Archive for the ‘Occupations’ Category

Proof that Thomas Edward Taylor won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge

July 22, 2014

I’m thrilled to say that I’ve been able to prove that my great-great-great-grandfather won the famous Doggett’s Coat and Badge rowing race.

It seems the rumour I started investigating in my last post is true!

Thames waterman records

My cousin Lorraine sent me this photo of twenty winners of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

While I’m not sure which man is which, the caption at the bottom states that a ‘T. E. Taylor’ is among the group and that he won the race in 1878.

 

Twenty winners of the Doggetts Coat and Badge

Doggett’s Coat and Badge race winners – please click to enlarge

 

There’s also a collection of Thames Watermen & Lightermen records available online at Findmypast.

These confirm that a Thomas Edward Taylor won the race in 1878. But a question remains: is this ‘my’ Thomas Edward Taylor?

 

Thomas Edward Taylor, winner of the Doggett's Coat and Badge race

Newspaper article reveals an address

There are millions of historical newspaper pages available to search at The British Newspaper Archive.

All of the words in the newspapers are searchable, so you can look for absolutely anything.

I searched the collection for “Thomas Taylor” “Doggett Coat and Badge” and found the following article, published in Reynolds’s Newspaper in 1886.

 

Cutting from Reynolds's Newspaper, 13 June 1886, found at The British Newspaper Archive.

 

It describes an inquest into the death of an apprentice lighterman, who had ‘drowned in the River Thames, opposite the House of Commons’.

Thomas Taylor witnessed the tragedy and gave evidence. The article stated that Taylor had ‘won the Doggett Coat and Badge in 1878’ and that his address was 13 Paradise Street.

Confirming the address

I already know that my great-great-great-grandfather had lived in Paradise Street, but not at that precise address. The 1891 census (included as part of my last post) placed him at 51 Paradise Street.

Thomas Taylor’s daughter Eliza was five years old at the time of the 1891 census. I calculated that this meant she would have been born in about 1886, when the newspaper article above was printed.

Using this information, I tracked down Eliza’s baptism record in the London parish records at Ancestry. You can see that her father was listed as being a Waterman and was residing at 13 Paradise Street. A perfect match!

 

Baptism of Eliza Taylor in Lambeth

 

It’s fantastic to have been able to prove so conclusively that my great-great-great-grandfather did win the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race in 1878.

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The Doggett’s Coat and Badge race

May 20, 2014
Maria Taylor

Maria Taylor

Earlier this year, I mentioned that there’s a family rumour about the father of my paternal great-great-grandmother, Maria Taylor.

My nan believes that Maria’s father once won a rowing race called the Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

 

What was the Doggett’s Coat and Badge?

 

The Doggett’s Coat and Badge race is the oldest rowing race in the

Doggetts Coat and Badge race winner

Doggett’s Coat and Badge winner

world. It was set up and funded by the comedian Thomas Doggett and has been held on the River Thames since 1715. Unbelievably, it’s still going today!

Every year, six Thames Watermen who had recently completed their apprenticeships raced from The Old Swan pub at London Bridge to The New Swan pub at Chelsea. Watermen appear to have been similar to taxi drivers, rowing passengers along and across the river.

The prize was an orange coat, a silver badge and the winner also apparently became a Royal Waterman. This ties in nicely with another family rumour about Maria Taylor’s father – that he once took Queen Victoria across the River Thames.

Thomas Edward Taylor, Thames Waterman

 

I was introduced to Maria Taylor’s father for the first time on her marriage certificate. My nan has a copy of this in her possession, so I didn’t need to order it from the General Register Office.

Marriage certificate from 25 December 1899

George Jones and Maria Taylor’s marriage certificate – please click to enlarge

The marriage certificate shows that Maria married my great-great-grandfather George Jones at Putney Church on Christmas Day in 1899. My nan believes it wasn’t unusual for people to get married on Christmas Day, as it was often one of the only days they had off of work.

Thomas Edward Taylor is recorded as being Maria’s father – my great-great-great-grandfather. According to the certificate, he was employed as a Lighterman. Lightermen were similar to Watermen, transporting goods across the River Thames, so this occupation fits in with the family rumour.

I’ve traced the family through the census records at findmypast and have also found Thomas listed as a ‘Lighterman Waterman’ in many of the records. Here he is in the 1891 census, living at 51 Paradise Street, Lambeth with his wife and six children (including a 13-year-old Maria):

The Taylor family in the 1891 census

The Taylor family in the 1891 census – please click to enlarge

 

Next steps

 

My initial investigations seem to show that there could be some truth behind my family rumour. Thomas Edward Taylor had the right sort of occupation to have won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race.

My next challenge is to see whether any records about the race and the Watermen who took part in it survive.

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

Charles Silk: Post Office Sorter

March 14, 2011

As part of this project to show newcomers to family history how you can start tracing your family tree, I discovered that my paternal great-great-grandfather Charles Silk worked as a Sorter at the General Post Office (GPO).

A few weeks ago, I decided to visit The British Postal Museum and Archive to see what records they might hold about my ancestor. I thought it was best to be fully prepared about Charles’ life before I went, so I made a list of what I knew about his life and his work as a Sorter.

 

Charles Silk’s profile

1871/2 – Born in Islington.

1881 – Census. Occupation: Scholar, address: 60 Havelock Street, Islington.

1893 – Marriage certificate. Occupation: Sorter, address: 40 Arlington Street, Islington.

1895– Daughter’s birth certificate. Occupation: Sorter for the General Post Office, address:  40 Arlington Street, Islington.

1901 – Census. Occupation: Post Office Sorter, address: 40 Arlington Street, Islington.

1911 – Census. Occupation: Sorter for the General Post Office, address:  29 Wyatt Road, Highbury.

The information on The British Postal Museum Archive’s website told me that people tended to start working for the GPO at the age of 16 and retired at 60. Based on all of this, I was able to estimate that:

Charles joined the GPO between 1887 and 1893

Charles left the GPO or retired between 1911 and 1932.
 
  

I arrived with this information in hand, not really knowing what to expect as this was my first trip to an archive. The staff were lovely and got me signed up for a user card, explained the different sorts of information they held and advised me that I should start by looking for Charles’ pension or gratuity record as this would be the easiest to find and would provide me with the most detail about him.

I was shown how to use a microfiche reader – a completely new experience for me as I’ve done all my research online so far. Although the machines look a bit bizarre, they’re actually really simple to use. They reminded me a bit of a sewing machine as you have to thread a bit of the microfiche tape into the machine before you can start scanning through the pages to find the record you’re after.

I was advised to start searching the index to the pension and gratuities records when Charles would have been 60 years old (in 1931/1932). Sure enough, after a few minutes of scanning through names, I spotted Charles Silk’s and a note that he received a pension in 1931. Using the reference the index provided, the Archive’s staff were able to find me the treasury book containing my great-great-grandfather’s pension record. This is what the record looked like:

© Royal Mail Group Ltd, courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive.

© Royal Mail Group Ltd, courtesy of The British Postal Museum & Archive.

 

The record tells me that

– Charles was born on 27 April 1871 and was indeed 60 years old when he retired.

– He was a Sorter for the London Postal Service and had worked there for 41 years and a month.

– He started on 17 March 1890, when he would have been 18 years old.

– His wage was 68/6 a week at the time he retired. According to The National Archives, this equates to £114.46 a week today. While this seems low by today’s standards, the cost of living was much cheaper in 1931.

– During his service, Charles had also received Sunday pay of £18.7.5 (between £500 and £600 today), showing that he sometimes worked extra days.

– In the four years prior to his retirement, Charles was absent from work because of illness for 17 days. Over half of this happened in 1927 when he was off work for 9 days – I wonder why?

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!

Trace your family tree in 10 steps

July 23, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a project to show family history newbies exactly how you can start researching your family tree with findmypast.co.uk. I’ve used an example from my own ancestry – my paternal Silk line – and have actually managed to trace my tree back to about 1794 using these 10 steps.

To take a look at my progress, simply click on the image below and a powerpoint presentation will start downloading.

If you then select ‘notes page’ in the ‘view’ section of the tool bar at the top of the screen, you’ll be able to see my notes along with the images on the presentation itself. Alternatively, if you wanted to print the presentation, simply select ‘notes pages’ in the drop down box under ‘print what’ and it will print both my notes and the images.

I hope you find it interesting – let me know what you think!

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.