Yes, it has been a bit quiet here lately. A whole nine days without giving a Zoom talk, although I have attended a few. I deliberately left a gap, thinking that family might be able to visit. Sadly not to be. I have had some family Zoom time including joining in with the construction of a mega Harry Potter Lego set, with the participants kindly holding up the board to the camera, so that I could witness every step. I have also forced myself off the laptop and have begun the mammoth task that is turning out the loft, of which more later as this is a family history story.
I had reached a bit of a halt whilst re-examining my children’s paternal line. This did include the excitement, mentioned previously, of discovering four sisters who had ten illegitimate children between them and also an ancestor who dropped dead on her way back from working in the fields but I digress. I felt that I was getting a little bogged down with this story so, prompted by the imminent visit of my daughter to Whitby, I turned to look again at her Mead ancestors who came from that area. This was a real case of restart, revisit, review, as all I had done on this line in the past twenty five years was to add on the 1901 and 1911 census entries. Almost all the research had been done pre-computer, using certificates, censuses and the IGI (the forerunner of family search). I had never had the opportunity to visit a Yorkshire record office.
So, with new eyes, access to images of original registers and online indexes, I was gratified to confirm my previous research, which stretched back to my children’s 4x great grandparents. Fairly swiftly, four further generations were added. These solidly respectable (glossing over a few very short pregnancies for eldest children) and comparatively prosperous Yorkshire yeoman farmers did lack imagination when it came to naming their children. Seven generations in the direct line and every blessed one was called John or Francis. All the Francises had brothers called John and you’ve guessed it, all the John’s have brothers called Francis. Ok, I’ll concede, one was called John Edward but really.
Then I started on the families of the brides. This is still ongoing but it is fascinating, well to me anyway. I am back to the seventeenth century here so the contextual social history is not a problem. Remember though that I am a soft southerner. One with strong emotional and familial links to Northumberland but definitely a southerner. I am now immersing myself in the local history, which is new territory for me. I skim read the relevant General View of Agriculture, being very grateful that I can still speed read as it is 392 pages. Now I am dredging the depths of my knowledge of sixteenth and seventeenth religious history and giving it a new application. I am currently embroiled in tales of priest’s holes and recusancy, as it turns out that one of the brides came from a staunchly Catholic parish and that her very unusual surname appears on lists of those whose estates were sequestered. It is also a surname that seems to now be extinct, just nine English/Welsh births (in all three spelling variants) and only one, a female, in the last ninety years, another fascination. Today I may be doing a mini-one name study of the name in the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries. I am forcing myself to put this research aside in order to tick at least one thing off the to do list every day and also to incorporate some loft-sorting but I am enjoying this immensely. Just keeping everything crossed that the Borthwick Institute restart their coping service soon and there isn’t some massive backlog as almost every generation of Meads left a will. I have zero desire to rush to a hairdresser or a café when lockdown eases but I need those wills!!
And the loft-sorting you ask. That was going well. I was able to sort through my ‘souvenirs’. This was particularly helpful as, in company with the lovely ladies of my online memories group, I am filling in the gaps in my auto-biography. I have now opened the suitcase containing my diaries (daily entries since 1 January 1971 and a few isolated entries prior to that). It turns out that in 1968 (which I abandoned in September) I not only noted the weather but also all the books I read and more bizarrely what I wore, ‘wore school uniform, changed into kipper tie dress’ etc.. What with that and the Meads and associated families, I may be some time. Oh, I have twelve Zoom presentations to give this month, ah well, I foresee some early morning starts.