Tag Archives: thomas geering

My 6x great-grandmother was “the old druggist”

17 Apr

I am finally in a position to be able to say with confidence that my 6x great-grandmother Mary GEERING was the woman that was described by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish as “the old druggist”.

It was about eight weeks ago that I first wrote about the discovery of Thomas Geering’s book and set about proving to my own satisfaction that my ancestor was described in the book (so far I have not been able to find a family connection with Thomas Geering himself).

It always seemed quite likely to me that I was related to “the old druggist” and quite often over the past couple of months I have referred to the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex as my ancestors even when I haven’t been 100% certain until now.

The final piece of evidence was the death certificate of Ann GEERING (my 5x great-grandmother), but really it is not just that one piece of evidence but all the other bits of evidence I accumulated over the weeks, and the complete absence of any trace of contradictory evidence.

Although I have achieved my major goal, I still feel that I have a lot more work to do on the GEERINGs before I move on, not least of all to write up their story. I still have a long list of things to-do at the East Sussex Record Office, and a few other records dotted around other archives to check.

I am also aware that I have very nearly missed out a whole generation, jumping from one Richard GEERING (my 4x great-grandfather) to another Richard (my 6x great-grandfather) almost bypassing James GEERING in between. I still need to find out if his wife Ann was in fact a HOWLETT and find out if James did serve with the army and in what capacity.

Another HOWLETT/GEERING connection emerges

3 Apr

I have previously written about the possible connection between the HOWLETT and GEERING families. My suspicion is that James GEERING married Ann HOWLETT.

I have also noted that there is the possibility that James’ grandson was named after Francis HOWLETT, who was seemingly a well-loved member of the Hailsham community.

Whilst checking another set of parish register transcriptions at Hailsham Library I came across another piece of evidence which links the names HOWLETT and GEERING.

It appears that the first child of James and Ann GEERING (my 5x great-grandparents) was Jane Howlett GEERING (this is the same Jane GEERING who drowned in the common pond, Hailsham in 1874) and she was baptised at Hailsham Church on the 24th April 1798.

So I have another piece of evidence linking the GEERINGs to the HOWLETTs, and this connection is much earlier than the previous one (Francis Howlett GEERING was baptised on the 14th October 1822 in Lewes, Sussex).

I clearly need to look in more detail at Francis HOWLETT, unfortunately there is one factor that might make it tricky. According to Thomas Geering he was

one of a party of strolling players who arrived in the place on a professional tour, he gave up the buskin and settled down to quiet domestic life, married a wife from the neighbourhood and became factotum of the parish.

The fact that Francis HOWLETT wandered into Hailsham from somewhere else (and it could be almost anywhere) could make things rather tricky for tracing his life. The good news is that his wife was a local woman, which might make things slightly easier.

Francis HOWLETT and Francis Howlett GEERING, were they related?

22 Mar

Last week I wrote a post about another piece of the GEERING jigsaw slotting into place. This concerned Francis Howlett GEERING, a grandson of my 5x great-grandfather James GEERING of Hailsham, Sussex.

This evidence seemed to suggest that James’ wife was Ann HOWLETT, although I did suggest that this might just be a coincidence, but worth looking into further.

Last night I discovered another piece of evidence which caused me to question the link. Looking at Our Sussex Parish by Thomas Geering I discovered that there was a Francis HOWLETT living in Hailsham.

Francis Howlett, comedian, schoolmaster, postmaster, tax-collector, vestry clerk, printer, travelling librarian, musician, and general referee, became a trusted and honoured man in our parish, and living to be over eighty, departed leaving no enemy behind him.

This of course raises concerns about whether Ann’s maiden name was HOWLETT. It seems almost inconceivable that Francis Howlett GEERING wasn’t named after this well-known and respected local figure.

The obvious question is why?

I am hoping it is because there is a family connection (through James’ wife Ann) but that might not be the case. Ann and Francis HOWLETT are probably from the same generation, so if they are related they may be siblings.

Now I am not sure if I need to take that piece of the jigsaw out, or whether I can actually fit in another piece. One thing is certain, this research project is certainly expanding way beyond my direct ancestors and is starting to gather connections across a wider range of individuals. It is transitioning from family history to community history.

Another mention of “the old druggist”

19 Mar

I have come across another mention of the GEERING family of Hailsham, Sussex in a book about Captain Barclay, entitled The Celebrated Captain Barclay – Sport, Money and Fame in Regency Britain by Peter Radford (Headline Book Publishing, 2001).

This biography of the ‘celebrated pedestrian’ contains one paragraph about “Mrs Gearing’s Drug Shop”. Unfortunately it is mainly based on the work of Thomas Geering, which I am of course already aware of. There are however a couple of fresh clues in that one paragraph, which add to the GEERING story.

The paragraph begins, “Robert was always fussy about his accommodation. On Monday 1 October [1804] he packed his deal trunk and moved into new lodgings suggested to him by his barrack-sergeant, James Gearing – the small front room of his mother’s drug shop at Hailsham.”

So it appears that Captain Barclay moved to Hailsham on the 1st October 1804. I can’t see where this date comes from, but perhaps I can work it out (or ask the author).

Furthermore it appears that Captain Barclay had previously been barracked in Eastbourne, Sussex, so presumably this is where James Gearing (or James GEERING my 5x great-grandfather) had been barrack-sergeant and not at Hailsham barracks.

Useful clues, and hopefully I can use this date (1st October 1804) and location (Eastbourne barracks) to pin down some details for James GEERING in the form of a service record.

The chemist shop at Horsham Museum

18 Mar

My current obsession with chemists and druggists reminded me of a display in Horsham Museum. Amongst their many wonderful exhibits and displays they have a recreation of a local chemist’s shop.

The chemist shop in Horsham Museum

I took the opportunity this week to pop into the museum and have a quick look at the ‘shop’ and try and imagine my 6x great-grandmother standing behind a similar counter in Hailsham, Sussex.

In my imagination the GEERING’s shop in Hailsham had once looked like this, neat and tidy, clean and with a highly polished counter, but I imagine it didn’t last long and over the years it became more and more neglected. I might be doing my ancestors an injustice but the situation described by Thomas Geering in his book was not one of a pristine, well maintained shop.

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