Tag Archives: mitchell

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 25

20 Jun

My organising is done, for the time being at least. There will be plenty more organising to do in the future, and that is the challenge, to keep this state of affairs in the future. I still have to go through and create a template for all my file and folder names, but that shouldn’t take long.

Last week the GASSON and GEERING surname folders were sorted out, and I started doing some preparation for GEERING research. I feel a little in limbo now, I have my entire family history at my fingertips, my research could head in any direction I want, but I am not sure where to go next.

The GEERINGs are a definite, but before I get back to Hailsham and the druggists, I have a couple of service records to sort out, downloaded during the recent findmypast.co.uk free for all. After sorting these out I need to get to the East Sussex Record Office and check some records before I decide if there is anything else I can do.

I need to do a quick bit of research about the MITCHELLs of Exton, Hampshire, I need to make sure I have all the place names and dates ready for when I visit Exton as part of my South Downs Way walk.

This week I need to decide what to do next, do I throw all my resources and concentration into one big project or do I just fill in gaps in my research covering as many different branches as possible. Perhaps I should concentrate on one particular area, or time period. I don’t really know, so this week I will see which way my research takes me.

South Downs Way: Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

19 Jun

South Downs Way sign

I just can’t get enough of the South Downs at the moment, and although the weather was a little disappointing, it turned out to be one of the most memorable days for a long time, mostly for the right reasons.

It is getting more complicated to get to the start and get back from the end of these walks, but getting to the start provided the first surprise of the day, our train was held up because of a steam train! I knew there was a steam tour passing through Sussex today, but didn’t think I would actually see it. Not that I could actually see much, but it was unquestionably a steam train, a rare sight on the mainline this day and age.

After the train came a bus ride to Cocking Hill Car Park, and almost straight away a walk up Cocking Down. Halfway up the hill is a rather large chalk boulder (pictured below). Like a giant marble, it is begging to be pushed down the hill, but I guess it is probably fixed in some way (or too heavy to be moved). According to my guide book it a work by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and is part of the Chalk Stone Trail.

Chalk boulder

Up on the top of the Downs the views are quite spectacular, unfortunately because of the combination of poor light and haze my photos don’t do them justice. To the south Portsmouth with it’s Spinnaker Tower was clearly visible, with the Solent and Isle of Wight beyond that.

Closer to the path the next point of interest was a cemetery, but not the sort of cemetery I am used to, there were no headstones at this cemetery. The Devil’s Jumps (part of which is pictured below) are described on the information board as being "the best example of a Bronze Age (2000BC – 800BC) barrow cemetery on the South Downs". The Downs are dotted with smaller barrows and tumuli but these certainly take some beating.

Devil's Jumps

Not far from the Devil’s Jumps is a much newer memorial, a nice flint built memorial to Hauptmann Joseph Oestermann, a German pilot. It seems rather unusual that a German pilot should be remembered in such a way, and the story is certainly worthy of further research, such as who actually put it there?

Flint memorial

The path continued in a north-westerly direction, before turning westwards near Mount Sinai and climbing up Pen Hill, there once again the were some spectacular views, this time mainly to the north-east. Dropping down from Pen Hill, you are confronted by the bulk of Beacon Hill. The South Downs Way actually goes around the side of Beacon Hill, but I took a quick detour up to the top to visit the trig point and admire the views.

Looking east from Beacon Hill

As you can see from the pictures, there was plenty of cloud about. There were larger gaps in the cloud which allowed the sun to briefly spotlight certain favoured parts of the landscape. For most of the walk though it was still pretty warm, despite the lack of sunshine.

The biggest surprise of the day came after retracing my steps down Beacon Hill and walking around it to the other side. I was just beginning the climb up from Bramshott Bottom to Harting Downs when I heard the sound of a plane, or was it a helicopter? It certainly didn’t sound right, not a normal light aircraft, something bigger perhaps? Suddenly a big black shape appeared above the trees, no wonder it didn’t sound right, it took me a few seconds to realise it was a Lancaster bomber, passing a couple of hundred feet above my head!

I quickly pulled my camera out, but only managed to catch it disappearing to the east. There is only one Lancaster bomber flying in this country, with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, but what was it doing over the South Downs?

After the physical and emotional high points the rest of the walk became rather disappointing, heading west from Harting Down the path entered a thin strip of woodland and the temperature seemed to drop dramatically, and I was glad to get out into the brief spells of sunshine again.

The path westward from Harting was quite a challenge, not so much physically, but mentally. I had been going for nearly four hours without a break, I was starting to get hungry, my legs were beginning to ache, but worst of all the South Downs Way was becoming boring.

There were no real views to speak of, the path was pretty flat and mostly farm tracks and roads. Worst of all it seemed to go on for miles, although in truth it was only a couple of miles. Then came the county boundary, leaving West Sussex and entering Hampshire, this should have been an occasion worth celebrating, but there was no sign marking the border and it wasn’t easy to tell I had crossed it. The only noticeable indicator was a slight change in the style of signposts.

It was a real struggle to keep going, I needed to find somewhere to sit down and have a bite to eat, ideally somewhere in the sun, preferably with a view and a bench, and definitely soon. But there wasn’t anywhere, finally as I came to a bend in the road, I seized the opportunity. There was a length of wood acting as a step up to a footpath, that would have to do for a seat.

Not your usual picnic spot

It wasn’t much of a picnic spot, but I set off after only ten or fifteen minutes rest with spring in my step. I had looked at the map, there were only about four miles to go, the end was almost in sight. Suddenly I heard bells, they were loud and clear, I thought for a moment it was a mobile phone ringtone, but no it was definitely church bells, presumably carried up on the wind from Buriton Church.

It didn’t take long to finish of the last four miles. The last two were through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, with nice wide paths and lots of signposts. In the end it took me about five hours to walk the fourteen miles and was glad to finally sit down in the bus shelter, by the side of another busy road as usual.

Getting home wasn’t easy: bus to Petersfield, train to Havant, train to Horsham and finally a bus home. Although I didn’t have to wait long at each change of transport, it still took me about two and a half hours to get home, but at least I was sitting down all the way.

So now I am in Hampshire, with only two sections to go until Winchester, the signpost at the country park said 23 miles to Winchester. The next section is going to be interesting, it should finish in Exton, Hampshire the home of some of my MITCHELL ancestors. I am really looking forward to having a look around the village and at the church where some of them were baptised and buried. The problem is that I still haven’t worked out how I am going to get home from there.

Where did Vernon Alphonso GASSON get his name from?

21 May

One of the curious records that I transcribed at the West Sussex Record Office a couple of weeks ago was the baptism of Vernon Alphonso GASSON. He was the son of John and Alice Catherine Maud GASSON and was baptised at the parish church in Slaugham, Sussex on the 8th September 1907.

Now don’t get me wrong, but the name Vernon Alphonso doesn’t strike me as an English name, let alone a Sussex one. So where did he get it from?

I thought that Alice Catherine Maud might not have been from England, but her name doesn’t sound particularly exotic. This was further confirmed when I checked FreeBMD for a marriage, Alice’s maiden name was MITCHELL (they were married in Q3 1906 in Cuckfield Registration District).

So I have no idea where the name Vernon Alphonso came from, it certainly doesn’t appear to be a family name. Sadly Vernon Alphonso died in 1910 and was buried in Slaugham on the 26th November.

There must have been some confusion when it came to filling in the 1911 census because Vernon is included with his parents and their other son, Jack. The entry clearly shows that John and Alice had two children, one of whom had died.

I guess I will never know where the name Vernon Alphonso came from, but the one thing I must find out is who John GASSON was, or rather which John GASSON this is. He is probably the son of my 3x great uncle Edward GASSON, but I need to get a copy of the marriage entry/certificate to make sure.

My genealogy to-do list for the week ahead (week 15)

11 Apr

Last week was unusual, it felt like I was not doing much genealogy but by the end of the week I think I had achieved quite a bit. Having said that it is hard to actually quantify what I have done.

Much of my time seems to have been spent thinking about GASSONs and GEERINGs, with a quick look at some MITCHELLs.

  • The will of Ann GEERING has arrived, and I need to process that and decide where to go next with the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex.
  • Review my research into Ellen NICHOLLS, trying to find out what I can do to put right my previous mistake and where I can go now.
  • Transcribe all my notes from Saturday morning’s visit to the Centre for Kentish Studies. Create another plan for finding the parents of John GASSON (my 5x great-grandfather) based on the findings.
  • Continue working through my digital files updating Family Historian and sorting out folders and standardising my filenames. This week I will focus on the GASSON and MITCHELL families. I have so many loose ends that need tying up.

My top-ten surnames

2 Feb

I was fiddling around with Family Historian last night and then in Excel, producing a list of the top-ten surnames in my family tree.

I thought this was going to be a mostly pointless exercise, purely for fun and curiosity, but it has highlighted an imbalance in my research, which I now wonder whether I should try and put right.

The top-ten surnames (really top-eleven surnames), with the number of individuals in my family tree, are as follows:

1.  TROWER (127)
2.  GASSON (104)
3.  MITCHELL (84)
4.  FAIRS (45)
5.  BOXALL (38)
6.  KINGHORN (28)
6.  VINALL (28)
8.  BATEMAN (27)
9.  GEERING (26)
10.  DRIVER (25)
10.  HEMSLEY (25)

The first three names are no surprise, after all they are the surnames of three of my grandparents, the surprising thing is that my fourth grandparent’s name is HEMSLEY, right down at the bottom of the list.

I don’t know quite why I feel that this imbalance is wrong, but I certainly feel I should invest some more time on it so that it moves up the chart. It wouldn’t be difficult to add lots more HEMSLEYs to my tree, but it needs to be done with purpose rather than just adding everyone I can find.

I am going to add the task of reviewing my HEMSLEY line to my to-do list, seeing what meaningful work I can do on the family. I am sure there are some interesting people and stories waiting to be discovered in Framfield, Sussex.

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