Tag Archives: geering

Francis Howlett GEERING – soldier and hairdresser

16 Aug

The latest batch of British Army Service Records released by findmypast.co.uk included one I had been waiting for, the service record of my first cousin five times removed Francis Howlett GEERING. The term “first cousin five times removed” doesn’t really describe the relationship very well, I prefer to think of him as the grandson of my 5x great-grandparents James and Ann GEERING of Hailsham, Sussex.

This latest batch of records covers the years 1760 to 1854, and I already knew from The National Archives website that Francis had served with the British Army between 1838 and 1852, so all I had to do was be patient and bide my time until this particular batched arrived.

What intrigued me most about Francis was his occupation after leaving the army. In the 1861 census Francis is living in Dewsbury, Yorkshire with his wife and their first child, his occupation is recorded as “hairdresser and tobacconist”. The hairdresser part of this seemed quite bizarre to me, after almost 14 years as a soldier how did he end up as a hairdresser? Had he learnt his trade in the army? Had he been the regiments hairdresser?

The one thing that hadn’t occurred to me was that he might have been a hairdresser before he enlisted, but sure enough when he joined the 52nd Light Infantry on the 19th November 1838 he gave his occupation as hairdresser. This explains why he became a hairdresser after he left the army, but raises the question of why he joined up in the first place?

Was he running away from something? I will probably never know, but perhaps it is significant that when he left the army he settled in Yorkshire rather than returning to his birthplace of Lewes, Sussex.

His service record does make interesting reading, although he was punished at 15 times for being drunk (including one instance recorded as being “Drunk in the streets of Montreal”), over almost 14 years service that is not really that bad a record.

During his service Francis spent a total of seven years and four months overseas, two years in the West Indies and five years and four months in North America. He was discharged in 1852 after he had been found unfit for further service, the reason given was that he was suffering from “Cachexia Syphiloidea the result of Syphilis, contracted in Nov 1849″.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 31

1 Aug

It wasn’t a bad week for genealogy last week. I didn’t achieve a great deal, but I don’t feel bad about not doing much last week because my expectations were quite low.

I know at this rate I am not going to achieve a great deal with my family history, unless I start getting more organised and not just with my family history but with so many other aspects of my life.

Anyway back to genealogy. Almost all of my research was in relation to the BATEMANs of Australia, writing about the family has pushed me to find out more so I can fill in some details. It has been a really useful exercise, as more avenues of research present themselves as I review the evidence I have already (whether I will have the resources to explore them all is another matter).

The other piece of research was looking into the latest batch of Chelsea Pensioners records released by Findmypast. I knew there should be at least one relevant record in this latest batch, Francis Howlett GEERING (the son of my 5x great-uncle). His record was in there and it was quite an interesting record, which you will no doubt read about soon.

This week is going to be much the same. I am going to continue telling the story of William Joseph Henry BATEMAN, so I will be continuing to work on that family, but I need to extend my research beyond the BMD indexes on Ancestry.com.au and the digitised newspapers on the National Libraries of Australia website.

Specifically I want to try and pin down locations where the family lived, using family documents and electoral rolls. I am hoping this will enable me to dig down another level and explore some local family history websites, rather than just national or state level websites.

Anything else I achieve this week is going to be a bonus!

Victorian Pharmacy

19 Jul

Last Thursday saw the first episode  of a new four part series on BBC 2 entitled Victorian Pharmacy. The series is produced by the same company (Lion Television) who produced Victorian Farm, which was shown last year.

The series looks at the workings of a Victorian pharmacists’ shop. The first episode sees the shows two main stars, Ruth Goodman (also from Victorian Farm) and Nick Barber, along with their apprentice Tom Quick setting up shop in the re-constructed Victorian town at Blists Hill.

We saw quite a wide range of activities in the first episode, from gathering herbs for traditional remedies to the creation of a slightly more scientific remedy in a rather basic (by today’s standards) laboratory.

Like Victorian Farm there were several experts on hand to explain some of the principles, and there was also a stream of ‘customers’ willing to try out their remedies and treatments.

Their shop was quite spectacular to look at with all sorts of bottles, jars, pots, boxes and packages displayed on the counter, in glass cabinets and on shelves. I am not sure how typical this would have been, because the shop is itself is a museum exhibit.

I certainly had trouble reconciling the image that I have in my mind of my GEERING chemists and druggists with what was shown on screen. Admittedly my mental image comes largely from the description provided by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish.

I just can’t imagine my GEERINGs mixing remedies or gathering ingredients from the countryside surrounding Hailsham, Sussex. I see them more as shopkeepers buying in ready made preparations for sale to the residents of Hailsham.

Overall the programme was fun and entertaining, there was a small element of education, but the emphasis was more on things that seemed shocking or laughable to our modern eyes, like the use of leeches.

As a glimpse into the possible lives of my ancestors it is invaluable, I just wish I knew more about what was in their shop and whether their business flourished or was avoided like the plague by the residents of Hailsham.

Picture Postcard Parade: The old Common Pond, Hailsham

6 Jul

Mentioning the missing burial of Jane GEERING the other day gives me a perfect excuse to show you this postcard of where her body was found. It looks quite picturesque doesn’t it?

Common Pond, Hailsham

I have written at length before on the circumstances surrounding her death, but basically her body was found in the Common Pond, Hailsham, Sussex on the morning of the 15th September 1874 and the inquest the following day returned a verdict of "found drowned".

The postcard hasn’t been used and no publisher is mentioned. It has quite a distinctive style of caption which I am sure I have seen been and feel I should recognise it, but I can’t place it at the moment. I would imagine it dates from the early 1920s.

These days the banks of pond are a more open, although beyond the banks it is now surrounded by more housing. I need to go back to Hailsham in brighter weather and get some better photos of the Common Pond and the parish church.

If not Hailsham, then where? The missing burial of Jane GEERING

3 Jul

You may remember me writing about Jane GEERING before, she was my 5x great-aunt who was found drowned in the Common Pond, Hailsham, Sussex.

I know quite a bit about her death, from the reports in the local newspapers and her death certificate, but I did not know where she was buried. I had checked the transcripts of the parish registers for the church at Hailsham, and she hadn’t been buried in the churchyard there (and I have checked the original registers now).

I wasn’t entirely surprised, she died in 1874, two years after the cemetery at Hailsham was opened, and the fact that she probably committed suicide all pointed to the fact that she would have been buried in the cemetery. Of course if it was that straight forward I wouldn’t be writing this post.

I have checked the transcript of burials for the cemetery and she is not listed in there either. I know it is only a transcript, but it looks accurate. The entry numbers from the burial register have also been transcribed, so they haven’t missed an entry, and there is nothing like the name Jane GEERING, so I don’t doubt that she is not in the register.

Perhaps she was buried in the church or cemetery and it was not recorded in the appropriate register, but this seems unlikely. It seems more likely that she was buried somewhere else, but where?

The only other option I can think of is Lewes, Sussex. Her closest relatives, her nieces and nephews were living in Lewes, but I can’t imagine why they would go to the expense of having her body transported to Lewes for burial.

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