Tag Archives: west sussex record office

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.

Getting excited about researching my FAIRS ancestors

22 Jun

Today I have been thinking about starting to do some work on my FAIRS ancestry, and I am quite looking forward to the prospect of getting started on this project. I think the main reason is because it is going to be quite easy for me to do, and has the potential to go quite a way back, quite quickly.

My 2x great grandmother was Annie FAIRS, she married Ebenezer TROWER in Henfield, Sussex in September 1889. However it is really her father that I am interested in, John FAIRS from West Grinstead, because I have already done quite a bit of research on Annie and most of her sisters. To my knowledge John and his wife Mary Ann had six children, all of whom were girls.

I have already done some work on John FAIRS, and I know his parents were also from West Grinstead, his father was also John FAIRS but he died relatively young. So I will be concentrating on working back from John’s parents and see where that leads me.

The reason that this is going to be quite easy is that I have parish register transcriptions for West Grinstead (from the Parish Register Transcription Society) and I can access microfilm copies of the originals at Horsham Library, along with copies of the local newspapers and old maps. I already have several pages of FAIRS monumental inscriptions from a book deposited at the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO PAR 95/7/9), which I haven’t sorted through and included in my family tree yet.

Looking at the West Sussex Record Office catalogue online there is also quite a good selection of rate books in the parish records for West Grinstead, that should be helpful going back beyond the 1841 census, if I can get down to the record office to view them that is.

The other advantage of researching in West Grinstead is that it is quite convenient for walking, and I can visit the churchyard quite easily and hopefully find some FAIRS gravestones to photograph. It is close enough that it won’t take me all day to get there, but could be done in an afternoon or an evening.

All in all, this should be quite a nice project to take on, although thinking about it, it does all sound a little too easy. I am sure there will be some challenges along the way, well it wouldn’t be genealogy if there wasn’t!

A day out in Chichester (what I found in the record office)

19 Apr

It was a quite successful day at the WSRO on Saturday, although a little unfocused, which I think probably meant I wasted more time looking in catalogues rather than looking at documents. That being said, I achieved most of my main goals, even if some them didn’t actually provide any useful information (but you never know until you look).

I was able to locate the burial records for both William Henry and Harriet MITCHELL. Like I suspected, it was the parish of Funtington, Sussex. William Henry on the 1st October 1908 (aged 74) and Harriet on the 12th September 1925 (aged 85). So another place goes on my list of places to visit and photograph. I doubt very much whether there was/is a gravestone, but worth a look just in case.

On the downside, I was not able to find a record of where their children went to school. The only surviving admission registers appear to be Stoughton and there were no MITCHELLs between 1871 and 1914. So that remains a mystery, unless of course they never went to school?

I was able to find a slightly longer report in the Chichester Observer about the death of George MITCHELL (my great grandfather) in 1951. The newspaper I was after hadn’t been microfilmed so I had the pleasure of handling the originals in a large bound volume.

It is quite satisfying to handle something that was pretty much designed to be thrown away or recycled (except it probably wasn’t called recycling then), but has survived. Most of the time we are looking at documents that were meant to be kept as records, but I don’t think newspapers ever were designed to be kept.

Perhaps the most interesting discovery was regarding Thomas GASSON (my 3x great grandfather) and the fact that he spent time in the Cuckfield Union Workhouse. Not only did I find details of his death and subsequent burial (at Bolney, Sussex) but I also found his date of birth, the 26th March 1830.

What surprised me most was the fact that he seemed to be in and out of the workhouse quite frequently. I had assumed that once he entered the workhouse that was pretty much it, but it was just the opposite. Whether it was Thomas finding work for a while, or being given money to take care of himself, or even his children trying to look after him, I will probably never know.

It is certainly going to be worth re-visiting the documents again, and seeing what out can be gleaned from any surviving minute books, letter books or accounts. I know there are a couple of books on the subject I should try and get from the library and some very good material on the web. Of course I need to get some photos of the workhouse as well!

Interestingly there were several other GASSONs in the workhouse as well, including one stillborn baby, but at first glance I can’t relate them to my family tree, but then Cuckfield district was always full of GASSONs! Thomas’ first admission comes about two months after the death of his wife in 1904, I am sure that this can’t be a coincidence.

A day out in Chichester (or what I did on my lunch break)

19 Apr

On Saturday lunchtimes the West Sussex Record Office closes for lunch (I always refer to it as getting kicked out at lunchtime), and to be honest it is quite a good thing as it forces me to take a break. Usually I would just wander around Chichester city centre, but that is not the most enjoyable way of spending an hour (even if there is a very nice bookshop in South Street).

Today I decided to jump aboard a No. 60 bus and head out of the city to the village of West Dean. Not only was it a great way to see a bit of the countryside (from the top of a double decker) but it also gave me the chance to visit the burial ground at West Dean where my great grandparents are buried (and several other relations).

It wasn’t the first time I had done it, and I was there and back almost within the hour lunch break, so it wasn’t a particularly long visit. The weather wasn’t perfect, the sun was still struggling to break through the clouds, but it was still nice to get outside and away from the crowds of the city.

I was pleased to see that some clearing up had been done at the burial ground since my last visit, and most of the undergrowth had been cleared. I had located my great grandparents grave before, so knew exactly where to go. I am embarrassed to say that the grave is looking very much uncared for (you will probably see a photo of it on Tombstone Tuesday).

Herein lies a problem, I want to do something about it, it needs a bit of work on the grass and soil around and inside the kerb stones, but it is not going to be easy for me to get the tools down there, but one way or another I will find a way.

I have a similar issue with flowers on graves, I never leave flowers on my distant ancestor’s graves because there is nothing worse than a bunch of dead flowers on a grave, so unless I know that I or someone else is going to be there to clear them away when they have died I don’t bother. Artificial flowers may last a bit longer, but they eventually die (fade and fall apart in the sun) as well.

I wish there was a way of marking the fact that I had been to visit, that I knew who these people were and what they meant to me, and most importantly that they are remembered.

A day out in Chichester (when I finally got there)

18 Apr

The day got off to a rather bad start when I got to Horsham railway station to find there were no trains running (engineering work), but that wasn’t too much of a problem (I suppose I should have checked online) and it wasn’t going to change my plans, it just meant I would have less time in Chichester than I had hoped, because I would be travelling halfway by bus instead of by train.

The second hitch occurred when I went to buy my ticket and realised that I had lost my rail card. I knew I had it when I got on the bus to Horsham, but there was no sign of it now. It must have fallen out of my pocket when I took my wallet out to put my bus pass away. I rushed outside and the bus was still there, and so was my rail card, hiding under the seat. Phew!

What I really missed on the journey down was being able to sit back and relax and watch the countryside rush past. Quite often I will have a whole carriage to myself for most of the journey, because it is still quite early in the morning. Whether the time is spent reading, writing or listening to my mp3 player, I find it a perfect way of starting out the day.

My first stop in Chichester was the library, the reference section (in fact the whole library) has had a makeover since my last visit and looks very nice, and crisp and clean, all in all a very pleasant environment to work in (not that there was really anything wrong with it before).

I found the information I was looking for on the microfilm of the local paper for January 1951, and printed off a couple of pages. I was looking for information on the death of my great grandfather George MITCHELL of West Dean, Sussex. Look out for details of what I discovered in a future post, also in the near future I will explain why I had to go to Chichester library to find the information.

Next stop was the West Sussex Record Office, nothing much has changed there since my last visit, except for the coating of pigeon droppings on the pavement outside, which grows thicker with every visit!

The record office seemed busier than usual today (which is pleasing to see) and perhaps this is the reason why I found it harder to concentrate and focus on what I was doing. Maybe it was the lack of a relaxing journey down or perhaps I just wasn’t prepared enough and my goals not specific enough.

Having said that I did achieve most of my goals, or at least check the records I wanted to, even if the results were negative. Tomorrow I will give you some more details on what I found, and what I did during the lunch break (other than eating my lunch!)

Am I ready a whole weekend dedicated to family history?

16 Apr

It is rather self-indulgent to spend all weekend on genealogy, at the expense of everything else, but I think I deserve it (even if no-one else does).

This coming Saturday will see me visiting the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO) and the library at Chichester, West Sussex, then on Sunday I plan to visit Worthing, West Sussex, and the South Coast Family History Fair at the Pavilion Theatre. So this weekend has been officially designated a family history weekend, in our home at least.

Sunday needs no planning as such, other than making sure I have enough money to spend and deciding if there are any books or CDs that I couldn’t possibly live without. There are sure to be some postcard dealers there as well, so I am sure I won’t come away empty handed.

Saturday is a different matter. Chichester library is simple enough (and should be quite quick), check the microfilm of the local papers for January 1951. The WSRO however needs some more thought and planning. I have a to-do list which probably has enough entries for the WSRO for several visits, so I need to decide where my focus should be directed this time.

A large part of my time will probably be spent trying to find out more about the Sussex part of William Henry and Harriet MITCHELL’s travels. I shall be check for school admission records for their children for starters and then likely burial places for William Henry and Harriet themselves.

I need to try and find out more about Thomas GASSON (3x great grandfather) who appears to have ended his days in the Cuckfield Union Workhouse. I want to see if there is any record of him there, and where he was buried.

After that it is probably a case of picking out the quickest and easiest items from my to-do list, and anywhere there are multiple items for the same document. There is probably nothing more I can add to either of my Thomas KINGHORN projects at WSRO, but you never know.

I have been very good this month and so far I have stuck to my promise to only make one archive trip per month, I didn’t even pop into the Brighton History Centre last weekend despite the temptation being very strong.

My long suffering wife does get a look in. She is going to come along with me to Worthing on Sunday and do some shopping in town, a small price to pay for a whole weekend of genealogy!

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