Just bricks and mortar

It wasn’t something that I had considered before – was it the place or the people who made a house a home?  I’ve moved only three times in my life – once as a new bride and twice with my family always together our possessions and ourselves moving forward.

But this week myself and my family have helped to move my mother-in-law into her new bungalow.  She has lived in the same house for 37 years and the memories she has helped to make in it are many.

When the family moved there in 1973 they had just lost a daughter and a sister so the first few years must have been difficult.  But with 7 remaining children eventually happier times came – Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries; weddings and in time 16 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren came along.

As we cleaned and packed I thought of the many times I had been welcomed into that house – Saturday afternoons spent with my boyfriend, Grandstand and two small nephews; the winter of 1990 when snow brought down the power lines and we sat by candle light playing board games; our 3 children as new borns and the harvesting of crops from the allotment during the summer months.

I asked my husband how he felt about leaving the house, he has not lived there for 19 years so his attachment was not what it once was but, he suggested, was it not the people who had made the house a home; their love that made it so warm and friendly, without them it was just bricks and mortar.

When Saturday came and the door was closed for the last time the energy of the family moved from the old to the new – the fun and laughter travelled with us, the family together helping to make the bungalow a home.

It was a little strange to leave my mother-in-law that evening but this was just the place itself, the new not the familiar.  The stories will still be told, the memories will still be there, the journey had started again.



30 August, 2010. Family History. Leave a comment.

Where’s Archie

Lady Luck plays such an important role in helping keep the genealogist on their toes, don’t you think?  There she is with those tantalising titbits of information that could go either way – ‘one day, just one day’, you pray ‘just smile on me!’ and then it happens, your turn to punch the air and exclaim ‘Yes!’

Lady Luck played a big part in my investigations into Archie Lee, my great great uncle.  I was told that he had died during the First World War but could I heck as like find anything about him on the Commonwealth War Graves site.  I left this research – as you do, for a little while and then discovered that Ancestry had a number of service records on-line and as I have a very good friend with a subscription I asked her if she wouldn’t mind just having a quick look round for me and lo and behold there was indeed something to be found.  I dropped everything – children, food, housework, you know the usual and went to investigate further, this was my moment; I then discovered 114 pages of Archie Lee’s military history.  When you consider that around 60 per cent of the service records for the soldiers who fought in World War One were destroyed during a German bombing raid on the War Office in London in September 1940 this was indeed a small but significant miracle.

Much to my amazement Archie’s life did not end in ‘some foreign field’ (Rupert Brooke) as I’d been led to believe but in Clinton, British Columbia, Canada on the 3 May 1949.

Archie’s army career started on the 30 May 1904 in Mansfield when he became a driver in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA).  He served for three years and was stationed in Brighton when on the 29 May 1907 he ended his ‘service’ and was transferred to the Army Reservist Corp.

But this was just the beginning; it seems that Archie was not happy with his lot in the small mining town of Kirkby in Nottinghamshire because he then emigrated to Canada, where he met and married Isabel Stirrup on the 4 September 1911 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It makes me wonder what exactly did happen to make Archie leave England bearing in mind the extract below from a letter written by Thomas Lee – Archie’s father:-

“…  in regard to my son Archie Lee’s marriage I can only say that he wrote home and told us of his marriage in Canada and that she wrote to me calling him her Husband after he had been called up but it is nearly two years since I heard from her and I honesty say that I don’t know her address in Canada never heard what her maiden name was never told the date of marriage nor place…”

As a Reservist, Archie received his ‘call-up papers’ in Canada and quickly made the long voyage back to England where he found himself serving in the 69th Battery, Royal Field Artillery 28 Division, British Expeditionary Force.

He was initially posted to France on the 24 November 1914 then, almost a year later on the 17 November 1915 he was posted to Salonika with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force where he remained until the end of the war.

Archie’s ‘stay’ in Salonika was shall we say, not without its challenges.  On 10 May 1916 it is reported that Archie fractured his left leg; It could have been worse, I thought but on further reading it seems that Archie was a little accident prone, or was it that the bullet with his name on it had yet to be fired – because on the 23 May 1916 he fractured his right tibia.

All was well with Archie (as well as it can be in the middle of a world war) until May 1919 when he became ill with influenza, copies of telegrams sent home to Archie’s parents must have been worrying to say the least:-

“Regret to inform you 34013 Dr Lee is dangerously ill at 79 General Hospital Taranto Italy suffering from Influenza”

Archie was eventually returned home and discharged from his duty on the 13 August 1919 due to ‘medical unfitness, effects of influenza followed by bronchitis‘.

In a letter written by Isabel to her brother Richard, Archie’s arrival home and what happened next are described:

Archie arrived home on the 20th September.  He is very sick and has been in the Hospital 2 weeks.  The doctor thinks he has got consumption.  I think it is a shame the government discharged him without a pension.  He will not be able to work for a long time – if he ever works at all.”

I have contacted the Library and Archives Canada and they were very helpful, there is, I understand a further 20 pages or so of information in their records but as yet I have not requested them.

I would really like to trace Archie’s two sons Walter (born: 1907) and Albert L (born: 1913) and have put feelers out in the Clinton district of British Columbia but so far Lady Luck has not yet heard my silent prayers … …


26 August, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. 2 comments.

Not always in the Past …

Family history for me is not about the dim and distant past but more often than not its about the here and now – tomorrow, today is the past.

I look back at our wedding photos and video and see the people that joined us on that happy day.   I was lucky, many of my elderly and not so elderly relatives were still with us back then – 19 years is not that long ago.

As a family historian I was absolutely thrilled to discover that a cine film existed of my parents wedding day, to see them and their immediate families moving and smiling is wonderful.  The film then moves forward 6 years and shows my Aunt and Uncle’s wedding; myself and my cousin are now part of this past.  For me the most poignant scene is myself and my brother handing over the wedding ‘charm’.  Tomorrow would be his big day!

The film then moves to my 3rd birthday, again my brother and I are together, captured forever!  My brother is no longer with us and that small moment of moving film is wonderful.

Talking of cine films we have been enjoying a great programme on Friday evenings whilst enjoying a glass of something smooth!  BBC2’s  Home Movie Roadshow hosted by Dan Cruickshank and Kirsty Wark is a great chance to sit back and enjoy 100 years of ordinary British peoples lives filmed on home movie cameras.   The programme’s producers appealed to people to send in their favourite pieces of home movie footage.  The team then took to the road in a specially constructed ‘cinebus’ to discover the personal stories behind the films.

The programmes so far have enabled us to share possibly the first wedding video shot in 1905 on the Isle of Bute and the intimate home movies of the late Spike Milligan.  Joining the show are the experts Robin Baker and Binny Baker who help to explain the footage.

So I collect, I record and talk to people about their memories.  As I write I’m wondering if my other Aunt and Uncle have any cine film they might consider having put onto DVD – mmmm I feel an email coming on!  So I continue to ‘encourage’ my husband to carry his camera around at family events – not that he needs much encouragement, and if I’m lucky we might even get out the video camera and capture those living, laughter filled moments of our family life.

In 100 years time I and my family will be the past.


25 August, 2010. Family History. 3 comments.

Today’s the Day

I’m currently waiting for my husband to do his ‘magic’ in the world of YouTube before I can post my next official blog so instead because I’m already getting ‘blog fever’ I would like to give you all my first extract from the Mansfield & North Notts Advertiser.

The above was the name of the local paper in Mansfield for many years and is now known as the Chad.  As with many local papers it continues to record the happy and sad events in local lives – for the family historian it provides a rich source of information.

I would have liked to have done a extract relating to the ‘current’ week but because of ‘husband’ issues the week that is featured today is the 20 November 1925.

Enough of my waffling here goes:-

Mansfield & North Notts Advertiser – 20 November 1925

Births, Marriages and Deaths.


MONKMAN – On 17th November, at 159, Nottingham Road, Mansfield, to Mr. and Mrs. L. Monkman – a son.


SCOTHON – FEATHERSTONE – On the 16th inst., at St. Martin-in-the Field, London, by the Rev. H.L. Johnston, Henry Walter Scothon, of Edwinstowe, to Ethel May Featherstone, of Catford, Kent.

Orchard-Cooper – On the 14th inst., at St. Peter’s Church, Mansfield, by the Rev. A. Grant Morris, Henry Graham Orchard, of Mansfield, to Annie Mary Cooper, of Mansfield Woodhouse.

Perry-Ball – At the Nottingham-road United Methodist Church, Mansfield, by the Rev. W.A. Cooper, Frank Pery to Lily Ball, both of Pleasley Hill.


Hall – On the 11th inst., Fred Hall, 48, Stanley-road, Mansfield, aged 60 years.

Morritt – On the 12th inst., George Morritt, Southwell-road, Mansfield, aged 1 hour.

Vardy – On the 12th inst., Sarah Vardy, 2, Durham Ox-yard, Stockwell-gate, Mansfield, aged 73 years.

Cook – On the 13th inst., Chris Cook, 11, Jennison-street, Mansfield, aged 3 months.

Angliss – On the 13th inst., Eliza Angliss, 175, Newgate-lane, Mansfield, aged 89 years.

Carnill – On the 14th inst., Raymond Carnill, 1 Carton-street, Mansfield, aged 67 years.

Stokes – On teh 14th inst., Florence May Stokes, 28, Howard-road, Manfield, aged 25 years.

Gilbert – On the 14th inst., William Gilbert, 105, Stockwell-gate, Mansfield, aged 80 years.

Bradley – On the 16th inst., Elsie Bradley, 6, Talbot-street, Mansfield, aged 9 years.


BIRD – In proud and undying memory of our son, Captain Basil W. Bird, M.C., 11th Sherwood Foresters, who died of wounds in France, November 24th, 1918.

PEARSON – In loving memory of my dear husband, Thomas Enoch Pearson, who passed away November 16th, 1921.

Always remembered

– From his Wife and Child, 9, Gedling Street, Mansfield.

SHELTON – In loving memory of our dear mother, Mary Shelton, who died November 4th, 1913; also our dear brother, Sam, who died November 17th, 1914.

Gone, but not forgotten.

-From Mr., Mrs. S. Foster, and Family.


Mr. and Mrs. J.S. CHARLESWORTH and FAMILY wish to thank all kind friends for sympathy shown to them in their sad bereavement; also for floral tributes.

The WIFE and CHILDREN of the late WILLIAM HOPEWELL wish to thank all friends and neighbours for sympathy shown to them in their sad bereavement; also for floral tributes. 6, Bancroft Lane, Mansfield

23 August, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. 2 comments.

Denshams of Morchard Bishop

I wish I’d listed more closely to my Gran back in 1992 when I was putting together a photo album for her – my first project in the world of genealogy, my last for her.  The little information I did take in though is precious to me for two reasons:-

1.   It came from my Gran, and

2.   It planted the seed of the Family History tree.

My Gran told me that my Great Aunt Grace had had the Densham family researched and that a tree had been produced.  The other piece of information that stuck was that we had French ancestors.  A picture of a small aristocratic French family fleeing across the English Channel at midnight to escape the revolutionaries came to mind … …

Anyway, as the elusive tree was nowhere to be found I had to start again and my journey took me from Nottinghamshire, up to Middlesbrough, down to Bristol and on to Devon.

It is clear that the ‘Densham’ name was fairly common in Devon but luckily for me in the beginning, not so common in Nottinghamshire or Middlesbrough areas.  So my baby steps were initially fairly straight forward and followed the path I’d been led down in 1992. Although unexpectedly it did result in a small windfall for my dad,  his siblings and all their cousins – but that’s another story.

When at last I found myself in the village of Morchard Bishop, Devon the trail became more overgrown and the curse of the family lore took some getting over.   My family wanted to know why I couldn’t find the French connection – ‘sacré bleu’ they exclaimed, ‘it’s definitely there, it was there in the tree!’.  But try as I might I just couldn’t justify a birth on the 23 April 1813 on the Channel Island of Alderney as French.

What my Densham family were doing on Alderney in 1813 is down to Napoleon and the 82nd Regiment of Foot, again a story for another time – although this time not so romantic and definitely English!

The Denshams have taught me many new and interesting skills – how to find and search for militia records in the National Archives; how to systematically refine, record and document all the individual Densham families – why did they all use he same Christian names!  But to tell this story of pain and heartache would be too boring without the elusive Eureka moment!

For now I have to be content with Matthew Densham marrying Sarah Fury on the 7 June 1777 in Lapford (not Morchard Bishop – they didn’t make it easy for me you know).  How much further I go back now is down to hard graft, money and those detective skills I’m constantly refining.  But these skills would be nothing without the guidance and goodwill of some really kind and generous people – Bob Pope and Richard Knight!


17 August, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. 2 comments.

Family Jigsaws

We’ve all had them – that one piece of the puzzle that you need to make the connection. Charles Coles is my missing link in the Star family – not because he is one of my ‘Stars’ but because he is mentioned in the 1843 will of Henry Star, my 5x great-uncle.

Henry’s children had been left legacies in the will of Charles Coles but unfortunately these children had all predeceased Henry as had his wife Elizabeth – so Charles left everything to his nephew Thomas Clark Star and his great-nephew Thomas Star.

Both of the above Thomas’ are my ancestors and try as I might I can not locate Charles’ will.

I know that finding an original Somerset is unlikely at the best of times given that most of the county’s probate records before 1858 were destroyed in Exeter by German bombing in 1942 and even although many of the will copies have survived in various record offices and private collections I still cannot find a thing.  I must admit I’ve not yet had chance to view Sir Mervyn Medlycott’s Somerset Wills Index: Printed & Manuscript Copies (1993) – so if there’s anyone out there … … …

I’ve recently been helped greatly in my quest by Pat Hase who although has not been able to find Charles’ will she had made a possible link between Henry Star and Charles Coles – something I just haven’t been able to do – it just shows you, if you can step away and view things remotely the answer could just be around the corner – much like a jigsaw.

Anyway, I’m one step closer to the whole picture thanks to Pat – Henry’s children could well have been Charles Coles’ grandchildren, given that Charles Coles daughter Mary married a George Simons or Symons and that an Elizabeth Symonds married Henry Star, this theory at least would satisfy the question – What’s the connection?

I must also say that the www1.somerset.gov.uk site is great.  You can search their wills and document holdings on-line and they also offer a very reasonable document copying service, if, like me, you live quite a distance away.  All in all if you’ve ancestors from Somerset I would say that they would be well worth a visit.


16 August, 2010. Tags: , . Family History. 3 comments.

An introduction

This is my first blog – something I thought I’d never do. I’ve watched my family dip their toes into the sea of blog and swim away, leaving me well, stranded in my blogless world.  Well I’ve taken the plunge and here I am.

My main reason for starting to blog is to record my family history triumphs and tribulations – I’m no expert, I’ve only been researching for 11 years – no time at all in the genealogy world and I seem to have amassed a whole range of paper documents, photos, certificates and memories that would keep anyone busy for a lifetime.  I’ve even  had time to do a full-time job, move twice, run the family home and edit a local family history society’s magazine.  At one time I even started to catalogue births, deaths and marriages from the local newspapers – I think these might become a feature!

I’m lucky, I’m only 40 – a relative spring chicken and caught the ‘bug’ before my grandmother passed away aged 99 and 8 months!  I was privileged to have the chance to share with her memories of a time long past how I wish I’d started 10 years before that!

Some of my lines of research are : Densham, Star, Downham, Dillon, Sutcliffe, Roadhouse, Gill, Allsop, Harrison, Hopkins, Morris(s), Heasman, Jeal, Labbett and Grubb.

Of course I could go for hours and hours but don’t you find its always so boring when someone only wants to talk about their family?  Well sharing is what I hope to do so please come and share.

I have also recently found that my family have a passion for cup cakes, so you never know cup cake disasters could also feature – well, family life is what its all about.


14 August, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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