Eleanor of Aquitaine was a powerful woman who had influence of much of France and England in her lifetime. She was the wife of 2 kings and the mother to 2 kings. She was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right. She participated in the Crusades in the Holy Land, was regent of England while her son was on the Crusades and in captivity and raised the ransom for him. But what of her genealogy?
Bit of background first.
Eleanor was born around 1122 in France (probably Aquitaine) to William X Duke of Aquitaine and Aenor de Chatelleraut. Her first marriage was to Louis the Younger of France, son of Louis VI of France. He became Louis VII of France a few days after the marriage. The couple married on the 25th July 1137 at Bordeaux Cathedral, France. The couple had their marriage annulled in 1152 due to consanguinity, most likely as Louis was desperate for a son but was also celibate (unless his doctors told him not to be) and Eleanor’s eye had be caught by another and was a strong woman and the King was not as strong, as well as many other factors.
Eleanor secondly married Henry II, Duke of Normandy the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and the Empress Matilda of England (the daughter of King Henry I) in May 1152. Henry became King of England in 1154 after the death of his Uncle Stephen. During this marriage the couple had a love hate relationship with Eleanor and her sons fighting against the King. This lead to Eleanor spending 19 years imprisoned on and off until the King died.
Eleanor had 10 children by her 2 husbands.
By King Louis she had:
1. Marie of France born in 1145 in France. She married Henry I, Count of Champagne in 1164 and had 4 children. Marie was Countess of Champagne. She died in 1198 in Champagne, France.
2. Alix of France born in 1150 in France. She married Theobald V, Count of Blois in 1164 and had 7 children. She was Countess of Blois. She died in 1197/98 in France.
By King Henry she had:
1. William IX, Count of Poitiers who was born in Normandy in 1153. He died in 1156 at Wallingford Castle and was buried in Reading Cathedral.
2. Henry the Young King. He was born in 1155 at Bermondsey Palace, London. In 1172 he married Margaret of France in Winchester Cathedral. She was the half-sister of his half-sisters Marie and Alix. They had 1 son who died when he was a few days old. Henry died in France in 1183 after a siege. He was buried in Rouen Cathedral.
3. Matilda of England was born in 1156 at Windsor Castle. In 1168 she married Henry Duke of Saxony at Minden Cathedral and the couple had 5 children. Matilda was Duchess of Saxony. She died in 1189 at Brunswick, Saxony.
4. Richard I King of England (3/9/1189 – 6/4/1199). Richard was born in 1157 at Beaumont Palace in Oxfordshire. He was King of England, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine and Nantes (thank goodness he didn’t have all that on a business card). Richard married Berengaria of Navarre, daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre in 1191 in Limassol, Cyprus. The couple had no children. Richard died from an arrow wound in 1199 in Chalus, Aquitaine and was buried at Fontevrault Abbey at his father’s feet, except his heart which is in Rouen Cathedral.
5. Geoffrey II Duke of Brittany was born in 1158 in England. In 1181 he married Constance of Brittany the daughter of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany and they had 3 children. Geoffrey died in 1186 in Paris.
6. Eleanor of England, Queen Consort of Castile was born in 1611 in Normandy. She married in 1170 or 1177 King Alfonso VIII of Castile in Burgos, Castile and they had 12 children. Eleanor died in Burgos in 1214 and was buried there.
7. Joan of England, Queen Consort of Sicily and Countess of Toulouse. Joan was born in 1165 in Anjou and married firstly King William II of Sicily in 1177. She married Raymond VI Count of Toulouse in 1196 and they had 3 children. Joan died in Rouen in 1199 and was buried in Fontevrault Abbey at her father’s head.
8. John, King of England (27/5/1199 – 19/10/1216). John was born in 1166 at Beaumont Palace, Oxfordshire. He married firstly in 1189 at Marlborough Castle, Wiltshire to Isabella Countess of Gloucester but the marriage was annulled in 1199 on the grounds of consanguinity. He then married in 1200 Isabella Countess of Angouleme in Angouleme and they had 5 children. John died at Newark Castle in Nottinghamshire in 1216.
Eleanor died on the 1st April 1204 at Fontevraud Abbey where she had become a nun. She was buried alongside her husband Henry II and son Richard I.
So Eleanor was the Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen Consort of France, Queen Consort of the Franks, Queen Consort of England and Regent of England. She was mother of Kings, Queens consorts, Dukes, Duchesses, Counts and Countesses. She had 10 children and 40 grandchildren. She is the 21 times great Grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II and thus 24 time great Grandmother of youngest members of the Royal Family.
Anyone interested in genealogy has probably come across death certificates and found out what their ancestors died from. But this only shows what one individual died from. What was the general population at whole dying from?
This thinking all started a couple of weeks ago when there was a programme on about the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. My family was always led to believe that my Great Grandma died in this flu outbreak in 1918. She didn’t she died of an appendicitis, so why her daughter was told this I don’t know. It got me thinking what were the major causes of our ancestor’s deaths throughout England and Wales (I only use the 2 countries as they were the statistics I found).
Well let’s start in the 20th century. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the most common causes of death in adults over 25 from 1915 to 1945 was infection (such as pneumonia and TB), cancer and heart conditions. All conditions we are unfortunately familiar with today. When the under 25’s are considered it was infections which took most lives, but by 1945 motor vehicles became a factor.
If we look back from 1900 we find our ancestors were dying from different things. It should be noted that the ONS figures don’t give exact illness but rather lumped similar illnesses together.
The first ones on the list from 1900 back until 1851 is smallpox followed by measles and scarlet fever. Some of the other illnesses on the list are things that these days we wouldn’t even think of dying from like diarrhoea, you may wish for it but tablets can stop it thankfully!
Other conditions caused the world around our ancestors to change. For example cholera. It was during the outbreaks of this condition that it was begun to be believed that there was a link between contaminated water and the outbreaks of the disease. This lead to the installation of water pipes going into individual homes with the water coming from reservoirs rather than the rivers which were running with sewage. It seems so obvious to us that if you drink the water full of poop then you will be ill, but it took until the 1850’s for John Snow to find the link in London.
Other surprising conditions which were causing death included whooping cough. I’d had whooping cough and I have to say I quiet enjoyed it at times. I’m not making light of the condition and I can understand how people who were weak and not getting enough food could become exhausted and die. I was 11/12 years old when I had the illness. I didn’t do PE at school for 6 months as I used to start coughing and the teacher would think it was best to sit it out for today, success! I hated PE. It also gave the family a great anecdote. In Derbyshire there is a cycle track called the Tissington Trail which is the path of a disused railway. Me and my family went for a day out and hired bikes. I started coughing so bad I was sick. Now being me I continued to ride my bike and just threw up to the side. I had to come home wrapped in my Mum’s coat as I got it everywhere. Such fun!
There were other causes of death on the list that you might expect such as childbirth, fever and lung disease. All these condition may have been made worse by poor living condition and not enough food, if you’re already week and have a bad child birthing then it becomes more dangerous to both mother and child. For example one of my 3 times great grandfathers ended up in jail (for contempt of court) and he left with TB due to the living conditions which killed him within 9 months of his release. In the case of lung disease the person’s employment could make the condition worse or even cause it. One of my other 3 times great grandfather died from asthma and he was a stone mason.
So we could say that as our living conditions improved we stopped dying of preventable diseases such as TB and cholera and went on to disease we still may have got but we may cause ourselves to be more susceptible to such as cancer and heart disease.
The Bills of Mortality are a great source of information for those who have ancestors from London. The bills are the records of what the people of London have died from in that year. The bills were produced every year from 1603 until 1840. Some were produced in other periods but they may not have covered all of London.
The bills only covered Church of England burial grounds and not those of other denominations.
Now I have to say I hadn’t heard of these bills until I was watching 8 out of 10 cats does countdown and the comedian Vic Reeves mentioned them.
I thought I’d look at some of the death and see how they compared over the years in 10 year increments from 1657 until 1757.
The first cause of death is childbed, or childbirth as we would say now. Childbirth was a dangerous time for women and had it didn’t care from which level of society you came from. These figures remain fairly constant over the years and unfortunately this is to be expected as until medicine progressed the women continued to die.
Evil or King’s Evil was a disease that many believed that the touch of the monarch would cure. In reality this didn’t happen but the last British monarch to carry out the touching of those afflicted was Queen Anne. In reality this illness is scrofula which is the swelling of lymph nodes cause by TB.
Consumption is another form of TB which predominately affects the lungs.
I’m glad people don’t die of lethargy these days as I’d have gone years ago. I believe this was probably a form of coma from which people didn’t recover from. As for mortification the same is true. With my ability to put my foot in it and keep digging I’d have died from mortification years ago. In reality this was a form of gangrene.
I have to say I’m surprises that so few people in London were murdered each year. More people probably suffer this fate today than they did in the 17th and 18th century.
We all think hundreds died from the plague each year but in reality very few did. 4 died in 1657 compared to the 1998 that died in 1666.
I was surprised how many people died due to their teeth. I suppose their teeth became infected and the infection spread and they died as a result. Thank goodness for antibiotics and regular dental check-ups.
I have to say worms sounds like a dreadful way to go. I think it means as a result of parasites and worms such as tape worms and if you think about it London was a big port city so sailors were coming in from all over the world and bringing new and exciting illnesses with them.
Now I have one more personal favourite to add to the list. In 1670 one person in London died from a wolf! I assume they meant a wolf attack. Now this is unfortunate but why was there a wolf in London? I suppose it could have been at the royal menagerie at the Tower of London and have attacked it’s keeper or a visitor. Not a pleasant way to go but I bet the poor person 348 years ago never thought they would be remembered for dying from such an unusual method and be mentioned in a blog.
If you want to know more about the bills of mortality you can download the returns from: https://archive.org/details/collectionyearl00hebegoog/page/n5
The other week the office for national statistics released the top 100 most popular baby names in England and Wales. This got me thinking at how the popularity of names has changed over the years. Are there any names that are consistently place high in the rankings and how do the top two names in any given year compare to 1860.
I chose 8 names that appear to me to be found in the census over the years the most and looked at how they ranked in the listing from 1860 to 2017.
It’s probably no surprise that in the 1860 which names were most popular. People were still using the more traditional names and naming their children after themselves or their grandparents.
By 1890 things had begun to change. William and Mary were still the most popular names but Anne and Catherine had begun to lose favour. If you consider their name variants though Ann was ranked 31st and Katherine was 153rd in the rankings. Of the names chosen Henry was the lowest ranking boy’s name.
From the data from 1924 we can see that the most popular names have changed. For boys it was John and for girls it was Margaret with William and Mary both slipping to 2nd on the list. In 1860 John ranked 2nd and Margaret ranked 10th. Both Anne and Catherine had risen up the ranks again.
By 1954 the most popular names in England and Wales were David and Susan, a completed change from previous years. In 1860 David ranked 17th and Susan 35th. From the 8 above William had slipped to 15th and Mary to 9th. Surprisingly Ann was back up to 10th and Catherine to 26th but Henry had fallen down to 83rd.
Jump forward to 1984 and the most popular names were Christopher and Sarah. I should know Sarah was popular. In the year I was born my parents thought it was a little used name, but in my class at secondary school there were 4 of us, with 3 of use born within 3 days of each other. In 1860 Christopher ranked 44th and Sarah 3rd. But what of our 8? Well the most popular of them were James and Elizabeth at 2nd and 25th respectively, but Henry and Anne fell out of the top 100.
So to last year 2017. Well the most popular names were Oliver and Olivia. In 1860 Oliver was ranked 63rd and Olivia 186th. In 2017 Anne was still out of the top 100 still and William was still the most popular of the boy’s names at 11th and Elizabeth still held the top spot at 44th. Both Catherine and Mary were down in the 300’s but Henry was back up to 13th.
I suppose in general it doesn’t really matter where our names rank, it’s more for interest than anything else. It can help genealogist as they may get a better feel for what names to look out for. If the parents are William and Mary then the chances are they will have children with the same name and may have been named after their parents themselves.
If you want to know how your name ranks why not have a look at:
and look where you name comes by year. Happy hunting.
This week’s blog is a sort of personal journey for me as I want to talk about my double great Grandad Frederick Staton and his life.
I’d love to start with a picture of Frederick but I don’t have one and he probably never had his picture taken. Frederick was born in Eckington, Derbyshire in 1840 to William Staton and Sarah Hunt. He was their 5 child of the 7 they would have. William was a sickle grinder as many were in the village. Frederick lived in Eckington until 1861 when he moved to Worksop, Nottinghamshire.
Frederick’s musical career was first mentioned in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1860 when it was reported that he and his elder brother William played a piano duet to raise money for the Eckington Mechanical Institute. They played Hummel’s in E flat and if you’re interested this link will take you to a video of it being played: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98vEOJ0IHwE
On the 1861 census when Frederick was still living at home in Eckington he listed his occupation as professor of music. In 1867 Frederick also took part in a concert to raise money for Ridgeway School and this was also mentioned in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent and the article mentioned he played with “taste and marvellous execution”. He was described as the organist at Worksop Priory.
It was while in Worksop Frederick met his future wife Annie Taylor who was the daughter of the landlady of the Cross Keyes Inn in the town. Frederick and Annie married in August 1871 and had 4 children together. Sadly the marriage wasn’t long as Frederick died in April 1879 from hepatitis aged 39. His youngest son, my great grandad was just shy of his first birthday. It was from Frederick’s burial record that I discovered just how long Frederick had been the organist at Worksop Priory. The notes to the burial stated he was 18 years organist at the Abbey Worksop where he is also buried.
To be the organist at the Abbey would have been a great honour for Frederick and would have indicated his high level of skill on the instrument. From a list of the previous organists of the Abbey it would appear Frederick was one of the longest serving organists they had. I wonder how long he would have held the position if he hadn’t died so young.
So what of the Abbey itself. Well in 1103 Worksop Abbey was begun to be built and it remained a monastery of the Augustinian monks until 1539 when it surrendered to the crown during the dissolution of the monasteries. After this the church building of the Abbey was used as the parish church of Worksop.
The above picture shows the organ at the priory, but alas this is not the organ Frederick would have used. This organ was installed in 1879 so it is possible Frederick new about the new organ, whether he used it is not known.
What I would like to know is what took place to get Frederick and his brother William to become professors of music. Who influenced them to take up music and rise to such heights? Frederick’s brother William was described in 1866 as being from Norwich Cathedral so they had both achieved great things in their chosen field. Did one of their parents or grandparents play and taught them or did the local church organist teach them to play. I suppose I’ll never know but however it came about I am proud of them for breaking into such a field as a time when they probably thought the only occupation open to them was to enter the grinding works in the area or going down the coal mines. Whoever inspired them gave them a huge chance in life and from that chance gave Frederick’s children a chance as his 2 sons both became dentists.
Maybe that’s why Frederick’s granddaughter encouraged her children to learn the piano and I learnt as well. Who knows, but I’m glad the brother’s had a chance to do something so different for everyone else.
I want to discuss how asking other genealogist for help may assist you in breaking down your brick walls.
I am a member of the Norfolk Family History Society (NFHS) and it was through them that I managed to breakdown a wall. The Society produces a magazine 4 times a year and members can place articles asking for help. So I decided to ask my fellow members for help.
The search all began in Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk. I knew my 4 times great granddad William Weeds was born in the village in November 1786 to John Weeds and Mary Thurgate. On the 1841 census he was living with his wife Sarah in Thorpe St Andrew. So I started looking for William and Sarah’s marriage. The oldest child of William I had found was born in 1811 so I started looking in 1810 in the village. I couldn’t find anything so I extended my search to the whole of Norfolk as I knew from the census they were both born in the county. Still I found nothing. I could find no marriage around this time.
So I decided to put an article in the NFHS magazine The Norfolk Ancestor. I asked out to my fellow member for help in finding William and Sarah’s marriage. I soon got several replies and the consensus was that William Weeds marriage Sarah Tinker in Norwich in 1815.
At first I was sceptical until one of the replies mentioned William was a widower. This was the aha! moment and tied in with what I already knew. This explained why there was a gap in the children’s birth years as this could be due to the death of a first wife and the gap between remarrying.
So backwards searching again I went and found the marriage of William Weeds and Mary Burton in 1810 in Thorpe St Andrew. Bingo. The marriage date was consistent with the birth of the first of William’s children in 1811. So would this marriage link in with William’s life. I searched for the death of a Mary Weeds between 1810 and 1815 and found the burial of Mary Weeds aged 37 in Thorpe St Andrew in October 1814. This would mean William remarried 7 months after Mary’s death, which wasn’t uncommon then.
So back I went again and looked for the children born to William and Mary and found 3 born between 1811 and 1814. The youngest Frederick was buried just 6 days after his mum aged 6 months.
So everything was now making sense. William was married twice. The birth locations of all the children and the occupation of William on all the baptism records of carpenter all matched up. So I concluded that the marriage to Sarah Tinker was the correct one.
So let me tell you everything I know about William Weeds.
William was born on the 27th November 1786 in Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk to John Weeds and Mary Thurgate. He was baptised on the 4th December 1786 at St Andrew’s church, Thorpe St Andrew. He married Mary Burton at St Andrew’s church, Thorpe St Andrew on the 26th December 1810 when he was 24 years old. The couple had 3 children, Mary Elizabeth, William Henry and Frederick. Mary died in October 1814 in Thorpe St Andrew. William remarried aged 29 on the 18th May 1815 at St Michael at Plea, Norwich. His bride was 24 year old Sarah Tinker. The couple had 7 children, Frederick, Amelia, Emma, Edward, Louisa Morgan, Julia, Jesse. In 1841 William and Sarah were living on Turnpike Road in Thorpe St Andrew. William died on the 19th February 1848 in Thorpe St Andrew. William was 61 years old and a carpenter. He died from inflammation of the lung. He was buried at St Andrew’s church, Thorpe St Andrew on the 23rd February 1848.
So without the help of my fellow NFHS member I may never have found the marriage of William and Sarah. If I hadn’t found the marriage it would not have stopped my research back through my Weeds line but I may never have found the Tinker line to research.
So don’t be afraid to ask for help from fellow genealogists through magazines and websites. You might find they have the answers your looking for.
You may remember a few weeks ago I considered that even if you don’t have an interest in the monarch the history of the Kings and Queens will give you an insight into the lives of your ancestors. I looked at the Monarchs of England and Scotland from 1066 until 1603 and now I’m going to look from 1603 to the present day with the monarchs of Great Britain which began after the death of Elizabeth I.
James I of England VI of Scotland. Reigned 24th March 1603 – 27th March 1625. Successor: Charles I, son of James I.
Charles I. Reigned 27th March 1625 – 30 January 1649 (executed for treason). Successor: Oliver Cromwell and the commonwealth.
Charles II. Reigned 29th May 1660 – 6th February 1685. Successor: James II, son of Charles I.
James II. Reigned 6th February 1685 – 23rd December 1688. Successor: William III, grandson of Charles II and Mary II, daughter of James II.
William III and Mary II
William III. Reigned 23rd December 1688 – 8th March 1702. Successor: Anne, daughter of James II.
Mary II. Reigned 23rd December 1688 –28th December 1694. Successor: Anne, daughter of James II.
Anne. Reigned 8th March 1702 – 1st August 1714. Successor: George I, great grandson of James I.
George I. Reigned 1st August 1714 – 11th June 1727. Successor: George II, son of George I.
George II. Reigned 11th June 1727 – 25th October 1760. Successor: George III, grandson of George II.
George III. Reigned 25th October 1760 – 29th January 1820. Successor: George IV, son of George III.
George IV. Reigned 29th January 1820 – 26th June 1830. Successor: William IV, son of George III.
William IV. Reigned 26th June 1830 – 20th June 1837. Successor: Victoria, granddaughter of George III.
Victoria. Reigned 20th June 1837 – 22 January 1901. Successor: Edward VII, son of Victoria.
Edward VII. Reigned 22 January 1901 – 6th May 1910. Successor: George V, son of Edward VII.
George V. Reigned 6th May 1910 – 20th January 1936. Successor: Edward VIII, son of George V.
Edward VIII. Reigned 20th January 1836 – 11th December 1836 (abdicated). Successor: George VI, son of George V.
George VI. Reigned 11th December 1836 – 6th February 1952. Successor: Elizabeth II, daughter of George VI.
Elizabeth II. Reign 6th February 1952 to present.
So now you have a comprehensive list of the monarchs from 1066 until the present. You can now use this information to gather more information about your ancestors.
So for example if your ancestor was alive in 1703 you now know Queen Anne was on the throne. From here you can find out more about the country they lived in. In 1703 England was struck by a storm which caused 100’s of boat to wash ashore on the south coast and 1000’s of sailors died, 1000’s of homes were damaged and many areas were severely flooded including parts of the West Midlands. From here if you know your ancestor was a sailor on the south coast you may find they were affected by the storm. They may have lost their boat or the boat they sailed on may have been lost. They may also have lost their relatives if they were at sea at the time of the storm. They could have lost fathers, brothers, husbands or sons. Entire male lines of families may have been wiped out as a family boat could have been lost. This could have left the women of the family destitute. It could also help you to understand why you can’t find the grave of a family member. They may have been lost at sea in the storm and their body was never found for burial. It could also mean you may be able to discover the grave for a female family member you couldn’t find. If a woman lost her husband in the storm she may have remarried and thus be buried under the name of her second husband.
Hopefully this will relationship between the knowledge of when the monarchs were on the throne and what was going on in the country while your ancestors were alive.
We’ve all heard of the Jack the Ripper and his reign of terror in London in 1888 but still to this day we have no idea who he was or why he did what he did. It’s though he killed 5 women but many believe he was responsible for many more deaths.
The killings attributed to Jack began in August 1888 when he killed his first victim. She was Mary Ann Nichols, nee Walker. She was found on the 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row (now Durwand Street) in London. Mary was born in 1845 and was the estranged wife of William Nichols and the mother of 3 children.
Jack’s second victim was Annie Chapman who was born Eliza Ann Smith. She was born in 1841 and was the estranged wife of John Chapman and the mother of 3 children. On the night of the 8 September 1888 she was found dead at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.
Victim three was Elizabeth Stride nee Gustafsdoffer. She was born in Sweden in 1843 where her career as a prostitute was thought to have begun. She was the widow of John Stride. She was found on the night of the 30th September 1888 on Berner Street (now Henriques Street), Whitechapel.
The fourth victim was Catherine Eddowes. She was the common law wife of Thomas Conway and the mother of 3 children. She was born in Wolverhampton in 1842. Her body was found on the 30 September 1888, the same night as Elizabeth Stride, in Mitre Square, Whitechapel.
The final confirmed victim of Jack was Mary Jane Kelly who was killed on the 9th November 1888 in Miller’s Court, Spitalfield.
All the murders had much in common. All were gruesome and involved the removal of organs. The attacks must have been brutal and terrifying for the women. They were investigated at the time by the Whitechapel division of the Metropolitan police and Scotland Yard. The lead investigators were:
Detective Inspector Edmund Reid from Whitechapel
Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Henry Moore from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Walter Andrews from Scotland Yard
Now I personally have an interest in the murders as I believe they may have impacted upon my Ancestors. My great, great Grandfather was George Dow who was born in Pollockshaw, Glasgow in 1842. He moved to Sunderland to work in the ship yards and it was here in 1867 that he married Eleanor Easton (born in 1844) the daughter of a local blacksmith. The couple had four children including my great Grandma Elizabeth Dow. To this day we don’t know why but between 1878 and 1880 the family moved to the Whitechapel area of London and started using the surname Smith. I know this as in 1880 the couple had another child named George Smith and my great Grandma was born in 1878. On the 1881 census the family was living on Sander Street in Whitechapel, which if you look at the map above you will see linked to Henriques Street where Elizabeth Stride was killed. We know that by 1891 the family was living in Walthamstow in Essex. The question is did they move because of the murders or had they already decided to move on? If they were still living in Whitechapel then the murders would have been a good enough incentive to move especially since Eleanor was of a similar age to the victims. It would have been no place to raise the 3 surviving of their 4 children.
When I started researching my family tree I knew nothing about this. I knew Elizabeth was born in Sunderland and raised in Woodford but I had no idea about the Whitechapel link. I have had an interest in the Ripper murders since I saw at TV drama called Jack the Ripper starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, also on the Two Ronnies Show they did a sketch called the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town which was a skit on the ripper case in which a raspberry was blow and the victim died. These both lead to an interest which was only boosted by my family connection.
So who was the Ripper? Several names have been connected to the case but there seems to be no chance of the Ripper being identified. So the mystery many never be revealed, but in my case the interest continues due to my own family’s connection.
Now we’ve all heard of the great fire of London which happened in 1666, but have you ever considered how it would affect your family history research?
I’ll start with some background. The fire started on the 2nd September 1666 in Pudding Lane, London which was only a few streets north of the river Thames. The fire started in a bakery and raged within the old city walls of the city from the Strand to the Tower of London and as far north as the Guildhall until the 6th September. During this time hundreds of people were made homeless and had to flee the city. Surprisingly only 6 people are reported to have died in the fire. Also in the fire the plague rats died!
Now here is where the fire impacts of family history research. 89 parish churches were lost in the fire including St Pauls. 35 of these churches were never rebuilt.
So what does this mean to family historians? Well it means you have to readjust what you know. The fire resulted in people having to move from the area they lived in. So if you have been happily tracing your family back through one church in London and then you can’t find anymore ancestors it may be because they were new to the church just after 1666.
So what do you do? Well the best place to start is probably to find out which parish churches were lost in the fire and find out which ones were closest to where your ancestors lived after 1666. Although this will not give you an accurate indication of where they moved from, it may help. Families may have wanted to stay as close as possible to where they lived and worshiped before as they worked in the area. On the other hand they may have move away as they needed housing and where they worked may have been destroyed in the fire.
So how do you overcome this? Well don’t just focus on the immediate area. If you can’t find what you’re looking for expand your search. Also focus on what you know. If you ancestors were having children baptised at a church from a certain date but you haven’t found the couple’s marriage there then maybe they had to move church because it was lost in the fire. So from here you need to look around the other churches. Also make a note of any occupations listed on the children’s baptisms. This can help you if you find a couple with the same names in another church. If the man has the same occupation then there is a chance it is your ancestors. This may not always follow though as they may have had to change job after the fire. If your ancestors have an unusual surname then it is relatively easy to find where they came from. Sorry to anyone with the name Smith as this will be difficult, but congratulation if you have got back this far, you are a genealogy hero.
It has not been only the great fire of London that has caused problems like this. There have been many disasters over the years that may have resulted in your family having to move. If you have ancestors from Sheffield you may suddenly find them disappearing as you go back. What may people don’t know is that in 1864 Sheffield had a “great flood” when a newly built dam wall cracked and the town was flooded. 240 people died and over 600 homes were lost. If your ancestors seem to suddenly appear in say north Sheffield it could be they came from west Sheffield where the destruction occurred.
The same moving of your ancestors could also have happened if they were miners. Over the years they have been many mining disasters which may have led to the closures of the pit. Your ancestors may have had to move to new coal filed to get new jobs and so all of a sudden the Northumberland family you thought you had is now in Yorkshire.
So although we don’t like to think about disasters such as the great fire they do have an influence on our research as they change the lives of our ancestors. So remember it may not be a brick wall you’ve hit, it may be relocation.
They say that our homes are our castles, but what do we really know about the history of our homes. Just by looking at them we can take a rough guess about when they were built but that’s about it. Can you find out more about the actual building and those who have lived in it?
Well the answer is yes, up to a point. You see it depends on the age of the house and where it is. And for the record it doesn’t matter if your home is a stately home, although that would be so much easier as there are probably records already existing within the building.
The best place to start is by looking at the age of the house. In most cases you can make a good guess by looking at the architecture of the building. If there are art deco features to the property then there is a chance you house was built in the 1920’s.
You should also consider the deeds of the house. Most people don’t actually have the deeds in their house, but the solicitor who assisted in the purchase of the house may have them. These may potentially give you an exact date for the building of the house. If you haven’t got access to the deeds you can always search the land registry for them.
The next place to look is on the census. You can search by address to find your house. From here the amount of information you can find is huge and frustrating. Your house may be on the census under a different number as more houses were built later, no house numbers may be given and streets can also change name as the road I grew up on but luckily the roadside said the old name.
The census can help you find out who used to live in the house. This can give you an insight into how many people may have lived in the house at one time. You may be surprised how many people were crammed into the space. In my parents first home on the 1911 census there were 6 adults living there. There were 2 adults and a baby when my parents were there. If you follow the census back you can find out when the property first showed up and thus this can help you establish at least a decade for when the house was built if previous research through the deeds hasn’t helped.
The census can also give you an insight into how the house’s fortunes may have changed. It may be that when the house was built it was lived in by a working class family but over the years the family may have become middle class or it may have stayed the same.
If we consider the Victorian house I grew up in built around the 1880’s, in 1901 the owner was the owner of a stay manufacturing company and lived with his wife and 2 grown up daughters. By 1936 (as found from a death notice) the house was in the hands of the 1901 owners Son in Law. On the 1939 census the house was owned by a steelworks engineer who lived there with his wife and 3 children. When my grandparents purchased the house in 1960 it became owned by an Officer of Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise and had 4 occupants. By the end of the 1970’s there were 5 of us spread over 3 generations.
Another way to find out information about your house is the newspaper archive. You can search for the street name and town and see what you can find out. This is how I found out who owned my childhood home in 1936.
If you live in a more modern house don’t despair. You can still research the area your house was built in. Old maps will show you what was there before you house was built. Where I live now and as a child would have been fields, but you may find there used to be mines or some other form of industry.
So it doesn’t matter whether you live in a stately home or a small terrace house, there is a chance you can find out about the families who lived there before you and how the area has changed. But remember it’s not always that easy and some people make researching a property their lives work and others make a living out of doing this.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!