Errors, Lies & Misinformation

Zoom Meeting Thursday 16 June

By David Cufley

Notes by Susanne Young

David of North West Kent Family History Society shared with us numerous pitfalls associated with official family history records and genealogical internet research and what to look out for. Ideally primary sources (original records) should always be consulted.

Using various case studies, errors, lies and misinformation were demonstrated in the following:

Census records – names incorrectly recorded either due to enumerator error or misinformation provided by families. It is fairly common to come across errors on the main family history sites where information has been transcribed incorrectly from the original returns. Always refer to the original records and cross-check information with other records/sources.

Criminal Records – original records can be accessed at National Archives, an example of an indexing error in Old Bailey online was demonstrated. Newspaper reports can often provide missing detail/information in such cases.

Baronetage Records – an example of the transposition of information where two women were recorded with the wrong spouses.

Visitations (of London and of Hertfordshire) original 17th century records were contemporaneously described as ‘useless’ due to errors but whilst information should be regarded with suspicion, it may also be of value.

Old fashioned handwriting – can easily be misread. Practice and use available resources to help.

 ‘A Comedy of Errors or Marriage Records of England & Wales’ by Michael Whitfield Foster 1998 highlights a flawed system of record keeping lacking in verification processes with errors and omissions at all levels. However, we should not be too discouraged as these records still provide significant advantages for research.

During the early years of Registration of births, deaths and marriages many fraudulent registrations have been uncovered due to registrars who falsified events to increase their income.

Beware of ‘auto-complete’ misinformation on sites such as Ancestry. One example given was Prince of Wales Island (Asia) recorded as Prince of Wales, Ireland. Family trees on family history sites should always be treated with scepticism – it is highly unlikely that someone married at the age of 120 as shown in one example.

Unfortunately, a number of fraudulent family histories are also around to mislead. Gustav Anjou 1863 – 1942 falsified many family trees for financial gain in the US – and these are often still retained by reference libraries.

We should not be too disheartened by the above – as family history researchers (detectives) we just need to question information and check references and original records wherever possible.

The Mourning Brooch by Jean Renwick

Zoom Meeting 21 April

Notes by Susanne Young

Last year Jean published her book The Mourning Brooch, the first of a planned series, following years of diligent family history research. Without giving too much of the story away, for those who have not yet read the book, Jean described how she researched and wrote her family history novel.

The mourning brooch in question (black enamel & gold surrounding a lattice work pattern of grey and dark hair) was bequeathed to Jean by her late God mother Dorothy Walker (1920 – 1989) together with some old photos and a canteen of cutlery. The inscription upon the back of the brooch reads ‘Obit. Mrs Addy 3 Jan 1849 age 39’ but Jean had no idea to whom this referred. Her curiosity piqued Jean initially located Elizabeth Addy (nee Hall) in the 1841 census in Bentley near Doncaster. Elizabeth was married to farmer Joseph Addy and the couple subsequently had two daughters Mary Ann b.1843 and Frances b.1848.

The cutlery was inscribed as presented to Mr (Edward) Walker on the occasion of his marriage 6 August 1903. Edward, Dorothy’s father was Butler at Knowsley Hall (country seat of the Earl of Derby near Liverpool) and he and his wife Lily (nee Mellows) rented a cottage on the outskirts of the Estate. Their marriage certificate gave Lily’s father as farmer Joseph Mellows who was related to the Addy family and hence the link between Elizabeth Addy and Jean’s God mother was established.

By this time however, Jean realised there was so much more to this family story and she formed the idea of writing a family saga. With the aid of meticulous and detailed real-life character time-lines and a general time-line of relevant historical events Jean constructed her narrative and wrote her first chapter in 2016 beginning her story in 1839. In the absence of family photographs, Jean selected various portrait images to help her imagine the people she was writing about.

Elizabeth’s two daughters led quite different lives and Jean’s research uncovered a scandalous divorce case in newspaper archives concerning Mr & Mrs Willey of Dudley Hill near East Bierley (Mary Ann married into the Willey family – wealthy Bradford wool merchants). Jean’s internet research put her in touch with a fellow researcher based in the US who helped with information regarding the Willey and Edwards families (Samuel Edwards married Hannah Mary Willey). Jean also visited numerous locations associated with her research and was delighted to eventually identify the Addy’s farm in Bentley. She visited Moor House Farm, East Bierley once owned by John Willey and was invited by the current occupant to look around the house in Manningham where Mary Ann once lived. At All Saints, Arksey Jean experienced where the Addy family worshipped and located the graves of Joseph & Elizabeth. All these experiences helped enrich her writing.

Jean’s account of her research for the writing of her book, based almost entirely on real people, events and places, was most interesting and well received by members – I have already ordered my own copy through Amazon.

Zoom Meeting Thursday 17 March

A Tale of Two Constantine Families from Coniston

By Sheila Harris

Notes by Susanne Young

A well-attended meeting including a number of members with Constantine ancestors.

Sheila’s interest in her own Constantine forbears began with a sampler inherited from her 2 x great grandmother which she followed up by reading a private publication of House of Constantine (1957) by L.G. Pine.

The Wharfedale Constantines were originally of Norman descent and the earliest record found in the area by Sheila is the death of Henry Constantine in 1520.

The first Constantine family discussed began with Henry second son of yeoman Robert (Sheila’s 8 x great grandfather & possibly a tenant of Francis Clifford). Henry was baptised 1614 in Coniston, attended Glasgow University and was ordained at Carlisle in 1639. He married Ann Heber in 1648 and they lived at Hebden Hall. Henry and Ann had 5 known children: Henry, Christopher, John, Ann & Samuel. Henry was ejected from the Rectory in 1662 and died 1667 (buried Ripley).

  • Henry junior also attended Glasgow University & was ordained as a rector, preaching at York Assises in 1683. He married Susannah Puddington of Devon and died 1709 leaving 6 daughters and £6000 of debt. His only son Heber Constantine died 1707. Henry’s daughter Jane married her cousin Richard Constantine and moved back to Yorkshire as did her sister Lydia who married William Stockdale.
  • Christopher also attended Glasgow University and became a barrister. He married widow Elizabeth Bellingham 1684 in Westminster and died 1713 leaving no children.
  • John also attended Glasgow University and eventually became a cleric too, although he was a school master in Burnsall in 1678. He married Phillippa Quantock and their only daughter Ann died young.
  • Daughter Ann married Reginald Bean and her will bequeathed her assets to their only son Reginald Bean.
  • Little is known of son Samuel who died 1679 in Gisburn.

The second Constantine family discussed began with another Henry Constantine (Sheila’s distant cousin), born 1686 in Coniston who married Isobel Brown. Their surviving children included John, William, Henry, Alice & Jonathan.

  • John born 1721 married Mary Paley in Giggleswick and moved to Settle. They had 13 children and John was buried 1802 in Giggleswick. Two sons Richard & William became successful silversmiths in Sheffield.
  • Henry born 1725 Coniston moved to London where he first married Ann Gass in 1754 and later Jane Macey. Henry was a publican and died 1795 in Bethnal Green.
  • Jonathan a mercer (draper) also moved to London where he married Margaret Pilon (of French Huguenot descent) in 1769. Jonathan became a Freeman of the City of London in 1765 and died 1799. Uncertainty over the contents of his will led to a court case in 1801.

Sheila’s research showed how the use of wills, Land Tax records, University Alumni and Old Bailey archives, to name but a few resources, can build an effective picture of two Wharfedale branches of a family, many of whom relocated far and wide.

Steve Miller gave a vote of thanks.

Website (Constantine one name study).

Family Photographs by Stephen Gill

Zoom Meeting Thursday 17 February

Notes by Susanne Young

Another well attended zoom meeting last night which helpfully explained the potential gains to be had from old family photographs.

Stephen, a photographer & photo restorer, took us through a brief history of photography starting with the daguerreotype, an expensive image printed on copper in 1840s & 1850s in the UK. Later C19th ambrotypeimages were printed on glass and cheaper ferrotype images were printed on iron. Daguerreotype images can be identified by brush marks across the picture and ferrotype images can be identified by a missing corner. All of these images are printed back to front.

The carte de visite was invented in Paris c.1855 providing a number of low-cost images (these have square corners up to 1870 & rounded corners thereafter). Cabinet cards were similar to the carte de visite but larger. Seaside and street photographers were popular late C19th & early C20th. Studio photographs often included elaborate back drops and props. 

Film cameras with pre-loaded film were first available to the general public around 1888 so that people could take their own photographs.

As viewers we are often initially drawn to the faces of photographic images but by looking closer at the detail it may be possible to identify a date period from hairstyles and clothing. As family historians we might think about where & why the photograph was taken & who by – who might be missing from a family group? Looking for other clues can be interesting such as the name & address of the photographer & other printed detail. 

Modern digital cameras and smart phones are ideal for photographing, copying & enlarging images which can then be looked at in greater detail, otherwise using a magnifying glass can reveal more detail.

PEL (Preservation Equipment Ltd) provide reasonably priced solutions for storing old photographs which ideally should be kept in acid free bags. We should also label & carefully store our own photographs for future generations.

A number of interesting questions & answers followed & a warm vote of thanks was given by Lynda Balmforth.

Wives & Widows: Women did make wills

Zoom talk by Anna Watson Thursday 3 June 2021

Notes by Susanne Young

Retired archivist Anna Watson presented her talk based on her long experience of probate records at Lancashire Archives. Her information is drawn from the Diocese of Chester from C17th to C19th. Whilst women made wills as early as C14th, historically, married women were only allowed to make a will if their husband gave permission.

Coverture is the condition of being a married woman. A feme covert (married woman) could not own property in her own name nor enter into a contract. A feme sole (unmarried/divorced woman) did have the right to own property and enter into contracts. Neither could a married woman be sued or sue. She was not permitted to obtain an education or keep any salary for herself without her husband’s permission. Her legal status was on a par with minors, criminals and the insane. An important clause in any will is a declaration of sound mind.

In a study of the Archdeaconry of Richmond (which takes up roughly one half of the Diocese of Chester) only 7.5 % of wills were made by women. The majority (5274) are made by widows, followed by 1190 by spinsters. A spinster could be either an unmarried woman or a widow who remained unmarried.

It was not until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 that married women were permitted to hold property in their own names. Some women entered into pre-marriage settlements whereby they might retain some power of ownership over their assets including the power to make bequests in a will.

Wills made by women can be most enlightening for the family historian with information regarding bequests to individuals and charitable donations, details of debtors to whom the women had loaned money and frequently their maiden names. Many women acted as witnesses to wills and some made Renunciations if they were unable to carry out their duties as Executors.

Anna rounded up her talk with the story of seamstress Sarah Hare who died in 1744 and included in her will her wish for a wax effigy to be made following her death, ‘I desire to have my face and hands made in wax with a piece of crimson satin thrown like a garment in a picture hair upon my head and put in a case of Mahogany with a glass before and fix’d up so near the place were my corps lyes as it can be with my name and time of Death put upon the case in any manner most desirable’.  This can still be seen today in Holy Trinity Church, Stowe Bardolph.

Recommended reading: Women and Property in Early Modern England by Amy Louise Erickson.

Liverpool Cow Keepers

Zoom talk by Dave Joy Thursday 4 March 2021

Notes by Susanne Young

A rare treat featuring a fascinating account of social history delivered by a most entertaining speaker.

The early C19th Industrial Revolution led to a massive removal of people from the countryside into Britain’s towns and cities. Amongst these were a number of farming families who relocated from Yorkshire to Liverpool. This was in response to prevailing economic circumstances as milk producers found their market for fresh milk shifted from rural to urban areas. Mid C19th introduction of the rail network provided some solution to the problems of transporting milk from the countryside to towns and cities. Despite this city cow keepers prospered as milk did not travel well by train and by providing fresh milk locally these businesses were also able to cut out the ‘middle man’. 

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Lady Arbella Stuart – The Queen that never was

Zoom talk by David Templeman Thursday 4 Feb 2021

Notes by Susanne Young

David entertained a good number of members yesterday evening with his illustrated presentation about Lady Arbella (the name she was known by, rather than Arabella as she was later referred to).

Arbella was the granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick and her story has largely been forgotten until recently. She had a greater claim to the throne of England than James 1 as she was born here but was most likely passed over by the Privy Councillors at Elizabeth I’s death simply because she was a woman. After two Queens, the Privy Council opted for a King rather than a third Queen.

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Getting Started with Parish Records

Zoom presentation by Sue Steel 7 January 2021

Notes by Susanne Young

A good number of members joined Chairman of Bradford Family History Society Sue Steel for her introduction to the eclectic sources of information available amongst Parish records.

Apart from the expected Parish registers containing births, marriages and deaths, some collections may provide insight into historical community activities and offer valuable information about our ancestors.

Parish records of births, marriages and deaths began in 1538 under the direction of Thomas Cromwell and until 1753 were all recorded in a single book. A separate book was then introduced for marriages followed by three separate books for baptisms, marriages and deaths in 1812. Not all life events were recorded as there was a tax to pay, although paupers were exempt from payment.

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Upstairs Downstairs

From Humble Beginnings to the American Dream

A Zoom presentation by Jackie Depelle Saturday 21 November

Notes from Susanne Young

Well, what a wonderful way to spend a gloomy November Saturday afternoon, listening to one of popular speaker Jackie Depelle’s case studies. Maureen Heseltine welcomed Jackie to our gathering of 40 plus Zoom attendees from near and far. Tracing the story of her husband’s great grandfather Richard Powley, Jackie’s presentation was filled with additional background information, illustrations and useful websites.

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The Families of Halton Gill Part 6

By June Tingey

The Robinson Family 

The first reference to the family was in the parish register in 1688 when Isabel, daughter of Thomas of Nether Heseldon was baptised. Other children followed and in 1702 his daughter Ann was baptised. Thomas was described as a poor man. In 1730 the death of Thomas, a pauper of Cosh, was recorded followed by the death of Jane in 1736, a pauper of Foxup. Another family was recorded in Arncliffe at this time, that of Ralph with a son Christopher born in 1698 and daughter Ann in 1700.

In 1737 Mrs Sarah Dawson married William Robinson of Chatburn. Although it is unlikely, it is possible William was the son of Thomas of Heseldon, whose son William was born in 1695. In 1764 a John Robinson married Frances Hammond, was he perhaps the son of William? They lived in Litton and by 1778 6 sons had been baptised. No more is heard of the family until the death of Frances in 1804, followed by John in 1811.  In 1805 John married Ann Calvert and had 2 children: Alice baptised in 1808 and John the following year, when his father was recorded as a farmer. Nothing more was found about the family. They do not appear on the Muster Roll of 1803 nor in the 1841 census.

The Stockdale Family

The first record of the family was in the parish register in 1744 when Margaret married William Foster, yeoman. In 1778 the baptism of William son of William and Jane of Haltongill was recorded followed by Anthony in 1780. It was probably this same couple who were living at Owlcotes in 1786 when son Robert was baptised, followed by Michael in 1792 and James in 1795. They were recorded as a poor couple. Jane died in 1798.

The Muster Roll gives William a farmer of Haltongill, single and between 30-49 years, so was this William’s son who was older than his baptism suggests? William senior appears to have moved to Penighent, where he was living when his son James died in 1802. He then married Mary Cooke in 1805 but sadly she died 4 years later.

In 1810 a William married Ann Moor and one year later a daughter Alice was baptised. In 1799 the death of Anthony’s son John was recorded grandson of William and Jane.

The 1841 census gives Michael son of William and Jane a cattle dealer with Henry Knowles. In 1861 he was an agricultural labourer for Henry Knowles. Buy 1871 he was still living at the home of Henry as a retired cattle dealer.

The Tennant Family

Although a well known name in Upper Wharfedale there were not many families in Littondale. The first recorded member of the family in Arncliffe parish was Roger who was listed on the Flodden Roll in 1503. In 1756 Margaret was a tenant of Fountains Abbey.

The first record of the family in the parish register is the marriage of Henry to Ann Metcalfe in 1679. In 1717 James the son of James was baptised.

Miles Tennant son of John of Buckden became curate of Arncliffe church in 1681. In 1689 he married Mrs Judith Lodge at Linton. They had 6 children. Henry the youngest went to University College Oxford when he was 18. He became curate of Carleton and eventually Arncliffe, where he remained for the rest of his life.

In 1679 a Thomas Tennant married Mary Spark and in 1739 a miner married Jane Watson. There is no record of any children from either marriage in the register.

In 1813 James a farmer married Mary Scaife and lived at Arncliffe Cote. They had 3 children baptised between 1814 and 1818. A second James, a farmer of Hawkswick, married Elizabeth Betty Smith in 1828. They had 2 children baptised in 1829 and 1831. Yet another marriage of a James took place in 1835, this time to Agnes Procter.

The 1841 census for Haltongill shows Christopher aged 67 an agricultural labourer at Foxup, with his wife Mary aged 55 and 2 children, Allen age 5 and Mary age 3, it does seem quite possible they were grandchildren. In 1861 Allen was working as a farm servant for M. Stockdale. In 1871 another Christopher was farming 131 acres at Haltongill with his wife Ann and 4 children between 1 and 6 years old. By 1881 only 16 year old Ann was left in the whole of Littondale working as a domestic for Thos Cowen, farmer at Foxup.

The Todd Family

The family was recorded in the C16th when Richard and Lionel were tenants of Fountains Abbey occupying land at Haltongill. There are very few records of the family in the parish register. The earliest was in 1633 when Francis married Ellen Ward of Burnsall.

In 1672 the baptism of Elizabeth daughter of Francis of Haltongill was recorded, followed by baptisms of 4 children between 1673 and 1685. It seems likely that these were the grandchildren of Francis and Ellen.

In 1685 Francis of Haltongill died. It is fairly safe to assume this was Francis the elder as in 1705 a second Francis died at Haltongill. The death of Elizabeth, servant of Mr Lambert occurred in 1675. Possibly she was the sister of the second Francis.

A document in the Raistrick collection no.577 refers to a farm at Haltongill being released from Miles Todd yeoman of Haltongill to Henry Knowles. A second document no.581 concerns the release of another farm with land at Haltongill to Ellen and Jane Todd spinsters and John Armitstead to John Clerk of Heseldon. No doubt these were Miles’ sisters though Jane’s baptism was not found in the register. Miles died in 1734 and Jane in 1776. There are no further records of the family in Littondale.

The Wilson Family

The earliest information relating to the family at Haltongill was found in a document no.568 in the Raistrick collection dated 1681 which refers to John Wilson, gent of Eshton receiving £300 for land in Lower Bargh which was part of the tenement of Nether Heseldon. The parish register records the death of William, son of George in 1688 and the following year the death of Catherine, wife of Adam. In 1695 William possibly the father of George and Adam died.

Another 3 documents relating to George are in the Raistrick collection no.572 dated 1682/3 refers to the transfer of the lease of various parcels of land in Haltongill from John Ellison to George Wilson yeoman of Haltongill. The other documents nos. 574 & 576 are related to the transfer of land from the Hammond family of Arncliffe and others to George. The first dated 1682/3 refers to sheep grazing land on the East Moor and the second was land mainly meadow with barns around Angram dated 1709. George died in 1743 and Frances a widow in 1747. Probably she was the wife of George.

The only other Wilson family at Haltongill was that of Miles who was the curate there. Miles married Dorothy Lambert in 1737. They had 2 children who died in 1743. Dorothy died in 1774 and Miles 2 years later.

Other families were recorded lower down the dale. The earliest was the baptism of Jayne daughter of Thomas of Hawkswick in 1671. Mrs Christopher Wilson died at Hawkswick in 1723. Possibly she was the mother of Christopher who was living at Hawkswick when his son John was born in 1759, followed by Margaret in 1761 and Christopher in 1765. There must have been another Christopher living in Hawkswick at this time as in 1756 Jennet wife of Christopher died, followed by Christopher in 1766.

In 1674 John of Arncliffe had a daughter Ann baptised but she died 2 years later. It is interesting to see that in 1767 John Wilson schoolmaster from Coniston was buried and in 1773 Abraham of Kilnsey was buried at Arncliffe. Presumably they had been brought back to their native parish.

There are no records of the family on the 1803 Muster Roll or the 1841 census. An Edward/Edmund Wilson however, was involved as a witness in a dispute in the early C19th between the Foster family who owned Nether Heseldon and Robert Preston who had a right of way through part of their land. E. Wilson aged 43 was employed for carting lime over a period of 16 weeks in the summer of 1806.

The Winterburn Family

The family must have been in the area for over 300 years. The earliest known record is of Johannes Wynterburn who was recorded in the West Riding Poll Tax Returns of 1739. A document no.555 in the Raistrick collection gives details of the lease for possession from Th. Franckland to John Winterborne of Appletreewick, husbandman of a farm at Haltongill of 20/- ancient rent, dated Jan1667/8. It is not clear where John was actually living at this time as the earliest record in the parish register was in 1675 when Mary daughter of John of Haltongill was baptised. Was this the same John or were there two? Mary was followed by Thomas in 1769. Sadly Mary died when she was 13 years old followed by her mother a year later. It is likely that this was the same John who conveyed land to an older son Anthony in 1689 document no.571 in Skipton library.

In 1692 Anthony had a son John baptised, followed b Margaret in 1695 and Thomas in 1702 when Anthony was living at Foxup. In 1695 another John of Haltongill married Grace Carr. It seems likely that he was another son of John who probably died in 1702 the year before his grandson John, son of John was baptised. However another John died in 1711. There is no reason to think this was the grandson as the father’s name is not given, so is likely to be the second generation.

In 1707 Anthony appears to have financial problems. He mortgaged his farm by lease to Samuel Hardy to secure £130, document no.573 in Skipton library. An addition was made to this in 1711 when he and Leonard Redmaine were described as tenants of the property. By November 1718 the mortgage was repaid but only after Anthony had again mortgaged what was presumably the same farm, this time to secure £200 from Robert Mason of Horton in Swaledale, referred to in another document as Horton in Ribblesdale. The family seems to have left the area in the early C18th.