100 years ago it was announced that Harvey's Grandad would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

London Gazette  Issue 31046 Supplement Page 14320
London Gazette Issue 31046 Supplement Page 14320

100 years ago, Harvey's Grandad's award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) appeared in the London Gazette as follows..

Lieut. Cyril Norman Ellen.
A keen and exceptionally able observer who for over a year has performed most valuable service in photographic flights at low altitudes and at times under very difficult conditions.

Cyril Ellen was stationed in Stavros on the border between Greece and Bulgaria from November 1917 to November 1918. His profession in civilian life had been in photography and this is perhaps why he was so good at his job. The 'very difficult conditions' included some hairy moments. His pilot on one occasion, Frank Marlowe, wrote in his diary on 14th July 1918...
A near disaster for me this morning on dawn patrol. Just as I was taking off the engine revs dropped, there was vibration and nasty noises coming from the engine and I immediately throttled down. Then I saw that I was approaching the end of the aerodrome where I would crash into ditches, wooden buildings, etc and my only chance was to try to lift over them and try to land among scrub and bushes on the other side. I gingerly opened up the engine and in spite of the awful clattering noise it kept going enough to get me off the ground and keep me up while I made a wide sweep just above the surface of the sea and back to the aerodrome where I landed with a sigh of relief. Ellen, behind me, had the wind up badly and so did I. Everyone had turned out of their beds awakened by the noise my engine was making and they all thought it would end in a crash. I then took Jakie's DH4 instead which ran perfectly. Slater says he can do nothing with the engine and it will have to be sent to Mudros.

And again, Marlowe's diary entry for 26th May 1918...
While spotting with Ellen yesterday for a monitor shelling enemy gun positions we flew through the smoke of an A/A explosion and while I was doing 'evasive action' Ellen nearly fell out. He had to hold on to his gun mounting to save himself. I suppose you can overdo things.

On another occasion Cyril was in the air with Marlowe when the pilot wrote...
Just as I was leaving to do some spotting over the lines Dunfee, who was to have come with me in his Camel sideslipped into the ground after taking off when his engine failed. He was killed instantly. I carry on and do the spotting for the monitor M22 shelling gun positions. Saw Dunfee's Camel when we got back - a horrible sight with blood and brains spread all over the wreckage.

These young men were literally taking their lives into their hands every time they attempted to fly and that was even before they got down to the task in hand. They were very brave people indeed.


The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 to other ranks, of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".

The award was established on 3 June 1918, shortly after the formation of the Royal Air Force (RAF), with the Royal Warrant published on 5 December 1919. It was originally awarded to RAF commissioned and warrant officers, including officers in Commonwealth and allied forces.

Since the 1993 review of the honours system as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in bravery awards, all ranks of all arms of the Armed Forces have been eligible, and the Distinguished Flying Medal, which had until then been awarded to other ranks, was discontinued.


There were 1045 DFC's issued for World War 1 compared to more than 20,000 issued for World War 2, a reflection of how the air force had grown in that time.

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Obtaining your Deceased Ancestor's DNA could soon become a reality

Category: DNA

Postcard written in 1909 by my great-grandmother, Florence Smale
Postcard written in 1909 by my great-grandmother, Florence Smale, to her sister's sister-in-law, Edith Browning, nee Martin


A few months ago Living DNA announced they had successfully extracted DNA from a stamp on an old envelope which enabled a person who was abandoned as a baby to identify her father.

Although we haven't heard any more from Living DNA about when this may become generally available, there is a company in Australia which is now offering a similar service called totheletter DNA - www.totheletterdna.com

MyHeritage also recently announced...

"MyHeritage will soon be able, through a partnership with a specialist company, to process the DNA from stamps and old envelopes and then link the DNA to the ancestor, providing you with DNA results for your deceased ancestors, right on MyHeritage."

It remains to be seen if their partner is totheletter DNA.


The totheletter DNA service is expensive ($781.50 AUD, approximately £445 for each artifact). If enough DNA is not available after the extraction process has taken place, a large proportion of the fee is refundable: https://www.totheletterdna.com/buy/find-dna.

However, cost and the possibility of the lack of a useable sample aren't the only factors to take into consideration. Here are some other things to think about...
  • Currently the DNA raw data file can only be uploaded to GEDmatch Genesis for comparison with others who have tested their DNA. This may well change in the future if artifact testing becomes more popular.

  • So far, the service is limited to items which would have been licked such as envelopes with the seal intact and stamps.

  • The DNA might not belong to the person you expect. The sender of the letter may have asked the post master or a friend to lick the item.

  • There may be no DNA on the item if a sponge was used to wet the stamp or envelope.

  • The envelope or stamp you send in cannot be used a second time so you may want to wait a while to see how the technology develops before submitting that one and only postcard you have which your great-grandmother sent to her friend.

  • Scan your item before sending it as it won't be returned to you in the same condition.


There are potentially exciting times ahead. If the cost reduces in the future and the technology proves successful then we need to be identifying and preserving our artifacts right now.

Denise May Levenick, aka The Family Curator, makes the following recommendations on her blog (https://thefamilycurator.com/how-to-preserve-and-test-old-letters-for-grandmas-dna/)...
  • Identify potential items for DNA testing and isolate from other items. Wear white cotton or nitrile gloves to avoid further contamination.

  • Place the individual item in an acid-free paper folder or envelope. Avoid plastic.

  • If possible, store this envelope inside an archival box or a metal file drawer to further protect from handling and temperature fluctuations. This location should be inside your home where temperature and humidity doesn't change dramatically. Keep dry.

  • Handling and cross-contamination.

  • Freezing.

  • Moisture.

  • Heat.

TIP: If you don't have an archival folder or envelope, sandwich the letter and envelope between two sheets of acid-free resume paper (available at most office-supply stores). Place everything in a standard file folder or large envelope and store as directed above.


You may not think you have any viable items from your ancestors but it's worth getting in touch with your known relatives to see whether they are sitting on a letter or postcard written by your mutual great-grandfather. The DNA of a full sibling of your direct ancestor is equally as useful as that of your own direct relative as their parents would still be your direct ancestors.

If you know of anyone to whom your ancestor may have written, then you might try to contact their living relatives to see whether they have any correspondence from your ancestor.

Another strategy is to look up family trees online to see whether you can identify descendants of a mutual ancestor. It may be that they have a suitable artifact they'd be willing to have tested. You might also consider sharing the cost between interested relatives who would benefit from the extracted DNA.


If you're reading this and you are in possession of an item which may be suitable for genealogical DNA testing and which may have been sent by one of my (and perhaps your) relatives, please preserve the item as best you can and do get in touch with me. I have no immediate plans to test at the current prices but it might be something to look into in the future.

If nothing else, it's always interesting to discover personal family items which you didn't know existed so I'd like to take this opportunity to say if you have any correspondence, documents, photographs or objects connected to my family, I'd love to see (and, if possible, scan or photograph) them so please do contact me. It doesn't matter if they can't be used for DNA extraction, it all adds to the story of the family and that's a good enough reason in itself.

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My Grandpa Hibbitt remembered

Category: Sharing Memories

My Grandpa Hibbitt (Charles George Hibbitt) died this day in 1972. I was nine years old and I remember the last time I saw him when I waved goodbye to him in the hospital. Instinctively, I remember thinking this would be the last time I would see him and I was right. He was so weak and frail standing there in his red dressing gown waving to his family. He must have felt so sad.

The photo is of him in happier times with my Gran, my Dad, my elder brother and me outside my grandparents' cottage in East Allington, Devon. Taken on my fifth birthday.

Hibbitt Family - 1968
Hibbitt Family - 1968

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Remembering my Granny Geake

Category: Ancestors Corner

Phyllis Weaver aged 5 or 6
Phyllis Weaver aged 5 or 6

It would have been my Granny Geake's (Phyllis Grace Geake, nee Weaver) birthday today. She was born on 18th September 1916 and family oral history suggests the news of her father's death in WWI, which occurred ten days before, arrived in Tavistock the day she was born. Her mother wasn't told of it for another ten days.

This photograph of her as a young child was Gran's favourite.

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Weaver/Street Family Bible Comes Home!

Category: Ancestors Corner

The Weaver/Street Family Bible
The Weaver/Street Family Bible

An amazing thing happened to me today. I was united with an old Family Bible which I hadn't known existed until recently. Three days ago, a lady emailed me through my website, having matched up some of my ancestral names to the names written in a Bible which she'd had in her possession for over 25 years. The book was originally discovered in a loft when she moved into a house in Plymouth in 1993. How and why it was there is a complete mystery.

The first few unprinted pages contain the names and dates of birth (and even times of birth) of the children of my 4 x great-grandparents, Robert Weaver and Sarah Street, together with the birth dates and parents' names of Robert and Sarah themselves. Discovering that Sarah's father and mother were John and Betty Streett was news to me and I was struck by the spelling of their surname with two t's at the end of Streett.

The Weaver/Street Family Bible
The Weaver/Street Family Bible

Robert and Sarah had eleven children but Jane, their eldest daughter who was born in about 1822 and died aged about six months, was not listed. Another daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in 1829 and died two years later, was named amongst the ten children.

Pages from the Weaver/Street Family Bible
Click the image for a larger version.

Pages from the Weaver/Street Family Bible
Click the image for a larger version.

It's some coincidence that the book should have turned up in Plymouth, where I live, when the Weaver family resided in the Somerset village of Curry Rivel. I doubt it would have come down to my maternal grandmother, Phyllis Grace Geake nee Weaver, who was born in Tavistock, Devon, because she lost touch with her father's family after being orphaned at a young age. She visited members of her family just before the Second World War but I feel certain that she would not have given the book away or sold it if it had been handed to her as an adult. I'm not currently aware of any other family links down this way either.

The Bible was printed in 1831 for the British and Foreign Bible Society and there is a handwritten note inside the cover as follows, "Langport Ladies Bible Association". Langport is the nearest town to Curry Rivel and the Ladies Bible Association would have been part of the Bible Society. I am speculating that either the Bible was purchased direct from the Langport division of the Society or offered back to this organisation at some stage.

Langport Ladies Bible Association Inscription
Langport Ladies Bible Association Inscription

I feel so privileged to be in possession of such a treasure and I am so grateful to Denise who has been a worthy custodian of the book in recent years and took the trouble to return it to a family member who I can guarantee will definitely appreciate it.

The Weaver/Street Family Bible
The Weaver/Street Family Bible

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Remembering George Harvey who fell at the Battle of Amiens

Category: On This Day...

George Harvey
George Harvey (1884-1918)

On the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Amiens, we remember Harvey's great-grandfather, George Harvey, who was wounded on 8th August 1918.

He was a Sapper in B Company, 9th Battalion, Canadian Engineers and received a gunshot wound to the shoulder whilst the '3rd Canadian Division successfully attacked the enemy positions between the Andrea Ravine and Hangard, inclusive, at 4.20am. During the course of the operations, Lieut. Byron, and 4 O.R.s [Other Ranks] who were with a party, under command of Lieut. Jones, were wounded.'

George was taken to No. 9 General Hospital at Rouen where he succumbed to his wounds and died on 10th August. He is buried in St Sever Cemetery Extension in Rouen.

Headstone of George Harvey
The Headstone of George Harvey in St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France

George is commemorated on the War Memorial in his home town of Newlyn in Cornwall and is also memorialized on a stone in the wall of the Centenary Primitive Methodist Church, which is situated at the top of Boase Street where he lived in 1909.

Stone in Memory of George Harvey
The Stone laid in Memory of George Harvey in the Wall of the Centenary Primitive Methodist Church in Newlyn

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Remembering Granny Hibbitt

Category: On This Day...

Ivy Alice Dando (1927)
Ivy Alice Dando (1927)

Remembering my Granny Hibbitt on the anniversary of her death, seen here in 1927, probably on Grandpa's bike.

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New Family Tree Charts

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

I've revised my pedigree charts of our direct ancestors which are available at http://www.hibbitt.org.uk/treereports.html

They can still be viewed in PDF format, although the layout is slightly different than before. In addition, the same charts can now be viewed as single web pages.

I've also created a couple of Ancestor Fan Charts which display our direct ancestors in a circular format out to 7 generations.

Pedigree Chart
Pedigree Chart

Ancestor Fan Chart
Ancestor Fan Chart


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Marriage record finally opens doors to a brick wall

Category: Ancestors Corner

What a difference one little word can make on a historical document! Today's tip is to always view as many versions of an original record that you can possibly find.

For a long time I'd been unable to move beyond my 4 x great-grandmother, that is until now. I knew she was born in approximately 1786 or 1787 and that she may have been born in Widecombe-in-the-Moor in Devon although one census documented her birth place as Tavistock where she was living at the time.

Elizabeth Gale married my 4 x great-grandfather, Samuel Hellier, in Tavistock in 1815 but I could find no Elizabeth Gales baptised in either Widecombe or Tavistock in the correct time frame.

Then recently someone mentioned in the Devon Family History Society Facebook Group that FamilySearch had added to their collection of Devon Bishop's Transcripts (1558-1887). I'd already seen copies of Samuel and Elizabeth's marriage in the Parish Registers but the Bishop's Transcripts contained one vital piece of information which was missing from the other records. Elizabeth was described as a widow and so Gale would not have been her maiden name.

The marriage record between Samuel Hellier & Elizabeth Gale showing Elizabeth was a widow
The marriage record between Samuel Hellier & Elizabeth Gale showing Elizabeth was a widow

Armed with this new information, I soon found a marriage between a man called Gale and an Elizabeth; James Gale married Elizabeth Carton in Tavistock on 22nd July 1806.

James was a mason by trade but when their eldest daughter, Eliza, was born he was a hellier, an occupational name for a slater or tiler of roofs or a thatcher. This struck me as strange considering that Elizabeth later married Samuel Hellier who was himself a mason.

James and Elizabeth had three children but James died in 1812 and was buried on 5th March, less than four months before their infant daughter, Jane, was buried. That must have been a terrible year for Elizabeth.

Elizabeth had a son by Samuel called William Hellier who was my 3 x great-grandfather. Samuel was a widower when he'd married Elizabeth, having previously been married to Thomasin Langworthy. They'd had a son in 1802 called Thomas.

I promptly found Elizabeth's baptism on 12th November 1787 in Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Her full name was Elizabeth Wills Certon (note the different spelling from Carton). She was the daughter of John Kerton and Joan, nee Cleave. The name also appears as Kirton and Kirten in various records.

Through finding the word, widow, on a single document, I was able to trace the Kerton line back to my 9 x great-grandfather, Richard Kerton, who lived in Bickington in Devon and was probably born around 1650.

Elizabeth Certon's Ancestors
Elizabeth Certon's Ancestors

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DNA uncovers a family secret

Category: DNA

A new DNA match recently appeared in our match lists (I'll call her Sally - not her real name) which revealed something about my maternal grandmother's uncle that I feel sure my gran never knew about. Richard Arthur Weaver, brother of my great-grandfather, Henry James Weaver, had an illegitimate child before he was married.

I've said before how my gran lost touch with her father's family having been orphaned at the age of four so it's not surprising that my gran probably wouldn't have known this. See my previous blog post at http://www.hibbitt.org.uk/blog/item/463 which mentions how my gran visited the family many years later.

At first, it wasn't obvious how Sally and I were related and so I set about reviewing the evidence and eliminating suspects. Sally is my third cousin and a second cousin once removed to my mum and aunt. Richard Weaver was her great-grandfather and so we share common ancestors in our 2 x great-grandparents, William Henry Weaver and Jane (nee Arnold).

This is how I worked out the relationship. Sally shares 120 centimorgans across 7 segments of DNA with my mum. I used the calculator at https://dnapainter.com/tools/sharedcmv4 which confirmed my suspicions that the match had to be reasonably close. Most of these segments even passed down to my brother, one generation below.

Sally's grandmother, Laura, was born in July 1901 and I managed to find Laura's baptism which included Weaver as a middle name. Her full name was Laura Bessie May Weaver PAYNE. My gran's maiden name was Weaver so this immediately gave me a clue as to which side of my family I needed to concentrate on. I had already drawn the conclusion that the connection was likely to be on my mum's maternal side because two paternal first cousins of my mum and aunt have taken a DNA test and neither of them are a match to Sally.

I began looking for likely candidates as to who might have fathered Laura. I felt that our 2 x great-grandfather, William Henry Weaver, was a little too far out of range for the amount of shared DNA, and probably too old for a young girl to be interested in him (although not impossible of course). This left my great-grandfather, Henry, and his older brother, Richard, in the frame. If it was Henry, who was 18 when Laura was born, then Sally would be my mum's half first cousin once removed. The DNA match falls within range but is less likely than if it was Richard who was 26 when Laura was born. In this scenario, Sally would be my mum's second cousin once removed and this was more of a comfortable fit, DNA-wise.

These were pointers rather than definite conclusions because DNA inheritance is random and there is quite a bit of overlap in the amount of DNA someone can share with a cousin. I had to find something to tie Richard to Lily Payne, the mother of Laura, so I looked up the newspapers on FindMyPast and, lo and behold, this is what I found.

28th September 1901 in the Chard and Ilminster News...

CASE ADJOURNED. - Richard Weaver, of Fivehead, had been summoned by Lily Payne, of Isle Abbots, to show cause, etc. but the case was adjourned.

The Chard and Ilminster News, 28th September 1901
The Chard and Ilminster News, 28th September 1901

Then on 2nd November 1901, again in the Chard and Ilminster News...

SETTLED CASES. -...The case adjourned from the last Court in which Richard Weaver was summoned by Lily Payne to show cause, etc., had also been satisfactorily arranged by the parties.

The first article mentioned that Richard lived in the village of Fivehead which lies between his home village of Curry Rivel in Somerset and Lily's home village of Isle Abbotts. I had no other documentation placing him in Fivehead including the 1901 census when he was living in Curry Rivel only a few months before Laura was born. Nevertheless, I couldn't find any other Richard Weavers in the locality that could have been the father and, of course, we had the DNA too.

Lily Payne was born on 2nd November 1882 and her parents were James Payne and Susan (nee Lewis). Lily was almost 17 years old when she was baptized on 18th October 1899 in Isle Abbots.

I subsequently found Lily had another child called Gwendoline Gertrude Weaver PAYNE baptised in 1908 but born in 1903 so it looks quite possible that Richard had a second child by her.

In 1906, Lily Payne went on to have yet another child called Reginald Harold Marsh Payne but I'm guessing he had a different father called Marsh. Then in 1910, Lily married Thomas Edmonds and they had a son together, Donald Clarence P Edmunds/Edmonds, in 1912. Lily died in 1928 and is buried at Fivehead.

Richard Weaver married Alice Trott in 1906 and, as far as I can tell, they never had any children of their own. Richard had a long career as a postman but started out following in his father's footsteps in the shoemaking business. He took it up again after he retired from the Post Office and died in 1949, being outlived by Alice.

Laura married Herbert Gerald Young in 1923 and had three boys. She died in Bournemouth in 1963.

Gwendoline married Joseph H Manns in 1921 and I believe she died in December the following year after having a daughter called Phyllis.

Reginald married Annie Rebecca Stait in Tidenham, Gloucestershire, in 1929 and they had a daughter. He passed away in Newport in 1986.

Finally Donald married Dorothy L West in 1939 and he died in 1966.

My 2 x great-grandfather, William Henry Weaver, was also illegitimate and, to date, his father is a complete brick wall. Perhaps Sally's and my close family's DNA working in tandem may one day solve this mystery too.

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