Published: November 20th 2010November 20th 2010
Inside York Minster 1
Plenty of stained glass and decorated domes
Yet again it has been a few weeks since we posted. We have had good intentions and I have started out a number of times, only to have the time swallowed up by something else. But I have to admit that a large part of the reason for our slackness is that we really haven't been doing too much of the normal touristing things. That and the fact that a lot of our available writing time is taken up trying to sort out the material that we have gathered on our family history, most of which is not going to be of great interest to others.
First we had better fill in the facts. We are now in Wales. We spent a week or so in Yorkshire, two weeks using a farm in Stafford as a base to travel to points within an hour or two radius, a couple of days in a village near-ish to Preston in Lancashire and a couple of days in Liverpool. The plan is to loop around Wales and then do another loop around the south of England – Cornwall, Devon etc – to be in London on or about 2 December. We will need
Inside York Minster 2
Each area is differently decorated but all are great
to move reasonably quickly and will not be visiting records centres as far as we know.
We leave for the Americas on 9 December. For the Americas there has been one major change in plan. The vehicle that was to have been built up in Normandie to be taken to the Americas and used as our transport and accommodation has fallen through. We may or may not buy a vehicle but, for the early part of the trip at least, we will be on the buses, planes and boats. A disappointment but not a disaster.
Our last post was from Scotland as we were about to leave. We left Scotland in the rain and it hasn't really stopped for long since. They announce 'fine weather breaking out' here. The first time we heard it we thought that was OK. Funny, but OK. We didn't appreciate, though, that they meant that the 'fine weather' would happen just for an hour, or maybe half an hour. Ten minutes even. For us a period of fine weather would last a little bit longer. As they say here though 'there is no bad weather, just poor choice of clothing'.
Inside York Minster 3
Wooden carvings around the stone pillars
English and Scottish cooperate a little and label the main drag north, 'NORTH' and the one going south 'SOUTH'. Following the 'SOUTH' signs we arrived in Yorkshire. We wanted to be close-ish to York where the main records repository for our people is situated. Yorkshire records offices don't cooperate. They have a few spread around the county but there is a repository at the Borthwick Institute at the University of York that has a good collection. We decided it was our starting point and found a pub in the village of Green Hammerton. There are a number of Bay Horse pubs. We obviously found one of the best. Great pub, good room and easy location. The landlord and landlady were friendly, efficient and very capable. A good pick.
My great, great grandfather was born and lived either in or near York until he entered the British Army and was sent to Canada in about 1830. No one tracking this family has ever been too sure where he was born. It is not a matter of finding Simpsons though. Very much the opposite. They bred like rabbits and had clearly been doing so for some time. We didn't find a
This is in the national park near Pickering. Very cold and windy.
birth for William. We do know from his Army record – and his Court Martial report – when he was born. We know from his Death Certificate that his father was Thomas Simpson and his mother Mary Snowdon. Unfortunately there were quite a few Thomas and Marys of breeding age in Yorkshire at the time. When you can't work out which one is the right one, you work out which ones are wrong. This was a reasonably successful strategy but we were hampered and finally stopped by what might be described as inefficient religious organisations.
York Minster has to rate as one of the most impressive churches in the world. A massive building that you really do need to see. Hard not to be impressed by the place. With a place so spectacular and so large in a city that is pretty tightly compressed you do have to wonder why they needed no less than 23 other churches, of the same denomination, all packed into what has to be said is not a particularly large city. Some of these churches are practically next door to each other. Twenty three churches mean 23 parish registers and 23 places where Thomas
and Mary might have had their child William baptised. We were able to knock out those from the villages but we didn't have time to trawl through all of the 23 in town in the time we had available.
York is well worth a visit. Our walking tour was excellent and the guide was well worth a tip – but, clearly not used to such things, took off before I had a chance to hand anything over. The walls around the city are a credit to those who have battled over the years to save them from destruction and, obviously, to the many over the years who built them in their various stages. But, we still give the prize for the best city walls to Chester: they don't have a gap and are wider, making it easier to walk around them.
I suppose I have always had the impression that Yorkshire would be a pretty dour, hard sort of place. This may have its roots in watching Geoff Boycott and John Edrich open for England, taking all day to score less than 100 runs. It is actually an attractive place. Cold. Certainly at this time of the year
York Minster Chapter house roof model
Complex structure used for the first time here
and pretty damp as well but a nice place to move around. We did drop in on Whitby, which has the reputation of a lovely little seaside town. Unfortunately, the 8 pounds we were asked to pay for an hour's parking on the day we visited put us off and that, with the pouring rain and freezing cold kept us moving. The nearby national park was as dour and hard as I had expected but, apart from that, the county that we drove through was certainly livable.
Staffordshire hasn't quite as much going for it as Yorkshire. The place we stayed , though, was very well located for us. The house/apartment was nicely set up and very comfortable. There is a small chance that it would not have been so good in summer. The pig pen about 20 metres away wasn't a problem for us but, in summer with the need to open windows, it may have been a little whiffy.
We drove across or down – not sure which – to Northampton – where the Records Office greeted us like old friends; to Warwick – where another nice little city hosts a very effective and efficient records
On the York city wall
The walkway did not get much wider than this very often
office; to Stafford – yet another nice enough city but without a lot more to recommend it but with a good records office; to Chester – to pick up the USB stick we'd left behind last time and then on to Congleton & Bidduloh to see where some of the forebears had lived; and to Lincoln – where we gave up on the records and had a chat and a nice lunch with Sheila who did her tour guide thing.
Lincoln was definitely a hit. Pleasant city, good old city, good lunch and a chance to catch up and reminisce about the Africa truck trip.
The upshot as far as our research goes was mixed. The Kirkham who changed his mind about which sister he wanted remains a mystery. It is clear, though, that along the way he decided he would prefer a different name but, without any formal record, it is very hard to work out who became what and who became who – and if that isn't clear to you, it isn't to us either. Yet again, there are many options and it is a matter of sorting through them all to establish whose face and
Used and disused
Old church overlooking the 'burbs of Whitby
facts fit. Requires more time. We were able to go back a fair way with Eardleys. The first people in any of the lines who may have had a little real money at some time but none of it trickled down the years.
Unfortunately, as far as family history research is concerned, Preston and Liverpool were also not very productive. Again it was more a case of proving what didn't happen rather than what did. True to form, however, the criminals were easier to find. We found good records on my grandmother's grandfather who today might qualify as a bit of a juvenile delinquent but in those days was a fully qualified criminal. After getting into trouble for a 3rd time, he was transported for 7 years for stealing. We have now a full record of his offences and find that he had quite a relaxed attitude to other people's property – a pocket watch he 'found' resulting in 1 months imprisonment when he was aged about 14 – a leg of lamb, 3 months imprisonment at 15 years – and then the final one of 7 yards of cloth for which he was sent to Tasmania. He was
also quite prepared to change his name but it didn't really do him much good. We were able to locate two aliases but, where there are two there could be others. Who knows what he got up to along the way. We do know that when he was released from custody in Australia he headed for Melbourne and continued to get into minor strife. Not stealing though. Just getting a drunk here and there. There is quite a bit more to his story we think but we will need to try to sort through Melbourne records to find it.
I don't recall ever having been told that Liverpool is a good place to visit. Perhaps our expectations were very low but we had a nice time there. The kick-off did not augur well. When we drew up outside the guest house that we had booked off the net it was one of those 'worst place, bad street' moments. Establishments boarded up, lots of traffic, lots of noise, that sort of thing. After we were able to find a way in though we were pleasantly surprised. The Snooze is the unlikely name of this small guest house. Cheap enough, good,
Ancestral resting place
in churchyard at Long Marston
clean and comfortable with very helpful and friendly management. The street turned out to be OK as well with plenty of eating establishments, take aways and pubs in easy distance. It was a little over 3 kms to get into the centre of the city, easy walking distance and there were plenty of buses. Suited us perfectly.
They are obviously trying to scrub up Liverpool. Their redeveloped wharf area is well done. Better than most that we have seen. There is apparently a lot more to be spent on the area. I trust they don't stuff it up and make it as over the top as other such developments we have seen. It is good at the moment and nicely integrated with the rest of the city.
And that will do us for the moment. Next post will cover Wales and possibly the south of England. They have been having floods in Cornwall for the last week so it could be interesting down there. More rain is forecast.
There are more photos below