Penybont and District Local History Group 6th October 2014 at Thomas Shop Main topic: “Tracing Your Family History” with Jennifer Lewis

There was standing room only when we met this month to listen to Jennifer tell us about tracing our family histories. Nigel even brought his wife for the first time. Andrew, Jan and Lydia Williamson, relatively new, from Burton House came, also for the first time. Preserving the balance of Radnorshire families with ‘blow-ins’ such as myself, John Phillips, who had previously cherished a view that he was not old enough, added to the wealth of wonderful knowledge that only those whose families have roots in the area can bring to these sessions.
Geraint welcomed the members present to the meeting and started by whetting members appetites for the November meeting which will be led by Marion on the topic of Castles in the Ithon Valley.
Geraint also mentioned the December Meeting (1st) when he hopes to have a Panel to discuss and illuminate about ‘Farming and Living on the Land’.
Jennifer, a school-teacher by profession, revealed afterwards that she had never given a talk before. She is Librarian for the Radnorshire Group of the Powys Family History Society.
Neil set the scene that was common to many. He had been able to find out a lot about his family from 1911 backwards but after that he was quite stuck.
1. Scale of the task
Jennifer started by putting the subject in some kind of perspective when she said that, if you do the maths, you will find that if you go back to the middle ages there are potentially 1 million ancestors to research.
2. Expectations
i. You may discover criminals in your not so distant past. When Jennifer was researching the Wilding section of her family she soon found that two brothers were deported to Australia having been found guilty of robbing a stage coach.
ii. Insanity was quite prevalent in family histories, this may be in respect of matters familiar to us today, such as depression, post natal depression, having a child out of wedlock etc. but it also might refer to children who were dyslexic and described as idiots.
iii. Records were often corrupted by people who lied about their ages and other matters. On a local marriage certificate a couple referred to recorded 15 years difference between their ages when the truth was that there was 25 years between them.
iv. Illegitimacy was common and records might hide this, or indeed a father’s name that was recorded incorrectly.
3. Getting Started
i. Talk to the Family
It is important to prepare your questions and to make the time and space to talk to family members on their own. Find information over several visits.
Jennifer remembered undertaking research on her father’s side of the family and discovered that her great, great grandmother was a Knill. When she mentioned this to her aunt she said; ‘Of course, I knew that!’
Jennifer told us of a rumour that existed on her husband’s side of the family that they were in some way related to Enoch Powell, especially as some looked like him. She bought the book ‘Like the Roman’ by Simon Heffer which was a biography of Enoch Powell. In this it says that Enoch Powell’s family came from North West Radnorshire!
Check the Evidence
Always aim to get two sources of evidence. Note down all information told by members of the family, but do not believe it until you have found another source.
There was a common practice of giving a child the name of a previously
Penybont and District Local History Group
6th October 2014 at Thomas Shop
Main topic: “Tracing Your Family History” with Jennifer Lewis
There was standing room only when we met this month to listen to Jennifer tell us about tracing our family histories. Nigel even brought his wife for the first time. Andrew, Jan and Lydia Williamson, relatively new, from Burton House came, also for the first time. Preserving the balance of Radnorshire families with ‘blow-ins’ such as myself, John Phillips, who had previously cherished a view that he was not old enough, added to the wealth of wonderful knowledge that only those whose families have roots in the area can bring to these sessions.
Geraint welcomed the members present to the meeting and started by whetting members appetites for the November meeting which will be led by Marion on the topic of Castles in the Ithon Valley.
Geraint also mentioned the December Meeting (1st) when he hopes to have a Panel to discuss and illuminate about ‘Farming and Living on the Land’.
Jennifer, a school-teacher by profession, revealed afterwards that she had never given a talk before. She is Librarian for the Radnorshire Group of the Powys Family History Society.
Neil set the scene that was common to many. He had been able to find out a lot about his family from 1911 backwards but after that he was quite stuck.
1. Scale of the task
Jennifer started by putting the subject in some kind of perspective when she said that, if you do the maths, you will find that if you go back to the middle ages there are potentially 1 million ancestors to research.
2. Expectations
i. You may discover criminals in your not so distant past. When Jennifer was researching the Wilding section of her family she soon found that two brothers were deported to Australia having been found guilty of robbing a stage coach.
ii. Insanity was quite prevalent in family histories, this may be in respect of matters familiar to us today, such as depression, post natal depression, having a child out of wedlock etc. but it also might refer to children who were dyslexic and described as idiots.
iii. Records were often corrupted by people who lied about their ages and other matters. On a local marriage certificate a couple referred to recorded 15 years difference between their ages when the truth was that there was 25 years between them.
iv. Illegitimacy was common and records might hide this, or indeed a father’s name that was recorded incorrectly.
3. Getting Started
i. Talk to the Family
It is important to prepare your questions and to make the time and space to talk to family members on their own. Find information over several visits.
Jennifer remembered undertaking research on her father’s side of the family and discovered that her great, great grandmother was a Knill. When she mentioned this to her aunt she said; ‘Of course, I knew that!’
Jennifer told us of a rumour that existed on her husband’s side of the family that they were in some way related to Enoch Powell, especially as some looked like him. She bought the book ‘Like the Roman’ by Simon Heffer which was a biography of Enoch Powell. In this it says that Enoch Powell’s family came from North West Radnorshire!
Check the Evidence
Always aim to get two sources of evidence. Note down all information told by members of the family, but do not believe it until you have found another source.
There was a common practice of giving a child the name of a previously

There was a common practice of giving a child the name of a previously deceased child, particularly when the oldest son died and had been given a ‘family’ name.
Be careful not to push too hard. Sometimes there is embarrassment with the family and a code of silence has been established to hide what was at the time unacceptable. Jennifer told us a cautionary tale of a childless family that had been given a baby at birth. They registered the child as their own. Years later this child would not believe that these were not her true parents as she had the birth certificate to prove it!
Don’t assume that everything you have been told is correct.
Family Bibles
Jennifer had recently come into possession of the Wilding Family Bible. It had previously been looked after by a younger member of the family. This is a great source of information going back to the 1860s. One entry not only gave the date of birth of a family member but also the time of day. Neil also has a similar bible at home dating from a similar period.
ii. Books
Some books were given for attendance at Sunday School and this can give rise to further research through the inscriptions at the front. Similarly schools gave books as prizes or when pupils were leaving.
One entry referred to a boy leaving school a day before a fourteenth birthday to start work on the farm. No need for further education. Another gave the first name of the husband of a family member previously unknown.
iii. Funeral Cards
These can also be a source of useful information. Jennifer had a card which someone had recorded on the back the row and number of someone’s grave in Newtown cemetery. Useful when there is no gravestone.
Diaries
Diaries are invaluable and can reveal glorious insights into the past lives of our ancestors.
Jennifer learnt about a workman who had been hired for a 54 hour week with no overtime and no Sunday labour in her grandfather’s diary. Also mention of a German POW who came to work on the farm in Norton during the War. He stayed there till 1948. The diary also revealed interesting anecdotes about the relationship between farmers and the military who were training on some of the farm. Her grandfather recorded that he was starting to bring the cattle in at night away from the military. However they did well selling eggs and rabbits to them.
Photographic Albums
These are another invaluable source of information but very often there are no names on the back of the photos and this can be a problem. It is important, wherever possible, to try to identify who is in the photos and to record them. When writing on the back be careful to only use a pencil as ink will work its way through the photo. A good way of getting this work done is to encourage children to do this as part of a school project.
A birth date recorded on a death certificate of one person turned out to be one day different from the birthday that was celebrated in the photo album.
iv. Wills
Wills can give some new insight into family relationships and connections. This triggered much interest in the concept of ‘Stranger in Blood’ with particular reference to a Great great-grandfather who was supporting more than one family. Bryan Lawrence had told of a story to Jennifer of how this man killed a pig with half going to his official family, and the other half to the unofficial family, [the children of which were referred to as strangers in blood in his Will.]
v. Folders
Jennifer had a folder from a deceased relative which contains all sorts of information on funerals, weddings and other newspaper cuttings.
Members remembered well the story and mystery surrounding the unfortunate accident involving John Francis Hammond who had been found dead on a railway track during the ‘black-out’. The cutting had no date but John felt sure that it was 1943. The case became even more interesting when it became known that the Police were wanting to interview people over the circumstances surrounding the discovery of a woman’s body on the bank of a river in Berkshire, which was linked to this man’s death.
vi. Scrap Books
In a similar way to folders old scrap books can give insights into the past that can be leads to other things. A scrap book that Jennifer had been given was created on the pages of a 1954 edition of Farmers Weekly. On the front page of this scrapbook was the marriage of Miss Phillips of Crossgates to Mr Watkins of Llandegley – an unexpected bonus.
There were photos of a Mr. Price Pugh with his grand-daughter Maria – on closer inspection the child was clearly a boy. Newspapers, as we know today, are not always accurate.
vii. School Days
Jennifer interviewed her uncle and aunt Arthur and Edie about their Llanbister School experiences. They and other families all walked some distance to get to school. Being late meant the cane! They would sit in class with two pupils at a desk. For lunch they would have either bread and butter or bread and jam. They might have meat and cold tea in a jar. Boys and girls were separated at play time. When it was wet and cold they would gather round a guarded stove. School finished at 3.30 p.m. and the boys would look out for the cart carrying coal from Penybont station and try to get a ride.
Only one family in Llanbister had a car at this time and it was the doctor. It is quite easy often to recognise families in old school photographs, especially girls. This is because the village dressmaker would make them the same style dress.
Mary remembered that children would probably only get new clothes once a year, at Easter. How different to the children of today.
viii. Certificates
Old certificates often have a story behind them. Jennifer had a Certificate that was given to Mary Wilding for her dedication to the care of Belgian Soldiers in Knighton Hospital during the 1st World War.
ix. Parish Registers
The records of Baptisms within the Parish can be a vital source of information but on the other hand they are only as good as the record keeping of the minister. Some Ministers did periodic ‘roundups’ to keep the register ‘up-to-date’. In one dated the 8th September 1852 there were baptisms for people ranging from 23 years to 3 years. Nine were of one mother, all illegitimate. Some vicars would baptise illegitimate children but others would not.
Some church baptisms are not recorded because the vicar forgot, he was too lazy, recorded first on scraps bits of paper which were subsequently lost.
It may not be possible to find a Baptism, but in some parishes, particularly in Brecknockshire, there are records of vaccinations going back to 1856 which gives the date of birth and information on one or two of the parents.
In many families more children died than lived. Jennifer in her research found that Maria her great-great-grandmother had 13 children – first two lived, the next six died aged between I day and 17 years, next one lived, next three died and the youngest survived. If a baby looked like he/she would not survive he would be christened straight away. Statistics over life expectancy are skewed due to the very high death rate within the first year of birth.
Names can be tricky as younger children can be given the same name as a child who had died. Half-brothers also might have the same name.
x. Post cards
Postcards can reveal information in the picture – Jennifer brought one that was quickly identified as the Pales with its thatched roof. (Roof has
just been repaired this month and it is looking resplendent with its new thatch.
There are often nice asides on postcards that can answer or set up a set of questions. e.g. “You missed a treat at the Show.” “It was a good night last night.” “See you for tea tomorrow.”
xi. Census Information and Research
Prior to the session Jennifer had asked members of the group for tasks that she could research to give members a real flavour of how she, as a professional, would approach researching Family History.
Jean had put forward her interest in knowing more about her father’s side of the family – Richard Vaughan Cadwallader. Jean had been able to show a marriage photo at Penybont Chapel. Her father is buried in the Penybont graveyard. Mary, his wife, lived in one of the terraced cottages in Penybont.
Jennifer’s starting point for family history is usually the 1911 census. She finds that this is generally the best place to start.
This Census revealed Richard as a two year old in Clun, Shropshire. Jennifer was able to find out from this census that Richard was the youngest of 5 children living at that time and that his father’s name was Thomas Cadwallader. Thomas had been married to his wife Mary for 8 years. The names of the children were Thomas, Edith, John, Richard and Edgar. Cadwallader is a relatively unusual name in Radnorshire but it is common in Shropshire.
A cautionary note from Jennifer about the 1911 census is that there are some omissions due to the suffragettes boycotting the census that year.
With this information Jennifer was able to identify Thomas Cadwallader in the 1901 census. He was living with his sister Edith. Obviously fond of his sister as he called his first daughter after her.
In the 1891 census Thomas was found with his father Thomas, who was referred to as a ‘gamekeeper’. He and his wife Mary had 4 children at that time. They lived in a 4 room, 2 bedroom house. Thomas had a 14
year old sister called Selinia. Selina’s unusual Christian name made it easier to find the family in the 1881 census.
In the 1881 census Thomas is aged 6 and his oldest sibling is Emma who is 12. Emma was then used to find the family in the 1871 census.
In 1871 Emma is 2 and has an older sister called Anne aged 10. Anne was used to find the family in the 1861 census.
In 1861 Ann is just 4 months old living with her parents Thomas and Mary who were born in Mainstone.
As Thomas says he was born in Mainstone he is easy to trace. In 1851 Thomas is 23 years old, unmarried, and working as a farm labourer in Mainstone near Bishop’s Castle.
In 1841 Thomas is a male servant in the parish of Mainstone.
The person recording the data for the censuses was called an enumerator. You can often trace what direction he took by the order of the farms on the forms. Tithe maps are helpful to locate places that no longer exist. Enumerators had problems spelling Welsh parishes and farms. As Nigel pointed out one of the difficulties is that the spellings of names become unrecognisable. Names are spelt in many different ways.
The census of 1841 was conducted in the summer and many of the farm workers would be working away. Houses were often not given names and just referred to as Village. Ages for adults over 15 were rounded down.
The census was introduced in 1801primarily to identify people who could be called up into the military, or those who could grow food so names were not recorded. Parishes were divided into townships with rivers and streams creating boundaries.
In the case of Thomas and Mary Cadwallader their ages can only be considered to be as accurate as they wanted them to be recorded. Between 1851 and 1861 Thomas’s fist wife died and he remarried. As there were two wives, both called Mary, there are real dangers of taking
the research in the wrong direction. The Baptismal records for Mainstone tell us that Thomas’s father was James Cadwallader.
At this point in history ‘trial marriages’ or ‘bundling’ were common, especially in areas of West Wales.
Traditionally, participants were adolescents, with a boy staying at the residence of the girl. They were given separate blankets by the girl’s parents and expected to talk to one another through the night. The practice was limited to the winter and sometimes the use of a bundling board, placed between the boy and girl, discouraged sexual conduct. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundling_%28tradition%29
Another practice was that of ‘walking across the landing’. Relatives might have chosen a housekeeper to help a widower with his child or children. Walking across the landing might then lead on to marriage.
Another challenge for researchers was the custom whereby the mother of a illegitimate child could name anyone as the ‘father’.
Over the years many registers have deteriorated due to damp, rodents, fire, etc.
xii. Drawing up your Family Tree
Family trees can be drawn up on paper or on the computer. Jennifer ‘s preferred method is to use wallpaper. Jennifer showed us her own tree for the Wildings. This took in connections that include the Severn Arms, Hotel Metropole, and Watkins (Quakers involved with the Pales).
Questions for Jennifer included: How do you trace farms?’
Tithe maps are also very good for locating farms.
Parish registers are also good but they are only as good as the vicar has done the recording. Tithe maps are also very good for locating farms. Geraint felt that inevitably meant that they would be perfect! Some registers were in Latin. Some key dates about Registers are:
key dates include:
* 1538 – A mandate is issued requiring that every parish was to keep a register. Many parishes ignored this order. Only about 800 registers exist from this time period.
* 1643-1659 – Registers were poorly kept during the English Civil War and the Commonwealth period which followed, or abandoned altogether.
* 1733 – The use of Latin in registers is prohibited.
* 1751 – Calendar reform. Prior to this the year commenced on 25th March, so any register entry for December 1750 would have been followed by January 1750.
* 1754 – Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act. A separate marriage register is enforced which records witnesses, signatures of all parties, occupation of groom and the residences of the couple marrying. It also enforced Banns and made clandestine marriages illegal.
* 1763 – Minimum age for marriage set at 16 (previously the Church accepted marriage of girls of 12 and boys of 14). Those under 21 still needed the consent of parents. On marriage records individuals that are over 21 often have their age listed as “full age” rather than an exact year.
* 1812 – George Rose’s Act. New pre-printed registers were to be used for separate baptism, marriage and burial registers as a way of standardizing records http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/group/epr
Powys Archives have an online catalogue which can be very useful for tracing names and places.
In a question about names Jennifer confirmed that first
Christian names were very important as they could be carried on by future generations. Neil’s grandmother was ‘Trefina’.
Geraint and the members thanked Jennifer for her excellent talk and introduction to this topic. Jennifer does do Family research commercially and Mary referred to how good she had found her service.
Jennifer encouraged members to join the Family History Society which has been operating for 30 years.
The November Meeting will be at the Thomas Shop on Monday 3rd at 10.30 a.m. when Marion will talk about the Castles of the Ithon Valley.