Top tips for starting out on your family history

Did conversation at your family get togethers over Christmas turn to your family history? Finding out about the lives of your ancestors can be an absorbing and rewarding hobby, and here at the Essex Record Office we can help you get started on your search, whether you visit us in person or use our records online.

 

Tip no. 1: Talk to your relatives and search family papers

Talk to your relatives – particularly older generations. Find out what they know and remember, and write it all down. You could even make a sound or video recording of your conversations.

Look out for any old photographs, birth, marriage and death certificates, military records, medals, or if you’re very lucky, letters or diaries that you or relatives might have.

Use what you find out to start to build your family tree. Write down everything you know so far about when and where people were born/married/died, and any other key information about them. This will help you work out what else you would like to find out.

family-history-photo

Talking to your relatives and searching family papers and photos can be an excellent way to start building your family tree

Tip no. 2: Record where you find your information

Wherever your research takes you, make a note of your sources. It will make life much easier if you ever need to double-check something, and helps you keep track of where you have already looked.

 

Tip no. 3: Birth, marriage and death indexes

Search the civil registration indexes – these are indexes of birth, marriage and death certificates which begin in 1837. The indexes are available on various websites – if you visit the ERO or your local Essex library, you can use www.ancestry.co.uk for free. The indexes will give you the basic information of when and where someone was born/married/died. You can find out more by ordering the full certificate, which you can do through the General Register Office, or for Essex certificates from us at ERO.

 

Tip no. 4: Search the census

Search the census records – census records are available for every ten years between 1841 and 1911. These fascinating records list all the people living in each household in the country, along with their ages and occupations and where they were born. Again, these are available on various websites, but you can search them for free at the ERO or your local Essex library on www.ancestry.co.uk

 

Tip no. 5: Move on to parish registers

Parish registers are church records which record baptisms, marriages and burials. In some cases these can date back to 1538, and so can be used to go back much further in time than censuses and birth/marriage/death records. Parish registers for the historic county of Essex (including parts of greater London which used to be in Essex such as West Ham and Stratford) are all kept at the Essex Record Office. We have digitised all of our parish registers and they are all available to view online at www.essexancestors.co.uk (with the exception of marriages after 1957). You can take out a subscription to view the images from home, or use the service for free in the ERO Searchroom. You can also view images of all 70,000 of our original wills, dating from the 1400s-1858. Double-check that the documents you want to view are available before taking out a subscription.

Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials and can date back to 1538. Essex parish registers are kept at ERO - digital images are available on Essex Archives Online

Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials and can date back to 1538. Essex parish registers are kept at ERO – digital images are available on Essex Archives Online

Tip no. 6: Ask for advice

If you want further advice or have specific questions about the kinds of records available, talk to our experts either in the Searchroom (find out how to visit us), e-mail us or give us a ring on 033301 32500.

Good luck and happy searching!

Essex Archives Online update – digitising our electoral registers

We have just begun the next big expansion of digitised records available through our subscription service on Essex Archives Online, with the beginning of our project to provide digital images of our electoral registers.

There are some 850 volumes in our collection of Essex electoral registers

There are some 850 volumes in our collection of Essex electoral registers

Ultimately we will be making available images of all the registers we hold from 1833-1974. The first phase of the project has just been completed, with digital images of our electoral registers from 1833-1868 now all available online. We will be releasing the images in batches, with a target completion date for the whole project of January 2018.

(There is a little caveat to this – the registers for 1918 and 1929 have been online for some time, and they will of course remain.)

While our set of Essex electoral registers is not 100% complete, it is the best surviving set of these records, and for some registers ours is the only surviving copy. This collection of some 850 volumes provides vital evidence of Essex people’s lives and locations over almost 150 years.

As with the images of Essex parish registers and wills already available online, the images of the electoral registers can be viewed free of charge in the ERO Searchroom, or as part of our online subscription packages. Information about how to find the records and how to subscribe can be found on our subscription home page.

Electoral register page for Bardfield Saling, 1851 (Q/RPr 1/10)

Electoral register page for Bardfield Saling, 1851 (Q/RPr 1/10)

 

Why digitise electoral registers?

There are two key drivers for digitising these records: 1, to make them more widely available, and 2, to preserve the originals. Electoral registers were not designed to have a long lifespan and can be somewhat fragile. As popular records they are frequently in demand, and digitisation allows us to make the information available while protecting the original documents.

 

How will the records be indexed?

As with the parish registers already available in Essex Archives Online, we are not publishing a name index, but all of the registers in this batch are arranged alphabetically – that is, electors appear in each parish in alphabetical order of surname.  This makes tracing individuals fairly easy.  In addition, each register is indexed by parish or place, and they offer great opportunities not just for family historians but also for studies of local society and urban development.  An annual list of the main property owners and occupiers in each place is a valuable addition to the online record, particularly where the local rate books (the ultimate source of much of this information) fail to survive.

 

Why do the records start in 1833?

Modern electoral registers came into being with the Great Reform Act of 1832.  The Act did not hugely increase the electorate, but for the first time it required the Clerk of the Peace – the head of the county administration – to have the annual parish lists of electors’ names ‘fairly and truly copied … in a book to be by him provided’, and to give to each elector’s name ‘its proper number, beginning the numbers from the first name’.  That book would be the electoral register for the following year. The Clerk was not required to print the registers, or to preserve them once the year was out, and before the mid-1840s only two survive in Essex. After that matters steadily improve, and from the early 1860s until 2001 the Record Office’s collection is fairly complete.

 

Who will be included in these registers?

The 1832 Reform Act expanded the electorate to some extent, but it was still limited to men aged over 21 who owned a certain amount of property. In 1851 just 11,500 county electors spoke for an Essex population of almost 370,000.

By no means all the electors for a particular parish actually lived there, or even close by, and their actual places of residence can be revealing. In 1851 the divided freehold of the King’s Head Inn at Gosfield, in the northern division of Essex, provided the qualification for 6 of the parish’s 13 electors. One lived in Chelmsford, one in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, one in London and three in Surrey.

At Braintree, three brothers from the Buxton brewing family each held a vote in respect of Hyde Farm, the farm’s ownership being split between them. According to the register, however, Sir Edward North Buxton Bt. – who was in fact the MP for South Essex – lived in Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair; Charles Buxton lived near the brewery in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, Middlesex; and Thomas Fowell Buxton lived in Leytonstone (Leyton), which was at least in Essex at the time, although far away in the southern division.

At Leyton, the pattern was repeated and each of the brothers qualified once more, this time through the freehold of the Three Blackbirds inn – although Thomas Fowell Buxton had apparently forgotten that he lived in the parish and gave the Spitalfields address as his place of residence.  For researchers into Victorian society, and especially the connections between land and politics, electoral registers are a mine of information.

For family historians, the names of the electors will naturally be the focus of interest, although the electors themselves are not the only people named.  For example, William Wing of Bloomsbury in London had a vote in 1851 for his house in Braintree on ‘corner of square, Miss Wing, tenant’.  She, of course, had no vote at all – but the naming of such voteless tenants increases the registers’ value to historians.  Miss Wing is known from the 1851 census as Sarah Wing, a silversmith and watchmaker living and working in Great Square, and census users might well have wondered about a possible connection with William Wing, born in Braintree but working as a watchmaker in New Bond Street in London.  Despite the gap between New Bond Street and Braintree, the electoral register evidence makes their connection almost certain, and suggests something of Sarah and William’s family arrangements.  Linking the electoral registers to other sources makes the whole data set much more powerful.

 

How did elections take place in this period?

The process of electing MPs in the 1830s-1860s was quite different to today. There were two different kinds of constituencies – counties and boroughs. The theory was that county MPs would represent landholding interests, and borough MPs the interests of the mercantile and trading classes. Before 1832 Essex sent 8 MPs to Parliament – 2 from the county seat of Chelmsford, and 2 each from the ancient boroughs of Colchester, Maldon and Harwich.

Before 1832 there was enormous variety in the size of constituencies and in voting qualifications. Polling could last up to 40 days, and there was no secret ballot. The whole system was liable to corruption and domination by local elites.

The 1832 Reform Act went some way towards resolving some of these issues. Most rotten boroughs (boroughs with tiny electorates controlled by a wealthy patron) were abolished, and seats were redistributed to growing industrial towns. Polling was limited to two days, and the qualifications for the franchise were standardised.

Essex gained two more MPs as part of the changes as the county constituency was split into two divisions, north and south, each returning two MPs, in addition to the two each still returned from the three ancient boroughs.

Flyer by John Gurdon Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, who stood as an independent candidate for North Essex in the 1847 general election. The policies he outlines here include the protection of agriculture, and of the Church of England and individual liberty. He was not successful on this occasion, but was MP for Colchester between 1857 and 1859, and again from 1865 until his death in 1870. (T/P 68/38/9)

Flyer by John Gurdon Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, who stood as an independent candidate for North Essex in the 1847 general election. The policies he outlines here include the protection of agriculture, and of the Church of England and individual liberty. He was not successful on this occasion, but was MP for Colchester between 1857 and 1859, and again from 1865 until his death in 1870. (T/P 68/38/9)

Looking to the future…

Further reforms were, of course, to come, and successive electoral registers include more and more people, until finally all men and women over 21 were granted the vote in 1928. We will continue to post updates on the blog as the electoral register project progresses, and we hope you enjoy exploring the new images.

The battle babies of Essex

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

Jessamy Carlson recently published a post on the National Archives’ blog about the First World War phenomenon of giving babies war-related names.

Jessamy found 1,634 babies with such names, with 1,229 babies named after battles. The most popular battle to name children after was Verdun, with 901 babies given this name in 1914-1919. Verdun was one of the longest battles in human history, fought over 303 days from February to December 1916. Recent estimates put casualty figures at 976,000.
By coincidence we recently came across an Essex baby born in 1916 named Nancy Verdun, christened in Goodmayes in 1917. She was the daughter of bus driver Harry Miles and his wife Anna Louise Miles, who lived at 17 Percy Road.

Nancy Verdun Miles

This got me wondering how many other babies were born in Essex with the sort of war-related names that Jessamy had found, so I took to FreeBMD to find out. (The search results for Essex included the registration districts of Edmonton, Royston, Risbridge and Sudbury, which are mostly in Hertfordshire or Suffolk but include some Essex parishes.)

Verdun was by far the most popular battle baby name, with a peak in the second quarter of 1916 as the battle raged.

Jessamy also identified two other categories of war-related baby names – ‘hero babies’ and ‘end of war babies’. Hero babies are those named after significant First World War figures, such as Edith Cavell, Field Marshall Haig, and Lord Kitchener. End of war babies were those with names such as Peace and Victory.

Nationally, 25 babies were named Cavell in 1914-1919, and 3 of them were in Essex. Of 11 babies nationally named Haig, 2 were born in Essex, strangely enough both in the Romford district.

I can find only two babies named Peace (both registered in Edmonton so potentially actually in Hertfordshire), but 11 babies named Victory – including Victory D Tipple, born in Romford in the third quarter of 1919.

One wartime name which as far as I know is unique to Essex is Zeppelina. Zeppelina Clarke was born in the early hours of the morning of 24 September 1916, the night that two Zeppelins crash-landed in Essex. Zeppelin L32 crashed in Great Burstead, with no survivors, and L33 crashed in Little Wigborough, narrowly missing some farm cottages. The crew of L33 walked away largely unharmed. In nearby Great Wigborough, Mr and Mrs Clarke welcomed a baby girl, and their doctor suggested naming her Zeppelina, to mark the extraordinary circumstances of the night of her birth.

Zeppelin at Little Wigborough - Essex Record Office

The wreck of Zeppelin L33, after which baby Zeppelina was named

It is hard to understand today why people might have named their children after such terrible events as wartime battles, perhaps battles in which close relatives may have been lost. It would be fascinating to know how the babies given these names felt about them as they grew up – if anyone has any insights do leave a comment below.

Who is more Essex? Stuart Bingham vs Ali Carter

There are many things for us Essexians to be proud of, and it seems that one of them is our county’s tendency to produce incredibly talented snooker players, most famously Ronnie O’Sullivan.

In more recent years two more top-ranked players have come out of our county – Basildon-born Stuart Bingham and Colchester-born Ali Carter. Bingham is the current World Snooker Champion, and as the 2016 competition gets underway tomorrow he will be defending his title in his first match of the competition – against Carter.

As these two Essex giants of snooker go head-to-head, we thought we would see which of them has the best Essex credentials.

Stuart Bingham

Stuart Bingham at the 2013 German Masters

Current World Snooker Champion Stuart was born in Basildon – but how far back can his ancestral roots be traced in Essex?

ERO specialist Sarah Ensor has traced his family back over 200 years in the county, to his 5x great-grandfather Thomas Moules. The Moules family lived and worked in the rural villages of Marks Tey and Little Tey, and their baptisms, marriages and burials can be found in the parish registers we look after at ERO.

Marriage of Stuart Bingham's 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Marriage of Stuart Bingham’s 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Outside the towns Essex was very rural and the Moules lived in a farming community; until the latter part of the nineteenth century they worked as labourers on the land but later described themselves as horsemen – no doubt a step up the farming ladder.

The tradition of agricultural work was broken by Stuart’s great-great-grandfather Walter Moules (b.1869 in Great Tey), who started his working life as a labourer but joined the Royal Artillery, serving in India and Aden.

So far we have traced Stuart’s family back over 7 generations in Essex. A ‘widow Moule’ of Great Tey is named to in a deed of 1773 (D.DAt 45), so it is likely that Stuart’s roots in the parish reach back even further. With such deep roots in the county, Stuart can definitely claim to be a true Essex man.

 

Ali Carter

Ali Carter at the 2013 German Masters

Ali was born in Colchester and now lives near Chelmsford. He has twice been runner-up in the World Championship, losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012. According to BBC Sport, he is ‘one of the sport’s best-loved and most-respected players, having twice overcome cancer and still been able to maintain his place among the world’s best despite a constant battle with Crohn’s disease.

Ali’s Essex ancestry can also be traced back to the nineteenth century and beyond. Two of his great-great grandparents, William Hawdon and Emma Long, were both born in Loughton. Their daughter Aimee, Ali’s great-grandmother, was baptised in St Mary’s church in Loughton on 9 December 1898. William’s profession was given as a commercial clerk.

Baptism of Aimee Hawdown (D/P 571/1/1)

Baptism of Aimee Hawdon, Ali’s great-grandmother, in 1898 in Loughton (D/P 571/1/1)

Another branch of Ali’s family tree takes us back to his four-times-great-grandfather James Piper, who was born in Colchester in about 1796. James is described in the 1841 and 1851 census returns as a labourer, but in 1861 he is recorded as an ‘itinerant bookseller’.

James and his wife Sarah had a daughter, Priscilla, born in Colchester in about 1826, who married Thomas Stoton, another Colchester man and a tailor by trade. In 1871 Thomas and Priscilla were living at 42 St Botolph’s Street, and Thomas employed 1 man and 2 women in his business.

Their daughter, another Priscilla Stoton, married William Waigh, originally from Bethnal Green, but he had moved his family to Woodfood by the time of the 1901 census, when he was recorded as a builder and rent collector.

The verdict

In terms of the depth of their Essex roots, these two giants of snooker are very closely matched. Will they be as closely matched when they step up to the green baize tomorrow?

If you would like to discover how far back you can trace your Essex roots, contact us or visit our Searchroom to start your journey.

Married by Licence

Whether you are tracing your ancestors or researching social or demographic trends, marriage records can provide valuable information. A project we are currently undertaking at ERO is making some of these records easier to find than ever before.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, couples could be married either by Banns or by Licence. Most couples married by Banns. As today, the Banns would be read on three consecutive Sundays in the parish in which the couple intend to marry, and in both of their home parishes if these were different. When the Banns were read, members of these communities were invited to reveal any impediment which would prevent the couple from legally marrying.

In certain cases, however, couples did not qualify to be married by Banns and had to apply for a marriage licence from the local Archdeacon instead. This would be the case if either party was under 21 years of age, if the marriage needed to be formalised quickly, or where the couple was marrying away from their home parish(es).

There are several thousand of these records surviving in ERO’s collections. They are grouped by which Archdeaconry they were issued by, and then by year. A typical catalogue entry at the moment looks like this one for licences issued by the Archdeaconry of Colchester in 1800, a bundle of 54 licences:

Seax screenshot

There is a paper index to these records in the ERO Searchroom, but we are currently working on a project to make all of these records searchable by name on our online catalogue, Seax. This will make them much easier for researchers to find.

The records comprise three different kinds of documents – Allegations, Bonds, and the licence itself:

  • Allegations – the couple, or just the groom, would have to swear that there was no just cause or impediment to them marrying
  • Bonds – a bond for a sum of money would accompany the Allegation. The money would be payable if it turned out that the marriage was contrary to church law
  • The Bond and Allegation were retained by the Archdeacon who issued the actual licence to the groom. The groom would then present it at the church where the couple was to be married

The licences themselves do not often survive, but the Bonds and Allegations mostly do.

D/ACL 1807/28 - All marriage license bonds and allegations are individually wrapped so that you can quickly access the pair that you need.

All marriage licence bonds and allegations are individually wrapped and labelled with the name of the couple they relate to (D/ACL 1807/28)

To show how marriage licence records can help to tell someone’s story, we have been looking into one of the more interesting characters who appears in them, Captain Samuel McDouall. He and his fiancée, Elizabeth Ann Tregent, were granted a licence to marry on 27 April 1807. The couple needed a licence because Elizabeth was only 19, and needed the consent of her father to marry.

D/ACL 1807/28 - The marriage allegation of Captain Samuel McDouall and Elizabeth Ann Tredger.

The marriage allegation of Captain Samuel McDouall and Elizabeth Ann Tregent. The allegation states that there is nothing to stop the couple legally marrying (D/ACL 1807/28)

D/ACL 1807/28 - The marriage bond is for £100.00

The bond which accompanies the allegation, pledging £100 if any just cause was later found which would prevent a later marriage. It is signed by Samuel McDouall and the bride’s father, Abraham James Tregent, and by William Whirfield, who was present at the couple’s wedding (D/ACL 1807/28)

The marriage took place at All Saints church in Dovercourt the very next day after the issue of the licence.

Record of Samuel and Elizabeth's marriage at All Saints church in Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/3)

Record of Samuel and Elizabeth’s marriage at All Saints church in Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/3)

The 1807 date places the marriage in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. McDouall’s profession is recorded as a Captain in the 79th Regiment of Foot, otherwise known as Cameron’s Highlanders. The first Battalion of the regiment was at this point stationed at Weeley, Elizabeth’s home parish. McDouall is said to be living at Dovercourt, probably the site of the officers’ billets. Elizabeth’s father was a military man himself – he is described as a Deputy Barrack Master, and a former Royal Marine.

The information in these records gives us several interesting avenues to pursue to find out more. The regiment’s military history tells us that McDouall served with the camerons during a turbulent period. His age is not given in their marriage record but he must have been some years older than her.

He was appointed as a lieutenant in 1795 before the regiment was posted to Martinique on garrison duty. The posting was to prove disastrous for them; fever swept through the 79th and only a skeleton of the regiment returned in Britain in 1797. The regiment was swiftly made up to strength and Captain McDouall would go on to serve in Holland in 1799, during which year he was made Captain, and in Egypt in 1801, where he was injured in fighting at Rhamanieh. He would later receive a Gold Medal from Sultan Selim III for his part in this action. One of the witnesses to McDouall’s marriage to Elizabeth was William Imlach, who was also a Captain in the 79th Regiment, and who received the same gold medal as Captain McDouall.

The regiment and Captain McDouall spent some considerable time stationed in Ireland on garrison duty before marching for London in 1806 to form part of the procession for Admiral Lord Nelson’s funeral. They were then posted to Colchester and then to Weeley where Captain McDouall would meet Elizabeth. Shortly after their marriage, in April 1807, another tragedy struck the regiment when a boat carrying several men of the 79th from Landguard Fort in Ipswich to Harwich sunk. More than 70 of their men were lost as several women and children, as described in the Chelmsford Chronicle:

Chelmsford Chronicle 1807 crop

I/Mb 170/1/32 - Prattent Sculptor, published. March 1st 1788 by G. Robinson & Co Paternoster Row, extracted from Ladies Magazine.

Prattent Sculptor, published. March 1st 1788 by G. Robinson & Co Paternoster Row, extracted from Ladies Magazine (I/Mb 170/1/32)

In July 1807 the regiment embarked for Denmark and be engaged in the Battle of Copenhagen during which the French were deprived of the valuable prize of the Danish fleet. The regiment would go on to be involved in the Peninsular War in Portugal and Spain, being part of Sir John Moore’s disastrous retreat to Corunna during which many of the regiment were struck down by fever both during the campaign and on their return to England in 1809. Many of the regiment who were left behind during the retreat went on to form part of a regiment of detachments which was engaged at the battle of Talavera at which the first of the French Eagles was captured. However, it is likely that Captain McDouall was part of the contingent which had returned to England, as he retired his commission in July 1809. He is believed to have died in 1812 in the West Indies.

What we do not know is what happened to Elizabeth. It is likely that as a wife of an officer she would have been able to travel to Europe with the regiment, but we do not know whether she did so.

There is a story behind every single one of our marriage licences – including stories that might be part of your family history. The licences are currently searchable on a paper index in the ERO Searchroom, and as we continue to add more names to Seax they will become even easier to find. What stories might they help you discover?

Registration certificates at the ERO

A big change has happened here this week – from today you will be able to order duplicate birth, marriage and death certificates from Essex from the ERO.

Birth certificate

As part of a wider change in Registration Services the historic birth, marriage and death registers from the following Register Offices have been brought together at ERO:

  • Braintree
  • Brentwood
  • Castle Point & Rochford
  • Chelmsford
  • Colchester
  • Epping / Loughton
  • Harlow
  • Uttlesford

To request a duplicate certificate, you can:

We have already put the new system to good use; our very first customer needed a copy of her daughter’s birth certificate to be able to fly to South Africa today. After a 9am phone call from her we checked that we had the relevant register, ordered it up and prepared the certificate and she collected it from us, all in less than 30 minutes!  She was extremely pleased to get this vital document for her holiday as the rest of her family were already at Heathrow Airport.

Copies of historical birth, marriages and death certificates cost £10. They will be produced and posted within five working days.

If you require a certificate more quickly, you can get one the next working day for £25, or within 2 working days for £18.

These prices do not include postage and packing.

Please note: We do not hold the Registration Service birth, marriage and death registers for the parts of the historical county of Essex now administered by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Thurrock Council and the London Boroughs of Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Newham and Redbridge.

Document of the Month, June 2015: Settlement examination of James Sutton, 1821

Our document of the month for June is a record of a man named James Sutton being questioned by Justices of the Peace trying to establish where he was entitled to claim poor relief (D/P 332/13/4).

James Sutton was attempting to claim poor relief in Rayleigh, but had not been born there. Under the laws of settlement, if it could be proved that a person claiming relief was legally the responsibility of another parish then they could be removed to that place. Settlement examinations often contain a great deal of biographical information about the poor, and there are thousands of them in our collections.

What is notable about this particular examination is that James Sutton gave no information about his place of settlement but stated that he had served for seven years and six months in the 54th Foot and had been wounded in the left arm at the Battle of Waterloo. He continued to serve until 1820 when he was discharged.

IMG_6528 watermarked

He stated that had been awarded a medal for his service but not a pension as he had volunteered from the East Middlesex Militia and had served less than 14 years with the 54th Regiment, and that this meant that he was not entitled to a pension. The Waterloo Medal was the first time a medal was awarded to all ranks (although we cannot find a James Sutton of the 54th Foot on the Waterloo Medal Roll).

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2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, which saw the decisive defeat of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the French. Within a few days Napoleon had abdicated and by the end of the year was in exile on St. Helena.

Waterloo brought to an end wars which had raged across Europe from the 1790s.  Approximately 15,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle, with another 7,000 Prussian and between 20 and 24,000 French casualties. Nearly 50 years of peace followed in Europe, which was brought to an end by the Crimean War in 1853 when Britain and France fought as allies.

This document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout June 2015.

Major Essex Ancestors update: remaining wills now all online

Essex Ancestors, our online subscription service which allows users to view digital images of historic parish registers and wills, has undergone its latest major update.

Our collections include about 70,000 original wills which date from the 1400s to 1858 – images of all of which are now available on Essex Ancestors.

Where wills exist, they can be of great help in establishing family connections and for finding out about people’s property and belongings.  As we have indexed the testators’ occupations and their places of residence as well as their names these images are also a goldmine for social and local history.

This is the third and final batch of the original wills that we have uploaded to Essex Ancestors and represents many months of work by our digitisers, conservators and archivists.

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This batch of wills included some extra large documents which had to be flattened in our Conservation Studio before they could be digitised

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The ERO Digitsation Studio has been hard at work preparing the latest upload

With all the parish registers and wills digitised, the total number of images on Essex Ancestors is now over 750,000. We hope that researchers all over the world will enjoy using this resource to find out about the lives of all the thousands of Essex people past who are included within these fascinating records.

A particularly ornate opening to a will belonging to John Gardener of Little Bromley (D/ACW 25/18)

A particularly ornate opening to a will belonging to John Gardener of Little Bromley (D/ACW 25/18)

You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the ERO Searchroom in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow. Opening hours vary so please check before you visit.

Before you subscribe please check that the documents you are interested in exist and have been digitised by searching Seax. You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.

We will continue to add to and improve Essex Ancestors, so watch out for more material being added in the future. Happy searching!

Bowled over: Graham Napier discovers his Essex roots

Graham Napier in action for Essex County Cricket Club (Photo: Nick Wood/Essex Cricket)

Graham Napier in action for Essex County Cricket Club (Photo: Nick Wood/Essex Cricket)

Just as the 2015 cricket season is about to get underway, we were excited to welcome Essex County Cricket Club star Graham Napier to the ERO to discover his Essex roots.

Graham’s family has a long history in Essex, going back at least to the 1700s. Several of his ancestors were from the Tilbury area, and include agricultural workers, gamekeepers and blacksmiths. Apparently blacksmiths were reputed to be so strong they could hit a cricket ball out of the ground! Graham discovered that one of his great-grandfathers, Edward Chatten was killed in the First World War in September 1918, just two months before the Armistice. He is now planning to visit Edward’s grave in France when he gets the opportunity.

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Graham finding out about his Essex ancestors with Archive Assistant Sarah Ensor

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A baptism record for Pte Edward Chatten’s daughter recording that Chatten had already died before his daughter was baptised

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The marriage record for Thomas Mott and Jane Swan, ancestors of Graham Napier who married in Wickford in 1799

Just like his ancestors, Graham is in the archive himself, amongst the records deposited by Essex County Cricket Club. We dug out some scorebooks to show him, including one from 1997 which includes his very first professional games for Essex, and one from 2008 which records his famous innings in a Twenty20 cup match against Sussex when he scored 152 not out from 58 balls – the highest individual score in a T20 innings in England at the time, and the highest number of sixes in an individual T20 innings.

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Graham looking at an Essex County Cricket Club scorebook from 1997 which records his earliest professional matches

We also shared with Graham some of the older records of Essex County Cricket Club which are looked after here dating back to the nineteenth century.

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During our research we also came across this photo of a cricket team in Chelmsford c.1870, taken on Fair Field with the railway viaduct in the background. Cricketing style has changed somewhat since then!

Cricket team 1870 watermarked

Graham said: ‘It’s safe to say I’m truly from Essex, going back several generations. What a great experience to come to the ERO and trace back my family history, it’s something I’d recommend more people do’.

We wish Graham and the Essex team the very best of luck as the new season gets underway.

ERO is stronger with Friends: purchase of the Saulez collection

The Friends of Historic Essex are a charity which supports the ERO. Throughout the centenary of the First World War, the Friends and ERO are working together on the Essex Great War Archive Project, which aims to preserve documentary evidence of the period for educational study, family history research and community histories. The project includes looking out for documents relating to Essex people and places during the War, and where possible acquiring them for our collection.

If you would like to help, would you consider making a donation or becoming a member of the Friends? Details are available on the Friends’ website.

Here, Archive Assistant Sarah Ensor shares details of the most significant purchase made as part of the project to date – the Saulez family collection. (A version of this article first appeared the Autumn 2014 edition of the Essex Journal.)

The Friends of Historic Essex have recently acquired a family collection which has since been deposited at the Essex Record Office (Accession A14026).

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Rev. Robert Travers Saulez (D/P 511/28/1)

A large part of the collection consists of letters and telegrams from and relating to the sons of the Reverend Robert Travers Saulez (right). Robert was born in India in 1849 where his father, George Alfred Frederick Saulez, was an assistant chaplain at Nainee Tal. After gaining his degree from Trinity College Cambridge Robert served as curate in Lancashire, Hampshire and London before moving to Essex in 1886. According to Crockford’s Clerical Directory he was vicar of Belchamp St. Paul from 1886 to 1901 and rural dean of Yeldham from 1899 to 1901, vicar of St. John, Moulsham from 1901 to 1906 and rector of Willingale Doe with Shellow Bowels from 1906 to 1927. He retired to Twinstead where he died in 1933.

Robert and his wife Margaret Jane had three sons and a daughter between 1882 and 1887. Their sons, Robert George Rendall, Arthur Travers and Alfred Gordon were all educated at Felsted School and later served in the army. The letters deposited appear to date from towards the end of the Boer War through the Great War and beyond.

Robert George Rendall Saulez answered the call to serve in the South African Constabulary from 1902 to 1904 so is likely to be the author of the earliest letters in the collection. He volunteered soon after the outbreak of the Great War and served with the Army Service Corps in Egypt and Palestine. He was a good horseman and was recognised during the war for his share in providing an efficient transport service by ‘Horse, Camel or Motor’. After the war he served in the Supply and Transport Corps in the Indian Army until about 1922 after which it is believed he settled in the country.

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Bundles of letters fill the boxes

On leaving school Arthur Travers Saulez attended the Royal Military Academy before joining the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was posted to India in 1907 but returned to England prior to 1914 and was sent to France in May 1915. He achieved the rank of Major and having survived the Battle of the Somme was killed on 22 April 1917. The pencil in his diary which is amongst the collection is lodged in the page of the week of his death. A window was erected in the church at Willingale Doe in memory of Arthur Travers Saulez by the officers, NCOs and men of his battery.

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The diary of Arthur Travers Saulez, with the pencil still marking the spot where he made his last diary entry before being killed in April 1917

 

Hart’s Annual Army List for 1908 shows that the youngest of the brothers, Alfred Gordon Saulez, had joined the Army Service Corps in 1906 and when war broke out he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914. Like his brother Arthur he rose to the rank of Major but unlike his brother he survived the war; however nothing is known of his service throughout the conflict so hopefully some of his letters are in the family collection and will reveal more. Following the Armistice he was posted to Mesopotamia where he died in 1921 apparently as a result of the ‘excessive heat’; he left a wife and two children.

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One of the more unusual items within the collection – a remedy for poisonous gas

Robert and Margaret’s daughter Margaret Hilda embraced the opportunity that the Great War gave women to be involved. She served with the Scottish Churches Huts which, like the YMCA, provided support behind the lines in France. Following the war she married Wilberforce Onslow Times at St. Christopher’s in Willingale Doe with her father conducting the service.

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Marriage of Margaret Hilda Saulez, with her father as minister (D/P 338/1/11, image 95)

Until this collection of over 300 letters and other items can be sorted and catalogued the full story of this family’s experiences serving their country remains untold. It is hoped that funding can be raised to expedite the cataloguing and storage of the collection and the provision of an educational resource for students and people of all ages. If you as an individual, group or institution are interested in helping fund this project then please contact the Friends of Historic Essex by e-mail or by writing to them care of Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT.

You can also help to support the Essex Great War Archive Project by coming to a fundraising quiz organised by the Friends on Friday 17 April 2015 at Galleywood Heritage Centre – full details, including how to book, can be found here.