Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Farmer's Wedding | Wedding Wednesday - GeneaBloggers

At the start of this month my blog was added to GeneaBloggers' Blog Roll. You may have noticed the little GeneaBloggers badge on the right hand side there - worn with pride. Intertwining Branches appears there amongst 3000 other blogs dedicated to genealogy and tracing your family tree, and I would strongly encourage people to go over there and support fellow genealogists. GeneaBloggers can be found at

One brilliant aspect of GeneaBloggers is the list of blogging prompts they have. I'm not a daily blogger, but some of the prompts have given me ideas about future posts. Today I have chosen Wedding Wednesday. In this instance I know relatively little about the wedding itself, but know a fair amount about the bride and bridegroom. 


Matthew Barrass married Kate Younger in 1889 at St Alban's church, Earsdon. Matthew was a farmer, resident at Field House, Killingworth. He was a widower. Kate was the daughter of John Younger, also a farmer, who lived at Burradon House, Burradon.

Matthew is a distant relative on my mother's side of the family. He was a grandson of Alexander and Sarah Barrass, my 5x great-grandparents.

Matthew's first wife was named Mary Blagdon. Her father was a shipowner and chandler, a dealer in supplies and equipment. They married in 1868, but had no children. Mary died in 1887, presumably at home at Field House. Matthew married Kate Younger two years later.

The marriage notice published in the Morpeth Herald.
Notice no actual date of marriage is given.

Matthew and Kate went on to have three children; Matthew Edwin, Elsie Kate, and Mary Beatrice. By the time young Mary was born, the Barrass family had moved from Field House, Killingworth to Tritlington Hall near Morpeth. There Matthew died on 18 October 1894. 

The Tynemouth Board of Guardians met fortnightly, and at the next meeting one of Matthew's closest friends gave a touching eulogy:

"The Chairman said he was sorry on that occasion to call attention to the sad loss the Board had sustained in the death of Mr Matthew Barrass, which had taken place since their last meeting. He had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Mr Barrass for over 30 years, and had many opportunities of observing him. He always found him a sincere and most estimable gentleman, a straightforward man of business, and a generous friend, especially to the poor living in his neighbourhood. He had been a member of that Board for about 12 years, and was a most diligent and useful representative. He was also a member of the Assessment Committee, and his sound common sense had been most valuable to its members on many occasions. He represented upon that committee the farming interest, which was often in difficulties, and appeals in connection with agriculture were well understood by Mr Barrass. He moved that the clerk be instructed to forward a letter of condolence and sympathy to Mrs Barrass and family. - The Mayor seconded, and Mr A. Bolton supported the motion which was carried. Mr R. Simmons, of Forest Hall, was elected member of Assessment Committee in the place of the late Mr Barrass."

Kate Younger's family still own the farmhouse at Burradon, and it is known in the locality as Younger's Farm. 

An interesting little anecdote worthy of a mention is that my mother, her siblings and her aunts all picked potatoes in Mr Younger's fields, obviously having absolutely no idea of the connection!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


My 2x great-grandfather, Matthew Taylor, was supposedly twenty-years-old when he married Isabella Errington on 5 December 1857 at St John's Church, Gateshead Fell. Isabella is my 2x great-grandmother.

Matthew and Isabella went on to have at least eleven children, who were all born in various colliery towns and villages across Durham and Northumberland. 

The couple's first daughter was named Hannah Bell Taylor, who was born on 2 November 1863, and baptised on 24 December at Monkwearmouth, Durham. I thought Hannah Bell a rather curious name, and a one not usually the norm for people in this locality.

On the marriage certificate, Matthew's father is stated to be John Taylor, a blacksmith. No other clue to Matthew's family is given, and a relative of his is not even an official witness to the marriage. On census returns, his place of birth is stated to be either at Monkwearmouth, Gateshead or Low Fell. 

Going back in time to the 1851 census, a Matthew Taylor can be found living in Sunderland, born around 1839 in Hylton, Durham - which could hardly be mistaken for Monkwearmouth, Gateshead or Low Fell! His parents are John, a joiner, and Jane, who ultimately turned out to be his stepmother. The reason I suspect this to be my 2x great-grandfather is because he has a younger sister named "Hannah B."

Ten years previously in 1841, this particular Taylor family are living in Hylton, headed by John the joiner. This specific enumerator was fond of abbreviations, so John's wife is listed as "Isab,", and their children are DorothyJohnGeorge, "Mattw," and HannahJohn's mother Dorothy is also living with the family.

Matthew was baptised at St Mary's, South Hylton, on 9 February 1840. His date of birth is written in the margin as being 1 April 1838. Matthew's parents are written as "John Taylor and M. A. Isabella (late) Dodds." Below his entry, is that of his sister Hannah, or rather "Anna Isabella," as on the record, and her parents are written the same as on Matthew's entry. I have no idea what the "M. A." could stand for. I am perhaps safe to assume that the A refers to Anna, and so her full name, or a variation of it, was M. Anna Isabella, as her daughter's baptismal name suggests.

The baptisms of Matthew and Anna Isabella Taylor at South Hylton.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.

John Taylor and Isabella Dodds were married at Monkwearmouth on 3 September 1830. No extra names were given for Isabella. The only little clue about her family is that a possible relative was a witness to the marriage, an Elizabeth Dodds who made her mark. 

I knew that Isabella died sometime after the 1841 census, but before the 1851 census, as Matthew's father John had remarried to a woman named Jane by that time. I struggled for a long time on solving the mystery of Isabella until fairly recently, when I discovered the South Hylton Local History Society. The Society have transcribed numerous local records, and published them online. Their website can be found at

The Society have the burials of St Mary's, South Hylton transcribed for the years 1821 - 1883, and there are some twenty Taylors recorded. Amongst them is an Annabella Taylor, who was buried on 13 February 1844, aged 36. I later learnt that the actual record states that Annabella died on 11 February, and was the wife of John Taylor, a joiner.

Further research shows that Annabella gave birth to a child named Frances Blake Taylor, sometime in early February 1844. That implies that Annabella died in childbirth. I already knew Blake to be the maiden name of John's mother, Dorothy. Baby Frances was baptised on the same day her poor mother was buried, but sadly she also died, just two months later.

So is she my ancestress? 

Annabella or Isabella Dodds was born in around 1808. Where, I can't be sure, but probably in Durham, around the Sunderland area. Who her parents were is currently unknown to me. I am certain that she is my 3x great-grandmother.

Matthew Taylor's younger sister Hannah Bell married a Welshman by the name of William Williams. In later life she too used the name Annabella. Also, Matthew's eldest brother, John had a daughter who was baptised as Anna Bell, but registered under the name Hannah Bell.

Please comment if you have any ideas. I'd love to know people's thoughts. Perhaps a fellow family historian out there has gotten to the bottom of this one.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Margaret's Tragedy - An Anxiety Known Only To Themselves

On Wednesday I published a post about Bill Storey. This week, I wish to detail the life of his wife, Margaret Oliver. She suffered multiple tragedies in her seventy years - tragedies which should be remembered.

Margaret Oliver was born in 1827 at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, to Robert and Frances Oliver (née Lisle). Margaret's maternal great-grandfather was George Robinson who died in the Newbiggin fishing disaster of 1808. 

Margaret married Charles Twizell on 8 April 1849 at St Mary's, Woodhorn. Charles was a fisherman at Newbiggin, one of the sons of William and Ann Twizell.

St Mary's, Woodhorn.
Where Margaret and Charles were married.

Margaret gave birth to a boy in early 1851, and he was named William Charles Twizell, after his paternal grandfather and father, respectively. All was well - until the day of 18 March that same year.


It is with regret we announce one of those disasters which too frequently overtake the industrious and enterprizing [sic] fishermen belonging our sea coast. During the morning of Tuesday the boats from Cullercoats and Newbiggen [sic] were off, as usual, following their occupation, when towards noon the wind, which had been blowing from the S E, rose to a gale, and the sea becoming very heavy the boats instantly made for the shore. Those belonging Cullercoats arrived in safety, but three from Newbiggen were lost, when nine souls out of twelve perished. It appeared that those belonging Newbiggen were pressing towards that place, when several prudently put into Cresswell with comparatively little damage, while the three ill-fated boats proceeded forward, the crews, it seemed, being desirous to reach home. Unfortunately, when between Cresswell and Newbiggen, two of the boats were engulphed [sic] in the waves, when all hands perished, amounting to eight persons, three of whom were brothers. The third boat nearly succeeded in reaching Newbiggen, when a heavy sea swamped her, but by the timely arrival of a boat, which was carried over the moor to the beach, three of the crew, who were clinging to it, were saved in a very exhausted condition.  The progress of the boats, as usual on these trying occasions, was watched by the fishermen's relatives and friends with an anxiety only known to themselves, and it is stated that so close was one of the boats to the shore at the time of catastrophe, that a sufferer named John Oliver, while holding by the boat, shouted to his distracted mother, who was an eye-witness of the said calamity. Another fisherman, named Henry Brown, was twice so near the shore as to feel his feet, but alas! the second time he was swept away by the boiling surge and drowned. The three boats afterwards drifted on the rocks, and on the following day all the bodies were found on the beach. The following are the names of the sufferers:- Charles Twizell, who has left a wife and child; John Oliver, single man; Philip Dawson, wife and two children; John Dawson, brother to Philip; William Armstrong, wife and two children, and his brothers Robert and Hunter Armstrong; Henry Brown, single man; and William Armstrong, wife and six children. The scene, we understand, was of the most heart-rending description - men, women, and children were running to and fro almost in wild despair, and nothing for some time was heard, but sounds of wild lamentation commingling with the warring elements."
- From the Newcastle Courant, 21 March 1851

So that was the fate of Charles Twizell. The above named John Oliver, who called to his mother on the shore, was Margaret's elder brother. A double tragedy for Margaret and the Oliver family. 

The disaster was widely reported in newspapers, both regionally and nationally, so many people flocked to Newbiggin to pay their respects. The victims of the disaster were all buried on 21 March 1851, in the grounds of St Bartholomew's Church. On that same day, Margaret had her son, William Charles Twizell, baptised. 

Perhaps to people now, that sounds strange, maybe even a little morbid. I can only assume that little William was sickly at the time, and so Margaret rushed the baptism forward, for the sake of his soul. Sadly, William Charles Twizell died on 2 July 1851, and was buried with his father three days later. Poor Margaret was now widowed and childless. 

Margaret married Bill Storey eight years later at Tynemouth. Bill was a fisherman from Cresswell, but he moved to Newbiggin to live with Margaret.

The marriage notice of William (Bill) Storey and Margaret Oliver (Mrs. Twizell).
Notice no actual date is given for the wedding - 'lately'
Bill and Margaret's daughter, Margaret (known as Meggie) was born in early 1860, only about a year into their marriage. 

Margaret gave birth to twin sons in July 1863. They were named William and Edward, after their father and maternal uncle, respectively. The Storeys were obviously very proud at the birth of their sons, and so a suitable notice was placed in the Morpeth Herald newspaper. Sadly, the happiness wasn't to last.

Baby Edward died on 13 November, and baby William on 5 December. They were both just over four months old.

Three years later, Bill and Margaret had a third son, another William. Luckily he, along with their daughter Meggie, survived to adulthood.

Margaret Storey (née Oliver), sitting on the left,
between her two children, Meggie and William.
Her husband Bill Storey stands at the right, displaying a fish.
Shown with three of her grandchildren.

Meggie Storey married George Dent on 18 March 1882 at Morpeth Registry Office. The couple began living in the house next door to Bill and Margaret in Vernon Place, Newbiggin.

William Storey, Jnr married a Durham lass named Hannah Etherington in Newcastle in 1893. They had one child together that same year, and named him William. He was born while the family were living in Byker. 

Margaret died in May 1897, aged 70-years-old. Her husband Bill died in 1912.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Storey the Stentor



(By an Observer.)

'A ratepayers meeting at Newbiggin is an epoch. So I hied me to the history making meeting last week. The subject, of course, was the water, for men may come, etc. Who is there who has not heard of Newbiggin with water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink. Newbiggin, which is in the same primitive condition in this respect as it was when the "Ancient Mariner" was written. Newbiggin, where the only bath consists of the German Ocean, where modern sanitation is impossible, and where the domestic supply is carried from the wells in the good old-fashioned way in which Rachel carried it when she met her famous lover Jacob at the well.'

You could only find such flowery language in the Victorian age, with references to classic works and the Bible. The reporter is incredibly critical towards Newbiggin and its people, perhaps he believes he is a cut above the common fisherman. 

The water problem was obviously a serious issue, if a 'once in a blue moon' meeting was held. Newbiggin had no water pipes, and the residents relied heavily on the old wells and little stream known commonly as "the pant", for water. It was reported by a councillor that up to two dozen people had been known to be known to be waiting for water at the well at a single time. This simply was not sufficient. 

Numerous schemes were proposed, including one suggestion that the water should come from Woodhorn Colliery, or even North Seaton. The matter was voted on, and the water problem in Newbiggin was soon resolved.

Then enters Bill Storey, the uncle of my 2x great-grandfather, Adam Storey, who spoke after the serious matters had been discussed:

'At this stage the comic element was supplied by a fisherman named William Storey, who, in a voice like a Stentor, proclaimed that he had never obeyed the orders of the Council, but had continued to drink of the well near the graveyard. He had never been "puzzoned" (poisoned), and amid hilarity he declared he was as good a man as any on the platform. Encouraged by the reception of his speech, he proceeded to dilate upon the good men which Newbiggin used to produce, one of whom was as good as two of the present day. 
To this the Chairman naively replied that there was such a thing as slow poisoning and decadence.'

Bill Storey was obviously another of Newbiggin's famous characters and a popular one at that, in the way he was received by his peers and friends. 

Margaret Oliver, sitting,
Bill Storey, displaying fish.
Pictured with their two children, and three grandchildren,

Bill was born in 1834 at Cresswell, and was the youngest son of Adam and Hannah Storey (née Mills). He married Margaret Twizell (née Oliver) on 27 February 1859 at Tynemouth. Margaret was the young widow of Charles Twizell, who drowned out at sea in 1851. Together Bill and Margaret had four children, although only two made it to adulthood. 

As well as being an impressive speaker and a fisherman, Bill also acted as a sidesman at St Bartholomew's Church, Newbiggin. A sidesman was responsible for greeting and ushering members of the congregation to their seats. Bill would also have took the collection after every sermon.

Bill was made a widower in May 1897, when his wife Margaret passed away. He then began living with his daughter Meggie, his son-in-law, George Dent and his numerous grandchildren. There he died on 24 November 1912, at the age of 78.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Owen Brannigan - The Family History Of Annitsford's Most Famous Son

Owen Brannigan was born on 10 March 1908 at Annitsford, Northumberland, to Owen and Sarah Catherine Brannigan (née Connelly).

Owen Brannigan grew up to be a world renowned opera singer. Like I did with Emmeline Shum-Storey, I decided to delve into the more recent family history of Owen Brannigan, a little-known celebrity. I was hindered slightly as all his lines go back to Ireland. If I discover anything more on any of Owen's ancestors, I shall update this post, or perhaps write a new one entirely. 
The Brannigans

Owen's father was born on 22 March 1876 at Seghill, Northumberland. His parents were named Arthur and Alice Brannigan, both natives of Co. Monaghan, Ireland. The Brannigans had only moved to Seghill some few years prior to Owen Brannigan, Snr's birth. Owen Brannigan, Snr was baptised at the little school chapel at Annitsford, the nearest Roman Catholic church. 

Arthur Brannigan had married Alice McNally on 14 March 1867 at Clontibret, Monaghan, Ireland, where they had a number of children before they left for England. Like most Irish migrants who came to this area of Northumberland, Arthur Brannigan got a job as a labourer in a nearby colliery. Arthur was fined 5s and costs for drunkenness at Seghill in spring 1890. He died the following year, and his funeral service was held at the little school chapel in Annitsford.

Alice McNally Brannigan raised her children to adulthood, and later moved in with her daughter Annie Corcoran. Alice died in 1913.

Owen Brannigan, Snr's gravestone at Annitsford.

Owen Brannigan, Snr was later an organist at St John the Baptist Roman Catholic church, Annitsford. His son obviously followed in his musical footsteps. Owen Brannigan, Snr died in 1955. 

St John the Baptist R. C Church, Annitsford.

The Connellys

Sarah Catherine Connelly was born in 1881 in Seghill, to James and Catherine Connelly (née McNamara). Sarah was only around four-years-old when her mother passed away. Sarah's elder cousin, Elizabeth Markey, moved in with the family, presumably to help take care of the children. 

James Connelly married Catherine McNamara in 1874. Catherine was born in Newcastle to Bridget and Patrick McNamara, a common labourer. James was born in Ireland.

Sarah Catherine Brannigan (née Connelly) died in 1921, when her son Owen was still a young boy. 


Owen Brannigan OBE himself was buried at Annitsford, in the grounds of the church where he once sang as a boy. He is remembered fondly by the community as Annitsford's most famous son. 

Owen Brannigan's grave.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

On This Day - Grandma's 100th Birthday

100 years ago today, my grandmother Sadie Harbertson was born in the house of her paternal grandmother at 23 Long Row, New Hartley, Northumberland.

She was the sixth child of James Harbertson and Sarah Jane Taylor, who had married twelve years previously in 1902. 

Even as a child, Sadie insisted that everything be perfectly clean. She would walk through the door from school, already with her dress off, ready to wash and scrub through ready for the next day.

A photograph of a young Sadie.
A few years after her birth, the family moved to Orange Street, Annitsford where Sadie lived up until she met and married Joe Quinnin. The story goes that he used to pass her door every day as she sat on her doorstep, when one day he offered her a biscuit from his pocket. They married on Boxing Day in 1936, and went on to have twelve children. 

Like her mother, Sadie was a hard-working woman. The washing in the Quinnin household, as can be imagined, was never-ending. The lad's shirts had to be pristine white, anything less than that was "poisoned", and needed a good boil! 

Sadie loved her mother Sarah Jane dearly. Sadie's heart broke for the first time in May 1951 when Sarah Jane died. Although she was gone, her mother was a constant presence and Sadie often spoke of her, remembering her overall character, mannerisms and little things she would say or do. 

Sadie and Joe.
Years later, Joe became seriously ill and had to go into a hospital in Wylam, and later Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary. Joe, whose name was really Albert Victor, would write to Sadie sat in an armchair in the hospital ward with his smoking jacket on, asking after her, his children and neighbours. The nurses on the hospital ward said he looked like a Lord in his armchair and jacket, and so nicknamed him Sir Albert Victor. Eventually he was allowed to come home, but sadly Sadie's heart broke for a second time when her beloved Joe died in September 1972. 

In her life, Sadie was a very maternal figure and had a great instinct in that role. When visitors arrived, family or friends, they would instantly hand their bairns over to Sadie for her to cradle, knowing they'd be cherished in her arms. 

In her later years, Sadie was plagued by ill health, mainly having problems with her heart and diabetes, which is a family illness. Sadly she died on 24 August 1984, and was once again reunited with her beloved Joe

At the time of writing and publication, Sadie and Joe have no less than 96 blood descendants, although some have since passed on.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Battle of Jutland - The Bravest 16-year-old

The Battle of Jutland was the largest naval battle of World War One, fought between 31 May and 1 June 1916. The battle is described as an ambush by the German High Seas Fleet on the British Royal Navy. During the incredibly bloody and catastrophic battle, Britain lost 14 ships and over 6000 men. The Germans lost 11 ships and over 2500 men. 

There have been commemorations yesterday and today to mark the centenary of the battle, and to remember those brave young men lost. 

For more information of the Battle of Jutland, and the Centenary Commemorations:

After the battle, one particular sailor was remembered above the others. He became a sort of poster boy for the Navy and stood for stoic British spirit and determination. His name was Jack Cornwell

Jack was born John Travers Cornwell on 8 January 1900. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in October 1915, aged only fifteen, and was posted to HMS Chester the following year. 

On the first day of the Battle of Jutland, HMS Chester was sent to investigate gunfire. The ship came under rather intense and terrible gunfire itself, from four German cruisers. Jack was on the gun mounting with other men, and was the sole survivor after all the gun's crew were killed or fatally wounded. 

When medics got to the ship, they found Jack seriously injured, with shards of steel and shell piercing his body. He was still awaiting his orders. Clearly dying, he was sent to Grimsby General Hospital, where he died on 2 June 1916, before his mother arrived to see him. Jack Cornwell was only 16-years-old. 

Jack Cornwell was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration. 

To find out more about Boy Jack, please watch the video below, to discover his story as told by his family:

After his death, the "Jack Cornwell" Ward was set up at the Star and Garter Home, Richmond, to be reserved for disabled sailors. The ward needed money to work and operate, so the Navy League set up a system where every boy and girl attending school in Britain could pay 1d in support. In exchange, the child received a flag or stamp-sized badge of Jack

21 September 1916 was known as Jack Cornwell Day. September 1916 was also the launch month of the fundraising appeal. The total raised overall was £18,000 - an incredible amount, equal to around £1.5 million in today's money.

In the pages of my Great Auntie Nellie's birthday book, is a badge of Jack Cornwell, in aid of the ward named in his honour. It's unbelievable to think that my family were part of such a historic event.

From Auntie Nellie's birthday book.