Wednesday, 30 December 2015

On This Day - Fenwick Morris

On 29 June 1895 Fenwick Morris was born at New Hartley, Northumberland to Matthew Morris and Hannah Bell Taylor. Fenwick was the youngest of six children, five of which were boys. He was baptised at the little parish church at Delaval on 24 July 1895. Fenwick was my grandmother's elder cousin. 

Fenwick Morris
From the Illustrated Chronicle.

Fenwick's mother was utterly devoted to him, as after all he was the baby of the family. In August 1913, Fenwick only 18 years old was charged with "having rode his bicycle without a light." Fenwick did not appear at the Blyth Petty Sessions, but his mother Hannah did on his behalf. Hannah told the court that the reason Fenwick was not in attendance was due to him injuring himself that very same day at Hartley Pit. Under these circumstances, the court withdrew the case and he was awarded clemency.

On 24 August 1915 Fenwick enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve at Blyth. The next day he left Blyth onboard HMS Crescent, but soon he was on HMS Natal.

HMS Natal was anchored in the Cromarty Firth during the festive period of 1915. In the afternoon of 30 December the captain of the ship, Captain Eric Back had arranged to have a film shown to the men onboard. He invited a group of civilians, namely his wife and children, and also a group of nurses from the nearby hospital ship, DRINA.

Just after 3:20pm on that day, violent explosions ripped through the ship. The ship was engulfed in flames and smoke, and within a few short minutes HMS Natal had sunk.

"As the complement of the Natal was 704 men it would appear that the loss of life was considerable, but as the ship was in harbour it is of course not certain that everyone was on board and until a definite statement is forthcoming it is safest not to assume any figures.

The exact number of fatalities including the civilians and nurses is disputed, but the number is easily over 300, closer to 400 in fact. It was quite clear to witnesses and later divers that the calamity was caused by an unknown internal explosion. 

Stoker Fenwick Morris was lost on this fateful day, after only enlisting four months before. Hannah Bell Morris had lost her baby, aged 20 short years. 

Fenwick's name appears on the Chatham Naval Memorial, but he is also remembered on the family gravestone in Seghill churchyard. His name is there, along with his parents and two older brothers lost in the Great War.

The Morris family grave.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

"Christmas comes but once a year! Christmas! The same festive, jovial, old visitor; the same welcome, mirth-begetting Old Father Christmas, with his thousand and one pleasures, his ever sweet recollections, his time-honoured associations, recalling to one and all the happiest, merriest hours of life; the same last year, this year, and for all time; King of Holidays!

Beloved alike by young and old, rich and poor; yes dear Old Christmas is here again - once more approaching our thresholds and wishing us the compliments of the season; bidding us rekindle the blazing yule, and load the groaning tables with the best of good cheer!
Who is there in this world of ours that does not look forward with feelings of indescribable pleasure to the great annual festival?
Who is there that does not for this one day of all three hundred and sixty-five, throw aside dull care, and shut his eyes and ears to the call of business, the troubles and petty vexations of everyday life?
Who is there that does not long for the annual gathering round the family board that comes but once in the busy year, to reunite brother and sister, parent and child, in that magical home circle that bears with it an affectionate charm, unknown only to the orphan and castaway?
Miserable indeed must be that man who, like the Scrooge in Dickens's Carol who shut himself up alone from his fellow-men on this day of days, frowning in his darksome solitude on their pleasures - forgets to rejoice at this season of the year, or who from any other cause whatever cannot or will not participate in the merriment of Christmas!"
- From the Morpeth Herald, 1881.

To all my family and friends all over the world, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Christmas Lark

James Barrass was born in 1821 at Kenton, Northumberland to James and Alice Barrass. Young James was baptised at nearby Gosforth on 15 July when the whole family at that time, were pitmen.

Only a few years after James's birth, the whole Barrass family moved to Longbenton parish, where the men worked at Benton Colliery. The family eventually ended up living in Seghill.

A lot of the Barrass men became butchers, including James, his father and brothers. James himself set up his trade in East Cramlington. His business often took him to nearby Annitsford, where the local miners could be quite troublesome. 

In April 1870, Thomas Scott a local pitman, was remanded for a week, after having been charged with stealing a shoulder of mutton from James. A week or so later, Thomas Scott was again brought up for the same case. James however, did not get his justice, as Thomas was discharged in the absence of a prosecutor. Not even a whole year later, James was again in court after 12lbs of beef was taken from his cart. 

It was a few days before Christmas 1870, and James went into the Bridge Inn, Annitsford for a drink, leaving his horse and cart at the door. On coming out, James started for home, leaving without checking his wares. He only realised the beef was missing when he arrived home. 

Daniel Orde, another pitman, was charged with stealing the beef, which was valued at 10s. On the night in question, Daniel Orde had been drinking and thought it amusing to take the beef and lay it in his own garden. A witness was called who caught him in the act. They asked him what he was doing, with Daniel replying that it "was only a lark." The beef was only discovered the next day.

The Bench decided to dismiss the case, as they believed the beef was taken with no felonious intent - it was only in jest, a Christmas lark!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Auntie Nellie's Birthday Book - The Marley Family

My Great Auntie Nellie's Birthday Book is an absolute treasure to have, and I feel so lucky to have it in my possession. The book itself is now 102-years-old, closer to 103 in fact. It was given to Auntie Nellie on her 17th birthday, 10 February 1913.

Auntie Nellie Metcalf

The book has the birthdays of numerous family members, as well as friends close to the Metcalf family. I have given myself the task of trying to trace the families of Auntie Nellie's friends. The next family I am going to trace are the Marley-Vickers family.

There are two Marleys named in the book, the first being Mattie born on 30th April, and the second, Louie born on 12th October. There is only one Vickers, E. M. Vickers born on 9th May. 

At the time that Auntie Nellie received the birthday book, she and her family were living in Morpeth, possibly at the Masons Arms public house. Nellie's mother Ann was from Bedlington, and her father Joseph was from Stanley, Durham - meaning that the people named in the book could be from any of these places. 

When looking for possible E. M. Vickers in the Morpeth district (where Auntie Nellie's friends were most likely to be living), there is only one in this timeframe. 

E. M Vickers's birthday entry.

Elsie May Vickers was born on 9 May 1896, at Bishop Auckland, Durham. In 1911, Elsie May was living at 40 Shiney Row, Bedlington. She is living with her mother, Louisa Marley, or Louie as she is recorded in Auntie Nellie's birthday book, and also her stepfather, Joseph P. Marley.

Louie Marley's birthday entry.

Louie Marley was born Louisa Tonge in Westhoughton, Lancashire. She married Joseph William Vickers on 26 July 1893, and gave birth to their daughter three years later. Joseph W. Vickers later died in 1901. 

In the wake of her husband's death, Louie went north. There she met Joseph Prior Marley, and married him in 1903. Like Louie, Joseph was also a widower. His first wife Martha Phillips had died in childbirth giving birth to the couple's only child on 9 May 1896. Their daughter was named Martha Phillips Marley in her late mother's honour, but she came to be known as Mattie

Louie Marley later died in 1933, followed by Joseph Marley in 1950. Mattie married Charles R Shaw in 1920, going on to have a few children. Mattie's stepsister, Elsie May Vickers married William J Forsyth in 1922, but had no children.

I hope to perhaps contact descendants of the Marley family in the future.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Auntie Nellie's Birthday Book - The Burrows Family

My Great Auntie Nellie's Birthday Book is an absolute treasure to have, and I feel so lucky to have it in my possession. The book itself is now 102-years-old, closer to 103 in fact. It was given to Auntie Nellie on her 17th birthday, 10 February 1913.

Auntie Nellie Metcalf

The book has the birthdays of numerous family members, as well as friends close to the Metcalf family. I have given myself the task of trying to trace the families of Auntie Nellie's friends. I am starting with the Burrows-Turnbull family.

There are a few Burrows in the birthday book, and two Turnbulls. I went on to find that they are all from the same family.

The first family member in the book is Amy E. Turnbull born on 12 February, then Mrs Burrows born on 22 February. Florence Turnbull was said to be born on 7 June, and James Burrows on 20 June. The last was Emmie Burrows, born on 1 September. 

At the time that Auntie Nellie received the birthday book, she and her family were living in Morpeth, possibly at the Masons Arms public house. Nellie's mother Ann was from Bedlington, and her father Joseph was from Stanley, Durham - meaning that the people named in the book could be from any of these places

Amy E. Turnbull's birthday entry.

First of all, I searched for any Amy E. Turnbulls born in the Morpeth district, which also covered Bedlington. I immediately found an Amy E. Turnbull born in 1912, with the mother's maiden name being Burrows. Her parents were James Turnbull and Florence Burrows. So I had also traced the Florence Turnbull named in Auntie Nellie's book.

Florence Burrows Turnbull's birthday entry.

I realised that Emmie could be a nickname for either Emma or Emily, so tried both when searching for Emmie Burrows.

Emmie Burrows's birthday entry.

I found an Emily Burrows, born 1895, living at 7 Olympia Gardens, Morpeth, with her parents James and Elizabeth Ann, as well as her elder sister, Florence. I had now traced the whole family, and could also give a name to the mysterious and elusive Mrs Burrows

James Burrows's birthday entry.
Mrs Burrows's (Elizabeth Ann) birthday entry.

I now had the whole family, and found that the two daughters were born in Yorkshire. Mrs Burrows was also born in Yorkshire, but James was born in Cheshire. 

Amy E. Turnbull was not the only child of Florence Burrows and James Turnbull, in fact it appears she was the eldest of five. Florence later died in 1927, at the young age of forty.

Emmie Burrows went on to marry John R. Scott in 1918, but they had no children.

I hope to perhaps contact descendants of the Burrows family in the future.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Edward's Curse

The Leslie family were another of my families who fled Ireland to escape the potato famine, arriving in Glasgow in the early 1850s. They were three brothers and a sister; Edward along with his wife and children, Patrick (sometimes known as Peter), Margaret and James

Civil registration only came about in Scotland in 1855. Patrick had already married a woman named Margaret Galligan in 1853, and James married Ellen Mellon in 1855. 

On the three brothers' death certificates their father was listed as Edward Leslie (1), a labourer. On Peter and James' deaths their mother is listed as Catherine Brady. However on their brother Edward's (2) death certificate his mother is recorded as Mary Docherty. It is unknown whether Edward Leslie (1) was really married twice, or simply whether the informant of Edward's (2) death was mistaken. 

In late 1855, Edward (2) and his wife Bridget Leckie welcomed a son into the world. The couple already had three children who had all been born in Ireland. They named their new baby Edward (3), obviously after his father and grandfather. 

Sadly in February 1856, aged only three months, baby Edward (3) died of diarrhoea. Incredibly tragic, this is only a small reflection of how high the infant mortality was at the time. Edward Leslie (2) died in 1886 at the age of 66.

Peter and Margaret Leslie had three children; Catherine, John and Charles. Unfortunately Catherine died aged only 21 of phthisis, or tuberculosis. 

In 1884 Charles married Agnes Carroll and together they had seven children. Their first child was a son named Patrick. In 1907 he married Margaret Wood at Larkhall. Together Patrick and Margaret had many children including one son named Edward. In the late spring of 1915, little Edward grew ill. Sadly he died of diphtheria only just 1 year old.

Charles and Agnes' second son was named Edward. In 1910, aged 20 he married Catherine McTaggart in the local Roman Catholic church at Larkhall. Only three months into the marriage, Edward was taken to the Royal Infirmary Glasgow as he was suffering with an abscess in the appendix. There he died on 8 March 1911. 

When Catherine married Edward she was already heavily pregnant. Only one month after Edward's death, Catherine gave birth to a little girl and in honour of the baby's late father, she was named Edwardina. However, tragedy struck yet again and aged only three weeks old, baby Edwardina died of congestion of the lungs. Only 19 years of age, Catherine had lost her husband and infant daughter.

Charles and Agnes' penultimate son was also named Charles. He married Jane McComb McLean in 1920. From Larkhall he moved to Buckhaven, Fife with his young family. On a return visit to Larkhall, their youngest son fell ill. His name was Edward Carroll Leslie. Aged 11 months, Edward died of acute broncho pneumonia.

The Edward Leslies who died young,
spanning the generations

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Harbertson Family Anecdotes *UPDATED*

My Great Grandfather, James Harbertson was born on 8 April 1880 at New Hartley, the son of John Harbertson and Margaret Ann Sharp. When James was only seven, his father died of cerebral disease. His mother Margaret soon remarried to Thomas Vickers, a neighbour from two doors away. 

When James was in his early twenties he began walking out with Sarah Jane Taylor, a local girl from the next village, Seaton Delaval. After marrying, the newly-weds moved to Newsham, a small mining village further north and close to Blyth. As a miner, it's likely James got a job in a colliery close to Newsham.

When James' mother Margaret was widowed the family moved back to New Hartley to live with her. I've already detailed this time period in Margaret's life in an earlier blog postAfter staying in New Hartley for a few years, the Harbertson-Vickers family moved to the nearby village of Annitsford, and settled in No. 5 Orange Street. 

Margaret Vickers was a formidable lady, and it is said she wouldn't think twice about "marking your height" by throwing her cup of tea if you vexed her!

James in his allotment.
James Harbertson was an intelligent man, or rather as the family remember him "he had a good heed-piece on." He was quite good at fixing things, and would always lend a hand to help his neighbours out. James even worked for two doctors in nearby Burradon, with his family believing he was clever enough to be a doctor himself. As a working class man, and especially a miner, James just didn't have a good enough education. He always had his white silk scarf around his neck, contrasting with his boiler suit.

James' pride and joy was his allotment, a short walk from his house. There he grew flowers, fruit and vegetables. A trait he obviously inherited from his maternal grandfather, Joseph Sharp. James' beloved shovel was adorned with his initials, which he wrote in his own special way.

Sarah Jane was a "real grafter." She was always working, which included sweeping the street, polishing the front step and endless amounts of washing. Sarah Jane would hang the washing to dry in the wide and open Orangey's Field which the Harbertsons' house backed out onto. 

Sadly, Sarah Jane suffered from severe bronchitis and it took its toll on her over the years. She would often sit outside resting, and breathing in the fresh air. 

Sarah Jane.
Note her pinny, a sign of a real grafter.

Sarah Jane Harbertson died on 23 May 1951, and James on 5 May 1960.

James and Sarah Jane Harbertson's

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

11 November 2015 - Armistice Day

On this Armistice Day I'm thinking about my maternal Grandma's cousin, Stoker Fenwick Morris. He was the son of Hannah Bell (Taylor) and Matthew Morris

In Flanders Fields

Fenwick died under tragic circumstances only a matter of weeks after enlisting in the Royal Naval Reserve, and the centenary of his death falls on 30 December 2015. I will publish a short biography on that day.

In total Hannah Bell and Matthew lost three sons to the war.


Friday, 6 November 2015

The 1939 Register

On Monday 2 November, the much anticipated 1939 Register was released through Find My Past. The register was taken on 29 September 1939, only a matter of weeks after the Second World War was declared. From the Register, Identity Cards were issued to each and every citizen and it also played a part in the formation of the National Health Service. 

Due to the 100-year rule, the names and information of those born after 1915 has been redacted. The Register was actually updated for some people up until 1991, so there are some results for people born after 1915 if they have since died. 

Sadly Find My Past were not able to publish the Scottish Register, so I am not able to find my paternal grandfather and his family yet. 


I had some difficulty locating my paternal grandmother's family, the Storeys, at first. She and all of her siblings were born after 1915, so I did not expect to find them, however her parents were born in 1887 and 1893. I knew that the family would be living in New Sandridge, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. I eventually did find them under STONEY, so I have e-mailed Find My Past to try and rectify this mistranscription. 

I found my Great Grandparents, Robert Mavin and Mary A Minnie Storey living exactly where I knew they were. Three of their four children are present, although blanked out due to being born post-1915. One son of theirs I know to have been in the Royal Air Force, so he is possibly the one child missing. 

Robert M Storey is listed as a 'Master Builder', and his wife Minnie is down as 'Unpaid House Duties'. Minnie's birthdate is given as 5 September 1892, so is a year out.

Living across the road from Robert and Minnie, was old Adam Storey - my 2x Great Grandfather. Like with Robert and Minnie, I knew exactly where Adam would be. His dear wife Jane Mavin had died eight years before, so Adam is described as a Widower on the Register. He is also a 'Retired Fishsalesman'. 

Another person is living with Adam, although I can't be sure who that is as they are redacted. I think it might be one of his granddaughters who was known to care for him. 

The Register also gives Adam's birthdate as 11 September 1853 which is fantastic. I was originally told this birthdate by my grandmother. Adam was known as the Grand Old Man, but sadly I was not able to prove his birthdate before, as it appears his birth was never registered by his parents. 


I next turned to my maternal grandparents, Albert Victor and Sarah Jane Quinnin. I found them where I knew they'd be, living at 41 Jackson Street, Annitsford. Their first two children are with them, although redacted due to them being born in 1937 and 1939, respectively. Both of these children have died in recent years. 

My Grandma was actually born in June 1916, so under the 100-year rule she should have been redacted. My guesses are that somehow my Grandma's information was updated to say that she died in 1984, or it's just a simple mistranscription. 

My Granddad is a 'Public Works Labourer' which fits with what I knew already, and my Grandma is noted as 'Unpaid Domestic Duties'. 

When looking for my Great Grandparents I had no idea where they would be. They were actually living in 5 Wallridge Cottages, Matfen where they ended their days. I imagined that the family had first moved there in the mid-1940s, so this was a surprise to me. 

My Great Grandfather Martin was a 'General Labour', with my Great Grandmother Margery described as 'Household duties unpaid'. Two of my great uncles were living with them, with my uncle Martin (Barty) described as a 'Quarryman Heavy Worker'. My uncle Alex is described as an 'Invalid'. Family members who remember uncle Alex described him as resembling my Granddad in height and build, and showing no signs of a physical disability. He did however die when he was only 49. 

One possibility is that Alexander was described as an 'Invalid' in order to save him from the war and conscription by his parents. This is total guess and personally I'd say not likely in this case, but still a possibility.


I knew where my other maternal Great Grandparents would be, and true enough I found James and Sarah Jane Harbertson living at 5 Orange Street, Annitsford. 

James is described as being a 'General Labourer' with Sarah Jane undertaking 'Unpaid Domestic Duties'. There are four people living with my Great Grandparents who have been redacted, but luckily I know who they all are. They are two great uncles and a great aunt (all deceased). The last is a granddaughter of James and Sarah Jane who was cared for by them. She is still living.  


There was a such a big hype during the lead-up to the release of the 1939 Register, which was slightly dampened when Find My Past announced their plans for the Register to be made available through the purchasing of credits. Myself, like many others were disappointed that the 1939 Register was not being made available through a subscription. The credits are also very expensive on top of the subscription, some actually saying they were exorbitant. 

The 1939 Register is still a fantastic resource however, and I've enjoyed going through and attempting to find aunts, uncles and cousins. It certainly fills a gap between the lost 1931 Census and the 1951 Census, the first taken after the war.

Hopefully in the near future the 1939 Register will be included in one of Find My Past's subscriptions and I will be able to find more family members.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Harbertson Hunting Part 3 - Wooler

From Chatton we went back to Wooler. I knew Wooler to be the burial place of quite a few of my Harbertson ancestors already. Wooler is also special because a few of the Harbertsons actually lived there.

Church Street, Wooler
Like with Kirknewton and Chatton, we started in the churchyard. Again, I didn't expect to find any headstones as the Harbertsons would probably have been too poor to have one. We checked nevertheless, but found nothing. A small section of the churchyard is covered with trees, and as we checked the surrounding headstones the wind picked up. It wasn't a particularly breezy day, so I wonder if it were my ancestors, acknowledging us coming to find them. 

The church is dedicated to St Mary, and was built in 1765 from local stone. 

 Striking 3 o'clock.
The church dates back to 1765.
A Weeping Angel?
For being built in 1765, I found the church to be fairly modern inside. Inside the door was a computer and file on a desk. A kind volunteer has transcribed the burials for Wooler, although it is not complete. I hadn't seen anything like this before in any of the churches I have visited. I was pleasantly surprised. There were the burials of my 5x Great Grandparents, James and Christian and a few of their infant children. As well as those of their eldest daughter's family, the Cessfords.

Wooler itself is clearly a popular place today. Even on a Sunday, there were quite a few people walking their dogs, and one or two people asking for directions. 

A nod to the towns farming history.

It was nice to stand in the street where my 4x Great Grandparents, Andrew and Margaret Harbertson lived - aptly named Cheviot Street.

A view from Cheviot Street.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Harbertson Hunting Part 2 - Chatton

From Kirknewton we went through Wooler and onto Chatton. The Church of the Holy Cross at Chatton is located through the village centre and down Church Hill Road. To me it seems like it has been put out of the way, rather than be in the very centre of the village. 

The Church of the Holy Cross, Chatton.
Chatton was the parish in which James and Jane Harbertson, my 3x Great Grandparents were living in the early 1850s. James was a farm labourer, working and living at Fowberry Moor. Not long after living here, James and his family moved south to New Hartley to work in the colliery there.

The church has some truly beautiful stained-glass windows, which my photographs just don't do justice.

Again I looked in the surrounding churchyard, but found no Harbertsons. One gravestone did catch my eye, however. It was the gravestone of Robert Orange and his family, who lived near to Chatton in Lyham. One remarkable coincidence is that Robert Orange's nephew, also named Robert, owned land in Annitsford and was a revered figure in the area. In 1903, this second Robert had a street of houses built, named Orange Street after him. Orange Street later became of the home of my Great Grandparents, James and Sarah Jane Harbertson and their growing family.

I have actually written a blog post on Robert Orange and the building of Orange Street.

The Orange family grave.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Harbertson Hunting Part 1 - Kirknewton

On Sunday I went north to rural Northumberland, following in the footsteps of my Harbertson ancestors. They were from the Wooler area, living on small farms where they worked the fields.

First on the list was Kirknewton. It's a tiny village - a hamlet really, only boasting a few houses, but the church is very picturesque. The church is dedicated to St Gregory the Great, with a churchyard surrounding. 
St Gregory, Kirknewton
On 19 February 1784 my 5x Great Grandparents were married here. They were James Harberson and Christian Oliver. From them descends a large family, some of which now live abroad in the US and Australia. James was a shepherd. 

James Harberson and Christian Oliver's marriage at Kirknewton.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.

There are some ancient graves in the churchyard, as well as the burial place of the great Northumbrian social reformer, Josephine Butler. The churchyard is still in use today.

As is commonplace in rural areas, the church is still open to the public. Kirknewton is a very peaceful church. 

There is a chancel at the back, which felt very strange to me - it appeared to be a manmade cavern.

There is a stained-glass window in the chancel, showing Jesus in the centre, surrounded by angels. Apart from the stained-glass, there is only one other window in the chancel. From the photograph you see just how thick the walls of the church are.

St Gregory the Great

Walking back along the road to the side of the church are a set of gates, presumably only used for burials. From there is a lovely view of the church, although on the day it was slightly backlit. Opposite the church there are only fields and hills. 

A different view of the church and churchyard.
The decorated gate.
A friend I made. Wondering what I was doing!