Showing posts with label Wittersham. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wittersham. Show all posts

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love and Marriage

St. Vedast Church- London
     On this day of romance, a post about how marriage records have come to my rescue in my research or have helped me understand more about my family. This is St. Vedast Church in London. The image on the left is a rendering of the church in the early 19th century, a little before the marriage of my great, great grandparents. The right picture is a more modern one. This church made it through a major fire and the Blitz. Part were damaged, but it stands to this day.
James Henry Tapply and Elizabeth Payne
     So here is the entry in the marriage register. What could I learn from this? The ages and status of the  young couple tell us they were young and this is their first marriage. His occupation, bricklayer, and his residence, Cheapside, tell us he was living in London at the time and learning a trade. Most importantly we have the names of both fathers and their occupations. John Tapply, the shoemaker, is father of the groom. Why is this important? There were two John Tapplys at the time living in Wittersham. They were born in almost the same year and both married women named Sarah. This helps me untangle that knot. Lastly we have the witnesses. I can look back at census and other records to find out who these people are to the young couple.
Michael Cooke and Mary Feehily(Feely)
       Next was the discovery that excited me recently. Irish records were added that made it possible to see the actual marriage register for my great-grandparents on my father's side.  On the left we have the exact date, 12 May, and location, Cloonigan. Then we have the original Irish spellings of the names of the young couple. This will help in further searches: Michael Cooke with an e and Mary Feehily or Feely. Last we have the Patron or witnesses: Michael Feehily and Mary Ann Cooke. Obviously family members attended the wedding. A little further research may tell me who these folks were.
Andrew Fitzgerald and Catharine Fitzgerald
     Next we see a record I had never seen before. This is a little different than the register entry I also found for this couple. It looks like it could be a receipt for an application for a marriage license. This really excited me because it gives ages for the couple. You may remember that Andrew's birthdate is still a question mark in my research. If he was 50 on June 4, 1864, his birthdate would be around 1814 and he lived to be 84 years old. Not impossible, but I still wonder about this since so many other records give different ages.  Catharine's birth would be in 1834. The most exciting part of this record are the names of both great, great grandparents. This takes me "across the pond" and into Ireland! Andrew Fitzgerald and Margaret Callahan are on his side. Robert Fitzgerald and Ellen Desmond on hers. Of course this also takes me into Cork and the surrounding counties where Fitzgeralds were thick on the ground and records are patchy at best. My work is cut out for me.

Eliazer Rogers and Martha Young
      The last record is remarkably simple for its age and survival. This is my sixth great grandfather Eliazer Rogers who married Martha Young in Harwich, Massachusetts in 1712. Spellings varied in these old registers, so we see an alternative spelling for his name. Simply confirming this far away and pre-Revolutionary event is rewarding. This record was found in the unindexed portion of Family Search. Yes, you have to troll page-by-page, but the rewards are pure gold.
     Maybe a closer look at some marriage records will clear up some mysteries in your family tree.
Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A New Resource on YouTube- British Pathé


YouTube has just added another wonderful resource for family historians. The entire British Pathé
film archive now has its own channel here. I did a quick search for the little village where the Tapply relatives came from and came up with this newsreel footage from 1935 for a cricket match involving the Wittersham team. Nothing came up on a name search, but if you had someone notable in your British family something just might. And further searches for Maidstone and Isle of Oxney came up with other interesting footage. If you have British relatives in your tree, this is worth a look.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Geography and Genealogy

 Once I found that my Tapply grandmother's family came from Wittersham in Kent and not from Whitstable, I set out to learn a bit about this place. Right away I read descriptions only of Wittersham sitting on the Isle of Oxney. I was intrigued. What was this about?

The early coastline of England was much further inland. The Rother river ran out to the coast at Romney and there was a large delta with many little islands right at the mouth of the river. Wittersham sat, in those days, right on one of those islands. But more and more silt built up at the mouth of the river. Violent storms in 1287 changed the coastline. Finally the river itself changed direction. From Romney it moved to Rye. Pretty soon the entire coast became salt marsh. Sheep were raised on the marshlands and this became the main source of income. The present coastline looks more like what you see in the map below.
The marshland is clearly still there, but the sea is far away from the Isle of Oxney. When you see photographs of the countryside, it's clear that this former island sits higher than the land around it. And the identification is clearly still on the map. The "family history" written by Alan Tapply puts various branches of the family in the area as far back as the 1600's. This would be long after the coast changed, but I can't help but wonder how different the land might have looked back then. Were there sailors and fishermen in the family? Smugglers? Sea captains?  Or were the Tapleys (old spelling) always the tradespeople?

Another thing that excited me was the identification of Romney Marsh. I was brought up on Disney and some of you may remember "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" starring Patrick McGoohan.
The scarecrow was a tale invented by Russell Thorndike. The story goes that Dr. Christopher Syn retired from a life of piracy to become the vicar of Dymchurch on Romney Marsh. He soon realized that his parishioners were smuggling goods from France to avoid high customs taxes. He took up the scarecrow disguise to ride to their rescue and protect them from the authorities. His adventures became so popular that some people still believe he was a real person.

Oast House Archive [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I leave you with a view of the English countryside looking out toward the Isle of Oxney.
Nigel Chadwick, Wikipedia

Sunday, September 22, 2013

John Tappley- Master Cordswainer

I am always intrigued by the job descriptions on the old census records. I have found that the English records use more formal terms like "agricultural laborer" while the American census will just say "farmer". Every once in a while there is a term that completely confounds me. I was reminded again of this when I watched Crista Cowan's Barefoot Genealogist on YouTube. This is a GREAT resource, by the way and you can see the episode on your ancestors' professions here.

As I traveled up the Tapply tree, I found that my ancestors in that line were solidly tradespeople. There were grocers, butchers, a spice merchant, a linen draper and a cordswainer. A what? Well that's where this resource supplied by Crista is a great resource. But I noticed a few things as I examined the old census records for John Tappley. John was my 3X great grandfather who lived in Wittersham, Kent, England. In the 1841 census we see this:
So here is John Tappley living with Sally and it lists his occupation as shoemaker.  I went through the census pages and found that he had a fair amount of competition in the village; three or four other men were listed as shoemakers.

The 1851 Kent Directory of Occupations lists him the same way:
However, by 1851 there are only two other men listed in Wittersham doing this job. Shoemaking as a handcraft was a dying profession. I looked up information on the Industrial Revolution and found this:
"Lyman Reed Blake was an American inventor who invented a sewing machine for sewing the soles of shoes to the uppers. In 1858, he received a patent for his specialized sewing machine." 
So the hand-sewing of shoes was probably on the wain by this time. The 1851 census shows the Tapply family like this:

And this is where I first ran into the term master cordwainer. He had become experienced enough to earn this extra title and had one apprentice and one journeyman working with him. I was still curious about what separated a shoemaker from a cordwainer. 

A little more searching on the internet gave me this distinction:
"The English term cordwainer first appears in 1100. Since this date the term cordouan, or cordovan leather, has been applied to several varieties of leather. Today cordovan leather is a vegetable tanned horse "shell," and like the Medieval cordwain is used only for the highest quality shoes. A distinction preserved by cordwainers since the earliest times is, that a cordwainer works only with new leather, whereas a cobbler works with old. Cobblers have always been repairers, frequently prohibited by law from making shoes. Going so far as to collect worn-out footwear, cut it apart, and remanufacture cheap shoes entirely form salvaged leather, cobblers have contended with cordwainers since the Middle Ages. In 16th-century London, the cordwainers solved their conflicts with the cobblers of that city by placing them under the authority of the cordwainers’ guild, thus merging with them."

A cobbler or shoemaker might make the simple clogs and everyday shoes or perhaps do repairs; only the cordwainer could handle the fine leather.

John Tapply would most probably have belonged to a local guild centered out of Maidstone or Canterbury that regulated the men of his trade. I haven't found those records yet. But I found the contemporary counterparts still making fine shoes in London.

The Worshipful Company of Cordswainers is still making the very finest high end shoes. Should you find that your cordwainer ancestor lived in London, they might have those records in their archives.
I love this photo of the contemporary cordswainers in all their ceremonial regalia.
This is why you should always take the time to look carefully at census records. You never know what new things you can learn about your ancestor.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Tapplys of Wittersham

Charles and Ellen Tapply-Whitehorse Beach, Cape Cod abt 1931
No download or reproduction without express permission
Family myths and family stories are a funny thing. They tend to take on a life of their own. My mother wrote a letter to England during the Blitz of WWII because her grandfather's brother George Tapply
was living in Kent, in the path of the bombers. He wrote back from a little village called Whitstable,
which is right on the coast on the Thames estuary. Apparently it's known for oyster farming. Ever
after that my mother reported to various family members that the Tapplys came from Whitstable. Or
at least by the time she was grown and people became curious that was the family story. When I began
looking into the Tapply family I had this reported to me as absolute fact by various members of the Tapply family. Courtesy of mom as I soon discovered.....

I began by looking for census records for Charles and Ellen somewhere in Kent. When I found them and their various family members a family myth fell to pieces. As it turned out, the family of Charles'
generation and his father James Henry lived in the tiny village of Wittersham near Tenterden. I found them there on multiple census records along with James Henry and various brothers and sisters. Later, when the family was almost grown, they moved to the small city of Maidstone. This is where the story of Charles and Ellen really begins, just before their emmigration to America.

The picture above shows Ellen and Charles on what I am told was a yearly trip to stay at the beach. I love the "driving" duster on Ellen and the bathing costume hanging behind them. To compound the  family story, my mother reported that the Tapply clan made this yearly trip to the area around Hampton Beach and Rye Beach, New Hampshire. When mom finally made it to England and to Whitstable she reported that she now understood why they liked Hampton Beach. Whitstable looked like Hampton Beach and it must have "reminded them of home". Perhaps it did. In it's way... The truth is that Charles' brother George worked for the British postal service for many years and when he retired he lived in Whitstable. For George, this little seaside town was a slice of "home". His job for the postal service had been in Brighton- another somewhat larger and more touristy beach spot. I'm sure he found Whitstable restful.

All of this reminds me to keep in mind the first advice for every amateur genealogist. Use the family stories as clues, but don't become wedded to them as fact. I still like the story of the whole Tapply clan decamping from Fitchburg for a vacation at the shore. I like to think at least that part is true....