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Archive for August, 2009
An exhibition to mark the bicentenary of Poet Laureate Lord Alfred Tennyson’s birth has opened at his former home, Farringford House, on the Isle of Wight. Tennyson moved into the house in 1853, remained there for the rest of his life, and immortalised it in a poem to his friend Rev F. D. Maurice.
During Tennyson’s 39-year tenure, islanders were treated to regular visits from notables ranging from politicians, painters, and authors, to scientists, and even royalty. Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and the Queen of Hawaii were Tennyson guests at one time or other.
The 1861 census provides an early glimpse at Tennyson’s idyllic Isle of Wight home, where he was living with his wife and two sons. The other occupants – a tutor, gardener, page, nurse, cook, housemaid, parlour maid, and a kitchen maid – give some idea of the opulent lifestyle the family enjoyed (click the image to enlarge).
On the 1891 census an 81-year-old Tennyson is described as a peer of the realm, and his one-year-old grandson, Lionel (a future England cricketer) is now part of the household.
Lord Tennyson would die just a year later. A search of the findmypast.com records reveals he was a shareholder in the Great Western Railway, and we discover that his wife, Emily, and eldest son, Hallam, acted as executors.
Our last glimpse at Farringford House is on the 1911 census. Lord Hallam Tennyson (who has inherited his father’s title) is the head of the household. The other residents are his wife Lady Audrey Tennyson, and seven servants. In the years that followed Farringford House became a hotel, and still serves that purpose today.
The ‘Tennyson at Farringford’ exhibition runs until 9 September at Farringford House.
This week it’s the turn of the actress Kim Cattrall to take part in Who do you Think you Are?. Though the actress is best known for her roles as Americans, she was actually born in Liverpool and raised in Canada.
The family’s journey to Canada can be found on findmypast.com’s Passenger Lists. Kim is seen at three months old travelling with her sister, Cherry, and her mother Shane (listed as Gladys on official documents) in November 1956.
Kim’s father Dennis had travelled several months earlier in April, when Shane was pregnant, so Kim was on her way to meet her father for the first time.
Kim’s family have remained close to their Liverpudlian roots and Kim has returned many times over the years. This time Kim is on a mission to solve the mystery surrounding her maternal grandfather George Baugh.
George married Kim’s Grandmother Marion Thomas in 1928. The event can be found in findmypast.com’s birth, marriage, and death indexes.
However, George walked out on his wife and three daughters when Shane was eight – leaving the family in poverty – and was never heard from again. The only clues Kim has are a photograph and a newspaper article from the 1980s, which mentions her grandfather’s sister.
Shane and her sisters are desperate to know what happened to their father, but will they like what they find? Is Kim’s prediction that ‘I think it’s going to end in tears’ going to be right? Watch BBC One tonight at 9pm to find out.
You may have read in the news yesterday that 1911census.co.uk’s parent company, brightsolid, has bought Friends Reunited Group, which includes the Friends Reunited and Genes Reunited websites. We’re delighted to confirm that this is true.
We’re really excited by this development. In the future there will be opportunities for us to provide enhanced services for the customers of 1911census.co.uk, findmypast.com, and the Friends Reunited websites.
For now, the websites will continue to be run independently, so if you have any queries regarding accounts on Genes Reunited or Friends Reunited, please contact their Customer Support Teams as usual.
Actor and comedian David Mitchell has always had a passion for the past. He studied history at Peterhouse, Cambridge and one of his earliest projects after graduating was a show about the First World War. This makes him a relatively well-placed subject for hit genealogy series, Who Do You Think You Are?, on which he appears tonight at 9pm on BBC One.
David already knew he had paternal Scottish ancestry, and that the Mitchells were wealthy sheep farmers. Part of his quest on tonight’s show is to discover whether they were involved in the notorious Highland Clearances: one of the darkest chapters in Scottish history.
During the Clearances, which took place in the nineteenth and late-eighteenth century, wealthy land owners cast tens of thousands of men, women and children from their homes, so they could use the land for more profitable large-scale sheep farming. Tenants who refused to leave saw their houses burnt to the ground and were removed by force, at the point of a musket or sword. They were pushed out towards the coast, where they lived in barren plots of land (or crofts), and were expected to sustain their communities by fishing. The result was widespread destitution and starvation, and ultimately the destruction of the Highland people and their culture.
Some of those affected sought a better life across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. Details of their hopeful journeys towards strange new lands can be found in the earlier part of the official Passenger Lists. These late nineteenth-century migrants were the forebears of countless native citizens living in those countries today.
The Clearances, which occurred in several waves, are among the most contentious issues in Scottish history, and still divide opinion today. We’re eager to discover whether David Mitchell’s ancestors played a part, and we’ll be tuning in tonight to find out.
David’s Scottish ancestors
With the help of our sister-site ScotlandsPeople, we decided to do some pre-emptive research, and track down the Mitchells on the censuses.
David’s family owned the same farm, Ribigill in Tongue, Sutherland, for three generations. We found them living there on every available census (apart from in 1871, when they were living elsewhere). In 1901 the head of the household was William Mitchell, a widower living with four grown-up children and two servants:
If, like David, you have Scottish forebears, why not search for them online today?
We were saddened to hear of the death of the oldest surviving First World War veteran, 111 year-old Harry Patch. This follows the recent death of fellow war veteran Henry Allingham, 113, and leaves just one surviving British veteran of World War One; Claude Choules, 108.
As this event drifts further into the past, so too do the memories of these men, and of the horrors of this massive conflict. Harry Patch was a gunner in the Light Infantrymen who survived one of the bloodiest British offensives, the Third Battle of Ypres, while Henry was a mechanic in the Royal Naval Air Service who among other postings, was put to work on the Western Front neutralising the booby trapped bombs left by the Germans as they retreated.
For many years both men refused to talk about their experiences, preferring to shut out the traumatic memories. But in later life, when they did speak, both recalled the nightmarish conditions of the battlefield with their permanently waterlogged trenches (Allingham remembered working up to his armpits in water), the disease and plague of enormous rats, and the smell of death. After the war these men returned to their ordinary lives; Henry as a mechanic and Harry as a plumber.
There were 16 million deaths and 21 million casualties across the countries involved in WWI, and if you have ancestry that is British it is highly likely that a member of your extended family served in the conflict.
And perhaps what is so extraordinary about Henry and Harry is that their experiences, which pushed people to the limits of human endurance, were mirrored by millions of others involved in the fighting, including your ancestors.
Claude Choules in 1911
Britain’s last surviving Great War veteran, Claude Choules, is also the only living person, of any nationality, who has served in both World Wars. In 1911, three years before the start of the conflict, he was 10 years old and lived in Wyre, Pershore in Worcestershire. Here he is on the 1911 census with his father (a clerk to a market gardener), and his two elder brothers, who were labourers: