Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Finding My 3rd Great-Grandmother’s Maiden Name

For a long time I wondered what the maiden name of my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary PEARSON was.

Census records showed that she was born in Ashow, Warwickshire. The 1851 and 1861 censuses indicated her birth year was 1800; the 1841 and 1871 censuses said 1801. The 1881 census, however, said her birthday was in 1796. At least I had a place of birth, if not an exact date.

I had a document that came from my grandfather, showing accounting records for property she had owned in Leamington Priors. It was a summary of the income and expenses of her estate, dated March 1896. So I knew she had died before then. I did not find her on the 1891 census which seemed to narrow down her death as happening before that year.

A search of the death index from FreeBMD resulted in a couple of possibilities for her death, one in 1882 and one in 1884. Wouldn’t you know it – I ordered the wrong certificate from the General Record Office to start with. When the probate records finally came online on Ancestry, I was able to confirm that Mary had died in 1884 and ordered the real death certificate. That document showed she was aged 81 at the time of her death, putting her birth year as 1803.

1885 probate calendar entry for Mary PEARSON (downloaded from Ancestry; source Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England)
1884 death certificate for Mary PEARSON of Leamington, Warwickshire (acquired form the General Record Office of England and Wales)
But I was not satisfied that I still had the right information about Mary. The death record, official as it was, still did not fit the census data. The informant for the death was Mary’s granddaughter and I wondered if she really knew how old her grandmother was. None of this was helping me determine what Mary’s maiden name was.

Working from the 1851 Census I found that Thomas (age 51) and Mary (age 51) PEARSON were living in Leamington with their son, Charles (age 22), and an aunt, Mary JONES (age 78), a widow. Although the aunt was indicated as being an aunt of the head of the household (Thomas), she was actually born in Ashow, as was Mary PEARSON, suggesting that it was the two women who were related directly. That being the case I might have assumed that Mary PEARSON's mother's name would be something other than Mary if this older Mary was a sister of her mother. Of course, she could equally be the sister of Mary’s father so I tread carefully in trying to track down the both of them.

1851 census record for Thomas and Mary PEARSON (downloaded from Ancestry July 2nd, 2007; source Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851, Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK)
A search of marriages for Thomas PEARSON and a Mary between 1820 and 1830, in Warwick, turned up only three, two of which were most likely: Mary SMITH on October 23rd, 1823, in Solihull and Mary CARE on April 16th, 1828, in Saint Phillips, Birmingham. Solihull is very near Sheldon where Thomas was born and the surname of SMITH seemed right as well as you will see below.

1823 marriage entry in Solihull, Warwickshire parish marriage register for Thomas PEARSON and Mary SMITH (downloaded from Ancesty on April 21st, 2015; source Warwickshire Anglican Registers, Warwick, England: Warwickshire County Record Office) Witnesses may have been Thomas’ brother and sister-in-law.
I contacted Susan Tall, the Online Parish Clerk for Ashow, to see if see could find more information about baptisms for a girl named Mary, baptized in Ashow around 1800. She mentioned that, according to her records, a daughter of Joseph and Mary SMITH was baptized August 6th, 1797.

1797 entries for burial of Joseph SMITH and baptism of ? SMITH, in Ashow, Warwickshire parish register (downloaded from Ancestry on October 22nd, 2011; source Warwickshire Anglican Registers. Warwick, England: Warwickshire County Record Office)
I looked up on IGI all of the girls named Mary baptized between 1798 and 1802 and found Mary SMITH's parents to be Joseph and Ann, not Mary. So my first question was: Did the microfiche records of the church registers show Mary or Ann SMITH as the mother? In a later message from Susan Tall, she told me, "Well today I was allowed to look at the originals – and what a mess they are – all loose pages as the register had completely disintegrated. And each page is very fragile (can understand now why they won't let the general public use them). But when I turned to 1797 someone had straightened the edge of the page out (it was just folded over) and there as clear as clear was Mary daughter of Joseph and Ann Smith baptised August 6th, 1797. Just one note – I see there is a Joseph Smith baptised March 13th, 1747 at Ashow on the IGI – could well be the father of Mary Smith (1797). However I also noticed on the microfilm the burial of a Joseph Smith on April 27th, 1797. If this is him he died before Mary was baptised."

1797 baptism entry for Mary Smith (shown after edge of page folded down from photo of page sent to me by Susan Tall)
Then I looked for a marriage for Joseph SMITH in the area around Ashow. I found an Ann SPRASON married a Joseph SMITH on October 11th, 1796 in Offchurch. The marriage was also recorded in Milverton on the same day. Both locations are very close to Ashow.

I looked up all of the girls named Mary – the possible sister of Ann shown on the 1851 census – baptized in Ashow between 1771 and 1775 and found only four: Mary TURNER, Mary HODGINS, Mary SPRAWSON and Mary BILLINGTON. I then looked to see if any of them had married a JONES. None had directly but Mary SPRAWSON married John SALMON in Claverdon on January 2nd, 1806 and then Mary SALMON, a widow, married William JONES, also in Claverdon on September 9th, 1810.

The surname SPRAWSON is very like the surname of Ann SPRASON and it would not surprise me to see that one or both of them were mis-transcribed on IGI or are variants of the same surname. The IGI shows four children with parents of John and Mary SPRAWSON including an Ann baptized in 1769 and a Mary baptized in 1772. So those fit. Others were John, 1775 and Thomas, 1778. All of this data was confirmed later when I was able to see the actual register entries on Ancestry.

After all of the round-about searches I could confidently say that this 3rd great-grandmother’s maiden name was SMITH.

Ann SMITH did end up remarrying, to a John SHARP, in Ashow, on October 14th, 1799. The record shows she was a widow then, seeming to confirm that the Joseph SMITH buried in 1797 was my 4th great-grandfather.

The story and conclusions all hinge, of course, on the relationship of Mary PEARSON and Mary JONES on the 1851 census, and on the entry for the unknown female SMITH child in 1797. I like the answers I came up with. Thank goodness for relatives living with other relatives and Online Parish Clerks like me.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Growing up With Cousins

My father’s extended family was very close. Twelve cousins, born within 11 years of each other, grew up together. They played with each other, at least in groups of similar ages. They went to school in the same country classrooms, again for the most part. One of each of their parents were siblings, all of whom had arrived in Alberta together around 1910-11. Two other cousins were born much later, one in 1925 and one in 1935. While much loved, they were not as close as those first dozen.

My great-grandparents, Newton and Margaret Thompson, had six children together between 1885 and 1902. Margaret had another daughter from a first marriage. All the children were born in North Dakota. Two infants died, one in 1892 and one in 1902. The rest grew up in a very close family. The oldest three married in North Dakota, the youngest two in Alberta.
Children of Newton and Margaret Thompson – left to right: Mae, Maud, Carrie, Charlie, Ethel – ca 1925
When Newton and Margaret Thompson decided, in 1909, to come to Canada, to take advantage of the homesteading opportunities, all of their children were on board with the idea as well. He bought two sections of land from the Canadian Pacific Railway near Keoma, Alberta. Charlie, Carrie and Mae came up with Margaret in 1910. Maud and Ethel followed, with their new husbands, by 1911. All the families participated in farming of the original two sections of land, later acquiring other close-by farms in the area where they raised their families.

Isaac Newton Thompson (1859-1937) & Margaret Mary Anderson (1857-1919)
The Children
Mary Maud
Alice Ethel
Carrie Jane
Elizabeth Mae
The Cousins
Margaret Carrie (1909-1933)
Isaac Charles (1912-1974)
Lloyd Willis (1912-1974)
William Calvin (1914-1983)
Robert Newton (1919-1967)
Elizabeth Victoria 
Irven Palmer (1913-2000)
Hazel Jean (1916-2011)
Edward Newton 

Albert Lester (1916-1999)
Bernice Margaret 

Marion Elizabeth (1919-1919)

Mary May

Evelyn Ethel (1926-1926)


Ethel Mae
(1935-   )

Two children of Newton and Margaret died as infants: Florence (1892) and Eveline (1902)

Growing up I always knew my dad had these cousins, but I really never figured out their real relationships and how close they all were to each other, until I started on my own family history research journey.

The families all lived very close to each other in the Keoma-Irricana-Kathyrn (KIK) area so there were ample opportunities for them to socialize and for their children to get to know each other well. And they did that whenever possible. Grandma and Grandpa Thompson were their to oversee the little ones on many occasions, living as they did, near the centre of their children’s farms.
Grandma Margaret Thompson with Lloyd and Ike at the Thompson Keoma house in 1913
Margaret (back), Lloyd, Ike and Elizabeth at the Thompson Keoma house in 1913
As I indicated, the cousins grew up together – played together, went to school together, visited with each other at family gatherings, attended community social events together – in other words, became close friends. Hazel, one of my father’s cousins, actually introduced him to my mother. And another cousin, Albert, was the best man at their wedding. Mom's maid of honour, Virginia, was the wife of Dad’s brother. I believe that every cousin who still lived in the KIK area, as well as a few who travelled from elsewhere, was at their wedding and can be seen in the wedding party photograph I published in my blog post of October 7, 2014. I might have a difficult time actually pointing each of them out, though.
Eight cousins at a family gatherings in 1926 – left to right: Bill, Irven, Ted, Lloyd, Elizabeth, Bernice, Ike and Hazel 
I think that the KIK community in which the cousins grew up might have been much like the old parishes in Devon, England where my Shepheard ancestors lived. The church(es) were central to the social events; family interactions were common and important; cousins grew up together and knew each other well. I even have one example of first cousins marrying each other – John Shepheard and Jane Treby Shepheard tied the knot in 1791, in Cornwood parish, Devon.

Almost all of that group of cousins are gone now. We remember them through recorded stories and photographs. The generation following did not have the opportunity or luxury of getting to know their cousins quite as well. As with many communities, after the children grew up they went their separate ways, many moving to faraway places. Rarely did they ever get a chance to get together as a group without travelling some distance. 
Children, with spouses, and grandchildren of Jimmy and Carrie Shepheard at Campbell River, British Columbia in 1956
Cousins of my generation are only occasionally in contact with each other. Time and space have more or less permanently separated us. Among the next generation, there is even more distance. The opportunities to visit even their first cousins, let alone participate in broader family events, practically never present themselves.
Children, with spouses, and grandchildren of Bill and Norma Shepheard gathered in Sherwood Park, Alberta in 1981

We take those kinds of visits for granted now but they were, and are still an important part of growing up and being reminded of who you are and where you come from. 

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Origin of Easter Eggs

OK, so Easter is over now, the bunny is gone and all you have left are some eggs. But how did eggs get associated with Easter?

For the answer you have to go back to the early rules of the Catholic Church, in particular those surrounding the period of Lent. I wrote about some of the prohibition of eating certain foods in the lead-up to Easter in my blog post of January 27, 2015. Religious laws of both the Catholic and Protestant churches actually came out of older Jewish practices. Eating flesh or meat products was particularly forbidden during certain days although, in England in the 16th and 17th centuries this had more to do with protecting the fishing industry than religious reasons.

At any rate, other products, such as eggs and milk were also on the list of foods to be avoided because they came from animals whose flesh was also eaten. This put the farmers in a bit of a bind because they could not stop the chickens from laying eggs and, with no one to eat them, the stockpile grew.

Finally at Easter, with eating prohibitions lifted, poultry owners could distribute the eggs. With so many in abundance by that time, the price would have dropped significantly. The answer was to just give them away, quickly, while they were still reasonably fresh and edible. And so the tradition was established!

How they got to be coloured is a whole other story which you can read about here and here and here. And that Easter Bunny? Check him out, along with the eggs, here and here.
Picture uploaded from Pinterest.
 Hope you had a Happy Easter!

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.