Tag Archives: workhouse

Have I reached the end of the trail with Mercy TROWER?

13 Jan

The death certificate for Mercy STEADMAN (née TROWER) has arrived from the GRO and it has failed to provide the answer that I had hoped for. If anything it caused a bit of confusion, until I actually figured out what was going on.

The reason for ordering a copy of the certificate was to try and find the name of Mercy’s husband. Under the occupation heading it should have told me that she was a widow and given her ex-husband’s name.

Unfortunately the informant who registered the death didn’t know what her husband’s name was, so all I have is Widow of — Steadman Occupation unknown. Not very helpful to say the least.

It hadn’t occurred to me that because Mercy’s husband had died before 1891, there would be a good chance that whoever registered the death, possibly four decades later, probably never knew who Mercy’s husband was.

The confusion came from the place of death, 2 Upper Shoreham Road, Kingston-by-Sea. This wasn’t the same as her address that was also given on the death certificate (97 Wellington Road, Portslade-by-Sea).

The key to this puzzle is the Steyning Union Workhouse. It appears that the address of the workhouse was 2 Upper Shoreham Road, and the informant who registered the death was H[orace] W[alter] Cawcutt, the master of the Steyning Poor Law Institution.

I know that when Mercy died in 1929 her estate was valued at £404 12s 2d, so she wasn’t exactly a pauper, so my guess is that she was in the workhouse due to ill health (the workhouse would later become part of Southlands Hospital).

So I didn’t find out who Mercy’s husband was, but I haven’t quite given up hope of finding out his name. Records from the Steyning Union Workhouse are apparently held at the East Sussex Record Office, including admission and death registers, there may be a clue held within their pages.

Some workhouse housework

25 Apr

Today I have been going through the last of the data I gathered at the West Sussex Record Office last Saturday, typing up my notes and entering what I can in my family history software.

The research I did into the Cuckfield Workhouse has thrown up a couple of interesting issues which I wasn’t expecting. This is the first time I have really had to look into the Poor Law records for any of my family and the results were quite surprising.

Firstly there is my 3x great grandfather Thomas GASSON (1830-1914) who I found in the Cuckfield Workhouse in the 1911 census and started off this line of investigation. I had expected to see him admitted to the workhouse some time after 1901 and there he would stay until his death in 1914.

What I discovered however was that he was in and out of the workhouse quite frequently (a dozen times between 1904 and 1910). I am intrigued now as to what he was doing on these breaks from the workhouse? (Also how I am going to record all these admissions and discharges on my family tree without clogging it up?)

Sometimes he was out for as short as a week, sometimes as long as a month. Was he trying to live on his own or with one of his children? Was he given money to get out and find work and accommodation? Did he want to get out or was the master of the workhouse trying to get rid of him? Was he simply too old and not fit enough to live on his own?

It is quite interesting that his first admission to the workhouse was on the 23rd November 1904, just a couple of months after the death of his wife Harriet. This makes me think he was probably not healthy enough to cope on his own after she died and had to seek help from the Poor Law Union.

The second curiosity I discovered was that at the same that Thomas GASSON was in the workhouse so was his great granddaughter Lilian GASSON. She was admitted on the 24th January 1910 and discharged on the 30th January 1910.

The unusual thing is that she had just turned three years old when she was admitted. It appears that none of her other family were admitted at the same time,  so I suspect that for Lilian the workhouse was serving as a hospital rather than a poor house.

There are several other GASSONs in the workhouse records, but I haven’t been able to make any connections with my ancestors yet. I am sure given time they will all find a home on my family tree.

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.

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