More Conference Musings

A full day at the conference today. Typically, a road between the site and the conference venue had been close but fortunately the detour was fairly straightforward. We made a mercy dash to Sainsbury’s for Strepsils on the way. I give Sainsbury’s full marks for retaining its apostrophe in much of its signage.

After a non-controversial AGM, Nick Barrett opened the conference with a session on the future of family history. I had heard this presentation before but this was a revised version, focusing on different issues. Nick spoke about the move from archive-based research to methods that rely largely on digital content and highlighted the impact that financial cutbacks have had on archives. The other major game changer is the rise of DNA-inspired research. He then touched on data ownership; all that information we (or you, as it happens, as I have deliberately not done this) upload to the likes of Ancestry, is now owned by them. Upload if you like but be aware of the implications. Nick went on to talk about initiatives to involve young people in non-traditional research and mentioned the Making History initiative. He encouraged us to promote links with academia and other institutions. A new #historianscollaborate movement is seeking to do this. One of Nick’s case-studies was Ryde Social Heritage Group’s cemetery project; it was good to hear the Isle of Wight getting an honourable mention. Finally, he considered family history as a vehicle for well-being, mentioning the benefits of social interaction with like-minded people.

Next was lunch. Seats were in short supply, so we nobly opted to sit on the high bar-stools, on the grounds that we were slightly less incapable of climbing on and off these than some of our fellow conference-goers. I am pleased to report that we are not still stuck in the restaurant with our feet dangling half a metre above the ground. Again, some slightly weird food combinations, or rather lack of obvious accompaniments – roast chicken but no hot potatoes for example, although to be fair, there were sweet potatoes. I can vouch for the high quality of the Eton Mess, once you worked out how to get it to fall off the serving spoon into your bowl. (Not as an accompaniment to roast chicken of course.)

Next, Dr Penny Walters gave a thought-provoking session entitled ‘The Psychology of Searching and Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’. She invited us to consider why we research and outlined the potential minefields that adoptees researching birth families might create, as well as the implications of unexpected DNA results. Penny was followed by Shirley Jones, head of conservation at West Yorkshire Archive Services, talking about her work. Finally, Paul Smith spoke on the Thomas Cook Archives. He outlined the history of the business, which sprung from Cook’s desire to further the Temperance cause. His first organised excursion, in 1841, was to a Temperance rally. Paul then described the contents of the archive, which is now held in Peterborough. I would swear that I had heard this presentation at a previous Guild conference but no one else seemed to remember it, so maybe it was at a different conference, or perhaps it was just a case of déjà vu.

By the end of the afternoon, I was feeling less than wonderful, so I was quite glad that we had decided not to attend the evening’s banquet. Time to return to the van and recharge the batteries.


Leicester Cathedral


Of Kings, Elizabethans and Things

After a few lovely days with my descendants I headed to Leicester for the annual conference of the Guild of One-name Studies. This is always a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones, as well as to enjoy a range of presentations.

We found our way to the Leicester Marriott Hotel, where the early arrivals were gathering. There were some lovely compliments from people who had been reading Barefoot on the Cobbles. I was booked on to a visit to the Richard III centre. Shortly after the ‘king in the car park’ was discovered, I managed to get a photograph of the car park but now the area has been turned into an impressive visitors’ centre. It seems that there has been plenty of regeneration in Leicester as a result of the discovery of Richard III’s body. There was plenty of information to absorb and we had time to relax in the sunny courtyard, where I consumed honeycomb ice-cream and coffee.

DSCF1134We then had an excellent tour of the cathedral, dedicated St. Martin of Tours, which is very small and largely a Victorian restoration. The main focus is, inevitably, Richard’s tomb and the beautifully embroidered pall; I failed to photograph the latter. There was also some lovely modern stained glass.

Back to the hotel for a swift buffet meal. The food was good but it seemed strange to serve curry without rice, naan or any other suitable accompaniment. I am quite glad that I don’t drink as the bar prices are a bit steep. Even a canned soft drink is £3; I avoided purchasing one of those too. I am currently recouping my funds following my recent certificate buying fest and yes, for the benefit of regular readers, I have ordered three more in an attempt to crack the Mary Cardell impasse – fingers crossed.

Mistress Agnes was on duty in the evening, in order to introduce Maureen Taylor of Talking History, who entertained us with an account of the appropriate garb of an Elizabethan aristocrat. Mistress Agnes was pressed into service as a dresser and is very thankful that she is a mere peasant as the attire of the more affluent is significantly more restrictive and considerably heavier, one of Maureen’s outfits weighs four stone.

Inevitably, my descendants have been generous with their lurgies once again and my throat is resembling something that has had a rigorous going over with heavy-grade sandpaper, so, despite liking a good quiz, we retired to the van. It seems that the van’s supply of Strepsils has been depleted (there weren’t any). I should have realised that agreeing to do seven talks in nine days was bound to result in me contracting some sort of ailment that would affect my voice.

Clock-makers, Vicars, Huguenots and Pirates: some family history excitements

Thank you to the wonderful family history friends who took up the challenge I outlined in my last post, to help me find the parents of my great great grandmother, Mary Cardell. As a result, I have had one of the most exciting weeks in over forty years of tracing my family. Although I have not yet ‘inked-in’ another generation, the people I believe to be Mary’s parents remain the most likely suspects. I have found out more about her sister, who led an ‘interesting’ life, apparently taking a man’s surname, living with him and his wife and eventually having a child by this man before posing as a widow and marrying a man with a criminal record. This pales into insignificance compared to my discoveries about Mary’s putative mother, Mary Ann Gutteridge (other spellings are also available). I must stress that there is still work to do to verify that these people are my relatives but it certainly looks likely. I do know the golden rule – prove each generation in turn before rushing backwards. Let’s just say, do as I say, not as I do. It started as an exercise to see if going backwards a little might confirm the more recent links and then I got carried away.


Thomas Mudge wikimedia Commons

Not only is there a connection to Huguenot silk weavers from Spitalfields, exciting enough in itself but I am taken back from London to Devon. It seems I may have Devon ancestry on both sides of my family. I MAY be related to one Thomas Mudge, who was the Royal clockmaker to George III, has a lengthy entry in the Dictionary of National Biography and had his portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. This is rather different fare from my usual diet of agricultural labourers. There is a book about Thomas, his father and brothers, who had illustrious careers in various fields. Thomas’ father, Zachariah Mudge, was vicar of Abbotsham, just a few miles from where I live and headmaster of Bideford grammar school. Two generations earlier, we find details of a ransom being raised for one Hercules (aka Archelaus) Mudge, who had been captured by pirates in 1666. Wow! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Hercules could be shown to be my 8x great grandfather.

The morals of this story are, never give up. Revisit your genealogical brick walls often. Seek fresh pairs of eyes to re-examine the evidence. So far, I have ordered one death certificate for the wrong Mary Ann Cardale (spellings are many and varied), who I hoped might be Mary’s mother. I am wondering how many more wrong certificates I can afford.  I have contacted DNA matches who have Mudge in their ancestry but their Mudge connections are too far distant to account for the match – we must be related through a different family. I have accessed wills that could have helpfully mentioned married daughters by name, thus confirming the pedigree but no, not a mention of a daughter married to my ancestor or indeed to anyone else. It would have been helpful if gg grandma or her sisters had been baptised but again no, that would just make it too easy. If anyone feels like undertaking a mission of mercy at London Metropolitan Archives, it might put me out of my misery.

My Problem Female Ancestor #internationalwomensday

Firstly, I must share just how distressing I found typing that hashtag without the apostrophe. Regrettably, it seems that hashtags and apostrophes are not compatible.

On International Women’s Day, I thought I’d introduce my genealogy obsessed friends to my problem female ancestor. I do have information about many of my ancestresses. I wrote about my direct maternal line here and you can find out more about some of these women by clicking on the appropriate surname links on my family history page. There you will find details of what I know about them and their families.

My great great grandmother, Mary Cardell, is proving more of a problem. If anyone feels like a challenge over the weekend, please see if you can confirm who Mary’s parents were (PS I‘d also be pleased to find her in the 1851 census, when she would have been Mary Woolgar). I am afraid there are no prizes but I promise a warm fuzzy feeling and the satisfaction of having succeeded where, so far, I have failed.

Mary Cardell is my great great grandmother. I know quite a bit about her married life; you can read it in my file on the Woolgar family. On her marriage certificate and the birth registrations for her four children, her birth surname is consistently spelt CARDELL. The marriage certificate suggests that she signed her own name. Earlier generations may not have been literate, so the name might be rendered differently and my searches have included all phoenetically likely variants of the name.

I have used a range of documents to calculate Mary’s probable date and place of birth:-
Her burial has not been located
13 January 1892 death certificate age 74 – born 13 January 1817- 12 January 1818
1891 census age 74 born Highgate, Middlesex – born 6 April 1816-5 April 1817
1881 census age 63 born Middlesex – born 4 April 1817- 3 April 1818
1871 census age 53 born Highgate, Middlesex – born 3 April 1817- 2 April 1818
1861 census age 44 born Highgate, Middlesex – born 8 April 1816-7 April 1817
1851 census not located
1841 census age 25 born Middlesex – born 7 June 1811- 6 June 1816
1 May 1841 (when she married Philip Woolgar) marriage certificate ‘of full age’ – born before May 1820

Mary Woolgar née Cardell 1817-1892This seems to suggest that Mary (or at least whoever provided the information to the enumerator) was convinced that she was born in Highgate, Middlesex. Ignoring the 1841 census evidence, when ages should have been rounded down in any case, the suggested dates of birth from the other sources are consistent. If all ages are correct, then Mary was born on 4 or 5 April 1817. It seems probable that she was born between 1816 and 1818.

Other clues are provided by her marriage certificate. This was obtained from the General Register Office in 1983 and is handwritten, so there is scope for transcription errors. Ideally, I would check with the local register office (Edmonton) or, even better, access the registers for St. Mary’s Hornsey where the marriage took place; these are held by London Metropolitan Archives ref. DRO/020/A/01/011. Assuming that the certificate I have is accurate, Mary’s father was James Cardell, a gardener and one of the witnesses was a Catharine Cardell who is likely to be Mary’s mother or sister. There is no indication that either of the fathers were deceased. I know the groom’s father was still alive at the time but it may be that whoever filled in the register didn’t not make a habit of noting if the fathers were deceased

The obvious first search was in the parish registers for Highgate and this was carried out on my behalf by a reputable researcher some years ago. He was however using a transcript of the Highgate baptism registers. I would like to recheck this and use the original baptism register. These are in London Metropolitan Archives P90/MIC1/004 (003 for 1791-1812). He also checked the birth and baptism register of the Highgate Salem Chapel, although the entries in the chapelry registers are sparse. These records are at The National Archives RG4 1131 and I have rechecked this using the online images of the registers at FindmyPast; there is no mention of the Cardell family.

Mary claims to have been born in Highgate and she married in Horsey, giving her address as Fortis Green, which lies between Finchley and Muswell Hill, so Middlesex seems a likely county in which to begin to seek the Cardell family.

NB subsequent research, after this post was written, has established that Mary Ann Guteridge was definitely not my 3 x great grandmother. So most of what follows can be ignored!

A marriage between a James Cadwell and a Mary Ann Guteridge took place in Highgate in 1813 and these are very strong possibilities as Mary’s parents. Mary Ann was the daughter of George and Sarah Guteridge born 14 August and baptised 7 September 1783 at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. She is likely to be the Mary Ann Cardale who was buried 10 April 1841 at St Andrew’s, Holborn, ‘of Regent’s Park’, just a month after Mary Cardell’s marriage to Philip Woolgar. I could check the original entry for more information and purchasing this death certificate is on the list when the family history budget has recovered from my certificate ordering fest prior to the recent price increase. The burial register records Mary Ann Cardale’s age as 58. The corresponding GRO death indexes can be searched on their website and give age at death. Here, Mary Ann Cardale was said to be 57, which ties in exactly with the Shoreditch baptism of Mary Ann Guteridge.

There is also a Maria Cardell in St. Pancras workhouse in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. (1841 census for St. Pancras workhouse, Marylebone, Middlesex HO107 681/9 folio 9; 1851 census for St. Pancras workhouse, Marylebone, Middlesex HO107 1497 folio 599.) This workhouse would have covered Highgate. Maria Cardell was born in Dudley, Worcestershire and is almost certainly the Maria Withenbury, baptised in 1780, who married James Cardall at St. Alban, Worcester, Worcestershire on the 12th February 1798. These too could be Mary’s parents. A Samuel Cardel was baptised in 1802 in Worcester, son of James and Maria. Samuel cannot be found in the census returns.

A James Cardall aged 49 of ‘Mermaid Court’ was buried 17 November 1824 at St George’s, Southwark, this is probably the James who married Mary Guteridge but is he my 3x great grandfather?

Mary Cardell’s marriage took place only a month before the 1841 census, there is no trace of a likely Catharine Cardell (the witness) in that census and no death or marriage for her in that quarter, using variants of both her names. There is a Catherine CAWDLE aged 27 bur Hoxton 24 Sept 1841 possibly wife of Henry Cawdle anf living in Shoreditch in 1841, neither were born in county. So could Catherine have been Mary’s sister-in-law? I don’t find this very convincing.

What this case study does illustrate is that, even after over forty years’ research, it is possible to have that pesky family line that is stuck in the more recent past. It also underlines that it important to periodically revisit sections of our family history that have been in abeyance. With luck, new sources will have become available, or a fresh pair of eyes with bear fruit. My own eyes are feeling far from fresh at present and cost me a significant sum yesterday when I , unexpectedly, had to buy new glasses. So, over to you friends and good luck!


Being Ambassadorial and Finding Lost Cousins

LondonBadges_640x640pxAmbassadorThis week came the news that I have been accepted as an Ambassador for the first London version of the genealogical extravaganza that is RootsTech. This major genealogy show has been a staple of the world’s genealogical calendar for nine years but in October, it will be coming to the UK for the first time. Now the US version of the show is over for 2019, details of what the UK event will offer are starting to be revealed. So far, some of the speakers have been announced and British family historians will recognise several people who have been prominent on the family history speaking circuit for many years. Early Bird pricing is on offer until 9 April, so don’t leave it too late to book. Shortly, I will be running a competition to win a three day pass, so keep an eye out on this blog and my Facebook and Twitter platforms for details.

Although I had recently managed to stop myself compulsively checking my Kindle sales figures for Barefoot on the Cobbles on a daily basis, I did notice a distinct spike in sales this week and I reached the dizzy height of #8 in the biographical fiction category. For an independently published first novel, which is not being given away or offered at a drastically reduced price, this is big – well I was excited anyway. The downside is that I have now returned to the hourly refreshing of my page to see what is happening to my sales figures. These new readers have found their way to Barefoot thanks to a review in the Lost Cousins newsletter, which is run by Peter Calver. Peter does not normally review historical fiction and indeed professes not to like it, so I am particularly grateful to him for bending his rules for me, on the grounds that the story emerged from genealogical research and is about real people. It is interesting that his review has had a particular impact on my sales in Australia. I am now hoping that one or two of these new readers will leave a review (please – I have been known to grovel). Sadly these sales do not deplete my large stash of paper copies, currently residing in my living room. Still, I am hoping that I may reduce the pile a little when I am signing copies in Barnstaple W H Smiths on Saturday.

Peter suggested that, in return for reviewing my book, I might upload my ancestors to his Lost Cousins database. As someone who tries to keep abreast of developments in the family history world, I was aware of Peter’s regular Lost Cousins newsletter but to be honest, I hadn’t considered adding my ancestors to his database. Like the newsletter, contributing to the database is free, although you make a small contribution if you wish to contact those whose ancestry you share (paid up members can however contact you, even if you don’t contribute). It works like this. You upload the details of your ancestors, as they appear in the 1881 census (or 1880 for those in the US). Then you can search for others who have listed the same people. You can also add details from the 1841 and 1911 censuses, although it is advised that you start with 1881. So far, I have only uploaded the details of my own direct ancestors, although there are options to add other individuals you might be interested in. If you do decide to upload, please use the link in this blog there is no prize for me if you do but your entry will be credited to my recommendation.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my distinct lack of cousins, so I was a little sceptical of finding matches but it has been an interesting exercise and already one match is showing. It only took me about half an hour to upload all my direct ancestors who appear in the 1881 census, although, to be fair, I had previously done all the searching and had copies of the census entries already. 1881 is too early for any of my grandparents but all eight great grandparents, fourteen of the sixteen great great grandparents and three 3x great grandparents were alive at the time. I know all the descendants of the great grandparents (all six of them!). I have a pretty complete picture of the descendants of the sixteen great great grandparents (my 3rd cousins), although I think a few of the Smiths may have slipped through. My knowledge of the descendants of my 3x great grandparents is less complete, so the three alive in 1881 may well bear fruit and this is where the match I have comes from. I plan to add my entries from the other censuses and also the details of my children’s ancestors.

With the rapidly increasing popularity of DNA testing, the need to trace our family history forwards, as well as backwards, has never been more important, yet so many of us do not focus on more recent research. Uploading to Lost Cousins may well help with this. I have just finished guiding the latest cohort of students through my online Tracing your Twentieth Century Ancestors and their Community course for Pharos Teaching and Tutoring. I am afraid you will have to wait until next year for this one to run again, although places are filling up fast for the Writing and Telling your Family Story course that starts in April. I am also speaking about Twentieth Century Research at Family Tree Live and bookings are now open for this event. Once booked, you can reserve places at the lectures of your choice. Also on the subject of Twentieth Century research, in case you missed the announcement, we now know that FindmyPast will be releasing the English and Welsh 1921 census in three years’ time. As someone who remembers waiting for the 1881 census to be released, I suddenly feel very old.

I am still adding to the write ups of my own ancestral research. I should stress that these are very much works in progress and summaries of research, not necessarily fascinating stories. This week I have uploaded the Woolgars of Sussex.

Thank you to those who have asked about our BeingEdward story. We have been busy with family visits and Martha will be blogging again shortly. This week’s campaign is to encourage the government to stop the inappropriate detention, segregation and seclusion of those with autism and learning difficulties in mental heath units, institutions that are patently not designed to meet their needs. For those who have the time to explore our BeingEdward world further, take a look at this webinar, which introduces you to PDA, which is Edward’s condition.