Bringing the past into the present!

Carter, Clerk, Station Agent or Master?

The Davidson branch of my tree reached a stalemate for a long time in the latter half of the 19th Century.
Having discovered that the man I was looking for was born in Scotland, I wasn’t sure what I could do next or where to search next.  Recently, with help of another relative and a kindly Scottish member of Roots Chat, I succeeded in getting back to another generation of Davidson’s.

James Sutherland was born in Boharm, Banffshire in 1858.  The illegitimate son of Margaret Sutherland, he was orphaned aged just 13 months.
His father, James Davidson, has been harder to track down.  Shortly after her sons birth, it is recorded that the Boharm Kirk Sessions took notice of Margaret Sutherland and her son by attempting to get the alleged father to appear before them.
They located James, a Carter, living with Widow Brown in Keith, Banffshire.  He accepted responsibility for the child but denied paternity.  He refused to appear before the Boharm Kirk Sessions.
On Margaret’s death, the case was dismissed because James could not be found.

Two months after his mother’s death, James, now know by Davidson, was admitted to the Register of Poor in Boharm and his father was reported to be in Banff Jail. In December 1862, some 3 years after Margaret’s death, father and son were in Aberdeen together.

The younger James married in July 1878 and stated his father was James Davidson, a deceased Clerk.  Seven years on, at the time of his second marriage, he had promoted his father to a deceased Station Agent.  The same father was further promoted in 1934, when James married for the 3rd time.
These occupations could be entirely fictitious and it could be that James simply didn’t know anything about his father.

Every snippet of information on the senior James Davidson is circumstantial.  It is possible to track him down I am sure but at the moment I lack the resources.  For the time being I will have to be content with what I already know.

I know that James Davidson was born in the first half of the 19th Century.  I would hazard a guess that his birth is between 1820 and 1840.  He would have met Margaret Sutherland before October 1857 and it would have been in Boharm or Keith.  He could have been a Carter, Clerk, Station Agent or Master but also may have been none of these.  He spent time living in Boharm, Keith, Elgin and Aberdeen and may well have had family in any or all of these places.  He also served a prison sentence in Banff Jail around August 1859.  He probably died between 1863 and 1878.

I hope that one day, I’ll solve the riddle of his life but that won’t happen until Scotland’s People start offering subscriptions.  :)

The problem with Seamen….

I fear I’m not going to be able to start this story at the beginning of old George’s life because the journey of discovery started at his death.

George Henry Hazell died in 1939 in Newport.  His death was registered as George H. Hazell in the 3rd quarter of 1939.  His age at the registration was given as 64 years, giving a birth year of 1875.

George married Elizabeth Ann Comley in 1903 in Newport, Monmouthshire.  By 1911, the couple had three children, Caroline Alma May, Alice Mary and Herman Lewis.  Elizabeth and the children are living on Blewitt Street, Newport but George is nowhere to be seen.
This, coupled with the regular age gaps between the children, suggested that he may have been a military man or seaman.  Newport had a thriving sea based industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries and many of the distant relatives of Elizabeth were seamen.

The registered death of George Henry points to a birth around 1875.  The only George Henry with Hazell spelt as I would expect was one whose birth was registered in Lexden, Essex during the March quarter of 1875.
Researching George’s family has brought up many interesting points as has the information discovered through members of the Family Tree Forum.

In 1881, George Henry is living with his Mother, Alma Elizabeth and 2 siblings, Mary Elizabeth and Alma Eliza.
The 26 year old Alma Elizabeth is recorded as the wife of a Mariner.  They are living on Mill Road, Wivenhoe, where the children were born.  (I’ve been told that Wivenhoe was notorious for smuggling in the 19th Century.)

I haven’t located George Henry on the 1891 census which suggests to me that the 16 year old had already followed in his father’s footsteps.

The connection of my George Henry Hazell to the Hazell’s of Wivenhoe has been confirmed through the Army pension records of a younger brother.
George Henry’s mother, Alma Elizabeth Stapleton, married George Joseph Hazell in Wandsworth, London in 1873.  They had 10 children including George Henry, 1 was born and died between census years, the other 8 were Mary Elizabeth (1878), Alma Eliza (1881), Rosa Grace (1883), Harman Samuel (1886), May Mildred (1888), Lewis James (1890), George (1893) and Gladys Florence (1895).

It was the youngest George, born in 1893, who provided the link.  George signed up to the Army in September 1914, he was discharged just 22 days later on the grounds that he was “not likely to become an efficient soldier”.
George was stated as a 23 year old with blue eyes and light brown hair standing at 5ft 8.5inches tall, with “1 thistle left forearm”.
On his papers his next of kin are given as his father, George Hazell and mother, Alma of Wivenhoe, Essex and brother, Harry Hazell of 13 Blewitt Street, Newport, Mon.

Given that the younger George’s older brother’s family was living on Blewitt Street in 1911, it would be more than a coincidence for this to be a different family.

The story of the Hazell family is coming to light piece by piece, I wonder what else there is to discover.

Surname Saturday – COMLEY

Comley, a locational surname possibly deriving from the village of Comley in Shropshire, is a prominent name in The Man’s family tree.

The earliest Comley I have researched is John Comley, husband of Sarah, who died in 1743 in Great Somerford, Wiltshire.  Sarah, died in Great Somerford, 14 years earlier.
John and Sarah welcomed 7 children into the world namely Jeffrey, Thomas, Theophilius, Elizabeth, John, Joseph and William.


Jeffrey Comley married Dinah Porter in the early 18th century.    They had several children, John, Mary, Florence, William, Elizabeth, Ann and Theophilius.
Jeffrey died in August 1750 in Great Somerford along with his wife, Dinah.


Theophilius Comley was baptised on the 10th January 1724 in Great Somerford.  On 30th September 1749, Theophilius married Mary Geater.  The couple had 12 children in Great Somerford called Joseph, Ann, John, Elizabeth, William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Mary, John, Jacob, Mary and Jacob.
Theophilius died in 1782 aged 58 in Great Somerford, Wiltshire.


Joseph Comley was baptised on 21st June 1752 in Great Somerford.  On 3rd November 1776, Joseph married Mary Park, from Chippenham, in Great Somerford.  The couple had 6 children but moved to Somerford Major, Wiltshire before the birth of their 6th child.  Their children were Maria, Jacob, John, Lot, Patience and Joseph.


Joseph Comley was baptised on 26th October 1794 in Somerford Major, Wiltshire.  He married Mary Marsh on 3rd December 1816 in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.  There were possibly 3 children to this marriage; John, James and Jacob.  The three boys were born in Corston, Wiltshire.
Mary died in 1822 in Corston and Joseph went on to live with Ann Beechey.  As far as I can tell they never married but had 5 children together called Mary Beech, Jonah Henry Beech, Ada Maria, Josiah Beech and Martha.
By 1843 Joseph was living in Bridgend, Glamorgan.  The family moved around South Wales, living in Trevethin, Monmouthshire; Crickhowell, Brecknockshire; Crumlin, Monmouthshire and Christchurch, Monmouthshire between 1843 and 1858.
Joseph died in January 1878 in Cardiff Workhouse, Ann continued to live in Bridgend and died on 10th April 1893.


John Comley was born around 1817 in Corston, Wiltshire.  He spent his youth moving around the country but by 1841 was living in Coedkernew, Monmouthshire with his future wife and her family and working as a farm labourer.  Later in his life he worked as a Gardener.
He married Caroline Steel Parsons on 12th February 1842 in Coedkernew and lived there for the remainder of his life.
John and Caroline had 11 children together; Henry, Elizabeth, James, John, Ivor, John, Edgar, Caroline, Charles, Albert and Priscilla.  Four of their children died in Infancy.
John died on 5th December 1891 in Coedkernew, followed by his wife on the 21st April 1893.


Albert Comley was born around June 1859 in Newport, Monmouthshire.  He grew up in the St Woolos area of Newport.  He was a carpenter by trade and by 1891 was blind in one eye.
Albert married Mary Ann Christopher in 1881 and the family lived in Christchurch.  They had at least 6 children; Elizabeth Ann, Edgar William, Lavinia, Alfred John, Emily and James.
Albert died in 1937 in Newport outliving his wife by 18 years.


Elizabeth Ann Comley sees the end of the Comley name in the family tree.  She was born around March 1882 in Newport.  She married George Henry Hazell in 1903.  She died in Newport in 1953 after having 8 children, Caroline Alma May, Alice Mary, Herman Lewis, George A, Ruby Iris L, Doris I, James Henry and Gladys V B.

Can you ever stop?

My TNG tree currently stands at 1279 individuals with 236 families and 153 unique surnames.  My tree is barely a branch compared to others that I know of but a lot of hard work has gone into it.  I’ve spent countless hours in front of a computer screen piecing together each of the families, not to mention the time taken actually filling in the various data fields…

My tree mostly consists of the traceable direct ancestors and their siblings so far, however, with 1279 individuals following each person from birth to death seems like quite a challenge at the moment.  This task not only involves adding spouses and children of my direct ancestor’s siblings but includes events (eg wills, census, and occupations) and addresses of each individual within the tree.  Where do you stop?  Is there a point where you say “I’m not researching that family”?

My quandary is, do I continue researching every name on my tree and end up with hundreds, if not thousands of people only related to my ancestors by marriage?
There is always the opportunity to research them and theirs at later dates.

Would you stick to blood relatives first?  Then move on to married in relatives?  Or do them all at once?

What happened to Kate? – An Update

A few weeks ago I posted about a family brick wall in “What happened to Kate?“. Within the post I described the mystery surrounding her disappearance; it really was a case of ‘now you see me, now you don’t!’

Kate Bown, the daughter of Henry Pagett Bown and Ann Blakesley, married a Scottish tailor, James Davidson, on 25th October 1885 at St Matthew’s Church in Leicester.

The couple had 4 children; Wallace Henry, Stuart James, Maggie and Dorothy in the following 8 years. After this, Kate had appeared to simply disappear.  Family stories suggested that she had been committed to an asylum and locating her would always have been a challenge.

The latest development suggests this may not have been the case.

While perusing the Black Sheep Index, I came across 2 entries in the index for James Davidson, a tailor in Wolverhampton. I decided to check the British Newspaper Archive and came up trumps, several times.  The most informative article was one from The Dundee Courier dated 23rd March 1894, headlined “Sensational Charge of Bigamy”.  From the article I’ve managed to piece together a rather sketchy timeline.

  • James was born in Scotland around 1858*.  His early life is still a bit of a spider’s web that is still being untangled.
  • On 9th July 1878, James married Charlotte Joss.  The marriage took place in the home of her father, 14 Uphill Lane, Peterhead.  There were four children born to the marriage of James and Charlotte.*
  • At some time in 1882, James left Charlotte (and I’m assuming the four children) and moved to Worcester and later Leicester.*
  • 25th October 1885, and James “went through the ceremony of marriage” to our Kate.  There were four children to this marriage also.*
  • Roughly around 1888, the family moved to Staffordshire due to a number of debts.
  • In July 1893, a deed of separation was drawn up between James and Kate and the children were put into the charge of James.*
  • By October 1893 Kate knew that there was another wife.*
  • Finally, in March 1894, our Kate gave evidence when James was charged with Bigamy. *

In my previous post, I raised several questions, some of which I can now answer.

  1. Is it possible that Kate’s ‘madness’ could have actually been Puerperal Insanity?  I highly doubt it.  In March 1894, she gave evidence at her “husband’s” court hearing.
  2. On the subject of why James waited until 1934 to marry his ‘third’ wife, was it simply that James didn’t want to be a bigamist and waited until Kate died?  I would imagine that it was that he didn’t want to get charged with bigamy again and loved her enough to wait that long. I would also imagine it would have been his first wife who died.
  3. What happened to Kate? Why are there no records of her?  – This leads onto a whole new set of questions… Did she change her identity? Did she ever remarry?  Did she simply just disappear off the face of the earth?

While I feel as if I am getting closer to solving the mystery surrounding Kate, I am still so very far away.

*The Dundee Courier, 23rd March 1894, as published on

The Cefn Mably Mystery

When I add a relative to my tree, I automatically attempt to collect Birth, Marriage, Death and Census info about them.  Sometimes it is unsuccessful and I hit a dead end other times the hours I put in searching for individuals is worth every minute.

Recently, I added The Man’s great great grandfather’s cousin, Henry George KELLY.

Henry was born in Coedkernew, Newport in 1857.  His parents were Henry KELLY and Jane Steel PARSONS.  He grew up a rather wealthy Farmer’s son.  His father was the farmer of Penylan Farm, Bassaleg.

After his marriage to Jane JONES in the September quarter of 1889 aged 32, Henry and Jane lived with Jane’s parents, William and Cecilia.
The couple had 3 children, William Henry around 1890, Violet May around 1891 and Frederick George around 1893.

The real jewel in the crown information was provided in the 1901 census and is something I’m determined to find out more about over the coming weeks.
Sometime before the 1901 census, Henry and Jane took ownership of the Cefn Mably Arms in Michaelstone Y Vedw.  His occupation is stated as Publican and Farmer.

In 1911, Henry was still the Landlord of the Cefn Mably Arms.

I know little about the family’s time at the Cefn Mably Arms except that Henry died in 1924 and Jane died in 1931.

In an attempt to find out more about the family I contacted the current owners of the Cefn Mably Arms.  I received a fantastic response and an offer to go along and take copies of what information they have.  Something I’m surely going to be taking them up on.
The most fascinating thing to come out of the conversation was a copy of the back of their menu.  It contained a photograph believed to date from the 50’s.  I examined every tiny part of the photograph and realised it can’t date from the 50’s because of the attire the people were wearing.
The photograph was of the pub itself and outside standing by the door was a man and a woman.  Sitting on a bench were 2 older men, 2 teenage boys and a teenage girl.  The people are all dressed in clothes dating from the early 20th Century which means there is a good chance the photograph includes Henry, Jane and their 3 children.

Maybe it’s a spot of romantic peering through rose tinted glasses but I honestly believe the photo is one of relatives.  I doubt I will ever be able to prove they are the people in the photograph but the idea is nice, isn’t it?

Surname Saturday – Attewell

Attewell, a topographical surname of Anglo-Saxon origin, is derived from the Olde English ‘aet’ and ‘wiella’, meaning “At Well/Spring or Stream”.  This ‘aet wiella’ developed into the Middle English ‘atte well’. 1

Attewell is not a very prominent name in the Man’s family, the relationship came about through a marriage during the middle of the 19th Century.  The Attewell family lived in Shirenewton, Monmouthshire throughout the 1800’s, however these are not to be confused with the Attwell’s living in Newport at the same time.

Jacob Attewell provided the link to the family when he married Rebecca Jones on 13th April 1852 in Shirenewton.
Jacob was born c.1822 in Shirenewton to Mary Attewell.  By 1841, Jacob was living in Caerwent, Monmouthshire employed as a Agricultural Labourer by George Dowle.
His marriage in 1852 to Rebecca Jones, the daughter of William and Mary Jones, produced 5 known children.

i)             William Thomas Attewell (1853)
ii)            Leah Attewell (1856)
iii)          Charles Attewell (1859-1918)
iv)           George Isaac Attewell (1862-1932)
v)            William Jesse Attewell (1866)

In 1861, the family were living in a Cottage in Shirenewton, Jacob was employed as an agricultural labourer.
Jacob died in 1867 and was buried in Shirenewton on 10th February 1867.
Rebecca remarried in 1873 and died in 1906.

Jacob and Rebecca’s children were separated after Jacob’s death and have been difficult to locate.

  1. William Thomas, known as Thomas, seems to disappear after the 1861 census.
  2. Leah is living at home with her mother, aged 14 on the 1871 census. After this she has been difficult to locate.
  3.  Charles was employed as a 12 year old farm servant to Isaac and Rebecca Baker of Red House, Shirenewton in 1871.
    A possible Charles Attwell was living in Cardiff in 1881, however he is recorded as married but there is no sign of his wife.  There is no sign of a possible Charles Attewell/Attwell in 1891, however Charles married Mary Jane Hancox Parkes on 1st February 1897 in Shirenewton.
    From 1897 until 1904 he was a Publican, at the Mason’s Arms pub on Temple Street in Bristol.  His son, Charles Thomas, was born there in 1899.  Charles died in 1918 in Shirenewton.
  4.  George Isaac was living at home with his Mother, the widowed Rebecca Attewell, in 1871, after which he is proving rather difficult to locate until 1901 when, aged 37, he is a boarder living in Ifton, Monmouthshire with Albert and Ida Hicks.  As far as I know he never married and died in 1932.
  5. William Jesse, born in 1866, is still living at home with his mother, Rebecca and step-father, Charles Martin, in 1881.  After this I have failed to find any other information.

These Attewell’s are accompanied by one other, a presumably illegitimate daughter of Rebecca.

Hannah Attewell was born around January 1871 in Shirenewton.  She was baptised on 29th Jun 1873 as the daughter of Rebecca Attewell named as a widow. 2
She appears in the 1871 census as a 2 month old baby but I have not located her in later ones.  Paternity of Hannah is a mystery as Rebecca’s husband, Jacob, had died 4 years before her birth.  Rebecca didn’t remarry until 1873, after Hannah was baptised.

  1. The Internet Surnames Database –
  2. Monmouthshire Parish Record Transcripts –

What do you do?

A question that comes up frequently when meeting new people is the age old, What do you do?  Regardless of how well I plan my answer to the next person, I always stumble over my words.


Being a stay at home Mum to two young children (my boy is 6 while my girl is 2), my life revolves around them.  I don’t work in a conventional job and I spend my “spare” time writing.  I have written various blogs over the last 2.5 years but it has taken me a while to find my comfort zone.  But I’m still not sure what I am.


I have a myriad of interests, most of them relating to history in some way.  I enjoy reading and writing.  Both useful in terms of family history research, I’m not a fantastic writer and certainly will not be the next big Historian.  I mostly read non-fiction or period fiction (but I do have a taste for detective novels).

I enjoy solving puzzles whether it is a Sudoku puzzle, word search or locating a missing ancestor.

I enjoy blogging and extend this to blogging about my ancestors.


However, none of these answer the question, “what do you do?”.


To sum me up, I’m a carer, a cleaner, a laundress, a cook, a student, an amateur historian, a writer, a blogger and most importantly I am me.  I descend from ag labs, butchers, carpenters, farmers, lace makers, miners and tin workers.  I am Welsh with Welsh, English and Mediterranean heritage and I am proud of my working class roots.


What do you do?

Social Media – Tweeting Genealogists

As the number of records digitised and made available online grows family historians are looking for new ways to share information and collaborate with others. While there are sites like Ancestry, Find My Past and Genes Reunited, social media is becoming a main stream avenue to get yourself out there.


Social Media includes blogs, Facebook, twitter and the like.  One question always asked is “how can it benefit me?”


Introducing Tweeting Genealogists……


I first joined Twitter almost 2 years ago.  I was already blogging about my pregnancy and family life and it was one of those ‘well everyone else is doing it so why can’t I?’ things.  Other bloggers declared it increased their traffic; others spoke highly of the social interaction.

Since Walking with Ancestors came about I have found Twitter invaluable with many experienced researchers already tweeting there are always plenty of brains to pick.


So what are the benefits of tweeting about genealogy?


  • Members – Many experienced genealogists, family historians, archivists and general historians use Twitter.  Everyone has their own knowledge bank and there is never a shortage of helpful hints and tips to bash down that brick wall.
  • Hash tags – there are a number of hash tags used by genealogists such as #surnamesaturday, #genealogy and #familyhistory.  These hash tags are picked up by others interested in the subject providing an even larger pool of knowledge.
  • Lists – Twitter is a social media platform and if you don’t like the idea of creating an account simply for genealogy/family history you don’t have to.  Like Facebook, you can assign those you follow to a list.  For example “bloggers”, “genealogists” etc.  (However, don’t be fooled into thinking that someone is following you because you are following them.)
  • Publicity – Isn’t collaborating with your peers/relatives important in your research? You never know who may be using Twitter; that member you started following 18 months ago may be related or have further information on your family.  Isn’t it worth publicising your interests at no cost to you?


These are just four of the huge wealth of benefits available to Tweeting Genealogists.


If you decide to join Twitter, don’t forget to follow me, @WalkingAncestor.

Useful Websites part one.

There are many resources available to research your family history; I have discovered many websites over the last 5 years that have enabled me to trace some of my family lines further than the beginning of Civil Registration. This will be an ongoing project over the coming weeks.  Here are the first four:



FreeREG is a free resource from the people behind FreeBMD and FreeCEN. Parish records are continuously being added to the database including baptisms, marriages and burials.  However, coverage is limited to Parish records that have survived.  Due to the vast number of parish records throughout the UK the project is ongoing and there are still a vast number of parishes not currently covered.



FreeBMD is another free resource and an ongoing project transcribing the GRO birth, marriage and death indexes from the beginning of civil registration in 1837. Many years and counties are already covered, although there are still more to be added.

While I have a subscription to Find My Past which includes the BMD indexes, I still find FreeBMD a valuable resource as some details can be transcribed differently by different people.


Towcester Families 

Written by Mary Taylor and hosted on RootsWeb, Towcester Families has been invaluable to me and could be to you if you have ancestors from Northants namely Towcester.  My great grandmother, Maude Bruce, was born in Hulcote in 1894. I googled her name and came up with the site and I have been perusing it ever since.

As the name suggests it includes family trees of people who were born, baptised, married, died, buried or simply lived in Towcester (Easton Neston is also included despite being a separate parish).  The information taken from parish record held at Northamptonshire Record Office links 100’s of people in often rather complex trees.

Along with the family trees, Towcester Families also includes details of notable people, pictures of the area and much more.


Black Country Connections 

Not really a website but a family tree, hosted on Tribal Pages, of many folk in the Black Country.  My other great grandmother was born in Lye, Worcestershire and while the tree doesn’t contain her information, it does contain her great grandparents.

The information on the tree has been transcribed by a bunch of volunteers and it really is a wealth of information.