Sunday, November 13, 2011

A burial note

I've been skimming through Lincolnshire parish records today, accessed through 'Lincs to the Past'. In looking through a parish burial register I found the following entry for an infant girl. After the fact (i.e. after the burial) the parish priest added a terse note:

Buried with Christan Burial inadvertently  ; the father having falsely stated that the child had been baptised.

This also accounts for the statement of her name: a child called Sarah Barsby - till baptised she did not have that name in the eyes of the Church.

If it affected whether my daughter was given a funeral, I'd lie too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

1812 Mass Grave, Portland, Maine

We're staying in Portland Maine for a wedding, and I had the morning to visit downtown Portland and then Matilda and I took a drive about. We stopped in a park overlooking the Atlantic (called the Eastern Promenade) and visited a site that was part monument, part memorial, part cemetery. The park is greatly elevated, and commands views both over the sea to the East and back over the port city to the West. It commemorates the mass burial of 21 American soldiers who were captured by the English in the War of 1812 (at the Battle of Queenston, Canada). They were unloaded at Portland by the British as they were too sick to complete the journey to Boston. 

It's difficult to find more on the topic, the most detail being in 'Portland in the Past' by William Goold (B. Thurston & company, 1886). Here it is related that in the winter of 1812-13 a cartel-ship carrying the flag of truce arrived from Quebec with American prisoners of war for exchange. The ship had docked at Portland due to sickness and a lack of winter clothing. About 25 American soldiers were landed at Portland, and The Argus for 7 Jan 1813 said:
"Dec 24 1812, Arrived cartel ship Regulus seven weeks from Quebec for Boston with 230 prisoners taken at the Battle of Queenstown. Col Scott's regiment, sickly, 26 were too sick to go to Boston in ship - were carried to the hospital on the hill.

The book also related that by Feb 4 (1813), thirteen soldiers had died. Apparently the Regulus waited in harbor for some long period of time before moving on to Boston.

General lay-out of the memorial, with a cobble-stone area marked out by posts (running north-south). At the two extreme ends, grave marker stones are placed for each dead American soldier (at least one was 'unknown'). American flags had been placed at each marker some time previous and remained unmolested. In the center of this area (dark spot) was a large marker boulder with an inscription (shown below).

Within this enclosure
were buried 21 soldiers
captured by the English
at the battle
of Queenston, Canada
in the War of 1812 
and died in hospital here
while on their way to
Boston for exchange 

Marker stones (Matilda at right for scale!). The stones are all legible, but require maintenance.

To the west of the boulder stands a flag-pole, flying the American flag at full-mast. Homes on the bordering Eastern Promenade can be seen in the distance.

It is a shame that biographies of the 21 American soldiers could not be easily unearthed. The site remains as the coastal land was set aside for recreational use some time afterwards.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A few days ago we visited Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire while driving north to Maine. There is a great deal of information available on this historical cemetery ( and and the headstones here are well covered in There is even a book that shows some of the headstones, 'Portsmouth Cemeteries', by Glenn A. Knoblock.

The cemetery sits at a head of land between houses and a public park, and is not attached as aprt of a church burying ground, but has apparently always acted as a stand-alone cemetery. The cemetery had a number of information boards at the entrance (through an old wrought-iron turnstile or kissing gate) pointing out a number of headstones of interest.

The cemetery is the oldest remaining in the historical town. According to information available it was '...established in 1671 on land deeded to the town by Capt. John Pickering. Located on Mechanic Street next to the Prescott Park planting beds and overlooking the Piscataqua River. No gravestones survived previous to 1682 because Capt. Pickering's cattle was (sic) allowed to continue grazing among the gravestones after the burying ground was established. It contains some of the finest examples of early gravestone artistry by many Massachusetts sculptors including Bostonians William Mumford, a Quaker; Nathaniel Emmes; John Homer; and the carver known only by his initials “JN” (possibly the silversmith John Noyes). Other carvers include brothers Caleb and Nathaniel Lamson and possibly their father and mentor, Joseph, of Charlestown; James Foster of Dorchester; and John Hartshorne and Joseph Mullicken of Haverhill."

While is is clear that over the years headstones have been lost, those standing were stunning in the clarity of the carvings after over 300 years. The headstones did not appear to contain the 'warnings' and 'tales' I've seen at the bottom of other New England headstones, but were simple in design and information.

Notes under each headstone photo and transcript were derived from the information boards on-site. Headstones are shown below in no particular order.

Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
In Memory of John Libbey
Son of John & Mary Libbey
Died March 28th 1785
In ye 4th year of his ?

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
 Anne ye wife 
of George Jaffrey Esq.
Aged 18 years
Decd Decmb 6 1689 

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lyes ye body of Mr. RICHARD WEBBER
Aged 82 years
Decd May 25 17??
Here lyes ye body of Mrs. Lydia Webber
Wife to Mr. Richard Webber
Aged 69 years
who decd April 10th 1721

    Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
 Nehemiah Partridge
Died Febry ye 12 1709 in ye 46 year of his age
William Partridge
Died May ye 13 1718 in ye 47 year of his age 

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies the body of Samuel Griffeth
son of Mr. Samuel & Mrs. Abigail Griffeth
who died April 21st 1759 
aged 3 years 10 months & 21 ds
Here lies the body of Miles Ward Griffeth
son of Mr. Samuel & Mrs. Abigail Griffeth
who died April 25th 1759 
aged 2 years 3 months & 1 day

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies buried the body of Mrs Abigail Cario
wife of Mr. William Cario
who departed this life
Sepbr 17th 1767
in the 41st year of her age

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies buried the body of Mrs Agnis Shurburn
Aged 33 years
Decd Oct ? ??
Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies buried ye body of Mrs Elizabeth Pike
ye wife of Dr Robert Pike
Aged 27 years who deceased ye 5 of February in ye year 1719 or 20

Note the natural detritus accentuating the winged skull:

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
In Memory of Cap. TOBIAS LEAR
obt. Nov 6th 1781
Aged 45
A wit's a feather & a Chief a Rod
An HONEST MAN'S the noblest work of GOD

Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lyeth buried ye body of William Button
of Jersey aged 37 years
Died ye 19 day of October 1693
Buried by Clement Lempriere 
en Tho Button  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Girl Called Alice

I have been helping a friend with a particularly tricky genealogy 'brick wall', and as we've now broken through that wall I thought I'd describe the process.

Here was the problem: It was known that a child named Eveline (May) BRIGHT was registered as born 1915, mother Alice BRIGHT (certificate below) and father unknown. The mother Alice BRIGHT was born abt 1894 according to documents below. Alice appears in the 1911 census of England as a domestic servant confirming her birth year. But nothing could be found of Alice from her birth till 1911, and nothing is known of her fate after 1915 (when she had her daughter), except that she did not raise Eveline (May), and a story exists that she perhaps died in the 1930's of consumption (tuberculosis).

First to the three pieces of hard data we have (mentioned above) that revealed information about Alice. I've included them below, and they show that Alice was consistent in the information she disclosed about herself - that she was born about 1894 in the Wyche/Colwall area. Wyche effectively straddles the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, which makes record searching slightly more complicated. To the data!

1911 Census

Address: The Laurels, West Malvern, Worcestershire
Susannah Cracknell, head, 49, single, occupation Private Means, born London, Paddington
Alice Bright, servant, 17, single, general servant domestic, born The Wyche, Malvern


Ledbury Union Creed Register from Belle Orchard House where Alice's daughter was born.
From 1869, the workhouse master had to record the religious creed of each new inmate so that appropriate arrangements could be made in respect of their education (in the case of children), serious illness, or death.

Ledbury Union Creed Register (B6/13/i)
Mother: Alice Bright
Date of birth: 1894
Admission: 1 Jun 1915
Whence admitted: The Wyche, Colwall
Creed: Congregationalist
Name of informant: Herself
Date of entry: 1 Jun 1915
Masters initials: JK
Discharged: 24 Jun 1915

Child: EvelineBright
Date of birth:  6 Jun 1915
Admission: 6 Jun 1915 (birth)
Whence admitted: Birth

Creed: Congregationalist
Name of informant: Mother
Date of entry: 6 Jun 1915
Masters initials: JK
Discharged: 24 Jun 1915

Birth certificate of Eveline May

Certified copy of an entry of birth
Registration district: Ledbury
1915 Birth in the Sub-District of Ledbury in the County of Herefordshire and Worcestershire
No. 92
When and where born: Sixth June 1915, Belle Orchard House, Ledbury
Name: Eveline, girl
Name and surname of father: -
Name and surname of mother: Alice Bright, domestic servant of Colwall
Profession of father: -
Informant: J Kendwick, Occupier?, Belle Orchard House, Ledbury
When registered: 8th June 1915


 Working backwards from these three pieces of information, the obvious ports of call were the 1901 census, and a civil birth registration for Alice Bright. Extensive searches of both offered no possible matches. Parish records were also searched on IGI however few parishes have their records from this late period indexed. So if Alice couldn't be found I reasoned there were two possibilities. The first was that she was missing from the 1901 census and birth through the normal errors and mistakes (lost, missed, mis-transcribed, travelling, name mis-spelt, etc.). Secondly, it was possible she adopted the name Bright after 1901 due to a change of circumstances (mother widowed and remarried, informal adoption by a family, etc). One might argue that Alice had intentionally altered her details in the 1911 and 1915 information above, perhaps as she had a child out of wedlock, however this is extremely unlikely as she could not possibly have been guarding her identity in 1911 in anticipation of a social awkwardness four years later.

So I was looking for a girl named Alice Bright born on the border of two counties in 1894. I decided to look at BRIGHT family units in the area and catalog them in 1891 and 1901 censuses to see if there were any clues, or perhaps a whole family unit not recorded in 1901. There were 5-6 families in the area, and all seemed present between the two censuses, but of course there were many changes. It gave me hope a solution existed though as several generations were born in the Colwall area, and there seemed to be a 'landed gentry' line among them suggesting a long connection with the area. 

I then decided to turn to parish baptism register searches to see whether the local churches recorded a BRIGHT family. It seemed to me that the only church in Wyche proper was a non-conformist church, now known as the Wyche Free Church ( whose pastor informed me that no records prior to 1920 existed. This was disappointing, and presented a possible 'brick wall' - especially as Alice gave her religion as 'Congregationalist' in 1915.

I next turned nearby Church of England (Protestant) churches to see where local families lived. There is not a church in Wyche, but many nearby. While they are not indexed, the Rootschat forum ( is a wonderful exchange for information, and I put out a query for BRIGHT baptisms in the 1890's. I was advised that many families in that area who were Protestant (and her parents may be) baptised their children at the Great Malvern Priory ( and which seemed to have a fairly large capture area. So I put in a request and a kind gentleman looked into their records – while no Alice was found he sent the following message:

I've had a look at the Great Malvern Priory baptism register for you. Although Alice wasn't baptised there, it looks as if she had a brother Arthur William Bright who was baptised, on June 14 1896, son of Henry and Catherine Bright. Abode the Wyche. Father's occupation - Labourer.  I checked the baptisms from 1890 to 1901. Arthur was the only Bright.”

A lead! So what does this mean? Well this BRIGHT family lived at the Wyche which matches, and were having children around the right time. The next thing to do is look at the 1891 census (the immediate previous census to when this Arthur William was baptised. Remember Alice would have been born 1894, and as such not present in the 1891 census, but her parents may be.

This is the 1891 census (above) for Henry and ‘Kate’ (Catherine) Bright. They are living in the parish of Harnley Castle (Worcs), at ‘Upper Wyche Cottage’ (probably named it themselves and shows a connection to the Wyche area). Henry (40, born Colwall Hereford) and Kate (41, born Pershore Worcs) with six children! Henry’s occupation (labourer) is consistent with the baptism entry of Arthur above. Along with listing their children from the 1891 census below I have listed their age, where born, and if I could find their {registration district in the civil registers}. Children:

Thomas H, 10, Hanley Castle, {Thomas Henry, Dec 1880, Upton}
Rose, 7, Hanley Castle, {Rose Emily, Sep 1883, Upton}
Frank, 5, Hanley Castle, {Frank John, Sep 1885, Upton}
Lucy, 3, Hanley Castle, {Lucy Emily, Sep 1887, Upton}
Laura, 1, Hanley Castle, {Laura Amy, Jun 1889, Upton}
Leonard, 3 months, Hanley Castle, {Leonard, Mar 1891, Upton}

The above children are the only ones registered in the district of UPTON in this time period. Looking beyond 1891 at civil registrations in Upton are three more:
{Dec 1892, Hilda Gertrude, Upton}
{Mar 1894, Sarah Ann A, Upton} ???
{Jun 1896, Arthur William, Upton} - the baptism at Great Malvern Priory
The impulse is to jump to the 1901 census but let’s see what else we can learn in between.

Firstly, I found the death of Kate (Catherine) Bright, wife of Henry:
Deaths Mar 1897Bright Catherine, age 44, Upton, ref: 6c208

As Henry would be a widower, I also checked for a re-marriage soon after (very common). I found a Henry Bright marrying two years after his wife’s death:

Marriages Mar 1899Bright Henry, Ledbury, 6a677
DAVIS Agnes, Ledbury, 6a677
The district Ledbury spans the boundaries of the counties of Herefordshire, Hereford and Worcester and Worcestershire

This is confirmed in the Mathon parish registers, their marriage being on 26 Mar 1899 between Henry BRIGHT and Agnes DAVIS, both described as widowed.
So now turning to the 1901 census, we’d be looking for a Henry married to an Agnes. The 1901 census is shown below. 
The family is living in the village of Mathon (Hereford, where Henry and Agnes were married two years earlier. Mathon is very close to Colwall where Henry was born. Living there in 1901 are Henry Thomas Bright (48, born West Malvern Worcs) with Agnes (50, born West Malvern Worcs). Children Lucy (13) and William (Arthur William, 7) are at the home, both listed as being born at Malvern, Worcs. Also in the home are three step-children (children of Agnes, formerly DAVIS). These children are 21, 16 and 14 so way too old for one to be Alice married in as a step-daughter.
So our possible daughter Alice is not at home in 1901 (b 1894) - remember she can't be found in 1901. But their are a few instructive points. Note that their son is listed as William despite being baptised Arthur William – this is important as I have a feeling that Sarah Ann A (A for ALICE?) Bright, registered in March 1894 and listed above, may be Alice. The only way to test this is a bit of a gamble - purchasing the birth certificate. The arguments was that the civil registration may list the full name for that ‘A’ that was truncated in transcription as other people in the index with three names also have the third as a letter only. A could be listed as Alice.

 So my friends ordered the certificate, and it was a match!

Birth certificate of Sarah Ann Alice BRIGHT
Sarah Ann Alice, girl, born sixth Jan 1894, Upper Wyche, Hanley Castle, father Henry Bright, cab driver, mother Catherine Bright formerly King. Informany Henry Bright Upper Wyche Great Malvern.

The baptism may be at Mathon (Here) or Hanley Castle (Worcs) - both have parish churches and it is worth looking in their baptism registers for the period 1880-1900.

Why isn't Alice in the 1901 census? Maybe she is. Maybe we'll never know. But the children of Henry and Kate are scattered even in 1901. Looking through the censuses for children from the 1891 census:

Thomas H (b.1880)- at District Royal Marine Barracks, Alverstoke, Hampshire, Profesesion: "Navy Men", a Private, 20, born Worcs Great Malvern
Rose - not found, but married in Sep 1901 (after the census) to Samuel Weston or William White (Sep 1901, Rose Emily Bright, Kings Norton registration district). Probably in Smethwick, Worcs, a visitor aged 19 but birthplace carried from lines above as Birmingham.
Frank (b.1885) - died 1896 (Registered 1896, Frank John Bright, Aged 10, Upton registration district)
Lucy - with father and step-mother in 1901 census.
Laura Amy - a scholar at 3 Church St, Kensington (aged 11, schoolgirl, born Worcs) under Mary Livingstone.
Leonard (b.1891) - not found.

How did they afford education for a daughter in London? One thing is clear, it's likely Alice was elsewhere being educated, or perhaps with with a family member. What became of Alice BRIGHT after 1915? That is the next question.

But we found her. Extensive searches of parish records has found most of the children baptized at St Peter's, Malvern Wells. Amazingly, the parish book is blank from 1891-1894. Yet again Alice eluded documentation!!

We would very much like to hear from people with an interest in the BRIGHT family from this area - perhaps they even are aware of what became of Alice. Please comment on this post or contact us by email at

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Trinity Church, Manhattan

I recently visited the Trinity Church on Manhattan Island, New York ( The church itself is of great interest, however I visited to look at the church burial ground. The burial ground sits either side of the church, with a number of historical figures buried there. Many of the headstones dated from the 1700's and early 1800's, with some restorations also present. The headstones appear to largely generated from a local stone which has not fared well - it appears expansion of frozen water has cracked away the faces of many headstones, and the burial ground headstones were unaffected by the World Trade Center attacks, despite the fact that a large sycamore fell during the damage created on that day.

I thought I'd post a small number of pictures, with transcripts where relevant.

General view of the burial ground.

In memory of
Captain JAMES LAWRENCE of the United States Navy
who fell on the 1st day of June 1813, in the 32nd year of his age,
in the action between the frigates Chesapeake and Shannon.
He was distinguished on various occasions, but especially when commanding
the sloop of war Hornet he captured and sunk his Brittanick Majesty's sloop of war Peacock
after a desperate action of fourteen minutes.
His bravery in action was equalled only by his modesty in triumph,
and his magnaminity in to the vanquished.
In private life He was a Gentleman of the most endearing qualities the whole nation
mourned his loss and the Enemy contended with his Countrymen who should most honor his remains.

A modest headstone, initials "E.M."

Here lies the Body of Mr. WILLIAM BRADFORD
Printer who departed this Life May 23
1752 aged 92 Years: He was born in
Leicestershire, in Old England, in 1660:
and came over to America in 1862, before
the City of Philadelphia was laid out: He
was Printer to this Government for upwards
of 50 Years and being quite worn out
with Old age and labour, he left this
mortal State in the lively Hopes of a
blessed Immortality.
Reader reflect how soon you'll quite this Stage.
You'll find but few atain to such an Age.
Life's full of pain. Lo here's a Place of Rest.
Prepare to meet your GOD then you are blest.
Here also lies the Body of Elizabeth Wife to
the said William Bradford who departed
this Life July 8 1731 aged 68 Years.

Sidney Breese June 9 1767
Made by himself
Ha sidney sidney
Lyest thou here
I Here Hye
Till time is flown
(Bottom line obscured by soil)

A young child's headstone at right.