lower pay as the work had decreased. Martin had had great success when he found in a mortuary register at the London Metropolitan Archives someone whose death was caused by violent concussion – he fell out of bed and hit his head on the radiator! After hearing this we decided to have a session on strange deaths! Linda’s Fanny Allison committed suicide by walking into the local beck, and Thomas Piercy got so drunk whilst celebrating his daughter’s release from the lock-up, that he fell out of the cart taking him home and died. Pauline had two suicides, one of a child who had died of scalding after climbing over the fireguard there to protect him, and tipping over the kettle. Hazel had a story about a man who had taken his horse and cart to get a mine off the beach – the mine exploded and the man was killed, but his wife only got compensation for the horse and cart! Shirley had a death ‘at the plough’ – he had gone to work and had died – afterwards his horses had dragged the plough and then returned to stand by the body.
We also had successes – a tree on Ancestry had led to a family member getting in touch and then sending photos of a Hylands Hospital soldier. Olive brought some wonderful WW1 photos, enlarged from the very small ones in her WW1 photo albums, clearly showing the soldiers. Jan had researched a missing soldier, had eventually found him – he’d enlisted under a different name, and by sending all the proof to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, she is getting his record and his headstone changed. She also found that, when in France, she has frequently passed by the cemetery where he is buried! Linda’s great grandfather married his second wife who was the widow of Mark Armstrong. Not long before Mark Armstrong was killed in WW1 he had had a letter from his wife about the death of his baby son. Mark’s great-great grandson, an author living in Australia, recently had a book launch in Chelmsford, and gave Linda a book of verse including a poem about Mark’s death.
At our last meeting of the year we had a ‘swap shop’ of not needed family history ‘stuff’ and as it was our planning meeting we managed to make decisions about next year’s programme. Maria brought along a December mystery – a postcard that she had found. We also had a wonderful Christmas spread!