Sunday, 7 September 2014

A cider making family

Cider has been a traditional drink associated with Somerset for many years. Here is an interesting story from the Western Daily Press about the Hecks family and how their business has changed over the generations.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Property auction in Croscombe, 1883

The Western Gazette reported on Friday 09 November 1883 about the sale of three properties near Rock in Croscombe. The auction was held at the Crown Inn. A cottage and garden was sold to Mr H.Baker for £139 and the adjacent cottage to James Webb for £76. A small tenement nearby went to George Webb for £49.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Main, Maine or Mayne?

On 25 Mar 1878 my great grandparents witnessed a marriage in Priddy, Somerset. The groom's name is recorded as James MAIN, his father as James MAINE and my g.grandmother as Hester MAYNE. I have no reason at present to believe that these are different families, so it goes to show just how careless people were in completing these registers. (Source: FreeREG)
(Update - the groom is Hester's brother)

Monday, 3 March 2014

Aquila Francis and my distant Newfoundland and Nova Scotia connections

Most of my family history revolves around Somerset, and mostly within ten miles of my home town. I have one direct ancestor from Herefordshire and one from the New Forest, neither of which I have had any success in tracing back beyond their parents. So when Newfoundland popped up as a birthplace in a census I began to wonder if I had any very distant cousins here in Canada.

The connection goes back to my g.g.g.g.grandfather Jonas Francis and his wife Mary Thompson. Their son Alfred, born in Ditcheat, Somerset in 1829 is my g.g.g.grandfather. In 1861 [1] Alfred is living in Shepton Mallet, employed as a velvet weaver, and is married with four children, two of whom were born in Pontypridd, so I guess the family had been away for a few years. In 1871 [2] Alfred is now employed as a packer on the Great Western Railway, has one more daughter, Henrietta, and he is also looking after his mother, sister-in-law, and nephew - who was born in Cardiff. This really is the well travelled side of my family.

By 1881, [3] Henrietta is his only child still living at home, but they have now been joined by his nephew, Aquila Francis, aged 20 and born in Hermatra Cove (I am now sure that this is a transcription error), Newfoundland. This is where it gets interesting. If there were any taboos in those days about dating one's first cousin, their hormones got the better of them, because by 1891 [4] Aquila is now given as Alfred's son-in-law, and Aquila and Henrietta have two sons, Jonas and Ernest. The youngest, Jonas, aged 7, was born in Hermitage Bay, Newfoundland, so I can only guess that they had travelled back to visit Aquila's parents. Aquil'a place of birth is now also given as Hermitage Bay.

Some years ago I was told that Aquila's father was also called Aquila, though I never had definite records to prove it. Since then it seems that a lot more data has been made available online and I am pretty sure that this must be the connection: Aquilla Francis was born on 5 December 1858 in Hermitage Cove, and was christened on 21 December 1858 in Hermitage Cove, to Aquilla and Martha Francis. [5][6]

The dates don't quite match the ages given in the census, and there are two l's in Aquila, but until I can find original copies I think this is the best I can do.

Now, it seems that Aquila snr had two, possibly three wives (comments suggest that the handwriting is hard to discern), and many children, one of whom was John Thomas b 18 Dec 1864. [6]  Could this be the 80 year old J. Thomas living with his son Aquilla W. Francis, married to Dessie? [7] There is also a son, Oliver Francis, who must certainly be this gentleman who passed away not too long ago in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, son of Aquilla Wellington and Dessima Mabel (Rose) Francis. [8]

If this is all correct, then I probably have a lot of distant cousins right here in Nova Scotia.

It looks like Aquila (snr), his wife Martha, and Aquilla W's graves can still be found in Hermitage. [9]

To round off a good day, I just found Aquila's (snr) baptism at St Mary Magdalene, Ditcheat, 01 Jan 1815. [10] It would still be nice to find something on the Newfoundland side to tie him back more positively to this. His death record just gives England as his place of birth, [11] though I think the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong. I do get nervous though when I find a baptismal record for another Aquila Francis, just three years later in the same church, but to different parents.[12]
  1. UK CENSUS 1861 (7th April 1861)
  2. UK CENSUS 1871 (2nd April 1871)
  3. UK CENSUS 1881 (Sunday 3rd April 1881)
  4. UK CENSUS 1891 (5 April 1891)  
  7. 1945 Census - Hermitage
  8. Newfoundland Obit Announcements From Nova Scotia Newspapers Halifax Herald June 2007
  9. Stonepics Database Surnames "Foran to Garf"
  10. St Mary Magdalene (FreeREG) Aquila to Jonas and Mary bp.01 Jan 1815
  11. Register of Deaths Fortune Bay District 1902 - 1906 
  12. St Mary Magdalene (FreeREG) Aquila to Hanah and James Francis bp.14 Aug 1818