Tag Archives: fairs

Ancestral Profile: Annie FAIRS (1864-1952)

1 Nov

Annie FAIRS was my 2x great-grandmother, she was born towards the end of 1864 (I don’t have the exact date) and was baptised at St. Peter’s Church, Henfield, Sussex on the 8th January 1865. She was the second of six children (all daughters) born to John FAIRS and his wife Mary Ann (née WELLER), sadly only four of the girls survived to adulthood.

It is likely that Annie was born at either Betley or Little Betley in Henfield, in the 1861 census her parents (unmarried at the time) living at Betley, by the 1871 census they are married and living at Little Betley, a couple of fields away from Betley. In 1871 Annie was six years old living with her parents and her four sisters. Both Betley and Little Betley are pretty remote locations, about midway between the villages Henfield and Partridge Green but about a mile and a half from either of them, and prone to flooding from the nearby River Adur.

In the 1881 census Annie is to be found in Chichester, Sussex living in North Pallant in the centre of the city. She was employed as a housemaid in the household of the Rev. Josiah Sanders TEULON and his wife Fanny Elizabeth. At first glance this seems an odd place to find the sixteen year old girl, but once you realise that Fanny was also from Henfield and was the daughter of Charles DUNLOP the Vicar of Henfield it doesn’t seem quite so unusual.

Annie returned to Henfield sometime before September 1889, because she was married to Ebenezer TROWER on the 30th September 1889 at St. Peter’s Church, Henfield. Annie was 24 years old and her husband was 23, the two witnesses at the marriage were her father John and her older sister Fanny.

Together Ebenezer and Annie had six children, the first two were born (and baptised) in Henfield and the remaining four were born (and baptised) in Sayers Common, Sussex. The first two were also probably born at Little Betley, because in 1891 the couple and their two children are still living at Little Betley, along with her widowed father.

The move to Sayers Common took place sometime around 1892 and once again there seems to have been a connection with the DUNLOP family. Another member of the DUNLOP family from Henfield was vicar at Sayers Common and Ebenezer bought their home (Vicarage Cottage) from Mrs. DUNLOP for the sum of £350 in May 1927.

Annie and Ebenezer’s six children were as follows:

  1. Ethel Mary TROWER (1889-1962)
  2. Henry John TROWER (1891-1963) [my great-grandfather]
  3. Mabel Annie TROWER (1893-1928)
  4. Ernest Arthur TROWER (1895-1917)
  5. Percy Ebenezer TROWER (1898-1968)
  6. Edith Ellen TROWER (1903-1965)

In the 1901 census the family (with the exception of Ethel Mary) are living at Cobbs Mill Cottage. By 1911 they are living at Vicarage Cottage and Mabel Annie has also left home. It is not clear whether Cobbs Mill Cottage was an earlier name for Vicarage Cottage or a different building altogether. Either way the proximity to Cobbs Mill lead to at least two of the sons finding work at the mill (Henry John and Percy Ebenezer).

The two youngest sons served during the First World War. Ernest Arthur was killed in action in 1917 and Percy Ebenezer received gun-shot wounds, but survived. Their eldest son Henry John seemingly escaped military service due to the death of his wife in 1916.

As is quite typical with much of my research there now exists a large gap where very little is known about the life of Annie. I have already mentioned that her husband bought their house in 1927 and in April 1928 their daughter Mabel Annie died. Apart from that very little is known about the last three decades or so of Annie’s life. I don’t know whether she was involved in any of the village’s social activities or whether she worked after her children had grown up.

Annie died four years before her husband on the 20th February 1952, aged 87, of cardiac failure and was buried in the churchyard at Christ Church, Sayers Common on the 23rd February. The grave is located in the north-western corner of the churchyard and is next to the grave of her daughter Mabel Annie TROWER. Nearby is the grave of Ruth TROWER (her sister-in-law) and that of Dorothy May TROWER (her daughter-in-law). Her husband Ebenezer died on the 6th June 1956 and was buried in the same grave.

It is amazing what you can find with Google Street View

27 Sep

I was lying in bed yesterday morning reading the latest edition of Picture Postcard Monthly pondering their Picture Postcard Puzzles section, which features postcards with views whose location is unknown. I was thinking that it must be a lot easier to identify postcards now with the advent of Google Street View.

It was then that I cast my mind back to one family postcard in particular (shown below) which has been a bit of a mystery. The postcard shows a woman standing outside a quite distinctive small building. The quality of the postcard is not good enough to see any facial features, but I felt that if I could identify the building that would be a good start.

The Lodge, Ord House, Ord, Northumberland

Although this came from the TROWER side of my family tree the location didn’t look like anywhere in Sussex, certainly not one of the two main TROWER homes of Henfield or Sayers Common.

It is not clear what the building is, it looks a bit like a chapel perhaps, or some sort of community building like a village hall. It seems to be a little small for a house, but it is not easy to see how far back the building goes. One important feature is the material that the building is made of, it is almost certainly stone, rather than the more traditional Sussex building materials of flint or brick.

As I lay in bed pondering the image it struck me that there was one branch that I hadn’t previously considered, not actually a TROWER family but the family of Fanny FAIRS the sister of my 2x great-grandmother Annie TROWER (née FAIRS). She married Thomas Arthur BARRY in Henfield, Sussex in November 1894, but they lived in Northumberland at The Lodge, Ord House, Ord (Thomas was a coachman, presumably for whoever was living at Ord House).

I didn’t actually leap out of bed, but when I fired up my computer later in the morning I headed to Google Maps and searched for Ord House. Once the little orange Street View man hit the street I was convinced that this was the right place, because there was a nice long stone wall and stone buildings all over the place.

It took a couple of minutes exploring to find the building, unfortunately the Google Street View car didn’t drive right past the building, but close enough for me positively identify it.

I had a quick check on old-maps.co.uk and this building was identified as “Lodge”, confirming that this was the house of Thomas and Fanny BARRY, and that the woman is probably my 3x great-aunt.

It is a great feeling when you can put a name to a photo or postcard (I can’t be definite about the person, but I can about the place) and a really great way to start a Sunday morning!

Satisfying my curiosity – ordering the wills of my ancestors

27 Aug

The recently released National Probate Calendar on Ancestry.co.uk has tempted me into ordering copies of four wills, three of which I wouldn’t have even thought about ordering for a long time, the other one I probably would have ordered in the near future.

I don’t think any of these four wills are actually going to solve any particular research problems, but they should hopefully satisfy my curiosity.

  • John FAIRS (my 3x great-grandfather) of Henfield, Sussex who died in November 1915. John FAIRS was an agricultural labourer and if the cross on his daughter’s wedding certificate is anything to go by he was not well educated. So why was his estate valued at over £982? Where had this wealth come from?
  • William TROWER (my 4x great-grandfather) of Henfield, Sussex who died in January 1875. William TROWER was a farmer, almost the last of several generations to farm and live at Harwoods Farm in Henfield. I will be interested to see if the TROWER family were still owners of the farm.
  • Henry HEMSLEY (my 3x great-grandfather) of Blackboys, Sussex who died in January 1914. Henry HEMSLEY was the licensee and owner of the Gun Inn, and the attached farm. This is the will I would probably have ordered quite soon, in the process of trying to find out everything I can about the inn.
  • Henry WRIGHT (my 3x great-grandfather) of Alton, Hampshire who died in August 1895. Henry WRIGHT was originally known as Henry SHORNDEN and he moved from Kent to Hampshire for some reason, I don’t really expect find answers as to why he changed his named and moved to Kent, but I would like to find out as much as I can about his life.
    If nothing else these wills are going to give me plenty of work to do as I process this lot, but it is also going to force me to get my act together when it comes to recording all the details in my database, in fact it might be worth starting now and deciding how all the information should be recorded.

Whilst I am waiting for them to arrive I should probably also write a post on how to order copies of wills, and how easy it is if you live in the UK and have a cheque book, otherwise things start getting a little more difficult.

National Probate Calendar 1861-1941 on Ancestry.co.uk

11 Aug

Ancestry.co.uk have released another exciting record collection on their UK site. The National Probate Calendar serves as an index to wills proved and administrations granted after 1858 and although the database is not complete yet it is still going to be a major boost for UK researchers.

Even though the calendar is only an index it does provide a great deal of information on the deceased. They may not look much, but those few brief lines can tell you a lot about the deceased, take for example the entry for my 3x great-grandfather John FAIRS:

FAIRS John of 6 Park-road Henfield Sussex agricultural labourer died 27 November 1915 Probate Chichester 11 December to George Shepherd private 4th Royal Sussex regiment. Effects £982 19s. 2d.

There is so much information there. Name, address, occupation, date of death, where and when probate was granted and to whom (his son-in-law) and their occupation. Also how much the estate was worth, hopefully dispelling the myth that a humble agricultural labourer would have nothing of value to leave in a will.

Details will vary, but these index entries will often help fill in details or clarify research. In the example above, I had no idea that George SHEPHERD was serving in the 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, that fact should help me identify him amongst dozens of George SHEPHERDs who also served during WW1.

These records have been available previously in selected locations (I have previously accessed them on microfiche at the West Sussex Record Office), but genealogist have been waiting a long time for them to be available online. I only hope the Probate Registry can cope with the increased demand for copies of wills this release is almost certainly going to create.

Gravestone of Mary Ann and John FAIRS

5 Mar

This should be a Tombstone Tuesday post, but I couldn’t wait that long. Today I finally located the headstone of Mary Ann and John FAIRS, my 3x great-grandparents.

Gravestone of Mary Ann and John FAIRS As you can see it is not in great condition, it is at the eastern end of the churchyard at Henfield, Sussex, and on previous visits I have not been able to find it because that section of the churchyard has been overgrown. The photo below shows what it was like in June last year, the headstone is in the section on the left-hand side.

Henfield Churchyard

I knew if I was patient the grass would die back over winter, rather than me having to trample my way through. The problem was that it has been so wet and cold that I have not been able to get there until now.

I should add that I did have some help finding it. The churchyard had previously been transcribed for the Sussex Family History Group, so I already had a transcription of the headstone, but that wasn’t the same as seeing it for myself.

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.

My genealogy diary is starting to fill up

3 Jan

I’ve been updating my diary for the first few months of the year, and it looks like I shall be quite busy attending family history events. Like last years most of the events are at the beginning of the year, but I am sure I will find something else to do for the rest of the year.

The Sussex and South London Family History Fair
(14th February 2010)

This small one-day fair is held at the K2 Leisure Centre, Crawley, West Sussex. It is a mixture of trade stands and family history societies, with a few postcard dealers thrown in. An excellent warm-up for the next big event.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live
(26th to 28th February 2010)

Three days of family history at London’s Olympia, so far I have only booked tickets for two days (Friday and Saturday), but I shall probably book for the Sunday as well because they have a special one-day conference which looks very interesting.

Sussex Family History Group Annual Conference and AGM
(20th March 2010)

Not many stands here, but three talks, two of which are of particular interest to me (Mills and Millers of Sussex and Inns, Alehouses and Taverns of Sussex). Held at Clair Hall, Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

The South Coast Fair
(25th April 2010)

This is similar to the Sussex and South London Fair, except that it is held at the seaside at Worthing, West Sussex. A good excuse for an ice cream and a stroll along the sea front in the spring sunshine (if I am lucky).

I would also like to attend some of the talks at the National Archives and Society of Genealogists, these could hopefully be combined with research trips to the repository concerned.

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