On the Internet – March 2022March 23, 2022
On the Internet – September 2022October 15, 2022
While the 1921 census continues to reveal new stories and situations, this article begins with some other interesting data that has become available recently.
If you have family that lived in China, you will be interested in China Families (https://www.chinafamilies.net/), which has a local connection. The site is directed by Professor Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol, and the site is hosted by the University. Professor Bickers is a historian of modern China, and it is good to see further evidence of academics and institutions acknowledging the interests of family historians and their contribution to our understanding of the world. The website currently lists 60,000 names, and although much of the information is limited at present there is scope for adding more information as it becomes available.
For those looking for family members born overseas whose father was in the armed services, then Ancestry has a dataset UK, Military Records of Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages and Burials 1813-1957. There are over 38,000 records in this collection, but I was unable to find the baptism of my wife’s brother who was born in Singapore in 1949 and was baptised in the military chapel there. Other records I hoped to find were also missing, so this appears to be one of those sets of records which may offer the information you need, but cannot be relied upon.
From China and the British Empire to Portishead. The memorial inscriptions at St Peter’s Church, Portishead, have been transcribed, and are available at https://graveyarddb.z33.web.core.windows.net/. The work is comprehensive, as it lists memorials in both the churchyard and the interior of the church, and older records have been used where memorials are no longer legible. There are maps and photographs, and memorials have been transcribed in detail and photographed. Congratulations and thanks to those involved in the project.
Back in February, I contacted Sarah who had posted information on the BAFHS Facebook page about Captain Joseph Charles Newton, who was born in Bristol but died in Australia. A previous post by Tanya Magro who runs the Friends of Epping Cemetery Facebook page in Victoria, Australia had asked about Captain Newton and Sarah, whose mother is a BAFHS member, took on the task of researching him.
You can see the results of her research at https://ghostofthedoll.co.uk/tracingghosts/captain-joseph-charles-newton-of-bristol-australia/. It is a fascinating example of the very thorough international research one can do, using online sources, as well as a good story. The webpage includes maps and press cuttings, as well as the usual parish and census records. As is not uncommon, the background of Joseph Newton was not the same as that recorded in Australia. Sarah has done similar research on other people in Bristol and Bath and these are also on the website.
The 1921 census on Findmypast continues to reveal unexpected details. Two of my great-aunts who, as far as I was aware, spent all of their lives in Bournemouth were actually living away. One was in domestic service in Cheshire, while the other was a housemaid at King’s School, Bruton. An interesting fact missing from other censuses is the name of an employer, although these are sometimes hard to decipher, since one has little to go on. My recent searches also revealed a sad story involving Albert Lawrence, my grandfather’s cousin.
The 1921 census showed Albert living in Bournemouth with his mother and two unmarried sisters. However, I knew that he was married, and that the second child had been born in March 1921. A further search showed his wife and children living at St Thomas Lodge, also in Bournemouth, with the families described as inmates. A quick Google search found some modern photos of a large detached house, and the following brief description by Alwyn Ladell, who has posted many old photos of Bournemouth on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/). “St Thomas Lodge (then number 6 Charminster Road) became the Bournemouth Refuge, a hostel run by the Church of England Diocese of Winchester for women who had fallen foul of society in one way or another (WW1 accelerated the evolution of society’s moral judgement and put women in hitherto unusual roles). It was administered by a panel and supported by local churches.” The Bournemouth Guardian for 31st December 1921, available on the British Newspaper Archive, reports that his wife later summoned her husband for desertion, and contains a lot of detail about their falling out and his order to pay 30 shillings a week maintenance. By this time, he had lost his job as a bus driver with the recently established Hants & Dorset company “through driving his bus about with a woman beside him”. Further research in the local newspapers showed that the Superintendent of the home was occasionally asked by the magistrates to report on the home circumstances of those before the court.
St Thomas Lodge is listed in Peter Higginbotham’s useful website about children’s homes at www.childrenshomes.org.uk, but in this case much more information could be found by searching the British Newspaper Archive. There are other times when you can use it to find things not available in the usual records. I have recently been researching Peter Maze, a wealthy Bristol merchant of the early nineteenth century. He was of French origin, and the Bristol Mirror of 12th January 1828 reported the death of his mother in Normandy. This is the most easily accessible source of information about Peter Maze’s origins.
The death of his son James Maze in a climbing accident in Egypt in 1831 was reported in The Chester Courant and The Hull Packet, showing that it is best not to limit your searches too much. The British Newspaper Archive recently announced that it now has 50 million pages available, and something there is bound to refer to a member of your family.
It is well known that transcription errors in the 1921 census are quite common because of the way the work was done to ensure confidentiality, but if there is someone you cannot find it is possible that they were in Scotland, and the 1921 census records for Scotland will not be released until later in 2022. An alternative source is the electoral register, which does not have the detail of the census but at least indicates where people were living. Both Ancestry and Findmypast have files of electoral registers, but dates and places covered vary. For example, Ancestry has registers for Gloucestershire, but I cannot find the Bristol registers online. Another source for addresses is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Details of the next of kin of the deceased are often given, although it is unclear when the details were compiled. Similarly, medal cards and lists of a deceased soldier’s personal effects may include the addresses of the next of kin.
Historic England have just released over 400,000 aerial photographs which have been digitised. The images can be searched using a map or by entering a place name, and they generally relate to places of historic interest, although more modern houses are sometimes shown. The site is at https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/aerial-photos/, but elsewhere on the same site are other photos of listed buildings, etc taken at ground level. There is scope for adding your own photos and comments.
Finally, two other websites that you may find of interest. Historic Hospitals (https://historic-hospitals.com/) is principally about the architecture of hospitals and the information provided does vary considerably in quantity. It is currently being updated, and contributions are invited, but it is interesting to see how much has changed to buildings like Bristol General Hospital, Glenside, and the Queen Victoria Jubilee Convalescent Home near Blackboy Hill. More recent hospital buildings like Frenchay and Winford are omitted.
Parks and Gardens UK (https://www.parksandgardens.org/) describes itself as “the leading online resource of historic parks and gardens” and is another site asking for contributions to keep it up to date. It has a lot of detail, and includes locations like Northwoods near Winterbourne which was formerly an asylum, and which was the home of Edwin Fydell Fox, who was a collector and hybridiser of British ferns from 1869. He helped to create the ‘finest collection in the British Isles’ at Bristol Zoological Gardens. An astonishing number of sites are shown on the map view, including public open spaces, municipal parks and arboretums that are now largely overgrown.