genealogy

Bridget Surdival: From Mayo to Brooklyn

When the White Star Line’s SS Germanic sailed out of Queenstown (now Cobh, Co. Cork), Ireland on 14 April 1898, there were many young Irish men and women aboard, including 19-year-old Bridget Surdival.  The ship was headed for the port of New York, and Bridget was going to join her older sister, Mary, who was living in Brooklyn.

SS_Germanic_c1890-1900 with caption

Bridget was born in 1876 in Balla, Co. Mayo, Ireland, to parents John Surdival and Bridget Reilly. She was the youngest sister of my great-grandfather Patrick Surdival (a.k.a. Patrick Sullivan). Although her name was registered as Biddy, she used the names Bridget, Beatrice, and Beattie.

Continue reading
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.

Continue reading
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.

Continue reading
Never on a Sunday

Have you ever wondered what day of the week your great-grandparents married on? Did our ancestors, like many of us nowadays, favour June weddings? I was curious, so I decided to take a look at the marriages in the parish of some of my ancestors to see what was popular a hundred years ago.

Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, England is a small parish in rural East Anglia. Between 1811 and 1901 its total population fluctuated between a low of 218 and a high of 333. During the time period from 1 January 1753 to 31 December 1900, there was a total of 272 marriages.

Continue reading
Joseph Rowe: Service in Gibraltar and India

Joseph James Rowe was one of my great-grandfather’s younger brothers. He was born and baptised in Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, England, in 1863. By the time he was 18 years old, he was working as an agricultural labourer, still living at home with his family in Baconsthorpe.

Everything else that I know about Joseph comes from his military service records. He joined the Norfolk Regiment at Great Yarmouth on 10 April 1883, when he was about 20 years old, although his age was recorded on his service record at the time as 18 and a half years.

Norfolk Map

I don’t have any photographs of Joseph, but his records help paint a picture of his physical appearance.

Continue reading
Alice Owen's Final Days

In 1939, Alice Owen was 82 years of age, suffering from dementia and myocarditis. She was a widow, her husband, Daniel Owen, having died in St. Helens, Lancashire in 1928. For some time after her husband’s death, although I’m not certain for how long, Alice lived with her single daughter, Mary Owen, and Mary’s son, Joseph Owen, at 57 Cooper Street in St. Helens.

 At 32, Alice’s grandson Joseph earned his living as a general labourer at a local glass bottle manufacturing plant. His mother, Mary, kept house. So it seems that Joe was the sole source of income for the small household, and Mary would have been responsible for caring for her infirm and senile mother.

Continue reading
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.

Continue reading
First World War Resources at Archive.org

Not all service records from WWI survive. Of those that do survive, some are available for free. For example, those for Canada are currently being digitised and placed online by Library and Archives Canada. Fire destroyed some of the service records for the United Kingdom; those that remain are available through subscription websites such as Ancestry and findmypast. Fire was also responsible for the loss of many service records in the United States.

Fortunately, many towns, counties, schools, and companies created biographical directories to honour those who served in WWI. Local libraries often hold some of these in their collections.

Continue reading