Geoffs Genealogy Update 01 September 2015

During August, I’m glad to say, I haven’t had a great deal of time available for family history research. This is because we have spent a  a large portion of the month away from home, on jaunts.

The first of these periods away occurred in the second week of the month, when we went for one of our frequent weeks in Carmarthenshire. Mrs Geoff’s maternal ancestors came from that part of the world, and her Welsh blood inexorably tugs her in that direction, so we usually go to that beautiful part of the country several times each year. On this occasion we used the occasion of our visit to attend the annual Maliphant Jamboree that this year was held at Upton Castle, in Pembrokeshire.

I perhaps should explain that Mrs Geoff’s maternal 2 x  great grandmother was a certain Ann Maliphant (1836-c1918). She married Evan Hughes (1834-1916) in 1855 at St Mary, Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire and they had ten children. When, many moons ago, Mrs Geoff found her Maliphant connection, she exulted in the fact that Ann was not a Rees or Evans or Hughes, and she saw some reasonable prospect of being able to trace this line back into the mists of time. Then she found that a number of people have got there first, and as a result of their efforts the Maliphant family line is pretty well documented. Not to say, of course, that there is nothing else to do to contribute to this accumulated knowledge. You will see that Maliphants feature in the tree on the Geoffs Genealogy website.

Anyway, in 2009 some of the Maliphant descendants decided to try to hold a gathering of the clan in a pub in Bristol, and that was deemed enough of a success to repeat the exercise the following year. Scroll on to 2015 and the annual gatherings are very much alive and kicking! The clan meets at a different venue each year, and this year on 8 August over 50 of us gathered at Upton Castle in Pembrokeshire. Here we met on a beautiful sunny saturday, to chat and eat and learn for a whole day.

Many centuries ago the castle used to be owned by a family of Maliphants, and there are effigies believed to be of Maliphants in the chapel. Although actually there is no proof that those Maliphants were our clan, there certainly is no harm in hoping!

Andy Maliphant gave us all a very interesting tour of the grounds and chapel (he really is very good at these things) and we also took lots of photographs to mark the occasion. You can see some of the Photos on the Maliphant Jamboree Photographs.

To top it all the owners of the castle provided a superb lunch and tea in the marquee. All in all a smashing day, and it is great to see that the Maliphants retain their enthusiasm to meet up with old friends and kinsmen, and have a good day together. I have to say that I am a bit envious of them, as my attempts to organise a second Bankes Descendants Reunion several years ago met with failure, after a pretty successful first crack at it.

When we came home from Wales we were only here for a week before we set off on our second jaunt – to France.

This was a trip to Northern France, to visit the battlefields of the First World War. We benefitted from the attentions of a first class expert guide, and visited a many places of great importance in the conflict, finding the trip very fulfilling.

As I remarked to a fellow traveller on our last morning in the hotel, we had all been aware, prior to the trip, of the sheer numbers of casualties in this awful war. However, actually visiting the battle sites and museums and seeing the graveyards, with all the many nationalities of casualties, gave me a deeper understanding of the full horror of these events.

We saw some remarkable things during these few days. The Canadian memorials were perhaps the most striking The monument they had put on Vimy Ridge was extremely beautiful and impressive, and can be seen from many a mile away. That is imposing enough, but when you factor in the preservation of the site that the Canadians have done, it is a truly remarkable effort. The German and Canadian / French trenches are preserved for posterity in concrete, and the German trench includes a mortar firer which despatched massively powerful explosive devices into the allies’ trenches, which are only a few yards away. One can imagine the effect of these explosions on the allied forces, and also note that the Germans had the high ground at the start of this engagement, thus enjoying a huge advantage. This was the best defended position on the Western Front. The taking of Vimy Ridge was, therefore, a remarkable effort, and could only have been achieved thanks to unimaginable bravery. It is right that the battlefield site has been preserved.

The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial site is also a Canadian-maintained site, and another site that brought home to us what the troops engaged in the battle for Beaumont Hamel went through. The battlefield is preserved as it was on the 1st July 1916, with German and allied trenches and depressions where explosions blew out areas of ground. At the start of this engagement the Allies set off a diversionary explosion, using 40,000 lbs of explosive, under the Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt, and the Canadian and British forces then started their assault. The British forces were quickly stopped in their tracks and 80% of the Canadians were also wiped out, leaving a rump of the Newfoundland force to continue the assault as best they could.

This was a truly heroic effort, as they were facing a powerful German force on Hawthorn Ridge, and the Germans held all the high ground in the neighbouring field as well. We traced the steps of what was left of the Newfoundland Regiment as they fought their way across no man’s land to engage the German forces, accompanied by our expert guide and narrator, and as we did so we got a clear perspective on the bravery and heroism of these men, all those years ago. There is no doubt that when you see how close to one another the forces of the opposing armies were, it certainly does focus your perception of these events.

In the short time that we were in France we visited many other amazing sites, but the main point of our visit was to visit the Arras Memorial and cemetery, to see the name of my great uncle on the wall in the Bay 6 of the memorial. Sure enough, the name of Charles Hewitt (1878-1917) was etched there, along with the many thousands of his colleagues who gave their lives in the Battle of Arras in April 1917. This memorial is truly beautiful.

I took with me a copy of the War Diary of 1st Battn, East Lancashire Regiment for the period of time encompassing Charles’s death on 19 April 1917. In the days prior to the 19th the battalion was engaged fighting in the Battle of Arras, and was experiencing a very hard time, taking some casualties, under fire. However, on the day of Charles’s death there was no action taking place, and apparently nothing to report. This leads me to wonder how Charles met his end. If it is known that he died on 19 April, the cause of his demise must, it seems to me, be known. If this is the case, as there is mention of other ranks casualties in the war diary on other days (albeit not by name), it seems strange that there was nothing to report on this day, even if his body was blown to bits and there was no grave.

Of course, it is possible that Charles died as a result of an accident or illness, but if that were so why didn’t he have a burial and a stone? I put these points to our guide, and he agreed that I had a point. He  said that there may possibly be other sources to check re this matter in Regimental records held in Preston, so I will check up on that. I don’t hold out too much hope, though.

What has become apparent to me is that although the Battle of Arras was regarded as an intermediate battle of WW1, it was very hard fought. There were 150,000 casualties (50,000 dead). After initial British successes, in which the Germans were pushed back, the Germans hit back, recovering lost ground, and a stalemate resulted.

In visiting these battlefields we had to bear in mind that at the time of these events the area was a wilderness. None of the buildings we see were there when Charles Hewitt and his pals carried out their brave deeds. All the towns and villages had been destroyed, nearly all the vegetation was gone, and the civilians had moved out to pastures new. Many of them moved to work in agriculture in Normandy, and never returned.

We returned having learned a tremendous amount about the First World War. This was most definitely a memorable few days for both of us.

  • This page was last updated on Tuesday September 1st, 2015.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 3 September 2013

We spent the first weekend in August in Carmarthenshire. Nothing unusual in that, as we usually visit this beautiful part of Wales several times each year, sometimes looking for family history information and at other times just enjoying the wonderful countryside.

On this occasion we had a really smashing time. We broke our journey on 2 August at Tredegar House, a National Trust property near Newport. The weather was splendid, and we enjoyed spending a few hours exploring this quite magnificent pile, situated close to the M4 motorway. I would definitely recommend a visit to this site.

Saturday 3 August was the day of the annual Maliphant Jamboree, which this year was held at Kidwelly. Kidwelly is where my mother in law was born and spent some of her formative years in her family home, so it is a place that we have visited quite a number of times over the years. On this occasion our party took over the Masons Arms pub for a large part of the day, 68 of us enjoying a buffet lunch in this hostelry and also some time in the garden.

After meeting in the pub, and some serious mingle time, the day’s events started with a  tour round Kidwelly Castle, guided by a man from Cadw. We have looked around this lovely castle many times over the years, and I have long thought it extremely under-rated. When people alk of impressive Welsh fortifications they speak of Harlech, Caerphilly , Caernarvon etc, but for me Kidwelly is right up there. Anyway, it was great to learn a bit about the history of the castle, and to hear that there are records to show that Maliphants played a part in its construction, if only in a fairly menial way.

After this tour our party moved on to Kidwelly’s church – St Mary’s –  where we all enjoyed a very interesting talk from the vicar on the history of the church. No real Maliphant content to this, but very interesting, as Jan’s Maliphant tree contains some baptisms, burials etc that took place in this church. As most of the attendees were family historians there was then the inevitable perambulation around the churchyard, seeking all those Maliphant graves, before we all adjourned to the pub for a cup of tea to round off the day.

This was a lovely day on a number of levels. It was a chance to meet family members, some of whom we have not met up with for a while, whilst at the same time being an opportunity to gather more family history information. On top of that, the talks were very informative, and interesting in their own right, and the chance to explore this lovely Welsh town was not to be missed.

Congratulations to Pauline, Bruce, and all the people who worked to put on this event. It will certainly be a hard act to follow.

As far as my research goes, during August I have spent quite a lot of time gathering information about our Jacobson forebears.

James Jacobson married Mary Mitchell in London in 1722, and they then lived at King Street, in the parish of St Botolph Aldgate. I had previously found entries relating to them and their children in the registers of that church. I also knew that when James died his will (probate 1759) stated that he lived in Peckham, then a rural retreat in South London but now a bustling part of South London. I have tended to assume that Peckham was James’ rural retreat in his last years, and was interested to find out how long he had lived there.

With this in mind I searched the Land Tax records that are available online, and found a large number of records dating from 1731 to 1754, all showing James living at King Street. The only record relating to James that I found after that was dated 1758, and it stated that the property previously occupied by James Jacobson was empty. Thus, I surmise that he probably moved to Peckham around 1757.  I don’t actually know when he was born, but based on the information we have my working hypothesis is c1692, on which basis he would have been over 60 when he moved to Peckham. A good age for a man in the 18th century.

There are a couple of other things I have recently discovered about James. I may have mentioned some of them previously, but will quickly mention them anyway, as I think they are interesting. I had long been aware that James was a Broker, but from his son’s apprenticeship agreement and a couple of other sources I can now say that he was a Pawn Broker. Probably not the most popular man in King Street!.

I have discovered that he served on the Parish Vestry Committee from at least 1731. The last entry I found that included him was dated 15 November 1754. I found these  records on the wonderful London Lives website, which has also provided me with the following information about the Vestry Committees:

The vestry formed the fundamental unit of decision making for each parish, and acted as a miniature legislature for parochial government. Vestries took a number of different forms, including open vestries in which all inhabitants had at least a theoretical right to participate, and a wide variety of closed vestries, in which membership was restricted by wealth, local standing or local tradition. Many closed vestries recruited new members to a specific number (frequently twenty-four) on their own authority, creating a kind of self-perpetuating oligarchy.

The vestry had a number of legal obligations, which are reflected in their minutes. The vestry was responsible for appointing parish officers, including churchwardens, overseers of the poor, sextons and scavengers. Depending on local arrangements the vestry could also be responsible for constables and nightwatchmen (in the City of London these officers were appointed at ward level).1 It was the vestry that approved the annual church and poor rates, and to which accounts were submitted at Easter each year (though in the case of poor law accounts, these needed the additional approval of a Justice of the Peace).

So, you will see, our James was a pretty important man in his community.

I’ve found out quite a bit more about various members of the Jacobson clan, but as I’ve probably rambled on for quite long enough at the moment I think I’ll leave it until my next blog entry before revealing more.

  • This page was last updated on Tuesday September 3rd, 2013.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 30 January 2008

Hello again.

Since I last made an entry on this blog the focus of my activity has been preparing the March edition of the Shropshire Family History Society Journal. It is now just about completed.

I wonder how many of the people who read this blog are members of a family history society. I’ve mentioned this old chestnut before, in previous postings. In my opinion it is well worth joining at least one society. In addition to Shropshire FHS I also belong to East of London FHS, as I have research interests in that part of London.

SocietyMembership enables you to avail yourself of the knowledge and expertise of your fellow members in many different ways. It may also bring you in touch with other people with similar research interests to you. If you belong to a society that is local to you you will be able to attend its regular meetings (usually monthly), meet people and listen to a talk on a family history related topic. Furthermore, family history society members all over the country have produced a great many indexes to the nominal records that we use in our research, and made them available in various forms. Without them, your research would undoubtedly be much more difficult.

As if that were not sufficient, many societies run coach trips to record offices that may be difficult for you to get to under your own steam. In my case, the Shropshire FHS runs trips to The National Archives. True, you have to get up early to make the trip, but once that ordeal is behind you you can look forward to a pleasant ride to Kew, followed by about six hours of research and a sleep on the way home! What could be better?

The next such trip is in May, and I shall soon be reserving my place on it.

Apart from working on the SFHS journal, in the past couple of weeks Pat and I have carried out a bit more Guyatt research, and resolved a couple more conundrums. I’ve had some more contact with a lady who is a distant cousin of Jan on her Maliphant line, and exchanged a couple of emails with an researcher whose interests encompass the Collyers and Sleighs.

Both of our sons have celebrated their birthdays in the past ten days. In the case of Alex it was his 21st, so we went out to a local hotel for a lovely family meal.

As if that were not enough, on a sodden Saturday a couple of weeks ago Jan and I went to Shrewsbury Music Hall to enjoy our first concert of the year. Swansea City Opera are a small, touring company, and we’ve seen them perform twice previously. This time they performed Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and it truly was a very good show. It always amazes me what a good sound this company’s musicians produce from the half a dozen instruments that they bring on tour, and the singing was of a very good standard. All in all, a very good evening – and a packed house as well!

Our next musical outing will be in March, when we go to Birmingham to see Welsh National Opera perform Falstaff. Bryn Terfel is scheduled to perform the title role, and as both Jan and I love all things Terfel we simply can’t wait for this outing! We pray that the great man doesn’t lose his voice on the day!

That’s about all I’ve got to say tonight, so I’ll sign off for another couple of weeks.

Happy hunting to you all!

  • This page was last updated on Wednesday January 30th, 2008.