Archive for the ‘Hertfordshire’ Category

Revelations in The British Newspaper Archive

March 19, 2012

I’ve just had another breakthrough in my quest to connect the two Howard lines in my family tree!

The last time I posted, I had just received my great-great-great-grandfather Richard Howard’s marriage certificate. While the name of the father listed on the certificate initially looked like Janus, I thought it was more likely to be James. I’d also spotted Richard living in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire at the time of the 1861 census – a bit unexpected as I’d always found him in his native Hertfordshire up until then.

The British Newspaper Archive launched a few months ago and I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon a newspaper article about my great-great-great-grandfather. The article in The Herts Guardian on Tuesday 9 July 1867 reveals that Richard had been charged with stealing a watch and chain from James Harpin, owner of the Crown Inn on 18 May of the same year. Richard was found Not Guilty but the article states that this “caused much surprise in court”!

What’s really useful about the article is that it confirms that Richard’s father’s name was James and explains why he was living in Biggleswade in 1861. James Howard was called as a witness to Richard’s character, stating that “the prisoner is my son: he has been at Biggleswade for ten years, and works for all the gentry: have heard nothing against him before”.

Here’s the full article:

Article from The British Newspaper Archive – part 1

Article from The British Newspaper Archive – part 2

Article from The British Newspaper Archive – part 3

You can see from my updated family tree below that I’ve now discovered that both of my great-great-grandparents, Ernest Howard and Mercy Howard, had a grandfather by the name of James Howard. Are the two James Howards the same man?

The two Howard branches of my family tree

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A first wife, an unknown father and yet more questions!

December 30, 2011

Well, the marriage certificate I ordered at the end of my last post arrived and has created even more questions! Take a look…

Richard Howard and Sophia Stevens’ marriage certificate – please click to enlarge

Firstly, Sophia Stevens has no father listed. This is the first time I’ve come across an ancestor with an unknown father – I imagine it may be difficult to track her ancestral line further back, but I’m keen to have a go! Interestingly, it seems Sophia was literate as she has signed her name at the bottom of the certificate, while Richard has made a mark.

Initially, I thought Richard’s father was recorded as ‘Janus Howard’ on the far right of the certificate. However, I’ve been unable to find any Janus Howards in any census so I suspect that part of the writing may be missing, making the name look different. Take a look at the image I’ve doctored below – if a line is added between what I originally thought was an ‘n’ and a ‘u’, the name looks like it should be James Howard.

Richard Howard’s father’s name

Finally, the marriage certificate revealed that Richard was a widower when he married Sophia. This is very useful information and has helped me find Richard Howard in the 1861 census.

In 1871, Richard was living in Buntingford, Hertfordshire with his ‘wife’ Sophia (I now know they weren’t actually married at this point) and children, Jesse and Mercy. Before now, the 1861 census had stumped me as the only likely record I could find was this one:

Richard Howard in the 1861 census – please click to enlarge

Here, Richard is listed with a different wife (Mary Howard) and two children with a different surname (Salt) living in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. Now that I know Richard was a widower when he married Sophia in 1875, I could presume that Mary was his first wife and that perhaps her surname had been Salt.

I searched the marriage records for Richard Howard marrying someone with the surname Salt and found this marriage record:

Richard Howard and Mercy Salt’s marriage record

It seems Richard’s first wife’s name was not Mary, but Mercy Salt. He married Mercy in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire in 1859. Sure enough, I found a listing in the death records for Mercy Howard in 1864:

Mercy Howard’s death record

I was quite touched when I discovered that Richard’s first wife was called Mercy. My great-great-grandmother (Richard’s daughter by his second wife) was also given this name, a lovely tribute to his first wife.

Beginning the Howard hunt

September 30, 2011

A little while ago I discovered that my maternal great-great-grandmother Mercy had the same maiden name as her married name: Howard. This made me wonder whether Mercy Howard may have been related to her husband (my great-great-grandfather) Ernest Howard. I’ve been doing a bit of digging and I’m becoming more and more convinced that they were.

Ernest’s Howard line

I’ve been researching Ernest and Mercy’s families using the 1841 – 1901 censuses and have managed to trace Ernest’s Howard line all the way back to the 1841 census. Here are a couple of highlights to show you what I’ve discovered:

Ernest Howard and family in the 1871 census - please click to enlarge

The 1871 census shows Ernest living with his parents, Elijah and Marion Howard (my great-great-great-grandparents). Elijah was a Labourer and Marion a Straw Plaiter. Both had been born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

Elijah Howard and family in the 1851 census - please click to enlarge

The 1851 census records Elijah Howard living with his parents, James and Ann Howard (my great-great-great-great-grandparents – phew!). James was a Chimney Sweep and Ann was a Plaiter. Both had been born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

Mercy’s Howard line

I haven’t done as well with Mercy’s line, unfortunately. I’ve only managed to trace the family back to the 1871 census and have got stuck here for the moment. I’ve discovered something that has made me more convinced that Mercy was related to her husband, though:

Mercy Howard and family in the 1871 census - please click to enlarge

The 1871 census records Mercy living with her parents Richard and Sophia Howard (my great-great-great-grandparents). Sophia was from Campton in Hertfordshire, but Richard had been born in Hitchin and was a Master Sweep.

This has shown me that both Mercy’s Howard family and Ernest’s Howard family came from Hitchin and that both were employed in the Chimney Sweeping trade.

Next steps

I’ve added all of my discoveries to my family tree, but will I ever be able to join up the two Howard lines? To help get Mercy’s side back a bit further, I’ve just ordered a copy of Richard and Sophia Howard’s marriage certificate – I’ll let you know what that tells me when it arrives!

The Howard branch of my family tree

My great-great-grandparents’ marriage

November 5, 2010

After my post last week, I immediately looked for the record of Ernest and Mercy Howard’s marriage in findmypast.co.uk’s BMD records and then ordered the certificate from the General Register Office. This has just arrived and I thought I’d put it straight up here as it would have been my great-great-grandparents’ wedding anniversary today!

 

Ernest and Mercy Howard's marriage certificate

 

The certificate tells me that 122 years ago today, Ernest Saunders Howard married Mercy Howard in the Parish Church of St Mary in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. At that point Ernest was a Labourer, but it seems pretty obvious how he later got into Chimney Sweeping as his new father-in-law, Richard Howard was recorded with that occupation. The certificate also reveals the name and occupation of Ernest’s father – Elijah Howard, a Hawker.

I wasn’t sure what a Hawker was so I looked this up in a book I bought at the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show I attended in February. It’s a pretty good little book, I’d definitely recommend buying it as a handy reference tool. It’s called Old Occupations and Descriptions and is written by Eve McLaughlin. In it, a Hawker is described as an ‘itinerant seller of small goods carried in pack (licensed)’ – a travelling salesman, it seems!

I’ve added all of this extra information to my family tree, including the names of my great-great-great-grandfathers, Richard Howard and Elijah Howard. I’m surprised at how easy it’s been to get my family tree back to this generation!

The Howard branch of my family tree

 

One of the new pieces of information that the certificate has revealed is the rather odd middle name of my great-great-grandfather – Ernest Saunders Howard. I wonder whether this was his mother’s maiden name? Something to look into!

Researching the Howard family

October 29, 2010

A couple of posts ago, I found my great-grandmother Ada Howard and her parents in the 1911 census. I thought I’d return to this particular line of my family history and concentrate on tracking it back a bit further.

Ada was seven in the 1911 census, suggesting that she was born in around 1903/1904. The census form also states that my great-grandmother was born in Buntingford, Hertfordshire. By searching the birth indexes at findmypast.co.uk, I found the following entry for an Ada Maria Howard born in Royston in 1903.

Ada Maria Howard's birth record

 

I gave Royston a quick google and it seems it’s only about eight miles away from Buntingford. It therefore looked likely that this was the record of my great-grandmother’s birth, so I used the reference details provided to order Ada’s birth certificate from the General Register Office.

Ada Maria Howard's birth certificate

 

The birth certificate tells me that Ada was born on 11th June 1903 in Layston, Buntingford. It informs me that her father, Ernest Howard, was a Chimney Sweeper Master and that her mother’s name was Mercy. Interestingly, Mercy’s maiden name was Howard – perhaps a sign that my great-great-grandparents were cousins?

I’ve updated the Howard side of my family tree with the details I’ve gleaned from both the 1911 census and Ada’s birth certificate. I think I’ll continue tracing this particular branch of my family tree for the time being – I’d love to find out a bit more about Ernest’s occupation and also whether there really was a bit of inter-family marriage in the Howard line.

The Howard branch of my family tree

Searching the 1911 census for Ada Maria Howard

March 15, 2010

Now that I know my great-grandparents were alive, I can search to see if I can find them in the recently released 1911 census. I’ll take my great-grandmother Ada Maria Howard as an example to demonstrate how to find an ancestor.

I’ve selected the 1911 person search from findmypast’s census collection and have entered basic information to begin with, following the findmypast rule of thumb of ‘less is more’. I’ve entered Ada in the first name field (leaving the variants box ticked so that the search includes nicknames, middle names and initials) and Howard in the surname field.

Initial search - please click to enlarge

This search returned 314 results, meaning there were 314 Ada Howards living in England and Wales in 1911. Fortunately, I have a bit more information about my great-grandmother courtesy of her marriage certificate (featured in the post below) so was able to narrow these results down a bit.

I selected ‘redefine current search’ and added a birth year to the search terms. Ada was recorded as being 23 years old at the time of her marriage in 1926, so I’ve entered 1903 as the birth year. The search defaults to include births two years either side of 1903, a really handy tactic to avoid any age inaccuracies in the census. It’s not unusual to see a year or two shaved off of or added to ancestors’ ages in census returns – be it down to vanity, an attempt to conceal an illegitimate child or even simply that the head of household couldn’t recall the exact ages of his/her children.

Redefined search - please click to enlarge

By adding this rough date of birth, I managed to narrow the list of results down to just 27 possibilities. However, Ada’s marriage certificate had provided me with another handy bit of information – her father’s name, Ernest. So I selected ‘redefine current search’ again and then switched to ‘advanced search’ via the tabs at the top of the search screen (see below). Here I entered ‘Ernest Howard’ in the ‘other persons living in the same household’ search field.

Advanced search - please click to enlarge

This time, my search returned just three results. One of these, the top result in the image below, looked like a clear winner as this Ada Howard was living in Hertfordshire in 1911 – the same county my great-grandmother was married in 15 years later. In addition, the marriage certificate had informed me that Ada’s middle name was Maria – not matching the middle names of either of the other two search results.

Search results - please click to enlarge

To confirm that this was indeed the right Ada, I viewed the transcript – a typewritten version of the original census page.

1911 census transcript - please click to enlarge

You can see that the transcript showed me exactly what I had hoped it would; Ada Howard living as the daughter of Ernest Howard, a Chimney Sweep. If you look at the bottom of the transcript, you can also see that the address the family were living at in 1911 exactly matches that recorded on my great-grandmother’s marriage certificate – Chapel End, Buntingford. I then decided to view the original census image.

Original 1911 census image - please click to enlarge

The 1911 census is the first from which original householder schedules have survived – the other surviving censuses from 1841 to 1901 consist of the census enumerators’ summary books. This means that the 1911 census return you can see above was actually completed by my great-great-grandfather Ernest Howard – you can see his signature at the bottom right of the page. Next to Ernest’s signature, we are also told exactly how many rooms (rooms, not bedrooms!) their home had. In the Howard family’s case, there were seven people living in just four rooms.

The 1911 census return has also provided me with brand new information about Ada’s mother, my great-great-grandmother. Her name is a bit tricky to read on the census return, however it has been recorded as ‘Merey’ in the transcript. The census form also informs me that she was 40 years old in 1911 and had been married to 45-year-old Ernest for 22 years. These handy bits of information will enable me to search the BMD indexes once again, this time for my great-great-grandparents’ marriage and births. In addition, if I look over to the right of the census form, I can actually see where Ernest and Merey were both born.

My 1911 search has provided one final bit of rather shocking information. In 1911, my great-great-grandmother had given birth to an impressive 12 children but sadly only half of these had survived. The number six has been listed in the census form’s ninth column, recording the number of ‘children who have died’. The 1911 census return has provided me with a lot of new information about my family, however the most striking point is just how precarious my great-grandmother’s existence must have been!

Embracing my maternal side

October 16, 2009

Good news! I’ve managed to fill in a bit more of my tree after a chat with the mother. Oddly, it seems that the lack of knowledge about my maternal family extends back another generation for while my mum could furnish me with information about her own parents, what she knew about her grandparents (my great-grandparents) was quite limited. What she was able to tell me, however, has revealed that both of my maternal grandparents had rather unsettled childhoods.

My great-grandmother Ada died early on in my grandfather’s life, when he was only about 10 years old. Subsequently, it seems that my great-grandfather Jack found it difficult to cope and eventually handed responsibility of his children over to their uncle and aunt, disappearing from their lives. According to my grandfather’s reports, he and his sister effectively lived as cheap labour for his uncle’s bakery business. He escaped from this as soon as he could, signing up with the RAF as a mechanic when the Second World War started and serving in the Far East.

My grandmother also lost a parent prematurely as my great-grandfather George sadly died when she was around two years old, leaving his widow Lucy to bring up their two young daughters alone. The family apparently believed that George’s death was a long-term result of being gassed in the First World War, an event that had left him with a persistent cough for the remainder of his life. Prior to speaking to my mum, I had always believed that my maternal ancestry was rooted in Hertfordshire. However, it seems that my great-grandmother Lucy and her family originally lived around West Ham, being evacuated out to Ware in Hertfordshire to work as land girls at the beginning of the Second World War.

It’s quite shocking to think that my great-grandmother Lucy would have been the only grandparent my mum knew when she was growing up. Indeed, my mum has actually never even seen a photograph of her paternal grandparents, Jack and Ada. Quite incredible, really. As a result of this, she was unable to fill in much of the factual information about my great-grandparents (such as dates of birth, marriage and death) that are needed to start tracing my lineage back further. To confirm these, I will need to dive into the birth, marriage and death indexes available at findmypast.co.uk .