Quatrefoil and antique tile

After getting enthusiastic about machine patching yesterday, I’ve spent this afternoon finishing off some EPP blocks. These are from a set of 9 12″ blocks which will either make a lap quilt, or have extras added to make it a bigger quilt.

Despite feeling desperately behind on the things I think I should be doing, I am, at least getting a few things done.

On a slightly different tack, a couple of hours spent on the results of the FTAnalyzer have been very fruitful.  Most of the folk who showed up ‘buried before death’ weren’t errors as such, it was just that the death listed the quarter in which they died. All tidied up now, so I’ll move onto corrections in another area tonight…


Analysis is good for the soul. Sometimes.

One of the things that’s been keeping me quiet these past few days is a little bit of (free) software that I’ve just been introduced to. FTAnalyzer is an amazing piece of kit that can make an enormous difference to your family tree.

Even the best researchers make the occasional error – whether it’s a typo, or just getting something not quite right.  I’m not one of the best researchers, though I try to be thorough, and not accept any information without some reasonably compelling evidence.  FTAnalyzer is a quick download, and very user friendly. There are links on the site to take you through how to use it, but to be honest, once you open it up, it’s pretty much self explanatory.

Having downloaded the software, you’ll need a gedcom file to analyse. Some folk start off with a small tree just to test out, but I didn’t have the motivation to do that, and went straight in with exporting my 9000+ person tree from Ancestry.  You don’t need to use an Ancestry tree, any gedcom will do the job.  Open that file in the FTAnalyzer software, and in a minute or so it will analyse all of your work.  Under the ‘Errors/Fixes’ tab you can identify potential data errors, ‘loose’ births and ‘loose’ deaths.

It took me a few minutes to work out what loose births and deaths are, but basically they are the ones that you’ve either left as unknown, or haven’t formatted quite correctly. The ones that the system didn’t like in my tree were the ones where I had written the dates without writing the name of the month – for example, I have now replaced 5.11.1843  with 5 November 1843.

It’s easy to download/print the lists of potential errors, to make checking quicker.

The ‘Locations’ tab  gives a comprehensive list of countries, regions, sub-regions, addresses and places.  This is something I’ve wanted for ages – when my other half suggests a trip out, and I really want to know if we have anyone buried nearby….

There are research suggestions, and a ‘Lost cousins’ area, which identifies Lost cousins facts recorded.

What I hadn’t anticipated, was that in checking off the potential errors, I have found new evidence, and even new ancestors, which I’d been unable to find previously.

All in all, it’s a really cool new toy.

27 September 1859

t’s way too long since I last posted here, and I should explain why I’ve been away so long – I managed to get waylaid by a picture that was posted on social media, and ended up going down the rabbit hole that happens when you just an to know a little bit more about what went on….1859 Birmingham memorial card

This is a particularly poignant memorial to those lost in an explosion in 1859. It seems to be out of copyright and now in the public domain, so it should be OK for me to share it here.

Birmingham’s gun quarter around Whittall Street housed several percussion cap manufactories in the middle of the 19th century. Many girls and young women were employed in the production process which required dextrous fingers.  The work was dangerous and explosions were common.
One of the worst occurred on 27 September 1859 at the Pursall & Phillips factory on Whittall Street.
The explosion was widely reported in newspapers at the time, and Trove has an article from the South Australian Register, which describes the day in graphic detail, and is well worth reading.

What fascinated me was the last of names, and how they might link together. T
he oldest people to die were Fanny Dollman (sometimes Doleman) and Martha Groocock (sometimes Grocock), both 31 years old and married. Both had three young children.
Fanny also had a younger sister, Maria, who also worked at the factory, and died with her in the explosion, 29 year old Maria Earp.

Humphrey Wood was the only man killed in the explosion – he was an experienced employee, having worked as a percussion cap maker for at least eight years. He had been married a little over four years.

Catherine Clarke, 24, and 18 year old Winifred Casey both lived at the same property on George Street. They were buried at St Joseph’s church in Nechells on 2 October. Thomas Clarke was named in the burial notes for both young women, suggesting that they also may have been related.

Catherine Mary Perrigo was also 24 – she had been born in Middlesex, and the family moved to Birmingham when she was around six years old. Her father, William was a gun wadding manufacturer, so it is perhaps not surprising that Catherine would take a job in the same industry. Sadly William died a couple of months before Catherine.

It looks very likely that Charlotte Cottrall was Charlotte Fowler, who married Thomas Cottrill (sic) on 21 July 1956 in Aston.

Mary Ann (22) and Rebecca (19) Walton were sisters – daughters of Edward and Mary Walton. Edward was a master cabinet maker, and the girls two older sisters were French polishers. Livery Street who lived on Hatchett Street.
Sadly some of the girls are difficult to trace.

As the memorial plaque shows, 15 of the dead were buried in the same vault – at St Mary’s church, Whittall Street, on 2 October.

Mary Cantrill was buried at St Paul & St Martin’s church, Birmingham on the same day. She had lived on Hospital Street.
Catherine Clarke and Winifred Casey were also buried on t2 October, though at a Roman Catholic church.

Dinah Peel (14) lived at Smithfield and wasn’t buried until 5 October.

The parish record for St Mary’s, Whittall Street makes grim reading. On October 2 1859 they held a total of 19 funerals – the fifteen who had died in the explosion, three infants and a 23 year old lady.

These are the things we should recall, perhaps when we complain about health and safety rules….


War veterans – on a roll

It seems like the genealogy posts are having a bit of a roll at the moment – in a flurry of war veterans. Another from my side of the family this time.

When I was researching ‘Doing our bit’ several years ago, I accidentally found an article in the local paper that gave me some family information that was completely new to me. I’d been looking for general information about the town in WW1 when I saw this article, published 1 February 1918:

Selby soldier in Egypt

Sapper H Bradley, Royal Engineers, son of Mr & Mrs J Bradley, Church Hill, Selby, writes to his parents from Egypt.

Says he is quite well, though has a very lucky escape with his life. Bishop, Isherwood and himself were landed safely but poor Walker – didn’t know where he was. ‘It was a terrible experience but everyone’s courage was marvellous. It was a nurse who saved me – threw me a rope from a trawler after I had been in the water about three quarters of an hour. We were only nine miles from land when we were torpedoed; there was no chance to launch the lifeboats.’ Corporal Francis Bradley, West Yorkshire Regiment, (brother) who was wounded in the Cambrai battle on 20th November last and was invalided to England, has been home for a few days leave from hospital and is making satisfactory progress towards recovery.

Apart from the surprise, this was useful on several counts:

Sapper H Bradley – didn’t know he was in the Royal Engineers, until I read this; he had enlisted into the West Yorkshire Regiment on 7 September 1914 and discharged as medically unfit for further service on 8 October of the same year.  It didn’t occur to me to look for re-enlistment, but, lo and behold, he had been recalled in June 1917, this time into the Royal Engineers.

The other thing that I didn’t know until I’d seen this article, was that Harry’s brother, Francis (aka Granddad) had been wounded on 20 November 1917 near Cambrai. Though I’d realised from the medal and award rolls that he’d been wounded, but didn’t have the detail to be able to check out the war diary for the correct day.

Last, but not least it confirmed the move from Water Lane to Church Hill and narrowed down the dates during this might have happened.

I’ve also got a couple of medals that granddad won, and with a lot of help from Alan Greivson, worked out what they were for:

The five-pointed silver star you have is a shooting medal awarded during the annual field firing competitions of the Territorial Force. It would have been suspended from a cream/yellow-coloured silk ribbon with a slip-bar dated 1910. There may well be a man’s bust on the obverse. I’m not sure who this would be of, perhaps the Duke of Connaught or Lord Roberts. The second medal you mention is probably another marksmanship award. The third will be something similar. The shield may show the arms of the City of York which is the cross of St. George, the patron saint of England, and five lions of England. This was the shield on one of the competition’s individual trophy badges. In 1893 the Duke of Connaught, who was Edward VII’s brother, was appointed as commander of the Army’s Southern District which included Aldershot. At the same time, the commander of the Yorkshire Volunteers was Colonel John Edward Bingham (later Sir J E Bingham) who was a believer in conscription and national service. In 1912, he was reported in the New York Times as telling the Congress of Chambers of Commerce in Boston USA: “My view is that every able-bodied man in England ought to have a rifle and know how to use it. Lord Roberts says that knowing how to use a rifle is eight out of the ten parts that go to the making of a soldier.” At an earlier suggestion of the Duke of Connaught, Col Bingham instigated the annual Yorkshire Field Firing Competition in 1895 in which all the Volunteer Battalions of Yorkshire would compete over a weekend, generally the weekend of Queen Victoria’s birthday. As he owned a silver and cutlery works in Sheffield he donated a huge trophy made of 1,500 ounces of gilded silver for the Volunteer Battalion that was the overall winner and individual soldiers won medals and cash prizes for their skills. The trophy vanished in the 1940s.
The competition was fiercely challenged and the 5th Bn West Yorkshire Regiment was often pitted against the 5th Bn Alexandra Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) who up to 1909 had won the Bingham Trophy twice and the Bingham Shield once. Field Firing had been promoted by the Duke of Connaught who had aspirations to be Commander in Chief of the Army. He and Bingham both believed men should be able not only to shoot accurately, but to do so in trying conditions after they had been put to the test in marching and field conditions. The 5th Bn (Alexandra’s) Yorkshire Regiment had also put to the test “How far Territorials could be relied upon to make a long forced march and to fight at the end of it”. One weekend they marched from Doncaster to York over a route of 79 miles in 44 hours and 20 minutes without a single man falling out. They then staged an imaginary brush with the enemy. The competition faced by soldiers like Francis was stiff.

(another) War Veteran

One of my side of the family this time  –  a third cousin. Sidney was born in Leeds on 8 May 1891, and joined the Navy on 26 July 1913. He signed up for 5+7 years, meaning he would do 5 years on active service and stay in reserve for a further 7 years.

The story from the local paper on 28 September 1917 is self explanatory.


Selby sailor released by the Germans

Nearly three years in East Africa.

It must be with a feeling of deep gratitude that Mrs Varley, formerly of Selby, and now of Leeds, heard of the return of her son, Stoker Sydney Longbottom, Royal Navy, after having been a prisoner in the hands of the Germans for well nigh three years.  Young Longbottom, who has been on a visit to his grandmother, Mrs Lamb, of East Common, has been given his parole by the Germans, by whom he was taken prisoner in the attack launched upon their position in East Africa in the early part of 1915.  He is a young man of 22 years and despite the trying experience he has passed during those long weary months of incarceration with the enemy, he is getting strong again, though it is  regretted that in consequence of the treatment given he had been reduced in strength by about four stones which he happily regained when he got to the haunts of  good food, care and attention, and genial atmosphere and companionship.   It will be remembered that the young man was sent out with many others to serve his country in the German territory, and that shortly after arrival in East Africa the small craft which was being utilised was forced to surrender, and the crew kept prisoners by the Germans.  The experiences which he had narrated to his friends were, if startling, of an entertaining nature.

(One of ) the War Veterans

One of the categories for the genealogy blogging this year is the ‘War Veteran’

The one I’ve chosen to feature today is one of Bob’s relatives.

Arthur Hepton was born in Birdsall in 1897, and was one of three sons in the family. He had enlisted 1916 and was a Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. He died of wounds, aged 21, in the hands of the Germans, as was suggested in one of the newspaper reports at the time.  He earned the British War Medal & the Victory Medal and was buried in Ennemain Communal Cemetery Extension.

The Selby Times of 12 April 1918 reported:

Londesborough Lieutenant missing

Mr J W Hepton, clerk of works to the Earl of Londesborough, at Londesborough Park, has received the sad news that his eldest surviving son – Lieut. Arthur Hepton, 5th Yorkshire Battalion, B Company, has been wounded and missing in the recent heavy fight.  Letter have been received from Lieut. Col J A Raymond Thompson and from Captain E M Robson, bearing eloquent testimony to the gallant officer’s services, and stating that at the time they were holding the front line when the enemy attacked, and he along with the Company held on and fought a splendid battle in which they inflicted heavy losses.  In his gallant action he was wounded, and was believed to be a prisoner in enemy hands.


It wasn’t until 28 June 1918 that a follow up article was posted:

Death of an officer

Lieut. Arthur Hepton, Yorkshire Regiment, son of Mr & Mrs Hepton, Londesborough, Market Weighton, who was reported wounded and missing on March 25th is now known to have died on April 13th.  He was 21 years of age and educated at the Pocklington school, gaining distinction there, and being also cricket captain.  Lieut. Hepton went to the front in September 1916, and was in command of a company when wounded.  His colonel, writing home says he was a most gallant and splendid fellow.

An odd family reunion, of sorts.

Seeing no sign of the balloons when we arrived at Calais, we set off towards Cambrai where we would be staying for the duration of our trip. En route we visited the new International Memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette. This stunning elliptical memorial, designed by Philippe Prost is engraved with the names of 580,000 men who died in conflict in northern France in World War 1. It is made all the more special because the names are listed alphabetically and there is no distinction made between nationality – the French, Belgians, Canadians, Germans, Indians, English, and all others are named beside each other.

The names are engraved on gold coloured metal for a Ring of Remembrance, and the memorial stands opposite a French war graves cemetery.  This place is quite amazing; to see so many thousands of names listed, familiar names alongside those from foreign lands is very humbling. To be able to identify so many names from the family tree, all in one place felt very odd. To be able to see the names of several Harry Deans and pay respect, was an unexpected bonus.

One last stop before dinner took us to Ecoivres CWGC at Mont St Elon. 2515 souls rest there, including  Captain Richard Brown Brisco (MC) of 172nd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers who we visited that day.

“Learning by doing” Harry Dean

‘Learning by doing’ is a phrased taken to heart by my eldest offspring.

Not satisfied to be taught be someone else, he’d much rather have a go, make the necessary errors to learn the best way to do the job, and know what he’s doing next time around.

This week I need to be able to join a bunch of mixed files together into a .pdf file.  I knew it should be a fairly simple process, but it was outside my experience, and I didn’t want to have to ask for help, so I set off yesterday with a few sample files to see what I could achieve.

It took me most of the afternoon, one way or another, for what was essentially a two or three minute job, but I got lots of practice and now feel like when I need to stitch the real files together later in the week, it will be straightforward.

I found a nifty online tool called  Combine PDF, which essentially does everything for you – and it’s free, which is an added bonus. What I hadn’t realised until I tried to upload the first file, was that the system doesn’t support .xls files, so the first task was to convert the 12 files I’d chosen to .pdf format.

Actually, the first task should have been to double check that the files were exactly how I needed them to be so I didn’t get the . pdfs combined, then see the flaws – but that’s another story…..

Having converted the files to a usable format, all I had to do was drag and drop them into a box on the webpage, re-order them and press ‘combine’.

Easy Peasy – and it worked first time; except that one of the files had a rogue entry on page 2, which meant it spread onto another page.  Back to amend that file, convert to .pdf then do the ‘combine ‘ thing again.

Then when I went to check the resulting single file, I realised that i’d missed out step one – First check your files!  There were a couple of formatting issues, and some capitalisation errors that needed correcting. Frustrating, but great practice; by the time I’d deleted the whole lot, corrected the errors and gone through the ‘combine’ process again, I felt competent to do this another time without needing to ask someone else.

End result of the afternoon’s activity:

1 new skill learned

1 set of twelve Harry Dean files checked, corrected and combined into a single .pdf

1 happy bunny


The head scratcher

#2 genealogy post 2017

Just about everyone with an interest in their family history has at least one brick wall – like where your direct line ends because your great, great grandma had all of her children without a named spouse – so you’ve absolutely no chance of finding out who your great, great grandfather was. Though these are frustrating, there is so little chance of ever solving the conundrum that it isn’t worth getting into the issue of possibilities.

What I find most frustrating is the brick wall that, one day, just might be broken down. My longest lasting, and most persistent one is my 2nd great grandfather. I know neither when he was born, nor when he died, though I have hints for both events! It even took an age to find his marriage registration bcause the name was written down incorrectly.

So, what do we know?

Peter Ellam

I first find him on the 1851 census, living in Monmore Green, Wolverhampton, married to my 2nd great grandmother, named on that census return as Rosa. Unfortunately the names on that return are inaccurate; maybe as a result of their accent not matching the local one (??)

Peter’s surname is given as Ellen, and his in-laws are listed as Lucas, rather than Lewis. Fortunately the names, dates and places of birth match well enough to be confident that this is the right family.

Estimated date and place of birth is 1823, Stockport.

1861 and 1871 the family remained in Wolverhampton, Peter giving his place of birth as Stockport and then Manchester.

1881, Rose is now listed as head of the family, though still showing as married. There is no sign of Peter, anywhere, as far as I can see.

1891, Rose is listed as a boarder with a widowed gentleman, and reported as single, rather than widowed.

Again, no sign of Peter anywhere.

Rose died in 1897, and her death certificate says she was widow of Peter Ellam.

So, providing that Rose knew that Peter had died, rather than just assumed it, then the nearest I can get to a death date for him is somewhere between 1873 when his last child was conceived, and 1897 when his widow died.

Scouring the death registrations with a heap of variations on his name has so far yielded nothing hopeful.


Working back to look for a birth, it’s all a bit woolly! His marriage certificate gives his father’s name as Samuel, and there is a Samuel Ellam about the right age in Warrington.

There’s a Peter Ellams in Liverpool about the right age in the 1841 census, but it isn’t ‘my’ Peter, it’s easy to follow him forward through the census returns.

No sign of a baptism apart form the Liverpool Peter.

So, this is my head scratcher. Any suggestions would be most gratefully accepted!

Harry Dean is taking shape

Just a bit of an update on the Harry Dean project; one of those things that I’ve been going to do for ages, and which has finally moved from the ‘to do’ list to the ‘in progress’ list!

All of the background work is done, I think I have a suitable page template, and all being well will be beginning to put actual words on file very soon.

I’ve been a bit held up by going off at a tangent after discovering that two local boys were emigrated as British Home Children aged 7 and 9, and really needed to do something with their story…….

Beginning to realise why I don’t understand the concept of boredom!