Saturday, February 27, 2010


"There is no end. There isn't, not really, is there? You could go on forever."

I've just finished reading Home: The Story of Everyone Who Ever Lived In Our House by Julie Myerson, which I came across by accident at the library. In 2003 Julie researched the various individuals and families that have lived in her Clapham, London, home since it was built in 1872.

It's a fascinating book, both for the stories uncovered and to see research in action. And there's that thrill of familiarity as Julie discovers sources that we know all too intimately! There are plenty of sentiments expressed by Julie, her family, and the people she encounters that I know you will all recognise, so do keep an eye out for this book.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Antiquarian book - William Dodd

You may recall one of Wing's more memorable vicars, William Dodd, who was hanged for forging documents in the name of Ascott Hall owner the Earl of Chesterfield. While in prison he had time to jot down some of his thoughts on imprisonment and death in prose and verse.

If you've got £48 burning a hole in your pocket and would like a handsome leatherbound gilt-tooled copy of these, I see there's a a very nice looking one on Ebay at the moment.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spotlight on Ann Susan Hardwick

Ann Susan Hardwick, my great-great-great-grandmother, was the daughter of Joseph Hardwick, a Wing carpenter, and his wife Mary (nee Syrett) and was born in Wing on 14 December 18431. Ann was the fifth of eight children - while the two eldest of her siblings had been baptised at All Saints Church there are no baptisms for Ann or the others, so perhaps Joseph and Mary had become disillusioned with the Church of England and drifted off to one of the non-conformist chapels.

You can see from the above excerpt of Ann's birth certificate that her father Joseph registered the birth. Joseph marked his name with an x here, but had been able to sign his name when he married 10 years earlier. I imagine that William Mortimer, the registrar of births and deaths for Wing, was a somewhat supercilious type who probably just assumed the working men and women in front of him were illiterate and never gave them a chance to try to sign their name!

The 1861 census was taken on 7 April 1861. Ann was 17 by this time, and working as an apprentice dressmaker2. You can see that two of her brothers had followed her father into the carpentry trade. The family was living on Wing's High Street.

1861 was a big year for Ann as it happens, as that is when she fell pregnant with her first child and married the father (well, I'm assuming he was the father!) Andrew Pollard on 30 December in Wing3.

Ann would have just turned 18, although she's given her age as 19. Andrew was of course from Wing although he's given his address as the parish of St Matthias in Bethnal Green, London (ooh, I should see if I can find the banns record there!) - one could speculate that he'd moved down there for a few months to try his luck in a better job market, likely living with his step-brother and family who did live in that parish in the 1861 census, before the realisation of a certain conception necessitated his return to Wing! The witnesses to the marriage were Ann's brother George and his future betrothed Mary Ann Page.

Ann went on to give birth to thirteen children (only one died as an infant), while Andrew trained and worked as a blacksmith. Having young children at home didn’t stop Ann working as well – she is listed as a dressmaker in the census of 18714.

Yes, that's Ann's parents Joseph and Mary Hardwick living right next door.

Andrew's work as a village blacksmith and farrier evidently paid well enough to maintain a large family in a standard high enough to have some of those new-fangled photographs taken! This photo appears in the book Wing As It Was by Richard and Rita Marks, LB Publishing 1985.

This photo was taken around 1890, so Ann was in her late 40s. I like to think that the family are all practising their most formal expressions for this portrait and that Ann wasn't so stern-looking all the time! I think my great-great-grandfather William is the lad in the light-coloured suit next to his father.

Ann was widowed in March 1898. After Andrew's death Ann herself took over running the blacksmith’s shop! She was not the only widow running a business, but it is curious that Andrew left the business to her in his will rather than passing it to one of their three sons already working as blacksmiths.

The above is an except from Kelly's 1903 directory of Buckinghamshire. Mrs Ann Susan Pollard is listed as blacksmith, and her eldest son Joseph Andrew is also listed as a farrier.

As well as maintaining the blacksmith business Ann also had her teenaged children still at home, along with one of her older daughters Ada Sarah Leah. Ada evidently had some mental problems as she is listed as "feeble-minded" in the 1901 census5.

You can see that the Pollards were a few doors along from the Dove Inn (which is at one end of High Street) which helps pinpoint their location. I wonder who Ann employed, beyond the one son still living at home? Previously there had been at least six men working for Andrew Pollard.

The last directory listing for Ann is in 1907. By the 1911 census6 she gives no occupation. The census records for 1911 are the original household schedules completed by the head of the household themselves (rather than a transcription of the household information made by the census enumerator on to enumeration sheets, as in previous years), so the entry below is in Ann's handwriting and signed by her.

The separate address page gives Ann's address as Hand Post - this was the area around the intersection of Leighton Road and Stewkley Road. By 1913 she was living at New Road, Wing, where she died of heart disease at age 69 on 14 March7. This may have been the residence of her son Andrew who was present at the death and the informant for the death certificate.

There is no surviving gravestone for her in Wing.

1. General Register Office, registration district Leighton Buzzard volume 6 page 89, December 1843 quarter
2. 1861 census RG9 piece 1007 folio 27 page 5, household 27
3. Parish registers of All Saints Church Wing Buckinghamshire, page 125 entry 250.
4. 1871 census RG10 piece 1563 folio 10 page 12, household 69
5. 1901 census RG13 piece 1509 folio 25 page 4, household 24
6. 1911 census RG14PN8976 RG78PN475 RD177 SD2 ED2 SN96
7. General Register Office, registration district Leighton Buzzard volume 3b page 389, March 1913 quarter


Have you documented your family history, or written a biographical profile of one of your ancestors? Post a comment and point it out to us (if it's online) or tell us how you approached the task. I've adapted this post from material in my wee booklet about my ancestors, A Century In Wing Buckinghamshire, downloadable at the main Wing One Place Study website. This is structured by couple - it's a little out of date and I do know more now about the post-1900 and pre-1800 periods, but I want to focus on getting similar books put together on my other ancestral lines before returning to extend this book!

This post was inspired by Sara's equivalent on her great-grandfather from Iowa over at Lessons From My Ancestors. I found it really interesting to see the comparable version of documents in the US even though I don't have any ancestors from the US myself.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge #6 - Online Databases

Amy Coffin of We Tree has teamed up with to run a weekly program of genealogical challenges this year - this week it is the turn of online databases, specifically the online databases that might be available to you as part of your ordinary local library subscription.

If you haven't already investigated this I do recommend it. I'm in Auckland, New Zealand, but have access to a number of very useful UK databases from the comfort of my own home. It's a wonderful thing to see my rates dollars at work supplying me with genealogical goodies via the Auckland City Library!

You can see a list of what's available to me here. Key for me are the newspapers - British Library Newspapers! The Times! The Guardian! I could also check out The Scotsman or Irish Times if I had any ancestors from there - although now I think about it, checking the Irish one for any signs of the Irish boxer I found boarding with one of my London families in the 1911 census might be worth a shot....

I don't have any ancestors that came to NZ (my parents in the early 1970s doesn't really count for the purposes of this exercise) but if you have branches of your tree that came to New Zealand the majority of the NZ databases at the Auckland City Libary website are free for everyone to search. Are there any good finds at your local library website that are free for everyone worldwide to use? Do post a comment and let us know!

PS - if you are doing searches of newspaper databases that throw up a lot of entries, it's a really really good idea to keep track of exactly which search phrases you used and which years you have looked at so far. And a really really really good idea not to lose that file or piece of paper. I know of which I speak - I still can't bring myself to restart my meanderings through the Times database looking for Wing Bucks/Ascott Bucks/Burcott Bucks/Crafton Bucks/Littleworth Bucks.

Monday, February 01, 2010

February update

This month there's a few more WW1 military men from the WO363 "Burnt Documents" series - a PAGE, a TAYLOR and a TUFNELL, and more on LATHWELL and TEARLE.

While I remember - a reminder that if you are viewing these records on Ancestry, the first page that will be displayed is usually the Attestation page. Always click on the left arrow button to check the pages beforehand, as the attestation may not have been the first page that was scanned from that individual's file. I would guess this is because the Attestation contains the key information that Ancestry have indexed so that's the one they have linked to in order to "view record", but you may be missing out on half the file if you take that as the starting point.

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