Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Reformer Newspaper (published in Hertford) is now online

The British Newspaper Archive is regularly being updated and I note that within the last month the a number of issues of The Reformer for 1834-5 have been added (under the heading Hertfordshire Mercury & Reformer) and also 1868 issues of the Hertfordshire Mercury - so that the combined issues now stretch from 1834-1868. While it will be many years before all the papers that have are online, new material is always being added.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Some minor photographer/post card updates


I have discovered that John Barnard, Photographer of St Albans, had a studio in the borough as early as 1878. 

I have added a small example of a panoramic school view by Percy Buchanan, who has taken many pictures of Hertfordshire schools (and I am interested in knowing any others he has photographed).

I have added some more negative number information for Edward Bedwell (Bedford Series post cards). While Edward lived in Bedfordshire he published a lot of Hertfordshire post cards circa 1903-4.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Be careful when conflating dates and places


Tom recently contacted me with the following question:
In your page on Freemasonry in St Albans it mentions that a meeting was recorded in March 1843 and "Henry Edwards of Hamsteads, Bricket Wood" attended. My question is whether the date could possibly be a mistake?  I have an advert from July 1843 in the Herts Mercury, which announces that the current tenant, a Mr. Bellis, intends to give up the farm and is selling all the live stock.  I assume it was after this point that Henry Edwards took over the farm.
This raises a common problem in some records. There is a dated reference to an individual - but no date mentioned - but it is known where he lived at another date. So the two bits of information are conflated - although (if the truth were known) the individual did not live at the place at that date.  In this example it is not clear whether the March 1843 list was contemporary, or drawn up at a later date. However the conflation of places and dates is a real problem when people drawing up family trees record conflate the place of marriage with the unknown place of birth - giving the impression that the place of birth is known.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sir Harry Bevir Vaisey (born and buried at Tring)




Philip alerted me to an error in a death date on the page  Vaisey, Tring - The Gravestones which has now been corrected, and I have updated the entry for Sir Harry Bevir Vaisey on  VAISEY, Tring, since 1876 with a number of links. He was the High Court Judge who is reported as saying:
H. B. Vaisey's grave at Tring
"A gentleman's agreement is an agreement which is not an agreement, made between two people neither of whom are gentlemen, whereby each expects the other to be strictly bound without himself being bound at all."

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Olympic sized break is coming up ...

I suspect some of you may be spending some time watching the Olympic games rather than researching your family tree - and I also plan to spend less time bashing the keyboard. So I will be taking time off as far as posting new material on the web site, at least to the end of the main games - and may not get completely back to normal until after the Para-Olympic games. (Stoke Mandeville Stadium, which pioneered sports for the disabled, is only a few miles from where I live.)

I will continue to answer questions during this time but if you fail to include sufficient information (such as forgetting to mention your sources) I will bounce the question back for more information, or suggest that you ask the question again (if still relevant) once you have obtained the relevant birth, marriage or death certificate.

Oxhey - The History of a Parish - Informative Booklet


 The Booklet "Oxhey: The History of a Parish" by Marjorie Bray was published in 1979, in the centenary year of St Matthew's Parish, Oxhey, It provides a useful history of the church, plus a good backgruond of the history of the parish, a list of vicars, etc. and at the time of writing second hand copies were available online. The land on which the church was built was donated by Jonathan King of Wiggenhall, which  I mentioned on this blog recently.
Oxhey was formed from the parishes of Bushey, Watford and Northwood (Middlesex) and I have used this opportunity to give Oxhey a proper "home" page.

Note that I can only afford to include reviews of new books and booklets relating to Hertfordshire if I am sent a review copy.

Groceries from A J Chennels, Hemel Hempstead.

In April I gave details of a receipted invoice covering groceries supplied by W. J Cartwright to Benjamin Briggs, both of Hemel Hempstead. I have now updated the original page with another invoice, this time for groceries supplied to Mr Briggs by Adam Joseph Chennells, of Hemel Hempstead, in 1893, when  a pound of fresh bitter cost 1 shilling and 7 pence (or just under 10p of today's money). 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Buying Hertfordshire Birth, Marriages and Death Certificates.

I have only just realized that in 2011 the Hertfordshire County Council set up an office to archive the birth, marriage and death civil registration certificate registers in St Albans, which had previously been held in the local registrar offices. They can now be ordered online see How can I get a copy certificate

It should be realized that in the past the local civil registration registers are the original copy and hence will avoid the copying errors that can occur on the General Registrar Offices copies (see A Comedy of Errors). 

In updating the information on the web site I have also carried out some tidying up of pages on the Family Events section - for instance by indicating that some of the pages relating to familysearch and the IGI are now of historic interest only because of recent online changes. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Identifying a property in Hemel Hempstead High Street

Nearly 20 years ago, when writing the book The London Gunners come to Town, I started to draft a record of all the shops that had been in Hemel Hempstead High Street a century ago, and after the book was published I started work on extending it further back into the 19th century, with the aim of including information from all the censuses - which were not available online at the time (and the 1901 and 1911 had not been released in any form). In fact I never finished it  - or another on Marlowes - but I am always happy when a question gives me the opportunity to dig out my old notes.

As a result I was very pleased to get a message from Kevin providing some interesting information on the Walters family and asking about 106 High Street, which is where his great uncle was a corn merchant in 1882. If you look at WALTERS, 106 High Street, Hemel Hempstead, 1882-c1900 you will find a good example of what you can sometimes find if your relative lived, or had a shop, in the High Street  of one of the larger towns. (Villages can be much harder as houses were not numbered until much later.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Bury, Codicote, Herts

The Bury, Codicote, Herts  - posted 1907
The Home of  John Leslie Hunter, Stockbroker
[larger image available on Codicote page]

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Old News from Jackson's Oxford Journal, 1800

The number of early newspapers which cover Hertfordshire is low so I decided to look at the Jackson's Oxford Journal for 1800 on the British Newspaper Archive and quickly found three items (and there may be many more).
The last of these involves house breaking, sheep steeling and highway robbery and in a number of cases the transportation records are given to provide extra details


Newnham Church

Newnham Church - posted 1906
[larger image available on Newnham page]

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Halton and the Northumberland Fusiliers, WW1


I have posted a new view of Halton House from a post card from 1914. While the date is not clear the card was sent to Northumberland and in August 1914 the Northumberland Fusiliers were based in Berkhamsted but after a couple of weeks moved to Halton. Later in the war it became a flying school - and part of the Royal Air Force.

In addition to the card I have also added to the Halton page thumbnail links to a number of modern pictures of modern Halton.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dating Buchanan's School Photographs of Hertfordshire

Yesterday I blogged about Lockers Park School, Hemel Hempstead, and included a photograph of the dining room by Percy A Buchanan. Anthony has helpfully drawn my attention to the fact the Percy married a daughter of Carl Wilhelm Stackemann in 1902.

St George's School, Harpenden
posted 1910
Carl Wilhelm Stackemann was a photographer who specialized in school photography (see the excellent Sussex Photohistory web site). He employed a team of photographers to go round the country photographing schools (are there any examples from Hertfordshire?) and Percy may well have worked in this capacity. However in in 1907 Carl went  bankrupt and sold the business. The earliest school card published by Percy that I have been able to trace dates from 1908 - so it is likely that he set up on his own company following the bankruptcy. More information about this - and updates to help date Hertfordshire school photographs he took can be seen on the Percy A Buchanan page. Any information you can provide to make this page even more helpful will be welcome.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

1915 School Prospectus - Lockers Park, Hemel Hempstead

Lockers Park School is preparatory school founded in 1872. I have earlier posted a number of photographs and I have now added a copy of the 1915 prospectus. Fees were 50 guineas a term, plus extras. It is interesting that it includes the information that "The whole of the drainage system and sanitary arrangements have been modelled on the latest approved principles by a firm of London contractors under the supervision of the London Sanitary Protection Association, and are annually inspected" before it says "The Buildings include a School Chapel, Library, Swimming Bath, Gymnasium, and Squash Racquet Court."

The Dining Rook, Lockers Park School
The prospectus came with three letters from the headmaster, Percy Christopherson, to a Mr Collier, who was invited to have lunch in the school dining room when he came to visit the school. Boys normally entered the school near their nineth birthday, but this was not possible as the May 1919 list was full - so he was booked to enter in September 1919.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Was your ancestor born in a workhouse?

I recently got the following request, via the Ancestry message system, about a birth certificate which said: 
Well I got Charles' birth Certificate, and to my dismay the father is left blank, but his mother is listed as an Emily Tyers. I was wondering if I could send you a copy via email and you could possibly help be make out one of the words on it... Twice under Emily it list Union "Norh/worh?" House, Watford. And that she was a servant. Do you have any idea?
Watford Union Workhouse in 1896
I replied :

It always helps if you know something about the social conditions at the time - and no-one at the time would have had any difficulty with the word you are struggling with. It was the dreaded Union Workhouse. The rich grumbled about the expense and the poor were terified that they would end up there. If you want to know more about the workhouse system read Charles Dicken's book Oliver Twist.
By the time your Charles Tyers was born in 1895 they were beginning to get a bit better - the children who where the responsibility of the Union were more likely to be fostered out and also sent to a proper school - rather than being taught in the Workhouse itself. 50 years later the workhouses were done away with - and as most of the residents were people who were too ill to look after themselves (often through old age) they became hospitals - and the Watford NHS Hospital is on the workhouse site, and the last time I was there some of the workhouse buildings were still standing. However there are major development plans and I haven't been there for at least 5 years.
The Union Workhouse in Vicarage Road, Watford
Emily Tyers had probably been a domestic servant living in a private house away from home, and when she became too pregnant to work found herself destitute - and ended up having the child in the Workhouse. As soon as she was fit to work she would have had to find a new job, and rearing the child would have been the responsibility of the Union.
The chances of ever finding out who the father was is remote - but that is just a fact of family history - as there are similar cases in almost every family tree.
If you visit my web site at www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk and use the search faclilty for the words WATFORD and WORKHOUSE you will find many references including one to the New Year party held in 1893. You will also find much more about Watford.
Relevant pages on the main site are on Watford Union, The New Year Party at the Union, and a general page on The Workhouse with an important link. There are many other pages where books on Watford refer to the workhouse, or where answers involve people who had connections with the workhouse.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jonathan King and Watford in the 19th century.

Jackie wrote asking about Jonathan King, of Watford, whose 1881 will shows he owned a lot of property in Watford.  It turns out that Jonathan married the niece of George Whittingstall, brewer in Watford, in 1825, and in 1826 was living in Watford Place. Watford started expanding after the railway arrived in 1837 and in 1850 the Watford Place estate was sold as building land, and Jonathan moved to Wiggenhall, another estate to the South West of St Mary's, Watford which was later extensively build on. He also has connections with the churches of  of St Andrew's Watford, St Mary's Rickmansworth and the church at Oxhey.
Wiggenhall Park crica 1850
Note how Watford was then little more than a strip of houses on either
side of the main road out of London

Monday, July 16, 2012

Following up old contacts

This site has now been up and running for over ten years and in the last few days I have had two requests about out of date contact information. The first was for Matt Wheeler, who was the very helpful curator at for Dacorum Heritage Trust at the time, and often commented on posts on this web site. He moved on to the Salt Museum, now the Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse, of Northwich, Cheshire, and in the last year has become the curator and manager of the Irish Agricultural Museum at Wexford, Ireland.

The second related to the request by Catherine, in 2001, about MAGOR, Redbourn, late 19th century, where unfortunately the contact email address is no longer valid, and I have no later email address. This request reminded me how out of date some of the early pages on this site are - as so much more information has become easily accessible since 2001. For instance it now only takes a minute to find the family in Redbourn in the 1891 census. In this case it supports my original suggestion that the parents were in India at the time of the 1881 census - with two children being born there at the time. The census returns also show that the family had moved to Ingatestone Hall, Billericay, Essex, by 1901. A few minutes more and I established from online trade directories that Richard Blarney Magor was still at Redbourn House in 1895. (Full details have been added to the original page.)

These requests highlight two problems. The first is that the oldest answers on this site are date because, for example, they were done before any of the censuses were available online, and in most cases it would now be possible to give far fuller answers in less time than the original answers took. The second is that many of the contact emails are now no longer reaching the original enquirer. In some cases the enquirer will have passed on, and in other they will have changed their address, perhaps because their ISP went out of business. 

So if you have contributed to this site and have changed your email address make sure you let me know so I can update the contact information. In the 15 years I have been online discussing Hertfordshire family history matters I have corresponded with thousands of people about even more different surnames. Occasionally I get an email which is addressed to "all my friends" and which gives a new email address and is signed with a Christian name only.  I cannot possibly chase through 15 years of records to find out why I was in your address book, or whether I need to update one of the nearly 4000 pages on my web site with the new address. This all means that normally if an email contact address is not valid I will not have a more recent address - because if I did the contact would have been updated online.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Quiet Week on the Genealogy Front

I had planned a quiet week this week as I had a minor operation in my diary - which was postponed when I turned up at the day surgery centre and tests showed I had a bacterial infection! At the same time there was very little email to answer - and I have also been busy on my other blog Trapped by the Box in recent weeks - which meas less time to prepare material for this site.

Sent to Canada from Watford: I recently commented on a post on Rootsweb which involved a child who was born in 1895, was with foster parents in 1901, and was sent to Canada in 1907.  It is possible the child was born out of wedlock and I commented:
At the time many such accidents were frequently hidden - either by adoption or sometimes by the grandmother taking the grandchild on as her own in later census returns, etc. On other occasions the child would be informally passed to childless relatives (or friends) who wanted children, and of course there would then be no formal record of the transfer. Another possibility, which seems the most likely in view of his being sent to Canada, was that he became the responsibility of the Watford Union (who ran the Work House, and who would have fostered younger children out) as the authorities were keen to get such youngsters off their books by sending them to places like Canada.
Back to Wilstone Reservoir:
The view from the hide in October
 In October I published some pictures taken at Wilstone to show the features revealed by the low water, including the medieval fields - and water levels continued to fall until March.Since then the reservoir has filled right up and this morning I revisited the area as one of my almost daily walks to help keep fit. You haven't had any recent pictures of the Hertfordshire Countryside - so here goes.

The same view from the hide this morning
The Medieval field and the quarry use to provide earth for the dam in October
The Medieval Field area this morning - nothing but water

Water pouring down the overflow at Wilstone Reservoir
A Congregation of Coots at Wilstone
Swan "Upping" at Wilstone Reservoir

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Photographer, The 2nd Lieutenant, WW1 and Hemel Hempstead

This post is nominally about John George Lawrence, Photographer, Hemel Hempstead, 1914-1919 but touches a number of other issues.

John came to Hemel Hempstead in 1914 and set up a business as a photographer in Gadebridge Lodge. In 1916 he was called up and on his return from the war in 1919 he was evicted, saying to the court "Is that what I get for fighting for my country." This reminds us that the returning heroes did not always find things easy. It is also worth noting that he never made the trade directories which were published in 1914, in 1917 (when he was in the army), and in 1922, when he had apparently left town.

It is not certain what month he came to Hemel Hempstead, but there was a big demand for portraits of young men in uniform once the war broke out and the photograph that trigger this post is of a young second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery and the picture may have been taken because he had been newly commissioned.

But who is the young man? Sadly this is just another of many First World War photographs which record an "unknown soldier" because the person who once cherished it knew who it was and sadly never wrote the name on the back. So can you help recognize him? And are all your important family photographs adequately labeled for future generation?

When I wrote The London Gunners come to Town I recorded details of the RFA units who were billeted in the town. The book mentions many (but far from all) of the second lieutenants - so he may be one of the officers I wrote about. In case it triggers a memory I have listed the names and units on the main site - but as a quick check the surnames are
Barrow, Bergh, Blackwell, Bown, Brown, Chitty, Christopherson, Clegg, Dodgson, Elliott, Kimber, Lucas, Lyon-Smith, Marchand, Mond, Ogilvie, Ollivant, Pilditch, Pixley, Pownall, Raworth, Smith, Ullman, Whitten, Woollett, Yencken

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stamps and Postal Rates for Post Cards

In trying to date old post cards where the date stamp is not clear it can be useful to know when stamps were first issued and the changes in postal rates. I have therefore drawn up a page of postage stamps and postage rates (up to 1940) that I have found in part of my collection of old post cards.  

I have also used this as an opportunity to improve the master post card page.although there are still a number of pages still "Under Construction"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Two killed by Lightning at Tring


Tring Agricultural Show was in full swing in August 1897 when it started to rain. Joseph Putman, a journeyman boat builder, and Esther Keen, a silk winder, were sheltering under a tree when it was struck by lightning. Read the full story at Two killed by Lightning at the Tring Agricultural Show.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Did your ancestor play football for Batford Juniors?

This team is Batford Juniors, the ball carried the words "Batford Jnrs 1922/23" and they come from Harpenden.  The youngest was not much older than my father - so there must be some people still alive who knew some of these footballers. So can you help put a name to any of them - or provide other information about the club. A larger image is available in case it helps you to identify a face. The photo is in black and white - so what colour was their strip?

In fact this is only one of the football club pictures that are crying out for identification on this web site. Do you know anything about the Berkhamsted cup-winning football team at the end of the 19th century? We know the names of The Impossibles - but apart from the fact the the picture was taken by a Watford photographer we don't know where they played. The Walkern Football Club won the Greg Cup in 1912 - but we only know the name of one of the team. There are also some St Albans Clubs about which little is known, such as the Stanville F.C., the Adult School F.C. and the Glenfield F.C.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Brief news from the current week

Passenger Lists: Further to my posting on Coopers of Berkhamsted - Links with South Africa, which found the outgoing passenger lists on FindMyPast very useful,  I note that Ancestry has incoming passenger lists - but have not followed this up.

Coal for St Albans Railway Station:  It is easy to forget in these days of electric railways that 100 years ago everything ran on coal - as these two tickets recording the delivery of coal to the Midland Railway's locomotive Department at St Albans show.


William Kay of Tring Park: Sandra adds a follow-up to the posting from 2010 and I note that press reports at the time gives two additional addresses at the time of his death of possible relevance (See British Newspaper Archives):


Sept. 15 [1838], at his home in York-terrace, Regent's Park [London], William Kay, Esq., of the Mains, Cumberland, and Tring-park, Hertfordshire, in his 62nd year.

CDV by Lem√©nager: Henri Victor Lem√©nager was a photographer in Bushey & Watford between 1861 and 1887. I have just added to his page an additional carte de visite (large image available) showing a mother and two sons (unfortunately unidentified) on yet another card base. I am still looking for datable copies of his pictures so I can associate the different card bases with an approximate dates.


Hertfordshire Countryside: The July Issue includes several items which might interest the family historian. (Links are to relevant pages on this site.)

  • Village Church saved reports on restoration work to the church of St Mary, Great Wymondley
  • In the Air, On the Road, On Rail considers travel around the county in the 1930s.
  • Essendon Pubs - a readers letter includes photographs of the Salisbury Crest Hotel, The Chequers (formerly the Candlestick) and The Wheatsheaf.
  • Swans over Waltham includes references to swans in Hertfordshire.
  • An Old Trade Route reminds us that the River Stort was once an important transport route.
  • A Jewel of a Garden is about the historic gardens at Ashridge.dland Railway's locomotive Department at St Albans show. 
Donations: Further donations received this week mean that so far this year I have raised £485 for the mentally ill in Hertfordshire.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fred Downer of Watford - A leading Victorian Photographer

Pictures can greatly contribute to a interesting family history and this site has always included information on old post cards - which provide information on the early part of the 20th century. The existing pages need some re-organisation and updating, and more needs to be done on the earlier Victorian photographers and their work. I have decided that the best way in is to select one photographer and examine his work in some detail - and the obvious one to chose is Frederick Downer, who started out as a photographer in 1862, and who seems to have moved with all the technical advances - including a brief flirt with moving pictures in 1909 and publishing an illustrated newspaper in 1914. 

There is a lot of work to be done, including examples of his early work which I can reproduce, and tje approach I am taking is to publish some initial pages (in some cases still "under construction") so you can see and comment on what I am planning. The pages I have started so far deal with his biography, portrait photographsstereo photographs, view post cards, news post cards, the Watford Illustrated and art work.

I would hope to expand coverage to include at least some of the following - and if you can supply me with relevant digital images (or can tell me where they can be found) I would be very grateful:

Portraits in oils or charcoal (possibly from photographs)
Studio Photographs - including those with painted backcloths
Group pictures
Early Views (cabinet or carte de visite - not post cards)
Pictures with horses
Lantern Slides
Moving Pictures (circa 1909)
Books, etc., illustrated by his photographs
Work by the Watford Engraving Company
If you can let me have digital scans, proper credit will be given.