Sunday, 31 July 2016

July 2016 - Blog Monthly Roundup

I've thought about doing a Monthly Roundup on my blog for a while now. We'll see how this goes - it may not be a permanent fixture! The titles of my blog posts are links. 

My first blog post this month was a sad one. It detailed the suicide of a cousin on my mother's side of the family. It was particularly heart-wrenching as the poor lady's 11-year-old son was interrogated at the inquest. Naturally, he would have been grieving, and I don't think it was very fair of the coroner. 

The coroner's questions implied that he believed Mrs Ellen Gray committed suicide, after having a row with her husband, as he asked that particular question more than once. 

I ended the post by saying that another tragedy hit the family in later years. I will write that post soon, and publish next month. 

The second blog post this month was dedicated to a complete mystery in my family history. It concerned Catherine Queenan, an elder sister of my great-grandfather, Martin Quinnin. 

Catherine was baptised as an infant, then totally disappeared. There is no birth certificate, no death certificate and no burial. She is a complete conundrum. 

I personally suspect she died as a baby, but can find no proof of that. If she did survive childhood, there is certainly no marriage certificate or death certificate for an adult Catherine. 

The next blog post this month was a little study I conducted into my more recent ancestors. By recent, I mean back to my great-great-grandparents on all sides of my family. I made a chart and looked at numerous sources to deduce whether or not my ancestors could read and write.

Some ancestors were easier than others, for example I know one wrote his own will. The majority came from civil registration documents, where I checked the informants of events and if they signed their name or with a X. 

It was nice to see some progression in regards to learning to write with some of my ancestors. One of my Scottish grandmothers was the informant on most of her children's births. It was interesting to see her write her new married name incorrectly at first with her first few children, then be able to perfect her signature with her last children. 

I also colour coordinated the chart, with different colours meaning different birth countries, and whether there was a factor in that. It was interesting to see that my ancestors of Irish descent were often less likely to be able to write. 

A Family Gold Mine

Now you may notice there is no link attached to this blog post, and nor are you able to find it on my main page. Sadly, I made a rookie mistake. 

Whilst going through my drafts and published posts, I clicked delete on what I thought was a very old post - it wasn't. Sadly I have deleted my most recent post, one which I enjoyed writing. 

Thankfully I keep all my notes, so will write this one again. It should be up in a few weeks time. For the short time it was around, I received some nice feedback on it. 

Blogs I've Enjoyed This Month

  • Kindred Past - This blog only has five posts currently, but I can't wait to read more. I have enjoyed everyone so far. The latest 'Hide and Seek with Harry' was particularly well-written, and I really empathise with how aggravating it is when an ancestor just can't be found. Very relatable. 
  • Dunfermline Men Who Died During WW1 - This is a brand new blog! The blog plans to highlight the lives of the men of Dunfermline and West Fife who died fighting in WW1. The first (and currently only) blog post features a young man who received the Victoria Cross. It's a very good read. 
The blog post next Wednesday will concern the Browns; an old Northumbrian family who have lived in one particular area for centuries. I am lucky enough to be descended from them. Until then... 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Writer's Block: Which of my Ancestors could write?

I decided an interesting idea would be to see who in my more recent ancestry could read and write. 

On civil registration documents in the UK, the informant of the event was required to either make their mark (a cross, X), or sign their name. A lot of information in the chart I prepared is taken from birth, marriage and death certificates from my own family 

The 1911 census returns were the first to be filled in by each head of the household, and so this is often be the first time someone will see their ancestor's full signature. If the head of the household was not able to write, then someone in the family, a friend or a neighbour was allowed to fill in the form on their behalf. 

First things first, obviously I can read and write. My parents can, my grandparents could, and so could all of my great-grandparents. 

Ticks denote they could read/write.
Crosses denote they could not.
Thanks to Crista Cowan from Ancestry, AKA the Barefoot Genealogist for sharing the chart, and giving me the initial idea.

I have somewhat neglected looking for my ancestors in school records, so I'm not sure if they will exist in places. A fairly recent record set published on Find My Past were the National School Admission Registers & Logbooks from 1870 - 1914. I found a lot of relatives in those records, but not many direct ancestors.

One I did find was my great-grandmother, Minnie Metcalf (written above as MM 1893 in the fourth column), who attended the Crofton Temporary Infants School in Blyth, along with her younger sister Nellie.

My great-great-grandfather, Adam Storey (written above as AS 1853), could read and write. He probably attended the Church of England school at Newbiggin, as did his siblings. I know Adam was a highly intelligent and educated man, who aspired to become a solicitor. He was an apprentice to a solicitor in Morpeth for a short while after leaving school. Adam's wife Jane Mavin (written above as JM 1853) could also read and write. 

As an added extra, I also coloured the boxes to show where my ancestors were born. Red for England, Dark Blue for Scotland, Green for Ireland etc. The Orange is for my paternal grandmother, born in Australia, and the Light Blue is for my great-great-grandfather, William James Rudd, who was born in Virginia, USA. 

Looking at my paternal grandfather's side of the family, it is clear that the previous few generations were all born in Scotland. Charles Leslie and Agnes Carroll, my great-great-grandparents (written above as CL 1858 and AC 1865, respectively), were not able to write. They were both children of Irish immigrants, so it is not a big surprise to me at all. 

My other great-great-grandfather, William McLean (written above as WM 1874) could not write. He signed with an X on numerous civil registrations, and so was obviously unable to even sign his own name. Interestingly though, his wife Marion Richmond (MR 1878 above) could sign her own name. In the early years of her marriage, Marion could be found signing her name as "Marion McClen."

My two great-great-grandparents born in Ireland could not read or write either. Martin Quinnin and Barbara Coyle (MQ c.1838 and BC c.1841 respectively) were both born in Co. Sligo, and came to England during the potato famine. It is no surprise to me that they were illiterate, as they were the children of impoverished labourers. They both signed their marriage certificate with an X. 

Similarly, my maternal grandmother's grandmother's were illiterate also. Matthew Taylor and Isabella Errington (MT 1838 and IE 1841 above) were both born long before education was made compulsory in England, and so I never expected them to be able to read and write. 

As for two of my great-great-grandmothers, I just don't know if they were literate. I can guess that Ann Jane Knox (written above as AK 1874) could write, as I have found school records for some of her siblings. As for Jane Barrass (JB 1853), I just don't have any evidence. I believe one of her brothers wrote and signed his own will, so I could maybe guess that she could, but I'm just not certain.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Catherine the Conundrum

This isn't going to be a normal blog post, where I detail interesting or exciting stories I have discovered whilst climbing my family tree or travelling through my ancestor's lives. This blog post is dedicated to a particular person in my tree who is a complete mystery. 


Catherine Queenan was born on 12 March 1863 to Martin and Barbara Queenan (née Coyle). I don't know where exactly Catherine was born, but she was baptised on 5 April 1863 at St Cuthbert's Roman Catholic Church, North Shields. Five of Catherine's siblings were also baptised at St Cuthbert's, North Shields, and as these particular siblings were born in the Murton area of Northumberland, I think I am safe to presume that Catherine was also born there.

Catherine's baptism is in Latin, as customary for Catholic registers at the time. Her Latin name is Catharina.

As far as I'm aware, Catherine was the fourth child born to Martin and Barbara, the fourth of a total of thirteen children.

One of the most confusing (and slightly annoying!) things about this particular family, is the way in which their surname changed throughout the years. They are Queenan for the first few years in England, which then named to Quanan, Quinan, Quinin, with the final product being Quinnin. Martin Queenan's brother later went by McQueen. I have also found this family under the name Quin. 

Catherine's baptism in Latin.
The only record I have found which shows
she actually existed.

The only record I have of Catherine's existence is her baptism. There is no birth or death registration at all. As she was baptised in North Shields, Catherine's birth should fall under the Tynemouth district - but alas, there is no birth or death registered for her at all. 

Sadly, Martin and Barbara lost a good number of their children in early infancy. These children were mostly buried at Cowpen near Blyth, in the Roman Catholic church there. I can find no burial of a Catherine Queenan or any variations of that name.

Going back over the lack of civil registration documents for Catherine, it actually turns out that Martin and Barbara were already in the habit of not registering their children. The Queenan's first two children were registered where they were born. Then came Martin born in 1861, not registered; the above Catherine born in 1863, not registered; and then Ellen/Helen/Eleanor born in 1865, not registered. The latter died in 1871, but her death was registered.

The next child born to Martin and Barbara was Jane, born in 1867. She was registered under Jane Quinin. Thankfully, every child after was registered. 

I'm quite conscious of the fact that perhaps Catherine was not the name she used. Martin and Barbara had another daughter in early 1871, who was baptised as Birgitta - Latin for Bridget. The 1871 census was taken shortly after, and it is quite clear that the new baby is named Bridget. Then ten years later in the 1881 census, there is a Barbara in Bridget's place! The newly re-christened Barbara goes about her life as a domestic servant, then marries and has children, and sadly dies in childbirth at the age of 33. I have been able to trace her through the years. 

I wondered if anyone had any ideas about Catherine? I think I need fresh eyes to look over this, as I believe my eyes are growing weary to it. It would be fantastic if something could be found, for the sake of closure. I am almost absolutely certain that Catherine died in infancy, like so many of her siblings - I just can't find the proof.

Thank you for reading! 

Until next week... 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Suicide at Seaton Delaval

Mary Coyle and Michael Convey were married on 12 October 1857 at the Roman Catholic chapel in Felling, near Gateshead, Durham. Mary was the younger daughter of Peter and Mary Coyle, and the sister of my 2x great-grandmother, Barbara Quinnin. 

Both families were living at Bill Quay, where they worked as labourers in the different works in the area. The Coyles had only recently moved out of the Sandgate area of Newcastle, where Peter was an innkeeper. Peter was now working in the nearby chemical works at Bill Quay, a stark contrast to his former occupation. At that time, the Quinnin family were still living in Sandgate. 

Mary and Michael went on to have at least nine children in different colliery towns and villages north of the Tyne. They went back to Sandgate, Newcastle, then onto Benton, Backworth, Wallsend, Howdon and finally Hartley, close to where Barbara and the Quinnin family were living.

Mary and Michael's eldest daughter was Ellen, who was born in 1860 at Newcastle. Ellen was married in July 1878 at Willington Quay, to John Gray, a miner originally from Cheshire. I can assume that both her parents were deceased by that point. Shortly after their marriage, the couple moved to nearby Seaton Delaval, even closer to Ellen's aunt Barbara. Together they had six boys and all was well, until tragedy struck.

"An inquest was held at Seaton Delaval yesterday by Mr J. R. D. Lynn, coroner, touching the death of Ellen Gray (29), who, as reported in our columns yesterday, drowned herself in a pond on Saturday night last. - John Gray, husband of the deceased, said he went to bed about 4:30 on Saturday afternoon and woke up at 8 p.m. His wife was then washing the children and crying. She afterwards kissed the children and attempted to leave the house, but he prevented her. She then tried to get out by the window, but he got hold of her skirt. She said "Let me alone," and went out through the window. He did not see her again until she was brought in about half-past ten, dead. - In cross-examination, witness acknowledged finding a bottle containing gin in the house, but emphatically denied either striking his wife or using harsh language. - Robert Sturrock, gasman, said he was getting his supper about 8:30, when he heard cries of "Oh! My!" proceeding apparently from a pond within 30 yards of his house. He flung the person (he did not know whether it was a man or a woman) a rope, but no effort was made to catch it. - Robert Dixon, miner, said he launched a raft and found the body about half-past ten, in six feet of water. - Michael Gray, 11 years of age, son of deceased, said he went for some gin after his father went to bed; but to all questions as to whether his father and mother had quarrelled he answered, "I don't know." - The jury found that "deceased had committed suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity."

And so, the Gray boys were now motherless. John Gray eventually did remarry and had more children, but not for some years. I'd like to think that my 2x great-grandmother Barbara stepped in and helped to care for her great-nephews, but sadly this is something I shall never know. 

This wasn't the last tragedy to hit the family, but I shall save that story for another post.