Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.
Showing posts with label Brett. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brett. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Essex Police Museum

The Federation of Family History Society recently emailed a message from the Essex Police Museum. They have a large archives and a website to help people tracing their family history. The museum is open every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, although the office is staffed Monday to Friday for enquiries and group tours. Further information can be found on their website http://www.essex.police.uk/museum/

Note: This seemed like a small museum that may only help a few people, but their website is a big surprise. I recommend you spend some time reviewing its features, and I wonder if other counties have similar facilities or websites.

It is easy to look for the service records of an ancestor that you suspect might have been a policeman in Essex. I entered the surname “BRETT” and got four results. They had the full records for one person, and I could order the file for £20. The other three were considered incomplete, but here is one as an example which I think contains a fair amount of information.

145 Alfred Brett served between 1842-05-24 - 1842-07-31

Unfortunately we have no complete record of service for Alfred Brett but we do have the following information:

Date of birth: 1814

Place of birth: West Hanningfield

Occupation: Labourer

Date of death: 0000-00-00

Reason left force: Discharged - Incapacity

Copyright: the Essex Police Museum

The museum also publishes a series of booklets collectively known as ‘History Notebooks’. There are over 50 titles many of which have a person’s name included, such as ‘The Murder of Sergeant Eves’. Each one is downloadable as a pdf file at no charge.


Becky Wash, Museum Curator
Direct Dial: 01245 457 150
Essex Police Museum, PO Box 2, Headquarters, Springfield, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 6DA

Are there other police museums out there? Yes! I googled ‘police museum UK’ and got the following and a few more.

Greater Manchester Police Museum www.gmpmuseum.com
City of London Police Museum www.citypolicemuseum.org.uk
West Midlands www.westmidlandspolicemuseum.co.uk

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: historicaldirectories.com

A group at the University of Leicester is digitizing and posting historical directories for England and Wales on this easy to remember website, www.historicaldirectories.com.  Like their U.S. counterparts often called street directories, these reference books have lists of names that fall into two categories – heads of households living in the area covered, and lists of people by profession or job. Not every household head was listed. It appears that social class made a difference. The directories also tend to have a description of the village or city at the time of publication, including its population and names of churches and chapels.

I have not see U.S. equivalents for two other types of directories included on the site. One type is called Post Office Directories which have street lists used for mail delivery. Trade or business directories, on the other hand, only list commercial companies and professionals with work addresses.

While the site has directories from 1750 to 1919, it was the 1850s before the directories were published widely. The website is very easy to use and has its menu on the top left of the home page. There are three ways to search for a directory – by location, by decade, and by keywords.  After you select a directory, you can search by surname.

Selecting 'History Notes' from the menu at the upper left, you will find a list of genealogy websites, many that have been described on this blog.

In the 1869 Directory of Cambs, Norfolk and Suffolk, there were 62 hits for my family name ‘BRETT’, but it was really more like 31 because each person was in the household list and the professional list. My GGG grandfather was a shoemaker. He had a son, John BRETT, who was a shoemaker in Upwell, Norfolk in the 1851 and 1861 British Censuses. I have lost him after that and was quite happy to see a John BRETT, shoemaker in Caston, NFK in the 1869 Directory.  In the 1871 Census, the Caston John BRETT, claimed to have been born in Rockland St. Peters, home of another large BRETT clan, and he was a couple  of years younger than my John. Worse for me, he has an 18 year old daughter who was born in Caston, so he probably wasn’t living in Upwell in 1851. Alas no match this time.
Thanks to my friend, Edy Browne, for introducing me the www.historicaldirectores.com.

                                                                                                                ©2013, Susan Lewis Well


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Brett Family and Non-Conformity, Part 3

Two of Thomas and Martha HAYLETT BRETT’s daughter were Methodists in this country. Please refer to previous posts for details of other family members.

Hannah BRETT PARSONS, her husband, John PARSONS and three children accompanied her father, Thomas BRETT, to America in 1854. With them were Thomas’ youngest daughter, Eliza, my great grandmother; and his two sons, Thomas and James. They settled in Niagara County, New York, joining family member, Rachel BRETT BARKER at first in the town of Cambria.
Eliza BRETT married William LEWIS on 17 Dec 1856. The ceremony was performed by a Justice of the Peace, witnessed by Joseph and Rachel BRETT BARKER. Eliza and William lived in one more Niagara County town before settling sometime prior to 1870 in the Town of Newfane. The records of the United Methodist Church on Main Street which begin in 1863 show both she and her sister, Hannah PARSONS, were active as early as 1878, while their husbands were ‘probationers’ who never became full members. (See FHL US/CAN Film 1378854)

The first family event recorded was the marriage of Hannah’s son, John B. PARSONS in 1874. In 1878, Hannah, a probationer, and Eliza belonged to the same twelve-member class, led by H.S. Earl that met in the center of town. Hannah was received into full membership on 5 Oct 1884 and remained a member until 1905.
My great grandmother was involved in this church and encouraged other family members, too. Her new daughter-in-law, Addie L. FISK, wife of William N. LEWIS, and her infant son, Clinton B. LEWIS, were baptized on 29 Sep 1897. Addie was on the probationers list for about one year after that; then became a full member in Aug 1898. A German immigrant niece of her husband joined the church and was married in the Lewis’ home by the Methodist minister.

Thomas Brett’s two sons’ religion is harder to track. Like their sisters, they were baptized in the Church of England, according to the registers in Swaffham, NFK. Thomas H. Brett lived most of his life in Michigan. Civil records of his first wife’s death and his remarriage do not include information about clergy. His brother, James Brett, was married by a Justice of the Peace in Ashkum, Iroquois, Illinois before he enlisted in the Civil War and died at Andersonville Prison Camp, Georgia.
Methodism: The Methodists trace their beginnings to a popular movement begun in 1738, when John Wesley and his brother, Charles, later the great hymnist, undertook evangelistic preaching with an emphasis on conversion and holiness. The brothers established a Holy Club at Oxford University devoted to study, prayer and serving the underprivileged. They were labeled "Methodist" by other students because of the way they used "rule" and "method" to perform their religious duties.

Though both Wesley brothers were ordained ministers of the Church of England, they were barred from   most of its pulpits because of their evangelistic methods. They preached in homes, farm houses, barns, and open fields - wherever they found an audience. Neither Wesley set out to create a new church, but instead began several small faith-restoration groups within the Church of England. Soon however, Methodism spread and eventually became its own separate religion in the 1740s.

“George Whitefield (1714-1770) was a minister in the Church of England and also one of the leaders of the Methodist movement. Some believe that he more than John Wesley is the founder of Methodism. He is famous for his part in the Great Awakening movement in America...Whitefield parted ways with Wesley over the doctrine of predestination.”  Source: www.christianity.about.com, Mary Fairchild, Methodist Church History

The website of the Newfane, New York, United Methodist Church states, “Methodists have believed, from the beginning, that each of us is called to participate in the outreaching ministry of Jesus Christ. John Wesley described this work in simple, practical terms: ‘Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can.’ Putting our faith into action is at the very heart of our Christian calling.” The LDS filmed records of this congregation start in 1863, and it is noted that the name until 1881 was the Newfane Circuit. After that, it was called the Second Methodist Episcopal Church of Newfane, and still later the United Methodist Church. See FHL US/CAN Film [1378854]

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Brett Family and Non-Conformity, Part 2

After coming to Niagara County, New York, USA, three of Thomas BRETT’s daughters remained there. One was most likely a Universalist and the other two were active members of the Methodist church in the town of Newfane. (Please see last week’s post for details.)

Second daughter, Rachel BRETT, was married to Joseph BARKER in the Swaffham, Norfolk parish church and had her sons baptized there, but then they moved to Cambria, Niagara County, NY.  They were the family “pioneers” coming to the U.S. about five years before Thomas Sr. and the other children. Rachel and her daughter, Martha, are buried next to her father, Thomas BRETT, in the North Ridge community cemetery. I have not been able to confirm that she was  a Universalist like her father.

Universalism: “Universalists are Christians who believe in universal salvation, meaning that all people will eventually be reconciled with God.” The faith did not become a widespread religious movement until English Universalists came to America in the late 1700s to escape religious persecution. Because of its inclusive doctrine, Universalism became popular in America, and the Universalist Church of America was formed in 1793.

Universalists were best known for supporting education and non-sectarian schools, but they also worked on social issues including the separation of church and state, prison reform, capital punishment, the abolition of slavery, and women's rights.

The Universalist faith declined after the Civil War. As the concept of damnation became less central to many American religious groups, the Universalist faith seemed less unique in its teachings, and its membership waned. In 1961, The Universalists merged with the Unitarians to form the Unitarian Universalist Association, whose website, www.uua.org, details the above history.

“The First Universalist of the Town of Cambria [Niagara County, NY] was organized in 1867, consisting of 34 members; at the present time it has 50.” (1878) A brick church was built in 1868 on donated land at a cost of $6000. Two wooden churches nearby housed a catholic and a German Lutheran congregation with a community cemetery dominating the landscape, directly behind the Universalist and the Lutheran Churches. There was a Methodist Church on the same road a short distance away. Source:_______. History of Niagara County, N.Y., New York: Sanford and Co. 1878

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Brett Family and Non-Conformity, Part 1
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to explore the non-Anglican religions in Norfolk, England to see if my family in the market town of Swaffham might be involved. Because they were agricultural laborers and thus, poorer, they might have a tendency to join one of the newer sects, before or after they immigrated to the U.S. and Australia. In the chart below, I summarized the results by listing my GGGrandfather, Thomas BRETT, and his five daughters, including my great grandmother, Eliza:

Baptisms & Marriages-
Norfolk, England
Religion as Older Adult-UK/USA/Australia
Thomas Brett, father
Church of England
Sarah Brett Blyth (UK)
Church of England
Church of England
Rachel Brett Barker
Church of England
Hannah Brett Parsons
Church of England
Susan Brett Griffin
Church of England/Particular Baptist
Church of England/ Wesleyan
Eliza Brett Lewis
Church of England

While living in England, all six family members were baptized and married in the COE. Susan BRETT was baptized in the COE, but then married in the Particular Baptist chapel. The five who left the UK were active and buried with rites of non-conformist denominations.
Thomas BRETT married Martha HAYLETT in Great Dunham, NFK on 8 Dec 1823 in the Church of England (COE) parish church. They lived in Swaffham where Thomas had grown up and had 7 children baptized in the COE parish church: Sarah (1824), Rachel (1826), Hannah (1829), Susan (1832), Thomas (1835), Eliza (1837), and James (1839). Martha HAYLETT BRETT died in 1850, and her burial is recorded in the COE register. The three eldest daughters married in the COE church in Swaffham. 

James’ birth, Martha’s death and the three girls weddings happened after civil registration began so the fact that the events are recorded in the COE registers may be evidence that they were faithful COE members at those times. According to the 1851 Religious Census, there were non-conformist groups to participate in, if they had an inclination.
On the other hand, between 1754 and 1837 all marriages had to occur in the COE to be recognized. This would include Thomas BRETT’s marriage to Martha HAYLETT in 1823. The COE was reluctant to marry people who had not been baptized in the church. The daughters may have been baptized in the COE to avoid future problems.

Then Susan BRETT married Allen GRIFFIN on 5 Mar 1854 at the Particular Baptist Chapel in Swaffham, the first documented evidence that I have found that anyone in the family had non-conformist tendencies. This couple emigrated to Australia in 1855, declaring themselves as Baptists on the ship’s manifest. However, the baptisms of their many children are recorded in the Wesleyan and two Anglican churches. The ministers at Susan and Allen’s funerals were listed as Wesleyan and Methodist respectively.
Who were the Particular Baptists: Baptists are set apart from other protestant groups because they believe in adult baptism by immersion. An Englishman founded this religion while in the Netherlands. One of his followers came back to London and established the first Baptist chapel there in 1612. About twenty years later, there was a split – one group was called the General Baptists and the other the Particular Baptists. The latter sect put a greater emphasis on predestination.

By 1851, the Particular Baptist Chapel in Swaffham, NFK was on White Cross Lane in its own separate building. Founded in 1823, it had Sunday Schools in two other locations.

Thomas Sr., Thomas Jr., Eliza, James, Hannah and her husband, John PARSONS, and her children arrived in the United States in 1854. Thomas Sr. died in upstate New York on 11 March 1875. The funeral was held two days later at the Universalist Church at North Ridge, Niagara, NY, and he was buried in a community cemetery behind the church, a second incidence of non-conformity.
It is in the lives of Thomas’ children, especially his five daughters that the religious diversity is further illustrated. His oldest daughter, Sarah BRETT, is the one exception. She married William BLYTH or BLIGH in Swaffham, remained in England, and seemed to record events in the Church of England records throughout her life. Her first husband’s burial and her remarriage were recorded in the parish register also.

Note: This family’s immigration and religious beliefs are the subject of two future blog posts.
  ©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Non-Conformists and Dissenters in the Family

I have Non-Anglicans in my UK family tree. Their religious records are especially clear after they immigrate to the United States and Australia. How can you tell that your ancestors might not have attended the Church of England (COE)?  In my search, I found an obit clipped from an unknown Niagara County, New York newspaper in a family bible:

BRETT. – In Cambria, March 11th, 1875, at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Rachel Barker, Mr. Thomas Brett, aged 75 years and 3 months.
            Funeral Saturday, March 13th, at the Universalist church, Cambria, at 2 o’clock P.M. Friends are invited to attend

I found this very early while looking for documents my family already owned, but didn’t really think about its significance. Thomas Brett was baptized, married, and his wife was buried in the Church of England. All of his children were baptized in the COE. Did convenience enter into the decision to associate with a Universalist church? To some extent yes, I think. This crossroads in the county had three churches and a community cemetery. One Church was Roman Catholic; the second was ‘German” Lutheran still having services in German; and this Universalist congregation. Checking the 1878 History of Niagara County would give me an idea of how far away an Episcopal/Anglican Church was.
Did I only find records of Non-Anglican churches after they left England? That seems to be the case with one exception.

Thomas’ daughter, Susan, married Allen Griffin in the Particular Baptist Chapel, Swaffham, Norfolk in Mar 1854. The Griffins arrived in Geelong, Australia in June 1855, declaring themselves Baptists on the ship’s manifest. The baptisms of their many children are recorded in the Wesleyan and two Anglican churches. The ministers at Susan and Allen’s funerals were listed as Wesleyan and Methodist respectively.
Note: People who do not adhere to the Church of England are called non-conformists or dissenters. In the past, only Protestants were so labeled, but now Herber uses the terms to include everyone (Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews). Christensen uses the term Non-Anglican to cover all the groups. I will use all three terms to mean anyone not affiliated with the COE.

All birth, marriages and deaths were recorded by civil authorities after 1837 so the parish records are no longer as critical to genealogists.  Before Civil Registration, if you know that your family was Non-Anglican, you need to find out where the registers of their church are held. (I will discuss in a later post.)
If you can’t find them in the COE parish records and begin to suspect they might be non-conformist, you need to find out what denominations were active in their geographical area. The 1851 Religious Census that I introduced in my last post will be helpful here. If your ancestor flirted with a non-conformist sect for awhile, it might explain why eight of the ten known children are baptized in the COE records and two are missing.  

Many people have told me that the British could be baptized, marry and be buried from the Church of England and never step foot in the established church again in their lifetimes.*  How could this happen? Here are a few examples that suggest that it could:
Before Queen Victoria’s time, “no one could obtain a government post without producing proof of baptism in the Established Church.” (Hey, page 189.)  The COE was reluctant to marry people who had not been baptized in the church. (Christensen, page 69.) If you have an ancestor baptized in the COE records as a young adult, it might be for one of these reason. If people marry and have no children in the baptism records, it might be infertility or immigration, but look for children in the registers of other denominations.

Before 25 April 1754, marriage records can present a challenge, but from that date through 1837, marriages for all but Quakers and Jews had to conform to Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 which required COE marriage for everyone. Non-Anglican and civil marriages began again in 1837, but for this 81 year period, all marriages should be able to be found in the COE records and sometimes a second time in a non-conformist chapel register. Herber explains:
     “Hardwicke’s Act required a marriage to be performed in the parish church of one of the spouses(or in certain designated chapels) by an Anglican clergyman, in the presence of at least two witnesses, and only after the publication of banns or by the authority of a valid marriage license.“ (Herber, page 124)

Of course, there were many holdouts who would only marry in their non-conformist religion. Christensen points out (page 30) that then a will might refer to a women as ‘my reputed wife who now lives with me’ or by her maiden name because a non-Anglican marriage confers no legal standing for the wife or subsequent children.
Burials in the parish cemetery might have been the only option available. Some COE clergy are said to have required a COE service before a burial could take place there. If the burial record uses the word ‘interred’, Hey says it might be a non-conformist without a service.  It was into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before non-conformist churches had their own burial grounds and that private, commercial cemeteries were established.  

After reading Christiansen’s three lists about how to spot Non-Anglican ancestors (pages 26-32); one each for protestant dissenters, Catholics and Jews, I think it still comes down to unusual things in the parish registers before 1837. Let’s for the moment only consider the signs that ancestors may be involved in other protestant sects. Baptism records seem to be the key. Some sects, like Quakers and Baptists, did not believe in infant baptism so there may be no entry in the COE parish records or an entry that reads more like a birth announcement only. From 1690, parishes were required to have records of everyone born there, but Non-Anglican children may be on a separate list or listed by gender and date only because the clergyman believed the child had not received a name through baptism.

Often you find several children in a family baptized on the same day which can be a sign of returning to the COE after a period with a non-conformist sect or just lazy parents. Another possibility is that the more non-conformist parent had died, and the other parent has hurried to get the children baptized into the COE. The parish council was in charge of poor relief, and they may have forced baptism on the poor, elderly or sick in order for them to receive benefits.

Non-conformity is related to social and professional standing. Few dissenters were in the army or navy, for example. These people were enthusiastic about new ideas, education and social reforms. They had a tendency to belong to certain political parties and movements. Because they were not eligible for government jobs, they concentrated on business and trade. Some were able to take full advantage of the industrial revolution and the shift of power from rural to urban locations.
It would be helpful to know when each non-conformist sect made its appearance in Britain. All three references below have the information, but the chart in Christensen, page 24, might be the easiest to use.

* England has a state church and religion. While it is not so hard to understand the particulars with a good reference book in hand, I still have some trouble embracing the concept. It is so far from the American experience.

Sources: Christensen, Dr. Penelope. Researching English Non-Anglican Records. Toronto, Canada: Heritage Productions 2003.

Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company 2006.
Hey, David. The Oxford Guide to Family History. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1993.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – www.gbnames.publicprofiler.org

Let me introduce you to my latest favorite website – www.gbnames.publicprofiler.org.  It’s a surprise to me, a person who before this was not very interested in surname origins and frequencies. However, this is a great site to explore. (Professors at University College London gathered the data, and there may be more functions than I have figured out and described here.)

The full name of the site was once perhaps Great Britain Names, but they have expanded so click ‘Great Britain Family Names Profiler’ from the list on the home screen. Notice the other interesting choices there, such as World Names Profiler. When you type in a name at the next prompt, another screen brings up a list of name variations and meanings of the names.  Click the name you want, and the next screen shows a map of Great Britain with areas of high frequency highlighted in shades of blue.
I first tried the family name, BRETT, and from the list of variations, I clicked again on BRETT. A map of the whole island; England, Wales and Scotland, appeared on the left. The darkest hue was in Essex and Kent and secondly, in Norfolk and Suffolk, with some lighter areas along the southern coast. On the right side of the screen is a large scale map of Greater London that showed the BRETTS only on the east side of the city.

I tried another family name, HAYLETT, and the map showed an even higher concentration in East Anglia. As I tried a few more names from my family tree which is really a study of my Norfolk ancestors, I realized that I needed to use another name to see if other parts of the map actually lit up. The name that came to mind was David Cameron, the present UK prime minister. The blue showed  up in western Scotland and only there.
There are two choices of maps – 1881 and 1998. Just click on the earlier time and see the concentration then and the later date to see how migration within the UK changed the traditional places associated with the name.  The BRETT name shows itself in York and Hull area on the 1998 map as well as in the southeast.

One drawback is that the areas correspond with UK postal codes, not the usual county outlines genealogists are used to, but as you pass your cursor over an area, the name of a city appears. For example, holding the cursor over what I believe is Norfolk brings up “NR-Norwich”, the postal code, for the  county seat of Norfolk.
OT (Off Topic) – There are other maps like this on the internet. A present day map of Poland with name frequencies can be found at www.moikrewni.pl/mapa. Google Translator came in handy here.

The name meanings are a bonus as far as I am concerned. I found out that LEWIS is a Welsh name. Too bad my great grandfather with that name was born in Germany. Ah, the brick wall.

Monday, November 28, 2011

One-Name Studies

Did you notice an unfamiliar phrase in my post about the Federation of Family History Societies? I consider a one-name study or a one-name society a thoroughly British invention, although some of us are essentially studying one name in an area during a specific time frame as we do our everyday research .

According to the Guild of One-Name Studies in London, this research involves the study of the genealogy and family history of all people with the same surname and its variants. You can find more information at their website
www.one-name.org .

Most of us start with ourselves and go back in time creating what is called an ancestor chart of our direct ancestors, or we look for all the descendants of an ancient relative of ours. Many of us also record any instance of a surname in an area hoping to later connect them to our tree. For example, when reading parish records in Norfolk, I write down people with the names BRETT or HAYLETT. I assume someday I will figure out how they are related to me. One-name studies build on these informal notes, but are much more.

The Guild site gives you guidelines about what names are appropriate for a one-name study, obviously not ‘Smith.’  Frequency, both too few and too many occurrences, is the chief criteria, it seems. The site also has a very good section about the origin of surnames – occupations, place names, etc. 
Perhaps most useful is their list of surnames that already have studies started on them.  Almost 8000 names have been registered by 2500 researchers. I struck out with six of my Norfolk names, but I found that DALGLIESH, the fictional detective, is being studied. By clicking on the name, I found a page detailing the progress of Steven Daglish.

This society has meetings and produces journals, all described on the site. In this electronics age, surprisingly, there is an 800 number for use by North Americans 1-800-647-4100. The email is guild@one-name.org.
One of these 2500 researchers may have information on your branch of the family so check it out.

©2011, Susan Lewis Well

Monday, October 3, 2011

Funeral Card Friday - A Cautionary Tale

My family’s prized Victorian memorial card is daintily embossed and edged in black. It probably was not printed at the time of the funeral, however, because the year of the death is wrong. Civil records of Swaffham, Norfolk, England show that Elizabeth Brett died at age 96 years on 24 November 1866, not 1867. The village is small, and no other person of this name and age died in 1867.

Elizabeth Rich married William Brett on 4 Nov 1794. Looking for a birth about 1770 as her age at death suggests, I found a baptism for Elizabeth Rich on 12 Dec 1773. Of course she may not have baptized as an infant, but this christening means her death age may only have been 94 years. However in the 1841 British Census her age is 69 years; in 1851, it’s 78 years and in 1861, it’s 89 years – all indicating a birth in 1772 or 1773. The memorial card is probably wrong on this point too.

There are at least one or two more discrepancies. After seventeen years researching this family, I found only eleven children of William and Elizabeth baptized in the parish church. The births began two years after marriage and continued at regular intervals of 1-3 years until 1818 when until Elizabeth was in her mid-forties. I have found 39 grandchildren with only two children’s offspring unknown at this point.

Perhaps a descendant had the money and respect to print the card and distribute it to family members a few years after the fact, or “1867” is simply a typo.

All challenges aside, I’m happy to have this card because it set guidelines and suggested areas of research. The name of the Norfolk town had come down in oral history, but the only other written reference was in a family bible where it was misspelled, but may suggest the proper Norfolk dialect pronunciation.

The moral to this tale is that a funeral/memorial card is a secondary source so verify everything, even the death date.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why the Twin Specialties

I have decided to blog about genealogy with emphasis on U.S. land records and English research. Many of you are wondering why the widely separate specialties so here is the inside scoop.

Before I was a genealogist, I was a real estate broker and appraiser. Both careers required knowledge of deeds, especially retrieving them, understanding their clauses and comparing the land description with a map or survey. I did not learn about these records from a genealogical prospective. I came to genealogy knowing about land records and have a slant that I hope you will find helpful.

My great grandmother, Eliza BRETT, was born in Norfolk, England, in the medium sized parish of Swaffham. Her line was easy to trace using my local LDS Family History Center in Massachusetts. Their web site, www.familysearch.org, now has Norfolk parish records online to help with new inquiries.

I joined the very helpful Norfolk Family History Society in 1995 and recommmend that all English researchers join their county society as soon as possible.  A list of societies can be found at www.genuki.org.uk. (Click 'Societies' from the list on the right side of the home screen and then the first choice on the next list.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Finding James BRETT

When a version of my first post, James BRETT Died at Andersonville, was published in the Norfolk Ancestor, I received several compliments on the vast amount of research that I must have done. As one should, I smiled and emailed my thanks. In reality, I was pretty lucky with James BRETT, and the search was fairly easy and educational.

James’ basic information was found in very traditional ways. The births/baptisms of his family members and himself were found in 1995 on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library. The parish records of St. Peter’s and Paul’s Church, Swaffham, Norfolk, are now available at www.familysearch.org. Ancestry.com was the source for immigration records (New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957) and the U.S. Censuses for 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900.

I found James’ interesting Civil War history on 24 Jan 2008 while Googling. He appeared at www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/prisoners.htm, the National Park Service site for Civil War Soldiers and Sailors. It provided very basic facts unknown to me at the time. He was in the Civil War, in Company K of the 88 Illinois Infantry, and died 24 July 1864 at Andersonville. There was his capture date and place, as well – 20 Sep 1863 at Chickamauga, GA. What a fabulous find! It is hard to find so much in one record.

On the same day, I found his state record at the excellent site of the Illinois Secretary of State, www.ilsos.gov/genealogy/CivilWarController. There were his personal characteristics; height, complexion, hair and eye color followed by his service record. Now I knew the date he enlisted in the 88th and the day they mustered, all in Chicago. A history of this state’s involvement in the war was found at http://www.illinoiscivilwar.org/.

The Civil War had never been fascinating to me before James entered my life so I had to check whether Andersonville was the infamous prison. That was easily done a few days later at another part of the National Park Service site www.nps.gov/seac/histback.htm. It was probably worse than I remembered from high school history. Next I read Chapter 7, Civil War Prisons: a Study of War Psychology, by William Best Hesseltine, borrowed from the local library. This book was written in 1930 and reprinted in 1998. More general information, especially about enlistment procedures, was found at http://www.civilwarhome.com/. 

I requested the ‘small’, less expensive pension records from NARA and found James' marriage to Marie; the birth of his child, Henrietta; and Marie’s remarriage to James Cloke. Marie and her lawyer did not mince words on her application – the cause of James’ death was ‘starvation by the rebels.’

Friday, April 8, 2011

James BRETT died at Andersonville

Right now we are commemorating the beginning of the Civil War. Little did I know that I would find a soldier with a fascinating story in my family tree. I post the details here in my great, great uncle's memory.

When James BRETT was fourteen-years-old, he came to the United States. When he was twenty-four years old, he died at the Confederate Prison Camp at Andersonville, Georgia. The young man, born in Swaffham, Norfolk, UK, had come a long way to lose his life at a tender age at an infamous site in the Civil War.

James BRETT was born 27 August 1839 to Thomas BRETT and Martha HAYLETT, the youngest of seven children. After his mother died in 1850, James BRETT came to the U.S. arriving at the port of New York on 27 July 1854 with his father, two sisters, his brother and other family members. They joined another sister and her family in Niagara County, New York.  While the three daughters stayed near the famous Falls, the 1860 U.S. census shows that Thomas and his two sons moved to Illinois where they farmed.  James’ brother, Thomas Haylett BRETT married his wife, Mary; and had a son, George H. in Ashkum, Iroquois County, Illinois.  There James BRETT married Marie Antoinette AYRS 3 November 1860, and they had a daughter, Henrietta, born 30 August 1861. 

James joined the 88th Illinois Infantry in the late summer of 1862.  At that time, he was five feet four inches tall with fair skin, light hair and blue eyes.  As a private, his pay would have been about $13.00 per month.  Advanced pay and bonuses enticed people like him to enlist.

On September 4, 1862, the 88th Illinois was ordered to go to Louisville, Kentucky where they organized themselves with similar units from nearby states.  In October, the regiment saw battle in Kentucky and over the New Year holiday, it was fighting in Tennessee.  In September 1863, it was in Georgia and joined the Chickamauga campaign where James BRETT was taken prisoner on 20 September 1863, the second day of the Battle of Chickamauga, the last major Confederate victory.

The Civil War prison at Andersonville did not open until February 1864 so BRETT was held somewhere else before then.  Most Confederate prison camps were near the Confederate capitol, Richmond, Virginia, a location that was becoming less secure as union troops pressed south. In the early months, 400 prisoners a day were sent to Andersonville by train. A stockade fence enclosed about 16.5 acres, thought by the commanding officer to be enough room for 10,000 men.  By June, there were about 20,000 prisoners there, and it was decided to enlarge the space by 10 acres.  Over 33,000 prisoners were held in the bigger 26.5 acre prison camp by August, but James did not live to see this scene.  He died of scurvy on 25 July 1864 and was buried in grave number 3940, one of the 13,000 men who died during the fifteen months it operated. 

Overcrowding was not the only issue that made this camp a symbol for the atrocities visited on prisoners of war.  Lack of food and the means to cook and distribute it were contributing factors.  On the very day, James BRETT died, Andersonville’s commanding officer reported to his superiors that he had 29,400 prisoners, guarded by 2650 troops and 500 negroes and laborers and no rations. He was requesting that a ten day supply of food be on hand at all times, but the regular Confederate troops were rationed only one day in advance at that point so there was not going to happen. The camp did not have a central kitchen, although there was a bakery for a short time. The men were divided into smaller units or messes of about 90 men, and they were expected to cook their own food, but wood needed to do that was in short supply as well. As conditions in the South deteriorated, the grain or cornmeal given the inmates came with the husks still on it and is thought to have contributed to deaths from intestinal complaints such as dysentery and diarrhea.     

Northern General Sherman occupied nearby Atlanta, GA in September so the rebel army began moving prisoners from the camp, and there were some signs of better treatment.  Before Christmas, they began to move some men back, and the prisoners numbered about 5000 until the end of the war in April 1865.

After the war, Thomas BRETT moved back to Niagara County, NY and died at the home of one of his daughters, Rachel BARKER, on 11 March 1875.  His second son, Thomas Haylett BRETT lived in Ingham County, MI from at least 1870 onward.  James’ widow, Marie, remarried James CLOKE on Christmas Day, 1870 and had five more children. 

*The ship’s passengers included: Thomas BRETT; his two sons, Thomas Haylett and James; his daughters, Eliza BRETT and Hannah BRETT PARSONS; Hannah’s husband, John PARSONS; Hannah’s children, John H. PARSONS, Ben PARSONS, and Rosetta PARSONS.

(A version of this post was printed in the Norfolk Ancestor,  Volume 7, Part 2, June 2010.)