Tag Archives: weller

Ancestral Profile: Thomas WELLER (1796-1869)

19 Apr

Thomas WELLER was one of my 4x great-grandparents and I have precious little information on him or his family. The WELLER branch of my family tree seems rather uninteresting, but in truth it is probably more unexplored than uninteresting.

From the information provided in the 1861 census it appears that Thomas was born in North Bersted, Sussex and all evidence points to the year 1796. It is my understanding that North Bersted was originally part of the parish of South Bersted, but now the whole area seems to have been tangled up amongst the town of Bognor Regis (this will need some investigation at a later date).

It is in South Bersted, Sussex that we find a baptism for a Thomas WELLER on the 18th September 1796, the son of John and Elizabeth WELLER. So far I have found nothing else to prove the connection, but it seems quite likely.

Thomas turns up in Twineham, Sussex in 1841 (about 30 miles north-east from North Bersted) and by this time he is married and he and his wife Mary have had ten children (with another two more to follow).

I believe Thomas’ wife was Mary NEWNHAM of West Grinstead, Sussex and that the couple were married in Bolney, Sussex on the 31st December 1816. This seems the most likely marriage, because their first child was baptised in August 1817, but I still need to find further evidence.

The twelve children were all baptised in Twineham, Sussex:

  • John WELLER (baptised 31st August 1817)
  • Elizabeth WELLER (baptised 26th September 1819)
  • Harriet WELLER (baptised 13th January 1822)
  • George WELLER (baptised 16th May 1824)
  • Rebecca WELLER (baptised 3rd September 1826)
  • Thomas WELLER (baptised 9th November 1828)
  • William WELLER (baptised 27th March 1831)
  • James WELLER (baptised 2nd June 1833)
  • Peter WELLER (baptised 13th December 1835)
  • Andrew WELLER (baptised 16th September 1838)
  • Mary Ann WELLER (baptised 9th May 1841) [my 3x great-grandmother]
  • George Henry WELLER (baptised 28th January 1844)

The census and baptism register entries provide very little detail on Thomas’ occupation. In all sources he recorded as either a labourer or agricultural labourer. The families residence remains constant across the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census, they are to be found living at Riddens, which is probably Riddens Farm near the village of Ansty (although I need check that this was within the parish of Twineham at the time).

Thomas died in 1869 aged 73 years, his death was registered in Q4 1869 in the Cuckfield Registration District, and he was buried at St. Peter’s Church, Twineham on the 19th December 1869. His wife Mary died four years later in 1873.

Further Research…

There are several geographical questions to be answered, surrounding the exact location of Riddens and the details on North and South Bersted, but the main challenge is to prove the marriage of Thomas WELLER and Mary NEWNHAM. This shouldn’t prove too difficult as there are three children who were born after the start of civil registration in 1837 and their birth certificates should include their mother’s maiden name.

Ancestral Profile: Annie FAIRS (1864-1952)

1 Nov

Annie FAIRS was my 2x great-grandmother, she was born towards the end of 1864 (I don’t have the exact date) and was baptised at St. Peter’s Church, Henfield, Sussex on the 8th January 1865. She was the second of six children (all daughters) born to John FAIRS and his wife Mary Ann (née WELLER), sadly only four of the girls survived to adulthood.

It is likely that Annie was born at either Betley or Little Betley in Henfield, in the 1861 census her parents (unmarried at the time) living at Betley, by the 1871 census they are married and living at Little Betley, a couple of fields away from Betley. In 1871 Annie was six years old living with her parents and her four sisters. Both Betley and Little Betley are pretty remote locations, about midway between the villages Henfield and Partridge Green but about a mile and a half from either of them, and prone to flooding from the nearby River Adur.

In the 1881 census Annie is to be found in Chichester, Sussex living in North Pallant in the centre of the city. She was employed as a housemaid in the household of the Rev. Josiah Sanders TEULON and his wife Fanny Elizabeth. At first glance this seems an odd place to find the sixteen year old girl, but once you realise that Fanny was also from Henfield and was the daughter of Charles DUNLOP the Vicar of Henfield it doesn’t seem quite so unusual.

Annie returned to Henfield sometime before September 1889, because she was married to Ebenezer TROWER on the 30th September 1889 at St. Peter’s Church, Henfield. Annie was 24 years old and her husband was 23, the two witnesses at the marriage were her father John and her older sister Fanny.

Together Ebenezer and Annie had six children, the first two were born (and baptised) in Henfield and the remaining four were born (and baptised) in Sayers Common, Sussex. The first two were also probably born at Little Betley, because in 1891 the couple and their two children are still living at Little Betley, along with her widowed father.

The move to Sayers Common took place sometime around 1892 and once again there seems to have been a connection with the DUNLOP family. Another member of the DUNLOP family from Henfield was vicar at Sayers Common and Ebenezer bought their home (Vicarage Cottage) from Mrs. DUNLOP for the sum of £350 in May 1927.

Annie and Ebenezer’s six children were as follows:

  1. Ethel Mary TROWER (1889-1962)
  2. Henry John TROWER (1891-1963) [my great-grandfather]
  3. Mabel Annie TROWER (1893-1928)
  4. Ernest Arthur TROWER (1895-1917)
  5. Percy Ebenezer TROWER (1898-1968)
  6. Edith Ellen TROWER (1903-1965)

In the 1901 census the family (with the exception of Ethel Mary) are living at Cobbs Mill Cottage. By 1911 they are living at Vicarage Cottage and Mabel Annie has also left home. It is not clear whether Cobbs Mill Cottage was an earlier name for Vicarage Cottage or a different building altogether. Either way the proximity to Cobbs Mill lead to at least two of the sons finding work at the mill (Henry John and Percy Ebenezer).

The two youngest sons served during the First World War. Ernest Arthur was killed in action in 1917 and Percy Ebenezer received gun-shot wounds, but survived. Their eldest son Henry John seemingly escaped military service due to the death of his wife in 1916.

As is quite typical with much of my research there now exists a large gap where very little is known about the life of Annie. I have already mentioned that her husband bought their house in 1927 and in April 1928 their daughter Mabel Annie died. Apart from that very little is known about the last three decades or so of Annie’s life. I don’t know whether she was involved in any of the village’s social activities or whether she worked after her children had grown up.

Annie died four years before her husband on the 20th February 1952, aged 87, of cardiac failure and was buried in the churchyard at Christ Church, Sayers Common on the 23rd February. The grave is located in the north-western corner of the churchyard and is next to the grave of her daughter Mabel Annie TROWER. Nearby is the grave of Ruth TROWER (her sister-in-law) and that of Dorothy May TROWER (her daughter-in-law). Her husband Ebenezer died on the 6th June 1956 and was buried in the same grave.

Clueless in Chichester, no just disorganised!

19 Sep

I was in two minds about going, I hadn’t done any preparation for a trip to the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO) and really wanted to stay in bed this morning. It wouldn’t have seemed so bad if it was a little bit later, but I was leaving the house at the same time as I would if I went to work.

Things started going wrong when the guy in the ticket office sold me the wrong ticket and I had to go back and get them changed. When my normally quiet and peaceful train pulled up it was all most completely full. This is unheard of at this time on a Saturday morning, I am almost guaranteed a carriage to myself as we speed through the sleeping Sussex countryside. Today I was sharing my carriage with people on the way to Goodwood Revival.

I knew there was plenty I could do when I got to the record office, but I had no plan. It started very hit and miss, with me wondering what to look at next, but then I remembered one of the thing I had wanted to do, find out some more about Thomas and Mary WELLER my 4x great grandparents from Twineham, Sussex. I think I have discovered who they are and where they came from and have the baptisms for all their children including Mary Ann my 3x great grandmother.

The WSRO closes at lunchtime on a Saturday and I got kicked out along with all the other researchers, but my research doesn’t stop just because the record office closes. First stop was Chichester Cathedral and memorial chapel of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Here I found the name of my 2x great uncle Ambrose DRIVER on the Roll of Honour for those killed from the First World War. The chapel is just off to the right of the entrance and the sun was shining through the stained glass window above and creating such a lovely pattern across the chapel. I really must spend some more time there and have a good look around the cathedral.

Royal Sussex Regiment memorial chapel, Chichester Cathedral

Royal Sussex Regiment memorial chapel, Chichester Cathedral

Next stop was Chichester library, for a quick look at some local papers on microfilm. Sadly I could find no mention of the death or funeral of my great grandmother Lilian Mary MITCHELL in the pages of the West Sussex Gazette for December 1939. Still it was worth having a look.

Then I just had time to grab a bite to eat, sitting in the sunshine in front of the Cathedral, before heading back into the record office for a couple more hours research. The afternoon was a bit more organised, some original documents and more microfilm, covering a wide range of people and places.

In the end it was quite a productive day, many of my searches were negative, but even those are helpfully in a way. I know I should have had a plan when I set out and it would probably have been even productive. It was the first time I used my netbook in the record office, and I was glad I had it with me, but I am wondering know what is the best way to create a research plan on it. My next record office trip will probably be to the East Sussex Record Office and I promise to be better prepared for that!

I may not have had a plan, but I did come away from Chichester with a map. I stopped at the second-hand bookshop on my way back to the railway station and picked up a 1953 one-inch map of the Cheltenham and Evesham area, this is where my BATEMAN ancestors originated from. I would have preferred something a bit older, but it was cheap and will be useful in getting used to the area I am researching.

A Bank Holiday walk to Bolney

31 Aug

What a way to spend Bank Holiday Monday, contrary to expectations the sun was out (in fact it was a lovely afternoon) and I was out walking making the most of it.

The destination for today’s walk was Bolney, Sussex, home to many GASSON and WALDER ancestors and relations. In particular I wanted to visit the church at Bolney and try and find some gravestones.

The South Downs, from near Twineham

The South Downs, from near Twineham

The walk started in a small place called Wineham (thanks to my wife for dropping me off). From here I followed the wonderfully named Bob Lane to Twineham, which is slightly bigger than Wineham and has it’s own delightful little church.

St Peters Church Twineham, Sussex

St Peters Church Twineham, Sussex

There should be a couple of my WELLER ancestors buried here, although I haven’t confirmed that in the burial register. If they are they either never had a headstone or it has long since vanished, because I couldn’t find one.

From Twineham I followed Bolney Chapel Road up to the main A272 and then a short way along the A272 into Bolney itself. I like following these small country roads because I don’t have to worry too much with a map, I can just get on with enjoying the scenery and not have to worry about which footpath I have to take.

St Mary Magdalene is a beautiful church, set on the top of a small hill. About a dozen stone steps lead up to a fabulous lych gate, quite possibly the largest I have ever seen. From the lych gate a path leads up the hill to the church.

Bolney Church from the lych gate

Bolney Church from the lych gate

The church itself was closed, but there was plenty to see outside, but one day I ought to actually try and get inside. There is a huge variety of gravestones in the churchyard, so many different ages and types. Of course the older ones are not so easy to read, in fact many are now just slabs of stone with no sign of an inscription.

A pair of gravestones in Bolney Churchyard

A pair of gravestones in Bolney Churchyard

Unfortunately I didn’t have the churchyard to myself, there appeared to be some sort of treasure hunt going on as small groups of people with clipboards made their way through the churchyard searching for a particular gravestone before moving on.

My own hunt was quite successful, several modern GASSON gravestones and some older WALDER and LEWRY ones, although how much of the older ones I am going to be able to make out is another question. I need to have a look and see if there are any monumental inscriptions available that I can use to fill in some gaps. Hopefully someone went around a hundred years ago and recorded all the older ones for me before the inscriptions disappeared.

From the church I head further into the village, past the war memorial and then headed west. This long and winding road (and quite hilly) took me through some nice woodland, with a beautiful scent of pine in the air and past an ancestral home Chatesgrove. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the present owners of Chatesgrove are that keen on letting anyone see their house. Lots of thick hedges and tall fences, meant all I could see were a few glimpses of a timber framed building.

The road eventually took me back to Wineham, where I was due to get picked up again. All in all a nice afternoon spent walking (about 11 miles), lots of photos on my camera, although I don’t think any of the gravestones are direct ancestors. It is surprising how quick the temperature dropped and the light began to disappear, there is no escaping it, autumn is on the way.

Tidying up some loose ends and giving myself permission to move on

1 Jul

Things have got a bit untidy on my desktop recently. I seem to have acquired several text files of extracted records in my various explorations of my family tree, as well as during some of my database cleansing.

So before things get too far out of hand I am going to have a purge before the weekend, so I will be able to concentrate on FAIRS research and other projects, rather than all these other distractions.

For instance take Mary Ann WELLER, I have several census entries and baptism records for the rest of her siblings and parents which I need to enter into Family Historian. Then I can order her birth certificate and know that when it arrives I can pick up where I left off.

As well as not being able to make decisions, I am also not very good at finishing things off. I have too many unfinished projects sitting on my desk (and on my mind) which is why the mothballing process I described a while back is so helpful to me.

It draws a line under a project (albeit one that can be erased at a later date) and gives me permission to move on. By doing so I am admitting that it is not finished and furthermore I am not going to do any more work on it now, but I don’t need to worry about it, because it will all still be there when I am ready to come back to it.

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