Tag Archives: family history

An Example of Delayed Death Registration – Andrew Callaghan

As a general rule I don’t normally ‘do’ recent family history blog posts. But I’m making an exception for this event in 1968. It concerns the death of my great uncle, Andrew Callaghan. The brother of my grandpa, Andrew never married and he has no direct descendants, so no-one is closely affected. I wanted to write this blog as otherwise he may never be remembered.

To set the scene, the Callaghan family were originally from the Townland of Carrabeg (Carrow Beg) in the District Electoral Division of Urlaur, in County Mayo. They were a farming family. Their two-roomed house housing eight in 1911 (two less than the decade before) was roofed not with slate, but with a perishable material such as wood or thatch. Their outbuildings consisted of a cow house and a piggery [1]. A typical rural family living from day to day.

My great grandfather, Michael, and some of his sons came over to England seasonally (East Yorkshire according to my uncle Brian) for farming work to supplement the family income. It was a lifestyle Andrew continued with, even when he took up permanent residence in England. He never really put down roots.

Mum only has vague memories of her uncle Andrew. One was a family anecdote about a cow. To pay for the passage to America for his eldest sister Bridget, Andrew was tasked with the responsibility of taking a fattened cow for sale at market. The cow was sold, but the family never saw the money. It all sounds slightly Jack and the Beanstalk-ish minus the beans and giant. Despite it all, Bridget did leave Ireland for a new life in North America in September 1909.

Another memory mum has is that of a gift her uncle Andrew gave her, a pen. It is something which stuck in her mind because presents in the family were rare, typically reserved for Christmas and birthdays. Maybe this was typical of growing up in the 1940s and 1950s.

Andrew led an itinerant lifestyle when he left County Mayo for England, moving where farm labouring work took him. He occasionally turned up at my grandparents house when he happened to be in the area, and short of cash! Grandpa usually fell soft but with a wife and eight children to support, this intermittent and unpredictable financial support was difficult.

As for his demise, mum recalls her dad being informed about the possible death of his brother following local media appeals for relatives of an Andrew Callaghan. It was mum’s brother-in-law – my dad’s sister’s husband Denis – who alerted the family. He worked in the local media industry and put two and two together.

Mum recalls her dad identified the body and, along with another brother Martin, he paid for the funeral. It was over in Wakefield. She also remembers whilst other family members viewed Andrew’s body she wasn’t allowed to, being advised it was bad luck because she was pregnant.

So I sort of knew about Andrew’s back-story. But you know the adage “A builder’s house is never finished?” Well I reckon the same applies to genealogists. I’m that busy doing family history for others, my own research is sadly neglected. In fact most of the writing for this blog post was done in the wee small hours!

Andrew’s death certificate [2] was something I never got round to ordering. The final push came with the impending General Register Office (GRO) price increases earlier this year (2019). This was a death certificate not covered by the cheaper PDF option, so I was especially determined to beat the price rise.

The certificate duly arrived in early February 2019, and it was an intriguing one. It states Andrew was 76, a farm labourer of no fixed abode. He died at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield on 7 February 1968. The copy certificate I have is dated 7 February 2019, so exactly 51 years to the date of his death. His death was not registered until some six weeks later, on 21 March 1968. This followed the 20 March inquest. Cause of death was pretty gruesome, as indicated in the certificate snapshot, below.

I was left with lots of questions. I don’t know why, but the hospital death threw me. But the big questions were around why was there a delay between death and inquest which consequently held up registration? Why “insufficient evidence” around the cause of such horrific-sounding injuries? Where had he sustained these injuries? What investigations were carried out to discover the cause of them?

Yet despite these questions, once more my quest to find the answers had to wait.

Five months later I finally squeezed in an opportunity to pick up Andrew’s story. I had a small window of time to look at the Wakefield Express. It’s a paper which is not online, so it meant a special visit to Wakefield Local Studies Library.

The series of reports spanning six weeks and three editions sums up the tale perfectly. I’ve reproduced the reports in full here.

Wakefield Express – 10 February 1968

Road victim

A 77-year-old Leeds man, Mr Andrew Callaghan, of Wharf Street, who was found lying with severe head injuries in the middle of Aberford Road, Stanley, on Tuesday, died in Pinderfields Hospital on Wednesday.

He is thought to have been struck by a vehicle.

Wakefield Express – 17 February 1968

‘Mystery man’s death appeal’

When an inquest opened on Tuesday on a 76-year-old man found lying injured in Aberford Road, Stanley, last week, the Coroner (Mr P. S. Gill) appealed for witnesses and relatives of the dead man to come forward.

He adjourned until March [?] the inquest on Andrew Callaghan, of no fixed address, who died in Pinderfields Hospital on February 7.

D.C. G. Browne (Coroner’s Officer) said Mr Callaghan was found lying in the road at the Leeds side of the Ne[w?]mark[et?] crossroads at about 12.[?] a.m. on February 6. It was snowing at the time.

He was suffering from injuries which suggested that he had been struck by a motor vehicle. He was taken to Clayton Hospital where he died next day.

NOT KNOWN

No witnesses of the accident had come forward and efforts to trace relatives had failed. Investigations by the West Riding Police were continuing.

D.C. Browne said he had found in the man’s possession official documents, including a birth certificate and pension book, giving his name and an address in Wharfe Street, Leeds. Inquiries had been made at the address, which was a type of lodging house, but he was not known there.

“From his clothing, I think he was of the labouring type, travelling the country,” he added.

Adjourning the inquest, the Coroner said: “I hope that someone [is] able to tell us something about the accident will come forward. I include in the appeal anyone who was travelling along the Aberford Road about midnight or late at night in February 5.”

Wakefield Express – 23 March 1968

Open verdict on man (76) found in road

A Wakefield inquest jury on Wednesday returned an Open verdict on Andrew Callaghan, aged 76, who died in Pinderfields Hospital on February 7 after being found lying injured in Aberford Road, Stanley.

The Coroner (Mr P. S. Gill) told the jury: “It would appear that he must have been struck by a motor vehicle, although there is no evidence that he was.”

He recalled that the inquest was adjourned on February 13, when an appeal was made for witnesses of the accident to come forward.

On that occasion the Coroner’s Officer (D.C. G Browne) said that Mr Callaghan was found lying in the road on the Leeds side of Newmarket crossroads at about 12.30 a.m. on February 6.

Documents in his possession gave his address as a lodging house in Leeds, but inquiries showed that he was not known there.

FIVE YEARS AGO

On Wednesday Mr John Callaghan [3], a retired trainer [4] of Moorside Avenue, [5] Dewsbury Moor, said that he had not seen his brother for five years. He was then a farm labourer. He did not know where he had been living.

John H. Kenward, of Queen Elizabeth Road, Eastmoor, said he was driving a car in Aberford Road when he saw Mr Callaghan lying in the road. He went to telephone for help and waited with another motorist, Mr David Lloyd Gladwin, of Grove Road, Wakefield, until the ambulance arrived.

“When I first arrived on the scene the body was covered with snow,” he added.

NO CLUES

P.C. D. Parker said he searched the area and found nothing to indicate how the accident occurred. No witnesses had been found who could give assistance.

Dr Joseph Adler, pathologist said Mr Callaghan seemed to have been struck about chest height and had received a fractured skull, a broken neck and broken arms.

At the close of the inquest, the Coroner expressed appreciation of the help given by Mr Kenward and Mr Gladwin.

Six things struck me:

  • The inaccuracy of newspaper reports which reinforces the need to check against other sources. For example the first report said Andrew was 77; there are discrepancies in the spelling of Wharf(e) Street; and my grandpa’s occupation and address are incorrect. So corroborate and don’t take at face-value;
  • These newspapers were chock-a-block with road traffic accidents and offences, a sign of the times maybe with less stringent driving laws, including ones around drink driving? It was only the year before Andrew’s death that the drink driving limit was introduced, but attitudes weren’t the same towards the offence as they are today. Or maybe more a comment about the changes in the local newspaper industry – far much more local news back then so stories that would never make it today with limited space and far fewer papers, were actually covered. Also maybe more incidents were routinely reported to the authorities, with driving and car-ownership on the increase yet still more of a rarity in the late 1960s than today. This is an interesting insight into the history of driving and road safety;
  • The low-tech investigations of the time which seemed to be limited to visiting a Leeds address, putting out an appeal for witnesses and undertaking a search of the area. Also, as a lay person looking at the brief press reports, it seems incredible that they did not know whether or not the injuries were sustained by a motor vehicle. More to the point there seemed little impetus to find out;
  • The total whitewash of an inquest. Someone was responsible. Yet was homeless Irishman Andrew so low down in the social pecking order that investigating his death really wasn’t worth pursuing beyond the preliminaries? This was the era of “No dogs, No Blacks, No Irish.” Within a couple of months of his death that was that, case wrapped up;
  • The lonely, awfulness of Andrew’s life. To be out on a clearly bitterly cold late night in the depths of winter with no place to go. Maybe it was his choice, but a 76-year-old man who had lost touch with his family, with no place to call home, and whose essential travelling documents included his birth certificate because, let’s face it, there was no other place to keep it than on his person; and
  • That today, with increasing level of social dislocation and homelessness, this situation will be one which continues with people dying alone in their homes or on the streets with no immediately identifiable next of kin.

At least I’ve now managed to find out more about my great uncle. But it’s an unsettling tale which has left me feeling incredibly disconcerted.

Footnote: Although it may not have impacted in this case, a delayed inquest may result in a death registration not falling within the expected Quarter, of even year.

Update via Twitter from Chalfont Research (@ChalfontR):

From the details in the blog entry, it looks like a classic example of knowing what happened, i.e. a hit & run road accident but having found no actual evidence or witnesses to be able to prove it, hence the open verdict.

Notes

  1. Callaghan Household, Ireland – 1911 Census, 15 Carrow Beg, Urlaur. Accessed via The National Archives, Ireland
  2. GRO Death Registration for Andrew Callaghan, age 76, March Quarter 1968, Wakefield, Volume 2D, Page 797. Accessed via Findmypast. Original Record, GRO England & Wales
  3. John Callaghan is my grandpa
  4. Occupation is incorrect. John Callaghan was a retired coal miner
  5. Address incorrect, should be Road not Avenue

Yesterday is History: You ARE Family History

Often when researching family history one major component is missing. You.

As the saying goes ‘Yesterday is History.’ It’s something us family historians often overlook, we’re so focused on earlier generations.

So time to take a pause from all the research and write up your own life story. It is a legacy for future generations of family history researchers – your history, your recollections, and in your words. Your chance to say it as you remember, with all those unique snippets of information, stamped with your personality.Years ago I bought dad a memory journal to complete. He never did. It’s a thing a bitterly regret he never got round to doing. It would have been a precious legacy to all his descendants for ever more, now he’s no longer around to ask. It would have been a much-cherished connection to him and his life through his written words. As it is, I’m the family history recorder, so now his life is viewed through my memories, my prism. One step removed.

And for those with no direct-line descendants this might be even more important.

This is your opportunity to ensure a lasting footprint in your family’s history.

There are so many ways to do it. It’s not like in previous eras where education, cost and social status dictated, and restricted, opportunity.

There is the family history journal method which in theory is the easiest option with all its pre-printed prompts. But you could also write down your life story. There is no need to over-complicate it and create some massive opus, unless you really want to. Family Tree magazine set a challenge recently to write your family history in only 1,000 words. Those 1,000 words could prove of more value than money left in a will, no matter how rough and ready you may feel it is. That’s not the point. It’s the fact it’s down there for posterity.

There’s even the option to do a recording, so not only your words but your voice preserved for ever more (hopefully).

And when you do put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, or voice to recorder, make sure the finished product is passed on to your family or the wider family history community. It could be by ensuring relatives have copies in your lifetime. It could be a formal bequest via your will. But whatever and however: Just do it.

The Family History Show 2019 – A Family History Get Together in York

The Family History Show at York is one of my family history year’s highlights, and 2019 did not disappoint.

A one-day event held at York Racecourse, it is billed as The Largest Family History Show in the North of England. With around 60 exhibitors, the stands are close together creating a bustling market-place experience, so there’s a real atmosphere of camaraderie amongst the exhibitors which rubs off on those visiting.

View from the Mezzanine – Photo by Jane Roberts

Sometimes bigger national events in exhibition centres can seem a tad remote and ‘commercialised.’ In contrast York conveys a really friendly, relaxed and welcoming feel. It’s great for show novices because it’s not overwhelming, but for regulars it’s like returning to a much-loved home.

Whilst Ancestry, Findmypast and the big DNA kit push was absent, to be honest it didn’t matter. There was so much else to focus on with a wide representation from the family history world. These included purveyors of postcards, maps, magazines and books to providers of genealogical supplies and courses alongside archives and museums. TheGenealogist, FamilySearch, Society of Genealogists, Ministry of Defence Records Section and the Family History Federation were amongst the bigger organisations. And it was fantastic to see such a range of Family History Societies from across the north of England and beyond.

I’ve attached the list of attendees below.

List of Attendees at The Family History Show York, 2019 – Photo by Jane Roberts

There was also an Ask the Experts area, plus seven talks in the two lecture theatres rounding off with an Expert Panel. Inspired by watching BBC’s A House Through Time I attended Gill Blanchard’s Tracing Your House History talk and came away with lots of tips and ideas to trace my house history … if I ever have the time! Time may be even more of a premium for me, especially as I ended up joining the Family and Community Historical Research Society (FACHRS). I’m full of enthusiasm to get involved.

Family and Community Historical Research Society (FACHRS) Stand – Photo by Jane Roberts

After a busy few hours on my feet it was a relief to have a sit down. There is a cafe area for those all-important refreshment breaks, but this year we brought sandwiches and ate them in fresh air and glorious sunshine overlooking the finishing straight. And what a view it was!

My Lunchtime View – Photo by Jane Roberts

Then it was back to it, and finding out what’s new. Morley Family History Group covers the area synonymous with the surname Aveyard, the subject of my One-Name Study. And they are in the process of producing a raft of new and updated parish register indexes and Memorial Inscription booklets.

Another stop-off must for me was the Ministry of Defence Records Section. They had some fascinating original documents on view including a 1914-1916 Wellington Barracks Footguards Attestation Register and some Air Ministry files about missing WW2 airmen. It was a wonderful opportunity to touch history, reading the lists of names knowing these were all real people who more than a century ago signed on to serve King and Country. It was especially sobering viewing noting how many were annotated with Killed in Action, Died of Wounds or discharged because they were no longer fit for service. One name which stood out for me was Albert Gun[n] who attested in Dewsbury and was Killed in Action.

Some of the Documents on Display at The MoD Records Stand – Photo by Jane Roberts

They also had a prototype online application system for service records which you could test and provide comments on. I understand it is hoped to have more news on this at RootsTech London.

I loved catching up with many familiar faces. And the show would not have been complete without popping over to say hello to the Huddersfield & District Family History Society team of volunteers who, at the end of a busy day, were still on their feet. I must declare an interest here as I edit their quarterly Journal.

The Huddersfield & District Family History Group Volunteers – Photo by Jane Roberts

I did fear with three big national family history shows scheduled for 2019, one of which took place only a couple of weeks earlier, that York would find itself squeezed out. With competing family and budget demands, to get to London and Birmingham from the north of the country for a show is a big commitment both in terms of travel time and cost, particularly if an overnight stay is factored in. The same pressures apply to exhibitors, with many relying on volunteers. York, for this part of the world, is far more accessible.

This accessibility factor, combined with the breadth of relevant exhibitors attending and talks geared towards the audience, thankfully meant my fears did not become a reality. The morning in particular seemed busier than ever.

The Family History Show 2019, York – Photo by Jane Roberts

And the years of experience behind the running of the show meant the organisation was excellent at all points – from booking tickets (excellent value at £8 for two if pre-booked), to directions to the racecourse with its ample free car parking, plus regular free shuttle buses from the railway station for those on public transport. Once at the venue things continued to run smoothly including a fast-track entry lane for those who had pre-booked, two private rooms for the free talks (so no noise seep) with these being large enough to accommodate all who wished to attend, and a floor plan to navigate your way around the exhibitors.

It proved a thoroughly enjoyable day and 20 June 2020, the date of the next Family History Show in York, is already firmly pencilled in my diary.

A Personal Post: The End of an Era

31 May 2019 marked the end of a huge chunk of my life over the past few years. I was at the Society of Genealogists in London for the award of my joint Pharos Tutors and Society of Genealogists Family History Skills and Strategies (Advanced) course certificate.

A bittersweet moment, it was the culmination of a couple of year’s hard work undertaking the various modules, the end of year one exam and a year two project. And even before that I had spent three years completing the Intermediate course.

Yes, submitting my final assignment last autumn and receiving my marks (a Distinction) just before Christmas were phases of the end. But the award ceremony was the moment which finally put a full stop on this period of formal learning

It was also wonderful meeting those who also undertook this learning journey, be it my fellow students or the ever-patient tutors who taught us along the way. I’ve learned so much through these courses and become a better genealogist as a result. They’ve also laid the foundations for my future continuing professional development.

But at the same time it was also a sad moment. Saying goodbye to everyone. Finally recognising that this phase of life was over and that the regular routine of formal learning had ended.

But has it?

Whilst the formal assessed courses are at an end, as part of keeping up-to-date with genealogical developments I will forge on with my personal programme of learning in order to continue to offer the best possible service to those who put their trust in me to research their precious family history.

Lessons from the Past: Infant Mortality in Batley 1900-1914

When looking at some Batley population statistics in relation to my family history, I was horrified to see the town’s infant mortality figures.

Infant mortality is the term applied to the deaths of children under one year of age. It is based on the proportion of the annual number of deaths at this age measured against births registered in the same area in that year. It is then extrapolated to represent a mortality figure per 1,000 births.

Batley’s figures were shocking, and acknowledged as such by the town’s various Medical Officers. For example in 1911 there were 852 births in Batley compared to 160 deaths of under 1s. This gives an infant mortality equivalent to a rate of 187.79 deaths per 1,000 births. And this was not the highest rate in this period, and it was at a time when things were improving.

I initially looked at Batley births and infant deaths from 1892 to 1971, plotting them in Table 1 below. The years from 1892 to 1914 make particularly sobering viewing. In four years the figures reached an infant mortality rate exceeding 200 per 1,000:

  • in 1893 it reached 260.55 per 1,000 births;
  • 1895 was 200.24;
  • 1901 saw a rate of 209.30 and
  • in 1904 it hit 235.94.

Table 1 (see Footnote 1)

In his 1914 Annual Report, Batley’s Medical Officer George Harper Pearce compared Batley’s infant mortality with the Great Town’s of England and Wales over a 25-year-period. Although in terms of population Batley was not one of the designated Great Towns, the Medical Officer felt by its urban nature and the fact it seamlessly flowed into its neighbouring population centres, it demonstrated all the characteristics of a Great Town. Therefore he felt its Public Health should be compared against this measure. It provided an unedifying comparison.

Although there was a commonality in the chief causes of infant mortality countrywide, namely premature birth, congenital deficiencies, hereditary illnesses, inexperience of mothers, unsatisfactory municipal sanitation, industrial conditions and improper food, Batley appeared to suffer the effects to a higher degree than its comparator towns. (Interestingly poverty was not mentioned as a factor). In 1914 Batley’s infant mortality figure of 149 compared to the corresponding Great Towns figure of 114. Looking at the earlier high rates I quoted for Batley in 1893, 1895, 1901, 1904 and 1911 and comparing with that of the Great Towns:

  • In 1893 and 1895 the Great Towns rates were in the low 180s;
  • In 1901 the Great Towns was 168;
  • In 1904 the Great Towns stood at 160;
  • 1911 the Great Towns figure was 140.

All therefore far below Batley’s rates, and sadly this was the general pattern.

I decided to focus on the years 1900 to 1914, the period marking the start of the 20th century leading up to the outbreak of the Great War. Both my paternal grandparents, and many of their siblings, were born in Batley in this period. My grandfather, born in 1906, was one of 10 children my great grandmother had between 1889 to 1910. My grandmother, born in 1908, had one other sibling, her senior by one year.

The total number of Batley infant deaths occurring in these years were:

  • 1900: 148;
  • 1901: 189;
  • 1902: 148;
  • 1903: 139;
  • 1904: 193;
  • 1905: 151;
  • 1906: 155;
  • 1907: 123;
  • 1908: 139;
  • 1909: 86;
  • 1910: 107;
  • 1911: 160;
  • 1912: 100;
  • 1913: 98;
  • 1914: 122.

Looking at the mortality statistics for this period I’m amazed, and thankful, that only two of these twelve children died before adulthood; and of them only one death was classed as infant mortality. I have written about these two children here and here.

The upshot of these dire turn-of-the-century figures led to Batley Borough Council, aided by voluntary services, embarking on a concerted effort to reduce the town’s shameful infant death rates, many of which they deemed preventable.

As part of this drive, from 1908 onwards we get ever greater detail regarding infant mortality in the Batley Medical Officer reports including more in-depth analysis of the causes of Batley infant deaths.

The causes attributed to these infant deaths are plotted on the graph in Table 2 below:

Table 2U1 1900-1914 Deaths Blog

The figures behind the graph are at Table 3, below.

Table 3U1 1900-1914 Chart Deaths Blog

Picking out some causes, we take for granted the impact of vaccinations today – perhaps some are even complacent about it. But looking at some of the death causes for infants – measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis – shows that for past generations these diseases were killers. And many more infants and children suffered life-changing disabilities arising from the complications of these illnesses. But beyond the direct deaths, bronchitis and pneumonia (illnesses in their own rights) could also be some of the secondary fatal complications of measles, whooping cough and even rickets.

Rickets does not feature in the prime Batley infant mortality causes in the years investigated. It is a condition affecting bone development in children which results in stunted growth and deformity. It affected a frighteningly large number of Batley children in this period. In 1909 64 cases of school-age Batley children suffering from rickets were investigated. The report discovered between them the 64 families involved had 340 children of which 119 were afflicted with the disease, 61 of these dying in infancy with their deaths attributed to bronchitis or convulsions. This is yet another demonstration that the causes of death in Tables 2 and 3 can mask much wider community health problems.

A particularly vague cause of death which features prominently throughout these years is described as atrophy, debility, marasmus. In 1908 Dr J. M. Clements, the then holder of the Batley Medical Officer post, said all the terms were more or less meaningless, failed to indicate a cause of death and should be avoided in death certification. Wasting was attributable to many things, including ante-natal issues and improper feeding. Until a more precise death cause was identified prevention would be difficult.

However by 1914 Dr Pearce, Batley’s Medical Officer since 1910, pinned it down to one particular cause above others – syphilis. In his 1914 Medical Officer Report he quoted from the Report for 1913-14 of the Medical Officer of the Local Government Board. In this the impact of syphilis was discussed, and the conclusion reached was direct deaths from it represented only a fraction of its effects.

It is a common cause of still births and premature birth; a considerable proportion of the deaths from marasmus and atrophy, as well as a large amount of disease in childhood and during school life, owe their origin to it.

Building on the Local Government Board report Dr Pearce stated in 1914 Batley 50 children had been born dead, 21 further deaths were a result of premature birth and an additional 13 had a cause of atrophy and marasmus:

It will be seen therefore that syphilis – a venereal disease – was more or less responsible (apart from dead born children) for thirty-four out of 122 deaths amongst infants or approximately more than 25 per cent.

Premature birth was a constant infant mortality theme. Besides the link to syphilis, the reports tried to make a connection with pregnant women working as rag sorters or weavers in the mills. In 1909 for example 18 instances of infant mortality occurred where mothers were in these occupations, and six of the deaths were attributed to premature birth with the mothers working in the mill until shortly before confinement. The tea, fried fish and chipped potato diet of pregnant mill-working mothers who had no time to cook were also blamed for childhood defects such as rickets. The solution put forward (but not adopted) was to prevent women working in the mill for a few months preceding childbirth.

One final cause identified in Tables 2 and 3 which may need explanation is overlaying. Basically suffocation of the infant from sharing a bed with an older person (usually the mother);

However in most of years the overwhelming proportion of deaths were attributed to diarrhoea, enteritis and gastritis. These diarrhoeal diseases were linked to seasonal weather, insanitary conditions and improper feeding. In his 1908 Medical Officer Report, Dr Clements looked at the 43 infant deaths attributed to this cause in this year. Only one infant was wholly breastfed. Of the others, 30 were wholly fed with cows milk, seven a mix of breast and cow’s milk, and five wholly on artificial foods. Dr Clements concluded:

…the only safe way of feeding the baby is by the mother’s breast. The mother’s milk is never once exposed to the air or to contamination, but passes direct from the site of manufacture in the gland to the baby’s stomach.

This also led to a link being made to this mortality cause and working mothers. It was said mothers quickly switched from breast feeding to partial of fully weaning infants in order to return to work as soon as possible. In his 1910 report Dr Pearce wrote:

Medical Officers of Health throughout the country would welcome a bill prohibiting women from working in the mills, or other places where female labour is employed, for several months previous to the birth of their infant, and for the whole period during which they are suckling the child. I would in fact go further and make it illegal for any mother to go out to work at all unless it could be shewn [sic] to be a case of dire necessity. A mother’s proper place is at home with her children.

Besides the danger of the infant ingesting contaminated food resulting in diarrhoea, the childcare itself left much to be desired. Mothers paid between 4s and 5s per week for their infants to be nursed whilst they worked. The surroundings were often deemed dirty and unsuitable, and it was not uncommon for this childcare to be provided by women with advanced TB.

The issue was illustrated in the March 1913 inquest into the death of a nine-week old baby girl, from the Batley Catholic community – the community associated with my family. It led the Coroner, Mr Maitland, to make some pointed comments about mothers leaving their children with neighbours and going out to work. In this case the mother returned to work when her baby was around six weeks old, leaving her and two older children with their grandmother, who told Nurse Musto she had brought up a family of the grandest lads in Batley, and knew quite well how to bring up children without her [Nurse Musto] interfering. 5s per week was paid for the baby’s care, out of which milk had to be provided, she being fed on a milk and water diet. The Coroner, on learning the father (a Collier) brought home 24s weekly asked why the mother felt the need to work. She responded “I would rather go to work than stop at home.” A verdict of “Death from pneumonia and also from want of proper attention and nursing” was reached with the Coroner observing:

…that there were many mothers who preferred to go out to work rather than bother with their children. It was simply selfishness

This, and other cases, led to the suggestion in the 1914 Medical Officer Report of the need for provision of crèche facilities staffed by skilled carers.

Other general findings noted by the series of Medical Officers included the fact first-born babies were more at risk, with the 1909 report identifying 32 of the 86 infant deaths that year being in this category. The same report also investigated the family histories of the 86 dead infants and, other than the first-born issue, noted a clear trend for the families affected to have a previous high rate of infant and child deaths. Ten family profiles were given including one mother of five children, all dead; Another mother of 13 had only three surviving children and of the 10 dead, eight had not survived their first year; similarly a mother of 10 had only three still living, with five of the seven deceased dying under one year of age. Based on this data the conclusion reached by Dr Clements was:

…it would appear that to a large extent the determining factor is the mother herself. Some women are “born mothers”; nature has endowed them with a knowledge of the care and attention needed by the baby; others are not gifted in this respect and they have not received any education to make up for the deficient.

1909 was a particularly interesting year. It can be seen from Table 1 that this year saw a dramatic decrease in Batley’s infant mortality rate. Its rate of 117 was actually lower than that of the Great Towns, which stood at 118. The drop was partly attributed to the cool, wet summer which reduced the severity of the seasonal diarrhoea outbreak – but this weather was not peculiar to Batley, and the number of deaths from diarrhoea in other similar weather years was far higher. The Medical Officer therefore believed 1909 was exceptional largely due to the preventative measures adopted in the preceding two years to combat the causes of infant mortality. There were two main factors behind these measures.

In 1906 a voluntary society was formed, the Batley Public Health and District Nursing Service. It took up the case of infant mortality, much of which was seen as preventable. Through voluntary subscriptions it appointed a Health Visitor, Miss Terry, to tackle the issue. So effective was the role, in July 1909 Batley Corporation agreed to fund this post and the Health Visitor became an official of the Council Health Department.

The other game-changer facilitating the work of the health visitor came in February 1908 when the Council formally implemented the Notification of Births Act. It meant that practically all births reached the notice of them within 36-48 hours, via either doctors, midwives or parents, enabling the Health Visitor to visit women quickly after birth.

By the time of the 1907 Report Dr J. A. Erskine Stuart, the town’s Medical Officer at this point, stated that although early it was days in the work of the Lady Health Visitor, he could vouch for one important fact: as a result of her labours the number of breastfeeding mothers had increased.

The duties of the fledgling Batley Health Visitor service included the schedule of first visits to mothers on receipt of a notification of birth. In these visits the Health Visitor gave advice about feeding, clothing and general baby care. By 1910 a printed pamphlet was left with mothers following this first visit. It contained a wealth of information about the nutrition and care of infants, including precise feeding and weaning instructions, washing guidance, advice on clothing and sleeping arrangements (every infant should sleep in a cot by itself) and information about eye care. It also advised against the use of dummies which it said caused mouth deformities. These comforters also increased the risk of sickness and diarrhoea as when dropped they were shoved back into the mouth, contaminated by dirt. One Batley Medical Officer believed dummies should be made illegal! If she deemed it necessary the Health Visitor would conduct follow-up visits.

Other duties included work around visiting mothers of stillborn children. Under the Notification of Births Act 1907 the Medical Officer was informed of the birth of any child “which has issued forth from its mother after the expiration of the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy, whether alive or dead.” To identify those born prior to this stage, from 1910 the Batley Health Department obtained a weekly return of stillborn children buried in from Batley Cemetery from the Registrar of the Cemetery. There was also work around unnotified births, as some were still ignorant of the requirement. She also worked on epidemic diarrhoea and made visits to those Batley residents suffering from TB. Another duty included health talks with mothers at meetings held by organisations such as Mothers’ Unions or Women’s Cooperative Guilds. Additionally one afternoon weekly was set aside for the Health Visitor to see mothers and infants in her Town Hall office. One particularly interesting initiative was around the establishment of funded cookery classes for poor mothers to teach them how to prepare nutritious, cheap family meals.

By 1910 such was the value of the Health Visitor’s role that she provided a summary of her work for inclusion in the overall Medical Officer annual report.

Obstacles noted by various Batley Health Visitors in this period included the tendency for mothers to take more note of family and neighbours rather than the health professional. Workload was also a huge issue, and was cited as one of the reasons for Miss Terry (Batley’s first Health Visitor) resigning her post in 1910. She also felt incapable of going through another Diarrhoea Season. She was replaced by Margaret Evelyn Harris, who in turn was succeeded by Alice Musto in January 1912. Miss Musto left in October 1914 to become a Staff Nurse with the Territorial Force Nursing Service and in December 1914 temporary replacement Florence Ray commenced work.

One further obstacle to the Health Visitor and the state of infant health and mortality was said to be the incompetence of midwives. This is a recurrent theme in the Medical Officer reports. For example those of  1910 and 1911 indicated none of the 13 registered midwives in Batley were qualified by virtue of Maternity Hospital Training and having passed examinations of the Central Board.

Despite the Health Visitor highlighting regularly cases of midwife ignorance, she had no power to intervene. The majority of midwives could not read, write or use a clinical thermometer or take temperatures. They treated premature babies no differently than full term ones, causing death. Barbaric practices were undertaken by some midwives including squeezing the child’s head into shape after birth. Another cruel procedure carried out by some midwives was squeezing the baby’s nipples, which frequently resulted in the formation of abscesses. The tradition of squeezing the mammary secretions of newborn infants was partly rooted in folklore and superstition around witch’s milk, with midwives and grandmothers believing that if this milk was not expressed from the mammary glands of newborns it would be stolen by witches.

In her contributions to the 1914 report, by which time two of Batley’s midwives did have qualifications, the newly appointed Florence Ray did not hold back in new views about Batley’s cadre of midwives, stating:

Several of the practising midwives are most unsuitable both on account of their ignorance and dirty habits.

One was castigated for:

…urging the mother to adopt the disgusting practice of frequently spitting into her infant’s eyes.

The Health Visitor was playing an increasingly important role in infant and child health in the community by highlighting deficiencies, suggesting solutions and providing help and assistance to mothers. The value of the activities of the Batley Health Visitor spread beyond the town. One example was in the Bradford Daily Telegraph of 31 January 1908:

Babies “At Home” at Batley
The crusade against infantile mortality is being vigorously pursued in Batley. A lady health visitor has been appointed, and yesterday she gave an “at home” to 220 babies and their mothers. The children were all under six months old, but appeared remarkably healthy. The guests were received by the Mayor and Mayoress…The health visitor proposes to hold “at homes” periodically in cottage houses.

This event was continued, with the 1910 report by the Batley Medical Officer including details of another successful tea attended by the Mayor and Mayoress along with 500 mothers of babies in June that year. The Yorkshire Post of 8 June 1910 reported the event, and the overall impact of the Health Visitor on infant mortality in the town:

Bright Babies at Batley
Nearly five hundred of Batley’s brightest babies beamed on the Mayor and Mayoress yesterday at an “at home,” held at the Town Hall. The function, which is an annual affair, is a striking tribute to the work done by Nurse Terry, the Health Visitor, and the Batley and District Public Health Service. It is a remarkable fact that in the first year of Nurse Terry’s service with the Committee, which is a voluntary institution, there was an infant mortality of 180 per thousand births, and in the following year this number had decreased to 162 per thousand. Last year, however, when the Health Visitor was engaged by the Corporation, and was thus a Public Officer as well as interested in the private institution, the death rate was still further reduced to 117 per thousand, which is the lowest ever reached in the sanitary history of the borough.

I wonder if my paternal grandparents or their siblings attended these events? And I also wonder if my maternal great grandmother was one of the midwives who received so much criticism.

The role of Health Visitor was just one of the initiatives focused on improving infant mortality rates in the town. And there were blips in these rates even after the appointment. But things were finally moving in the right direction.

In conclusion, I found it surprising so many of the themes discussed in early 20th century Batley are echoed in topics currently debated: from vaccinations to Breast is Best campaigning; from post and ante natal care to maternity and childcare provision; from providing cheap nutritious family meals to the pressures facing working mums. Above all the series of reports provided a new insight into the lives of my ancestors and the times and community in which they lived.

 

Footnote:

  • Table 1 Note: In 1926 the number of deaths of under ones was reported as 44 in the main statistical notes of the annual Batley Medical Officer report. Elsewhere in that report it is given as 43 which equates to the mortality rate of 68.8 given in the report. I have revised the figure to equate to 44 deaths, giving a rate of 70.40

Sources:

  • Various Batley Medical Officer Reports 1892-1971
  • Bradford Daily Telegraph – 31 January 1908
  • The Yorkshire Post – 8 June 1910
  • The Leeds Mercury – 14 March 1913
  • Yorkshire Evening Post – 14 March 1913

I’d also like to thank Janet Few whose recent Pharos Tutors course about Discovering you British Family and Local Community in the early 20th Century prompted me to start looking in more depth at various local history statistics and using graphs and charts to illustrate findings.

My 1st One-Name Study Story: Edith Aveyard – Yorkshire Born And Bred

For me family history is more than a series of names and dates. I want to try paint a picture of my ancestors lives, their wider family network, the times in which they lived and the communities which shaped them. For many, records are the only way to build up this picture. For others their lives are still within living memory, either first hand or indirectly through others.

Edith Aveyard is my maternal great grandmother and the reason for my one-name study choice. I never met her, but through many hours talking to mum I do feel I have some sense of her character which goes beyond the records.

Born in East Ardsley in the West Riding of Yorkshire on 20 March 1879 she was one of the nine children of Wesleyan Methodist Abraham Aveyard and his wife Sarah Jane (née Broadhead). Her siblings included Peter (1873), Thomas Henry (1875), Bertha (1887), Amos Hartley (born 1881, died 1884), Paulina/Pauline (circa 1884), Eliza (1885), Caroline (1887) and John (1889). Abraham, a coal miner, spent several short spells between 1894 and 1908 in Wakefield Prison for debt.

Family census and various birth, baptism, death and burial records show that by March 1884 the family moved from East Ardsley to Morley. Sometime between May 1887 and March 1889 they shifted to Drighlington but by the mid-1890s they were back in Morley. All were coal-mining areas, so provided employment opportunities for Abraham and his eldest sons.

Edith married coal miner Jonathan Rhodes at Woodkirk Parish Church on 14 August 1897. They were both 18 years old. Edith did not sign her name in the register. Mum recalls that she could never write – yet she could read a horse-racing card well enough in the newspapers to enable her to put on a bet!

It was a marriage which did not meet with the approval of Jonathan’s parents, William Burnley Rhodes and Elizabeth. Mum has the impression they thought they were a ‘cut above’ Edith’s Aveyard family. Perhaps Edith’s father’s periods in jail were central to this belief. However, the marriage was one of necessity as Edith gave birth to a daughter, Alice, less than four months after the wedding.

The couple settled into married life and their home at Healey Croft Terrace, East Ardsley, near-neighbours of Edith’s brother Thomas Henry Aveyard. It was here the couple’s other children were born: Ethel (1899), Oliver (circa 1902), William Henry Bastow (circa 1903) and Pauline (1905).

But life was not without its difficulties. Jonathan was not a well man. A diabetic in the pre-insulin era, he was carrying out the physically demanding job of a coal hewer. And then tragedy hit. First youngest son William died at the Healey Croft Terrace home, on 4 June 1907, struck down by meningitis when only four-years-old. He was buried in the churchyard at East Ardsley St Michael’s two day’s later. Then, shortly after moving to Morley, the couple’s other son 8-year-old Oliver was killed on 8 October 1910 after being knocked down by a motor car on Britannia Road. It’s an incident which I wrote about here. He was buried alongside his brother on 11 October 1910.

By 1916 the family had left Morley and were living in Hanging Heaton. Daughter Alice married Willie Boynes in the Sunday school at Hanging Heaton on 16 April 1916. The school had been given a special licence to hold marriages by the Bishop of Wakefield.

The somewhat unusual venue was because the parish church of St Paul’s Church at Hanging Heaton was gutted by fire after a lightning strike in the early hours of 17 February 1916. Initially, given this was the midst of the Great War, the crowd watching the destruction of this landmark church, speculated that the cause was ‘German incendrianism.’

The Million Act church of St Paul’s, Hanging Heaton, was built originally between 1823-1825 as part of the church building programme sanctioned in the wake of Wellington’s 1815 victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. It was on a dominant hillside position, and the flames were visible for miles around. The High Street home of the Rhodes family was a matter of a few hundred metres away.

High Street, Hanging Heaton today. The old Number 67 where the family lived no longer exists. Photo by Jane Roberts

The fire was spotted at 4.10 am by Sam Pleasants. But, with only one telephone available in the vicinity of Hanging Heaton, summoning help was not straightforward. The Dewsbury Brigade received a call at 4.23am and, according to the Rev. W.E. Cleworth, they were working with the hose on the blaze before 5am (Batley News, 19 February 1916). The Dewsbury Reporter of the same date also stated:

Great praise was bestowed upon Dewsbury Fire Brigade for the very prompt manner in which they responded to the call and the general adaptability they displayed.

The Batley News report went onto say the Batley Brigade did not receive a request to assist until 5.15 am. This delay was criticised as being detrimental to efforts to save the church. The Leeds Mercury of 18 February in its report mentions the Dewsbury Brigade was speedily on the spot, but states Batley’s arrival was delayed for some time at the toll-bar gate at Grange Road. No mention of the problems being down to contacting them.

Later published accounts state that both the Batley and Dewsbury Fire Brigades were delayed in attending the conflagration. These too do not mention the lateness in getting the call through to Batley. Rather they say precisely because of the church’s steep hillside position, the horse-drawn engine from Batley could not access via the direct route up the hill. Instead it had to go via Grange Road where the Toll Keeper, when he eventually was roused from bed, argued about the toll for fire engines. The Dewsbury Brigade were held up because they could not enter the area without the permission of the delayed Batley Brigade. And when they were both finally in position, at the same time, initially they had no water.

Whatever happened with the Fire Brigades, the main point is the flames, fanned by a strong wind, took hold and the church was beyond saving. Its rebuilding was not authorised until 1920, and it was finally rededicated on 17 November 1923.

The vulnerability of the building to lightning strikes was highlighted just prior to the rededication. Building work completed, on Saturday 7 July 1923 it was once more struck by lightning. The top of one of the pinnacles was completely shattered, and a small fire broke out. Fortunately residents witnessed the event and acted swiftly. The blaze was quickly extinguished with buckets of water. This particular storm caused death and destruction across Yorkshire.

On a broader family history note, amongst the things salvaged from the 1916 inferno were the parish registers! One of the ‘rescuers’ of these precious documents was the verger, who also lived on High Street.

Interior of the destroyed Church of St Paul’s, Hanging Heaton

Despite the destruction, sightseers who flocked to view the ruins were allowed to enter the devastated building just over a week later. The Batley News of 26 February 1916 described:

…streams of humanity that flowed to the scene of the fire-wreckage was like unto the multitudes on the days of Lee Fair, [the country’s oldest chartered fair which dates from at least the early 12th century and is held at West Ardsley] a big football match or a big festival.

It is hard to imagine Edith and her family not being amongst these streams, given their proximity to the church. It was there nearest place of worship too, Edith clearly not adhering to her father’s Wesleyanism. She married in the Established Church, and her children were baptised in it.

In 1919 middle daughter Ethel married James Delaney, a Batley Catholic of Irish descent. Serving as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, and latterly as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, he was discharged from the Army in October 1918 no longer fit for service. He died in the East Lancashire Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home at Park Lane, Kersal on 27 January 1928. One relative seems to think Ethel, who had nursed her husband, was so low in the aftermath of her husband’s death she could see no point in living. It was Edith who prevented her carrying through with her threat. I’ve found no evidence to back this up as yet. Perhaps I never will.

Once Ethel married, the only daughter remaining at home was Pauline. They were still in Hanging Heaton, but now at 20, Kirkgate. On 6 March 1921 she was by her father’s sickbed whilst her mother, Edith, briefly nipped out. It was whilst she was away that Jonathan died. His funeral took place at East Ardsley St Michael’s where he was laid to rest with his young sons on 9 March 1921.

Kirkgate, Hanging Heaton. Number 20 is now a modern house. These are the nearest old houses. Photo by Jane Roberts

Edith re-married on 25 February 1922. He husband was 38-year-old motor driver William Henry Ellis, a bachelor. Mum knew him as uncle a Bill. St Paul’s Hanging Heaton was not yet rebuilt, so the wedding took place in the Church Hall which had replaced the Sunday School as the building licensed to conduct services.

The Rebuilt Church of St Paul’s, Hanging Heaton. Photo by Jane Roberts

By 1939 bus driver Bill and Edith had moved to Upper Camroyd Street in the centre of Dewsbury. The location suited her perfectly. A stone’s throw from the huge market, and with access to a full array of shops, it was also near the pub where she could pop across to get a pitcher of beer to take home. Subsequently Edith moved a couple of streets away from Upper Camroyd Street to one of a pair of cottages in Battye Street.

It was the same town in which married daughter Pauline now lived with husband John, so mum has plenty memories about her broad Yorkshire-speaking grandma.

A diminutive woman, mum remembers her as being ‘a bit to a tartar‘ who would stand no nonsense from her grandchildren. She recalls a couple of examples. Her grandma had a horsehair settee. Mum, as a child in her short skirt, remembers sitting on it and the fibres pricking into her legs. Despite the discomfort she would sit rigid, as no way would her grandma allow any fidgeting. On another occasion Edith came to look after her grandchildren whilst Pauline and husband John were away. The children were not allowed to open any drawers in their own house!

Yet she was always more lenient with mum’s eldest brother, Jack. And when one of mum’s sisters married, she offered to partition her bedroom down the middle with a curtain so she could live there with her new husband. The offer was declined.

Mum’s other memories include when she first started work. Her job straight from school was at Luke Howgate’s in Dewsbury. The firm still exists today. It manufactures for the funeral trade and mum worked on simple soft furnishings for coffin interiors. She would pop in from work for a Friday fish and chips lunch with her grandma and uncle Bill. Edith was thrilled with her granddaughter’s new job and would ask endless questions about it, whilst imparting her considerable knowledge of the funeral trade. She spoke from personal experience. Besides informally helping bring babies into the world, she also was called upon to lay out the dead in the neighbourhood. She even had her own personal laying out drawer ready for her own death – and her grandchildren were not allowed to open this either!

Edith Aveyard

Uncle Bill died in 1956. Edith died at Staincliffe hospital on 24 October 1957 as a result of cerebral arterio sclerosis and old age. She was buried alongside her first husband, Jonathan, and sons William and Oliver in the unmarked East Ardsley grave.

Her Battye Street home as long since gone. The cottages were demolished. On the very spot where they stood is the Chapel of Rest for George Brooke’s, Funeral Directors. It somehow seems fitting.

Sources:

  • GRO Birth, Marriage & Death certificates – various;
  • Yorkshire Baptisms, Marriages & Burials via Ancestry.com Church of England Parish Register Collection. Original data at West Yorkshire Archives;
  • Abraham Aveyard, HMP Wakefield Records, via Ancestry.com. West Yorkshire, England, Prison Records, 1801-1914 [database on-line]. Original data at West Yorkshire Prison Records. Reference C118: Wakefield Prison. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, England;
  • Censuses 1881 to 1911 accessed via Ancestry.co.uk and FindMyPast;
  • 1939 Register accessed via Ancestry.co.uk and FindMyPast;
  • Newspapers as indicated;
  • Pauline Hill’s recollections – conversations with Jane Roberts, February 2019;
  • St Paul’s Hanging Heaton website: http://www.stpaulch.co.uk/;
  • OS Maps – National Library of Scotland;
  • East Ardsley St Michael’s MI booklet – Morley Family History Group;
  • James Delaney, WO 363 War Office Soldiers’ Documents, First World War ‘Burnt’ Documents accessed via FindMyPast. Originals at The National Archives, Reference WO 363/D972.

How to Pick a Baby’s Name – Enid Blyton Inspiration

This post is prompted by my daughter’s birthday and a Twitter thread about name inspirations.

Way before the resurgence in popularity of Amelia as a name in England, we chose it for our daughter. She was named after my all-time favourite childhood book character – Enid Blyton’s Naughty Amelia Jane.

As a child I spent lengthy periods in hospital. One of my earliest memories is one of the nurses in the now long-since closed Batley Hospital reading me a chapter from an Amelia Jane book before bedtime. Incidentally it is in the grounds of this hospital that my grandad died whilst building an air raid shelter.

batley hospital

It also brings to mind my two cousins and I (separated by only three months in birth and five minute’s walking distance as children) swapping Enid Blyton books in school holidays.

In the early 1990’s my love for Amelia as a name was reinforced by my reading of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. Whilst pregnant my initial favourite name for a girl was Alice. But in the final weeks I returned to a name which evoked happy childhood memories, combined with more recent literary reading.

As to family links, to put in perspective it’s family associations a decade or so ago I was inordinately happy to learn my 4x great aunt was an Amelia. That’s really the closest ties family history-wise.

I did baulk at a middle name of Jane. My daughter was unique and I’ve never been keen enough on my name, which has no real family history, to saddle my daughter with it. In fact I’ve no idea as to why I ended up with it as a name. Funnily enough some do think it is her middle name!

Amelia’s name origins continued to have relevance as she grew up, with me reading to her bedtime stories and tales of the naughtiest toy in the toy cupboard. I loved reading them to her, reliving my childhood in the process – though I do think she preferred The Faraway Tree (Silky was NOT a naming option.)

img_2469

And so I think about my ancestors and naming patterns. So many names are recycled across the generations. But that recycling is disappearing. Family sizes have diminished so there is less opportunity for generational-straddling family names. And in the last century or so name choices have widened. We have literary, musical and cinematography associated names. Travel horizons and migration have broadened, also correspondingly increasing choice. And have middle names also increased in usage? Also we are no longer bound by the same religious constraints with saints names.

In fact our naming choices are far less prescribed than in other countries. Responding to a FOI request in 2008, the General Register Office (GRO) stated:

Registrations of births in England and Wales are made under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 and the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987. The legislation does not set out any guidance on what parents may name their child.

Our advice to registrars is that a name should consist of a sequence of letters and that it should not be offensive. The reason for limiting the registration of names to a sequence of letters is that a name which includes a string of numbers or symbols etc. has no intrinsic sense of being a name, however the suffix ‘II’ or ‘III’ would be allowed.

The only restriction on the length of a name is that it must be able to fit in the space provided on the registration page. There are no leaflets or booklets available giving guidance on this matter.

Where the registrar has any concerns over a name they will discuss this with the parents and point out the problems the child may face as they grow up and try to get them to reconsider their choice.

For those name and stats geeks (like me) the most popular first names for baby boys and girls in 2017 using birth registration data can be found here. You’ll have to wait until September 2019 for the 2018 stats. The historical data for the top 100 names for baby boys and girls for 1904 to 1994 at 10-yearly intervals is here. Another ‘names through time’ using civil registration information which is great fun is here.

My family history also displays the vagaries of names. And this is something to consider when searching for ancestors in the GRO Indexes.

Dad was never known by his registered first name. My grandma registered it unbeknownst to my grandad who detested it. Hence my dad was always known by his middle name – the source of much official confusion. And payback for my grandma was her next son was born on the saint’s day my dad was registered under.

Another example is of a collateral ancestor known by a totally different name than the one registered. Anecdotally the parent registering apparently used the similar-sounding name of an old girlfriend.

And my 2x grandmother and great grandfather were both initially registered under different names, their parents changing their minds and exercising their option to amend, something I wrote about a while ago.

So for family history purpose do ask why your parents chose your name. Note to self: I need to ask mum why she and dad chose my name. I recall dad saying his choice was Michel(l)e. I reckon they were just popular names at the time.

And if my daughter ever asks, she owes her name primarily to Enid Blyton, and William Makepeace Thackeray was the deciding factor. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) didn’t quite match up.

Sources:

Transcription Tuesday 2019 – Your Chance to Give Something Back to Family History

A date for your diary: 5 February 2019 is Transcription Tuesday.

This annual event, launched by Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine in 2017, promises to be the biggest yet and it’s your chance to be part of it.

As Sarah Williams, the magazine’s editor, says:

The internet has transformed family history but the documents that are going online need to be transcribed or indexed to make them searchable, and for many projects the only way that is going to happen is with the help of volunteers……We hope to see hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers from across the world join together and give something back to family history.

Three projects, covering three distinct record sets, form this year’s event:

  • Transcribing a book covering railway worker accidents between 1901-1907 in just 24 hours. This Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants volume, the forerunner of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), records accidents and legal cases involving its members. It is a strand of the Railway Work, Life and Death project, and is being carried out in conjunction with the University of Portsmouth, the Modern Records Centre based at the University of Warwick and the National Railway Museum (NRM). The tome will make a potential 2,150 railway worker records widely available.

Sample page from the railway accidents book that volunteers will transcribe on Transcription Tuesday 2019 CREDIT: Modern Records Centre

  • Warwickshire witness statements from the county’s quarter sessions. This is a part of Warwickshire County Record Office’s Warwickshire Bytes project encouraging volunteer participation in indexing records held by the archive; and
  • A range of parish registers in association with FamilySearch.

There are so many reasons to take part in Transcription Tuesday. It is your moment to be part of something big; it is an opportunity to give something back to the wider family history community; it is a chance to make more accessible to families the lives of thousands of ancestors; it could help you improve one of the core skills of a family historians – reading and transcribing original documents; and you never know, if you have a railway ancestor, Warwickshire roots or the parish records relate to your ancestral homelands you may be lucky enough to find yourself uncovering part of your family history!

To find out more about the day, the projects and how to get involved visit: http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/transcriptiontuesday

And please spread the word to help make this year’s Transcription Tuesday the biggest so far.

The Confessions of a Blogger: Review of 2018

I’ll start with an admission: My 2018 blogging year was not as prolific as usual. In fact it was nowhere near the efforts of previous years. But I’m far from downhearted. In fact I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you have too.

Here are the details.

The Statistics. My blog saw a noticeable decline in output, with 25 posts during the year, down from 33 in 2017 and in excess of 60 in 2016. This was entirely due to other commitments such as completing my genealogy studies and publishing a book. Neither was it unexpected – I did forecast this in my 2017 blogging review post. And it is pretty much in line with what I promised: two posts a month.

However onto the positives. Despite the downturn in posts, my blog has grown from strength to strength numerically. Views increased from 20,649 in 2017 to well in excess of 21,000 in 2018. Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read my random family and local history outpourings.

My blog has now well and truly developed its character with core themes of my family history, interspersed with local history tales from Yorkshire, alongside news from – and my musings on – the genealogy world’s latest developments.

Most Popular Times? Monday proved my most popular blogging day, with 21% of views. And my golden hour shifted to the slightly earlier time of 6 pm. I suspect this shift is as much a result my blog posting times as anything more profound.

How Did They Find You? Search Engines took over as the key engagement route accounting for around 7,000 views.

Where Did They Come From? The global reach of WordPress never fails to amaze me. Going on for 100 countries are represented in my list of views. The UK accounted for well over 10,000 of these which was almost double the number of my next most popular country, the United States. Australia came third with over 1,000. But all corners of the globe feature with readers extending to Cambodia, Tonga, Peru and Tunisia. A huge thank you to you all! You’re what makes it worthwhile researching and writing these posts.

And it’s fantastic to receive so many comments either indirectly via Facebook and Twitter, or directly on my blog site. They’ve added new information, context and connections. Thank you for getting in touch.

Top Five Posts of 2018: Other than general home pages, archives and my ‘about’ page, these were:

General Register Office (GRO) Index – New & Free. This was actually posted in 2016 but, as in 2017, it continued to perform well in 2018 . This post was about a new free source for searching the GRO birth and death indexes (note not marriages) for certain years, one which gives additional search options. It also covered the initial £6 PDF trial, an alternative and cheaper source than buying a birth or death certificate. Note the PDF option, a copy of the register entry rather than a certificate, still continues. However the cost will rise to £7 on 16 February 2019. The cost of a certificate increases from £9.25 to £11.

Living DNA: I’m Not Who I Thought I Was. This was another 2017 post which continued to prove popular. It is testimony to the importance with which genetic genealogy is now seen. lt dealt with my shocking DNA results. I’m 100% from Great Britain and Ireland. No drama there. But it indicated that I’m not entirely the Yorkshire lass I thought – the ethnicity pointed to some genetic material from the dark side of the Pennines. I reckon this could be linked to a potential 5x great grandmother from Colne. I really do need to push on with my Abraham Marshall New Year’s Resolution.

Cold Case: The Huddersfield Tub Murder. Yet another 2017 offering, and in last year’s “one that got away” category as being one of my favourite posts which failed to reach the Top 5 that year. Well it proved immensely popular in 2018. It dealt with the unsolved murder in Huddersfield of a Dewsbury woman of ‘ill-repute’ whose tragic life and abusive relationships ultimately resulted in her death.

“Historical Vandalism” as more Archive Services Come Under Threat. Published in December 2018 its appearance in the Top 5 for the year shows the importance with which any threat to these vital services are seen. It covered some recent swingeing funding cuts to archives and corresponding proposed (and actual) major reductions to these services across the country. Some of the consultations, Surrey (4 January 2019) and Kent (29 January 2019), close imminently. So I would urge you to have your say.

Tripe Tales – Food Nostalgia. My childhood memories of food led me to focus on this particular northern ‘delicacy’, which was very popular when I was growing up. It covered some early 20th century local tripe stories including theft, death and prodigious eating feats, as well as recipes to try. I was also inundated via social media with suggestions of where I could still buy it. I’ve yet to confront once more this culinary challenge.

So yet again this was a mixed bag of popular posts, ranging from topical family history issues, to DNA and general history and local history tales – which sums up my blog perfectly.

The Ones that Got Away: These are a few of my favourite posts which didn’t make the top five:

Fur Coats Can Prevent Flu – The 1918/19 Pandemic looked at how to use various information sources to build up a picture of the impact of the Spanish Flu “plague” on local communities. In my example I focused on Batley.

How the Western Front Association WW1 Pension Ledgers May Have Solved another Family History Mystery. I used this newly available online record source to prove a family tale and discover more about my great uncle.

Irish DNA Breakthrough and Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue covered how DNA led to the demolition of one of my family history brick walls and helped me find out more about two of my Irish grandpa’s sisters who emigrated to the United States.

A Family Historian on Holiday: A Whitby Cemetery and WW1 Shipwreck was about the sinking of the Hospital Ship Rohilla off the Whitby coast in 1914. With links to the Titanic, heroic rescue attempts and a disputed will it illustrates how a family and local historian is never off duty, even on holiday!

Finally there was Published: The Greatest Sacrifice – Fallen Heroes of The Northern Union. This marked my greatest achievement of 2018 and the culmination of around two years’ work, the publication of my book co-authored with husband Chris. It has been described as the definitive book about those Rugby League players who fell in the Great War.

What Does 2019 Promise? Well, as in 2018, I aim to do two posts a month. These will be on the same type of themes as usual – family and local history tales, plus topical genealogy offerings when anything big hits the headlines. I will also be including some Aveyard One-Name Study stories.

I anticipate my major challenge this coming year, as ever, will be time. I also have the added concern of keeping things fresh and relevant. I now have two other writing roles to add to my blog. At the end of 2018 I took on the role of editor as the Huddersfield and District Family History Society quarterly Journal, the first edition of which came out in January. And I now write a regular family history column in Yorkshire nostalgia magazine “Down Your Way.” So clearly I want to ensure my blog posts are separate and distinct from my other writing commitments. However, my head is buzzing with ideas so I don’t think that will be too much of a creative dilemma.

But whatever direction my blogging year takes, thank you for reading, engaging and supporting.

Wishing you a happy, peaceful 2019 filled with family history fun!

The New Year’s Resolutions of a Family Historian

I’m not sure I can top the success of my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions. It was an incredible year on the family history front, and I’ve achieved more than I could ever imagine and more besides. But that’s no reason to abandon what is a good discipline. In fact it’s all the more reason to have them.

Targets help focus the mind and give you something to aim for.

The key is to make them relevant, realistic and challenging, but not over-ambitious. Neither should you have too many that you lose track of them, or spread yourself too thin. And you do need to monitor them at regular intervals, building in milestones, to make sure you are on track.

Here are my five for 2019.

Personal Research: The family origins of Abraham Marshall. As he was my Achilles heel of 2018 Resolutions, I’m carrying him over to 2019. This has become a tad more urgent with the 16 February 2019 price rise for General Register Office (GRO) birth, marriage and death certificates (England and Wales). The cost of a certificate will increase from £9.25 to £11 and a PDF copy of the register entry will rise from £6 to £7. So I will need to do this work in January to beat the price hike.

Continuing Professional Development: I’m not planning any major assessed courses this year, but I do think it important to refresh and build upon skill sets. I therefore intend to undertake at least one formal course during 2019 and supplement this with some one-off talks, workshops and lectures.

I also WILL read my subscribed to family history magazines. In 2018 I never seemed to have time. But they are a great source of information and as good a way as any to keep up with the latest genealogy news.

Aveyard One-Name Study Data Collection: This is an ongoing piece of work. I’m not committing to completing all the Aveyard census work. I now know that’s setting myself up for a fall. Instead I am setting aside two hours per week to continue extracting my Aveyards from the census. A case of chipping away at it and being realistic with what can be achieved given my other commitments.

Aveyard One-Name Study Tales: begin posting regular blog updates and stories about the Aveyards, six this year as a minimum. I’m still not sure of the best way to work this – whether to set up a stand alone Aveyard blog or integrate it with the one I already have. The former would be the cleaner option, but for now I’m going down the integrated route in order to ensure my blog is a “living” one with regular additions. I may revisit that decision later on.

Sewing: Yes, this is totally off the wall. But I do need to ensure I’m not Family History fatigued. I could quite easily end up spending all my time on it – either doing my day job researching for others, whilst devoting all my spare time to personal projects and doing voluntary work (editing the Huddersfield & District FHS Journal and helping with Batley History Group). It is something I became increasingly aware of in 2018. You can get too much of a good thing to the extent it can become a chore not a joy.

So I’m going to make time for relaxation. Sewing is my real chill down therapy. And I’ve just the project: a cross stitch family tree!!!!! It will go nicely with an earlier picture I stitched…..

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy 2019. And if you do break anything I hope they’re genealogy brick walls!