Philosophise this! The Ancestry of Gilbert Ryle

These past few years, I have loved reading about philosophy and learning about the many different perspectives on life. Ever since I was a child I have wondered about why I’m alive and what I am meant to do with my precious life. Of course, in those distant times my mind could not possibly cope with what it can fathom today, and this temporal concept of an ever changing state of mind has become a major interest with me. Researching family trees gives me a buzz. I could do it all day and it wouldn’t bore me, and I’ve found that it gives me the kind of positive energy that I need. At last, I may have found something I am good at! Anyway, with my latest ancestry blog research interest I found an abundance of interesting discoveries, such as prominent men of the cloth, architects and medical practitioners, and wealthy plantation owners in the Carribean, and a possible genealogical link to a certain Mr. Raleigh.

Having decided where I was going to look for my next project, I leafed through a general philosophy book I have at home and looked for any British philosophers. I first came across Bertrand Russell, one of the finest and well known, but decided against it, this time, thinking that he’d been probably done by a few genealogists because of his titled ancestry. However, I did notice something interesting about him that I wasn’t aware of. He was born in Monmouth and died at Penrhyndeudraeth. Penrhyndeudraeth! I grew up only a few miles away in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I couldn’t help myself, but an existential thought came over me. I wish I had known about this at such a young and unworldly age ( I would have been 7 when Russell died) so I could be aware of such an eminent philosopher living literally 20 minutes by road. And he must have visited my home town of Blaenau Ffestiniog at some time I’m sure. Then I realised that I am not that 7 year old that grew up with such flippant ignorance, and would not have given a second thought if I had got in his way while shoping with my mother at Kwiksave! I realised that I had transport a wishful thought in the present time into a long disappeared 7 year old state of mind, which had probably more important things to concern itself, such as when was I going to football next or what were The Banana Splits going to be up to this Saturday morning. The 49 year old in me had wished I’d known he was so close that I could pop down for a visit, on the Blaenau-Porthmadog Crossville bus. This was the frightenly fast, automatic thought that entered my head when I found out this piece of information. And at a similar supersonic speed I managed to restore the balance between reality and surreality by realising how absurd that thought was.

So, who did I come across next? Which philosopher came second to B.R? Well, when I completed my research on him I was glad that Gilbert Ryle was the one that I chose. Who, may you ask, is Gilbert Ryle? I have to admit I hadn’t a clue who he was or what his philosophical leanings were. I found that he wrote a very influential book called ‘The Concept of Mind’ (1949) and he was the first to coin the phrase ‘the ghost in the machine’. His interest is specifically at the linquistic methods that we use to describe what we see and do, which in turn influences our thinking. Anyway, this is what I found researching his family tree.

He was born in August 1900 at Brighton the son of a doctor, Reginald John Ryle, and his wife Catherine. He had a twin sister, Mary, and they were members of a fairly decent sized family. I knew from Wikipedia that Gilbert had a grandfather who became Bishop of Liverpool, giving me an inkling that I wouldn’t be coming across many agricultural labourers or factory workers. And I was right. His forebears were impressive to say the least, of whom I will come to later. I also found out where the name Gilbert came from.

If we look at the Ryle side of the family first. His father was indeed a son of John Charles Ryle, the first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool from 1880 to his retirement in 1900 (he died not long after). He was a well respected religious figure, thoroughly steeped in the beliefs of the Bible. He was quoted as saying,

‘It is still the first book which fits the child’s mind when he begins to learn religion, and the last to which the old man clings as he leaves the world.’

He literaly bled the Bible. The respect he had is summed up by the Rev. Richard Hobson who said these words just 3 days after his funeral.

“He [J.C. Ryle] was great through the abounding grace of God. He was great in stature; great in mental power; great in spirituality; great as a preacher and expositor of God’s most holy Word; great in hospitality; great as a writer of Gospel tracts; great as a Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Protestant Church in England, of which he was a noble defender; great as first Bishop of Liverpool. I am bold to say, that perhaps few men in the nineteenth century did as much for God, for truth, and for righteousness, among the English speaking race, and in the world, as our late Bishop.”

He married 3 times. His first wife was Matilda Charlotte Louisa Plumptree who died 3 years after their marriage in 1845. They had one daughter, Georgina Matilda Ryle, born in Hemingham, Suffolk. J.C. Ryle was rector of Helmingham for many years, though only Georgina was born in this county. Reginald and his other siblings, Jessie Isabella, Herbert Edward and Arthur Johnstone, were all born in London. Their mother was John’s 2nd wife, Jessy Elizabeth Walker, whom he married in 1850, in the Newton Abbot district. She died in Suffolk in 1860. So who were J.C. Ryle’s parents? comes up with a christening for John, 28 Sep. 1816 at Macclesfield, Cheshire. All I could find at this stage that his parents were John Ryle and his wife Susan. I checked for any siblings for John and I found, Emma Ryle, christened 14 Dec. 1814, Susan, christ. 10 June 1813, Caroline, christ. 7 Dec. 1818, Mary Ann, christ. 11 Feb. 1812 (born 30 Oct. 1811), and Frederick William, christ. 28 Nov. 1820. Apart from John’s entry, all the others stated that Susannah was their mother’s name. This bit of information turned out be really useful later. All christenings were performed at Christ Church, Macclesfield. By finding these entries I could narrow the search for John and Susannah’s marriage.

So, another delve into FamilySearch revealed only one possible marriage, an entry that stated that a John Ryle married a Susannah Hurt at Wirksworth in Derbyshire on 6 Feb. 1811. A quick look on Google maps showed me that Wirksworth wasn’t too far away from Macclesfield, so thought it was a possibility and nothing more. What happened next is all too typical when researching family trees and one of the reasons why I love doing this. I thought a general Google search would possibly help me in trying to nail down this marriage I was looking for. One of the top results revealed that there might be a link with someone with the name of Richard Arkwright. I knew that name rang a bell! It was one of those historical names that gets burned into every young student of British history, possibly on a par with the Battle of Hastings. I looked at the 1851 English census hoping that John and Susannah had survived to be on it. I was lucky. There they were living in Hampshire with their daughter Mary Anne, a 39 year old spinster. It revealed that Susannah was born in Cromford, Derbyshire. Something quite epoch making occured at Cromford. It has been labelled as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and one of its instigators was Sir Richard Arkwright, famously known for starting the modern factory system, by making spinning cotton more economical and therefore made increasing profits a reality. He utilised the power of water to run his water frame patent. Eventually the power loom was invented and implemented into his factories. It turns out that he ‘borrowed’ the ideas of other inventors, but nevertheless died a wealthy man and a knight. Susannah Hurt came from a wealthy landowning family, more affluent than Arkwright’s ever was. Her father was Charles Hurt who married Richard Arkwright’s daughter, Susannah, a product of his first wife Margaret Biggens, in 1780. So Sir Richard Arkwright was the great grandfather to John Charles Ryle, and great great great grandfather to Gilbert Ryle.

The parents of Sir Richard were Thomas and Ellen (nee Hodgekinson) Arkwright and were married on 29 August, 1717 at St Peter’s Church, Liverpool. Thomas was a tailor from Preston, and in his youth Richard was an unsuccessful barber and maker of wigs!

Gilbert Ryle’s mother was Catherine Scott and through her genealogical line he has some notable ancestors. Viewing the 1871 census I found that her mother, Georgina, was already a widow before she was 51. In fact her husband, Samuel King Scott, a doctor, had died from the after effects of a heart attack on the 9th June 1865. Click here to see his obituary. Samuel King Scott married Georgina Bodley on the 14th May, 1846 at Hove, Sussex. I will address her family later. According to FamilySearch, Samuel was christened at Gawcott, near Buckingham on the 3rd Jan, 1819. His other siblings were George Gilbert (1811), Euphemia (1812), Nathaniel Gilbert (1814), Elizabeth King (1815), William Langton (1817), Mary Jane (1821), Anne (1822), Elizabeth (1824) and Melville Horne (1827). The parents of all these grandly named children were Thomas and Euphemia (nee Lynch) Scott.  You may recognise the first born. George Gilbert Scott was a well known and one of the most influencial and prolific English architects and a luminary of the gothic revival in architecture. If you walk down the streets of London, no doubt you will go past at least one of his buildings. I like to think of him as the original conservator of English heritage and without his work many buildings we cherish today would have surley been lost.  Rather than write all of his creations down here, it might be a better if you click on his Wikipedia page. He was buried at Westminster Abbey, among the most famous and royal.

His father, Thomas Scott was a preacher just like his famous father, another Thomas Scott, and a minister at Ebberton near Olney, Buckinghamshire. Thomas Scott senior was nicknamed ‘Bible Scott’ and often referred to as ‘Scott the Commentator’ and wrote the books ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’ and ‘The Force of Truth’. He was born in Lincolnshire on Feb. 16 1747 and married Jane Kell whom he met when he moved to Buckinghamshire. He had a rough upbringing by all accounts and when he became a man of God he made sure that his sons got a better education. Three went to Cambridge for their degrees.

Returning to Thomas Scott the younger, he married Euphemia Lynch at Bledlow, Buckinghamshire on 25 Mar. 1806. This is the point where my research ventures overseas. I find that Euphemia was born in Antigua on 13 Jan. 1785, and was the daughter of Dr Thomas Lynch and Euphemia Gilbert. The Gilberts were wealthy land owners in the Carribean and were strong Wesleyan Methodists. Most probably this Thomas Lynch was related to another Thomas Lynch who was a governor of Jamaica in the 17th century.

Euphemia Gilbert was the daughter of Nathaniel Gilbert and Elizabeth Lavington. This Nathaniel Gilbert was probably the minister of Sierra Leone, a position he shared with the Rev. Melville Horne. Now we know why one of Samuel King Scott’s brothers was named Melville Horne Scott on 1 May, 1827. I dare say the other middle names for the children of Thomas and Euphemia Scott came from prominent churchmen of their time of which their families were part of the religious circle. Also, the Gilberts thought that they were the descendents of Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1539-1583), a half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. I’ve gently dipped into this claim and as of the time of writing I haven’t found the connection, but it’s certainly worthy of further, detailed research.

There seems to be a lot of connections with doctors, architects and the church in Gilbert Ryle’s family. It’s an interesting mix and I feel that it’s totally complimentary. Churchmen would certainly have had an input in the design or additions of their churches, becoming symbols of their love to God and all he stands for. Also, the architect has the opportunity to produce a unique building, perhaps representing the one and only God that they worship. And doctors take on the role of the saviour of men, women and children, preserving their lives so that they can carry on becoming God faring citizens of society. Samuel King Scott‘s son Bernard (born c.1858) became a surgeon and his daughter Elisabeth became an architect. One of her designs was the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-Upon-Avon, which had mixed reviews. George Bernard Shaw liked it but Sir Edward Elgar publically admonished it.

“Sir Edward Elgar, then 75, was to be the theatre’s new musical director but, after visiting the building, he so was furiously angry with that “awful female” and her “unspeakably ugly and wrong” design that he would have nothing further to do with it, refusing even to go inside” (Wikipedia, from Beauman (1982: 100), quoted in Stamp (2004).

However, Elisabeth Scott was a pioneer in the cause of women becoming accepted as architects, and before her death in 1972 she worked with Bournmouth Borough Council.

Another Scott family member in the architect business was George Gilbert Scott jnr (1839-1897), son of Sir George Gilbert Scott who designed buildings at various Cambridge Universities and St John the Baptist Church, Norwich, now a Roman Catholic Church. Some of his best work was detroyed during the Blitz. He had an unfortunate and sadly ironic end. After a spell in France which he went to recover from alcoholism and mental ill health, he returned to work in England, but died in a room at the Midland Hotel, St Pancras Railway Station, a building his father designed. His sons, Giles Gilbert and Adrian Gilbert Scott both worked on the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral. In fact for a brief time he was in collaboration with George Frederick Bodley, whose sister, Georgina, had married Samuel King Scott.

This brings me nicely to this lady just mentioned. Georgina was the daughter of Willian Hulme Bodley and Mary Ann Hamilton. William was a physician (another doctor!) and hailed from Hull.

This has been my most detailed assignment so far, but there has been a vast amount of interesting connections and notable people to write about in Gilbert Ryle’s ancestry. You can see him discuss his theories on the mind and how we use language to shape our concepts. A bit heavy at times but guaranteed to make you wonder about how we described things to each other, whether its correct or nonsense. To be honest I have taken more time trying to understand what Gilbert Ryle was actually theorising about than the time taken to construct his family tree. I think I know what he means, but don’t ask me to explain it though!


Rooms for Rent – Only Shetlanders Need Apply!

The title of this post might seem bizzare at first but all will be revealed later. Researching Ringo Starr’s family tree has been a joy to do because for me it offered up something different in that I was surprised at what I found.

Fortunately I discovered that Nick Barratt had already researched Ringo’s family history for an article for the Telegraph, and I was glad that there were areas that he had not covered. Checking this out saved me a lot of work. Another stroke of luck was the abundance of original images of records that Ancestry had. I applaud their efforts in trying to make available as much original stuff as possible (and it keeps growing), but it is a hit and miss affair whether the record you’re after will be found. With my research on Ringo’s roots I was lucky to find more than usual and became useful in the tree progressing.

I looked at the Starkey line, Ringo’s real surname, knowing that Nick had found difficulty in making much headway with it, and the best I could do was find the marriage image for John Parkin Startkey and Annie Bower, Ringo’s paternal grandparents, which at least had the name of John’s father as Henry Parkin Starkey. However, Henry and indeed John are very elusive and my week long research was not sufficient to find out who they were or where they lived. I concentrated on a line that was not apparant with the research from Nick Barratt, namely Ringo’s maternal grandmother, Catherine Martha Johnson.

She was baptised at St Thomas’ Church, Toxteth Park on 17 May 1891 (born on 25 Apr., 1891) to Andrew and Mary Elizabeth Johnson of 37 Gaskell Street. Andrew’s occupation was put down as a sailor. They were married at the same church on 14 April, 1875, Andrew stating he was a mariner just like his father Peter. This excited me a bit because I am fascinated by anything to do with the sea, probably because I have mariners on my mother’s side. Mary Elizabeth Cunningham father, James was a gardener. Finding them in the 1891 Census revealed that Andrew was born in the Shetland Isles and Mary hailed from Ireland. So I thought, how hard is it going to be researching someone from the Shetlands? What records can I find? Andrew was my first Shetland Islander and I wasn’t sure if I could progress. I knew that researching Mary would probably come to a halt because of the scarcity of available Irish records, and it would plain luck if I did find something. So I began looking and was pleasantly surprised how much I could find thanks to the FamilySearch site. But before trying to peel away the hidden generations of Andrew I wanted to find out when he came to Liverpool, and whether he had a childhood there. Was it Peter who came down looking for seafaring work or would I find him settled in alittle cold corner of the Isles that are called Shetland. So I looked in the 1871 census hoping to find either Andrew or Peter. What I found was truly amazing. Andrew Johnson was 39 in the 1891 census, so I knew I was looking for a nineteen year old Andrew. Boarding at what appears on the census sheet as 43 Upper Pitt Street was not only Andrew but a whole bunch of Shetland Islanders! Including Andrew eight in all, and an Ursula Johnson, 17, and a servant at the household. Could this be a relation of Andrew’s? It was run by a William and Agnes Thompson, both in their 60’s, and Edward seemed to be still active as a mariner. Then it was time to get educated about Shetland. The hunt for Andrew’s family was on.

FamilySearch came up with a baptism:-

Andrew Johnson born 2 Jan., 1852, christened 26 Jan., 1852 at Delting, Shetland, Scotland. Parents: Peter Johnson and Philias Tait.

Now I wasn’t aware that those far off islands were a part of Scotland, and at first I thought that they might have had their own census. Thankfully I had access to the Scotland census, transcribed, but nonetheless useful resource. I wondered if I could find who Ursula was.

Ursula Johnson born 27 October, 1853, christened 10 Jan., 1854 at Delting, Shetland. Parents: Peter Johnson and Philias Tait.

So my initial hunch that Ursula was Andrew’s sister turned out to be a good one. And a quick check on the 1861 Scotland census reveals the following:

Phillis Johnson (44)   –   Farms 4 acres    –  born Lunnasting, Shetland

Mary Johnson (11)      –     scholar              –  born Delting, Shetland

Andrew Johnson (9)   –    scholar               –  born Delting, Shetland

Ursilla Johnson (7)     –     scholar              –  born Delting, Shetland

Catherine Johnson (5) –   scholar               –  born Delting, Shetland

Peter Johnson (3)         – scholar                  –  born Delting, Shetland

Isabell Frazin (45)        – servant, ag.lab     –  born Sandsting, Shetland

Where Peter was I don’t know, and to be honest I didn’t look too hard. I was more concerned with going back in time and finding Ringo’s Shetland great-great-great grandparents.

In the 1851 Scotland census we find Peter and Phila (probably Phillis) are at 15 Burns Lane, Lerwick visiting the Hutchinson’s, a mother and daughter whose occupation were knitters. Over at Delting we find their first born (I presume) Mary Johnson living with grandparents Magnus and Ursula Johnson, and their son Laurence. Magnus is an incredible 87 years old and his wife considerably younger and a sprightly 63, and it would not surprise me with such an age difference, if she was his second wife. In fact FamilySearch comes up with a marriage between a Magnus Johnson and Wrcilla I on 30 Sept. 1806 at Delting and a Magnus Johnson marring a Robina Henry on 12 Jan 1792, again at Delting. Could this be the same man?

In the 1841 census we find a family of Johnson’s which have all the familiar names associated with this interesting family line of Ringo Starr:

Magnus Johnson (70)        –  Farmer       –  Born Orkney and Shetland

Ursla Johnson (55)             –                       –  Born Orkney and Shetland

Laurence Johnson (25)      – Fisherman  –  Born Orkney and Shetland

Catherine Johnson (20)     –                       –  Born Orkney and Shetland

James Johnson (18)            – Fisherman  –  Born Orkney and Shetland

Peter Johnson (16)              – Fisherman  –  Born Orkney and Shetland

Andrew Johnson (12)          –                      –  Born Orkney and Shetland

Finally, I found Peter Johnson’s baptism record. Ringo’s great-great grandfather was christened on 28 May 1824 at Delting, born 20 May the same year. Being christened only a week after birth suggests that he didn’t have the healthiest of starts and that his parents were not sure of his survival.

Could I go further in time? Using the databases of FamilySearch there is a possibility that I may have. There is an entry for a Magnus Johnson christening for 6 March 1766 at Delting, with a Lawrence Johnson as the father. Could this be Ringo Starr’s great-great-great-great grandfather?

And what about Ursula, Magnus’ wife?

Well, I found a christening for a Ursula Jameson for 24 December, 1788 at Fetlar, Shetland which could be her. Going back to that Liverpool boarding house ran by the couple from Shetland there was also William Thompson’s mother-in-law, a grand old lady of 89 and also hailing from Shetland, named Elizabeth Jameson. Could she have a familial link to Andrew and Ursula and giving us an answer to why they were there?

Welsh Roots of The Beatles – George Harrison

Of all the members of The Beatles I think George would be my favourite. Perhaps its because of the films he produced and the fact that he worked with Jeff Lynne, a musical hero of mine. He also wrote some pretty good tunes after he left the group.

As my interest is predominantly involved in discovering any Welsh ancestry of The Beatles I was curious whether George had any. As with John Lennon, there are Irish roots in George’s origins and of course English, through the Harrison line. However, it is through his mother, Louise French (1910-1970) that he has those Irish and Welsh genes. Louise French was the daughter of John French and Louise Woollam, and it is through the Woollam line that George gets his Welshness from. Louise’s father was John Woollam, a native of the parish of St Martins in Shropshire. Her mother was Jane Daniels, John’s second wife, and according to an tree, they were married on the 25 November, 1872 at Widnes, Lancashire. I first discovered John Woollam in the 1881 census living at Virgin’s Lane, Little Crosby. This interested me because I used to visit the area when I was involved in recording listed buildings at risk, and other conservation work whilst I was employed with Sefton Borough Council. Back in the early 90’s I could be found walking through the little settlements of Thornton, Ince Blundell and Lunt listening to the music of Rush on my walkman. Little did I know that I was waliking in the footsteps of George Harrison’s great grandparents!

In the 1871 census we find John a widower living in a lodge at Little Crosby Hall, employed as a gardener, living with his children, John and Margaret, his brother Henry, and a servant, Lydia Daniels, born in Prescot, Lancashire. Could this be a sister of Jane’s? I suspect it is. In that 1881 census, John and his new wife are the parents of three more children, George, Walter and Louise, destined to become the grandmother of George Harrison.

So, where is the Welsh connection? We must research another generation of George’s family tree and find them in Shropshire, the homeland of John Woollam. John was the son of Roger Woollam and Ann Swallow. They were married on 30 May 1835, probably in Denbighshire, where Ann was born. According to the 1851 census, her place of birth was stated as Llansannan. So we find (at last) George’s Welsh ancestor, with a surname that would not appear to be typically Welsh. Ann was born March 13, 1811 and was the daughter of John Swallow and Benedicta Edwards, of Dyffryn Aled, and a quick check on Google maps places it near Prestatyn. John and Benedicta had at least another child, John, born 24 Apr. 1809. Frustratingly I cannot find anything beyond Benedicta even though she has a Welsh surname. Her name intriques me and I would love to find out more about her.

Where does this surname Swallow originate? How did it arrive in Denbighshire? I tried to find this out but I had little success. The only bits of information I could find was that it may have originated in Lincolnshire, because of a river with the same name. One thing for sure it probably evolved to become Swallow, and previous incarnations include, ‘swaluwe’ which is medieval English for, you’ve guessed it, swallow, or de Swallwe and Swalowe and Swalough from the late 14th century. With a surname like Swallow I had assumed that it would be relatively easy to find more individuals from this family, especially in Denbighshire. Not so! The only one I found was a William Swallow who was christened at Holt in Denbighshire on 3rd Oct. 1781. His parents are listed as George and Elizabeth Swallow according to the Family Search website. The only way to find out more is to visit the archives, because the records for Wales on is pitiful.

Another possible Welsh connection might come from the parents of Roger Woollam, George Harrison’s GG grandfather. The extracted parish records collection on revealed this:

10 Feb. 1810 Roger, son of Charles and Elizabeth Woollam, born 13 January 1810, Ifton.
From Llanymynech, St Martins Parish Registers, St Asaph Diocese

Ifton Heath is a few miles up from St Martin’s, Shropshire, and very close to the Welsh border. From the same parish records we find this:

7 Jul 1806  Charles Woollam, born in parish of Whittington, and Elizabeth Jones, spinster, lic..

It’s a good bet that these were Roger’s parents and perhaps that Elizabeth parents were from across the border. I found two more entries for baptisms for children of Charles and Elizabeth, namely, William Jul 10 1808 (born 22 Feb 1808), and Mary Mar 15 1812 (born 24 Feb 1812), both at Ifton.

Expanding from this and not yet proven, I find a christening on the Family Search website for a Charles Woollam on 15 Dec 1778 at Whixall, Shropshire. His father is named as James Woolam (as spelt on the site). Whixall is in the parish of Prees, a few miles east of Ifton and St Martin. There is also a marriage in Prees between a James Woolam and Ann Williams on 6 Apr 1776. I must restate that these Family Search findings are speculative but nevertheless worth checking out one day. Going further (speculatively of course) there is a christening for a James Woolam on 11 Nov 1744 at Whitchurch, Shropshire, parents John and Martha Woolam. These places are located in roughly the same area in Shropshire and totally plausible for them to be connected.

The family tree of Victoria Pendleton

With such a lot of success achieved by team GB at the London Olympics I thought it would be a interesting research assignment to investigate the family trees of those who have become our most successful olympians. There’s many to choose from which underlines how well our country have done.

Of all the sports events that I saw I was hooked on the cycling and was impressed at how dominant our cyclists were. I had no idea they were that good having not followed the sport. The one cyclist that caught my intention was Victoria Pendleton and I wondered who her ancestors were.

I started on the Pendleton name and the research was going smoothly with no doubts that I was 100% accurate with the new lines I was discovering and had got to Paul William Pendleton, Victoria’s great great grandfather, when I discovered that a historian commissioned by the Find My Past blog had already done it. It was good to know that I had got everything right purely from online research. So I decided to explore another family line that didn’t appear to have been done. I quickly found that there are family trees on with a lot of links to Victoria’s family. But there was one that I thought was unresearched, and quickly found out possibly why this was so.

Percy William Pendleton, born 1884 in Nottingham was one of Victoria’s great grandfathers and married Mary A Marshall in the Sep quarter of 1913. Now there are loads of possible Mary A Marshalls born around the same time as Victoria’s great grandmother and I could see that this would be a big stumbling block if relying solely on online information. If on a paid commission, I would buy a copy of the marriage certificate to make sure, but I discovered a coincidence that may point me to the right Mary A Marshall.

When researching the Pendleton name at the beginning I discovered that Percy and his family were living at 79 Independant Street in the parish of Radford, Nottinghamshire according to the 1891 census. Looking for the right Mary A Marshall I found one that lived in the same street, at 8 Independant Street, aged 4. So, it seems that my earlier research into the Pendletons wasn’t a waste of time at all. I would still want to get the marriage to be absolutely sure but my gut instinct is that I have the right Mary.

If I am right, then Mary’s parents were James Marshall and Catherine Barrows, married in the Mansfield district in 1880. James was born in Scotland around 1860 and Catherine hailed from Mansfield, also born around 1860. The Nottinghamshire area was festooned with clothing factories because there is an abundance of people with jobs associated with textiles. Catherine’s family is a good example to show this. Her father, Solomon Barrows, christened 31 Aug 1828 at Mansfield, was employed as a cotton framework knitter, his wife Mary a cotton seamstress. Solomon’s parentage is as yet unknown though there is a record on the Family Search site that his mother was Anne Barrows. Was he illegitimate? Quite possibly. I found him on the 1841 census living with a John and Phoebe Barrows at Mansfield in an abode named The Rookery. His occupation was framework knitter, just like his relative John, the head of the household. Speculating here, I wonder if John was his uncle, a brother to the aforementioned Anne Barrows? This is a definate possibility as they are born relatively close to each other. Solomon’s wife, I find, was Mary Powell, christened at Mansfield on 3 Nov. 1830 to a James and Mary Powell. I found a marriage between a James Powell and a Mary Lane on 9 Jul 1827 at Marnham, Nottingham. Could this be them? James and Mary Powell can be found on the Mansfield 1841 census with 3 children, Ann (aged 20), Thomas (13) and Mary (10), Solomon Barrows’ wife. On this census James’s occupation was stockinger, as was his wife. They either made or sold stockings. Or both of course.

Who were Mary’s parents then? I found a christening on the Family Search site which fits the bill.

Mary Lane christened 20 Jan 1799 at Worksop, Nottingham
Parents: Thomas Lane

Bearing in mind that James and Mary have children named Thomas and Ann, I think it is a distinct possibility. Finding the children of couples, especially families living in the 19th century, is a handy little pointer to finding out the names of parents and grandparents. It mustn’t be held as gospel and proof of lineage, but it is useful in the problem solving activity that genealogy becomes.

The Family Search website is an extremely useful site, probably my favourite one after, and many christenings and marriages beyond the 1841 census can be found here. As the 1841 census is not so accurate there can be a + or – 5 years difference in the ages of individuals found on there. I was trying to find a christening for James Powell and there is one in the parish of Kneesal, Nottinghamshire on 20 Dec 1790, parents were Wm. Powel and Amelia. This is the likely James because on’s extracted parish records for Nottinghamshire I found the following:

James Powell, parish of Kneesal and Mary Lane of Grassthorpe, 27 Jul. 1827.
Marriages at Marnham with Grassthorpe and Skegby 1601-1837.

A brief extract relating to the parishes of Marnham and Grassthorpe.

From Sutton we pass on to Grassthorpe through a level tract of country, over which the river at times, after a heavy rainfall, makes considerable encroachments. The village is small, and possesses nothing worthy of note; but it seems to have once had a chapel founded in honour of St. James. When the sacred building became ruinous it was converted into a cottage and barn, and granted by ‘good Queen Bess’ to Alexander Rigby and Percival Gunstone, gentlemen. Grassthorpe had several centuries before this period formed part of the possessions of the lordly family of Furnival, and it had also recognised as its landlord no less prominent a personage than Michael de la Pole, Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal and Earl of Suffolk.

The eminent and worthy family of Chaworth owned the manor of Marnham for several centuries, and Sir Thomas Chaworth (24th Henry VI.) obtained a grant of a yearly fair for two days, which continues to be kept. Henry de Lexington, Bishop of Lincoln, held the fourth part of a knight’s fee in Marnham, of Richard de Weston, for a pound of pepper yearly, and Robert de Markham had some property here of a like tenure. The rectory was held by the Preceptory of Eagle, being part of the possessions of the Knights Hospitallers, but was granted, with the lands and meadows connected therewith, by Henry VIII. to Thomas Babington. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth Anthony Babington had the property, but, being attaint for his complicity with Mary Queen of Scots, the estate passed into other hands. The church and parsonage are in the centre of the village, and the sacred edifice has been carefully restored. There are numerous memorials to the Cartwright family, members of which were soldiers, politicians, and travellers of wide celebrity. Some of them were endowed with literary ability, and one Edmund, who was in holy orders, attracted considerable attention for his inventions of curious machinery—notably for the weaving of cotton, for which Parliament made him a substantial grant.

The old hall from which these famous people emanated was pulled down nearly a century ago and a new one erected. It occupied a lonely but a commanding site, and had extensive views of the vale of the Trent, and of the old church where so many of the Cartwrights sleep. On leaving the churchyard we noticed an inscription on a gravestone of the last century, which may be interesting to the collector of epitaphs:

‘Reader, mind that thou gives ear
Upon the just that sleepeth here,
And whilst thou reades this state of me,
Thinke of the glas that runes for thee.’

(Cornelius Browne, A History of Nottinghamshire, 1896)

This ties in with the earlier information I found. But it also shows how inconsistent the ages recorded on the 1841 census can be. But there is always the possibility that what I have found is an earlier James Powell born to the same family but died in infancy. Then the parents have another son, circa 1796, and name him James. Or it could easily be another Powell family in the area naming their son James. It’s so easy to think we are on the right track, but the truth is that to be absolutely accurate we have to pay a visit to the archives to know for sure.

To conclude I discovered another entry in the Family Search site that might be the parents of Mary Lane.

Thomas Lane married Ann Hanson on the 27 Nov. 1796 at Worksop, Nottingham.

Could these be the great-great-great-great-great grandparents of Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton?

Welsh roots of The Beatles – John Lennon

Liverpool has been well known for increasing its population in the 19th century with a substantial Welsh and Irish contingent. Many came to the famous English port predominantly for work opportunities, leaving their taciturn, simple lifestyles in their rural countries, and deciding to take their chances with the harsh, and at times brutal industrial environment, in the rapidly populous areas of north west England. The obvious question that is often asked by genealogists is this. Why did so many leave the security of their long established communities to expose themselves to the relatively unknown elements that we associate with industrialisation?

This is our perspective gained from the advantage of having hindsight. At the time our ancestors were struggling to survive in their own areas. They could see that their communities were worsening and felt that they did not have a choice. They must have made these decisions with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. The prospect of giving themselves a better income and therefore a higher standard of living must have been a great motivator. Some did find fame and fortune but of course a great many didn’t, finding life hard, and constantly surrounded by death and hopeless poverty. We have to thank those individuals who dared to venture to these grimy, dangerous and unforgiven territories and give birth to future generations so that they could get a chance to make a mark on the world.

Such humble backgrounds can be found when investigating the ancestry of the four members of the Beatles. Predominantly more Irish than Welsh, the research so far has taken me to some interesting locations. However, the purpose of the research was to concentrate on their Welsh origins, and this is what I want to focus on. The Irish ancestry has been well researched and I thought it would be a good assignment to locate any Welsh ancestry that the fab four have got. A good source for John Lennon’s Irish ancestry can be found here

John Lennon has Welsh roots on his mother’s side. Julia Stanley (1914-1958) was the daughter of George Ernest Stanley and Annie Jane Millward, who were married late 1906. They had four daughter, Mary (b.24 Apr. 1906), Elizabeth Jane (1909), Julia, and Harriet (1916). On the whole researching the Milward line proved to be quite time consuming and exact, accurate records were difficult to find online. This is a classic example of the type of difficulty family historians can come up against. Some people can be difficult to find especially on the census records, and this is exactly what I found when trying to pinpoint the parentage of John’s grandmother Annie.

I could only find Annie Jane for certain in two census: 1881 and 1911. There is an Annie Milward living at 62 Frederick St, Liverpool, in the 1901 census, in the house of a Harry Daley, a native of the United States. The only problem is birthplace which is stated as Liverpool. She was born in Chester. However this kind of mistake is not unusual. As she was a boarder at the property she probably wasn’t asked by the landlord where she was born. He assumed Liverpool so wrote that down instead of Chester. Her profession was seamstress which again points me in the right direction because she states in the 1911 census, which is more reliable, that she was a tailoress.

Her father was John Milward and in the 1881 census, the enumerator has written ‘Wales’ as his birthplace. It often frustrates me that the enumerator didn’t bother to write exactly where John stated where he was born. This occurs with census information concerning Scots and the Irish immigrants as well. In 1891 he states he was born in Rhyl, Flintshire. 

Various websites have come up with different names for Annie’s mother, the wife for John Milward. I can only find one census where I can categorically know for sure that Annie’s parents were John Milward and Mary E Milward. But with such ambiguity it is essential to hunt down the marriage record to make sure. Of course there is always the possibility that some couples who state they were married on the census were in reality not, or got married in later years.

1881 census – Liverpool

John Millward (43) – clerk in law stationer’s office – born Wales
Mary E Millward (30) – wife                                               – born Wales
Annie J Millward (8) – dau                                                   – born Chester
Mary E Millward (6) – dau                                                    – born Liverpool
Harriet C E Millward – dau                                                   – born Liverpool

Residence: 17 Kent Square

In the 1891 Liverpool census, St Paul’s district:-

John Millward (48) – Wid – boarder – clerk, merchants – born, Flintshire,  Ryle                                                                                                                   
Mary Millward (16) – single – boarder – servant                 – born Liverpool

Residence: 71 Highfield St.

However, I’m still unsure and would never assume anything based on this kind of census evidence. This shows how difficult family research can be!

Searching for the family of John Milward has been difficult too. It appears that his father was a Thomas Milward born in St. Asaph, North Wales, but here too it is not so straight forward. Checking the 1841 census there are two Thomas Milward born in St. Asaph, and at first I thought that I had found a father and son with the same christian name. It is a mistake to assume that the surname Milward/Millward must be rare in North Wales, not Welsh sounding at all. In fact there appears to be earlier generations of Milwards in the North Wales area, increasing the possibility of the existence of another Thomas. Later census reveal that Thomas was at least 24 years older than his wife Jane, and reveal a consistency of having a son named John (Annie Jane’s father) but who is the other Thomas in the 1841 census?

1841 census – St. Asaph

Thomas Milward (50) – gardener        – born in county
Francis Edwards (25) – painter             – born in county
Anne Jones (50) – servant maid           – born in county
Elizabeth Milward (15)                             – born in county

Residence: Bronwylfa St.


Thomas Milward (35) – gardener        – born in county
Jane Milward (35)                                      – not born in county
Edward Milward (11)                                 – born in county
John Milward (7)                                         – born in county
Elizabeth Milward (5)                                – born in county
Mary Milward (2)                                        – born in county

Residence: Roe? (near Elwy Cottage)

From a present perspective this could flumox a researcher because it seems like a mistake has been made by the enumerator. I was searching for one Thomas Milward who fits the criterias to make him the one I’m looking for. Seeing two of them (and on the same census page) places a seed of doubt. Has the enumerator made a mistake, and duplicated the entry? Knowing that the 1841 census was not noted for being the most accurate, enumerator mistakes, or rather the lack of a stringent accurate attitude, are expected, so what do I think is going on here?

I interpret this data as it stands, namely there are two Thomas Milwards. It would make much more sense if the two Thomas’ swapped places! What I think is that there is a Thomas Milward who was a gardener and living with a painter named Francis Edwards, probably a relative, aged around 50, but there was also another with a wife and family, and aged the same as his wife. Probably the enumerator either couldn’t make out the scribblings of Thomas’s writing on the original sheet, and guessed that he must have been around the same age, or he didn’t care about the accuracy!

So, it would be interesting to research the Millwards of Flintshire and Denbighshire and there are a lot of them. My online research has revealed that they first appeared in the area as early as 1767, a marriage between a John Millward and a Frances Williams at St Mary’s Church, Flint. They had at least 7 children. Originally, they came from the West Midlands area, probably Shropshire or Staffordshire.

In conclusion, I didn’t uncover any new information on John Lennon’s Welsh roots, but have opened up the possibility of further research. Thomas Milward’s wife was from Denbighshire, and more likely his mother was Welsh too, and the elusive wife of John Millward, if she could be positively identified, will open up another purely Welsh lineage to his family tree.

Well, I supose they were violent times…

It recently occurred to me that I must have ancestors that met unpleasant ends, and with the amount of people I’ve found in the last three years of research it goes without saying that at least a minority of them must have had quite gruesome deaths. Let’s face it, back in medieval times even the most natural of deaths were pretty horrific with no painkillers or other medications to make things better. What I am trying to write here are those deaths that were particularly nasty committed by the cruelest of means which I hope you agree with me that they were.

Now, these four examples are the ones that I could easily access, and what stood out in my memory. I have discovered many ancestors over the years who were knights and took part in well known battles in England and Wales, as well as those fought during the Crusades in the middle east. I would imagine that some of them must also have met grisly battle deaths, sometimes not as quick as they would wish, lingering in the heat for days before finally succombing, and an end to their suffering.

Sir Roger de Puleston (died 1293)

He was one of my early Puleston ancestors. Originally from Shropshire, the Puleston family were given lands in Flintshire, Wales, in the 13th century. Emeral Hall’s first Puleston occupant was Sir Roger’s son, Richard who was knighted and became the sheriff of Caernarvon at the same time as his father was created the sheriff of Anglesey, 1277. In 1293 Edward I needed more money to fund his war efforts and ordered Sir Roger to collect taxes from the Welsh. As Edward often waged war with the Welsh, Scots and the French he probably needed quite a bit.

As you can imagine this didn’t go down too well and resulted in an uprising led by Madog ap Llywelyn. Unfortunately Sir Roger was captured by the Welsh and hanged and then beheaded by the mob. It’s not certain if he was still alive after his hanging but it must have been a gruesome death to witness and certainly not quick. It’s not known whether Edward I got his funds in the end but I doubt very much if he got it that year.

Mabel de Belleme (died 2 Dec. 1079)

A daughter of William I Tavlas, she had a history of being a conivening murderess and gave birth to one of history’s monsters, Robert de Belleme, not one of my favourable of ancestors. She successfully poisoned Arnold of Echauffour (she wanted his lands) on her second attempt. The first disasterously killed her brother-in-law, who grapped the poisoned wine by mistake feeling parched after a hunt. Mabel married Roger the II Earl of Montgomery and had ten children. Her demise has been recorded as an act of revenge by Hugh Bunel, his lands having been taken from him by Mabel and her army in 1077. Two years later, Hugh, with the help of his brothers sneaked into Mabel’s castle and confronted her in her bed chamber and cut off her head with his sword. Hugh and his brothers managed to flee and succesfully escape Mabel’s pursuing soldiers.

Orderic describes her as “small, very talkative, ready enough to do evil, shrewd and jocular, extremely cruel and daring.” Yes, she  sounded like a person who was in dire need of urgent therapy.

Robert Marmion (died circa 1143)

There were a succession of Robert Marmions, the first having helped William the Conqueror at Hastings and subsequentially received land in Warwickshire and Lincolnshire. Back in the days when William was only the Duke of Normandy, the Marmion family held the office of the Champions of Normandy, a hereditary honour which they continued to hold during the Norman period of England’s history.

“…and after the conquest, Robert de Marmion held the castle and manor of Tamworth in Warwickshire and Scivelsby in Lincolnshire by the tenure of performing that office at the King’s coronation; being bound ‘to ride completely armed upon a barbed horse into Westminster Hall, and there to challenge the combat with whomsoever should dare to oppose the King’s title to the crown'” [The Battle Abbey Roll, Duchess of Cleveland (1889).

A performance such as this would pep up any old boring coronation!

Robert’s son, also named Robert, apparently had not learned an important lesson from his father. The elder Robert forcibly removed the nuns from the Abbey of Polesworth and within a year experienced a visitation from Saint Edith, dressed as a nun, who struck him with a crosier and told him he would be heading to the depths of Hell if he didn’t confess to his sin. The wound was not healing and giving him such pain that he not only fessed up to what he’d done but also put the nuns back in their rightful place.

“He went in person to crave their pardon, desiring that himself, and his friend Sir Walter, might be reputed their patrons, and have burial for themselves and their heirs in the Abbey – the Marmions in the chapter-house, the Sommervilles in the cloister” [Duchess of Cleveland, 1889]

Robert the younger also seemed to enjoy chucking religious staff out of their own homes, this time the monks at a Priory near Coventry. This angered the Earl of Chester (which one I’m not sure, but another ancestor of mine nonetheless) who was in the middle of a feud with the Marmions, and besides, the Earl owned a castle in Coventry so I suppose he felt a bit threatned. No wonder he got mad with him.  Sounds like Robert delibrately irked the Earl’s anger in a tit-for-tat sort of way. After capturing the Priory Robert fortified it and further protected it by having ditches dug and concealed, to trap any oncoming invaders presumably the Earl’s forces being the most likely candidates. But his downfall was sealed by his own stupidity and a lack of a map indicating the locations of his carefully hidden ditch traps. Whilst out reconnoitring the approaching Earl, Robert fell into one of his own ditches, breaking his thigh in the process. Unable to move, he was forced to wait for his own death which was handed to him by “a common soldier presently seizing him [and] cut off his head” [The Dominant and Extinct baronage of England: or An Historical and Genealogical Account of the Lives, Public Employments and most Memorable Actions of the English Nobility, who have flourished from the Norman Conquest to the year 1806, Thomas Christopher Banks, Vol. 1, 1807].

Maude de St. Valery

Of the four examples I have chosen, I think I have saved the most gruesome and certainly the most cruel of deaths for last. Maude was a daughter of Bernard de St. Valery and Matilda and was born around 1155. Sometime around 1166, Maude married William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber, son of William de Braose, 3rd Lord of Bramber and Bertha of Hereford de Pitres. He also held the lordships of Gower, Hay, Brecon, Radnor, Builth, Abergavenny, Kington, Painscastle, Skenfrith, Grosmont, White Castle and Briouze in Normandy. When King John of England ascended the throne in 1199, he became a court favourite and was also awarded the lordship of Limerick, Ireland. Maud had a marriage portion, Tetbury from her father’s estate. So, Maud married a pretty affluent gentleman with many estates and properties. Being a favourite of the King was just the icing on the cake.

However, we all know how psychologically disturbed King John was and it wasn’t long before things turned sour between the Braoses and the one nicknamed ‘Lackland’. The historian Ralph Turner depicted John as a man in possession of dangerous personality traits, citing spitefulness and cruelty among them,_King_of_England  

Maude was often called upon to help her husband to defend his properties. For three weeks in 1198 she defended Painscastle in Powys against the Welsh until English reinforcements arrived. From then on, the castle was refered to as Matilda’s Castle.

The reason why King John became her enemy is not certain but it could be that William de Braose owed him money, which led to John demanding that Maude’s son William be held as hostage. Monarchs all over Europe tended to do this in order to get what they want, and as proof of loyalty from their subjects. Maude refused this demand saying, in public, that she would not send her son to a man who had his nephew killed. There has been a suggestion that John had his nephew, Arthur, son of John’s elder brother Geoffrey, secretly killed so that he would remain the only heir to the throne of England after his other brother Richard. Of course Richard died in 1199 when a stray arrow from atop a French castle mortally struck him.

From this time on, Maude and her family were fugitives. She fled with her son William to Ireland for refuge, but eventually John’s forces captured them and imprisoned them, first at Windsor Castle, then Corfe Castle in Dorset. It was here that both Maude and her teenage son were walled in and condemned to die of starvation.

A bit of a morbid post this week but how a person dies is sometimes as fascinating as how they lived. Heroic deaths must be celebrated because they are actioned by the virtues of bravery, valor and the pursuit of a common good, a sacrifice perhaps stemming from a solid belief in freedom. But these weren’t heroic in any form. Three out of the four were cruel, slow and helpless deaths, and perhaps only Mabel de Belleme actually deserved what she got. The only one of the four that meted out a punishment that was justified for the crimes she committed during her lifetime.

From my notes

A few years  ago I visited the Suffolk Record Office at Ipswich and recorded these entries. I was looking up the Cracknell name, which you’ll see is the most prominent. 

Some Redlingfield Marriages

19th Oct. 1760 – George Whiting (single man) and Mary Cracknell (single woman), both of this parish. Married by me, Thomas Howes (curate) and in the presence of John Baines and John Markham.

27th Jul. 1773 – John Cracknell (bat.) and Ann Playford (spin.), both of this parish.

6th Sept. 1787 – John Johnson (of the parish of Occold), single man, and Mary Cracknell, spin., of this parish. Married in the presence of Thomas Cracknell and Sarah Goodman/Goodmans

14th Oct. 1799 – George Cracknell (of the parish of Creeting All Saints) and Annie Moore, of this parish. Married in the presence of Joshua Cracknell and Edward Platford/Playford.

2nd Dec. 1800 – Benjamin Cracknell (bat.) and Mary Catterpool (spin.), both of this parish. Married in the presence of William Catterpool and Edward Turnish.

6th Jan. 1807 – Oliver Howes (batchelor) and Mary Cracknell (spinster), both of this parish. Married in the presence of Simon Howes and Ann Wetton.

Some Redlingfield Baptisms

25th Mar. 1763 – Benjamin, son of Thomas Cracknell and Mary his wife.

21st Feb. 1802 – Alice, daughter of Benjamin Cracknell and Mary his wife.         Privately baptised.

24th Nov. 1807 – Charles (born 1803), son of Benjamin Cracknell and Mary Cracknell. Privately baptised.

24th Nov. 1807 – Benjamin (born 1805), son of Benjamin and Mary Cracknell. Privately baptised.

24th Nov. 1807 – John (born 1805), son of Benjamin and Mary Cracknell. Privately baptised.

11th Feb. 1810 – Elizabeth, daughter of Benjamin and Mary Cracknell.

Then these words are written.

When this you see remember me for I have lived here for many a day. Charles Cracknell wrote this the 31st day of January 1819 Redlingfield.

7th Jul. 1752 – John, son of Thomas and Mary Cracknell.

5th Jul. 1754 – Thomas, son of Thomas and Mary Cracknell.

3rd Nov. 1754 – Thomas, son of Thomas and Mary Cracknell.

9th Apr. 1756 – Richard, son of Thomas Cracknell and his wife.

24th Sep. 1758 – Charles, son of Thomas and Mary Cracknell

25th Mar. 1763 – Benjamin, son of Thomas and Mary Cracknell

1st Apr. 1767 – Mary, daughter of Benjamin and Mary Cracknell.

29th Apr. 1777 – Mary, daughter of John and Mary Cracknell.

10th Sep. 1782 – Thomas, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Cracknell.

20th Feb. 1783 – Mary, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Cracknell.

30th May 1784 – Richard, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Cracknell.

2nd Jul. (born) 1786 – John, son of George and Rebeckah Cracknell (nee Bales).

1st Jun. (born) 1788 – George, son of George and Rebeckah Cracknell (nee Bales).

7th Nov. 1790 – Thomas, son of George and Rebeckah Cracknell (nee Bales).

1st Jul. 1795 –  Lettice, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Cracknell.

21st Feb. 1802 – Alice, daughter of Benjamin and Mary Cracknell.

3rd May 1807 – Mary Ann, daughter of Oliver and Mary Howes.

20th Nov. 1808 – Lucy, daughter of Oliver and Mary Howes.

11th Sep. 1810 – Henry, son of Oliver and Mary Howes.

2nd Jun. 1811 – Robert, son of Oliver and Mary Howes.

Some Redlingfield Burials

20th Jul. 1800 – John Cracknell

31st Jun. 1808 – Mary Cracknell, aged 73.

29th Dec. 1809 – Thomas Cracknell, aged 55.

4th Aug. 1810 – Mary Cracknell, aged 33.