Tag Archives: Kirkburton

Parish Registers: Brick Wall Breakers and Mystery Creators

I can immerse myself for hours in Parish Registers, tracking my ancestors and their communities. They can often lead to research breakthroughs. Conversely they can result in further knotty puzzles. Other than the normal but frustrating non-appearance in a register, or the ones containing multiple difficult to untangle options, here is a brief selection from my family tree.

Brick wall

Brick Wall Breakers
1) The baptism on 7 March 1779 at All Saints, Batley for Benjamin Rynder. This is the brother of my 5x great grandmother, Sarah, and his entry is in a Dade style register. So not only does it provide his birth date, his parent’s names and residence and father’s occupation, it also provides his grandparent’s names. It makes tracing the family back a whole lot easier. It also helps with linking to similarly Dade-style recorded siblings and cousins. Sarah’s baptism in 1777 does not contain this level of detail. Maternal Line

2)  All Hallows Kirkburton Burial Register gave a cause of death for my 4x great grandfather George’s sister, Esther Hallas. The entry on 13 July 1817 states a cause of death: “Killed by Lightning”. This entry led to further research breakthroughs feeding into Esther’s story, my first blog post.[1] Maternal Line

3) Robert Hudson, the brother of my 4x great grandfather David. His St Michael’s East Ardsley burial entry of 1 November 1831 gives a cause of death “Hung himself in the Coal Pit Cabin”. In following this up I unearthed a rather unsavoury tale which I will return to in the autumn. Maternal Line

4) The burial of George Hallas, my 4x great grandfather, solved the mystery of his father. I had, until this point, a number of possible options. George died aged 69. Nevertheless his burial entry on 12 May 1864 in the Mirfield St Mary’s burial register provided his father’s name, Amos. This information enabled me to go back two further generations. Maternal Line

5) This could easily have fallen into the “Mystery Creator” category. According to his birth certificate John Callaghan, my grandfather, was born on 16 June 1895. However, the transcript of the County Mayo Kilmovee baptism[2] register states his baptism took place on 30 May 1895 in Glan Chapel. One possible explanation is the family could not get to Castlebar to register the birth within the prescribed time-limits, so were creative with his date of birth to avoid a fine. He used to claim he had two birthdays – so this corroborates the tale. Maternal Line

Mystery Creators
6) My great grandmother’s first daughter was born in 1893 out of wedlock. The Parish Register of St Mary of the Angels, Batley has a bizarre entry which indicates otherwise. According to this daughter’s baptismal entry my great grandmother was married to Charles Regan. I have traced no record of this “phantom” marriage, or of Charles Regan. My great grandmother’s eventual Registry Office 1897 marriage certificate indicates she was a spinster. So was Charles her daughter’s real father? Paternal Line (I have anonymised this as it is comparatively recent).

7) The mystifying John Loftus. Another one from Ireland, this time from the County Mayo Kilbeagh Parish baptisms. The entry clearly indicates the baptism on 3 October 1869 of a son, John (Joannes), to John Loftus and Ann Barrett. John and Ann are my 2x great grandparents. I have been unable to trace a birth certificate for their son John. What I have discovered is the birth certificate for a daughter, Ellen, born on 30 September 1869. So have I a missing child of John Loftus and Ann Barrett, or is entry a red herring? Paternal Line

8) Sushanna Hill, my 4x great grandfather’s sister has a perplexing baptism entry in the wonderful Dade-style Sherburn in Elmet Parish Register. Usually Dade Registers are an absolute genealogical god-send. This one has led to a brick wall. Sushanna is the first-born child of Francis and Sarah Hill, so the Dade entry provides a wealth of family history information. The entry for Sushanna reads:

“1st Daughter of Francis of Sherburn, taylor. Son of Francis of Sherburn, wheel carpenter by Esther his wife, daughter of John Simpson of Brayton, yeoman. Mother – Sarah, daughter of Philip Gibson of Little Fenton, farmer, by Sushanna his wife daughter of [blank]. Born Monday 29th August 1785 and baptised the same day”.

I cannot find concrete evidence to support Francis’ parentage as recorded in the entry. As a result I have been unable to trace this line any further back. I have a suspicion that it is a false lead. I think I do know Francis’ parentage. This is one of the nuts I am hoping genealogical DNA tests will ultimately crack. Paternal Line

9) William Hill’s baptism at St Mary’s, Whitkirk on 14 July 1816 is another strange one. William is the brother of my 3x great grandfather. Joseph. According to the Parish Register he is the illegitimate son of Grace Pennington. No mention of “Hill” in the entry whatsoever. In fact Grace Pennington married Francis Hill by licence in that Parish in September 1811. There is however a footnote at the bottom of the page as follows:

“It was discovered when this child was brought to church September 1st having been privately baptized July 14th that this was an erroneous entry, Grace Pennington being lawfully married, and that the entry should have been William son of Francis & Grace Hill, Halton, Butcher. Signed this second of September 1816”

Signatories were the vicar and “Francis Hill, the father of the said child”. I would love to know the story behind this error and its subsequent discovery.[3] Paternal Line

10) My 4x great grandmother Zilla(h)[4] Rhodes, baptised at All Saints, Batley on 29 September 1780. The Dade Register does not help as she is described as a bastard. Neither are there any details provided of her mother Sarah’s parentage. From further entries in the register it appears Sarah went onto have another illegitimate daughter, Mary, in 1784. There are also possibly a further two illegitimate daughters in the 1790s. In turn Zillah had three, possibly four, illegitimate children. So far I have been unable to trace any further details, including through using Poor Law or Bastardy records, because of the paucity of surviving material. But to have so many illegitimate children does seem a tad unusual. Maternal line

Confused

Image from Pixabay.com

There are many other examples, but this is my starter for ten. 

Sources:

  • All Hallows, Kirkburton – Burials
  • All Saints, Batley – Baptisms
  • All Saints, Sherburn in Elmet – Baptisms
  • National Library of Ireland Catholic Parish Registers – Kilbeagh Parish baptisms, Microfilm 04224 / 17 http://registers.nli.ie/
  • Pixabay.com: https://pixabay.com/
  • St Mary of the Angels, Batley – Baptisms
  • St Mary’s, Mirfield – Burials
  • St Mary’s, Whitkirk – Baptisms
  • St Michael’s, East Ardsley – Burials
  • Transcript of the Kilmovee Baptisms from the former East Mayo.org website

[1] See my first blog post, “Death by Lightning”
[2] This is too late a date for the National Library of Ireland Parish Registers website. Some time ago there was a fantastic East Mayo website which had transcripts of the parish registers. Sadly this has long since gone. But it can be found using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine
[3] William and Francis feature in my blog post entitled “Attempted Murder in Halton? The Perverse Joy of Old Newspapers”
[4] Syllah in the baptism entry

Copyright

© Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Death by Lightning

I always remember as a child my parents would insist on having both the front and back doors open during a thunderstorm just in case a lightning bolt came down the chimney. I am not sure how common the open-door policy was in other households, but I assume it was adopted so that the bolt could exit the house.

To be honest I have never been too keen on lightning myself. And I remember the inconvenience once when both my modem and computer were rendered beyond economic repair following a lightning strike. Perhaps my mistake was to keep the doors shut!

But this was a minor nuisance in comparison to the tale I discovered in my family tree.

My five times great-grandfather was Amos Hallas. Born in the West Riding village of Lepton, near Huddersfield, in around 1754 he was baptised at St John the Baptist, Kirkheaton later that year. He married Ann (Nanny) Armitage in the neighbouring parish of Kirkburton in August 1780 and the couple set up home at Highburton, a hamlet within the parish and township of Kirkburton. This is around five miles from Huddersfield.

The predominant industry of this region was woollen textile manufacture, and Amos was described a fancy weaver. The area around Kirkburton was known for its fancy woven waistcoat fabrics so it is likely that Amos was engaged in this skilled occupation.

These were difficult times for the textile workers as the period marked the early stages of the transition from domestic to factory-based operations, with 1776 marking the introduction of the first spinning jenny locally in the Holmfirth district. This was closely followed by the first scribbling engine being set up in around 1780 at Ing Nook Mill.[1] By the end of the eighteenth century with the abundance of coal in the West Riding and the introduction of steam power the stage was well and truly set for the transformation of the area’s textile industries.

At the same time this was the period of economic hardship with Britain at war with France almost continuously from 1793 until Napoleon’s defeat by the Duke of Wellington in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Alongside the threat of invasion, the French sealed off British exports to continental Europe, a campaign designed to cripple the economy. It nearly succeeded, British exports slumped with handloom weavers, such as Amos, the first to be affected. Unemployment and food prices soared.

This toxic twin cocktail of industrialisation and economic distress was the fuel for the rise of the Luddites. From 1811-1816 these well organised gangs, smashed the new machines and burned down mills in an attempt to protect jobs. In 1812, the same year as Prime Minister, Spencer Percival, was shot dead by a ruined businessman a Marsden mill owner William Horsfall, known locally for his anti-Luddite stance, was also murdered. This event took place only around 11 miles away from Kirkburton/Highburton.

Troops were stationed locally to deal with the marches, riots and machine-wrecking which had become a regular feature of British life. 12,000 were sent to Yorkshire in 1812 to stop this industrial sabotage. At its peak there were around 1,000 soldiers based in Huddersfield alone to deal with the threat.

Kirkburton too, unsurprisingly, had its Luddite contingent. At the end of September 1812 residents John Smith and David Moorhouse were committed to York Castle on charges of “burglary under the colour of Luddism” resulting from a robbery at gunpoint at the home of another Kirkburton resident, Mr Savage, on 13 June 1812[2].

So this tumultuous period is the backdrop to the life and times that Amos and Ann Hallas brought their family up in.

Between 1780-1802 the couple had 13 children. 12 of these baptisms are recorded in the Kirkburton All Hallows parish register. The youngest child, baptism unrecorded in the register, has been identified from her marriage certificate, on the occasion of her second nuptials.

My four times great grandfather, George Hallas, born in around 1794 was their 9th child. But it is their 12th child, Esther, who suffered an unusual fate.

According to the parish register Esther was born on 27 July 1800 and baptised in the local church on 5 October 1800. She died only days before her 17th birthday. It is her burial record on 13 July 1817 at the same church which contains the helpful and fascinating notation: “killed by lightning”.

More in hope than expectation, I followed up this discovery with a visit to Kirkburton All Hallows church. My family of coal miners and textile workers are not normally associated with headstones. At the time of my visit there was no churchyard guide so it was a case of wandering round on the off chance of spotting something. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a Hallas headstone – and what was more it proved to be a very unusual one.

The headstone owner was George Hallas, my four times great grandfather. Inscriptions to his parents Amos and Ann Hallas are on the front of the headstone; and on the reverse of the headstone, very weather-worn, and difficult to read is, as far as I can make out, the following inscription about his sister Esther:

Here
lieth the Body of Esther
Daughter of Amos Hallas
of Highburton who was
Killed by A Thunder
Storm the 11th day of July
1817 aged 17 years.
Death little warning to me gave
And soon did take me to the grave
As I one day was set at meat
The lightening [sic] took me from my seat
To all who hear or may be told
both male and female young and old
May this my fate a warning be
Remember God, Remember me

So the epitaph makes cautionary, poetic reference to the manner of her death.

Since this initial visit the All Hallows Churchyard team have established a website with an inscription and location guide to the headstones[3] which is invaluable to those with Kirkburton ancestry.

Finally I looked to see if the events were covered in the newspapers at the time.  I did think this was a long shot given that they took place in 1817.  But I “struck” lucky with the “Leeds Mercury” of Saturday July 19 1817.  Obviously deaths by lightning strikes were as big news back then as they are today. The snippet is as follows:

“Yesterday se’nnight, a fatal accident took place at High Burton, near Huddersfield, during the thunder-storm on that day: The lightning struck the chimney of a house belonging to Mr Fitton, and having partially destroyed it, proceeded down the chimney, into the kitchen, and in its passage through which a servant girl was struck, and killed on the spot; the face of the clock was melted, and several panes in the window broken. Two men were also hurt by the lightning, but not dangerously”.

Esther was not named but I assume that she was the servant girl referred to. So a case of how an entry in a burial register, a headstone and a newspaper report came together to tell a story.

Esther’s father, Amos, died two years later in 1819 and her mother died in 1838, aged 82.

Reverse of Hallas headstone with Esther's inscription

Reverse of Hallas headstone with Esther’s inscription

Other Sources (not mentioned in main body):

[1] “The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Home, including Homfirth in the county of York” – Henry James Morehouse

[2] http://ludditebicentenary.blogspot.co.uk/

[3] Kirkburton Churchyard  website: http://kirkburtonchurchyard.co.uk/