Saturday, 26 April 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks # 8 Harry Swadling

On the 15th February 2014 I attended a Guild of One-Name Studies Seminar in Telford in Shropshire. The seminar was entitled One-Name Studies – The Next Generation. The speakers were aged between 16 and 40 and the programme included each speaker explaining how they had began their One-Name Study and how they collected data using today’s technology.

It was during the first presentation that I learned about this challenge. What a brilliant idea I thought. I was certainly one of the many number of bloggers who didn’t post on their blogs on a regular basis. Well that’s not actually true. I did post on a regular basis – once a year, every New Year.

One speaker entitled her presentation  - the Name Collector and she explained a little about her study and why she had started it. She went on to tell the assembled group which web sites and software that she used to collect her data.

A far cry from when I began researching my family history in 1999 when the Internet or the World Wide Web was in its infancy. The Church of Latter Day Saints sponsored the only Internet based family history site with their online line search service called the International Genealogical Index.

Other options were to visit your local county records office or if you were lucky the largest library in each county to check little pieces of plastic covered in thousands of names on a projector like machine that magnified the images. I remember sitting at a microfiche reader in September 1999 trying to find the marriage of my paternal grandparents at the Old Birmingham Library on these little bits of plastic. Once the marriage details were found. I then had to write a cheque and send a request for the certificate to the register office where the marriage had been registered. That process would take over a week!

How things have changed. I can now carry out research without leaving my comfort of my own home. I use two main sites Find My Past and Ancestry to find data. Admittedly they are pay to view sites but in my option well worth the money. Also on line are many free view sites. FreeBMD is just one of these.

So I have decided for this week’s ancestors I am going to only use the Internet to research the family of an unknown Swadling. But how was I going to choose the ancestor? I put the name Swadling into google search engine and my blog and Guild of One-Name Study profile came up together with information about living Swadlings. Not an option as I’m not prepared to write about living Swadlings as I don’t have their permission to do so. So I then put Swadling family into google search and came up with many references to the names of Swadlings but this time the articles included data that had been published by family members. Also not an option as this is someone else’s research. So how was I going to pick a suitable candidate? I decided to pick a name from the General Register Office birth registrations listed on the FreeBMD website which anyone can search for free. And the lucky victim, I mean candidate, is Harry Swadling. So by just using the Internet I will hopefully find out who his family were and what happened to him?

Harry’s birth was registered in the Marylebone registration district of London in the December quarter of 1858 which meant that he was born between September and December of that year.

In 1861 at the age of two Harry was living in Marylebone with his parents Henry aged 42, who was employed as a stoker at the Marylebone Baths, and his mother Priscilla age 38. His father was born in London but his mother’s birthplace was not listed. Harry had three older sisters, Sarah aged 15 and Dinah Mary aged 13 who had both been born in Sydenham in Kent and Emma aged 7 who had been born in Marylebone.

I checked some of the London parish registers and found that Henry and Priscilla Tinson had married at St Mary’s Paddington Green on the 15 July 1845. I also found out that Harry had two other siblings who had died before he was born. Elizabeth Martha and Richard.

By 1871 Harry was working as an Errand Boy and living at home with his widowed mother Priscilla and his two older sisters Sarah and Emma. His sister Dinah Mary had died in 1863 and his father Henry had died in 1866. Also boarding at the property was William Coe, Harry’s future brother in law. There was also a mysterious grandchild of Priscilla’s called William Hoileg aged 2 listed as living at them. I have been unable to establish who this child’s parents are.

Emma married William Robert Coe just a week after the census was taken and it looks like they may have immigrated to New Zealand. Sarah married William Whittick in 1874, a widower 15 years her senior and they had several children.

On the 1881 census, Henry Swadling, was a servant at St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics on City Road London. His mother was now living with Sarah and William.

On the 6th August 1882 Harry married Annie White at St Mary Bryanston Square and they had two sons, Henry Richard born in 1883 and Edward George born in 1884. Edward George died when he was only a few months.

In 1891 Henry, Annie and Henry Richard were living in Chapel Street, Marylebone and Harry was employed as a Porter at Mansions. I assume that this could have been a hotel. By 1901 Harry and his family had now moved to Paddington but he was still working as a mansions porter. Henry was employed as a Builders Clerk. Harry’s mother Priscilla was still living with his sister Sarah and several of her children. Sarah was now also a widow.

Henry Richard married Mary Dorothy Calcutt in 1906 in and they had three children Henry Richard Charles, Edward Griffiths and Leslie, who died at the age of ten in 1920. In 1911 Henry was working as a moneylender’s clerk and the family were living in Fulham. Harry and Annie were living in Kensington in 1911 and were employed as servants by a widow Mrs Eleanor Sickert.  Harry was listed as a manservant and Annie was a housemaid, which seemed a strange occupation for a 60 year old? Harry’s mother Priscilla died just after the census was taken at the age of 89. 

Henry Richard Charles married but it looks like he and his wife Frances were unable to have any children. He died at the age of 77 in 1984.

Edward Griffiths married Ethel and they had one daughter Sylvia. Edward Griffiths died at the age of 82 in 1994. Sylvia was the last Swadling on this family tree. She married and had three children.

As for Harry, he and Annie were living a 9 Horbury Crescent, Kensington in 1930 but I’m not sure what happened to him after that. Annie died in 1937 at the age of 85.

So that’s the family history for Harry Swadling with all the information courtesy of the Internet.

Friday, 18 April 2014

52 ancestors 52 weeks # 7 James Swadling

Periodically the pay per view family history websites offer free access weekends. One such offer gave me the opportunity to search the British Newspapers 1710 – 1953.

Imagine my surprise when I found two articles that included references to my great grandfather James Swadling. I eagerly opened the documents. What had been written about him? What? He had been arrested and remanded on charges of embezzlement! No it couldn’t be true.

The first article published in the Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper dated Sunday 13th October 1895 stated that “A well know official named James Swadling, in the employ of the Patent Shaft Company, was today charged with embezzling money belonging to his employers. It had been the prisoner’s duty to pay the wages at collieries belonging to the company, and an examination of accounts showed that he had appropriated considerable sums of money. Prisoner was remanded. His arrest caused a concaternation in the town.” 

The second, much shorter, article was published in the Birmingham Daily Post dated Monday 14th October 1895 and headed CHARGE OF EMBEZZLEMENT. It continued, “At a special court, on Saturday, James Swadling, of Windmill Street, Wednesbury, was remanded until tomorrow on a charge of embezzling sums of money, the property of his late employers, the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company”.

I was in shock. My great grandfather embezzling money? It couldn’t be true! I searched in vain for further articles about the case but there were no other references. So what was the outcome? Surely he was innocent and it was a mistake. But how could I find out about the case?

In October last year I managed to get in touch with members of the Wednesbury family history society and a gentleman named Ian offered to check out the records at his local library the next time he was there. I eagerly awaited his findings.

On the 10th February 2014 the wait was over. I received a letter from Ian. He included a photocopy of an article he had found entitled FRAUD BY A WEDNESBURY CLERK in the Midland Advertiser dated Saturday 19th October 1895. So I was about to find out the truth.

As I read the article it appeared that James had attended the Police Court in Wednesbury before the Stipendiary or Magistrate on the charge of embezzling two sums of money from his employers. He was employed as a pay clerk and would go to Millfield Colliery near Wednesbury every Saturday and pay the men’s wages. His modus operandi or habit of working his crime was to add up the columns in the pay book and make the totals greater than they were while he was preparing the wages for the men. Sometimes it would be five shillings and sometimes it would be ten shillings and this money he would keep for himself. Although this had been happening for a couple of years or so the prosecution only extended over two fortnights ending the 14th and 28th of September when the deficiencies of £2 and 10 shillings and £4 and 5 shillings were shown. When he was asked about the discrepancies in his pay book. He explained how he had acquired the money. It transpired that James had formed the habit of attending horse racing and practising betting.

James had been employed by the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company for twenty years and was a trusted employee. The company stated that this betrayal of their trust deserved severe punishment and they wanted the case dealt with as quickly as it could but they wanted sufficient punishment that would then deter others from further offences.

James pleaded guilty to the charges and read a statement to the effect that his difficulties began with the breaking up of his home, owing to becoming surety or guarantor for a friend. He took the first 10s when he found he was short of money and when it wasn’t detected he had taken more money from time to time. He deeply regretted that he had given less consideration to the Company and his wife and children than he had given to others and asked the magistrate to deal with him under the First Offenders Act. This act enabled a magistrate to place a guilty person on probation and not give them a prison sentence. Unfortunately for James the magistrate didn’t give him a suspended sentence and probation. He sent him to gaol for four calendar months with hard labour.

I may never find out where James was incarcerated but I do know what might have happened to him while he was in goal. He might have become one of the many prisoners who were used as cheap labour and involved in manual tasks such as digging in quarries or helping with road building. The ethos behind manual labour was to teach prisoner the value of hard work, to stop prisoners being idle, remove the temptation for them to get into mischief and deter them from committing further crimes.

He would possibly have been segregated from the other prisoners and more serious form of punishment could have been the treadmill or the crank handle. Both were laborious and seemed to serve no purpose. The treadmill was a set of revolving steps, placed in the cell, that the prisoner would walk on for many hours at a time only stopping for a few minutes rest periodically. The crank handle was also placed in the cell and the prisoner would sit for hours just turning the handle

Over the years I have often wondered why some of my ancestors had moved from one place to another. In 1901 James and his wife Emily and their family were living at 82 Willes Street, Winson Green a suburb of Birmingham. Had his brush with the law or the shame of his crime been the reason why James left Wednesbury. Or had he been incarcerated at Winson Green prison on Winson Green Road in Birmingham and been granted probation for being a model prison but had to stay close by. Or was it just coincidence that he moved to a house that was only one and half miles from Winson Green Prison? That I will never know but what I do know is that James and his family stayed in the Winson Green area for over thirty years until he and Emily went to live with their youngest daughter Dora when they could now longer look after themselves.

52 ancestors in 52 week # 6 Laura Leslie Swadling

On the 1st February 2014 I made a second visit to the Library of Birmingham. This time I wanted to find the marriage details for a Laura L Swadling. She had been born in the York registration district in 1892 so when had she moved to Birmingham? According to the marriage indexes on FreeBMD, she had married Robert H Taylor in the Aston registration district in the December quarter of 1916. Ancestry had made copies of some parish registers from several churches around the Birmingham area available on line but I couldn’t find the marriage listed. 

So the next step in my search was going to be the laborious job of checking church parish records, register by register and page by page. I knew that many original registers were stored at the Library of Birmingham so I made an appointment to view the original marriage register of Saint James in Aston Park, which included 1916, at the new Wolfson Centre.

The Wolfson centre is located next to the Archives and Heritage area on the 4th floor of the library. When I arrived I was presented with a register the size of an old foolscap page that was about an inch thick. I carefully placed it on two book rests and very slowly turned the pages. When I reached 1916 I keep a lookout for Laura’s name. As I came towards the end of 1916 I wondered if she had not been married at Saint James after all. Then I saw it. Laura Leslie Swadling had married Robert Henry Taylor on the 11th November. Robert was 24 years of age and employed as a clerk. His father was also called Robert Henry and he was a carpenter. Laura was also 24 years old and she was employed as a conductress. Her father was called Thomas and he was a musician by trade. They were both residing at 177 Frederick Street at the time of their marriage. The certificate posed several questions. As Laura and Robert were living at the same address, was it the family home for either of them? Was the house a boarding house? Were Robert and Laura living together before their marriage? Or did they use the address of a family member, just like my father did, so that they could get married at St. James? As yet I haven’t found any evidence to answer any these questions.

The war in Europe began in 1914 so why was Robert still working as a clerk? Why had he not enlisted? Was there a reason why he had not joined up? The Military Service Act was passed by Parliament in January 1916 and came into force on the 2nd March. Previously men had joined the army on a voluntary basis. This act meant that single men between the ages of 18 and 41 could be conscripted to join army. Married men were exempt but in June they too could be conscripted. Men aged between 41 and 51 were conscripted for the last few months of the war. Military Service Tribunals were introduced for men who claimed exemption upon the grounds of performing civilian work of national importance, domestic hardship, health, and conscientious objection. Was Robert working in civilian work of national importance? I am unable to say, as I have not been able to find any war records for him. 

Laura on the other hand was working as conductress. With the outbreak of war thousands of men went off to fight for their country. A shortage of manpower meant that women could, for the first time, take over the roles of men. In Laura’s case she entered the male dominated world of bus or tram drivers and conductors. Doing the work of men may have helped the cause that women should have the right to vote. By the end of the war women, over the age of thirty, had secured that right.There are no children listed for Laura and Robert. Laura died in 1981 at the age of 89 in Gloucestershire and I can only find a death record for a Robert Henry in Gloucester in 1949 but he is listed as being born in 1897 and not 1892 so I am not sure if this is him or not.

As I had no other birth record for Swadlings in the York area I was curious about who Thomas Swadling was and where he had came from. I decided to check ancestry’s census records. So what are censuses? A census is, according to the free, “an official, usually periodic enumeration of a population, often including the collection of related demographic information”. Could you repeat that? Ok. A census is a head count taken every ten years of the population of England and Wales. Information collected will include a person’s name, age, place of birth, occupation and address. Census documents are very handy documents when trying to research family history. 

By using the library’s copy of Ancestry I found Laura in Bridgnorth on the 1911 census. She was 18 years old and her occupation was “at home”. She was living with her mother Elizabeth Louisa, who was 41 years old and had been married for 19 years. The census showed that Elizabeth had given birth to four children in her current marriage and all of her children were still living.  Laura had three brothers. James William aged 16 who was working as a garage apprentice, Frederick Noel aged 8 and a pupil at school and Gilbert Lionel was who just 2 years old. Her father was not listed and was therefore not present in the household on the night the census was taken. The census also showed where each member of the family had been born and it looked like the family had moved from place to place over the years. Laura’s mother had been born in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Laura herself had been born in York, two of her brothers had been born in Pimlico in London and her youngest brother had been born in Leek in Staffordshire. I couldn’t find her father Thomas anywhere on the 1911 census.
I next checked the 1901 census on the Ancestry website and found the family living in the Saint George Hanover Square district of London.

Thomas was at home the night this census was taken. He was listed as being 31 years of age and had been born in Southwark London. Besides his wife Elizabeth, daughter Laura, and son James. Thomas had his 6 year old nephew Charles Perry living with him.  

It looked like Laura was Thomas and Elizabeth’s oldest child so I looked for a marriage for them on the FreeBMD and familyseach websites. I found several entries that referred to Thomas marrying Elizabeth Louisa Johnson at St Mary Bishophill Junior Church in York on the 23rd May 1891 but if he was born in London what was he doing in York in 1891? I checked the 1891 census and found him aged 21 at the Cavalry Barracks on the Fulham Road in York. So that puts him in the right place for his marriage but where was he in 1881?

His whereabouts in 1881 were slightly disturbing. He was just 11 and a scholar at the Central District School in London. His relationship to the superintendent of the institution was that he was an inmate supported by poor rates. Why was he there? What had happened to his parents? I tried to find him on the 1871 census but he wasn’t listed.

Then something occurred to me. Was Thomas the son of Richard Swadling and Elizabeth Elliott and a grandson of Joseph Swadling from Englefield? When I was doing the research for the Bradfield Swadlings I had looked through some paperwork that I had received from another cousin of mine. He had been sent the information from a lady who had been researching Swadlings who had been born in Southwark in London.

In amongst the paperwork was a copy of a birth certificate for a Thomas Swadling who was born in 1869 in Southwark to parents Richard Swadling and Elizabeth Elliott and a copy of a death certificate for a Thomas Swadling who was listed as a former Orchestral Musician and had died in Portsmouth in 1950 at the age of 81. The informant on the death certificate was his great niece, E. M. Bloxham. So who was she? Her relationship to Thomas meant that one of her grandparents was one of Thomas’s siblings. Finding which one would also prove that this Thomas was in fact Richard and Elizabeth’s son. I found a marriage registration for an Elizabeth M Swadling to a Harold Bloxham in the Portsmouth registration district in 1921 and a birth registration entry for an Elizabeth Margaret Swadling in the Wandsworth registration district in 1898.  Using the 1901 and 1911 census I found out that her parents were William and Elizabeth Swadling and she had four siblings by 1911. William had been born in Dunts Hill Earlsfield in Wandsworth in 1876. William had married Elizabeth in 1897. His father’s name was Joseph. And Joseph was a son of Richard and Elizabeth Swadling and an older brother to Thomas! 

Going back to the 1901 census, Charles Perry’s parents were George Thomas Perry and Emily Swadling. Tragically Emily died in 1900 and George died in 1901.  Thomas was Emily’s brother.

A mystery still surrounds Thomas. Why was he in Portsmouth with extended family around him when he died?  Why had he not stay in Bridgnorth? His wife died there in 1935 and his children stayed in the surrounding area. Unfortunately there are still too many questions to answer.