Sunday, 16 May 2010

Celebrity Ancestor

For a change of 'scene', I decided to look a bit deeper at some of my English ancestors. 


Devonshire Wrestlers

An old family pedigree mentioned that my ancestor, William WREFORD "settled in Tiverton and was well known in the last century as a noted wrestler".  I had searched for more information a few years back and was discovered a book which mentions him in this role - Devonshire Characters and Strange Events by S. Baring Gould.

I am very pleased that I am now able to read the entire book online (or download as various files) at the Internet Archive.  The section on William reads:
Next Steps:
William Wreford, at the age of eighteen, achieved reputation by throwing Jordan over his head with such force that Jordan came down with a "crash similar to that produced by felling an oak tree." But Wreford met his match in a wrestle with "the little Elephant," James Stone. Simultaneously the men grappled each other; and although Wreford had the advantage at the outset, he was hurled into the air, and fell with such violence on his back that for a time he was incapacitated from taking part in a similar contest. Eventually the return match came off at Southmolton, and Stone was again victorious. Nevertheless Wreford remained a prominent figure in the ring, and threw Francis Olver, a Cornishman, although he came out of the contest with several of his ribs crushed by the deadly "hug." But a greater than Wreford and Jordan arose in the person of Abraham Cann... (p519)

Hoping to find more mention of William, I searched for James Stone - the 'little elephant'.  This lead me to a page bursting with information about wrestling - in particular, the Abraham Cann mentioned above.  The Heard Family History site records:
In his history of Crediton, Venn (Venn, T.W., History of Crediton. Typescript. 1972) tells us that the activities of the Devonshire wrestlers in London were reported enthusiastically in the Society gossip columns. Dressed in the latest fashions they would promenade in the famous Vauxhall pleasure gardens, where much curiousity was shown to catch a sight of "these extraordinary Devonshire wrestlers". Along with the bare-knuckle fighters, the wrestlers must have had the popular appeal of football stars of old, if not quite the overblown celebrity status accorded them in today's tabloids. Certainly local papers reported their comings and goings, and we read of a triumphant return to Devon on the express coach Celerity in 1827, when the wrestlers were greeted by cheering crowds in Exeter (Heard Family History).
It's funny to think of William, who is listed simply as 'farmer' and 'labourer' in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, as a celebrity.  Also found on the Heard Family History site was this image of the wrestlers' vital statistics at a fair in Tavistock,1827:
Wrestler Vital Statistics - Tavistock Fair 1827

William is listed as 34 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 190 pounds.  It is not often we get to know this much physical detail about our ancestors and I'm excited to have found this information. 

Next Steps:
  • Continue to research Devonshire Wrestling in and around the 1820s
  • Search newspapers for wrestling matches

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Neighbouring Families - Part 3

Part of a series of posts - beginning with Neighbouring Families

Back on track after my William BROWN confusion - I pick up with proving George BROWN and James BROWN are brothers. Thereby proving that the William BROWN on the 1891 census is indeed related to me.

Proving Brotherhood

I had previously sought to prove George BROWN and James were brothers and so had some of George's records at hand.  George's death record states that his parents are John BROWN and Jane [Jean] Maxwell:

Statutory Death Record of George BROWN - 1862

James BROWN's death record also gives his parents as John BROWN and Jean Maxwell:



Statutory Death Record of James BROWN - 1873

This proves that James and George are brothers.  A search for BROWN births in Glencairn show that there was also a William born to John BROWN and Jean MAXWELL:

Birth Record of William BROWN in Glencairn Parish Register - 1807

So, I have proved the heads of household at Woodhead, George and James BROWN are brothers.  I have also found the existence of another brother, William (as there are no statutory death records of a William BROWN with a mother named MAXWELL, I can only assume he died before 1855).

I have therefore come to the conclusion that the William BROWN (b.1829) living at Woodhead on the 1891 census is in fact James BROWN's nephew.

*bows and wipes the sweat from her furrowed brow*

Neighbouring Families - Part 2

This is a follow on from my previous post - Neighbouring Families.

! The results here are accurate, however not the William BROWN I was tracing (see previous post for correction).  I have chosen to leave this information here to help others.

Using FamilySearch, I searched the IGI for Sarah FERGUSSON with a spouse named BROWN.
Success: It listed Sarah marrying a John BROWN in Glencairn, 1826 (about 3 years before William BROWN was born according to the censuses).  This seemed a very good match indeed so I began to search for birth records of William and his brother, John.


No sign of William but I found a birth and christening record for John (parents John BROWN and Sarah FERGUSON) in the nearby parish of Keir, for September 1825.  However, this was a year before his parents' marriage so although it is not impossible, I could not be sure. Perhaps the parish record will say whether the birth was 'legitimate' or not?  I bit the bullet and viewed the actual parish record on ScotlandsPeople.  The birth had been transcribed incorrectly and actually took place in December 1828 - remember ALWAYS view the actual record where possible!

Birth entry for John BROWN, son of John BROWN & Sarah FERGUSSON - December 1828

While checking my previous searches on ScotlandsPeople, I found an entry for William, legitimate son of John BROWN and Sarah FERGUSON of Snade Mill (the residence was indecipherable to me at first but the ordnance survey maps helped me a great deal) He was born on the 2nd December 1826 and christened the 6th December. 

Birth entry for William BROWN, son of John BROWN & Sarah Fergusson - December 1826

Snade Mill (Cairn Water), Glencairn parish

Now I need to link this John BROWN to my James BROWN to prove these neighbours were also family.  I would also like to find the family connection to George BROWN who also lived at Woodhead throughout these censuses.
Next steps (edited):
  • Find a family link between these BROWNs and the BROWNs at Woodhead

Friday, 14 May 2010

Neighbouring Families

Woodhead of Dardarroch?, Glencairn, Dumfriesshire in 2006

Eight years ago, I posted on the rootsweb message board regarding my BROWN ancestors farm, Woodhead of Dardarroch, in the parish of Glencairn. Recently someone replied that their ancestor was boarding with some BROWNS at Woodhead Cottage on the 1891 census. By 1891, James BROWN had died and his widow, Sarah (nee DOUGLAS) had moved away.  However, it is too much of a coincidence that the BROWNs still living at Woodhead were an entirely separate family as my BROWN's had lived there since at least 1824 (discussed in this post).

I had long ago noticed the many BROWN families at and around Woodhead.  Now it was time to find out exactly how these BROWNs were connected.

Dardarroch via Get-a-map

First, I located William Brown at Woodhead Cottage on the 1891 census.  As you can see in the photograph above, Woodhead is quite a large house.  I presume Woodhead Cottage is the smaller part attached to the main building where the other family units lived together.  By this time, James' widow and youngest son had moved to Keir where they lived in another home named 'Woodhead Cottage'.

Woodhead on the 1891 census

I searched back for William BROWN (b.1829) and found him at Woodhead Cottage in all but 2 censuses.

Edited: It is here where I made a dangerous mistake.

! I found a William BROWN living at Shillanland (or Shillingland) with his uncle James FERGUSSON and a Jane and Sarah FERGUSSON.  I suspected one of these women (both listed as James' sisters) was William's mother.  Also listed was John BROWN (b. 1831) - I had discovered a brother to help with my search.

In 1841 the FERGUSSONs and BROWNs were all living at Burnhouse where the head of the household was a William FERGUSON and possible wife Mary.  This time Sarah was recorded as Sarah BROWN so is apparently William's mother.  Since the 1841 census doesn't record the relationships to the head, I will need to find records to prove William FERGUSON is his grandfather.  I will also search for a marriage between Sarah FERGUSSON and a BROWN. !

I now realise that this William BROWN is not the one at Woodhead from the 1861 census through to the 1901 census. A simple traceback through the censuses show that the head of Woodhead Cottage in 1891 is the son of George BROWN and Catherine McDOWAL - living at Woodhead from.  I now need only prove that George BROWN is the brother of my James BROWN

Next steps:
  • Find marriage record of Sarah FERGUSSON and BROWN
  • Find birth record of William or John BROWN
See following post - Neighbouring Families - Part 2

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

My Genius Has Been Recognised!

Top genealogy site awards

Yay! GeneaGeek is one of MyHeritage's top 100 genealogy sites of 2010!

Click on the award above to see the list.
I'm off to find new genealogy blogs to follow - maybe you should too.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Chiropody at Trentham

I've finally managed to scan some of my grandmother's photos that I brought back from my holidays.
This one appears to be a photograph of a sketch:

'Chiropody at Trentham' - Buchan 1916

On the back, my grandmother has written "Done by Charles Buchan during WWI.  He was in medical unit doing chiropody".

Charles BUCHAN was my grandmother's father.  She had written a letter to me years ago, when I first became interested in family history, in which she told me:
"Dad had a slight heart problem (valve) so had not been accepted for active service & ended up in medical corp & it was there that he did his training (or experience) in CHIROPODY (lots of feet there to practice on) & on returning to NZ, decided to set himself up as CHIROPODIST much to Grandma Reid's disapproval. 'Why on earth would he decide to out on his own, when CLUFFS (or whoever) would have been more than happy to re-employ him?'"
Grandma REID was Charles' mother-in-law, who seemed to be a rather stern sort (maiden name - Janet HUNTER - grandaughter of James BROWN).  I've tried to research 'Cluffs' and its variations but came up blank (any help from New Zealand would be welcome).

While trying to find out more about Trentham Military Camp, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this page from Archives New Zealand :


There was no mention of Charles by name or any further information on his drawing but a look around provided me with another World War One sketch by my ancestor:

Swabbing While You Wait - another drawing by Charles Buchan, 1916

I had never seen this picture before and got very excited.  I will be contacting the archives to see if I can obtain a copy of the second image or at the very least if they will credit the images to Charles.

Trentham Camp and Upper Hutt District, 1914-1918

Sunday, 2 May 2010

More Antenuptial Fornication

Applegarth Church, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

This is almost a continuation of my post about antenuptial fornication but I have decided to post separately as I am still not sure whether this is the same person.
In the Dumfries Kirk Sessions of 1822 (which are searchable online), James BROWN was "named as the father of Jean Smith's child; [and] gave satisfaction for this in the parish of Applegarth" (Archive Ref: CH2/537/12).  I believe 'gave satisfaction' (in this sense), meant that the father gave monetary compensation to the parish for their support of the child.

So was this James BROWN my ancestor, who appeared in the Dunscore parish records 6 years later for antenuptial fornication?  With such a common name I cannot be sure but I can assess the likelihood of it being the same man for future reference.
First, was he old enough to be involved in this?  Although I don't have his birth record, the 1851 census suggests he was born in 1801, which means he would have been 21 at the time - a prime age for this kind of crime. ;)

James Brown and family on the 1851 census
(Interestingly, their neighbour, Andrew Lorimer (appearing at bottom of image above) was the certifying physician on James' death certificate.)
Next, was he near enough to be involved?  Applegarth is roughly 20 miles from Dunscore and about 30 miles from my James' home, Glencairn.  Not a short walk, but not impossible distances.

Map showing locations of Applegarth, Dunscore and Glencairn (Moniaive) in relation to each other

So I can't rule out my James Brown as the father of Jean Smith's illegitimate child and I have kept hold of this genealogical tidbit. To get any closer to proving this, I would need to check for further information in the Kirk Session records and the Applegarth parish records for any further information on Jean SMITH and her child.

Next Steps:
  • Check for further information in the Kirk Session records
  • Check Applegarth parish records for the child's birth
Update: Checked Applegarth, Dunscore, Glencairn and Lochmaben parishes (via ScotlandsPeople) for any  birth with Jean SMITH as parent (between 1800 - 1825) and any SMITH birth (between 1816 - 1825) - no likely entries found (all have listed fathers).

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Antenuptial Fornication

A post by The Professional Descendant reminded me of my own ancestor's indiscretion.

It's easy to think that people were more chaste in the past.  This may be true, but a journey through the parish records shows that people back then also indulged in sex before marriage or as the Victorians preferred to call it, 'antenuptial fornication'. 

Whilst looking through the Dunscore parish records for births and marriages, I found an entry for James BROWN's proclamation of banns, for which he paid 3 shillings on June 10, 1827. (James was originally mentioned in this post).

James BROWN & Janet CURRIE's marriage proclamation - Jun 1827

I believe the next entry for June 16, shows his marriage although the bride's name appears different.  In January the next year, the couple were blessed with their baby girl, Jane.

BROWN, Jane [Legitimate Daughter] of James BROWN & Janet CURRIE, Whitecairn. Born 11th January 1828.

Someone must have done the maths though, because two weeks later James paid 3 shillings and 6 pence as a fine for antenuptial fornication.

James BROWN's fine for antenuptial fornication - Jan 1828

Janet would have been about 2 months pregnant when they announced their intentions to marry back in June.  It is possible that Janet did not know she was pregnant but I think they were both aware when they decided to marry.  I wonder what must have gone through their heads - were they fearful of their secret being discovered?  How did their families react? Apart from the church fine, did they suffer any other repercussions or did it not matter now the child was legitimate?