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What’s in it for me: Merchant Navy seamen records on Findmypast.co.uk

6 Sep

Findmypast.co.uk have recently released another new record collection, the Merchant Navy seamen 1918-1941 records which contains image of index cards from The National Archives series BT348, BT349 and BT350. According to The National Archives the cards were part of the CR2 Central Indexed Register kept by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman and “each card typically gives the following information: discharge A number; certificate of company number; name of seaman; year and place of birth; rank or rating; name and official number of ship and date of engagement of service. Frequently, on the reverse of the card, can be found a list of the vessels on which the crewman served.”

According to the Findmypast.co.uk news release,

It is possible to find a photograph of your ancestor within these records. These rarely seen photos of the mariners mean you can see what your seafaring ancestor looked like for the first time – a real achievement for any family historian.

You can find out more about researching merchant seaman in The National Archives research guide on the subject.

So what’s in it for me…

The short answer is nothing or at least nothing yet. As far as I can remember there are only two people in my family tree who made their living from the sea, if you don’t count those who served during the two World Wars, and they were serving with the Royal Navy.

After a few preliminary searches I have been unable to identify anyone in the collection who might be a relative, but I am sure eventually someone will come out of the woodwork who might be in this collection.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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What’s in it for me: Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures

25 Aug

Ancestry.co.uk have added to their collection of occupational records with the release of a collection entitled UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures 1710-1811. The records which make up this collection are from The National Archives (series IR1) and whilst various indexes to these records have been available online previously I believe this is the first time that they have been fully indexed along with images of the registers.

According to the Ancestry website:

This collection contains registers of the money received for the payment on taxes for an apprentice’s indenture between 1710-1811. The registers kept track of the money paid by masters of a trade to have an apprentice. The dates in the records are for when the tax was paid and may be some years after the apprenticeship, not when it started or finished.

The information in each record does differ from across the collection, so earlier records may name the apprentice’s father the later ones don’t. Along with the name of the apprentice you should find the name of the master, their occupation, their location, the length of the apprenticeship, the amount the master was paid and the amount of duty that they had to pay.

One thing that is particularly confusing is the layout of the records, both on Ancestry and in the original registers. On Ancestry each record is covered by two images (or it is on the ones I have looked at) clicking a search result will take you to the first page and then you need to click to the next image to view more details. With the original registers  there doesn’t appear to be any headings to the different columns (although I am not sure if this is the same throughout the collection), presumably there is a header at the start of each register, but it takes a bit of work to interpret each record.

For more background on apprenticeship records see The National Archives research guide covering the subject.

So what’s in it for me…

Some initial searches have turned up a few records of interest, however I am sure over time more will emerge. This is one of those collections that will need to be checked again and again, although the lack of detail in some of those records may well make it difficult to identify whether you have the correct individual or not.

One particularly interesting record is for Henry TROWER who was apprenticed to Charles WARD of Henfield, Sussex a carpenter and joiner for 6 years. For this Charles WARD was paid £10, for which he had to pay five shillings duty. This was paid on the 17th June 1766 which means this might be my 5x great-grandfather who was born in 1750.

My Henry TROWER does seem to be the most likely fit given the date but without any more detail it is not possible to say for certain whether this is my ancestor or not.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Highlights of the UK Railway Employment Records

10 Aug

You will no doubt have already heard about the latest release from Ancestry.co.uk, the UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1963. I was delighted to see that this release included a collection of records originating from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR).

The LBSCR were responsible for my local railway, the Horsham to Shoreham Railway (also known as the Steyning Line). The line was closed in 1966 (before I was born) after Dr. Beeching decided it was surplus to requirements. The LBSCR had long since gone by then, it had been merged with other railway companies to form the Southern Railway in 1923, which in turn became part of British Railways in 1948 following nationalisation. If you want to find out more then the Wikipedia article on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway is pretty comprehensive.

I have spent several hours over the last few days exploring the collection trying to get a feel for what is included and found myself getting totally sucked in. I had intended to create a list all the different pieces in the collection for future reference but that fell completely by the wayside as I turned the pages of the various volumes.

I wasn’t really looking for people to add to my family tree, instead I was just exploring the lists of names, and not so much the names themselves but the positions they held and where they worked. I was taking my own virtual tour of the LBSCR railway network, seeing what made it work, from engine drivers to accountants, from a large London terminus to a small country station.

There are couple pieces in this collection that are really special, the first is described by Ancestry as the “1862-1863 Operating Staff Black Book” (TNA RAIL 414/759) which contains details of fines (and sometimes suspension or dismissal) for various misdemeanours, such as the unfortunate Mr Trapp an Office Porter at London Bridge who was fined two shillings and six pence “For carrying Passengers luggage down the platform to the train it being against orders & having been cautioned on previous occasions not to do it but to attend to the Booking office”.

For me the most interesting piece in the collection is described as “1914-1920 Staff on Active Service” (TNA RAIL 414/791). This is an extremely valuable record of LBSCR employees who served during the First World War, and as such will be of interest to not only family historians, but also military historians. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw the amount of information recorded, we all know that many WW1 service records have been destroyed and this volume may well represent one the few surviving records of many men who served.

Each entry not only covers what the men did whilst employed by the railway, it also includes details of their regiment, rank and number and the date they left the railway. The entries also include details of the men’s dependants such as a wife and the number of children they had. Often this will also include the date of their marriage and age and sex of the children.

The most poignant detail however is the bold red underlining of certain names which highlights those who died whilst serving. Many larger railway stations have a memorial to those railway employees that died and this volume may well have been the source of those names. Ancestry probably ought to include this in their military collection if they haven’t done so already.

I look forward to spending many more hours looking through these records and maybe even get around to searching for some of my relations. I know there are several railway connections, but most of those connections relate to those building the railway, rather than operating it, and most of these labourers were employed by contractors and not the railway company themselves.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Boundary significance

3 Aug

I should have been doing some family history last night, but I got side-tracked into fiddling about with the “new” Ordnance Survey getamap website. It is not really that new and is an updated version of the old website where you can view portions of Ordnance Survey mapping.

I have been struggling to get the website to print any more than a few pixels of any map, but I think I have a work-around for that now. I was then trying to work out whether it was worth subscribing to the website (£30 per year at the moment) to get extra features, but I was then distracted into looking at the county boundary that I cross every day to and from work.

I was playing with the route creating facility, it is really quite good as not only will it show you the distance but also the elevation and tell you how long it ought to take to walk (and run or cycle) the distance, practising using the route that I sometimes walk between Horley to Gatwick Airport.

With Henry GASSON in the back of my mind I started to study the route of the Sussex/Surrey border. I am pretty certain that the border has been moved since Henry’s time, and I am positive that Henry wouldn’t have recognised the land surrounding the boundary. I am not convinced that he would have realised that there was a boundary there in the first place, let alone placed any significance on the fact that he was moving his family from one side to the other.

For my own part though the boundary seemingly holds a significance which I can’t really explain. Measuring the distance from my place of work to the boundary I worked out I could make my way back over into my native Sussex in just under 15 minutes. The closest point is just under two-thirds of a mile away, admittedly it is not a particularly appealing part of Sussex, being on the outskirts of Gatwick Airport, but it is Sussex nevertheless.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Henry GASSON – more census lessons learnt

26 Jul

In an effort to fill one of the small gaps in my family tree I have been trying to find out where and when my 4x great-grandfather Henry GASSON died and where he was subsequently buried. Henry GASSON holds a special place in my heart because it was he and his wife and children who brought my particular GASSON line over the border from Surrey into Sussex sometime around 1830.

What limited work I had done previously had left Henry in Slaugham, Sussex in 1851 and I had been unable to find him in the 1861 census. There was only one death registration in the GRO indexes between 1851 and 1861 (in Horsham Registration District in Q1 1860), so it seemed quite likely that this was my Henry, but I never pursued it further at the time.

Picking up from where I left off several years ago I decided that I needed to find a bit more evidence before I invested my hard-earned money in a copy of the death certificate for the 1860 death registration. It didn’t take long (with the help of the SFHG Data Archive) to find a burial at Horsham, Sussex in February 1860 for a two-year old Henry, clearly this wasn’t my 4x great-grandfather.

So back to the drawing board, but armed with this information it seemed likely that Henry should be somewhere in the 1861 census, waiting to be discovered. I headed back to Ancestry, Findmypast and The Genealogist and still no sign of my Henry. There was a Henry of the right age in Rye, Sussex but that was too far of a leap geographically. There was a Henry in Slaugham, Sussex but he was too young.

Then remembered my experience with FreeCen several months ago, and how it had come to my rescue. I was lost for words when once again FreeCen delivered the goods and came up with my Henry GASSON. He was the correct age and living in Slaugham, how could I and the three big names in online genealogy have missed him?

Now I knew where Henry was it was easy to find him on Ancestry, Findmypast and The Genealogist. The biggest surprise to me was that the transcribers for all three sites had made the same mistake, they had all recorded his age as 26 years and not 76 years. I know the numbers are not particularly clear (the vertical check mark on the left doesn’t help) but there is no horizontal stroke across the both of the 7 that would have made it a 2. Although I would have to admit that the top horizontal stroke looks a little rounded, but that doesn’t really make it into the number 2.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised that FreeCen had the correct age, after all I have had success before, but what really did surprise me was that all the other three sites had interpreted it the same. I know I would have found Henry eventually on any of the three main sites if I had persevered and dug a little deeper beyond the index entries, but to be honest I wouldn’t have expected such a large error on Henry’s age, perhaps a few years but not fifty years.

My next step would almost certainly have found him because I was going to progress to tracing all his children in the 1861 census. Henry is lodging with one of his married daughters, but the fact she was married might have slowed things down, plus Henry and his wife did have fourteen children so it might have taken me a while to get around to tracing the right child.

I would have been much simpler for me to have searched FreeCen at the start, something that I must remember in the future.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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What’s in it for me: Militia records on Findmypast.co.uk

29 Jun

Findmypast.co.uk have recently released a new record collection, the Militia Attestation Papers 1806-1915, containing indexed images from The National Archives series WO96. According to The National Archives website:

The Militia was a part-time voluntary force. It was organised by county and existed mainly to help defend Britain and Ireland.

Modern militias were created by the Militia Act of 1757 and have been through many changes since. They were absorbed into the Territorial Army in 1908.

These records only contain details for other ranks and not officers. According to the findmypast news article the records were created when the men joined up and “were annotated until the solider was discharged so provide full details of time in service. And, since the militia recruits were part-time, there are details of the jobs the men undertook for the rest of the time.”

Like other service records there was a medical examination involved in the attestation process so the records include a physical description of the individual including details of height, weight, chest measurement, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks, and marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous disease.

So what’s in it for me…

This collection is one of those collections that I will need to go back to time and time again, as you never know who might have spent time in the militia, so anyone of the right age will need to be checked.

Some initial searches however did turn up a couple of interesting GASSON entries. I wasn’t really expecting to find either of them although one was more unexpected than the other.

The records were for two of my 2x great-uncles George GASSON and William James GASSON. Although they were brothers they don’t seem to have signed up together and their army careers were quite different.

George GASSON spent six years in the militia, and spent some time in South Africa. William James on the other hand was only briefly in the militia before transferring to the regular army. I knew that William James had spent time in the army from his First World War service record which showed he had served prior to 1914.

Tragically William James died in 1915, and is remembered on the war memorial in the church at Sayers Common, West Sussex. I have no idea whether George GASSON served during the First World War, I would think he probably did, but I need to check that.

When they attested they both listed their mother (Mary Ann GASSON) as their next of kin and not their father George Thomas GASSON who was by that time in an asylum. The interesting thing is they both give her address as Little Leigh Cottages, an address which I haven’t come across before.

I haven’t been able to locate where Little Leigh Cottages were/are yet. One entry records this as being in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex and the other as Cuckfield, Sussex. Perhaps it is somewhere between the two or maybe one is a postal address, with letters being directed to a nearer Post Office in a different parish. I can’t find it on any recent maps, so I may have to spend more time working on locating this one.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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1911 census images on Ancestry.co.uk

24 May

When it comes to the Ancestry.co.uk website you never know quite what you are going to wake up to. This morning I took a look at the website and discovered that they have uploaded images from the 1911 census for England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

The images are not indexed yet, or at least the index is not online yet. I am sure we will hear more about this when the news is officially released by Ancestry but for now you will need to have an idea where you should be looking, possibly using their previously released Census Summary Books.

According to their source information page: “They can be browsed by county, civil parish, sub-registration district, and enumeration district.”

I am certain a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting this release and even if you haven’t it will be good to have another alternative index available when it does go live. Unfortunately we still have to wait until next year to view the contents of the infirmity column.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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