Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Solid Foundation On The Ashtons

After I hit my brick wall with the Ashton family recently I was a bit disheartened, but I'm one of those people that (after a little bit of moping and feeling sorry for myself) sees an obstacle as a personal challenge - an affront that must be beaten into submission and tamed!
So it was that I decided to go right back to the basic facts and proof that I had: the birth certificate for Constance Mary Ashton (Mark's mum), which shows her dad John William Ashton and mum Gertrude Constance Musk. I was also lucky enough to have found a copy of their marriage certificate amongst some paperwork that we inherited from Mary. I used the latter vital record to apply for each of their birth certificates from the General Register Office in the UK, and once I have those I will keep working back, ordering more and more vital records as information presents itself and I can build a good fact-based argument for each step back in the history of this family.
In the meantime I also decided to adopt the Research Worksheet I had learned about while listening to episode 23 of Lisa Louise Cook's Family History Podcast. With a background in journalism, and a pedantic streak a mile wide, I love recording information in the clearest, most concise way possible, and the Research Worksheet provided by Lisa, which makes use of the Genealogy Proof Standard, is fantastic. I simply tailored it to fit my own needs (and see myself tailoring it to fit each research goal) and used to create a solid foundation for the argument that the John William Ashton listed on the birth certificate of Constance Mary Ashton, dated 17 May 1926, and on the marriage certificate of Constance Mary Ashton and Peter Eden, dated 12 April 1955, is the same John William Ashton listed as the son of Thomas William Ashton and Rachel Mary Ashton (nee???) in the 1911 Census of England and Wales.
As is evident I decided to go right back to basics and to even use the Research Worksheet to provide an argument for something I was already fairly certain about... my theory was that, in this way, any future Research Worksheets would build upon the surety established in previous ones.
Having completed the worksheet I now feel confident that I have found Mark's grandfather in the 1911 Census, and so can keep moving going back in time. I will probably hold off completing the next worksheet until I have got John's birth certificate from the GRO... I am hoping it will arrive this week!
I am also trying to figure out how to work out death dates and order death certificates from the GRO, but have so far not found much information about this.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Ashtons Keep Their Secrets

I've been making such good progress with the Ashton family in the censuses of England and Wales; I did a search of the 1861 Census: the criteria entered were John Ashton, b. abt 1827 (+/-2) in Wales, spouse Jane, lived in Walker, Northumberland.
The first result was, at first glance, a good match: John Ashton, wife Jane Ashton, b. abt 1826 in Llanwnog, Montgomeryshire, Wales, resident at the time of the 1861 census in Weeg, Montgomeryshire, Wales. However the couple have several children already; children who should have been born at this time (using info from the 1871 Census) are Martha (who would be three) and Elizabeth (who would be eight) and neither of them is listed on the 1861 Census result.
The second result didn't have a match for birth place, even though the name was a match, and had children that didn't match my guy; the third guy didn't have a match for birth place, even though the name was a match, and was listed as living with Jane Ashton and his 62 year old father, also John Ashton, in Stockport, Stockport, Cheshire (this result may be worth investigating at a later date); there was another match further down the list for a John Ashton, b. abt 1829 in Southwark, Surrey, and living with his wife Jane Ashton in Lambeth, Surrey with their son Thomas Ashton, however the child is 13 - all-in-all not a good match; even further down the list is another John Ashton, b. abt 1828 in Wales, but married to a Mary Ann Ashton and living in Walker, Northumberland with their 6mo child Thos Wm Ashton - I wasn't particularly happy about this match either, but it may be worth investigating at a later date should discrepancies arise.
I refined my search for John Ashton, b. abt. 1827 in Wales, to include Martha and Elizabeth in the search criteria as children. I also changed the criteria to search for only one year on either side of his approximate birth year, and stipulated that his spouse's name had to be Jane. This reduced the results to 37.
I still wasn't happy with any of the results and finally decided that I would have to consider this a brick wall and come back to this family with further information, perhaps obtained from vital records.
I am hoping vital records will provide me with a marriage date for John and Jane Ashton, as well their full names, and that this fruther information will lead me to their birth information and parents. At the moment, however, I am resigned to letting these family members keep their secrets and will try tracing another branch. 
I have been working on a Research Worksheet to track my findings, which I will blog about in a few days. I am determined to backtrack and use the information I do already have to build a good solid foundation and then start my research again with the vital records I am expecting to receive from the GRO sometime next week (so exciting!). 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

New Answers, New Questions

My current task, as I attempt to trace the Ashton family, was to try and find Thomas William Ashton (at ten years old) in the 1871 Census of England.
What I'd found so far:

  • 1911 census: Mark's maternal grandfather, John William Ashton, and maternal great grandfather, Thomas William Ashton;
  • 1891 census: Mark's maternal grandfather, John William Ashton, and maternal great grandfather, Thomas William Ashton; and
  • 1881 census: Mark's maternal great grandfather, Thomas William Ashton; no father listed for him - his mother, Jane, is a widow(at 55 years old).

The 1871 census brought a whole slew of people into the frame, after the small family of four I discovered in 1811.
At first wasn't sure this was my family, despite the fact that the name (Thomas Ashton), birth county (Northumberland) and mother's name (Jane), as well as his birth year (1861) all tallied. Part of the reason for this uncertainty is that the birthplace is listed as Benton. However a search on the web revealed a GenUKI article on Long Benton parish which "comprises the townships of Killingworth, Long Benton, Walker and Weetslade" and is bounded "on the south by the Tyne, and on the east by the parishes of Tynemouth and Wallsend." (This information is from a publication from 1855, which explains why I have been searching Google Maps and Google Earth, to no avail, for Benton, Northumberland. As Mark pointed out: Benton is probably long gone, amalgamated with a host of other small hamlets into something new.) This makes sense in terms of Thomas Ashton's birthplace being listed as Benton, Northumberland in the 1871 census and Walker, Northumberland in each census thereafter; it also fits with his mother, Jane, having been born in Wallsend, Northumberland, which is in (I suspect) the same sort of area area (another family member, listed below, was born in South Shields, which is about five kilometres away from Wallsend, and another born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, also about five kilometres away albeit in the opposite direction). So I was now fairly certain the birthplace data was a match for my guy too.
I was also thrown by the discrepancy in Jane Ashton's ages between the 1881 census, when she is widowed (55), and the 1871 census, when she is living with her husband and many children (47); I put this down to Jane wishing to appear youthful and younger, and being a bit flexible with how she reported her age.
I did find Thomas' father: John Ashton, 44, born in Wales, and listed as being a 'Millfurnaceman' (although this is difficult to decipher). Therefore further research is needed to find out how he died, since I now I know that he died sometime between 1871 and 1881.
The rest of the family is a bit of a tangle:

  • daughter Martha (b Byker Hill, Northumberland) 13, 
  • son Thomas (b Benton, Northumberland) 10, 
  • son Robert Gibbons (b So Shields, Durham) 10, 
  • daughter Margaret (b Benton, Northumberland) 7,
  • daughter Elizabeth Dadds (b Wallsend, Northumberland) 18, 
  • grandson John Dadds (b Benton, Northumberland) 2, 
  • grandson Robert Dadds (b Newcastle Upon Tyne) 4 months. 

Robert Gibbons is listed here as being the son of John Ashton, but in the 1881 census he is listed as being the grandson of Jane Ashton (John's widow). His brother John Gibbons, who is 12 at the time of the 1881 census, is not listed here at all. What is the true relationship of Robert Gibbons to John Ashton? Where is John Gibbons at the time of the 1871 census?
There are two much younger children, listed as being John's grandchildren, named John (2) and Robert (4mo) Dadds, children of his daughter Elizabeth Dadds. Where is their father, Elizabeth's husband?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Widow Ashton And Her Boys

I had an extremely successful day today with the 1891 Census and 1881 Census of England, following the course I began a few weeks ago at Pearson Love To Learn (I am so thankful to have found this course at the start of my family history exploration; within half an hour of starting the course I had learned enough about the British census to have grown my small family tree a whole extra generation on Mark's side of the family).
I followed Mark's maternal grandfather, John William Ashton, and found him living with his family in the 1891 census. I had already discovered him living with his family in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, so finding him with them in the 1891 didn't provide any new relatives to research, but rather provided a more complete picture of the family.
I already had some solid facts from the 1911 census about John Ashton and his parents. I decided to focus on his father using the facts I had gleaned from the 1911 census: Thomas William Ashton; age 50 (b  abt 1861); (m abt 1885, at abt age 24, to Rachel Mary); Steel Plate Mill Roller; b Walker, Northumberland; lived in West Hartlepool, Durham at time of 1911 census. 
Neither the 1901 census nor the 1891 census had previously revealed any additional information about him. 
I decided to follow John's father, Thomas William Ashton, to the 1881 census. He has his age listed as 30 on the 1891 census. which means he would have been born in about 1861, in Walker, Northumberland. 
Unfortunately, as he was married to Rachel for 26 years as at the 1911 census, he would not be married at the time of the 1881 census (as his marriage would have taken place in about 1885). 
Reviewing the first page of results to my search on Ancestry, only the top result matched all my criteria: Thomas W Ashton; b abt 1861; birthplace Walker, Northumberland; resident in Durham at the time of the 1881 census (which is where he was living in the two subsequent censuses). 
Of the other possible matches none were born in the right place, and only a handful were born in the right year. My theory that the first result was my Thomas William Ashton was confirmed when I looked at the further information provided on the census form: he is listed as being a "labourer in iron works". I assumed this was pretty close to the Steel Plate Mill Roller that he later became (however I may need to return to this presumption at a later date and explore these two roles in this time period. While I am not entirely confident that this is the same occupation or even the same industry, I am not relying on this occupation fact in isolation - when coupled with the other exact matches of name, gender, birthplace, age, and ties to Durham I think I can safely say this is my guy. Famous last words? I hope not!). 
The other closest possibilities were a Thomas W Ashton born in 1866, listed as being an iron moulder's apprentice; and a Thomas Ashton born in 1861, listed as being an 'Overlooker of Spinners (Worsted)'. Of all the search results it was only the top one (who I believe to be my guy) and this latter one with any connection to Durham - both were living there at the time of the 1881 censu. Of the two other possiblities (ie: second and third in the search results, as listed above) one was too young and the other worked in the wrong industry, so I was pretty confident I had found the ancestor for whom I had been searching. 
Thomas, at 20 years old, unmarried and working as a labourer in iron works, is listed as living with his mother, Jane Ashton, at 39 Chalk Street in Stockton. Jane is the head of the household, is 55 years old (b abt 1826), is widowed, and was born in Walker, Northumberland. She does not not have any occupation listed.
Also living in the house are Robert Gibbons, 20 (b abt 1861) and John Gibbons, 12 (b abt 1869), Jane's grandsons. The older of these is also working as a labourer in iron works, while the younger is a scholar. Robert was born in So Shields, Durham, and his younger brother was born in Walker, Northumberland.
So all of a sudden I have a mystery: What happened to Thomas' father - what was his name and how did he died, and when? Where is Thomas' sister (I am assuming Jane had a daughter, who married a Gibbons, hence the fact that Jane's grandsons have a different last name)? Have Thomas' nephews been orphaned and taken in by their grandmother?
I was particularly fascinated by the fact that Thomas and his nephew Robert are not only the same age, but are also doing the same job. Did they get on well? Did they work side by side and go home together and enjoy each other's company?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Suffragettes & the Ashton Family in the 1911 Census

I've been concentrating on researching Mark's family, rather than mine, as it is so much to find records that pertain to them. I did a little happy dance today when I discovered the family of John William Ashton, Mark's maternal grandfather (father of Constance Mary Ashton), in the 1911 Census of England and Wales!
I had previously found them in the 1901 Census of England and Wales and, following much jubilation then too, I had been able to really increase the number of branches in the Eden family tree: Mary's father had seven siblings! Many Branchings indeed, as the possibility of seven more branches of investigation were opened up to me. I didn't give this aspect of the family much further thought at this point, however I noted that I still didn't have a maiden name for John Ashton's mother, who was listen only as Rachel M Ashton, nor did I know her full name. However I ordered birth certificates for both Mark's grandparents - John William Ashton and Gertrude Constance Musk - from the General Register Office (GRO) on the 15th of May and I am hoping (much) more will be revealed when these arrive (ETA is first week in June!).
The 1911 Census revealed loads more information about the family, including that Rachel's middle name was Mary. This name was passed on to their first-born daughter, Ethel Mary Ashton, and subsequently by John to his daughter, Constance Mary Ashton (who in turn passed it on to Mark's sister). It's so wonderful to see that continuity, and the realisation made me pause for thought and really appreciate the history of this family and the people represented by these names on a piece of paper (or on my computer screen, as the case may be). Interestingly the name that is passed down on the male side of the family, even though it appears to have skipped a generation, is William: it is Mark's middle name, and it was the middle name of both his mother's father and grandfather. More continuity.

I decided to find out what was happening in the UK at the time this family was filling out their census form (and it was so special to see Thomas Ashton's handwriting, as the head of the household, on the form) and discovered that the suffragette movement was in full swing... and getting quite violent! I had already read that some women were refusing to fill out the 1911 Census form as a means of protest, choosing to be invisible in the population count as they were invisible in terms of their political choices and right to vote, but I had no idea how heated and dangerous it became. One article I found particularly fascinating I discovered on website of The Guardian newspaper, called 'When Suffragettes Were Out For The Count'.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wedding Wednesday - Ashton & Musk, 1916

Today's daily blogging prompt over at GeneaBloggers is 'Wedding Wednesday', and I wanted to share the marriage certificate of John William Ashton and Gertrude Constance Musk. I was lucky enough to discover this certificate, when I decided to start tracing our family history only a few short weeks ago, in a box of old photographs and certificates which we inherited from Mark's mum. The marriage was solemnised at the Zion Congregational Church in the District of Chorlton, in the County of Lancaster, in the UK. I haven't done any research about this church (to see, for instance, if it still stands or is even still in use and has a congregation), but that is definitely on the cards for future exploration.
The groom has listed, under occupation, "Lieutenant A.O.D. (schoolmaster)". Some (very) basic preliminary research led me to an article on Wikipedia about the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The article says the RAOC was created when, in 1918, the Army Ordnance Department (AOD) and Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) amalgamated in 1918 (which in turn, in 1993, was "one of the corps that amalgamated to form the Royal Logistic Corps"). The article explains the RAOC "dealt only with the supply and maintenance of weaponry, munitions and other military equipment". It would be interesting to research service records for John Ashton further and find out exactly what his role in the Corps entailed.
The certificate shows not only that the bride's father, a congregational minister, presided over the ceremony, but that her sister Kathleen was one of the witnesses.
As usual, click the image for a larger view.