Monday, 24 September 2012

Family History Through The Alphabet Challenge : T is for...

I could have chosen a name for this week's Alphabet Challenge post as there are several names in my ancestry that start with the letter T. For example, Thomas (son of) Thomas, (son of) Thomas etcetera. Rather than bore you all with that, I have chosen to write about Travel as my ancestors have proven, they moved around a lot.

In the times we live in today, we think nothing of walking out of our front doors expecting to access all modes of transport such as cars, mopeds, buses, trains, taxis and ferries. It is easy to take it for granted and forget that our humble ancestors had to rely (most often) on one method of travel: Walking. My London ancestors for example, would not have been able to afford the luxury of owning their own horse and cart or liveried carriage and when bicycles became popular in the Edwardian era, not everybody felt safe riding London's busy streets.
Let's cast our minds back to the days well before cars and buses. Before well-paved roads were in demand, our ancestors highways were mere ditches and tracks, potholed and uneven, flooded and thick with mud. If you were rich enough to be able to travel by coach or horse and cart you were at the mercy of the highwaymen. I would bet our ancestors were thankful for the likes of Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford, who singlehandedly changed the way people travelled forever. The Industrial Revolution also put travel on the map, so to speak. Roads, canals, railway, bridges, even the penny post system, which was introduced in 1840, made travel an exciting thing for our ancestors to contemplate. My ancestors used these methods of travel to move from county to county; village to market town. Where before, in the 1600s and 1700s they remained in one village, they were now branching out and exploring a world outside of their own backyards.
Thomas Telford
(1757 - 1834)

Before my 4 x great-grandfather moved to Beccles around the year 1809, he came from an unknown area of Norfolk. How did he come to settle for the village of nearby Barnby? I have this rather romantic notion that he travelled by canal boat or wherry. He saw the village from the Waveney River and thought to himself, "This is pretty, this is peaceful, this will do me" and he settled there, married and he later moved to Beccles with his wife where they raised their eight children.
My London ancestors moved around a lot. They are found each ten years (by the census return) living in a different street. For example, one family who lived in Putney had moved two or three streets apart, every ten years. When I travelled to Putney in late 2006, I visited all the streets they had lived in and discovered that although the addresses were in close proximity, they were still quite a distance apart in terms of moving house. How did they move their personal effects from one house to another? I had visions of them having to carry everything they owned or perhaps they borrowed a neighbour's cart to put their mattresses and humble effects into. In times past, our ancestors' homes were not heavily furnished. In particular, the working classes of England who possessed little in the way of dining tables, chairs, beds, cabinets, dressers, sideboards and wardrobes. I wonder what they would make of an IKEA store if they could see one today!
Image courtesy of
In the past one hundred years transport and travel methods have vastly improved and we have seen many changes and upgrades with railways, cars, ships and airplanes. My first cousin 3 x removed was the first to embark on a journey from London to New York by airplane in 1947. She well and truly caught the travel bug, as passenger list records prove she travelled back and forth from England and America regularly, both by ship and by plane up until her death in 1975.
My great-grandfather refused to drive a motor vehicle, choosing instead to ride a bicycle. He used this method of travel wherever he went and would happily ride for miles and miles at any given journey. He was seen daily in Beccles, from the early 1900s up until around 1970, riding to and from work and to and from church, as well as neighbouring villages and market towns. When he grew much older and age robbed him of his eyesight, his family were very concerned for his safety but he was stubborn and could not bear to part with his trusty cycle. No amount of coercion convinced him to give it up until one day his sons were forced to hide his bicycle away. This story still breaks my heart when I tell it, because I know full well how my great-grandfather must have grieved this enforced loss. I do not drive either. I refuse to just as my great-grandfather did. Instead, I rely on buses, trains, lifts from family and friends, and my two size-seven feet.

Edwardian Gent with his Bicycle

Monday, 17 September 2012

Family History Through The Alphabet Challenge : S is for...

For this week's Alphabet Challenge blog post I have chosen a topic which is close to my heart - Scrapbooking. Besides genealogy, reading and writing historical fiction, and collecting old postcards I love to play with photographs and create layouts in a scrapbook album.

For those who may not know, scrapbooking is a method for preserving personal and family history in the form of a scrapbook. Scrapbook albums usually contain memorabilia such as photographs, postcards, poems, letters, cards, recipes, and artwork. The first scrapbooks appeared as far back as the 15th century when it became popular in England to keep "commonplace books". I often wonder whether any of my ancestors kept scrapbooks and what happened to them. Did anybody keep them, pass them on, or were they destroyed by disinterested parties. My great-grandmother Nellie kept her precious memorabilia in an old biscuit tin and both of my grandmother's had an assortment of albums and leather-bound satchels for their photographs.
I began scrapbooking in earnest back in 2001 after I attend a Babies & Children's Expo. I still remember the "Creative Memories" display like it was yesterday. Layed out on tressel tables were rows of scrapbooks of all colours and sizes and the ideas flooded in my over-active mind. I wanted to create something unique and special for my then unborn child and in that moment, I was determined to ensure that all of my photographs would be lovingly displayed and preserved. Thus, my love of scrapbooking was born (pardon the pun).
Three generations of photograph albums
My grandmother Lilian's, My mother's and mine

To date I have made nine scrapbook albums. I would really like to say I have made ten if it included my intended heritage scrapbook but that is still on my "to-do" list. Why haven't I made it yet, I hear you ask? Simple, it's one word: fear. I confess that I am a perfectionist (eat your heart out Jim Cameron) and more especially when it comes to creating scrapbooks. I have all the necessary implements, papers (acid free, of course) and tons of photographs but I just cannot bring myself to sit down and actually do it. I am terrified of mucking the whole thing up. Crazy, I know.
I can proudly say that I have accumulated a lot of favourite scrapbook "how-to" books and these are a few of my absolute favourites, which I return to again and again:
The Complete Guide to Creating Heritage Scrapbooks (Memory Makers)
Scrapbook Journaling Made Simple (Memory Makers)
Scrapbooking Your Family History (Maureen A. Taylor)
Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (Maureen A. Taylor)
Scrapbooking Your Family History (Laura Best)
Scrapbooking Family in Historical Events (Laura Best)
'Good Housekeeping' Wartime Scrapbook (Barbara Dixon)
The Altered Book Scrapbook (Susan Ure)

A sample of some of my personal scrapbooks
My personal tips for scrapbooking: Don't ever use your original photographs. Always use copies; that way if you make a mistake during the cropping process you can always print off another. Always ensure that you use acid-free papers and scrapbooking materials. If you don't feel confident when it comes to journaling, practise on a separate sheet of paper and use the photograph as a narrative guide. Remember, every photograph tells a story.
Lastly, I picked up this invaluable tip and I want to pass it on to you. When you create a scrapbook or photograph/memorabilia album, include an "About the Author" and paste it on the inside front page and remember to include a small photograph of yourself. Write a brief introduction: tell the person who will be looking at your album who you are, why you made the album, what your hobbies are, what date it was when you made the album and where you were living at the time. Below is an example, taken from one of my personal scrapbooks that I made in 2003. Please, try not to laugh at my photo (it was the 1980s, come on!).
"About The Author"
Fom my personally made childhood scrapbook

My favourite websites to order my scrapbooking supplies from: (Companies in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Canada, USA, Japan) (UK based, but overseas orders welcome) (Australia based, but overseas orders welcome)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Family History Through The Alphabet Challenge : R is for...

I've decided to write this Alphabet Challenge post about two of my family lines that start with this week's letter - R. My 4 x great-grandfather was Zachariah Rudd and my 4 x great-grandmother was Sarah Rivett. Both of these families are from my father's side.
Sitting down to write this post brought home the startling reality that I know very little about these two families. I owe what I do know to my second cousin Terry, who was researching his family tree long before I got serious about it. He was able to determine that the Rudd family originated from Thelveton in Norfolk before moving to Loddon and Beccles. The Rivett family lived in the villages of Ringsfield and Shipmeadow, in Suffolk (both of which are located between the market towns of Beccles and Bungay).
Zachariah Rudd (born about 1778) was recorded in the census returns as a cotton weaver, a jobbing gardener, and a boot and shoe maker. Every ten years his address appears to change from Beccles in 1841 (Smallgate Street)  to Loddon in 1851 (with his daughter and son-in-law William Leman, who I posted about a few weeks ago) and then back again to Beccles (Old Market in 1861 and Northgate in 1871). Zachariah Rudd died in 1871 at the ripe old age of 94. I wonder what his secret to long life was back then!
Sarah Rivett (born about 1780) in Shipmeadow, Suffolk. Today there is scarcely nothing to the village of Shipmeadow. It has no shop, public-house or church (the latter was made redundant in 1980) but its parish workhouse still stands today, as a testiment to its history, even if it has been converted into modern housing and flats. Sarah married Issac Turrell in 1807 and they had at least six known children. They lived in nearby Ringsfield but unfortunately the census returns of 1841 and 1851 does not give an actual street address. Ringsfield was a small village with over 1,000 acres of agricultural land and farm-houses; today it has a primary school, a village hall and a public-house. The church of All Saints is a Grade II listed building and the churchyard contains the grave and memorial of Napoleon Bonaparte's  great-niece Princess Caroline Murat.
Ringsfield Church, a sketch from 1819

Ringsfield Church, 2011

Princess Caroline Murat's Memorial Gravestone
Interior of Ringsfield Church, 2011
Ringsfield Hall

The Three Horseshoes, Ringsfield
Photo courtesy of Tony Green

I do not know who either Zachariah Rudd or Sarah Rivett's parents were. There is more work to be done on these family lines. It takes a blog post like this one to make you notice the gaps in your genealogy research. Turns out this post had more to do with Ringsfield, which is probably just as well as it still covered the letter R for the week!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Family History Through The Alphabet Challenge : Q is for...

This week's letter was a challenging one I confess. I have no ancestry names that start with Q (unless you count my first cousin four times removed, Charlotte Foster who married George Quinton in 1888). No, I thought my best bet was to write about Quarter Sessions but with a Becclesian twist (being Beccles, in county Suffolk).

What are Quarter Sessions exactly? Researching Records of the Court can be daunting and just a tad mind-boggling to the average amateur genealogist, such as yours truly. Terms such as Minute Books, Order Books, Assizes, Session Rolls, and Judicial Proceedings leave my brain swimming. I can easily explain, however, that Quarter Sessions were held four times in a year (hence the name, Quarter) at: Easter, Midsummer, Michaelmas and Epiphany (January). Quarter Sessions were presided over by the town sheriff or his deputy; or a Justice of the Peace (magistrates).

The Beccles Charter of 1584 granted the right for a gaol to be built in the town. Beccles historian E. A Goodwyn wrote: "The holding of Quarter Sessions at Beccles indicates the importance of the town in the country. Theft, poaching, assault and bastardy orders here the most cases..." Public interest in crime was strong and many books on crime and criminals were sold in Beccles shops, such as Horth the chemist. A body on a gibbet was common in large towns and in market towns such as Beccles public whipping frequently followed the Quarter Sessions. It is interesting to note that public whipping was carried out to coincide with Market Days. This was done on purpose; it drew in large crowds from both Beccles and neighbouring visitors. Public whipping of women was abolished in 1791.

Image courtesy of Rictor Norton

Beccles sessions were held at the Town Hall (on the site of the old Market Cross), in the New Market-place. Beccles also had a Custom House, Assembly Rooms and a House of Correction (Gaol) near Newgate. In the first half of the nineteenth century the Earl of Gosford (then Lord of the Manor) held court in the town. The chairman was Colonel Henry Bence Bence (that is not an error, that really was his name).

Beccles House of Correction was situated on the site of the Game Place which is now covered by Tesco Supermarket (formerly, Clowes Printing Works), bordering Gaol Lane and Newgate. In 1679 it was agreed that the House of Correction should be placed on the Game Place, a former open-air theatre where plays took place by travelling acting companies. In the 1780s the Public Hall (orgininally called the Assembly Rooms) was built.

In 1865 Quarter Sessions in Beccles came to an end and all cases were transferred to Ipswich, despite initial opposition from the magistrates and townsfolk of Beccles. After this time, the House of Correction was used as a County Police Station in which there was accommodation for a married inspector and his family and three constables. The building was remodelled in 1874 which included eight cells and a large airing-yard for prisoners. Petty sessions and Police Courts continued to be carried out in Beccles.

Image courtesy of Eugene Ulph
"Time Remembered"

The Beccles Quarter Sessions paint some pretty disturbing images in history. What follows may make you laugh or cry but they are an insightful look into the life of our ancestors:

1764. Elizabeth Thornton, being disorderly, idle and refusing to work, to be publicly whipped "until bloody".
1766. Fines imposed on 5 Beccles men for non-appearance when chosen as Jury men.
1769. A woman of Beccles to be publicly whipped in the Market Place for reeling false yarn. Commited to the Bridewell for 14 days.
1771. Martha Mash and Hannah Peake for stealing 13 turkeys and one goose. Mash to be transported to America for 7 years. Peake to be publicly whipped on the next Market Day.
1777. Bejamin Eves stealing a pig. Publicly whipped the next Market Day.
1771. John Poll, charged with bastardy, to enlist for a soldier.
1774. Sarah Calver, for feloniously stealing 3 loaves of bread out of the house of John Sratford of Wenhaston, to be publicly whipped and discharged.
1790. Will Burroughs. Petty Larceny. 3 months hard labour and publicly whipped the next market day in Beccles.
1794. Ely Leggett leaving poor house at Shipmeadow and taking away apparel belonging to the same. Sentenced to 2 months hard labour and solitary confinement in Beccles Gaol.

Beccles Town Hall

A Beccles guidebook of 1888: Town Hall of Beccles now used as a Public Library and contains 6,000 volumes. In 1904 it was said to hold over 9,000 volumes and was under the control of 12 committee members. However, in 1911 the East Suffolk Gazette newspaper reported thus: The Council intends to recover possession of the old Town Hall, near the Church, now used as a Public Library, to use it as a Council Chamber and offices for the Borough Surveyor.

If you are interested in knowing more about the history of Beccles you may like to subscribe or follow my Twitter page @RelicsofBeccles where I regularly "tweet" historical facts and anecdotes of Beccles.