Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2015: My New Years Blogolution

So despite my best intentions, my 2014 blog lasted a feeble 3 posts.

I have no excuse; yes I got married in May, honeymooned in June and returned to work and a (a very) busy schedule but if I'm honest with myself:

Procrastination can be your worst enemy...

I'm happy to see that Amy (of the No Story Too Small Genealogy Blog) intends to kickstarts #52ancestors in 2015.

Having started so late in the process last year, I felt somewhat like my momentum had been lost before I began and I wasn't able to keep it going! This year, Amy gives weekly inspiration for blog posts.


So lets start over...
I intend to posts on Sundays, so expect my first #52ancestor blog on the 4th January 2015.

See you on the other side!

 [Note to self: Weekly recaps posted on Thursdays, commencing 8th January 2015]

Sunday, 13 July 2014

52 Ancestors #3 : The Importance of Being Ernest...

Ernest Viney; my great Grandad from my maternal side. Born 1891 in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire.

A Yorkshire lad, I had no idea...

Before I started my research I knew very little about Ernest. Two things had stuck in my mind;

1. He had always been referred to as a "golf pro" and;
2. He slipped in the snow/ice walking home from the pub and died some time after.

Of course, I needed to find out whether these facts were completely true. But as with any genealogy research, I had to start from the beginning!

The 1901 census gave me my first inkling that the golfing career may have been true... his brother John was listed as a 'Assistant Green Keeper - Golf'. Ernest was only 9 at the time but had 7 siblings!

By 1911 Ernest was shown as being a "Golf Club Maker". Very interesting as a recall my Mum talking about a set of (brass?) golf clubs that he had made himself...

By 1920 Ernest was at war and to my great satisfaction, his were one of the service records that (albeit a little crispy looking on the edges) had survived the fires. It was clear from the paperwork, which included letter to/from home, that he had married Annie Elizabeth Pigott (nee Jones) before he left for war.

They married in 1914 but, what brought Ernest to Shropshire?

Ernest formed parted of the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Annie had previously been married to David Pigott whom sadly died in 1910. They'd had 5 children in their 4 years of marriage. In marrying Annie in 1914, Ernest took on this large family and continued their life with a further 6 children of their own (including my Nan - Annie Irene, AKA 'Nan')

The 'golf pro' acclaim was still a little unclear but his service records did confirm it!

"Occupation: Golf Professional"

Unfortunately us genealogists have to wait another 7 years for the 1921 census to be released, so these parts of our history are harder to trace. Firstly, I started looking at local Golf Courses in the area to try and work out where he could of been located. I made contact with courses both throughout Shropshire and in the Yorkshire area, trying to locate former personnel records.

Having been listed as "golf professional" on his service records, I did wonder whether to list himself as such he would have to be part of the PGA (Professional Golfers Association)... however, knowing some of the fibs young men told when they listed, I somehow figured it unlikely.

I cant' explain the excitement I felt when I received a letter from the PGA. Not only to confirm that he was in fact a golf professional, but a copy of the record book with his name, year of entry and course base!

Ernest became a pro in 1911 and in 1913 was based at Wem Golf Club. I didn't even know Wem had a golf club!

After a little digging, I discovered a website with very limited information. With the help of the PGA confirmation and the enthusiasm of the website owners, we were able to find out a little more information about the Club - which allowed them to further supplement their website entry for Wem. Please check out their amazing website here:  The course was situated on Green Hill Farm, Bankhouse Lane. According to Kelly’s Directory of the time it was on land opposite the Grammar School.

Having returned from war and extending the family, it would appear that Ernest decided to move away from the professional golf world. He continued his life with Annie in Newport, Shropshire (his death record confirming his occupation as Machine Operator, Local Engineering Works).

What was amazing about Ernest was not his golfing ability and not the fact that he went to war and fought for our country, but how much he must of cared about Annie.

In marrying Annie he not only established a family away from his own in Yorkshire, but he took on another family; Annie's 5 children from the previous marriage.

The importance of being Ernest ... was love.

Friday, 4 July 2014

WDYTYA UK 2014 - Series Celebs Revealed!

It's that time again .... and the line up is awesome this year!

Now we all have our favourites and those which we're looking forward to most (it's Julie Walters for me!) but this year, I'm excited to see them all.

I'll admit, I had no idea who Martin Shaw was and until reading the overview, the same goes for Brendan O'Carroll - of course that's probably because he wasn't shown in the picture with his dress and wig!

To celebrate the 100th episode, they will also be doing a one-hour special looking back at the best discoveries of the series! - Digital Spy

WDYTYA US has also revealed their line up which will include our favourite of the Crane Brothers (Kelsey Grammer), the much loved Notebook star (Rachel McAdams) and of course, one of the girls - the Sex and the City Girls that is (Cynthia Nixon AKA Miranda)

The US season will premier on July 23rd!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

52 Ancestors #2: Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie...

Let's get this started with one of my favourites; not because he did anything particular spectacular but for the simple fact that he was the first 'real find'. The first ancestor that I was able to look over records and to some degree, understand his life, understand him, and feel emotionally connected. Dearest George.

George was my great grandfather. George Edward Stephan.

George was born 1866 in Broseley, Shropshire to George Stephan Nickless & Druscilla Vaughan Beard (now that's a name you don't heard very often!). He was one of 6 children (well 6 that I have been able to track down - one of those being a half sister from his Father's later marriage). There was George & Eustace (twins), Druscilla Jr, Beatrice Mary and Arthur. Clara was the half-sister.

George lost his twin brother Eustace in a house fire in 1870, at age 4.
His Mother Druscilla unfortunately died the same year from TB, 7months after giving birth to Arthur;
Then, and I assuming because his Father couldn't cope after the dreadful events they'd been put through, the family split up...

By the 1871 census, Druscilla (Jr) was living with her paternal Stephan grandparents, George with his maternal Beard Grandparents and Beatrice and Arthur with their Uncle & Auntie - the Yates'.

Worth noting that Eliza Yates was also the grandmother of George's wife to be (Hannah Haynes).

After some digging, I discovered Arthur was born in January 1870 - just before the death of George's mother in August 1870. (Druscilla Snr unfortunately died from TB which she contracted after giving birth).

Weirdly, there is an Arthur Stephan living with Beatrice and the Yates' family in 1871, but it states his age as 4; three years older than he would actually have been...

I have been unable to locate a death or subsequent location for Arthur. He is MIA ... what is it with Arthurs?!

In 1871 George was living with his Grandparents, Thomas (59yo) and Mary (57yo) Beard. His Father George was still living with them but then came the exciting 1881 census ... his Father had left but Georgie boy was aboard a barge and not any barge - A Severn Trow with his grandfather Thomas Beard!

"The sailing barges of the River Severn were known as "Trows" and hundreds of them once carried goods up and down the River Severn between Shrewsbury and Bristol, and along the coasts of Devon, Cornwall and South Wales"  - I A Recordings

'William' Severn Trow
The Trow that George worked aboard was called the 'William' and is infamous in the Shropshire area, as it is known to be one of the last working Severn Trows. A picture of it can be found at Blists Hill Museum (Ironbridge) alongside the exhibition of the restored 'Spry' Trow. From the known dates, it is likely that this is a photo of Thomas ('Bearded' at front!) and George to the left -although I can't be 100% sure!

George remained on the ship through the 1891 census and at some point between then and 1901, left the ship for the family pub. This is the family pub that previously, little old Beatrice had been living in alone (1891 census) until she got married.

To give a little background, George's sister Beatrice married William House and emigrated to America in 1900 and Druscilla married Alfred Potter and emigrated to Canada in 1911.

Now who is to say, given their separated childhood, that the siblings were close or even whether they saw each other? One can only speculate. Regardless, a split family was now truly split - by the Atlantic Ocean.

It appears that his Father George (Stephan Nickless) moved to Worcester and remarried to Fanny Mears having a daughter named Clara in 1877 when his 3 children were not even in their teens. 

George's family was now his grandparents.

But in 1900, George got married - to Hannah Marie Haynes and by 1901 they were living in the family Public House known as the General Gordon (also known as the Werps Inn due to it location).

The General Gordon is well known locally as a pub located in the Werps. The Werps was located opposite the former Coalport China Factory (now a Museum) on the River Severn but was sadly demolished during a slum clearance programme. You can see the pub at the back left of the photo - the white dormer building!
The Werps (opposite China Museum) 
The Werps - Tithe Map 1838
I recently discovered this rare photo of the pub - unfortunately it is stated as being taken in 1903 (Powell - Images of England South Telford) with the 'Potts' name over the door. George was shown at the pub in 1901 census, so one can only assume he moved shortly after marrying Hannah or the date is incorrect. At least it gives an idea of the type of property it was and its immediate setting.

General Gordon Pub - Henry Potts & Family

George went on to have, as far as I am aware, 5 children, all with Hannah Marie (nee Haynes).

1901 - Beatrice Georgina
1903 - Eustace Beard
1905 - George Victor  (my Grandad - aka Vic)
1907 - Leslie Vaughan
1911 - Arthur Gordon (my long lost Arthur)

Beatrice died in a house fire at age 4 - much the same was that George had lost his brother all that time ago and at the same age(!). This must of been very painful for George and one can only assume that this contributed to them leaving the Pub ... 

In 1911, I found Eustace living with his maternal family (the Haynes') - albeit that he is noted a "nephew" when I think he is actually the grandson (another story, another time...)

Unfortunately George lost his life in 1922, at the young age of 56 leaving behind 4 teenage sons and a wife. I will speak about them further another time.

George reminds me how important family is. He reminds me of how important it is to make time for them and never to take them for granted because there can come a time that you will be separated; whether this be permanently or simply by an Ocean.

I wish that he had been able to see his young boys grow up and help guide them; avoiding their separation later in life. I wish he had been able to see his grandchildren in very much the same way I wish that I had been able to meet my Grandad Vic (his son).

Time is always against us...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

52 Ancestors #1: Long Lost Arthur

Dearest Arthur; he missed you.

Arthur Gordon Stephan b.1911
When I say he, I mean my Grandfather.

I was celebrating my graduation with family when my Auntie brought along some family photos for my research. I mentioned my search for an Arthur STEPHAN and surprisingly she seemed to of heard of him. The only thing was, we were talking about different people!

I had been searching for an Arthur Stephan from the previous generation (my Grandads Uncle) who disappeared after the 1870 census.

My Auntie was talking about her Uncle (my Grandad's brother). This Uncle I knew nothing about.

My Aunt said that her Father told her that Arthur disappeared when they were quite young and he spent many years of searching for him - how handy the internet may have been for him!! My Grandfather sadly passed away in 1981 (before I was born) and had never been able to find Arthur.

My next mission had begun...

It was fairly evident that Arthur was born after the 1911 census as he wasn't listed with family (although this wouldn't be the first time I have had to 'collect' family members from other census records!). Given the birth dates of the other siblings, I first started sifting through the early 1900 birth records. I struck lucky fairly quickly but ordered the certificate to be sure.

Arthur Gordon Stephan was born to George Edward Stephan and Hannah (nee Haynes) in Madeley, Shropshire in 1911.

The next (and more difficult step) would be trying to locate his whereabouts thereafter. He would be 103 years old by now and the possibility of still being alive was slim. I stumbled across a couple of possibilities and just committed to ordering the death certificates. I was determined to get to the end of this mystery. I struck lucky again (well as lucky as a death certificate could be...) and found my Arthur. Arthur was mysteriously located in Milton Keynes!

Of course, a death certificate gives you very little insight into a persons life. After unsuccessful contact with the addresses given by the informant on the notice, I put an article in the local press. I was over the moon to hear back from Arthur's step-daughter!

Arthur had become part of her life quite late on (marrying her Mother in 1981 at the age of 70!) and she had some lovely things to say about him. A gentle giant that looked after and adored her Mum. She also provided me with the photo above; the only photo I have of Arthur.

I still wanted to know more; I still wanted to know why he ran away, where he went, what he did for work, why he never went home. What happened. Just so I could say I had tried for my Grandfather.

I then had contact from a local genealogist who had done a little digging (big thanks to Lewis McCann!) - he had managed to locate Arthur's youngest son.

Unfortunately this led to another cul-de-sac (I don't like the term dead end, at least you can walk back round and out of a cul-de-sac!). The son was born late in Arthur's life - there was 10 years between him and his older sisters and could remember little about his Father. He also had no photos... The tone of his email seemed to suggest that he wasn't overly keen on discussing the matter any further and I didn't want to push.

The next step is to try and locate the older sisters (Arthur's daughters). Its possible that the Isle of Wight may just be my next port of call...

I really must find out more for my Grandad. IOW County Press, here I come!