Was Your Ancestor a Kew Gardener?

FMNHave you discovered a gardener in your family? Perhaps, like me, you have come across one or more ancestors noted in the census records as gardeners, horticulturalists, or nurserymen. Some, like Thomas Gee, learned their trade by serving as apprentices. Others, like my father’s cousin Frank Clarke, may have trained at a horticultural school such as that at Kew Gardens on the outskirts of London, England. If they studied at Kew, there are resources available to help you learn more about their training and later employment. In some cases, you will be able to fill in the gaps between census enumerations.

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On This Day: 4 September 1932 - Death of Walter Clarke

CLARKE Walter with captionEighty-four years ago today, on 4 September 1932, great-uncle Walter Clarke died in Palgrave, Suffolk, England at the age of 71. He was a public-spirited man, and his death was therefore felt not only by family, but by his community as well. The Diss Express for 9 September 1932 carried a report of Uncle Walter’s death that included many details of his public service.

Walter was born in Palgrave in 1861 and trained as a printer-compositor. He worked for Francis Cupiss of Diss, Norfolk, a veterinarian medicines manufacturer who operated several printing presses to create, among other things, labels for his horse and cattle medications.

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Years ago, I took an introductory course in tracing family history that was offered by the Toronto branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. The instructor advised that we should be prepared for the black sheep that would be unearthed during the researching of our family tree. It took some time, but I did eventually find a rather naughty relative in my family tree.

One of my great-great-granduncles was a man named George Howes. He was born about 1816 in West Winch, Norfolk, England. According to the 1841 and 1851 census enumerations, he was an agricultural labourer. Other than that, I knew nothing about George.

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A Fractious Soldier

South Lancashire Regiment with borderWhen Britain entered World War I in August 1914, William Henton was a young man of 23, newly married and with an infant son, living in St. Helens, Lancashire, England. With newspapers publishing appeals to join the armed services, hundreds of thousands of men joined within just a few months, and William was one of them. On 4 September 1914, William joined the ranks of the South Lancashire Regiment, 7th Battalion.

As I read through William’s service record, I was surprised to read that within 5 months of his attestation, having never left the country, he was discharged as medically unfit.

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A Gardener in the Family

Cactus speciosissimus with caption

One of my favourite pastimes is gardening – reading horticultural journals, browsing through seed catalogues, and especially getting my hands dirty. So I was intrigued when I discovered an 1851 census record for my 3xgreat-grandfather, Thomas Gee, that gave his occupation as gardener.

I had a pretty good idea what my farmer, agricultural labourer, and market gardener ancestors did for a living. But Thomas’s occupation, gardener, was a bit vague.

He was born 23 January 1799 in Sutton, Lancashire, England, which is now part of the city of St. Helens. It was an industrial area, and Thomas’s father, John Gee, was a glass blower.

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John Nunn was one of my great-great-great-grandfathers. He was called to a settlement examination in Diss, Norfolk, England on 13 January 1798 before John Frere, Justice of the Peace. He was living in Diss at the time, and must have found himself in financial need, otherwise there would likely not have been an inquiry into his place of settlement.

Thanks to John Frere, the examination record is a small trove of genealogically useful information. He starts by telling us that John Nunn was a linen weaver. The settlement examination record also states that John was 21 years of age and up, and that he was born in Palgrave, Suffolk.

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I wrote in an earlier post about reading through the Guardians’ minutes for the Aylsham Poor Law Union in Norfolk, England. Details of intended marriages were read out at the guardians’ meetings, for marriages which were to take place at either non-conformist churches or registrars’ offices. I have previously posted the intended marriages for 1848, and have now extracted the marriage intentions for 1849-1851. The details are given in the table below.

The marriage intentsions could serve as a useful finding aid – a guide to where to look for a couple’s marriage record. Like marriage banns, though, the reading out of an intended marriage does not necessarily mean that the couple followed through with their marriage, or if they did, it may have taken place somewhere other than the location noted in the guardians’ minutes.

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Benjamin Clarke: Military Funeral

There are many men in my family tree named Benjamin Clarke. The one I’m writing about now is my great-uncle Benjamin, born 25 July 1879 in Palgrave, Suffolk. He was the youngest brother of my paternal grandfather, Hugh James Clarke, who I have written about previously.

When I began researching my family history, I was told that Benjamin had lost a leg in the Boer War. As with many family stories, this one had some truth to it, but was not entirely accurate. Benjamin did serve in the Boer War, and he did lose a leg, but not in the Boer War.

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The Guardians’ minutes books make for a fascinating read, and although their primary purpose was to record the business of the poor law union guardians’ meetings, they also capture genealogically useful information as well.

I have been reading the guardians’ minutes books for the Aylsham poor law union in Norfolk, England, and have extracted the details of intended marriages that were read out at the meetings, all of which were to take place at either non-conformist churches or registrars’ offices. These were read out at 3 consecutive meetings in much the same way that banns would be read out in the parish church for Church of England parishioners.

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Irish Petty Sessions Records

That at Ballinlassa in Co Mayo on 31st Oct 1890 you did wilfully and maliciously throw stones and turnips at the door of complainant’s house at the same time you did throw stones down his chimney.1

Interesting use for turnips, but that’s the charge that was levelled at John and Michael Surdival of Ballinlassa by farmer Michael Molloy at the petty sessions of 28 November 1890 for County Mayo in Ireland. My great-grandfather Patrick Surdival (aka Patrick Sullivan) had younger brothers named John and Michael living at Ballinlassa, so perhaps it was his siblings who had peppered farmer Molloy’s door with turnips.

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