Archive for the ‘Maternal’ Category

Newspaper article reveals Mercy Howard’s cause of death

April 3, 2013

I officially love the collection of local newspapers available at The British Newspaper Archive – I’ve just spotted another article in there about my great-great-great-grandfather Richard Howard!

I already know that Richard was a widower when he married my great-great-great-grandmother and that his first wife was called Mercy. She died in 1864, eleven years before Richard’s second marriage.

A report in the Cambridge Independent Press on 24 December 1864 reveals the cause of death, stating that when her husband got home Mercy ‘was ill with spasms, to which she was subject, and died almost immediately’.

It also tells me some anecdotal information about my great-great-great-grandfather and what life was like. The article reports that Richard had seen two men fighting near his house and that he went to help, but ‘was set upon for his interference’.

Newspapers are great for adding extra detail to what you already know about your family history, and this is a perfect example:

Newspaper article from the Cambridge Independent Press on 24 December 1864

Article from the Cambridge Independent Press on 24 December 1864 – please click to enlarge

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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

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

Chim chim cher-ee – the life of a chimney sweep

January 7, 2011

Last year, I discovered that my great-great-grandfather Ernest Howard was a chimney sweep, an occupation that I’d love to find out more about.

I recently spotted an article in issue 186 of genealogy magazine Family History Monthly that reveals the realities of what a sweep’s life was like. Many thanks to Family History Monthly for allowing me to reproduce it on my blog…

Dirty Work

On the 170th anniversary of an act of parliament which finally banned the use of children as chimney sweeps, Alex Hardy explores the hard, dirty and suffocating life of a sweep

In the famous musical Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews, an Edwardian Dick Van Dyke danced and sang ‘Chim chim cher-ee’, to great applause, forever immortalising chimney sweeps as happy-go-lucky grafters. But the life of a Victorian chimney sweep was much darker and more brutal, relying on child labour and often causing horrific injury and the possibility of an agonising death.

It was the early Romans who first constructed the chimney and flue, to funnel-off smoke from log fires out of the roof. However, the practice was not widely adopted. During the next few centuries, a central wood fire burning on hearth stones in the middle of the room was more common. By the 16th century a fireplace and chimney became more widespread, and in the 17th century citizens were even assessed by a hearth tax. The size of a house determined the amount of tax paid, and was calculated by the number of chimneys present.

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, coal became the main fuel for domestic heating. When overcrowded cities began to produce foggy smoke from chimney fires, Queen Victoria ordered all flues or chimneys to be swept on a regular basis. With royal approval the chimney sweep trade flourished.

Victorian working-class children were often required to supplement the family’s income. It was more important to bring home a wage, than to get an education. Child labour was vital to Britain’s economic success. In 1821 approximately 49 per cent of the workforce was under 20. Many children, some as young as four, worked long hours for menial wages. Child labour was cheap, and many were employed on farms in ‘agricultural gangs’, or in factories. Young children crawled beneath huge machinery to clean it, and many were crushed or killed in the process. Children also worked underground in coal mines, opening and closing ventilation doors, while older children pulled carts of coal to the surface.

In 1844 parliament passed a law which required children working in factories to attend ragged schools for six half-days a week, thus providing poor children and orphans with a free basic education. Then in 1870 the Forster’s Education Act required that all parts of Britain provide schools for those aged between five and 12. However, not all schools were free, and many could not afford the ‘school’s pence’, each week. It was only in 1891 that the possibility of free schooling for all was finally introduced.

The job of a chimney sweep was essential to avoid fires erupting in the home. When the interior of a chimney became choked or partially blocked with a build-up of soot, chimney fires could occur. Coal creates a sticky soot which often does not come loose easily, and chimney edges need scraping where soot builds up. Since the Georgian period chimney sweeps climbed up inside the chimney and brushed the flues clean with a hand-held brush. They also collected soot and sent it to farms as fertiliser. Chimney sweeps wore top hats and tails – generally cast offs from funeral directors – or a flat cloth cap, jacket and trousers with a belt.

Master sweeps employed young boys (and girls) as young as five or six, to train as apprentice chimney sweeps. Master sweeps were paid a fee to feed, clothe and teach a child the trade. Some parents sold their children to the trade, but they were often orphans taken from the parish workhouse. Child labour was cheap and readily available, and when chimney sweeps (or climbing boys) became too large or ill to climb chimneys, master sweeps returned to the workhouse for more apprentices to exploit. They earned considerable amounts of money from chimney sweeps, who were poorly fed, slept on a bag of soot in a damp cellar and often beaten. A child chimney sweep would get up in the middle of the night, climb and clean their first chimney at about four o’clock in the morning, then clean another six to eight chimneys a day. After each visit a servant would offer the chimney sweep and his apprentice a pint of ale.

Sweeping chimneys was a harsh and dangerous occupation. Chimneys were as narrow as nine feet square and sixty feet high. Small boys forced to climb barefoot inside large chimneys, often choking with soot, their sore hands and feet bleeding as they climbed higher. If boys cried out in fear of the cramped darkness, the master sweep would light a fire beneath them, making them climb quicker up the chimney. Many children suffered horrific injuries, suffocated, became trapped in narrow flues or fell to their deaths from a rotten stack.

In 1775 the first cancer resulting from exposure to a particular chemical was discovered by Sir Percivall Pott, a British surgeon. He found that coal tar in chimneys led to cancerous ‘sooty warts’, cancer of the testicles. The 1788 Act for the Better Regulation of Chimney Sweepers, stated that master sweeps could not make their apprentices work on Sundays, and that they had to wash off their soot before going to church. The act limited master sweeps to six apprentices, all of whom had to be of at least eight years of age. However, it was not enforced by the police, so had little effect.

The harsh conditions suffered by young chimney sweeps began to gain public sympathy. Prominent members of society protested that young lives were being wasted for cheap labour. Reformers argued that longer, more expensive brushes could do the job just effectively as a child.

Joseph Glass, a Bristol engineer, is generally recognised as the inventor of the type of chimney-cleaning equipment still in use today. His system relied on canes and brushes formed from whale bones being pushed up into the chimney from the fireplace below.

In 1800 a friendly society for the protection and education of chimney sweep boys was established. Finally in 1840, 170 years ago this summer, a law was passed making it illegal for anyone under 21 to sweep chimneys. The Chimney Sweep Regulation Act of 1867 tightened controls further, with Lord Shaftesbury a main proponent of the bill. By 1875 all chimney sweeps had to be licensed by law, and licenses were not issued to master sweeps who employed child chimney sweeps.

Customs and traditions

There are many traditions associated with sweeps. In Victorian times if coachmen and race-goers saw a chimney sweep, they would raise their hats or call out a greeting for luck.

Coal, being connected to the fire and hearth, is also a symbol of the home. During World War One soldiers carried small lumps of coal into battle, a lucky token for survival.

 By royal appointment

There is also a tradition of chimney sweeps kissing new brides for good luck, which has its origins 200 years ago. As people lined the streets of London to see King George III pass in his royal carriage, one of his horses began to gallop out of control. A chimney sweep dashed forward and single-handedly stopped the horse and carriage, saving the king. By Royal Decree, George proclaimed that all chimney sweeps were bearers of good luck and should be treated with respect. The folklore of a chimney sweep being lucky continues to this day.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh had a lucky chimney sweep on their wedding day in 1947, as reported in a newspaper at the time: ‘Not by mere chance a sooty chimney sweep sauntered in front of Kensington Palace, on the wedding morning of Prince Phillip and Princess Elizabeth, thereby, affording the excited bridegroom an opportunity to dash out from the royal apartment, to wring his grubby hand for chimney sweep’s luck.’  

Another reason they are deemed lucky could be that the high mortality seen in this occupation lead to a shortage of chimney sweeps. You were therefore lucky to meet one.

Read more about it

British Chimney Sweeps: Five Centuries of Chimney Sweeping by Benita Cullingford (Amsterdam Books, 2001), is a fascinating account of the chimney sweep trade in the British Isles over five centuries, with interesting stories, facts and historical knowledge. 

www.chimneysweep.co.uk, for more information about the UK National Association of Chimney Sweeps and the history of chimney sweeps.

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!

Marriage certificates explained

January 21, 2010

The marriage certificates I ordered from the General Register Office have provided me with lots of juicy new information about my great-grandparents. Below you’ll find a quick overview of the details that marriage certificates can give you.

Please click to enlarge

Please click to enlarge

I’ve added this new information to my family tree, extending it back a generation to include my four newly discovered great-great-grandfathers. I really feel like I’m making some progress! Now that I have an idea of my great-grandparents’ ages at marriage, I can have a root around for the records of their births in the BMD indexes. In addition, because all four seem to have been born before 1911 and because I now know their fathers’ names and occupations, I could attempt to search for my ancestors in the recently released 1911 census – currently the closest census to the modern day available.

Aside from this, I’d really like to find out a bit more about what my great-grandparents’ and great-great-grandfathers’ occupations entailed. In particular, I’d love to find out more about Jack Cooke’s employment as a Chauffeur, Ada Howard’s life as a Domestic Servant and what her father’s day would have been like working as a Chimney Sweep. If anyone has any suggestions as to how I might be able to find out a little more, please do point me in the right direction.

Searching the BMDs

November 9, 2009

I’ve decided to start filling in the blanks in the maternal side of my family tree – namely the dates of birth, marriage and death for all four maternal great-grandparents – by locating the marriages in the indexes on findmypast.co.uk. I’m starting with my great-grandparents’ marriages because while she was unable to provide me with these dates, my mum did tell me when my grandparents were born and also roughly when their elder siblings were. By using this information, I can make a couple of educated guesses as to the likely years of marriage, making my search a lot easier.

I know that George and Lucy Mead’s eldest child was born at the end of 1925 and that Lucy’s maiden name was Wright. I therefore decided to search the marriage indexes (accessible via the ‘births, marriages & deaths’ tab at the top of the findmypast.co.uk homepage) for a marriage between 1920 and 1930. Despite knowing Lucy’s maiden name, I decided to search for George Mead as I felt his name was the more unique and that this would help me sift through the records more effectively. This search brought up a screen of telephone directory-esque pages as follows,

BMD results

BMD results - click to enlarge

While my search covered 10 years, I decided to start viewing the records from the year I would initially expect to see George and Lucy getting married, namely the year preceding their eldest’s birth (the end of 1924 – the end of 1925). This turned out to be a masterstroke as I quickly spotted a likely looking marriage in the first quarter of 1925; the index shows that a George W. Mead was married to a woman with the surname Wright in West Ham.

George Mead JFM 1925

George Mead in the marriage indexes

Feeling like a detective, I returned to the marriage index search screen to check that the Ms Wright was indeed a Lucy. This second search, for Lucy Wright in the first quarter of 1925, resulted in further success as I spotted a Lucy M. Wright marrying a Mead – also in West Ham! The GRO reference (the code at the right of the record) for both George and Lucy’s entries also matched, reassuring me that the entries relate to the same marriage.

JFM1925 zoom on Lucy Wright

Lucy Wright in the marriage indexes

Now confident that these records refer to my great-grandparents’ marriage, I have ordered my first ever certificate from the General Register Office. This was surprisingly simple to do as you can now order BMD certificates online through the GRO website, www.gro.gov.uk. One tip: make sure you record the GRO reference provided in the indexes at findmypast.co.uk as you’ll need these numbers when ordering the certificate. The first part of the reference provided refers to the volume number (in George and Lucy’s case, this is 4a), while the second section is the page number (175 in this example).

Using the same tactics, I’ve also managed to locate the marriage of my other set of maternal great-grandparents and have ordered their marriage certificate too. The certificates cost me £7 each and should be with me in about a week – I can’t wait!