Tag Archives: newspapers

Newspaper report of the inquest into the death of Jane GEERING

29 Mar

I had hoped that I would be able to find a newspaper report of the inquest into the death of Jane GEERING. Usually they provide more information than the inquest itself, and quite often they are the only record of the inquest.

I had checked several of the county newspapers for a report but had drawn a blank, so I moved down a level, and tried to locate the local paper that would cover Hailsham around that time. It wasn’t clear, but it seemed likely that Eastbourne would be the place and there were two newspapers that were published around the right time, the Eastbourne Chronicle and the Eastbourne Gazette.

Eastbourne Library has copies on microfilm of both newspapers and sure enough they did cover Hailsham, and they both had reports of the inquest into Jane’s death. They are both almost identical, the version below is from the Eastbourne Chronicle dated Saturday 19th September 1874.

DEATH BY DROWNING. – An inquest was held on Wednesday at the Terminus Hotel, before L. G. Fullagar, Esq., coroner, touching the death of Jane Gearing, single woman, aged about 76. – James Foster stated that he and deceased lived at Cobden-place, Hailsham. Witness last saw her alive on Monday night about half-past nine o’clock when she was going to bed. He noticed nothing particular about her. Witness did not see deceased again until he found her in the common pond dead. She was drawn to the shore by a rake being tied on the end of a pole. Deceased had got so that her landlady (Mrs. Carey) could not bear it any longer, and so asked her to look out for fresh apartments. – Mrs. Elizabeth Carey gave evidence much to the same effect. – Mr. James Pymar Billing, surgeon, stated that about half-past nine on Tuesday morning he went to the common pond and saw deceased being taken on a stretcher to a shed close by. Witness directed her to be taken to the Home, where he thoroughly examined her. She had apparently been dead about an hour. There were no external marks upon the body, but she was covered with fleas and vermin, and was in a filthy state. Witness stated that he had not the least doubt that she died from drowning. – Edwin Isaac Baker said he was a bookseller and stationer, and had known deceased all his life. Witness allowed her an annuity of £20, as her brother left him property on that condition. She was a very peculiar woman, and suffered intense pain with her head, and had very weak nerves. Witness saw her on Monday, and she seemed very comfortable. – The jury returned a verdict of “Found drowned,” but there was no evidence to show how she came into the water.

There are so many details in the report that it almost demands a sentence by sentence analysis, to provide explanation, further information and it’s importance to my research.

Sometimes everything works!

27 Mar

Today was one of my best family history days for a long time. Almost everything seemed to work as it should, buses and trains ran on time, libraries were open and it didn’t rain until I got home.

I had decided that I needed to get out and visit Hailsham, Sussex. I had looked on Google Street View, but decided it would still be a good idea to visit and see the town for myself, to get a feel for the place and see what resources were available.

Getting to Hailsham involved passing through the seaside town of Eastbourne, which meant the opportunity to stop in at Eastbourne Library and view some microfilms and other resources in their local studies room.

Then it was on to Hailsham to spend some time wandering around the town, getting a better idea of the layout and taking some photos, whilst following up a couple of leads and visiting the library

So what did I achieve that made it so worthwhile?

  1. Two slightly different newspaper reports of the Coroners inquest into the death of Jane GEERING, from Eastbourne Library.
  2. Copies of four maps of Hailsham High Street, including the all important tithe map of 1842, which confirms the location of the GEERING’s shop.
  3. Visited Hailsham church and took some photos. There are not many legible headstones still standing and the ground was very wet.
  4. Went inside the shop which now stands on the site of the GEERING’s shop. Quite how much of it is original is not clear.
  5. Found all the missing baptism entries for my GEERINGs from a set of transcriptions and indexes at Hailsham Library.
  6. Visited and photographed the row of houses (Cobden Place) where Jane GEERING was living before she died.
  7. Walked the route from Cobden Place to Common Pond, a short journey (less than two minutes walk).
  8. Got some photographs of Common Pond and of the pub where the inquest was held (The Terminus Hotel) assuming it hasn’t changed it’s name.

I didn’t get chance to visit the cemetery where I believe Jane GEERING was probably buried, but that can wait until another visit. I will need to visit later in the year anyway when the Hailsham Heritage Centre is open.

I still can’t believe how much information just keeps turning up about my GEERINGs. I still haven’t conclusively proved to my satisfaction that these are my ancestors, but all the evidence so far is pointing to that conclusion.

I couldn’t have achieved so much without the help of two particularly helpful librarians, one at Eastbourne and one at Hailsham. Who cheerfully answered my questions and dug out material for me. Thank you.

A free finding aid for West Sussex newspapers

24 Apr

A few days ago I wrote that I had to go to Chichester library to look at microfilm of a local newspaper, the West Sussex Gazette. When I first started researching (many years ago) I expected to find copies of local newspapers, whether original or on microfilm, at the county record offices, but I soon discovered this wasn’t the case.

The situation with regard to finding local newspapers in Sussex is perhaps a little confusing. Whilst the county record offices do have some holdings, the only real consolidated collection of local newspapers for Sussex is held at the British Library Newspaper Library in London.

What we find in West Sussex however are copies (usually microfilm) scattered across various public libraries in the county, usually in the library most relevant to the original coverage of the newspaper in question.

Fortunately the West Sussex County Council (WSCC) have published a finding aid to West Sussex newspapers as part of their ‘Mini-Guides’ series. It used to be available in print only, presumably it is now out of print, because it is now available for free download as a pdf from the WSCC website.

So an example, if I want to look at a particular edition of the Mid-Sussex Times I have the choice of going to the British Library Newspaper Library in London or the small (in comparison) public library in Burgess Hill, West Sussex.

Not only is it usually easier and cheaper for me to visit the small public library, but it is also a great opportunity to check out their local studies collection, which may hold material that is not to be found elsewhere.

Of course the usual caveat applies, this edition of the guide is now six years old, so check availability, opening hours and booking requirements with the library itself, contact details are on the WSCC website.

Six reasons why I love old local newspapers

23 Apr

I think old local newspapers are a much under used source, probably because they are not widely available and not indexed (for the most part). I really like looking at old local newspapers because:

1.  There are no privacy restrictions to stop you looking at them

There is no 100 year rule or similar that is going to stop you looking at local newspapers, and certainly no need for Freedom of Information requests.

2.  They often survive when official reports have long since been lost

Many times the newspaper provides the only record of an event for which the official record has long since been lost or destroyed. For example, Coroner’s inquests and court cases.

3.  They often record events where there are no official records

Many times newspapers will provide the only record of an event that was not recorded elsewhere, such as a sporting event or wedding anniversary.

4.  They contain more human interest than official records

Newspaper reports often contain the names and ages of family members and relations, where they came from and what their relationships was to the subject.

5.  They give you an idea of what was happening in your ancestor’s world

It is almost impossible to avoid reading about everything else that was going on (even if you wanted to), what the weather was like, what was happening locally etc.

6.  They usually contain more information than you would find in one official source

Think of a marriage certificate and the equivalent report of a wedding in a local newspaper, which names both parents, where the bride and groom were going to live and what colour the bride’s hat was!

All that being said, they can be hard to locate, they can take hours to search unless you have an exact date and most of all they are written in the most part by someone whose only interest in the event was probably just to make an interesting story that would sell more copies of the newspaper, so much like today, don’t believe everything (or anything) you read!

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