Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Food Prohibitions During Lent

I recently came across an interesting and unexpected note in the Plympton St. Mary parish BMD register. It was penned by the vicar in 1660 and had to do with a prohibition against eating meat during lent and read:
Whereas I sertainly know that Alice Parker
the wife of Edmond Parker Esq. of Burington
in the pish of Plympton St. Marie is under such
a distemper of bodie that she is not fitt to eat any salt
flesh or fish whatsoever therefore I think it fit as
Minister of the said pish to licence hir to eat flesh
during the time of hir sickness according to the laws
and statutes of this Realme made in that Behalfe
Given under my hand – March the 4th 1660

Simon ?
Note from Plympton St. Mary parish baptism register #414/1
The rules concerning what could be eaten during Lent originated with the Roman Catholic Church. And they came out of the practice of fasting by the Jews in ancient times. The types of banned foods changed over the years with considerable diversity in the practice in different parts of the world. Commonly, meat, dairy products, oil and wine were forbidden.

In Britain, the laws were retained even after the Reformation. Enforcement waxed and waned as the monarchy itself shifted from Protestant to Roman Catholic and back again. Forbidding the eating of flesh was not done altogether for religious reasons. Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603) issued a number of edicts, mostly to support English food-producing activities. She was instrumental in the establishment of meat-free Fridays, a move done to protect the fishing industry. In 1562, Wednesday was added to the days for eating only fish. Charles II (1630-1685), in 1660, issued a proclamation “for restraint of killing, dressing, and eating of flesh in lent or on fish-days appointed by the law to be observed”. James II (1633-1701), a Catholic, reinforced the rule of eating no meat in 1687. After the Glorious Revolution, which brought Protestants, William and Mary to power in England, the laws were basically ignored. They were finally repealed in 1863. And excellent article on the subject appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of March 9, 1935 and can be read online here.

Individuals could seek relief from the laws about which foods could be consumed from the ecclesiastical authorities. This was generally done for reasons of health and with the support of a physician. That seems to be the case for Alice Parker in Plympton St. Mary. Her delicate condition obviously gave her serious problems with the consumption of certain types of foods and she was forgiven for eating any of them by the local minister. As an aside, Alice and “the Right Worshipful Edmond Parker Esquire” had seven children baptized in the parish. She was buried on April 11, 1664. The cause of her death was not listed.

Notes of this nature are not found often in old parish records, especially in BMD registers. So finding this one while browsing through, and transcribing the information was a surprise. On further investigation, it turned out to have some historical significance as well.

The image reproduced here is used with the kind permission of the rightsholder, Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, 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, 20 January 2015

I Met a New Cousin in 2014

I don’t have a family tree on Ancestry but I use the website, and the trees there to find information. As I pointed out in my post about my experience with MyHeritage, there is lots to be gained from having your family tree on a public website, although I have just not got around to doing it myself yet.

Lots of trees have unsupported information and many are just exercises in adding names without firm or even reasonable connections with families. I complained about this in another post about looking for my great-grandfather, Asa McDaniel.

Notwithstanding the problems of online trees it is often possible to make connections with real family members. I was fortunate last year in doing just that through my Ancestry searches.

I regularly look for Shepheard families in hope of finding new information on my English roots and to meet cousins who are also looking at the same people. Many of the people I end up contacting are only indirectly related to my family, mainly having direct ancestors who may have married into the Shepheard line. That’s not a bad thing because, in looking at those other branches, they may have different sources of data and different expertise.

One such gentleman I contacted on Ancestry (I won’t use last names here as many people I will mention are still living and their privacy is important) was looking at information about the families of his wife’s ancestors, including one person that had married a Shepheard. In this case, a daughter of the 4th great-grandfather of John’s wife was herself the 2nd great-grandmother of the man, Leslie, who had married Margery Teresa, the daughter of my great-grandfather’s brother, John. Margery was my 1st cousin, twice removed. OK, so that’s really very confusing. But the important part is that this researcher knew a bit more about Leslie's family and that offered another avenue into information about my direct line.

John had found that Leslie and Margery had three sons, Roger, David and Peter. I, too, had figured that out from birth records on FreeBMD. The index for this time period is very helpful as it shows the maiden name of the mother. I knew that Margery had two brothers, Alfred Harry and Wilfrid Jack, and that Wilfrid had a daughter named Pauline. I had traced the parents of these individuals, who all lived in the London region, from our common ancestors in Devon. I had a few photos of some of them that had belonged to my great-grandfather, although I was not entirely sure of who was who in the pictures because not all of the notes on them were complete.

I knew quite a bit about my 1st cousins (twice removed) but really wanted to find their children and grandchildren, if there were any, especially any that might still be alive. But I was stymied at this point as I could not trace them past the 1911 England census and likely marriages and deaths for them, again found on FreeBMD. John and I thought there was a reasonable chance that children of Alfred Harry, Wilfrid Jack and Margery Teresa could still be alive as they were all born in the 1930s.

Both John and I had tried to contact one of the Ancestry tree-owners in 2013, who we believed was related to Leslie and Margery but neither of us got a response. After comparing notes we both thought this individual might be Margery's son, David.

John had found who he thought were David and his wife on a UK electoral register list for 2002-2013 (also on Ancestry), living in Kent. All of the names for the family shown on the list appeared to match information we had found from other sources so we thought this lead was worth pursuing. I decided to write to the Kent address and see. The only thing I could lose would be the cost of postage if this was not the right family.

The letter went off in August 2014. I included information about who I was and how I thought we were related. I put my full postal address and my email address in the letter to make any response easier. In September I received an email from David’s wife, Marian. She confirmed that David was indeed Margery’s son, my 2nd cousin, once removed. David had passed away around 2009 which explains why we had not been able to make any contact with the Ancestry tree-owner, even though the tree was still visible online. His two brothers had died some time earlier so there were now fewer direct-line cousins that I could meet.

Pauline, however, is still around. She married in 1959 and is living in Derbyshire. Marian contacted her by telephone and asked if she would mind hearing from me. Pauline was very surprised to hear from a Canadian cousin and very open to corresponding. She is not “connected” so I sent another letter off to her right away. Shortly afterward, I also had an email from the widow (Liz) of one of David’s brothers, Peter. Peter had passed away as well, in 2000. Marian has also called Liz to let her know of my interest. Marian and Liz were able to provide me with quite a bit of information on both their families and on Pauline. All of a sudden I had the names and addresses of several more family members and an opportunity to learn more about the branch that had moved from Devon to London around 1900.

After a number of years of searching for and wondering about them, I could now correspond directly with cousins who share the same ancestry as me. I sent Pauline copies of the photos that had come down to me from my great-grandfather. As it happened the names I had on some of them were wrong and she was able to set me straight. One of them is shown below, taken at the 1928 wedding of Margery and Leslie. The family called her Midge which I was delighted to hear because I had another photo in the collection with only the name Midge written on the back. Thanks to Pauline I now had that one identified.
1928 wedding photo for Leslie and Margery Teresa. Margery’s brother, Wiflrid, second from left, was the best man. Her parents are immediately to the right of her, both wearing glasses.
My great-grandfather stayed in touch with his family back in England after he emigrated to Canada in1913. He had photos of many of them taken right up into the mid-1930s. Thanks to a family tree posted on Ancestry and some sleuthing of mine and of John’s I was able to track down my cousins and begin to catch up on our own family histories. It was especially delightful to finally meet, at least by letter, the little girl in the photo below that I had wondered about for so long.
Photo of my cousins taken about 1935: Alfred Harry and Wilfrid Jack; Wilfrid’s wife, Florence; 
and little Pauline
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, 13 January 2015

Don’t Forget About Those Half-Brothers and Sisters

Probably every genealogist, at some point in their research, has found a mixed or blended family in their tree (definition: a family that includes children of a previous marriage of one spouse or both). Such events may have come about with the death of one spouse, through divorce and remarriage of one or both spouses, bigamy or illegitimate births.

Many of the second unions of spouses, while perfectly legal, may not have been recognized by church authorities – such as the remarriage of a man to his deceased wife’s sister, or a woman to her dead husband’s brother – so the records of such unions and additional offspring may be confused. I noted such a case in my post of September 15, 2013 in discussing the marriage of Thomas Mackenney to his deceased wife’s sister, Elizabeth Nicholls.

Formal adoption was not legally defined until the mid-19th century in the United States and well into the 20th century in England. In the modern era, the first laws concerning adoption were passed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in the United States, in 1851, codifying what was considered to be in the best interests of the child. Other constituencies and countries followed over subsequent decades. England was one of the last major countries to enact laws concerning adoption with the passage of the Adoption of Children Act 1926.

Notwithstanding the absence of legislation, tragic circumstances often resulted in family members taking in, and raising children of deceased siblings, with the children even ending up using the names of their adoptive parents. A few kept their birth names but then reverted to the surname of their step-father, or at least that is what they appeared to do. I wrote about one possible example in my post of February 4, 2014. Such changes in names can confound and confuse those researching the history of their family but these are not true mixed or blended families.

In many generations of my own family, there were family members who shared only one parent with their siblings or, in some cases, were not even related by blood to their “parents”. One of my great-grandmothers had a daughter from her first marriage, before she married my great-grandfather. My father considered her his aunt in the same way he thought of her half-siblings, the natural daughters of both of his grandparents. I have found similar circumstance in the many Devon families I have investigated as an Online Parish Clerk.

There are also cases where a member of a family may suffer from a disability and, even as an adult, he or she may require care from relatives. Many times those caregivers were not immediate family.
1901 England census showing disabled Richard Shepherd (my 2nd cousin, 4x removed) living with the family of his niece. Mary Northmore was Richard’s sister, also being cared for by her daughter’s family. Richard lived a long life but never worked. (image courtesy of The National Archives, copyright-holder)
The study of family history implies that we look at all members of a family, the primary definition of which, according to my Concise Oxford Dictionary, is “members of a household, parents, children, servants, etc.; set of parents and children, or of relations, living together or not . . .; person’s children.” There is no mention there that there necessarily has to be a consanguineous relationship.

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.