Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Little Jack of Cromer

I have just had a query from Jane asking if I knew of a midget called "Little Jack" who she says lived at Cromer (a tiny hamlet in Ardeley, near Stevenage) about 100 years ago. I think it is far more likely that her family tradition (see Chinese Whispers) relates to Cromer, Norfolk, which was a significant seaside resort. A hundred years ago such places regularly had "freak shows" where you could pay a penny and were then allowed to enter a tent where your would see the freak - which might be the incredible bearded woman, the shortest (or tallest, or fattest) man or woman, the Siamese twins, or perhaps a (stuffed) two headed dog.
     If you can say whether this query relates to Hertfordshire or Norfolk please comment below and I will tell Jane about it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


The last couple of days have been uncomfortable and I have had very little sleep. Hopefully posts will resume after a scheduled visit to the dentist on Tuesday.

There might be some other similar short "breaks" in service over the next few months. I am clearly getting to a stage in life when things start to wear out. I have two appointments for examinations each of which could lead to minor surgery (in one case for a cataract in my one good eye), plus appointments for a pre-op and op for a different issue. None are serious - but if postings become a bit erratic during February and March  I will be back.

*** 5th February *** The visit to the dentist involved some planned repair work - which was carried out satisfactorily -and an examination and X-ray showed nothing amiss in the area I was having pain ... but unfortunately the only effect of the treatment is that I am not taking so many paracetamol for toothache ...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Congratulations to Wikipedia for spotting this spam

When I logged on this morning I was delighted to find that Wikipedia had already taken action ....
     Once misleading or downright wrong information gets posted onto the internet there are many others people who simply echo the errors - see The Dangers of Internet Genealogy and The Myth of Stanstead Abbey. One of the problems in genealogy is that it is possible to search the internet for names and the more ignorant you are of English history, the history of surnames, and the  nature of the surviving contemporary documents, the more you are to assume that people with similar names might be related.
       So read on to find why I was so delighted.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Post Cards of Aldbury

Aldbury from the Church
I have added four new post card views of Aldbury, each of which can be enlarged to 1024 pixels wide. There are two published by C. Dickens of Aldbury, showing views of the Village from the Church Tower, and the Stocks Estate from Moneybury Hill. There is a view of the Church by Michael Chadwick of Tring. I also show a view of the area round the pond taken by the major publisher, Valentine, in 1903 but republished by DeFraine of Tring and posted in 1919.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Reservoirs and Canals around Tring

Guide to Grand Union Canal near Tring
Over two years ago I posted a linked series of pictures of the Grand Union Canal in the Tring Area, taken while walking my dog, Franki (who appears in many of the older photos). The idea was to allow people to photographically explore the main canal, the Wendover Arm, the Aylesbury Arm, and the reservoirs near Tring (Startops, Marsworth, Tringford and Wilstone). This was done by posting pictures on the Geograph web site and linking them together. The idea was also to link them with the Canal pages of this site (still incomplete). However Geograph introduced a better way to link photographs and now allow bigger images to be archived, and rather than edit several hundred pictures already posted I abandoned the process. (In fact pictures of many other subjects - mainly around Tring - were also posted on Geograph by  me as "Chris Reynolds")
Low Water at Startops Reservoir, January 2012
     Recently I have been taking more pictures during my relaxation walks - including the impact of the lack of rain on the local reservoirs and the ones I have posted showing the Medieval field systems (Medieval Field System exposed in Wilstone Reservoir  and  More Evidence of Medieval Fields at Tring Reservoirs) have attracted a lot of attention. In addition I have offered to prepare a talk on the Industrial Archaeology of the Canal to the archaeology group of our local U3A.
     As I am already committed to doing more work I have decided that I will go through my large collection of photographs and post suitable ones on Geograph, and report my activities here, even if they are not directly linked to Hertfordshire. I also plan to update the Canal pages on this site, with cross links to the Geograph pictures. However this will all take some time

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese Whispers and Family Traditions

Chinese Whispers is a game where a verbal message is passed along a line, one person whispering to the next, and often the message that come out of the far end of the line is significantly different to the original message. This can happen over the generations with family traditions so be careful you do not drop a brick - by repeating the "old" story without checking.

I have just come up with a good modern example from my own family of how a story can change.

School Memories of the 1940 -Priory School, Kings Langley

Coombe Hill School (or Priory School as it was later known) was a pretty unconventional school in its attitudes to children. I am therefore delighted to being able to add Paul's memories of the school as it was over 50 years ago.

Monday, January 23, 2012

William George Bennett, St Albans Brickmaker

William George Bennett was one of the St Albans Brickmakers I have studied in detail, Louise has sent in some information about houses built in Cumberland Road in 1926 and I have added further biographical information.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tales of the Old Frog at Weston

Tales of the Old Frog at Weston
Tales of the Old Frog at Weston sounds like an interesting read  It has recently been published by Richard Clements, a visitor to this web site, and he has sent me details. 

If you have read it please consider adding a review as a comment below.

It is impossible for me to keep in touch with all the many local history publications being published by individuals and local history societies across Hertfordshire - so please send me details (or even better a review copy) if you want one to be mentioned on this site.

Hertingfordbury Park and the CULLING connection

John Cullen senior purchased the Hertingfordbury Park estate in 1681 and the property, shown here, was passed to his son on his death, and after that to his daughter. Shirley has written to ask some questions about his possible relationship to a Norfolk family (CULLING, Hertingfordbury, 17/18th century)

I have used the opportunity to significantly upgrade the Hertingfordbury page, although some of the new pages will need new information at a later date.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Variable quality of old document images

Philip writes I ordered PRs from the 16C for Hitchin at my local LDS Family History Centre. They were so blurred as to be virtually unreadable. The images of same PRS at HALS were crisp.

     I have photographed Kings Walden PRs and found several pages to be so faint as to be almost blank. On Thursday, I viewed a new film of K Walden PRs at the LDS Centre and ALL the images were easily read.
    My point is that if the quality of films of PRs is patchy, it may be worth trying another source.

I rarely use microfilm now but I have come across variable quality in census images both from CD and online. For this reason it is often worth trying a different source if you get a very faded image. Of course there are some pages which, in the original, are so faded that they are difficult to read. I suspect that images made in the last few years using digital techniques are likely to be far better than some of the early microfilm copies,

Comment below if you know of other cases of this problem.

Across the County boundaries around Barnet

Loz contacted me because of difficulties in locating birth details of Joseph Rolph and I was able to find him - see ROLFE, Monken Hadley, 1800-1851. The problem is that in the 1871 census Joseph gave his place of birth at Barnet - which was then in Hertfordshire - but he had actually been born just over the county boundary in Monken Hadley, which was then in Middlesex but became part of Hertfordshire in 1903. Both Barnet and Monken Hadley became part of Greater London when the County of Middlesex was abolished as an administrative unit! The lesson is that if your ancestors came from the Barnet area you need to check both the Hertfordshire and Middlesex records.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Make the most of FREE genealogy sites

I sometime get queries from people who have been tempted into genealogy by commercial websites such as Ancestry or FindMyPast and who appear never to have read a modern introductory guide to family history and haven't realised that commercial sites seem to go out of their way not to tell you of free web sites which contain answers to the question you are asking, such as familysearch.
     As a result I have now updated my page on FreeBMD and included details of the related sites FreeCEN and FreeREG.
     FreeBMG contains complete indexes of birth, marriage and death registrations from July 1837 to 1939 for births, 1951 for marriages, and 1950 for deaths. Some later years are fully indexed and the coverage is steadily being increased.
     FreeCEN contains census returns and as yet coverage for Hertfordshire is limited to 1851 (25% coverage), 1871 (9.5% coverage) and 1891 (8.3% coverage).
    FreeREG contains indexed parish and non-conformist records and the coverage for Hertfordshire is currently limited - but may include the parish you are interested in.
     If you have some free time why not volunteer to be an indexer of Hertfordshire registers or censuses for FreeREG or FreeCEN. Not only will you find this interesting but you will also be helping your fellow genealogists.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

So your ancestor went to America in the 17th Century

I have just had a query (through the Tring Local History Society) about John Lake, born Tring around 1616, who went to America in about 1640. Usually when I get such a query I inwardly groan but in this case my answer was eased by the fact that the person asking the question was aware that there was much misinformation surrounding her ancestor's origins.
     The problem I face with such queries is that there are many published family histories and family trees which lead back to the first settlers in America - and most of these effectively start with the arrival of the first settlers. In most cases there seems to have been few, if any, records linking them to their origins in England - and there has been an enormous amount of guesswork which has become "proven facts" by being repeatedly retold - nowadays over the internet - see The Dangers of Internet Genealogy and The Myth of Stanstead Abbey
     Americans who have no experience of researching original 17th century American documents first hand, and even less about English documents and history of the period discover a published family tree going back to the very early days of settlement. They accept what is on the tree as being true and write to me thinking it is easy to match the possibly very unreliable information on the family tree with contemporary Hertfordshire records. They assume that because there was only one person with that name in 17th century America there was only one person with the name born in England - and assume that person must be their ancestor. In the case of the current query it turns out that there are there were four John Lake christenings in Tring in a two year period so Right Name, Wrong Body becomes very relevant.
     In most cases I can do little more than direct them to My Ancestors emigrated from Hertfordshire and ask them to let me know what the possibly relevant information is available from American sources. The result is often that I don't hear from them again ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This site is Non-commercial ....

(Apologies to those of you who have read this post before but emails I have been getting suggest I should move this message to a more visible position. In view of the previous post it is also appropriate to emphasize this site's non-commercial nature.)
After running for ten years without any spam this site appears to be attractive to the advertising agencies - as I had yet another message trying to get me to take advertising. My reply this time is as follows:

     I am puzzled as to why you should think of contacting a 100% non-commercial web site which deals with family and local history in Hertfordshire, although I can understand why you may not have spotted the blog of 13 May which discusses the matter. You may also have been unaware that when the URL was registered over 10 years ago the only generally available URLs in the UK were .co.uk domains. 
     At first sight your client's business has absolutely nothing to do with genealogy but after a little thought I realised that there is a connection - but one that you would be unlikely to mention in your adverts.
      The people who visit my site are very much concerned with the birth, marriage and death of their ancestors and other relatives. Look at any family tree and you can find far too many examples of people who have died of lung cancer, emphysema, liver cirrhosis, etc.  In addition there will be families that have run into problems from alcohol addiction or from spending too much on legal addictive drugs. However your client has a business plan that means it is not too worried about killing its customers off as it can then make more money selling flowers for the funeral ....
     Why not spend a little time thinking out the consequences of your actions. Some years ago I did a calculation as to the cost of my education at an expensive private school - the fees being paid out of the profits my father made selling cigarettes. I came to the conclusion that my father's customers shortened their lives by a total of over 200 years by smoking, and many died an unpleasant death, in order to pay the fees.
     While you may feel the site might be a suitable place for your clients to advertise, your client's business is not one which could in any way be considered acceptable .

A Possible Threat to this Genealogy Web Site???

Wikipedia has blacked itself out today  and carries the following message:
Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia: instead, they will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, and encouraging them to share their views with their elected representatives, and via social media.
Basically what is happening is that Online Piracy Laws are being considered in the United States which could have the effect of  banning access to web sites world wide which breach U.S. copyright laws. This could mean that in theory at least if I posted something on the Genealogy web site which was technically in breach of copyright people in the United States could not access the site - and search engines such as Google would not be allowed to index the site. (About 80% of the first times visitors to the site find it using Google.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More from the Home Counties Magazine 1901

I have updated the page on the Home Counties Magazine to include a short piece about an inquisition relating to a Chipping Barnet charity. In addition I have added a 1901 advert from the magazine to the page on St George's School, Harpenden. The advert not only gives details of the school but also gives details of the school fees.

I plan to post more extracts from this magazine during 2012.

(If any of you have any information about 19th century school fees in Hertfordshire please let me know by commenting below.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Rothschild funded trip to Canada

Elizabeth's query about PANGBORN, Tring, 1868-1906 raised a lot of interesting points - some of which could be relevant to many who emigrated to Canada from Hertfordshire in the early 20th century. There can be little doubt that a book published by a Tring farmer will have encouraged many to emigrate, in some cases help by Rothschild money,

In the case of the Pangborn family there is the question of why Frederick returned to England leaving all but the youngest children in Canada - and who was the "Mrs Pangborn" who is listed on the ship manifest. 

A Dispute over Charity Land at Sandridge in 1653

Water End House, Sandridge
This inquisition is interesting because the Church Wardens took the Lord of the Manor to court because the charity had not been getting its due income, and many personal names are mentioned. The Lord of the Manor was Richard Jennings, of Water End, Sandridge. He had a daughter, Sarah, who married John Churchill, and ended up living in Blenheim Palace! Richard's descendants include Princess Diana, and Winston Churchill (who was born at Blenheim Palace). The current Earl Spencer is Lord of the Manor of Sandridge.

It is of additional interest to me because my ancestor, Dolphin Smith, took the tenancy of Water End in about 1845.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Update - The Green Man and The Harrow, Tring

Following my recent answer to a query about Mrs Jane Philbey, Tring, 1840-1864 Colin has written to say that Jane Philbey of The Green Man public house was the sister of Thomas Meager, landlord of The Harrow public house in Akeman Street, Tring.

Behind the scenes - January 1 to 14

In reply to one query I added the following comment - which actually applies to many of the queries I receive which don't get an answer.
 I find that a very common failing with beginners is to hunt for names without spending enough time getting to grips with the available tools - or to understanding the many pitfalls.
I also got a very short email request that included no specific birth, marriage of death dates for any of the people concerned, no sources, a large typo and part of the very little "real" information that was provided looked as if it could have been wrong! In addition the surname was common enough for Right Name, Wrong Body to be relevant. If someone gives so little thought to drafting their question they do not deserve an answer.

Ray kindly pointed out an error on the Harry Cull, Photographer, Watford  page - relating to which pictures would enlarge and which would not.

There has been some further emails relating to last year's query about The Long Family of Sacombe, and hopefully there will be something new to post later this year once an email address problem can be resolved.

Tonmoy11 has posted an interesting comment about the US costs on my post on the cost of UK Birth., etc, certificates. It would be interesting to know what the prices are in other countries.

Via blog comments Anthony has been able to provide more information in reply to the blog post Were your Ancestors mad in 1911? and I have used his contribution to update the The Patients of Harpenden Hall on the main web site.

They say that Things come in Threes ... In the first six weeks of 2012 I have three dates in my diary to visit the local hospital. The first has already promised me another visit to have a kidney stone removed. The second is confirm that my hernia needs repairing. The third will undoubtedly arrange a later date for the cataract in my one "good" eye to be removed. Otherwise I am feeling fine - and happily did 30 lengths in our local swimming pool last week - my target being 50 lengths in the "Old People's Hour" by Easter - including walking across town to the pool and back home afterwards! All the procedures should be pretty straight forward so I am not expecting breaks of more than a day or two in the management of this site.

Finally I am delighted to say that the Herts Mind Network has already received £50 in 2012 as a result of activities connected with this site. But there is still £1150 to go to get the year end target so why not make a DONATION now and help the mentally ill of Hertfordshire.

Old Handwriting - A Conditional Surrender from 1819

A number of people found the earlier "Old Handwriting" example useful so today I have a much longer document.

In 1819 Richard Oakley lent John Thrussell £600 pounds on the surety of property at Bendish, St Pauls Walden. This document records the transaction. Because it was copyhold property the property was part of the Manor of St Pauls Walden the document was called a conditional surrender because the ownership of the property was dependent on the repayment of the mortgage and due interest.

Read below to see the complete document or go to Conditional Surrender, 1819, St Pauls Walden for the document and a full transcription

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How can I prove Joseph was John's Father ...

In reply to a query from Kerryn I wrote: Proof is an ideal which it is often very difficult to establish the further you go back, particularly with the poorer members of society.  What you need to do is to establish what the options are, and eliminate those which do not fit. This may well mean checking up on many people who turn out not to be close relatives. In some cases there will only be one "looks likely" alternative which falls well short of being positively proved. In such cases you have to treat it as a good working assumption - but always be on the lookout for further information to strengthen, or weaken, the support for your assumption. 
To see my response in Kerryn's case see DAWSON, Cheshunt, early 19th century
For a more general discussion see  How can you be certain about ...

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Herts Jew's Society in 1841

In October1841 George Ludlow, Steward of Christ's Hospital, Hertford, advertised the Annual Meeting of the Herts Auxilary  Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews.  It was a branch of the London Society, founded in 1809 and the Watton Jews Association had been in existence since 1830.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Account of The Hormeads in 1901

I have published an article "The Great and Little Hormeads" written by the Hertfordshire historian, W. B. Gerrish, in the Home Counties Magazine of 1901..

It describes the Church of Little Hormead as it was at the time, with the ancient door still in the Norman doorway, and has a long account of the Brick House at Great Hormead.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Poem: Lines on Visiting Throcking Wood

Come to the wood, where the shadows lie deep,
Where insects hum, and wild flowers love to creep,
There the red strawberries run along the ground,
And the brown ivy clings to all around ...

Read more from The Reformer 2 October 1841

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BBC "Country Tracks" Hertfordshire

I have just spotted the following program about Hertfordshire on the BBC iplayer

I,m not sure how long it will remain there so am posting this immediately - but I know it contains items on Heartswood Forestr, Campfield Place, Knebworth House and Henry Moore's studio

Major Fire at Barnet in 1908

The Great Fire at Barnet, August 15th, 1908
Published by The Watford Engraving Co - (See Downer)
At the beginning of the 20th century few local paper contained many, if any, pictures and there was a ready market for photographers to rapidly produce postcards recording local events. One of the leading practitioners was Frederic Downer, who founded the Watford Engraving Company which also printed cards for other photographers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mr Gates kept The Gate Public House at Chorleywood

Chorley Wood near the Gate Inn

In preparing this card for display I noticed the very unusual franking mark on the stamp. In addition the name of the  landlord in The Gate public house turns out to be Mr Gates?

At the same time I reorganised the Chorleywood pages and there are now separate pages for the Parish Church, King John's Farm, and Maud Huntsman's painted post cards.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Was "Sydbie" a Hertfordshire painter

Sopwell Nunnery, St Albans, by "Sydbie"
In about 1905 a series of six distinctive post cards, painted by "Sydbie" appeared showing historic views of the Barnet area appeared - and that seemed to only mention I could find of him. (A Google image search only shows the post cards I show on my web site.)
   Now I have discovered two further post cards, one of Sopwell Nunnery, and the other of the ruined house at Gorhambury which have his signature. They were published in the Pelham series by Boots, the chemists, possibly about 1910.
   I am wondering if he (or she) was a Hertfordshire artist, and whether other works by "Sydbie" exists.

Were your ancestors mad in 1911?

The 1911 census is now available in its complete form - with the final column, headed infirmity,  being visible on the images (available on FindMyPast.co.uk). This means that you can now learn whether any of your ancestors were totally blind, totally deaf, lunatic or imbecile. I decided to see if it would add anything we didn't know to The Patients at Harpenden Hall, Harpenden, 1851-1901 who were still alive in 1911. There were no surprises but in the process I found that Gertrude Anna Otton Halse was probably the G. H. aged 54, born Stoke Newington at London County Council The Manor Asylum at Epsom Surrey in 1911.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ford of Redbourn - update of an old query

In 2001 I answered a question by Geoff asked about Henry James Ford of Redbourn, and Geoff later added some further information. Ten years later Mike has produced an update/correction including information not available in 2001.

James IZZARD of Great Amwell - Press Notices, 1841

Joseph Izzard was buried at Great Amwell in 1841, and later in the year the live and dead stock were sold and a notice was published in The Reformer relating to his estate.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Can anyone identify this car?

What make of car?
I am currently digitizing the Stagenhoe photographs (see Stagenhoe Park Photographs saved for Posterity). This photograph is the only one in the part of the collection that has been saved which shows a motor car. It was taken in August 1910. Can anyone identify it?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Don't overlook the siblings - SORRELL at Cheshunt, early 19th century

When Janet tired to follow her ancestral line the problem was that Ann was missing from the probable family household at the time of the 1841 census. In fact the information she wanted was on the familysearch web site (FREE!!!). In my analysis of SORRELL, Cheshunt, early 19th century, I show how, when tracing you main ancestral line, it can be very useful to identify the siblings and what happened to them.

FindMyPast's Hertfordshire proposals for 2012

FindMyPast recently announced the following new records are scheduled to be added to their web site in 2012. I don't have details of the Hertfordshire records but will post details on this blog as soon as I know

Three million crime, courts and convicts records, in partnership with The National Archives
More local record collections, including ...  Hertfordshire
Electoral rolls 1832-1928, in partnership with the British Library

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Would you pay £74.99 for a Birth Certificate?

Well some people do - at least for the "express" delivery if they want a replacement birth certificate - and as the "we look official but we really are a scam" web sites often appear at the top online searches perhaps some genealogists have been caught out as well. I have just discovered a Home Office press release which points out that you can get the official express service for £23.40 and the standard cost of a certificate is £9.25.  
(Of course some genealogists are happy to pay over £12 extra to subsidize web sites such as Ancestry ...)

Why was Barrack Row, Aldbury given its name?

This row of cottages was built early in the 19th century after Ebelthite Farm was demolished as part of the improvements in Aldbury carried out by the Earl of Bridgewater (at Ashridge). The cottages were first called "Slated Row" because they were among the first building erected in the village, using non-local building materials brought along the Grand Junction Canal.
   Rita has written to ask why the cottages are now called "Barrack Row" and I look at the Row's history and while I come up with a suggestion please feel free to comment is you have a better idea.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Winter Sales - Special Offer on Hertfordshire Trade Directories

Over the years Archive CD Books have done a wonderful job in scanning (and restoring) old books of interest to the historian and genealogist and I have made good use of them when building up the reference library I use to support my activities on this web site. I have just noticed they have a sale on - with 50% off many of their CDs. They have a good selection of Hertfordshire Trade Directories - which contain detailed descriptions of the towns and villages in the county, lists of gentry and traders (including farmers), and in most cases a county map. The sale also includes a number of hard to find local histories, and I noticed books on Totteridge, South Mimms, Monken Hadley and East Barnet - and others such as the Corporation Records of St Albans.

The Birthplace of Pope Adrian IV, at Bedmond

Breakspear's Farm, Bedmond, Abbots Langley
Birthplace of Pope Adrian IV

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Reformer - a message from 1841

My New Years Resolution is to reform - as a result of buying this old newspaper. ... 

Site activity for the year 2011

[For more up-to-date information see Site Statistics for 2012.]

The most important development during the year has been the moving of the in site blog to a separate blog site . I did it because it allowed me to restructure the old integral "newsletter" in a more modern format and has clearly proved popular as the usage statistics has shown steady growth over the period (868, 1358, 1684 and 2357 page views a month). It allows me to run the newsletter in a more imaginative way, with temporary and fun items, leaving the main site for more serious treatment of the material. The default statistics may be a little limited but has the advantage of providing rapid feedback, helping me to find out what is working best. While one can't track individual users it is clear that quite a lot of the visitors look at the current posts (this counts as one page view) and then explores further, either old blog posts or visiting the main web site.