Tag Archives: west grinstead

Ernest John TROWER’s marriage certificate

19 Feb

Of the three certificates I ordered this month this was the most eagerly anticipated and ultimately the most disappointing.

I wanted the certificate for two reasons, the primary reason being to see if Ernest’s father’s name was given. The secondary reason was to try and find out a few more details about his wife.

The disappointment comes from the fact that Ernest’s father was not named (nor was there an occupation for him). It felt like another door had been slammed in my face.

Ernest John TROWER married Emma Phyllis WILDING on the 8th March 1913 at the parish church in West Grinstead, Sussex (see my post about church postcards for an image of the church).

Ernest was a farm labourer from Sands Farm, West Grinstead and Emma was from Patcham, Sussex (just outside Brighton). Her father George was a cab proprietor.

At least I can probably fill in some details on Emma now, but I still have no idea who Ernest’s father was, and more importantly who might have married Mercy TROWER.

I really am running out of options for finding Ernest’s father. I don’t think there are any surviving descendants of Ernest and Emma that I can ask. I need to check again for a baptism record, possibly a WW1 service record (although I have already looked once), the only other record I can think of that might mention his father is a school admission record.

Jane TROWER’s death certificate

15 Feb

The second of the three GRO certificates that I ordered was the death certificate of Jane TROWER, my 3x great-aunt. I was hoping this certificate would give me a clue as to what Jane was up to between the 1881 census and her death in 1922.

I had mixed results with this one, nothing really conclusive about her past life, but some quite interesting information nevertheless.

Jane died on the 16th December 1922, aged 60 years, at Hill View, Partridge Green in the parish of West Grinstead, Sussex. The cause of death was “cardiac failure resulting from fibro cystic growth in neck”.

It is nice to have a specific address on a certificate, especially one with which I am already familiar. Hill View was where Jane’s sister Sarah TROWER had a lodging house.

Sarah TROWER appears in several county directories between 1909 and 1922 as running (possibly owning) apartments. She is living there in the 1911 census, on her own (business was obviously not going very well).

Interestingly Sarah’s departure from Hill View, or at least when she stopped advertising, coincides with the death of Jane. This makes me wonder if they were in business together.

So Jane wasn’t living with Sarah in 1911 and I still don’t know where she was in 1891 or 1901 either. The only other clue is in her name.

Her death is registered under the name Jane Kate TROWER, this is the only record I have with Jane featuring a middle name. Perhaps Jane is “hiding” under the name Kate in the census.

There is a possible match in the 1891 census, the age is not quite right but the place of birth is probably a mangled spelling of Henfield, Sussex. The death certificate gives Jane’s occupation as “spinster formerly Housekeeper (Domestic)” which is not really going to help in her location and identification.

So really this certificate hasn’t progressed my research a great deal, but it did contain some interesting information.

All I can do now is carry on searching the census and try and verify whether Kate TROWER in the 1891 census is actually Jane. I will also check the probate indexes to see if Jane left a will, that might take me back a few years before her death if one exists.

Are church postcards undervalued?

4 Feb

Evelyn from A Canadian Family left a comment on my post of a postcard of Nuthurst Parish Church. This got me thinking about whether postcards of parish churches are undervalued.

In terms of collecting, postcards of parish churches are probably the cheapest topographical cards that you can buy. There could be several reasons for this, there probably is a greater supply of parish church postcards (because they were once more common), but more than likely it is because churches just don’t seem as interesting as a high street with shops, public houses or Post Offices.

Evelyn is right of course, in many cases they may represent the only surviving images of some headstones. In most cases the inscriptions on the headstones are not readable, but many of the headstones pictured on these cards have disappeared.

Take for example the two images below of St. George’s Church, West Grinstead, Sussex. The first is a postcard published by A.H. Homewood of Burgess Hill, Sussex, it was posted in 1908.

West Grinstead Church 1908

The next image is a photo I took in 2008, and apart from the growth of the trees, in the intervening 100 years the headstones in front of the church have gone.

West Grinstead Church 2008

Sometimes this is from deterioration but sometimes this is through deliberate clearance, to create space for wedding groups to be photographed outside the church. Now of course health and safety also comes into play, with stones toppled in the name of safety.

How different it must have been for our ancestors to walk through rows of gravestones on their way to church services, rather than today where gravestones are dotted around the churchyard.

As a family historian and postcard collector I am happy that parish churches may not be as eagerly collected by others (it means I can afford them), but for me they are also an essential part of my collection and they are probably the only postcards where I can say for certain that “my ancestors were there”.

Yet another FAIRS gravestone with an interesting story to tell

27 Jul

This is another FAIRS gravestone from West Grinstead, Sussex. It is for my 5x great uncle Harry FAIRS, son of Thomas and Elizabeth FAIRS.

Gravestone of Harry FAIRS, West Grinstead, Sussex

Gravestone of Harry FAIRS, West Grinstead, Sussex

This kept me occupied for several hours yesterday evening. At this stage of my research into the FAIRS family I wouldn’t normally have spent so much time on a family group who weren’t my direct ancestors, but this one seemed particularly interesting.

Harry FAIRS died on the 16th July 1850 aged 54 and was buried on the 20th July 1850. The condition of the gravestone is quite poor, but I was able to check the inscription (or at least parts of it) against the transcription I already have.

Interestingly the transcription has the name Henry FAIRS but the stone itself has the name Harry FAIRS (and it is one of the clearest parts of the inscription), as does the burial record and the GRO Death Index entry.

However, the most interesting thing is that it is a double headstone but there is only one name on it. I assumed that this meant that Harry had been married but for some reason his wife hadn’t been buried alongside him, the mostly likely explanations being that she had married again or moved away from West Grinstead after his death.

This set me off on a journey through the census years on ancestry.co.uk in search of Harry’s wife.

It was quite a journey, which took me to the neighbouring parishes of Shipley and Ashurst before arriving back in West Grinstead where Harry’s wife Ann died in 1882 aged 84 years. The journey also introduced me to several of Harry and Ann’s children and their spouses and families, with whom Ann was living (she didn’t re-marry).

Ann was buried in West Grinstead on the 16th February 1882, 32 years after her husband. I will probably never know if she was buried alongside her husband, but there appears to be no other gravestone for Ann recorded, so it seems likely she was.

Annoyingly I have not been able to find Ann’s maiden name or a record of their marriage. I would expect it to have been around 1815-20 so it should be on the Sussex Marriage Index, but I can’t find it there or in the transcriptions of the marriage registers for West Grinstead or Shipley, where Ann was born. I am sure it will turn up eventually.

The other thing I learnt whilst chasing Ann through the census was a selection of different spellings of the surname FAIRS. Some were transcription errors (like FARIS and FUIRS) and one was as different variant on the original census return (FAYERS). All useful information for my future research.

A sad pair of FAIRS gravestones at West Grinstead

25 Jul

This was one of the photos that I took yesterday at West Grinstead, Sussex. Both the gravestones belong to my FAIRS family and I think together they paint a rather sad picture.

A sad pair of FAIRS gravestones at West Grinstead

A sad pair of FAIRS gravestones at West Grinstead

It seems sad to me on two counts, firstly the condition of the stone on the left and secondly for the story that the one on the right tells.

The stone on the left is that of my 5x great grandparents Thomas and Elizabeth FAIRS, she died first on the 10th August 1835 aged 62 and Thomas died on the 20th February 1844 aged 73. What is really sad is the condition of the gravestone. The inscription on the stone is almost gone, and there was obviously some sort of carving at the top of the stone above the inscription, but now it is too worn to be able to make out.

Fortunately the inscription has already been recorded (at least twice) so I was able to check parts of it and confirm it was the right stone, but I doubt very much whether the carving was ever recorded anywhere.

The stone on the right is for Richard FAIRS the youngest son of Thomas and Elizabeth. He died on the 6th October 1832 aged 22. Therein lies the sadness, another FAIRS family member who died at a young age. We often hear about infant mortality, but this hardly falls into that category. Of course it is too early for a death certificate, so I am unlikely to ever find out why he died so young.

What does make me smile about the whole situation is the way that both stones are leaning towards each other, almost as if making contact again. What a wonderful illustration of the sentiment so often recorded on gravestones “together again”.

There doesn’t seem to have been much wandering going on recently

25 Jul

You could be forgiven for thinking that I haven’t done much walking recently, well I have been doing a bit, but having been on holiday there hasn’t really been any genealogy related walks to report on.

I have been recording my daily number of steps and mileage for a couple of years, as measured with my pedometer, so not necessarily accurate but close enough for me. Interestingly this week has seen me pass two milestones (pun intend) with my walking. Monday saw me reach 2,000,000 steps for the year and today my total mileage for the year passed a 1,000 miles.

Yesterday, despite the threat of showers, I went for a walk to West Grinstead church to look for FAIRS gravestones. I found the main ones I was interested in and got some photos, but didn’t linger as the weather conditions were looking less than promising as I set off for home.

Something nasty on the way?

Something nasty on the way?

This was the view looking north from West Grinstead church, however I should have been worrying about what was coming in the opposite direction. Unusually I heard the rain first, as it started to splash in the river, then it started to splash on me, so I put on my raincoat and hurried on.

The rain got harder as I started to head away from the river and towards a wood, which I hoped would give me shelter from what I hoped would only a passing shower. As I stepped inside the wood the hailstones started, not very big hailstones (some as big as peas but mostly smaller) but I moved deeper into the wood in search of shelter.

Soon I was on the other side of the wood, I had pulled my umbrella from my rucksack as well and at least my head was protected from the rain. At the gate on the other side of the wood I was more sheltered by a larger oak tree, and I could safely look out across the field where the other side of the field was barely visible.

Then as quickly as the rain had started, sunlight began to spread across the field, and the rain eased, and it was drops of water from the trees that were hitting my umbrella not rain. I started to make my way out into the field, edging my way along the side of the wood as the rain died away.

Then some where to my right there was an almighty crack of thunder, I decided that walking in the shelter of the wood might not be such a good idea after all and I edged my way out into the middle of the field and put my umbrella down, just in case.

Soon however the inside of my raincoat was getting wetter than the outside as I started to sweat in the sunshine, and I had to take it off. As I passed through the gate on the opposite side of the field I turned to look back towards the wood, and was surprised to see steam rising up off the field.

The whole incident had probably only lasted five minutes, and the sky had cleared again. I had avoided the worst of the rain and hail by taking shelter in the wood, but wondered if I had upset someone up at West Grinstead church!

More questions than answers from this FAIRS gravestone

24 Jul

I was looking at my FAIRS ancestors again last night (and it was well into the night), and have noticed a few strange things that are going to require some further investigation and some death certificates.

Gravestone of John, Eliza, Ann and James FAIRS

Gravestone of John, Eliza, Ann and James FAIRS

It all started with the gravestone (pictured above) of John and Eliza FAIRS (my 4x great grandparents) and two of their children at West Grinstead churchyard, Sussex. It is not easy to read the inscription, but I have the monumental inscription from the volume at the West Sussex Record Office (PAR 95/7/9).

1867. AGED 25 YEARS

Obviously this is quite a useful source of information, four members of the same family on the same gravestone, three of which have ages and dates of death. In connection with the burial records (from the Parish Register Transcription Society) it becomes even more interesting.

John FAIRS buried 11 Mar 1846 (aged 41)
James FAIRS buried 24 May 1848 (aged 10)
Eliza FAIRS buried 9 Dec 1867 (aged 61)
Ann FAIRS buried 9 Dec 1867 (aged 25)

I now have a list of questions that I want to find answers to, and that means I am going to need to order some death certificates.

  1. What caused John FAIRS to die so young?
  2. Why was John FAIRS buried on the same day as he died? or is one of the sources incorrect?
  3. Why did Ann FAIRS die so young?
  4. Was there any connection between the deaths of Eliza FAIRS and her daughter Ann FAIRS who died four days apart?
  5. Why did James FAIRS die so young?

Time to go do some shopping I think!

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