Saturday, 31 January 2015

Where There's A Will

Wills of ancestors and relatives are such a fantastic resource in genealogy. They often let you in on the personal thoughts of a relative, and just how they wanted their belongings and assets to be shared out. 

Below are a few extracts from some of my own ancestor's wills. 

Ephraim Johnson who died in 1700, bequeathed to all of his grandsons:

"twenty shillings for a token

As might be obvious, Ephraim was quite a rich man. Ephraim also bequeaths "his Soul unto God", as is quite common for the time. 

Ephraim Johnson's signature.

One of Ephraim Johnson's grandsons was named Ephraim Potts, and he was also a wealthy man. He died in 1772 and in his will Ephraim bequeathed £50 to his spinster daughter, Mary and £20 to his widowed daughter Jane. Ephraim gave Jane's sons £30 each, to be paid to them when they reached the age of twenty-one. Until then he gave £5 to be put towards the "better maintenance & Education" of Jane's boys. 

Ephraim Potts also asked that his "Funeral be as private as possible." 

The mark of Ephraim Potts, along with seal.

Almost two centuries later, Ann Jane Storey Taylor, died in 1890. Ann Jane, a native of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea had married Bartholomew Taylor of Cullercoats only four years before. They had no children.

 In her will, Ann Jane bequeaths everything, her property and land to her husband, Bartholomew, "as long as He remains a Widower." The latter is stated no more than three times! Bartholomew however did marry again, so his late wife's estate was shared amongst her three brothers and her sister. Ann Jane's last bequest is that her:

"china that belonged to [her] mother decease be given to [her] brother Adam Storey"

Ann Jane Taylor's signature.

Often however, you come across some less exciting wills without much insight into an ancestor. My 2x great-grandmother, Jane Mavin Storey who died in 1931 made a will just like this.

"I DEVISE AND BEQUEATH all my Real and Personal Estates absolutely to my Dear Husband Adam Storey." 

That was more or less her entire will in whole.


Her beloved husband Adam Storey (the Grand Old Man), however made a will which was quite a bit more compelling. He bequeathed bed linen, money, land and even houses to his six children. Adam wrote his will himself, so naturally for someone born in the 1850s there were some spelling mistakes. His last bequest is to one of his grandsons:

"my peania" - a fantastic take on 'piano' from an elderly Northumbrian! 


Friday, 30 January 2015

A Mother's Love

In 1902 my Great Grandmother, Sarah Jane Taylor gave birth out of wedlock. Even in these early Edwardian days there was still a huge stigma against illegitimate children and their mothers. 

It is said in my family that Sarah Jane's mother, Isabella was ashamed. Ashamed, not in her daughter, but in herself that she had not noticed her daughter's pregnancy early on. Isabella regretted that she was not able to help and advise her through that time, as she was with her other daughters. 

Isabella was already raising her daughter Mary's son, Robert Money and when Sarah Jane's baby son was born, Isabella offered to raise and take care of him also. She nurtured and cherished him to adulthood, and when Isabella died in 1928, her grandson carried on living in her house. 

In these years, Sarah Jane went on to marry and have eight more children. 

A rare photograph of
Sarah Jane

Decades later, one of Sarah Jane's daughters fell into the same trouble as she had in her younger days. Natured very much like her own mother, Sarah Jane said she would raise and take care of her grandchild.

This lineage is my direct female line, and all my life I have felt such strong maternal feelings from this side of my family. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

A Harrowing Find - A Follow-up

A follow-up to A Harrowing Find.

After finding out about the discovery Adam Storey made, I had wondered the cause for the mutilated bodies found on that particular stretch of the North Sea coast. 

Below is an extract of the coroner's inquests taken from the Newcastle Courant reporting on 29 August 1856, a few days after Adam made the discovery. 


On the day following another inquest was held before the same coroner, at the house of Mr Robert Ditchburn, innkeeper, Hauxley, on the body of a man which was found floating in the sea off that place, and brought ashore, on the day preceding, by Adam Storey, junior, fishermen, Newbiggen. The body was much mutilated, the head and both hands being off, and the flesh of the uncovered part of the limbs partially stripped, from attrition in the sea, and its general appearance denoting that it had been in the water for several weeks. It was without coat or vest, but was clothed with trowsers and three shirts, two of striped linen and one of red flannel. On searching the pockets a port-monie was founding containing two sovereigns, one half-sovereign, and a silver fourpenny piece, but nothing to indicate the name or profession of their owner. - Verdict, "Found drowned." The body was in a similar state of decomposition to that found at Cresswell, as noticed last week, and in both cases the head and hands were absent when brought on shore. The clothes of deceased have since been carefully washed and examined, but without furnishing any mark of identification. Inquiries have been made and information received, which induces the belief that the bodies are those of two of the unfortunate persons who perished off Sunderland, when trying a new yacht, nearly two months ago. Since the above was in type, our correspondent writes, that the body of the man found at Hauxley has been recognised by the friends of the deceased, as that of John Hutchinson, joiner, aged 21 years; and the one found at Cresswell, as that of Ralph Davison, shipwright, aged 22 years, both of Sunderland, who perished between Ryhope and Sunderland, when trying a new boat, on Sunday, the 6th of July last.

So that answers my question as to where the two bodies came from. It must have been truly awful for the friends and family to identify the bodies of their loved ones, considering the state they were both in. Very grim. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

'Til Death Us Do Part - A Family Coincidence

On the 12 June 1884 at St. Bridget's Catholic Church, Baillieston, Lanarkshire, Scotland my 2x Great Grandparents, Charles Leslie and Agnes Carroll were married. Together they had seven children, and came to reside in the mining town of Larkhall.

Charles and Agnes' marriage
Two decades after having their last child, Charles became seriously ill. Eventually he died of liver and stomach cancer, on the 12 June 1921 - his 37th wedding anniversary. He was buried in the local cemetery at Larkhall.

The Leslie family moved around shortly after, but eventually settled in the mining village of Twechar near Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire. By this time Agnes was aged and frail and it was not long until she moved to a St Joseph's House, Glasgow, a home for the poor and elderly. There Agnes died of a cerebral haemorrhage, or stroke on the 12 June 1943 - 59 years to the day that she married Charles

Agnes was also buried at Larkhall, in the same lair as Charles. As is common with poor families, the two do not have a headstone. 

The Leslie family plots at Larkhall Cemetery. Taken April 2014.

Poor Predecessors

During the Great Irish Potato Famine, my mother's paternal family moved from Co. Sligo, Ireland to the Sandgate area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to start a new life.

Their new home was Wall Knoll, on Newcastle's Quayside and close to where the famous Millennium Bridge now sits. Today, Newcastle's Quayside is filled with night clubs, bars and fancy restaurants - but over 160 years ago, it was a very different story. 

In 1849, my 4x Great Grandmother, Mary Queenan died of cholera. A month previous, Mary's son-in-law, John Costelloe died. Only two years before John's only child, Maria died aged only nine months. Sadly only a year after Mary Queenan's death, one of her daughters Mary Fleming also died. Mary Fleming had only given birth to a daughter a few weeks previous. As cholera is a waterborne disease, the Queenans could easily have been drinking water directly from the river Tyne. If this truly was the case, that only shows the amount of desperation felt by the family. Even today the river Tyne is filthy. I can't imagine how it would've been all those years ago.

Mary Queenan's burial on 6th September 1849
 at All Saints, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Mary's burial sadly appears on the same page as her son-in-law,
John Costello
From contemporary articles written about the Sandgate area at the time the Queenans lived there, it sounds a truly awful place to live. After reading, you can easily believe why three members of one family died within such a short time.  

One particular extract from the Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury is below, from a man who surveyed the living conditions on the Quayside;

He had frequently seen, especially among the Irish population, two or three families, and one or two lodgers, in a room nine feet square, men, women, and children being huddled together in one living mass.

The Queenans did not stay in Wall Knoll for very long after. By the mid-1850s they had moved to the village of Murton near North Shields and worked as drainers in the pits there. Soon after, more of the family moved into the area and also worked down the pits. 

From then on, the Queenan name changed considerably. The surname soon became Quinnan and from there, Quinnin. Another branch of the family took the name McQueen, and moved to Sunderland where they became tenants of public houses.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Family Pub Crawl - Part 2

In around the mid-1910s, my 2x Great Grandfather, Joseph Metcalf, started running the Masons Arms, Manchester Street, Morpeth.

Joseph Metcalf was born in 1871 in the midst of the Durham coalfields at Stanley, Durham to Thomas Metcalf and Mary Ann Steel. In 1893 he married Ann Jane Knox, a girl originally from Bedlington, Northumberland who moved to Stanley to live with her Aunt and Uncle. In the same year their first daughter, Minnie, was born. Three more daughters followed; NellieLily and Cassie.

As a young man, Joseph became a sinker in the mines, and as a result went to many mining towns and villages across Northumberland and Durham. He soon rose through the mining ranks and became a Deputy at Morpeth. It was here in Morpeth where he became a publican, after retiring from mining. When he became tenant at the Masons Arms, he made sure to tell the regulars to mind their language, as he had four impressionable young daughters! 
Manchester Street, Morpeth
Joseph's dear wife, Ann died in 1937, but by that time the Metcalfs had already left the Masons Arms and their daughters had married and moved away from home - some a little further than others as Minnie had emigrated to Australia in 1920. Finding himself lonely, Joseph often went to visit and stay with his daughter Nellie and son-in-law, Tom Todd at their home in Sidcup, Kent. Although he loved living in Kent, life was quite distressing for him. Living so close to London, JosephNellie and Tom regularly found themselves having to stay in air raid shelters most nights during the second World War. After the War, life was easier for Joseph as he was able relax and enjoyed playing dominoes in his daughter's garden.

Joseph died on 7th August 1953 at his daughter's home in Sidcup, Kent.

The Masons Arms pub has since been renamed the Tap & Spile.

Tap & Spile, Manchester Street, Morpeth

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Harrowing Find

I can't say I've found any real distressing discoveries in my research, but I have found one which my ancestor made.

The following is from the Morpeth Herald, printed 23rd August 1856.

NEWBIGGIN-BY-THE-SEA - On Wednesday last the body of man without head or hands was found by Mr. Adam Storey, near to Coquet Island. £2 10s in gold was found in the trowsers pocket. The description of dress on the body-striped doeskin trowsers, white cotton stockings, wellington boots, fancy striped shirt, common striped shirt, body flannel shirt, and flannel drawers. The body was landed at Hauxley. On the previous day the body of a man in a mutilated state was picked up at Cresswell.

Due to the news coming from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, I can say that this is my 3x Great Grandfather, Adam Storey, father of the Grand Old Man.

I wonder if any cause for the mutilated bodies was found?

A Family Pub Crawl

One of the things I was quite shocked to find when tracing my ancestors, was the sheer amount of them who ran and managed public houses or inns. Never would I have expected my family to have been on the other side of the bar.

The closest publicans in relation to me would be Edward and Margery Barrass, who ran the Hartley Arms in New Hartley, on the estate of Lord Hastings. I believe they inherited the pub from Edward's father, Robert, when he died in 1876. Edward died soon after in 1884, but Margery kept on the pub and was helped out by her children and grandchildren.

When Margery died in 1897, the Hartley Arms was inherited by her son, Matthew who continued the tenancy. Sometime before Matthew died in 1916, the pub was renamed to the Hastings Hartley Arms for unknown reasons. After his death, Matthew's wife Annie carried on the running of the Hartley Arms as instructed in her late husband's will.

Edward and Margery's son, Robert also became a publican. He ran the Duke of Wellington pub, East Howdon for some years, but sadly died in his mid-fourties, closely followed by his wife, Emma. His three eldest children went and lived with their Uncle Matthew at New Hartley. 

Margery's brother, James Turnbull ran the Jenny Lind Inn, East Howdon (A short distance down the road from the Duke of Wellington) with his wife Mary Thompson for a number of years. Like MargeryJames raised his family in the pub and was helped out by his children. When both James and Mary died, their daughter Isabella Sparks managed the Jenny Lind. When Isabella's cousin, Robert Barrass died, she took in his youngest daughter, Nellie.

Sadly in 1910, Isabella was forced to leave the family pub of over 40 years when it was taken over by the the Northumberland Shipbuilding Company who were planning on business extensions. From the Jenny Lind, Isabella became the tenant of the Queen's Head on Brunton Street in Willington Quay. After Isabella took over, the takings were increasing every week. Only a few months into the tenancy, the license was refused a renewal and the Queen's Head was forced to close. From there Isabella went on to run the Quarry Inn, located in Marden, Whitley Bay.  

Margery and James' niece, Isabella Robson, daughter of their elder sister, Elizabeth was also in the same business. She married Bartholomew Logan and together they ran the Black Bull Inn, Seaton Burn and also the Bee Hive Inn, Seghill. In later years they also went on to manage Morpeth Conservative Club as Steward and Stewardess, when it was situated at Collingwood House. Isabella died in her mid-nineties and was remembered for her graciousness and regard to every member of the club. 

The extended Turnbull family of publicans.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed and ... Hempseed?

Hempseed. I was quite curious as to the origin of this surname when I found out this was the maiden name of my 5x Great Grandmother, Sarah who married Alexander Barrass

They married in 1784 at St Alban's, Earsdon, Northumberland and together had ten children; John, William, Alexander, James, Robert (My 4x Great Grandfather), Sarah, William, Cuthbert, Matthew and Margaret (died in infancy).

As for earlier generations of the Hempseed family, they can be found living in Seaton Sluice, headed by William Hempseed and his wife Catherine Ledger, a native of Heworth, Durham. William worked at the glassworks at Seaton Sluice.

St Alban's Church, Earsdon, Northumberland.
A notable member of the Hempseed family is Captain Forster Hempseed a great-grandson of William and Catherine, who sadly drowned at sea along with his wife and infant child off the coast of Australia in 1859. 

Before William came his father James, and mother Sarah Gair who married in 1740 at Newcastle upon Tyne. As far as I can tell the Hempseed name did not exist in the Newcastle area previous to this date. There are however a few female Hempseeds marrying in the area after 1740, who could be possible sisters of James. There does seem to be a number of Hempseed families in the Fife, Perth and East Lothian areas of Scotland pre-1740.

Matthew Barrass, the youngest son of Alexander and Sarah, actually married his first cousin, Ann Hempseed and together had eight children. His daughters became quite wealthy with one, Sarah Ann marrying John Rogerson a civil engineer and a ship-builder from Morpeth. Many of Matthew and Ann's descendants appear in the Peerage after marrying into the gentry.

All from a glassman and his wife ... 

The Vicker's Will

My 2x Great Grandmother, Margaret Ann Sharp was born in 1847 at Seaton Sluice, Northumberland, England to Joseph Sharp and Dorothy Hindmarch. She married in 1874 to John Harbertson, moved to New Hartley and gave birth to my Great Grandfather, James Harbertson in 1880. When James was only seven years old, his father sadly died of cerebral disease.
Margaret with Thomas Vickers,
her second husband.

A few years later, Margaret remarried to Thomas Vickers, a widower with two young daughters. Margaret had no further children. In 1914, Thomas Vickers died and in his will he bequeaths everything to his two daughters. Margaret was not mentioned, nor was my Great Grandfather, who Thomas had raised from the age of ten.

The following is an article from the Morpeth Herald, dated the 17th March 1916.

At North Shields County Court, before his Honour Judge Greenwell, William A. Carson brought an action against Margaret Vickers, to recover certain furniture. Mr. Swinburne G. Wilson, who appeared for the plaintiff, said that Carson was the executor of Thomas Vickers, deceased, who resided at 23, Long Row, Seaton Delaval, and died in 1914, bequeathing his estate to his two daughters by his first wife, and leaving his second wife (defendant) nothing. Defendant refused to hand over the goods in the house, and claimed £64 against the estate. In fairness, he added that defendant was a hard working old woman. He suggested that his Honour give judgment for the plaintiff, and grant stay of execution to enable her to make her claim upon the estate, and he (Mr. Wilson) undertook that the estate should not be disposed of in the meantime. His Honour gave judgment for the plaintiff and granted stay of execution till June advising the defendant to take some steps to get the dispute settled about the money.

From the wording of the article, Margaret was clearly not happy with her late husband's wishes. 

As far as I can tell, Margaret did not make a claim to the estate of her husband. It's upsetting to think that Margaret was more or less left to become a pauper. Her son James had previously married, and in 1916 already had five children. In June of that year my own Grandmother was born. Margaret died in 1928 in her son's house at Annitsford. 

Mermaid or Sea Devil?

The following is from the Morpeth Herald, 8th September 1855

On Monday Night the 27th inst. while Mr. Adam Storey was fishing for salmon trout off Cresswell, he perceived something white  on the surface of the water, and rowing near the object, he found a large fish, by some fishermen called the mermaid, by others the sea devil, with a large Gull in its mouth. One of the bird's wings was spread out which had prevented it from being swallowed entirely. After the fish had been killed the bird was released, and recovered after being brought on shore, and his now in the hands of Mr. John Batey, of Morpeth, for the purpose of being preserved.

This Adam Storey who made the discovery is definitely my ancestor, but it is hard to tell whether it is my 4x, or 3x great-grandfather.  I'm not entirely sure whether the short article was written to be laughed at, or was entirely serious and meant for people to read and be amazed.

It is also unclear whether calling the fish a 'mermaid' was considered a positive thing and considered a thing of beauty, or if it were just simply an alternative to 'sea devil'. What I do know is that fishermen and other sailors are very superstitious folk, and certain words or phrases are absolutely not to be uttered, such as 'pig' as it is deemed unlucky. Whistling is definitely not allowed, as it is thought to bring about a storm.

A Grand Old Man

Thus far, I haven't any famous people in my family history. No fantastic innovators or celebrities. The closest I have is my 2x great-grandfather, old Adam Storey of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. 

Adam Storey BEM
1853 - 1951

Adam Storey was born on 11 September 1853 at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, England. His father was also named Adam who was originally from Cresswell, a seaside village farther up the coast, and his mother was Ann Renner, the daughter of a local fisherman and freeholder.

He had five siblings, John (who died in infancy), a second John, Ann Jane, Edward R., and Martha. In the year after Adam was born, his mother's brother, Edward Renner died, and in 1861 his only other maternal uncle, Johnny Renner drowned at sea, just off Newbiggin's Church Point.

Newbiggin's Church Point.

His maternal grandmother, Martha Renner, was no stranger to the dangers of the sea. Her own family, the Robinsons had suffered in a fishing disaster in 1808, in which Martha's father and brother died. Martha's first husband, John Armstrong, also died at sea a few years later.

The Renners were a wealthy family for the time with Adam's grandfather, John Renner owning a piece of land in the east of the village. Due to the loss of the Renner heirs, this land was inherited by the Storeys who later built and lived in what became known as Storeys Buildings.

Adam's father went to Australia for a short time in 1862, with a local member of the gentry, William John Pearson Watson of North Seaton Hall. They went in search of gold, it is believed. If this was the case, they certainly didn't hit the jackpot, as when Adam's father died in 1876, he left "under £200".

As a young man, Adam aspired to become a solicitor, and it was only when his intended office closed, that he went off and followed in the footsteps as his ancestors, and became a fisherman. When the fishing trade worsened, he became a coal miner for some time. 

It was around this time that Adam met and married Jane Mavin, at St Mary's Church, Woodhorn. Jane was from Widdrington, but her family had recently moved to Newbiggin.

St Mary's Church, Woodhorn.

Adam and Jane's first child, Jane Ann, sadly died aged only two days old. They went on to have six more children; Margaret Ann (Meggie), Adam (Eddie), Robert Mavin, Mary (May) Gladstone Renner and lastly Eva Jane.

Adam's mother Ann died in 1885, and for a while, he and his siblings attempted to rent out their mother's home, Sandridge House. Adam's elder brother John later moved into the house. In 1890, Adam's sister Ann Jane died. In her will, she left him their late mother's china tea set.

Adam did return to the fishing trade, and around the turn of the century he went into partnership with Dick Oram and became a fish auctioneer on Newbiggin sands. His son Gladstone would often help at the auctions. Around this time, Storeys Buildings formerly became known as Sandridge.

In 1911, Eddie went off to Canada and from there travelled to the USA, to visit some of his maternal cousins. Eddie soon returned but then went off to Australia in 1913, this time with his younger brother Robert in tow. 

During the First World War, Eddie and Robert enlisted in the Australia Imperial Force. Gladstone, on the other hand, joined the Royal Naval Division. Unfortunately, Gladstone was shot and injured at Gallipoli, but thankfully the three brothers survived the war. Eddie and Robert both returned to Newbiggin when the war had ended.

Eddie and Robert returned to Australia in 1920, now accompanied with their new wives. They were soon followed by their youngest sister, Eva who migrated along with her husband, a footballer named Ralph Shields. Meggie, May and Gladstone remained in Newbiggin, where the latter went on to open a bakery with his wife, Louisa. The bakery was originally on one side of Front Street, but later moved to White House Corner, which for some time was known as Storey's Bakery.

Adam felt great sorrow in 1931 when his beloved wife, Jane Mavin passed away.

In 1934, Adam's son Robert and his family returned to Newbiggin from Australia. Robert, a master bricklayer soon got to work and set up his own business. The following year he built four houses opposite Adam's home at Sandridge - naming them New Sandridge.

As well as being a fisherman, coal miner and fish auctioneer, Adam also acted as signaller for eighteen years at Newbiggin's branch of the R.N.L.I., and for over thirty years he served as secretary to the Newbiggin Freeholders. He was first initiated into the Freeholders at the age of twenty-one, and in total attended seventy-five ceremonies of the Riding of the Bounds. He missed only one in the 1880s, when he was out fishing at sea.

Adam was a life-long Wesleyan Methodist and brought up his family in the same faith. He donated both time and money to his local chapel, and was honoured with a window being named after him there. 

When a new street was built in Newbiggin, Adam was again commemorated when the street was named 'Storey Crescent' after him. Also in his diary, was the Keswick Convention which he attended every year, and he was also a superintendent of the Juvenile Order of the Rechabites. Adam regularly attended Northumberland Sea Fisheries Board meetings. Amidst all of this, Adam was a member of the Newbiggin Co-operative Management Committee for many years. 

Adam had a number of great friends, including Lord Runciman and Councillor Robert Wilkinson, the latter of which was a former Mayor of Morpeth. Before emigrating to Canada, Cllr. Wilkinson entrusted his sword and muzzle-loading rifle to Adam.

Due to his advanced age, and generosity he showed to others, Adam was awarded the title of Grand Old Man of Newbiggin, by the people and media of the area. Although his hoped to reach his hundredth birthday, Adam Storey died on 30 May 1951, aged 97-years-old. 

The Storey family grave.

A week following his death, Adam's named appeared in the Birthday Honours List, having been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his longtime support of the R.N.L.I., and in recognition of his work with the Northumberland Fisheries Board.

Old Adam was a very well-liked figure, and particularly took an interest in the lives of the youth in both his family and wider community. He would often be seen walking down Newbiggin Front Street, accompanied by his faithful dog, his walking stick and his usual peaked cap and reefer.