In the Parish Chest: Apprenticeship Records

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This is the third post in my In the Parish Chest series. You can learn about bastardy bonds here and Settlement Examinations & Removal Orders here.

Was your English ancestor an apprentice? Apprenticeships date back to as early as the 16th century when young boys were formally bound to a master, usually a craftsman, who would teach the apprentice his trade. From 1563, the Statute of Apprentices made apprenticeships mandatory for anyone who wanted to take up a trade. This meant that no one could call themselves a Master of a trade without serving a 7-year apprenticeship.

Commonly, it was the child’s father who would put him up for an apprenticeship. It was more financially feasible for many poor families to apprentice out a child than to raise him.  In 1601, authority was given to the Overseers of the Poor for the parish, to locate an apprenticeship for any children who were orphaned or considered a pauper.

Although most apprenticeships were sought within the parish, there were times when the Overseers of the Poor would advertise in the local newspapers as seen below:1

Newspaper1

Overseers Apprenticeship Registers

Once an apprenticeship was secured for a child, the Overseers of the Poor would write down the details in an Apprenticeship Register. They would record details such as the date of the indenture, the name of the apprentice, their age, their parents’ names and abode, the name of the Master and his or her trade and residence, and the terms of the apprenticeship (in years). The register would be signed by the Overseers of the Poor and the Magistrate giving consent.

Below is an example of an Overseers Apprenticeship Register for Rothwell, West Yorkshire.2  On 12 October, 1802, 11-year old Sarah Fothergill was apprenticed out to Nathan Nichols, a farmer.  Her father was David Fothergill and her mother was noted as dead. The family’s residence was noted as ‘no settled place’. Sarah would be apprenticed to Nathan Nichols for 10 years, until her 21st birthday.

Apprenticeship-1

An Order of Indenture would then be created by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor and presented to the Justices of the Peace for their approval. The proposed Master will have been interviewed as to his circumstances and character as well as the parents of the apprentice, if they were alive. The Overseers would recommend that the indenture be made.

In the example below dated 12 December 1818, a father, John Hollingrake has put up his son, William Hollingrake, as an apprentice. The order states that “William Hollingrake, a poor child, which its parents are not able to maintain” is proposed as an apprentice to Thomas Sutcliffe, a spinner, of the parish of Langfield, West Yorkshire. The Order of Indenture is signed by the Justices of the Peace and an Indenture is made.3

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The Apprenticeship Indenture was a legal document setting out the terms for the apprentice and the master.  The age of the apprentice is given and the length of the apprenticeship. William Hollingrake’s indenture states he was 12 years and four months old and would serve as an apprentice to Thomas Sutcliffe until he was 21 years old. Thomas Sutcliffe is to teach William a trade, and “find, provide for, and allow unto his said Apprentice, sufficient wholesome and competent Meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging, Apparel, and all other Necessaries…during all the said Term.” The indenture also states that should Thomas Sutcliffe die within the period of indenture, the agreement would terminate within three months of his death. For the apprentice, they were bound to serve their master and willingly perform his duties and be a “good and faithful Servant”.4

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Interestingly enough, on the same day, 12 December 1818, William’s younger brother, John Hollingrake, only 9 years old, was also apprenticed out to John Baron, a weaver. Two years later, on 19 August 1820, Betty Hollingrake, just turned 9 years old, was apprenticed out to Abraham Sunderland, also a weaver. And four years later, Abraham Hollingrake, aged 9, was apprenticed out to James Barnes, a weaver.  All were children of John Hollingrake, living in the Parish of Langfield, West Yorkshire.

Some interesting facts on Apprenticeships:

  • An apprenticeship was for a period of seven years but many children were apprenticed at very young ages and often spent nine or ten years with their master. The 1563 Act determined that apprentices were bound until they were 24 years old, but this was later reduced to 21 in 1768.
  • During the Indenture period, the apprentice could not marry or start his own household. He could not gamble or visit a public house (a place selling alcoholic drinks).
  • The Stamp Act of 1709 put a tax on the Indenture and this practice lasted until 1808. Due to this practice, apprenticeship records were recorded more centrally. This is why it is often easier to find records in the period 1700s to early 1800s than after 1808. However, parishes were exempt from having to pay the tax with the result that their apprenticeship records were not recorded or accounted for in any central manner.
  • Persons aged 12-20 could not refuse an apprenticeship if a householder of sufficient means demands it, unless they are already apprenticed elsewhere. If they did refuse an apprenticeship, they could be imprisoned.
  • The Justice of the Peace was the only person who could break the agreement between apprentice and master. However, many apprentices ran away from masters who mistreated them. These masters advertised in the newspapers for the return of their apprentices. Many times a physical description of the apprentice can be found in the advertisement as seen below.

Below is an example of a newspaper advertisement asking for the return of two apprentices who left their master “without sufficient cause”.5

Abscond

The information you might find on your apprentice will vary from document to document. You may find the names of the parents enabling you to move back a generation in your research. You will often find an age given of an apprentice, allowing you to calculate an approximate year of birth. You will find the trade learned which may help in distinguishing your ancestor from someone else with the same name. You may learn, as in the Hollingrake example above, more about the family structure, including siblings.

Apprenticeship in the United States

There are several extant records for Indentures and Apprenticeships in the United States. A search on FamilySearch.org for ‘apprenticeship’ in the Keyword search box on the Catalog page will result in a list of over 1,400 hits for both the United States and England. You can refine your search further by entering a location. For example, “Apprenticeship Alabama” will result in 13 hits.  The same search terms can be used on the other genealogy research sites to locate records there.

An excellent article on the history of apprenticeship in the United States can be found at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.


  1. “Parish Apprentices,” Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, Yorkshire, 28 November 1801, page 2, col. 3; The British Newspaper Archive, (http://BritishNewspaperArchive.co.uk : accessed 4 September 2018). 
  2. West Yorkshire, England, Rothwell Parish, Parish and Township Records Register of Apprentices, 1802-1809, unpaginated; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), images 7 & 8 of 11, line 3, entry for Sarah Fothergill, 12 October 1802. 
  3. West Riding, Yorkshire, England, Langfield Township, Apprenticeship Indentures; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), order of indenture for William Hollingrake, 12 December 1818. 
  4. West Riding, Yorkshire, England, Langfield Township, Apprenticeship Indentures; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), indenture of William Hollingrake, 12 December 1818. 
  5. “Apprentices Absconded,” Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, Yorkshire, 12 September 1801, page 1, col. 2; The British Newspaper Archive, (http://britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 4 September 2018). 

In the Parish Chest: Settlement Examinations, Settlement Certificates, Removal Orders

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As we learned in my last post on bastardy bonds, parishes in England did not want to be financially liable for the support of individuals or families settling within their boundaries who could not provide for themselves.

In England, the Poor Relief Act of 1662, also known as the Settlement and Removal Act came into being.1 The Act established the parish to which a person belonged. This was his ‘place of settlement’ and would indicate which parish was responsible should he at some point need to rely on the parish for help.  Many of the poorer individuals and families moved from parish to parish to find work which was acceptable only if they had a Settlement Certificate that stated that their parish of settlement would take them back should they have no means of support.

Below is an example of a Settlement Certificate issued by the Churchwarden and Overseers of the Poor in the Parish of Ashurst, Sussex for John Pollard and Sarah his wife on 22 November 1786.2 The certificate states that the Pollard’s are legally settled in the Parish. This allowed John and Sarah to move to a different parish in search of work. Should they not find employment and become ‘chargeable to the new parish’ (meaning they needed poor relief) the certificate assured the new parish officials that their parish of settlement would take them back and support them.

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Should an individual or family move into a parish without a settlement certificate and then need to rely on their new parish for support, a Removal Order would be prepared. What is great for genealogists is that the family is usually named, sometimes even ages given, as well as the name of the parish they had come from or to which they legally belonged.  In the example below, William Aldridge, his wife Elizabeth and their son, Elisha, have become or are deemed likely to become ‘chargeable to the Parish’ of Sherringham, Norfolk, where they are currently living. The Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Sherringham have reported the family to the Justices of the Peace for Norfolk county. The Removal Order states that William Aldridge’s last legal Settlement was in the Parish of Blickling, Norfolk and that the family is to be returned there. Further, the Removal Order reminds the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Blickling that they are to receive and provide for the Aldridge family who are legal inhabitants of that Parish.3

Aldridge

As part of the process of determining whether an individual or family had a legal right to settle in a parish, an examination by the Churchwarden or the Justices of the Peace often occurred. During the examination the individual would have to provide evidence of their claim to legal settlement in the parish. They were asked where they were born, about their parentage, their work history and their movements around the country.

So, what were the terms under which someone could settle in a parish?4

  • Be born into the parish.
  • Have lived in the parish for forty consecutive days without complaint.
  • Be hired for over a year and a day that takes place within the parish – (this led to short lengths of employment so that settlement was not obtained).
  • Hold an office in the parish.
  • Rent a property worth £10 per year or pay the same in taxes.
  • Have married into the parish.
  • Gained poor relief in that parish previously.
  • Have a seven-year apprenticeship with a settled resident

Settlement Examinations vary greatly but they often contain information that is of great value to a genealogist.  Take the incredibly informative settlement examination of Mrs. Mary Bird on 7 March 1825.5

The Settlement Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird

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Mary Bird was living in the Parish of Sherringham, Norfolk in 1825 when she became in need of financial help from the parish. The resulting examination before the Justices of the Peace is full of information on her very interesting background.  Take a look at the genealogical gems found in Mary’s examination:

  • She states she is about 32 years old, giving a clue to her year of birth
  • She was born in Bombay, East Indies where her father was stationed as a soldier in the Bombay Artillery
  • At age 14, she went into service for a Mrs. Monroe in Bombay. She was with Mrs. Monroe for between two and three years
  • She was married at about age 16 to William Neal, a private in the 17 Regiment of Light Dragoons stationed at Bombay
  • Two years into the marriage William died
  • Mary lived in Bombay for another year before marrying again, to Thomas Bird, a corporal in the 17 Regiment of Light Dragoons
  • Mary and her second husband Thomas Bird returned to England about six years ago
  • Thomas Bird was discharged at Chatham in Kent
  • Six months later, Thomas Bird reenlisted with the 19th Regiment of Foot. Mary and Thomas resided together, moving around England and Ireland to wherever the 19th Regiment of Foot was stationed
  • On 1 January 1825, Thomas Bird was discharged at Limerick, Ireland at his own request
  • Thomas Bird left Mary in Limerick, Ireland for an undisclosed period of time after which Mary stated she joined him in Dublin for about a week, after which Thomas again left her
  • Mary stated that Thomas told her she should go to ‘the place he belonged’ which was Sherringham in the county of Norfolk and that she has not seen him since that time
  • She stated she traveled from Dublin to Sherringham arriving on the past Tuesday, having with her a child between the ages of 8 and 9 years who was born in Bombay about a year into her marriage to Thomas Bird

After giving this testimony and making her mark, it seems that the Justices of the Peace wanted further evidence of her claims. The next document found is an extract from the Registry of Marriages 19th Regiment of Foot.6

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More genealogical gems here!

  • Confirmation of Mary’s married name (from her first marriage) and that she was a widow
  • A more exact place of marriage as Kaira, Bombay, India
  • An exact date of marriage of 19 May 1816
  • The names of two witnesses to the marriage

The marriage extract is not an original document but it gives many clues to aid in a hunt for the original.

And finally, Thomas Bird’s birth in the parish registers for Sherringham was located. An extract of that entry is noted with remarks by the Vicar that certifies it to be a true and correct extract from the Registry of Baptisms in the Parish of Sherringham in the County of Norfolk.7

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It would appear that Mary Bird satisfied the terms for being able to legally settle in the Parish of Sherringham by her marriage to Thomas Bird, who was born in the parish.

What a treasure trove of genealogical information available in one Settlement Examination!

Where to find Settlement Certificates, Settlement Examinations and Removal Orders

They are always found on the county level in England in Parish Chest records.

In FamilySearch.org, the search term ‘Settlement Certificates’ will result in a long list of records containing settlement certificates, removal orders and settlement examinations. Adding in a location such as ‘Settlement Certificates Durham England’ will bring up a list of those records in that geographic area.  FamilySearch.org seems to have the best collection of these parish chest records although Ancestry.com and Findmypast.com also have several record sets containing parish chest records. Use search terms such as ‘settlement certificate’, ‘removal orders’, ‘parish chest’, ‘settlement examinations’ and/or ‘poor relief’.

Searching directly on a county record office website is also a good way to find these types of records as can be seen in the screenshot below of the Durham County Record Office. However, most of these are not digitized and will mean either a visit to the individual record office or ordering a copy of the record online.

Screenshot 2018-08-29 14.48.30

 


  1. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org), “Poor Relief Act 1662,” rev. 14.39, 30 July 2017. 
  2. Parish of Ashurst, Sussex, Settlement Certificate, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 29 August 2018), 22 November 1786, John Pollard and wife. 
  3. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Removal Order for William Aldridge and family, 13 February 1755; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 
  4. Marjie Bloy, Ph.D., The Victorian Web (http://www.victorianweb.org/history/poorlaw/settle.html : accessed 29 August 2018), “The 1662 Settlement Act.” 
  5. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird, 7 March 1825; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 
  6. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird, 7 March 1825, containing marriage register extract for Thomas Bird and Mary Neal on 19 May 1816; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 
  7. Norfolk County, Sherringham Parish, Parish Chest Records, 1300-1900, Examination of Mrs. Mary Bird, 7 March 1825, containing birth register extract for Thomas Bird on 19 March 1793; images, Findmypast (www.findmypast.com : accessed 28 August 2018). 

In the Parish Chest: Bastardy Bonds

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Bastardy Bonds can be a great resource when trying to locate a birth date and place when vital records may not exist or in placing someone in a specific area at a specific time. In England, these records were created on a parish level before 1834 and on county and poor law union levels beginning in 1834. They are part of a collection of records falling under the title of Parish Chest records. Parish chests were literally chests where the parish kept their records. Ranging from Vestry Minutes to Churchwarden and Poor Rate accounts, to Bastardy Bonds and Apprentice records, these documents recorded the daily workings of the local parish.

Parishes were concerned with not being held financially liable for the birth and upbringing of a child born to an unmarried woman. By the laws of the time, that child, born to an unmarried woman, was considered illegitimate. An unmarried mother faced substantial social stigma in addition to financial hardship. Through a prescribed path, the parish ensured that the financial responsibility for the child would fall on the father. This was especially so in cases where the putative father did not or would not take responsibility.

Bastardy Examinations

When a father would not step forward, the parish would often put pressure on the mother to name the child’s father. This was done under oath and carried out by the Churchwarden or Overseer of the Poor. Their authority came to them from the Bastardy Act of 1575 which allowed them to question an unmarried mother in order to get her to reveal the name of the father.

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In the example above, Mary Wells, a single woman, declares upon her oath before the Justices of the Peace on the 29th Day of November 1777 regarding her pregnancy. She states that she is with child and names John Daniels, as having carnal knowledge of her body, on or near the 5th day of July and that she is now pregnant and the child likely to be born in bastardy.  She leaves her mark at the bottom of the page.1

With the father so named, the Churchwardens or Overseers of the Poor would exert considerable pressure on the father to take financial responsibility for the child in the form of a Bastardy Bond.

Bastardy Bonds

This bond of indemnification or bastardy bond ensured that the father was responsible for the child. The bond indemnified or compensated the parish against any future costs until the child was thirteen years of age or had been apprenticed out.  Few men could afford to pay the bond from their own resources, therefore most would have friends or relatives sign as surety on the bond.

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In the above example, dated 5 August 1817, Elizabeth Leavers, single woman, of the parish of Radford, has sworn by oath that she is now pregnant with a child by Thomas Greenwood. Thomas Greenwood, and two other men, James Greenwood and William Burrey, all of the town of Nottingham, have signed this bond, indicating Thomas’ acceptance of the charge and his assurance that he will maintain the child. The men have, under oath, sworn that a bond of £100.00 would be payable to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Radford in the County of Nottingham, should Thomas Greenwood fail to take care of the child.2

Bastardy Bond recorded in the Petty Sessions

After the New Poor Law of 1834, the parish authorities lessened their role in bastardy cases leaving the woman the option of applying herself for the bond from the Petty Sessions.

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In this example, Mary Berry, a single woman, has appeared before the Justices of the Peace in the County of the Borough and Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed on 14 March 1850. The bond states that Mary Berry was delivered of a female bastard child within the twelve months previous. She names James Mills Taylor of the Parish of Bamburgh in the County of Northumberland, a laborer, as the father. A summons was issued for James Mills Taylor to appear at the Petty Session. Towards the bottom of the page, an exact date of birth is given for the child, 22 January 1850.  Mary Berry has provided enough evidence that the Justices of the Peace declare they are satisfied and they declare James Mills Taylor the putative father. He is ordered to pay Mary Berry an amount of 5 shillings weekly for the first six weeks from the birth of the child. He is further ordered to pay the sum of one shilling and sixpence to Mary Berry until the child is 13 years of age. There were some conditions to this: should Mary Berry be of unsound mind, or in jail or under sentence of transportation or should she remarry, the payment would go to whoever was declared the child’s custodian. Should the child die before his thirteenth birthday, Mary Berry would no longer receive any monies.  Further, the father, James Mills Taylor, was also to pay Mary Berry, 19 shillings and sixpence, the costs incurred in obtaining the order.3

Where to find Bastardy Bonds

For England records:

Parish chest records are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

  • England, [county name], [parish name] – Church records
  • England, [county name], [parish name] – Poorhouses, Poor Law
  • England, [county name], [parish name] – Taxation

Most bastardy bonds are kept on the county level in England and are not online. Many county record offices have an online presence that may allow you to determine if they hold such records and what the cost may be in accessing them.

For US records:

  • If you are lucky enough to be researching in North Carolina, they have extensive records for each county.
  • Other states have bastardy bonds, but they are not as extensive. To see what is available on the FamilySearch Catalog, a keyword search of “bastardy bonds” can be used to indicate which counties kept these records. To narrow down the search even more, include the state or the state and county that you are researching in to see what is available. These bonds are not yet indexed.
  • The bastardy bonds are not likely online for every county. They may be found in person at the county courthouses, if still preserved.
  • For FindmyPast.com a search in the A-Z of Record Sets with the keywords ‘bastardy bonds’, ‘parish chest’ or ‘Poor Law’ will locate records.
  • For Ancestry.com search the Card Catalog with the terms ‘bastardy’, ‘poor law’ or ‘quarter sessions’.

Have you used bastardy bonds in your research?

This is the first post in a series on Parish Chest records.
Coming up next: In the Parish Chest: Settlement and Removal Certificates

 


  1. Norfolk County, North Elmham Parish, Bastardy Examinations, 1765-1811, Examination of Mary Wells, 29 November 1777; images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-62T7-ZZL?cat=1013166 : accessed 20 August 2018). 
  2.  Nottinghamshire County, Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace, Bastardy Bonds, 1817-1818, 5 August 1817, Elizabeth Leavers to Thomas Greenwood on bastardy charge; images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSNW-C3Z8?cat=635885 : accessed 20 August 2018, images 719 & 729 of 1934). 
  3. “England, Northumberland, Cumberland, Durham, Miscellaneous Records, 969-2007,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L93Y-2HHN?cc=1918635&wc=7VZB-7V7%3A209394801%2C210421601%2C210422501 : 20 May 2014 : accessed 21 August 2018), Northumberland > Berwick-upon-Tweed > Bastardy bonds, 1850-1859, image 2 of 214; Northumberland Archives Service, Ashington. 

The Youngest Among Us

“I will lend you, for a little time,
A child of mine, He said.
For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he’s dead
.”

Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

It is always difficult to comprehend the deaths of the youngest among us. All of us have come across sad family stories. When they involve the death of a baby or young child, we mourn a little with our ancestors. Such is the story of Isabel Bowes Bruce, my second great-grandmother. Isabel married John Bruce in 1864 in County Durham, England.  Isabel was 19 and John was 21. They began their married life in the small mining village of Tudhoe where a new coal mine (Tudhoe Colliery) had opened in 1864. John began work there as a miner.

On 4 May 1866, Isabel gave birth to their first child, a baby girl they named Margaret. Between 1866 and 1876, Isabel and John had six children. Sadly, within that same time period, they buried four of their children, three of them were less than a year old. Isabel was often heavily pregnant at the time she was burying one of her babies.

  • Margaret Bruce, born 4 May 1866. She died 13 months later, aged 1 in 1867. Isabel was about 8 months pregnant with their second child.
  • Thomas Bruce, born 23 July 1867. He died 7 months later in February 1868.
  • Margaret Bruce, born 14 May 1869. (My great-grandmother, she died aged 80.)
  • John Thomas Bruce, born 3 Jan 1873. He died at 2 months old in March 1873. Isabel was pregnant again within a month or so of burying John.
  • William Bruce, born Oct. 1873. (My great grand-uncle, he died aged 85.)
  • John Bruce, born 1876. Died, aged 11 in 1887.

Isabel herself died before she was 40 years old, by 1884. Her husband John remarried in March 1884. The marriage certificate states he was a widower. I am quite sure that burying so many of her babies must have taken a toll on Isabel.

In what seems a sad coincidence, Margaret Bruce (born 1869), my great-grandmother, would have the same experience her mother had. She would bear 6 children between 1889 and 1899, four of which she would bury before their second birthdays.

MargaretBruce1869_photo-croMargaret Bruce Thomas (1869-1949)

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 32 prompt: Youngest

Does it make sense?

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We’ve all seen them. Family trees with children born to a mother who died before their birth, or three children born in the same year and linked to the same parents (and they are not triplets). People marrying at age 10, and women having babies in their 70s.

As we research, it is essential to ask ourselves, “Does this make sense?”. I recently came across some research done on my 5th great grandfather, Edward Bellis, on Familysearch. I have not been able to identify his mother yet but I do have his christening record for 1735 identifying him as the son of Edward Belis. I was surprised to see that someone had identified his mother and had added the new parents’ marriage document as proof of not only the marriage but as a source for Edward’s birth.

If the person who had added the mother and the marriage record would have stopped and looked at the dates, they would have seen immediately that something wasn’t right.

Screenshot 2018-07-30 15.33.18

Look at Edward’s christening date. Now look at the supposed parents’ marriage date. A couple marrying in 1737 would not have had a child christened in 1735. If by some chance the child, Edward, was actually the illegitimate son of Edward Bellis, from before he was married to Anne Williams, the record would show it as such. In the 1700s, church officials would write in the birth as illegitimate on the record itself as can be seen below, on the same page as the register showing Edward’s christening in 1735.1

Edward Bellis

The above is a simple example of why it’s important to pay attention to dates and to stop and ask ourselves, “Does this make sense?”.

 


  1. “Wales, Flintshire, Parish Registers, 1538-1912,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KCRJ-SJQ : 11 February 2018), Edward Belis, 16 Aug 1735, Baptism; from “Parish Records Collection 1538-2005,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Holywell, Flintshire, Wales, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey. 

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.

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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?

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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?”