Tag Archives: gasson

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.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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My top-ten surnames revisited

4 May

Fifteen months ago I produced a list of the top-ten surnames in my family tree, for fun really more than anything, however it did highlight an imbalance in the names in my family tree.

I thought it was about time I had another look at the most common surnames in my family tree, so I fired up my copy of Family Historian and Microsoft Excel and produced an updated list (the number of individuals with the surname is shown in brackets):

  1. TROWER (139)
  2. GASSON (123)
  3. MITCHELL (94)
  4. HEMSLEY (75)
  5. BOXALL (53)
  6. KINGHORN (49)
  7. FAIRS (45)
  8. GEERING (39)
  9. HAYBITTLE (36)
  10. WREN (31)

This is much “better” than last time, the top four names are the surnames of my grandparents. The HEMSLEY surname was way down at number ten last time, so it is good to see that I have done enough work to push it higher up the “chart”.

The HAYBITTLE and WREN surnames are both new entries. I remember doing some work on the HAYBITTLEs, but I don’t remember doing much work on the WRENs but I suppose I must have done.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Postcard Album: Interior, Bolney Church, Sussex

29 Apr

It may not be Westminster Abbey, but this is more typical of the sort of place where my ancestors were married (sorry I just had to get in a reference to the Royal Wedding).

As the caption says this is the interior of Bolney Church. The church of St. Mary Magdalene in the village of Bolney, West Sussex has more family associations than just the usual baptisms, marriages and burials. Many of the individuals in my family tree passed through the doors to this church, including GASSON, WALDER, HARMES and LEWRY families.

Both of the other family associations relate to the church bells. Several generations of the WALDER family and at least one GASSON have served as bellringers in the church and are remembered on boards in the church tower.

Secondly it seems that one of my probable ancestors, Michael HARMES, paid for four of the eight bells in the church tower. That is one branch of my family tree I would really like to investigate and prove that I am related.

The reason for choosing this postcard today is because hopefully tomorrow I will be walking to Bolney, not strictly speaking for genealogy purposes, but I might “accidentally” end up wandering into the churchyard.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Ellen NICHOLLS: the story gets even more complicated

29 Mar

Just when I thought I was starting to get a handle on my 3x great-grandmother Ellen NICHOLLS and her parents Thomas and Martha NICHOLLS, along comes something that has me shaking my head in disbelief.

Thomas died before 1851 and the family (Martha and her daughters Mary and Ellen) appears to have split up. I could find the individual members of the family in 1851 but never knew what became of Mary and Martha or where Ellen was in 1861 (by 1871 Ellen was in Lewes, Sussex).

In all honesty I hadn’t put a lot of effort into finding the family members before, just a few simple searches of the GRO BMD indexes and census returns, but last night I actually sat down and put some time and thought into the search.

When I actually put some thought into what I was doing it didn’t take long to find Martha. I knew her place and year of birth so I was able to search the 1861 census using just that information and her first name. There were only a few results, none with the surname of NICHOLLS or DRAPPER, so it was a simple case of checking for marriages to see if one of them was previously a NICHOLLS.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I checked the census entry for William and Martha GASSON, surely she couldn’t have married a GASSON. I have enough GASSONs in my family tree already, adding another who was probably distantly related would just make things more confusing.

According to the census entry William and Martha’s eldest child was Ellen GASSON aged 14, born in Blean, Kent, better known to me as Ellen NICHOLLS. It was quite easy to confirm William and Martha’s marriage, not in Kent as I had expected but in neighbouring Surrey (Q1 1854 in Godstone Registration District), where Martha’s surname had been recorded as NICKOLS.

The tragic end to the tale is that it looks like Martha died in 1866 aged just 45 years (William is shown as a widower in the 1871). The unfortunate Ellen NICHOLLS had now lost both her parents before reaching 21 years old.

To make things even more complicated the 1871 census shows William GASSON living with Thomas NICHOLLS, who is described as his son in law. I suspect this means that he was the son of Martha NICHOLLS before she and William were married (and after her first husband had died). Interestingly he is shown as Thomas GASSON in the 1861 census, and his age would mean he was born about a year before William and Martha were married.

This family is getting larger and more complicated with every piece of information I discover. It is certainly proving to be the most complicated set of relationships in my direct ancestry and I wonder just how much more complicated it can get.

Picture Postcard Parade: Slaugham Church, Sussex

23 Mar

The postcard below is of St. Mary’s Church, Slaugham, Sussex. Despite being reasonably local to me it is a church I haven’t yet visited, partly because the connection to my family history is not particularly strong. One notable exception however was George Thomas GASSON ( my 2x great-grandfather and lunatic) who was baptised there on the 29th January 1854.

There is no mention of a publisher on this postcard, but it is very similar in style to those issued by A.H. Homewood of Burgess Hill, Sussex, but it doesn’t bear his tell-tale name and place identifier.

At the top left of the postcard you can see the corners of two stamps reaching around from the back of the card. The image below show the back in all its “glory”. Not a lot to look at and not much of a message, still I am sure Ma was pleased to hear that Ethel had arrived safely.

It seems quite surprising to me that a postcard of a rural church in Slaugham, Sussex was sent from Saxmundham, Suffolk to an address in Belvedere, Kent. I wonder what the story was behind this trio of places?

Perhaps more curious is the use of two half-penny stamps. The postmark clearly shows a date of the 24th September 1908 and the inland postage rate didn’t go up to one penny until 1918, before that the rate would have been half a penny. Strange? Am I missing something?

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