Geoffs Genealogy Update 8 February 2015

Last month I wrote about my research into the Shoreditch Workhouse records as regards my grandmother, and the wealth of information I had found by using that source. In carrying out this research I found reference to Ethel Holliday and her sister Ellen, who were recorded as being admitted together to the Hornchurch Children’s Cottage Home on 10th August 1909, as their father Reuben Holliday was in the Shoreditch Infirmary. When I saw these names I immediately thought that they were relations of my grandmother, so I spent some time this month looking into them.

Reuben Holliday was born in the district of St Luke, Finsbury in 1857 and was an elder brother of my great grandfather, Charles Holliday (1864-1915). He married Alice Mason (c1868-1900) in 1888 at St Thomas, Bethnal Green, and so far as I know they had five children, four of them females. Ethel and Ellen  were the youngest of these children, being born in 1897 and 1898 respectively. Alice (Mason) Holliday died in 1900, and it appears that Reuben did not remarry. He must have found it hard to bring up his young family andan unskilled man’s wages. I do not know his precise date of death, but this event was registered in Shoreditch in the period October – December 1909, so it would seem likely that at the time when the two girls appeared in the Cottage Homes records their father had gone into the infirmary to die. My research to date shows that two of the girls’ three elder siblings were already dead by that time, so they must have been in a very vulnerable situation.

Further research shows that at the time of the 1911 census Ethel Holliday was enumerated in the household af a widowed aunt – Eunice (Mason) Adams in Hackney, and she was working as a Tie Maker. It would seem that this was not her first spell in the Adams household, as the record of Admissions & Discharges for Hammond Square School in Hackney shows that when she had been admitted to the school in 1904 her name was given as Adams. In the 1911 census returns for the Cottage Home at Hornchurch,we can see that Ellen was among those enumerated, aged 12. We have no way of knowing whether she had been in the home continuously since the death of her father, as the records for that period are not available to us, but it seems likely that that was the case.

I have not yet traced what became of both these girls in their future lives, but hope to be able to fill that gap at some future time. As you probably realise, tracing people forward from the early 20th century is often a difficult pursuit, do to the closure rules relating to many of the records.

As I have mentioned in several previous postings, one source that is available to us, and which can be used to trace 20th century forebears and family, is the Electoral Register. The information in this source only relates to the people who were registered to vote at a particular time, so it excludes many people. Not only that, but it doesn’t give details such as age or birthplace, but nevertheless it can be of enormous help in family history.

This month I have gone back to the London Electoral Registers for the 1920s and 1930s to fill in more information about the family of my great uncle James Archer Smith. Firstly, it is interesting to see that in several consecutive registers of the 1920s James was recorded as James Archie Smith, making it seem likely that the registers were produced in large measure by copying the previous year’s entries. Anyway, James was at the same address throughout the period 1921-1926, namely 2 St John’s Road, Shoreditch, with his wife and son. Interestingly, the 1926 and 1927  entries also stated in brackets: “abode 16, St. Catherines Terrace, Brighton”.  James disappeared from the Shoreditch Electoral Register from 1928 onwards, and I believe that this was when he handed his business to his son, Herbert George Smith. James died in Brighton in 1957.

After 1927 the Electoral Registers for Shoreditch show that James’s son Herbert George Smith (b 1904) lived at 2 St John Street, with his wife. This was interesting to me because I had not previously been sure about the name of Herbert’s spouse. Several Smith relations had given me various pieces of information about her, but I was not sure of her forenames, and had no knowledge of her surname. Using these records I could see that her name was Rose Margaret Smith, and so I looked in the records for a marriage between Herbert George Smith and a lady with these forenames. I found the entry in the Civil Registration Records for Shoreditch in  1927, which coincided with Rose’s name appearing in the source material, aand could see that Rose’s surname was Young. One thing leads to another, and using this information I was able to find Rose’s birth date and death date. Alas, I still can’t find the date of Herbert’s death, but hopefully that may become clear one day.

  • This page was last updated on Sunday February 8th, 2015.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 1 September 2014

For the first time in ages I did not write a blog entry in August, as (unusually for me!) I really did not have anything to write about. I am fortunate enough to have been away on holiday several times over the summer, so have not had time to fit in any family history of late.

In the time as I have had available for treeing I have been reviewing my records relating to people on my mother’s line, and seeking to update them where I can. I am sure you will agree with me that researching our more recent forebears is often more difficult than finding out about people who feature further back in our family trees. This is because the most recent census that is available to us is dated 1911, and most available parish registers finish either in or before the first third of the 20th century. It is not easy to find sources to trace more recent ancestors, so what do we use?

In terms of online records there are some options, one of the main ones being the Civil Registration Indexes for Births, Marriages and Deaths. These are available up to the early years of this century, and are very useful. There are problems relating to these indexes, as often it is not easy to be sure that you have the right entry.

For instance, for many years I have been seeking the death entry for my great grandfather, James William Smith (b 1853). Information about James  is fairly hard to obtain. I found his birth in Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffordshire in 1853,  his baptism five years later in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire and his marriage in 1876 at Bethnal Green, London. I have also traced him in London on all the available censuses up to 1901, but try as I may I have not been able to trace him or other members of his family on the 1911 census.  My last sighting of him was in 1903, at his daughter’s wedding.  Of course, the whole could all have been dead by 1911, but I think that unlikely.

I wouyld very much like to trace James’s death, so decided to have another go at that. Have you ever tried to search the Deaths indexes for a James W Smith in the Shoreditch area of London? I can assure you that it is a very difficult task. There are so many people of that name listed, how to know which one is my ancestor?

In reviewing the information in my records the other week I found a note that my late aunt told me that she believed that James died of cancer in 1914. Of course, she may have been wrong, but I decided to base my search on this, and came up with a viable candidate:

1914   James W Smith    Hackney Reg District   Age 59   Sept Qtr   Vol 1  Page 399

I saw that the age of the deceased did not tie up to that of my ancestor, but ages are often mis-stated in sources, so I did not see that as being necessarily correct. Only one way to find out whether this was my man, so I took the plunge and ordered the certificate.

Alas, when the document arrived I found that it related to a James Wm Smith who had been a police constable – definitely not my ancestor!. Not a great surprise, but a waste of £9.25.

This is the second time I have paid for the wrong certificate when searching for James’s death, and I could repeat the exercise a hundred times or more without hitting on the correct entry. It really is about time that we in England and Wales had the facility to see more information about an individual before ordering a certificate. Peter Calver of Lost Cousins has been campaigning on this issue, and I think he is absolutely spot on in identifying this as being of great importance. Apart from anything else, I for one can’t afford to spend innumerable sums of £9.25 on a hunch, so am very cagey about ordering certificates. Sometimes, as in this case, my reluctance in this regard means that I am not able to resolve outstanding research issues, but I’m afraid that is how it has to be.


  • This page was last updated on Sunday August 31st, 2014.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 3 February 2013

January has been an interesting month for me.

Firstly it was the month when my term as Editor of the Shropshire Family History Society came to an end, and my joint successors in the post started work on the next issue, due out in March. I am really looking forward to seeing the results of all their work, after years of knowing in advance what was in the journal!

As I’ve mentioned a number of times over the years, I’ve really enjoyed my eleven years as editor, and already miss the involvement. I’ve made many friends in the role, and worked with some great people in what is a first class family history society. If you are not a member of a family history society I urge you to join at the earliest opportunity. You will surely benefit from your membership in many ways.

Secondly, I began to step up the preparatory work for the second Reunion of Descendants of John Bankes, Citizen & Haberdasher of London (c1650-1719). There is now only four months to the big day – 8th June, so if you are a Bankes descendant I urge you to book your place at what should be a thoroughly enjoyable day. See the Geoffs Genealogy website for brief details, and information about the previous event.

Thirdly, as some of you may have noticed, during January I have made a few additions and amendments to the Hunt & Stephens section of the Geoffs Genealogy website.

I have prepared and launched a new page entitled Mary Ann Archer & John Brown Smith. This page deals with Mary Ann, daughter of Mary Ann Archer & Nathan Archer, and her husband. In so doing it also relates what we know of John’s parents, and in particular his father – James Bayly Smith. Both John and his father served as Excise officers, and as there are extensive staff records of the Excise Department on microfilm at The National Archives at Kew we have been able to learn a lot about these two men and their careers.

In the course of linking this new page into the website I realised that when I uploaded the page on Mary Ann Stephens and Nathan Archer I omitted to add the references. A serious omission in my book, and one which I was anxious to correct. I have now added these  references, but in the process of compiling them I had occasion to read through the page about Mary Ann Stephens and Nathan Archer. Inevitably, as some time had passed since I updated this page, I found a few areas in which the information on the page did not reflect our most recent research. I therefore updated a couple of areas on this page, as well.

As you may imagine, all this work has taken me some considerable time, but hopefully the information on the website about these people is now up to date. Now on to the next task. Let me see …..

Last month I mentioned that I was reading a recently published book –  Marriage Law for Genealogists, by Professor Rebecca Probert,  published by Takeaway Publishing (2012).

I have now read this book, and can say that I found it most interesting in many respects. It is written in a very accessible style, and is very informative in disproving a number of the myths and misconceptions about marriage in days gone by that abound  in family histoy circles. This is a short book, and well worth a read. Also, it will make a very handy reference book for future research.

Before closing this entry I’ll just mention a couple of websites that I find interesting and / or useful, in case you may also want to use them:

Bomb Sight is a fairly new website that maps the bombs that fell on London in World War Two. If, like me, your family members lived in London during WW2 you cannot fail to find this remarkable website interesting.

Family historians often fail to “kill off” their ancestors for a variety of reasons, and it can be quite difficult to trace that relevant burial entry. The Deceased Online website my help. It is a project to create a central UK database of burial and cremation entries. Very much a work in progress, but I’ve already found some entries relevant to my research in it, and hopefully you may, as well.

London Lives is a fascinating website if you are interested in life in the capital in the eighteenth century, funded by the ESRC, and implemented by the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield and the Higher Education Digitisation Service at the University of Hertfordshire. To quote the Home page this site offers  “A fully searchable edition of 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets, giving access to 3.35 million names.”





  • This page was last updated on Sunday February 3rd, 2013.

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 28 May 2007

Last Thursday (24 May) I went on a Shropshire Family History Society coach trip to The National Archives, Kew. I always look forward to the society’s coach trips as they present me with a valuable opportunity to enrich my family history research by dipping into the vast treasure of sources that are held at this repository. Over the years I have made some really important discoveries at TNA.

We had a good journey, and arrived at about 11 am. The first item on my list was a search for the World War One army service record of Walter Sidney Rook (1882-1918). Walter was the first husband of my mother’s aunt – Phoebe Emily Charlotte nee Smith, and was killed in action in March 1918 at the Somme. He was a Sergeant, in12 Battalion, Rifle Brigade, and a recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

About 60% of the WW1 army service records were destroyed by Hitler’s bombers during WW2, so I was not surprised to find that Walter’s record was not on the microfilm I searched. This means that I shall not be able to develop this line of research in future – a great shame.

I had set out with another piece of research in mind which entailed using the records of HM Customs & Excise. These are held on microfilm, and if you can find your man’s records you can find out an enormous amount of information about him. However, my reading of the instructions for this research led me to conclude that I would probably have had to devote the rest of my day to this work and I did not want to do that. I therefore shelved this work for a future date.

I decided to devote what little time I had left in the morning to searching the Probate Calendars 1858 onwards, looking for Bankes descendants. I concentrated on the Welsh Bankes descendants, all descecnded from John Price (c1720-1756) and his spouse Deborah nee Rand (c1721-1765). I won’t subject you to a detailed account of this work. Suffice to say that Jan and I found nine relevant entries in the time available to us. Some of these people were seriously well off! One of them left an estate worth around £70,000 in 1847!

After a very pleasant lunch I went to the Maps Room to look at a Court of Chancery document I had ordered in advance of my visit. It was a Bill of Complaint issued in 1734 by George Bagnall, who was the Administrator of the estate of John Hales, one of the executors of the will of John Bankes (prob 1719). He was claiming against the Haberdashers’ Company in London for monies that he said were owed by Bankes’s estate to Hales and Sophia, Baroness Dowager of Lempster. Both Hales and the Baroness had made mortgage advances to Bankes.

Such sources require great concentration in reading them, as they are very large and contain a lot of “legal language”. Although I had a couple of hours in which to look at this document and the reply by the Haberdashers Company, I only had time to jot down a few notes outlining its content. I shall spare you an explanation of the document. Suffice to say that it contained an outline description of Bankes’s property at Nine Elms, Battersea, and told me that the property was known as “The Lottery”. This may seem to you to be fairly inconsequential information, but I value it greatly. Apart from anything else, it may give me a lead towards finding out, at some future date, exactly where the property was.

I returned home in the evening feeling a little disappointed with the results of my day’s work, as I had hoped for more. However, hope springs eternel, and I’ll be back at Kew as soon as possible for more research.

  • This page was last updated on Monday May 28th, 2007.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 02 April 2007

So a new month begins. Here in the UK Spring has well and truly sprung. My grass has been attacked twice by my lawnmower so far this season, and the Spring bulbs have been magnificent.

I have had some problems with my email over the past few days. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that we are now up and running again.

Once again, I’ve spent my spare time this week updating family history records and doing a bit of research. The main finding this week concerns Ophelia Eliza Florence Worthey/Kerr/Smith – I told you about her two or three weeks ago. She was my mother’s aunt, and I was trying to trace the key events in her life. Because her family did not always use her first forename when recording events I needed to prove that I had traced the correct records in compiling her history.

I have just received her birth certificate, which I traced during my visit two weeks ago to the Family Records centre in London. She was definitely named Ophelia by her parents when she was born in 1865, although on census entries her parents dropped her first name and called her Eliza. Maybe they decided Ophelia wasn’t such a good idea after all! She was probably known as Eliza in family circles, and that is there was no mention of Ophelia when she married William Henry Kerr in 1882. I’m confident that both these records relate to “our” Ophelia, though. I think her father’s name on both records is a reasonable indication of that.

I shall add these events to my records.

Must go now – I have to go to work and earn a crust!

  • This page was last updated on Monday April 2nd, 2007.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 26 March 2007

I’m a bit late writing this week’s entry on my blog. Maybe that’s because we lost an hour in the weekend just passed! I have never liked the practice of adjusting the clocks by one hour in Spring & Autumn, but there we are – I just have to put up with it!

The highlight of the last week was my visit to London on Thursday. One of the many fine aspects of the Shropshire Family History Society is that they run several research trips to London each year, and as I have many London research interests I always try to go on these trips when I can.

This time I spent most of my time in the library of the Society of Genealogists. The SOG library in London is a wonderful treasure house of things genealogical. Non-members, such as myself, can use the facilities on payment of a fee. I paid for four hours use of the library. I had carried out some research in advance of the visit, and went armed with a series of references of documents to look up.

The main focus of my research was the archive of Marriage Licence Allegations, issued by the Faculty Office and the Vicar-General’s Office, that are held by the SOG on microfilm. I found most of the items I looked for, and actually got a bonus – the 1836 marriage licence allegation for a certain Isabard Kingdom Brunel and his intended bride, Mary Elizabeth Horsley. This document has nothing at all to do with my research, but as I came across it I could not resist taking a copy!

When I had completed my work on the Marriage Licence Allegations I spent some time looking at the Wills Calendars of the Principal Probate Registry. I had a list of Bankes descendants to check out in these records, and found quite a few of the entries.

I was also able to look at some monumental inscriptions on the counties shelves. I won’t bore you with the details – suffice to say that I did find something of interest.

As I still had a little time left after leaving the SOG I visited the Family Record Centre at Islington. Here I looked up the civil registration reference for my mother’s aunt – Ophelia Kerr/Smith (nee Worthy). I wrote about my research into her in my blog entry a couple of weeks ago. Since my visit to London I have ordered a copy of Ophelia’s birth certificate and the marriage certificate re her first marriage. If the content of these documents meets my expectations they should prove my theory re this lady’s life story. Fingers crossed!

Having accomplished all these tasks, I spent the last few minutes of my visit to London checking out some more entries in the Wills Calendars of the Principal Probate Registry, and found a couple more items of interest.

All in all, this was a most successful excursion, and to cap it all we had an excellent trip back to Shropshire – arriving at Telford in record time!

Unfortunately the powers that be are closing the Family Record Centre by April 2008, so we shall lose our coach trips to central London. Shropshire will presumably still run trips to The National Archives at Kew, but although that repository holds many things of interest to me, it is well outside central London, and I shall find it more difficult to visit the records offices in central London that have been so valuable to me over the years.

See you next week.

  • This page was last updated on Monday March 26th, 2007.

Geoff’s Genealogy Update 25 February 2007

Well, another week has rolled by. It’s hard to believe that already two months have sped past since Christmas. Here in the UK the days are lengthening and our thoughts are turning to the joys that come with the spring and summer – gardening, holidays etc.

During the past week I have been diligently entering more data into my family history records. So what, you say; you’ve been doing that since the blog started. True. However, there was a bit of a difference this week.

My mother used to speak fondly of her uncle and aunt – James Archer Smith and his wife Ophelia. They were more prosperous than mum’s family, and helped them in times of need. Mum bore the name Ophelia as a third forename, named after her aunt. She hated it!

Some months ago traced the marriage of James Archer Smith and Ophelia Eliza Florence Kerr in Shoreditch, London in 1901, and this week this record came to the top of my pile of items for entry. I noted that although the groom was a bachelor, his bride was a widow, and her father’s name was George Worthy (deceased). In the interests of getting the whole story (or as much of it as is possible) I decided to research the Worthy/Kerr clans, using the censuses on, the Mormons family search website and Free BMD.

I had quite a bit of success in this enterprise, tracing the families on several censuses. Ophelia’s parents were George (b c1826) and Annie (b c1829) Worthy, Londoners both, and for the most part living in the Shoreditch area in the second half of the nineteenth century. I failed to trace their marriage, so don’t know Annie’s maiden name. I have also been unable to trace George’s birth. George and Annie were enumerated on the 1891 census, but as per the marriage certificate I mentioned above, George had died by September 1901, and as I cannot trace Ann on the 1901 census, I suspect that she also may had died by then.

I traced the marriage of Ophelia to William Henry Kerr in 1882 by using Free BMD. I also traced her with her spouse and 3 Kerr children on the 1891 census. Free BMD tells me that William Henry Kerr’s death was registered in the December quarter 1897. Ah! I hear you say. Without buying the certificates you can’t be sure of these facts. True. However, I am very confident that I am drawing the right conclusions. The age of the deceased William Kerr just about ties with the age on the 1891 census. I’ll let you know if it transpires that I am wrong!

In 1901 Ophelia was enumerated with her seven Kerr children, living in 2 rooms! How on earth did they manage.

All of this information was news to me. I had no idea that Ophelia’s marriage to James was her second marriage. Still less did I know that she had all those children! Mum never mentioned any of this. However, there is one other surprising fact that has arisen out of this piece of research. In the records that I have found this week Ophelia was recorded as Eliza Florence Worthy/Kerr No Ophelia. However, on her marriage and death certificates her name shows as Ophelia.I wonder why. Mum hated her third forename, although I must say I like it. I wonder whether her aunt also disliked the name so much that she wouldn’t use it. Quite possible, but even if that were that case it surprises me that her parents didn’t use it when giving information to the census enumerator.

I really need to round off this by tracing Ophelia’s birth record, and seeing how she was named. I hope to be able to do this soon, and will let you know the outcome.

All this goes to reiterate what I said in this blog a few weeks ago – it’s amazing how much research you can accomplish online, without leaving home.

Finally, the microfilm I ordered a couple of weeks ago has arrived at my local LDS family history centre, so I shall be going there this week to start searching it for Heppell baptisms at Monkwearmouth c1765-1830.

Happy hunting!


  • This page was last updated on Sunday February 25th, 2007.