Family Trees

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Website Woes for Hilary's Pages

Fun and games! The cost of hosting the websites has risen unbelievably so, to save some money before the contract ends (and I can go elsewhere), I tried to take advantage of their new addon system. I got help from the "Support" and the result - everything is lost, gone, disappeared. Not happy.

Now I wait for "support" to get back to me. The website WILL be back, hopefully it will be back soon. When it is online again, the next job will be to transfer the data to a more modern web program, correct some information in view of recent discoveries and then give it all a fresh, modern layout.

That's the plan :) - I hope that it will be back soon.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

War Planes over Bwlchgwyn

Extracted, with permission, from "I Remember...My Life In Bwlchgwyn (1939-1943)" by Gwenda Lewis. © G Lewis 2005.

"In late 1940 we realised that German planes which were bombing Merseyside were passing overhead, having crossed Southern Ireland, which was neutral, and cutting across North Wales. We soon learned to distinguish the pulsing throb of the enemy engines, which was quickly followed by the wailing of air-raid sirens and by the distant weaving of searchlight beams as they combed the night sky.

There came a night when an enemy plane heading north-east, and chased by British fighter planes, jettisoned some of its bombs over our area. This was a new and worrying turn of events and Mr Richards, the Headmaster, asked Miss Roberts to organise some older pupils to fix anti-splinter muslin on the classroom windows of the school.  Then bricklayers were called in to build high walls to protect the two school entrances from blast. This would hopefully minimise damage during night raids but also offer some protection for the children should we be bombed during school hours.  Of course nothing could protect us from a possible direct hit. But thankfully daytime raids never happened.

During one night raid some incendiary bombs fell on the flat-topped Minera Mountain behind Bwlchgwyn.  The dry heather and bracken burned fiercely in the darkness and quickly spread, revealing electricity pylons on the mountain.  The German pilots must have reported hitting an important installation because they returned for about nine consecutive nights to bomb it again and again with high explosives. The smell of the smoke could be detected thirty miles away.

Now this was rather close to home and I remember waking up one night to the sound of these enormous explosions, like the worst thunderstorm you ever heard.  The force of the explosions made the house shake and the windows rattle.

One late evening in October my mother, David and I were in the living room listening to the wireless and did not hear the enemy plane overhead, neither did we hear a warning siren.  We heard nothing until the bombs began to fall.  The next morning we awoke to find the village peppered with bomb craters and I immediately [28th October 1940] wrote to my father describing the frightening experience and our response to it.

This particular raid was reported in the local paper, without naming the village as that information might help the enemy.


An enemy raider passed over a village in North Wales on Sunday night.  High explosive bombs were dropped in fields in and near the village. About 15 craters were to be seen next day.  Three were in soft ground in a field below a vicarage, another was within a few feet of a highway and others were near farms and houses.  Apart from a few broken windows, no damage was done and there were no casualties.  Cattle who were out in one of the fields where three of the craters are, were all unhurt.

One bit of excitement I seem to remember was when  a German Heinkel bomber came down on the slopes of the Penllyn Mountain.  Hearing the rumours of this crash the village boys, including my brother David, were very anxious to visit the site but the police kept them away until the bodies of the crew were located and removed.  Then the lads scrambled over the wreckage and came home triumphantly carrying chunks of twisted metal and other souvenirs to add to their collections of bits of shrapnel scavenged from bomb craters.  What was left of the plane was put on display in Wrexham town centre as an encouragement to the people that the enemy was not getting it all his own way.

Highly prized were pieces of perspex from the cockpit window.  Uncle Stan managed to get one and fashioned a bangle each for Margaret and me, cleverly carving a design on its surface with his penknife.

More sad in a way was when a British Hudson plane with a Canadian crew crashed in the wooded valley of Nant y Ffrith.  The local policeman was otherwise occupied in the 'Four Crosses' pub beyond the village so  George Edwards, who ran a local bus service, having spotted the flames of the burning aircraft, hastened to the scene where he found one crew member critically injured but still alive.  Seeking to save time he carried the man to his car and set off for the hospital in Wrexham.  Sadly the man died on the way.  One might think that George would be thanked for trying to save the crewman's life.  Not a bit of it.  When the policeman got back from the pub he gave George a stiff reprimand for interfering instead of going back to the village to find him so he could alert the relevant authorities.

Now some have said that those two incidents were simultaneous and linked, that in the total darkness the German and British planes had experienced a slight collision, perhaps a wing-tip encounter, which explained them spinning off in different directions before crashing.  Unfortunately my memory of all this is patchy after so many years and people I have talked to have differing versions of what actually happened.  Strangely, there seems to be no official record of the incident, even a book 'Luftwaffe over Clwyd' published after the war makes no mention of any plane crashes at all.  All this suggests that it was highly classified information and suppressed as far as the public was concerned.  One child was told by her father she must forget it as it never really happened!  So I guess we shall never know the truth about it.  Nevertheless a cemetery nor far away has been found to be the final resting place of both Canadian and German crews.

Why did we, in Bwlchgwyn and the surrounding area, take such a pounding from the German Airforce?  They may have been hoping to put the Monsanto chemical factory near Ruabon out of action, or to disable the radar station and searchlights on the moors near Llandegla.  Perhaps it was simply a mistake, or it has since ben suggested that British electronic experts were experimenting with a means of interfering with the aircrafts' navigation instruments and the German pilots were deceived into thinking they were somewhere else altogether.  We shall never know.

Eventually, probably some time in late 1941, the bombers stopped coming.  The night skies over Bwlchgwyn were once again silent.  No longer were we straining to distinguish the throb of the German plane engines from the steady drone of the British fighter planes, when we used to say, with relief in our voices, 'It's all right, it's one of ours!' "

© Gwenda Lewis 2005. Please contact me if you require permission from Gwenda to reproduce her text.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Internet Power

This has been a delightfully busy week! Courtesy of the wonders of broadband and the internet, I have been chatting away to a surviving member of 62 Squadron, and to the daughterof another member of the squadron. I have also met two new members, previously unknown, of the Belton family, and been chatting again to some far-flung Salthouse family. New pictures have also come to light and I'll be working on them soon.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Preston Mill Girls

I have been helping a friend to discover more about one of his ancestors, Christopher Holt. In 1851 Christopher lived at 61 Maudland Bank, Preston and was gainfully employed as the manager of a cotton mill. According to the obituary notice in the online collection of 19th Century British Library Newspapers, April 1862, Christopher was formerly manager for the late John Paley, Esq., cotton spinner.

A lot of midnight oil was burned as I followed the story of John Paley, backwards through the digitised pages of the newspapers, from his death in 1857 to just before the death of his father, John Paley Snr, in 1855.

Whilst I read these fascinating accounts I had, in my mind’s eye, the picture of Victorian mill girls which was featured in Jeremy Paxman’s series ‘The Victorians’ on BBC television a couple of weeks ago. The painting* had long been a favourite of mine since it graced the cover of my Penguin paperback copy of ‘North and South’ by Elizabeth Gaskell. (That book, incidentally, I bought new in 1974 for the cover price of 60p). I loved the colours and the composition of the painting; warm ochres and terracotta colours brightened with the white aprons of the girls and cooled with the calming blues of their striped skirts. Such care-free times for those girls, depicted in sharp contrast to the usual dark and grimy scenes of industrial Manchester and Salford. Jeremy Paxton had commented that in this portrait of industrial Britain all the workers seemed to have a full set of fingers, there was not a speck of dirt on their clothes or their faces and only little wisps of smoke issued from the mill chimneys. This was all in stark contrast to images portrayed by contemporary writers who wanted to expose the dirty and dangerous working and living conditions of the mill hands.

What were the mill girls’ working conditions in Preston in the 1850s and what kind of mill manager was Christopher Holt? Was he an ancestor ‘to be proud of’ or one to ‘sweep under the carpet’ of history? Reading through those newspapers I discovered much about John Paley Jnr, the mill owner. The earlier commercial successes that he and his father had enjoyed had given them the opportunity to partake in the social and local government aspects of Preston life; both had been Aldermen and Mayor, and both seemed to have been liked and respected by their employees.

I discovered that Christopher Holt was probably the mill manager at John Paley & Co, of Heatley Street, Preston. The business had been founded by John Paley Snr who had been a joiner for Mr Horrocks before turning his talents to machine making and eventually buying a mill of his own. In 1841 Christopher was also a machine maker – was he working for John Paley at this time?

John Paley Jnr was elected Mayor of Preston in 1846; a subscription had been arranged (no donation was to be greater than two shillings per person) and there was sufficient money to buy a massive silver snuff box for the Mayor, a gold cameo brooch for his Mayoress and to decorate the Exchange rooms and lay on a tea for at least 1200 guests – many of them employees of John Paley. One of the banners proclaimed “John Paley Jnr. Esq., Mayor; May he long live in the hearts of his workpeople, honoured and esteemed by his townsmen.” Another banner honoured John Paley Snr (who had also served as Mayor) with “May he long live to enjoy the reward of his industry and enterprise, wishing him and his family health and happiness.”

After the tea, space was cleared, a stage made, and the speeches began. The chair was taken by Christopher Holt – suggesting that he was now the mill manager – and Christopher gave a very well-received, short speech relating how the subscriptions had been collected and how the workpeople held Mr and Mrs Paley in great esteem and affection. He mentioned the scientific advancements that were being made which, together with the continuation of mutual respect between the workers and the employers in the district, would lead to improvements of every kind in trade as well as improvements in mechanism.

Another report tells of the annual treat for the mill hands of all the Preston mills in 1856. Five hundred of the hands of John Paley & Co gathered at 5.30 a.m. in the yard of Heatley Street Mills and went in procession, led by the Third Royal Militia Band, to the Maudland Railway Station where they boarded a train for Fleetwood. Lunch and tea were provided at the Market Hall (though the manager and the overlookers lunched at the Victoria Hotel) and the day was given over to festivities and games which were enjoyed by all.

Of course, good times rarely last for long, and the cotton famine was looming. Until then, trade was probably conducive to good labour relations and mill owners, such as John Paley, could profitably run a benevolent and well disciplined mill. At this time Horrocks and others guaranteed employment for their hands, whatever the state of trade (Ten Per Cent and No Surrender, Dutton, King 1981) and there were other employers, such as Robert Owen and Kay-Shuttleworth, who advocated a more philanthropic approach to business matters.

Christopher Holt, I surmise, was fortunate in a number of ways; he was forward-looking and trained in the new craft of machine making; he was of good character and seemed to earn the respect of his employers and of his hands and he had the wit and intelligence to make a good speech in front of a crowd of over a thousand people. But times were changing – how were Christopher and John Paley to fare?

John Paley Snr retired before the deterioration of trade really set in and it was John Paley Jnr who had to put forward a reduction of wages to his workers. Although there was opposition to the wage cuts, they were carried through and, in some cases, the hands voted to accept cuts rather than lose their jobs. The market reports in the Liverpool newspapers tell of very quiet times, with much reduced trade. John Paley Snr died in 1855, at which time John Paley Jnr was suffering from the results of some serious losses of fortune resulting from some ‘untoward undertakings’ and also from deteriorating health. The newspapers show that between 1855 and 1857 John Paley Jnr’s extensive property holdings were all sold; the contents of the mill were auctioned and, finally, his life policy (for £5,000 plus accumulated bonuses) was also sold – the latter occurred just before his death in 1857.

When John Paley Jnr died, the Preston Guardian published a long and detailed obituary, culminating in a list of mourners and the order of the procession, which was akin to a state funeral, such was the affection held for the Paley family.

Christopher Holt probably found himself unemployed and eager not to be one of the fourteen families, previously employed by John Paley & Co, which were now suffering severely the ‘pinches of poverty’ and for whom the newspaper called on the people of the town to raise a subscription to ease their sufferings. In 1861 Christopher Holt is living at Mayes Street, near Victoria Station in Manchester. He is a mill manager and, married for the second time, has a new young family to feed. He has travelled far to find employment, away from his family and his friends to the crowded, soot covered terraces and factories of this huge city. A year later he died, at Blackburn, and was buried at Preston. His ‘obituary’ in the personal notices section of the newspaper simply says

“On the 30th ult. at Burnley, Mr Christopher Holt, formerly manager for the late John Paley Esq., cotton spinner, of this town, aged 60.”

*'The Dinner Hour: Wigan' was painted by Eyre Crow in 1874

(c) Hilary Belton 2009

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

John Salthouse, Liverpool ship owner in 1754

Salford Local History Library has a good collection of books relating to the North West generally as well as a good collection of records pertaining, as you would expect, to Salford. The books that I like to look through are part of a series purchased by subscription many years ago and, as such, some volumes relate to places a little further afield, such as Liverpool and Cheshire.

On my visit last week I found a book which records letters sent to the Customs House in Liverpool in the eighteenth century. Fortunately these books are well indexed and I quickly found a reference to John Salthouse, who was part owner of the 'Bee', a square-sterned snow of 45 tons, built at Liverpool in 1752; the master was John Newton. This is the account of the 'Bee's' activities sometime after the letter was written, included in the book as a footnote:

"The Bee, the third of Newton’s Liverpool ships, had been built and fitted out by Mannesty for the notorious slave captain, the “Old Blasphemer”. Newton, however, was taken suddenly ill and had to resign command the day before she sailed. On this, her maiden voyage, she was cut off by the slaves and run ashore, and the master mate and surgeon were all killed. Newton joined the Customs service in Liverpool, and later the church, to become the noted evangelist, slaver reformer and, with poor Cowper, the author of the Olney hymns".

I have no idea, yet, whether this John Salthouse is related to my family and, whilst preferring not to be associated with a slaving ship, history cannot be re-written. The stories of my ancestors, whatever those stories may turn out to be, are stories of their lives, not of my life.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Snow Clearing in Llandegla

The Christmas Tree has been put away for another year, but it's cold and occasionally snowy outside, so I looked for a snowy picture to grace the website.

I found a picture from my cousin June's collection, a picture of some Air Force men clearing snow at Llandegla. Following the link on my home page at will take you to another picture with more detail. Do you know the men? Most of them are likely to have been quite local to Llandegla and Bwlchgwyn, especially the man in the portrait, who must have been known to my uncle, Harold Belton.

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Seventh Son

Christmas is lovely, a welcome break before winter sets in properly and lots of glitter and lights to cheer me up (not to mention chocolates and Christmas cake), but it's not a good time for delving into the family histories. There are just too many other things competing for priority, not least of all the day job.

When the latest clutch of certificates arrived on my doormat this morning it felt like a welcome return to "the good old days"! I had been particularly keen to discover whether my grandfather, Jim Salthouse, really was "the seventh son of a seventh son" - to which he attributed his luck in life. I had found two births in the indexes which were most likely to be his brothers. The certificates duly confirmed that Richard Salthouse (1880) and Henry Salthouse (1888) were both the children of William Salthouse and Janet Braidwood. My grandfather, born in 1897, was now confirmed to be a Seventh Son.

But he was not the seventh son of a seventh son. His father was certainly one of seven sons - but he was the first son, not the seventh. So grandfather could easily have said, for all we know, that he was 'the seventh son of seven sons'. Did this make him lucky?

Perhaps his near-claim to a charmed life resulted in a near-lucky life? He was the youngest of 10 children, born when his mother was 46 years old and with a gap of seven years between him and the previous child, Janet. When Jim was of school age the family moved to Ditton, Widnes, possibly in the hope that the eldest brother, 'Our Will', might recover from TB, but 'Our Will' died in 1906 and in 1912 Jim's father, William Salthouse, died of bronchopneumonia. Jim appears to have had engineering in his blood and he studied at Widnes Technical School and obtained an apprenticeship at Widnes. The first World War internvened and, when the family returned to Liverpool, he was able to transfer his articles to another engineering company. His apprenticeship completed, he immediately went to sea, eventually becoming a commissioned officer. Unluckily he was torpedoed twice, luckily he survived relatively unscathed.

After the war he married Maud Ralston. Sadly their first child died after a few weeks of life. When my mother was born the depression had set in and Jim was unemployed. He obtained work in Southport and had to walk from Liverpool to Southport every day. Presumably he accepted lifts if he could but he said that the depression was so bad that there were few vehicles on the roads. Eventually he got work as a driver with Jarvis Robinson Transport (JRT) in Liverpool - he got the job because of his engineering background as much as for his driving skills, and he drove their best lorry, a Scammel 8-wheeler, between Liverpool and Hull. His luck ran out, though, when one of his vehicles, which was supposed to have been repaired overnight, went out of control and he was badly burned in the resulting fire.

Although the build up to WW2 created new opportunites, Jim was probably considered to be the wrong side of 40 to rebuild his engineering career, but he did get better jobs and was also the sergeant in the Home Guard responsible for keeping the Home Guard and Volunteer vehicles running throughout the war. In the late 40s he went into semi-retirement in North Wales but he never stopped working on his passion - motorbikes - and was well known in the Llangollen area for the work he did with vintage motorcycles.

So, was he lucky or not? He might have hoped for a better career had the wars and the depression not intervened, but he did well to survive two wars, unemployment in Liverpool and that awful accident.

Friday, 14 November 2008

William Ellery

I have added a picture of William Ellery to my website at At first glance, the framed picture looks like a portrait, but actually it is a very good pencil drawing, possibly with some sort of pastel highlights. The photograph is good, not perfect, as I did not want to risk taking the picture out of its frame.

When was the portrait drawn? Mr Ellery appears to be at about retirement age, so between 1891 and 1901, perhaps? William Ellery was my great great grandfather.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembrance Day

I have updated my website at and corrected a few links to the War Memorial pages - the link on the home page goes to a list of memorial pages, following the links for each serviceman leads to a copy of the Certificate from the CWGC and also gives more personal information about some of the servicemen. The Certificates and photographs are provided by courtesy of the CWGC at

If you know of any other relatives of mine who should be included in these pages, please let me know.

Isaac Belton

A few months ago I bought a copy of the will of Isaac Belton. In his Will, Isaac stated that he lived at Waen Fawr in the parish of Hope (Flintshire, North Wales) but, at the time, I was not sure of just who he was, there are several Isaac Beltons in my tree - and wills, as you may have noticed, often give details as to the health of the testator, his address if you are very lucky, but very rarely do they indicate an age or date of birth, and this was no exception.

Tonight I researched a certain George Belton, son of Isaac Belton; George married an Ann Kelly, and I was trying to match the information from the census and from other researchers with the information on our Belton family tree when I had the greatest surprise: Isaac Belton turned out to be none other than my direct ancestor, my great great great grandfather - and this is his Will!

It's nice to know that someone in the family had a bit of money to bequeath - even if it was only £13/2/6d ! (Ps, that £13.12 in new money).

Saturday, 1 November 2008

A Belton in British Columbia

I have just received an interesting message from BC, telling me that one of my relatives, Ann Jayne Belton, who once lived in Bwlchgwyn, emigrated to British Columbia just over 100 years ago. I hope to hear more, soon, but in the meantime I am just wondering - why? What would make a young lady travel so far? Did she travel with other relatives?

Ann Jayne's brother, Edward O Belton, emigrated to Pennsylvania a few years later, he had already left Bwlchgwyn to work in the deep mines in South Wales and he and a friend from South Wales travelled together. A couple of years later, after a visit home, Edward returned to America accompanied by his younger brother and a cousin. They went abroad to work in the anthracite and coal mines, the motive is reasonably clear (and, so far as I can tell, Edward O Belton did well for himself in America), but Ann Jayne? That, I think, will be an interesting tale!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Ann Salthouse and James Hathaway

My internet wanderings turned up a lovely surprise tonight! I had been Googling "Salthouse Didsbury" and I discovered a photograph of my great great aunt, Ann Salthouse, who was born in 1812 at Didsbury, and who lived in Ewelme, Oxfordshire, after her marriage to James Hathaway. This is a wonderful find, the earliest picture I have ever seen of any of my Salthouse relatives and the likeness is there. Ann seems to have been a very strong and indomitable character.

The photograph and some information about Ann and her family is on the Oxfordshire Family History Society website at It is very generous of the family to post the photograph on the internet and share this information.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Thomas Fisher of Liverpool

He was Thomas Fisher of Kendal, really, a currier who established a good, solid business in Liverpool and who eventually earned the titles of leather merchant and gentleman. Throughout his working life he traded at 137 Dale Street (recently converted to apartments with an empty shop space at ground level) where he employed a fair number of men and girls to make, amongst other things, boot uppers which were then sold on to shoemakers here and in Ireland. He also took over the leather seller's shop of Thomas Salthouse at 232 Scotland Road, Liverpool.

Thomas Fisher moved to The Acres, Lower Bebbington, and his three daughters married from there. The eldest daughter, Sarah, married Benjamin Payne Coxon, son of Captain John Crow Coxon - was he the famous Captain Crow's descendant?

After Thomas Salthouse died, a John Fisher took over the leather seller's shop and premises at 232 Scotland Road. Do you happen to know whether these two Fishers were related? A quick search around in inconclusive; the only Thomas and John Fisher that I have found (of the correct age and location) have different parents.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Thomas Salthouse of Liverpool

This weekend I have been researching the life of Thomas Salthouse who occupied property at 224 Scotland Road, Liverpool, where he traded as a leather dealer.

I can't be certain of Thomas' parentage, but he could have been the son of George Salthouse and Mary Burns and christened on the 18th August 1802 at St Nicholas, Liverpool (IGI). On the 15th January 1827 Thomas Salthouse married Elizabeth Depledge at St George, Liverpool (IGI). In 1841, when he was about 38 years old, he was living at Litherland and working as a leather tanner.

By 1851 Thomas Salthouse had moved to 224 Scotland Road, Liverpool, from where he was carrying on business as a leather dealer. I knew that Thomas died in 1859 and my particular interest was the next owner or tenant of the property or the person who took over his business.

For a long time I "lost" 224 Scotland Road at this point. On Ancestry the property disappeared - right up to the 'clearances' it appears to have been just a gap in between the houses, possibly a building that had literally fallen down and never been repaired or rebuilt but demolished instead. What happened to his business? I put the case on a back-burner for a while.

Over the weekend I had another trawl through my collection of CD books. The 1858 Post Office Directory turned up Thomas Salthouse - not at 224 Scotland Road, but just a little further along the street at 232 Scotland Road! Good news! Now that I had a new address for the business I had a chance of discovering the new owner, if any. (The directories revealed what the census did not show - 224 Scotland Road did survive for many years; after Thomas Salthouse left it was occupied by William Ashley Wilson, an engineer and shopkeeper, and in 1881 Kelly's Directory it is the Northern District Post & Money Order & Telegraph Office & Savings Bank, but I didn't have access to so many directories when I started all this!).

It is possible to walk along a street using Ancestry but (unless you have a surname to start you off) it's not always easy, especially in a city, to find the right piece and page. There is an easier way, however, with Find My Past, which has an address search facility for the 1861 census. But neither 224 or 232 were included in the addresses for Scotland Road, Liverpool. Either they had both been demolished or they could have been business accommodation only, therefore there would have been no return for them on the census.

Back to the CDs - this time to search for the new address 'Scotland Road'. Some of the trade directories had street directories which were quite easy to find, others needed a search on 'Scotland Road'. The first reference that I found to 232 Scotland Road was in the 1869 Slater's Directory of Lancashire and this gave me the all important name of the new owner - Thomas Fisher. Thomas Fisher was listed at two addresses, 137 Dale Street and 232 Scotland Road, Liverpool. A quick check through the census returns showed that Thomas Fisher was from Kendal and had been working as a currier at Dale Street since at least 1841 when he had an apprentice currier, Robert Collingwood. I wonder if Thomas Fisher had bought his leather from Thomas Salthouse and then extended his business interests by taking over the business at Scotland Road and thereby keeping control of his supplies? The 1855 directory shows two Thomas Fishers trading in Liverpool, one as a currier (Dale Street) and the other as a bootmaker, the families of these I shall sort out another night, but at least I have a means of going forward again.

And, as Thomas Salthouse does not seem to be related to my Salthouse family, why am I so interested in his business and his successors? Because my great-grandfather, William Salthouse, who left Alderley to work in Birkenhead as a nurseryman and then, when he became of age, joined the Lancashire Police Force, subsequently left the police force (having received a reward for bravery) "to go into business on his own account" - according to the police records. This was just after the 1871 census and subsequent records show him as a leather and hide warehouseman, though he always declares himself to be an employee, not the owner. If he had gone into business with Thomas Salthouse that might have led us to a connection between the two families, but in his day the Scotland Road business was owned by Thomas Fisher, later by John Fisher and I can't find a family connection there. Not yet, anyway.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

That wedding in Alderley again!

The CD containing the marriage records of St Mary, Alderley, includes the wedding which took place on the 27th December 1851 between Mr John Bruce of Liverpool and Miss Maria Josepha Bell of Alderley.

Miss Bell was the daughter of the late Rev Isaac Bell; at the time of the 1851 census Maria and her older sisters were teaching at their mother's school for girls at Heawood Hall, Alderley. I don't think that the Bells were a wealthy family but, by virtue of being the daughter of the well-known Reverend Bell, this was quite a large and important wedding and was noted in the Manchester Times in January 1852. The witnesses were Eliza Bell, William Bell, John Garniss and Thomas Garniss. After the wedding the couple settled in Liverpool.

But who was John Bruce? Neither the bride or the groom were giddy young people, John Bruce was about 40 years old and Maria was about 35 years old. John Bruce had been a clerk in Liverpool's HM Customs office and his older, unmarried, sister lived with him; there was usually also a younger relative living with them as part of the family. According to the marriage certificate, John Bruce was the son of another John Bruce, manufacturer, and had been born in Northampton, possibly at All Saints. Quite possibly John's father had died before the 1841 census, but I may have found him in an 1825 census, as a manufacturer of ladies' shoes in Northampton.

How did John Bruce of Liverpool and Maria Bell of Alderley meet? Geographically they were miles away. True, train journies were relatively easy, but they were unlikely to meet, for example, at the shop or at a concert. Was there a third party? Did any of Maria's siblings live in Liverpool? Did John Bruce have any occasion to visit another family in Alderley?

Answers on a postcard! (email of course!) Because, as yet, I can't find this missing link!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Weddings at St Mary, Alderley

It's been one of those months - not helped, in a family history sense, by having to return to work after the summer holidays!

With less time to spare, the little research that I have done has been particularly unproductive; the underlying cause is, predictably, that I have exhausted the usual online sources of information and I am unable to visit record offices or museums at the moment, but keeping an eye on existing sources does still pay dividends as new records are added all the time. My growing collection of data CDs also helps and a chance find on the CD of parish records at St Mary Alderley (available at Alderley Church, Nether Alderley, amongst other places) has led me back to Liverpool and a completely new avenue of research - possibly a red herring, but anything is worth a couple of hours of online searching, if only to eliminate the people involved and therefore narrow the focus a little more.

Friday, 19 September 2008

William Ellery in Liverpool 1910

William Ellery was born in Bodmin in 1837 and is recorded in every census return from 1841 to 1901. For all of his married life he worked as an Outside Customs Officer in Liverpool. According to the London Gazette he was appointed, in 1910, as Examiner of Masters, Mates and Fishermen with the Board of Trade. Or was he?

A quick check on FreeBMD revealed that a William Ellery died in Liverpool in 1909 - but there had always been two William Ellerys, of almost identical ages, living in Liverpool - so which one had died in 1909? A few days later I received a copy of the 1909 death certificate from Southport and the information recorded clearly identified this to be my William Ellery.

So, unless there was an amazing delay in gazetting the appointment, William Ellery, Outside Customs Officer of Liverpool, was not the William Ellery who became the Board of Trade Examiner of Masters, Mates and Fishermen at Liverpool in 1910.

Tonight I decided to update my Ellery family tree and tidy my files. In doing so I noticed that the 1901 census recorded William Ellery as "retired" Customs officer. That clinches the deal. But who is the other William Ellery, the one who is mentioned in the London Gazette of 1910?

Family Tree Maker 2009

I have just installed the free upgrade from Family Tree Maker 2008 to 2009. I'll play around with it later, but the good news is that the program now has a complete suite of charts, forms and reports in the Publish Section. It seems to have everything I ever wanted!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Nant y Ffrith

I have been researching over the last few days, but I haven't found anything of great, must-write-about interest.

It never ceases to amaze me, though, just how hard our lead and coal mining ancestors worked - not just in the 1870s and 1880s but right up to fairly modern times, or the coming of the family car. The long hours and arduous work were only one aspect of their working days: the walk to and from work was a job in itself.

I was following the lives of some families (including George Belton's family) who lived in Nant-y-Ffrith, Bwlchgwyn. For census purposes, this covers roughly the area from the bridge on Llanarmon Road and follows the Nant-y-Ffrith river through the deep valley right down to the Ffrith itself. These families lived close to Llanarmon Road - so where did they work?

George Belton and his sons were all coal miners, not lead miners, and the coal fields end at approximately 700ft above sea level - roughly by Hurricane House on the Ffrwd or where the old railway line crossed Ruthin Road at the Coedpoeth crossing. I am not aware of any coal mines higher than this so it is likely that they walked, every day, down to Nant y Ffrith, through the valley and either followed the path past the foxstones to the Ffrith or they joined Nant Road or Glascoed Road at some point and made their way to Brymbo.

That is a long walk. In winter, never seeing daylight, frequent frosty or snowy spells, sodden tracks and paths, sometimes iced over, heavy drizzle, thick fog, it must have seemed twice as long, exceedingly dreary and not without dangers. Was there a possibility of transport? It doesn't seem very likely. Most of the cottages in this part of Nant y Ffrith were not much better than hovels. In one census, George Belton, Mary his wife, two adult sons (also coal miners), and a younger son and daughter, all lived in a house with only two rooms inhabited. That's not two rooms plus a scullery or anything else, it is literally two rooms in which to do all the washing, cooking, sitting, eating, dressing and sleeping. And it would have been damp.

The housewife would have worked as hard as her husband, getting the children off to school (if not prevented from attending by inclement weather, illness or being needed at home) and maybe taking the first of the children to school every day - another long walk, this time to Bwlchgwyn village and back, until the oldest children were old enough to escort their younger siblings; trying to keep the bedding dry, the house warm, wash and dry clothes, carry water and do her best to have a hot meal ready for the men on their return from work. For all that they were poor, they were still proud people and, if they adhered to one of the chapels or the church, they would take their places with pride at the Sunday services, mixing with their extended families, visiting, exchanging news.

Nanty-Ffrith seems a very remote place to have lived but, a very small comfort, there were a lot more people living in that area than would be apparent now. The houses were usually very small, occasionally one or two low walls or stones remain, but most have disappeared completely, the ruins overgrown or the stones recycled. Although most of the houses were isolated, they were not isolated by any considerable distance - a young lad could run to a neighbouring house for help and the women and children would have had some opportunity to socialise every few days.

In fact, things hadn't changed all that much in 1951, when I was born (in the relative comfort of the village itself); the cottage did benefit from one cold water tap and some electricity, but otherwise it was only marginally more habitable than the hovels in Nant y Ffrith.

Why did the people put up with these conditions? Why didn't they move? That's a story for another day.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

St. David's Day in Bwlchgwyn

I recently came across a newspaper report of the celebration of St. David's Day at Cae Adar Farm, Bwlchgwyn, in 1896.

The celebrations were actually held on Monday night, the 2nd of March, at Cae Adar Farm, when about a hundred people thoroughly enjoyed a special St David's Day supper, prepared by Mr. George Jones, the grocer. This was the first time that an event of this kind had been held and Mr John Jones, the owner of the farm, hoped that everybody would have an enjoyable evening. The concert president was Mr. John Edwards of the Brithdir and the secretary was Mr. Robert Williams of the Gors. The accompanist was Mr William Williams of Minera who also sang several solos. Shem Jones and his party sang and Mr Robert Roberts gave a solo. There were many other singers, too. Speeches were made by Messrs Samuel Kendrick, William Davies the schoolmaster, Richard Rogers, draper, of Bradford House and Edward Kendrick, who read a paper about the history of St, David. Mr. John Jones of Cae Adar sang the closing song to St. David and, united in the chorus, everyone was enjoying the evening like none before.

What an evening that must have been! I can remember concerts in Bethesda Chapel and Church Fetes, Harvest Festivals and Nativity plays, village sports days and bonfires in the rec (King George's playing fields), but I can't imagine this sort of concert being arranged, or so well attended, these days. If any of my readers does remember similar events, I would love to hear about them.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Arthur Belton

The next photograph (I think this blog is probably better read in reverse order!) is still firmly ensconced in its frame and, having been stored safely for 50 years, has acquired some obscurity in the glass. As I was not going to tackle a dis-framing or risk anything more than an e-dust over the glass, the quality of my photograph is not good - but the original is not very clear and sharp either.

The subject is a really beautiful studio protrait of my grandfather, Arthur Belton, looking every bit like my father; my grandmother, Edith (nee Edith Davies Williams), their two sons, Horace and Harold (my father was yet to arrive), and, appearing a bit spooky because of reflections, the little dog posing at Edith's feet.

I never knew these grandparents, or Horace, but my cousin always refers to them by their proper Welsh titles of Taid and Nain. Arthur Belton and his family lived at 17 Wesley Road, Bwlchgwyn and this picture was taken between about 1913 and 1918.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Mrs Ralston's Photograph

Over the years we have collected some really old family photographs - glass negatives and, possibly, some tintypes as well as the usual snapshots, and today we got out the framed pictures with the intention of photographing them.

One picture is particularly interesting as it is still in its frame but the frame is falling apart, allowing us to remove the picture. After a lot of internet research, I think that the picture must be a tintype which has been coloured. It fits most of the criteria - the image is on metal, it can only be viewed properly at the right angle, it has been tinted or coloured and, from the style of lady's costume, appears to have been taken around 1887-1888.

On the frame backing there is a postage label. "Don't Crush", it implores, and is addressed to my great grandmother, Mrs Ralston (nee Ellery) of 2, Sea View Buildings, Hoylake Road, Moreton. The sender was Howard Ford & Co., Ltd., Russell Buildings, School Lane, Liverpool. I immediately hot-moused it to my favourite site, Liverpool Photographers, but there was no mention of Howard Ford. Then reality took over. This lady is wearing a bustle, Mrs Ralston had the shop at Sea View Villas around about 1930, the two don't match. A quick look at Kelly's 1938 Directory for Liverpool and suburbs revealed the answer: The afore-mentioned Howard Ford & Co., Ltd., were hosiery manufacturers (they later became famous for the Bear Brand range of quality lady's stockings and tights); Mrs Ralston's shop was a gentleman's and lady's outfitters, selling, amongst other things, socks and stockings. During the 1920's or 30's the frame had been in need of repair and the cardboard packaging from a recent delivery of hosiery had been recycled for the purpose. That also explains why the postage label demanded "Don't Crush" instead of "glass - fragile - handle with care".

And who is this lady, so smartly dressed? The postage label does help, because we now know where that picture was between the wars. With the help of other photographs and glass plates, we believe the lady to be Mrs Ralston, herself, when she was about 20 years old and known as Miss Amelia Ellery of 24 Grampian Road, Liverpool.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Moses Chappell

Late last night I was wandering around the net and looking for inspiration in my Favourites list, when I spied a link to the Lancashire Online Parish Clerks, another of my favourite free sites created by generous volunteers. This site lists transcriptions, as you would expect, of many pre-1837 bmds for the county. Much of the information is also available on the Family Search site, but these are (I believe) new transcriptions - and every source of information is worth checking, you might just find that one extra snippet of information that fits everything together.

I had decided to search the whole county for Salthouse marriages and the database returned several pages of results. Right at the very end - in 1836 - one name jumped off the screen and lit up in front of my eyes: "Moses Chappell!" I exclaimed. "Mmmm", said the one member of my family still trying to stay awake - they are all used to such exclamations and take little notice these days...

Moses Chappell. He was a witness to the wedding of Ellen Salthouse and James Massey Ashcroft at the Collegiate Church, Manchester on the 30th May 1836.

The story begins with the death certificate of my great, great, grandmother, Sophia Salthouse (widow of Anthony Salthouse), who died at Hulme, Manchester on the 1st April 1859. The registrar was notified of her death by James Chappell. Who was he? His full name name proved to be James Light Salthouse Chappell - a pretty good clue that he was a relative of some kind! Following his life forward through the census returns and trade directories was a joy, but tracing his ancestry was more difficult. James Chappell was born in 1827, the son of Moses Chappell and Sarah - but Sarah who?

Over time I have searched and re-searched the relevant websites but no suitable Sarah was ever found, even less a Sarah Salthouse. So last night I looked, instead, for the birth of Ellen Salthouse and she proved to be a hitherto unknown daughter of Anthony and Sophia Salthouse of Didsbury; when she married she became Mrs Ashcroft - and Moses Chappell witnessed that marriage. Checking back through my records I noticed that on one census an Annie J Ashcroft was recorded as the niece of Sarah Chappell. Still with me on this? One final search for Moses Chappell's wife, presumed to be a Sarah Salthouse, and the IGI turned up just one record for the time and place - Sarah Salthouse, daughter of Anthony Salthouse and Sophia, previously unknown to me despite many trawls of the IGI.

Now I can finally link the Salthouse and Chappell families. Anthony Salthouse and Sophia of Didsbury had several children, one of their daughters, Sarah Salthouse, married Moses Chappell; another daughter, Ellen Salthouse, married James Massey Ashcroft and Moses Chappell was one of the witnesses to their marriage. Sophia Salthouse was probably widowed before 1837 and spent the next 20 years employed as a monthly nurse. In 1859 she was living at Hulme and her nearest family was her grandson-in-law, James Chappell, who lived just around the corner and, I assume, looked after Sophia during the illnesses and when she died and who notified the registrar of her death.

The main mystery has been solved, just some loose ends for further research. A result!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Rev. Robert Salthouse

Would you pay for information which is already available, free of charge, on the internet?

Subscription sites are fine - I wouldn't be without my subscriptions - but it's always worth checking out the free sites first. Take, for instance, Find My Past, who now advertise that they have over 20 million baptism, marriage and burial records on their site. Undoubtedly some of these may be exclusive, but I did not find any baptism or marriage records relating to my research that are not already available, free of charge, on the Family Search site, or available on the National Burial Index CDs which I purchased a while ago. The same applies to the Family History Online Site - which also contains the 1851 Manchester unflimed census returns - something else which I had bought in CD format over the years. So I would always support and check the free sites first, then make best use of the subscription sites by knowing exactly what I need to pay for.

This was prompted by the August issue of "Who Do You Think You Are", on tracing Anglican Clergy. The magazine brought to my attention a new website that I had never visited before: Crockford's Clerical Directory. The initial search is free of charge (excellent) but my search for the Rev. Robert Salthouse resulted in absolutely no results at all - I wasn't surprised by that as I had checked a copy of the directory previously and found no result, but I am still surprised that neither he nor his predecessor are mentioned. The magazine article and Crockford's site also referred me to The Clergy Database, my Reverends were not there either. It was not a wasted journey, however, as the sites contain more information and more links that I could find useful another day. If the Rev. R. Salthouse had been listed, and if he had been more central to my research, I might well have subscribed for a year and extracted some very useful information.

The Rev. R. Salthouse has turned up in other parts of the internet, though. His birth is not listed on Family Search, but there are census returns for 1841 and 1851 that look hopeful. In 1861 Robert is a scripture reader, lodging with a family in Preston, in 1871 and 1881 he is the incumbent at St James, West Derby, but he is not in the 1891 and 1901 census. There are quite a few announcements of weddings in the Liverpool Mercury 1866-1867 at which Robert had officiated; Liverpool Record Office has a copy of a sermon he gave at St James on the 14th November 1869 (possibly his first sermon as incumbent after removing from St Peter's and All Saints in Everton), and by smply trawling the internet, I found a reference on an antiques site to a silver goblet, made in 1872 by Wordley & Co., Liverpool, and engraved with "Ethel Eleanor Briggs from her godfather Robert Salthouse, February 1874". The Rev. Robert Salthouse shouldn't be too difficult to follow through one evening.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


New information always seems to come as a surprise, in this case a totally unexpected name - Harriet Wigley - appeared on my screen when I was looking at some photographs taken by Lee Weston at Coedpoeth cemetery. (Harriet Wigley was the wife of John Wigley and mother of Eleanor and Theophilus Wigley).

My grandmother - the young lady of my profile picture - was Edith Davies Williams who was born in Minera, Denbighshire. Edith's mother was Selina Mottershead who was born in Prestbury, Cheshire. Selina's mother was Maria Flint who was christened at Ashover, Derby. Now, this is where the family connection stretches a bit thin; Maria's mother was Sarah Austin of Newington, Surrey and her first husband was Joseph Flint (who she married in 1813 at Newington, Surrey), but her second husband was John Wigley, who she married at Bonsall, Derbyshire, in 1827.

So, is it likely that the family of Coedpoeth - who were Welsh speakers - could be related to my grandmother's family? Early indications, as they say on the lottery, are that this family was living at Pantymwyn, Mold in 1881 and both children had been born in the Holywell registration district (Harriet 1871 and Theophilus 1880) and that they were a lead mining family - plenty of possibilities there for a link with Derbyshire as so many of the Derbyshire miners moved to the Halkyn/Flint/Mold area before moving on to the Llandegla/Bwlchgwyn/Minera mines. Certainly some of the children's christian names are in common with the older generations.

This is where the blog will be useful to me. I have notes of tonight's research on my computer, of course, but I can pick up this research another day at another computer - perhaps at work, perhaps elsewhere - and I have sufficient information to continue where I left off.

Nos da!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Little Annie Salthouse

My grandfather, Jim Salthouse (James Thomas Salthouse), used to say that he was the seventh son of a seventh son, but when my mother recited the names of her aunts and uncles he turned out to be the youngest son of only five sons - William Salthouse, John Braidwood Salthouse, Francis Walters Salthouse, Alfred Salthouse and himself, James Thomas Salthouse.

The 1881 census (then the only census available online, at Family Search) partly soved the mystery - another child, Richard Salthouse, was listed. Presumably he died young, but he had never been mentioned by my grandfather - possibly conversation never got round to siblings who had been born and died long before my grandfather was born in 1897. So now there were six sons; would there be any more?

Gradually more information became available on Free Bmd and Lancashire Bmd and it is likely that Henry Salthouse, 1888-1889, will prove to be the last son needed to make up the "seven sons" - of which my grandfather would have been the seventh son.

Which brings me to this morning's post. I received a copy of the death certificate of little Annie Salthouse, a previously unknown sister to my grandfather, named after her aunt, Annie Salthouse.The older Annie Salthouse had kept the village shop in Nether Alderley and seemed to have been the head of the family for many years. Little Annie Salthouse died of tubercular meningitis in August 1880, poor little thing, it doesn't alter anything, but I'm glad that she has been found and included in the list of William and Janet Salthouse's 10 children (at the last count).

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

William Ellery of Liverpool

A few nights ago I decided to have yet another go at identifying my ancestor, William Ellery. This time the catalyst was the Civil Service Evidence of Age List available on subscription at Find My Past. William Ellery, born at Bodmin, was a customs officer at Liverpool. The List provided one crucial piece of data - William Ellery was born on the 3rd May 1837, just before the modern system of collecting bmd registrations was begun.

The next part of the chase should be preceded by "with some certainty" as it involves piecing together clues from the census returns, transcriptions of parish registers and other published genealogies. The story is becoming clearer but at one point, at least, there must have been more marriages and widowings than I have found.

"With some certainity", the story seems to go like this: The Family Search site does not list William Ellery's birth or christening, so the earliest clues have to come from the 1841 and 1851 census returns published online by Ancestry. In 1841 William and his older brother Nicholas are living with their widowed mother Elizabeth, a shoebinder, at Downing Street, Bodmin; in 1851 all three are living with Elizabeth's unmarried brother, William Bray, a boot and shoemaker of Bodmin. By 1861 both brothers have left Cornwall - William is in Liverpool and Nicholas is in Uppingham, but Elizabeth has two young grandchildren living with her. The Family Search website yielded the information. When William Ellery was only 19 he married the 30 year old Mary Jane Bligh, daughter of Richard Bligh, a retired printer, of Fore Street, Bodmin. At the time, William was a musician, a bugler in the Royal Cornwall Rangers. Two children were born in quick succession, then Mary Jane died. All this happened between the 1851 and 1861 census returns.

There is less certainty about the rest of the story. We know that William Ellery removed to Liverpool and started a new family with Grace Warburton. (No marriage certificate yet, but it is not unusual for the GRO record to be missing). His sons were brought up in Bodmin. I have to assume, knowing what little I heard about William Ellery, that he wanted or needed a better future, that he could not take the babies with him to Liverpool when they were well looked after in Bodmin, and that hopefully he earned enough to do his best for them.

As to William's parents? According to his marriage certificate, William was the son of Nicholas Ellery, a hatter, who was trading in Bodmin in 1830, and of Elizabeth. On the census returns, William Bray states that Elizabeth is his sister and suitable records for the birth and christening of both William and Elizabeth are on the Family Search site. However, a Nicholas Ellery married Elizabeth Ellery, widow of his brother Richard, but this seems to relate back to an Elizabeth Brewer, not Elizabeth Bray, and some of the dates don't match, so this is for another day....

Monday, 1 September 2008

Alexander Ralston

One of my grandmothers was a Ralston - Gertrude Maud Ralston. This is one of those families where you find the earliest recorded person first and then gradually prove the connection as more and more information becomes available on the internet. That first person was Alexander Ralston who was listed in the Liverpool Poll Book of 1832 as a Block Maker of Upper Frederick Street, Toxteth.

Yesterday I revisited the excellent Toxteth Park Cemetery Site, a free site, generously given, and now graced with a site search engine. A quick search for "Ralston" provided a lot of new information. Alexander's wife, Sarah [Coleman] died in 1876, his daughter-in-law, Catherine, died in 1862 and one of her children died in 1863 - along with another of Alexander's grandchildren; the two babies, who would have been first cousins, were buried together in one ceremony. There were other, previously unknown, children, too. Sites like this are excellent for finding those children who were born and who died between the census years and who can't be identified from the bmd records (usually because the surnames are too common). My next task is to find out why there were so many deaths at this time - was it the Lancashire Cotton Famine or the cholera epidemics or some other reason?

Why write a blog about my family research?

Researching my family is pure fun! Nothing else!

For various reasons, my research is about 98% internet-based; the internet offers so much these days - free sites, subscription sites, image searches, forums, webhosting and emails.

What will I do with all the information?

I'll write it up, print it, give copies to the grandchildren (if I have any) and generally bore other people silly. I'll leave a copy with the family history society so that it can gather dust (the book not the family history society), then a film producer will fall over a discarded copy, read it and immediately offer me a film advance of £750,000, which will come in very handy as I've always wanted to be able to build my own carehome for me and my aged friends/family...

Why write the blog?

For me. There always seems to be something new to research that I forget what I was researching last night and go off on yet another tangent. So this is my way of reminding myself what I'm doing........what was that about wanting to build my own carehome?

If you find the blog interesting or useful, that's fine; if it's relevant you can find out more on my website, (you can contact me from there, too), otherwise - happy internetting!