Category: Ancestors Corner

It's official - Grandpa was in the Dad's Army

Category: Ancestors Corner

I'd long been intrigued by what looked like a certificate which had been issued by the Home Guard amongst the papers belonging to my Grandpa Hibbitt (Charles George Hibbitt). However I'd never had any success in finding anything out about any potential service in this local defence force during WWII. That was until recently.

The Home Guard Certificate which belonged to Charles George Hibbitt
The Home Guard Certificate which belonged to Charles George Hibbitt

A huge project of ten million service personnel records are gradually being transferred from the Ministry Of Defence to The National Archives. It used to cost £30 to apply to the MOD for a deceased person's record but now you can perform a request at https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-records-of-service/apply-for-the-records-of-a-deceased-serviceperson. If you apply online for a British Army or Home Guard record, the MOD will check if they hold it and, if they do, they'll send it to you free of charge. If they don't have it, you'll be told to check The National Archives.

At the end of July, I sent for my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard record as well as my Grandpa Geake's Army record. I was fortunate in that both were still with the MOD and even more fortunate that they both turned up within a couple of months. Initially I was told that nothing could be found for the Home Guard record so I sent back a copy of the certificate that we have in our possession and a couple of weeks later the record came in the post.

My Grandpa Geake's Army record is quite comprehensive with a lot of abbreviations and will take me some time to fully explore.

By contrast, my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard record consisted of two sides of one piece of paper with scant information on it. This isn't unusual but at least now I had official confirmation that Gramps had served in the force. I also discovered that he was with the 21st Devon (Post Office) Battalion, H.G. This made perfect sense as he was a General Post Office Telephone Engineer. His occupation on the form was noted as SWI POE Dept which stood for Skilled Workman Class I, Post Office Engineers Department.

The top of my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard Service Record
The top of my Grandpa Hibbitt's Home Guard Service Record
(Click the image above to see a larger version.)

A search on the internet proved almost fruitless. The only information I could find was that the 21st (33rd GPO) Battalion, Devon Home Guard had their headquarters in Plymouth and was made up of employees of the General Post Office. They wore khaki uniform and were tasked with protecting the communications equipment of the GPO.

My Grandpa lived in Tavistock, about 15 miles north of Plymouth, and was working there at the time too. Nevertheless my dad remembers Grandpa would drive down to Plymouth three or four times a week to carry out emergency work. Apparently the office was full of maps. The bombs would drop in the streets and the circuits would need to be rerouted by the jointers. A few plugs would be put into the telephone exchange and they could then change over to another route. It wasn't unheard of for the rerouted circuit to be knocked out at a later date and the same process would have to begin again. Grandpa later said his near-sight suffered as a result of reading all those plans during the blackout.

I imagine this work could have contributed towards Grandpa's Home Guard service although it's quite possible he was actively engaged in these activities before he was officially part of the force.

Originally, all members of the Home Guard were volunteers but in 1942 the National Service Act made it possible for compulsory enrolment to be applied in areas where units were below strength. There was a wealth of experience within the Home Guard. For example, in 1940 and 1941, approximately 40 percent of volunteers were World War I veterans and my Grandpa was no exception, having enlisted in the Royal Engineers on 6th November 1916, a month before his 18th birthday, and mobilized on 1st March 1917.

The Home Guard was eventually stood down on the 3rd December 1944 and from this date they became an inactive reserve unit. The archive online catalogue for the Box in Plymouth contains photographs of the Home Guard Stand Down on Plymouth Hoe dated 27th November 1944. Perhaps Grandpa was in attendance at this event. The Home Guard was finally disbanded on 31st December 1945 and ceased to exist from this date.

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In Search of Harvey's Huguenot Origins

Category: Ancestors Corner

Following on from my previous post about Harvey's 5 x great-grandfather, Josias Harley, I travelled back in time and discovered his parents were John Harley and Magdalen Lenoir. Actually, when Josias was baptized in the Huguenot Church they were named as Jean Harley and Madelaine Le Noir but I then found a Marriage Allegation and Bond with the alternative names/spellings.

Extract of the baptism of Josias Harley showing his parents as Jean Harley and Madelaine Le Noir
Extract of the baptism of Josias Harley
showing his parents as Jean Harley and Madelaine Le Noir

Those wishing to marry without the calling of banns in church could apply for a Marriage Licence. The applicant was usually the bridegroom but not always, and he would provide a bond and an allegation. The allegation (or affidavit) was a formal statement by the applicant about the ages, marital status and places of residence of the parties, usually including some statement of the groom's occupation, to which was added an oath that there was no legal impediment to the marriage. The bond was sworn by two witnesses, usually the groom, his father or a friend, in which they pledged to forfeit a large sum of money if there was any consanguinity (ie. if the couple were too closely related by blood to marry).

John Harley's allegation states he was of the parish of St Dunstan, Stepney in Middlesex. He was a weaver by trade, consistent with many people of Huguenot descent, and it turns out that he was also a widower. His signature on the allegation and bond would imply that he was literate too.

John Harley's signature on his marriage allegation
John Harley's signature on his marriage allegation


John Harley's signature on his marriage bond
John Harley's signature on his marriage bond

When part of the great wave of Huguenot religious refugees settled in Spitalfields in the late 17th century, the area still belonged to the large parish of Stepney. While the master weavers inhabited fine houses in Spital Square and its adjoining streets, the jobbing weavers, who carried out piece work for their employers, lived and worked in weavers' garrets, or in two-roomed cottages in Whitechapel or Bethnal Green.

Magdalen Lenoir was of the parish of St Thomas The Apostle and she was a spinster. St Thomas the Apostle was a church located in St Thomas Apostle Street but it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was never rebuilt. Instead, the parish was united with that of St Mary Aldermary and this was the church where John and Magdalen were married on 19th May 1743.

I don't know the name of John's previous wife and, besides Josias, I've found no other children belonging to John and Magdalen.

There was a possible burial for Magdalen Harley in 1751 in St Anne's Church, Soho, but equally, a widow of the same name married a Daniel Sirman in St Mary, Acton, Ealing in 1762. Perhaps neither of these were Harvey's ancestor but if I had to choose, I'd pick the 1751 burial.

There are a few possible baptisms for John/Jean Harley, including in the French Church in Threadneedle Street, but I don't know exactly when he was born so, at this stage, it's difficult to progress his lineage. Likewise, Magdalen/ Madelaine Lenoir/Le Noir also proves to be elusive. As such, I cannot say when Harvey's ancestors first arrived in this country but we know their descendants made their home here.

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Harvey's French Connection

Category: Ancestors Corner

It's been quite a while since I looked at Harvey's family tree but recently a new DNA match popped up in his results and it inspired me into doing some further investigation on one of their common family lines.

William and Maria Harley were Harvey's 4 x great-grandparents on his maternal side of the family. I'd previously stopped my research at this couple but now I decided to delve deeper. Their daughter, Maria Sarah Harley, (Harvey's 3 x great-grandmother) had been born in Chelsea in about 1801. Harvey supports Chelsea Football Club (as do I) and, who knows, perhaps his allegiance was always lurking somewhere in his genes, ha ha?

Initially, I found the Bishop's Transcript for William and Maria's marriage in St George, Hanover Square, Westminster, on 26th August 1800. Maria's maiden name was Howell and there were two witnesses listed, one being James Howell and one which looked like Jonas Harley. It should be noted that Bishop's Transcripts are records which were copied from the parish registers and sent off to the Bishop once a year. Therefore, it's quite possible to encounter a transcription error between the two original sources.

Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell as they appear in the Bishop's Transcripts
Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell
as they appear in the Bishop's Transcripts

There were no more conclusive records for a Jonas Harley and so I thought this might be the end of the line. However, I subsequently found the parish register on Ancestry and discovered that the signature of what had been transcribed in the Bishop's Transcripts as Jonas was actually Josias Harley. This put a whole new complexion on matters. I went on to find William's baptism in 1779 and, sure enough, his father was Josias. Incidentally, Maria's father was indeed James Howell.

Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell as they appear in the Parish Register
Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell
as they appear in the Parish Register

Working backwards, as all good family historians should do, I found a marriage between Josias Harley and Ann Russell. They too, married in St George, Hanover Square, on 13th January 1777. Josias and Ann had four known children between 1775 and 1785. Yes, it would seem their eldest daughter was born more than a year before they were married. They named her Magdalen, after Josias' mother.

I couldn't find anything more on Ann Russell but I discovered Josias had been born on 16th February 1749 and baptized on 2nd March that same year. It turned out the baptism was recorded in two churches and I'm not completely certain which one was the actual location where the service took place but the churches were linked to each other. They were listed as Threadneedle Street, London (French Huguenot) and Spitalfields, Middlesex (Walloon or French Protestant), an exciting discovery as this was the first time I'd made any potential connections with ancestors from the Continent in either Harvey's family or my own.

Walloons were French speaking people from a region that is now part of Belgium who came to England during the 16th century as refugees. Huguenots were a religious group of French Protestants who held to the Reformed, or Calvinist, tradition of Protestantism and who came to England in a couple of waves during the 16th and 17th centuries fleeing religious persecution. Most Walloons and Huguenots were well received because they were seen as allies and fellow-Protestants and were granted citizen's rights. At a time when English Nonconformists and Catholics were not allowed to worship freely, Walloons and Huguenots were allowed their own churches.

They settled mainly in London and the south-east of England, often setting up communities in distinct areas such as Soho in London, and brought much-needed skills and wealth that helped to boost England's economy. One particular skill was wool and silk weaving. In places like Canterbury and Spitalfields, Huguenot entrepreneurs employed large numbers of poorer Huguenots as their weavers. The Huguenots contributed overwhelmingly to the development of the textile, gun-making, silver, watch and clock-making industries, to the creation of the banking and insurance business as well as to the sciences and the arts. It's not surprising to find Josias was a watchmaker and also his son, William, who followed in his father's footsteps.

Although many welcomed Huguenot refugees, there were also some who reacted negatively to their arrival. Weavers, clockmakers and other craftspeople feared their jobs were threatened, while others resented the special favours given to the newcomers. During this period, there were occasional anti-foreigner riots, when poorer Huguenots were attacked.

The French-speaking Walloon church was founded in 1550 in the heart of the City at Threadneedle Street, and was widely considered throughout its long history as the Mother Church of French Protestantism in England. The second church building, erected by the congregation within three years of the original premises being destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, was to serve its congregation for over 170 years.

Following James II's Act of Indulgence in 1687, a significant number of Huguenot temples were built in Spitalfields to accommodate the new arrivals. Until then, the refugees had worshipped at Threadneedle Street but the Nonconformist Mother Church was becoming overcrowded. In 1729, Christ Church Spitalfields was consecrated, and Spitalfields became a parish in its own right. Over time the Huguenot population moved on and was assimilated, and by 1815 most of their temples had closed as congregations dwindled, or merged with the Mother Church at Threadneedle Street.

Josias Harley took on a couple of apprentices, one in 1779 when he was located in Pimlico and again in 1783 when we find him in Chelsea. In 1784, his residence was Ivory Farm in the Parish of St George Hanover Square where he was eligible to vote. Until 1832, most voters were freeholders and others who could meet property requirements so Josias must have been doing alright for himself.

He also appears in the Land Tax Records between 1795 and 1800 where he was resident in Chelsea and his proprietor was the Lord of the Manor. One record mentions Lower Sloane Street. This area was newly built at that time and was not far from the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The area was redeveloped in the 1870s-1890s and none of the original buildings remain.

Josias died at Cowley Street, Westminster, in 1812, a stones throw away from The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. His burial service took place on 13th December at St John the Evangelist in nearby Smith Square but the church was never used for burials. Instead, the church's burial ground is situated around the corner in Horseferry Road and is designated St John's Gardens. The remaining grave-slabs, now much eroded, are arranged around the perimeter of the garden and it's not known whether one bears the name of Josias Harley.

Cowley Street, Westminster, where Josias Harley died (Google Street View)
Cowley Street, Westminster, where Josias Harley died (Google Street View)

Next time, I go in search of Josias' parents.

References used for background information:
BBC Bitesize
The Huguenot Society

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A 1921 Census search proves tricky

Category: Ancestors Corner

Continuing with my searches in the 1921 census, I next decided to investigate the whereabouts of my Hibbitt family. It should be noted that I'm not the only one to notice the poor job that's been carried out in transcribing this particular census.

Although the original record shows the correct spelling, I found my paternal grandpa (Charles George Hibbitt) recorded under the name Hibbits. He was boarding with a family called Hill at 25 Trevanion Road, Wadebridge, Cornwall. At 22 years old, he was an Unestablished Skilled Workman in the Post Office Engineering Department. In other words, grandpa was working as a telephone engineer. He joined as a youth in April 1914, had a brief spell in the army at the end of WW1, and then went back to the G.P.O. until he retired. It's uncertain how long my Grandpa Hibbitt spent in Wadebridge but he was living in Tavistock, Devon, where most of his service took place, by the time he married in 1931.

My Grandpa, Charlie Hibbitt, at the telephone exchange
My Grandpa, Charlie Hibbitt, at the telephone exchange

My great-grandmother was Alice Hibbitt, nee Ridley, and I discovered her at 23 Clarendon Place in Plymouth. Although the road is no longer listed on modern day maps it was in the vicinity of Athenaeum Street, the Crescent and Crescent Avenue which are very close to the famous Plymouth Hoe. Alice is recorded as a housewife and, living with her, was her 24 year old daughter, Nellie, who later married Charles Martin. Mother and daughter lived together for much of the time, especially during the war and after my great-aunt Nell was widowed in 1942.

Alice and Nell Hibbitt at Wembury Beach
Alice and Nell Hibbitt at Wembury Beach

Although Alice and Nell appear as one household in the 1921 census, there was another family also residing at 23 Clarendon Place. Alice and Nell occupied three rooms and the Rendall family, consisting of two parents and a child, had two rooms. I know the Hibbitts were at Clarendon Place until at least 1923 because Alice's eldest son, Alfred Joseph Hibbitt, was mentioned as residing there in the court papers when his wife was seeking a judicial separation in January of that year.

What I haven't mentioned so far is the whereabouts of Alice's husband, Alfred Charles Newbold Hibbitt. Finding him in the 1921 census proved much more challenging than I'd expected. Alfred was a Chief Officer Coastguard in the Royal Navy and I already knew that he'd been invalided out of the service on 20th March 1920. Furthermore, I suspected he wasn't present at Nell's wedding in 1927 because my grandpa gave her away. I also knew Alfred had died in the Royal Naval Hospital at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, on 17th March 1928 and was buried in Caister Cemetery, located about 4.5 miles from the hospital. There's an interesting website about the hospital at http://www.rnhgy.org.uk

Inputting Alfred's name into FindMyPast's search didn't bring him up, no matter what name variation I tried. I needed to take another tack. I'd often wondered how long he'd been in the hospital before he'd died so I decided to look up the Royal Naval Hospital on the census. First, I went to Google Maps to see what street it was in so I could undertake an address search. Great! It appeared to be on Queen's Road or The Great Court but there was no mention of the hospital using the standard address search.

Not to be defeated, I did a bit of Googling to find out how to look up institutions in the census and I came across this web page. I was now armed with the Piece and Enumeration District numbers and was finally able to find the hospital pages in the census. The name of the Registrar was Lucy M Peaton and it so happens that she was the person who subsequently signed Alfred's death certificate. Looking through the transcribed names, I saw A Hilbert and thought this must be him. To be fair to the transcribers, in this case, the handwriting was awful and it's a wonder they even came this close. His age and marital status were correct and he was recorded as a Chief Officer C.Gd. in the R.N. I'd found my great-grandfather.

Alfred Hibbitt's name as it appears in the 1921 Census
Alfred Hibbitt's name as it appears in the 1921 Census

To me, it seems very likely he was in the hospital all the time from his retirement in 1920 until his death eight years later.

Great Yarmouth is about 350 miles from Plymouth and consequently, I wonder whether any of Alfred's family managed to visit him whilst he was there. This, we shall probably never know.

Alfred and Nell Hibbitt
Alfred and Nell Hibbitt

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Where were Smale my ancestors a century ago?

Category: Ancestors Corner

Having recently subscribed to the 1921 Census with FindMyPast, I've been looking up various branches of my family to see what they were up to back then. Today I'm concentrating on my Smale family who branch off my maternal line.

My first port of call was 22 Ford Street in Tavistock, Devon. There were 8 people at the address occupying a total of 4 rooms. For the purpose of the census, the rooms enumerated are the usual living rooms, including bedrooms and kitchens, but excluding sculleries, landings, lobbies, closets, bathrooms, or any warehouse, office or shop rooms.

The address was the home of my 2 x great-grandparents, William Henry Smale and Grace Smale (nee Martin). William was 56 years old and he'd had many occupations which included a farm servant, railway labourer, groom, mail cart driver and omnibus driver. However, in 1921, he was a Roadstone Quarrier and his place of work is stated as Devon County Council although this might actually be in the wrong column and the council might have been his employer, I'm not entirely sure.

William's wife, Grace, was older than him at 64 years of age and her occupation is shown as home duties. Likewise, her daughter (my gran's mother) Florence Weaver, nee Smale, is also recorded as undertaking home duties. The census was taken on 19th June 1921 and Florence was a 33 year old widow. Little would anyone have known that she would die within 2 months. The cause was mentioned in a contemporary newspaper as meningitis of the brain which she'd been ill with for about a week.

Number 22 was the address where my Granny Geake was born. In 1921 she was there as a 4 year old named Phyllis Grace Weaver. Her father is recorded as dead - he died in WW1 - and there's no mention that she might have begun attending school by then.

Grace Smale, nee Martin, with her grandaughter, Phyllis Grace Weaver, believed to be photographed on the doorstep of 22 Ford Street, Tavistock
Grace Smale, nee Martin, with her grandaughter, Phyllis Grace Weaver, believed to be photographed on the doorstep of 22 Ford Street, Tavistock

Also residing in the house were two of Florence's younger brothers, Charles Henry Smale and Percy Smale who were both serving in the Royal Navy. Two other men were boarding with the family; Clarence Hawkin, a cinema operator, and William Maunder, who was an out-of-work labourer.

Elsewhere, another of Grace Smale's daughters, Edith Ellen Martin (Martin was both her maiden name and her married name), was living with her husband, John, an unemployed carpenter's labourer, and their two children, (I knew them as Auntie Hilda and Uncle Jack), at 21 Fitzford Cottages, Tavistock. Hilda's husband-to-be was living not far away at number 18. I'd previously found the Martin family in the 1911 census residing in Curry Rivel, Somerset. John and Edith may have introduced my great-grandmother, Florence, to her husband, Henry James Weaver, as Curry Rivel was his home village. My gran went to live with the Martins after her grandmother, Grace, passed away in 1925. I can't be certain if they were still at Fitzford Cottages or whether the family had already moved to 43 Crelake Park by then.

Edith Ellen Martin at the front door of 21 Fitzford Cottages, Tavistock
Edith Ellen Martin at the front door of 21 Fitzford Cottages, Tavistock

Grace Smale's eldest son, William Martin, was living with his family not far away at 29 Exeter Street, Tavistock. Ten years earlier, in 1911, they'd been at 1 Vigo Bridge, Tavistock, which was previously the home of Williams' wife's family.

By 1921, William Martin's half-brother, Bertram Smale, was at the same house, 1 Vigo Bridge, with his wife and two sons. Bertram was an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy working at HMS Defiance in Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth. I too worked at HMS Defiance (now part of HMS Drake) over twenty years ago when the bank sub-branch was there.

William and Grace Smale's second daughter, Emily, was married to Peter Ingram and they were based at the Army Barracks & Military Hospital in Bodmin, Cornwall. They'd already had their first four children including two year old twins girls who my gran always kept in touch with.

My gran's Uncle Tom (Thomas Smale) was described in 1921 as a visitor (with 'boarder' crossed out) residing at 13 Killigrew Street, Falmouth, Cornwall. He was a signal porter with the Great Western Railway at St Dennis and later worked as a signalman in Tavistock from 1937 until he retired. Uncle Tom was the only one of that generation who I met as he lived until he was 95 years old and was still riding his bicycle around Tavistock when he was in his 90's.

This leaves two more sons of William and Grace. First there was Stanley George Smale who was boarding at Walkhampton with a family called Harris. Stanley was a groom, working for a J Woodman, horse trainer, at Yennadon near Dousland. Yennadon Down is a favourite area where I frequently go walking which overlooks Burrator Reservoir.

Finally, Philip Henry Smale was a 19 year old driver in the Army located at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Dundalk, Ireland. By a strange co-incidence, my paternal grandfather was born in the same road in 1898 about a mile and a half away in the coastguard cottages at Soldier's Point, Dundalk. Small world, as they say.

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Why might James Geake have been brought up in a family which was not his own?

Category: Ancestors Corner

In a previous post I demonstrated how DNA revealed that my great-grandfather, James Geake, wasn't the son of George Geake and Maria, nee Dearing, as was previously believed to have been the case. Today I'm going to explore what might have led to James being brought up by the Geakes.

Looking at old census records, we see various terminology to describe relationships. Take, for instance, the term, step-son. This was used correctly on the 1891 census for William Martin, who was the son of Grace Smale nee Martin because the head of the household and Grace's husband, William Smale, was not William Martin's father. Go back ten years when Grace was living with her own father, Philip Martin, William and his illegitimate sister, Edith, were described as son-in-law and daughter-in-law. Clearly they were Philip's grandchildren so it's surprising to see them referred to in this way.

Returning to the Geakes. James was listed as a son when he was living with George and Maria in both the 1881 census when he was just two months old and also in 1891. The interesting thing is that in 1868, George and Maria had a daughter called Sarah Ann who went on to have an illegitimate child in 1889 called Arthur. By 1891 Sarah was working as a domestic servant in Lifton with a family by the name of Colville. Arthur was living with George and Maria Geake near Peter Tavy and was correctly described as a grandson. He was still with his grandparents in 1901 but this time he was recorded as a son on the census.

In those days it wasn't unheard of for an unmarried daughter to have a baby which would subsequently be brought up as a child of her parents, ie. the grandparents would stand in as parents, but clearly Arthur's true relationship couldn't have been that much of a secret to have originally been described as George and Maria's grandson. The takeaway here is that relationship descriptions on census records can't always be relied upon.

So, is it possible that James was the son of one of George and Maria's children, Sarah Ann perhaps? The answer is that it's very unlikely for two reasons. Firstly, Sarah was the eldest and she was still only about 12 or 13 years of age when James was born. Secondly, the DNA match I referred to in my previous post who I named Emily was originally thought to have been a second cousin to my mum and others of her generation. If James had been the son of a child of George and Maria then this would make Emily my mum's second cousin once removed and would likely share DNA with James' descendants which she doesn't.

Descendants of Robert Geake and Mary Arscott
Descendants of Robert Geake and Mary Arscott

I next went on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for possibilities on another branch of the Geake family. George Geake's grandparents were Robert Geake and Mary Arscott. One of their sons was Walter Geake who'd served in the 64th Regiment of Foot and eventually became a Chelsea Pensioner. It must have been whilst serving in Ireland that Walter met Maria Boyd who became his wife within the Diocese of Elphin in 1840. One of their daughters was subsequently born in Sligo. Descendants of James Geake show connections to the Sligo area in their DNA.

Walter and Maria had four daughters who all eventually married. None of the grandchildren were old enough to have been James' parent so this left the daughters themselves. Again, DNA came into play. If James was descended through Walter's line we might have expected to find DNA matches to the Geakes and the Boyds. Remarkably, some of my relatives do in fact have tentative matches going back several generations which appear to match on the Geake and Arscott lines. However, I would have hoped to have discovered closer matches to descendants of Walter and Maria if this was how we fitted in. It still remains a possibility that we could have come down through Walter and Maria and just have been unlucky to date that no-one more closely related has taken a DNA test but I am not yet convinced.

I'm not writing off any involvement that Walter and his Irish wife, Maria, nee Boyd, might have had though. Because the DNA has a strong connection to Sligo, I wonder whether Walter and Maria had an influence in bringing James (or his birth mother) to Devon. Perhaps his biological family knew the Boyds. It's difficult otherwise, to see how a child with close genetic links to the Sligo and Mayo areas of Ireland might have ended up in Devon.

Might his mother have died in childbirth? Could she have been unmarried or too poor to support him? What about his father? Were the Geakes financially compensated in any way? Adoption wasn't legalized in England until 1926 so could the informal arrangement have been organised by a third party? There are still many unanswered questions. Only DNA may be able to resolve some of them one day as no documented records are likely to reveal the truth.

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A Dando family puzzle - Mystery solved

Category: Ancestors Corner

The North American and Daily Advertiser, (Philadelphia, PA) - 26 August 1844
The North American and Daily Advertiser, (Philadelphia, PA) - 26 August 1844

Some time ago, whilst I was trying to investigate my 3 x great-grandmother, Harriet Catherine Dando, nee Williams, I came across this notice in the North American and Daily Advertiser, (Philadelphia, PA) dated Monday 26th August 1844. Harriet was the fifth wife of my 3 x great-grandfather, Joseph Dando, the Younger.

I'd originally found myself a bit stumped as to who everyone mentioned in the article was but I've finally managed to piece it all together. The Joseph mentioned was likely to be my 3 x great-grandfather's son, Joseph Clifford Dando, born in 1830 to his second wife, Helen Sheriff (or Stirling). There's some ambiguity over her surname. Then Charles is probably Charles Sterling Dando, born in 1833. He was baptised as Charles Sheriff Dando but later went by the name Sterling Dando. There were other Charles Dandos living at that time so this had initially led to some confusion.

Then there was the question of who was Stephano Dando, as it looked in the article. I'd previously thought it was meant to read as Stephen Dando. Joseph Dando, the Younger, had an Uncle Stephen who was still alive and lived in New York so I'd wondered if he might have travelled home to visit family. Not so.

Various Dando descendants around the globe have in their possession handwritten family trees and these all mention a Stevannah Dando but I could find no record of someone by that name. According to these family trees, she was purportedly the daughter of Joseph Dando, the Younger, and his third wife, Jane Clark, whom he married in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1836. Jane died on 31st December 1839.

Then recently, I found a burial and death record for a Stephana Dando in Bristol in 1847. She lived at Castle Green where I know her father, Joseph, lived around then. She was 9 years old when she was buried on 2 April 1847 in the Parish of St Augustine the Less, thus she would have been born in about 1838, most likely in Philadelphia, which fits with the timeframe when Joseph was married to Jane. The 1844 journey to England would confirm why her death was recorded in this country.

I'm in the habit of considering name variatons when researching family history but I've never before come across the name, Stephana, (not to mention the Stevannah misspelling) so this is why I'd had difficulty in joining all the dots.

Something I still haven't ascertained is when did Joseph Dando, the Younger, travel back to England. Joseph and Harriet had my 2 x great-grandfather, William Elbert Dando, in 1843. When did he come back to England and why did such a young child not travel with his mother? Perhaps one day I'll find Joseph and William Elbert together on a passenger list.

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The Career Of Air Commodore C.N. Ellen D.F.C. a.k.a. Harvey's Grandad

Category: Ancestors Corner

The Service Orders, Leave Clearance Certificates, etc. file
The Service Orders, Leave Clearance Certificates, etc. file

About seven years ago, I began scanning some documents in a file which had belonged to Harvey's Grandad Ellen, labelled "Service Orders, Leave Clearance Certificates, etc.". It was jam-packed with papers and forms spanning the whole of his career starting from when he joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in 1915 right through to the end of his career in the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1946.

The scanning was a big task and I found myself pausing about a third of the way through the pile. That pause was only halted at the end of December last year when I picked up the job once again.

Since arriving at the end of this particular digitisation project, I've now produced a web page which outlines the long and varied career of Air Commodore Cyril Norman Ellen D.F.C. which can be viewed here.

I found his career very interesting which included; undertaking Observer duties in the First World War when he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, flying the Cairo to Baghdad Airmail Route at its inception in 1921, writing a wireless course for the RAF Cadet College in 1927, Commanding No. 5 (AC) Squadron in Quetta when the notorious earthquake hit the region in 1935, commanding three RAF technical training schools during the Second World War, assisting the Deputy Chief of Air Division in Berlin in 1946, and then going on to hold appointments with the Control Commission under the Foreign Office.

I met Harvey about 18 months after his grandad died which is a real shame as I would have liked to have known him.

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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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