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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

I came across this video by Nottingham blues singer Ryan Thomas a while ago - it's good to see the street where my family lived mentioned.

Here's a photo of me outside 75 Elstree Drive, aged two in 1967.

I lived there until I was six, but my grandparents lived in this house all their married life, from 1939 to 2001.

Happy memories!
Sunday, 26 October 2014

A distant cousin and I had spent lots of time trying to find the death of our mutual ancestor Thomas May, without success. 

Thomas is my 3x great-grandfather and he was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire in c1819, the son of William May and Catherine Townsend.  During his life he had lived in Hinckley, Nottingham and Birmingham so we needed to consider all these places when we searched for his death.

I managed to order an incorrect certificate - the age and occupation were both wrong; but I prefer to think of it as part of the process of elimination rather than being yet another £9.00 out of pocket!

My cousin had asked for help on both the Ancestry and Roots Chat forums but without luck.

Then a general search on the British Newspaper Archive  revealed the following death notice in the Leicester Chronicle of 22nd August 1874;

Thanks to the definite date and place I managed to find the GRO reference and order the certificate:

To my delight everything matched up - the newspaper said Thomas had died at the home of his sister in Belgrave, while the informant on the death certificate was John Evans.  Thomas had a sister, Elizabeth, who had married John Evans.  In the 1871 census, Thomas was living with Elizabeth and John Evans at their pub in Aston, Birmingham.

Thomas May's death was attributed to 'hepatic dropsy' or an accumulation of fluid in the liver, possibly cirrhosis.  As well as being a hosier he had also been a publican; the cause of his death suggests he had enjoyed being a landlord far too much!

Newspaper Credit: Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, August22, 1874; pg. 9; Issue 3395. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

One of the family items I now treasure which originally belonged to my grandparents is an old Collins' Atlas they purchased at some point during the Second World War 1939-1945.

My grandparents, Fred Richardson & Irene Jowett married in Nottingham in 1939, and spent their honeymoon on Jersey in the Channel Islands. ( I remember them mentioning seeing Amy Johnson land her plane at the Jersey airport.)  This was possibly the furthest they would have travelled at this time; from what I have seen of their early photos, they were most used to spending their holidays in Skegness, the closest seaside resort to Nottingham.

So when my grandfather joined the Royal Navy in November 1941 he realised he would be travelling great distances from his wife & daughter.  Although Fred was in the Royal Navy, after his training he was seconded to DEMS, or 'Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships' and travelled with the convoys of shipping, manning their guns.

Ship's crews were not allowed to mention their position in any letters home for security reasons and so to get round this Fred bought two copies of the Collins Atlas, taking one with him on his travels & leaving one at home with Irene.  He could then give her a page number & reference in a letter and she could work out roughly where he was or where he may be heading.

Once safely home, after the war, Fred marked and numbered all his voyages on the Atlas, so it's possible, with his service record, to work out how and where he spent his time in the Navy during the war.

So despite its battered appearance and the fact that it is decades out of date, I am very happy to have this in my care.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

If you have traced your ancestors back to Nottingham in the census years of 1841 to 1911, it is highly likely that you will have come across lace making as an occupation.

My three main lace making families are the Oldhams, who worked in Calais during the 1860s as well as Nottingham, the Jowetts and the Bucknalls.

Looking through the census returns for these families, they did many different jobs within the lace industry, such as; 'mender', 'threader', 'draughtsman', 'clipper', 'manufacturer', 'winder', and 'warehouseman.' Not having any personal knowledge of the industry, I wasn't sure exactly what these different jobs entailed, so I was delighted to find a book of memoirs written by a local author, Mark Ashfield, who was employed in the lace industry.

I found it a very enjoyable read, with detailed description of life in a Nottingham lace factory - the hours, conditions, skills and works outings. It's available here both in paperback and for Kindle.

Another book which I've found really useful is Sheila Mason's 'Nottingham Lace 1760s - 1950s', my Oldhams even get a small mention!  It's available both via Amazon and Abebooks unfortunately at quite a price.  There may be reprinted copies available at the Nottingham branch of Waterstones, where I found my copy, for £25.

I think genealogy can be so much more than just gathering a list of names and dates.  If you can fill in the background, where they lived, how they worked, it can give you a much fuller picture of their lives.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

John and William Richardson sailed for Bermuda on 23rd April 1844 on the prison hulk Thames.  The voyage would have taken about a month and they would be joining other prison hulks already moored there.

Transportation to Bermuda began in 1824 with the arrival of the Antelope, followed by the Dromedary, Coromandel and Weymouth.  US independence in 1776-1783 meant that Britain had lost its maritime bases there and gave Bermuda strategic importance.  The first Royal Navy base was at St George's, but the building of another base at Ireland Island was begun to replace the Royal Navy Dockyard at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Transported convicts were an ideal source of cheap labour. 

The Thames was moored off St.George's Island and held around three hundred prisoners.  William and John would have worn a uniform with their name, number and origin printed on it along with the broad arrow usually associated with prison uniform.  Their day would have consisted of hard labour in chains, hacking out limestone, the glare of which caused eye problems, and hauling heavy wagons. The hot, humid conditions were hard during the day, but worse at night aboard the hulks where the convicts were sometimes left gasping for air.  This must have been a shock to the brothers who were used to the climate of North Yorkshire.

In total, around 9,000 convicts were transported to Bermuda, of which around 2,000 died.  This was mostly due to the dire conditions which encouraged the spread of disease.  There were several outbreaks of yellow fever during this time.

Unlike convicts sent to Australia there was no opportunity for parole for those in Bermuda; only in very exceptional circumstances was their sentence reduced.  Most convicts returned home at the end of their term as they were not allowed to settle in Bermuda.

Unfortunately, this is where William's and John's story ends.  I have yet to find their deaths, although there is a burial for a John Richardson of the right age at St Michael's in Liverton, North Yorkshire on the 31st March 1869.

To find out more means a trip to the National Archives in Kew.  They hold records relating to convicts in Bermuda such as:
Home Office: Convict Hulks, Convict Prisons and Criminal Lunatic Asylums: Quarterly Returns of Prisoners 1824-1876  HO 8
Convict Ship Medical Journals (c.1816-1856) ADM 101
Petitions For Mercy From Convicts & Their Relatives HO 17
Burials (1826-1848) ADM 6/434

For more information on Bermuda and its history of transportation try these links:

Picture Credit:
Picture Credit:
Sunday, 27 April 2014

The last time we met John & William Richardson, they had admitted their guilt to the York Assizes and were on their way to Millbank prison in London to await transportation for ten years.

Following their stay in Millbank they were moved to the prison hulk York moored off the Portsmouth coast. I found a record of them there on Ancestry:

The register notes they are men of 'good character' and also reveals that John was a joiner and William worked as a farmer and was married, which probably accounts for his distress on hearing his sentence. The register also records whether they were literate, but I can't quite decipher that.

HMS York was launched in 1807 in the middle of the Napoleonic wars and had been involved in the occupation of Madeira and the capture of Martinique.  In 1819 she was moored in Gosport harbour, where she was stripped of her masts and guns and converted to a prison ship.  Prison ships or hulks were introduced as a response to increasing numbers of criminal convictions in this period and as a 'holding pen' for those awaiting transportation.

On arrival William & John would have been shackled in irons, apparently to discourage any 'swimmers'.  They may have been put to work in the dockyards during the day, returning to the York every evening.  Conditions on board were dreadful. The York held up to five hundred prisoners in cold, cramped, dark and insanitary conditions.  Diseases such as typhoid and cholera were rife and it is thought that as many as one in three prisoners died.  In 1848 a serious rebellion broke out, resulting in the ringleaders being sent to land based prisons and the York being taken out of use and broken up in 1854.

However, according to the hulk register, the Richardson brothers had already left the York.  On 20th of April 1844, they had sailed for Bermuda on another prison hulk, HMS Thames.

Picture Credit: Creator: Edward William Cooke  Date: 1807  Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London
Friday, 11 April 2014

The downside to discovering your ancestors........