Music and Miners

In the coal mining districts of County Durham, England, in the 19th and 20th centuries, almost every colliery (coal mine) had a colliery band. Bands were sponsored by the local mining communities and were a source of great pride for the working men who played in the band and the community who attended their performances. These were brass bands with brass and percussion instruments. My father was about 15 years old when he joined the New Herrington Colliery Band in Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham in 1950.

Dadwithtrumpet
My father, James, on the left with a friend and fellow band member.

Formed in the 1900s, the New Herrington Colliery Band became a military style band after the First World War.1 Financial support for the colliery bands came from the coal miners themselves. In 1934, the New Herrington Colliery Band was supported by subscription and a levy of a penny per fortnight from the Herrington Colliery miners.2

Band
New Herrington Colliery Band, 1953. Photo courtesy of The Internet Bandsmen Everything Within (www.ibew.org.uk). Used with permission of site owner. Copyright unknown.

Although most of the pits in County Durham have now closed, there are some colliery bands in County Durham and other parts of England which still play on today. One of the most well-known is the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in South Yorkshire. Formed in 1917, the band is one of the most successful and long-lived brass bands. They were the focus of the 1996 British film, “Brassed Off”, which showcased the bands’ struggle to survive after the closure of their pit.

And if you feel like getting your toes tapping, just click below and hear the Grimethorpe Colliery Band playing the William Tell Overture.

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 29 prompt: Music.

  1. Gavin Holman, Brass Bands of the British Isles, a Historical Directory (N.p.:n.p., March 2018), digital images, Google Books (http://books.Google.com : accessed 5 July 2018). 
  2. “New Herrington Band,” Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, County Durham, 13 March 1934, page 4, col. 1. 

Let’s Call him James or maybe … James?

name-tag-3

My father is James Thomas

My grandfather is James Thomas

My great grandfather is James Thomas

My great great grandfather is William Thomas

My great great great grandfather is James Thomas

My great great great great grandfather is John Thomas

My great great great great great grandfather is James Thomas

With the exception of William born in 1834 and John born in 1769 there has been a James Thomas in every generation of my direct line since 1731.  And if we look at all the children of my direct line ancestors, there has been a James Thomas in EVERY generation since 1731.

They did live in different places so that should make it easier to distinguish them, right?

My father is James Thomas, b. 1935 in County Durham

My grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1894 in County Durham

My great grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1864 in County Durham

My great great grandfather is William Thomas, b. 1834 in Cornwall

My great great great grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1808 in Cornwall

My great great great great grandfather is John Thomas, b. 1769 in Cornwall

My great great great great great grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1731 in Cornwall

Not so much.

They had different occupations by which to distinguish one James from another…

With the exception of my father and grandfather, all were coal miners.

That didn’t help.

And Thomas is a rare surname in Cornwall, right?

An article from Who Do You Think You Are? magazine cites a study commissioned by the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site (CMWHS) and done by genealogist Stephen Colwill into the spread of Cornish surnames around the UK.1 Stephen Colwill concluded that, “The three most common Cornish surnames are Williams, Richards and Thomas.”

It’s certainly an interesting experience researching my Thomas roots in Cornwall and County Durham. I have to admit I kind of love that there is a James Thomas in every generation. And I am not one to buck tradition. So I named one of my sons…James.

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 25 prompt: Same Name.

 

 


  1. Rosemary Collins, Who Do You Think You Are? (http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/news/your-surname-cornish : accessed 23 June 2018), “Is Your Surname Cornish?” 

My Grandfather’s Sword

Ornamental-SwordAs a young child I can remember opening my father’s closet and seeing a very fancy looking sword hanging in there. I don’t think I knew whose it was until I was older and learned it belonged to my mother’s father. My grandfather, Harold James Davis, died about 2 years before I was born. The one thing I remember being told about him was that he was a military man through and through. Tough, no-nonsense and a strict disciplinarian. However, I do think he had a soft spot as my older brothers’ remember Sundays when he would give them money for an ice cream … if they had finished all their dinner.

But back to that sword. Some time ago I was looking through photographs of my grandfather and noticed that sword at his side in his wedding photograph. Just barely peeking out but it immediately reminded me that I had no photographs of the actual sword. My mother still has it in her home in South Africa and I immediately asked her for photographs of it so I could document it in my files.

Here is the wedding photograph of my grandparents, Harold James Davis and Hazel Jane Keown on their wedding day, 19 June 1937 in Johannesburg, South Africa.1 It’s a little difficult to see as the resolution isn’t great but the yellow circle shows the hilt of the sword at his side, just near the hand of his wife as she holds onto his arm. You can also see the baldric (my new word of the day: a baldric is a belt worn over one shoulder that is typically used to carry a weapon (usually a sword) or other implement such as a bugle or drum.)2

HaroldJamesDavis1908_Weddin

There are no other photos of my grandfather wearing that sword. Used only for formal ceremonies, I imagine that there weren’t many of those that came up. He spent many years in the military, serving part-time at first in the Imperial Light Horse Regiment, then entering the South African Defense Force full-time during World War 2. He served in Egypt with the Allied Forces in the North African Campaign. He was honorably discharged in 1947 due to the partial demobilization of his unit.3 Family heirlooms have stories to tell. How have you used them in telling the stories of your ancestors?

 

 

 


  1. Harold James Davis and Hazel Jane Keown wedding photograph, 1937; digital copy in Sue McNelly collection, Phoenix, Arizona. Original photograph in possession of Estelle Davis Thomas, South Africa. 
  2. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki), “Baldric,” rev. 31 May 2018. 
  3. Harold James Davis military papers, compilation of enlistment and service records; privately held by Sue McNelly [address for private use], Phoenix, Arizona, 2018. This collection includes records from the S.A. Defense Force, unit service timelines, enlistment and discharge papers. 

St. Mary’s Changing Churchyard

Towards the end of 1945, Jean Mary Davis (my second cousin twice removed) married John Clement Rix at St. Mary’s, the parish church at Norton Cuckney in Nottinghamshire1. I recently came across this wonderful photograph of them stepping out of the front doors of the church just after they had been married2.

JeanDavis

The war had ended in September of 1945 and perhaps feeling hope for the first time in many years, couples flocked to their local parish churches or registration offices to get married. The Office for National Statistics notes the uptick in marriages in England in 1945. Although the number of marriages dropped during World War 2, by 1945, with the end of the war in sight, the number of marriages began to rise.3

I wondered if the church John and Jean married in was still standing. I was pleased to see that it was. However, what struck me was the change visible in the later photograph I found. A September 2011 photograph (photo credit to Andrew Jackson, user contributed content on Google Maps) shows that the headstones visible in background of the 1945 wedding photograph no longer appear. The actual building itself has not changed but the churchyard definitely has. The blue box outlines the area which appears in the background of the photo of John and Jean.

Rixcombo

The only reference I could find as to why the headstones no longer show on the 2011 photograph was from the Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project which stated that, “In 1948 a Faculty was granted to lay down the gravestones in the churchyard.”4 It is possible that the stones were laid flat and that in the intervening 70 years, they have sunk into the ground and grass has grown over them. This is just speculation at this point. If you have any insight into what may have happened, I’d love to hear it!

John Clement Rix and Jean Mary Davis had a very interesting life together. They traveled the world from Hong Kong to South Africa and Northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). I’m still digging into their story so stop back soon for an update.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 23 prompt: Going to the Chapel.

 


  1. “England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916-2005,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 March 2015), entry for John C. Rix to Davis; citing Worksop district, December [quarter] 1945, vol. 7b: 134. 
  2. John C. Rix and Jean M. Davis wedding photograph, 1945; digital copy in Sue McNelly collection, Phoenix, Arizona. 
  3. The Office for National Statistics (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/articles/victoryineuropedayhowworldwariichangedtheuk/2015-05-08 : accessed 17 June 2018), “Victory in Europe Day: How World War II changed the UK”, 8 May 2015. 
  4. Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project (http://southwellchurches.nottingham.ac.uk/nottingham-st-mary/hchyard.php : accessed 18 June 2018), “Nottingham St Mary” 

Four Generations in Close Up

4Generation

Four generations of women in my family in South Africa. There is something about taking these close up photographs and placing them next to each other that reinforces for me the familial bonds that tie generations together. Not to mention, seeing how much they resemble each other!

Christina Elizabeth McIntosh was of Scottish descent, born in Knysna, South Africa in 1857. Her parents, William McIntosh and Elizabeth Shoolbread (Shoolbraid/Shulbred) had left Inverkeithing, Fife, Scotland in 1849. Christina married a German immigrant, George Eberhard, in 1880 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and they had eight children together. One of which was my great-grandmother, Christina Elizabeth Eberhard, born in 1883 in Kimberley, South Africa.

Christina Elizabeth Eberhard died at the very young age of 35. The 1918 flu pandemic had hit South Africa and Christina succumbed to it on 15 October 1918. She had married John Keown, an immigrant from the Isle of Man, in November of 1913 and they had two children. Their oldest child, Edward, was four years old when his mother died, and my grandmother, Hazel Jane, was only four months old.

Hazel Jane Keown married Harold James Davis on 19 June 1937 in Johannesburg. They had only one child, my Mom. I wrote about my grandparents here. My grandmother, Hazel, made some sad decisions in her life, with the result being that my Mom grew up without her and never saw her again until Hazel was in her early 80s.

Four generations upon whose shoulders I stand.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 18 prompt: Close Up

The Story Behind the Headstone of George A. Craft

Last year I came across a photograph of the gravestone of George Albert Craft, my husband’s second great-grandfather.  He is buried in the Chico cemetery, in Chico, Butte County, California. 1 As I studied the gravestone I realized that I really didn’t know much about him. What I discovered was a hardworking, family oriented man who tragically died far too young.GeorgeAlbertCraft1852_gravestone

George Albert Craft was one of eight children born to James Craft and Susan (Hammond) Shortreid. When Susan married James Craft in 1847 she was a widow and brought with her 3 children from her previous marriage.2  George was born on 13 November 1852 in Illinois, James’ fourth son.3  When George was a young boy the family moved from Illinois to Franklin Township, Allamakee Co., Iowa where James was a cabinet maker and several of George’s older brothers began farming.   Between 1870 and 1880 James Craft died and Susan was a widow once again. Many of the older children had married and moved away but George stayed with his mother, supporting her and his younger siblings,  brother Winfield –  designated as ‘idiotic’ (a highly objectionable word but one used on the 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes) and sister Mary Ann.  George was 28, single and supported them by digging wells in Ida Grove, Iowa.4

In 1882, having moved about 16 miles from Ida Grove, to the very small ‘city’ of Danbury (population of 69 in 1880) George met 20-year-old Amy Patty Gaylord. They married on April 8, 1882 in Ida Grove, Iowa.5

GeorgeAlbertCraft1852_marriageregister_for web
George A. Craft and Amy Patty Gaylord, return of marriage entry.

George and Amy Craft settled in Iowa for the next few years.  Between 1892 and 1896 they moved the family to Corning Township, Tehama Co., California where George worked as a farm laborer.  George and Amy would go on to have a total of 12 children, with the last six born in California between 1896 and 1908.  George himself had come from a large family of 11 children (including the 3 half siblings from his mother’s first marriage).

The bigger cities and more abundant job opportunities may have contributed to the family’s next move in 1905, from the small rural township of Corning, California to the bigger city of Chico, California.  Newspapers of the time were full of articles about the Diamond Match Company coming to Chico and the availability of jobs and homes.  Owning one’s home was part of the American Dream and it was perhaps in George Craft’s reach for the first time. It was also a chance for the Craft family to put down roots and stay in one place.  George had moved a total of eight times since he was a child.

On Saturday, April 11, 1903 6 the San Francisco Chronicle published the following article:

Capture1

Within the city of Chico was a working class residential neighborhood which had been settled to house the employees of the Diamond Match Company, the largest manufacturer of matches in the United States.  By 1903 the Company had built its’ factories and sawmill close to this neighborhood.

DiamondMatchCo
Diamond Match Company Factory, Chico, California 1910 (creative commons license)

According to historian W. H. “Old Hutch” Hutchinson five events can be identified as the most seminal in Chico history. They were: 7

  1. the arrival of John Bidwell in 1850
  2. the arrival of the California and Oregon Railroad in 1870
  3. the establishment of the Northern Branch of the State Normal School in 1887
  4. the purchase of the Sierra Lumber Company by the Diamond Match Company in 1900
  5. the development of the Army Air Base which is now the Chico Municipal Airport

In 1905, George and Amy’s 11th child, a baby girl they named Eunice Aimee Craft was born in Chico, California.  The 1910 census confirms that for the first time George and Amy owned their home at 1447 Ninth Street, Chico.8  This must have been an incredibly proud moment for them. A member of the Craft family would live in the home until at least 1935.

George and oldest son Harry, aged 23, had secured jobs with the Diamond Match Company and had begun work there in 1907.  George and Harry were both mill hands in the sawmill. Over the next 10 years almost all of George’s children, including his daughters, would work for the Diamond Match Company.

Tragedy would strike on August 6, 1910 when a huge explosion ripped through the Diamond Match Company’s factory, killing 2 men instantly and seriously wounding 3 others.9

GeorgeAlbertCraft1852_newspaper3
Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), August 7, 1910

George Craft was one of those seriously injured.  On August 9, 1910 George died from the injuries he sustained in the explosion.10  He was only 57 years old. Amy Craft was left a widow with 9 children still living at home ranging in age from 26 to 3.   Tragedy would strike again only 14 short months later, on October 21, 1911 when Amy Craft also died. 11  Eldest daughter Hattie, aged 23 in 1911, would become the head of the family and by the 1920 census, had kept the 9 siblings together, living still in the home George Craft purchased at 1447 Ninth Street, Chico. 12

Craft gravestones_2
Front view of the headstones for Amy P. (Gaylord) Craft and George A. Craft, Chico cemetery, Chico, California

George and Amy Craft are buried next to each other in the Chico cemetery.  Their gravestones are beautiful and my attention was drawn immediately to the symbols and the wording on them.   On the top of both headstones rests an open book with fabric draped across it.  Below are open gates with an anchor in the middle.  Anchors typically represent hope and steadfastness and the gates represent the gates of heaven.  It is the back of the stones which is of even more interest. George’s headstone contains a circular symbol with the words ‘Dum Tacet Clamat’ (‘Though Silent, He Speaks’).  At the bottom of the stone are the words ‘Here Rests a Woodman of the World’.  (see photo at the start of the post)

The back of Amy Craft’s stone also contains a circular symbol with the words Courage Hope Remembrance around it and ‘Erected by the Women of Woodcraft’ near the bottom of the stone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Amy P. (Gaylord) Craft’s headstone

Woodmen of the World or W.O.W. was founded in 1890 by Joseph Cullen Root as a fraternal benefit society which would “bind in one association the Jew and the Gentile, the Catholic and the Protestant, the agnostic and the atheist.” He used the word ‘woodman’ after hearing a sermon that talked about ‘woodmen clearing the forest to provide for their families’.  By 1898 there were more than 88,000 members throughout the country.  At its most basic W.O.W was an insurance benefit company to which members paid their insurance dues, but it also encouraged charity, compassion and neighborliness. Although no women were admitted into the society, there was a woman’s auxiliary known as the ‘Women of Woodcraft’ created in 1897.  This is the symbol on Amy Craft’s gravestone.  By 1917 Women of Woodcraft changed its name to Neighbors of Woodcraft, reflecting that both men and women were a part of the group.   The symbol with ‘Neighbors of Woodcraft’ can be seen on the gravestone of George and Amy’s oldest daughter, Hattie Craft, who married William H. McNelly in 1920.  Her gravestone lies next to her parents in the Chico cemetery.13

HattieCraft1888_gravestone
Hattie (Craft) McNelly
Craft gravestones
The graves of Hattie, and her parents Amy and George Craft

 

W.O.W was known also for providing distinctive gravestones to its members.  This was part of the benefit of early membership in the society.  Most typically the grave stones would be in the shape of logs or tree stumps or tree trunks. In the 1910s gravestones would more likely contain the W.O.W relics and symbols etched onto the stone as in George, Amy, and Hattie Craft’s case.

Obviously being a member of the Woodmen of the World was something George Craft was proud of.  His gravestone and that of his wife and oldest daughter, reflect their good standing with the society at the time of their respective deaths.

Joseph Cullen Root hoped the society would have as its’ purpose “to minister to the afflicted to relieve distress; to cast a sheltering arm about the defenseless living ;… to encourage broad charitable views…”   In 1910 with George Craft’s tragic death I’d like to believe that the society did cast a sheltering arm around the widowed Amy and her 9 children.

Every headstone has a story to tell.  We just need to find it and tell it. This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 17 prompt: Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 2 February 2016), memorial page for George Albert Craft (13 Nov 1852–9 Aug 1910), Find A Grave Memorial no. 32513614, citing Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Sandra Bessent (contributor 46992879). 
  2. 1850 U.S. census, Stephenson County, Illinois, population schedule, Freeport, p. 481 (penned), dwelling 53, family 55, James Craft family; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA M432, roll 129. 
  3. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 2 February 2016), memorial page for George Albert Craft (13 Nov 1852–9 Aug 1910), Find A Grave Memorial no. 32513614, citing Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Sandra Bessent (contributor 46992879). 
  4. 1880 U.S. census, Ida County, Iowa, population schedule, Ida Grove, enumeration district (ED) 137, p. 22 (penned), p. 93D (stamped), dwelling 115, family 119, Susan Craft; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA T9, roll 0345. 
  5. Ida County, Iowa, Marriage Returns Vol. 308, p. 11, George A. Craft and Amy Patty Gaylord, 1882, recorded license and marriage date and return; Clerk District and Circuit Courts; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 March 2016). 
  6. “New Factories Come for Chico Timbers,” San Francisco Chronicle, California, 11 April 1903, page 6, col. 1; image, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 22 March 2016). 
  7. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), “History of Chico, California,” rev. 4:10, 25 April 2016. 
  8. 1910 U.S. census, Butte County, California, population schedule, Chico, enumeration district (ED) 5, sheet 16-B, household 1447, dwelling 316, family 316, George A. Craft family; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA T624, roll 73. 
  9. “Fire Proves Fatal,” Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 7 August 1910, page 2, col. 1; image, Genealogybank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 22 March 2016). 
  10. California Death Index, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 April 2016), George A. Craft, death index number 19967. 
  11. California Death Index, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 April 2016), Amy P. Craft, death index number 26555. 
  12. 1920 U.S. census, Butte County, California, population schedule, Chico, enumeration district (ED) 8, sheet 9-A, household 5447, dwelling 178, family 202, Hattie Craft family; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA T625, roll 94. 
  13. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 23 April 2016), memorial page for Hattie Craft McNelly (27 Mar 1888–25 Jun 1928), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58801976, citing Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Adriana (contributor 47328225). 

Tax Records: An often overlooked source

Tax records are a valuable but often overlooked source:

  • They can help to fill in the decade between census enumerations and before the first federal census of 1790.
  • In burned counties tax records are often the only information you may find on your ancestor.
  • Tax records sometimes contain specific residence information, giving an exact physical location of an ancestor at a specific time.
  • Tax records can point to an ancestor’s occupation, give descriptions of land and animals owned and of personal property.

Tax-banner

A few interesting taxable items:

  • If you owned a billiard table or a silver plate or cutlery, a carriage or wagons, you owed the government some tax. If you manufactured boots and shoes, bonnets, collars or sold miscellaneous clothing, you had to pay a tax on those too.
  • In 1862 in Michigan, Albert B. Judd was taxed on 8 coffins. I sure hope he was an undertaker or perhaps a manufacturer of coffins because I can’t imagine any other reason someone would have 8 coffins lying around.
  • John G. Burnell of Trenton, New Jersey was taxed in 1862 on his 1316 lbs. of ground coffee and spices. He had to pay individual taxes on cinnamon, pepper, mustard, cloves, allspice, and ginger.

An example of an 1862 tax record from New York:

Tax Example 2
Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for New York and New Jersey, 1862-1866, unpaginated entries arranged alphabetically; images, “Records of the Internal Revenue Service, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed April 12, 2018), Record Group 58, citing the National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Tax records are worth the effort to track down as they can add rich detail to your ancestor’s life.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 15 prompt: Taxes