Tag Archives: hampshire

Personal Research Update: Thursday 29th September 2011

29 Sep

In the couple of weeks since my last update I have done very little family history whatsoever. It is not something I am particularly happy about because I do feel that I have been a bit lazy, but I think in part is also due to having no energy left after a long day at work.

It is not all bad news however, I have done a little bit of work on my great-grandmother Minnie DRIVER and in particular her death certificate. Inspired by my recent South Downs Way walk I was looking for a good reason to return to the Petersfield area of Hampshire and do a bit more exploring.

I will probably write more about Minnie in the coming days, especially if I get to go for the walk, but the bringing together of her death certificate and an Ordnance Survey map has given me a much better understanding of where she and her husband were living and corrected a misconception that I had developed.

It has also raised the question of where she was buried. Was it with her first husband (probably somewhere in East Sussex, maybe High Hurstwood) or where her second husband was buried much later on (Oving in West Sussex) or was it somewhere completely different? Another little challenge to work on…

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Wandering: South Downs Way – Exton to Winchester

26 Sep

After a break of almost a month my wife and I were back walking the South Downs Way last Saturday. This was the last section taking us from the tiny village of Exton to the city of Winchester, both in Hampshire and although the distance was only twelve miles they did seem a world apart.

The highlight of Exton for me (apart from it being an ancestral village) was the River Meon (see below), a beautifully clear chalk stream and I could have stood for hours watching the trout feeding in the shallow waters. Winchester has its own river (the Itchen) which is quite pretty in its own right, but Winchester also has a motorway, crowds, shops, cafes, noise and everything we had been blissfully free of on our walk over the Downs.

The weather wasn’t perfect, visibility was pretty poor on our journey down and we wondered whether we would actually be able to see anything once we reached Exton. Fortunately the sun did come out as the weather forecasters predicted and started to burn of some of the mist and fog. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before the sky clouded over and we were left with slightly better visibility but by no means perfect.

The sun did reappear after lunch, but it was a little too late in the afternoon. I had hoped for a clear view of Winchester as we descended from the hills, but instead we were greeted by a rather dull and grey jumble of buildings, rather disappointing in the end.

Footbridge over the River Meon at Exton, Hampshire

We passed through many places with ancestral connections during the day, both whilst walking and whilst getting to the start. It is a beautiful part of the country and one which I have ever intention of visiting again and exploring further. Public transport is not brilliant among the small villages and hamlets, so some careful planning is need.

So that is it, the walk is over, we reached our destination but it did take an incredibly long time. It was actually only ten days, which works out at ten miles a day, but we didn’t have the luxury of lots of free time to complete it, so it was stretched out over many more months than we would have liked. Next year I will try to do it all in one go.

So here is the final set of facts and figures for the walk:

Starting point: Exton, Hampshire
Finishing point: City Mill, Winchester, Hampshire
Distance walked: 12.0 miles
Highest point: Beacon Hill (659 ft)
Places of note: Exton, Beacon Hill, Lomer, A272, Cheesefoot Head, Chilcomb, Winchester
Number of trig points spotted: One – Beacon Hill
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg and cress, cheese and onion)
Number of times I said “my ancestors used to live here”: I lost count, but probably too many times!
Number of bus journeys taken: One (we had to get an early start so my wife drove us to the station)
Number of train journeys taken: Five
Number of ice creams eaten: None
Shorts or long trousers: Long trousers (although it did get quite warm once or twice)

The River Itchen and City Mill, Winchester, Hampshire

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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NEWS: Over 1.4 million new Hampshire parish records published on findmypast.co.uk

30 Mar

Findmypast.co.uk have been steadily adding parish register transcriptions to their website, but until now there hasn’t really been much to get me excited. That was until last night when I read the news that they had added over 1.4 million Hampshire parish records.

This is great news for my research, having online access to these records is going to be a great boost to my research and especially for tracing my MITCHELL ancestors. Of course these are only transcriptions and would need checking against the original parish register entries, but they represent a great finding aid and starting point.

These records are the work of the Hampshire Genealogical Society and I suspect they are the same records that they publish on CD, which I have previously used at the Hampshire Record Office. Ironically I was very close to buying a couple of the CDs at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last month, but decided I couldn’t justify the cost.

According to the website the collection features:

  • 574,192 baptisms (covering the period 1752 to 1851)
  • 153,011 marriages (covering the period 1754 to 1837)
  • 720,468 burials (covering the period 1400 to 1841)

Links to lists of the actual parishes included can also be found on the announcement page on the website. The cost to view the full entry appears to be 5 credits each or free for those with a subscription.

Ancestral Profile: Harriet WRIGHT (c1840-1925)

20 Jan

Harriet WRIGHT was my 2x great-grandmother and her exact date and place of birth (along with the details of her baptism) are bound up within the mystery surrounding the early years of her father Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT.

It is quite possible that her birth was registered under the surname SHORNDEN, and it seems likely that she was born not long after her parents marriage in 1840, all census information points to a birth around that year. The place of her birth is not quite so clear, with conflicting information given

  • 1851 – Ospringe, Kent
  • 1861 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1871 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1881 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1891 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1901 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1911 – Cowfold, Kent [there is a Cowfold in Sussex, but I haven't found one in Kent]

At the time of the 1851 census Harriet was living with her parents and siblings in Alton, Hampshire and in theory this means the information was given by Henry and ought to be most reliable. From 1861 to 1901 she is living with her husband William Henry MITCHELL, who obvious wouldn’t have known first-hand where she was born. In 1911 she is widowed and living with one of her married daughters, so again not first hand knowledge of her mother’s birth.

Returning to the 1851 census we find an eleven year old Harriet with her parents and siblings (Mary Ann, Henry, Emma, William and George) in Normandy Street in Alton, Hampshire. Her father is described as a cutler and lodging house keeper.

On the 4th February 1860 Harriet married William Henry MITCHELL at the parish church in the small village of Exton, Hampshire. Both were living in Exton at the time, which is where William Henry’s parents spent their married life together. [It is also conveniently situated on the South Downs Way so I was able to pay it a brief visit last year]

Together Harriet and William Henry MITCHELL had a total of thirteen children:

  1. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 26 February 1860)
  2. Henry James MITCHELL (baptised 3 November 1861)
  3. Robert Charles MITCHELL (baptised 25 January 1863)
  4. James MITCHELL (baptised 18 December 1864)
  5. Sarah Ann MITCHELL (baptised 10 May 1866)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 22 December 1867)
  7. Emma Louisa MITCHELL (baptised 11 July 1869)
  8. Elizabeth MITCHELL (baptised 9 April 1871)
  9. George MITCHELL (baptised 25 May 1873) [my great-grandfather]
  10. Alfred MITCHELL (baptised 12 September 1875)
  11. Albert MITCHELL (baptised 5 May 1878)
  12. Harriet Ellen MITCHELL (baptised 21 December 1879)
  13. Frederick MITCHELL (baptised 5 February 1882)

These children were born and baptised in a range of villages across Hampshire and Sussex, as the family moved their way across the counties, presumably travelling wherever it was necessary for William Henry to find work. Many months ago I put this information on a Google Map to show the places that the family passed through.

The couple eventually ended up in Sussex, by 1901 their children had all left home and they were looking after one of their grandchildren in Funtington, Sussex. William Henry died in 1908 (aged 74 years) and was buried at Funtington on the 1st October 1908.

In the 1911 census Harriet is living in Portsmouth, Hampshire with one of her now married daughters (Harriet Ellen HUTFIELD with a husband in the navy). Harriet herself died in 1925 (aged 85 years) and was also buried in Funtington on the 12th September 1925.

Did Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT spend time in Canterbury?

19 Jan

A few months ago I ordered a copy of the will of Henry WRIGHT (as he was known when he died), it wasn’t particularly detailed and didn’t contain any major revelations or death-bed confessions, just the usual stuff you would expect to find.

From a genealogical point of view the helpful feature of the will was a list of all his children, which gave the married names of his daughters. This is a great help if you are trying to piece together a family tree and don’t have copies of marriage certificates or access to the relevant parish registers.

Most interesting to me was Henry’s eldest daughter Mary Ann because she (like my 2x great-grandmother Harriet) was born before the family moved to Alton, Hampshire. Knowing that Mary Ann had married Henry William TRIMMER has led to a couple of interesting discoveries:

1.  When she married her name was recorded as Mary Ann LAY – LAY was Mary Ann’s mother’s maiden name, suggesting that Mary Ann was born before Henry SHORNDEN and Sarah LAY were married, and thus raising the question of whether she was actually Henry’s daughter. I need to get the full marriage certificate to see who she named as her father.

2. Mary Ann claimed to have been born in Canterbury, Kent – Knowing Mary Ann’s married name has enabled me to trace her in the census and the information about her place of birth is pretty consistent. Whether Canterbury actually means the city itself or whether it means somewhere nearby remains to be discovered.

Although at first glance the Henry’s will didn’t look particularly helpful (or to be honest particularly interesting) it has provided a lead to some potentially useful information, which I may not have found easily because I wouldn’t have looked for a marriage of Mary Ann LAY.

Picture Postcard Parade: St. Lawrence Parish Church, Alton, Hampshire

18 Jan

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that this is the only historic postcard I have of Alton, Hampshire. I shall probably remedy this in the future, but for now you will have to make do with just this one.

This is the church in Alton, Hampshire where Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT and his wife Sarah had most of their children baptised and where both Henry and Sarah were buried. The postcard has not been used, but probably dates from between 1905 and 1910. The blank space in the top right-hand corner being used to write your message in if your were going to send the card abroad, when all of the back was needed for the address.

The back of the card also bears the name of the publisher/photographer, W.P. Varney of West End Studio, Alton. A bit of time spent in the trade directories for Hampshire would probably enable me to find out when W.P. Varney was trading.

I hope to get back to Alton this year and spend a bit more time exploring the area. I did pay the town a very brief visit last year when I took the photo below of St. Lawrence Parish Church as it looks now.

Why Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT?

10 Jan

I know I don’t really need to justify why I should be interested in finding out about a particular ancestor (after all that is what family history is all about). This is in part as a way of establishing what it is that I want to find out and thinking about how I am going to achieve it.

I already know a fair bit about Henry. I know who his parents were and where he was baptised. I know where and when he was married and to whom. I know where and when most of his children were born and baptised. I know where Henry spent most of his adult life, what he did for a living and where he died and was buried.

At first glance there seems very few basic facts (eg census, BMDs and parish registers) left to find out, in fact it is really just a question of finding Henry (and family) in the 1841 census and identifying where his first two children (Mary Ann and Harriet) were born and baptised. Given that Harriet is my 2x great-grandmother, I am quite keen to find out where she was born.

These few simple missing facts are indicators of a much more complicated situation with many unanswered questions and life changing events in a relatively short space of time. There is a five-year period (roughly speaking 1837 to 1842) where Henry’s life changed dramatically and it is these five years that I am really interested in.

In those five years the following events happened in Henry’s life and I would really like to find out more about them and the reasons behind what happened:

  1. In 1838 he was tried and convicted of larceny for which he served 12 months in prison.
  2. In 1840 he married Sarah LAY in Milton Next Gravesend, Kent.
  3. At some time between 1837 and 1840 Henry and Sarah had two children, one possibly before they married.
  4. At some time between 1840 and 1842 the family moved from Kent to Alton, Hampshire.

I would really like to get an accurate timeline of events and try to establish what were the reasons behind these events and whether there was any cause and effect between the events.

I would also like to find out as much as I can about Henry’s life in Alton and to some extent that of his children as well. One aspect that I really want to clarify is Henry’s occupation(s). At various times in his life Henry seems to have been employed as a chimney sweep, cutler and lodging house keeper and I would like to find out more about these, especially the lodging house keeper. What was the lodging house called? Was he there for long? Did he own the lodging house?

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