Tag Archives: lewes

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.

Death certificate of Ann GEERING

16 Apr

It seems every month I describe a certificate I have received as the most important one for my research or the most interesting one. The death certificate of Ann GEERING certainly fits into both categories, as it has given me critical evidence about my GEERINGs.

This has been the only certificate I have ordered this month, not because of the price increase, but because I wasn’t really sure which, if any, I would need next.

I mentioned the discovery of an Ann GEERING in Lewes, Sussex in the 1841 census in a previous post. This lead me to wonder whether she was my 5x great-grandmother, the wife of James GEERING, who I had previously thought had died much earlier.

The certificate provides enough evidence for me to safely say that Ann was my 5x great-grandmother. Ann GEERING died on the 2nd May 1844 in Lewes, Sussex. The cause of death seems rather unusual to me, paralysis was the official cause, but there is no suggestion as to how this paralysis came about or whether it had been a long term medical condition.

The death was registered by Eliza GEERING of St Johns, Lewes who was present at the death. Eliza is probably my 4x great-grandmother, wife of Richard GEERING. Ann had been living with Richard and Eliza (and their children) in 1841.

The really important piece of information was her occupation, she is described as “Wife of James Geering Chemist”. I have no doubt that this is James GEERING (my 5x great-grandfather) from Hailsham, Sussex. This fact provides me with the link between the GEERINGs in Hailsham and Lewes that I have been looking for.

Now I also have an age at death for Ann, from which I can calculate an approximate year of birth, which I had previously not known. Unfortunately it also raises the question that troubled me in my previous post, why were James and Ann seemingly living apart, and were buried in separate towns? Answers on a postcard pleaseā€¦

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