Today we live more in a throwaway society and if something is damaged or broken it goes. At the moment though we may be more inclined to repair or upcycle things or maybe even modify. But our ancestors would have had no choice but to keep mending and reusing things until they had no life left in the item.
I’m sure we’ve all done it. We get a garment that gets a hole in it and so it goes. But what would our ancestors have done. Well this would have depended on the damage. So for clothes they would have mended them if they could. Socks would be darned and holes would be stitched up.
How many of us would have thrown these jeans away? Our ancestors would never have done this. They would have carefully stitched over the area until the mend would nearly have been invisible. If the damage was too great then the garment would probably have be reused in another way. In the case of a pair of trousers that were damaged on the bottom they could be shortened and given to a younger member of the family. If this wasn’t possible then the garment could be turned into something else. So for example if a pair of curtains was ripped on the top and couldn’t be mended then the fabric could be recycled into clothes for someone.
But if the fabric was beyond use for being turned into new clothes then it still had a use. Cleaning in the home was a very time consuming chore for the lady of the house. Everything had to be done by hand. So having rags was essential. Old clothes could be used for washing floors and dusting and even for use as washing cloths and towels for the family. They could even be used to make a rag rug by attaching rags to a hessian sack to keep the cold from their feet.
But what when the rags were beyond use for that. Well they could be used in the garden. They could be strung over the garden to keep the birds off the crops. If they weren’t even fit for this they would be sold to a rag and bone man who would then sell the rags to shoddy makers. These were factories that recycled the rags into yarn to make new cloth.
But what else did our ancestors make do and mend. Well obviously scraps of material could be used to make toys for children such as balls and rag dolls. Also old furniture could be reused after its functional life was over. So if a chair had a broken leg then the leg could possibly be mended by a new piece of wood being attached but if all the legs were damaged by rot at the foot then the legs could just be cut down to make a child’s chair. Or if the whole set of chairs and the table had rot then the whole lot could be shortened.
Pieces of wood could be collected and used in a variety of ways. In rural areas wood could be used to mend fencing and mend holes in buildings and even to build new items such as storage boxes to pack vegetables and flowers to send them to market. In the towns wood could also be used for covering windows instead of curtains or even making pallet beds to sleep on.
Today there is a mass market for selling crafting products and we can make so many different things from our own clothes to our own furniture. We make our own Christmas decorations and gift for one another, but in reality our ancestors had been doing this for as long as time can remember with the bits and pieces they had in their homes as nothing was wasted, everything was used until it couldn’t be used anymore or made into something else and then they would perhaps have been able to get a few penny’s for them.
It’s the time of year when all the towns and villages start should be hosting their village shows. There would be tea and cake a plenty, tombola’s and competitions for the waggiest dog tail or the scruffiest mutt. I’m sure in one form or another most people have been to one be it the school fete or the church bazaar. But alas this year we have to accept that they are not going to happen as we deal with the events of the world and the impact they are having on our daily lives.
So how does this link into genealogy? Well your ancestors may have taken part in the show. They may have run a stall or they may have entered the produce show.
This is when the historic records can give you an insight into your ancestor’s lives. The newspaper archive combined with the census results can give you so much information on your ancestors, if you’re lucky.
Now before everyone gets excited this is going to be hit and miss and depend upon where your ancestors lived.
So how does this work. Well by using the census you can find out where your ancestors lived. If they lived in a more rural location such as the villages of the peak district or North Yorkshire (or anywhere similar) then there is a greater chance of your ancestors participating in a village show. From the information on where your ancestor lived you can search the newspaper archive for information on the show. Just type in your ancestors name and the search the local newspaper nearest to where they lived. Please don’t bother searching the national newspapers as they hardly ever carried information on such events.
So what can you find out? Well you may discover that they were a judge in the show and that they chose the winning onions in the produce show. You may also find out that they entered the produce or flower shows. Perhaps your great grandma won a prize for her sponge cake or your great, great Grandfather grew a massive marrow.
From here you can gain an insight into their everyday lives. If your ancestors were judges in an event then they were respected in the field they were judging or they were a respected within the community. For anyone who has ever read the James Herriot novels in the All Creatures Great and Small series may remember when James judged the produce show and the pressure it put on him especially when he knew nothing about judging vegetables. It didn’t help when the winner was the driver of one of his clients who was found of giving out expensive food hampers from her dog Trickey Woo!
It also can tell you about the living conditions of your ancestors. If they were able to enter the produce show, be it flowers or vegetables then they must have had a garden to be able to grow the produce in. Not many people would have had access to a garden in the towns unless they lived in places such as Saltaire or Bornville. Also it means they had the leisure time in which to tend and grow the produce. This means they were not just working and sleeping like those in some of the mills and factories. If they were able to enter a cake into a show then they must have had the spare income to be able to make a cake that wasn’t going to be used to feed the family.
Agricultural show results can also be a great source of information. We’ve all see the great agricultural shows such as the Great Yorkshire Show, Bakewell show the Royal Welsh Show. On many censuses if your ancestor was a farmer it may just say farmer and not what they farmed. So if your ancestor turns up in the show results with a prize winning cow then you know they had cattle and thus can learn more about what they life of a cattle farmer was like.
So the village show results in the newspaper can show you more about the lives of your ancestors than your perhaps thought, but even if you can’t find their names in the archive don’t be down heartened as if you know they lived in the village or area of the show then the chances were they were there and you can find out about what they experienced on that day.
So on the name will mean nothing to you but to me it is the name of my great, great, great Grandma and 205 years ago this week she married my great, great, great Grandad. But first some background.
Sarah Tinker was born around 1796 in either Horstead or Worstead in Norfolk. Little is known about her until she married William Weeds on the 18th May 1815 at St Michael’s at Plea in Norwich, Norfolk. She was listed as a single woman and William was a widower. His first wife Mary had died the previous October.
Sarah moved to the village of Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk with William where they raised their family. William worked as a baker and carpenter and Sarah ran the home and raised their 7 children and possibly the 2 surviving children from William’s first marriage.
There children were as follows:
Frederick Weeds 1817-1856 who married Harriett Todd and had 3 children.
Amelia Weeds 1819-1894 who married James Copsey and had 3 children.
Emma Weeds 1821 to 1895 who married William Mace and had 8 children.
Edward Weeds 1823 to 1870 who married Mary Charlotte Voyce and had 7 children.
Louisa Morgan Weeds 1826 to 1902 who married Ebenezer Richard Glanville and had 4 children and then William Martin Hingle and had one daughter.
Julia Weeds who was born in 1828 and married William White.
Jesse Weeds 1831 to 1915 who married Samuel George Miles and had 2 children.
In 1841 Sarah and William were living on Turnpike Road in Thorpe St Andrew and William was a baker. 5 of their children were still living at home with them.
On the 19th February 1848 William died. He was 61 years old and had been working as a carpenter. He died of inflammation of the lungs. This left Sarah a widow in her early 50’s. She never remarried.
In 1851 Sarah and her daughter Mary A (I think this was Jesse but I’m not sure) were still living in Thorpe St Andrew. They were shopkeepers living on Thorpe Row. By 1861 Sarah was living in Norwich with her daughter Julia. Sarah no longer worked but Julia was a shoe binder. The next we hear of Sarah is in 1881 when she was living with her daughter Jesse, her son in law Samuel and granddaughter Jesse in Coltishall in Norfolk. By now Sarah was 89 years old.
Sarah lived for another 10 years. She died on the 20th August 1890 in Coltishall aged 99. Her cause of death was given as senile decay. When you consider the average life expectancy when Sarah was born was around 40 years old she didn’t do too bad. It would really have annoyed me not to get to 100!
So again from a family historian’s point of view consider how much her life changed and the world around her. What did she see during her lifetime. Yes she may possibly have stayed in Norfolk all her life but she did travel in the county. She started in Worstead/Horstead and moved to Norwich about 25 miles away. What prompted the move I don’t know? She then went to Thorpe St Andrew which was around 3 miles away from Norwich where she moved into the large family that was the Weeds family, her husband William was 1 of 10. Presumably she was away from her family. She may have helped raise her step children as I have no idea what happened to the 2 surviving children from William’s first marriage. She was a grandmother to 28 grandchildren and a great grandmother to 27 in her lifetime with more born after she died.
So why not have a look through your ancestors and find out who lived the longest of them all.
So in the past I’ve introduced you to my home city of Sheffield and this week I was wondering what had changed in the city that my ancestors would have known and that was no longer there or been adapted.
So the biggest change is in industry. Sheffield was synonymous with steel production, blade making and the cutlery industry. So much of this has now gone. Don’t get me wrong it does still take place in the city but not on the scale it did. When you went through the census returns the men were working in the steel mills, as blade forgers, blade grinders or making cutlery or even scissors. Even the women were working in the industry. So many of them worked as buffer girls which were the women who polished up the cutlers once it was made so it was ready for sale.
I was also thinking about the way the building in the city centre have changed. In my life time building have come and gone. I miss the Town Hall extension which was lovingly names the egg boxes. So what big changes have there been?
So one change my ancestor may notice happened to the City Hall. This is a massive performance venue in the city that hosts concerts, plays and so much more. It was completed in the 1930’s. Now during the WW2 a bomb exploded in the square outside the hall. If you visit look at the pillars that were once pristine but now they have shrapnel wounds in them. I always find it fitting that the war memorial for the city stands in the square where the bomb fell.
Another massive change would be to the churches in the city. The Cathedral had an extension in the 1960’s and it’s off the period. It’s so different from the medieval church building. It’s a very marmite addition (you either love it or you hate it). Another big change would be that St Paul’s church next to the Town Hall is no longer there. It was built in the early 1700’s as the other churches couldn’t cope with the growing population. By 1937 the church had virtually no congregation so it shut and was pulled down. My ancestors may even has gone there as some lived locally to it.
In 1905 King Edward VII and Queen Alexander opened Firth Court at the University of Sheffield. It is a grand building and my ancestors certainly would have known the building as again some lived in the area. By 1971 it had a new building next to it which was designed in the 1960’s. It was built using the same coloured bricks but the styles were completely different.
Now I know this is a minor change but it’s a change no the less. In Sheffield next to the Town Hall is a police box. It was installed in 1928 and is still there and it’s even a listed building. The change is that it now says South Yorkshire Police on it instead of just Sheffield Police as it was when it was built. South Yorkshire didn’t exist until 1974 when it was formed from the West Riding of Yorkshire. So in a way another that’s another change. The city didn’t move but it moved county.
There will be so many things throughout the City that have changed since my ancestors were around. The fact I’m even calling it a city is different as from 1297 to 1893 it was a town. So why not think about what has changed in your area that you ancestors would have known.
So things are strange at the moment to say the least. Parents are trying to work full time and teach the kids. So Why not use technology and family to bring the kids closer to their ancestry. Family has a wealth of information in it that is vital to our family history. So kids ask you grandparents etc the questions now and write it down and it can work as a boredom buster for both young and old.
I really believe that children need to learn about their ancestors. These days we don’t live close together as families like our ancestors did and so were may not know as much about our forebears.
I remember as a kid having to ask questions of my Grandpa as part of a school project. I had a sheet with my questions on and Grandpa wrote down his answers in my Fraggle Rock note book as I sat with him in his bedroom and asked the questions.
I was trying to decide what the questions were and I think they must have been:
1. Where did you live growing up?
2. How many rooms were there in your house?
3. How many bedrooms did your house have?
4. Who lived in the house?
6. What was used for cleaning the house?
7. How did you do the washing?
8. How was the house heated?
9. What was there in the kitchen?
10. What furniture did you have in your bedroom?
11. What was in the bathroom?
12. What furniture was in the sitting room?
So from here I decided to compile a list of questions children could ask their parents, grandparents and if their lucky enough great grandparents (I was lucky I knew both my paternal great grandma’s).
1. What is your full name?
2. When and where were you born?
3. Did you have a nick name?
4. What were your parent’s names?
5. When were your parent’s dates of birth?
6. Where were your parents born?
7. What were your siblings called and when and where were they born?
8. Where did you live?
9. Where did you go to school?
10. What was you highest qualification?
11. Who did you marry?
12. Where did you meet your spouse?
13. When did you get married?
14. Who were your bridesmaids and best man?
15. Did you have any children?
16. What did you do for a living?
17. Who were your grandparents?
18. When and where were they born?
19. What were their occupations?
20. Did you know your Great Grandparents?
21. What can you tell me about them?
22. When and where did they die?
23. Where were they buried or cremated?
They could take a list of questions with them to the family gathering and ask away. Once they’ve got all their answers they could spend the rest of Christmas writing the story of their ancestors. Or they could have one of the many blank ancestor forms from the Internet download and printed and then file them in. There is a great selection at: https://www.cyndislist.com/free-stuff/printable-charts-and-forms/
They could also have a blank family tree printed out and filed in or even better make one. All you need to do is draw a tree and place small printed out photos of your ancestors and stick them on. Then write their names underneath. Alternatively use one of the many blank family trees which can be printed out that don’t have photos on.
Who knows what impact going through this process may have on the kids. They may develop an interest in genealogy. This may lead to a lifelong passion for the subject and who knows where they may end up. They may up being a professional genealogist like me. This could also lead them to a passion for history in general as a hobby and it’s well know a knowledge of the past can help in future.
Another quick thought is to make a diary and get the kids to write all the birth, marriages and deaths of their ancestors in it so they can wish a happy birthday to them.
So make genealogy a fun thing that may spark a lifelong passion and if nothing else give the kids a project for a few hours.
On the 24th April 1888 my Great, Great Grandparents suffered the loss of their daughter Laura. So how did they let people know?
First some background.
Laura Dent was born around April 1880 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. She was the 9th child of 11 born to William Thomas Dent and his wife Louisa Dent nee Payling. William was a farrier and also ran the Red Lion Inn on North Brink alongside Louisa. In total the couple had 3 sons and 8 daughters born between 1864 and 1884. They were Louisa 1864-1940, William 1865-1945, Marion 1867-1937, Richard 1870-1877, Jane Ann 1871-1943, Ella 1873-1959, Maud Mary 1875-1876, my great Grandma Eva 1878-1918, Laura 1880-1885, Myra 1882-1966 and George 1884-1887.
The family had already know tragedy as in 1877 they had lost their son Richard aged 7 and their daughter Maud Mary in 1876 who was under 1 when she died. Loosing Laura would have been heart breaking for the family. She was just short of her 5th birthday. Laura was buried in St Peter’s churchyard on the 26th April 1888 alongside her siblings.
Laura’s parents announced her death in the Cambridge Independent Press on the 02 May 1885 but by now she had been buried. Her family had a funeral card produced to inform family and friends of her passing.
These would have been sent to members of the family who may not have been able to travel to the funeral. Louisa, Laura’s mother was from Long Sutton in Lincolnshire which although only 10 miles away may have meant members of her family may not have been able to travel to the funeral. The card would have given them a memento to remember little Laura with.
Now Laura’s card was typical of the time. Most cards were on heavy card and embossed with a grave and a boarder. On the grave was the information of the deceased along with some uplifting words or phrases intended to offer solace to the recipient.
As time went on and printing techniques evolved the cards became more elaborate. They would include a picture of the deceased and may have gold lettering on black card rather than white card with black lettering. As with everything the more elaborate to the card the more expensive they were.
As time went on the cards evolved into folded cards with more information on and became more of an order of service for the funeral along the lines of what some people have today.
So what use are the funeral cards to genealogy. Well to start with they are a great insight into social history. They give an indication into the times your ancestors lived in. The more plain the card the earlier they are.
In terms of for genealogy they give an insight into the financial situation of the family. A poor family would never have been able to afford to spend money on funeral cards. So if you have a funeral card in the family the deceased family must have had some wealth. Then the card itself can indicate the level of wealth. The better the card, the more it costs so the more wealth they had.
I know William and Louisa Dent had 2 businesses with the farrier shop and the pub around the time Laura died and that this continued as they also had cards made 2 years later when their son George died. There is no card for the death of William Dent in 1900 but in 1911 when Louisa died she had a folded card to announce her death and burial. Also other family evidence indicates they were better off as in photographs I have of Laura’s sisters in the early 1900 they were well dressed and in a nice garden setting.
So it may be just a small card announcing the death of a little girl but the information beyond what is found on the card can give you an insight into the family’s situation.
At the moment I’m sure we all need something to laugh about so I thought I’d repost a blog from December 2017 which looks at the funny names people have given their children over the years in the hope that they can give a little light relief to you.
I’ll start by saying some of these name fails may not have been funny at the time and it is only as life has progressed that the funny side can be seen, I can attest to this. Pre Harry Potter, most people just thought I had a strange surname, but now…. Most just laugh or make a comment about my clothes. For those who don’t know my surname is Dobby, and Dobby is the house elf in the Harry Potter series.
I think some parents knew what they were doing when they chose their child’s name.
So onto the funny side of names in genealogy. I decided to spend an amusing day typing what I thought were funny names into Ancestry to see what I came up with. I’ll admit many I found amusing I have decided not to include as they could be considered rude. Really funny though. So here is my top 40 funny names in no particular order.
Rose Bush – There have been loads of these unfortunate ladies
Holly Tree - There have been loads of these unfortunate ladies
Hazel Nutt, born 1915 in Chesterfield
Timothy Burr, baptised 1726 in Essex (Tim Burr)
Daisy Weeds, born 1889 in Norfolk (my first cousin 3 times removed)
Cristafer Weeds married in Norfolk in 1561. (C.Weeds)
Grass Green who departed the UK in 1947
Teresa Green, born 1852 in Ware
Lilian Ruth Christmas Tree, baptised 1903
In 1886 in London Mary Magdalen married Abraham Bateau
Florence Angel Gabriel was buried in London in 1884
Merry Christmas was born in Sussex in 1874
Thomas Snow White was born in 1882
Cinderella Lord was born in Burnley in 1901
Donald Duck was found on the 1881 census
Michael Mouse was on the 1841 census (Mickey Mouse)
Minnie Mouse was born in Pendleton, USA in 1880
Robert Builder married Susanna Sproll in 1778 (Bob Builder)
Sam Fireman was living in London on the 1911 census (Fireman Sam)
Kitty Williem Catt was born in 1880
James Little Lyons was born in the USA in 1822
Jack Daws was born in Nottingham in 1902
Stanley Still has been the unfortunate name of many men (Stan Still)
Jo King was baptised in Watford in 1589
Annette Curtain (whose dates I’ve not given to spare blushes)
William Board has been the unfortunate name of many men (Bill Board)
Isla White was found on the 1851 census
Peter Perfect was born in Dartford in 1889
Bad Cook was born in Alabama, USA, around 1882
Good Cook was baptised in London in 1723
Olive Cart was born in Warwickshire in 1919
Sunny Day (whose dates I’ve not given to spare blushes)
Sidney Bridge was born in Essex in 1872 (not quiet there but close although my Uncle had a friend call Sidney Arborbridge but I can’t find his records)
River Jordan was born in Birmingham in 1854
Beau Bunting (whose dates I’ve not given to spare blushes)
Richard Taylor Coal Miner was buried in Kirkheaton in 1874
Norman Knight was a soldier during WW1, as was
Harold Norman Knight (who died during the conflict)
Austin Healey who was an England Rugby Player
Morris Van de Car was on the 1881 census (he couldn’t decide if he was a car or a van)
So when you find out your expecting the pitter patter of tiny feet, think through the name you choose carefully so you little one doesn’t have to endure a name fail! And future genealogist won’t sit typing into their genealogy websites to find the funny names like I do.
So I hope I have brought some amusement to you and given you a little light relief in this difficult times.
As we’ve all got to stay home and avoid social contact I thought I’d tell you about a genealogy idea I’ve had.
I was thinking the other day about different ways to record my ancestors. I was looking at a blank family tree and wondered if I could use this for chart for other purposes. There great for just having the names of your ancestors on but what else can they be used for.
So I started by using the tree as a way to record the places where my ancestors were born. I followed the tree as you would usually complete it only adding where they were born rather than their names. This way I can track the migration of my ancestors. As you can see they moved around a lot. It gives you an indication as to the towns and cities they were in at birth. It shows all the moves your ancestor had to make to get to you.
I decided to take this further and use the same tree but I just used the counties my ancestors were from instead.
This is more of use if you’re showing your tree to others. You may know where places are but others may not. For example I wouldn’t imagine many people know where Tottington is, (or was as it is now on a military restricted zone). So if you use the counties method then you can see that Tottington is in Norfolk.
So I decided to follow this method and use it for where my ancestors died. It allows you see at a glance where you ancestors died and thus gives you a reminder as to where to search for their burials and death notices. You can also use the same method with counties.
Now here is where the trees can be used side by side. If you compare them you can see how your ancestor moved around the country. You could also modify the tree to show where your ancestors got married. This could give you a better view of where your ancestors moved around the country.
How about using the tree to record how your ancestors died. If you substitute a name for a cause of death then you can see at a glance how all your ancestors died as well as showing any patterns within families which could show and hereditary illnesses.
You could also make the boxes larger and combine all the information into one tree. So for example you would have your ancestor’s name, place of birth, marriage place, death location and cause of death. This would make the tree rather large, but it could be possible to do if you draw your own, or use excel like I did.
It’s not just trees you could do this with. You could use a fan chart in the same way. This would mean you could get more ancestors in one place and can see more trends throughout your ancestors. As the fan chart goes further out the boxes get much small so they can be more difficult to write in so you could use colours, numbers or shadings for each county or place. So in the case of Yorkshire you could use a different shade of blue per county, for example light blue for South Yorkshire, a mid blue for West Yorkshire, dark blue for North Yorkshire and denim blue for East Yorkshire. As long as you make sure to use a key you can use whatever you like.
So why not experiment with the charts and forms you use and try and find new and interesting ways to use them and honour you ancestors.
Today is world book day to promote reading especially in kids. These days we pick up our e reader and download the latest books or go to the book shop and get our hands on a proper book. We have books everywhere from the libraries to the shelves at home. We read everything from a good murder mystery to a political thriller to a good paranormal book. But what were our ancestors reading?
Now for me it would be a great paranormal book full of werewolves and vampires. But then there are the great books that combine genealogy, history and mystery. I love 2 series of these book, the Morton Farrier books by Nathan Dylan Goodwin and the Steve Robinson series based around Jefferson Tayte. There are more series out there but these are my favourite. Then there’s a good history book whether fact or fiction. I’m a fan of anything by Phillipa Gregory and Alison Weir.
In 1950 one of the best selling books was Animal Farm by Orson Wells (I prefer Orson’s farm the cartoon series). The book is basically a look at what was happening in 1940’s Europe told through the eyes of animals portraying the main political figures. For the younger reader the frankly excellent The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis was published. This is the story of 4 evacuated children who enter another world through a wardrobe and the side of good under the command of Aslan the Lion take on the evil side of the Witch.
If we go further back to 1900 the grownups could pick up a copy of The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud and for the kids it was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum. I’ll admit I’ve never read either but they were all the rage at the time. Maybe my Great Grandparents or Great, Great Grandparents picked up a copy.
In 1890 you could read the latest Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (he wasn’t knighted until 1902) or for the kids there was English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs. This was a collection of fairy tales including some well-known ones such as Jack and the Beanstalk and less known ones such as The Fish and the Ring. If you’re interested you can read the book here: https://archive.org/details/englishfairytale00jaco
Let’s go back to 1880 where our ancestors may have settled down to read the latest Mark Twain A Tramp Abroad or for the little ones Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio.
Now in 1870 one of the most famous nursery rhymes was written in the Owl and the Pussycat. For the older reader they could read the latest by the French writer Jules Verne. They could descend under the waves on board the Nautilus and attempt to find the sea monster through Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
The 1860’s saw Wilkie Collins publish the novel the Woman in White which was a good old who done it. If this wasn’t our ancestor’s bag then maybe they would have reached for the new novel by George Eliot The Mill on the Floss which follows the lives of 2 siblings as they grow up.
1850 would have seen people reading for David Copperfield (the book not a person) by Charles Dickens and in 1840 Edgar Allan Poe published his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque which was a collection of short stories.
1830 saw the publishing of the novel The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck by Mary Shelley which considered that Perkin Warbeck was actually Richard of York the second son of King Edward IV. For the children why not the Chronicles of a School Room by Anna Maria Hall.
Back in 1820 the novel of the year was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott which is set in medieval Scotland in the 12th century. 1810 could have seen your ancestor’s reading the latest by Percy Bysshe Shelley entitled Zastrozzi which is a romance set in Germany.
Now some of these books are still loved today by some even if they just know the books by film and TV adaptations but they do still live on and can be read by us today.
I suppose what we should remember in all this is that we have access to books and we can all read them when we want. This wasn’t a luxury our ancestors may have had. They may not have been able to read and books would have been too expensive for them to buy. The central library in Sheffield didn’t open until 1934 so before then you would have to buy your books. So this world book day why not settle down with a book you’ve being bursting to read and lose yourself in the pages. Now will it be Freddy the Frog, Don’t Forget the Bacon or Eric Carle’s seminal work The Very Hungry Caterpillar!
This week the new £20 note enters circulation in the UK, but did you know that on the 26th February 1797 the first £1 was issued. The bank of England did this as a result of the panic the Invasion of Fishguard created. But what was the invasion of Fishguard?
It’s the year 1797 and Britain is about to be invaded for the last time by a foreign force. The location, the towns of Fishguard and Goodwick in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The invaders, the French.
Now anyone who knows the area will tell you it’s a quiet place with a nice walk along the parrog at Goodwick and the old harbour of Fishguard. At the time of the invasion the area was deeply agricultural (as it is today) and small fishing vessels would have been out and about.
So how did this come about? Well it’s was a kind of past time that the French had a go at the British and we had a go back. On the 22th February 1797 it was the French’s turn. They thought if they invaded the people of Britain would join forces with them against the nobility and land owners in an attempt to gain more rights. The French people had successfully done this in the late 1780’s early 1790’s during the French Revolution.
The French were under the command of Colonel William Tate, who incidentally was of Irish American ancestry, and disliked the British as some of his family were killed during the American Revolution. What better way to get back at us than to invade. He had 4 ships loaded with around 1400 soldiers, around 600 regular troops and the rest were ex and part time soldiers as well as criminals. He anchored his ships 2 miles from Fishguard and the landing parties began.
There was panic amongst the people as you can imagine. They took up arms under the command of Thomas Knox who was a local landowner. They used any weapon they could find including the scythes from the land and what guns they had.
The French were busily looting in the surrounding areas and farms where their main target so they could get food and steal what valuables they could find. In one instance a French soldiers shot a grandfather clock thinking it was a person. As a side note the clock still exists with its hole. By the second day of the invasion it was reported that many of the French soldiers were rather merry on the wine and beer they had found.
The locals had had enough and moved to where the French were with their makeshift weapons and began capturing them. It’s said that the local shoemaker Jemima Nicholas who was in her late 40’s captures 12 soldiers using only a pitch folk and marched them back to Fishguard. She allegedly later brought 2 more to the town, one under each arm (well she was described as a well-built lady).
Now Colonel Tate was at an impasse. His ships had returned to France as he was convinced of his success, but the locals were closing in on them. He then got the shock of his life when he saw British armed soldiers heading in his direction. What he actually saw was Welsh women in the traditional costumes who from a distance could be mistaken for soldiers by their hats (there is some debate about whether this is true but I love the story).
As a result the Colonel surrendered that night to the British commander Lord Cawdor. The next day the people of the town gathered to watch the capture of the remaining soldiers. So by 4pm on the 24th February 1797 it was all over. The jovial French set off to walk to Haverfordwest and the prisons and churches (which were used as an overflow prison). The prisoners remained in the area until the following year when they were returned to France, Tate included, under a prisoner exchange.
So in just 3 days the last invasion of Britain was over. The French were defeated and no one would try and invade our lands again. Jemima Nicholas was the heroine of the day and she lived until 1832 when she died aged 82.
If you go to Fishguard there is a tapestry depicting the events of the invasion. It was made in 1997 and is designed along the same lines as the Bayeux tapestry. It can be seen in Fishguard town hall. There is also a video made of the recreation of the capture of the French which was done in 1997 (I’ve seen some of it, but homework called!), the lady playing Jemima certainly gave it her all.
So we can really thank the French for giving our ancestors a new currency note. Mind you most probably never got to see them.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!