The. v. daye of Septembre his Lordshyp in his approchynge nyghe to
Sheltered to the north by Titlington Pike, to the Northeast by Jenny’s Lantern and to the East by Brislee Wood and Alnwick Moor, Bolton Chapel looks south over rolling farmland and west towards Cheviot. A peaceful pastoral scene but the ground on which it stands is saturated with centuries of history. A muster point for the English army en route to Flodden in 1513 is amongst the many events it witnessed. The Chapel is one of the 24 local sites featured by the Flodden Ecomuseum created to mark the quincentenary of the Battle. A comprehensive overview of its history can be freely downloaded from Flodden 1513 ‘Legends and Legacy’ website. But Bolton is also the final resting place of members of the Heslop family, the subject of this month’s blog.
As DNA ‘wish lists’ go, mine may be a little ambitious. Looking for clues to the predecessors of John Thompson, a 5th great grandfather who died in 1810, I continue to investigate associated connections whenever I get an opportunity. Time spent bringing a family tree forward to the present is as beneficial to the understanding of our ancestral heritage as pushing back further into the past. Establishing names of living descendants in collateral lines not only helps identify matches with little or no family tree, but also provides names of potential testers. Investigating collateral lines invariably unearths some interesting characters and stories along the way too.
I have a good DNA match for the genetic distance (29 cMs) with a descendant of Margaret Thompson, one of the nine daughters of John Thompson and his wife Ann Grey. Margaret was also the wife of William Hogg famer at South Acton, Buckton and Kyloe and in last month’s blog I mapped out some of William’s earlier ancestors. Not as it would necessarily provide me with answers to my Thompson mystery, but for interest and to check for undetected cousin marriages that might influence subsequent DNA theories. This branch of the family, like many other farming families in the region, intermarried many times. Intermarriage between cousins has the potential to distort the amounts of DNA shared between matches. Research on the Hogg line to date does not suggest any earlier connections, therefore the DNA that I share with my 5c1r is likely to be DNA we have inherited from our mutual Thompson/Grey ancestors.
To confuse things slightly, John Thompson and his wife Ann Grey are a set of my 5th great grandparents twice over. This is due to a marriage between two of their grandchildren, Isabella Thompson and John Aynsley who were first cousins. After Isabella’s premature demise in 1842, John Aynsley married her 1st cousin, Jane Mole.
John Thompson is buried at Felton with his wife Ann Grey (d. 1812) and three of their eleven children; William (d. 1783 aged 2,) Isabel (d.1787 aged 3) and Ann (the first of the name who died in 1788 aged 15.) Of the remaining 8 children there were 7 daughters and one son, John Thompson junior. Their son John Thompson junior, married Hannah Mole at Whittingham in June 1806 and are also 4th great grandparents.
Of their seven remaining daughters:
William Heslop was born at Marwood, near Barnard Castle in 1778. At some point following the death of his mother, Mary Jervais, at Barnard Castle in 1792, he and his siblings moved north as children with their father William Heslop senior. William senior died at Low Broome Park, Bolton, where he was a tenant, in 1824. A memorial to him appears on the reverse of the headstone for his son Thomas. It stands in a prominent position close to the path in the Chapel graveyard. His Will of 1823 is one of the briefest I have seen.
The witnesses to his meagre bequests were a John and George Thompson, who had not dissimilar hands. Whilst the Will proved little, the associated probate bond provided enough information to confirm that John Thompson was a farmer at Titlington, a 4th great grandfather to me and therefore brother to Eleanor Thompson his daughter in law. But who was George Thompson, farmer at Shawdon Hill? He isn't a brother to John but could some level of kinship have existed between them? If so, it has yet to be determined. There is certainly a George Thompson baptising children at Sion Meeting House (Presbyterian) in Alnwick around the same time as John Thompson Senior of Overshiels. A connection is possible, but typically, their non-conformism is hampering progress.
Children of Eleanor Thompson and William Heslop
William and Eleanor had four sons: William b.1811, John b 1813, Thomas b. 1815 and Robert b. 1817.
The youngest, Robert, died aged 4 in November 1821. Son John, although he married an Elizabeth Wharrier who had a daughter that took his name after marriage, the couple had no children of their own. If there were to be any living descendants, they would stem from offspring of brothers William and Thomas.
William Heslop junior of Overthwarts
In 1836 William Heslop junior married Elizabeth Lee by Licence at Eglingham, witnessed by Elizabeth’s mother Cecily and William’s brother John. By 1841 three children had joined the family in Overthwarts Farmhouse on Alnwick Moor (these days a stylish holiday home), Eleanor b.1838, William b.1839 and Cecily b. 1840, who died in 1850. A further five sons were born to the couple between 1843 and 1851: Joseph b.1843, Robert b.1846, John b. 1848, Thomas b. 1850 and Andrew b.1851. Joseph died aged 3 in 1848 and Andrew aged 7 months in 1852. Their mother Elizabeth followed in April 1853. In 1867 William Heslop married his cousin Ann Coxon, daughter of his mother’s sister Sarah Thompson, and her husband Robert Coxon. Nonetheless, with five children surviving to adulthood, there ‘should’ be plenty of living descendants with clues to the Thompson family history lurking in their DNA. But how wrong could I be!
John Heslop left farming and became a Grocer near Tynemouth. He died unmarried in 1873. Brothers Thomas and Robert farmed at Fenrother and both also died unmarried. Robert in 1894, and Thomas at Lennor Cottage, Seahouses in 1938. Sister Eleanor was another sibling not to marry. The only one of the five surviving children to wed was William, who married an Elizabeth Thompson at Felton in 1874. Was she a cousin? Initial research suggests her father was John Thompson, a farmer at Elyhaugh and her mother Elizabeth Coxon. Confused? Me too! A further foray into the Coxon lineage is required to establish clarity.
William Helsop junior and Elizabeth Thompson farmed at Low Town, Longframlington. Only one of their four children, daughter Elizabeth, married. She and her husband John Hush, farmed at neighbouring High Weldon. No children also marks the end of this branch of the Heslop family.
Summary: 8 Children 4 grandchildren = no living descendants.
Thomas Heslop of Battle Bridge
The Banns were read for Thomas Helsop's marriage to Elizabeth Laidler, daughter of Joseph Laidler, farmer at Haigsfield, Berwickshire, at Eccles in the Spring of 1851. They coincided with those for the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister Grace to Edward Donkin. (Edward was 1st cousin to the unfortunate Barbara Collin Donkin, killed by lightning at the home of her Uncle, Ralph Carnaby, on the eve of her own marriage in 1837.) The minister of Cornhill married both couples on 3rd June. It is interesting to note that Joseph Laidler was a native of Edlingham – an example of the fluidity of movement in both directions across the Border.
Already farming at Lemmington Bank at the time of his marriage, by 1861, Thomas had taken over the tenancy of Battle Bridge from his uncle Philip Heslop. Between 1852 and 1868 he and Elizabeth Laidler had seven children:
The Heslop family’s time at Battle Bridge was cut short following a tragic shooting accident. Thomas had set out early one morning in June to shoot pigeons but was found dead soon after breakfast.
The inquest returned the verdict of ‘accidentally shot’. Thomas lies buried at Bolton, alongside his wife and children Catherine and Elizabeth.
He clearly enjoyed the old traditional field sports too. In January of the same year he attended the inaugural meet of ‘Major Brown’s Foxhounds’ at Lesbury House in the company of his Hogg and Coxon cousins and many other Northumberland farmers. It was a good day for both humans and foxes alike. Following a hearty breakfast ‘a la fourchette’ with ‘ale and wine liberally provided for all comers,’ the hounds drew ‘a wide extent of country without success and were finally taken off to kennels at Powburn.’
Thomas witnessed a piece of history in the making. Some of the hounds purchased by Major Browne in 1870 feature in the pedigrees of the present Percy pack. A full account of the day features in the Saturday 8th January 1870 edition of the Alnwick Mercury, available through the British Newspaper Archive.
Elizabeth and her children, some still very young, continued to live and farm at Battle Bridge for a few years following Thomas' death. In August 1873, a notice appeared in the newspaper suggesting she began the process of winding up his affairs. By the time of the 1881 census Battle Bridge was in the hands of Robson Turnbull, a Scottish born Shepherd and former employee at Titlington Mount. Elizabeth and her youngest daughter Mary Ann had moved to Whitley Bay, then little more than a village known simply as Whitley. In 1891 she was living with sons, William and Thomas, in Prudhoe St, in the Chirton area of North Shields.
Son William was a Grocer and Thomas a Draper. His drapery business appears to have grown to a substantial size with premises at 1,3 and 5 Saville Street and 104 Bedford Street, North Shields. In 1906 he made the Shields Daily News when seven shirts were stolen from his shop door in Saville Street by Ellen Leavy and her daughter Rose Sparrow.
Thomas was not the only victim of the light-fingered pair. A child’s dress, a shawl and four pairs of boots taken from various other establishments also made up their haul. The sentence passed by the magistrate was a month’s imprisonment. At the hearing Thomas was commended by the Chief Constable for assistance in the arrest. He was then admonished by the magistrate along with his fellow shopkeepers, for displaying their wares outside unattended.
Summary: 7 children, 14 known grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren = 1 family with living descendants.
Am I any nearer to unearthing my Thompson ancestors? Whilst the exercise hasn’t provided any direct answers, it has provided several clues for future enquiry.
Of all the information gleaned from this exercise, the most important is the understanding as to why there are no DNA matches on the Heslop line of descent. Barring one or two unknowns the line is reduced to just one branch of a family and two or three individuals. The question is, are they interested enough in their family history to respond to contact made with them? Here is hoping the answer is yes.
More information on other sites, near and far, that make up the story of Flodden along with other articles pertaining to archaeological and documentary finds uncovered as part of the HLF funded project, can be found at Flodden 1513 ‘Legends and Legacy’,
For readers interested in photos of the criminally minded, Tyne & Wear Archives have made their collection freely available online.Tyne and Wear Archives photostream hosted by flickr
Some of the images have been sorted into collections such as Criminal Faces of Newcastle,
I seem to be stuck in a phase of case studies at present. My article, ‘Ten steps to Finding John Armstrong’ is due to appear in the May edition of Family Tree Magazine, on sale from the 11th April. This was not a straightforward case to work, although on reading back the solution seems ridiculously obvious. With very little paper trail information before the marriage of John Armstrong and Mary Kirk in February 1811, the key to solving the puzzle lay not in proving who John Armstrong was, but who he was not! It was also a case that used autosomal DNA testing to maximum effect. The DNA provided the necessary evidence to support theories that would otherwise have remained on the hypothesis pile. There are no spoilers in the following paragraphs but suffice it to say John’s parentage differs from the consensus!
But back to the case in hand. I promised a distant cousin (5c1r to be exact), to commit my ‘scratchings’ of the Hogg family pedigree to paper over two years ago! We share mutual ancestors in John Thompson, (c1745 – 1810) farmer at Upper Shields or Overshields (now Shieldykes) and his wife Ann Grey (c1747 – 1812). We connect through Margaret their fifth daughter of nine, who married William Hogg, at Felton on Wednesday 14th August 1805.
William Hogg, husband of Margaret Thompson is the sticking point in most family trees. But there also seems to be some confusion over the pedigree of the couple’s daughter-in-law Dorothy, also Hogg by birth. Therefore, now seems an opportune time to share my methodology and findings to help reset the compass. Whilst the Hogg family itself may not necessarily be of interest, the research principles and sources used are relevant to many other cases of a similar period and nature.
In an about-turn from Armstrong of Haltwhistle where DNA provided valuable evidence, the earlier ancestry of the Hogg family has been pieced together using traditional research methods alone. The family left a comprehensive trail of paper records including a helpful clutch of Wills and Probate Admins in their wake. Other evidence is literally written in tablets of stone. A bonus is that almost all the records used are freely available online. It’s just a case of knowing where to look! William Hogg’s death burial and associated Will provide an excellent starting point to begin the journey back in time.
Step 1. William Hogg's Death and Burial
Top Tip: Death and burial records are often neglected but often contain vital information & other clues.
Although William Hogg died at Kyloe in North Northumberland on 20 December 1845 aged 77, he is buried at Shilbottle, some 24 miles to the south.
This memorial strongly suggests links with mid-Northumberland at both Shilbottle and Acton. It also provides:
Step 2. William’s Will
Top Tip. Wills can be a great source of family information, although use caution in Scotland where eldest sons are sometimes absent in earlier documents pertaining to inheritance due to laws of primogeniture. Always consider a potential familial connection between the deceased and their executors.
William Hoggs Will dated 1st July 1845 is available through the North East Inheritance Database. It provides the names of further sons George, John and James and details of freehold property interests in ‘Whitlees Farm’ at Elsdon, a Freehold Brewery and Maltings with associated land and premises at Felton. He bequeathed these along with his interests in the farm at East Kyloe to his (youngest) son James, who, along with his two surviving brothers were executors to their father’s estate.
Step 3. Establish William’s place of Birth
Top Tip: Establishing an individual’s earliest known residence may also point to the area of their birth. It is often useful to come forward in time to go back.
The 1841 Census
At the time of the 1841 census William had yet to make the move north to East Kyloe. He and his wife Margaret were farming at South Acton, near Felton. Son William and daughter Ann were at home as was a further son called James, the chief beneficiary of his father’s Will. Son George and his wife Barbara Hogg were farming at West Kyloe and John with his wife Dorothy Hogg were farming at Low Hedgeley, near Eglingham.
The census confirms William, Margaret and their children William Jnr and Ann were all born in Northumberland. Pinning down where required alternative sources.
Step 4. Baptisms of William and Margaret’s Children
Top Tip: Take the time to look at the original records, either Parish Register or contemporary copies known as Bishops Transcripts. They often contain far more information than transcriptions. Bishops Transcripts for many Northumberland and Durham Parishes are available for free through Family Search. The English parish record transcriptions provided by FreeReg also contain the extra information and are an excellent alternative, also available for no cost to the user.
William Hogg and Margaret Thompson of Newton on the Moor baptised five children at Shilbottle between 1807 and 1813: George 1807, John 1808, William 1810, James in Jan 1813 and Ann in October of the same year.
This was the time of Shute Barrington, Bishop of Durham, who along with William Dade revolutionised the information entered in Parish Registers. For a short time at least, more extensive appears against vital events. William Hogg was farming at Newton on the Moor at the time his children were born. However, the entries at their baptism also suggest birthplaces for both parents.
Record reads: ‘John Hogg [born] Sept 28th 1807 [Baptised] Aug[us]t 26th 1808, 2nd Son William Hogg of Newton Farmer, native of Ritton White House by his wife Margaret Thompson native of Upper Shield in the Parish of Alnwick’.
Step 5. Other Hogg Connections at Shilbottle
Top Tip. Casting a net for other potential relatives in the immediate often pays dividends.
Before looking for information on the family’s time at Ritton, the Shilbottle were checked for other familial connections. The parish registers contain several records which formed the basis of family groups. There are also probate records that confirm potential family members.
The administration and grant of a George Hogg’s probate in 1806 provides the following familial information.
The renunciation document confirms William’s relationship to the deceased, his place of residence as Newton on the Moor and occupation as Farmer. 
From this short document an outline of William’s immediate family can be mapped; his mother Margaret, brother John Hogg, married sisters Margaret Taylor and Mary Forster and cousin John Hogg also of Shilbottle Parish.
Key Points: The document mentioning two cousins named John Hogg farming at Shilbottle at the same time perhaps suggests more than one Hogg family had previous connections with Ritton.
Step 6: Establish the parentage of the two John Hoggs farming at Shilbottle.
Top Tip: Although in this case the relationship was that of first cousin, this is not always the case. It is not unusual for it to be more distant.
The two John Hoggs confirmed as cousins in the probate administration above suggests their respective fathers were brothers. Therefore, their grandparents were their most recent common ancestors.
The burial information for each provides calculated birth years.
6.1 William Hogg’s brother John.
John Hogg, William’s brother, died at Hazon High Houses 5th July 1853 aged 69. His calculated birth year of 1784 corresponds with a baptism on 2 Jan 1785 to George Hogg, farmer at Hazon High Houses and his wife Margaret.
(I already knew that William and John’s father was George Hogg who died at Hazon High Houses in 1800 due to a previous encounter. John was married to Mary Pringle, daughter of Edward Pringle of Snitter near Rothbury and his wife Margaret Vardy. Edward Pringle and Edward Anderson, (brothers in law) provided surety for the admin of the Will of Isabella Mole nee Pringle suggesting a further familial connection yet to be run to ground. Isabella Pringle was a 5th great grandmother of mine who died at New Heaton Farm in 1814. (Strange how life works!))
No Will or admin has been identified for John and William’s father George who died at Hazon 1800, or their mother Margaret who died at Hazon in 1821. Apart from a daughter Ann who was born in 1770 at Ritton White House and died at Shilbottle in 1788, the family is pieced together from the administration of their brother George at Step Five above.
6.2 William Hogg’s cousin John
John Hogg, William’s cousin died at Hazon High Houses 1st May 1823 indicating a birth year of 1772. This corresponds with the baptism of a John Hogg son to John Hogg and Barbara Hume of Ritton White House baptised at Netherwitton 13 Jan 1772.
Step 7. Hogg family connections at Ritton White House.
Top Tip – The Northumberland Farms Index can be a useful aid for pinning down locations and unfamiliar or obsolete names.
Ritton White House is a farm in Netherwitton Parish. Again, probate documents came up trumps with the Will of John Hogg of Ritton White House dated 17 July 1759. It contains the following information summarised as follows:
Step 8. Extract family info from Netherwitton & Hartburn Registers
It quickly became apparent that in addition to Ritton White House the Hogg family also had interests in the neighbouring Farm of Greenleighton.
John Hogg married Anne Spearman at Netherwitton 14 My 1730. ‘John Hog (of the chapelry of Netherwitton) married Ann Spearmen (of the parish of Hearthburn)’
(The siblings of John Hogg born circa 1696 are not detailed here. There are other records at Hartburn and Netherwitton that if traced and verified 'may' add additional branches to the family tree.)
Step 9. Trace William, John & George of Ritton & Greenleighton.
Top Tip: Avoid the chance of missing vital events by using a map to spot neighbouring properties and parishes. Family Search England Jurisdictions 1851 is a helpful online resource
The parish registers for Netherwitton & Hartburn yielded further helpful information:
As his brother John pre-deceased him (see below), the farm of Whitlees at Elsdon passed to his surviving youngest brother George according to his late father’s Will of 1759. In the absence of a Will for George, it appears he then passed it to his eldest son William at his death in 1800.
The trees appearing above have been compiled using information extracted from the registers. For more details and supporting information please contact me.
Step 10. Further Inter-family Connections
There are several further cousin interconnections within the Hogg family and between other cousins in families connected by marriage such as Pringle. Two of the intermarriages occurred in William Hogg and Margaret Thompson’s line of descent. Sons George and John Hogg married their second cousins, sisters, Barbara and Dorothy Hogg. Barbara and Dorothy were daughters of William's cousin John Hogg (1772 – 1823) and his wife Margaret Peary.
John and Dorothy Hogg were married at Alnwick on 1st May 1838. Among the witnesses to the marriage were Dorothy’s sister Barbara and John’s bother George. The others were Ann Hogg, John Hogg and Thomas Tate.
I sometimes wonder how much of the Northumberland farming community lies hidden under a web of inter-connection by blood and marriage, particularly amongst descendants of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century farming families. A web leading between denser pockets of interconnection where the threads become full of twists and turns. Being alert to these twists and turns or even expecting them can help enormously when it comes to ‘unravelling’ families and family members.
 John Thompson was a farmer, some time of Upper Shiels or Overshiels, now known as Shieldykes. More can be found on the history of the farm and others within Alnwick Parish in George Tate’s ‘The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick, Volume 2’. It is available through Google Books
 Probate Admin of George Hogg of Hazon High Houses in 1806. North East Inheritance Database, England, Durham Probate Bonds, 1556-1858 DPRI/3/1806/A p.112
[3 & 4] Durham Records Online
Bishops Transcripts for Northumberland and Durham
Debrett’s Ancestry Research Ltd, Bishop Shute Barrington and the English Parish Register
Durham University, North East Inheritance Database
Transcription of Monumental Inscriptions at Shilbottle
It was the single boot that did it. Such was the urgency, confusion and apparent desperation to end her life that young governess Eva Jones only removed the one. Her tragic and premature death in 1910 aged just 27 years old incites a multitude of questions not least the inevitable, overwhelming and persistent why?
Our ancestors can amuse or bemuse, astound and confound – but is the evidence sometimes misleading? Is it painting an inaccurate profile picture of their character and presenting a one-sided view of events? The tragic tale of Eva’s death, which I stumbled upon almost by accident back in 2014, incited a compulsion to know more about her life. However, the lack of substance from which to build a profile has left a void of puzzlement and confusion. It also provokes sadness at how readily this young woman appears to have been discarded and forgotten. As fragments of information appear and some gaps widen the more determination grows to uncover the full extent of her story.
But research to date has also created self-doubt – with so little evidence to unite the pieces of the puzzle am I even researching the correct person? At the time of her death, Eva was noted as the adopted daughter of the Reverend Arthur Cooper Marsdin, only 16 years her senior. Although this seems slightly strange, the story of Eva's birth family and background seems so far removed from the profile of a young woman who could become a temporary governess to Hon. Henrietta Franklin CBE., in the summer of 1910 to be credible.
I intended to share aspects of Eva's story as part of the weeklong #ReclaimJane workshops hosted by genealogist Natalie Pithers, but time was not on my side. I did, however, manage sneaky peeks at some of the fascinating and moving stories that ensued. A common theme was hardship, suffering or forbearance due to the unfair and often harsh attitudes towards women in years gone by. Women portrayed as victims of the piece and the times in which they lived. In contrast, I thought I would share an aspect of research into Eva's background that may suggest an alternative view.
The process of pinning down a birth and thus establishing parentage for Eva was protracted and frustrating at times. It wasn't until the middle name 'Lily' came to light that any real progress was made at all. A census sighting in 1891, as the 'adopted niece' of Hannah Etty Smith, a vicar's daughter and teacher in London pointed towards a birthplace of Hampshire. In 1891 the record for a governess to John Bicknell, a Bank Manager and his family in Axbridge, Somerset, narrowed the search to the area around Southampton. Although there were numerous births for Eva, Eva Lilian Jones and other permutations of the name registered nationwide in the period 1880 - 1885, there was only one birth registered for an Eva Lily Jones. It was in Portsea, Hampshire – so not Southampton, but in the right County and not too far away.
Eva's mother, Mary Ann Jones, nee Kitcher appears to be married, yet no details of her father are recorded against the birth. She was born on 3rd February 1884 at 100, Malins Road, Landport (Portsmouth) around 30 miles from her mother's usual place of residence at Liss near Petersfield. Eva's birth was registered almost two months later on 29th March. It was late – her mother had overrun the statutory 42 days allowed following birth to register a child. This information was 'as per a declaration given the 28th March'. A 'declaration' (long gone) that may have held further clues as to why the registration had overrun and possible clues as to her father and circumstances of her birth.
Births and Deaths Registration Act 1874
Mary Anne Kitcher
Digging into Eva's mother's past potentially raised questions as to her character and motivations. But is the evidence swayed to a male perspective?
Mary Ann Kitcher was born into a large family at Fawley in the New Forest, around seven miles from Southampton in the Spring of 1852. Her parents, Charles Kitcher, a Carter, and mother Esther Orman were natives of the Village. By summer 1868 the sixteen-year-old Mary was in the family way and a daughter, Mary Jane, was born in November. She named the putative father as a Master Mariner called Thomas Rowe and pursued him for maintenance. But Thomas fought back. The following is a transcription from the 'Hampshire Independent' dated Wednesday 7th April 1869 of the appeal against the Court's ruling against him.
Kitcher was a servant at Stone Farm, Exbury and on the 27th December, in 1867, met Rowe, a Master Mariner, at his father's house at Lepe, and he accompanied her and her brother part of the way home. She saw him again in February and on the third time of their walking together, Sunday, the 1st of March, they had intercourse during the afternoon, resulting in November in the birth of a child, to maintain which she summoned Rowe before the magistrates, but they dismissed the complaint.
Although Eva's mother could write, the above is hardly the level of literacy required of a governess, let alone the governess to an acknowledged educationalist.
She was cross-examined at some length as to her acquaintance and connection with others, the latter of which she positively denied…
The court did not wait to hear a reply from Mary's representation but confirmed their order plus costs again Thomas Rowe. This decisive action suggests they were having none of Thomas' attempts at discrediting Mary's moral character. But in light of what is known about the birth of Eva in later years, could there be an element of truth in his accusations?
The Governess often came from 'well to do' middle class households who, for a multitude of reasons had fallen on tough times. Furthermore, ‘The governess was expected to look after her pupils’ moral education too. As well as reading the Bible and saying prayers with them, she was to set a good example of modest, moral behaviour.’
Being illegitimate and from a working-class background would almost certainly have precluded Eva from the position of Governess. Nor would it have provided her with the requisite level of education and ladylike 'refinements'. Why then was Eva singled out and apparently 'groomed' for employment befitting a young 'lady'?
As well as the illegitimate half-sister born in 1868, Eva also had a half-brother Hubert Henry born to Mary Anne Kitcher and husband Anthony Jones in 1880. The couple married in the September quarter of 1878, but Anthony was already absent by the time of the 1881 census. Siblings Hubert Henry and Mary Jane remained with, or near to their mother and the Kitcher family. But Eva did not, her life was vastly different.
Neither Eva nor her mother fit the profile expected at the outset of research which serves to make it even more compelling. Was Mary Kitcher a 'schemer' and the Vixen portrayed or was she, like her daughter a victim of circumstance? With Eva apparently separated from her mother at an early age suggesting third party intervention other than the 'state', the question is by whom and why?
Their story continues to evolve …
 'A leading advocate for the causes of education, women's rights, and Liberal Judaism, Henrietta Franklin dedicated her life to numerous progressive causes.' In the summer of 1910, the Franklins rented Howick Hall during the absence abroad of the Earl and Countess Grey. Newspaper evidence suggests that Eva had entered the Franklin's employ on the 8th July, 6 weeks to before her apparent suicide.
 British Library, Kathryn Hughes, ‘The Figure of the Governess’,
For those with an interest in the life of a Governess:
Kathryn Hughes, 'The Victorian Governess' London, 1993.
(There is 30% saving to be had buying direct through publishers Bloomsbury
More information on The Hon. Henrietta Franklin C.B.E.
Snippets of information can readily be found online, including the website 'The Dinner Puzzle'. The site is based around the ‘guest list for a dinner held on 23rd March 1933 at which friends and colleagues assembled to present a portrait by artist Alice Mary Burton to Lady Rhondda – suffragette, businesswoman and publisher.’ A fascinating and different take on prominent women of the day.
Monk Gibbon, 'Netta', London 1960. A biography of Henrietta Franklin C.B.E.
Old business records and account ledgers may not always be welcome reminders of times past for everyone, but for the historian, what's not to love? Sandwiched between the salaries, rent, and vehicle HP are the stories of people – business owners, their associates, employees, suppliers, customers, and even on occasion, the people who went before. Changes in the economic and political environment, social customs and logistics are reflected in numbers with notes pencilled in the margin. The history of land, buildings, streets, villages and cities lie buried behind the unwritten words on the page. Passport visas tell of exotic travel as do condolences written in foreign hands. The disruption caused by War – friend become foe, identity cards, letters and communications from far-flung places, hospital beds and the ‘Ministry’. Hidden amongst the mundane are snippets of daily family life, important dates and events. Business records really can be the forgotten heroes of family history.
It was Susan Smith, a farmer and researcher from Darlington who, in telling the story of her findings amongst the pages of an old family ledger, reminded me of the rich pickings business accounts can be! First though, here is Susan’s story .
“Mother Died Dec 19th 1921.”
After my grandfather, George Herbert Stephenson, died in 1986 I inherited his old account books and papers which accumulated over a lifetime involved in haulage and farming in and around Piercebridge, County Durham. The biggest treasure of all was his earliest account ledger, covering the 1920’s period when the brothers were haulage contractors.
As I run my fingers across the cover of this ledger I can feel the same bumps and grooves that my grandfather would have felt; the scuffs at the edges of the book cover, the lovely ornate embossing around the edges of the oxblood-coloured leather encasing the corners and spine. Its fusty smell betrays its age. His entries a tangible connection to those who went before. He would have opened this ledger every day to record the comings and goings of the business. Filling it with the social history we family history enthusiasts crave.
Today, in my minds-eye I can see him sitting at his desk, pencil in hand and licking the point of the lead before writing an entry. The picture below is of the last pages in this ledger, entitled ‘This Page for local news only.’
The first entry in these pages at the top of page 169 simply states “Mother Died Dec 19th 1921“.
I was hit with a wave of sadness upon reading this, how would my grandfather have been feeling when he sat to write those words? You see to me, this entry seemed devoid of feeling - just a statement of fact on a page amongst the other local news and business of the day, such as:-
'Personals' in Business Records
Business records are often brimming with snippets recalling events in personal lives as well as charting the history of a company. Way back in April 2014, I delved into the company archives of Naylor Hewitt Ltd., later Connolly Shaw Fruit Brokers. Like Susan, amongst the ‘variegated’ selection of business papers in an old black tin box belonging to Richard (Dick) Hewitt my maternal grandfather, are carbon copies of family announcements.
There are letters of congratulations on the birth of a child (himself in 1908) and letters of condolence in both English and Spanish on the sudden death of his mother in September 1960. Through the memories of those whose lives she touched, the letters provide insights into the character and personality of the lady under the big Edwardian hats!
There are more arrivals, passings and ‘joinings together’ in faded fuzzy ink, typed on fragile tissue paper. From the births and marriage notices of his children to the death notice for his own relative named Florence. His aunt, Annie Florence (Florrie) Dryden - Benson nee Hewitt who died at Platts Lane, Hampstead in 1950.
Florrie Hewitt and her brother Nat appear as ‘bairns’ in telegraphic messages from the 1890s. They were sent from their father James Hewitt whilst traveling on business visiting growers & suppliers. This note tells of the evening entertainments he enjoyed. A night out at the ‘Alhambra’, a theatre and music hall in Leicester Square deprived of its license in 1870 for presenting the ‘Can-Can’, too racy for Victorian sensitivities.
When it opened in 1854 The Alhambra Theatre hosted one of the few bars to accept women without the escort of a man. Once described as the “greatest place of infamy in all London”, it had a reputation for banging nights out.
The snippets of social history and private lives lie juxtaposed with prices of ‘New York Pippins’, ‘Duke of Wellington’s’, ‘Naples Lemons’ and broccoli. The names, Senior Garcia, Knill, White, Keeling and Bulman. ‘Five baskets of tomatoes’ and Fyffes who were ‘sending bananas tonight that are scarce and dear’ to arrive in Newcastle before breakfast.
Hotel bills provide further evidence of James Hewitt’s travels. Tea, aerated water and lemonade suggest an abstemious lifestyle. Or, perhaps not wanting to pay London prices, he travelled with supplies tucked away in his luggage. The telegrams portray an efficient businessman who bestowed a good deal of love and a great many kisses on his family from a distance.
His little red pocketbook from the 1870s records the trading with growers and wholesalers. Vegetables, fruit and flowers sourced from around the world were shipped into Newcastle by steamship and train. The cashbook from the 1880s reflects the changing face of logistics. Rent for stabling, clipping of horses and straw where there would be garaging, servicing and fuel for vehicles today.
World War I
Time passed and the ‘bairns’ joined the business. Then, in 1914, trade and associated transport were disrupted by War. Young men sent to the front, the losses, sometimes personal, of those who did not return were felt keenly at home.
Names, addresses and ages of those who remained, listed and posted in clear public view by order of the government. The human side of the business on display.
Trading restrictions enforced and friends mistakenly caught betwixt jealous informers and zealous bureaucracy. The folders of letters tell of loyalties and friendships forged during this period that lasted generations. Shortages and salvage incentives reflect the hardships and the horrors of war. The public urged to cut back; nothing was to be wasted. Even fruit stones were salvaged to combat poison gas at the front. The poster’s message is strong and clear.
A ledger covering the period is yet to give up its secrets. To date, the contents remain hidden behind the security of a brass Brahma lock that has long since lost its key.
The history of buildings and places
The Dispensary, 14 Nelson Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Documents record post-War business expansion and a merger with Connolly Shaw Ltd. The acquisition in 1927 of the Old Dispensary at 14 Nelson Street in the heart of Newcastle’s iconic Grainger Town soon followed. It was a significant purchase of a building with human history at its heart. The history of the Dispensary, however, predates its time at 14 Nelson Street.
The Dispensary was established in April 1777 and funded through subscriptions, gifts and legacies. Its first site was in The Side but in 1782 or 1783 it moved to Pilgrim Street where it remained until 1790. For the next fifty years, the Trustees leased a building in Low Friar Chare. At the expiry of the lease, the Dispensary moved to 14 Nelson Street, where it remained until 1928. Its final move was to 115 New Bridge Street which was still its home when it finally closed in 1976.
During the fifty years the Dispensary was located on Nelson Street, in ministering to the City's sick, it touched the lives of thousands of individuals. It witnessed the Cholera epidemic of 1853 and lost one of its own a decade later. Dr William Thomas Carr MRSA contracted a fever ‘in the course of his arduous and dangerous duties as a medical officer of the Dispensary’ and died on November 29th 1863.
Today, all that remains of the building purpose-built to house the Dispensary in 1836, is the façade. It provides an elegant frontage to the Eldon Shopping Centre behind.
The Fruit Exchange, Spitalfields, London
In 1929 Connolly Shaw Ltd was among the six founding members of the London Fruit Exchange in Spitalfields, London.
Opening in 1929, when the volume of imported produce coming through the docks more than doubled in the ten years after the First World War, the mighty Fruit & Wool Exchange in Spitalfields was created to maintain London’s pre-eminence as a global distribution centre. The classical stone facade, closely resembling the design of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church nearby, established it as a temple dedicated to fresh produce as fruits that were once unfamiliar, and fruits that were out of season, became available for the first time to the British people.
The exchange closed for business in 1991 and the building has been the subject of redevelopment in recent years. Its distinctive frontage at 1 - 10 Brushfield Street has, however, been retained.
Another World War
The expansion of the 20s was followed by the global depression of the 1930s. But there is little evidence retained from the latter period in the Black Box. Before heading towards, the next collection of documents bears testimony to the disruption of WW2. Letters from Spain with the stamps of Franco, Forces Airmail from the Egyptian desert, both franked by the Censor are filed alongside an unusual Red Cross Telegram.
A telegram from Buenos Airies reading ‘Cordially with you on Victory Day’ and a newspaper cutting of rebuilding at Hull rounds off the second period of global conflict. There is also quantity of documents relating to the relocation of premises, markets and re-development of Newcastle City Centre and a mountain of records that could yield some interesting economic data. But the collection culminates with cards and letters bearing ‘best wishes for a long and happy retirement’. The final piece of correspondence is dated 25th June 1974. It is my grandfather’s resignation as Director of the company with effect from the end of the month.
His black tin box contains 100 years of history of the fruit trade and encompasses three generations of the same family. Skimming through the contents is a vibrant journey alongside interesting people and thought-provoking places. I feel I now know them a bit better for it, but I can’t help the odd pang of nostalgia for a past I never knew!
A wee bit of fun to end
I couldn't help but smile when I found this note dated 2 Feb 1906 regarding a one penny overcharge. A reminder of the old adage, 'take care of the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves'. But as it was kept, it clearly amused my grandfather too!
 The Lost Alhambra, Leicester Square
 The National Archives Kew,
https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/8e55bb34-bcea-498f-8a47-7f9644c682b1 (Tyne and Wear Archives catalogue is unavailable at the time of writing due to essential maintenance.)
 Spitalfields Life ‘So Long, Spitalfields Fruit & Wool Exchange’
Links to further information
Memoirs of a Metro Girl. The lost Moorish palace of showbiz and sin: The story of Leicester Square’s Alhambra https://memoirsofametrogirl.com/2021/05/05/alhambra-leicester-square-history-victorian-theatre/
Theatres Trust Database, the Alhambra
Cinema Treasures, The Alhambra
The Old Dispensary & Newcastle’s Grainger Town
Historic England, 14 Nelson Street
English Heritage, Newcastle's Grainger Town An Urban Renaissance, London, 2003. (84 page pdf downloadable publication about the history of Grainger Town and recent conservation project.)
The London Fruit and Wool Exchange
Spitalfields Life, At The Fruit & Wool Exchange, 1937
https://spitalfieldslife.com/2020/01/11/at-the-fruit-wool-exchange-1937-x/ (Some wonderful articles on this website!)
Religious Reform in Seventeenth Century England
As Christmas and New Year festivities for some have been curtailed for the second year in a row my thoughts drifted to the time of the seventeenth century when celebrating Christmas was outlawed in 1643. The period 1638 to 1660 was a turbulent time of Civil Wars that
…witnessed the trial and execution of a king, the formation of a republic in England, a theocracy in Scotland and the subjugation of Ireland. 
It was also a time of religious reforms that sought to create further distance from the Roman Catholic Church. The traditional festivities associated with the 12 days of Christmas fell out of favour as the Protestant faith replaced Catholicism on both sides of the Border. The trappings that accompanied certain religious feast days particularly Christmas were deemed unbiblical, ‘popish’ and ‘a time of wasteful and immoral behaviour’. The Puritan Parliament in England passed an ordinance on 19th December 1643
… encouraging subjects to treat the mid-winter period 'with the more solemn humiliation because it may call to remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast, pretending the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights'.
The festive period is steeped in traditions drawn or adapted from bygone eras reaching back deep into prehistory.
The origins of Christmas stretch back thousands of years to prehistoric celebrations around the midwinter solstice. And many of the traditions we cherish today have been shaped by centuries of changing beliefs, politics, technology, taste and commerce.
'Lord of Misrule' & the Christmas Cracker
Some traditions are highly symbolic, but one is downright bonkers! Have you ever wondered why, after a delicious meal washed down with a goodly amount of Christmas ‘spirit’, we pull crackers, wear paper crowns and tell appalling jokes? Well, crackers also owe their origins to ages past and the tradition of ‘Misrule’, itself based on the Roman Feast of Saturnalia.
Particularly popular in the time of the Medieval Manor and Tudor Courts, the ‘Lord of Misrule’ (in Scotland the ‘Abbot of Unreason’) was appointed from the surfs or peasantry to preside over Christmas festivities. His ‘rule’ turned the usual social order on its head so that fools became Lords or Kings and vice versa. It involved colourful pageantry, drunkenness and associated revelry but its popularity began to wane during the protestant reign of Elizabeth I. The rise of the Puritan movement in the seventeenth century saw Misrule abolished altogether along with other Christmas activities such as dancing, drinking, non-religious plays and singing carols.
Even after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 when Christmas festivities re-emerged, the ‘Lord of Misrule’, deemed too disruptive, remained banned. It was soon forgotten altogether until it re-emerged in the guise of a cardboard tube with a ‘banger’ invented by Tom Smith in 1847. Over the years the contents of the cracker have changed from sweets and trinkets to include the terrible jokes and paper crowns we know today as a nostalgic salute to the ‘Lord of Misrule’.
The Scottish Ban on Christmas
When it comes to banning Christmas, however, Scotland has an 80-year head start. Although the English Reformation began in circa 1527 with Henry VIII’s break from Rome, the religious reforms of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland were more far-reaching. The first meeting of the General Assembly, the supreme court of the Church of Scotland was held in 1560. Some vestiges of the old Christmas traditions survived, for a short time at least, as records of the Palace of Holyrood bear witness.
In the Christmas of either 1563 or 1564, Mary, Queen of Scots (r. 1561-1567) held a ball at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where she and her guests celebrated the ‘Feast of the Bean’. The ritual began at the start of the Christmas period and involved hiding a bean in a cake: the person to find it would be crowned ‘King/Queen of the Bean’. In this year, Mary Fleming, who was one of the Queen’s ladies, found the bean and was dressed in the Queen’s clothes as a prize.
A formal outright ban, however, was lurking on the horizon.
In 1575 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland abolished ‘all days that hereto have been kept holy except the Sabbath day, such as Yule day, saints’ days and such others’. Nevertheless, Scots continued to celebrate Hogmanay. Changes in church government meant that in 1640 and again in 1690 Parliament abolished the ‘Yule Vacance’ observed by the courts. The 1640 Act stated:
In other words, ‘The Christmas holiday and associated festivities are cancelled for the foreseeable future.’ So, it would seem the Puritan Parliament of 1643 was playing catch-up with its neighbours north of the Border. The Restoration in 1660 saw the ban on Christmas overturned in England, but Scotland did not follow suit. ‘While part of each act was repealed in 1686 and 1712 respectively, the Church of Scotland continued to discourage ‘Yule’ celebrations.’ Although Christmas became a Bank Holiday in Scotland under Lubbock’s Bank Holiday Act of 1871, shops and businesses were under no obligation to close. Here, Hogmanay continued to be the focus of mid-winter festivities. Christmas remained suppressed by the Church until the pressure of commercialism and economics prevailed in the period post-WWII. The unravelling of Scotland’s Christmas story continues in the NRS Blog of 2018.
The period of administration following the execution of the King in 1649 was the first attempt at uniting the nations of England, Scotland and Ireland under one government and creating a tolerant national protestant church. The Civil Wars and associated hostilities were a bloody time that witnessed a huge loss of life – estimated to have been as much as 7% of the population. The National Archives online learning resources contain interesting documents from the period (including the female perspective) and the BCW Project is an essential guide for anyone interested in the prominent people, places and politics during this fascinating period in history. For a glimpse at daily life of ordinary folk in the seventeenth century, ‘Sex, Lice and Chamber Pots in Pepys' London’ on the BBC History website provides a light-hearted look! For a longer and more absorbing post-Christmas read, the historical novel ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ by Iain Pears, comes highly recommended! Although fictitious, set in Oxford in 1663 and after the Restoration, many of the characters are actual historical figures and the preceding Cromwellian period is never far away.
The National Archives: Christmas is Cancelled, What were Cromwell’s main political and religious aims for the Commonwealth 1650-1660?
The National Archives: Women and the English Civil Wars, How did these conflicts affect their lives?
The BCW Project, British Civil Wars, Commonwealth & Protectorate 1638 – 1660
BBC History, (Extracts from the diary of Samuel Pepys explained)
An Instance of the Fingerpost (Readers Guide Only)
 BCW Project, British Civil Wars, Commonwealth & Protectorate 1638 – 1660 http://bcw-project.org/
 Historic England, Did Oliver Cromwell really ban Christmas?
 English Heritage takes a tour of ‘Christmas’ through the ages starting 5000 years ago with the Neolithic
 Christmas at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
 National Records of Scotland, Christmas Banned in Scotland
Last week I received the news that 'George' is being prepared for his journey north so to make ready for a homecoming. 'George' is the affectionate term used for a portrait of George Smith of Horncliffe Loanend near Norham who died in 1860. (My paternal 3rd great-grandfather.) The painting has passed through the safekeeping of several family members in the south of England and is about to return to Tweedside from South Wales for his next stint. George has certainly seen a bit of the country in the 80 years or so since he has been away!
The complexity of the relationships is one reason for my procrastination. It has been on my 'to-do' list since my blog about the South African branch of the family, published in December 2013. Another, is the tricky issue of dealing with online errors. Despite polite messages to tree owners some mistakes remain, are copied by others, and the cycle of misinformation continues.
Errors in public online trees.
'Why bother?' and 'so what?' I hear you ask. With DNA increasingly used to verify familial relationships and discover new ancestors, it is more important than ever that mistakes and incorrect family alignments in trees are kept to a minimum. Ancestry draws its hints and proposed pathways between matches from the trees in its database. If enough connected testers have the same incorrect ancestors in their tree, it will deliver a false positive pathway. This is why it is so important that errors are corrected where possible and theoretical relationships and research trees remain private.
Now, eight years later and somewhat overdue, here is the start of what is known, drawn from a variety of sources that remain in the family's possession. In future, anyone searching online for the history of the Trotters of Sprouston will hopefully find these posts helpful in their research and further misinformation will be avoided.
Our Trotter connections were first researched by George Aynsley-Smith. Although I do not have his files to hand (they are safely elsewhere), I do have a copy of the family tree drafted by him in 1938 on which he states:
'The particulars in this pedigree have been provided by documents in the possession of the Cargey family [cousins], Church Registers & Monumental Inscriptions.' G Aynsley – Smith. 8.9.1938
He further adds:
'The family is extinct in the male line unless George Trotter in Natal left issue'
But is this statement correct? Although I believe it may be correct for the extent of the pedigree recorded to date, I have recently uncovered clues that make me wonder if another connection may have been missed. Knowing the vigour of George's research, however, makes me thoroughly examine any conflicting evidence. Wherever possible, I have also verified the information in his family tree. Whilst family entries in the Sprouston parish registers can be patchy, they have left a plethora of other documents and Wills verifying many relationships.
A top tip here is to pay attention to the inventories to Wills not just the bequests, as family members sneak in here too. Loans to raise capital or provide help in times of need are not uncommon.
A collection of old family letters and paperwork connected to the administration of legacies that provide interesting insights into the times in which they lived, as well as proving relationships. Revisiting old documents invariably throws up new clues, and where there is an element of doubt, it is clearly stated. I have also divided the pedigree into sections as the family is complex and the associated research lengthy. The following constitutes 'Part One' and looks at the generation and immediate family connections of Christian Trotter, the wife of George Smith.
Trotters of Kerchesters
Kerchesters Farm at Sprouston forms part of the Roxburgh Estate and it is not known exactly when the family entered into the tenancy. I am inclined to believe it was at some point after the death of a Robert Young in 1719.
A notice in a Perthshire newspaper dated 7th November 1838 suggests the Trotters may have been amongst the Estate's oldest tenants and in possession of the farm for approaching 300 years. If true (which seems unlikely), their occupation dates from circa 1538, 25 years following the Battle of Flodden. It would be interesting to know where the author of the snippet in Kelso Mail obtained the following information.
Furthermore, if the Trotter family were in occupation from as early as the sixteenth century, their presence remains well hidden. Although there are obvious gaps, the Parish Registers date from 1635, where there is not a squeak until 1725. There is the odd exception, such as a marriage between Christie Davidson and Christian Trotter on the 17th December 1640. But no familial connection to these oddities has yet been established. Nor is the family mentioned in the early Session Minutes (from 1650, but with gaps), I have had time to read.
Top Tip – check the availability of parish registers and other dissenting records. It is pointless looking for a baptism or marriage if a) they do not exist or b) the event was unrecorded in the first place. Trust me, in this case you will never find the record. But the necessary evidence may be contained in other documentation relating to the family.
The first mention and record of the current family that can be confidently placed in the tree is a baptism of another Christian Trotter in 1725. From this point forward the name appears regularly until the middle of the nineteenth century. The absence of any death records does not help, especially as there are notable absences of known family members amongst the parish baptisms. The monumental inscriptions for Sprouston and elsewhere, however, plug the gaps in part.
Christian Trotter 1773 - 1742
Christian Trotter is a paternal 3rd great-grandmother to me. She was born to parents George Trotter and Agnes Turner and baptised at Sprouston on 17th July 1773. (Five of the 13 pre-1855 baptism records for individuals named Christian Trotter in Roxburghshire are recorded at Sprouston.) Christian married George Smith at Kerchesters in 1800, although there is no record in the Parish Registers. It is said that 'After their marriage, the bride and groom rode tandem to their new home at Loanend' where she lived until her death on 15th September 1842. She died of 'english cholera' graphically recounted as events unfolded in a letter between her sibling daughters Agnes and Jane. Agnes and another sister Phyllis contracted the illness while visiting the Trotter family at Cheswick. Mrs (Margaret) Trotter was an aunt by blood and by marriage, of which more presently.
Christian was one of nine children born to George Trotter and Agnes Turner and one of five who survived until adulthood. There were three boys: John, James and Ninian and two girls, herself, and sister Janet. Christian was the second child of the name, as was her brother Ninian evidencing previous children who died in infancy. It also suggests the names had family significance.
Other known children include Robert, baptised in 1767, and George. There is no further record of Robert Trotter and no mention of George Trotter junior except for a mention on his parent's headstone. It is thought they too died as youngsters, although the absence of Robert's name on the family headstone prompts caution.
'In memory of GEORGE Trotter tenant in Kerchesters who died 21.5.1811 aged 76 years also his spouse Agnes Turner died 20.8.1805 aged 65 years, also Christian, George and Ninian their children also their son James late tenant in Kerchesters died 31.5.1829 aged 63.'
Thus, Christian Trotter was NOT
Alert – the remainder of this article carries a serious boredom warning – unless you are connected to the Trotter Family of Sprouston it may be of limited interest.
James Trotter of Kerchesters c.1698 – 1770.
Before looking at Christian's siblings and the complex interfamily relations, a quick note. Her grandfather, James Trotter, was married twice. His first wife was Janet Young, a relative of Robert Young of Kerchesters. Janet, who died in 1741, was the mother of at least five children including Christian born circa 1725, (mentioned above), and Christian junior's father George born in 1736. James' second wife was Jane Hood. Jane was the mother of a further seven known children including James junior born circa 1750. Again, his baptism is not in the register. The other children of both marriages are not discussed here, but knowing how Christian, George and James are related is key to understanding the following sections.
Top Tip – Before the introduction of statutory registration in Scotland in 1855, it was not compulsory to record birth marriage or death events in the parish registers. At times, there was even a charge as this extract from the Sprouston Kirk Session Minutes (Burials) for 1784 demonstrates.
Siblings of Christian Smith nee Trotter
John Trotter 1763 - 1845
Christian’s brother John commonly appears out of context. The eldest of the family, he was baptised at Sprouston, the 10th March 1763.
He married his first cousin Christian Richardson, at date and place unknown. Christian Richardson was the daughter of Christian Trotter and her husband Henry Richardson. The couple's only child, George, was baptised at Warenford, Northumberland, by the Rev Mr Nichol in September 1796.
For a large part of his adult life (after 1798 but before 1811), John Trotter farmed at Stacks in West Lothian. In 1841, aged 75, he was still farming at Stacks with his son George, George's wife Grace nee Young and four of their children, including a grandson, John. Graces' sister, Margaret Young, and John's sister-in-law, Isabella Richardson aged 85 were also living with the family.
George, Grace and family, together with Margaret Young emigrated to KwaZulu Natal. They feature in my post of Dec 2013.
John Trotter died at Stacks on the 6 April 1845 and is buried in the new churchyard at Carriden. He is described as a farmer and elder in his burial record. The date and burial place of his wife Christian is not known.
Thus, John Trotter born Sprouston 1763:
HIs son George Trotter
James Trotter 1765 - 1829
James was the second eldest child. He was born in Sprouston around 1765, but his baptism is unrecorded. He married a half first cousin, Margaret Trotter, on the 12th December 1812 at Abercorn, West Lothian. Margaret was the daughter of his father's half-brother, James Trotter and his wife Marion Cunningham. James Trotter senior farmed at Newton, Abercorn just a couple of miles to the east of Stacks in West Lothian.
On the death of his father in 1811, James junior took over the tenancy of Kerchesters. The couple's first child, a son named George, was baptised at Sprouston in 1813. Five further children followed.
Tip - Note the traditional naming pattern.
James died at Kerchesters on 21 May 1829. He left an extensive Will in which he made provision for the farming tenancy to continue in Trust for his eldest son George, 'should he show an inclination to be a farmer'.
George was 16 at the time of his father's death. The trustees were good to their word and continued farming operations until 1838 when their occupation of Kerchesters ended. In 1839, John Clay began his tenancy of Kerchesters.
Soon after, son George, aged 25, went to live with his maternal uncle John Trotter at Oatridge Farm, Ecclesmachan, (now an agricultural college opposite the Scottish National Equestrian Centre). He is recorded as a 'fund holder' in the 1851 and 1861 census. John Trotter was brother to his mother Margaret Trotter and a half-cousin to Christian, the wife of George Smith. He married George Smith's niece, Sarah Smith, at Norham in December 1834. A further connection between the two families.
George died at Rosshill House, Dalmeny on the 3rd October 1867, the home of his mother and siblings, rented from the Earl of Rosebery on the Rosebery Estate at Dalmeny
James and Margaret's daughter Agnes married a land agent named George Cargey at Dalmeny on the 20th December 1853. George Cargey was the son of Gilbert Cargey and Elizabeth Aitchison born at Ancroft, Northumberland in 1814. George Cargey and Agnes Trotter had two children that top a branch of Trotter descendants still living today. It is the records in their possession that G.A.S consulted when compiling the 1930s edition of the family tree.
Agnes was the only child of James and Margaret Trotter who married. Christian, the youngest child, was the last to pass away in 1900 at her home in Craigmillar Park, also called Rosshill. The lists of creditors taken from the inventory attached to her sister Marion's Will proved in 1885 provides a glimpse into the lives of the two spinster sisters.
James Trotter is one of the few family members not to be misaligned, however, few have made the familial connection between the two families. The same is not true for his wife Margaret Trotter and his son John:
Ninian Trotter 1777 - 1832
Ninian Trotter was baptised at Sprouston on the 9th November 1777. He was the Minister at Sprouston from 1809 until his death during the Cholera epidemic of 1832. He died unmarried. Amongst other small loans listed in the inventory attached to his Will owed by known family members is a reference to a Bond and Disposition for £150 owing from a John and Elizabeth Trotter in Kelso. Their potential connection will appear in a separate post.
Janet Trotter 1784 - 1862
Christian's youngest sibling was her sister Janet, baptised at Sprouston on the 3rd March 1784.
Janet also married a half first cousin, James Trotter, at Abercorn on the 23rd March 1817. James Trotter was another son of James Trotter and Marion Cunningham. He was brother to both John Trotter, farmer at Oatridge, and Margaret Trotter, wife of James Trotter of Kerchesters. He also farmed in West Lothian at Westfield, Newton, near Abercorn. By 1851 James had retired from farming, and he and Janet were living at East Linton, Prestonkirk, where Janet died on the 28th May 1862.
Janet and James Trotter had four known children. Their sons George and John traded as a General Dealer and Druggist in Main Street, East Linton until their respective deaths in 1859 and 1880. Of younger brother James, there is no trace after the 1841 census.
Again, only one of the four children married. Their daughter, also named Agnes, married Dr John Crallan Hislop M.D. at Abercorn in 1835.
Between the years 1838 and 1861, Agnes and John had a small army of children. Henry Hislop, born in 1856, was their 12th child of 15. (Their 10th child, a daughter named Esther, married Adam Sibbett of Greenses House son of John Sibbett and Mary Ann Smith – another connection with the Smith family).
Janet Trotter is another of Christian's siblings married off in online trees to the wrong people!
I appreciate this blog may have limited appeal to many of my regular readers beyond those with connections to the Trotter family. It does, however, highlight some important points re errors in public online trees. It is good practice to adopt a couple of basic principles to guard against the spread of misinformation:
 Extracted from National Registers of Scotland, List of Old Parish Registers for Peebles Roxburghshire and Selkirk, Downloadable PDF
 There are two marriages in the Sprouston register for the marriage of George Trotter and Agnes Turner. The first was on 21st May 1762 and the second the 1st October 1773. They are believed to be the same people.
 Carriden Parish Burials Pre 1855, Central Scotland Family History Society, July 2004.
 James Trotter wrote on land improvement in West Lothian which appeared in The Scots Magazine - Tuesday 1st October 1811. Available as a free eBook from Google Books from page 767.
 Scotland's People, 1885 Trotter, Marion (Wills and testaments Reference SC41/53/14, Linlithgow Sheriff Court)
January 1 
'Here my friends, we are just entered again upon another New Year!!!
Struggling against debts, taxes, tithes and feudal impositions, these are trying things.'
The above extract dated 1st January 1833, is the opening line from the diary of William Brewis, a farmer of Throphill Hall Farm, Mitford. It covers 17 years from 1833 until his death in 1850. It reflects upon the concerns, economic and political of the time that faced farmers in rural Northumberland and beyond.
There is much to learn about rural life of the period from diaries such as these which provide vital social commentary. And it was not all doom and gloom! There are family celebrations, fairs, festivals and other occasions of social and sporting events. William's political persuasion and his views on local, national and even international matters are never in doubt. Despite being his personal account, it is packed full of other people. He even had plenty to say about some of my own ancestors who happened to be his relatives too!
This month's blog addresses a point raised amongst the fantastic feedback to 'Eight Easy Ways to create compelling Ancestral Life Stories'. Most ancestors will not have left diaries, letters, or had books written about them so how is it possible to learn more of their journeys?
Voices from the past are everywhere, often hidden in plain sight. It's a case of knowing where to look and thinking 'outside the box'. They appear in books, old documents, newspapers, oral recordings, and in other people's diaries such as Williams. Farmers aside, a large percentage of the population was employed in agriculture as Hinds, Shepherds and Labourers. Huge numbers of people lived a transient life as they moved from farm to farm, often on an annual basis.
Among the hinds* there are not many to be found who were born in the parish where they are at present employed; and very few are there who drew their first breath in the cottage which is now assigned to them, or even on the property which they enrich by the sweat of their brow. They are hired, for the most part, from year to year, on an agreement which binds them to their employer for twelve months, beginning and ending about Whitsuntide ...
This provision of a female outworker as part of the Hind's 'Bond' or employment contract was peculiar to Northumberland, the eastern Scottish Borders and the Lothians. Author Dinah Iredale's guest blog of February 2014, provides an excellent overview of this practice. Her book 'Bondagers: The History of Women Farmworkers in Northumberland and South East Scotland' is an excellent source of information and references. Many of the quotations within this blog come from within its pages. Particularly the chapters covering Flitting, Hirings and workers' accommodation.
Before the Flitting and Hiring, came the 'Speaking', where the farmer and hinds would discuss a potential extension of his contract for another year. The Hind was under no obligation to accept an offer and had the right to move and find another situation.
'Flitting Day' in Northumberland was the 12th May. (In the Scottish Borders and Lothians it was the 26th May which sometimes caused logistical issues.) Although referred to as 'The May' it bore no resemblance to festivities held elsewhere. Hastings Neville in 1909 recalls the scene as '… roads morning to evening thronged with carts piled high with the furniture and bedding of a large proportion of our population.' He further recalls ' the furniture in one cart piled to a dangerous height, with the grandfather clock lying lengthwise and risking its life on the top. In the second cart are the women and children seated on the bedding, caring for the caged canary and the cherished pelargonium which grew at the cottage window…'
There are mixed accounts over the 'flitting'. Some look back with affectionate nostalgia at what must have been quite an upheaval to undertake every year.
'Well, there were usually three carts. Oo got a' the furniture on the three carts. Usually, the third yin wis what they ca'ed a short cart, that was a sma' yin. And the mother usually went in the wi' the youngest bairns and the cat, if ye had yin, or the pig in a bag. It would lie squealin in the straw.' 
Another lady recalls 'the cat would be the first thing to be 'packed' on flittin morning, in case it disappeared during the flurry'.
The 'flit' was so ingrained in some that even in old age they persisted with the annual move. One chap of 80 employed at East Bolton in 1910 when asked if he would stay replied, ' I've nivver been ony mair than a year in ony place an' I'm no 'gain tae begin in my old age.' And another, on finally deciding to stay put, asked the farmer 'if he might have a couple of carts for a short time … Just to ta' take the furniture a bit doon the road.'
Others seem relieved to see the back of it.
'I'll tell you what I like best? Not having to flit every year. It was awful, thon flittin'. I remember driving a horse and cart through the square in Kelso with all the furniture and my mother up at the back.'
Older family members living with the next generation were also involved in the 'flit'. There are tales of 'Granny' passing away the previous night, but due to the shortage of time, being bundled in with the furniture to be dealt with on arrival at the other end!
Very often the vacated cottage would receive its new occupants later the same day. Leaving the vacated cottage clean and tidy with coals and kindling ready for the incoming tenants to light a fire seems to have been an unwritten code. That was if the fire grate had not gone on the cart too, as was usual in earlier periods.
There are many accounts of the accommodation provided for farmworkers, some foul and some fair. It is generally accepted that before the nineteenth-century reforms, the state of housing throughout Northumberland, the Scottish Borders and Lothians was generally poor. Some accounts dating from the twentieth century are not pretty reading either. W.S. Gilly D.D., Vicar of Norham (1831) and Canon of Durham drew attention to the poor conditions of labourers' cottages and campaigned for changes. He refers to the cottages as 'miserable hovels', where 'the walls look as if they will scarcely hold together' and 'the thatch yawning to admit wind and wet'. His book 'The Peasantry of the Border: An Appeal on Their Behalf' contains some useful background information.
In 1805 George Culley and John Bailey noted in a report that they had seen some significant housing improvements. That '…those [buildings] erected of later years are better adapted to the various purposes wanted on extensive farms and improved cultivation…' . Whereas their predecessors were 'very shabby and ill-contrived.' (Those built from the mid-eighteenth century onwards often followed the same pattern of my own home. A long row of stone cottages, (6), of two rooms roughly 5m x 4m with a single door and two windows. There was a separate row of buildings housing the pigsty and the 'netty'.)
An interesting snippet on the state of a vacated cottage appears in Walter White's book 'Northumberland and the Border':
'See an empty cottage before the hind has brought in his lumbering box there's, chairs and table, before he has set up his grate in the empty fireplace, fitted his window to the empty hole in the wall and you will think it's not good enough to be a stable.'
And another quoted from a first-hand account:
‘… about ninety years ago when there were no ovens and no windows; when people shifted they had ti' take their windows and fireplaces with them. No, the houses weren't all alike, the windows were different sizes, and they had to be made right with boards and cow dung.'
Other commentators note that, 'in the poorest dwellings the division between man and beast was only a low wooden partition. It was reckoned to be beneficial to 'let the coo see the fire'.
This is no isolated comment as there are frequent references to man and beast sharing a roof with little to separate them. When trying to connect with ancestors, it is helpful to list the things they did NOT own or even have access to. By today's standards toilets and running water were non-existent. In the words of Jean Willis of Alnwick in the 1920s and 1930s, 'the water tap [standpipe] served seven families and was a good distance from the house…. The netty was outside and … the wooden seat had two holes, a high one and a low one for a child.' (I remember the old disused 'double seater' outside the farmhouse at Longhoughton, but don't recollect a difference in the height of the seat!) Jean continues, 'The one netty had to serve three families ( about 15 people). It was no use if you were in a hurry and someone else was in. There was no sink to wash your hands after.'
It was not all grey, grim and smelly, though, as when 'put to rights' it was possible to make the cottages into a surprisingly comfortable and colourful home. As noted by the Rev Gilly as he describes the dresser with its 'large blue dishes and plates, some of Staffordshire ware, and other of Delf, intermixed with old china or porcelain tea-pots, cups and saucers…' and a 'handsome clock in the tall case and a chest of drawers'. He also remarks that there are books in most households with family bible taking pride of place. All this once past the cow that greeted him immediately inside the door!
Standards of accommodation mattered, and a Hind was not above asking his prospective employer 'What sort of cottages have you?' before accepting a position. At the Hirings in the late-nineteenth early twentieth century, another man's view was, 'family came first' and that 'a good house was worth £1 a week in the wage.'
Memories of the 'Hirings'
These were often large gatherings where workers would be well turned out, sometimes wearing an emblem of their trade, such as a tuft of wool, whipcord, or a sprig of hawthorn in their hats. In 1827, Alexander Somerville, hoping to be hired as a Carter, also put a piece of straw in his mouth to show he was looking for a position.
The Hirings were criticised as demeaning for those looking for work. In 1913 the general secretary of the Scottish Farm Servants Union noted '…the farmers went through the men pretty much the same way as they did their cattle.' With another lady remarking that 'my old aunt was a bondager. She said they used to stand on the cobbles at Alnwick and the farmers used to look them up and down as if they were horses.
An extract from the recollections of John Clay of Kerchesters, Sprouston and later Chicago suggests that some farmers also found the Hirings, an uncomfortable experience.
John even found hiring casual labour by the week distasteful
As the Hirings were also an occasion for folk to gather, it was a boom time for irregular marriages and socialising. Others went for this entertainment such as two girls who went to the hirings 'for sport'. 'The girls go the hirings and like it. They wear their best clothes and their white veils and bonnets. They often look a lump better than the gentry, for they look fresher like.'
There was also the inevitable element of drunkenness and disorderly behaviour. In 1875 at the March Hirings at Alnwick, Thomas Waite employed by John Smith of Longhoughton became involved in a brawl in which a policeman lost his life. (Later found to have been due to a heart attack rather than the ensuing riot.)
Looking deeper into the lives of agricultural ancestors makes for a fascinating study. Uprooting family and belongings, sometimes on an annual basis may sound unsettling by modern standards. But voices from the past often speak fondly of the event. The crowded cottage with little privacy, no 'facilities' and a cow in the back room is beyond the comprehension of today's demands of at least one toilet per resident backside. But the past often tells of a warmth, colour and family unity absent in the present. Far from lost or even unrecorded, numerous sources contain the voices of rural men and women from the past. It is perhaps a case of tuning the modern ear to the correct frequency so they can be heard.
 W. S Gilly D.D. 'The Peasantry of the Border: An Appeal on Their Behalf' 2nd Edition, London, 1842
 Rev. Hastings M Neville, ‘A Corner in the North: Yesterday and Today with Border Folk’, 1909
 Ian MacDougall, Bondagers. Eight Scots Women Farm Workers,
Tuckwell Press, 2000. Mary King b. 1905 describing a flitting circa 1916. Cited in Dinah Iredale 'Bondagers'
 Barbara W Robertson, 'Family Life: Border Farm Workers in the Early Decades of the Twentieth Century', Scottish Life and Society. The Individual and Community Life, John Donald, Edinburgh, 2005. Cited in Dinah Iredale, 'Bondagers'.
 Bolton Parish Description, Scottish Women's Rural Institute, 1974. Cited in Dinah Iredale's 'Bondagers'
 Ellingham Women's Institute, Collectanea. Scraps of English Folklore, XI, 1904.
 The Scotsman, Wednesday 5 July 1978. Liz Taylor interview with Mary Rutherford formerly of Mellerstain.
 John Bailey and George Culley, 'General View of the Agriculture of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland.' 1805. Available through Google Books
 Walter White, Northumberland and the Border, London, 1859. Available through Archive.org.
 Rosalie E Bosanquet, 'In the Troublesome Times' 1929. Second-hand copies are readily available to purchase online.
 Ian and Kathleen Whyte, 'The Changing Scottish Landscape 1500 – 1800', 1991. Cited in Dinah Iredale 'The Bondagers'.
 Dinah Iredale, ‘Bondagers: The History of Women Farmworkers in Northumberland and South East Scotland’ 2nd Edition, Berwick, 2011. p. 105.
 Henley, 'Employment of Children, Young Persons and Women in Agriculture' Royal Commission on Labour, HMSO, 1867.
 Minnie Bell, School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh. Cited by Dinah Iredale.
 Katrina Porteous, 'The Bonny Fisher Lad', People's History Series Ltd, 2004. May Douglas, cited in Dinah Iredale's 'Bondagers'.
 Arthur Wilson Fox, 'The Agricultural Labourer: Report upon The Poor Law Union of Glendale' (Northumberland), Royal Commission on Labour, HMSO, 1893. Cited in Dinah Iredale’s, 'Bondagers'
Other Useful Links
Dinah Iredale, 'Farming History - The Forgotten Workers'
Matthew and George Culley: Travel Journals and Letters, 1765 – 1798. Available in part through Google Books
David R Stead, ‘The mobility of English tenant farmers, c. 1700–1850’
John Grey of Dilston, Berwick, 1841. A View of the Past and Present State of Agriculture in Northumberland and Details of Experiments with Various Manures.
There is no better way to add context to family history than to research the homes, places and communities where ancestors lived. With the return of 'A House Through Time' for Series 4, there is a resurgence of interest in buildings associated with ancestral heritage. If looking for some guidance, the October edition of Family Tree Magazine, dubbed a #househistory special, is a great place to start. Not only does it feature an exclusive interview with the show's presenter, Professor David Olusoga, but editor Helen Tovey dives behind the scenes for a sneaky peek into the making of the programme. (A link to Helen's interview with Mary Crisp and Caroline Miller, two of the show’s producers, is included in this month's newsletter.) The magazine also contains a guide to using maps, practical house history case studies and the top ten sources for researching ancestor homes from Kathryn Feavers. Kathryn has been a member of the research team from Series 1. These are great, and many of the sources will already be familiar to readers but there are always more!
I recently had the chance to take a short walk around Berwick-upon-Tweed 'old town'. I love to lose myself in the views of the sea from the Elizabethan Walls. I can imagine the 'Smacks', other sailing ships and boats waiting to be loaded with local goods, or, to spill their precious cargos from further afield onto the old quayside. The town is packed to the gunwales with so many intriguing buildings and interesting architecture it is easy to visualise the streets, yards and alleyways bustling with colour and activity during different periods of history. This month's blog seems a great place to share a few insider tips on where to find additional information. And for a local flavour what better place to start than Berwick.
1. Maps and Town Plans
I am in complete agreement with Kathryn that maps are a great place to start. With a good run, it is possible to compare landscapes both rural and urban over a long period. Many historic maps and town plans are available through the National Library of Scotland. Amongst them is John Wood's detailed town plan of Berwick from 1822. Wood's series of maps of Scottish towns are particularly useful as they pre-date the census by some 20 years and contain a scattering of names of the proprietors. The accompanying book containing descriptive accounts of his town 'atlas' and some fascinating snippets of historical context, is available through Archive.org. The entry for Berwick begins on page 48.
Looking at the route of my recent walk on Wood’s 1822 map, the space surrounding the buildings in Palace Street and Wellington Terrace is quite striking. There almost appear to be fewer buildings than depicted in John Speed's map of 1611 above. The new Governor's House and grounds built in 1719 to house the Governor of Berwick Garrison, dominates the east side Palace Green in blissful solitude. Thirty years later the large-scale ordnance Survey map of 1852 shows the area to have an Industrial School, the Tweed Brewery, a Bowling Green, Readings Rooms and several new homes.
1852 also bears witness to the importance of the corn trade, with many large granaries occupying the roads adjacent to the Quay Walls.
2. Listed Building Register (Historic England & Historic Environment Scotland)
Most buildings in England that pre-date 1840 have a 'record'. Thus, if a building is old it is always worth checking to see if it is 'listed'. A search of the relevant registers of England and Scotland is easy and free. Entries include more detailed descriptions of the architectural features or historical significance of a building or the reason for its inclusion. They are often brief, but at times the records contain some great nuggets of information. This Historic Buildings Report attached to the entry for 84 Ravensdowne is a fantastic example of what it may be possible to find! Locating the stories of the people though, will most often require investigation elsewhere.
The western gable of No 1 Wellington Terrace (the home of John Miller Dickson (1771 – 1848) has always intrigued, with its blanked off windows blinding the view towards Tweedmouth. A house on the Walls at the corner of Wellington Terrace and Palace Street is known today as the 'Old Whaling House'. It appears on the 1852 map as 'Bay View'. At one time Berwick was also a whaling port, albeit on a small scale. The ship 'Norfolk', famed for surving an ice-bound winter in the Davis Straits in 1836 was the property of John Miller Dickson, the owner and occupant of 1 Wellington Terrace. The old ' whale oil' refinery stands on Pier Road. It is now flats with fabulous views over the mouth of the Tweed with its pier and lighthouse, and to the sea beyond.
3. Berwick upon Tweed 'Our Families Project'
A searchable database for High Greens, Low Greens and Ravensdowne, created as part of the HLF 'Our families Project' organised by Berwick Record Office, is also available online. The database contains information collated by volunteers from censuses, electoral registers, parish records, newspapers and other sources. It's a great little resource but very sadly Berwick specific. Nonetheless, it is an example of the type of information available for a specific property investigation. It is accessible via The Friends of Berwick and District Museum and Archives website.
4. The Berwick Directory of 1806
Trade Directories are another 'go to' for information on a place as well as its people. The Berwick Directory of 1806 provides a glimpse of the town and its community during the Georgian era. The layout allows for searching by surnames, streets and place names, trades and professions, carriers and public houses. (Backway was one of the alternative names used for Ravensdowne, as was Union Street but neither 'stuck'.)
The National Library of Scotland holds Scottish Post Office and other Trade Directories, such as 'Pigots' and 'Slaters' for Scotland. The 1837 Scottish edition of Pigot's also includes Berwick upon Tweed and a few other important 'towns' in England as well as the Isle of Man. The directories are free to access and download.
5. OS Place Names
If looking for places that no longer exist, Ordnance Survey Name Books are worth a try. Thanks to the project 'Northumberland Name Books — Places and People c. 1860' names of places in Northumberland, recorded by the Royal Engineers surveyors and aided by local civilians 'in the know', are available to search online.
(This site carries a 'rabbit hole' warning! I looked at the page for Longhoughton and although I recognised many of the old names, such as Letch Houses that appear in a family tenancy agreement of 1872, I confess many were new to me. One that was unfamiliar and caught my eye was 'Broken Stirrup', a gully in Ratcheugh Crag)
The Scottish OS Name Books are accessible free through Scotland's Places. The website also contains a plethora of other information relating to property: Land Tax Rolls 1645 - 1831, Window Tax 1748 – 1798, Cart Tax Rolls 1785 – 1798, Farm Horse Tax Rolls 1797 – 1798, as well as old maps, drawings and photographs.
6. Valuation Rolls
Staying north of the Border, the Valuation Rolls available through the Scotland's People Website can also be enormously helpful when tracing the history of a property and its occupants. As well as homes, these records also include business premises such as farms, shops, churches, schools and a few oddities such as railway stations. Their purpose was to assess the rate of tax due on a property.
The assessor in each county or parliamentary burgh compiled annual valuation rolls, listing most buildings and other property in their areas, along with the names and designations of the proprietor (owner), tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value.
The records cover the period 1855 – 1940, and there is a helpful guide to using these records on the Scotland's People Website. The Index is free to search, but to view or download a record will cost 2 credits or 50p. Although it is possible to search by parish and place it can be a little tricky identifying a specific property as street names and numbers were often absent in the earlier records. Knowing the surname of the owner, occupant or neighbours will help a lot.
The level of information provided in the returns varied year on year. But as the records were created for tax assessment purposes, they do have their limitations.
Deeds are a large, complex and interesting topic that deserve a blog of their own. Only a very brief overview appears below.
For present-day enquiries, a search of the Title Registers held by the relevant Land Registry for each Country will establish the current owner and extent of a property. For England, this is HM Land Registry, and in Scotland, the Scotland Land Information Service through the Registers of Scotland.
In Scotland before the introduction of the Land Register, Deeds (or Sasines) relating to land and property were recorded in the Sasine Register. Some sasines are accessible through Registers of Scotland but the National Records of Scotland holds the majority. Click here for the NRS online guide to sasines and searching the sasine registers. Alternatively, there are various companies and organisations that (for a fee) will help navigate the systems and obtain the available property records for you.
In England, local record repositories and archives often hold historic Deeds and other documents associated with land transactions. Transactions in land to prove ownership have been recorded since the Medieval period.
Transactions in Freehold land came in different forms; Gift, Quitclaim, Letters Patent, Bargain and Sale, Lease and Release, Feoffement, Final Concord, Common Recovery, Deed of Covenant and Grant or Conveyance. More details on their specific purpose and distinguishing features can be found online in an 'Introduction to Deeds in Depth' at The University of Nottingham.
They also appeared as hybrid documents such as the transcription extract taken from a document dated 1640 held at Berwick upon Tweed Record Office. It is for the Bargain and Sale with Feoffement of a property in Bridge Street lying between properties belonging to William Morton, gentleman, and George Smith, Burgess.
To all Christian people to whom this p[re]sent Writeing shall come I Edward Wilson of the towne & County of Newcastle upon
Although introduced in 1862, land registration was not made compulsory until 1899. In Scotland, the General Register of Sasines was introduced in 1617 and was the first national land register in the world. The biggest problem is that historically only a small proportion of the population owned land and property!
8. Estate Records and Rental Rolls
Most land and property, particularly in rural areas, was in the ownership of a handful of individuals. These 'Estates' then let their land and property to others. As a result, lease and rental records such as 'Rental Rolls' can often be more informative on a property's history than those relating to its ownership. Although some estates on both sides of the Border still retain their records, many have made them available to the public via national or local archives and record offices. For example, Berwick Record Office holds historic Rental Rolls for the Ford and Etal Estate amongst its records.
The various tenants of the farm where I grew up (featured in my July blog), were traced back to the early 1800s through rental agreements and tenancies. The associated schedules make fascinating reading and illustrate how the farm changed shape over the years to accommodate the arrival of the railway, the new road to Boulmer, the expansion of Longhoughton Village and the coming of the Royal Air Force.
They also document the changes to the farmhouse living accommodation, both cosmetic and functional. At one point in time, it appears there was another floor containing four attic rooms and what would become my own bedroom, may once have been a granary.
The eight sources outlined above will hopefully provide some inspiration for new places to research. Not only for information about your ancestors, but also their homes, other associated buildings such as shops or farms, and the area and communities in which they lived. Weaving historical context gleaned about homes and communities into ancestral information brings another dimension and dynamic to family history research
1806 Directory for Berwick
National Library of Scotland, Maps and Plans of Berwick
Historic Environment Scotland
National Library of Scotland, Scottish Post Office Directories
Scotlands Places, Berwickshire Records
Northumberland County Council , Extensive Urban Survey Project 2009. List of Listed Buildings in Berwick Appendix Page 60
Northumberland Name Books, Berwick,
Scotland’s People Guide to Valuation Rolls
Nottingham University, ‘Introduction to Deeds in Depth’
Friends of Berwick and District Museum and Archives
‘Biography is one of the most popular and widely read of literary genres. It can also be controversial, scandalous, and hotly debated. And it is by no means a fixed or stable form of literature. Biography has gone through many centuries of change and exists in many different versions.’
Documenting ancestor’s lives and bringing together family history as a narrative creates a position of both power and responsibility. Not least, over what form the account will take, what to include and what to lose to the cutting room floor. It is the culmination of years of research come to fruition. The stories of the good, the bad, the bigamous, the unmarried, the criminal or the victim all waiting to spill out onto the page. But where to begin? And is it ‘right’ to include everything ‘warts and all’ because it has been unearthed?
The October issue of Family Tree Magazine contains my article discussing this issue. It also covers some other considerations faced when writing ancestors stories (moral and otherwise) based on the results of a questionnaire circulated in June. The same issue contains an exclusive feature on house history by David Olusoga, presenter of BBC2’s ‘A House in Time’. A great article that builds on last month’s blog looking at creating immersive historical settings.
In preparation for the companion piece focusing on the ‘practicalities’ of writing ancestor biographies, this month I look at some stylistic ways it can be easily achieved. It can be a lot of fun! Plus, many methods outlined can also act as a research aide memoir by highlighting gaps in knowledge.
‘Cradle to Grave’ is the traditional style or method favoured by family historians. It is customary to begin with a birth and follow a chronological path through life and achievements to the point of departure. But there are many other ways to approach writing family history and ancestral stories and, they don’t all have to begin at the beginning or with a birth! Here are a few alternative tactics that work well in the context of family history:
There are at least two further approaches. One will be familiar to all family historians (the Obituary style) and another that took me a bit by surprise! During five days of intensive life writing workshops, author Richard Skinner set a task to research and gather as much information as possible about a favourite ‘artist’. The research time given was one afternoon! The information amassed was to form the basis of the next day’s writing challenge. But at the time of the research, that challenge was unknown.
Portrait of a Painter - Henry George Hine 1811 - 1895
My knowledge of the world of art is somewhat limited, but the well-known watercolourist Henry George Hine immediately came to mind. He was the husband of a third great aunt, Mary Ann Eliza Egerton, so I already knew something about him too. An interesting man who preferred a ‘simple kindly life’ and had great stories to tell. He was a prolific artist whose pictures are rich in historic detail. They reflect a bygone era and provide powerful vignettes of social history. Those of Brighton are useful records of the town’s history with its fish quay, promenade and bathing huts. Other paintings depicting scenes such as a cattle train on a viaduct, London washerwoman at work and a fire in Drury Lane are three others that offer rich glimpses into the past. Hine himself often reflected on the Brighton of his childhood recounting the tales to friends and family along with the legend of a highwayman ancestor hanged during the time of Cromwell.
My January 2019 blog also mentions the family. In it, I aim to dispel a few myths concerning the Egerton family pedigree and speculate whether coaching connections may have brought the couple together. It is only speculation, as Mary Ann was to become an accomplished artist in her own right. She exhibited a figurative watercolour at the Dudley Gallery in 1873. The couple had a staggering fifteen children of whom only one did not make adulthood. I also mention two of his youngest daughters who were founding members of the ‘Peasant Arts Society’ in Haslemere Surrey. But so many aspects of this couple’s life have an interesting back story. The history and site of Saint Marks Church, Kennington, where the couple married in November 1840, is worthy of its own chapter. But I digress!
Faber Workshops & Writing Challenges
• The interview or question and answer method.
When Richard outlined the writing challenge the following morning, my heart hit my boots. ‘Interview your chosen artist in five questions.’ How do you interview an ancestor who died in 1895, let alone know what questions to ask? Believing myself well prepared for the day’s exercises, my confidence flew out of the window and blind panic set in. On top of this horrendous challenge was a time limit of 45 minutes. I was having premonitions of a blank page at the end of the allotted time and sitting back to enjoy my writing partner’s piece of literary genius! Where to even start such an endeavour? I looked to Henry himself for guidance and started to write …
I am looking at the 80-year-old man in an 1891 sketch by Walker Hodgson. His mass of white, leonine hair is set high and Einstein-Esque above an intelligent forehead. His kindly eyes gaze over his long nose, drooping moustache and feathery beard to a point in the distance somewhere beyond my left shoulder. I imagine ‘chewing the fat’ over a cup of hot chocolate with this portly fellow with the immaculate bow tie, waistcoat unbuttoned to accommodate his form and handkerchief, wilting in a top pocket. I want to ask him about his life and experiences that culminated in the vice presidency of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. A position he held from 1887 to his death in 1895.
Although I didn’t finish the challenge in the allotted time, I was not left looking at a blank screen either. Yes, the first question was about where he was born, but it needn’t have been! In my haste to put words on the page, I framed the questions around answers I knew. But none of the details are fictitious and where possible, Henry’s ‘own voice’ has been used. As I began scribbling, I remembered the book ‘Round about a Brighton Coach Office’, a selection of his stories retold and published by his daughter Maude. Using extracts from the book and combining them with other known facts formed the basis of Henry’s answers.
As coincidence would have it, the afternoon’s challenge was an Obituary, the style of which is popular and well-known amongst family historians.
• Obituary style or ‘Beginning at the End’
As well as containing details of funeral arrangements, an obituary of a well-known figure often comprises a brief biographical overview of their life. Adopting this approach essentially begins an individual’s story at the point where it ends. The main focus is almost always specific achievements. This time there was a limit of 500 words on top of the 45 minutes of writing time. What follows is my attempt, which, although roughly completed within the time, is not great but will hopefully inspire you to give it go!
On the 16th March 1895, at his home in Gayton Crescent, Hampstead, in his 84th year, renowned watercolour artist Henry George Hine laid down his paintbrush for the last time.
I confess to writing the beginning and the end first and then ‘putting the jam in the sandwich’. Cheating, but at least it provides some form of narrative arc to the 481 words used! But it is the sharp contrast in language and tone between the two exercises that is so dramatic.
The Q&A is more personal and the subject feels close and alive, whereas the Obituary is altogether more formal and the subject quite distant. It is interesting to see how much the different approaches affect the result in such a radical way. An interview or Q&A with a deceased ancestor is not something I would ever have thought of trying before, but it is a method and style I will try again. I can also see its benefit as a focus and framework for questions to pose to the living too!
The reason for sharing the exercises above is to inspire you to be bold and have a go yourselves! Choose a style, set a clock for half an hour or 45 minutes and just get scribbling. (Setting a short time limit can be an effective motivator.) Then, why not share your results with others. They may look differently on family history after reading your work!
 Hermione Lee. Biography A Very Short Introduction. Oxford 2009.
 Family Tree Magazine, October Issue on sale from the 10th September either in print or online https://www.family-tree.co.uk/store/back-issues/family-tree-magazine
St Mark's Church Kennington,
Explore a further selection of Henry's Paintings at Watercolour World
A highly informative website about the peasant art movement and its people.
Peasant Arts - Haslemere http://peasant-arts.blogspot.com/p/introduction.html
A wonderfully illustrated copy of Henry's tales retold by his daughter Maude.
Archive.org 'Round About a Brighton Coach Office' Maude Egerton King with illustrations by Lucy Kemp Welsh.
A great narrative does not have to be fiction and writing creatively does not make an account less factual! Creating a rich setting provides the theatre in which characters can be expressed and allowed to re-enact their stories.
For many family historians, the pleasure of research lies in sharing discoveries or entertaining others with ancestral tales. For some, it is the enjoyment of immersion in old documents and learning about times gone by. For others, it is the desire to create a legacy for generations to come. But for all, the question of how to record it all will doubtless arise at some point!
There is the traditional method of recording information in a family tree accompanied by a report containing dates, facts and endless citations. But if looking to go beyond the time-honoured route, a written narrative account may be the answer. Nonetheless, the style and format of any account are dictated by the intended audience. Traditional family history reports are fine for other family historians. But they don’t and won’t cut the mustard with non-genealogy minded folk! To keep them reading beyond the first page requires a more sensory approach and language that captures the imagination.
Writing a factual family history, a biographical account of a specific ancestor or about the place where ancestors lived needn’t be dull. Cast your mind back to books you have read. What is it about them you enjoyed? I have recently finished ‘Inge’s War' by Svenja O’Donnell. Taking advantage of the hot weather I sat in the garden and read the account of her grandmother’s life in Germany during WW2 from cover to cover. It is an example of a family history narrative at its best. Meticulously researched, yet the language is highly accessible making it easy for the reader to engage with her story. It is sensitive and compelling but remains honest and factual.
Creating Setting for Historical Narratives
Like any other account, the historical narrative needs to contain specific elements. Setting is one of the most important as it conveys a sense of place and time as well as providing the backdrop and mood for characters to play out the plot. I have been having some fun of late indulging in a bit of memoir combined with house history and a 1,000-word challenge.
The house and farm where I spent much of my childhood and adolescence have a history that stretches back several centuries. The house’s listing with Historic England dates it from the late sixteenth - early seventeenth century.  But I am also lucky as many records have survived which show how they have changed and evolved over the years. I was the fifth generation in my direct paternal line to have lived there, thus I remember it well.
It doesn’t always need a photograph to generate a visual on which to base more sensory images. This extract from the rental agreement for our predecessors in 1853 paints a picture of a very different internal layout than the one I remember or exists today.
These differences account for the strange levels of old doorways and windows which can still be seen both inside out. Instead of producing a literal account, it is possible to create a more dramatic feel for the idiosyncrasies without compromising the truth.
In the 1000-word challenge, I went a step further, humanised the house and treated it as the central character. By creating analogies between the house as a mother caring for her children, and, as a collector of the souls of previous inhabitants, it suited the purpose of the story I was trying to tell.
Below are some examples of sources that will provide valuable information to help create a setting rich in historical detail and context.
The garden of my early childhood in my grandparents' day has also radically changed. Granny Smith loved her flowers; a large bed in the centre of the top lawn provided what seemed to be an endless supply of Dahlias and Chrysanthemums. There was a dry fishpond, a concrete-lined crater surrounded by crazy paving and French Marigolds. But it is the rows of rose beds separated by parallel gravel pathways I particularly remember.
It was this interesting little snippet found in the newspapers that brought it to mind. Although the paper appeared in 1934, the article relates to recollections of a journey made 40 years earlier in 1895.
My recollections of the structure of the house continue:
The next step is to introduce atmosphere. Setting and sensory description is often lacking from traditional family histories and other historical accounts. Again, as well as engaging the reader it is important to remember the contract to provide a truthful account. In my 1000-word challenge, I drew heavily on personal memories of sounds, smells, taste and touch.
The smallest detail or object can add mood and ambience as well as focus and interest.
Whilst helpful for setting, the sources listed above also contain information about the human aspect of a property or place. When combined with the records commonly used for researching family histories, such as Birth Marriage & Death and the Census, it is possible to draw together a chronological account of previous inhabitants.
There is enough information about the place and its people to write several chapters of a book. This extract is a brief glimpse, but it needed to be. Context and relevance are key for both narrative and content. A tight word count focuses the mind and curtails an over-eager pen!
Writing a family, house or any other history may seem a daunting prospect. Try starting small with a series of small challenges or vignettes written in 1,000 words or less. It’s amazing how much can be said in under 500 words. These exercises are great for building confidence and also for providing material for a much larger work. Remember, a great narrative does not have to be fiction and writing creatively does not make an account less factual! Creating a rich setting provides the theatre in which characters can be expressed and allowed re-enact their story.
A two-part article on the topic of writing family history narrative will be published in Family Tree Magazine. Part I which considers the principles, (moral and otherwise) together with the potential pitfalls, will appear in the October issue on sale from the 10th September. It is based on the responses to a public questionnaire circulated in June. If you were one of the 75 individuals who took part and shared their views, very many thanks indeed. Your opinions matter and they were fascinating to read!
Part II will focus on the practicalities of writing family history in its several forms. If you have written a family history or are writing your ancestors' stories as a narrative, tried to write but given up, or would like to give it a go but don't know where to begin, we would love to hear from you. The questionnaire is anonymous and contains only seven quick questions. It will be open throughout August. The results with a selection of your comments will appear in the December issue.
As research can be a solitary pastime, so can writing. Getting together with others, in a small group, or even just one other individual can provide moral support as well as helpful feedback and suggestions. Content, Context and Construction are topics I intend to cover in workshops with small groups over the winter months. If you think these might be of interest, please contact me for further information.
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 Penguin Books, Svenja O'Donnell, 'Inges' War - A True Story of Family, Secrets and Survival under Hitler'
 Historic England, Longhoughton Hall,