Getting my family history research “on track”

21 Jul

My recent holiday re-awakened my love of steam trains and heritage railways. Down in Devon we travelled on two steam railways, the South Devon Railway and the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway. We also got to see Tornado, the first mainline steam locomotive built in Britain for almost 50 years.

Peppercorn "A1" Pacific 60163 Tornado at Paignton, Devon

Peppercorn "A1" Pacific 60163 Tornado at Paignton, Devon

Naturally (for me anyway) I now want to find some way of linking this love of trains into my family history research. Three possible options came to mind:

  1. “Cousin” George throwing coal from the train – my father tells a story about “cousin” George, who was an engine driver and during the Second World War he would throw lumps of coal from the footplate when he was nearing the family home, for them to scavenge for their fire.
  2. Am I related to Harold GASSON the railwayman and author – Harold GASSON wrote four (I think) books about his experiences on the Great Western Railway. There is no obvious family connection, but it would be nice to prove even a remote connection.
  3. Grandfather and the gate key – My grandfather paid the railway company for a key to open the railway crossing gate near the family home, but once the railway was closed, the tracks ripped up and the land sold to the local county council, the council still expected him to pay for the key, even though there was no need for a gate any more.

The first one should be quite easy to investigate, it is believed that “cousin” George was actually George Richardson (my grandfathers cousin), so I need to see if I can find any staff records and prove whether he did work on the railways and whether he came near the family home.

The second one is not so easy, there are some biographical details in Harold GASSON’s first book, which should allow me to start building his family tree, but I think I will have to go too far back to find a connection with my tree to make it a viable exercise.

The third one is most interesting to me. I know my grandfather corresponded with the county council, but I don’t know how the issue was resolved. I have a couple of letters and a copy of the original agreement with the railway company but I would really like to find out how the story ended, but I don’t know if the county council will have the documents that showed their side of the story.

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