Geoffs Genealogy Update 6 August 2013

There has been too much going on over the past few weeks, so I haven’t spent much time on family history. The month started with us enjoying the last few days of our week long sojourn in France, and since our return we have been so busy it’s unreal. There was the open air Shakespeare production – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – at Stafford Castle, followed by a couple of concerts at the Eisteddfod at Llangollen. The Choir of the World final was fantastic. Choirs from all over the world competed, and the competition was won by the Adelaide Chamber Singers. Nice to see the Aussies win something in the UK this year!

In the the Dance competition we greatly enjoyed the performance by Cercle Celtique Kan Breizh, who came from Brittany and were the winners of the Core0graphed Folk Dance competition. They competed in a dance off with the winners of the Traditional Folk dance competition – Wales’s very own Nantgarw Dancers, who ultimately triumphed. All in all, a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

What with visiting our son and also taking part in a concert as a member of my local male voice choir, there was little time last month for treeing.

Here in the UK the July weather was phenomenal. Unusually, the jet stream gets stuck in a location that was beneficial to we Brits, and the result was a superb few weeks of  very hot weather. After our lousy Spring and very long Winter – not to mention last year’s apology for a Summer – we certainly deserved this spell of continental type weather, which really took us all by surprise.

As we entered July I realised that I needed to get cracking on a piece of research that I had promised to carry out for the Family & Community Historical Research Society. I have been a member of this society since its formation, as I find population studies extremely interesting. This type of historical research is closely related to genealogy, as it focuses on the people who made up our towns and villages, and can be applied to the communities that our forebears lived in. I’ve long believed that if you want to understand the lives of your ancestors you need to try to understand the community in which they lived, and this type of research helps you to do that.

The work I carried out in July is what  we call a mini project. The idea is that FACHRS members across the country carry out some research locally and the results of all these activities are then combined by a coordinator, to provide a national perspective.

The subject of this project is Victorian school mistresses. I was given a named school mistress, who was enumerated on the 1881 census in my home town of Newport, Shropshire. My task was to trace her on the other censuses and as many other records as I could in order to form a record of her career and, indeed, her life. With the availability of so many records on the internet this is not so hard a task as it would have been a few years ago, providing, of course, that the indexing by the online providers is accurate.

Anyway, the subject of my research was a certain Miss Agnes Campbell, who was born in Altrincham around 1858. She was the daughter of William & Sarah Campbell.  William was a Joiner by trade. In  1871 she was enumerated in her parents’ household, but by 1881 she was in lodgings at  Avenue Road, Newport, Shropshire, where she was enumerated as a school mistress. Probably a junior school mistress, as she was only 23, and we may guess that she may have only left the home of her parents a few years previously.

In 1886 Agnes was married to James Lees Griffiths in her home parish of St Georges Church, Altrincham, Cheshire. James was a native of Newport, Shropshire, having been born there in about 1856.  The couple returned to Newport to live, Agnes continuing her career as a schoolteacher, while James was a self employed Plumber and Painter.

The first child of Agnes & James Griffiths was Frederic,  who died in the first quarter of 1890, only a few months after birth. Between then and 1895 the couple had another three children, all of whom lived to adulthood.  I found listings of Agnes as a schoolmistress at the Junior School, Avenue Road, Newport, in trade directories dated  1905, 1909 and 1913, so deduce that she was Head Teacher throughout these years. By 1922 she had probably retired, though, as another person was listed as schoolmistress in the trade directory of that year. She died in 1934, the death being registered at Newport. James died two years later, the death being registered in Stafford, which is 12 miles from Newport.

 I have identified a few other sources that may give me more information about this lady and her career, so plan a trip to Shropshire Archives sometime in August to research these.

This was a very enjoyable piece of research, which only took me a few evenings, and provided a bit of a diversion from the sort of stuff I usually delve into. Now the weather is cooler and wetter, most of our summer treats are past, and I’m back on the Jacobson trail. More on that next time.



  • This page was last updated on Tuesday August 6th, 2013.