Category: Ancestors Corner

Were my Whorwood family well connected?

Category: Ancestors Corner


My 7 x great-grandmother, Susanna, was the daughter of Edward Whorwood. She was born in Oldswinford in about 1652 which was during the time of the Commonwealth, before Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector. Researching this time period can be problematic as there are many missing entries in Parish Registers. This phenomenon has become known as the 'Commonwealth Gap' and the difficulty can often extend from the beginning of the English Civil Wars in 1642 through to the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. For this reason, I've been unsuccessful in discovering the name of Susanna's mother as I've not yet found a marriage entry for her parents. Nevertheless, the baptism records seem fairly complete and so I've managed to ascertain that Susanna was the third child in a family of seven.

Susanna York, nee Whorwood, was living with her grand-daughter, Anne Blagg, when she wrote her will in Jan 1728. Susanna died in September that same year and it was her request that she be buried near her husband, Edward York, in the Churchyard at Oldswinford. An inventory taken of Susanna's possessions mentions a brewhouse within her dwelling - the ale and beer were stored in the cellar. Her worldly goods were virtually the same as those listed in her husband's inventory taken seven years earlier.

The Whorwoods were an old Staffordshire family and I've seen references to them going back to the 1400's. They were well connected and influential, owning manors, marrying into the House of Grey, having links to the Dudleys, becoming Members of Parliament, High Sheriffs and Knights of the Realm. The Whorwood name appears in Staffordshire Parish Registers as far back as 1517 when we find a baptism of an Anne Whorwood, daughter of William, in Tipton. However, proving Edward Whorwood's (Susanna's father's) parentage is decidedly difficult.

There were Whorwoods in Kinver, not far from Oldswinford, in the early 17th century but I have an inkling that a baptism in Bobbington, Staffordshire, in 1625 could possibly belong to 'my' Edward. This was the same year Charles I came to the throne. The father of this Edward was a Gerrard Whorwood. One of Edward's sons, born in about 1654, carried this same name. However, this is not enough to go on to be sure I am on the right track.

There may be another clue but, again, this is by no means conclusive. Edward's first daughter, Ann, was baptized in January 1648. A second daughter, also an Anne, was baptized in 1650. It was the custom for a child to bear the name of an elder sibling if their namesake had died but I couldn't find a burial for the first child in Oldswinford. Nevertheless, I did find a burial of an Anne Whorwood in June 1648 in Bobbington, although there is no age listed. Could this be Edward's eldest daughter? Did the family take her back to Edward's original home for burial? We simply cannot be certain.

Finally, if Gerrard Whorwood was indeed Edward's father then it looks as though Edward had a sister named Susan or Susanna. She was baptized in Bobbington in 1630 and married John Knocker there in 1667. Might Edward's daughter, Susanna, have been named after her aunt? The evidence is circumstantial and these conclusions remain purely speculative at this stage.

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18th Century Barbers with a Gruesome Sideline

Category: Ancestors Corner

Barbers PoleCatching up once more with my York family from Oldswinford, Worcestershire, the parents of my 5 x great-grandfather, George York, were yet another George York and his wife, Hannah nee Littleford.

6 x Great-Grandpa George had an unusual occupation. In 1711, he took on an apprentice called Francis Tole so he could learn from George how to become a barber-surgeon and periwig maker. You may be familiar with the red and white poles which would regularly appear outside barber shops. This used to represent the blood and bandages used to clean up bloodletting which was one of the main tasks of the barber-surgeon together with early dentistry (teeth extraction), performing enemas and surgery, selling medicines and not to forget, shaving and cutting hair.

The profession developed in medieval times but eventually surgery became a separate profession and barbers were increasingly forbidden to carry out surgical procedures except for teeth extraction and bloodletting, as if that wasn't bad enough! The two professions were finally separated by George II in 1745 when the London College of Surgeons was established.

George York's father, Edward York, was a tailor by trade, as was another of Edward's sons, Henry York. Henry was the grandfather of Thomas Crane who you might recall from an earlier post was the cousin named as an executor in 5 x Great-Grandpa George York's will.

Another son, John, was described as a victualler living in Amblecote, Staffordshire and later he was an innholder in Stourton, Kinver, in the same county. John was mentioned in his mother, Susanna's will, together with a number of other siblings but he died shortly after his mother's death and before probate was granted.

Besides Edward and Susanna's seven children which I have listed on my tree, there are a number of baptisms for other children who may also have been their offspring. However, there remains some ambiguity about these and so I have chosen not to include them.

Susanna's maiden name was Whorwood and my next post will shed further light on her ancestry.

Did any of your ancestors have an unusual occupation? Please share your stories in the comments section of my blog or on Facebook.

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George York's will breaks down my genealogical brick wall

Category: Ancestors Corner

Will belonging to George York of Kidderminster
Will belonging to George York of Kidderminster

Today's genealogy tip: when you come up against a brick wall sometimes collaboration can be key. It's wise to carry out your own research as much as you can beforehand as it's not fair to expect others to do all the spadework for you. Two heads are often better than one and it may be that you can help other family historians with their research making it a mutually beneficial exercise.

You may recall in a previous post that I was trying to obtain a second will in the name of George York from Kidderminster. Having acquired the first will which didn't belong to my family (he may be an, as yet, unknown distant cousin) I did manage to get hold of the second one via the Worcestershire Archives Digitisation Service. This time I hit the jackpot - the will belonged to my 5 x great-grandfather, George York, who died in 1767.

George's will was straightforward, leaving his four properties in Franche, Kidderminster, to his wife, Hannah (nee Dixon). After her death or remarriage, the various houses were to be divided between George's four children, together with the residue of his estate.

I was able to confirm my suspicion that George, who was a yeoman, had previously been married to Ann Youngjohns. Ann died a couple of years after their nuptials but they had a son called Henry who was mentioned in the will.

A crucial piece of the puzzle in trying to trace further back in time was that George named his cousin, Thomas Crane of Habberley, as one of his executors. Low Habberley, where Thomas lived, is not far from Fanche but there were quite a number of Crane families in the area so it wasn't easy trying to work out who was who. I was fortunate to find a tree on Ancestry constructed by a descendant of Thomas Crane and the tree owner was very helpful in supplying me with the information I needed to confirm how George and Thomas were related.

George was born in 1727 in Old Swinford (called Oldswinford nowadays) which is in Stourbridge. There were quite a number of York families in and around Stourbridge so it was vital to eliminate them one by one, finishing up with Thomas Crane being George's 1st cousin once removed; George's father and Thomas' grandfather were brothers.

One small mystery remains. George mentioned in his will 'my Son in law Job Mitchel' to whom he gave 'two of the largest pewter Dishes that were his Mothers before her intermarriage with me'. I have been unable to figure out how Job fits into the family but it might be that son-in-law meant something different in the 18th century than it does today.

Finding George's will opened doors to several more generations. More on them soon!

If you've managed to break down any genealogical brick walls please share your experiences in the comments section of my blog or on Facebook.

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York families of Kidderminster

Category: Ancestors Corner

St Mary & All Saints Church, Kidderminster
St Mary & All Saints Church, Kidderminster

On my father's side, my 3 x great-grandmother, Hannah, who married Edmund Cotterill had been a long-standing brick wall until recently when I managed to make some progress.

I hadn't been certain of Hannah's maiden name although I had previously found a marriage between an Edmund Cotterill and a Hannah Smith. The censuses told me that my Hannah was born in Kidderminster in about 1799 but I could not find a baptism for a Hannah Smith with these details.

The breakthrough came when it became clear that Hannah's original name was not Smith. She had been married before and William Smith was her first husband. Hannah's father's name was recorded as George York in the register when she married Edmund and I then quickly discovered a baptism for Hannah York on 25th March 1799 in Kidderminster.

Hannah was the youngest and only daughter of five known children of George York and Elizabeth (nee Price). When George died it was his daughter, Hannah, who acted as his executor.

Elizabeth's heritage is still unknown but George York was the son of another George York and his wife, Hannah (nee Dixon). This couple were married in Kidderminster in 1751 and three children were born there between about 1754 and 1760.

I recently ordered a couple of wills from the Worcestershire Archives belonging to two different George Yorks of Kidderminster. One was not available but I'm still trying to obtain a copy and, unfortunately, the other didn't appear to belong to either of my Georges. I have a suspicion that my Yorks may have originated from Oldswinford near Stourbridge but, as yet, this is unproven.

Image: From Google Street View

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Photo of Harvey's gt-gt-grandmother, Maria Bunstone Thomas, nee Guy

Category: Ancestors Corner

Maria Thomas, nee GuyA member of Harvey's family recently sent us some information regarding the family history as well as some photographs.

One of the photos was of Harvey's 2 x great-grandmother, Maria Bunstone Thomas (nee Guy). She was apparently posing for the newspaper for what they supposed was her 100th birthday, but she was actually 99.

Click here to view the complete image.

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Susanna Stinchcomb: my ancestor's maiden name finally revealed

Category: Ancestors Corner

I've been researching my family history since 2007 and it is only just recently that I believe I have discovered the maiden name of my 6 x great-grandmother, Susanna, who was married to John Dando, the elder.

Their marriage had eluded me until a distant cousin and Dando descendant pointed me in the direction of some records produced by the Bristol & Avon Family History Society at In the Downloads section there is a link to a transcript of Bristol St James Church Marriages 1559-1753. The following entry is listed:

15 Mar 1740/1 - John Dando - Susanna Stinchcomb

I knew that John and Susanna's eldest son was born in about 1743 so this marriage, which took place in 1741 using our modern-day Gregorian calendar, fits nicely in the timeline.

I don't have details of where Susanna hailed from or who her parents might have been and I suspect, but have no proof, that John Dando was originally from Rangeworthy in Gloucestershire. The first definitive evidence I'd had of the couple is when they were living in Dursley, Gloucestershire, their children being born and baptized there between 1743 and 1760.

I have mentioned before how John was engaged in starting up a meeting house for Calvinistic Methodists in the area, which became known as Dursley Tabernacle. The tabernacle was rebuilt in 1809 and there is a large plaque on the wall dedicated to John and Susanna but still I hadn't known her maiden name.

Although the spelling in the church register is Stinchcomb, this is most likely a variant of Stinchcombe. There happens to be high ground situated close to Dursley called Stinchcombe Hill from where magnificent views can be seen of the local area and beyond.

Views from Stinchcombe Hill near Dursley
Views from Stinchcombe Hill near Dursley.

John's son, also called John, moved to Bristol at the end of the 18th century and it was during this time and through the next generation, that the family hat-making business flourished.

John, the elder, kept a hat shop in Dursley and I've always been under the impression this was a parochial enterprise but maybe it was a little more prosperous than I'd imagined. If John was marrying in Bristol, then maybe he was purchasing raw materials at the port and cutting out the middle-man or perhaps he was selling his wares to the city's merchant classes. I doubt we shall ever know for sure. What I do know is that John Dando's Non-Conformist connections brought him into contact with the Countess of Huntingdon and, in 1771, he wrote a letter to her in which he discussed the hats he could supply so he was probably doing alright for himself. After his death, John's youngest son continued to run the hat shop in Dursley until his mother died, after which time he moved to London.

It's fascinating how a tiny piece of information transcribed from a parish record, can help build a picture of an ancestor. I now have a slightly different impression of John Dando, my 6 x great-grandfather, from learning that he travelled to Bristol to get married and I would hazard a guess that this was not a single event.

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17th century newsflash: Okehampton's thatched school house catches fire

Category: Ancestors Corner

Regular readers will know that I've been tracing backwards on my maternal grandfather's line, through my Edwards, Recket, Pudicome and Randall ancestors. Last time, I reached back to 1672 when my 7 x great-grandfather, Nathaniel Randall, was born in Okehampton in Devon. His father was John Randall and his mother was Jane (nee Wood).

John and Jane married on 27th October 1665 in Colan in Cornwall. They had five sons between 1666 (the year of the Great Fire of London) and 1676. The fire raged from the 2nd to the 5th September and their eldest son, William, was baptized just days later on the 11th September but thankfully, they were living a long way from London in Jacobstowe in Devon.

John Randall was appointed the Vicar of Colan in 1663 and in the following year he became the Rector of Jacobstowe. By 1670 his responsibilities had broadened when he became the schoolmaster at Okehampton Grammar School and the Chaplain at St James' Chapel, Okehampton.

Here is a transcript of the form of agreement which John signed...

"It is agreed on and fully consented to, that Mr. John Randall shall have liberty to teach scholars at the School House of the town and borough during the pleasure of the Mayor, Principal Burgesses and Assistants for the time being, and it is agreed on that the said Mr. Randall shall read Common Prayer at the Chapel mornings and evenings, and that he shall preach four Sessions Sermon every year, and that the said Mr. Randall shall instruct 6 or 8 poor children freely, such as the Mayor for the time being shall think fit, and that the said Mr. Randall for, and in consideration of his pains in the discharge of the duty incumbent upon him, shall have liberty to dwell in the school house, and that he shall have £15 yearly in the gift of the Mayor and Burgesses in recompense of his pains, and it is moreover agreed that the said Mr. Randall shall preach a sermon once every year at the election of the Mayor, provided it shall be free for the Mayor for the time being to have whom he pleaseth to preach at any session or election held for the town and borough. Witness our hands and seals this day," etc.

John had his own encounter with fire when, on 29th October 1670, the chimney in the school house caught ablaze. The thatch was destroyed but most of the timber was preserved and so the school house was rebuilt in the following year with "a chamber over it, and new heated".

On 13th May 1672, John Randall with the Mayor of Okehampton, the Vicar (Mr. Hussey) and many town inhabitants viewed some of the parish boundaries on Dartmoor Common. It was usual for the beating of the bounds, as it was called, to take place on Ascension Day or during Rogation week.

John died in 1680 and was buried at Jacobstowe on 8th December, described as the Rector of the Parish. He was buried in wool according to an Act of Parliament which was designed to protect the English woollen industry. He left no will but his estate was administered in 1681. The fate of his wife, Jane, is currently unknown.

Image courtesy of Sailom at

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100 Years But Not Forgotten

Category: Ancestors Corner

Henry James Weaver
Henry James Weaver. R.I.P.

I can't let today pass without marking the centenary of the death of my great-grandfather, Henry (Harry) James Weaver. I've blogged a number of times before about how he was accidentally killed when a bomb (hand grenade) prematurely detonated during training back at the base after serving in the trenches in WW1. Therefore, today I thought it would be fitting to simply post a photograph of my Granny Geake's father, whose presence in her life she dearly missed.

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Workday Wednesday: Cappen Sam, the right man in the right place

Category: Ancestors Corner

In 1893, Harvey's great-great-grandfather, Samuel Wright, was at the forefront of new technology. After three decades working with machines, he was put in charge of a new steam joinery works in Penzance, Cornwall, owned by Messrs Caldwell.

A newspaper article of the time goes into great detail about the new equipment. There was initially some concern that the labour-saving machinery would lead to unemployment in the trade but the reverse turned out to be the case.

It seems Samuel was head-hunted for the job as the newspaper states… The machinist and joiner, who was had down from Exeter to take charge of this branch, was Mr. Samuel Wright, and Messrs. Caldwell consider "Cappen Sam" is "the right man in the right place."

From The Cornishman newspaper article dated 1893
From The Cornishman newspaper article dated 1893

Site Updates - Barnes Family
[Why Workday Wednesday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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The Dark Room Mystery Remains

Category: Ancestors Corner

I was in London on Wednesday and, whilst I was there, I spent a few hours at the National Archives. My main purpose was to see if I could satisfy the family lore which suggests that Harvey's grandad, Cyril Ellen, had set up a dark room on a ship.

Cyril joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a Chief Petty Officer in April 1915 attached to the photographic department and he also undertook observer duties. I know he was on HMS Riviera from July 1915 to November 1916 so I looked up some of the ship's logs but unfortunately I couldn't find anything helpful. I didn't have time to order the logs for every month that he served on the ship so I picked out various individual months but nothing popped up.

The only mention of Cyril which I could find was on the 30th June 1915 at about 5pm and this wasn't a mention by name. This was the day before his service record states he joined HMS Riviera and simply reads...

"One C.P.O. (Air Service) rating joined ship".

Ship's Log for HMS Riviera - 30th June 1915
Ship's Log for HMS Riviera - 30th June 1915
(Click the image to see a larger version.)

Riviera was a seaplane tender which had been converted in 1914 from a cross-channel packet ship. She underwent a second conversion in early 1915 and saw service with the Dover Patrol whilst Cyril was on the ship. I'm aware there was a dark room onboard by 1918 but the exact date it was put there remains elusive. I also know Cyril got into a couple of scrapes in May and June 1916 but the log didn't reveal anything about these incidents.

After he left Riviera, Cyril gained a Commission and was drafted to Stavros in Greece (which was an airfield adjacent to the sea by the time he arrived) where he was engaged in photographic flights at low altitudes for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross gallantry medal.

So the question as to whether Cyril set up a dark room on a ship is still outstanding. I wonder if we'll ever find documentary evidence in support of this family tale.

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