Thursday, October 12, 2017

More on boatmen and baptisms

The Leeds Liverpool Canal at Wigan Pier
Never publish in haste! I wrote my last article based on research I'd done quite a while ago, but after digging into things a bit more, I find I now need to correct a couple of statements in my previous post about Hannah Holt and her family.

First, I said that her father John Holt was a boatman, and guessed that this meant he was a labourer on the docks. But after doing more research I've realised that it's more likely that he worked on the actual canal boats.

Even before the Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, there was an extensive network of canals all over England, which were used for transporting raw materials and goods. It was much more efficient to have a horse (or a man) pull a fully laden boat along a canal than it was to have the horse pull a cart along an unpaved road.

Some of the canals dated back as far as Roman times, but the canal system was greatly expanded during the industrial revolution. The port in Liverpool was linked to industry in Manchester and Yorkshire by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and there was an extensive network of canals linked into this. Eventually the railways took over as the main means of transporting goods. But the canals still exist and it's apparently still possible to travel from London to Lancaster without setting foot on dry land.

Many boatmen lived on their boats, since the journey between the port and their destination could take several days. In some cases their families lived with them. But it seems from the census returns that John Holt and his father William had homes that they returned to regularly.

John and Elizabeth Holt's children

The second thing I need to correct is my statement that Mary Ann, the first child of John Holt and Elizabeth Hardman, appeared to have died in infancy. In fact I've now found her as a seven year old in the 1861 census, staying with her grandparents Patrick and Margaret Hardman in Eagle St, Pendleton. Whether she was there just for the night of the census or more permanently is unclear. I haven't been able to trace her in the 1871 census, but she would have been a teenager then and may well have been working away from home. In March 1876 she married Thomas Ogden in St John the Evangelist Church in Salford. She was still living in Salford, though widowed, in 1911.

While on the topic of John and Elizabeth Holt's children, I've recently discovered their baptism records on the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk site (which is where I also found Mary Ann's marriage). They were all baptised in the Catholic Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist, in Salford, except for the youngest, John, who was baptised in Christ Church, Salford, which is an Anglican church.

Perhaps this was because his mother Elizabeth, an Irish Catholic, had a say in where the other children were baptised, but she had already died before John came for baptism. I haven't been able to find a burial record for Elizabeth but her death was registered in the first quarter of 1870 and John was born on 13 March 1870, so she probably died towards the end of March. When John was baptised on 6 April, his father, or his father's family, apparently chose to have him "done" in the Church of England.

I usually try to check my facts before posting, but if you come across any errors in any of my blog posts, do please let me know, either by posting a comment or messaging me.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Hannah Holt and her family


Salford Quays today would be unrecognisable
 to Hannah Holt and her family
When I wrote about Alice Hough, I mentioned that she was the child of Alfred (aka Albert) Hough and Hannah (or Anna) Holt. I've already described the Hough side of her family, who were brick makers in Salford. Now it's time to say something about the Holts. Unfortunately there's little to tell about them besides details of births, deaths and marriages, and even some of those are hard to find. They seem to have been one of the many families living in crowded, poor conditions in Salford during the late 19th century.

Hannah's background

Hannah's father John Holt was described in the various census returns as a boatman or waterman, which probably means he worked as a labourer on the docks in Salford (but see below).  He was born in Salford in about 1831. His father, William Holt, was also a boatman.

Hannah's birth registration indicates that her mother's maiden name was Hardman.* Elizabeth Hardman arrived in Manchester from Galway, Ireland with her parents, Patrick and Margaret Hardman (nee Jenkins), around 1840 when she was about 6 years old. Patrick was a labourer, so it's likely that John and Elizabeth began their married life in July 1853 with very little.

John and Elizabeth's first child, Mary Ann (born 1854) seems to have died in infancy, since she doesn't appear in the 1861 census (but see below). The next child, Harriet, was two years older than Hannah (born in 1858). In the 1861 census Hannah is listed as Anna, and the family were living in "Slater's building" which seems to have been some sort of tenement off Hampson St, not far from the docks.

Elizabeth gave  birth to five more children after Hannah, (James 1861, Sarah 1863, Samuel 1865, Elizabeth 1867 and John 1870) but it's not clear how many survived. I can't find the family in the 1871 census. Elizabeth herself died during or soon after giving birth to John in March 1870. Hannah would have been about 12 years old at the time.

In December 1870 Hannah's father remarried, to a woman named Margaret Gill who was 27 at the time. I haven't been able to find the family in the 1871 or 1881 census. Possibly a child, Mary Ellen, was born to Margaret in 1871, but I can't find any others, so John or Margaret may have died soon after that. (The name John Holt was common in Salford so it's difficult to know for certain which death registration is his.)

Marriage and children

Hannah Holt married Albert Hough, a brickmaker, at the Stowell Memorial church in Salford on 18 August, 1878. She was 20. When they married they both gave their address as 57 Jane St. This was in a typical Salford row of two storey brick houses built "back to back" on a cobbled street with flag-stone pavers.

When the census was taken three years later Hannah and her daughter Alice were living with her bother-in-law John Hough and his family in Lynton St, Salford. Albert was lodging with another family in Ardwick St. Was this for financial reasons, or had they separated? They had another child, Albert, the following year, and another five children after that, so perhaps it was for practical reasons.

By 1891 Hannah was boarding with another family, along with four of her children, and she was working as a charwoman, which suggests that she was in very difficult circumstances. Albert is nowhere to be seen on the census.

In 1899, at the age of just 41, Hannah died. Albert went to live with his daughter Alice and was with her family in 1901, but he seems to have died before 1911.

NOTE: I've updated and corrected some of the information in this post in my next post. See More on Boatmen and Baptisms

*(GRO Reference: 1858  S Quarter in SALFORD  Volume 08D  Page 77). 

Monday, September 4, 2017

7 tips for searching newspapers on Trove

The digitised newspaper collection at Trove, the National Library of Australia site, is an amazing (and free) resource. It proved invaluable when I was doing the research for my book about Susan Mason. Trove has many more resources available besides newspapers of course - maps, diaries, journals, government gazettes, and videos, to name but a few - but for those researching their family history, or other historical events, newspapers can be a fantastic source of information.

If you're lucky you might even find images related to your search. This photo of  Adelaide Police Magistrate, Mr Samuel Beddome, comes from the Evening Journal, 1 Sept 1888.
The Trove site itself offers  a comprehensive online help page on how to search the newspaper collection effectively, but I thought I would list a few tips that I've found most useful in my own research. For starters, I suggest going straight to the Advance Search page.

1. Start with a fairly wide search under Places and Titles. Even if you know that someone only ever lived in one state, include newspapers from all the states in your search to begin with. (This is the default if you don't tick any boxes). News items were commonly shared from one newspaper to another, within states and interstate, so even if the search misses an item in a local newspaper, you might find a similar item elsewhere. You may even find relevant news from overseas newspapers published in Australian newspapers.

2. Don't restrict the publication date too much. You may know the person you are looking for died in, say, 1860, but search beyond this date. You might come across an "in memorium" notice, one or several years later. The same goes for other events, not just deaths. Newspapers often published anniversary articles many years after an event.

3. Try variations and spelling 'mistakes'. If you're looking for a person's name, use as many variations as you can think of in your search. For instance, to find items mentioning John Mason, I searched for "John Mason", "Mr Mason", "J Mason", and "Jno. Mason". (Jno was often used as an abbreviation for John, just as Thos was used for Thomas and Hy for Henry.) Sometimes it's worth trying some deliberate mis-spellings of a name as well.

4. Make good use of excluded words. If your search brings up a lot of items that are similar to what you're looking for but irrelevant, use the box labelled "without these items" to get rid of most of them. The results of my search for "John Mason" included a lot of items about a much more famous Rev. John Mason Neale. I also got a lot of results referring to Masonic meetings. By putting "Neale" and "Masonic" in the "without these words" box, I could exclude many of them.

5. Build on what you've found. Once you've found an article that you are fairly sure refers to the person you're looking for, look carefully for other information in the article that might be useful in narrowing down or expanding your search. For instance, I discovered from one article that Susan Mason lived in Currie Street in Adelaide. By combining "Currie" with "Mason" I found several other references to people named Mason in Currie St. Other clues helped me decide whether these were about the right family or not.


Similarly, after finding a funeral notice for Brother John Mason inserted by the Court Perseverance of the Foresters, I was able to search for "Mason" with "Court Perseverance" and/or "Foresters" to find other articles that mentioned him. I also did some research about who the Foresters were, which helped me to understand why John Mason might have been a member.

6. Don't rely on the article titles in search results. When going through the results of a search, don't take too much notice of the article titles shown in bold capitals. Scan the snippet of news instead, if there's one provided. The search results seem to use the closest heading on the page, but the item you want may not have a heading, or the heading may be too small to get noticed. I found an article about the Court Perseverance annual dinner listed under the heading "Representation of Willunga" in the search results. The heading referred to the previous item and had nothing to do with the item about the dinner underneath it. I've also found several useful short articles listed under "Advertising". Birth, marriage and death announcements are not always under "Family notices".

7. Get updated results on your search. The information on the Trove newspaper site is being updated and corrected all the time. After doing a search, you can ask to be sent an email alert whenever new results are available, by clicking on the "Subscribe to this webfeed" link down at the bottom of the page of search results.

Don't forget that newspapers are not always accurate! Once you've found information from a newspaper, always try to check it out some other way. My own experience is that the information in most newspapers from the past has been pretty reliable, and has sometimes provided invaluable clues about dates of birth, marriage and death, and family relationships. But it's always better to have more than one source of information.

Do you have a favourite tip of your own for using Trove newspaper searches? Why not share it with everyone in the comments below.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Muslin by the yard - John Mason's trial

Limerick c 1900
John Mason was 18 years old when he was transported to Australia aboard the Parmelia. Until recently all that I knew about his crime came from his convict records, which stated that he had been sentenced in Limerick for 'stealing cotton'. The Limerick prison records (available at Find My Past) showed that he had been tried on 27 June 1833 and sentenced on 11 July, but gave no other details.

This week the British Newspaper Archive posted a new batch of pages from Irish newspapers, including the Limerick Chronicle, and I was finally able to discover a little more about John's trial. On 13 July 1833, under the heading "Limerick City Sessions" this appears:
John Mason, for stealing 29 yards of muslin goods from Thomas Evans.
James Evans sworn - He was behind the counter when he heard a pane of glass broken in the window; jumped over the counter and saw the prisoner outside with the piece of muslin in his hand; his brother coming out, they took the muslin from him.
George Evans sworn - corroborated the evidence of his brother, whom he saw struggling with the prisoner outside the window.
Thomas Evans; fully confirmed the testimony of the two preceding witnesses, young boys, who gave their evidence in a most correct and intelligent manner. Verdict - Guilty.
The sentence, transportation for seven years, given a few days later, appears on page 3 of the same paper.

Since reading this I've been trying to find out more about the shop owned by Thomas Evans. Where was it? What did it sell? On a genealogy site I found a Thomas Evans in Limerick with sons named George and James, born in  1817 and 1818 respectively. That seemed promising

The Evan's family in the 1846 Slater's directory p 264
Then I came across an entry in the 1846 Slater's National Commercial Directory of Ireland for Thomas Evans in William St, Limerick  (pg 264). But according to this he was an ironmonger, and the correct and intelligent George and James were hardwaremen in Rutland Street. Another entry showed Thomas Evans and his sons also held a license to sell gunpowder (p 274). It didn't seem likely that either of these stores would sell muslin by the yard. Had Thomas Evans changed his business in the thirteen years since 1833, or was this a different family?

George St, Limerick c 1880
The mystery was solved when I noticed a Hannah Evans listed as the owner of a haberdashery store in George Street, Limerick. Thomas Evans' wife and James and George's mother was named Hannah, so I'm guessing that it was the Evans' haberdashery shop rather than the hardware or gunpowder store that John Mason robbed. 

John was not the only Limerick resident sentenced on 11 July to being transported. Just below the newspaper account of John's trial is one for Mary Lynch, who stole a coat. She freely admitted that she was guilty, adding that she had deliberately stolen the coat in the hope of being transported, since so many of her family and friends were now in New South Wales. She was found guilty and had her wish granted.