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The first hit

Victoria Preedy 1900This is the picture that started it all- A photograph stuck to a piece of cardboard with the words “Victoria Preedy 1900” written on the back in my Grandmother’s handwriting.  My Grandmother was born Lily Preedy and as far as I knew was one of five girls- Lily, Rose, Mabel, Maud and Violet, so who was Victoria?  By the time I had found the census record from 1901 with Victoria May and her parents (my great- grandparents) I was hooked.  Victoria May died when she was two so this is surely the only photo taken of her, and my Dad knew nothing about her.  My Grandmother had never mentioned her but kept her photo safe for 80 years. That’s what’s amazing about family history- the things people either try to hide or forget about.

The mysterious William John Vallance

This person dies on 23rd Dec 1925, Cardiff aged 61, and got married on 1st June 1895 also in Cardiff- so far, so straightforward  On both the 1911 and 1901 censuses he says he is from Berwick St John, Berkshire.  If he is from Berwick St. John then he is missing from the birth registers in 1864 and the parish Christening records too.  His birthday was celebrated on 20th March but the only person with the right string of names of approximately the right age is from Teignmouth, about 30 miles away, and can be traced separately through the 1901 and 1911 censuses.

His father is named as John on William’s marriage certificate, so I am working on the basis that a combination of these facts will be the truth (a way of uncovering a mistake, but also a lie is always better being close to the truth).  I have found a William John Cox born in Berwick St John and christened on 22nd April 1864 (father named John) and he completely disappears after the 1891 census.  I can’t find a criminal record of anything to indicate why William John Cox may have changed his name, but I am relying on internet sources, so I don’t have access to everything that is probably waiting in the Records Office.  I should mention that there are no Vallance’s from Berwick St John.  Of course, his family could always have just travelled through the place or he could have lived there when he was young (being born in the middle of the decade, he could have lived somewhere until almost 6 but not be on a census).

None of the three sisters of William John Cox marry anyone with the maiden name of Vallance, but maybe it’s time to check the families that his brothers married into.

I hate these dead ends.  It’s like having an itch that you scratch despite yourself.  Please if you have any ideas let me know!

John Cane Bourne

ImageWorlds End Farm, Hellingly.

So I am still on the trail of John Cane Bourne (as in the last post).  I have had a more concerted look on and found some parish records confirming his three marriages.  When John marries Ann Cornwall (wife number 2, Brighton, 1833) both parties are listed as being widowed.  Being in Brighton is not surprising at all because his son born with wife number 3 lives in Brighton for his whole life, and it is about 30 miles or so from his birthplace of Hellingly but I can’t confirm that Philadelphia had actually died- there is no record anywhere of a burial for a Philadelphia Bourne or Goldsmith (her maiden name) or for anyone with a likely-looking mis-transcription.

The same is then true of Ann Bourne- no burial record. I have so far assumed that her first name is Ann, but a scout through possible marriages between an Ann and a Cornwall in Brighton reveals someone called Mary Ann Weller marrying a John Henry Cornwall in 1826 in the same church that Ann and John Cane Bourne get married in.  A John Cornwall does also die in Brighton in 1830.  It’s all a bit too circumstantial which is a pity!  On with the search…


Here’s to 2014

Happy new yer

Well there is a lot to look back on over the last year both in ‘real’ life and in my research too.  Who can resist the lure of a New Year’s resolution- it’s like having a new exercise book at school with lovely clean pages and you do your best handwriting for about half a page until you make a spelling mistake.  My resolution is to try and be a bit more organised about my research.  I get very distracted by new branches or even people who live next door! which is no good for finishing anything.

I tried my hardest yesterday to make a decent list of the records that are the highest priority to find, as they will unlock quite a bit more.  In making this list I realised that each branch of my family has at least one person who seems to vanish into thin air.   One in particular has a fabulous name: Philadelphia Goldsmith.  I wasn’t expecting someone with this name to elude me for so long, but this is partly because she was born 1800-1810 and married in 1827, before registration and actually neither her first or surname are that uncommon for that period in East Sussex.  The source that this leads me to is the National Archives found at where I found this record

Maintenance order  PAR422/34/2/119  25 Apr 1828

Charles Ovenden of Mayfield, labourer, reputed father of an illegitimate daughter of Philadelphia Goldsmith (born 8 Nov 1828).
This isn’t the man that I wanted to find- I wanted John Cane Bourne who is the father of Frances Bourne but it does lead to questions of whether there are two Philadelphia Goldsmiths in the same place at the same time or if there is some confusion surrounding the marriage and daughter.
There is a great website about the Bournes and associated families so I know quite a lot about John Cane’s heritage and also that he married three times.  He was born in 1805 into a fairly prosperous family that owned a farm- World’s End Farm. He was the elder of two surviving children, the youngest son having died in infancy but it was his younger brother Thomas who was the sole heir to their father.
The village in East Sussex where John Cane Bourne married the elusive Philadelphia Goldsmith.

The village in East Sussex where John Cane Bourne married the elusive Philadelphia Goldsmith.

John Cane Bourne married Philadelphia Goldsmith in August 1827, and their daughter Frances was baptised in October 1828- so a month before the maintenance order above.  I have no idea what happened to Philadelphia then, as there is no burial record that I can find, and John marries Ann Cornwall in May 1833.  Ann also disappears with no burial record and he then marries Isabella Neale, a widow from Newcastle in October 1835.  John and Ann don’t have any children that I know about and he an Isabella have one son- William John Bourne in 1845.
So my list of tasks- to try and track down the death or burial records of Philadelphia and Ann, find the 1841 census record of John, Isabella and Frances.  Let’s see how long I am organised for!
Happy New Year.

1881 UK census

For anyone dipping a toe into family history a great free source of information is the 1881 census, and at the moment it’s the only one which is always completely free.  It’s available on several sites but I tend to use which has a good search facility.  I tested a family member with a very common name- Thomas Evans, gave a 5-year window for his name and the correct one was on the top few results.  Thomas George Evans, born 1875 was Ivy’s father, so he was my great grandfather.  He was born in Wellington, Shropshire as were most of his siblings but I haven’t found any online christening records to confirm this.  He lived at 27 Neath Yard Road, Llansamlet in 1881 but it doesn’t exist any more, so I’m not sure exactly where it is.  Looking at the area around Llansamlet it was all small collieries and canals and railway lines.  Probably the same as many square miles of south Wales at the time.  I wonder what they would make of us, with plenty to eat, gas central heating, few people with manual jobs like they would have known, life expectancy of over 80 and watching, tapping and prodding several interactive screens at once.  How bizarre.

My Welsh roots

So, I knew that my Grandmother (Ivy Evans) was Welsh, and born just outside Maesteg in 1910.  When I had a quick scout for her family I found them on the 1911 and 1901 censuses in the Bridgend registration district, and saw that they were both English and I thought ‘that’s the extent of the Welsh then’ and resigned myself to it.  I met up with my only Uncle from this side of the family over the summer and it prompted me to do a bit more research.  My great grandmother Jane Williams was only English (born in Cheltenham in 1867) because she was illegitimate and probably sent away from home to have the baby.  Margaret Williams, who was Jane’s mother and was 22 at the time was from Aberystwyth and both of her parents Richard and Elizabeth were also Welsh, from Ceredigion and Conwy.

Some of the most interesting sources I have found have been in connection with Richard Williams who is described on the census as either Grocer or Confectioner.  Welsh newspapers have been put online (and more importantly, indexed) by the National Library of Wales at and there are plenty of references from descriptions of court proceedings through the 1860s and 1870s with Richard not paying his poor tax or water rates and leaving the shop that he rented with a confectionary machine that did not belong to him.  I have found a few other people who share this part of the family tree and it’s always nice to feel (however vaguely) connected to other people,  Anyhow, an eighth of the family tree is Welsh at least back to 1800.  I currently live in a cottage built in the 1790s and it’s quite comforting in some way to think that I have something in common with them.

Myths about the Hamilton-Eedy lot

There are a number of myths that I have no way of substantiating- Ellen Hamilton (nee Collins) was from Cork, so obviously there is a family legend that she was a cousin of THE Michael Collins.  Related to this is the story that James was disowned by his family for marrying a Catholic- certainly his children were raised Catholic and his daughters married the Eedy brothers who were Catholic Irish immigrants.

There is a similar theme of the fall-out from a Protestant-Catholic marriage on the Eedy side of the family a couple of generations before this.  Again the man, Robert Eedy is the Protestant and his second wife Catholic.  They live on Eedy land, a farm (in Cork again).  The myth here is that she had their children christened in secret and the family then got asked to move to a house some distance away.  I will have to do some more work to be certain where the children were christened.  Not for the first time, I wish that so many Irish records hadn’t been destroyed!

But back for the moment to the Hamilton family- I mentioned in the previous post that there may have been a child born to Ellen and James before their wedding in 1864.  There is certainly a James Hamilton born in Q1 (so Jan-March) 1864 in Cardiff and his parents are called James and Ellen Hamilton, but Ellen’s maiden name in Fenton and on the 1871 census, baby James (and a second child, Ellen) are with grandparents in Roath.  I haven’t found the parents in 1871.  Everyone should have at least one middle name which they use consistently so they can be found generations later!  Sometimes you just have a feeling about what you find- I don’t think these identically-named people are related to mine!  Back to Cork’s birth records…

Sgt. James Hamilton

Part 1:

This is my partner’s Great-Great-Grandfather and all I originally knew about him was that his name was James Hamilton and he was allegedly disowned by his family for marrying a Catholic.

He was quite easy to trace on the 1901 census in Cardiff, and the back through to the 1871 census and his marriage to Ellen Collins in Llandaff Cathedral in 1864.  On the 1871 census James has the occupation of ‘Chelsea Pensioner’ so I looked at the military records and was very lucky…I found his full pension record so I was really excited about that- the details are the thing really.  Height, eye colour and all that.  Also the hints like he had good conduct but had been mentioned 22 times in the regimental book.

Working backwards from the dates of his army record which are quite precise, he was born in the parish of Seapatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland between Nov 1829 and Jan 1830.  His father was named Samuel and was a hansom cab-driver.  James joined the Royal Artillery in 1847 when he was 17 years and 9 months and underage to qualify for the service pension and joined up in Lisburn, County Antrim.  He didn’t leave the army until Tuesday 26th April 1870, a total of 22 years, 159 days and was a decorated serviceman who had Lucknow and Sebastapol clasps for service in India and Crimea.  By the time he retired he was a Serjeant.

I don’t know the dates that he was in Crimea, but the war was 1853-56 (and James served 1 year 2 months) and quite soon after that he went out to India (2 years 11 months) probably 1857-59.  An obituary in the Western Mail on Monday 27th Dec 1909 says that he was then a drill serjeant at Maindy Barracks in Cardiff.
He died on Dec 23rd 1909 in Cardiff and left no will.   I couldn’t find an obituary in the South Wales Echo but there was one in the South Wales Daily News (below) He was interred in Cathays cemetary Letter R, No. 2839 but there is no headstone.

The family lived at Clive St and then Bryon St but looking through the maps this was actually the same place as the road changed names sometime between 1881 and 1891. There are no old houses on that street now but I imagine they were similar small terraced houses like the rest of the area.  One family researcher has James and Ellen’s first child being born three months before their marriage and dying in early infancy but I haven’t verified this yet.  Certainly the first two children who survived were Martha and Ellen who married brothers Abraham and Stephen Eedy.

More about this family to follow…



I have always loved maps, mostly old maps. They can be of anywhere, although the more I know about the history of a place, the more interesting it is that it was captured in time.  I have just found the maps that have been georeferenced (old and new maps lined up so you can go from old to new or vice-versa) by the British Library

The house I grew up in is on an 1810 map of Pembrokeshire but the Cardiff map doesn’t extend far enough to see where I live now although the house should have been built by then.

What I would really like is a map where you can scroll through time and see the development of the railways, roads, houses etc. If anyone knows of one then send me the link.