Sunday 19 April 2015

Visit to Who Do You Think you are NEC Birmingham

Last week I was lucky enough to visit the "Who Do You Think You Are" show at the NEC in Birmingham. A spin off from the TV series that traces ancestors of famous people. Now there is a magazine and an annual show. I had never been to one before and so looked up what was there before I went and took some old badges to see if I could get them identified.

 Lots to see with all the different family history societies, different services to help trace ancestors and many different stalls that had books, posters, etc that you could showcase and record your family tree. Much more also to see and assist you.

There were people there who were experts on war. So one very kind gentleman (sorry but I can not remember his name) took  a look at some old badges that I had from my uncle's house following his death. The house was our family home which my grandparents also once lived in. This collection was not collected from outside the home but remnants from the people within.  

Here are the badges with a brief description. As usual with any research into your family tree. I threw up questions that I still have to look into.

This embroidered cloth badge is not military apparently as I thought - so what does the initials MSA mean?

These Coldstream guard badges are my Uncle's. He undertook National Service in the 1940s and early 1950s in this battalion.

A RAF badge from the 1950s. This is probably my fathers as he was in the RAF for his National Service as a cook.

Now we come onto the ones that I do not know about. This is a Dragoons badge from WW1. It has the motto "Stand Firm" have no idea who this belonged to in my family. So more research needed here.

This is an officer's training badge from WW1. It would have been someone who went to a private school - well that rules most of my family out. So who did this one belong to?

This is a Leicestershire badge from WW1. It looks as though its come out of the ground. It may have been brought back from the trenches by my grandfather who was in the Royal Warwick Regiment. Or found by any of his 3 boys at some point when they lived at home.

This badge generated great interest from the researchers. Apparently it is very rare and belonged to a woman in WW1.

This "On War Service" badge belonged to a woman who served in the ammunition's factory in the SE of England. It was a 1915 issue to employees of a gun or ammunition's factory during WW1. At the time I thought of my grandmother, but she would have been too young at 11 years. So possibly my great grandmother (although she was German!) But I did think that they were both living in Birmingham. So I have no idea who had this badge in my family and lived near London, working toward the war effort. More research is needed for this one. The badges are not for sale. They are part of my families history and will remain with me.

My husband and I enjoyed the visit and would recommend any one going to take a list as there is so much information available. 

Saturday 21 March 2015

War Memorial in St James Church - Handsworth Birmingham

I have never visited St James' Church in Handsworth, Birmingham part of the West Midlands. But have an old postcard with the marble war memorial on. It is thus that I am going to list the names on this memorial - well most, just a couple are obscure and I can not read them. For those who have not read this blog before. I am compiling names on memorials around the West Midlands, Warwickshire and where ever I visit to help those that are researching their family history and general local interest.

There are five panels of names from men that have some association with the local Handsworth parish. in alphabetical order until the last panel, which has a few later names added.

1914 - 1919 To the glory of God and in grateful memory of:

Abbott E G
Akers H
Alderidge _
Bar____ T
Bam____ S E
Barrell C W
Barnes A F
Barnes W
Barnett W
Bashforth J W
Bassnett C H
Bates E
Beckingham G
Beesley F C L
Bethell P
Billingham A
Bogle F
Bonell S A W
Boyd C F
Boyd W
Brindley J W
Brown J
Butler T A
Caroll A
Clarke J T
Clarke T
Clarke W G E
Cliff C F
Coare F
Cooper P
Coverdale F W
Cox A E
Crook A
Darby G A
Dent W
Doran P

Dorrington H
Dunkley W G G
Dunn J
Dunn W H
Earp F
Emery H
Evans A J
Evans C
Evans E
Evans H J
Findon F L
Findon R
Fleck B
Fletcher J H
Fletcher T L
Fletcher W J
Garbett A T
Garner E C
Green J F
Grigg W N
Grove W E
Haines G F
Hands G
Hanson W J
Hardiker J
Harris C R
Harris J E
Harris O R
Hartland F H
Hawkins H J
Hayes E
Hayword G
Herridge W G
Hibbert W
Hickman F
Hickman L
Hill B

Humphreys C F
Hunt F
Ingram W T W
James H E
James J
Johnson J
Johnson W
Johnson W A
Jones E
Jones A H
Jones W
Jones Wm
Kenderick F H
Key W L
Kitz H W
Knight J W
Knowles L V S
Lake E H
Lambourne H
Leech J T
Liggitt C A
Loveridge H
Lyons W D
McPike W
Mann H J
Mason A V
Mason J
Mathews C P
Millership H O
Mitchell S J
Mold A E
Mould W
Muggleston E
Muggleston E
Muggleston W
Nevittt B J
Nicholls E H L

Oddy J E
Owne H P
Parsons H
Parsons W
Payton F E
Pearson C T
Pearson M M
Pickersgill S T
Pike W H
Pinchin W H
Pitt A J
Poole J R
Powers G W
Price L
Prince T D
Pye J H
Randle J G
Redfern E
Reynolds T W
Rottason H
Rollings J A
Round J E
Rowe H
Rudman W
Scriven T
Shelley J
Sheppard C E
Shrimpton G
Silvester G F
Smith A
Smith W G
Stait F
Stallard F J
Stevens A J
Stevens D
Stevens G
Stevens J

Stretton C H
Stuffing R
Summers A M
Surr O S
Taylor L B
Thomas G
Tomlinson A
Trundle A
Tucker E S
Tucker S H
Tucker W B
Turner A
Turley H
Turvey A
Turvey H
Underhill E H
Vale C W
Vinall H E
Walton A
Ward F
West G C
Weston J T S
Detheridge A C
Whetstone J A
Widdows J
Widdows W
Willetts CH
Willetts G J
Wilmot F E H G
Wright H
Wyer J G
Edmondson J S
Bates A
Albutt F
Shaw M S
Williams F T P

Who gave their lives in the Great War. Death is swallowed up in victory.

Well my quick research of some of the names started poorly. Hands G - I chose because this is one of the names in my family tree but the hands were prolific in Birmingham and could not find a likely candidate linked to Handsworth.

So I then tried for the Johnson part of my tree. with 3 names on this war memorial I thought I might have a little luck in tracking who they may be. But it was not to be.
Johnson J - 81 are recorded in the CWGC for the World War One commemorated in the UK and 546 worldwide!! So a bit like hunting a needle in a haystack. With Johnson W there were a mere 469 commemorations world wide. So unfortunately without any further information it was impossible to trace who these brave men were.

Lambourne H was a lot easier and the information was at hand. He was a gunner and died on the 6/12/1917 aged just 28 born on the 18/4/1889. Howard was in the Royal Garrison Artillery and left behind his wife Gertrude Lambourne (nee Hill) of 51, Westbourne Rd, Handsworth. They had married in 1911. He was the son of Frederick and Jane Lambourne (nee Brown) of 23 Grafton Rd, Handsworth. He is buried and commemorated in Achiet-le-Grand, France. Heart breaking he only enlisted in May 1917 and died 7 months later.

Ward F brought up 156 results - the Wards side of my tree were not in Birmingham for WW1 but I always photograph any graves that I find in my search. No luck I am afraid - again too little information.
If you have any memories of the men that are commemorated at St James Handsworth I would love to add it here.

Monday 9 March 2015

Measles killed Thomas Welch in 1919

At the weekend I was researching for more information on my husband's family tree. I found quite a bit of information on John Thomas Welch  (1876 - 1950) in his WW1 attestation file, including a copy of a death certificate of one of his son Thomas.  An attestation file for those who do not know was the file kept on all men and women that signed up for war effort.   

Little Thomas Welch of Bradford Street in Birmingham died at just 10 months of age. The cause of death was measles and bronco pneumonia. It sort of highlighted that measles was a dangerous disease in the early twentieth century and still is today...
Also you can find information in the most unlikely places and it saved me money on purchasing another death certificate. I use the Ancestory website as I think its the most useful and has more information added every time I look.

This isn't a photograph of Thomas, just another little boy (dressed as a girl as was the fashion then) The family were so poor that no photographs would have been taken.

So this is my memorial to Thomas Welch (1918 - 1919). A short life...long remembered. Rest in peace.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Photographs of the Victorian dead

Photographs of the Victorian dead - A Victorian conundrum! 

The Victorians were very happy to take photographs of their dead ... children, wives, fathers and other relatives. Not some thing that we do very often today. Yes we still do take pictures of still born babies and our children that die young; but to whip out your mobile and take a photograph of dear departed grandma - no. Can you imagine the Facebook likes! I was being flippant when I mentioned Facebook. I can not imagine that someone would post photographs of their stillborn baby on Facebook for the world to see. But my daughter in law has told me recently that someone had. Very sad and a bit unsettling. Yes share with close family and friends, but not to expose to people who you do not know on Facebook. 
It never crossed my mind to look closely at some of the Victorian photographs that I had in my possession. But after reading an article about how the Victorian photographers took their pictures of the recently deceased. (This article did appear on Facebook, with hundreds of photographs shown) I was surprised to find at least 2 of my Victorian photographs were of dead children.

Wooden stands
This young boy was in a collection of old photographs that I brought a few years ago. Notice the wooden stand behind him and the classical arm on the post. The stand holds him upright and his hat must be pinned to his trousers. His hand is not actually holding the hat. Unfortunately there is no name or an indication where the photograph was taken on the back.

Some rather rude and obnoxious person added a comment to this page recently, and stated that the stands were to keep people still whilst they took the exposure. Well - anyone who has had a child would realize that a wooden stand is like giving a new toy! Ideal to slouch against, bang or tap with your head, heel or arm. No - probably not a good way to keep a child still!!
The stands would hold a person upright, probably had head pieces and under arm supports. The Victorian's were very good at making things fit for purpose - far better than we are today.

People and children were much shorter as well as lighter then. Most due to being under-nourished. Rigor mortis sets in after 4 to 6 hours, where the body stiffens. But apparently not so much in babies and children. This was due to their muscle being absent. I am assuming this would have made it easier for the photographer to position a child.

Eyes open or closed? 

Unfortunately, as a nurse I have had many an occasion to witness death. Most people will die with their eyes partially open or open. It is us, the living that close them. I did it because that was what had always been done. I did not question why? Is it because when someone's eyes are open - they still look alive? Or is it because by closing someone's eyes, they look asleep. More at rest and at peace. I think it is done for the living, not for the dead. So that we did not have to look into eyes that had no soul or what ever makes us human and so alive!
Any how I digress - if you are planning to have a photograph. Would you want their eyes open? So instead of closing them, maybe the family would open rather than close their eyes soon after death.
If their eyes were closed - they could have died in hospital or else where? There are photographs of people who have died with very odd looking eyes. It appears that the eyes have been drawn in after wards, so they look open. Not sure whether it was the photographer who did this (though he would need to be very good at it or his income would drop!!), or a close relative or loved one when grieving, long after wards.

When was the photograph taken?  

So this got me thinking about the Victorian era! What did they do to get a photograph - the pure logistics of it?
For a start most people died at home. They did not go to hospital very often. Cared for by their relatives, who were there at their death. Once someone had died, the family would wash and dress them for burial. Cremation was not carried out very often as now, it became more a necessary in the 1950s as we started to run out of burial ground space.
They would have been seen by a doctor to issue a death certificate after 1879, before that they just needed to register a person' s death at the church or nationally after 1837. No cause of death was needed. To be honest, most of the times it was unknown.
** These were England's regulations and will differ in other countries.

Once a body was prepared, it was kept in "state". That means, it was placed in a coffin and placed in the best room of the house for the family to all say goodbye and pay their last respects.  Not prepared by a funeral director and taken to a funeral home as done by most today.
Note - For many young babies, they did not have their own coffin. Because of money being tight. Many would pay an other family (not related) to place their baby in an adult's coffin at burial.
I am guessing that if you had money. The photographer would come to your home and take "in mortem" photographs. Otherwise you would have to take the body to them. So when would this happen? My best guess would be on the way to their funeral and burial. Most burials would be done quickly - within a day or two following death. As with no special preparation of the body or cold storage, the body would soon start to decompose and start to smell.
The coffin would be most likely carried if you were poor. If you had money then it would be taken in a carriage to the church for burial.
I would suspect that the photographer's studio would be positioned on a church route. The family would stop briefly and have some photographs taken - before completing their journey to the church and the person's final resting place.
If you know how and when they went for a photograph - please leave a comment. But if you are rude and an obnoxious troll it will not be published.

Agnes Hart 1896 - 1903.                

I looked also at my own relatives and thought that this photograph was a bit suspect. I am guessing this was Agnes, but seeing another photo with this girl and her family. It doesn't look like Agnes but Margaret Piske.

The little girl is seated with a boy standing besides her. I do not know who they are, but as a guess it may be may be Agnes Hart born 1896 and died 1903 with her younger brother. One of the 13 children my great grandparents had.
If you look closely their is something around her head. On one side it looks like a hand and a shadow behind her! How they got the dog to sit there I do not know. Maybe he is dead also and stuffed? Must have been a brilliant photographer that managed to get two children and a dog to sit still!! The photograph is not brilliant - but on the original there is a hand and shadow behind. One day I will get around to taking another copy that is better.

February 2022 update - Latest thinking was that photographs were not taken with the body standing or sitting but lying down in a coffin. But rumours came from somewhere. Babies were taken with their parents holding them too. Maybe we will never really know.  

Morbid - yes. But when they didn't have mobiles to record their life. It would be something done to preserve memories that are so precious.

Updated 21st February 2022

Sunday 15 February 2015

Victorians and death memorial photographs

I would say that the Victorians kept more memorials of their loved ones when they died. With photographs of their graves, of their loved ones when dead, hair jewellery and other keepsakes. Today we are able to take plenty of photographs with little cost. So able to keep our memories. However I do like to buy unusual things and when I found this photograph in a frame at a car boot last years. I couldn't resist. It was only 50p and as usual my family said - what do you want that for!

The frame is falling to bits but the glass has preserved the photograph card inside in an excellent condition. The grave is of a Richard Lee Colman. It says he was late of Barby who died at Willenhall. April 30th 1900, aged 66 years. It has the verse "And now lord what is my hope: Truly my hope is even in thee"
Of course I was intrigued - who was he and why had the card been commissioned as a memorial keepsake?  Also noticed that the flowers are under a cover? Like the ones used for cakes. Not seen that before.

So my research stared. he was born in 1834 at Barby in Northampton shire. This small village was about 5 miles from Rugby. So not a great distance from Willenhall in Coventry where he died. He left a will, so was a man of means at that era. His will states that he was a farmer. He left his wife Mary Ann Coleman (nee Haddon) and his son, Thomas Joseph Lee Coleman his money of £508 17s. A lot of money at that time.
In 1861 he lived with his father a retired farmer in Barby with his wife and young son Thomas aged 3 months. By 1871 he was still a farmer at Ashby St Ledgers in Northampton with 51 acres employing one man and a boy. Interestingly he has Thomas aged 6 and 10 year old Jone S Coleman as his sons then? The 1881 census sees him as a farmer now with 105 acres at Braunston in Derbyshire. With 1 labourer as well as his sons Tom and Thomas aged 20 and 17. He seems to have moved by 1891 and is in Willenhall on the London Road. Still a farmer living at "The Farm" He has his wife and Lee Colman aged 21, his son (Think this should be 31)? helping him as well as a servants Henry Walker aged 19 and Alfred Clarke aged 17 helping on the farm. There is also a visitor Mary Wood 25 staying there. Of course by 1900 census he had died and the farm in Willenhall belonged to his son Thomas aged 36, who had a wife Sarah and two small children Dorothy aged 2 and Richard 3 months with his mother Mary living on her own means. A servant Hanah waring aged 16 helped around the farm.

The card was photographed by T J Lloyd of 26 Earl Street Coventry.

 So there you go - someones life from a memorial grave side photograph. Do I have a connection - well Willenhall was where I used to work as a midwife. The area was where the farm was! Hows that for a coincidence. Soon will look at a photograph of a boy that was taken at death. Morbid but interesting as its someone in my family.            

Sunday 25 January 2015

St Cyprian's Church Hay Mills Birmingham War memorial

Tucked away alongside the River Cole in Hay Mills Birmingham is the beautiful St Cyprian's church. This Church of England building holds many monumental inscriptions and a very large war memorial plaque dedicated to the men who died in WW1 and also many plaques for WW2. This church is very dear to me. It was the one I attended when I was young and lived in the then small industrial surrounded suburb. When I was young the church was found along a small lane by the river's bridge separating Hay Mills from Small Heath. On the right were a row of old cottages and on the left the Horsefall factory. The factory is still there but the cottages and bridge have now gone, making way for the busy road byepass, Asda and large traffic island.

There is the large wooden war memorial plaque on the right as you enter the church. There is also a hand written roll call of the men of the parish which includes both wars. As well as numerous small individual dedicated plaques around the church. We went along on their open day last summer (2014) and had a brilliant afternoon talking to the vicar and members of the church.

The World war One wooden war memorial has the following names:

T Aston
J Adams
W Babbington
J Bagnall
T Baldwin
A J Balston
S Banner
R Batsford
J Bentley
E Billingham
A P Billings
P Birch
F J Bird
T Bird
A Bliss
W H Bowden
G N Bradbury
A J Brealey
N B Brealey
O Busby
H Butler
I Butler
E G Carr
H Caldicott
F W Collett
E A Cooper
W T Dale
J Darby
W Darby
C N day
F G Day
J Dorrell
R Dorrell
W E J Davis
A Deakin
E E Delve
C Downard

J J Dumbleton
A F Eccles
A Edwards
W Evans
W Flagg
B Fletcher
C Fletcher
C Gibson
W Goode
C Green
F Green
J A Grice
J H Griffiths
A H Harley
C Hawkesford ORD
H Hazeldine
J Hilley
G Hill
H Hodgetts
J W Holton
L E Hood
J Hughes
T G Ireland
L C Johnson
W Ledbrook
J W Leech
O Lines
S Longbottom
G Malin
H Malin
J A Mallard
E Mansell
M C McKey
V J McKey
R J Moore
W G Mountain


E Nabbs
W Pedler
A Perry
E Plows
E Potts
S Price
A Richards
J Roberts
G Rollins
S R Rooke
F C Sannter
T Seymour
J D Sharp
S Simpson
A H Sims
B G Smith
H H Smith
L Smith
P Smith
W Smith
G Stride
F Thorpe
R Tydeman
H A Walker
Lawrence Waters
Leslie Waters
B Watts
D Watts
H C Wiley
C V Wilkins
E Wilkins
A Wilkins
E W Willis
W H Willis
L T Wilson
W Woolley
H J Young

This long list is from World War One. I will write another blog shortly for WW2, as the list is long and combined with the parishioners of Hay Mills as well as a few single dedicated memorial plaques. There are many other plaques that are not war related that I will cover at some point also.

Just a random small choice of these brave men researched a little more shows George and Harry Malin of 155 Speedwell road, hay Mills. Both wire workers in the mill. George died aged in his late 20s to early 30s and his brother was 3 years younger. I picked this family out as they have links within my husband's Lightfoot family tree.
Corporeal Mathew Charles McKey was in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire regiment. Born in Small Heath and died of wounds aged 30 on the 11th October 1917 in France. He was a French Polisher by trade.
Victor James McKey was born on the 12th December 1892 in Birmingham and lived at 225 Coventry Rd. He served in the Royal Navy and was killed on the 6th August 1914. His body was never found. The ship he was on was the HMS Amphion, which was destroyed by a mine. Tragically he was only 21 years of age.
There is another plaque within St Cyprian's that is dedicated to two other men. It says the following:

To the glory of God and in loving memory of
Capt Arthur Joseph Brearley.
1st/7th Devon Regt
Attached Special Brigade R E
Killed in action in Belgium
June 20th 1917
aged 27 years
Lieut Norman Blackburn Brearley
12th Royal Warwickshire Regt
Killed in action in Mesopotamia
April 17th 1916
Aged 22 years

They gave their lives that we might live in freedom
This tablet is erected by their parents.