Way back in the mysterious depths of time (aka 2002) when I was still something of a newbie and early on in my family history journey (following a move from the UK to France where I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands…), I was in correspondence with a distant relative based in Queensland, Australia. Brian had spent many years compiling what he called The Halliday Heritage, a story of our combined family, which he very kindly shared with me. Sadly, I took what I immediately needed (yep, I admit to being a harvester of names back then …) and ignored the rest. Going over it again and giving this rich seam of information the attention it deserves has thrown up some interesting titbits …
It’s no big surprise that on one side of my mother’s family there’s a surname that I’m more concerned with than any other. That is, my grandmother’s maiden name: Holborow. Part of the reason for this – I’m not going to say obsession – bias is that it’s a pretty rare surname. It’s no Smith, Jones or Taylor. Consequently when I come across another surname that seems … striking in some way it causes my inner onomatologist to sit up and take notice. Therefore when I started working with someone with a distinct last name I was intrigued …
Do you ever find a family line that has a mix of occupations – and you wonder how much the behaviour of one generation has affected the subsequent ones? I came across one such line recently.
A cousin of mine (7th cousin once removed but, hey, who’s counting?) recently shared a link to an online digital archive of American newspapers, as part of the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America collection. As I always do when faced with a ‘new’ searchable database, the first name I type in is ‘Holborow’. As its such a unique surname I’m always pretty sure that any results have a link back to my family – and I came across some fantastic articles in this archive.
My previous post introduced the Halliday family via my 4 x great-grandmother, Ann Halliday. She was the oldest child – and only daughter – of John Halliday and his wife Elizabeth Angell. After marrying in Sherston Magna, Wiltshire on 12 October 1815, John and Elizabeth would have a total of four children.
Whilst many families ‘lost’ children to emigration, all 3 of John’s sons left their lives as agricultural labourers in Gloucestershire to make their way in Australia.
The first to make the journey were the younger two brothers – John and Thomas – on the Duke of Wellington, which departed from Deptford on 4 July 1849 and arrived at Port Adelaide on 7 November.
John married Martha Williams – who he knew back in “the home country” – in October 1850. After an eventful life that included striking gold in Bendigo and Eaglehawk, and starting the first market garden in South Australia, John passed away in August 1919, aged 91. Martha would follow in November 1923.
Thomas had a somewhat shorter life in Australia. He was married on 25 July 1863 to Ann Halliday nee Sherwood, and the two of them went on to have two daughters – Emily and Ann – with Ann dying in infancy. (Emily would go on to marry her cousin William Francis Halliday, son of James and Hester.) The family moved from Woodville to the Adelaide Hills where Thomas was a gardener at Biggs Flat, as well as a woodcarter. According to a report in the The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser on Friday 6 May 1881, Thomas was found dead in the road to Echunga on the morning of 1 May 1881 by a drover. The inquest, held at the Aldgate Pump Hotel on the same day, heard from various people regarding the incident. The landlord of the hotel stated that Thomas had been intoxicated the previous evening and that he was often seen “under the influence of drink”. A fellow gardener at Biggs Flat similarly attested to Thomas liking a drink. John, Thomas’ brother, also said the same.
The final verdict of the jury was: “That deceased met his death by concussion of the brain, caused by a fall from his dray while under the influence of drink”.
Ann herself is a bit of a conundrum. She was probably born in Owlpen, Gloucestershire in 1838. A woman by the name of Ann Sherwood marries a George Halliday in the Tetbury district of Gloucestershire in the first half of 1856. It is my assumption (and I have no proof as yet, but some strong supposition!) that this George Halliday is, in fact, George Marsh Halliday, illegitimate son of Ann Halliday and George Marsh – and half-brother to my 3 x great-grandfather Thomas Halliday Hurcombe. Two children are registered in Adelaide in 1859 and 1862 (Loveday Henry Halliday and Albert Halliday) with the parents of George Halliday and Ann Shorwood. I can’t find a passenger listing for George and Ann between 1856 and 1859. Some sources believe that she is the same Ann Sherwood that is listed in 1854 onboard the Time and Truth – but this seems unlikely given that this Ann gives her place of residence as Ireland and her age is out by approximately 3 years, and marries Thomas as Ann Halliday, not Ann Sherwood.
George disappears from the records at this time, and Ann reappears when she marries Thomas in 1863. She is listed as deceased in a newspaper article from the time of Thomas’ death, but no mention of their surviving daughter. Then an Annie Halliday marries William Allen Waples on 21 February 1880 in Adelaide. She died 26 August 1880 from peritonitis rupture – presumably following the accident alluded to in the 1881 article.
In 1856 the eldest brother, James, his wife Hester (aka Esther), their 6 children and an 11 year old Elizabeth Cottle (possibly a niece of either James or Hester) left for Australia from Plymouth aboard the Hooghly, and reached Port Adelaide on 25 July. During the crossing Hester had given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. Oddly, the ships list of the time lists the baby as male. James and Hester would have 11 children in total, including the William Francis who married his cousin Emily. Two of William’s children – Charles Edward and Maurice Roy – would go on to marry two of their cousins – Annie Myrtle Halliday and Elva Joyce Halliday – who were both children of Albert Halliday, the son of Ann Sherwood and George Halliday.
Somewhat of a tangled web woven by the members of the immediate Halliday clan in Australia!
On 14 January 1852 my 3 x great-grandfather, Thomas Halliday Hurcombe, was born.
When I was first researching my family history – apart from putting out feelers regarding my American grandfathers – the Holborow/Hurcombe lines of my mother’s ancestry marked my initial steps into this world. My mother was very close to her maternal grandmother, Edith May Holborow nee Hurcombe, and also to Edith’s parents, Alfred William Hurcombe and Harriet nee Robins, so it seemed fitting that I started here.
I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers (especially about 2am when the lights come on, but that’s a different story), and starting the genealogy journey I was somewhat suckered in to the use of other people’s information over finding things out on my own with the actual records. Consequently, I was happy enough when I found information regarding Alfred’s father, Thomas Halliday Hurcombe.
Thomas’ mother was quickly identified as Ann Hurcombe, formerly Halliday, and his father as Stephen Hurcombe. Stephen was somewhat older than Ann, being born on 13 January 1799 in Leighterton, Gloucestershire. In fact, records show that he had been married before. On 13 December 1823 he first married spinster Jane Davies and they had two children: David (27 February 1825 – 8 May 1857) and Mary (10 December 1826 – 12 May 1846). Four months later, in April 1827 Jane died.
After several years, the 36-year-old Stephen married 19-year-old Ann Halliday on 12 October 1835 in Leighterton. Ann brought another child into the family – a one year old son, George Marsh Halliday. Ann hadn’t been married before Stephen, but there was a prominent farmer in the village called George Marsh. Whilst I can’t prove anything, it may be a case that George senior fathered a son on the young Ann who then named the son after the purported father.
Stephen and Ann went on to have a number of children:
- Elizabeth: 21 Aug 1836 – 1918
- Emanuel: 03 Feb 1839 – 1922
- Emily: 11 Apr 1841 – 08 Jun 1851
- David Henry: 24 May 1845 – 10 Jan 1919
…and it was during this research, after tracing the Hurcombe line back a further couple of generations, that I came upon the death entry for Stephen: 28 March 1850.
As Thomas wasn’t born for another almost two years, it would be extremely unlikely for Stephen to be his father – as so many people had presumed and slavishly copied down (and, in fact, Stephen can still be found listed as Thomas’ father in online trees despite this glaring error in mathematics – and I doubt that Ann concentrated on the wallpaper that hard for two years …).
Other than using both her maiden and married names in her son’s name, there is no additional clue as to the identity of his father. Ann would go on to have another illegitimate son, Alfred Thomas Halliday, in 1859. Despite having been registered as a Halliday at his birth, in 1889 when Alfred married, he did so under the name Alfred Hurcombe, and appears in all of the relevant census as such. His children were all baptised with the surname of Hurcombe.
Aged almost 60, in January 1876, Ann married a Chelsea pensioner named Peter Adams – who was 13 years her junior, reversing the earlier age difference with her first husband!
So who was the father of Thomas (and Alfred)? His birth certificate simply has a line in place of father’s name. Contact with other Hurcombe/Halliday researchers mooted that at least one of the fathers may have been a younger brother of Stephen’s called David – but that is sheer speculation, and without anything such as bastardy papers we will perhaps never know how much of a Hurcombe Thomas and his (half) brother Alfred were.
Thomas went on to marry Emily Raines in the Tetbury Register Office on 17 February 1974, and the pair had 7 children – their third child (and third son) was Alfred William, my 2 x great-grandfather. He passed away on 13 March 1927 in Leighterton, with Emily following on 26 January 1938.
Here’s the second of the promised guest posts – this time from Alex at the wonderful Root to Tip! You may (or may not) wish to read this article on gateway ancestors first, but in this article Alex discusses heraldry …
If you wish to submit something as a guest post – either here or over at A Wiltshire Garden – then please get in touch! I’d love to hear from you!
Sometimes it helps to have had rich ancestors. I’m not just talking in terms of wealth and property being handed down through the generations but in terms of the potential wealth to be found with the records relating to them.
If, like me, most of your ancestors are pretty salt of the earth, hard-working labouring types, often without much more than a couple of pennies to rub together, then you might struggle to get your line back further than when parish registers began. You might find the odd mention of the family surname in records such as manorial records, tax lists and the like, but sometimes the years spanning these types of records can span generations and make it more like guesswork and theory to link the names together to prove a line going back beyond the 1600s.
In England and Wales it became a requirement to keep records of baptisms, marriages and burials through parish registers from 1538 but few survive back to this period. Many local areas were growing in populations so some parishes were not formed until after this date, and it is always worth taking a look at information on websites such as GENUKI about the area you are interested in, it’s parish churches and dates for the commencement of their records and where you can find transcriptions or digitised copies of the registers in question.
Wealthier ancestors are much more likely to have left a paper trail behind them, they probably owned land, property and made wills. Going further back in time they might have been recorded as being part of the Civil War, fighting for the Royalist Cavalier side or the Parliamentarian Roundhead side for example.
Wealthy families were likely to have been armigers – that is – bearing arms – specifically a coat of arms. I think most of us have all seen coats of arms depicted on various articles such as stained glass windows, shields, buildings and even plastered all over names websites – trying to get you to buy a scroll with your surname and a coat of arms.
Coats of arms belong to a tradition going back to the 12th century, coming from a time when knights in battle were covered in armour from head to foot and the only way to identify themselves was to adopt a range of easily recognisable symbols and designs on their shields and on the surcoats they wore over their armour. It is from this word surcoat that the coat part from coat of arms comes from.
The designs picked ranged from pretty simplistic to very complex. They could be something like a red diagonal stripe on a silver background, or combine different patterns in a complex array of stripes, crosses, chevrons, circles, animals, plants and anything else that appealed! The arrangement of the items on the shield gave rise to the central element known as an escutcheon. As families merged with wealthy heiresses marrying into families with arms they would often split the arms from both families to incorporate them both into one new one or show the husbands arms ‘impaled’ with the wife’s.
Knights also used their helmets and crests as a way to distinguish themselves, especially when jousting when they would often lay their helmets out in a line so everyone could see who was present and whom to challenge. Often these helmets and crests would be shown at the top of a coat of arms. Tournament officials – known as heralds – had to be able to recognise knights by their arms. They would proclaim the start of the proceedings, including the identities of the combatants and then the victors. In this process they were able to check that knights were not using arms that they knew were already in use by someone of status.
By the 14th century, heralds were the experts in coats of arms and it became known as heraldry. In order to assist their work, heralds drew up lists – rolls of arms – of all the arms they saw at tournaments and other such gatherings, they were assembled into collections called armorials.
Heraldic Banners of the Knights of the Garter mid-16th Century. From The Oxford Guide to Heraldry
In 1415 Henry V tried to formalise the controlling of the use of arms but it wasn’t until the reign of Richard III that the College of Arms was established and overseen by a King of Arms. In 1530 Henry VIII sent his heralds out all over England and Wales to register all rightful coats of arms and eradicate the rest. These were known as visitations. During these visitations everyone claiming to be a gentleman and using a coat of arms had to appear before the heralds and justify his claim. Some of them could show an official grant of arms from an earlier King of Arms, while others had to prepare a pedigree of their family showing how the arms had been passed down over the centuries. Those who had adopted arms to seem important were ordered to renounce them. These visitations happened every 20 to 30 years until 1686 and provide a fabulous record of wealthy families, often going back three to five or more generations. The records also retained the details provided by the people who were using arms without the right to bear them so you could find some not so wealthy people detailed.
It is worth remembering though that some of these pedigrees were not entirely accurate. They were often compiled using memory rather than detailed source material. There have been many instances where a pedigree misses a whole generation out because the compiler may have been confused with ancestors with the same names (like a father and son by the same name) or got confused with names of uncles and cousins who shared the same names. I’ve seen details where they have stated that a sibling died sine prole(without issue) when in actual fact they might have had quite a large family. Sometimes it might seem like a couple only had one child, when in reality they might have had several but only listed the eldest son.
I often use pedigrees as a guide, not as the gospel truth. Where possible I try to confirm details from the pedigree with information from other sources such as parish registers, wills, tax lists, manorial records and anything else I can get my hands on – like militia lists.
If you are lucky enough you may find you are descended from a royal or aristocratic line which is much more fully documented and been thoroughly researched by historians, however often with some royal pedigrees as they start to go back much further in time the details do become rather more fantastical and sketchy and of course go back to Adam and Eve and therefore God – to prove the King had holy descent.
I never hold much sway in the coats of arms touted on websites trying to get you to buy the one for your surname as of course there is no guarantee that your family name truly relates to that coat of arms, and different families had different takes on their arms – while you may have had one set of arms relating to the main family originally, as eldest sons and second sons and third sons etc. branched out they would have changed their arms slightly to denote where they came in the family and of course changed if they inherited arms from a wealthy spouse.
Although this isn’t exactly an exhaustive expert guide into coats of arms, visitations and pedigrees, there are some great websites that can be of help when looking into heraldry, records of coats of arms and medieval ancestors.
An excellent post by Alex at Root To Tip regarding owning up to mistakes in research and the pitfalls of ‘open source ancestors’.
To Err Is Human…To Forgive Divine – Alexander Pope.
This week I got to thinking after a post over on thegenealogygirl’s blog asking what you wished you had known when you started researching your family tree. To me I didn’t necessarily wish I had known all the secrets of this great hobby/profession, because I enjoyed the process of learning all about it. From simple beginnings to gradually learning more and more and eventually making something of a career from it. However, in the early days I made mistakes, there were small errors and at times whole chunks of trees that had to be deleted and then started from scratch again, and I gave myself such a hard time about it. I felt so stupid, especially if I had found out something really interesting and had yabbered on to all and sundry about it, and then to find out that…
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Everybody has their own route into things. Different inputs leading to similar outputs – or at least travelling down similar roads.
In the case of my journey into genealogy – family history – the inspiration was my grandfathers. All four of them. Yep. You read that right.
Growing up, every Friday we would visit my mother’s parents – Eva and Otto Frysol – and have tea with them after school. I suppose at some point I might’ve asked why Grampy spoke with a funny accent. I suppose at some point my mother (or possibly one of my brothers) told me that he was German and had married my grandmother after the war. I think this blew my mind somewhat as I knew that, well, the Germans were the enemy during WWII. At some other point I was told, or found out, that my mother’s maiden name was not the same as Otto’s. This was due to the fact that her father was not Grampy, but an American soldier, named Ellis Howard Adams, who Eva had met and fallen in love with and then married. Parental forces had stopped my young grandmother and her daughter from crossing the ocean to be with him (or so I have been told – although the picture of Eva below was taken to be her passport photo).
I can’t say that my mother’s parentage was ever an issue – it certainly wasn’t for Otto. He was her father. End of story. He was my Grampy. End of story. But what of Ellis? My mother remembers playing with his two Purple Heart medals as a child, and also of receiving birthday cards upon occasion, and there were letters to Eva. Apparently two of my grandmother’s sisters attempted to trace him in America through The Red Cross – unfortunately the response was that he had remarried and didn’t want any contact. Which seemed to be enough for my mother. She had her ‘dad’. She didn’t need anybody else. But curious? Perhaps.
My father’s parents were a different story. His mother, Norah, was older than Eva, and I only ever remember her as an old woman – shrunken and papery. Which is a shame. I only saw her a few times a year … maybe my birthday and Christmas when we’d deliver her Just Brazils and Simple soap. Consequently she didn’t play a large part in my childhood mind. She had been widowed the year I was born. I can’t recall meeting Grampy Eddie, but he met me nonetheless. The story has it that he was severely ill in hospital whilst my mother was pregnant, but wanted desperately to see his youngest grandson. He held on until I arrived and was presented to him. To honour him, I was given his name – Edward – as my middle name.
But, as is obvious, there is another twist in this story. Eddie wasn’t my father’s biological father. That lay with a man named Robert Leslie Payne (although – to complicate matters further – he’d been adopted by his maternal aunt and her husband so was known by the name Robert Leslie Stanfield for the vast majority of his life). He had also been a soldier in WWII, and also American. Unlike Eva and Ellis, Bob and Norah weren’t married. And unlike Ellis, Bob wanted to know my father – even going so far as offering to adopt him, something Norah was against.
Again, my father was raised by his stepfather and considered him ‘dad’, and that was as far as it went. There were a few phonecalls as a teenager and even when he was engaged to my mother, but no true contact. Almost 15 years ago, in a restaurant, I asked my parents’ permission to try and trace their fathers and any related family. They agreed, with certain caveats.
And that was how I developed my
obsession interest in genealogy. What I found and where it took me? That’s for another post. But these four men – Ellis, Otto, Eddie & Bob – all contributed to my life, either through nature or nurture, and their presence is felt in everything I do.