Tag Archives: kent

Is Compasses pointing me in the right direction?

6 Apr

I like to know about the places my ancestors lived and worked, and if possible go and visit those places and explore the area, but until the other day I don’t think I had ever come across a situation in my research where an address has potentially solved a mystery for me.

I was looking the problem of Thomas NICHOLLS (my 4x great-grandfather) of Kent, hoping to be able to find his parents. I know his father’s name and a rough period for his year of birth. Whilst searching the IGI I came up with a possible baptism in Leigh, Kent. Thomas’ wife ended up living in Leigh when she re-married after his death and it is next door to Chiddingstone where Thomas and Martha had a couple of children. The connections with Leigh were strong enough to investigate this baptism record further.

The parents of this Thomas were James and Grace NICHOLLS and I hoped that they might still be alive in 1841 so that I could find them in the census. There were no obvious hits for them in Kent, either as a couple or as individuals, so I decided to change my approach. I decided to switch to the old-fashioned way of doing things, searching the census page by page, line by line, looking for any clues to their whereabouts. Leigh was a fairly small place in 1841 and it didn’t take long to find a pair of NICKELS children living with Joseph and Grace STONE in one of several properties in Leigh called Compasses.

Of course no relationship is shown in the 1841 census, but the age difference between Joseph and Grace led me to believe that this was Grace NICHOLLS, but having lost her husband she had re-married and the two children were from her first marriage. The IGI shows a marriage for Joseph STONE and Grace NICHOLLS in 1833 in nearby Sundridge, Kent (where Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER were married) but it doesn’t tell me if she was a widow or not.

So it looks to me like James and Grace NICHOLLS were married and had at least three children (including a Thomas, but not necessarily my Thomas). James then died and Grace re-married. Her two young children came with her when she married. The problem is the “not necessarily my Thomas” bit, as far as I can see there is only one piece of evidence to link my Thomas to James and Grace.

Joseph and Grace STONE were living at Compasses, Leigh which is the same group of properties where Thomas’ wife ended up living. It could just be a coincidence because there are several properties of the same name, but it gives the strongest evidence so far of a connection. Without more evidence I can’t be absolutely positive, but it is certainly worth investigating further.

It is almost certainly worth investigating the place as well as the people, if rate books are available for the parish I might be able to fill in the gaps between the census and see if there was a period of continuous habitation by the NICHOLLS family. They almost certainly wouldn’t have owned the property, instead it was probably tied to a job at the local farm.

I will also “adopt” this new family and try to find out some more about them. Trying to find a link from that family to mine whilst continuing to work the other way from my known ancestors. I can’t believe just how complex this little branch of my family tree is becoming, things seem to be slotting together far too neatly for my liking.

The contrasting DRAPPER and NICHOLLS families

3 Apr

So far my research into the parents of Ellen NICHOLLS (my 3x great-grandmother) has provided a contrasting picture of the families of her parents. The contrast stems from the fact that I know a lot about her mother’s side of the family (DRAPPER) and almost nothing about her father’s side of the family (NICHOLLS).

Almost everything I know is about the DRAPPER family. Starting with the marriage of Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER in 1840 where both of the witnesses were DRAPPERs. In the 1841 census Thomas and Martha are living with the DRAPPERs (her father and siblings). After the death of Thomas (before 1851), Martha and the two children are living with various DRAPPER families.

All I know about the NICHOLLS family is that Thomas’ father was James. I don’t know the name of Thomas’ mother or have the names of any of his siblings. This obviously poses a major problem as I am not even sure when and where Thomas was born.

It would be easy for me to jump to conclusions and assume that there was some sort of division between the families, but in reality it is almost certainly down to a lack of data, and the fact that all these events (marriage and census) only provide us with a snapshot of their lives. I have no idea what else was going on between these events.

The good news is that I think I might have a lead on Thomas’ parents, the problem is that at the moment I don’t see any way of proving the connection, but you never know something may present itself as I keep on digging.

The marriage certificate of Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER

1 Apr

The marriage certificate of Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER arrived last Saturday whilst I was enjoying myself at Haywards Heath and to be honest I was a little disappointed by the result.

Most of what I knew was correct, the date was the 21st March 1840 not the 15th as I had expected, but that was really the important bit.  The important information was the name of the bride and groom’s fathers.

From the census I already knew Martha’s father was George DRAPPER (the certificate confirmed this) but it was Thomas’ father I was most interested in. He was named as James NICHOLLS, a labourer. This was a bit of a set back because I was hoping it was going to be Joshua. I had found a very likely looking baptism for Thomas (and several other siblings) in Blean, Kent but his parents were Joshua and Mary NICHOLLS.

Of course it is always possible that the marriage certificate was wrong, possible but unlikely. Unfortunately this little project is not working out quite as nicely as I had hoped.

I really need to find out a more exact birth date for Thomas. All I have at the moment is the 1841 census where he is recorded as 20 years old, but this may or may not have been rounded down correctly. The marriage certificate just gives both bride and groom as being of full age.

The next step is to investigate Thomas’ death, to pinpoint the date of his death and how old he was when he died and if I am “lucky” there might also be an interesting cause of death to follow-up.

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.

Thinking some more about Kent

27 Mar

I have been thinking more about my issues with the county of Kent and now I am convinced that it would be beneficial to spend some time learning more about research in Kent.

I don’t have time to research all the parishes in Kent, at least not in one go anyway. Initially I need to focus on the places in my family tree that I need to learn more about and then let my family history research guide me from there, building up knowledge and information as I go along.

I am going to start by extracting a list of Kent parishes and registration districts from my family history software along with some names and dates. Then I can start working on the list of places.

I want to pull together a list of resources for each of the places, finding out which archives, libraries, websites or societies have information that might be of use to me. Along with this I need to build up a list of general links to Kent resources (and possibly some books). It would also be useful to find some maps (or links to some maps) to give me some help with the geography of the county.

The next question is how to record all this information? I am considering using a TiddlyWiki which I think might be ideal for the job, plus I have been looking for an excuse to use one for ages.

Why do I still have such a problem with Kent?

25 Mar

I still seem to have a real mental block when it comes to researching my family history in the county of Kent, England. So many of the branches of my family tree seem to stop abruptly when I cross the border into Kent and I have to admit that my heart sinks when I find an ancestor that comes from Kent.

I have nothing against Kent and it’s people, from what I have seen it is a nice place and I would like to spend more time there. For starters I still need to finish walking the North Downs Way through the county.

There doesn’t seem to be anything uniquely different about family history research in Kent. The same core record types exist as they do anywhere else in England and the research process is the same, but still I have a mental block on research in the county.

Accessibility is a problem, or at least I perceive it to be a problem. It is not particularly easy for me to get to the two main archives at Maidstone and Canterbury, but it is considerably easier than getting to the archives in Gloucester or Carlisle and only a lack of time and money are stopping me from going to those two.

I think the big problem is that I have been rather spoilt by my years of research in Sussex. I now have a pretty good idea of the resources available and where to find them, as well as a reasonable background knowledge of the county. I have also been very much spoilt by the wonderful resources of the Sussex Family History Group.

I am wondering if I need to do some serious research into the county itself. I think it might be worth my time and effort spending a while on the place and not the people, identifying the key records for the places I am interested in and which archive or website has them.

It could be quite a task, but the more I think about the more I think it could be a worthwhile exercise. Still at the back of my mind is the idea that this might just be another way for me to avoid having to do any real family history research in Kent.

Turns out I already knew where Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER were married

24 Mar

It turns out that I already had a pretty good idea of where Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER were married. Last week I went to the London Family History Centre and checked the parish registers for Chiddingstone, Kent expecting to find the marriage of my 4x great-grandparents.

I didn’t find the marriage, but I wasn’t really that surprised, the only reason I was expecting to find the marriage in Chiddingstone is because that is where the couple were living in the 1841 census, the year after they were married. I had hoped to avoid the cost of buying a certificate, but short of searching every nearby parish I had no real option but to order their marriage certificate.

Then last night as I was doing some digital filing I discovered that I already had a pretty good idea where the couple were married and even a very good idea of when. It seems that last time I was doing some research into the NICHOLLS family I had found the banns of marriage for Thomas and Martha, but hadn’t done anything with that information because I was unable to prove that they were the parents of my 3x great-grandmother Ellen NICHOLLS.

I had just filed that snippet of information away on my spreadsheet and completely forgot about it when I started looking at the family again. The good thing is that I wouldn’t have been able to check the marriage register last week anyway because the LFHC don’t hold that particular microfilm.

It might have saved me a little bit of time, but even that is unlikely as I still needed to check Chiddingstone marriages for Martha’s siblings. So in the end the impact wasn’t too great, but I could have wasted a lot of time and effort when I didn’t really need to.

Now I am pretty confident that Thomas and Martha were married in Sundridge, Kent (about 7 or 8 miles north of Chiddingstone). The banns were published in Chiddingstone (and presumably also in Sundridge) on the 23rd February, 1st March and 8th March 1840. From this the likely date for the marriage was 15th March 1840.

To my surprise Thomas was of the parish of Chiddingstone and Martha was of the parish of Sundridge. I had expected it to be the other way around, assuming that Martha and her family came from Chiddingstone and Thomas was travelling around to wherever there was work. I am sure future research will clarify the picture.

In the meantime I still need to wait patiently for the marriage certificate to confirm the date and place, and more importantly the father’s names for the bridge and groom.

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