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Clowning around on the railway

22 Feb

It is not often that I find something in my research that makes me laugh out loud. Sure I find things that make me smile all the time, and occasionally something that makes me chuckle, but very rarely will I actually laugh out loud.

I don’t know quite why I found it so funny. I was searching in the 1911 census on Findmypast.co.uk, whilst investigating my 3x great-uncle Abraham Graham KINGHORN and what happened to his wife and children after his early death in 1886.

I had found his widow Sarah and two children living at 60 Rose Hill Terrace, Brighton, Sussex in 1911. They shared their house with two boarders, and it was the first of these that made me laugh.

His name was Frederick VOYCE and according to the transcription his occupation was apprentice clown. Like I said, I don’t know why that seemed so ridiculous to me. When I thought about it, I assumed that there had to be some clowns and circus entertainers listed in the census, and clowns had to learn their skills like anybody else, so why shouldn’t there be an apprentice clown.

Of course when I looked at the actual image, he wasn’t a clown, I am not sure what he was an apprentice of, the word is hard to make out, but he was working for a railway company, so I think it is safe to say they weren’t training many clowns at the time.

Looking at the occupation code (the three digit number) the enumerator has written on the schedule (512) it appears he was training to work on railway engines either as a driver, stoker or cleaner.

Have you found anything in the census that has made you laugh out loud during your research? Have you come across any clowns in the census?

My top-ten surnames

2 Feb

I was fiddling around with Family Historian last night and then in Excel, producing a list of the top-ten surnames in my family tree.

I thought this was going to be a mostly pointless exercise, purely for fun and curiosity, but it has highlighted an imbalance in my research, which I now wonder whether I should try and put right.

The top-ten surnames (really top-eleven surnames), with the number of individuals in my family tree, are as follows:

1.  TROWER (127)
2.  GASSON (104)
3.  MITCHELL (84)
4.  FAIRS (45)
5.  BOXALL (38)
6.  KINGHORN (28)
6.  VINALL (28)
8.  BATEMAN (27)
9.  GEERING (26)
10.  DRIVER (25)
10.  HEMSLEY (25)

The first three names are no surprise, after all they are the surnames of three of my grandparents, the surprising thing is that my fourth grandparent’s name is HEMSLEY, right down at the bottom of the list.

I don’t know quite why I feel that this imbalance is wrong, but I certainly feel I should invest some more time on it so that it moves up the chart. It wouldn’t be difficult to add lots more HEMSLEYs to my tree, but it needs to be done with purpose rather than just adding everyone I can find.

I am going to add the task of reviewing my HEMSLEY line to my to-do list, seeing what meaningful work I can do on the family. I am sure there are some interesting people and stories waiting to be discovered in Framfield, Sussex.

Sweet memories at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

4 Jan

On New Years Eve I visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill, London. I would heartily recommend a visit if you are ever in London.

My friend and I spent nearly two hours wandering around this relatively small building that was crammed full of all manner of advertising material and packaging, from bottles and jars to boxes and tins, from the Victorian era up to the present day.

There was so much to see, and not just food packaging. It was a timeline of British (mostly English) social history, which featured along with the general packaging and advertising of each age, examples of commemorative items produced for events such as coronations and the Great Exhibition of 1851.

I found it fascinating the way some products we know and love were almost instantly recognisable in their earlier incarnations, where key elements of the branding had been retained or changed only slightly.

Particularly interesting were the displays towards the end of the museum, which featured examples of the same products from across the decades, lined up next to each other on the shelves. The size, shape and material of the packaging may have changed only slightly, but there was a clear evolution across the years.

The most surprising thing for me was the realisation that many of the products that I remember as a child (mostly sweets and chocolates) which I thought were new, had in reality been around for decades before, like Smarties (first called Smarties in 1937). I wonder if this is just me or my generation, or does every generation think they are the first to try these “new fangled” products?

I resisted the temptation to spend any money in their shop, but they do have an online shop with some great postcards amongst other things, so I may well be tempted again.

Happy New Year

1 Jan

1910 Happy New Year

I might be a hundred years too late, but I wish you all a peaceful and successful new year. Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

25 Dec

To Wish a Merry Xmas 

Merry Christmas to all the readers of this blog. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my posts. May Father Christmas makes all your wishes and dreams come true at this special time of year.

Christmas vs. Genealogy

19 Dec

I’m afraid to say Christmas won the day. For the third Saturday in a row I haven’t done any family history research.

I am slightly worried that I am not going to get my family tree chart printed in time for Christmas, because next week is looking quite busy, but I am sure I can find time to get to the print and copy shop.

Today an old friend and I met up for a pre-Christmas day out, featuring the cinema, pizza and slipping around on icy pavements. The film was A Christmas Carol in 3D, which wasn’t a bad film, although I am not sure it was that much different to (or better than) any of the previous films of the same name.

To my colleagues (or rather ex-colleagues now) this may come as a surprise, as I did say that the only Christmas film I was going to watch over Christmas was Die Hard. Perhaps I am not really Scrooge after all.

As Monday is the last posting day for Christmas I decided that I needed to get my Christmas cards done this evening. I am pleased to say they are all ready to be dropped into the post-box tomorrow morning, apart from the ones that I will be delivering by hand over the next few days.

Kreativ Blogger Award: Seven (and a bit) things about me

24 Nov

Let me start by saying thank you to Karen over at the Twigs to Roots blog for bestowing a Kreativ Blogger Award on me and my blog. It is great to have a new geneablogger with English ancestry, and more importantly with Sussex ancestry, so I am no longer alone blogging about my Sussex ancestors!

Apparently I have to pass this award on to seven other bloggers, which is not going to be easy. I never have been good at making decisions, so forgive me if I sit on the fence for a bit longer.

The other thing I am supposed to do is tell you seven things about me, preferably things that I haven’t told you about before. Whilst I am deciding who to give the award to (and never being one to stick to the rules!), I thought I would give you something to think about. So instead of seven facts about me I am going to give you eight, but only seven of them are true.

  1. I have only left England six times in my life.
  2. My favourite band is the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
  3. In my final years at school I excelled in maths, but failed in history.
  4. I have not had a day off work sick for over seven years.
  5. My favourite food is a crispy bacon sandwich with tomato ketchup.
  6. I once owned a pair of fluorescent yellow socks.
  7. I can’t drive a car, but was once trained to drive a forklift truck.
  8. I have more books than I will probably ever have time to read.

So which one of these do you think is false? Can I lie convincing in a blog post? Let me know in the comments and I will give you the answer in a few days.

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