Geoffs Genealogy Update, 1 December 2008

Monday December 1st, 2008 | Geoff

It’s blog time again.

On 30 October Helen and I joined my fellow researchers from Shropshire Family History Society on a coach trip to The National Archives (TNA) at Kew. I left with a long research list, and high hopes. How did I fare?

The number one item on my agenda was to look for any records of Thomas Hunt, Lawyer’s employment as a Customs Officer in London in the 1750s. I was a complete novice as far as this piece of research was concerned, so I headed straight for the help desks, seeking advice. I had read up on the subject in advance, but it’s always worthwhile to talk to the experts, I think. The prognosis by the man behind the desk was not promising. He suggested that this research would not be easy. Nevertheless, undaunted, I went on.

The man behind the desk was correct. I won’t bore you by recounting the sources we checked. Suffice to say that there seems to be a gap in most of the records just about the time when our Thomas should appear. The only records that we were able to check were the Customs Officers Patent Rolls and the Warrants appointing Customs Officers, and we could not trace him in those.
Unless there is a surrogate source that we can use it looks as though we are destined to draw a blank in researching Mr Hunt’s service in the Customs. Thinking caps on!

Not to worry, I had a number of other sources to look at.

We reprised some documents I had looked at on my previous visit to TNA. These were legal papers relating to the annulment of the marriage between Robert Hanham Collyer and his young wife, Emily Jeans Clements. The couple married in 1864 and had two children, but Emily discovered that Robert already had a wife – Susannah MacDonald – who was still alive. She sued for an annulment, which was granted in 1873. In 1877 Robert Hanham Collyer was sued again – by his legal representative in another action – for non-payment of legal fees. These documents are also at the TNA. I had photographed all of these documents previously, but a few of the pics were a bit blurred, so I re-photographed them on this visit. I now have a complete set of readable documents to study.

We moved on to look at a number of other sources, with varying degrees of success. We found several Court of Chancery documents relevant to the Bankes trust, and we photocopied these. As they are large documents we had to photograph them in sections, and we now need to piece together the various images, before we can study the documents.

On the whole, Chancery documents can be quite hard to read. The Bills and Responses are often very large documents, and the handwriting of two hundred years ago is not so easy to read. They were written in what you may call “legal language”, and the same information was often repeated several times. On the whole it is quite difficult to spot the vital small snippet of new information that can mean so much.

If I am studying one of these documents at TNA I find that they are very time consuming, and I can spend most of my precious research time reading a document that actually doesn’t tell me anything new. By photographing them I can do this work at home, meaning that I can cover more ground on my visits to Kew.

During the afternoon I ordered some Court of Chancery Masters’ Reports relating to the Bankes Trust Chancery case. These documents contain the decisions that were made during the Masters in Chancery, sometimes with quite a bit of explanation of why the decisions were reached. Normally, document orders were taking about 30 minutes for the TNA staff to fulfill, so I thought I’d just have time to look at some of these. However, my order took about ninety minutes to arrive at the desk, so I ran out of time.I only had time to look at one item. This was very frustrating, and added to the frustration I had felt in the early stages of our visit. I had ordered the Collyer legal papers in advance of my visit via the TNA website, and they should have been ready for me to use on arrival. In fact they were not. For some reason my order had not been processed, and I had to wait for about 30 minutes before I could start work.

As a result of these delays, I wasted the best part of two hours possible research time, and as we only had six hours at TNA, this was very disappointing.

Better luck next time!

Jan and I paid another visit to Staffordshire Archives, in Staford recently, to complete our transcription of the Blagg entries in the Cheadle parish registers. The Blaggs are a most interesting family. It is apparent from the registers that they were prosperous people in the nineteenth century – John Michael Blagg (1793-1878) was a solicitor, as was his son – Charles John Blagg (1833-1915). The available records suggest that the family moved to Cheadle, Staffs in the eighteenth century from Nottinghamshire. I’m sure that a delve in the Nottinghamshire archives would be rewarded with much information. There are several connections to the clergy – notably Susan Anne Blagg (c1827-1888) married Richard Rawle (1812–1889), bishop of Trinidad!

Mary Adela Blagg (1858-1944) was a famous astronomer; a crater on the moon was named after her. As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, my interest in this family stems from the fact that Arthur Ackland Hunt (1841-1914), the artist, who features in Geoffs Genealogy, married Emma Sarah Blagg (1838-1896) at Cheadle on 24 July 1879.

If anybody reading this has an interest in this clan I’d be glad to hear from them. Although they are fairly distantly connected to my forebears I nevertheless find them very interesting people.

A number of other developments have occurred in my research over the past few weeks, and I’ll mention a couple of them briefly before closing.

Firstly, Barbara, a Bankes descendant on the Fiveash line, has told me about a gathering of her clan that she attended during October. She has sent me some information about her Fiveash forebears that she obtained at this event, and I’m busily adding that to the pedigree at present. My thanks to Barbara for that.

Now to a brief mention of the Culshaws. These are my Lancashire forebears, and I’m sad to say that they get an absurdly small amount of my research time because the Bankes Pedigree is so endlessly interesting. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Chris, a fellow Culshaw descendant, contacted me with some potentially significant information. She had been doing a bit of research on the internet and came across a family of Heskeths, living in North Meols in Lancashire, who could possibly be our Hesketh forebears. We have known for some years that John Culshaw (c1761-1841) married Ellen Hesketh (c1761-1846) at Ormskirk on 20 Feb 1787. These are the furthest back Culshaws we have traced, and the problem has been to identify their parents. Well, it is possible that the Ellen Hesketh who Chris found at North Meols (bap 19 Sep 1761, parents William & Catharine (sic) could just be our ancestor. How to test this out?
We need to scour the records for a relevant Hesketh will, or a helpful MI, or something similar.
I feel a new year trip to Lancashire coming up!

Incidentally, Chris found this piece of information by carrying out a search of the National Archives website, which indicates how widely we should all be spreading our nets in the course of our searches.

My thoughts are now turning to the next updates of the website. I have so much material that I could upload that I’m really spoiled for choice, but it all needs some work done to it, and time is quite short. I shall try to get some of it on the site before too long, but at present I’m concentrating on getting the tree as up to date as I can, so that it is as complete as possible when we upload. Helen and I usually upload to the site every January, but I’m not sure that we will manage to do that this year. It may be somewhat later.

Cheers for now.

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