Tag Archives: lewes

Dabbling with non-conformity

15 Feb

I have met this situation several times, a family has several children baptised at a traditional Anglican church but then for some reason they switch to a non-conformist church. Some times they will then return to the Anglican church for the baptism of later children.

The latest occurrence of this concerns my 2x great-grandparents Thomas and Ellen DRIVER. At East Sussex Record Office I confirmed that two of their six children were baptised as Wesleyan Methodists.

I had initially found these records on the SFHG Data Archive where it appeared that they had been baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Lewes, Sussex. On checking the original baptism register last week I discovered that the baptisms weren’t necessarily in Lewes itself, but within the Lewes Circuit, something that wasn’t clear in the data archive entries.

As usual this information provides more question than answers. The big one of course is why? Why did they decide to switch to Methodism? It is difficult for me to imagine that this was an important decision for my 2x great-grandparents, the church means nothing to me other than a place where my ancestors once stood and where most of them were baptised, married and buried, but it doesn’t mean that my ancestors didn’t consider it important.

I need to find out where the nearest Methodist Chapel was and see if there might be any record that they were members of that chapel, a quick scan of a few county directories should hopefully help me answer that first bit and then it will probably be a question of visiting the archives again.

There is still the question of where their other children were baptised. There were six in all, and I only have baptism details for three of them:

  • Kate DRIVER (baptised 28 March 1880, Framfield, Sussex)
  • Asher DRIVER (born 1882, baptism unknown)
  • Minnie DRIVER (baptised 26 May 1884, Lewes Circuit)
  • Ambrose DRIVER (born 1885, baptism unknown)
  • Herbert DRIVER (born 1888, baptism unknown)
  • Anna DRIVER (baptised 8 November 1891, Lewes Circuit)

So I need to learn a bit more about Methodist records, the local Methodist “scene” at the end of the 19th Century and then search the all the parish registers for the local churches regardless of denomination.

Another day, another archive

11 Feb

I had another day off today and the weather was miserable again, so I headed for the East Sussex Record Office in Lewes, East Sussex to knock some more items off my to-do list.

The plan was much the same as yesterday at the West Sussex Record Office, which essentially meant there was no plan, just collect as much data as possible, and if it cleared stuff from my to-do list then even better. Like yesterday there weren’t really any major discoveries, but I was pleased to find a few entries that have been (or should have been) on my to-do list for a long time.

These included baptism records for my grandmother and great-grandmother. I had never got around to looking for either record before, I had a pretty good idea where the first record would be and had already found an index entry for the second and just need to double-check it.

The most pleasing find however was the baptism record for William Joseph Henry BATEMAN. I have written much about William (who joined the Royal Navy and ended up making his home in Australia) but had never sat down before and searched for his baptism record, even though I had a pretty good idea where I should be looking.

The most surprising find was the baptism record for George TROWER in Brighton. Even though he is not a particularly close relation (first cousin three times removed) I had searched for his baptism for several years. His parents were from Henfield, Sussex but spent a few years in Brighton before returning to the family farm in Henfield. It was really pleasing to find his baptism today because I had not been deliberately looking for it.

It shouldn’t take me long to sort through this information (and that collected yesterday) and enter it in the right spreadsheet and database, but these two days have highlighted the fact that I need to get my to-do list a little better organised. Over the last two days I have largely been working with my netbook (for the to-do list and my family tree) and a lined A4 refill pad, this worked pretty well but my to-do list is get too large and in some cases it doesn’t have enough information, perhaps it is time to upgrade from my simple text file.

Coincidence and confusion in the pages of a newspaper

13 Oct

I was online last night looking for some information (for a future blog post) on West Dean church in the archives of The Times newspaper, when I stumbled across the following news item on page seven of the newspaper for Wednesday the 15th April 1936:

Mr. and Mrs. J. Boxall, of Scout Cottage, West Dean, near Chichester, who celebrate their golden wedding to-day, are 83 and 79, and have had 27 children, and have 42 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren. Mrs. Boxall had triplets once and twins thrice.

Without doubt "Mr. and Mrs. J. Boxall" are my 2x great-grandparents, James and Caroline BOXALL, but not everything in the story is true. Their ages are correct and the 15th April was the date of their wedding anniversary, but they were married in 1876, so it would have been their 60th wedding anniversary, not their 50th.

I believe the number of children is also wrong. I have only confirmed twelve so far, although the 1911 census says they had thirteen, and I don’t believe there were any more after 1911. It is possible that some were stillborn because the census does specify "Total Children Born Alive", and they were probably not registered or baptised. It is not the first time that I have heard this story, although I think the highest I had previously heard was 23 children, but even that seemed unlikely at the time.

I am not sure where this story originates, I can’t imagine that The Times had a correspondent in West Dean, so presumably this came from a local newspaper. I obviously need to check the local newspapers to see what they reported and if the wires have become crossed at some stage. I would really like to find out the truth behind this story.

As I scrolled up the page there was another story that caught my eye:

James Horace Dunford, 28, Malling Street, Lewes, a permanent way employee attached to Lewes Station, was killed when crossing the railway line yesterday by a train from Eastbourne, which he apparently failed to notice.

Could this be one of my relations as well? I have a Horace James DUNFORD, from Lewes, Sussex who would have been 28 years old in 1936. I don’t know much about the DUNFORDs, Horace James was the son of Horace DUNFORD and his wife Margaret GASSON (my 2x great-aunt).

The coincidence seems too great, the death is registered under the name James Horace DUNFORD, and I can’t find a death record for a Horace James DUNFORD. Of course there are lots of other scenarios that could lead to Horace James not being in the GRO Death Indexes, such as immigration or death whilst on military service. Again I probably need to look at some local newspapers, perhaps a coroners report and maybe employment records from the railway. I really need to find some mention of his parent’s names or those of his siblings.

Finding one of these stories was quite a surprise, but to find two in the same newspaper (and so close to each other on the same) was really unexpected, especially as neither story is really of national interest. I would never have dreamt of searching in The Times for either of these events, but I certainly will be in the future.

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″.

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.

When grandfather left school

2 Jul

Looking at the records for Southover School, Lewes, Sussex I picked up a couple of interesting facts that might be relevant to my grandfather’s move from Lewes to London.

My grandfather, Charles Percy GASSON, left school in Lewes on the 2nd November 1917 and the reason was given as “went to London”. Arthur Leonard JESSOP left the same school on the 2nd November 1917, and the reason he left was “returned to London”.

Connection or coincidence?

At first glance this seems like a good match, but of course there is a problem, I don’t have a single JESSOP in my family history. It may be that I just haven’t found them yet, or it may be that there was a different type of relationship. Perhaps my great-grandmother was a domestic servant for the JESSOP family, and if they moved she moved with them.

When I looked at the headmaster’s log book I discovered that there was some significance to the date of the 2nd November 1917, which may suggest it was a coincidence after all. The log book records that on the 2nd November the school was “closed until Wednesday morning for mid-term Holiday”.

The 2nd November 1917 was a Friday, so Wednesday was the 7th. They didn’t have much of a mid-term break, but if you were going to move your child out of school then the start of the holiday would be a good time to do it. So perhaps it was just a coincidence after all.

I think I need to find out more about Arthur Leonard JESSOP, his father’s name was Alfred and I have his date of birth (24th March 1910), so it shouldn’t be too difficult to put together some information on his parents and see if there is a connection somewhere.

What was my grandfather doing in Greenwich?

30 Jun

My grandfather, Charles Percy GASSON (1910-1992), spent some of the early years of his life in the London Borough of Greenwich.

That statement doesn’t really do justice to the mystery and challenges that this presents. For someone who was born, married and died in Sussex (and if asked would have almost certainly have called Sussex his home), how and why did he end up going to school in Greenwich.

The answer is probably tied in with the actions of his ‘parent or guardian’. I hate to use the term ‘parent or guardian’ but because he was illegitimate it probably best sums up the number of different people who could have been responsible for him at the time.

  • His mother (May GASSON).
  • His father (Charles William GEERING).
  • His ‘adopted’ parents (Horace and Margaret DUNFORD). Margaret was his mother’s sister.
  • His aunt and uncle (George and Mary Elizabeth RICHARDSON). Mary Elizabeth was his mother’s sister.
  • Any one of his eleven other aunts or uncles.

So far my research has failed to find evidence that any of the above people had any connection with Greenwich. I have very little evidence about his time in Greenwich, basically a letter from his headmaster in Greenwich and an entry in his school admission record from Lewes, Sussex.

What I am left with is a gap between when he left school in Lewes, Sussex on the 2nd November 1917, with the reason “went to London“, and when he married in Keymer, Sussex on the 5th December 1936, at which time he was living in Burgess Hill, Sussex.

The letter from his former headmaster indicates that he had been at Morden Terrace (B.) School, Lewisham Road, Greenwich for six years until he left on the 23rd July 1924. I know almost nothing about the Morden Terrace School, except that it was destroyed by enemy bombing during the blitz, supposedly destroying all the records in the process.

It has been suggested that the ‘B’ might stand for Boarding, and that raises even more questions. Who paid for him to attend a boarding school? Was he paid for by a charity?

After leaving school at the age of thirteen in 1924 did he head straight back for Sussex or did he remain in London? There are twelve years until he surfaces in Burgess Hill for his marriage in 1936, where was he during those years?

My first step is going to have to be to find out more about Morden Terrace School. If it was a boarding or charity school then that will radically affect where I go next. Otherwise I need to try and find a ‘parent or guardian’ who was living in Greenwich, which is going to be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

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