Tag Archives: thomas geering

GEERING research update

16 Mar

My research into the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex is proving to be both rewarding and challenging, and I might even go as far as to say exciting.

I am exploring new areas, both in geographical terms and in terms of sources I can use. I am fortunate of course that Hailsham is not too far away (less than two hours by bus and train) and the records even closer (mostly at the East Sussex Record Office in Lewes).

I am also fortunate that there seems to be plenty of records for Hailsham that have survived. For example this is the first time I have been researching in a parish where there is a pre-1841 census still in existence.

Hailsham actually has two, the 1821 and 1831. Of course the details will be very limited (just the head of household) but the very fact that an ancestor should be listed in a pre-1841 census that has survived got me quite excited!

The weak link in my research is proving that James GEERING (the father of my 4x great-grandfather) is the same James GEERING who was the son of Richard and Mary “the old druggist” GEERING. I am hoping that the comment by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish that James was a barrack-sergeant might lead to more information (time for a visit to The National Archives).

It seems a long time since I got so deeply wrapped up in a piece of research, and it feels so good! The only problem is that there seems so much to do, but oddly enough this seems to be working in my favour as well, because it is forcing me to be more methodical and better prepared for when I do get to visit an archive.

My genealogy to-do list for the week ahead (week 9)

28 Feb

I think I am going to rename this weekly post, to reflect the fact that it is becoming more about what I have done, rather than what I want to do.

Last week was very busy with emails from people who have been reading my blog, it took the focus off of my own research, which wasn’t really a bad thing. There have been some very interesting and challenging queries raised by my readers, and it has really been very stimulating, so thank you to all of you who got in touch.

So, I didn’t get much of my own work done last week, or that is how it appeared. I did however go through some ideas about so future projects, including more pub history research. I also tried to get my head around my mental block over the BATEMAN family, and think I have an idea how I am going to get myself interested on working on the family.

  • Continue working through my digital files updating Family Historian and sorting out folders and standardising my filenames.
  • Create a research plan for the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex. I really want to find a connection with Thomas Geering and prove the connection with “the old druggist”
  • Conduct a review of Gloucestershire sources available online and at the Society of Genealogist’s library and the London Family History Centre (to help with my BATEMAN research).
  • Create a trial “Sussex pub history profile” to see how much work is involved and how much information I can find online, the intention being to make it a weekly feature of a (new?) blog.

Inside the old druggist’s shop

27 Feb

Thomas Geering provides us with a glimpse inside the shop where Mrs Gearing worked. It really makes me hope that I can prove that she is 6x great-grandfather, because it provides a glimpse into the life and workplace of an ancestor, that is rarely seen.

From the street outside, the High Street in Hailsham, Sussex we find that

The front of the house was shut off from the public road by a brick wall, and a gate had to be opened to gain admittance to the shop door.

The shop front featured a window

One small bottle of blue liquid was the only show in the window, across which, reaching about half-way up, stretched a faded green blind, which also added to the melancholy of the interior.

Entering the shop

The door creaked on its hinges, and the floor beneath the feet yielded to the weight as one entered, showing cracks and holes which led one’s thoughts to the cellar; but our dear old lady regarded none of these as blotches. She, her shop and the contents had all grown old together.

The shop had a counter

At the window end of the counter were three slots, or slits, into which dipped the three ointment and plaster knives, which knives were of varying sizes and lengths, to suit the work to be done.

It was apparently plainly decorated

If not poor, it was meagre to a degree, pots, jars, and bottles all being of the plainest pattern. There was a good array for number, but I have always supposed many to have been dummies.

Some of the bottles were labelled

POISON might be read in plain English on a few bottles and jars, to impress her visitors, we will suppose, with a dread of her power; while “Paregoric” and “Soothing Syrup” show in faded gold, to give confidence and to show all was not lost, nor hope entirely fled. The majority of the labels were covered with a mysterious combination of letters, too learned for the general public, but which served to strengthen our faith and to give reverence and confidence to the one, and the only one, person who could unravel their meaning.

But it wasn’t just bottles and jars

There was also a department for dolls and wooden horses, and the house of the cruel, weather-wise old man who would turn his wife out of her door when it rained and keep in himself, had a place on her shelves.

Now sadly the druggist’s shop has gone

Our old druggist’s shop, with the small front sitting-room which the Captain occupied, has now for the last fifteen years been turned into a bookseller’s shop, and the place altogether has undergone a complete transformation. New windows, fittings, counters, etc., have replaced the very old ones.

Is “The Old Druggist” my 6x great-grandmother (Part 2: What Thomas Geering wrote about the druggist)

26 Feb

Having previously described my knowledge of Mary GEERING the druggist of Hailsham, Sussex, who I believe to be my 6x great-grandmother, I now turn my attention to what Thomas Geering wrote about “the old druggist” in his book Our Sussex Parish.

The story mainly focuses on the famous Captain Barclay, but does include a few snippets of information about the druggist and her family, none of which conclusive, it is sadly very short on hard facts, but makes up for it with some wonderful descriptions of the people and the shop (more about that in another post).

Firstly we begin with the lodger:

CAPTAIN BARCLAY, the celebrated pedestrian, with the 23rd Foot, in which regiment he held his commission, was, about the year 1804-5, stationed, if not in our barracks, in the neighbourhood, he having apartments in the house of Mrs. Gearing, druggist.

Then we have mention of the druggist’s son:

The druggist’s son, James, who had been barrack-sergeant, in after-life delighted to gossip away an hour detailing many of the doughty Captain’s habits while in quarters here…

We then return to the druggist again and her daughter:

Let me give a parting word or two to our old-fashioned maiden druggist, Miss Nancy Gearing. I remember her mother, a little dark-eyed, precise, shrivelled-up old dame. Her fame rested chiefly upon salves and ointments, and to the daughter, Nancy, devolved the honour of continuing to our town and neighbourhood these two blessings.

Then we hear more about the druggist who like her son enjoyed gossiping about their famous lodger:

She, her shop and the contents had all grown old together. Where she drew her first breath, there in the same chamber she breathed her last, and like her creaking old door, she hung on for many a year, always attending to her business duties, and glad to the last to take a shilling over the counter. This was her great delight, and if ever gratification and satisfaction could be seen dominant in one’s features, then these were in hers when a customer had entered the shop and she had fingered the money. But the joy could be intensified by a gossip about her celebrated lodger; it was then her dark eyes sparkled as she recounted her recollections of his manly presence, and his kind, gentlemanly demeanour.

Finally Thomas Geering leaves us with a clue, the age of death of the old druggist:

Our old druggist lived on to be eighty-one, and a very short period of her long life became subject to decrepitude and mortal decay.

So pulling out the hard facts from this selection of quotes we have:

  • Mrs Gearing was a druggist, but as well as running a shop, also let  out an apartment or room, but we don’t know whether this was just a one off for the celebrated pedestrian or whether she had other paying guests.
  • Mrs Gearing had a son, James, who had been a barrack sergeant.
  • Mrs Gearing had a daughter, Nancy, who took over the shop.
  • Mrs Gearing lived to be eighty one years old.

There are some similarities between these ‘facts’ and the GEERING family I have previously described.

  • Mary GEERING was listed as a chymist and druggist in 1832-4 and 1839 in Hailsham.
  • Richard and Mary GEERING had a son named James (my 5x great-grandfather).
  • Richard and Mary GEERING probably had a daughter called Ann, who may have been Nancy in Thomas Gearing’s story.
  • According to the census Ann/Nancy appears to have run the shop after Mary’s death.

There is a discrepancy in the age of Mrs Gearing when she died, or maybe my confusion in the interpretation of the story. I think Mary GEERING was 78 when she died, and it was Ann who died aged 81 years.

Allowing for some artistic licence or failing memory on the part of Thomas Geering, these two families (the one in the book and the other revealed by census returns and parish registers) are a pretty good match. I have no doubt they are one and the same.

My challenge is to prove that this family is my family, that Mary GEERING/Mrs Gearing was my 6x great-grandmother.

Is “The Old Druggist” my 6x great-grandmother (Part 1: What I know about the old druggist)

25 Feb

In his book Our Sussex Parish, Thomas Geering has a story entitled “The Old Druggist: Her Shop And Her Lodger”. In the story he describes Mrs Gearing (who was the druggist) and Captain Barclay (who was the lodger).

I had never heard of Captain Barclay before, but I have since discovered (through the story and online research) that he was a celebrated pedestrian, who carried out various walking feats, mostly it seems for money, such as walking a 1000 miles in a 1000 hours for a wager of 1000 guineas.

Of course the real interest for me is whether Mrs Gearing the druggist, is my 6x great-grandmother. My gut instinct is that she is, but there is just not enough evidence yet for me to be 100% certain.

My own research has taken my GEERING ancestors back to Hailsham, Sussex. My 4x great-grandfather Richard GEERING was born in Hailsham in 1805 and appears to be the son of James and Ann GEERING. This is really as far back as I can confidently go so far.

I haven’t found a marriage for James and Ann, but it looks like James was the son of Richard and Mary GEERING, baptised in Hailsham on the 26th December 1776. Richard GEERING and Mary JARVIS were married in Hailsham on the 29th August 1776.

The 1841 census shows a household in Hailsham, which appears to relate to my ancestors, but the relationship is a bit confusing, because they are not included in the 1841 census. The first person in the household is Ann GEERING (aged 55), then we have John GEERING (aged 60) and Jane GEERING (aged 35).

Normally if John and Ann were married I would expect John to be listed first, so these are probably not husband and wife (maybe brother and sister). Both Ann and John GEERING have given their occupation as druggist.

John died before the 1851 census, but Ann and Jane are still living together in Hailsham. Ann (aged 67) is shown as unmarried, with the occupation of chemist and druggist. Jane (aged 53) has no occupation and her relationship to Ann is given as niece. My guess is that Jane was the daughter of James, and James was the brother of Ann.

Pigot’s Directory of Sussex for both 1832-4 and 1839 list a Mary GEERING as a “chymist and druggist” in Hailsham. This information may be out of date because I suspect that Mary actually died in 1825.

My hypothesis is that both Ann and James were the children of Richard and Mary GEERING, my 6x great-grandparents, and that the druggist business passed down from Richard and Mary, to just Mary, then to Ann and James, and then just Ann (probably assisted by Jane).

My problem is going to be finding the evidence to support this. The only child that I can find for Richard and Mary GEERING is James, no sign of Ann. I have found three children for James and Ann GEERING, but no sign of Jane.

As you will see in my next post, Thomas Geering’s story about the old druggist does provide a few clues which may fill in some details on the family.

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