From north to south: looking to Cornwall

A new chapter, a new county, a new feeling of anticipation.

Recently I’ve been trying to tease out my Northumberland shepherd family.  I’ve been able to find several branches of the same few families, and I know from addresses and naming patterns that the links are there but proof is tantalisingly out of reach.  And I’ve managed to rule out some red herrings.  But I’ve decided to park my work there for that and other reasons, and look for my Cornish ancestors.

Photo of Mousehole Harbour, Cornwall

Mousehole Harbour, Cornwall

My mother still lives in Cornwall and it’s the land of my childhood holidays. A few years back my uncle’s mother-in-law did some work on the Cornish family, but I don’t have access to all of it.  To be honest I don’t mind, I’m quite happy to do it myself, it’s interesting, absorbing and a challenge, and I can picture and visit many of the places they lived and worked and I can put flowers on my great-grandparents’ grave.  And maybe if I get stuck her notes will be there to give me a pointer.

Looking forward to meeting the family!

© Text and photos copyright Lynne Black, 21 March 2015

Worldwide Geneaology Collaboration post: Walter Hindmarsh

Kirk Yetholm, photo by Andrew Bowden

Kirk Yetholm, photo by Andrew Bowden

At the end of 2014 I signed up to do half a dozen posts across 2015 as part of the Worldwide Genealogy Collaboration.  My first post has just gone online today and it’s available here:

Walter Hindmarsh – using enlightened Scottish records for an Englishman

I hope you enjoy it.

Lynne, 21 February 2015

Intrigue and mystery with Scotland’s People in Alloa

Scotland's People area at the Speir's Centre, Alloa

Scotland’s People, Speirs Centre, Alloa

What do you mean, where’s Alloa?! It’s in Clackmannanshire.  What do you mean, where’s Clackmannanshire?!

A few months back Clackmannanshire Council Registry Office made Scotland’s People available in their family history section in the historic Speirs Centre building.  Normally I buy Scotland’s People cards from a library to use as credit for online searches at home.  However I was curious to check out the facilities and I had a lot of records to look up so thought I’d just spend a couple of hours searching for information about the lives of my ancestor’s brothers and sisters.  This is something which I wouldn’t necessarily do online as it would use up credits too easily, but having the time to do unlimited searching was great.

The building, formerly a sports and community centre, was recently refurbished and the Registrar’s Office is on the top floor.  It’s really light and airy, and there can’t be many Scotland’s People Centres where wooden dragons in the rafters keep an eye on your searches.  The searching system is straightforward and there are many local resources, although these weren’t relevant to me as the people I was researching lived in the Borders and in Argyll.

I discovered a few tantalising Kirk session entries including “The Elders rebuked them for their irregular marriage and exhorted them to behave better in time to come” and I also discovered Arthura had her son baptised named Thomas; his father, a surgeon, being abroad she took the vow herself…  Intriguing!  These stories are building up into a fine family saga.

So the Registry staff were lovely and approachable and knowledgeable, and I’ll be back when I want to spend time blitzing the family.  The one negative that really shocked me was that I couldn’t download documents and save them on a data stick.  Really!?  But it was not policy, despite the team being in support of this activity.  Council bosses, go on, go on, go on!  It’s what the customers want…

Lynne Black
14 February 2015

Hannah Drummond and the mystery of Alexander Hindmarsh

Hannah was born at Burdopecrag [Birdhope Crag], near Rochester, Northumberland, in 1834.  This is border country between England and Scotland and just outside what is now the Northumberland National Park.

Picture of River Coquet and Bygate Hall

River Coquet and (I believe) Bygate Hall, Harbottle, Northumberland, from Google Maps

Her father Thomas was a shepherd.  By the time she was 6 she was no longer living with Thomas, his wife Eleanor and their other 7 children who were aged between 15 years and 2 months.  I found Hannah instead living with Adam Hindmarsh, another shepherd, and his wife Hannah in Little Ryle, just over 10 miles to the north-east as the crow flies, 30 as the car drives.

By the 30 March 1851 census she has been joined at her Uncle’s house by her older sister Ann; they are both recorded as his nieces, and their brother Michael, a shepherd, is also there.

In contrast Alexander’s early years are such a mystery that I’ve spent many hours trying to tease out how he’s related to Adam and Hannah Hindmarsh. Census entries state he was born in North Shields, Durham.  The only birth I can find there at the right time says Alexander’s father is called William, so I have the wrong entry as that would give his uncle Adam Hindmarsh two brothers called William, and I know the other one is correct.  Why did his mysterious father travel there?  Love?  Employment?

In the 1851 census I find Alexander working as a shepherd in Grey’s Forest, Glendale, staying at Fleehope House in the College Valley, with the Black family.

Alexander Hindmarsh & Hannah Drummond's wedding announcement, Newcastle Courier

Alexander Hindmarsh & Hannah Drummond’s wedding announcement, Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury, 19 April 1856, © British Newspaper Archive

It appears Alexander and Hannah are actually related to both Adam and Hannah, that Alexander is Adam’s nephew and Hannah Drummond is Hannah’s niece.  Perhaps their match was encouraged as a way to strengthen the relationship between the two families, perhaps the children Adam and Hannah didn’t have. They married in Burdhope in April 1856; their first son, William arrived later that year.

Ariel view of Carham

Carham Farm, Northumberland, from Google Maps

In April 1861 Alexander is away working as a shepherd in Carham, boarding with William and Elizabeth Elliot.  William is a farmer of 129 acres employing 8 labourers, so perhaps he was also Alexander’s employer. Carham is right by the river Tweed – if Alexander had swum across he’d have been in Scotland.

In April 1861 Hannah is back visiting her aunt and uncle at Featherwood.  She has with her their three young sons: William (6), Adam (2) and baby Thomas, just 2 months old. Perhaps she leapt at the chance for company and support for her baby.

The April 1871 census shows them in a much different location.  They’ve moved to work for Sir William and Lady Margaret Armstrong at Cragside stately home.  I visited Cragside when I was a kid and and had remembered it being hundreds of years old.  However obviously not much info had gone in that day as I’ve just been reading about Sir William and Cragside and the truth is much different.  He bought Cragside in 1863 on a holiday in an area he’d enjoyed visiting on holiday as a child.

Armstrong wasn’t a Duke but rather a polymath Victorian engineering magnate who appears to have a very wide range of interests and energy to match. He and architect Richard Norman Shaw designed and built the house.  Further info about Cragside:  History Today article and for lovers of engineering this CIBSE Heritage Group Website has lots of info.

Alexander is a coachman, the 1871 census tells me, before adding the more official ‘Domestic Servant’.  He and Hannah have 6 children living with them.  William is now a 14-year-old farm labourer, Adam (12) and Thomas (10) are scholars, John (7) and Alexander (4) are perhaps running round either helping or getting in everyone’s way, and Andrew is only a year old.  The info in the record suggests that Alexander Jnr and Andrew were born locally, the older boys born in a different registration area [in the Featherwood area], so perhaps Alexander Snr started at Cragside c 1865.

Newspaper story about Lady Armstrong

Lady Armstrong’s New Year generosity, Morpeth Herald, 1875 © British Newspaper Archive

In January 1881, Armstrong made history when Cragside was the first home in Britain to have domestic electric lights.  The lights, designed by Norman Shaw, were powered by hydro-generated electricity, but Dad remembers thinking on our own visit a hundred years after their creation that they didn’t look particularly safe!  Still it must have been a wonder for the staff to look up at the house and see the electric lights gleaming through the windows.

In April 1881 Alexander and Hannah are living at Cragside Farm with their children John, Alexander, Andrew, Michael D, Hannah E T, a 7-year-old scholar, and little Elizabeth, their 2-year-old.  By 1883 the gardens were stunning and hosted the 28th Annual Rothbury Flower Show (see news cutting).

Newspaper story about Cragside Flower Show 1883

Flower Show at Cragsidde, September 1883, from Morpeth Herald, © British Newspaper Archive

By 1891 Alexander is working as a gardener in these grounds and they still have five of their children living with them at Pethfoot College, Whitefield.  William is a married barnman – (although his wife isn’t listed on the page) - but Adam (32) is widowed and working as a general labourer.  Andrew (21) is a groom,  Hannah (17) is a dressmaker’s assistant and 12-year-old Elizabeth is still a scholar.

Next door lives their son John, now married to Barbara with an infant daughter Ann.  He’s working as a nurseryman on Lord Armstrong’s estate; his father Alexander also works on that estate.

Hannah died in spring 1894, aged only 60.  For the March 1901 census Alexander, himself only 65, was listed as ‘Formerly Coachman Dom’ so maybe he was too old or infirm to work – he died that spring.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 30 January 2015
First published:

Smart resource for finding Southern Scottish ancestors (and visitors)

I’m developing a couple of blog posts about a few people who lived and worked at various times both sides of the English/Scottish border.

I’ve used the Scotland’s People website for a few years, but I used a different site today for the first time when a search engine flagged it up:  Maxwell Ancestry.  I’d been vaguely aware of it as the Maxwells are quite active in Scottish genealogy, but I’d not used it before.

I think this would be really useful if you have discovered someone, eg from England, visiting southern Scotland and need to access a census record; scans of the actual forms do not display in Ancestry and aren’t even suggested to me in my FindMyPast search returns.

One feature I loved was for a census record I found: there were links to both modern and ancient maps – brilliant for my work today as it identified the village school which the schoolteacher I was researching may have worked.

It looks like they have other specialist sources which I’ll have a browse of, but I really like what I’ve seen so far and the site is really clean and fresh looking.  No one website has every record, but I would definitely recommend having a look at this one for southern-Scotland and English border country families.

Lynne Black, 25 January 2015

Adam Hindmarsh, Northumberland shepherd made good

Photo of Alwinton by Peter Reed

Photo of Alwinton, Northumberland, by Peter Reed

Adam was born in 1797, the son of shepherd William Hindmarsh and his wife Margaret Grieve.  He was one of seven brothers and two sisters, but unlike his other brothers he seems to have suddenly taken the leap from small-scale shepherd to farming a large farm.

He was born at Carshope in Alwinton.  As I wrote in a post about his younger sister Jane, “Alwinton at that time had a population of 102 souls, a Norman church (St Michael and All Angels) for spiritual needs and a pub for worldly ones (the Rose and Thistle, some lovely views on their website). Now part of the Northumberland National Park, it looks like the area was beautiful but that Jane would have have had to get on with hard work in all weathers.  The Rose & Thistle website describes the nearest market town as Rothbury to the south east; Cragside stately home is nearby.”

Picture of River Coquet and Bygate Hall

River Coquet and (I believe) Bygate Hall, Harbottle, Northumberland, from Google Maps

As I don’t have access to many offline records relating to that period, the next online record I have is of his marriage to Hannah Thompson, in Alnham on 23 May 1828. 13 years after that, in the 1841 census, he’s working as a shepherd in Bygate Hall, Holystone, only about a mile away to the south east.

However, ten years later, the 1851 census finds him with a drastic change of circumstance.  He’s living at Little Ryle, and the census records that he has ‘200 acres of land, employing 12 labourers’.

Letting advert for Little Ryle Farm, Newcastle Journal, 1854, copyright British Newspaper Archive

Letting advert for Little Ryle Farm, Newcastle Journal, 1854, copyright British Newspaper Archive

Although there are a couple of mystery Hindmarsh men whose relationships I’m still to match up, I have found no concrete evidence yet that Adam and Hannah had children together.  There is however a tantalising shepherd recorded in a census called William and I wonder if he’s possibly a son from a possible previous marriage for Adam who’s he’s a few years older than Hannah.  But that’s still just a possibility, a theory to explore when I have access to the records.

Various census years find him with various nieces and nephews visiting or working for him, this has been helpful in working out connections to the Drummond and the Thompson families.  It helped to confirm a nephew of his, Alexander, whose father has presented the biggest challenge for mapping the Hindmarsh brothers and their families.

I found this newspaper advert for Adam and Hannah’s Little Ryle farm, so it looks likely they finished a let or sold their farm – now noted at 400 acres – in 1854.

Map image

Featherwood farm displaying on Streetmap

In 1861 census we see Adam and Hannah are living at Featherwood, a large farm by Rochester (still in Northumberland). If you look at the aerial view (grid ref NT 81524 03939) you’ll see the land round Featherwood is marked with military as well as farming scars.  A Roman Road marches past and there are sites of former camps just north of the farm.  Appearing less than half a mile – but almost two millennia later – there’s a Farm Bomb Blast Shelter immediately to the west.  This is listed by English Heritage for its significance in 20th century military development (for residents to shelter from artillery practice).  Inbetween those two eras, shepherds scattered sheepholds across the landscape.

In 1871 Adam and Hannah are still farming away at Featherwood.  Adam died soon after in spring 1872.  By 1881 Hannah was living in the small village Rochester, she died there two years later in 1883.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 15 January 2015
First published:

#52Ancestors #52 Alexander Hindmarsh, Shepherd with two good donkeys

Alexander Hindmarsh was one of seven brothers who farmed or worked as shepherds across Northern England and southern Scotland.  Himself the son of shepherd William Hindmarsh and his wife Margaret Grieve, he also had two sisters Elizabeth and Jane; Jane is my G-G-G Grandmother.

Alexander was baptised in May 1805 in the Northumberland village Alwinton; his family lived at Carshope [Farm].

The baptism entry reads “Inserted here by desire the Children to William Hindmarsh & Margaret Grieve his wife in Carshope parish of Alwinton… All of whom were baptised upon their respective births by the Rev David Morison Minister of Burgher Congregation Morebattle in Scotland”.

I find this intriguing – is this a different, perhaps non-conformist, religious denomination?  Alexander’s older brother Walter lived and worked as a Shepherd across the border in Morebattle. What’s the link here? It’s interesting that Margaret’s surname is always specified – I’ve come across this a lot in Scottish or non-conformist records.

I next come across Alexander when he married Jane Ogle in Alnwick in 1838.  By 1841 they are living in Broome Park where he is identified as an agricultural labourer; this village had only 77 people living in it in 1870 and I suspect would not be any larger back in 1841.

52 ancestors logoAlexander’s father died in 1847 and his mother in 1849; by 1851 he and Jane had moved to Flesh Bush in Glendale, Northumberland, and by 1861 he was working in Glanton, Alnwick, on Barns Farm; at the time of both censuses he was working as a shepherd.  They lived in Glanton until Alexander’s death in 1875, aged 70.

After his death Alexander’s goods and effects were put up for auction:

Alnwick Mercury, Dec 1875  © British Newspaper Archive

Alnwick Mercury, Dec 1875
© British Newspaper Archive

I love that we hear about his donkeys and his dog carts, but how sad that the marital bed had to be sold.  And a crib? I’ve not seen any mention of children in any of their census returns; Jane was only 29 when they married so still young enough to have children so I fear there is a human tragedy in there somewhere.

After Alexander’s death Jane lived in Green Batt, in Alnwick. The 1881 census records her as an annuitant, I don’t know who or how her living expenses would have been paid at that time. She died in 1886, aged 77.

I’m writing about Alexander today rather than his brothers as his life story seems relatively straightforward.  His older brother Adam owned a farm and also appeared to be childless; I’ve spent the last fortnight trying to untangle the twisting net of cousins, nephews and nieces as they visited each other, or worked on the various brothers’ various farms as servants. Hopefully soon I will be able to share their stories, even though those #52Weeks are now over!  How strange…  While I’ll keep writing about family I think I’ll miss the discipline of meeting deadlines – albeit voluntary ones.

So with only just over 7 hours left in Scotland in 2014, here’s wishing you a happy and healthy 2015.


© Text copyright Lynne Black 31 December 2014
First published: