Geoffs Genealogy Update 3 September 2009 (As 31 August 2009)

Thursday September 3rd, 2009 | Geoff

August was a busy month as far as family history is concerned. Not particularly in terms of research done – I haven’t made any excursions to visit records offices, or spent much time researching online – but in terms of contacts made and correspondence.

I was delighted to renew contact with Shelley, who is a fellow descendant on the Smith line. She is descended from Jessie (Smith) Codd (1880-1941), and Thomas William Walter Codd (1877-1945). Jessie was a sister of my grandfather George William Smith (1886-1940), and therefore an aunt of my mother. Shelley and I have never met, but were in contact with one another in the 1990s, sharing research information. In the intervening years we have both made progress, trying to piece together the history of the Codd family. I think I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries that we believe there were fifteen children born to Thomas & Jessie, and that many of them died young.

Not surprisingly, given that the Codds were Shelley’s direct forebears, she has made more progress than me with this research, but it is good to see that on the whole our research findings coincide, so there is a fair chance that we have drawn the correct conclusions. Assuming that there were fifteen Codd children we still have three left to trace, but hopefully we shall be able to do that between us.

Another recently established contact is Jim Smith, who hails from Pennsylvania, USA. Isn’t it good how this family history lark brings us in contact with new friends across the globe?

Jim is descended on the Collyer line. Among his forebears he has Robert Mitchell Collyer (1787-1859) and his wife Ann Dujardin (1798-aft 1864), the parents of Robert Hanham Collyer (1814-abt 1891) . The family migrated to the US from England in 1836, having lived for periods in London and on the Channel Isle of Jersey.

Jim sent me the most fantastic collection of 47 family photographs portraying his forebears, accompanied by a fifteen pages long commentary. I have never before received such a fantastic volume of material in one go, and I really don’t know how I can possibly reciprocate! I shall have a good dig through my records, and try to do justice to the task.

You may be able to imagine how daunting is the task of studying and archiving all this information! I can see that I am going to be occupied fully for the forseeable future.

In a couple of weeks I am off to The National Archives at Kew, for one of my twice yearly visits, courtesy of the coach trips run by the Shropshire Family History Society. These trips are fantastic value at £18, and (traffic permitting) enable me to enjoy about six hours research time at TNA. This time my efforts will be focussed on the 1911 census. I need to spend some time before the visit compiling a list of targets, and will spend as much time as I can looking for them. The beauty of searching the 1911 census at TNA is that it is free. All you pay for is the cost of the printouts which, at 20p each for each A3 sheet, are a bargain. There is also lots of help available in the search rooms, in case you are having difficulty using the facilities.

I also have a number of other items to look for at TNA, but need to organise my ideas on this.

You may be aware that the UK Government is looking for savings in these straitened economic times, and TNA has formulated plans to play its part in this. As I understand it, the plans involve the closure of the building on Mondays, the reduction of staffing levels, and the introduction of car parking charges, all of which, I believe, are quite worrying.

The argument for the Monday closures seems to be that more and more records are becoming available on the internet, so there should be less demand for actual time in the search rooms – a somewhat superficial view, I would say, and if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion we could end up with increasingly more restrictions on search room availability.

The proposed car parking charge, effective from January 2010, is £5 per day. This can be justified as a form of “green tax”, but it is disingenuous, I think, to do so. The powers that be originally said that the charge would be set at a level that reflects the costs of providing parking facilities, but according to the Federation of Family History Societies, the breakdown of the costings indicates that TNA have actually set the charge to cover the costs of maintaining the grounds as a whole – not just the car parks.

As we may expect, there is the opportunity for members of the public to express their views re these issues, but one has the feeling that it is unlikely that any protests will have much effect on the decision. The need to raise money trumps all arguments, after all!

I fully understand that the country is in an economic mess,and that there is a need to look for extra ways of raising money, hopefully with minimum damage to essential services. I understand that to many people the services offered by TNA are not “essential”, and are therefore a bit of a target. What concerns me is that the facilities at this wonderful institution will gradually be watered down, and public access will be reduced. To me these changes are “the thin end of the wedge”, and will be followed, in due course, by further dimunition of services or increased costs. After all, what happened to the digitised Births, Marriages & Deaths civil registration indexes that we were promised when the Family History Centre in Islington closed?

Enough of this. I’m sorry this entry is a bit political, but I am afraid that I do not trust the UK powers that be – of whatever political persuasion – enough to believe that they will adequately defend the interests of TNA researchers when considering these matters.

To conclude on a slightly brighter note, I was recently carrying out a sweep of the internet, searching on “John Bankes, haberdasher”, when to my amazement the wonderful Google came up with a source relating to the Bankes Trust that I would never have found by any means other than an internet search. This was an item in the Children’s Newspaper dated 12 August 1933, entitled John Banks and his Money. The item referred to “kind-hearted John Banks”, the bequests he made in his will, and the Court of Chancery cause. It reported the end of the Chancery actions after 200 years of litigation, and the reversion of the fund to the Haberdashers’ Company. What a fantastic find! I had already discovered in The Times newspaper that the final act in this litigation had taken place in July 1933, and mentioned this in my biography of Bankes on Geoffs Genealogy, but I had never before thought of the Children’s Newspaper as a possible source!

It just goes to show that you never know where the next piece of information will come from!

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