Here I hope to share my adventures in family history with family, friends and interested parties! Hopefully you'll find something here of interest, I would love to hear your views.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Christopher Chapman Singleton 1863 - 1932

An Orangeman in the family

A chance find of an obituary in a newspaper led me on an exploration of my great grandfather’s political leanings and his involvement in the Orange Order.

On a recent trip to London, I took the opportunity to visit the Colindale Newspaper Library for the first time.  Not having any luck finding what I was looking for, I decided to see if there were any death notices for my Great Grandfather Christopher Chapman Singleton who died in 1932, I didn’t know the exact date, but knew from the GRO indexes that it was in the April to June quarter. I order the microfilm for the Barrow News for 1932 and after winding through the file for quite a while, I got lucky and found an obituary for him.  This told me he died on 9 May 1932 at 144 Sutherland Street, Barrow, but I was astounded at some of the information in the piece.

From the Barrow News of 13 May 1932:

Late Mr C C Singleton
The death took place at Barrow on Tuesday of Mr C C Singleton of 144 Sutherland Street at the age of 68 years.  Deceased was the only life member of Barrow Conservative Party and was chairman of Central Ward branch.  He was a prominent member of the Association for over 40 years and was also a well known and esteemed member of the Orange Order.  He had been in failing health for several months.  He leaves a widow and grown up family.

This, for me was revelatory.  My grandfather Jack Singleton (born 1901) had always been a staunch Labour member and trade unionist, to find that his father Christopher had been not only a member of the Conservative Party, but a life member and chairman of a branch, was a bit of a shock.  However, the biggest surprise of all was that he had been a member of the Orange Order.  At that time I was not aware of just how much Orangeism had spread into the UK in the Nineteenth Century, nor indeed, that there was not only a large Irish membership of the Orange Order in the UK, but a significant membership of English people.

Christopher was born in Liverpool on the 21st September 1863 to William and Mary Singleton, he was one of 10 children and the last to be born in Liverpool.  Within nine months of his birth, the family had moved to Barrow-in-Furness, into one of five cottages on Barrow Island, which were later demolished to make way for the gun shop to be built.  Christopher’s father William was a Steam Crane Driver (1891 census) on the docks. On the 26th February 1877, aged 13, Christopher was indentured as a coppersmith with the Barrow Shipbuilding Company (later to become a part of Vickers and now incorporated into BAE Systems); he was to work there for the next 55 years, the rest of his life. He would have been involved in making and maintain the many parts made of copper that go into a new ship, in his spare time, he also made small copper ornaments such as kettles and pans.

It was during his time at Barrow Shipbuilders that he became interested in political matters, and began his long association with the Conservative Party and the Orange Order. In 1867 the second reform act became law, it extended the franchise to every adult male householder living in a borough constituency, which meant that as Christopher and his brothers became householders, they became eligible to vote; and as such like many working class men, were wooed by both major parties of the time, the Liberals and Conservatives for their votes come election time.

Christopher chose the Conservatives and he was to become a lifelong member of the Central Ward Branch in Barrow, of which he was chairman at the time of his death.  He appears to have been held in high esteem by his fellow members, and many of them turned out for his funeral.  The obituary in the Barrow News (21 May 1932), mentions that the mourners included “representatives of the following: The Conservative Association.  Central and Salthouse Conservative Clubs, the deceased’s own lodge L.O.L 905, L.O.L.365, L.O.L.329, L.O.L. Female 62, L.O.L. Female 146, L.O.L. Male Juv. 22, L.O.L. Girl Juv. 101, R.B.P. Star of Beth., Salthouse Women Unionists, Central Women Unionists, Primrose League and other bodies.”

The Orange connection shows up strongly here, with representatives from 8 lodges, including male, female and juvenile lodges.  I have not been able to find out how many lodges there were in Barrow in the early 1930s, however, Donald M. MacRaild’s book Faith, fraternity and fighting, notes that in 1905 there were 13 lodges in Barrow and Askham, an increase of 9 since the 1880s.  Orangeism was very strong in Barrow and the North West, and there are still lodges in the North West today.

I was very surprised when I read that he had been a member of the Orange Order for over 40 years, as I was not aware that the order had spread outside of Ireland.  It was, of course, brought over to England by the many Irish migrants of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries.  Unfortunately, there are no records available at the Barrow Archives for these lodges, and as MacRaild points out in his book, the Orange Order itself does not have an archivist and where records do survive, they are not very extensive. Not being able to fine many primary sources for Christopher’s membership of both the Orange Order or the Conservatives, I have had to rely on secondary sources such as MacRaild’s book mentioned above and his other book Culture, Conflict and Migration: the Irish in Victorian Cumbria. I found both books, which are previewed on Google Books, to be fascinating in the information they provide on Orangeism, especially in the North West, and this has helped me to understand Christopher’s involvement and place in the order. 

Barrow was the most powerful Orange town in the north of England.  With its direct steamer links to Belfast, both Protestant and Catholic Ulsterman arrived in the town, to work on the docks or at the shipbuilding works, on a daily basis.  One of these migrants was Alexander Hazzard who was from County Down in Ireland and in 1884 married Mary Chapman Singleton, Christopher’s older sister.

Christopher married Mary Alice (Polly) Fogg in 1890 (his first wife Alice Willacy had died in 1889, along with their baby daughter shortly after the birth).  Christopher and Polly moved to live at 5 Glasgow Street in Barrow where the majority of their 12 children were to be born.  This is likely the house in the photograph of Christopher, Polly and their first four children.  A further family photograph taken outside the same house shows Christopher, Polly and their eldest seven children (including my grandfather Jack, seated on his father’s lap) taken about 1904.  I had often wondered about the sashes and plaid the children are wearing and now believe that these could be Orange related, unfortunately the insignia on the older boys’ caps and the medallions on the younger children are too dark to make out.  I believe the flag in the photo behind Christopher may well have Orange associations, and it looks like it has been fastened to the wall and a plaque secured on top of it.  Unfortunately, there is no-one in the family I can ask questions about this photo now, the last of Christopher and Polly’s children died in 1990.

One of the biggest political debates to take place during Christopher’s lifetime, and one in which he would have been involved as both a Conservative and an Orangeman, was over the question of Home Rule for Ireland, which would enable it to have more say in how it was ruled.  Opposition to Home Rule was led by successive Conservative governments from 1880 onwards, their aim was to pursue a policy of conciliation, which became known as constructive Unionism. The Conservative party is still known officially to this day as the Conservative and Unionist Party.

For Christopher his politics as a Conservative supporter and a member of the Orange Order went hand in hand, indeed one of his fellow Orangemen, Provincial Grand Master Harold Ledgerwood was a local Conservative councillor.  It is quite likely that Christopher knew and campaigned politically for Ledgerwood and other Conservative members who were linked to the Orange Order.  His obituary in the Barrow News stated that he had held the highest orders in the Order and may well have run for council himself.  However, there are no available records for me to check, so this will have to remain speculative on my part. 

I wonder now, if my grandfather Jack’s political leanings were as an antidote to his father’s, or whether he felt his sympathies lay more naturally with the emerging and strengthening Labour party, which had its first parliament in 1924 when he was a young man of 23 and newly married with a young son.  I will never know.

When Christopher died in 1932, he left a wife, Polly and nine surviving sons (two children died in infancy, and the only surviving daughter, Hilda died in 1918 aged 24), attended his funeral along with workmates, friends, political colleagues and members of the various organisations he belonged to.  Though a surprise to me, his political activities have enabled me to better understand the times that my great grandparents were living through.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Frank White 1881 - 1909

This case study is about Steve's great grandfather Frank White and how the family name became Kerry and not White.

Case Study

Tragic Death on the Tilford Road

When I first started researching my husband’s family history, I spoke to my father-in-law about his parents and their ancestry.  I was surprised to discover than when he was born he was registered under the name Frank White not Frank Kerry his name now; he said that his father had always been known by the surname Kerry which was the name of his grandmother’s second husband.  He also told me that they didn’t really know what had happened to his grandfather, only that he had died when his father’s sister Nellie was a couple of years old and that he thought it had been in an accident with a horse and cart.

Next time I visited the family history section of our local library, I checked the microfiche of the GRO index for a death of a Frank White sometime between 1907 and 1910; I found the entry I wanted in the March quarter of 1909 and sent for the death certificate. This told me that on the 25 February 1909, at the Cottage Hospital Farnham, Frank White had died from “Internal injuries produced by having been accidently run over by a Furniture van” and that an inquest had been held on the 27 February and the 2 March 1909.  His occupation was given as a Carman of 6 Yeovil Road, Farnborough.

Intrigued, I set out to find out more about Frank White and his family.  I knew from his death certificate that he was 28 at the time of his death making him born about 1881 and I knew that in 1909 he’d been living in Farnborough, however, I didn’t know where he had been born.  Fortunately the 1901 census was available on www.ancestry.co.uk; at first I was unable to find Frank in the census, but I did find his wife, Susan Ellen Gaines with her family at 5 Yeovil Road, two entries above her at 6 Yeovil Road was a Frank White a 20 year old coal carter, Frank had married the girl next door.  The census also gave me his birth place of Odiham in Hampshire, not that far away from Farnborough and that he was visiting his sister Elizabeth, who was married to Susan’s cousin John.

With this information and a visit to the Society of Genealogist’s library in London where I was able to examine the parish registers for Odiham, I was able to put together a family tree for Frank and the White, Watts and Gaines families who were linked by marriage in several generations.  Frank was the 8th child (of 12) of James
White and his wife Louisa Watts, he was born in Odiham in 1881 and moved to Farnborough, presumably for work, where he met and married Susan Ellen Gaines on the 26 December 1903, they had two children Frank born 1904 and Nellie born in 1907.  In February 1909 he was sent on a job by his employers with two other men to drive furniture vans from Rowledge to Wisley Green, by way of Tilford; a journey that was to end in tragedy.

His death certificate had told me that an inquest had been held and given the dates, but on enquiring I learned that the papers for the coroner’s inquests were no longer available for that date.  I would have to go the route of checking the local newspaper.  Not being in a position to visit Farnborough I put a request on the Rootschat forum page for lookups in Hampshire that if anyone was visiting the local library, could they check the newspapers for me.  Fortunately some kind soul did just that and within a few days I had transcribed copy of the newspaper entry, which was an almost verbatim report of the inquest held within a couple of days from that of Frank’s accident, from the Farnham Haselmere and Hindhead Herald for the 6 March 1909 (page 5).

Frank and two colleagues had been on the journey and Frank’s father-in-law Charles Gaines gave evidence that he had seen Frank the previous Tuesday and knew he was going on this journey, and that he had worked for Mr Ward for the last five years and had been accustomed to the work.  The men had been on the road opposite the entrance to Tilford Reeds, Arthur Marks one of the other carmen told the inquest that they had had trouble with the skid pan on Frank’s van and that the chain had broken.  Chas Mosdell the other carman on the journey said that he was first on to the hill where the accident had happened and that when he got to the bottom of the hill he noticed from the light on Frank’s van that he was coming down the hill pretty quickly, and when he got to the van at the bottom of the hill, he saw that only two horses were attached – the other horse had been the one Frank had been walking in the traces.

Neither of the other two carmen actually witnessed the accident happening, but it appears that the horses bolted due to the excess demand on them (the furniture van weighed between four and five tons); Frank was walking beside the horses and not riding on the dickey as he had no skid pan, the chain having broken and was likely run over by the van on its descent of the hill.  He was taken to Trimmers Cottage Hospital in Farnham, admitted at 11.30 pm on the Wednesday evening and died the next day at 10.15 am from internal injuries. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death but added a rider that had the van had a foot brake Frank would probably been riding not walking beside the horses and would have got down the hill successfully.

Frank’s death left his wife Susan Ellen a widow at the age of 23 with two young children, Frank junior was only 4 and his sister Nellie was two.  On looking them up on the 1911 census at www.findmypast.co.uk, I found the family living with Susan Ellen’s parents at Yeovil Road Farnborough. It wasn’t until 1912 that she married William Kerry, a Lance Corporal in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, he was based at the Tourney Barracks in Farnborough.  William and Susan Ellen went on to have six further children as well as Frank and Nellie. From this time onwards, Frank junior became known as Frank Kerry and used the name for all purposes except that of on his marriage certificate.  Frank had married Victoria Annie Lilian Tonks in 1927 and had two sons, Frank Edward born 1930 and Brian in 1937.

Frank junior changed his name by deed poll by swearing a declaration that he had been known by the name Frank Kerry since the marriage of his mother to William Kerry and that he had “always been known as Frank Kerry and I have for fifty years and upwards used the name of Frank Kerry for all purposes including official documents other than my said certificate of Marriage.”  Frank had changed his name to be officially that of his step father William.

The tragedy that ended young Frank White’s life also changed the lives of that of his wife and two children; and led to the family name being changed.  I was struck not only by the horrific accident that ended his life, but by the minutiae of details that the coroner’s inquest had covered.  From the details provided by the various witnesses called to the inquest a full detail of Frank’s last moments was unveiled, including the fact that his was an abstainer and that he had had a penny on him when his father-in-law last saw him and that it was found on his person when he died.  From the statement of one of the witnesses, George William Lonsdale the Headmaster at Tilford Nation School (who was called to help at the accident) I have been able to pinpoint, using maps and Google’s streetview software, almost exactly where the accident took place.  From the testimony of Miss Potter the Matron at Trimmer’s Cottage hospital I know that Frank was conscious when he was admitted to the hospital though he was in a state of collapse; and that Frank had told her that one of the horses had broken its leg, but had said nothing as to how he met with his own injuries.

Even though the inquest report has not survived, from the details reported in the newspaper, I almost feel as though I attended that inquest myself.  The work he carried out was hard and his death must have left a lasting impression on that of his widow and young children, it is hardly surprising then, that my father-in-law said that his father never spoke of the tragedy.


In the days of horse drawn transport there were plenty of jobs for men like Frank who were generally known as carters or carriers and occasionally carmen.  Their job entailed not just driving the cart, but loading and unloading the goods, as well as looking after the horses. Many carriers transported goods and people between towns and villages, and details of these services are often found in old directories such as Pigots or Whites. Others worked for the railways, collecting goods at the rail yard and then taking them to their final destination. Being a carter was a physically demanding job and would have necessitated a good knowledge of the local area. The type of carts used would vary from job to job, from a two wheeled vehicle probably pulled by one horse, delivering goods in a town, to larger four wheeled vehicles pulled by teams of horses.

Change of Name

Finding out if an ancestor changed their name is not easy, as by English Common Law, you can call yourself whatever you wish.  However, if you need to prove that you have changed your name, to apply for a passport etc., then some documentary evidence of that change will be required.  Deed polls are legal documents involving only one party and are sworn in front of a solicitor.  The deed is the property of the person who changed their name, and there is no obligation to have a copy lodged anywhere central for safe keeping. Some were enrolled and indexes of those that were are held at the National Archives; from 1914 the enrolled deeds had to be advertised in the London Gazette.  If your ancestor changed their name during 1939-1945, names could only be changed 21 days after details of the proposed name were advertised in the Gazette.

Skid Pan

A skid pan was a chain like device used for attaching to the back wheel of a vehicle before going down steep hills. It operated as a brake, by applying friction to the wheel and locking it in place.  See diagram....

From the Dictionary of Daily Wants 1859

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

William Singleton 1777 - 1852

This is the Case Study I had published in Your Family Tree magazine in March 2009

William Singleton – Perpetual Overseer

SINGLETON Wm yeoman/perp overseer/constable Low Esk Holm Muncaster (1829)

Finding an entry in the 1829 list of Principle Inhabitants of Cumberland and Westmoreland, for my ancestor William Singleton, was a journey into finding out what a yeoman, perp overseer and constable was, and was this the father of my great great grandfather, William born at Low Esk Holme in 1836.  Along the way I was to find the intriguing life of my ancestor.

When I first started researching my mother’s Singleton family, I knew they were from Barrow in Lancashire and I duly found my great great grandfather William in the free online transcription of the 1881 census (www.familysearch.org), he was described as a 44 year old steam crane driver, living in Barrow, but born at Low Estham, Cumberland.  Subsequent searches found him in other censuses, all showing a different place of birth, Ravenglass in 1891 and Muncaster in 1901, it was only whilst looking these up on a map, I realised they were three different descriptions of the same place, Low Estham was Low Eskholme, Ravenglass the nearest village and Muncaster was the parish.

On a visit to the Family Records Centre in 2004, I found William on the 1841 census aged 4 living at Low Eskholme with William, 60, Hannah 60, Hannah 15, William 40, Ann 35, and Elizabeth 10.  I then made one of the classic mistakes of interpreting the 1841 census – the census gives no relationships, and family groups aren’t always what they seem.  I assumed that William and Hannah were husband and wife and living with them was their son William, his wife Ann and their three children, I was to be proved wrong further down the track, but at the time, I went searching for more information on the three William Singletons.  To further complicate matters, I looked up Low Eskholme in the 1851 census to find confusingly, a William Singleton aged 24 a farmer of 16 acres, born Muncaster and his wife Sarah aged 25 born Eskdale, who were they, they didn’t fit with any of the Singletons from 1841. This was the beginning of my journey into the life of William Singleton yeoman farmer.

I started out by doing a web search for William Singleton and Low Eskholme and found a fascinating web site Past Presented (http://homepages.tesco.net/~trochos/eskdale/) and the Eskdale project; this was to prove a fascinating glimpse into the world of 19th century Lakeland.  From this I found out about Low Eskholme and its environs, there are extracts from the land tax and probate records for Eskdale, including the Muncaster Poor Rate for 1810, this stated that the overseers for this year were William Singleton and Isaac Jackson, included in the list of rate payers is Lord Muncaster, the owner of Muncaster Castle, who paid the staggering amount of £18 15s 0d, further down the list is William Singleton paying £0 9s 9d.

So far I’d found references to four William Singletons in the various records I’d looked at.  I did further searches on familysearch.org and found William Singleton baptised in 1777 at Muncaster, his parents were William and Elizabeth, but much as I looked I could find no reference to William marrying and having a son about 1801.  Frustrated I once more turned to the internet, to the Access to Archives website (www.a2a.org.uk), searching here I found references to both William and Low Eskholme in Muncaster parish in Cumberland, the records were held at the Cumbria Archives in Whitehaven.  Cumbria Archives Service offers a research service, where you can pay for a one hour search of their records, taking advantage of this, I requested a search, and it was the results of this that sorted out the intricacies of this family and led to the discovery of more details about William’s life.

Cumbria Archives confirmed William’s baptism in 1777 and also his siblings, including a Hannah in 1779, it also provided a copy of William’s will dated February 1852 which noted that his heir and only child was Elizabeth a minor at the date of the will.  Also included was a copy of an article of exchange dated 1783 relating to the property ownership of various stints in low marsh near Nether Hestholme (an alternate name for Low Eskholme), and a mortgage indenture dated 1827 where William Singleton had borrowed £120 from Benjamin Bibby for a period of 1000 years!  I was staggered by the time period, but £120 then was a lot of money, William had inherited Low Eskholme from his father in 1823, and he obviously needed money, perhaps to do improvements to the farm, earning a living in the Lakeland Dales from farming was a perilous business.

The situation was starting to come clear, William Singleton born 1777 had no wife in 1841, no marriage having been found for him to a Hannah, but he did have a sister Hannah who in 1801 whilst a servant in Kirkby Ireleth in nearby Lancashire had an illegitimate son William, who married Ann in Kirkby in 1822.  The family moved to Low Eskholme where this William became a labourer on his uncle’s farm, and where presumably his mother and wife attended to the domestic duties.  William continued with his duties as overseer and constable for the parish of Muncaster.  As so often in my researches, I turned again to the internet and this time a search for William Singleton Overseer returned an entry from the roots web Cumberland mailing list which reprinted an article that had originally appeared in the Cumbria magazine in 1981, by Barbara Newton. It was about the poor of Ravenglass and named William as the perpetual overseer.  He was in office from 1815 until 1838 when the new poor laws took effect, and his salary was £3. 9s. 0d per annum, and the quote I love “he was a very busy man, but in addition to this he claimed expenses which were considerable, for self and horse.”  I felt this gave an immediate impression of William riding off on his horse on one of his journeys to apprehend the father of an illegitimate child in his parish, or to see a vagrant to the extent of the parish.

This article gives a fascinating insight into life for the poor , they were required to wear a patch on their sleeves with a P for Pauper on it and the initial of their parish to identify them.  This was usually restricted to inmates of the poor house in Ravenglass, its master being William Mossop.  William Singleton was responsible for collecting the poor rate and distributing it, some of those payments are noted in Newton’s article, "paid to Dr. Patricks for takeing off Thos. Tyson`s legg £2.2s.Od." On November 6, 1816, is an item "paid for Thos. Tyson Wood Legg 5s Od."  Other items include expenses for Wm. Gunson and Wm. Singleton, each 2Days to Hawkshead to take Isaac Saterthwaite for a Bastard Child £3. 1s. 0½d. I felt I was getting to know William, but I had one more surprise from him before I finished my research.

Having received a copy of William’s will, I found out that he had left everything to his daughter Elizabeth, as well as providing for his wife Sarah when Elizabeth came of age and inherited so long as Sarah was still “unmarried and remaining my lawful Widow”, in the event of Elizabeth’s death it was to revert to Sarah, unless she married when it would revert to other relatives (though interestingly not his sister Hannah and  her family though his other sisters Elizabeth and Ann are mentioned).  The name Sarah rang a bell with me and I remembered the entry from the 1851 census, revisiting the page (now available on www.ancestry.co.uk), I found it to actually read William Singleton, 74, Sarah his wife was aged 25 – a large discrepancy in their ages, what had induced William to marry at such a late age and to someone nearly 50 years younger than him.  I suppose I will never know for sure, perhaps he wished to ensure the farm stayed in his immediate line, perhaps he fell out with Hannah’s family (she had died in 1849 and her son William in 1841, by 1851 Ann and her children were living Liverpool).

William and Sarah’s marriage certificate shows they were married by license at Muncaster parish church on the 29th March, their ages only given as full age; daughter Elizabeth was born in July 1851, giving perhaps one reason for William’s marriage so late in life.  William didn’t live long to enjoy his new family, he died of influenza aged 74 on the 13th March 1852, leaving his daughter Elizabeth a considerable heiress.

On a visit to the Lake District in 2006 I visited the Muncaster parish church in the grounds of Muncaster Castle and found William’s grave.  The inscription reads

Erected to the Memory of William Singleton of Low Eskholme in this parish who died March 15th 1852 in the 75th year of his age.

Also Sarah his wife, who died November the 6th 1862 Aged 37 Years.

Farewell my wife and child so dear
I am not dead but sleeping here
With patience wait, prepare to die
 And before long we'll meet on high.

Sorting out the various William Singletons has been a challenge, but along the way I’ve discovered more about one of my ancestors who lived at a time of considerable change, poverty and hardship, but who lived until the grand age of 74, having had a positive effect on many peoples’ lives; and have learnt a lot in the process, not just about how to trace my family tree, but how our ancestors lived in an age before the Welfare State.

Monday, 18 October 2010

First Post

My first post on my new blog! Today I decided to set up a blog after reading an article about family history blogs in the Your Family History magazine (http://www.your-familyhistory.com/), so here we are.

I've had fun finding and setting up a blog page and looking at design etc. I'm sure I'll be playing around with it a bit more over the next few weeks.

I'm currently putting together an idea for a new case study about Ethelbert Peter Sayers in Great Grimsby, my three times great grandfather, so I'll post progress on that here.