Tag Archives: driver

Who was Minnie?

12 Jan

It was never going to be easy finding the identity of my grandmother’s adopted sister, as I had very little information to go on. Initially all I had to go on was the first name Minnie and the adopted sister relationship.

Of course the term “adopted sister” is suitably vague enough to mean just about anything, was it an official adoption? Was she actually related in some way? Perhaps a cousin? Perhaps she was a half-sister or step-sister?

There were too many possibilities, but my only real hope would be that somewhere there would be a record of my grandmother and Minnie living together or going to the same school, that would give me a clue to her surname (which of course might not be the name her birth was registered under).

The fact that her name was Minnie might not seem particularly helpful, assuming that this was her real name and not a nickname. At least it is a relatively unusual name which always helps when you don’t have much else to go on, but more importantly it was a family name.

My grandmother’s mother was Minnie Driver and my grandmother also had an aunt on her father’s side of the family by the name of Minnie Hemsley. This hinted at a family connection, but of course there were no likely Minnie Drivers or Minnie Hemsleys that seemed to fit the idea of being around my grandmother’s age.

That raises another issue, just how old was Minnie? Was she a younger or older sister? Natural sisters can be born years apart and presumably adopted sisters (whatever that means) could be born even further apart.

So in short there were virtually no hard facts to go on, but slowly a few more “facts” came to light.

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The remains of a family bible

5 Mar

This is one of the documents that I had scanned by Ancestry.co.uk at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last weekend. To call it a document seems a bit grand for this scrap of paper. It is remarkable that so much has survived at all, admittedly it is the only part of the original bible that appears to have survived.

It is the back of this scrap of paper that is the interesting part and the reason why it has (only just) survived and why it has ended up in my hands.

There is not a lot of information, but the entry “Annie born September 22nd 1916″ refers to my grandmother Annie HEMSLEY, so I thought that this might be from a HEMSLEY bible, but looking at some of the names it seems that it was actually a DRIVER bible. The last entry “Grandfather Died October 19th 1920″ refers to Thomas DRIVER, the grandfather of Minnie DRIVER, who was my great-grandmother and who was presumably the writer of this information.

The most interesting entries are those for Asher and Kate (brother and sister of Minnie) and the dates that they went (separately) to Canada. Asher went first and Kate twelve years later, I don’t know if either were married by the time they went or whether Kate was going to live with her brother. It looks like there is going to be plenty of work to do with those two.

I am not quite sure what I am going to do with the original now, it really needs proper conservation, but that is probably going to cost too much. For now it is stored in an acid-free pocket awaiting a decision.

Whilst I am deciding what to do with it my next step is going to be to transcribe the data and see if I can tie-up all the names on the page with the names in my database, and see if I need to add any of the dates to my family tree.

Dabbling with non-conformity

15 Feb

I have met this situation several times, a family has several children baptised at a traditional Anglican church but then for some reason they switch to a non-conformist church. Some times they will then return to the Anglican church for the baptism of later children.

The latest occurrence of this concerns my 2x great-grandparents Thomas and Ellen DRIVER. At East Sussex Record Office I confirmed that two of their six children were baptised as Wesleyan Methodists.

I had initially found these records on the SFHG Data Archive where it appeared that they had been baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Lewes, Sussex. On checking the original baptism register last week I discovered that the baptisms weren’t necessarily in Lewes itself, but within the Lewes Circuit, something that wasn’t clear in the data archive entries.

As usual this information provides more question than answers. The big one of course is why? Why did they decide to switch to Methodism? It is difficult for me to imagine that this was an important decision for my 2x great-grandparents, the church means nothing to me other than a place where my ancestors once stood and where most of them were baptised, married and buried, but it doesn’t mean that my ancestors didn’t consider it important.

I need to find out where the nearest Methodist Chapel was and see if there might be any record that they were members of that chapel, a quick scan of a few county directories should hopefully help me answer that first bit and then it will probably be a question of visiting the archives again.

There is still the question of where their other children were baptised. There were six in all, and I only have baptism details for three of them:

  • Kate DRIVER (baptised 28 March 1880, Framfield, Sussex)
  • Asher DRIVER (born 1882, baptism unknown)
  • Minnie DRIVER (baptised 26 May 1884, Lewes Circuit)
  • Ambrose DRIVER (born 1885, baptism unknown)
  • Herbert DRIVER (born 1888, baptism unknown)
  • Anna DRIVER (baptised 8 November 1891, Lewes Circuit)

So I need to learn a bit more about Methodist records, the local Methodist “scene” at the end of the 19th Century and then search the all the parish registers for the local churches regardless of denomination.

Ancestral Profile: Ellen VINALL (1857-1899)

3 Jan

Ellen VINALL was my 2x great-grandmother, the seventh of the eleven children of Ambrose and Sarah VINALL of Buxted, Sussex. I don’t have Ellen’s birth date, her birth was registered in Q4 1857 in Uckfield Registration District. Her baptism was on the 8th November 1857 at St. Margaret’s Church, Buxted.

In 1861 the three-year old Ellen is living with her parents and siblings (four sisters and two brothers) at Rocks House, Buxted. Her father was employed as a farm bailiff. Ten years later Ellen was still with her parents (and six siblings) but the family have moved to nearby Blackboys Common in Framfield, Sussex where her father was working as an agricultural labourer.

In 1879 Ellen married Thomas DRIVER, an agricultural labourer also from Framfield. I don’t have the exact date or place for the marriage, but it was almost certainly at the parish church in Framfield. The couple had six children in total:

  1. Kate DRIVER (baptised 28 March 1880 in Framfield, Sussex)
  2. Asher DRIVER (born 1882)
  3. Minnie DRIVER (baptised 26 May 1884 in Lewes, Sussex) [my great-grandmother]
  4. Ambrose DRIVER (born 1885)
  5. Herbert DRIVER (born 1888)
  6. Anna DRIVER (baptised 8 November 1891 in Lewes, Sussex)

Although Kate was baptised in the parish church at Framfield, her sisters Minnie and Anna were baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Lewes, Sussex. I have been unable to locate where Asher, Ambrose and Herbert were baptised.

Some time between 1885 and 1888 the family moved across the parish borders to Waldron, Sussex. In 1891 the couple and four children (Asher, Minnie, Ambrose and Herbert) were living at Hawkhurst Pit, Waldron, Sussex.

Ellen died in 1899 aged only 42, her death was registered in Q4 1899 (in Uckfield Registration District). I don’t know what the cause of death was or the exact date and I don’t know where she was buried, probably at the parish church in Waldron or the cemetery in Uckfield, Sussex.

Clearly there is much work that needs doing on the life and family of Ellen, starting with the parish registers for Waldron and Framfield. I also need to put Hawkhurst Pit on my list of places to visit, along with the parish church at Waldron.

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.

Robert and Mary DRIVER marriage, were they related?

11 Dec

One of the families that seems to have been well established in Framfield, Sussex was the DRIVER family.

Initial work using the Sussex Family History Group baptism and marriage index has taken my line back to around 1730 without too much trouble, and there are earlier DRIVERs there that are probably related.

One interesting piece of information that I have discovered is the identity of parents of John DRIVER, my 4x great-grandfather.

John was baptised on the 19th August 1788 at Framfield, and his parents were Robert and Mary DRIVER. There are at least three pairs of Robert and Mary DRIVERs in the Framfield parish registers, fortunately they are quite well spread out, so it is easy to tell the different families apart.

When I checked for a marriage for this particular Robert and Mary I was quite surprised to find that the marriage was between Robert DRIVER and Mary DRIVER.

The marriage took place in Framfield on the 9th October 1785 and was by licence. The chances of these two not being related seem incredibly slim, the question is how closely related. The marriage licence may well offer more evidence, and I can certainly see why there would have been a licence needed.

Clueless in Chichester, no just disorganised!

19 Sep

I was in two minds about going, I hadn’t done any preparation for a trip to the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO) and really wanted to stay in bed this morning. It wouldn’t have seemed so bad if it was a little bit later, but I was leaving the house at the same time as I would if I went to work.

Things started going wrong when the guy in the ticket office sold me the wrong ticket and I had to go back and get them changed. When my normally quiet and peaceful train pulled up it was all most completely full. This is unheard of at this time on a Saturday morning, I am almost guaranteed a carriage to myself as we speed through the sleeping Sussex countryside. Today I was sharing my carriage with people on the way to Goodwood Revival.

I knew there was plenty I could do when I got to the record office, but I had no plan. It started very hit and miss, with me wondering what to look at next, but then I remembered one of the thing I had wanted to do, find out some more about Thomas and Mary WELLER my 4x great grandparents from Twineham, Sussex. I think I have discovered who they are and where they came from and have the baptisms for all their children including Mary Ann my 3x great grandmother.

The WSRO closes at lunchtime on a Saturday and I got kicked out along with all the other researchers, but my research doesn’t stop just because the record office closes. First stop was Chichester Cathedral and memorial chapel of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Here I found the name of my 2x great uncle Ambrose DRIVER on the Roll of Honour for those killed from the First World War. The chapel is just off to the right of the entrance and the sun was shining through the stained glass window above and creating such a lovely pattern across the chapel. I really must spend some more time there and have a good look around the cathedral.

Royal Sussex Regiment memorial chapel, Chichester Cathedral

Royal Sussex Regiment memorial chapel, Chichester Cathedral

Next stop was Chichester library, for a quick look at some local papers on microfilm. Sadly I could find no mention of the death or funeral of my great grandmother Lilian Mary MITCHELL in the pages of the West Sussex Gazette for December 1939. Still it was worth having a look.

Then I just had time to grab a bite to eat, sitting in the sunshine in front of the Cathedral, before heading back into the record office for a couple more hours research. The afternoon was a bit more organised, some original documents and more microfilm, covering a wide range of people and places.

In the end it was quite a productive day, many of my searches were negative, but even those are helpfully in a way. I know I should have had a plan when I set out and it would probably have been even productive. It was the first time I used my netbook in the record office, and I was glad I had it with me, but I am wondering know what is the best way to create a research plan on it. My next record office trip will probably be to the East Sussex Record Office and I promise to be better prepared for that!

I may not have had a plan, but I did come away from Chichester with a map. I stopped at the second-hand bookshop on my way back to the railway station and picked up a 1953 one-inch map of the Cheltenham and Evesham area, this is where my BATEMAN ancestors originated from. I would have preferred something a bit older, but it was cheap and will be useful in getting used to the area I am researching.

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