It’s that time of year again. My holiday year runs out at the end of the month and if I don’t I use my last couple of days holiday then I will lose them. What better excuse than that to indulge in some family history research.
It was a beautiful day today, if a little chilly to start with, and I wondered whether I should have been walking rather than shutting myself away in East Sussex Record Office. The journey down to Lewes, East Sussex gave some splendid views of the South Downs. The short grass and low sun highlighting the curves and texture of hill-side, if I had been wearing my walking boots instead of my shoes then the day would have been completely different.
I can’t remember the last time I visited the East Sussex Record Office or any other archive for that matter, although I am sure looking back through my blog posts would tell me. Looking at my to-do list it was obvious that I hadn’t been to an archive for a long time.
There were a couple of high priority items for this visit concerning Finding Minnie, checking the marriage entry for Kate Allison and Patrick Vaughan and checking the baptism register for High Hurstwood.
After that the plan was to collect as much other data as possible and clearing as many items from my to-do list along the way.
One thing that became obvious whilst I was preparing for this visit was that my to-do list is not really up to the job, something that I am going to have to take another look at in the near future. At least I have a better idea of what is needed now.
I was quite pleased with myself when I used my Family Historian software on my netbook to quickly create an ad hoc to-do list for Brighton marriages to check. It would be very easy to do this with many other facts, but things could easily get out of hand. The question is not so much what don’t I know, but what do I want to find out.
All in all it was a good day, the record office was quiet (a shortage of staff and users) and I have come away with several pages of baptisms, marriages and burials for High Hurstwood, Framfield and Brighton that need processing and one important piece of evidence about Patrick Vaughan that will enable me to move my research forward.
The postcard below shows what is probably the oldest building in High Hurstwood, East Sussex.
Even when this card was published (probably 1910-20) it had already acquired the prefix “ye olde”, although this might just be the publisher of the card trying to make it seem older than it was.
According to English Heritage it dates from the Fifteenth Century and it is a Grade II* listed building, in their records as Old Maypole Farmhouse. Surprisingly this is one of ten listed buildings (including the church) in High Hurstwood.
On a couple of occasions I mentioned that my 2x great-aunt Kate Allison had a sixth child whose life was tragically short.
At the time Georgina Allison was born her mother Kate was a widow, her first husband Robert Cecil Allison had died about sixteen months earlier in October 1914, and she didn’t marry her second husband Patrick Vaughan until December 1917.
I knew from the GRO indexes that Georgina had a short life, her birth and death being registered in the same quarter in 1916, but I felt I should get copies of the two certificates to fill in some details.
It was odd, but I felt the need to learn what happened to Georgina. There was the feeling that she needed to be remembered and that I was probably the only living person who knew of her brief existence.
At first glance she seems an insignificant part of my family tree, but I felt I had got to know this family so well over the weeks that I had been “Finding Minnie” that I felt I owed it to them not to just skip over her.
Georgina Allison was born on the 10th February 1916 at Quarry Cottages, Land End, High Hurstwood, Sussex. Her birth was registered by her mother Kate Allison (formerly Driver) on the 13th March 1916. The certificate makes no mention of her father or his occupation.
Sadly Georgina died on the 30th March 1916, at Lane End Cottage, High Hurstwood. The death was registered by her mother on the following day, again no mention was made of her father. The cause of death was recorded as premature birth and this was certified by George Lucas M.R.C.S. of Uckfield, Sussex.
Thus ended poor little Georgina’s short life. Aside from a burial record and a possible baptism record this is probably all I am ever likely to find out (it seems unlikely that there would have been a gravestone, but I will check when I next visit High Hurstwood).
I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but occasionally a programme comes along that justifies taking time out to watch on BBC iPlayer. Such was the case with The Great British Countryside which saw Julia Bradbury and Hugh Dennis exploring the South Downs.
The hour long programme gives a wonderful taste of the South Downs, never lingering long in one place and covering the length of hills from the Seven Sisters on the East Sussex coast, through to the watercress beds of Hampshire.
There is some wonderful scenery, as one would expect, but also some explanation of how the Downs were formed and some of the properties of chalk and flint. Hugh Dennis climbs the chalk cliffs (presumably one of the Seven Sisters) and sees just how soft and crumbly the chalk is. We also learn how the chalk impacts on things like horse racing and growing grapes.
Subjects are varied, taking in the history, agriculture, industry and leisure aspects of the South Downs, in short a real cross-section of how man has interacted with the Downs over the centuries.
This programme is a great introduction to the South Downs and even those like me who have grown up in it’s shadow may learn a thing or two about this wonderful landscape.
This episode of The Great British Countryside is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until Thursday 15th March 2012.
I have been looking forward to this walk for a couple of weeks, no I tell a lie, I have been looked forward to repeating this walk since June 2010 when I last did it (although it was the other way round last time).
The weather conditions were much better back then, a little under two years ago it was a little hazy to start, but soon the sun came out and the conditions were glorious. Today we began with fog and rain and only much later did the weather begin to improve, but by then it was too late and we were on our way home.
Today’s walk was quite a short walk really, less than five miles, but conditions underfoot were less than ideal (yes, I did end up sitting in the mud on more than one occasion) which surprised me because we have been short of rain recently.
The walk started at Exceat Bridge in East Sussex (between Seaford and Eastbourne) and my wife and I followed the course of the Cuckmere River to the sea (this was the muddiest part of the walk) and we then headed west towards the town of Seaford. Because the tide was out the first part of this was along the foot of the cliffs, before ascending the steps at Hope Gap and continuing across the top of the cliffs and over Seaford Head, before descending into the town of Seaford.
The coastline in this part of the world is a truly incredible place to explore, even in the less than perfect conditions like today. We slowly picked our way along the foot of the cliffs (although not too close) and marvelled not just at the immense chalk cliffs, but also the variety of shells and stone scattered across the shore. From huge boulders of chalk with layers of flint running through them to the tiny little shells that litter the shore, it is a scene that must change every day as the tides work their magic.
The cliffs are impressive in their scale, but once the sun comes out they take on an extra magic when their greyness is replaced by a dazzling whiteness, as seen below when we were descending into Seaford.
We spent a while in Seaford, perhaps an hour or so, certainly longer than I have spent before. I have ancestors from Seaford and of course Patrick Vaughan and his Canadian comrades were at Seaford during the First World War, so it is a place that I ought to explore further. However that wasn’t to be today, as the museum (in the wonderful Martello Tower) wasn’t open and the library is currently in temporary accommodation whilst a new one is being built.