Tag Archives: drapper

Exploring the NICHOLLS and DRAPPER families at the LFHC

19 Mar

The reason I visited the London Family History Centre yesterday (other than to use up the last of my holiday entitlement before the end of the month) was to do some basic investigations into the NICHOLLS and DRAPPER families from Kent.

There were only two films that I wanted to look at, the parish registers  for Blean and Chiddingstone both in Kent. Technically speaking the film for Blean was of the Bishop’s Transcripts and not the actual registers, but at this stage it is not really that important. I am still finding my way in these families, trying to get a feel for what I am dealing with and hoping to find some further proof that I have the correct families.

In Chiddingstone I had expected to find the marriage of Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER (my 4x great-grandparents), Martha’s baptism record (and those of her siblings) and possibly the marriage of her parents. In Blean I was hoping to find a baptism for Ellen NICHOLLS (my 3x great-grandmother) and a burial for Thomas NICHOLLS.

What I actually found was not quite as I had expected, but that is not to say that it was a bad thing. In Blean I found a baptism for Ellen, except it was Eleanor not Ellen, but everything else matched. There was a burial of a Thomas NICHOLLS, but he was an infant (clearly I am going to need to search again for his death).

The biggest surprise to me was to find the likely baptism for Thomas NICHOLLS and his siblings in Blean. I hadn’t really considered why Thomas and Martha were in Blean, but it makes perfect sense that this was where Thomas came from. Likewise Chiddingstone was supposed to be the place where Martha came from.

I could find no trace of Martha’s baptism in Chiddingstone, although some of her sibling’s baptisms were there. There was no sign of her marriage to Thomas or of her parent’s marriage, but I did find the marriage of one of her sisters that is particularly helpful. Jane DRAPPER married James BARNES in Chiddingstone on the 12th October 1841 and one of the witnesses was Thomas NICHOLLS, which further cements the family relationship.

So a few of the records I had hoped for didn’t turn up, but I certainly didn’t go away empty-handed or disappointed. It has helped clarify a few points and disproved  a few others. It was no accident that Thomas and Martha were in Blean and the DRAPPER family may not have been so firmly rooted in Chiddingstone as I had first imagined.

The next step is obvious to me now, I had hoped to find the Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER and save the cost of ordering a certificate, but clearly I am going to need to do that now. That should confirm whether the baptism I found for Thomas in Blean is the correct one and also point to the likely place for Martha’s baptism.

It may have been a complicated theory, but I think it was correct

15 Mar

Last week I described a rather complicated theory about the birth of Ellen NICHOLLS my 3x great-grandmother. I took a chance and ordered one of the two likely birth certificates. The certificate arrived yesterday and it looks like the gamble paid off.

The unnamed girl was born on the 27th March 1847 in Blean, Kent. Her parents were Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha NICHOLLS formerly DRAPPER, the parents were the two that I had hoped for.

The birth was registered a whole month after she was born, so I find it very hard to explain why they still did not have a name for their daughter a whole month after she was born.

I am pretty confident now that my theory is correct, Thomas and Martha had three children (all daughters) and my Ellen NICHOLLS was born in Blean and not Chiddingstone, Kent. The unnamed girl is almost certainly the 4-year-old Ellen NICHOLLS living with her uncle and aunt James and Jane BARNES.

I need to check the parish registers for Blean to see if the unnamed girl was actually baptised there, and whether she had been given a name then. Also I need to check if her father Thomas was also buried there. Then I need to get into the parish registers for Chiddingstone to confirm that Jane BARNES was actually Martha’s sister.

There should be plenty of DRAPPERs in the Chiddingstone parish registers that need extracting and entering into my database, hopefully including Martha’s parents and her marriage. I am not sure where Thomas comes from, but hopefully the marriage entry should give me enough clues to make a start tracing his parents.

Ellen NICHOLLS: a rather complicated theory

9 Mar

Ellen NICHOLLS, my 3x great-grandmother, has so far been one of my trickiest ancestors to track down. I wrote yesterday about what I do know, which is mainly that she and William GEERING had some children and some years later she died.

From the census I have a date and place of birth (c1847, Chiddingstone, Kent) and back in 2009 I put together a family tree which looked plausible, until I discovered that the Ellen NICHOLLS I was looking at died aged 2 years and 9 months. Clearly not my 3x great-grandmother.

Oddly enough though I think I still have the correct pair of parents. They are Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER, who married in Q1 1840 in the Sevenoaks Registration District. Chiddingstone is in Sevenoaks Registration District, but I haven’t actually requested a copy of the marriage certificate or searched for the parish register entry yet. I don’t want to start heading down that road until I am happy that I have the correct set of parents, although it is nice to know that a certificate (with fathers’ names) is waiting to be ordered once I am certain.

I already have a fair bit of information on Martha’s family because she and Thomas are living with them in 1841, on the census is Martha’s father (George) and at least five siblings. Thomas is listed as an excavator, which suggests to me that he was working on building the railway from Redhill to Tonbridge.

Thomas and Martha had two children Ellen (in 1842) and Mary (in 1845), both baptised in Chiddingstone, unfortunately Ellen was buried at Chiddingstone on the 7th February 1845. That wasn’t the only tragedy, because by the time the 1851 census comes around Martha is a widow, and she is working as servant in Penshurst, Kent, without any sign of children.

Her daughter Mary turns out to be living with a family by the name of COLLISTER in Bletchingly, Surrey. She is shown as a nurse child of John and Mary COLLISTER. In Q3 1849 both John COLLISTER and Mary Ann DRAPPER were married in Godstone Registration District (hopefully to each other) and I suspect that Mary Ann is Martha’s sister.

Also in 1851 there is an Ellen NICHOLLS living with James and Jane BARNES in Seasalter, Kent. Ellen is shown as the niece of James and Jane, and once again I suspect that Jane is another of Martha’s sisters. James BARNES and Jane DRAPPER were both married in Q4 1841 in Sevenoaks Registration District.

I believe this Ellen NICHOLLS is my 3x great-grandmother, in 1851 her age is given as 4 years, which would mean she was born around 1847. Her place of birth is given as Blean, Kent which doesn’t fit quite so well. I seems to me quite likely that the second Ellen NICHOLLS was named after her deceased older sister.

It also seems reasonable that given the upheaval in the early years of her life that she was not really aware of where she was born or even who her parents were. Her sister Mary was born in Chiddingstone, but not Ellen herself although she may have known that her mother’s family at least came from Chiddingstone.

The big problem with this is that there is no birth registration in the GRO indexes in Sevenoaks or Blean Registration Districts for Ellen NICHOLLS around 1847. There are however two registrations for a female NICHOLLS, one in the first quarter and one in the second quarter of 1847 in the Blean Registration District. I am hoping that one of these girls will have Thomas and Martha as parents, even if they hadn’t decided on a name for their daughter yet.

Interestingly there is also a death registration for a Thomas NICHOLLS in Blean Registration District in Q1 1848, could this be the death of Ellen’s father? He must only have been in his late twenties when he died, so there must be an interesting story there.

There is lots of uncertainty in all of this, lots of ifs and buts, but it all goes together far too well. A lot of the relationships need proving but I feel I have enough evidence to build a very strong case that the 4 year old Ellen on the 1851 census is my 3x great-grandmother.

It would be very easy to use this information to go back from Thomas and Martha, but having been caught out once (with the death of the younger Ellen) I need to be 100% certain.

My next step is to get copies of the two birth certificates and hope that one of those has the names Thomas and Martha on it. Then I need to use that to try to find a baptism record, hopefully they would have settled on a name for their daughter by then.

Last night I ordered one of the certificates (the one from the second quarter of 1847) hoping that I strike it lucky with that one and save the cost of a second certificate. Now I need to wait patiently for the postman to bring it and hope that it brings the news I am after!

A visit to the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, Kent

10 Apr

Today I went to the Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone, Kent. It was my first visit there and the first time I have actually been to a Kent archive or record office, my Kent research previously being confined to online searching or the London Family History Centre.

There were three goals for today’s trip:

  1. See how easy it is to get to the Centre for Kentish Studies and find out where it is, what it is like and how it works.
  2. Try and find some details for John GASSON my 5x great-grandfather and his parents and siblings, possibly in the parish of Brasted, Kent.
  3. Locate the marriage of my 4x great-grandparents Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER, and the burial of Thomas between 1844 and 1851.

It wasn’t what you could call a successful day. I achieved only one of the three goals (actually getting there) and as opposed to most research trips where on a good day I will be able to add to my tree, on a bad day I would come away empty handed. Today, I came away with the realisation that I am probably going to have to unpick part of my family tree (more about that at another time).

On the positive side, it was a nice journey, the cheapest train route (avoiding London) is also the quickest (just under two hours), but it involves three different trains, Horsham to Redhill, Redhill to Tonbridge and Tonbridge to Maidstone Barracks. I can see that it is not an ideal way of getting there, because there are far too many opportunities for things to go wrong, with a long wait between trains.

Today the sun was shining and the trains reasonably quiet and running on time so there was no problem, in fact it was one of the best train journeys I have been on for months. I don’t think I have ever been to Maidstone before, and the train ride from Tonbridge to Maidstone is quite idyllic, following the River Medway for a large part of the route.

The Centre for Kentish Studies is ideally situated for the train station, better for Maidstone East station, but only a short walk (about five minutes for me) from Maidstone Barracks station alongside the railway and over the river.

Finding the entrance to the Centre proved slightly tricky, there didn’t appear to be any signs to the Centre itself, and the entrance to County Hall (where the Centre is housed) wasn’t obvious, but I soon found it to the right-hand side of the rather impressive building shown below.

The Centre was quite quiet, perhaps everybody else was outside enjoying the sunshine. It is not open every weekend, only the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, and even then only up to 1pm (make sure you check opening times).

The facilities were pretty much what you would expect from an archive. It is quite small, so booking a seat is probably a good idea. The microfilm room is well equipped and well organised, that was where I spent most of my time, searching parish registers.

I know I will be back there again, I have lots more Kent research to do, but in terms of practicalities, although it will cost me more (no one ever said family history was a cheap hobby obsession), it is probably better for me to go on a weekday when I can spend longer there.

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