A day out in Chichester (what I found in the record office)

19 Apr

It was a quite successful day at the WSRO on Saturday, although a little unfocused, which I think probably meant I wasted more time looking in catalogues rather than looking at documents. That being said, I achieved most of my main goals, even if some them didn’t actually provide any useful information (but you never know until you look).

I was able to locate the burial records for both William Henry and Harriet MITCHELL. Like I suspected, it was the parish of Funtington, Sussex. William Henry on the 1st October 1908 (aged 74) and Harriet on the 12th September 1925 (aged 85). So another place goes on my list of places to visit and photograph. I doubt very much whether there was/is a gravestone, but worth a look just in case.

On the downside, I was not able to find a record of where their children went to school. The only surviving admission registers appear to be Stoughton and there were no MITCHELLs between 1871 and 1914. So that remains a mystery, unless of course they never went to school?

I was able to find a slightly longer report in the Chichester Observer about the death of George MITCHELL (my great grandfather) in 1951. The newspaper I was after hadn’t been microfilmed so I had the pleasure of handling the originals in a large bound volume.

It is quite satisfying to handle something that was pretty much designed to be thrown away or recycled (except it probably wasn’t called recycling then), but has survived. Most of the time we are looking at documents that were meant to be kept as records, but I don’t think newspapers ever were designed to be kept.

Perhaps the most interesting discovery was regarding Thomas GASSON (my 3x great grandfather) and the fact that he spent time in the Cuckfield Union Workhouse. Not only did I find details of his death and subsequent burial (at Bolney, Sussex) but I also found his date of birth, the 26th March 1830.

What surprised me most was the fact that he seemed to be in and out of the workhouse quite frequently. I had assumed that once he entered the workhouse that was pretty much it, but it was just the opposite. Whether it was Thomas finding work for a while, or being given money to take care of himself, or even his children trying to look after him, I will probably never know.

It is certainly going to be worth re-visiting the documents again, and seeing what out can be gleaned from any surviving minute books, letter books or accounts. I know there are a couple of books on the subject I should try and get from the library and some very good material on the web. Of course I need to get some photos of the workhouse as well!

Interestingly there were several other GASSONs in the workhouse as well, including one stillborn baby, but at first glance I can’t relate them to my family tree, but then Cuckfield district was always full of GASSONs! Thomas’ first admission comes about two months after the death of his wife in 1904, I am sure that this can’t be a coincidence.

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