Monthly Archives: December 2015

My 2015 Blogging Year in Review: A San Francisco Cable Car

Promise, this really is my last post for 2015. But as a bit of a stats geek I couldn’t resist sharing the 2015 annual report for my family history blog. Momentous for me, because 2015 marked its birth!

The report includes useful information such as:

  • posting patterns;
  • top referring sites; and
  • most viewed posts

And on the subject of my most popular posts, I’ve added links to some of my favourites from 2015 which didn’t make the official “hit” list. These are:

As ever I’d welcome any feedback about which of my posts you particularly enjoyed in 2015; and what you would like to see more of in 2016.

So thank you for reading. And I hope to share more posts in 2016.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Bizarre Christmas-Associated Family Name: AKA There’s more to Family History than DNA

In “Shrapnel and Shelletta[1] I wrote about war-associated baby names. This is a more seasonal post about a particular Christmas-associated family name.

When naming a baby at Christmas-time, which names conjure up this magical time of year? Which can be considered as festive and beautiful as this special period? Holly, Ivy, Joy, Noel/le, Merry, Nick or Rudolph might spring to mind. Perhaps Caspar, Gabriel, Emmanuel, Balthasar and Gloria? Or maybe the Holy Family names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

In contrast, which name would make you recoil with shock and horror? Which name would you think “No way! How inappropriate! What on earth are they thinking of?”

Probably near the top of the list would be the one associated with my family tree.  For on 24 December 1826 at Kirkheaton’s St John the Baptist Parish Church (oh, the irony of date and church name)[2] the baptism of Herod Jennings took place.

Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières_vitrail1_837 Herod

Magi before Herod the Great, Wikimedia Creative Commons License, G Freihalter

Herod was born on 3 November 1826, one of five children of coal miner George Jennings and his wife Sarah Ellis. They married in October 1818 at St Mary’s, Mirfield and by the time of Herod’s baptism had settled in Hopton, a hamlet in that township, midway between Mirfield and Kirkheaton.

Herod’s siblings included the equally wonderfully named Israel (baptised 20 June 1824) and Lot (born 8 March 1830), so some fabulous biblical associations there too. The other family names of James (baptised 24 September 1820) and Ann (baptised 20 October 1822, buried 7 July 1823) seem disappointingly ordinary in comparison.

Sarah died in 1832, age 36 leaving George to bring up his four surviving children. James married Sarah Pickles on 25 December 1839, another example of Christmastime events in this branch of the Jennings family![3]So, by the time of the 1841 census, it was just George and his two sons, Israel and Herod, along with a female servant Jemima Gibson living in the Upper Moor, Hopton household. Youngest child Lot was along the road at Jack Royd, with the Peace family. This may have been a permanent arrangement given the family situation.

By the time of this census young Herod already worked down the mine, a job which ultimately would possibly contribute to his death.

On 7 October 1850 he married Ann Hallas at St Mary’s, Mirfield. Both Herod and Ann lived at Woods Row, Hopton. Ann was slightly older than Herod, being born in 1824. By the time of their wedding, she was already the unmarried mother of two. Her son, Henry, was born in 1843; and my 2x great grandmother Elizabeth’s birth occurred in November 1850, 11 months prior to Ann’s marriage to Herod.

This then is my family connection to Herod: His marriage to my 3x great grandmother. And it is one of the mysteries I still hope the DNA testing of mum and me will solve. Was Herod the father of Elizabeth? She was certainly brought up to think so, with all the censuses prior to her marriage recording her surname as Jennings, whereas her brother Henry went under his correct Hallas surname. And when registering the birth of her son Jonathan, there is a slip when Elizabeth starts entering her maiden name as “Jen”. This is subsequently scored through and correctly written as “Hallas”.

It appears Henry too was minded to look upon Herod as his father-figure. At his baptism at St Peter’s, Hartshead in June 1857 he appears in the register as Henry Jennings, not Hallas. When he married Hannah Hainsworth at Leeds All Saints on 24 December 1866, his marriage certificate records his father’s name as “Herod Hallas”. And in 1870 he named his eldest son Herod. Although by no means a common name, a glance at the GRO indexes shows it did appear occasionally, along with its alternative forms of Herodius and the feminine Herodia. The fact Henry gave his son this unusual name seems to indicate a measure of affection for the man who brought him up. Finally, at the time of the 1871 census Herod, son William and nephew Charles were boarding in the Leeds home of Henry.

So, whether or not there is a DNA link, he is still a major figure in my family tree. And for me this brings home the fact that there is more to family, and family history research, than DNA links alone!

Herod and Ann had nine other children: Ellen (born April 1851), Louisa (born January 1853), Harriet (born November 1854), Mary (born May 1858), William (born 1860), Eliza (born April 1862), Rose (born 1864), Violet (born 1866) and James (born 1871).

The family moved frequently, presumably due to Herod’s work as a coal miner. They are recorded at various locations in the area, many within walking distance of where I live. These included Mirfield, Battyeford, Hopton, Hartshead, Roberttown, White Lee and Batley.

Outside of work Herod had a keen interest in quoits, arranging and taking part in park challenge games especially around local Feast times. This game was particularly popular with miners and mining communities in Victorian times, with the metal rings being made of waste metal from mine forges. Challenge matches were also a way to raise funds, for example for sick and injured miners.

Herod died age 52, at Cross Bank, Batley as a result of asthma and bronchitis, which presumably owed something to his mining occupation. Working in cramped, filthy, air-polluted, damp, sometimes wet conditions from an early age, this was a hazardous and unhealthy occupation. The conditions and physical exertion led to chronic muscular-skeletal problems and back pain as well as rheumatism and joint inflammation. Most colliers had lung associated problems, with many becoming asthmatic whilst still relatively young. So Herod’s cause of death, from a lung-related illness, is unsurprising.

Ironically Herod’s date of death occurred on 5 January 1878, a day we associate with the Christmas period, falling before 12th night. And in the Western Christian tradition the 6 January is the Epiphany, marking the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. This brings us once more to the King Herod connection, at Herod Jennings’ death as well as his baptism.

This is what Matthew’s gospel says about those events at the first Christmas:

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem. ‘Go find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’  Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way. 

After they had left, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod……Herod was furious when he realised he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men”.[4]

Herod was buried in Batley Cemetery on 7 January 1878.

I have a great deal of affection for Herod, whether or not there is a direct family blood-tie. The fact he took on one, possibly two children when he married Ann; and they in turn acknowledged him as a father, which speaks volumes for him. I can relate to the location links. And I can totally sympathise with his asthma suffering.

This is my final family history blog post of 2015, and an apt one given the time of year. Thanks ever so much for reading them. As someone new to blogging your support, encouragement and feedback has meant so much over the past eight months.

Merry Christmas everyone – wishing you all peace, health and happiness for 2016!


[1] Shrapnel and Shelletta: Baby Names and their Links to War, Remembrance and Commemoration | PastToPresentGenealogy
[2] Herod the Great was responsible for trying to elicit the three wise men to reveal the  whereabouts of Jesus and, when this failed, subsequently ordering the killing of all infant boys under the age two and under, the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents”. His son, Herod Antipas, had John the Baptist killed.
[3] It was not uncommon for working-class people to have wedding ceremonies on Christmas Day. It was, after all, a holiday so they had time off work.
[4] The Jerusalem Bible, Popular Edition 1974 – Matthew 2: 7-17

Another blogging mystery solved – the Liebster Award

I started writing my blog about eight months ago so it’s all still fairly new to me. Although I struggle with the techie aspects, I enjoy writing posts because it helps me to focus on my family history research. I also find it a useful discipline to construct an ancestor story, rather than having all the individual sources stored in various files, catalogued in card indexes and documented in computer software programmes. This re-evaluating of research can result in new leads. But I have occasionally wondered if it was worth putting it in a blog, and even went so far to question it in a recent twitter posting. After all, would anyone else be interested?

Then a few months ago I received a comment from Suzanne Hopper Gray. She has a fabulous family history blog Filling in the Family Tree all about her ancestors and the genealogy process generally. She had nominated me for a Liebster Award.

The Liebster Award is a lovely way to welcome new bloggers and also introduce them to other blogs. Thank you ever so much Suzanne. It made my day to know that others do read my blog.

The Liebster Award is, I suppose, the blogging equivalent of a chain letter. But it has some wonderful benefits. As a result of Suzanne’s nomination I’ve got to read some really interesting blogs, ones that I otherwise may not have seen. And hopefully my blog will be similarly introduced to others in the blogging community.

Here is how it works:

Make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you. Include the Liebster Award sticker in the post too.

Liebster Award

Nominate 5 -10 other bloggers who you feel are worthy of this award.
Let them know they have been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. Ensure all of these bloggers have less than 200 followers. Answer the eleven questions asked to you by the person who nominated you, and make eleven questions of your own for your nominees or you may use the same questions. Lastly, COPY these rules in your post. (Note: I removed a line that said you could re-nominate the person who nominated you. If you want that, add it back it in!)

So, in no particular order, here are my nominees for the Liebster Award:

  • starryblacknessa family history blogger sharing the lives of her ancestors. These include ones from Devon and Cornwall, areas I love visiting. There are also ones from West Yorkshire, my home-county;
  • Dunfermline News 100 Years Ago – I love old newspapers and I’m particularly fascinated by the WW1 period, so I really enjoy reading these news snippets about life and times a century ago;
  • Victorian Detectives – for those interested in Victorian Crime and Punishment, this is a wonderful blog;
  • The Pharos Blog: Lighting up Genealogy – in-depth, thought-provoking genealogy articles by Pharos Tutors, an online genealogy and family history course provider;
  • Life in the Past Lane – A family history blogger writing about her research journey, including her DNA discoveries.

Here are my answers to the questions asked by Suzanne:

What do you do for fun?
Read, cross stitching, research my family history, support my rugby league team (Huddersfield Giants), walk and have days out with my family. 


Combining two of my favourite things: family history & cross stitching

What happened on the happiest day that you can remember?
My daughter was born.

What is your favourite meal?
A seasonal, proper autumn/winter Sunday lunch. Mashed and roast potatoes, roast beef, Brussels sprouts, carrots, horseradish sauce, English mustard, lashings of gravy and, most importantly of all given my roots, Yorkshire pudding. 

What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
To have fun bringing together my ancestors’ stories so their lives live on; to also research and remember other people who lived in the Batley area; and if others enjoy reading it, well that’s a bonus

What is your preferred genre of music?
Rock/Heavy Metal in my teens and early 20’s. Numerous gigs and festivals attended. Now my taste is far more eclectic and, to the benefit of my hearing and fellow commuters, played at a reduced volume level. Given the current work stresses I’m into soothing sounds of sea/ocean waves, nature type music, if it can be classed as music!

If a genie came to you and said “Your wish is my command!” what would you wish?
This is a tough one. There are so many horrible things including illness, poverty and hunger. On a personal level it is tempting to say health for all my family. But trying to look at it from a more selfless/greater good angle I think I’d wish for an end to conflict in the world, from individual and community level right through to nations and religions.

Where would you like to go on your dream vacation?
County Mayo, Ireland

What irritates you?
People on public transport who take up more than one seat – one for themselves and the other for their bag!

What are you reading right now?
The Wills of our Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians  by Stuart A Raymond – I’m due to start my final assessed genealogy course module in the New Year!

What’s your favourite movie?
I don’t watch movies – I don’t have time! Think the last one I saw was “Titanic”. 

What are you most proud of?
Gosh another tricky one. My daughter (she’d be most put out if I didn’t say that). After that it is 50/50 between writing my paternal family history book which was a Father’s Day present for my dad in 2014. I finished it a couple of months before he was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. 13 months on he’s still with us and Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust have admitted they misdiagnosed him, but that’s a whole new issue!!!!!! And seeing my charity fundraising booklet in print. It’s about the men of Batley St Mary’s RC Church who lost their lives in WW1. I spent over three years researching the 76 men and the booklet has raised several hundred pounds for St Mary’s and The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. St Mary’s are currently raising money to repair the church roof. More information can be found at:


Labour of Love: Batley St Mary’s War Memorial Booklet

Here are my questions for those I’ve nominated:

  1. What do you do for fun?
  2. What is your biggest regret in life?
  3. What happened on the happiest day that you can remember?
  4. Why did you start blogging?
  5. What is your earliest memory?
  6. If a genie came to you and said “Your wish is my command!” what would you wish?
  7. Where is the favourite place you’ve ever visited and why?
  8. What irritates you?
  9. What book are you currently reading?
  10. If you could go back in time, which era would you want to visit and why?
  11. Which achievement are you most proud of?

Thank you Suzanne – really appreciated this. And thank you for introducing me to some wonderful blogs.

PS – to those I’ve nominated, do not feel obliged to take up the challenge. Some of you may have probably received nominations in the past!


Christmas Party Tips and Etiquette: 1915

In late November 1915 a local newspaper helpfully provided a “humorous” series of 1915 Christmas “don’ts” to help its readers avoid any seasonal social faux-pas.

Christmas Donts 1

These were as follows:

  • Don’t arrive half an hour too soon and jocularly explain that you’ve come to avoid the crush;
  • Don’t entertain the company with a humorous description of the old gentleman you saw coming up the street. He may arrive later;
  • Don’t always catch the same girl when playing blind man’s buff. People may suspect that you can see;
  • Don’t attempt to do conjuring tricks unless you have tried them before;
  • Don’t say “I thought so” when you are informed the mince pies are homemade – it’s ambiguous;
  • Don’t say that the plum pudding is “just like mothers”. It might be considered a poor compliment;
  • Don’t say “That yarn of yours always makes me laugh” when your host introduces his annual joke. It sounds like another way of saying “Chestnuts”;
  • Don’t sing more than half-a-dozen songs in succession because – well, it’s bad for the voice;
  • Don’t, when asked to take a glass of port wine, sip it, and then inquire whether it’s port or sherry. You may be misunderstood; and
  • Don’t, when conversing harp on the “ripping time” you had at Brown’s the other night. It savours of odious comparisons.

Christmas Donts 2

I’m not sure how many of these handy hints would apply to the party season a century on – perhaps they still should! Although an idealistic and possibly tongue in cheek portrayal of life, they do evoke some of the gentility, values and manners of a Christmas 100 years ago. They also provide a contrast to the War raging on the continent. 

For me these contemporaneous snippets, with their wonderful phraseology and language, help make family history more than just finding a trail of names and dates. They give a flavour of the times in which my ancestors lived. And you never know, the tips might prove handy this year!

Christmas Donts 3


  • “Batley News” – 27 November 1915

Festive Adverts and Shopping in Batley: A 1915 Christmas – Part 3: Food for Man and Beast

In the final part of my seasonal shopping blog I look at Batley’s food and drink shops, as featured in the local press during the weeks leading to Christmas 1915. These shops catered for festive meals in households across Batley. But many also provided a taste of home for those serving overseas.

Mr Geo. Brown, a popular Branch Avenue caterer and confectioner was one such business. He supplied amazing quantities of chocolates, biscuits, fancy cakes and larger currant cakes to men in khaki and navy blue.  Of his cakes, going to soldiers, the Batley News eulogised “and won’t they welcome the toothsome and nourishing comestibles that they are so fond of in peace times”! He also sold boxes, crackers, stockings and a variety of decorative tins and jars filled with sweets, chocolates and toys. And what would Christmas be without its Christmas cake? I find Brown’s 8 December Xmas show opening date a notable difference to Christmas shopping today, when festive goods start appearing on the shelves months earlier.

Brown confectioner 18 Dec 1915

Meat shops were plentiful. Mr John Fox’s establishment at 39, Wellington Street had an array of Norfolk turkeys, Yorkshire geese, pheasants, game, rabbit and poultry. His products included oysters, fish, potted meats, even apples and oranges. His shop was described as “like a picture of Christmas as it should be”.


Jesse Roberts’ pork butchers was located almost at the Hick Lane corner of Commercial Street. His polony, a tasty delicacy, was relished both at home and abroad with hundredweights of it sent to those serving King and Country. The newspaper said patriotically “it has come as a real reminder of the tea-table at home, for many of the local KOYLIs on war service”.  The demand for that Christmas staple, the stand pie, from those serving overseas caused a shortage at Mr Roberts’ depot in mid-December. His shop also sold bacon, mincemeat and even tomato sauce!


Another pork butcher was Mr John Batty. His spotlessly clean shop was located at 52, Wellington Street. He too sold bacon, cooked hams and those stand pies so sought after by soldiers and sailors and those keeping the home fires burning. Potted meats, sausages, polonies, tongue and mincemeat also helped “give the Christmas bill of fare a most acceptable variety”.


Alfred Milnes owned butchers shops at Town Street, Batley Carr and Mill Lane, Hanging Heaton. He also had a Saturday Dewsbury market stall. A veteran judge of beef and one of the district’s most popular butchers, he was the beef go-to man.  Prime mutton was another of his fortes and his beef sausages were noted as “amongst the most reliable commodities of their kind”.


Mr J C Ridsdale, provision dealer, wine and spirit merchant, dispatched large quantities of figs, raisins, plum puddings and biscuits from his Market Place store to soldiers and sailors.  Whilst admitting that the price of some products, such as raisins, were dearer than in previous years their superb quality repaid the price. Prize cheese and smoked Wiltshire bacon also featured amongst his wares. As did table delicacies ranging from jellies and biscuits to bottled fruits and sweets; from muscatel, almonds and mincemeat to champagne and cigars. And his shop was the only local agency for Gilbey’s wines and spirits.

Ridsdale's 18 Dec 1915

On the subject of drinks and cigars, Mrs Chadwick’s Crown Hotel on Commercial Street boasted a fine stock with sherry cask matured spirits and whiskies including brands from some of the world’s most famous distilleries. Buyers though we’re reminded of the curtailed hours due to the new Liquor Control Order.

Crown Hotel

Sam Wilson’s establishments, one at the Market Place corner of Upper Commercial Street and the other near the Tram Terminus at the Bradford and Station Road junction, provided another sign of the times. A popular local tobacconist, “every local worshipper of the Lady Nicotine” knew his shops. He stocked a wide price range and flavour of cigarettes, boxes of cigars and blends of tobacco. He also had a wonderful array of pipes, “a rare stock of beauties, just right for using or giving when the Christmas spirit is greatly developed in men”.

Wilson cigars 18 Dec 1915

And finally not to be forgotten at Christmas was the horse. This was still a society heavily reliant on horse power, both on the land and in terms of transporting goods locally. Henry Rhodes, corn merchant, located at Station Road was “excellently situated for supplying the quadrupeds with as good a Christmas dinner as anyone could wish”.

Henry Rhodes

I hope this series of posts has given a flavour of a 1915 Christmas. Although a century ago it is still recognisable as the Christmas we celebrate today. And although these shops have long since disappeared, forced out by supermarkets such as Tesco’s,  I can relate the locations to my ancestors lives and picture them doing their Christmas shopping in the multiplicity of individual retailers lining the thriving town’s teeming streets.

My two earlier post can be found at:

Part 1:

Part 2: