Geoffs Genealogy Update 05 April 2008

I’m a bit late writing this entry on my blog, so apologies for that.

Since my last entry the time has passed so quickly! We have had the earliest Easter holiday of my lifetime, which we spent decorating – a necessary evil. Just before Easter Jan & I went to Birmingham to see a Welsh National Opera performance of Verdi’s Falstaff, with Bryn Terfel in the title role. What a treat this was. Terfel is the most fantastic Falstaff ever, I’m sure, and the rest of the cast were simply wonderful. The performance passed so quickly! The following week it was shown on S4C tv, who had recorded the performance in Cardiff, so we were able to enjoy it all over again. A real treat.

We are eagerly awaiting details of Bryn Terfel’s Faenol Festival, to be held in North Wales in August. I keep on checking the website (every day!) but still no news!

Last week we went to Symphony Hall to hear the CBSO perform Beethoven’s 5th Symphony under the baton of Louis Langree – an exhiliarating performance of a familiar but enduringly brilliant work. The programme also included a performance of Bartok’s 3rd Piano Concerto, with soloist Andreas Haefliger. This, also, was wonderful.

Symphony Hall was only about half full for this performance, which was a bit surprising to me. The seats are not particularly expensive, and it seems to me sad that more people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy such world class music in world class surroundings.

On the treeing front I’ve been as active as ever. I’ve had some very interesting contacts with people who have visited the Geoff’s Genealogy website, and found something there that interests them. The research I’ve been doing over this period has mainly centred on the Heppell line, which I’ve mentioned several times on this blog – mainly last year.

Regular readers of this blog (yes – I assure you – there are some!) may recall that among my finds when I made my trip to London on 12 February was a probate entry relating to the estate of Anna Maria (Holt) Heppell, who died on 21 February 1866. This stated that her sole kinsman was her son, Richard William George Heppell, who lived at that time in a place called Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York state, USA. I thought I would see what I could find out about this man and his life in the USA, and this is what I have been doing of late – with quite good results.

First of all I found Richard and his wife on a couple of US censuses. I noted that on the 1870 US Census he was married to a lady who had, like him, been born in England. I also noted that the children of this couple had been born in New York, USA. I therefore surmised that they probably married before going to the USA.

I found Richard and his wife on the passenger list of the vessel City of London, which arrived in New York on 21 August 1866, indicating that they were, indeed, married before their emigration. This led me to trace their, marriage in the civil registration indexes – Richard William George Heppell m Harriet Sarah Houghton and the event was registered in the December quarter of 1865 in Pancras, Middlesex district registry.

I went on to look for family members on successive US census entries which are available online, which gave me a great deal of information, not only about Richard and Harriet and their ten children, but also about the families of their children. The finds I made gave me information that extends some branches of the research right through to 1930. I ascertained that Richard William George Heppell must have died between the 1900 and 1910 censuses, and also that his son – Richard H Heppell (b 1868) took part in the Alaskan gold rush which started in 1909. In 1910 he was enumerated as one of many miners in the goldrush town of East Nome.

I was very pleased with all this. I had found out so much interesting information that the fact that I had not found the deaths of many of these folk did not concern me too much. However, I decided to carry out an internet search for Heppell in New York and came up with a website that contains an index to the burials at Forest Hill cemetery, Fredonia, New York. This, I now know, was the burial place of many of the Heppell clan, and there they all were! Not only that, but the index includes some of the maiden names of some of the spouses of Heppell males, the names of the parents of many of the deceased, and the cause of death of many of the deceased. Fantastic!

All this information has been added to my records. Yes, I know, I should check the original source, but at the moment I do not have the means to do that ….. unless of course the LDS has filmed it.

Another avenue to pursue sometime. This treeing lark never stops, does it???

  • This page was last updated on Saturday April 5th, 2008.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 17 February 2008

Hello again.

I visited London last Tuesday, with my daughter Helen. Helen was on a business trip, and I was treeing, so we travelled down from Wolverhampton early in the morning then went our separate ways, meeting up again in the afternoon.

I had never before visited the offices of HM Courts Service at First Avenue House, Holborn, so I decided to use this occasion to rectify this omission. As is my wont, I took with me a lengthy list of items to research. I always set myself far too many tasks on these trips, but at least I never run out of things to do!

The system in operation at this venue is very simple. There are a series of racks containing quite large books. These contain the probate calendars, which list and summarise the Wills and Administrations dealt with by HMCR. They date from 1858, when the Church Courts ceased to deal with probates, to about 1995. There are a number of books for each year, and each year is split alphabetically. You simply find the book you need and look for the entry that interests you. If you find it you will probably want to annotate the details of the entry, but if you wish you can order a copy of the document. I ordered copies of three wills, which will take about a week to arrive by post, and cost me £5.00 each. It is also possible to obtain a copy will one hour after ordering it.

If you want to order a copy of a Will you need to complete a simple form and take the relevant calendar to an official, who checks that you have completed your application correctly. You then pay your money to a cashier, who takes your order for processing.

I imagine you are all agog, wanting to know whether I found anything of great interest. Well, in my three hours stay I managed to cover about 3/4 of my list. I’ll mention a few.

As I expected, my poor old Smith forebears do not appear to have left wills – not even my mum’s uncle Jim – James Archer Smith – who had his own businesses and was said by members of the family to have been quite prosperous.

I did have quite a number of successes, however. Ralph Hewitt (d. 1938) left a will, as did Caleb Oliver and his wife Alicia Blandina, who died in 1879 and 1897 respectively. Alicia was the daughter of Samuel William Archer (1790-1870).

I found records of the wills of Hannah Archer (1818-1904) and her brother Samuel Archer (1822-1889). I also was able to trace the probates relating to children of Thomas Hunt (1798-1897) and his wife Martha Mary Colam (1808-1861). They were Matilda Hunt (1831-1908), Esther Maria Hunt (1833-1911)

The most surprising information I found was contained in the probate calendar entry for Ann Maria (Holt) Heppell (c1817-1886), the widow of Richard Bryan Heppell (1812-1861). Her son and only next of kin was Richard William George Heppell, who was said to be living in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York, USA. No wonder I had not traced his death in the UK records! I may be able to find him in the USA censuses online at Ancestry.

You can find all the above people in the family tree section of Geoff’s Genealogy.

Oh! I nearly forgot to tell you what the calendar entries actually tell us. Well, they follow a pretty set format, and basically tell us the name of the deceased, his or her address, the date and location of the death, the date and location of probate or admons, the name of the person to whom probate was granted and the value of the estate. In my experience, many of these entries contain as much information as the full will – but not always.

You can see these calendars on microfiche at many libraries or records offices in England and Wales, but the records at First Avenue House are more up to date, so if you want to see a record relating to more recent probate you will need to go there.

I spent the rest of the day at the revamped London Metropolitan Archives. I may tell you about that next time.

Good hunting.

  • This page was last updated on Sunday February 17th, 2008.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 26 June 2007

The past week has provided much of interest.

Last Tuesday I was at a monthly meeting of the Shropshire Family History Society at the shirehall, Shrewsbury. While we were hearing a talk about the history of Shrewsbury Town Football Club and their now defunct ground – the Gay Meadow – all hell let loose outside! Thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, and the rain came down with such force as is rarely seen in this part of the world. The lights went out for a short while, but our speaker manfully carried on!

By the time I left for home the rain had eased a little – it was by then only thrashing it down! The M54 motorway was awash, as were parts of Newport town centre. Not a good night to be driving! I was glad to get home.

On Thursday last I was booked in for a session at the LDS Family History Center. The usual venue is having some work done to its roof, so the Family History Center has been temporarily relocated in the new LDS temple at Lawley. What a magnificent edifice that is! It really stands out – being visible from quite a way off. A white building, built in what I would describe as a colonial style. The inside is also impressive.

The object of my research this time was the Wright family of High Wycombe. I had arranged the loan of a microfilm containing baptisms at High Wycombe 1782-1810, but in fact the film contains records from a greater time frame than that. I found the baptisms of the children of Joseph & Elizabeth Wright – nine of them between 1782 and 1802 – and then another, dated 1810. My ancestor – Hannah – was baptised in 1789. There seems little doubt that this is “my” family, as there were no other Wrights bearing the names Joseph and Elizabeth.

I shall return to the Family History Center this Thursday, and research this film further. I’m looking for any further Wright entries, as they may prove to be relevant to my research.

Last Friday evening Jan and I were looking after our grandchildren, and I passed away the hours by doing a bit of internet research, mainly on I looked at a couple of lines, but had the most success with the Heppells. I am quite amazed at the success I’ve had with this line of research since I started looking at it last Autumn.

On this occasion my main sighting was Richard Bryan Heppell (born 1812 in Sunderland). On the 1851 census I found him living with his spouse and two sons at Mile End Old Town, Middlesex. I then looked at the Civil Registration index and found his marriage, which took place in December 1837. His wife was Ann Maria Holt, born c1817 in Somerstown, Middlesex, and their marriage took place in St Pancras registration district. Furthermore, I traced both his sons in the births index, born 1838 and 1840 in Islington registration district.I then looked for the deaths of Richard and Ann. Free BMD told me that there were two entries for the name Richard Bryan Heppell, one in Sunderland in 1854 and one in Stepney in 1861. I pretty well knew that the 1861 entry would be my man, but needed to prove it to myself – after all, he could have moved back to Sunderland and died there. I therefore sought him on the 1861 census in Stepney, and I found him – albeit indexed as Keppell! There is no doubt that the man who died in September 1861 was the man I was interested in – the son of George Bryan Heppell (1777-1832). I wonder who the man who died in Sunderland in 1854 was. Probably a relation, I would imagine, as the Bryan name appears a number of times in “my” Heppells. I shall have to look into that.

All this leads to further questions (wouldn’t you know it!). What became of the two boys, and when did Ann Maria (Holt) Heppell die? I haven’t yet started to investigate the boys, but I have found a death in March quarter 1886 that may well relate to Ann. The age ties up, and the location was Stepney. However, I need to prove it, and if this was her it begs the question of where Ann was in the period 1861-1886? I haven’t yet found her on the censuses.

Incidentally “my” Richard Bryan Heppell had a most interesting occupation. He was a Coal Meter. I had never before heard of such an occupation, so I looked it up on an online dictionary at This told me that a Coal Meter was ‘A licensed or official coal measurer in London’. Further information on Richard’s occupation came from ‘Coal Trade: Introduction’ the Journal of the House of Lords: volume 62: 1830, pp. 1435-437. URL:, which told me that:

‘The Coal is heaved out of the Hold of the Ship into the Lighter under the Inspection of a Meter appointed by the Corporation of the City of London. He is entitled to have an Assistant. The Meter is paid Three Shillings a Day, and Three and Sixpence in lieu of Eating and Drinking, although generally the Captain invites him to Dinner.These Payments are in addition to Four-pence per Chaldron Metage, paid to the Corporation of London, out of which they allow One Penny per Chaldron to the Working Meter, and provide the Vats, leaving a Clear Annual Surplus of about £16,000, which is applied to the general Purposes of the Corporation, and to One Halfpenny per Chaldron paid the Meter by Government.

Evidently Richard had a very responsible job. I shall have to check whether there are any records of his employment in the Corporation of London archives.

That’s about all for now, until next week.

  • This page was last updated on Tuesday June 26th, 2007.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 15 June 2007

The fact that this is my first posting since 5 June is indicitave of the fact that I have been quite busy these past ten days. During this period I have made progress on several lines of research.

Firstly, on 7 June I went to the LDS Family History Center to complete my research into the Baptisms at Monkwearmouth, Co Durham, 1716-1823. I searched the last part of the microfilm, and found records of the baptisms of three of the children of George Bryan Heppell and his wife, Ann nee Liddle. These entries went beyond the basic information to record the birth dates of the children and their mother’s maiden name. Very valuable information.

Having completed this research, I made a start on my next research enterprise – searching the records of baptisms at Newington, Surrey, for entries relating to my Smedley clan. I had already searched the IGI for these entries, and knew that the film should contain records of the baptisms of six daughters of William and Mary Smedley, so the discovery of these records was no surprise to me. What was a surprise, however, was an ‘extra’ Smedley baptism – their son, William, baptised on 20 January 1828. This came near the end of the register, after the girls’ entries, and its discovery was quite a thrill. Once again, this register contained the birth dates of the children, and in the case of the entry relating to William, it included the annotation “Father deceased”. I had surmised that William had probably died before the date of the 1841 Census, but here was a piece of information that narrowed down the date of his demise to within nine months! Especially valuable because up to the date of the introduction of Civil Registration in 1837 such events are often difficult to trace.

In addition to the above gleanings, I had some success on the Guyatt front. I mentioned, a few weeks ago, that I knew of a marriage at Eton in January 1844 between a certain James Guyatt and Elizabeth Holden. I believed that this James may have been the brother of “my” John Guyatt (bap 1827 at High Wycombe), but was surprised to see that he had strayed to Eton. Well, I ordered the relevant marriage certificate, which duly arrived the other day. As I had hoped, it showed that James was a hairdresser, and his father was John Guyatt, Carpenter. This fitted my man, but was not conclusive proof of his identity. However, the clinching evidence was the fact that the witnesses to the marriage were William Guyatt and Amelia Harding. Knowing that “my” James had a brother named William who married a lady named Amelia, I thought that this was probably the proof I sought. Sure enough, when I checked the Civil Registration Indexes online at I found that in 1846 William Guyatt married Amelia Harding in London. Hey presto, two genealogical problems were solved by one document!

My research is “on a roll” at the moment! Hopefully, when I next update the blog I will have yet more progress to report.

  • This page was last updated on Friday June 15th, 2007.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 5 June 2007

As the three microfilms that I had ordered from the LDS all arrived together last week I thought I’d better get stuck into looking at them, so last Tuesday I went to my local Mormons’ Family History Center.

I decided to start with the film that contains late c18 to early c19 baptisms at St Peter Monkwearmouth, searching for Heppell events. See my previous posts re my Heppell research if you wonder what on earth I’m on about!

As I started searching I noted that the events were listed as births, rather than baptisms, and were grouped by family. In other words, you saw all the births for one family, all recorded together, then all the events for another family and so on. Thus, the events relating to “my” Heppells were all recorded in a cluster. In twenty years of treeing I’ve never seen baptisms/births recorded in this way. After a while the reason for this became clear.

The parish register for contains an annotation written by the vicar, which states that on 16 October 1785 there was a fire at the clergyman’s home, which destroyed the previous original registers. The records that had been lost were listed as follows:

Marriages up to 16 October 1785
Baptisms up to 2 September 1779
Burials up to 3 January 1768

The register of births (sic) was reconstructed by advertising for people who had been involved in baptisms at the church to bring the relevant documentation to the church, where it was re-recorded. Thus, births were listed by family. This certainly makes it easier to search the register, as once you find the first entry you find the lot. Anyway, after each family’s entries the informant signed a declaration as follows:

“The above details taken from a copy in my possession so witness my hand this 27 Day of June 1791 (signed) John Heppell”

John Heppell was the ancestor of my mother’s cousin – Alice (Heppell) Wren, and he had a very fine signature indeed. If you can judge from the signature he must have been quite well educated. I discovered that he earned his living as a coal fitter, and, curious to find out what this term meant, I googled it. I discovered that a coal fitter was a “middle man” who arranged the sale of coal between the coal mine owners and the purchasers. As such, he was probably a bit above the ordinary working man.

I think I have now pushed my Heppell research back to the marriage of John Heppell to Mary Abbs at Monkwearmouth St Peter’s on 19 December 1768. Although I have only seen this record on the IGI I feel confident that this is the correct entry, because “my lot” seem to have been the only Heppells in the parish. Naturally, I looked on the IGI for a baptism of John Heppell, and here things became a bit trickier, as there were a number of candidates, none of whom were baptised at Monkwearmouth. My favourite would be John Heppell, baptised 28 Feb 1737 at Chester le Street – about 20 miles from Monkwearmouth, but I am probably wrong. The reasons why I favour this man are twofold, and highly suspect. Firstly, I note that John Heppell’s son George Bryan Heppell’s first wife – Mary Fish – came from Chester le Street, and their marriage took place there. Secondly, of all the candidates listed on the IGI, the date of this man’s baptism best fits my idea of when I would expect our man to have been born.

I’m not sure how much further I shall pursue these Heppells. I’m very pleased with what I have achieved, and may decide to call it a day at this point. However, Durham is a beautiful county, and if Jan and I should once again go there for a holiday I would certainly not rule out a visit to the repository that holds the records for the county.

I shall return to the Family History Library on 7 June, to continue looking at these microfilms.

See you next week.

  • This page was last updated on Tuesday June 5th, 2007.

Geoff’s Genealogy Update 12 February 2007

Another week of entering census data into my Family Tree Database. is a wonderful resource, enabling me to find so much information without leaving my desk. I keep on discovering so much about Bankes descendants – when I first started treeing about 20 years ago I could never have imagined such riches!

On Thursday I drove through the snow to my local LDS Family History Center and this third session completed my viewing of the Monkwearmouth Parish Burials register, 1792-1845, seeking HEPPELL entries. I still don’t know why there were so many burials of Militia men in the early 1800s – but there were! They came from Essex and Lancashire as well as the local militia. Maybe I’ll find out sometime.

I noted that there were few HEPPELL entries, and this makes me wonder where my mum’s cousin’s clan emanated from. More research needed there! I’ve ordered a further microfilm – Baptisms at Monkwearmouth late C18 – early C19. It will probably be available to me in a few weeks time.

This week my younger son and I bought a laptop computer. I haven’t got to grips with it yet, but it looks very good, and should be useful on visits to records offices. Alex wants it for more meaningful reasons – to do with his course at Uni. I need to get my genealogy software installed, but there’s no immediate rush.

This was a quiet week for contacts with other researchers. They tend to come in fits and starts.

Time to sign off now, as I need to go off to earn a crust!


  • This page was last updated on Monday February 12th, 2007.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 4 February 2007

This week has been relatively quiet, insofar as I haven’t made any new contacts. However, I have been busily working away at my family history files. I have typed a lot of new information into my database, and hope to make further progress towards getting this up to date in the forthcoming week.

In addition, I have two very exciting family trees available to me, which I hope will significantly add to my records. The first of these is a FIVEASH tree, and the other one relates to the MADDOX family of Carmarthenshire. Sometimes I find it a bit hard to keep up with all this material, but I am always pleased to receive anything connected to either my family tree or Jan’s.

Also this week, as last, I spent an evening at my local LDS Family History Center, looking for HEPPELL burials in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland (1792-1814). I found a couple of entries that look relevant to my research. I was most interested to note that there were a significant number of entries relating to Militiamen or their relatives who were buried at Monkwearmouth in the 1790s. In addition to the local militia, some of these militiamen came from Essex and others were from Lancashire. This was, of course, after the time of the Scottish risings, but it was the time of the Napoleonic wars, and I wonder what was going on. I’ll have to look into that.

Have a good week.


  • This page was last updated on Sunday February 4th, 2007.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 29 January 2007

Another busy week on the treeing front. I was delighted to receive some more information about the Collyer line – descendants of Robert Hanham Collyer. Also, I have been continuing with my self-appointed task of adding to our pedigree, using information from censuses.

I have explored the line down from John Price (d 1944) as far as I can, taking the Bathurst line down to 1901. Roll on the 1911 census!

The Welsh descendants of Joseph Rand are always interesting, and I have uncovered a few census entries re Mary Ann Davies (b Llangollen, c1824). She married William Sleigh and they had one child – Amy Banks Sleigh (b 1862).

My other peice of work this week entailed a visit to my local LDS family history centre and a look at a microfilm containing the burials at Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. There I found some valuable entries re the Heppell line. Heppell was the maiden name of my mum’s cousin, and her forebears migrated from Sunderland to London by 1841. Fascinating.

Jan has received some new information from a new contact who is a Maddox descendant, bringing one branch of that family down to the present day.

None of this material will appear on Geoffs Genealogy for some months, so if you are interested in any of this information do drop me a line.

See you next week!


  • This page was last updated on Monday January 29th, 2007.