Friday, 30 August 2013

Mystery Wedding

"...either Lizzie & Jack or Arthur & Lillian..." said the ambiguous note accompanying this family wedding photograph.

But as I knew the surname of the Jack and Arthur in question, the surname of Lizzie and an approximate date based on their ages, a browse through the free data base of births, marriages and deaths gave me two possible dates, 9 years apart - 1894 for 'Lizzie & Jack' and 1903 for 'Arthur & Lilian'.

In the middle of the 19th century, wedding photographs were generally taken in studios, often with the bride and groom wearing smart every-day clothes rather than a specific outfit for the occasion. Only more affluent families could afford such indulgences as a special dress for the day. It wasn't
until the early 20th century that white weddings became customary throughout society.

By the 1880s brides were beginning to use ribbons and other accessories to decorate their wedding clothes, with flowers and a formal bouquet introduced towards the end of the decade.

This wedding photograph demonstrates the increasing popularity of outdoor photography from the late 1890s onwards, possibly outside the bride's parents' home.

As for whose wedding this is, I can't help being swayed by those wonderful wide-brimmed and feathered hats fashionable in the Edwardian era, which convince me that this is Arthur GRIFFITHS and Lily CLAY's big day in 1903.

In 'Ask the photo expert' on this month's blog of Find My Past, photo detective, Jayne Shrimpton, has dated a wedding photograph from the late Victorian period. There's also an invitation to submit your own photos for Jayne to date for you.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Family footballers

With the football season underway and Gary Lineker appearing on Who Do You Think You Are last week, I thought it was time to stake my claim in England's football heritage.

Step forward John 'Jack' Griffiths, my great-grandfather, who played for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the club's early days.

John Griffiths c. 1898
Jack's brother, Hilary, also played for Wolves as did another brother, Jabez, on a few occasions. Interviewed in Wolverhampton's Express & Star newspaper at the age of 65, Jack recalled playing to attendences of 6,000 and told the reporter he didn't think football was as good then as it had been in his day.

Patrick Quirke's book 'The Origins of Wolverhampton Wanderers' tells the story of the club's formative years and its founding members.

Wolves was one of the first clubs in the new Football League of 1888, which consisted of 12 clubs, six from Lancashire - Preston North End, Accrington, Burnley, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Everton - and six from the Midlands - Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves.

Already the spectre of transfer market controversies had begun, when Everton were accused of tempting Dan Doyle to return to their ranks with the promise of £5 per week and the tenancy of a pub!

And it wasn't long before goal-line technology was introduced to deal with regular disputes over whether the ball had gone between the posts. It was called a net!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Death and its secrets

Death certificates are often overlooked by family historians. Once a death is identified in the index, its mere existence giving the where and when, is usually sufficient in its own right.

But the death certificate can reveal useful information and this was never more apparent than when I discovered a real gem in the aforementioned "box of old documents in the attic".

In 1868 in England and Wales, the facts to be found on a death certificate would be:

  • name, age, sex and occupation of the deceased
  • address at which he or she died
  • cause of death
  • date of death and of its registration
  • name and address of the informant

The discovery of an Australian death certificate, 
issued in the district of Paddington, New South Wales in 1868, amongst our treasure, however, as well as being a complete surprise, (no one in the family had ever hinted that an ancestor had travelled to Australia, never mind lived there for a period of time) revealed considerably more than any death certificate had it been issued in England.

As we deciphered the copperplate handwriting on the folded piece of paper, a sad story unfolded.

Charles Gabriel BAKER, aged 32 and born in London, England, was a music teacher. He'd arrived in the Australian colony 6 months before, in November 1867, but for the past 2 years had been suffering from a chronic lung disease. Sadly, on 15th May 1868, while living in Vernan Street, Woollahra, near Waverley, his condition finally killed him. His death was confirmed by C. Muller, the medical attendant who had seen him last on 3rd January that same year.

Charles had  been 21 years of age when he married his wife Susan, nee Sawyer, in Essex, England . The couple had had 6 children; 4 boys were still alive but a boy and a girl had since died. Charles's father was Gabriel Baker, a valet, and his mother was Jane, nee Vyner.

Charles was buried at Haslam Creek  on 17th May 1868, the undertaker being C Kinsella and Son. His burial was witnessed by Henry Kinsella and Henry Abbott and Reverend Young, a Church of England minister, had performed the funeral.

Henry Gale, registrar, confirmed the document to be a true copy of the register of deaths in his office, signed it and dated it 10th June 1868.

How much more we family historians would learn about our ancestors if UK death certificates had been as thorough!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Secrets in the attic

I got bitten by the genealogy bug after finding a box of old documents in the attic. Honestly, it's true! It was a dark and stormy night...

We sat on the rug in front of the fire one chilly November evening and opened up the box to find a treasure of birth, death and marriage certificates we didn't know we had, along with a photograph album.

It set us on a trail which, as every family historian knows, will forever continue - a classic "all about the journey."

The process also set my writer's brain buzzing and inspired my mystery novel Blood-Tied and continues to feed me with ideas for plots.

But that's another story. This blog is about sharing things I have learnt while researching the lives of our ancestors and maybe a few little secrets I've uncovered on the way...