Tag Archives: newspaper

Coincidence and confusion in the pages of a newspaper

13 Oct

I was online last night looking for some information (for a future blog post) on West Dean church in the archives of The Times newspaper, when I stumbled across the following news item on page seven of the newspaper for Wednesday the 15th April 1936:

Mr. and Mrs. J. Boxall, of Scout Cottage, West Dean, near Chichester, who celebrate their golden wedding to-day, are 83 and 79, and have had 27 children, and have 42 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren. Mrs. Boxall had triplets once and twins thrice.

Without doubt "Mr. and Mrs. J. Boxall" are my 2x great-grandparents, James and Caroline BOXALL, but not everything in the story is true. Their ages are correct and the 15th April was the date of their wedding anniversary, but they were married in 1876, so it would have been their 60th wedding anniversary, not their 50th.

I believe the number of children is also wrong. I have only confirmed twelve so far, although the 1911 census says they had thirteen, and I don’t believe there were any more after 1911. It is possible that some were stillborn because the census does specify "Total Children Born Alive", and they were probably not registered or baptised. It is not the first time that I have heard this story, although I think the highest I had previously heard was 23 children, but even that seemed unlikely at the time.

I am not sure where this story originates, I can’t imagine that The Times had a correspondent in West Dean, so presumably this came from a local newspaper. I obviously need to check the local newspapers to see what they reported and if the wires have become crossed at some stage. I would really like to find out the truth behind this story.

As I scrolled up the page there was another story that caught my eye:

James Horace Dunford, 28, Malling Street, Lewes, a permanent way employee attached to Lewes Station, was killed when crossing the railway line yesterday by a train from Eastbourne, which he apparently failed to notice.

Could this be one of my relations as well? I have a Horace James DUNFORD, from Lewes, Sussex who would have been 28 years old in 1936. I don’t know much about the DUNFORDs, Horace James was the son of Horace DUNFORD and his wife Margaret GASSON (my 2x great-aunt).

The coincidence seems too great, the death is registered under the name James Horace DUNFORD, and I can’t find a death record for a Horace James DUNFORD. Of course there are lots of other scenarios that could lead to Horace James not being in the GRO Death Indexes, such as immigration or death whilst on military service. Again I probably need to look at some local newspapers, perhaps a coroners report and maybe employment records from the railway. I really need to find some mention of his parent’s names or those of his siblings.

Finding one of these stories was quite a surprise, but to find two in the same newspaper (and so close to each other on the same) was really unexpected, especially as neither story is really of national interest. I would never have dreamt of searching in The Times for either of these events, but I certainly will be in the future.

Which of my ancestors did I get my cynicism from?

20 May

You will no doubt already read about the partnership between the British Library and brightsolid to digitise their newspaper collection, so I am not going to bore you with the details again.

Obviously this is good news and a step in the right direction especially as the British Library seem to have had an aversion to sharing digital images with anyone other than academic libraries. However my cynical side needs to see some more details before I can get excited about it.

Are they going to digitise the newspapers I want? The mention that they “will focus on specific geographic areas, along with periods such as the census years between 1841 and 1911” worries me. Perhaps it is very selfish of me but what if my ancestors didn’t come from those specific geographic areas.

What is it going to cost me to view these images? Will I be able to afford to browse a whole newspaper? Am I only going to be able to view a specific page brought up as search result?

Also consider the timescale. The headline figure of 40 million pages is due to be delivered over ten years, with a minimum of 4 million pages in the first two years. So please don’t hold your breath, it could be a long wait.

Please don’t get me wrong, it is good news, but I won’t be getting excited about it until I see what the results are like, how good the index is, how they are delivered and how much it costs. That’s enough for now, my glass is half empty,  I must go and fill it up!

The Funeral of Henry HEMSLEY: The Floral Tributes

29 Apr

As well as detailing the chief mourners at the funeral of Henry HEMSLEY, my 3x great-grandfather, the newspaper report also provided a list of some of the floral tributes at the funeral.

I can only imagine the newspaper reporter standing over the grave with his notebook scribbling down the names and messages on the bouquets and floral displays. I wish I knew who it was I had to thank for capturing all of this information, if only he had owned a camera as well.

To dear father, from Joy and Ada

In loving memory of dear father, Nellie and Ernest

Mr. and Mrs. G. Hemsley, in affectionate remembrance of our dear father

From Mr. and Mrs. Jeffery and son, in affectionate memory of our dear father

In affectionate memory to our dear father, from Emily and Will

In loving remembrance, from Ben and Esther

In affectionate remembrance of dear grandfather, from his loving great-grandchildren, Albert and Cecil

In loving memory of dear granddad, from Harry and family

In affectionate remembrance, from Mr. Lewis Wren and family

In kind remembrance of dear granddad, from Lily Stevens

In loving remembrance, from Tom, Annie, and family

A token of respect to the oldest license holder, from his friends in the Trade at Uckfield, George Benn, J. H. Elliott, A. E. Hill, M. Tourle, J. Webber, A. Waight, and F. White.

Once again there is some useful genealogical information contained amongst the messages and names, and an interesting mention of some of his fellow licensees.

Genealogy gold discovered in a newspaper

21 Apr

Sometimes it is worth taking a chance and searching for things which you don’t really expect to find. Such was the case last week at the Brighton History Centre, when I had an hour to spare in Brighton and wanted to check a local newspaper for details of the sale of the Gun Inn at Blackboys in Framfield, Sussex.

I had a date for the sale and wanted to find out who had been the auctioneers responsible, so I could see if there might be a sale catalogue for the Gun Inn languishing in an archive somewhere. I found the advert I was expecting (although not as much information as I had hoped) and a brief report the following day confirming that the sale took place.

The sale was as a result of the death of Henry HEMSLEY my 3x great grandfather who was the owner, occupier and licensee of the Gun Inn. I thought that as I had the microfilm loaded into the reader and I knew the date of Henry’s death from his headstone, that I might as well check to see if there was a mention of his death or burial.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting to find anything, perhaps a brief notice about his death or maybe something longer if his cause of death had been unusual. There didn’t really seem much chance of find anything more than a few sentences.

What I found was a report of his funeral that had so much detail in it that it will probably take me several weeks to actually process it all. I don’t think I have ever seen a newspaper report for one of my ancestors that goes into such detail, come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever found the report of a funeral for any of my ancestors.

I don’t think I have the space to bore you with all the details in this post, but if you are interested you can have a look at my transcription as a pdf. Over the next couple of days I will highlight some of the information that makes it so valuable to my research.

When two sources are sometimes better than one

13 Jul

Yesterday I showed you an example of a newspaper report for a wedding (my grandparents wedding as it happens), now I wouldn’t want you to think that newspapers were better than having a marriage certificate.

They provide two different records of the same event, and hopefully they don’t contradict each other. What they will do however, is record two different perspectives of that event.

There is one key fact on the marriage entry in the parish register that the newspaper report doesn’t mention (other than their ages) and that is the groom’s father’s name. Until last year the identity of my grandfather’s father was a mystery.

No father’s name was recorded on his birth certificate, and I hadn’t been able to find a baptism record, but to my surprise there it was on the marriage entry in the parish register for Keymer, Sussex. I have since found one other source, a school record, with this name so I am pretty confident it is correct.

That discovery opened up a whole new branch of my family tree, and if I hadn’t checked the marriage entry I would never have known. If I had known the date of the newspaper report I could have worked out the date of the wedding (the Saturday before publication) so I would probably have not needed (or bothered) to check the marriage entry.

Always remember that information on an event may be recorded in more than one source and whilst some of the details may overlap, some may also be unique to that source.

An example of why I love old local newspapers

12 Jul

A few months ago I wrote about how much I like local newspapers, well here is and example of a wedding report which illustrates one of the reasons perfectly.

It is the marriage of my grandparents Charles Percy GASSON and Dorothy Annie TROWER on the 5th December 1936 in Keymer, Sussex. As you can see it is only a cutting and I am not sure which newspaper it came from, but I believe it is probably from The Mid-Sussex Times (one day I will get around to tracking it down).

Wedding at Keymer

The fact that the bride “wore a dress of blue figured crepe with a brown coat and hat to tone” and had a bouquet of “of red and yellow chrysanthemums” is probably the next best thing to having a wedding photograph, which I don’t.

Where else are you going to find such detail? Certainly not on the marriage certificate and likewise with the information about the bride’s employers and where the happy couple were going to live.

It is worth remembering that there was nothing special about this couple, he was a decorator and she was a servant. So your relatives don’t necessarily have to be rich or posh to make it into the local newspaper.

The tragic death of George MITCHELL

21 Apr

When I heard from a family member that my great grandfather George MITCHELL had died as a result of a kick from a horse, I knew that I just had to find out more details.

I already knew when he was buried (10th January 1951) and where (West Dean, Sussex), in fact I had already been and located his grave and from the inscription on the kerb stones knew the exact date of death.

I had the GRO reference, so I could have ordered a death certificate, but that would give me very little detail that I didn’t already have. Instead I guessed such a story would have made the local newspaper, even though he was “only” a carter, not a public figure.

I was correct. Not only was there a report of the Coroner’s inquest (in two separate local papers) but also a report of his funeral as well.

The inquest heard evidence from George’s son Lawrence, who had witnessed the accident. He told how on New Year’s Eve his father had let the 11 year old horse out of the stable (where it had been kept for several days due to bad weather), so that he could clean it out.

Once George had cleaned the stable he took the horse by the mane to lead it back, then the horse reared and kicked him in the side of the face and he fell to the ground. A doctor was called and George was taken to St. Richard’s Hospital in Chichester where he remained, unconscious, until his death on the 4th January 1951, aged 77 years old.

The coroner returned a verdict of “Death by misadventure” but was unable to say whether the injury, “a fracture to the base of the skull and accompanying brain injury”, was caused by the kick from the horse or when George fell to the ground.

The report of the funeral was unexpected, and also contained more detail than I would have expected. I am including the full report as an example of what can be found by searching local newspapers:

The funeral of Mr. George Mitchell (77), who was fatally injured on New Year’s Eve and died in St. Richard’s Hospital on January 4, took place at West Dean Church last Wednesday. The Rev. J. B. Hunt conducted the service. Mr. Mitchell lived at Warren Farm, Chilgrove, for 52 years and worked 29½ years for Mr. Knight, 4 for Mr. Ruff and 18 for Mr. Heyler, the present tenant. His wife died in 1939. They had 14 children, 58 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and four generations were born in the same house. Chief mourners were Messrs. Henry, Robert, John, Laurance, Walter, Alfred and Edward Mitchell (sons), Mrs. N. Cutler, Mrs. D. Clark, Mrs. D. Daughtry, Mrs. E. Elliott and Mrs. R. Treagust (daughters). The inquest on Mr. Mitchell is reported in our Chichester news on page 2.

West Sussex Gazette, 18 January 1951.

There is so much information contained in that single report that I can follow up on and verify with other sources (proof that it shouldn’t be trusted 100% is evident by the fact that some of the names are spelt wrong). It is hard to think of another source where you will find the names of someone’s previous employers and the length of service for each of them.

I think I did have all the daughter’s married names, but it is a good check for my research. Then there are those 58 grandchildren, I think I have details for about seven or eight of them so far!

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