Tag Archives: cuckfield

Ordering two birth certificates for my Christmas Tree Project

8 Oct

Last night I ordered two birth certificates from the GRO as part of my Christmas Tree Project. Both were in an attempt to find the maiden names of two of my 4x great grandmothers.

The first was for William GEERING, my 3x great grandfather (who may or may not have married Ellen NICHOLLS). His birth was registered in the Lewes Registration District in Q3 1843. I am sure it is the right William GEERING because I have his baptism in Lewes around the same time.

The only problem with this one was reading the page reference, it looks like 383 to me, but that middle number is not clear. I am expecting that it will show his mother’s maiden name as RICHARDSON, as that is the closest match I can find for a marriage between Richard GEERING and Eliza.

The marriage took place in Brighton on the 7th June 1829. To be honest if the marriage was in Lewes, Sussex I would probably have accepted it, but Brighton is just that bit further away so I want to be certain.

The second certificate is for Alfred George MITCHELL, he was the younger brother of my 3x great grandmother Harriet MITCHELL. His birth was registered in the Cuckfield Registration District in Q1 1841.

I wouldn’t normally bother with getting the birth certificates for siblings of my ancestors, unless I was doing an in depth study of the family, but Harriet was born three or four years before the start of civil registration in 1837. Annoyingly I already have the birth date for Alfred George MITCHELL from his baptism record, but he was the easiest of Harriet’s brothers and sisters to locate in the indexes.

I am expecting this one to show that his mother’s maiden name was SMITH. My heart sank when I was searching for possible marriages and found the most likely one was between George MITCHELL and Mary SMITH in Cuckfield, Sussex on the 29th September 1828.

I suppose it inevitable that I would come across a SMITH in my direct ancestry eventually, I just hope there weren’t too many SMITHs in that part of Sussex at that time.

Madness Monday: George Thomas GASSON wasn’t just a lunatic

8 Jun

So far pretty much all I have written about George Thomas GASSON concerns his time at the asylum and his mental illness. I wouldn’t want you to think that George Thomas GASSON was just a lunatic, he was a normal son, brother, husband and father for a large part of his life. So to put my previous posts in some perspective here is a summary of what I also know about George Thomas.

George Thomas GASSON was born in Slaugham, Sussex on the 13th November 1853 and was baptised in the parish church on the 29th January 1854. His birth was registered under the surname GASTON, on the 25th December 1853 by his grandmother Mary MITCHELL, which presumably accounts for the incorrect spelling of his surname (I say incorrect because this is the only time I have seen him referred to as GASTON not GASSON).

He was the eldest child of Thomas GASSON (1830-1914) and Harriet MITCHELL (c1835-1904) who were married in the parish church at Slaugham, Sussex on the 17th September 1853. They went on to have twelve children in total, eight boys and four girls.

Around 1859-60 Thomas, Harriet and their three children at the time (George Thomas, Margaret and Alfred) moved to Edmonton, Middlesex whilst Thomas was briefly in the Metropolitan Police. The family are there for the 1861 census and had another child there (Edward, registered Q3 1860). Before long the family were back in Sussex (probably Slaugham), as their next child, a daughter named Harriett was registered in Cuckfield District in Q1 1863.

It is not clear when George Thomas left the family home, he was certainly with his parents during the 1871 census, when the family was in Slaugham, and sometime around 1874-75 the family moved to Bolney, Sussex. It was in Bolney that George Thomas married Mary Ann WALDER at the parish church on the 30th December 1876.

George Thomas and Mary Ann’s first child, George, was born in 1877 (baptised on the 29th April 1877) about the same time as George Thomas’ youngest brother Michael. George Thomas and Mary Ann had fourteen children in total, including in 1893 my great grandmother May GASSON. The youngest was Harold, born in 1898. During this time they were living in Bolney, in the 1881 census at Bee Houses and in 1891 at Chatesgrove.

I have been unable to trace any record of George Thomas’ schooling, if there was any. His working life was spent as a labourer, although there is no evidence that shows where and for whom, presumably he was an agricultural labourer working on one of the farms in the parish.

A couple of their children had died before George Thomas was admitted to the asylum, Edward in 1894 (aged 15) and Albert Henry also in 1894 (aged just 3 months). One son was killed during the First World War, William James (in 1915). The youngest Harold served in the navy during the First World War, but I have been unable to discover where and with whom the others served.

After George Thomas was admitted to the asylum the family seems to have drifted eastwards, firstly to Cuckfield (Cuthedges in 1901) and then to Hurstpierpoint (Gorewood Green in 1911). It was in Hurstpierpoint that Mary Ann died in 1935 aged 78, although she was buried back in Bolney churchyard.

As far as I can tell the majority of their children married, with a couple of exceptions (my great grandmother being one of them) and many went on to have large families (at last count I had positively identified 34 grandchildren).

Some workhouse housework

25 Apr

Today I have been going through the last of the data I gathered at the West Sussex Record Office last Saturday, typing up my notes and entering what I can in my family history software.

The research I did into the Cuckfield Workhouse has thrown up a couple of interesting issues which I wasn’t expecting. This is the first time I have really had to look into the Poor Law records for any of my family and the results were quite surprising.

Firstly there is my 3x great grandfather Thomas GASSON (1830-1914) who I found in the Cuckfield Workhouse in the 1911 census and started off this line of investigation. I had expected to see him admitted to the workhouse some time after 1901 and there he would stay until his death in 1914.

What I discovered however was that he was in and out of the workhouse quite frequently (a dozen times between 1904 and 1910). I am intrigued now as to what he was doing on these breaks from the workhouse? (Also how I am going to record all these admissions and discharges on my family tree without clogging it up?)

Sometimes he was out for as short as a week, sometimes as long as a month. Was he trying to live on his own or with one of his children? Was he given money to get out and find work and accommodation? Did he want to get out or was the master of the workhouse trying to get rid of him? Was he simply too old and not fit enough to live on his own?

It is quite interesting that his first admission to the workhouse was on the 23rd November 1904, just a couple of months after the death of his wife Harriet. This makes me think he was probably not healthy enough to cope on his own after she died and had to seek help from the Poor Law Union.

The second curiosity I discovered was that at the same that Thomas GASSON was in the workhouse so was his great granddaughter Lilian GASSON. She was admitted on the 24th January 1910 and discharged on the 30th January 1910.

The unusual thing is that she had just turned three years old when she was admitted. It appears that none of her other family were admitted at the same time,  so I suspect that for Lilian the workhouse was serving as a hospital rather than a poor house.

There are several other GASSONs in the workhouse records, but I haven’t been able to make any connections with my ancestors yet. I am sure given time they will all find a home on my family tree.

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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