Monthly Archives: January 2011

Better dead than in the workhouse?

I’ve now had a chance to take more of a look at the new Norfolk records which have appeared recently on (see last blog post). Images of a variety of documents, including Poor Law Union records (workhouse), some Non-Conformist church records (rather limited in Norwich at least – 2 Congregational , 1 Quaker, 1 Unitarian, covering minutes, membership and BMD), Bishops transcripts (which I’m not familiar with) and some more . It is purely an image database – no index other than to location such as parish. Which means you have got to have a reasonable idea already of the data that exists otherwise you are looking for a needle in a haystack (OK possibly quite a small haystack).

Today I had a go at looking at St Andrews Workhouse, Norwich. I had previously found two options for the death of great great grandmother Harriet Smith, born about 1819. She married gr gr grfather Robert Neal and after his death married John Blyth, so that would be the name she went under.  She was a waitress in 1891, living with her daughter’s family. There’s a possible death registration in 1896 of about the right age, but also an entry for a Harriet Blyth in the workhouse in the 1901 census, unfortunately labelled ‘lunatic’.

I went through the workhouse admissions register from 1892 or so. The first entry for Harriet Blyth(e) appeared 1st November 1895, aged 72 – a bit young but then women do tend to lose a couple of years on the way. This Harriet was in and out of the workhouse for the next couple of years but re-admitted usually within a few days, or the same day, as discharge. The final entry for  admission 28 July 1897 (where she has changed from being from Nth Heigham parish to Coslany), with a note next to the discharge date of 28 June 1902 saying ‘dead’. The corresponding death registration gives an age of 77.

I’m still no nearer deciding if the workhouse lunatic was my relation. If it is, her children would have been busy looking after their own quite large families and likely couldn’t cope with a demented old lady too.

UPDATE 1: on reflection I can’t see a strongly religious man like great grandfather Robert Smith Neal leaving his mother to the mercy of the workhouse, so I’ll go with her dying in 1896. Getting hold of a copy of the death cert should help clarify, but its not top of the shopping list at present.

UPDATE 2: Data provided by Kent Fraser confirms that Harriet Blyth, female, age 75, of Branford Road, St. James, died April 12, 1896. Widow of John Blyth, shoemaker journeyman; Cause – senile degeneration, chronic bronchitis; Informant – R. S. Neal, son, of 82 Marlborough Road, St. Paul, Norwich, present at death.

Taking the tree further in Brecon and Norwich

This was going to be a very short item about discovering, or re-discovering, useful sources of family history data. But today I took a look at two such, which threw up some immediately relevant material and highlighted an issue on Welsh records.

Welsh wills and Welsh names

Firstly, I try to adopt the practice of reading just about every scrap in the ‘Who Do You think You Are’ magazine, even if it doesn’t look relevant or promising at the outset. There are often helpful tips and suggestions which can be applied more widely than the subject under discussion. Today I went as far as making my loo reading material the show guide to their major exhibition end of Feb, although I greatly doubt I’m going to make the trip. And under the entry for National Library of Wales there’s a useful titbit I hadn’t spotted before – Welsh probate documents can be viewed online at (Probate – verifying a will after someone’s death)

I though I’d see what came up under Watkins in Brecon area. Jumping a few pages in the results there was a Gregory Watkins given in the target parish of Llandefalle, Brecon, will dated 1729. Rather a leap back from the earliest known date but hey worth a look. Then you notice that all the beneficiaries are named ‘Gregory’, not ‘Watkins’ – the Welsh patronymic system alive and well. (See Research page for explanation.) So how just do you trace Watkins ancestors? I’m sure there’s a session or two on this at the show but I guess that the answer is basically working backwards very carefully, and not expecting to be able to make great leaps.

Keep on checking for updates

I’ve mentioned this before, and no doubt will do so again, but what is available online keeps on changing. Ok, obvious to most perhaps. But even if a website looks the same and hasn’t made great announcements, there is often new data you hadn’t seen 6 months earlier.

The first time I checked out the Family Search site I abandoned it quickly as it took longer to find records that I could get more easily elsewhere. Having read that there are new Norfolk records (Alan Stewart’s blog), I decided to give it another whirl, starting with a search on my favourite Ann Harriet Cutlock. This time results were quick, relevant and soon filled in gaps/missing connections in the Cutlock clan a couple of generations back from her (basically using baptism details). Family Search now gets a prominent place on my personal list of bookmarks.

Annoyingly though I still can’t find details on the birth/parents of  the ‘other’ Harriet Cutlock – possible cousin to Ann Harriet’s mother, born about 1837 London – that I was told were on back in Sept ’09. {1}

One further annoyance – it seems that viewing images on familysearch is set up for Internet Explorer – I got a tiny view box using Firefox. Update to that – this issue was down to how I control Flash use (stops some annoying ads), seemingly.


1. Re-checking in October 2012, the FamilySearch record for Harriet has re-appeared. Father is Thomas Cutlock, mother Elizabeth, and she was born 19th October 1837.

The questionable pleasures of data entry

As if I wasn’t spending enough time on family history topics, last week I took up the suggestion in the recent newsletter and signed up to their World Archives Project. This involves volunteers transcribing selected data from images of all sorts of records. A recent example of a completed “keying project” is the ‘London, England, Land Tax Valuations, 1910′ set of records which Ancestry is currently promoting on its home page (the credit to volunteers is there, but perhaps not very prominent).

The featured data set in the newsletter was ‘British Postal Service Appointment Books’, which had some attraction to me as there are at least two closely related people who should appear in these.  I downloaded the ‘keying tool’ and set to for a little while.

For a first time project I found the instructions rather lacking in various areas such as how to handle abbreviations (and so called acronyms) and scattered across various places (overall info, then project specific as part of the keying pack download, on a wiki, and on unobvious project discussion boards). Hopefully they’ll tidy these up soon – shouldn’t be very difficult.

Anyway, I decided to give a different data set a go instead, ‘London School Admissions, Form 2′. This covers admission (and discharge) records for 1841 to 1911 for London School Board, a pace setter in it day.  It is unlikely that any of my direct ancestors would appear here, but some cousins and in-law families should. If you are lucky the records give you name of child and a parent, date of admission, and date of birth, all of which are keyed in, plus address, ‘standard in which last presented’, leaving date and any previous school, which aren’t keyed.

I’m sure many, if not most, people will see data entry as the embodiment of boring tasks. As a sometime bookkeeper/accountant perhaps I take a small pleasure in accurate recording and the low level brain activity needed to keep yourself in line on a repetitive, but variable, exercise.

And for a while at least, going through a set of historical records has its own charms. For instance:

  • Getting a feel for the difficulties faced in transcription. The way handwriting, although often neater than nowadays (and certainly mine), can be difficult to pin down – is that curly capital really a slanted B or an M not quite hitting the line right, for instance? (The keying tool does have a pretty thorough checklist of surnames which auto-matches, but someone has managed to undermine the ‘given name’ check by incorporating many common typos in the validation list.) Plus the ink can be blotchy, crossings out add confusion, curly characters stray over adjacent lines and cover other letters, and so on. Out of this you should get a better idea of what errors may have crept in to online records you are trying to track down yourself.
  • Over the last few days or so, the records seem to be trudging through the east end, late 19th century/early 20th. A Dr Barnardos home near by, a few exemptions to religious instruction noted as “jewish” or “old testament only”. The patterns of recurring names, surname and otherwise, the lack of full or any dates of births recorded for quite a few children, and also a remarkable number of blanks against parent’s name all add interest. And of course the odd amusing or notable name  (I thought Rose Pattle quite fun, just that little bit off being too obvious a play with words).

I’ll keep with it for a little while longer, but maybe not once the spring has arrived!

Also see

Getting posted to the Post Office

Searching for clues to Ann Harriet Cutlock

This site is slowly getting there. The main pages now have a reasonable amount of content and I’ve got a few ideas of what I’m going to write about blog-style. And from the web stats (WordPress provides a rather neat summary) visitors are arriving who I haven’t specifically invited – hurrah. I’m intrigued that one of the the first searches to appear on the stats was ‘ann harriet cutlock 1858 norwich’ – so precisely what these pages were set up for, but of course now I want to know who was it searching?

Given that interest, my first “all I know about an ancestor” piece is on

Ann Harriet Cutlock

As per the Cutlock/Cullum page, Ann Harriet Cutlock was born 10th December 1858  in Norwich, at Red Lion Yard. No father is given on her birth certificate (a copy is in my files). She is shown on the 1861/71/81 censuses as being with her grandparents John Cutlock/ Charlotte Plunkett, firstly in St Augustine Street then Ninham’s Court (see Norwich Yards website). A Bible has come down the family inscribed in fancy Bible inscription to A H Cutlockwriting “A H Cutlock 10th December 1879″, her 21st birthday.

At 1881 Ann Harriet Cutlock is a ‘tailor’s assistant’. By this time her grandfather, previously a silk weaver, is shown as a ‘Beadsman Norwich Cathedral’.

Her mother Harriet Cutlock married William Bishop Cullum 1865. Both are in the tailoring business.

Next comes the information which makes doing these sort of round-ups, which you might think just repeat material elsewhere, worthwhile. Ann Harriet married Arthur Albert Barcoe Howes 2nd August 1885 at St Augustine Church, Norwich. On checking the details I notice, for the first time since finding our Cullum connection, that the witnesses are Elizabeth Mary Cullum and William Cullum – I had thought I’d come across the surname before! Elizabeth is a half-sister, William is either Ann Harriet’s step-father (if that’s the right description – no father given in the marriage records) or half-brother (known in the Howes family as Uncle William, and due for his own round-up soon).

The first child Arthur William is born less than five months after the marriage (December 1885), so the image of the Howes family being of entirely upright stock takes another blow. Two further children Sydney Charles (1888) and Gertrude Alice (1891). The married couple are at 63 Rose Yard at 1891, moving to 55 Churchill Road by 1901. AAB Howes died 1918 Norwich.

Ann Harriet Howes (Cutlock) with daughter Gertie on the beach

There are a few photographs in old family albums which carry a label indicating that this Mrs Howes features. Another reason to prioritise a ‘scan visit’. The presence of various Cullums in these albums, along with the witnesses on the marriage registration and Cullum birthdays in gran’s records, perhaps give an answer to a question which had troubled me since I found Ann Harriet wasn’t brought up by her mother (at least as indicated by the census returns). How well did she know her mother, did they get on and was she included in the wider family? Quite clearly yes to the last of those, and I am now happy to apply a positive spin to the others too.

The Cutlock/Cullum page will be kept updated.

UPDATE: As you can see, some scanning has been done.

Looking ahead to look behind

To follow up the traditional year-end top moments, the traditional look forward for 2011.

Some of the possibilities:

  • A visit to the Tonypandy area, and Trealaw cemetery in particular (the list of tree members buried there just keeps expanding), really ought to be on the to do list.
  • Scanning to digital form old family photos. For this, it would be great if the Flip-Pal portable scanner got released in the UK soon, preferably not at straight dollar to pound pricing – see this ‘not-a-review’ post.
  • Am looking forward to Welsh parish registers appearing on Findmypast in 2011/12, although that means having to shell out for another subscription at some point. See Grown Your Own Family Tree post. Conversely the 1911 census arriving on Ancestry sometime this year means not needing to take an extra sub for that.
  • As I wrote on the ‘About’ page a couple of weeks ago, I’m “currently particularly interested in finding any living Cullum relatives, the Canadian branch of Neal, and Watkins cousins too.” Good start – a Watkins third cousin emerged today!
  • Keeping on finding material which might just be worth a blog post here.

As with all predictions, what actually happens over the course of the year is distinctly subject to events, dear boy, events.