The search for earlier generations of Smiths in Ainstable

Posted on 8th October 2014

Recently I made some discoveries about the French Huguenot ancestors of my 4x great-grandfather Henry Rochat Smith (although his middle name was previously unknown to me!) through his mother Elizabeth Ann Rochat.

Although Henry was born in London, I know that his father’s family had roots in the village of Ainstable in Cumberland at least a couple of generations further back. Henry and his family moved back to Ainstable when he was around 10 years old and his youngest sister Elizabeth Sarah was born there in 1815.

In a newspaper article from the Carlisle Journal on 27th February 1857, Henry is called as a witness in a murder case, where a Thomas Simpson was killed in Ainstable. His part is relatively small, and I believe he is confirming that an area of land known as Eden Banks was part of the “Nunnery Estate”. This evidently had relevance in the murder case.

Henry mentions that he knew a man, Jacob Smith, who having lived in Ainstable for 10 to 15 years, and who had knowledge of the area. Henry had often heard Jacob confirm where Eden Banks was. This man was Henry’s great-uncle (his father’s uncle), and he died at the age of 81.

Carlisle Journal - 27th February 1857
Henry Smith mentioning his great-uncle Jacob Smith in the Carlisle Journal, 1857.

I do not know when Jacob died, nor where he died, so I cannot find when he was born. There are no baptism records online for a Jacob Smith in Ainstable, nor in all of Cumberland. I do not even know the name of Henry’s father Joseph’s father, but I suspect it may be John, who would be a brother of Jacob.

Joseph died in 1823, but I do not know at what age. I need to visit Ainstable and the Carlisle Archives to view the parish registers for the church, and hopefully find Joseph’s burial record that will confirm his age at death, and therefore his approximate year of birth.

I also know that in 1760 there was a John Smith living at Beckside in Ainstable (the family home) as I found a record of a memorandum on Cumbria Archive’s catalogue. I am guessing this is Joseph’s father or grandfather.

Some later family documents from 1950, belonging to Mary Collingwood (Henry’s granddaughter), reveal that the house was in her mother’s family for over 200 years.

Still some digging to do. Any ideas?

The Smith family of Ainstable and Huguenot connections

Posted on 5th August 2014

I knew a fair bit about my 4x great-grandparents Henry Smith and Agnes Atkinson, but whilst I had traced Agnes’ ancestors, Henry’s line was a bit of a mystery. With the name of Smith and the fact that in the census records he lists his birthplace simply as “London”, I had hit a brick wall. Finding his ancestors didn’t seem hopeful.

Henry was an auctioneer and innkeeper at Ainstable in Cumberland during the early to mid 1800s. He married Agnes Atkinson around 1825. They supposedly had an irregular or “clandestine” marriage in Annan, Scotland (very near the popular elopement town of Gretna Green), and as such I cannot locate their marriage record. Agnes was the daughter of schoolmaster John Atkinson and his wife Barbara Coward, born in Cumrew (a village a few miles north of Ainstable) in 1803.

I recently received an email from a distant cousin in New Zealand. She is also a descendant Henry and Agnes through their daughter Ann Smith – through Ann’s son Frederick Mitton who emigrated to New Zealand in 1903. She has also done some fairly extensive research on the Smiths and Atkinsons of Ainstable, but had also been unable to go back to any of Henry’s previous generations. She did however bring to light a record I had (foolishly) previous dismissed; a census record for Henry and Agnes’ son Thomas Smith.

1851 Census Record
Thomas Smith living in Ainstable, Cumberland in 1851 with his aunt Elizabeth Watson, and her husband Thomas.

In 1851, 18-year-old Thomas Smith is living in Ainstable with a Thomas Watson, aged 36, a joiner and carpenter, born in Ainstable; his wife Elizabeth Watson, aged 35, also born in Ainstable; their daughters Elizabeth, aged 2, and Jane, aged 1 month. Thomas Smith is described as “nephew” in relation to the head of the household. Initially this confused me as Thomas Watson could be neither Thomas’ father’s brother or his mother’s brother – if so, surely he would have the name Smith or Atkinson? It soon became apparent that Thomas Smith was in fact the nephew of Thomas Watson’s wife Elizabeth.

With two young children, and the fact they were both born and living in Ainstable, I assumed that Thomas Watson and Elizabeth would have married there. A search on the BMD records revealed a marriage registered in 1847 in Penrith for a Thomas Watson and a Elizabeth Sarah Smith; Elizabeth was Henry’s sister.

Elizabeth Sarah Watson died in 1893 aged 78. This would mean she was born in 1815, making her younger than her brother Henry. Henry was born in London in 1805, and Elizabeth in Ainstable, so their parents must have come to Ainstable some time between those two dates.

A quick search of the baptism records online for an Elizabeth Sarah Smith born in Ainstable around 1815 found a matching record, listing her parents as Joseph Smith and Elizabeth – my 5x great-grandparents. Fairly common names, but whilst Henry and Agnes named their first son (who died in infancy) John – most likely after Agnes’ father John – their second son was called Joseph. They also had a daughter called Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Sarah Watson can be found 10 years later in 1861 living with her husband Thomas, daughters Elizabeth and Jane and two new children, Harriot and Thomas. They were living at Beckside in Ainstable, a residence that the family lived in up until 1949. In the same house (I believe it is quite large building) is her niece Eliza Collingwood (nee Smith). Also living at with Thomas and Elizabeth is a Peter Smith, aged 18, this time listed more clearly as Thomas’ “nephew-in-law”. This Peter was born in Lazonby, Cumberland (a village a few miles from Ainstable). Henry did not have a son called Peter, so this must mean there was another Smith brother of Henry and Elizabeth’s.

1851 Census Record
Peter Smith living with his father Horatio James Smith in Lazonby, Cumberland in 1851.

Going back to the 1851 census again, a Peter Smith born in 1843 can be found him living with his family in Lazonby; his parents listed as Horatio James Smith and Mary, and siblings Joseph, Harriot, Alfred and Horatio. Horatio James was a brother of Henry and Elizabeth Sarah. Helpfully, he is a little bit more specific listing where he was born than his brother Henry, listing it as “St Pancras, London”.

With his uncommon name, another search quickly revealed a baptism for Horatio James at St James’ Church, Clerkenwell, London on the 29th November 1807 to Joseph Smith and Elizabeth Ann.

A bit more digging revealed a baptism for yet another sibling; Harriet Mary Smith, baptised at St Pancras Church on 18th April 1813. Joseph is recorded as a “Gentleman” on the baptism record.

This would mean that Joseph and Elizabeth moved from London to Ainstable around 1814.

As Horatio James and Harriet Mary were both baptised in the St Pancras/Clerkenwell areas of London, and I knew Henry was only 2-3 years older than Horatio James, I looked through a dozen or so pages of the baptism register of St James’ Church in Clerkenwell and found an entry for the 22nd January 1806 (but with his birth date recorded as 29th November 1805) for a Henry Rochat Smith, son of Joseph Smith and Elizabeth Ann Smith. The unusual middle name was initially confusing, but it would soon become clear.

Carlisle Journal 1844 - Death notice of Elizabeth Smith
Death notice of Mrs E(lizabeth) Smith on 5th October 1844 in the Carlisle Journal.

A look at the 1841 census record for Elizabeth Sarah Smith, shows her living in Ainstable with another Elizabeth Smith – her mother. The elder Elizabeth is listed as being born not in the county of Cumberland (London, presumably), and her age is given – rather unusually for the 1841 census – specifically as 62, giving her year of birth as 1779. There is a death registered in Penrith for an Elizabeth Ann Smith in 1844, and I tracked down a newspaper announcement from the Carlisle Journal in the same year:

At Beckside, Ainstable, on Friday 27th ult. [September], after a protracted illness, born with Christian fortitude, Mrs. E. Smith, relict of the late Mr. Joseph Smith, of the above place, aged 64 years.

Now I had to find a marriage for Joseph Smith and Elizabeth Ann to hopefully discover her maiden name. Eventually, I found it – on the 26th October 1804 at St Andrew By The Wardrobe Church in the City of London, the marriage between Joseph Smith and Elizabeth Ann Rochat. Henry’s middle name now made sense.

French Huguenot Baptism Certificate
Elizabeth Ann Rochat’s baptism record at the La Patente French Hugueunot Church in Spitalfields, London on 30th August 1779. Written in French. English Translation: “Elizabeth Anne dau of Jean Pierre Rochat and Marie Magdelaine Dupont, born 21 Aug 1779, bapt 30th of same month by Monsieur Jacob Bourdillon (pastor). Godparents Daniel De La Roche and Anne Dupont.”.

I realised that Elizabeth Ann Rochat couldn’t be a hugely common name, and a search immediately brought back a baptism record for her. She was baptised at the “La Patente” French Hugueunot Church in Spitalfields London on 30th August 1779, to Jean Pierre Rochat and Marie Magdelaine Dupont – my 6x great-grandparents.

Finding this Huguenot ancestor reminded me of part of an interview taken with Alice Cockbaine Mitton – a granddaughter of Henry and Agnes – by her son in the 1980s. Below is an extract from the interview transcript:

Ted [Alice's son]: “…where does the Huguenot come from?”
Alice: “…in the 1600s the Huguenots in France were being greatly persecuted and a little girl by the name of Hariotte Desrochious was sent over from France by stealth in an apple barrel. I’m sure the apple barrel was well marked and met in London, but she was smuggled out of France in that way to London, where there was a colony of Huguenots and a Huguenot Church, and the ancestors on her side, one of them owned a considerable amount of property near the river Eden at a little village named Ainstable, a few miles from where we lived. But it was possible to go in a day’s journey – by horse and conveyance. He was, this ancestor, on my grandmother’s side, had connections with the Bank of England and was employed there in London, and he must have gone to the Huguenot church, which is still I understand in a state of repair and being used. He met this girl from France and fell in love with her, so he would have wanted to marry her. So he went back to his lands in the north which has a small house on it at the time…and he had it extended. He had what they called a parlour… and a bedroom built on and it was to this home he brought his bride. I don’t know the year, but this was some time in the 1600s. When the bride arrived at this little hamlet of Ainstable, she was horrified to find there was no school for the children and she had been educated. So she opened her home, having help in the home she was able to do it, every morning all the village children who were willing to come, came to her home and sat round the long table and she taught them to read and write and I suppose some arithmetic…and at quarter to twelve they were dismissed and she retired to her bedroom for prayers every day… this gives me great pleasure when I think back that distance. So all the women, as well as the men, on that side of the family were educated.”
Ted: “…You said she had been a Smith?”
Alice: “She had been – eventually they were Smith, the descendants of that Huguenot relative, the name as I knew them and I stayed in that same house [Beckside].”

I am not entirely sure yet what line this mysterious Huguenot ancestor, “Hariotte Desrochius”, is from; Alice says that it was from her grandmother’s side – the Atkinsons – but as far as I have found, this family were from the Cumberland villages of Lazonby, Cumwhitton and Cumrew, and before that in the Kendal area of what was then Westmorland – not in Ainstable. I believe the Huguenot line is from the Smith line as I have found evidence that the family was in Ainstable as far back as the mid 1700s.

I have seen the Rochat name written a few different ways including “Roches” which isn’t all that far from “Desroches” (I believe “Desrochius” may be a Latinised version of the name), but again I am unsure if the Rochat line is the Huguenot line Alice is referring to, or if there is another Huguenot ancestor in the paternal Smith line.

I have found a Death Duty Register record that reveals Joseph Smith died in 1823, but I do not know his age, so do not know when he was baptised. I believe I will have to view the Ainstable parish records themselves to find out when Joseph was born.

Another clue I have recently discovered is one on the Cumbria Archives online catalogue that refers to a record that is described as a “Memorandum of agreement on exchange of land on behalf of Lord Carlisle with John Smith of Beckside, Ainstable”. This is possible Joseph’s father or grandfather.

Remembrance Day 2013

Posted on 11th November 2013

Remembrance Day is an event very close to my heart, and I am incredibly proud of my military ancestors, even those I did not meet. This is an updated version of an article I wrote a back in 2011 about the brave men in my family who fought in the world wars.

Harry Collingwood Mitton


My great-grandfather Harry Collingwood Mitton’s name on the Memorial of The Missing at Thiepval in France.

My mother’s paternal grandfather, Harry Collingwood Mitton, was born in 1888 in Mungrisdale, Cumberland. He was a Private in the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry during the First World War. He fought in the Battle of The Somme, and like the hundreds of thousands of other soldiers, he was sadly killed in action. He fought in a particularly bloody battle near Martinpuich, one that resulted in high casualties for both the British and Germans. Haryy was killed on the 29th September 1916; he was 28 years old. He sadly has no known grave, and consequently, his name appears on the Memorial of The Missing in Thiepval, France. Harry left a wife and three children behind, including my grandfather John.


My great-grandfather Harry Collingwood Mitton’s name on the War Memorial in Chopwell, County Durham, England.

Harry’s name is also on the war memorial in Chopwell, County Durham (where he and his family lived), and on a plaque inside the church in the village. Frustratingly, both were mispelt as “Mitten”. His name is also inside the church in Ainstable, Cumberland, the village where his mother’s family was from and where he lived for most of his childhood. There was a story that his aunt commissioned a stone mason to carve Harry’s name onto the church wall, but he instead carved “Henry Mitton”. Although Harry did occasionally use this name, the aunt was apparently furious and refused to pay the stonemason because of the mistake.

Jown Lawrence Mitton

My grandfather John Lawrence “Jack” Mitton was born in 1913 in Chopwell, County Durham, England and joined the Durham Light Infantry at the age of 23. He later joined the Welsh Guards, eventually reaching the ranks of Lance Corporal. He fought in the Second World War and was captured as a prisoner of war in May 1940 at Boulogne during the Battle of France. He was held at the Stalag VIII-B POW camp in Lamsdorf in Germany (now Łambinowice in Poland) for 5 years. During the winter of 1945, he was made to walk nearly 400 miles in the “Lamsdorf Death March” before being liberated and making his way back home just in time to see his sister before she sadly died due to cancer. Whilst stationed at Sandown Park in Esher, Surrey, he met and consequently married my grandmother on the 27th December 1945. Jack died aged 83 in 1997. Although I do have fond memories of Jack, I was unfortunately too young to find out more about his life and family history.

Frank Vickery Bradford

My mother’s maternal grandfather, Frank Vickery Bradford, was born in 1898 in Thames Ditton, Surrey, England. He worked in the post office as a young man before serving as an Wireless Operator in the RAF. His service records revealed that he fought in both world wars. Like his future son-in-law Jack, my great-grandfather was also a prisoner of war during WW2 for over 5 years. He was held at Stalag Luft III in Sagan in Germany (now Żagań, Poland), the same POW camp where the Great Escape took place. Frank was there at the time of the escape, but he wasn’t directly involved as an escapee, as only 3 prisoners managed to escape alive. He was likely to have known about the plan, or even assisted in it, as many of the prisoners were. According to family stories, Frank “wasn’t the same man” when he came back, and died aged 62 in 1960.

Thomas McMahon

My paternal grandfather also served in the Second World War. Thomas McMahon was born in 1913 in Miltown Malbay, County Clare, Ireland, and from what I have been told, that as an Irishman, he wasn’t allowed to serve for the English Army so instead joined the Scottish Army, eventually becoming a Corporal in the 1st Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. I am in the process of obtaining my grandfather’s service records but I know from other family members that he served in both Assam in India and in Burma Campaign. I have been told stories by my aunt about his time during the one. One story was that during combat, a grenade landed in Thomas’ unit’s trench. In an incredible act of bravery, Thomas picked up the grenade and threw it away, only for it to detonate soon after he let go, consequently blowing apart several of his fingers that he later had wired back together. Another story tells how in Burma, he was captured by the Japanese and was made to line up to be executed by the Japanese soldiers. With only a few men ahead of him, and many already hanged, some American pilots flew overhead and the Japanese soldiers fled.

The men I have talked about above are the reason I wear a poppy. Although they are all very sad tales – especially that of my great-grandfather who was killed at such a young age – I am extremely proud to be descended from such brave people. I cannot even imagine the terrible things they went through for their country. I have the same respect for any man or woman serving in the armed forced today.

Help needed! Where is “Lasell, North America”?

Posted on 30th September 2013

I recently discovered – and in the process, knocked down a long-standing brick wall in my research – a newspaper article that contained a death notice for my 3x great-grandfather Thomas Collingwood. He was a bit of a mystery before, but I have confirmed that he died in the USA in 1853, aged just 31. He left Liverpool in 1850 with his wife and young son, arriving in New Orleans, and could then be found in the 1850 US census living in St Charles, Missouri. Some time before his death, his pregnant wife and his son headed back to England where their daughter Agnes – my great-great-grandmother – was born in 1852.

The death notice, printed in the Carlisle Patriot, the Newcastle Courant and a number of other papers on Saturday 12th November 1853, read:

“At Lasell, North America, on the 25th August, aged 31, Thomas, son of the late Capt. W. D. Collingwood, of Sunderland”

As I had never heard of a place called Lasell in the USA, I did a little research into where it was. The majority of the results I found all referred to a Lasell College based in Auburndale, Newton, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1851 as the Auburndale Female Seminary by Edward Lasell, who was inspired to invest more in women’s education. My guess was that perhaps Thomas was teaching at the college in the 1850s, so I got in contact with their library to find out more. My email was forwarded to their archivist who very nicely did a search in their records for any mention of Thomas.

Sadly, nothing came up from the search but she did find reference to an island in Maine called Lasell Island. A bit of searching revealed this to be a small island in the West Penebscot Bay and now contains only a holiday home. I think it is unlikely that Thomas was here. Perhaps he did briefly work at Lasell College, yet no records of him there exist.

Would readers of the newspapers have known where “Lasell, North America” was? How well-known was the college at this point? Would “Newton, Massachusetts” or “Boston, Massachusetts” been more widely recognised?

Can you help me find where ‘Lasell, North America’ is? Or perhaps any other reference to Dr Thomas Collingwood in the USA in the 1850s?

The bad side to genealogy

Posted on 6th September 2013

For most people, myself included, genealogy is an exciting experience that is exciting, thrilling and at times heartbreaking. However, it is still very enjoyable, and finding out about our predecessors’ lives – whether they lived in prosperity or poverty – is something us genealogists will continue to do no matter what we uncover.

A couple of months ago, I have my first negative experience of researching my family tree. I am going to be very vague, as the matter in hand relates to many people still living, and it would be completely insensitive to post details about the matter online.

I received an email from a cousin who filled me in on some information about a not-so-distant (and only fairly recently deceased) relative. What they told me was very shocking. I didn’t know much about this person’s life to start with, but what I found out was still completely unexpected. It did however explain a lot of what I knew about the views and attitude towards family and genealogy of some of the close family involved. After receiving and processing the information I received, I almost wished I had never enquired into this relative.

Typically when we find an ancestor or relative from generations back in a criminal records register, or one that is a bit of a black sheep, in our research, it is usually quite an exciting find to have a bit of drama in the family tree. However when the relative is one who wasn’t alive that long ago, and well within living memory, that thrill just isn’t there. I think we always try and assume the best of people, when sadly it’s not always like that.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

A brick wall finally knocked down

Posted on 7th August 2013

Yesterday was one of my most lucrative and rewarding days in my research for a long time. I was half way through writing an article on a particularly stubborn brick wall, when I thought instead of my usual searches on Ancestry, I’d try searching for some records on Find My Past (which I had recently gained access to) as I have found records on there that are not elsewhere.

The brick wall in question was my 3x great-great-grandfather Thomas Collingwood. I hadn’t found him in many records at all, and it was only due to his father’s uncommon name that I have been able to trace back Thomas’ forebears. Here is what I knew about him before yesterday’s revelations:

The US censuses are not particularly helpful when it comes to places of birth – in 1850, Thomas lists himself as simply being born in “England” and aged 29. His father William was born in Alnwick (Northumberland), married in South Bersted (Sussex), lived in Pagham (Sussex) and Dalston (Cumberland), and would have at some point been in both Wymering (Hampshire) and Halifax (Nova Scotia, British North America); this makes it pretty difficult for me to pin down where Thomas would have been born.

Thomas Collingwood's baptism record
Thomas Collingwood’s baptism record at Charles Church, Plymouth, Devon on 14th November 1821.

I found the baptism record shown in the Parish Records Collections 1538-2005 on FindMyPast. Thomas was baptised at Charles Church in Plymouth, Devon on 14th November 1821. His parents were listed as William Dixon Collingwood, a Lieutenant in the 5th Veteran Battalion, and Phoebe. The address the family were living at was listed as Farum Place – I am yet to find where this is.

This solved where and when Thomas was born. Plymouth makes perfect sense – Thomas’ father William co-owned a boat with his brothers, The Marquess of Bute. This boat would lated be used by Thomas’ sister to emigrate to Australia. William had to travel a lot for his Army career, and his boat might have been the way he did so.

I also had not confirmed where Thomas died. My initial thought was that he died in St Charles in 1851, resulting in his pregnant wife and son heading back to England alone. I did some extensive searching in the British Newspapers 1710-1965 collection on FindMyPast, which amongst many other things (which I will eventually cover in their own posts) revealed when and where Thomas died.

Thomas Collingwood's death notice
Thomas Collingwood’s death notice in the Newcastle Courant, 11th November 1853.

An article in the Newcastle Courant from 11th November 1853, published the death notice shown. It confirms he was the son of Captain W. D. Collingwood, and that he died on 25th August the same year at Lasell in North America. I can only assume this means Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts as there doesn’t appear to be anywhere called Lasell in the United States.

‘Misadventure’ woman dies of heart attack

Posted on 7th May 2013

The following transcription is from an article in Weybridge Herald & News newspaper dated Friday 29th November 1974, with the headline “‘Misadventure’ woman dies of heart attack”. I was given a copy by my aunt, as it describes the circumstances of my grandmother’s death.

A 56-YEAR-OLD woman who died from a heart attack while being given general anaesthetic for an operation at Walton hospital had warned her doctors that she suffered from chronic bronchitis and had experienced difficulties when she underwent a similar operation 19 years previously.

Counsel for the dead woman’s family, Mr. Purchas, suggested that it might have been better to postpone the operation, the Surrey coroner, Lt. Col. George McEwan, was told when he resumed the inquest on Mrs. Bridgitt McMahon, of Cedar Road, Weybridge. A verdict of misadventure was recorded.

Mrs. McMahon died at the hospital on October 28 whilst being given a general anaesthetic prior to an abdominal operation.

Friday’s Faces From The Past — Unknown Children

Posted on 26th April 2013

The photo below was given to me by my stepfather’s mother. She has no idea who the children in the photo are. I still cannot confirm who they are myself, but my guess is that they are siblings, and it is likely one of them is the direct ancestor of my stepfather’s mother. Considering the girl in the pram looks the youngest, I would need to find a female who had four older brothers in her tree that were fairly close in age.

Possibly the Moore siblings

I think the best fit for this would be my stepfather’s mother’s grandfather, Walter John Moore (born 1868), and his younger siblings Albert Edward (1869), William (1870), Jesse (1872) and Caroline (1874). After Caroline, there was one more child born, Clara in 1876. I would estimate this photo was taken around 1875, perhaps before Clara was born. That would make the children around aged 1–7 which looks possible. If this is the Moore siblings, then it would have been taken at Downside Common in Cobham, Surrey.

I could be completely wrong with this, however. Does anyone know anything that could help date the photograph?

Proud to be English – The Knights, Wardens, Sheriffs and Kings in my family

Posted on 23rd April 2013

All of my maternal family tree is English, whilst my paternal family tree is all Irish. I am just as proud to have English blood as I do Irish and as it is St George’s Day, I thought I’d write a relevant blog post. As I could pick any of my maternal ancestors, I thought I’d keep with the theme, and introduce some of the actual knights in my family tree that I’ve recently learnt more about. None of them fought any dragons, sadly.

Most of my family were farmers, coal miners or labourers. Not that their stories are any less interesting, but one branch of my family came from a line of aristocrats and landed gentry. Before censuses and civil registration, these families were much easier traced than “commoners” as their lineages were recorded in publications such as Burke’s Landed Gentry.

My 5th great-grandmother was Elizabeth Forster. She was descended from the Forster family of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. Her own 4th great-grandfather (my 11th great-grandfather), Sir Nicholas Forster, was born in 1545 in Bamburgh. Nicholas was the High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1602, and he was knighted by Elizabeth I in 1603. Nicholas’ parents were Sir John Forster and Jane Radcliffe (daughter of Cuthbert Radcliffe). He married his cousin, Jane Radcliffe (grandaughter of Cuthbert Radcliffe).

The well-travelled Reardon family and the Royal Artillery

Posted on 14th April 2013

About a week ago I decided to revisit some parts of the trees I am researching — parts that I haven’t looked at for a while, or ones where the trail has gone cold. I often do this to see if I can make any progress; sometimes there are new records available that weren’t before, or sometimes just approaching it in a different way can throw up a lead.

I decided to focus my attention on the Reardon line of my step-father’s tree. His grandmother, Mabel Reardon, was born in 1907 in Gosport, Hampshire.


John Reardon and his family living in Gosport in the 1911 census.

In 1911, Mabel is living with her father and siblings in Gosport. Her mother, Mary Ann “Polly”, was not in the household (I am yet to track her down), although Polly’s sister, Blanche Victoria Ball, was. Mabel’s father, John, was a teacher at the nearby Fort Rowner, being used as a Military School. He was born in Trincomalee in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon).

Between 1903 and 1910, John and Polly’s youngest 3 children, John, Mabel and Frederick were all born in Gosport, Hampshire.


John Reardon and his family living at the Royal Garrison Artillery barracks in Scarborough in the 1901 census.

In 1901, John and his wife Polly were living at the Barracks in Scarborough, Yorkshire. John was a Bombardier in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Living with them was their daughter Norah, who was born in Scotland. Polly’s name seems to be have been oddly recorded as “Stary A” on the census return and her place of birth incorrectly recorded as “Birmingham, Warwickshire”. I’m not sure why this is, but there’s enough other evidence to prove this is the correct family.

In 1900, John and Polly’s daughter Norah was born in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1897, John Reardon and Mary Ann “Polly” Ball married in Sheffield, Yorkshire.

I had managed to fairly easily research the family of Mabel’s mother, Mary Ann “Polly” Ball, who came from Heeley in Sheffield, Yorkshire, but John’s overseas birth initially meant my research on the line came to a standstill a while ago.