Wednesday, 30 May 2012

New Answers, New Questions

My current task, as I attempt to trace the Ashton family, was to try and find Thomas William Ashton (at ten years old) in the 1871 Census of England.
What I'd found so far:

  • 1911 census: Mark's maternal grandfather, John William Ashton, and maternal great grandfather, Thomas William Ashton;
  • 1891 census: Mark's maternal grandfather, John William Ashton, and maternal great grandfather, Thomas William Ashton; and
  • 1881 census: Mark's maternal great grandfather, Thomas William Ashton; no father listed for him - his mother, Jane, is a widow(at 55 years old).

The 1871 census brought a whole slew of people into the frame, after the small family of four I discovered in 1811.
At first wasn't sure this was my family, despite the fact that the name (Thomas Ashton), birth county (Northumberland) and mother's name (Jane), as well as his birth year (1861) all tallied. Part of the reason for this uncertainty is that the birthplace is listed as Benton. However a search on the web revealed a GenUKI article on Long Benton parish which "comprises the townships of Killingworth, Long Benton, Walker and Weetslade" and is bounded "on the south by the Tyne, and on the east by the parishes of Tynemouth and Wallsend." (This information is from a publication from 1855, which explains why I have been searching Google Maps and Google Earth, to no avail, for Benton, Northumberland. As Mark pointed out: Benton is probably long gone, amalgamated with a host of other small hamlets into something new.) This makes sense in terms of Thomas Ashton's birthplace being listed as Benton, Northumberland in the 1871 census and Walker, Northumberland in each census thereafter; it also fits with his mother, Jane, having been born in Wallsend, Northumberland, which is in (I suspect) the same sort of area area (another family member, listed below, was born in South Shields, which is about five kilometres away from Wallsend, and another born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, also about five kilometres away albeit in the opposite direction). So I was now fairly certain the birthplace data was a match for my guy too.
I was also thrown by the discrepancy in Jane Ashton's ages between the 1881 census, when she is widowed (55), and the 1871 census, when she is living with her husband and many children (47); I put this down to Jane wishing to appear youthful and younger, and being a bit flexible with how she reported her age.
I did find Thomas' father: John Ashton, 44, born in Wales, and listed as being a 'Millfurnaceman' (although this is difficult to decipher). Therefore further research is needed to find out how he died, since I now I know that he died sometime between 1871 and 1881.
The rest of the family is a bit of a tangle:

  • daughter Martha (b Byker Hill, Northumberland) 13, 
  • son Thomas (b Benton, Northumberland) 10, 
  • son Robert Gibbons (b So Shields, Durham) 10, 
  • daughter Margaret (b Benton, Northumberland) 7,
  • daughter Elizabeth Dadds (b Wallsend, Northumberland) 18, 
  • grandson John Dadds (b Benton, Northumberland) 2, 
  • grandson Robert Dadds (b Newcastle Upon Tyne) 4 months. 

Robert Gibbons is listed here as being the son of John Ashton, but in the 1881 census he is listed as being the grandson of Jane Ashton (John's widow). His brother John Gibbons, who is 12 at the time of the 1881 census, is not listed here at all. What is the true relationship of Robert Gibbons to John Ashton? Where is John Gibbons at the time of the 1871 census?
There are two much younger children, listed as being John's grandchildren, named John (2) and Robert (4mo) Dadds, children of his daughter Elizabeth Dadds. Where is their father, Elizabeth's husband?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Widow Ashton And Her Boys

I had an extremely successful day today with the 1891 Census and 1881 Census of England, following the course I began a few weeks ago at Pearson Love To Learn (I am so thankful to have found this course at the start of my family history exploration; within half an hour of starting the course I had learned enough about the British census to have grown my small family tree a whole extra generation on Mark's side of the family).
I followed Mark's maternal grandfather, John William Ashton, and found him living with his family in the 1891 census. I had already discovered him living with his family in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, so finding him with them in the 1891 didn't provide any new relatives to research, but rather provided a more complete picture of the family.
I already had some solid facts from the 1911 census about John Ashton and his parents. I decided to focus on his father using the facts I had gleaned from the 1911 census: Thomas William Ashton; age 50 (b  abt 1861); (m abt 1885, at abt age 24, to Rachel Mary); Steel Plate Mill Roller; b Walker, Northumberland; lived in West Hartlepool, Durham at time of 1911 census. 
Neither the 1901 census nor the 1891 census had previously revealed any additional information about him. 
I decided to follow John's father, Thomas William Ashton, to the 1881 census. He has his age listed as 30 on the 1891 census. which means he would have been born in about 1861, in Walker, Northumberland. 
Unfortunately, as he was married to Rachel for 26 years as at the 1911 census, he would not be married at the time of the 1881 census (as his marriage would have taken place in about 1885). 
Reviewing the first page of results to my search on Ancestry, only the top result matched all my criteria: Thomas W Ashton; b abt 1861; birthplace Walker, Northumberland; resident in Durham at the time of the 1881 census (which is where he was living in the two subsequent censuses). 
Of the other possible matches none were born in the right place, and only a handful were born in the right year. My theory that the first result was my Thomas William Ashton was confirmed when I looked at the further information provided on the census form: he is listed as being a "labourer in iron works". I assumed this was pretty close to the Steel Plate Mill Roller that he later became (however I may need to return to this presumption at a later date and explore these two roles in this time period. While I am not entirely confident that this is the same occupation or even the same industry, I am not relying on this occupation fact in isolation - when coupled with the other exact matches of name, gender, birthplace, age, and ties to Durham I think I can safely say this is my guy. Famous last words? I hope not!). 
The other closest possibilities were a Thomas W Ashton born in 1866, listed as being an iron moulder's apprentice; and a Thomas Ashton born in 1861, listed as being an 'Overlooker of Spinners (Worsted)'. Of all the search results it was only the top one (who I believe to be my guy) and this latter one with any connection to Durham - both were living there at the time of the 1881 censu. Of the two other possiblities (ie: second and third in the search results, as listed above) one was too young and the other worked in the wrong industry, so I was pretty confident I had found the ancestor for whom I had been searching. 
Thomas, at 20 years old, unmarried and working as a labourer in iron works, is listed as living with his mother, Jane Ashton, at 39 Chalk Street in Stockton. Jane is the head of the household, is 55 years old (b abt 1826), is widowed, and was born in Walker, Northumberland. She does not not have any occupation listed.
Also living in the house are Robert Gibbons, 20 (b abt 1861) and John Gibbons, 12 (b abt 1869), Jane's grandsons. The older of these is also working as a labourer in iron works, while the younger is a scholar. Robert was born in So Shields, Durham, and his younger brother was born in Walker, Northumberland.
So all of a sudden I have a mystery: What happened to Thomas' father - what was his name and how did he died, and when? Where is Thomas' sister (I am assuming Jane had a daughter, who married a Gibbons, hence the fact that Jane's grandsons have a different last name)? Have Thomas' nephews been orphaned and taken in by their grandmother?
I was particularly fascinated by the fact that Thomas and his nephew Robert are not only the same age, but are also doing the same job. Did they get on well? Did they work side by side and go home together and enjoy each other's company?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Suffragettes & the Ashton Family in the 1911 Census

I've been concentrating on researching Mark's family, rather than mine, as it is so much to find records that pertain to them. I did a little happy dance today when I discovered the family of John William Ashton, Mark's maternal grandfather (father of Constance Mary Ashton), in the 1911 Census of England and Wales!
I had previously found them in the 1901 Census of England and Wales and, following much jubilation then too, I had been able to really increase the number of branches in the Eden family tree: Mary's father had seven siblings! Many Branchings indeed, as the possibility of seven more branches of investigation were opened up to me. I didn't give this aspect of the family much further thought at this point, however I noted that I still didn't have a maiden name for John Ashton's mother, who was listen only as Rachel M Ashton, nor did I know her full name. However I ordered birth certificates for both Mark's grandparents - John William Ashton and Gertrude Constance Musk - from the General Register Office (GRO) on the 15th of May and I am hoping (much) more will be revealed when these arrive (ETA is first week in June!).
The 1911 Census revealed loads more information about the family, including that Rachel's middle name was Mary. This name was passed on to their first-born daughter, Ethel Mary Ashton, and subsequently by John to his daughter, Constance Mary Ashton (who in turn passed it on to Mark's sister). It's so wonderful to see that continuity, and the realisation made me pause for thought and really appreciate the history of this family and the people represented by these names on a piece of paper (or on my computer screen, as the case may be). Interestingly the name that is passed down on the male side of the family, even though it appears to have skipped a generation, is William: it is Mark's middle name, and it was the middle name of both his mother's father and grandfather. More continuity.

I decided to find out what was happening in the UK at the time this family was filling out their census form (and it was so special to see Thomas Ashton's handwriting, as the head of the household, on the form) and discovered that the suffragette movement was in full swing... and getting quite violent! I had already read that some women were refusing to fill out the 1911 Census form as a means of protest, choosing to be invisible in the population count as they were invisible in terms of their political choices and right to vote, but I had no idea how heated and dangerous it became. One article I found particularly fascinating I discovered on website of The Guardian newspaper, called 'When Suffragettes Were Out For The Count'.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wedding Wednesday - Ashton & Musk, 1916

Today's daily blogging prompt over at GeneaBloggers is 'Wedding Wednesday', and I wanted to share the marriage certificate of John William Ashton and Gertrude Constance Musk. I was lucky enough to discover this certificate, when I decided to start tracing our family history only a few short weeks ago, in a box of old photographs and certificates which we inherited from Mark's mum. The marriage was solemnised at the Zion Congregational Church in the District of Chorlton, in the County of Lancaster, in the UK. I haven't done any research about this church (to see, for instance, if it still stands or is even still in use and has a congregation), but that is definitely on the cards for future exploration.
The groom has listed, under occupation, "Lieutenant A.O.D. (schoolmaster)". Some (very) basic preliminary research led me to an article on Wikipedia about the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The article says the RAOC was created when, in 1918, the Army Ordnance Department (AOD) and Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) amalgamated in 1918 (which in turn, in 1993, was "one of the corps that amalgamated to form the Royal Logistic Corps"). The article explains the RAOC "dealt only with the supply and maintenance of weaponry, munitions and other military equipment". It would be interesting to research service records for John Ashton further and find out exactly what his role in the Corps entailed.
The certificate shows not only that the bride's father, a congregational minister, presided over the ceremony, but that her sister Kathleen was one of the witnesses.
As usual, click the image for a larger view.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A Mystery Child

I have taken to starting my research of our English ancestors in the 1901 Census of England and Wales, despite the fact that most people recommend starting with the most recent census (which, in this case, would be 1911).
One of the first searches I did in the 1901 census was for Gertrude Constance Musk, Mark's maternal grandmother; I found her, age 12, living with her parents Charles (37) and Florence (36), and younger sister Kathleen (7). Charles was listed as a congregational minister, and thus far there were no surprises, although there was plenty of additional information in terms of places of birth for each of the four members of the family, as well as an address as at the date of the census. 
The census conducted ten years later was equally unsurprising at first glance, although it appeared the family had moved home since the 1901 census had been conducted (I haven't yet researched whether they were living at a different address in the same area, or had moved to a different area entirely).  As the two girls were now older I hoped to see some information as to whether one or both of them had started working, and I wasn't disappointed: Connie, as she was known to the family, was working as an elementary school teacher and 17 year old Kath was still at school. 
However the 1911 Census of England and Wales introduced additional questions and this is where the surprise that caused me to catch my breath came in: there had been a third child born to Charles and Florence, a child who, by the time of the 1911 census, had died. 
It's a shame the 1901 census didn't ask the questions as to how many children had been born to the relationship and how many were still living... was this child born between the 1901 census and the 1911 census, meaning it would have been the youngest of the three siblings? According to the 1911 census Charles and Florence had been married for 23 years; was this child born soon after their wedding and, as such, would he or she have a been older at the time of the 1911 than the 22 year old Connie? 
My research plans include: 
  • finding out when Charles and Florence were married, and where,
  • finding a date of birth for Connie, and then using these two dates to work out the likelihood that another birth may have occurred in the interim (highly unlikely),
  • researching births in the areas Charles and Florence had lived between the time of their marriage and the time of the 1911 census, which may list them as parents, to see if I can track down the mystery child,
  • conducting the same sort of research with deaths, however perhaps if the child was stillborn the records may be different.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Remembering Mary

Today would have been the 87th birthday of Mark's mum, Constance Mary Eden (nee Ashton).
Mary's family lived at 24 Breinton Road, Hereford, Herefordshire, England, when was born on the 17th of May 1925. While her parents, John and Gertrude, were celebrating her birth, across the water in Germany disaster had struck: 43 men lost their lives in a calamitous mine disaster in the German town of Dortsfield; the toxic fumes and deadly gasses released were so powerful that even rescue workers were overcome and collapsed in the dark and treacherous mineshafts.
Mary married Peter Eden, the love of her life, on the 12th of April 1955 in Oddington Church, Oxfordshire, England. Peter's own father officiated, and Mary's father was one of the witnesses.
Mary died in Noveber 2001 in Newtown, Montgomershire, Wales, just two short years after Peter's death and only months after the horrific events of September 11th.
Mark and I were blessed to have been able to spend time with her before her death, and she is still very much missed.