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.


A Page from the Genealogical Birthday Book: Catherine’s Story

As promised, back to the family history today. Like most genealogists with UK ancestry, I have spent the last few weeks revisiting various branches of my family tree, making sure that I didn’t feel the need to purchase any more birth marriage and death certificates before the price rise. Inevitably, despite having a pretty comprehensive collection, there were a number that just fell into my virtual basket. I am not prepared to disclose precisely how many I am awaiting. I am consoling myself with how much I have saved, not how much I have spent. You know how it is – oh, I could just find out what that baby died from – click here. Annoyingly, I appear to have ordered at least one that I already have but that’s the fault of my inadequate filing system. Whilst I was compiling my very long modest certificate shopping list, I decided to make a note of all the anniversaries of my children’s direct ancestors in the form of a birthday book. I have only started from 1837 (the period of civil registration) and inevitably, there are far more births than deaths or marriages but it is interesting reading. Not much goes on in April or June. 23rd January looks like a dodgy day for our family, with no fewer than five deaths, including Catherine, who is the subject of this post.

Catherine’s birthday is today. I know that from the birthday book that I have created. Apart from my children and grandchildren, I am her only descendant. From my mother’s stories, she was not the most approachable person in the world, certainly not the archetypal cuddly granny. This is not a beautifully crafted story, it is merely my attempt to record the facts. I wish I had a more rounded picture of her life but this is the best I can do.

Catherine Seear 

Catherine Seear

Catherine Seear c. 1871

My great grandmother, Catherine was born on the 2nd of February 1866 to Frederick and Ann Balls Seear née Bulley. The family called her Katie, or Kate. She was their second child; her elder sister, Annie Ellen, lived just a few weeks in 1864. Catherine also had a half-brother, Frederick Rickard Seear, who was nine years old when Catherine was born. Three older half-sisters had also died in infancy. As the only daughter of five to survive, I wonder how her father treated her. The address that is given on Catherine’s birth certificate is 3 Market Terrace, Bridge Road, Bethnal Green, Middlesex.[1] This address does not appear to have existed and may be 3 Newmarket Terrace, Cambridge Road. Catherine’s family were comfortably off; her father was a master grocer with a shop in Hackney High Street, East London. Catherine’s younger brother, Richard, was born when she was thirteen months old.

Catherine Seear c. 1874

Catherine Seear c. 1876

By 1871, the family were living at 105 Grafton Street in Mile End. Her father’s business had expanded; he was a tea dealer employing eighteen men and there were two live-in domestic servants.[2] The family moved again fairly quickly because when Frederick made his will on the 4th of October 1875, he gave his address as 36 Cawley Road, Hackney.[3] In 1881, Catherine and her family were living at 11 Albany Road, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, Essex.[4] Nothing is known of her education and she may have had private tuition; she spoke very good French.[5]

On the 22nd of February 1884, Catherine’s father, Frederick, died of angina, presumably a stroke, at 11 Albany Road. Despite imaginative searching, his widow, Anne and children Catherine and Richard cannot be found in the 1891 census.[6] When Catherine married the following year, she gave her address as 24 Eastbank, Stamford Hill, Hackney and this address is occupied only by a servant in 1891,[7] so the family may have been away from home. They apparently did enjoy cruises and pictures survive of someone purporting to be Catherine that were taken in Berlin, so they could have been on an overseas trip.[8]


Believed to be Catherine Seear. The right hand photograph was taken in Berlin.

On the 7th of June 1892 Catherine Seear married her first cousin, Herbert Havet Smith at St. Thomas’, Hackney. The witnesses were her brother, Richard and Eliza Smith, who was either Herbert’s mother or sister.[9] Their daughter, Edith Katie was born on the 8th of April 1893 and lived for just three days. The number of short-lived girls in the family might suggest some genetic problem. Edith Katie died from marasmus, which is a failure to thrive, akin to malnutrition.[10] She was buried at Abney Park Cemetery.[11] Their son, Frederick Herbert, my grandfather, was born on the 2nd of December 1894 at 32 Braydon Road, Stamford Hill, Middlesex. At the time, Herbert Havet was described as a corn salesman.[12] Frederick was apparently sickly as a child[13] and was not baptised until the 17th of October 1897.[14] The baptism took place at Stamford Hill Congregational Church[15] so it is likely that the family were still connected with the area at this date. This alliance with non-conformity is unusual in the Smith and Seear families and indeed Catherine Smith née Seear is reported to have become a Catholic in later life.[16]

In 1901, together with their young son, my grandfather Frederick Herbert (Eric) and Catherine’s mother, Anne Seear née Bulley, Catherine and Herbert were living at 159 Osbaldston Road, Hackney.[17] Despite having her mother to live with her, Catherine never spoke of her.[18] Anne was to leave this property to Catherine, along with furniture, plate and jewellery, in her will.[19] Herbert Havet was a cornbroker[20] and is thought to have travelled to India and China on business.[21] Several oriental artefacts remain in family possession. About 1908 Herbert and Catherine moved to ‘Lureka’, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Essex.[22] They later moved to Cambridge Road, Westbourne, Bournemouth, Dorset. Despite the ‘servant problem’ of the 1930s, they kept a butler, Basil and their granddaughter particularly remembered the red tulips in the garden.[23] By 1935 were at ‘St. Ann’s’, Bournemouth; this property had been converted into flats before they lived there.[24]

Catherine Smith nee Seear and Gwen Aug 1925

Catherine Smith née Seear and her granddaughter, Gwen

Catherine was described as being standoffish and undemonstrative, very ‘upper crust’ and a little like Queen Mary. She always sat on an upright dining chair with her crochet or knitting, with its steel needles on her lap. [25] The family were comparatively well off and owned other property in the Bournemouth area,[26] apart from the house in which they lived.[27] Apparently, Herbert put their properties into Catherine’s name to save death duties, thus she was able to give away much of their wealth to the Catholic church. Allegedly, they were left with nothing bit mortgages, an eiderdown, two cushions and an orange box for a table. If this is the case, then Herbert re-couped some of the money before his own death, twelve year’s after Catherine died. [28]

When Catherine died of a heart attack,[29] reportedly whilst replacing a light bulb,[30] on the 23rd of January 1938, they were living at 5 Branksome Gate, Western Road, Bournemouth.[31]


[1]    The birth certificate of Catherine Seear, 1866, from the General Register Office.

[2]    1871 census for 105 Grafton Street, Mile End, Middlesex RG10 568 folio 68.

[3]    The will of Frederick Seear proved 1884, held at The Principal Probate Registry.

[4]    1881 census for 11 Albany Road, Leabridge Road, Leyton, Essex RG11 1726 folio 5.

[5]   Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[6]    Census indexes for England and Wales at

[7]    1891 census for 24 Eastbank, Stamford Hill, Hackney, Middlesex RG12 183 folio 46.

[8]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear. Photographs in the possession of the late Alan Seear.

[9]    The marriage certificate of Herbert Havet Smith and Catherine Seear, 1892 in family possession.

[10]  Death certificate of Edith Katie Smith 1893 from the General Register Office.

[11]    Abney Park Cemetery burials index website                 

[12]  The birth certificate of Frederick Herbert Smith 1894 from the General Register Office.

[13]   Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[14]   Baptismal certificate of Frederick Herbert Smith, in family possession.

[15]    Baptismal certificate of Frederick Herbert Smith, in family possession.

[16]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[17]    1901 census for 159 Osbaldston Road, Hackney Middlesex RG13 213 folio 87.

[18]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund nee Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[19]    The will of Ann Balls Seear proved 1918, held at the Principal Probate Registry.

[20]    The marriage certificate of Herbert Havet Smith and Catherine Seear 1892, in family possession.

[21]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[22]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[23]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund nee Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[24]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[25]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[26]    29 Surrey Road and ‘Hawthorn’ 40 Alumhurst Road.

[27]    Probate account in association with the will of Frederick Herbert Smith, proved 1957, in family possession.

[28]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née  Seear. Probate account in association with the will of Frederick Herbert Smith, proved 1957, in family possession.

[29]    The death certificate of Catherine Smith née Seear 1938, in family possession.

[30]    Information from the late Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith, granddaughter of Catherine Smith née Seear.

[31]   The death certificate of Catherine Smith née Seear 1938, in family possession.

A Visit from Chantelle Atkins

Last November, I visited Chantelle on her blog The Glorious Outsiders. Now it is time for her to stop by on my blog. I asked her about her writing life:

966419_520738181296053_718030010_oYour website is called The Glorious Outsider, can you say a little more about why you chose that name?

  • Yes, when I first started a blog it was just named after me, but a few years back someone I know online was sharing a lot of interesting content about building your brand and improving your website. It helped me think about my books and what I want my website to say about them, so I revamped my site accordingly. When thinking about what all my books have in common, I realised that all of my main characters are outsiders in one way or another, and also that none of them are ashamed of this. In fact, they take pride in it. That’s where the title Glorious Outsiders came from, and it just means people who are fine with being a bit different, or on the outside of something. It sums me up and my writing and my characters.

tbwttihs-p3 (1)What have you written that you are most proud of?

  • I would have to say the series I am working on, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. It’s been such a long and complex journey. All my other novels were dreamed up, written down, published and dealt with. But this one first came to me when I was 12, and I wrote an early version of it at that age, again at 14, 16 and 19. It just wouldn’t go away and the characters have always been totally real to me. They are in my head almost constantly. I finally wrote it and published it in 2013 in two parts, and then went on to publish a sequel, This Is The Day, as the characters were still chatting to me, giving me ideas. I then revised it again a few years later and merged the two parts into one huge book. Since then ideas for a storyline that would slot between that book and the sequel would not leave me alone. To keep them quiet, I started penning a screenplay of this storyline, and this just encouraged it to get louder, so I then turned it into a novel. This led to the decision to revise The Boy With The Thorn In His Side yet again, split it back into two separate books, Part One and Part Two, release the new material as Part Three, revise and release what was the sequel as Part Four, and now inevitably, I’ve gone and written a rough draft of Part Five and plotted Part Six! What was a storyline I dreamt up as a 12-year-old will now be a six-part series I would describe as coming-of-age, suspense, crime and psychological thriller! Parts One and Two, with new covers have already been re-released and Part Three will be released at the start of February, with Part Four close after. I am proud of it, mainly because I wrote it purely for me, and because I still love the storylines and the characters so much, all these years later! I’m also proud of how much work has gone into it.

Would you say that what you write is character driven or plot driven?

  • I’d say it’s character driven in that the characters always come first. I get them first and the background, storylines, back stories and so on always come after. I normally build a plot around the characters that have arrived.

If I was looking at your typical reader, who would I see?

  • I thought about this recently and even blogged about it! I see my typical reader as someone a lot like me. Introverted but friendly, drawn to the dark side but eternally optimistic. I think they like character driven books, something hard-hitting and edgy. They might also be a music fan, and someone who craves nature.

Are there other writers or creative people in your family?

  • Not really, I was always the only one, but two of my four children do enjoy writing. My son prefers drawing, but will write comic books and bits of narrative for this characters, and my eldest daughter writes a lot of crime based stories.

How does your writing fit in with the rest of your life?

  • I make time for it every day. Now that my youngest has started full time school, I have a lot more time to work on writing in the day, but I do still do an hour or two each evening after he’s gone to bed as well. I run my own Community Interest Company which is writing based, so that keeps me busy as well, and I try to split my time equally between working on projects and events for that, and writing my own stuff. Writing is always in my head though. I’m the most distracted person I know, always in a dream, always thinking about the storylines and the characters!

You are in your dream location. Where are you?

  • I would say, just over the road from my house, Sopley Common. It’s a beautiful, wild, untamed landscape of sandy hills, heather and gorse, heathland, woods and streams. Mostly unoccupied I find, meaning I can walk my dogs in peace and think about writing! It’s featured heavily in two of my novels, This Is Nowhere and Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature.

How did you go about getting your first book published?

  • I tried the agent and traditional publisher route for some time, and then decided to go with an indie publishing platform at the time called Autharium. They then went out of business and I put my books with Pronoun, who did a similar job but better. They then also went out of business, so I just self-published. Last year I signed up to an indie collective called Pict Publishing though. It’s still self-publishing but with a supportive network around you and the people running it have a lot of advice about marketing and promotional strategies, so I’m happy with it so far.

What one tip would you give to someone who says that they want to write a book?

  • Stop thinking you don’t have time, you’re not good enough, it won’t sell etc. Just clear your mind of all negatives and just do it. Once you’ve got that first draft you’re halfway there, but you’ve just got to get it done. Get it out.

What are you working on at the moment?

  • A few things! Obviously preparing The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts Threeand Four for release. Part Five is really calling to me for a second draft, but I’m trying to hold off at the moment, as I started a YA post-apocalyptic series I’m really passionate about, and it keeps getting side-lined. I’m up to Chapter 12 in book one and really want to get the first draft of book one done this year, so I’m dipping into it when I can. Obviously, the new releases come first and lots of preparation is going into that… Also, I have another YA book ready, A Song For Bill Robinson, and I want to send it out to a few publishers again, just in case. So I’m currently doing a read through on Word and trying to get the word count down, while also putting together a synopsis and a list of possible publishers. If no luck, I will also place it with Pict Publishing and release it towards the end of 2019 I expect. I’m also working on a second short story collection. I tend to accumulate them and released a collection in 2016. I also have some poetry this time around, which is new territory for me, but if I’m feeling really brave they will go into this collection and it will possibly get released this year.

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years?

  • I hope The Boy With The Thorn In His Side six part series is all finished and published. I’d then like to work on screenplays and try submitting them to competitions etc. I hope to have also completed the YA post-apocalyptic series and have published it. The short story and poetry collection will be out. The Ya book A Song For Bill Robinson will be published and it’s sequel, which I’ve also written, Emily’s Baby. If they are all out and done, I hope to be working on either the sequel to The Mess Of me and/or the sequel to The Tree Of Rebels, plus there is another book I have planned, which is sort of a spin-off book from The Boy series. Two characters appear in Part Five and Six and they are going to be getting their own book! I think that will keep me busy!

Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to reading, writing and music and writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life and has now been developed into a 6 book series. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere and award-winning dystopian, The Tree Of Rebels, plus a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. Her next book Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was released through Pict Publishing in October 2018. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine.


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Of Oven Cleaner, Ancestor Chasing, Genealogy Courses and Procrastinating

Well I guess this is where I say Happy New Year. New starts, new resolutions new things to look forward to. For those of you for whom life can be a struggle, I wish an easier time for you in 2019. I hope it can be a year when the world is more compassionate and more tolerant of others’ differences. We can be polite and forbearing, even if we do not always agree.

I was lucky enough to do some wonderful things in 2018 and there are some excitements on my 2019 horizon, although I am hoping to find time to relax more and actually see my house occasionally. So what’s been happening chez moi? Firstly, the inevitable seasonal lurgy has left me lacking in energy and sounding very deep and interesting, or as we say, croaky. Notwithstanding, I have begun the spring cleaning. Ok, so this is probably spring cleaning 2010 but spring cleaning nonetheless. With the assistance of the fisherman of my acquaintance, to whom grateful thanks are extended, I have embarked on the kitchen. The lack of energy thing (and I’ll be honest, the fact that cleaning isn’t exactly my number one favourite activity) means that it has taken several days but the end is in sight. Cupboards have been emptied and de-cobwebbed – I live in a house made of mud, of course there are cobwebs. I have unpacked two boxes that hadn’t seen the light of day since I moved in in 2006. These have now been rationalised into one box. Said box is probably still full of stuff I neither need nor am likely to use but hey, it is one less box for my descendants to dispose of when I go to meet the ancestors. I have discovered that I have a lifetime’s supply of oven cleaner. Who am I kidding? At the frequency that my oven gets cleaned it will probably last until 2130.

martha regional breakdwon from documentary evidenceAfter a lovely time with two fifths of my descendants, I used the lacunae between Christmas and New Year to cough a great deal and revisit some family history. This was partly inspired by a recent meeting with the full range of my second cousins at the funeral of the last of my mother’s cousins. This officially makes me the oldest generation now, that is a sobering thought. I was also motivated to look at my daughters’ ancestors, in preparation for LivingDNA results for one of them. I found my own regional profile that I received from LivingDNA closely matched the documentary evidence and I have already written about this. This is the prediction for my daughter and we will see how that compares with the actual results in a few months’ time.

numbers of ancestorsIn the course of working out what I was expecting, I also calculated how many of my direct ancestors I have discovered in forty two years of research. Not a bad haul for someone whose grandparents were born in the 1880s and 1890s, especially as I am 95% sure who the missing 3 3x great-grandparents are, which has a knock on effect on the totals in earlier generations. Whether I shall ever be confident enough to ‘ink these in’ is another matter.

I’ve had fun revising a couple of courses. Firstly, the next presentation of my five week online course for Pharos Teaching and TutoringDiscovering your British Family and the Local Community in the early C20th’, which begins in a couple of weeks. There are still a few places left. What a great start to your family history new year, to revisit your more recent ancestry and look at their lives in context. I am also going to be leading an ‘Introduction to Family History’ day course at Crediton Library on January. It has been a few years since I last did this and plenty has changed, underlining how fast-moving our hobby is. Contact the library directly if you are interested in this one.

And what of the writing? I hear you ask. Well, if you aren’t asking, why not? Firstly, I have made a significant dent in my pile of Barefoot in the Cobbles boxes and sales online are going well. Please can I reiterate my plea for you to buy paper copies directly from me, from my lovely publisher or from an independent bookshop near you, rather than pressing that tempting little ‘buy it now’ button. Obviously, if you are outside the UK, or want a copy for your e-reader, please do press away. Some lovely reviews are coming in – more are always welcome  and I have been re-energised to get back to work on book two. This was abandoned during the frenetic Barefoot marketing phase but I have picked up the threads of this work-in-progress. The researching is proving fascinating. I don’t want to give too much away at present but I’ve been delving into the records of Westminster School and looking at seventeenth century licenses to pass beyond the seas amongst other things. Actual writing though has stalled. I have sharpened my pencils in preparation (I don’t write text in pencil – although I do use pencil for my notes). I have put a pile of reference books in a box but procrastination abounds. I am even tempted to spring-clean another room to put off the moment when I have to produce something that resembles narrative – maybe next week.

Day 18 #bfotc sources

Day eighteen of the ‘advent calendar’ focusing on some of the historical/genealogical sources that I used in the writing of Barefoot on the Cobbles.

Fromelles German Federal Archives This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.The chapter that I was most concerned about was the one set on the Western Front. It was the only location that I was unable to visit and I have no experience of being a young man, or of being in a combat zone. I read fifty or so pages of the regiment’s official War Diaries that outlined the campaign in which Abraham was involved. These were useful but I was not writing a military history; I needed emotions and feelings, not just facts. I turned to private diaries, letters and memoirs of the war in general and the battle in particular. I really wish I could have written this passage, describing the Battle of Fromelles, which comes from the memoirs of Private Jimmy Dowling. ‘Stammering scores of German machine-guns spluttered violently, drowning the noise of the cannonade. The air was thick with bullets, swishing in a flat, criss-crossed lattice of death … Hundreds were mown down in the flicker of an eyelid, like great rows of teeth knocked from a comb … Men were cut in two by streams of bullets [that] swept like whirling knives … It was the Charge of the Light Brigade once more, but more terrible, more hopeless – magnificent, but not war – a valley of death filled by somebody’s blunder.’ I tried to imbue my narrative with similar feeling. When a lovely reviewer described my chapter as one of the most poignant and empathic commentaries of WW1 that I have ever read’, not only was I incredulous, overwhelmed and tearful but I knew that all the research had been worthwhile.

More information about Barefoot on the Cobbles can be found here. Copies are available at various events and at all my presentations. You can order from Blue Poppy Publishing or directly from me. Kindle editions are available for those in the UK, USA, Australasia and Canada.

Day 17 #bfotc sources

Day seventeen of the ‘advent calendar’ focusing on some of the historical/genealogical sources that I used in the writing of Barefoot on the Cobbles.

CaptureWhen writing of real events in the more recent past, newspapers are invaluable. I used hundreds of local and national newspaper articles during my research. The court and inquest scenes were heavily reported in many papers. In the absence of actual court records, these were vital. The huge advantage of these was that they provided me with verbatim statements spoken by the accusers, the witnesses and the accused. As someone who was more used to writing non-fiction, I was concerned about my ability to write dialogue. By  the time I had used the words reported in the newspapers, I had a real feel for how many of my characters would have spoken. Newspapers were also useful when I was researching the historical background of my minor characters. For example, it was from the local newspaper that I learned that Dr Crew was about to lead a scout camp; yes, that tiny little throw-away line was based on fact!

Inevitably, then as now, newspaper evidence can be contradictory. There are two slightly different versions of the names of those who were in the lifeboat during the search for the Annie Salome. There are conflicting accounts of the incident with the suffragettes, perhaps reflecting the political stance of the respective editors. I went with what I believed to be plausible versions.

Most of the newspapers were available to me thanks to the British Newspaper Archive, which I choose to access via FindmyPast. One prominent local paper was not available in this way and for this I consulted original archive copies.

More information about Barefoot on the Cobbles can be found here. Copies are available at various events and at all my presentations. You can order from Blue Poppy Publishing or directly from me. Kindle editions are available for those in the UK, USA, Australasia and Canada.

Day 8 #bfotc sources

Day eight of the ‘advent calendar’ focusing on some of the historical/genealogical sources that I used in the writing of Barefoot on the Cobbles.

CaptureTo gain a better understanding of life as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse, I re-read Vera Brittain’s Chronicle of Youth and Testament of Youth. Of course Vera is very much middle-class and Daisy and Winnie’s childhoods would have been very different. In addition, much of Vera’s service was overseas and my nurses were in Torquay but it was still useful to gain and insight into the training and duties. Unexpectedly, I was also able to make use of these books, to immerse myself in language and turns of phrase of the early twentieth century. This threw up the issue of whether or not Daisy and Winnie would have addressed each other by their christian names. In Vera Brittain’s world, the ladies waited for permission before abandoning Miss ……. . I decided that this might be different for young, working-class women, so it was ‘Daisy’ and ‘Winnie’ from the outset.

More information about Barefoot on the Cobbles can be found here. Copies are available at various events and at all my presentations. You can order from Blue Poppy Publishing or directly from me. Kindle editions are available for those in the UK, USA, Australasia and Canada.