Collecting old documents

What is the point of collecting old documents? Apart from discovering & matching names to known family trees, they often contain details of wives, siblings & associates. Some mention property & land being sold or leased. Old Wills are the best source of information for the family historian. An indenture will have a wavy cut along the top where two identical documents have been created & signed by each party. The lawyer’s clerk would cut them so that in case of a future dispute over land or money, they could be checked to ensure that each indenture was original. For me, the best thing about owning these (I have too many) is the fact that they have the signatures of long dead ancestors and they bring to life the people & places mentioned.

I have recently come into possession of some old documents which need to be transcribed and some will be a challenge. This is a job for a wet day (coffee simmering in the kitchen) or a winters evening (glass of wine nearby); a labour of love.

The earliest document is dated 4th January 1633 & is an indenture between John Whitfield of Roundleholme & Robert Teasdale.  Here are some facts to get the document into historical perspective – In 1633 Charles I had been on the throne for 8 years with another 16 years before he was executed; 9 years before the English Civil War, 27 years after the Guy Fawkes was executed for the Gunpowder Plot; 13 years after the Mayflower set sail in 1620 from Plymouth & I believe there were about 2500 settlers in Virginia (names after the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I). Other documents name William Teasdall & Isaac Vipond dated 1717; another Robert Teasdale dated 1647; Indenture between Jonathan Lee & James Teasdale in Kirkhaugh dated 1789; Indenture between James Teasdale & Charles Langhorn in Ayle dated 1776; Indenture for James Teasdale in Ayle dated 1776; Indenture between James Teasdale & Cuthbert Harlamb dated 1762; Legal copy of a Will in 1694 for Ralph Teasdale dated 1769; Articles of Agreement between James Teasdale & Jonathan Lee dated 1788; Bond between James Teasdale & John Harrison dated 1785.

A review of 30 years research

At home with old newspapers

One of the situations that arise during family history research is not fulfilling the expectations of those whom you come into contact with. I can look back at several incidents when I have been unable to confirm family stories passed down through their ancestors. I remember one Teasdale who travelled through Europe and the UK where he thought his ancestors originated. After we corresponded, many years later, I was able to take one of his family members to the original buildings where his ancestors lived; the churches where they were baptised and married and the church-yards where they lie to this day. We became great friends despite the distance between us. I can sense the disappointment, through correspondence with others, when a key piece of evidence does not materialise after many hours of research and what was written in their family histories does not match the evidence. I read that a long since deceased originator of a particular story was renowned for making up names and places to suit family trees and justify his fees. I cannot tell people that their family stories don’t match the evidence; I just say that new evidence may come to light as more information & transcriptions become available; this after all is what has been happening in genealogy for the past 30 years as a revolution in technology has been and is taking place. During the 30 years that I have been researching the Teasdale & variant names I have experienced a wide range of family history knowledge & expertise from my correspondents, some of whom have  visited me when I lived in the north-east of England. I accept that there are different levels of interest and not everyone has the time or resources to do much. There is a group of dedicated correspondents who have shared their knowledge and worked towards a better understanding of their ancestors and the times that they lived in. It is only natural for me to have a high regard for these individuals but offers of help & information is welcome from any source and I try to help anyone who contacts me. I’m not really an expert in genealogy; just someone who has made a small effort to collect names, has a bit of interest in history & topology and who has made a small contribution to the understanding of family history. The past 30 years has been an interesting journey, it has allowed me to have a better understanding of their lives and times, their sorrow at high infant & life mortality, their plagues and epidemics, their hopes for a better life.

A Tisdale family in Norfolk and a potential link to Ireland

Tisdale research

I have recorded all the Tisdale’s who lived in the village of Shouldham Thorpe in Norfolk which is a few miles south of King’s Lynn. I picked this location as two brothers, John & William were baptised together in 1773 and could have been the same pair who showed up in County Cavan, Ireland on an 1821 census. I searched every available record and these two brothers were the only match. I made up a family diagram and then matched some parents with children and finally made a record of names that had no obvious links to families in the village. As far as I am aware, Tisdale’s have never been recorded as a family in this location. I have been able to view the original parish records and Archdeacons Transcripts and am confident with the family trees.  The table & graph show the total number of inhabitants and the effect on the population, possibly due to economic factors and various incidents of epidemics. Did I make a connection? No. The circumstantial evidence is that the Tisdale family disappears from the village after 1777 and, as yet, I can find no record of them. I’m keeping in mind that the Enclosure Acts could explain why families and communities apparently left their farms and homes as common land & small holdings were swallowed up by the bigger farmers. The two brother’s ages match the families in Ireland but this is no basis for continuity. Speculation is another matter. The relevant Irish census returns and other important documents were destroyed by a fire in Dublin as all Irish researchers know. I am intending to post what I have found, relating to the Irish Tisdale’s in Co. Cavan as this may be of interest to some members in the Teasdale Family History Facebook group who have Tisdale descendants.

Settlement & colonisation of Ireland

In 1605, Lord Deputy Chichester proposed the establishment of English & Scottish settlements at strategic points throughout the province of Ulster, which included Cavan. In 1606 he proposed a scheme for the whole county of Cavan where land was to be found for new colonists. This was not to prejudice the indigenous Roman Catholic inhabitants. Events overshadowed his plans and schemes were developed to cover most of the province of Ulster. One of the many reasons that the English government wanted English & Scottish so called ‘undertakers’ to reside in Ireland, was to counter threats from the French & Spanish.

Rural conditions & famine

The Great Famine of 1845-9 had major political, economic & social implications for Ireland. Despite earlier famines in 1727-30 & 1740-1 agriculture was still dangerously unbalanced. A large section of the population was practically destitute for 2 to 3 months of each year and 1817 and 1822 were particularly bad years for famine. There were around 8 million inhabitants in the 1840s with four fifths living on the land. The potato blight first arose in August 1845 in the south of England and spread to Ireland. Potatoes looked perfectly healthy when dug up, only to putrefy later.

Immigration from Ireland

We know that up to a fifth of the population of County Cavan emigrated to England, Scotland, Canada, the United States & Australia. English ships to Canada & the US had standards well below that of other countries with fares as low as £3 per person which was around a third of the normal price. These were the infamous ‘Coffin Ships’ which departed from the cheapest English port of Liverpool.

The Tisdales were not Catholics but protestant migrants from Scotland & England. They would have taken advantage of English favourable terms to settle in Ireland. It is not known how long the two particular families above had lived in Ireland; some came to colonise the country at the invitation of the Elizabethan authorities in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Families would sometime travel to Ireland from Scotland or England, then decide to sell their farms or holdings after a period and travel on to the United States & Canada for better prospects. Between 1841 & 1844 the average emigration was 50,000/year. In 1846 106,000 left, and in 1847 215,000 left, rising to 250,000 the following year. There are Tisdale records going back to the early 17th century, in County Meath for example. I’m not sure how much research has been carried out with respect to Tisdales in Ireland and I think much more needs to be done.

The Elopement of Joseph Teasdale

Copy of a newspaper account of the elopement of Joseph Teasdale, Ousby (1832-1901) and Mary Anne Barker, Northallerton, (1835-1899)

     In Westmorland and Cumberland lived a young lady who, it appears from the story, was under the guardianship of her brother, their parents being dead.  This young lady, in defiance of the usages of genteel society, thought it fit to become her own mistress in love matters, and absolutely fell in love without asking the consent of her guardian.  The object of her passion was a young farmer’s son, who, through the kindness of her brother, had been allowed to come to the Hall at least once a year, at sheep shearing.

     Some time ago, however, the brother began to suspect that an attachment had sprung up between his sister and the young farmer, and though nothing was said on the subject the former was forthwith subjected to a strict surveillance.  The clipping day came, and there was a great muster at the Hall; the young lady looked and looked for the appearance of her lover, but he came not.  He had been purposely omitted from the invited list.  A communication passed between the lovers; they met the same night, when it is probable that the plan of the elopement was finally arranged.

     Tuesday morning soon arrived, the young lady left her brother’s home, at no great distance from which she was met by the young farmer.  Away they hastened to the nearest railway station en route for Gretna.  Tickets having been procured, they awaited the arrival of the train with an anxiety of which those who have been placed in similar circumstances can alone form an idea.  At length the shrill but distant whistle announces its approach; the danger arising from the brief delay is forgotten with the approach of security; onward it comes, the white vapour belching from the funnel.  Happiness is before them.   The lady presses closer to her lover, when suddenly a rough hand is laid upon her shoulder.  She starts, she turns, what dark eye meets her there?  Tis her brother’s, fixed upon the pair!

Joseph Teasdale and Mary Anne Barker

     The fair one, however, did not drop on her knees to implore grace; on the contrary, she gave her persecutor a slap on the cheek, and asked him what business he had to interfere in a matter which concerned herself alone.   She had made her choice and would abide by it.  Away she was hurried, when she made a determined stand, and exclaimed, “Never fear Joseph, neither time nor place shall change me.  I’m yours, I’ll be true.  We’ll give him the go-by yet, the great …….!”

     That night the desperate fair one found herself one hundred miles from the foot of Cross Fell, in the custody of certain parties at Birkenhead, who were instructed to guard their charge with rigorous vigilance.  But “Love laughs at Locksmiths” – bars and prison doors yield to its gentle touch.  After being about a fortnight in durance vile, her lover accompanied by a friend presented himself under her bedroom window.  Having first thrown out her clothes, she descended with their assistance.

     Shortly after the young farmer left home, the brother of the ward became cognizant of his absence went to the nearest railway station, and discovered that he had gone by train up to Liverpool.  The alarm was immediately given, and there was a general look-out for the fugitives.  In the morning the keepers at Birkenhead discovered that their prisoner had escaped, and telegraphed to that effect.

     The lovers were aware that it would be impossible for them to escape if they proceeded north by railway.  They therefore remained a short time concealed in Liverpool, and having ascertained the hour when the next packet sailed, they put themselves under the protection of Father Neptune, and soon found themselves safe on the western shore of Scotland from whence they hastened to Gretna, where the star of repose burst in upon their long night of feverish anxiety.

     It appears that the young lady had found the means to communicate with her lover from Birkenhead.  The time of his coming had doubtless been arranged beforehand, as well as the plan of escape, which was crowned with complete success.

     The farmer is a very respectable young man, and it does not appear that the lady has made a bad match!

Submitted by Linda Robinson

Researching your family tree for free – getting started

Many people assume that you must buy a subscription to one of the genealogy websites in order to start researching your family. You don’t have to spend much to get started. All you need is a pencil, paper and an eraser which you may have already.

Sketch out your family at the bottom of the sheet; add your parents and your partners (if applicable). Add your siblings with lines joining them all together, to each of your parents. You can add your two sets of grandparents and join them all together as per the diagram below.

The next step is to talk to your parents and grandparents and record their history. You will be shown old photographs and documents so try to copy these. Some will talk freely and some will be reluctant to talk – you just have to be a good listener while giving gentle prompts. You may be told things that they don’t want other family members to hear about so be aware that some memories may not always be happy ones.

You may not know your grandparents or you may want to go further back in time. You can use FreeBMD to find any birth, marriage or death from around 1975 back to the September quarter 1837. You will see a reference against these records from which you can order certificates from the website; these are around £11 but you only need these to prove a difficult connection. Be aware that in the 1840s there was a scandal when some unscrupulous registrars were found to have made up birth & deaths in order to obtain a bonus. This scheme was discontinued when it was found that there had been almost a doubling of false registrations. The first case of false recording occurred in 1846 and we assume that after this date the malpractice stopped. FreeBMD have another facility for limited parish records and census returns. Type FreeBMD into any search engine and you will find the site.

Another free site is the General Register Office (GRO) where you can find the mother’s maiden name against births from 1837 to 1934. There are some mother’s names omitted and you have to register but it is a great tool for finding the children of a married couple.

The other free website is FamilySearch and you have to register your details. These same BMD records are available, in additional to census and parish records. Be aware that some of the submitted family trees lack rigorous construction. You can submit your own family tree on this site but deceased ancestors are available for everyone to see and modify.

Another misconception you may come across is that you must have a program to record your family names, especially if your tree starts to grow. You can use a simple spreadsheet available on most computer Microsoft Office packages. You can even do a family tree diagram in Excel with a bit of practice. Alternatively, you can simply draw your names out on an A3 sheet which will cost almost nothing. The most important thing is to interview all your relatives and record as much of their memories as possible before they disappear forever.

Finally, and most important of all, record your sources of information. So many family trees in FamilySearch and Ancestry have no sources and you need to treat these with caution.

English Emigrants to America

Charles Dickens went to America in 1842, touring Boston, Springfield, New Haven, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Cleveland and Montreal among other places. He wrote American Notes for General Circulation, which was published as two volumes in 1842.

He describes the conditions of British emigrants travelling from America, back to Liverpool during his return journey home. His observations have some impact for genealogists on both sides of the Atlantic. Here are his words with acknowledgment to Everyman Dickens edited by F.S. Schwarzbach and Leonee Ormond, London 1997:

“We carried in the steerage nearly a hundred passengers: a little world of poverty: and as we came to know individuals among them by sight, from looking down upon the deck where they took the air in the daytime, and cooked their food, and very often ate it too, we became curious to know their histories, and with what expectations they had gone out to America, and on what errands they were going home, and what their circumstances were.

The information we got on these heads from the carpenter, who had charge of these people, was often of the strangest kind. Some of them had been in America but three days, some but three months, and some had gone out in the last voyage of that very ship in which they were now returning home. Others had sold their clothes to raise the passage-money, and had hardly rags to cover them; others had no food, and lived upon the charity of the rest: and one man, it was discovered nearly at the end of the voyage, not before – for he kept his secret close, and did not court compassion – had had no sustenance whatever but the bones and scraps of fat he took from the plates used in the after-cabin dinner, when they were put out to be washed.

The whole system of shipping and conveying these unfortunate persons, is one that stands in need of thorough revision. If any class deserve to be protected and assisted by the Government, it is that class who are banished from their native land in search of the bare means of subsistence. All that could be done for these poor people by the great compassion and humanity of the captain and officers was done, but they require much more. The law is bound, at least upon the English side, to see that too many of them are not put on board one ship: and that their accommodations are decent; not demoralising and profligate. It is bound, too, in common humanity, to declare that no man shall be taken on board without his stock of provisions being previously inspected by some proper officer, and pronounced moderately sufficient for his support upon the voyage. It is bound to provide, or to require that there be provided, a medical attendant; whereas in these ships there are none, though sickness of adults, and deaths of children, on the passage, are matters of the very commonest occurrence. Above all it is the duty of any Government, be it monarchy or republic, to interpose and put an end to that system by which a firm of traders in emigrants purchase of the owners the whole ‘tween-decks of a ship, and send on board as many wretched people as they can lay hold of, on any terms they can get, without the smallest reference to the conveniences of the steerage, the number of berths, the slightest separation of the sexes, or anything but their own immediate profit. Nor is even this the worst of the vicious system: for certain crimping agents of these houses, who have a percentage on all the passengers they inveigle, are constantly travelling about those districts where poverty and discontent are rife, and tempting the credulous into more misery, by holding out monstrous inducements to emigration which can never be realised.

The history of every family we had on board was pretty much the same. After hoarding up, and borrowing, and begging, and selling everything to pay the passage, they had gone out to New York, expecting to find its streets paved with gold; and had found them paved with very hard real stones. Enterprise was dull; labourers were not wanted; jobs of work were to be got, but the payment was not. They were coming back, even poorer than they went.”

Origin of the Teasdale Name

The Teasdale name is almost certainly linked to the river Tees, which forms the boundary between the counties of Durham and Yorkshire. The river begins in the Northern Pennines, on the slopes of Cross Fell, near the Cumbrian border. After flowing east for eight kilometers it turns south east as far as Barnard Castle before winding south of Darlington and then out to sea just north of Middlesborough. The  river flows through Upper and Lower Teesdale and has two spectacular waterfalls at High Force and Cauldron Snout.

It seems probable that several families took the name Teesdale (or one of the variants) at around the same time in the 16th century. There are early records of a Geoffrey de Tesdale at York in 1309, Alan de Tesdale at Marsfield in 1325, Walter de Tesdale at Jedburgh in 1298 and John Tesdall at Westminster in 1379. A high proportion of early surnames were derived from the place where the family had its main residence. It was common practice in the 12th and 13th centuries for the senior line of a land-owning family to adopt a hereditary surname of this type, while junior branches gradually acquired different surnames or variations as they moved around the British Isles. More research is needed before we can be confident about the early families.

River names in this area seem to be the oldest of place-names relating to the first Celtic settlers (long before the invasion of Angles, Saxons and Scandinavians). The river Tees was called “Tesa” in the Knytlinge Saga, a history of the Danish kings of the 10th and 11th centuries and later records have the name as Teisa and Taise. Place names in England are predominantly Anglo-Saxon or Norman in character with the exception of some natural features such as rivers, prominent hills and forests which require immediate identification in terms equally intelligent to natives and newcomers alike.

It is tempting to throw a bit of speculation into the pot of imagination and say the very early names in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) such as Tesdell, Tisdel, Tysdale or Tisdill could be derivatives of the early names for the river Tees. The family name could have evolved with the river. The IGI records for England clearly show a predominance of Teasdales followed by Teesdales and then much smaller groups of Tisdales, Teasdells, Teasdall and Tisdells. There are at least 45 variant names within the IGI and no doubt these variations are the result of the different local dialects in each county of England. The church authorities would transcribe the parish names as they were spoken by the migrant parishioners into the parish records and Bishops Transcripts.