Tag Archives: hampshire

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?

“Death must have been almost instantaneous”

9 Jan

My relatives continue to amaze me with their ability to make the national newspapers and in the quite gruesome ways their lives are cut short. To the two relations who were killed in railway accidents I can now add another who died in a maritime accident.

Thomas Henry HUTFIELD married my 2x great-aunt Harriet Ellen MITCHELL in 1900, I don’t have the exact details only that it was in Q4 1900 in Portsmouth Registration District. I had been unable to find Harriet in the 1901, but then I didn’t know at the time that she had married. It wasn’t until I was searching for her widowed mother in the newly released 1911 census that I found both Harriet and her mother living in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

The fact that she was living in Portsmouth and that despite being married her husband was not at home immediately made me think that her husband was serving in the Royal Navy. That is pretty much where my research ended. I added a few children to the marriage but never took the research any further until a few days ago.

I bought and downloaded a copy of Thomas’ naval service details from DocumentsOnline, in the hope of finding out a bit more on him and his family. I have found naval records to be largely devoid of family or personal detail in the past, and this one was no exception.

What I did find however, beneath the long list of vessels on which Thomas had served was the following intriging note: “21 July 1911. Accidentally killed on board ‘Kangaroo’ owing to bursting of a steam pipe during steam trials.”

Using my membership of  the Surrey Library Service I was soon searching copies of The Times newspaper online for a mention of the accident. It didn’t take long to find a report of the accident, a message of condolence from the King and details of the inquest.

According to The Times for the 22nd July 1911:

While the destroyer Kangaroo was carrying out steam trials off Beachy Head, about four miles out, shortly after noon yesterday, a steam pipe burst. Two stokers were killed by the explosion and five injured. The bodies of the dead men and four of the injured were put on board the cruiser Topaze, which brought them into Portsmouth, and the injured were sent to Haslar Hospital.

The above article lists the casualties and the report of the subsequent inquest gives further details of the accident. Bearing in mind that this was in a national newspaper, I would expect the local newspapers to give more information and probably mention of his funeral and the family he left behind.

This incident poses many research questions such as did Harriet receive some pension or compensation? Was there a memorial service for the two dead men? Where are they buried? What became of Harriet and her children after the death of Thomas? In other words, plenty of reasons to go and visit the Portsmouth Records Office and do some more digging.

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