Frederick Sims of Holbrook

One of Ari’s 3x great-grandfathers was Frederick Sims, born 25 Jan 1875 in Idridgehay, Belper, Derbyshire. I like to imagine him getting dressed in his Sunday best to have this photograph taken.

frederick sims

After his birth certificate, the next record we have of him is starting school at the age of three. This is his entry in the school admission register for Hognaston School, along with his brother John and sister Harriet:

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 18.37.42.png

(Source: National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870–1914, D2695_2_1, Findmypast)

Fred worked as a bricklayer’s labourer and as a stoker in a blast furnace for an iron company. He married Elizabeth Phipps in 1899, and the couple had ten children. The last child, Leslie, was born in June 1918. Sadly, Fred died of Spanish flu on 8 Dec 1918, only three weeks after his own father, and one of the 50–100 million people around the world killed in the pandemic. According to the Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal of 21 Dec 1918, 28 people had died of influenza in Derby that week, compared to 49 the previous week and 74 in the week ending 30 Nov when the epidemic was at its height.

He was buried at St Michael’s Church in Holbrook.


Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 19.30.06

Ari, this shows how you are related to Frederick:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.17.54

Anthony Woodhouse of Bonsall

Anthony Woodhouse (or Woodiwis) was born in one of my favourite places: Bonsall in Derbyshire. According to Pigot and Co’s Commercial Directory for Derbyshire of 1835, the approach to Bonsall from Cromford is “by the Via Gellia, a singularly romantic ravine”.

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 11.35.14

Anthony was Ari’s 6x great-grandfather, born in about 1760. He married his first wife, Mary Whitaker, in 1782, and she had three children before her death in 1789. One of the witnesses to this marriage was Henry Woodiwiss, possibly his father or brother?

In 1790, he married another Mary, who had three more children. (One daughter, Rebecca, born in 1791, was Ari’s 5x great-grandmother and will have her own page.)

I don’t know what Anthony did for a living, but many people in the village were involved in lead-mining. Two very interesting booklets (Bonsall in the Seventeenth Century and  Bonsall – a Thousand Years of Growth), produced by the Bonsall History Project, give a great picture of life in the village over the years. The Woodiwisses are listed in the latter booklet as one of the established Bonsall families, with Mary Woodiwiss owning 296 acres in 1848. (Any connection to Mary is yet to be established. There are several relevant wills that I will use to try to sort out the families.)

Anthony died in 1814 and was buried in Bonsall on 19 Jan.

As some of Ari’s Derbyshire family were framework-knitters, I had to include this eighteenth-century framework-knitter’s workshop that you can still see in Bonsall:


Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 11.36.11

Ari, this shows how you are related to Anthony:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.22.20

Susan Davis of Imber, silk-spinner

Susan Davis was Ari’s 4x great-grandmother. She was born in about 1832 in the now-deserted village of Imber on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.


The story of the village is told on this website, which includes photos of the people who lived there.

This is Susan’s baptism record from 26 Feb 1837:

susan davis bap

(Source: Wiltshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813–1916 [database on-line].)

Her sister Charlotte, also “B.B” (base-born, or illegitimate), was baptised on the same day.

In the 1841 census the three of them are living in Marsh Alley, Warminster. In 1851 Susan and her mother are in nearby Chapel Street, and Susan (now 19) is listed as a silk-spinner. (Silk spinning was one of Warminster’s major industries.) The following year Susan married, and children Sidney, Henry, Harriet and Albert quickly followed.

A married daughter, Emily, born in 1864, is living with them in 1891. (Emily married naval stoker Frank Whatley on 22 Jul 1890 and was widowed in 1914 when his ship, HMS Aboukir, was sunk by a German submarine in the North Sea.)

The last census for Susan shows her in 1901, living at 41 Brook Street in Warminster at the age of 70. She died two years later and was buried at Christ Church.

susan davis bur

(Source: Wiltshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1916 [database on-line].)

Four years later, Susan’s husband married again at the age of 75 but he will have his own page to tell his story!

Ari, this shows how you are related to Susan:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.24.07

Henry Pearson, mystery man

Ari’s 4x great-grandfather, Henry Pearson, was born in about 1838 in Cromford, Derbyshire, but has proved difficult to trace.


According to his marriage certificate, his father was a labourer also called Henry, but I can find no census records for 1841 or 1851 that fit this family, nor any record of a birth or baptism.

The alternative theory, which is supported by various records, is that he was born in 1842 to Mary Kitchen Pearson. In this version of his story, in 1851 he is living with his grandmother Elizabeth Pearson in the almshouses in Cromford.


Mary then married Jabez Fenton, and the family can be found in 1861 living in Scarthin Nick, Matlock. If this is the right story, then we probably won’t ever know who his father was.

Henry died on 17 Aug 1911 in the almshouses at Wirksworth, aged 73, occupation general labourer, and was buried two days later in the public cemetery there. I would love to know the truth about his origins and solve the mystery!

Ari, this shows how you are related to Henry:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.26.19

Edward Willis, removed to Upton Snodsbury

This week I received a document from Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, discovered when I was searching the National Archives catalogue. It refers to Edward Willis, Ari’s 7x great-grandfather, and is titled:

Epiphany 1766: Removal Order Edward Willis & wife Mary from Grafton Flyford to Upton Snodbury [sic].

It comes from the Worcestershire Quarter Sessions. The Epiphany quarter was January, and this document is dated 9 December 1765.

What the document is telling us is that a complaint had been made to the county’s justices of the peace that Edward Willis and his wife Mary had lately come and “intruded into the Parish of Grafton Flyford aforesaid, endeavouring there to settle as Inhabitants thereof, contrary to Law, … and are likely to become chargeable thereunto.” The church wardens and Overseers of the Poor of Grafton Flyford are commanded “forthwith to remove and convey the said Edward Willis and Mary his Wife … unto the Parish of Upton Snodsbury” (where they were last legally settled), to be delivered over to the church wardens and Overseers of the Poor in that parish who “are hereby required to receive and provide for them as the Law directs”.

422-33 (copy)

(Source: Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. Ref: 1/1/422/33)

This was extremely helpful because I then knew to look for the couple in Upton Snodsbury, which is six miles east of Worcester, on the road to Inkberrow. As a result of this, I found Edward’s burial, on 5 Aug 1824 at the church of St Kenelm. This in turn provided his birth date of 1745, and there is a possible baptism in 1744 with parents Edward and Hannah, who might therefore be Ari’s 8x great-grandparents!

I am very grateful to the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service for their extremely speedy and helpful service!

Ari, this shows how you are related to Edward:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.28.57

William Henry Sheppard

William Henry Sheppard was Ari’s 3x great-grandfather, born on 3 Nov 1865 in Crowle, Worcestershire. His mother was Angelina Tyler (see my post of 17 July 2017).

From the various national censuses we know that William started out as a farm servant (indoor). In 1881 he was on a farm at Dunhampstead, Himbleton. By 1891 at the age of 25 he had married and was the head of his own household, listed as one of several families living at Malt House, Crowle, with his wife and their four-month-old daughter, Agnes Emily. His occupation is agricultural labourer and place of birth Grafton Flyford.

In 1901 he is living at Sale Green, Huddington, and working as a railway labourer. Four children are living at home. By 1911 he is listed as a plate-layer (someone who lays and maintains railway lines), with six of the couple’s nine children living at home.

The 1939 Register on Findmypast shows him at the age of 74 as a widower with his son Lewis, living at Sale Green. He is described as a retired permanent way labourer:

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 19.00.33

(According to this handy list, this means a plate-layer who is engaged in maintenance work instead of construction work.)

William Henry died the age of 86. His grave at the church of St James in Huddington says:

In loving memory of William Henry SHEPPARD
Died April 10th 1952, aged 86 years


Ari, this shows how you are related to William Henry Sheppard:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.30.55

George Ball, Wirksworth lead-miner

George Ball was Ari’s 9x great-grandfather. He was born in about 1675 in Middleton-by-Wirksworth in Derbyshire, and worked as a lead-miner.


Most of what we know about George is from his will, which is available in the collection of “Staffordshire, Dioceses Of Lichfield And Coventry Wills And Probate 1521–1860” on Findmypast.

The will was written in April 1753, just a few months before he died. In it, he bequeaths “one undivided moyety or half part of all my houses lands and tenements unto Mary my loving wife … provided she continueth Sole and Unmarryed.” The remainder is bequeathed to his son George and his daughter Parthenia and their heirs. He also gives all his “Groves Lead Mines mineral possessions and part and shares thereof with their appurtenances” to his wife and son.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 18.45.58

We also have the inventory of the “Goods and Chatels of George Ball late of Middleton by Wirksworth in the County of Derby Yeoman deceased”, appraised on 16 Nov as worth £13 8s 6d:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 18.33.27

All of this knowledge about George would have been lost if he hadn’t left a will.

Ari, this shows how you are related to George:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.32.25


Henry Penny, gamekeeper

Another of Ari’s ancestors (his 4x great-grandfather) was Henry Penny, who lived all his life in Fonthill Bishop, Wiltshire. British History Online tells us this about the Manor of Fonthill:

“Athelwulf’s morning-gift to his wife Athelthryth was a 5-hide estate at Fonthill which in the late 9th century she sold to Oswulf. Helmstan later acquired it but, when accused of the theft of a belt, his right was disputed by Athelhelm. Helmstan proved his right but for help in doing so and for a life-lease granted the land to Ordlaf. In exchange for land elsewhere Ordlaf in 900 granted Fonthill, then said to be 10 hides, to Denewulf, bishop of Winchester.”*

Henry was born on 28 Sep 1826, christened at All Saints Church on 28 Dec, married there on 5 Nov 1853, and was buried there on 27 Jan 1909.

At the age of 14, he was an agricultural labourer. We can get a flavour of his life from this report in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of 5 Feb 1853 (from Findmypast):

henry penny salisb and winch jnl 5 feb 1853

He is mentioned in another account from the same newspaper on 15 Oct 1870:

henry penny salisb and winch jnl 15 oct 1870

By April 1871 was living with his wife Mary Ann and four of his six children at Woodbine Cottage, working as a farm labourer. In 1891, his son Walter is living next door with his own family.

In 1901, the last census before his death, he is shown as a game keeper and widower, still in Woodbine Cottage (the last house in the parish), with his daughter Bessie, son-in-law Frederick, and two grandchildren, Thomas and Elsie.


*A P Baggs, Elizabeth Crittall, Jane Freeman and Janet H Stevenson, ‘Parishes: Fonthill Bishop’, in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 11, Downton Hundred; Elstub and Everleigh Hundred, ed. D A Crowley (London, 1980), pp. 77-82. British History Online [accessed 22 July 2017].

Ari, this shows how you are related to Henry:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.34.10

Family stories: murdered for a wedding suit

One of the stories told by my grandmother Rose was about her father-in-law, Charles Feinstein, who was born on 25 June 1859 in Libau (Liepaja), Latvia. I wrote this down from what she told me: “He ran a grocery shop in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, after working as a picture framer. After his children had left home, he used to send a servant to his daughter Mary’s house in O’Reilly Road, where she would make food for the servant to take back. In September 1930 the servant came and said that Charles was very ill. The servant disappeared, and Charles was found dead in his room. He had told the servant that he had bought a new suit and saved £50 for Rose and Louis’s wedding. Both had been taken. The servant was later imprisoned.”

It was not until our last visit to Cape Town that I was able to find any evidence for this story. This involved hours of peering at microfilmed issues of the Johannesburg newspapers in the library (I don’t think many South african newspapers have been digitised yet – it would be great if they were!).

Charles Feinstein 1930

Although it was a shock to see this in black and white, it was amazing to finally have confirmation. Unfortunately it took so long that we didn’t read on to find out what happened to the servant.

The newspaper account mentions that a relative, Mr Perlman, had a duplicate key to the property and made the discovery, but I have not been able to find out who he was. I would also like to know what Charles’s middle name was.

This dreadful event happened in September, and Rose and Louis got married the following month. Charles was Ari’s 3x great-grandfather.

Ari, this shows how you are related to Charles:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.35.22

Frances of Ashbourne

For several of Ari’s ancestors, I know very little about their lives. I thought I’d do a post about Frances, one of his 6x great-grandmothers, to illustrate this. Apart from her burial record, the census records for 1841, 1851 and 1861 are all I have found for her so far.

Frances (or Fanny) was born in about 1782 in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. I don’t know when or where she married, but her first child, John Williams, was baptised on 8 Nov 1807 in Cawston, Norfolk, which was where Frances’ husband William Williams came from. Her other four children – Samuel, Frances, Thomas and Mary – were all baptised in Ashbourne.

In 1841, Frances is listed as living at Pig Market, Ashbourne. She is aged 60, and her children Frances (a dress-maker), Mary (a bonnet-maker), and Thomas (a pig jobber = trader) are at the same address.

In 1851 she is 70, listed as living at 32 Buxton Road, Ashbourne, with her husband, a pig dealer. The grown-up children John (42), Fanny (37) and Thomas (33) are all still living at home. (Buxton Road is just next to the Market Place.)

Finally, in 1861, she is listed at Church Yard with her husband who is shown as an almsman, widowed daughter Fanny, still a dress-maker, and son Thomas, now a general labourer. Does this mean she was living in one of Spalden’s Almshouses? Not sure!


“The grassed area at the front of a u-shaped row of almshouses viewed from the entrance gates off Church Lane. These were once almshouses for clergy widows. They were built in 1753, courtesy of a legacy outlined in the will of Nicholas Spalden. Spalden, who lived in the early C18th, also left money in his will with which to establish two elementary schools in the town, one for thirty boys and the other for a similar number of girls.”
  © Copyright David Hallam-Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This is the record of her burial:

Frances Williams_bur

Source: England, Derbyshire, Church of England Parish Registers, 1537–1918.

Ari, this shows how you are related to Frances:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 09.37.11