Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Eve

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Christmas Eve is the time for the mince pie to be laid out ready for the visit from Father Christmas. Apart from that I don't remember doing anything else out of the ordinary either then or now.

This year was a little different, as today my parents popped round for a turkey lunch. The menu was roast turkey with feta and bacon stuffing, home-baked bread, home-grown salads and potatoes, home-grown strawberries, and a ridiculous number of chocolate-themed desserts (choc-mallow fudge, jaffa truffles, plum pudding truffles, chocolate pretzels, chocolate pinwheel cookies, and, erm, chocolates - I have an awful lot of chocolate cookbooks and couldn't narrow it down any further!)

This Christmas, may all my blog readers and fellow Wing genealogists have a plentiful table, and wonderful family and friends gathered round to share it with. And perhaps some spare time over the Christmas holidays to share some quality time with your ancestors, as well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Sweethearts

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

In my own family tree I have one Christmas marriage - Thomas Henry (aka Henry Thomas) CRUTCH and Elizabeth Verdy GARDINER were married on Christmas Day 1902 at St Marys in Datchet, Buckinghamshire. Their marriage lasted 25 years, until Elizabeth's death on New Year's Eve 1927, and produced two sets of twins amongst their nine children.

Up in Wing there are some Christmas marriages as well:

Isaac CHESHIRE and Jane GREEN - 1809
Charles COOK and Sophia CAPP - 1840
William DIMOCK and Esther BACKUS - 1843
Henry FOSTER and Mary BANDY - 1846

Happy anniversary to all our Christmas Sweetheart couples!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas and Deceased Relatives

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

We don't have any particular traditions for honouring deceased relatives at Christmastime. As we don't have a habit of staying in one place (or even one country) we have no local cemeteries where loved ones are remembered, and we don't set out a place for them at the Christmas table or anything like that. They are in our hearts at Christmas just as they are all year round.

Ruby, one of the "You Go Genealogy Girls", posted about her ancestor tree as part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, and I do like the idea of this. While we don't have extensive photos of generations gone by in our family I think we do have enough to make some ancestor ornaments for next year, and I may just do this.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Music

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

My parents report they used to go around the neighbourhood singing Christmas carols (favourite: O Holy Night). I do remember going caroling once with a school friend and her family/church group, but this is not something you really hear of much in modern-day NZ. I also did plenty of traditional carol singing in choirs at school and developed a loathing for Little Drummer Boy reasonably early on in primary school, although on the whole I love Christmas carols and songs (favourite of the the carols: Good King Wenceslas).

Our ancestors were undoubtedly singing their hearts out too - one activity that was festive and free! I know that one of my Wing ancestors, Alfred BAKER, was leader of the Wing band in the late 1800s so there was clearly a musical streak there, and what better way to cheer yourself at Christmastime?

Today my tastes in Christmas music reflect my taste in music generally - a bit of a hodge-podge! My ipod Christmas playlist - I feel very proud of myself for dutifully waiting until 1 December to start listening - has U2 rocking Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) side by side with Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby's duet of White Christmas, Harry Connick Jnr's It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and Darlene Love's Winter Wonderland. I have a disturbing number of different versions of the latter song! These year I've downloaded some traditional carols, sung a cappella in Welsh. And I am firmly pro Snoopy's Christmas (can't help it) and Do They Know It's Christmas (lame lyrics notwithstanding).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Calendar - Religious Services

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

My family aren't religious so we never attended a Christmas service when I was little, although my dad was a choirboy back in the day so performed at plenty of Christmas services, and my mum also sang in a school choir in an abbey one Christmas.

Listening to the Queen's Christmas message would be the closest custom we have!

3pm, after Christmas lunch has been consumed and Christmas lunch dishes have been dealt with, is the traditional timeslot in England since Her Majesty's first televised broadcast in 1957, although I imagine previous radio broadcasts were at the same time. Here in NZ she's on after the evening news at around 6.50pm - although I might watch her on her YouTube channel this year!

This, of course, would have been quite different to our Wing ancestors' experience of Christmas. A message from the monarch in place of a message from the vicar would have been quite scandalous.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Shopping

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

My family is consistently organised and consistently early with everything. This of course extends to Christmas shopping, and I've had all mine done for a couple of weeks (although the last one was only wrapped a few days ago - the shame!). I doubt anyone in my family has ever braved the crowds on Christmas Eve, although I have worked Christmas Eve in retail so I know exactly what it's like from that side of the counter.

My parents report it was always a big event to go Christmas shopping. Seeing all the lights and decorations, and selecting a present to buy after having saved up your pocket money, was a big treat in itself.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Stockings

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

When I was a kid one of my aunts made my brother and I some fancy Christmas stockings - I remember mine was blue and purple, a paisley print maybe? The stocking would be left across the end of the bed on Christmas Eve, and after we were asleep Father Christmas would pop by and leave some goodies in it. On Christmas morning the stocking presents would be the first ones to be opened - they were a free-for-all once we were awake, unlike the tree presents which were the formal part of proceedings post-breakfast.

In my head I remember the stocking in question being quite large. Whether this was just from a child's perspective or not I'm not sure, but there must have been a fair few things in it on Christmas morning - presumably carefully selected bulky items to fill it out!

One constant was the apple and orange. I have read that these were traditional English gifts representing health and good living respectively, but don't imagine the tradition can go back that far in history since oranges aren't exactly a native English winter fruit! My parents also always got an orange and an apple in their stocking-substitute, the pillowcase, and remember the oranges as a big deal since they weren't commonly available in England at all back then. A luxury fruit for a special occasion!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Calendar - Grab Bag

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Leaving the mince pie out for Father Christmas is an important part of the English Christmas Eve ritual. One Christmas Eve long ago my father headed off to bed but then got thirsty so got up for a glass of water. To his horror, the mince pie was gone - but his parents were still up, the dog hadn't barked and the presents hadn't arrived under the tree yet. Quite the disturbing Christmas mystery for a young mind!

If you want to grab yourself something for this Christmas, a copy of Wing As It Was volume 2 just came up on Ebay, closing on Christmas Day. The book features a selection of old photos from Wing, including one of my 3xgreat-grandfather blacksmith Andrew POLLARD and the six men working for him. You can see a list of individuals in the book on my website here, and the Ebay listing for the book is here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas at School

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

I can't specifically remember school Christmases, except for singing plenty of Christmas carols! I think this is why I dislike pa rum pum pum pum.

Stay tuned until December 21st for more about Christmas music.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent Calendar - Holiday Happenings

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Christmas was a great time to baptise your baby or marry your sweetheart - it was one of the rare holiday days you got so you weren't missing out on a day's pay! Alternatively the day's festivities were sometimes overshadowed with sadness when loved ones died or were buried over the holidays. Here's a rollcall of Christmas Happenings in my own family tree, and some others from throughout Wing's history (quite a long list!) - if I've missed your own ancestral Wing Christmas Happening please add it in the comments below.

Let's kick things off appropriately with the HOLLYMAN family! Mary HOLLYMAN was baptised 25 December 1755 in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire (she died two months later). James HOLLYMAN was baptised 25 December 1767 in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, and his younger brother Charles was baptised on the same day two years later - these two were the younger brothers of my direct ancestor Brightwell HOLLYMAN who later came to Wing and caused a scandal.

There are several Christmas events surrounding my LATHWELL family in Wing. My 4xgreat-grandfather John LATHWELL married his first wife on Christmas Eve 1813 (in neighbouring Mentmore) and baptised their eldest son the following year on Christmas Day 1814. John later went on to marry Sarah HARDWICK, whose lot it was to labour on Christmas Day 1845 to give birth to my 3xgreat-grandmother Medora Jane LATHWELL.

Elsewhere in Buckinghamshire, my 5xgreat-grandmother Martha SIBLEY was baptised 25 December 1778 in Little Missenden. Further afield, one of my Oliver clan from Chilton Candover in Hampshire, Mary Anne OLIVER, was baptised on 25 Dec 1807, and my parish clerk ancestor John TRAFFORD was baptised 25 Dec 1809 in Finmere, Oxfordshire, where he lived all but the last year or so of his life.

And lastly, my great-great-grandfather Edmund Worledge WHITE died on 25 December 1911 in Willesden, Middlesex.

Happy Birthday to the Christmas babies of Wing, including:
Philip PITCHFORD - 1830
Medora Jane LATHWELL - 1845
Charles Thomas ADAMS - 1850
Sarah Jane WOOLHEAD - 1863
Mary DUNCOMBE - 1861

Baptised on Christmas Day were:
Katherine BUCKMASTER - 1548
Alice CARPENTER - 1549
Thomas COCK - 1553
Richard COCKE - 1556
John TURNEY - 1591
Elizabeth HICKMAN - 1689
Esther DIMMOCK - 1711
Jane DIMMOCK - 1725
Betty BULL - 1737
Matthew GOSS - 1776
Mary PRENTIS - 1777
Catharine HELEY - 1795
Mary WOODMAN - 1798
William WHITE - 1804
Whoever was presiding over Christmas services in 1807 did a good job rounding up the unbaptised who showed up:
Thomas BRASINGTON (aged 23) and son William BRASINGTON- 1807
William PAGE - 1807
Susanna HELEY (aged 2) and sister Mary HELEY (aged 9 weeks) - 1807
William GOSS - 1812
Martha PAGE - 1812
George BURROWS - 1813
John PERRY - 1814
Mary FOSTER - 1814
William LATHWELL - 1814
Patience STAPLES - 1815
Joseph PEASE - 1815
Ann FOSTER - 1817
Abel MUNDAY - 1817
Lucy PAGE - 1819
Hannah LAY - 1823
Ann HARDWICK - 1833
Betsy BRASINGTON - 1840
John CAPP - 1842
Bernard CUTLER - 1845
Sarah Ann THORN - 1845
Phillis CHAPPELL - 1845
Ann CUTLER - 1849
John Joseph NORTHWOOD - 1850
Sarah LOWENS - 1850
Sarah Ann MOORING - 1850

And remembering those residents of Wing buried on Christmas Day, including:
Richard BREWER - 1598
Elizabeth WATTS - 1625
William ARUNDELL - 1679
Rebecca MUNDAY - 1723 died of smallpox
Mary BURROWS - 1797 aged 44
Ralph DIMOCK - 1799 aged 6 months
Martha GREEN - 1804
Martha HICKMAN - 1805 aged 90!
Hannah PAGE - 1834 aged 11
John DIMMOCK - 1835 aged 22
Emily BONE - 1840 aged 6

I'll be celebrating the Christmas wedding anniversaries of Wing folk in a separate post on December 23.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Calendar - Fruitcake - Friend or Foe?

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Personally I'm a friend of fruitcake as long as it doesn't have nuts in it. A good fruitcake should do what it says on the hypothetical tin - fruit and lots of it! There are a lot of commercial "Christmas Cakes" available that are too cake-y - they just aren't as good as my Mum's. And no marzipan icing, thank you!

My fruitcake ancestor is Maria DELL from Amersham Buckinghamshire, a non-conformist lacemaker married to shepherd William KEEN. Christmas 1867 finds Maria resident in St John's Asylum in Stone, Buckinghamshire, suffering from "melancholia, several years", and her death certificate in 1876 describes her cause of death as atrophy after 31 years of mental derangement. Would this have been the saddest Christmas for the Keen family, or perhaps one of the happiest, thinking that Maria was getting help?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Calendar - Holiday Travel

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Christmas robin
Only a few Christmases have been spent away from home. Most notable was Christmas 2007 when I went to the UK to spend Christmas with my Grandad.

We arrived in England on 19 December, hoping for a white Christmas (this never being something that would happen in NZ). It was wonderful experiencing the short days, the general frostiness and the Christmas decorations in and on everyone's homes, but best of all was being able to spend time with Grandad and hearing more of his stories.

We planned out the Christmas feast with him (boneless turkey roast, the full range of roast veges, and the chocolate pudding from M&S Food), and I insisted on buying ridiculously posh Christmas crackers. We wanted him to have a great Christmas since he's normally on his own, and purchased numerous extra presents to complement those we'd brought with us - the present trolley below was pretty much all for him!

My brother arrived from London on Christmas Eve so we had a comparatively full house of four people for the big day. Grandad probably got a little tired of saying "Another one for me? Oh sweetie, you shouldn't have", the feast went off without a hitch, we got to watch the Queen and Doctor Who on TV at the "proper" times, and the only possible negative was the lack of a white Christmas. Although, just quietly, having a decent frost was a complete novelty for me and worked just as well!

frost on berry hedge
There were plenty of other highlights too, like being able to show my partner Snowdonia on a gloriously cold and clear day, travelling down to Cardiff to spend New Year's with his sister and her husband, seeing the madness that is Harrods Christmas Sale (all you've heard is true) and some further appreciation of English Heritage and National Trust properties. All in all, it turns out that one fabulous Christmas trip is plenty for me.

Llyn Gwynant, Snowdonia, Wales

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent Calendar - Charitable/Volunteer Work

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Does the annual donation to the SPCA at the Santa Parade count? (They bring a goat each year. Yes, a goat.) I guess not. Christmas in our family is more about the immediate family than the wider community.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent Calendar - Other Traditions

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Some other traditions from Mum and Dad's earlier Christmases that I've learned about this week:

No-one is allowed to open any presents until breakfast is over and the dishes are done (actually, that tradition is still alive and well)

Going for a walk as a family on Christmas afternoon

Having Boxing Day presents - these were small things like coins and biros, kept on or under the tree until Boxing Day when they could be opened.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Gifts

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

There aren't any unusual gift-giving traditions in our family - at least, not that we are aware are particularly unusual. We give presents to immediate family only (including grandparents), and as children would also receive presents from aunts and uncles. The odd small present might go under the tree in advance, and on Christmas Eve Father Christmas would top up the pile, ready for the grand opening ceremony on Christmas morning.

One thing that we do, that I now realise not all families do, is open each present individually. If you'd just opened a present, it was your turn to go to the tree to pick out a present for someone else to open. Everyone would then witness the opening of that present, and once the ooohs and aaahs were done and the paper neatly folded away that person would head to the tree to pick out the next one (for someone else obviously, it's poor form to select another of your own presents!) I'm not sure if this is just how our family does things, or if it's an English thing, or if it's because our family is pretty small. In my partner's whanau* the present opening is a chaotic free-for-all with paper flying everywhere!

Upon further investigation it turns out my Dad's family had a slight variant on this. Everyone would have purchased their presents for the other family members, wrapped them individually, and kept them in their bedrooms. Instead of bringing them out to go under the tree, each person would hand over the labels to the presents into a hat (except it wasn't literally a hat, it was a saucepan). Rather than individually picking presents from under the tree, the labels would then been drawn one by one out of the "hat", thereby revealing there was a present "from Kid to Dad", whereupon Kid would race off to their room and collect said present to be ceremonially handed over to Dad. If you'd purchased more than one present for someone, there would be multiple labels, so you'd never be quite sure if there were more presents for you still to be drawn out of the "hat" or not.

There weren't many individual presents that stood out in our minds, but my Mum remembered a sewing basket that she was once given, and a prized "99" white yoyo. I can also confirm that Santa still brings me a Terry's Chocolate Orange every year - thanks, Santa-Mum!

Once my Mum cottoned on to the fact that Nana was the one who would buy presents and hide them, rather than Father Christmas swanning in at the last minute, she wouldn't rest until she had located the hiding place and picked open the paper to see what everyone was getting. This is a family tradition of sorts as my brother inherited this particular trait, but I think other families may also recognise this gene!

* whanau - Maori for family - encompassing the (very) extended family and anyone else you'd choose to be family

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Advent Calendar - Grab Bag

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Here's some more photos from the Ellerslie Christmas Parade 2009. I wish I'd taken a photo of the shaved ice I had, it was so tasty!

The stockings were hung on the bagpipes with care.

What a great Grinchy trick - with this coat and this hat, I'll look just like Saint Nick!

High-five, Santa!

Then his security escorted him away.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Cookies

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

When I think of Christmas, I certainly don't think of biscuits. One exception would be shortbread (mmmm), and the Danish sugar cookies that come in the big round tins at Christmastime.

Mince pies, on the other hand, now that's Christmas! A sweet, moist, fruit mince mix (that generally came from a jar but could always be made from scratch if you wanted) piled into home-made pastry and cooked until the glazed top was lightly crisped. Oh yes.

Mum's mince pies will always be one of my favourite Christmas memories.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Advent Calendar - Holiday Parties

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

We're not really party people, so we neither threw a holiday party nor attended any as far as I can recall. I think festive parties might be more of a tradition in the US than they are elsewhere - even today it would be rare here to have one with the exception of the work Christmas party.

Our ancestors from Wing undoubtedly didn't have any parties either - although the day off work on Christmas Day would have been a comparatively festive occasion.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Advent Calendar - Santa Claus

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

You want the truth? Well, here it is.....I saw Santa today! Honestly, I have proof!

Ellerslie Christmas Parade 6 December 2009
I had another encounter with Santa, aka Father Christmas once. When I was 7 or 8 I heard his sleighbells very distinctly one Christmas Eve. You know, when you factor in the different time zones across the world, it's not *that* hard for him to get around in one night.

While the elves are hard at work, Father Christmas hangs out at grottos in department stores (and on the odd Ford Model A in parades, evidently). This tradition goes back decades in England, as my mother reports going to see him back in the day. When she was seven her brother tried to claim that Father Christmas didn't exist but I'm sure the milk and mince pies were still left out for him, something that everyone did, even me!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Advent Calendar - Outdoor Decorations

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Outdoor decorations are a relatively newfangled notion here in NZ. Given that it doesn't get dark until at least 8.30pm outdoor lights are somewhat redundant, and outdoor decorations seems to me like an American import over the last 10 years or so. It's definitely taken off though, and there are particularly festive streets and houses that people will specifically come to see. One house, on my way to my parents' house, has large and elaborate snowmen and the like, although I don't recall spotting them yet this year. Myself, I've always had a secret hankering for a string of icicle lights around the house - can't afford to buy them this year, but maybe next year!

The English experience is different again from the NZ and US. Towns would each have their big outdoor tree and the official switching-on of the Christmas lights was a big occasion. I assumed this was a recent thing, probably because nowadays the switching-on is done by whichever celebrity (A-list for Oxford Street, D-list for elsewhere in the country - but this story charmed me this year) can be mustered up, but Mum tells me this was the big highlight of Christmas in the 1950s and 60s as well. No-one had outdoor lights or decorations then, apart from a wreath on the door, but she remembers looking forward to being taken into town to see the lights.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Cards

A post for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

The Christmas Card String was a green and white twisted affair, with teeny little pegs for clipping the incoming cards to it. This was then displayed strung across a wall. The string wasn't excessively long but it would definitely be surplus to requirements for today's Christmas cards - both incoming and outgoing have dwindled over the last decade to a handful, mostly overseas relatives and friends. The posting deadline to get cards to the UK always sneaks up on me!

I don't know that I ever specifically made any Christmas cards but I can prove I did receive some handmade ones. Yesterday I came across the one below from a workmate at Whitcoulls circa 1995, and the various details and in-jokes gave me as big a laugh now as it did then. Paula Travaglia, if you're out there, please email me!

My Mum remembers making Christmas cards for her grandparents, while the posh purchased ones went to non-family. I'd love to see one of those hand-made ones, but alas, they were not preserved for posterity.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Advent Calendar - Christmas Tree Ornaments

I have to confess that I am drawing a blank trying to remember any particular Christmas tree ornaments from my childhood, with one notable exception - the ouchy-lights. The coloured plastic coverings for the bulbs on one of our sets of lights had little spikes all over them, presumably to refract the light but also effective in stopping small fingers from touching things they shouldn't. I wasn't very fond of those lights.

I did love Christmas lights in general though, and it was a special treat to actually have them switched on! It doesn't get dark until 8.30pm-ish in December here in NZ so lights don't feature for as much of the day as elsewhere.

A non-commercial approach was standard procedure in my parents' time. Mum remembers making paperchains and various decorations from foil, and the tree would also be decked out with balls, stars, tinsel, lights and the fairy on top.

If it's cold and miserable outside like it is in England then it's more important that the inside of the house be festive and bright. Mum tells me that they had a lot of indoor decorations, particularly balloons, concertina paper ornaments stretched from one corner of the ceiling to the other and those ornaments that store flat but fold out to be clipped into a round 3D shape (there's probably a technical name for those) - now she's said it I remember we had those too when I was little.

When I was little I don't remember any hand-made ornaments, but I definitely made some beaded ball ornaments as a teenager. Perhaps they're still at my parents' place? I do have one hand-made ornament on my tree now though, a piece that I stitched some years back.

I dare say the children of Wing decorated the house with whatever they could find that took their fancy!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Calendar - Holiday Foods

In New Zealand it's the height of summer at Christmastime. A barbecue is more appropriate than slaving away in the kitchen! As my parents are English, our Christmas was always more traditional than most families here though - I think we were the only ones I knew who had a formal sit-down meal at a beautifully laid out table. Our main Christmas meal came at lunchtime, as it does in England. Roast chicken, ham, roast veges, and then the most important course, pudding! There are three crucial components here. The first was the mince pie - my mother makes the most glorious mince pies, although I understand now that she considers this to be the Most Annoying Task of the season. They're worth it though, honestly! The second is the trifle, layers of sponge and fruit set with red jelly and topped off with custard. And lastly a Kiwi classic, the pavlova topped with fresh strawberries. I've never had a Christmas without one (well, except Christmas 2007 when I was in the UK, but that's a story for the 13th December according to our geneabloggers Advent Calendar schedule).

As our Christmas lunch was based on the traditional English one, the holiday foods my parents remember enjoying are similar (apart from the pavlova, of course). Turkey, sausage rolls and the usual hot roast staples, mince pies, trifle, Christmas cake, dates, nuts and sweets. Mum reports they didn't have anything for tea in the evening as they would all still be full, while Dad was fond of a turkey sandwich come teatime (the Coles family secret recipe is turkey, stuffing and tomato sauce). Dad reports roasting marshmallows on a fork over an open fire, and the tragedy of post-WWII-rationing affecting the sweet supply.

On the Wing One Place Study website I have a profile of Robert May, one of the first English chefs. Check out his Christmas bill of fare from 1660! Swan pye has fallen quite out of favour in the intervening centuries so you may need to make a few alterations to the menu....

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Advent Calendar - The Christmas Tree

Growing up, our Christmas tree was always an artificial one. I would guess it was probably purchased for my first Christmas in 1974. It had all the mod cons of the era - a wooden pole centre with drilled holes into which we would poke the individual branches (essentially sticks constructed of twisted wire with some green and silver tinsel bits poking out of them in a somewhat threadbare fashion). If I'm not mistaken it was the same tree all the way up until I went away to university in the early 1990s, when it was replaced with a top-of-line model (one for my parents, one for me, we have matching trees!). I believe Mum was in charge of putting it up and taking it down, on the appropriate days of course, and I'm sure she let us help decorate it - then probably fixed it up when we weren't looking!

In contrast, both my parents had real trees each year as children (they tell me there was no such thing as artificial ones back then so that wasn't an option). There was some confusion about the exact type of tree "a Christmas tree" might have been but evidently it would be some kind of fir tree or pine tree. My Nana (Mum's Mum) would complain about the mess from the tree - I know that when I would ask why we had an artificial tree and not a real tree I was told that real trees were too messy!

In England the Christmas tree first popped up in Victorian times - I can't imagine the majority of our Wing ancestors would have had one. The fashionable set would have followed Victoria and Albert's lead, of course, but the fashionable set were far and few between round Wing!

About the Advent Calendar

There is a whole community of genealogical bloggers out there writing on different aspects of their genealogical research and adventures. Our "cheerleader" is Thomas of, and there's no better time for cheer than Christmas!

This month, geneabloggers will be posting daily memories of Christmas traditions in their families, and I'll be posting along with them. It'll be what I remember (or don't remember) of Christmas growing up here in NZ and I'll also be asking my parents for some of their memories growing up in England. This won't be strictly relevant to Wing as the last Wing Christmas of my ancestors would have been in the 1930s, quite a bit before my time! If you or your family members have a Christmas memory related to Wing, please share them in the comments to each post (upcoming topics can be viewed here), or email them to me and I'll post them as a comment for you.

If you're in the mood for more cheer, more Christmas memories can be found here.

December update

It's finally here! My page about the millers and mills of Wing is now available on the website.

Other updates this month:
* The Neighbours page has been updated with links to Bedfordshire County Council's wonderful Community Archives project
* Several of the non-conformist pages have been updated with information from the above. Which day each month did a Baptist pastor travel over from Leighton Buzzard to preach? Which Wing residents were trustees of the Mill Road Primitive Methodist chapel in Leighton Buzzard? Hint - one of my own ancestors was amongst them!
* The Miscellany has some new and updated entries involving GREEN and WINGROVE. Have you reviewed the Miscellany for any snippets relating to your Wing families?
* Some LATHWELL men for the military pages. Incidentally, I and some other LATHWELL researchers are working on a Lathwell One Name Study.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Great Bedfordshire resource

I came across a wonderful resource for some Bedfordshire parishes today. The Bedfordshire Council now has a Community Archives section on their website - content varies depending on the parish but includes maps, historical churches, details of interesting buildings, and perhaps industry information and census extracts. If you have ancestors that spent time just across the county border from Wing you may well find something of interest here. I certainly found some former Wing residents when clicking on random house profiles!

See here for the list of parishes. I'll be linking to the ones close to Wing on my Neighbours page in December.

And now I'm off to read the Leighton Buzzard non-conformist churches pages more closely, as some of our Wing folk did make the trek there each Sunday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WWII evacuees

In order to keep safe from expected bombings, many children (and some mothers) were evacuated from cities and other target sites out to the comparatively safe countryside.

If you, or your relatives, were an evacuee who was sent to Wing, or perhaps you lived in Wing and hosted an evacuee, please do email me at and let me know all the details you can remember about the evacuee, the hosts, and their experiences.

One person we'd like to find is Joan - Joan was 9 years old and came from Harlesdon in London. She lived with William and Louisa VARNEY in Albert Terrace, Littleworth, and shared a bedroom with 21-year-old Stella.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Neighbours on Remembrance Day

Ancestry have released the remainder of the records in the WO363 series (the "Burnt Documents" of the service records from WWI). The remainder of the Wing men found in these records will appear on my Wing One Place Study website soon on the WWI military page.

While searching using the residence field only for "Adela" aka Adela Avenue in New Malden where my 2xg-grandfather lived (in the early 1900s he had lived in Wing), it brought home the impact of WWI on the lives of neighbourhoods. As well as my Percy (who isn't in the WO363 series) at #59 Adela Avenue, there was also Isidor BENSON at #19, Ernest Albert COX at #30, Cecil William ELLIOT at #47 and Edward John VINCENT at #65.

Given that only 40% of the service records in this series survive in any form, and this series originally represented only non-commissioned officers and other ranks who survived WWI and did not re-enlist prior to WWII, there would have been plenty of returned serviceman in this street. No doubt there were several other neighbouring households who had a permanent gap in them by the end of the War.

On this Remembrance Day - thanks.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Milling about

I'm definitely back on track with my webpage about the milling industry in Wing. I've finished all the research and writeup about the mills and the millers, now I just need to finish my background research about the process of milling itself, as I only have a very hazy idea about this, and find some suitable illustrations for the page. This last bit always proves challenging - I don't have ready access to Wing or to museums that might house suitable objects I could photograph, so I'm hoping to find a relevant line drawing or two I can extract from one of the milling books I found on Google Books. I've already created a customised map, a first for the website, but there's a fair bit of text so it needs a fair few illustrations beyond the map.

I will also need a visit to the library to confirm a fun fact - apparently when the mill moth first appeared in England it popped up in Buckinghamshire, Stony Stratford to be precise. I have a reference to the volume and page of the Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire in which this is recorded but I have no recollection of actually seeing this, so a trip to the Auckland City Library (who I know has these volumes) is called for, just in case I dreamed the whole thing up!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

November update

Yes, there is a November update! I've been sick, and very tired, this month so have done very little on the genealogical front. This means that the milling page has been delayed by yet another month, but I have uploaded extracts of a couple of wills - for Samuel HOLT and Hugh HOWSE both in the 1730s.

In excellent news for those of us interested in wills held by the Centre of Buckinghamshire Studies, they have added an online purchasing facility to go along with the online index on their website. They are also offering online ordering of births, marriages and deaths. I haven't used this yet myself but it will certainly make life easier for me next time I do want a copy of a will.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Too tired to stare at a computer

I've been awfully busy and tired lately so I haven't had any time for genealogy. I popped by Ancestry yesterday though and see they have dramatically expanded the range of records from the London Metropolitan Archives, so if you have been waiting for access to some of the London parish registers held at the LMA you should definitely check to see if they are included in Ancestry's records yet. The links are:

Births/Baptisms 1813-1906
Marriages and Banns 1751-1921
Deaths/Burials 1813-1980
Parish Registers 1538-1812 unindexed

Be sure to browse down to the parish you are interested in first to see which years are included for that parish as it may only be one or two at this stage rather than the full stretch suggested by the database title. That way, you'll know whether to come back later to re-check.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October update

I'm still waiting on the last pieces of information to tidy up my page on milling, so that will have to wait another month! This means it's a small update this month - I've been through checking and updating all the links to external websites (the Buckinghamshire County Council had re-organised their website so all links to the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies resources had fallen over, and various others had also moved), and made the odd correction.

One new addition is a link to neighbouring Stewkley's Local History Group. Their website is still being built but they have a number of interesting research projects underway. If you are in the area their open meetings sound like they would make for a very interesting evening!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I'm away at a conference for the next few days so I won't be responding to any emails. This timing means it's very unlikely I'll have the milling page finished for the October update either.

I see there has been no taker for the £30 copy of Wing As It Was on Ebay. Anyone tempted?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The next industry to be profiled on the Wing One Place Study website will be milling. I've been working on this page for a while and have spent some time this month trying to get it finished off - hopefully it will be ready for 1 October as I don't have a plan B for the October update. I have however ordered a couple of documents from the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies that should help me tidy up some details of the earlier mills and millers, so keep your fingers crossed that these wing their way to me quickly.

If you are a descendent of HOWSE, HARRIS, HELEY or PAGE and have any information or insights about their milling work, please email me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wing As It Was - copy on Ebay

If anyone has a spare 30 quid burning a hole in their pocket, there is a copy of the book Wing As It Was volume 1 currently on Ebay (Buy It Now option only). This has many postcards and photographs of Wing and its residents from the late 1800s/early 1900s. I have an index of the individuals either pictured or mentioned in the text of the book here:

The book listing can be found here (I have no association with the seller).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September update

An assortment of small snippets this month. First up is a will extract for Mark HOWCUTT from 1898 and and a link to the Howcutt website where Francis will be pleased to hear from you if you have Howcutt ancestors. Next up is a runaway BURROWS wife, previously mentioned on this blog and now transferred to The Miscellany. New criminals this month are poachers CANCOTT, SHERROCK and SAUNDERS. A new Methodist, John FLEMONS, has also been identified.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

WW2 Women's Land Army

Back in January this year, I wrote about being contacted by the husband of a former Land Girl based at Linslade. I'm currently reading "They Fought In The Fields: The Women's Land Army" by Nicola Tyrer, and learning more about the WLA, the tasks the girls performed and the conditions they worked in. These girls were apparently the last group of agricultural workers to learn "traditional" techniques of working the fields, before the level of mechanisation we are accustomed to today took over.

Of particular interest are the individual stories from the young women - the jobs they left, their reasons for joining and hopes for their new roles, the day-to-day life and experiences they found. Once I've finished reading the book, I'll be heading over to BBC - WW2 People's War to see what memories they have there.

If you, or other family members, were Land Girls, please share your memories - post a comment or send me an email, especially if you spent any time working in the Buckinghamshire or Bedfordshire area.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

From Wing To Eternity

This post is an article for the 16th edition of the Smile For the Camera blog carnival on the topic of "Bling, ancestor Bling"

Family mementos are a bit thin on the ground from my Wing ancestors. I do have one piece that has a Wing connection though.

My great-grandfather Bill Williams, born in Wing Buckinghamshire in 1901, gave my great-grandmother a diamond cluster ring as a 40th wedding anniversary present. She hadn't fancied rubies, the traditional 40th anniversary gift, but apparently she didn't particularly fancy the oversized diamond ring she ended up with either! When this was inherited by my Nana she had it reset into a number of different pieces of jewellery. One of these was a six-stone diamond eternity ring which I, in turn, inherited when Nana died.

One day I'll continue the tradition and have this reset into a more modern style, but for now I wear the ring as is - stones given by a man from Wing and worn daily by his great-granddaughter.

What bling did your own ancestors from Wing have? Do you have any cameos, pocket watches, medals, or other personal items inherited from your Wing families, or any photos of them wearing these treasures? I'd love to see them.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

August update

This month, take a trip back to the 17th century when the government was raising funds for the disturbances in Ireland. Contributors from Wing in 1642 have been extracted from the Buckinghamshire Record Society publication (with their permission) and resorted alphabetically so you can locate your ancestors easily. There are even some women listed, including Annis FOWLER and "another maid".

Friday, July 17, 2009

He's a rebel

I'm currently following the adventures of one William NEWLAND junior, who appears to be the son of the bailiff for the Cottesloe hundred - now there's something to rebel against! I've known about him for a little while but I'm going through the calendars of the quarter session records for Buckinghamshire for the 1678 to 1694 period (published by the Buckinghamshire Record Society) and slowly pulling together more information about his misdeeds.

Obviously I'll also need to research what became of him later - will he never ever be any good?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wing War Memorial

Excellent news from modern-day Wing this week. The repair work to the War Memorial is about to begin! If you are in the area, do pop in to All Saints Church - Vic Sirett has put together a display about the men on the memorial.

Friday, July 03, 2009

LMA poor law records database update has been digitizing the poor law records held by the London Metropolitan Archives. Since their first release (which I wrote about back in March), they have added some records for two more unions to the database entitled "London England Poor Law Records 1834-1940). The new unions are Greenwich and Haringey. They may also have added some individual record collections for the existing unions into the database but Ancestry aren't telling us exactly what the update consists of, so who knows.....

While tidying up my Ancestry homepage, I discovered you could use the new Quick Links feature to "rename" databases. You have the option to alter the default database name as you add it to the Quick Links area, so I have added the three databases from the LMA and renamed them to, for example "LMA Poor Law Records" *rant mode on* rather than their current generic names that don't acknowledge the source of those records at all or help you pick out the right database from the crowd.*rant mode off*

*no, rant mode on again* I've also deleted all the existing default Quick Links - rather stupidly, these all point to rather than so are as good as useless if your subscription is to the UK site!*rant mode off, over and out*

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

July update

A while ago I posted about JK Fowler's "Echoes of Old County Life", and mentioned that his sequel to that book, "Recollections of Old Country Life", was of particular relevance to Wing. This month, excerpts from that book have been added to the webpage detailing the murder of Thomas Adams in 1837.

I won't give you any clues here but will say that I gasped out loud while reading that particular chapter in Fowler's book, and that anyone with an interest in the case (or an eye for scandal) will definitely want to read these revelations.

Here's the Adams family in question (click to enlarge):

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Walk Home - postscript

My blog entry "A walk home along High Street" was chosen as the featured article in A Festival of Postcards' 2nd edition "Main Street". Thanks Evelyn! Thanks also to the other entrants, plenty of interesting postcards were contributed so do check it out.

As an postscript to that entry I'd like to post a back view of one of the postcards I used as it's quite interesting on its own.

"The Cross" postcard was published by Ernest Cleaver, the postmaster of Wing. My own copy of this postcard is unposted, but another posted copy has previously been up for auction on Ebay and I saved their scan of the back. That copy was postmarked Leighton Buzzard J[ul]Y 16 [19]12 11.15 am with a King George V halfpenny stamp (apparently His Majesty was a keen philatelist so I bet seeing himself on a stamp was a personal thrill), and is addressed to:

Mr Heather
Gas Works

The text reads:
"Dear Dad
We are coming by that 6.42 train from Leighton arrive Euston 7.40. Frank is going to meet us at Euston so you might see him. We are going up Wing Tower at 11.15am, and then going to see the Hounds at 12. Yesterday went to Ascot [sic]. All the men rushed out to see us. Ethel had her camera in her hand. They all wanted there [sic] photos taken. Love Dorothy."

I'm not entirely sure what Dorothy means by Wing Tower - presumably the bell tower at All Saints Church. By "Ascot" she is of course referring to Ascott House, the home of Leopold and Marie de Rothschild on the outskirts of Wing. Foxhunting was a frequent pasttime here.

My favourite bit is the description of the impact Ethel's camera had on the workers of the Ascott estate - evidence that cameras were quite a rare sight around Wing back then!

Are there any descendents out there of these visitors to Wing? Looking at the 1901 census I can find two sisters Dorothy and Ethel HEATHER (both born Lambeth), with a gas fitter father, living in Brighton, which sounds like a likely match.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

1911 census enumerators books

The summary pages from the census enumerators books are now available for the 1911 census. If you have previously purchased the page for your family in 1911 you should now be able to see at no additional cost the cover and address pages for your family (not that informative), and a number of more general pages about the enumeration district. The most interesting of these are "District Description", which detail the route travelled by the enumerator (see 1891 example) and the "List" which lists your household and up to 49 of their nearest neighbours. Each household line includes the primary surname of the household along with the number of males and females, so it is quite useful.

In one of my district description pages I spotted a familiar street name - it turns out the flat my brother first lived in when he moved to London in 2002 is the next road over from where our grandmother appears as a 5-year-old in the 1911 census!

If you have purchased the pages for your own Wing households I'd love to hear what you found in the individual household page and the List page. I'll be shaking the piggybank this weekend to see how many of my own households I can purchase!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mapping the LATHWELLs

View LATHWELL in a larger map

I've started tinkering with Google Maps customisation features, using the LATHWELL family as an example. The map above shows an assortment of randomly selected locations of Lathwell families, some of whom originated from Wing, and some who did not.

I don't have the time right now to do a comprehensive job on this particular map, but I like the overall concept. A long-term goal for the Wing One Place Study is to be able to map the immigration and emigration of each Wing family and this will be a great tool to complement that particular project.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A walk home along High Street, Wing, Buckinghamshire

Stand at the south end of High Street. To the right, the dust is kicking up from the carts travelling the road to Ascott and Leighton Buzzard. To the left, the Dove Inn1.

The Dove Inn looks pretty quiet this afternoon. There's the Pollard boys, hard at work in the blacksmith's shop next door. William's been looking a mite peaky lately, he's stopped to take a rest2. Hold on, there's Ernest across the road waving at me. Better go see what he wants...

Well I never! He's got some more of those post-cards in, photographs of our little village with his name on the back and all - "Cleaver, Wing, Bucks". He thinks the hoity toity set that come to Ascott for the hunting will be keen to buy 'em. That lot are only interested in horses if you ask me, the posh kind, not the good honest carthorses on some of the postcards.

One of the pictures was taken right about where I'm standing now, outside his post office looking up the road. Mrs Cleaver was in the doorway of the post office, and the other neighbours had quite the set-out by the Queen's Head. Have to admit, I came rushing over too when I heard that photographer chap from Leighton was here - but you won't catch me in the photographs! All very interesting it was though. Particularly when Mrs Lovell3 gave him what-for for blocking the road!

Speaking of the Queen's Head, perhaps I'll stop in for a quick pint with Henry.

That's odd, he's not there. Up the road at the Cock Inn4 maybe?

Right, had a quick chat and a wee bit to wet my whistle. I don't think Henry's missus will be pleased though, he's had more than a wee bit!

At the Cross5, so nearly home now. Ernest had another new post-card in, some of the little 'uns dandling about in the road with Wantage House behind. James Adams did well enough, him a carpenter and now managing the estate for Lady Wantage and living in the big House to prove it. You can't quite see our cottage on the postcard though - just as well, or my Mary6 would be wanting one. And who's she going to send it to anyway, I ask you!

This blog post is an entry in A Festival of Postcards blog carnival for "Main Street" June 2009

1 - did I mention it's 1901? It's another century or so before the Dove stopped serving.
2 - William Pollard died in March 1902 at age 24, six months after his only surviving child was born - luckily for me...
3 - Mrs Julia Lovell was one of the village carriers.
4 - yes, that makes three pubs along the 400m total length of High Street.
5 - the intersection of High Street and Vicarage Lane
6 - play along at home with the 1901 census and guess which Wing resident might be walking home!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ten key UK genealogical resources

If you're a non-UK-based genealogist starting to research your ancestors in the UK, you'll bring your existing genealogical skills to the game but each country is of course a whole new playing field. Here's a quick run-down of some key resources you should know about for England and Wales (the playing field is different again for Scotland and Ireland, about which I know nothing, but I'm sure the first resource listed will be a good place to start!)

GENUKI - clarifies the historical counties and gives you a good overview of the online and offline resources that are available for the area your ancestor lived in. Amongst other things, watch out for a link to that county's record office or archives. Many of these have an online catalogue of their holdings and offer a research/photocopy service (or can provide lists of professional researchers in the area whom you could engage to locate items for you).

FFHS - the Federation of Family History Societies has a list of all its member societies and their websites. Each county should have at least one family history society, whose role includes transcribing various useful records (census, parish registers, and other odds and sods). Purchase from a FHS if you have the option - they are non-profit organisations who know their area extremely well and this will be reflected in the quality of their offerings. And do consider becoming a member!

FreeBMD and GRO - civil registration of births, deaths and marriages began 1 July 1837 and there is a centralised index to these certificates. FreeBMD is a free, but not entirely complete, database of the index. Once you have the reference you need, head to the General Register Office website to order your certificate online. To find out what you can expect to learn from a certificate, be sure to check out Barbara's Registration Web Page., Find My Past and The Genealogist - individuals were first named in the 1841 census, and the census took place every 10 years thereafter. These are three of the commercial sites which have census records, both scans and indices, available. Check carefully to make sure the years and counties you want are included before waving your credit card at them, and as always the quality of transcriptions and hence the ease of finding your ancestors may vary. If your budget is tight, you might get lucky and find what you're looking for on FreeCen (transcriptions only).

FamilySearch - prior to the start of civil registration in 1837 the key source record where you will likely find information about your ancestors is the parish register (also very useful post-1837 too!). You may find that the parish registers for the village or town you are interested in have been filmed by the LDS so you can have the fun of ordering and viewing these yourself - search the FamilySearch catalogue by place name to see what's available for your village (or the whole county - like military or tax records).

The National Archives - does what it says on the box. Some useful centrally-held collections (like PCC wills) have been scanned and are available to purchase via their Documents Online service. Check out the useful free research guides about different types of historical records.

Historical Directories - a selection of surviving directories for the different counties can be found here. You'll find a brief description of the town or village along with selected residents (generally landowners and tradesmen).

Rootsweb lists - there are mailing lists for each county (and in some cases more than one - there's two for Buckinghamshire). Subscribe, watch the flow of emails for a while to get a feel for that list's etiquette (you'll pick up numerous useful snippets of information along the way if you take the time to read all the messages), then ask away or contribute information.

B-G Forums - just one of the numerous online message boards covering the UK. As with mailing lists it's best to register and take time to browse through the individual forums of interest to see how things tick before jumping in.

and finally, genealogical gold .....

One Place Study websites - check out the One-Place-Studies index for your village of interest, and google (village name + county name + genealogy) to see what turns up - you just might get lucky!

Monday, June 01, 2009

June update

New to the website this month is the 1895 Kellys directory. Brand-new to Wing in this directory were Miss Nellie WOODS, the infants school mistress, George HOUNSLOW now trading as a chimney sweeper, Charles MORTIMER farming in Cottesloe and George UNDERWOOD farming at Old Park Farm, Joseph WOOLHEAD as a draper, and several new publicans - William OSGOOD is pulling pints at the Cock (did you pull pints back then?) along with a SHIPLEY at the Queen's Head and a PINFOLD at the Sportman's Arms. There were also numerous others whose first appearance in the directories I've transcribed had previously been 1899, so this dates their trading activities earlier by at least four years.

I've also added Eric TAYLOR to the listing of military men from WW2. Eric may be known to many, as he first came to Wing in his capacity as an instructor with the RAF's Operational Training Unit based there, and was able to return to Wing permanently as the headmaster of Wing School in the 1950s.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Twitter Story

So I signed up to Twitter a few weeks back (initially as a way to follow various alumni and fellow fans of Joss Whedon's various TV shows, I wasn't actually intending to be posting anything myself). Turns out there are quite a few genealogists out and about on Twitter, but I still wasn't convinced of Twitter's potential usefulness as a genealogical tool. So the universe sent me this.....

@familytreewritr retweeted (ie reposted) a message from @MysticalNZ asking about Chinese genealogy. Obviously this isn't an area I have any interest in or knowledge of but their twitter name suggested they might also be from NZ. Out of curiosity I clicked on the name and read through her recent postings. It turned out that she has JONES ancestors in Monmouthshire, as do I (and as do probably most people with ancestors in Monmouthshire!), so I sent her a quick message to say hi.

Next thing I know, she's checked my profile, looked at my website - and it turns out she also has some ancestors who passed through Wing! The STOTT family's brief stay is only recorded for posterity by a couple of baptism entries in the 1850s, but I was blown away by the sheer randomness of it all.

Twitter has its downsides (already had my fill of internet marketing types, for one) but you might just find it interesting, and potentially useful for your genealogical research. Why not check it out? The more UK genealogists the better!

Get a heads-up on Twitter from the Twitter Cheat Sheet available from:

I'm at - the name is a tribute to my Milton-under-Wychwood ancestor, but that's another story.....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Googling along

You may have heard about some changes to the Google interface in the last week or so. One of these is the ability to restrict search results by how recently the page changed. This does throw up some interesting things that otherwise might have been buried further down in the results, so give it a go.

One Wing-related result I found was a collection of church photos from Martin Beek on Flickr. He has several wonderful photos from the interior of All Saints Church (that I desperately wish I'd taken - he makes the skull on the Fynes memorial look amazing) - do check them out! He has similarly beautiful photos for other churches in the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire area, so you may find some more photos of ancestral interest amongst his collections. (there's a few photos on this page that aren't Wing but feature cherubs with wings so get picked up by the Flickr tag)

Also on Flickr is "wingcommunity" with numerous photos of modern-day Wing:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One Lovely Blog award

The lovely Jo of Wibbling Jo's Genealogy Blog thinks my blog is One Lovely Blog! Thanks Jo!

One blog that is certainly lovely is Notes of Life from Nikki-Ann in Wales. I can't get enough of UK photography and Nikki-Ann's shots always brighten my Blogger feed - and she's a fellow family historian too.

Good UK genealogy blogs are a bit thin on the ground. Does anyone else out there have a blog sharing their journey in researching their UK ancestry?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bookshelf - Echoes of Old County Life

I'm currently reading Echoes of Old County Life by J.K. Fowler. Mr Fowler was a gentleman farmer type from Aylesbury, so this book is of particular interest to those with Buckinghamshire connections. There's interesting 19th century anecdotes in just about every chapter, although as with any book that covers such a wide range of topics there's bound to be passages in there you'll want to skip past! His commentary on poultry farming - "So long as you have to go out and buy food you are no longer likely to make a profit" - particularly amused me.

Published in 1892, it is freely viewable/downloadable from Internet Archive.

(There was a sequel to this book of particular relevance to Wing, so watch this space!)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

de Rothschild photos c1910

Friday saw the opening of an exhibition of a collection of autochromes (the earliest form of colour photography) taken by keen amateur photographer Lionel de Rothschild in the 1910s. Lionel was the eldest son of Leopold and Marie, and the family was at home at Ascott House in the 1891 census when Lionel was 9.

The BBC News slideshow includes photos of both Leopold and Marie, and their fluffy white dog! Does anyone know if the exhibition includes any of Ascott House or Wing? Anyone in the Hampshire area want to go and check out the exhibition for me?

Friday, May 01, 2009

May update

This month I've added some more will extracts to the website. These are all from wills proved locally and now held at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies - interestingly these were much easier to read than the PCC wills! The will extracts are for:

Robert Adams (1804)
William Battams (1804)
George Bellgrove (1808)
Roger Goss (1806)
John Hart (1808)
Elizabeth Keen (1803)
John Tofield (1803)
John Willison (1806)
Thomas Woodman snr (1804)

I've also added a couple of Cutler marriage strays.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Making history

Will this be tomorrow's history?

For those of you not familiar with Wing at all, at 34 seconds young Postman George wanders past the lychgate of All Saints Church, then heads up Church Street towards High Street.

(for those of you more familiar with Wing than me - any other spots of particular note in this short video?)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Transcript software

This week I downloaded Transcript, a freeware program to help you transcribe from image files into a Rich Text file. This program loads the image in the top half of your screen, and you can type in the editor in the the bottom half of the screen.

I've tested it out by transcribing the 1895 Kelly's directory using it, and I do think I'll keep using it. It's not perfect - most notably I'd love it if it could save in plain text format or HTML format natively (so I don't have to open the RTF file and resave as TXT, then open and resave the TXT file as HTML if I'm transcribing something for the website). I'm also still experimenting getting images extracted out of PDFs so that they can be opened in Transcript. But overall the program is sensible and streamlined, features I always appreciate!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Attorneys in Leighton Buzzard

Most of the Wing wills I've been looking at the last two weeks (in the 1804 to 1808 period) have various WILLIS men as witnesses. It transpires that these men are attorneys practising in Leighton Buzzard, including one Valentine WILLIS who initially baffled me by signing his name as Val with a superscript e. The Willis family appear to continue on in this line of work in Leighton Buzzard throughout the century.

Interestly, Elizabeth KEEN refers to David Willis as her "esteemed friend" when appointing him as executor.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Genealogical hardware

Just back from an evening visit to the Family History Centre at the local LDS, and my new netbook (Acer Aspire One D150 for those with enquiring minds) acquitted itself very well. Light to carry, quick to load up, and much much easier to type up wills than to attempt to read my handwriting at a later date!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Random (somewhat farm-related) fact

You'll be pleased to know that the temperature at Burcott Lodge Farm from 25th to 30th June 1866 was a consistent 80F/27C. We have Robert VALLENTINE and his detailed record-keeping to thank for this - Robert was busy harvesting his first clover crop for the year over those dates. Robert also liked to share his conclusions with others, this isn't the first time I've come across reference to him and the farm in print! This particular snippet can be found in Talks on Manures by Joseph Harris, should you feel the urge to explore that particular topic further...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Not so focused on farming

In my defence, as well as not making any progress so far this month on the farming pages I haven't made progress on anything else genealogical......

However, the last of the films I ordered back in August last year at the local LDS Family History Centre arrived this week. This particular film has the original wills in the probate records for the Archdeaconry of Buckinghamshire for the 1803 to 1808 period. A quick initial visit to see how the contents were structured and locate a couple of the wills I was after pretty much comprises all my genealogical research for the month!

And perhaps I can claim that it was connected to the Wing farms project, as one of those wills was for Robert ADAMS in 1804 - he farmed at Burcott House Farm.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Statistical fun

Dick Eastman's newsletter led me to a new resource today, This has a variety of historical reports and commentaries about the population of the UK from 1801.

So far I've been browsing the Registrar-General's annual reports. The contents vary somewhat each year, but if (for example) your ancestor drowned and you wanted to know how many others had the same fate that year, it's quite possible that you will find it here amongst the tables of statistics in these reports.

FYI Wing falls into Division III: South Midland.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Focus on farming

After getting distracted on all manner of interesting and/or timeconsuming genealogical or real-life things, I'm going to try and stay focused on completing the overview of farming in Wing. Agriculture was fundamental to the Wing economy, so this section will be a biggie! I suspect it'll be one that's never quite complete either, there'll always be more snippets to add and certainly there will be documents at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies that I may or may not be able to get my hands on (all volunteers who might be able to help me out on that front gratefully appreciated).

My intention is to summarise the farming system, the farms of Wing and their resident families, and get that up on the website as soon as possible. It can then expand as people contribute relevant information.

In the meantime, if you have any information about your farmer family please email me. I've already accumulated some interesting snippets from your emails in the past, like the family gossip as to why the HEDGES farm at Cottesloe was split up and eventually lost. If you've researched the farm your ancestors worked, do let me know what you discovered. Photos of the farm, then or now, would also be great!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

LMA at Ancestry - name indexes

I noted in a previous blog entry that one of the three new databases of records from the London Metropolitan Archives now up at Ancestry has not been indexed by name. Word from Ancestry, via a response to my question on their blog, is that they are focusing their time on indexing the parish records in the LMA series, and may go back to index some of the less critical LMA databases later on.

I do hope they eventually go back and index them all, but I certainly agree that the parish registers are a higher priority.

I also wish that while we're waiting for Ancestry to maybe get around to indexing that database, someone out there in internet-land would put together a detailed list of the individual documents/registers within that one "records" database. That would be a much more helpful finding aid than taking forever to drill down to see what documents are in there, then not knowing exactly how the images are structured, then giving up before you get to the real information (like I almost did with the example below). Entries like...

"Register of Apprentices Bound or Assigned by the Board of Guardians of the Parish of St Johns Hampstead 1851 to 1890 - LMA ref HPBG/110 - images 2 to 11 lists apprentices alphabetically with a folio number, this folio number corresponds to images 12 to 20 which contains the detailed entry including their age, parents, date and details of apprenticeship entered into"

...with a link to the Ancestry page which links to the images for that set of documents. Wouldn't that be 100 times better? Anyone want to put that together? I'm already occupied with my Wing vision......

April update

This month the 1869 Post Office directory was added - this helps fill the gap between the 1864 directory and the 1871 census. This directory also sees the first time a member of the ROTHSCHILD family appears listed as a resident in Wing.

Two more military men were added, Jeffrey TEARLE in WW1 and Ernest Henry GIBBS in WW2. I still only have a handful of Wing WWII men - if your father or grandfather served and should be there, email me to let me know his details.

I've also done the periodic checking of external links from the website, so various pages have been updated with corrections to those.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Place List report - Rootsmagic

In order to investigate the LMA release properly, I need a handy list of exactly who/what/when in my family tree was ever in the greater London area. Rootsmagic has a quite nice Place List report that does this - it reverses the elements of the place name in entries so they sort by county first, then parish, and shows you each individual event that occurred in that place. You have a choice of ALL places or a single selected place (which means the smallest level of detail like individual house address), and unfortunately you can't filter by part of the place - like, say *london* or *middlesex* which would be handy in this instance to get a nice concise report! I've exported the report to a text file so I can cut out the bit I want for handy printing.

The PAF equivalent to this report doesn't have any options for you to play with - it sorts the places in a similar way, but sorts the events in each place by surname rather than date (Rootsmagic sorts by date). Neither program gives you an option to select if you'd like them sorted by date or name. My dream genealogy program would.....

For that matter, it would also be handy if reports in genealogy programs showed both the maiden and married surnames of the females where the date of the event falls after the marriage.

As an aside, my entries from Wing cover 19 pages.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

LMA at Ancestry - updates from my evening's journey

As with most databases, the indexing has the usual flaws. If anyone is looking for the burial of a James CRUTCH in 1855, he's currently going by "Ignes". I wouldn't have thought it was that hard to see James Crutch on one line, John Smith (ha!) on the next, and not confuse the various loops and flourishes - the top of the J in John can't simultaneously be the bottom of a g in the above line, particularly if you end up with something like "Ignes" as a result!

[as a complete aside, googling Ignes led me here - if anyone would like to show their gratitude for the Wing One Place Study by sending me an Midi Sophia I would not object]

The majority of my London ancestors have surnames like, say, HUGHES or WHITE or HALL. And London is not a small place, as you know.......the only upside is that these surnames are more likely to have been transcribed correctly! The births and deaths in this release are those recorded in the workhouses for each union included (and the years covered varies - use the browse feature in each collection to work out exactly what's in there) and searching for very common surnames like these won't (yet) produce an overwhelming number of results.

Note that the births and deaths databases don't include all the poor law unions that I flagged in my earlier post - I had picked these up from the generic "poor law unions" database but it didn't follow that every union mentioned there was included in the other two databases - for example Padddington doesn't appear in these two databases but it is in the generic "poor law union" database. And on that topic....

The various individual sets of records in the "poor law union" database are NOT indexed by name. While it's fascinating to browse, this decision seems a little odd - unless Ancestry are busily working away on the index behind the scenes and thought we might like to see the digitised images in the meantime. The quality of the digitised images seems pretty good through - all the original pages I viewed were nice and clear with good contrast.

I'm being very long-winded tonight, but another opinion that I was reminded of again while looking at these databases - "London, England, Deaths and Burials, 1834-1938" sounds descriptive but in fact is massively misleading. It's a very selective subset of that generic description that is actually contained in that database, and I shouldn't have to browse all the way down to the database then expand the description of the database, and then browse further into the records of the database itself to figure that out, and verify the exact scope and nature of what's really in there. And if, a year from now, I'm puttering around on Ancestry trying to find the database from the LMA that had workhouse deaths, I'm not going to necessarily spot this in a long list of databases and and know that it's probably the right one. There appears to be no way to identify the "partnering" archives organisation, or search by the partnering organisation to identify "their" databases. As the partnering approach is becoming more common these days, that seems pretty unhelpful.

So, a challenge - are there any genealogical sites out there that have done an excellent job of their "card catalogue" so that the time spent to identify relevant databases/collections is minimised? Ancestry has improved recently with its new filtering options in their card catalogue, but the information in the results screen once the filtering kicks in seems more about showing off how many records they have rather than helping me identify if those records are actually of use. I've already paid for a subscription, I don't need the very generic marketing pitch - the more specific you are, the easier it is for me to find relevant information and see the value of remaining a subscriber.

London Metropolitan Archives records at Ancestry

Hurrah - the first sets of records from the joint project between London Metropolitan Archives and Ancestry are now available, so I'm off to explore! As well as your "generic" London-based ancestors (I know you probably all have some of those), many Wing people gravitated to greater London towards the turn of the century so I'm hoping we'll all find something of interest in these records.

This release is taken from the Poor Law Records for the boroughs of Camden (poor law unions of Hampstead, Holborn, St Pancras), Islington (Islington), Lambeth (Lambeth), Southwark (Southwark), Tower Hamlets (Poplar, Stepney), Wandsworth (Wandsworth) and Westminster (Paddington, Marylebone and Westminster). The release includes miscellaneous poor law records as well as births, baptisms, deaths and burials found in those records. The years included varies in each of the three databases but is approximately from 1840 to 1906 or beyond.

Note that 23 out of the 35 poor law unions in London aren't represented at all in this release. According to Rossbret Institutions Website the following poor law unions are also found in London: City of London, Battersea, Bermondsey, Bethnal Green, Camberwell, Chelsea, Clapham, Clerkenwell, Fulham, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith, Kensington, Lewisham, Mile End, St George in the East, St Olave, St Saviour's, Shoreditch, Strand, Whitechapel, Woolwich, St George.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Left holding the baby?

Mick and Norma kindly posted a newspaper entry from 1717 on the Eng-Buckinghamshire Rootsweb mailing list today. It seems that Jane, the wife of Christopher BURROWS, had done a runner and (as was the custom, assuming you could afford it, of course) a newspaper advertisement was taken out to advise everyone that Christopher was not going to be held financially responsible for whatever his wife got up to.

According to the ad, Jane left on 10 December 1717. On 10 October 1718 William, son of Christopher Burrows, was baptised. There's no sign of Christopher in the Wing parish registers apart from this entry.

Sadly for my curiosity, the name of the man Jane eloped with was not included in the ad, so everyone involved is a bit of a mystery.

Monday, March 16, 2009

RootsMagic v4 (beta) - another thought

Playing around with the websearch know what would be really smart? Having the Google search string automatically look for females under their married name(s) as well as just their maiden name. The search string uses several "or" variations on the name to increase the chances of getting a hit, but it doesn't include the married name.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cottesloe Beach

Yes, you read that right.....

There is a beach named Cottesloe Beach on the western coast of Australia near Perth. For the last few years, a sculpture exhibit has been staged on the beach in March. Coincidentally, my parents have just got back from a holiday in Perth and visited Cottesloe as this year's exhibit got underway, so here's two of their shots hot off the camera:

The Cottesloe district in Perth is named after Thomas Francis Fremantle who became the first Baron Cottesloe in 1874. He was indeed from Buckinghamshire, and was the big cheese in Swanbourne, 6 miles west of Wing and also within the old Cottesloe hundred.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cyndi's List

My Wing website is now incorporated into the Buckinghamshire listings at Cyndi's List. I submitted the link on 13 March 2007 so it took two years, better than the four years that was being bandied around as the length of time it was taking to move up from the temporary new links page to the main listings.

Friday, March 06, 2009

RootsMagic and Family Historian

I currently use the free PAF software from When I started out on this journey I wasn't quite sure exactly what I would want in genealogy software and I can be rather picky when it comes to software, so initially a freebie product was the smart choice.

I've never actually gotten around to moving on though! I've done the rounds of evaluating the various products out there a few times, the last time over a year ago when we moved to Vista Ultimate 64-bit, on which several products refused to install or run even when their vendors claimed they could! I came to the conclusion that I fancied Family Historian, a solid British-oriented program - but couldn't quite justify the price.

RootsMagic is currently offering their upcoming version 4 as a public beta operational to the end of this month, so I decided to take a look. It converted my PAF file without having to first export it to a GEDCOM, and seems to have a clean and efficient use of space in its user interface.

When viewing an individual there's a tab to run a websearch on that individual, with the search string optimised to increase your chances of getting a relevant hit - I will be looking at this a bit more to see exactly how optimised. I sent it looking for one of my COLES ancestors in Google, and hey presto it came back with a Methodist circuit baptism for his son, who shared the same name. Score! Then I sent it off to search Rootsweb and it came back with an Abney Park Cemetery burial entry for both father and son - I had known the son was buried there but not the father, my direct ancestor. Score! (Incidentally if anyone reading this is in London and fancies a trip to Abney Park see if they can find the memorials I'd love to hear from you) I was impressed at how quick and easy this feature was - slightly less impressed at the fact it seems to use the IE interface for the websearch, even though my computer is set to use Firefox as its default browser, but that's a minor quibble.

I was also pleased to see that the individual summary report doesn't abbreviate entries. PAF does this in order to fit any given field's contents into the space allowed in the report, leading to oddities like "Church St, W, B" printing as a residence instead of spelling out Wing Buckinghamshire in full - which, frankly, is pretty important information I want on my printouts! No problems with RootsMagic though, it will print the entire entry by scrolling onto a second line if it has to. On the negative side, the report starts a new page before beginning the source citations - why not have the option to run it directly after the main text of the report so you can save paper?

I do prefer a British-written program though, and here's an example why. RootsMagic has a gazetteer in it, which when you search for Wing will bring up both the Buckinghamshire and Rutland villages with that name - a good start. However, highlighting the Buckinghamshire entry and clicking Online Map sends you off to the LiveSearch Maps website which shows you the Rutland one, not the Bucks one. I had a similar false result when clicking on Great Tew, Oxfordshire (Great Tey Road in Colchester, Essex!). A UK-written program would be designed to integrate with UK resources and to pass instructions to those resources in a way that made sense for UK conditions. If software isn't optimised for UK genealogy I can guarantee there's going to be "features" which are either unusable or will annoy me every time I use the program, and I'm not prepared to pay for that.

I'll be downloading the demo of the next version of Family Historian once it comes out (also imminently) as a comparison.

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