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MAY 2007 ISSUE 57 • £3.50



S&N inside front FP



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Contents REGULARS Editor’s letter ...................................................................... 5 News ...................................................................................................6 A view from the Centre ................................ 54 DAVID ANNAL loses one relative but gains some new family members

How to subscribe




Ask the experts ..............................................................70 HOW THEY LIVED

Old soldiers never die ...................................... 73 FRANK RICHARDS meets some veterans of the Indian Army

Off the record ................................................................ 74 MILDRED MASHEDER recalls her 1920s country childhood




Book reviews ....................................................................66

Readers’ letters ............................................................68


RECORDS OF THE RAJ ..........................................12 TOM ALMEROTH-WILLIAMS looks at Britain’s activities in India to be found at the British Library MY ANCESTORS

FORGOTTEN FRONT ................................................18 KEITH GREGSON reads his great-uncle Charlie’s diary about serving in India during the First World War

A BLOODY BUSINESS ............................................ 22 PHIL TOMASELLI targets causes and effects of the Indian Mutiny

GHOSTS OF THE INDIAN MUTINY ........28 RICHARD CARLYON discovers some poignant notes in a copy of the East India Register

CHAPS AND CHAPATTIS ................................ 30 PETER BAILEY and ELAINE MACGREGOR introduce the family history society for people with ancestors who lived in India ANCESTORS PROMOTIONS

MARKING THE MUTINY .................................. 31 Join our tour to India

ON THE CARDS .............................................................. 33 ELSE CHURCHILL describes resources at the Society of Genealogists for tracing family history on the sub-continent

BATTLE STARS .................................................................. 36 JOHN SLY pins down the history of 19th-century Indian campaign medals


CERTIFIED OF UNSOUND MIND ............ 45 KATHY ELAM examines records on lunatics at The National Archives MONUMENTS

SYMPATHY FOR SMUGGLERS.................... 51 ROY and LESLEY ADKINS visit the graves of two victims of a battle between smugglers and the authorities TECHNO-FILE

INTERNET NEWS .......................................................... 58 Take an online journey to India........ 60 STUART A RAYMOND explores the internet for information about Britons on the sub-continent FRONT COVER: Gurkha soldiers on the North-West Frontier, 1897 TNA:PRO COPY 1/430

Find my Past FP



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iew . r-v se pe ha y- rc pa pu ra st xt fir *e r % ou 10 n y ive e o ce fre Re its un

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APRIL 2007














uch of this issue is devoted to exploring the British experience in India. The relationship between Britain and the sub-continent has not always been easy, if for no other reason than that the Brits were so often unthinking occupiers. On a grand scale, the Indian mutiny exactly 150 years ago saw blood-letting and savagery on both sides (for more about this event see page 22). On a smaller note, the memoirs of Private Frank Richards, from which we print an extract on page 73, are full of examples of the petty racism practised by ordinary British soldiers SIMON FOWLER, EDITOR on the long-suffering native population. Yet the relationship was more than that. Even Frank Richards and his comerades appreciated the beauty of the country. Furthermore, British academics and scientists worked hard to catalogue, categorise and preserve Indian culture. You can see the results at the British Library, particularly in the India Office Records, which also contain much about individual soldiers and civil servants who served with the Honourable East India Company and its successor, the Government of India, between 1858 and 1947. On page 12 Tom Almeroth-Williams guides you through these records. Inevitably there are contemporary resonances. On page 36 John Sly describes campaign medals awarded during the 19th century to British and Indian troops, often for battles fought on India’s borders – particularly the North-West Frontier and the two Afghan wars. Today, British troops are engaged in much the same sort of warfare as their predecessors were 170 years ago. Finally, I hope to see you at the Who Do You Think You Are LIVE show in Olympia over the early May Bank Holiday (5-7 May). Ancestors will be sharing a stall with our colleagues from The National Archives, so come along and have a chat. There’s a huge range of stalls and exhibits, from the College of Arms to a replica Spitfire to enjoy. And we’ve included an helpful list of lectures and workshops on pages 10-11.

© Wharncliffe Publishing 2007 All rights reserved. This material must not be reproduced without the publishers’ consent. While we strive to ensure accuracy and impartiality of information, final responsibility for this rests with our contributors. Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders of featured illustrations, but this has not always proved possible because of the antiquity of the images.

A Second World War poster showing the distribution of Indian industry and raw materials.






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News IN BRIEF  Listen again If you missed the Ancestors Afternoon in February, but and would still like to listen to what the speakers had to say, you can download a free podcast from podcasts.xml?homepage=fom-podcasts. As a reminder, David Annal talked about the Family Records Centre and its future; Simon Fowler looked at life in the workhouse; Jane Brown described The National Archives’s project cataloguing petitions for mercy to the sovereign; and Anthony Adolph told the story of Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans.

 From seaman to actor The actor Gareth Hunt, who died recently, began his career as a merchant seaman. His service record can be found at The National Archives in piece BT 372/2123/91. He served for six years before jumping ship in New Zealand and spending three months in a military prison. He was best known for appearing in The New Avengers and a longrunning series of adverts for Nescafé.

Anti-slave trade petition goes online 2,000 Mancunians signed abolition plea


he biggest surviving anti-slavery petition has been published online by the Parliamentary Archives. Almost seven metres long, and signed by over 2,000 people in Manchester, the petition supported the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill of 1806. It was laid before the House of Lords as part of one of the first – and most successful – public campaigns in history, which culminated in an Act of Parliament to abolish the British slave trade. To mark the anniversary of the passing of the Act, on 25 March 1807, the Parliamentary Archives has made

the petition available at, along with a much smaller proslave trade petition With the help of the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society, all signatures on both petitions have been transcribed to allow people to search for ancestors who might have signed. These documents, along with others, will feature in a comprehensive website being launched by the Parliamentary Archives in May. The site, which

How slavery touched York The merchant seaman record for Gareth Hunt.

 Roll up If you to want know a bit more about The National Archives try the virtual tour, available at visit/virtualtour. It is particularly useful for researchers planning to visit Kew for the first time.

 Ancestry access withdrawn Ancestry has withdrawn free access to its online databases at Latter-day Saints Church family history centres around the world. This is because the two sides were unable to agree over future funding of the scheme. However, free access remains at the Society of Genealogists and many public libraries in the UK and elsewhere.


Support for anti-slavery candidate


nder the title Unfair Trade, an exhibition at York Castle Museum explores the impact of slavery on ordinary people in Yorkshire. Michelle Petyt, curator of the exhibition, explained: “Many of York’s residents prospered through trade and commerce, especially in such commodities as tea, coffee, sugar and cocoa. It was these products in particular that allowed the slave trade to flourish. ”However the city also played a part in the abolition of slavery, with the many Quakers in the city strongly supporting

William Wilberforce and helping to finance his election campaign.”


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Liverpool Daily Post & Echo


Liverpool’s council leader Warren Bradley at the launch of the search for the city’s oldest family.

Parliamentary Archives HL/PO/JO/10/8/106


A section of the petition from the citizens of Manchester in support of the 1806 Abolition of the Foreign Slave Trade Bill.

encourages comment and debate, will enable the public to access key documents and explore the complex relationship between Parliament and the slave trade. Both the Manchester abolition

petition and the 1807 Act will be on display in The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and People, a free exhibition at Westminster Hall from 23 May to 23 September 2007. Check the website for details.


Am I not a brother and a man? Learn more about Britain’s involvement in the slave trade


nyone, from schoolchildren to amateur historians, will find a collection of fascinating resources at The National Archives’s (TNA) online exhibition, www. Designed to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, the online exhibition draws together a range of historical documents and information describing Britain’s involvement in slavery and the slave trade, along with its eventual abolition. This is linked to extensive material held at Kew, including: registers containing personal details of the slaves; Colonial Office records on how slavery shaped the history of the

West Indian islands; records of British African companies describing Britain’s early relationships with Africa and the supply of Africans to the Americas; and naval and diplomatic records relating to the suppression of the slave trade. Complementing the website, six new research guides describe documents on slavery held by TNA, as well as other archives, and how to locate and research them.

Liverpool’s oldest family tree City launches competition


nyone living in Merseyside who can prove their family tree goes back further in Liverpool than anyone else, will be invited to take pride of place in a once-in-a-century procession through the city to celebrate its 800th birthday. Winners of the competition to find Liverpool’s longest established family will also be given a heritage weekend in the city The next seven oldest families will receive special Liverpool 800 commemorative gifts. The competition is part of celebrations to mark the anniversary of the city’s first charter, signed by King John. At its launch Councillor Warren Bradley, Leader of Liverpool City Council, visited the city’s Record Office in Liverpool’s Central Library to research his own family history. This includes a great-grandfather (Isaac “Ike” Bradley) who fought for a world bantamweight title in Liverpool in 1906 and 1911. As long as you can prove a Liverpool ancestor and you live in Merseyside, you are eligible to take part. Entrants must send a copy of their family tree, with copies of documented proof, to Liverpool Record Office by 31 July. For more information click on liverpool_family.asp MAY 2007 ANCESTORS • 7



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News EVENTS FAMILY RECORDS CENTRE 1 May Mark Pearsall offers a guide to Nationality and Citizenship records 5 May Ruth Edwards demonstrates Family History on the Internet 8 May Gerry Toop looks at Birth, Marriage and Death Records at the FRC 15 May Peter Walker talks about Starting a One-Name Study 22 May Chris Pomery discusses DNA In Your Family History Research: What can you learn from a DNA test? The talks, sponsored by Ancestors, start at 2pm, and are free at the Family Records Centre, Myddelton Street, London EC1R 1UW, 020 8392 5300. Tickets can be booked on the day.

WHAT’S ON  The subject of this year’s Family and Community History Research Society’s annual conference is Upstairs, Downstairs: the community of the country house, at The Priory Centre in York on 12 May. Tickets cost £15 from the Society’s treasurer, 2 Carlyle House, Vicarage Road, Cromer NR27 9DQ. Details at

 The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is offering a free seminar on family history and freemasonry on 12 May at Freemasons’ Hall in London. To book ring 020 7395 9250 or visit

 Bucks Genealogical Society holds its annual Feast of Family History at the Mandeville School in Aylesbury on 12 May. For details contact Eve McLaughlin on 01844 291631, or

 The Guild of One-Name Studies is organising a seminar on DNA in family history at the Nuthall Temple Community Centre in Nottingham on 19 May. Registration is £12. Details at or contact Sandra Turner, 2 St Annes Close, Winchester SO22 4LQ.

 Theme of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies open day on 20 May is Homes and Gardens. For details ring 01438 737333 or visit



WW1 service and pension records Easier access for family and military historians


ar Office (WO) service and pension records collections for approximately 2.5 million British soldiers who served between August 1914 and the end of 1920 can now be seen online at This is the first phase of a joint project which, in partnership with The National Archives (TNA), expects to be completed by the end of 2008. Although five million British soldiers fought in the First World War, around 60 per cent of service records were destroyed during a German bombing raid in September 1940. The material comes from two series of records – WO 363 and WO 364 – which until recently were only available on microfilm. The collections vary in detail, but users should be able to find physical descriptions, service history, where they served, date and place of birth, former occupation and next of kin. The pension papers in WO 364 concern soldiers discharged on account of sickness or injuries sustained during the war. They include medical records relating to the disability for which a pension was granted. The records in WO 363 are for soldiers who completed their service, were killed in action or died of wounds or A document from the service record for Thomas Allcock, who enlisted in the York and Lancashire Regiment in November 1914.

disease. They provide full details of service and, where recorded, death. Records are fully indexed and users can see digitised images of the original documents. Searching the name index is free, but images are available only to subscribers or holders of Ancestry vouchers, such as the one given away free with this issue. William Spencer, senior military specialist at Kew, comments: “This project will finally enable researchers from the worlds of family and military history to see what has survived, and perhaps just as importantly, what has not, and will enable users to see what part an individual played in the First World War.”




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Canal children by a cut.

All aboard canal boats


he Waterways Trust is organising a series of events at National Waterways Museums sites for family historians with ancestors who lived or worked on the canals. There are exhibitions at Gloucester (1-31 May), Ellesmere Port (1 May15 June) and Stoke Bruerne (20 June-31 July), plus open days at the museums’ archives on 10 May

Record number of BMD certificates Two millionth certificate


record two million birth, marriage and death certificates have been issued by the General Register Office (GRO) during the last financial year. The two millionth certificate was ordered online by David Robertson from Bath. It recorded the 1863 marriage of his great-great-grandfather, whom Mr Robertson was surprised to learn was a publican. Numbers of certificates issued by the GRO has been rising steadily over recent years as family history has become an increasingly popular hobby. Over 80 per cent of customers now order certificates online at

Waterways Trust


(Gloucester) and 11 July (Stoke Bruerne). Talks include the Head of Collections Sophie Fowler on dating family photographs, plus sessions on tracing canal ancestors. For further information or to book any of these events contact Caroline Jones, on 01452 318224. For more about the museums visit www.

WIN Three UK memberships to Ancestry


njoy a year’s worth of unlimited access to 645 million records from We have three 12 monthsl UK memberships to Ancestry worth £79.95 as prizes in this month’s competition. Winners will have access to records such as the complete census collections for England, Scotland and Wales 1841-1901, the British Army First World War Pension Records, British Phone Books 1880-1984 and the complete English and Welsh Births, Marriages and Deaths Indexes between 1837 and 2004. Like all Ancestry users, you can create or import a family tree on the site and then attach photographs and stories to each person on the tree, as well as the records found at To enter just answer the following question:

In which year did the First World War start? Send your answer on a postcard to Ancestry Competition, Ancestors, PO Box 38, Richmond TW9 4AJ, or email, Please include your email address and telephone number as this will makes it easier for Ancestry to contact the winners. Closing date is 31 May 2007.





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Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE Workshops Saturday 5 May – Monday 7 May The National Hall, Olympia, London SATURDAY

SoG Workshop 1

SoG Workshop 2 SoG Workshop 3 with Ancestors magazine

Ancestors Magazine Encounters Table





Irish Family History – what can be done from the UK FACILITATOR: Ulster Historical Foundation




WHERE DID THEY GO? PASSENGER LISTS ONLINE* Steve Rigden or Elaine Collins (Find My




NAVY RECORDS FOR FAMILY My Medieval Ancestors: What I managed to HISTORIANS* discover before 1538 William Spencer (TNA) FACILITATOR: Adrian Jobson (TNA)


















SoG Workshop 1











MY ANCESTORS WERE IN THE WORKHOUSE* Simon Fowler (Ancestors Magazine)


I’d never thought of that before!! – unusual sources, little known repositories or obscure websites that have been useful FACILITATORS: Paul Blake & Maggie Loughran





My African-Caribbean Ancestors FACILITATORS: Paul Crooks & Guy Grannum





I was adopted – shared stories and experiences of how I found my birth family FACILITATOR: Karen Bahli





My Irish Ancestors – what I managed to find from home. FACILITATOR: Maggie Loughran (FFHS)


SoG Workshop 2 with Ancestors magazine SoG Workshop 3

My Ancestors’ Medals FACILITATORS: Ken Dival (SoG) and William Spencer (TNA)

My London Ancestors - How I found that elusive Londoner FACILITATOR: London Metropolitan Archives

Encounters Lounge What this Document Told Me? Encounters with Old Records – an introduction FACILITATORS: Helen Osborn & Geoff Swinfield



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SoG Workshop 1

SoG Workshop 2

SoG Workshop 3






SoG Workshop 1

SoG Workshop 2

SoG Workshop 3

SoG Workshop 4






















HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF ONLINE SEARCHES* Chad Hanna and Gillian Stevens (FFHS FH online)

All information correct at the time of going to print

Self-publishing? For your free sample booklet and expert advice on getting your book into print... ...Call Parchments of Oxford on 01865 747547 or email

The History Channel are proud supporters of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2007

Come along to sit in the cockpit of our Spitfire in the Military History Zone Find out more at

Enccounters Lounge

*Suitable for beginners

Find your family’s medals with Most British medals are named – you can find the ACTUAL medals your ancestors were awarded! Come and visit the MEDAL NEWS team on stand 206 at Who Do You Think You Are? to find out how The Parliamentary Archives House of Lords HOUSE Record Office of LORDS London RECORD SW1A OPW OFFICE

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7219 3074 e-mail web: catalogue:

The History Channel are proud supporters of The Military History Zone and The History Channel Theatre at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2007 Come along to sit at the controls of our World War Two anti-aircraft gun in the Military History Zone Find out more at

London roots? Visit our stall and find out more.





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RECORDS OF THE RAJ Tom Almeroth-Williams looks at material covering almost four centuries of Britain’s activities in India, now archived at the British Library in London

British Library C6402-06


The East India’s Company headquarters in Leadenhall Street, demolished in 1929.

o family historian with ancestors who lived and worked in India should miss checking out the extraordinarily extensive India Office Records, part of the British Library’s Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections. Combining papers from the East India Company (1600-1858), the Board of Control (1784-1858), the India Office (1858-1947) and

The first port of call for visiting genealogists has to be the biographical card index, which lists over 250,000 persons. 12 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

the Burma Office (1937-1948), these records represent an empire in writing. The story begins with the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), which was given a royal charter in December 1600, granting English merchants a monopoly to trade in the “Indies”. By 1740 the Company had established scattered trading posts at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. In 1815, some seven decades later, its position had changed beyond recognition. It now owned the most powerful army in India and governed Bengal, much of the upper Ganges basin, as well as swathes of Southern and Eastern India. Unsurprisingly, the British government soon became wary of the HEIC’s growth, setting up a Board of Control in 1787 in an attempt to supervise it. Meanwhile, the Company expanded its headquarters at the magnificent East India House in Leadenhall Street. With its imposing classical façade, this was the ultimate assertion of imperial arrogance. After the Indian Mutiny in 1857 the HEIC was taken over by the British government, which established an India Office the following year to supervise the authorities on the sub-continent. Incoming clerks sent 300 tons of paper to be pulped, while the more important historical records – as they saw them – were retained. The collection continued to grow throughout the Victorian period and beyond. By the time of Indian independence in 1947 there were tens of thousands of books, as well as visual images and official papers in the library of the India Office, now known as the India Office Records (IOR). This material was eventually transferred to

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opposition from both Indian rulers and French forces, often fighting together against a common enemy. By 1815 it commanded an army of 150,000 European and Indian soldiers. Military service files at the British Library contain a wealth of material on the armies of the Company, and later the Indian Army and Royal Indian Navy. To serve as an officer in the HEIC, cadets needed approval from the board of directors. Their entry papers, which run from 1789 to 1860, include birth and baptismal certificates, medical records, petitions and educational testimonials. Middle-class families who couldn’t afford a commission in the regular army would secure a valuable source of income by placing their son with the Company. One such family was that of Charles Dickens, whose 16-year old son, Walter Landor Dickens, was granted a cadetship in the Bengal Infantry in 1857. Like so many other young men in the country, he died young – aged just 22 – in 1863. After Robert Clive’s victory at the battle of Plassey in 1757, which confirmed British dominance, the Company became increasingly aggressive. Out-gunned, many Indian princes surrendered their revenues and much of their authority in exchange for HEIC protection. Soon the profits of war exceeded those of trade. British observers thought there was

This 1843 watercolour depicts a general reviewing East India Company troops about to enter a walled town, possibly Kandahar.

the British Library. For many years it was held in a separate archive in South London but since the mid-1990s has been available in the main British Library building. The first port of call for visiting genealogists has to be the biographical card index, which lists over 250,000 persons. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including ecclesiastical returns, the index is broken down by occupational groups such as military, civil service, residents and the medical service. Staff hope to have the index online by the end of the year. Ecclesiastical returns begin in 1698 and end in 1969. They include baptisms, marriages and burials, relating mainly to Europeans and Eurasian Christians in India, Burma and other regions administered from India. As you work your way through these lists, you may come across some familiar characters. The burial records for St Helena, for example include “Napoleon Bonaparte late Emperor of France”. Many of these records have been copied by the Church of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and microfilms can be ordered from its family history centres. For many years India was a major battleground in the conflict between the European powers, with the HEIC playing a leading part. As its influence spread during the 1750s, the Company came up against growing

British Library 001046


Asian, Pacific and African Studies reading room at the British Library.

MAY 2007

British Library







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Elephants haul artillery pieces during the Indian Mutiny.

something in the air which made their soldiers more blood-thirsty and ferocious than elsewhere. In fact it was largely the prospect of promotion, prize money and loot which motivated the worst atrocities. During an interview with the Company in 1781, 12-year-old John Malcolm was asked what he would do if he met the Sultan of Mysore. He replied: “Do, Sir, why I would out with my sword and cut off his head.” He gained his commission. These military records also document the recruitment of private soldiers for the Company’s artillery and infantry units. The registers, which cover the period 1753 to 1861, provide the name, age, height, eye and hair colour of each recruit, along with their parish, marital status and trade. The lives of individual soldiers in the HEIC and Indian Army can be traced using a variety of sources. Valuable references can also be found in papers relating to promotions, discipline, pay, pensions and leave. Pension funds included the Lord Clive Military Fund, established in 1770, for

Medal rolls, for example, might help place your ancestor at a particular battle or campaign... 14 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

European soldiers and their widows, while the Bengal Military Orphan Society supported children of deceased officers, chaplains and surgeons of the Bengal Army. The Poplar Pension Fund looked after officers and seamen of the Company’s mercantile marine and their families. The records include the member’s service history as well as his children’s baptismal and marriage records. It’s also worth checking out a remarkable set of documents which identify pensioners who served prior to 1860 before retiring to Britain. They include names of former regiments, regimental number, details of enlistment, reasons for discharge and medals. For example, James McAllister, a clerk from Dublin, enlisted on 8 October 1849 and served in  Tippoo, Sultan of Mysore (17491799), in an engraving by Edmund Scott.

Private Collection/Stapleton Collection/Bridgeman Art Library

Mary Evans Picture Library





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A view of the Quadrangle at Haileybury College near Hertford in 1855, showing the dining hall, library and chapel.

British Library 13529

“unparalleled in the history of the Indian Army”. In addition to a formidable military presence, the British commanded an army of administrators at home and abroad. In London, HEIC civil servants were based at East India House, surrounded by classical allegories of conquest and commerce. Despite the massive changes undergone by the Company during the 18th and 19th centuries, its administrative structure remained largely unaltered, comprising a large body of shareholders and an elected Court of Directors, responsible for day-to-day operations. Like their military counterparts, those seeking clerkships in India were primarily motivated by financial gain. The Library holds appointment papers covering the period 1749 to 1856. Following their acceptance, both overseas civil servants and members of the home establishment needed £500 to cover a bond for good behaviour, plus a further £200 for their kit and passage. Once in India, this investment would pay dividends when they exercised their right to private trade. Before drifting into soldiering in 1748, Robert Clive had sailed to India as a junior clerk. His family were Shropshire gentry and they hoped the experience would make something of their idle son. The gamble paid off, and Clive discovered new ways of making money as the Company’s powers grew. Opportunism and greed were endemic in the administration during the 1750s. Tax collectors became power-brokers, channelling revenues into their own pockets, while Indian farmers starved in their villages. Although much of this activity was never recorded, East India House did prepare memoranda on the service and character of

the Bengal Horse Artillery. Between 1857 and 1858 he fought in the Indian Mutiny Campaign, where he lost a leg. He was finally discharged at India House on 11 August 1858. Military records also contain a significant amount of information on Asian soldiers serving in the HEIC and the Indian Army. Pension papers in the Bengal General Orders for 1841 describe the heirs of deceased Indian soldiers eligible for the native family pension. They include the name, age, height, caste, village and relationship to the deceased. Most revealing, however, is the section titled “personal appearance and particular marks”. The 10-year-old widow of Nursingh Sing is described as “very good looking” with “a white mark on the left cheek, a dark mark on the right cheek [and] a mole above the right eyebrow.” By contrast, Thakoor Sing’s 45-yearold mother, Anoopah, was thought to be “very plain and wrinkled” with her “left nostril torn”. Indian officers can often be traced in the Indian Army lists, which included the names of honorary officers, Subadar-Majors, Subadars, Risaldar-Majors, Risaldars, Jemadars and Medical Officers. After the Mutiny the British were particularly keen to reward Indian soldiers for acts of loyalty and bravery. References to promotions, meritorious service and good conduct medals can be found in a variety of sources, including a book by P P Hypher recording Indian deeds of valour. Among the many heroes described in this book is Subadar Kishubir Nuggurkoti, the only soldier in the Indian Army to earn all three classes of the Order of Merit, while fighting in the Afghan War of 1878-80. The “noble devotion” he displayed in battle was deemed

MAY 2007





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British Library c2169-02


Major William Palmer with his second wife, the Mughal princess Bibi Faiz Bakhsh and three of their children, painted by Johann Zoffany in 1785.


individuals, including complaints, claims and petitions, between 1794 to 1801. From the 1780s the Company fell increasingly under the direction of the British government, but by the turn of the century it had, in any case, become dangerously overstretched. There was growing unease at home that Company agents underwent a moral transformation in the wilderness. As British society began to demand a new generation of civil servants, who would serve their country and make a useful contribution to mankind, in 1806 the Company opened the East India College. Originally based in Hertford Castle, the College was soon moved to nearby Haileybury, where it remained until 1857. College records relate mainly to the recruitment and training of civil servants for postings in Asia and on the home establishment. Applicants were first required to petition the Court of Directors. To stand any chance of success, they would need to prove their educational credentials and family connections, as well as secure the nomination of a Company director. In 1809 14-year-old David Dale secured his place on the recommendation of his uncle, John Inglis, a director of the Company. John Inglis declared he had “fully inquired” into young David’s “character…connections and qualifications” and received no “pecuniary consideration” to recommend him. After two years of “liberal and suitable learning” at Haileybury, David Dale was sent to the Bengal Establishment as a writer, the most junior rank of covenanted civil servants. He would have been among the first agents to be taught a more humanitarian and evangelical approach to empire building.

The College curriculum included oriental languages and Sheth Ghoolam Hyder, a Bengali, was appointed Persian writing master. If the shock of arriving in England wasn’t enough, his salary of £200 per annum proved woefully insufficient. Marriage to Rose Slocomb, the daughter of a local schoolmaster, produced four children, but after years of poor health, he died in May 1823, leaving his family with mounting debts. Eventually the Company agreed to pay a pension, but two of his children had already died. After falling into bad company in London, his youngest son, Sullivan, finally decided to return to Bengal, where he was placed with a printer in Calcutta. While Sheth Hyder’s marriage may have turned heads in rural Hertfordshire, mixedrace marriages and other relationships were not uncommon in India, especially during the 18th century. Johann Zoffany’s portrait of the Palmer family in 1785 provides a fabulous example of this. The painting, which now hangs outside the Asian and African Studies Reading Room at the British Library, shows Major William Palmer with his second wife, the Mughal princess Bibi Faiz Bakhsh, her sister, three of his children and three female attendants. Despite the wealth and prosperity enjoyed by some, life in the sub-continent often proved too much to handle. In 1818 the HEIC was forced to build a private asylum in Hackney to care for employees returning with mental health problems. Pembroke House was replaced in 1870 by the Royal India Asylum in Ealing, with admissions confined to military patients. Administrative and clinical records survive for both institutions, including medical certificates, case histories and registers labelled “Indian Insanes”. The India Office also has a surprising amount of information on European residents in India. In Bengal, Madras and Bombay annual lists between 1702 and 1830 recorded their country of origin, length of residence, occupation and dwelling. Some were employed by the British administration but others were businessmen, missionaries and even prostitutes. During the two world wars Germans living in India were sent to special camps or repatriated, leaving a further remarkable set of papers for family historians. For many British men employed by the HEIC, life in India really meant a life at sea. At the height of the Company’s trading powers giant ships, known as East Indiamen,

Page 17

as part of the Free Trade Wharf development. Within each warehouse an army of labourers processed mountains of exotic merchandise, weighing spices, stacking cloth, and mending tea chests. Administrative posts included clerks and writers, while warehouse keepers and elders supervised on-site operations. Personal details relating to the labourers can be pieced together from late 18th century records, along with their general working conditions. John McGhee, we are told, had worms in the head; Charles Twort had bad feet and corns, while Owen Ellis was both unfit and stupid. From 1796 labourers could join the Royal East India Volunteers, which aimed to assist regular troops in case of French invasion and to protect the warehouses against looters. By 1812 there were over 1,700 men serving in three regiments with another 90 in the artillery unit. Two or three times a week, the volunteers marched from their headquarters at the Old Bengal Warehouse for training at the Company’s military field in Hoxton. In 1833 the government ordered the HEIC to cease commercial activities; all but one of the warehouses were closed and sold off. East India House was finally demolished in 1929.

A contemporary watercolour showing the presentation of colours to the Second Regiment of the Royal East India Volunteers at Lord’s Cricket Ground in 1797.

Tom Almeroth-Williams is a public relations consultant and freelance writer with a special interest in the 18th century. As well as being educated at Haileybury, he has written several articles about India after teaching in the South of the country in 2004. IA


were used to ferry goods across the globe. Their log books have survived for the period between 1702 and 1856, along with lists of British sailors, lascars (Asian sailors), passengers and even prisoners. One of the most successful of these ships was the Minerva, which was built in Bombay in 1813 and undertook 10 voyages for the Company between 1814 and 1831. In August of that year the vessel was purchased by Henry Templer, who paid the princely sum of £9,400 for the ship and £2,400 for the captain’s stores at sea. The East Indiamen were too large to travel up the Thames to the City, so goods were initially shipped from Blackwall by hoy. When the East India Docks were built in 1806, carts transported the goods by road to warehouses. Although records of the Committee of Warehouses were among those sent for pulping, a great deal of information still survives. In the early 19th century 3,000 men worked in the Company’s warehouses in Middlesex and the City of London. The rapid acceleration of imports during the 1760s fuelled the construction of new warehouses, which gradually transformed the area around Bishopsgate. Tea, coffee, spices, sugar and drugs were stored at various sites, including Fenchurch Street, Crutched Friars and French Ordinary Court. The warehouse here was built in 1784, when imports of tea rose from four million lbs to 15 million lbs a year. In New Street you would find muslins, silks and calicoes imported from Bengal, Malabar, Surat and China. The Old Bengal Warehouse was later renamed Shield House, and four of the original buildings have been preserved in the Cutlers Gardens scheme. Saltpetre warehouses were located outside the City at Ratcliffe for fear of explosions – a justifiable caution. In July 1794 The Times described “cream-coloured lava” flowing towards the Thames, when it “flew up with a prodigious force in the form of an immense column”. Soon rebuilt, the warehouses survive

British Library 001055






The British Library, Asia Pacific and Africa Collections, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB; telephone 020 7412 7873; email apac-enquiries@bluk; orientaloffice.html. To find your nearest Church of Latter-day Saints Family History Centre, telephone 021 384 2028, or visit Read more about it I A Baxter, India Office Library and Records: A Brief Guide to Biographical Sources (FIBIS, 2005) P P Hypher, Deeds of valour performed by Indian Officers and soldiers during the period from 1860-1925 (Simla, 1925)

MAY 2007





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FORGOTTEN FRONT Serving in India during the First World War wasn’t “just playing tennis”. Keith Gregson reads his great-uncle Charlie’s diary


The brothers at home after the end of the war. Charlie is front right, standing next to Fred with Keith’s grandfather John at the back.

owards the end of 1917 Gunner Charlie Stephens found himself on a ship bound for India. An avid writer all his life, Charlie kept detailed diaries of his experiences on this almost forgotten front. Charlie Stephens was nearly 29 when he was called up in January 1917. At the time he was married and working in a shop in the tiny coastal village of Haverigg, close to the mining town of Millom in the old county of Cumberland. His eldest brother, John, was also called up in 1917, while older brother Fred had already

served in Gallipoli and was now stationed with the Royal Engineers at Ypres. All three brothers kept diaries of their wartime exploits. Charlie served in the Royal Artillery and, after a few months’ training in Lancashire, was transferred to Bulford Camp in Wiltshire, where he learned to ride a horse and trained as a signaller. After missing a few drafts for the Western Front, his name was selected for service in India. Here he would be expected to maintain order – Britain feared rebellion on the subcontinent – in the heat and dust, rather than endure the mud of Flanders’ trenches. The journey from Bulford to the camp in Mhow (not far from Indore), took two months. He sailed on the liner, Balmoral Castle, arriving in Bombay (Mumbai) in late November. The first few weeks of the journey were fairly uneventful. The weather was good, Charlie mentions that he “slept on deck”, and there was plenty to amaze a youngish Cumbrian whose travelling to date had merely entailed trips to relatives in London and Cornwall. All changed when the vessel arrived at the South African port of Durban. After a few enjoyable days on shore, the men were moved to inferior accommodation on board SS Caronia. “Sentries with fixed bayonets owing to unrest among men,” Charlie reported in his diary.

After missing a few drafts for the Western Front, his name was selected for service in India. 18 ANCESTORS MAY 2007


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Just over a fortnight after leaving Durban, the Caronia docked in Bombay. Charlie seems to have used his time on board well. Apart from boxing, undergoing drill and playing whist, he had found paid employment in the sergeants’ mess. He landed in India a significantly wealthier man. It was a two-day journey from Bombay to Mhow, which was to be his new home for at least a year. Charlie looked after the battery office and acted as signaller for a local detachment of the Brecknock Regiment. Otherwise he experienced the usual features of service life, interspersed with lengthy spells of guard duty. He notes that he “saw the jackasses while on guard duty and heard the laughing hyenas”; and spent time on fatigues “cleaning out the

bungalow before the battery returns”. There may not have been German guns in India, but the country remained a dangerous environment for British soldiers, as there were constant threats from sickness and disease, although there was ready access to reasonable health care. Soon after the unit’s arrival the men were confined to barracks because of an outbreak of smallpox. Three months later there were a number of cases of scarlet fever. In March 1918 Charlie himself was sent to hospital with suspected malaria. He was put on a liquid diet and recovered quickly, soon tipping a native attendant to “bring bread, butter and marmalade”. Later that year came the Spanish Flu pandemic, which spread rapidly across the globe, killing perhaps 50 million people worldwide. The initial symptoms were similar to common flu, with two or three days of illness. Then bronchial complications might set in, usually resulting in death. Charlie turned out to be one of the lucky survivors, but the effect of the outbreak on his unit can be seen in his diary entries for October 1918: “October 11 – L/cpl Hart died in hospital – buried the same evening – used to play tennis with him at the YMCA – all places of amusement and YMCA etc put out of bounds owing to flu spreading.” “October 13 (Sunday) – Couldn’t go to

A poster provided to schools for Empire Day 1916, showing the extent of the British Empire during the First World War.



A selection of Charlie Stephen’s diaries.

MAY 2007





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A picture of Fred (seated in hospital uniform) and John, sent out to Charlie in India.


church owing to being out of bounds.” “October 14 – QM in hospital also Bill Atkins both with flu.” “October 16 – Feeling a bit seedy. Got feverish so sent to hospital at tea time. My temperature then was 103.6.” “October 17 – had a good sweat in the morning – down to 99 and felt much better – hospital full of flu victims on milk diets.” “October 18 – Temperature normal so doc said I could leave hospital and go to barracks but to stay indoors a while.” General poor health could have its advantages. On at least two occasions units were chosen to reinforce British troops fighting the Turks in Mesopotamia. In the end, according to the diary, few of those picked actually went, being “turned down by the doc”. There were other dangers and irritations too, as the following extracts show: “January 24 1918 – Caught a snake 18” outside guard tent. Natives killed it. [Had the] ‘wind up’.” “July 5 1918 – Had a lively night – got up at 2 a.m. – leg covered with bug bites – had a hunt and finished off one which had taken a fancy to me – gave my charpoy a good clean and got rid of a few more travellers.” When time and health allowed, those serving at Mhow did their best to relieve the boredom. Charlie came from a family of devout Methodist miners and was a committed Christian. He spent a great deal of time in church, at choir practice and at Bible classes. He was also a regular at the YMCA. The diary is packed with evidence of involvement in every form of sport and entertainment. Indoors, Charlie and his comrades played whist, draughts, bridge, billiards, snooker and “ping-pong”. Outdoor sports included hockey, tennis, cricket and soccer. In the case of team sports the men enjoyed a mixture of competitive leagues and social outings. On occasions the draft would play against the battery or the left half of the battery would play the right half. The Royal Field Artillery versus the Brecknocks, however, was a much more serious affair. More significant, perhaps, is Charlie’s constant effort to keep up communications with the rest of his family. From this we can reflect on how much has changed over the last 90 years. The usual method of staying in touch was via letter or postcard, although an occasional telegram arrived from home, as happened with news of Charlie’s first born.

“March 5 1918 – Cable at noon from Ede [his wife] with glad news of our baby boy being born – was delighted – not half.” Yet he had to wait some time for exact details. “April 22 1918 – Got 2 letters from Ede with good news about Gordon’s entry into the world.” And sometimes it was a case of feast or famine. “April 7 1918 – only one letter and paper in the mail. Quite disappointed after waiting 5 weeks, but later mail arrived noon. 4 letters from Ede, 1 from mother, 2 from Fred [brother] and one from Annie [sister-in-law]. Quite a treat – happy as a lark now.” Photographs were particularly welcome. “May 14 1918 – Mail with photos of brothers and account of Gordon’s christening on March 24th.” “May 24 1918 – First photo of Gordon – a treat.” Charlie’s brother John was captured by the Germans during their push of March 1918, only emerging from a prisoner of war camp after the armistice. Surviving papers (and there are many) indicate that nobody in the family really knew where he was or even whether he was alive. Charlie was certainly the last to hear. “June 9 1918 – Letters from Ede, Mother and Fred – all good news except that John hadn’t been heard of for five weeks.” “June 20 1918 – Letter from Fred says John officially reported missing in France, quite likely he is POW.” Wartime service in India is bound to be judged against the experiences of those in France or Mesopotamia. Yet it was not all a bed of roses or involve, as one member of the Charlie’s family would good-naturedly remark, “just playing tennis”. Army life is not for everyone and Charlie would clearly have preferred to be at home. In January 1918, he noted in his diary, simply yet tellingly, that it was the “end of my first year in the army and I hope it is my last”. Unfortunately the diary peters out just before the armistice, so the remainder of his tale may stay untold. All three brothers lived well into their 60s. Charlie returned to work in shops; he rose to be in charge of the Co-op in Hawkshead in the Lake District, where he regularly served Beatrix Potter. Keith Gregson is a writer, musician and historian and regular contributor to Ancestors. He is currently completing a book on North Country ancestry for Pen and Sword FP



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A BLOODY BUSINESS A potent mix of religious and political discontent with British rule, particularly by the Honourable East India Company, triggered the Indian Mutiny. Phil Tomaselli reviews its causes and effects

Ann Ronan Picture Library/HIP/TopFoto


Mounted sepoys charging through the streets of Delhi during the Mutiny in 1857.

odern multinational companies are sometimes accused of interfering in the domestic affairs of countries in which they operate, but none actually send in their own conquering army. Yet that is basically how the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) increased its wealth and influence in the sub-continent. Since its foundation in 1600 the HEIC had traded with India, gradually extending its

Slow-burning resentment against the Company’s power only needed a small spark to set the powder keg alight. 22 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

commercial and political influence throughout the region. The point at which politics became inextricably entwined with trade occurred at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when a small East India Company Army defeated the much larger army of the Nawab of Bengal, leading to Bengal’s annexation. The Company Army, assisted by the British Army, went on to conquer many other princely territories so successfully that, 100 years later, two-thirds of Indian states were directly under HEIC rule, while the remainder were held by princes whose policies the Company firmly dictated. The HEIC Army consisted of a number of regiments recruited in Britain, plus many more native regiments. Regular British battalions were also stationed in India. However, Indian troops in these armies outnumbered British by five or six to one. Slow-burning resentment against the Company’s power only needed a small spark to set the powder keg alight. In January 1857 rumours began at the HEIC magazine in Dum Dum, near Calcutta, that new cartridges greased with pig and cow fat were to be issued to the sepoys (private soldiers). The cow was sacred to Hindus and the pig unclean to Muslims, so neither would be able to use them, particularly as troops were expected to tear open the cartridges with their teeth when loading their rifles. There were other causes of discontent. A confidential report of 1858 noted: “The Sepoys and people have a feeling that their religion is being deliberately subverted. In 1832 there were 12 missionaries north of

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While the British garrison awaited orders, the mutineers headed for Delhi, old capital of the Mogul Empire, where the last Emperor, Bahadur Shah, was kept as a British pensioner. Here, native troops rose in support of the mutineers, seized the gunpowder magazine and massacred many of their officers and British residents. A few Britons escaped, while others died after deliberately blowing up the town’s arsenal to deprive the mutineers of weapons. The emperor gave his support to the sepoys, appointing some of his sons and grandsons as army commanders. News of the mutiny at Meerut and the capture of Delhi soon spread, and throughout May, June and July there were risings among native troops all along the Ganges and in some Central and Northern Indian states. Sometimes the British acted quickly, parading native regiments under British artillery cover, before disarming and dispersing them. At Peshawar, on

Rebel sepoys – a lithograph after a drawing by G F Atkinson.

Bengal proper; in 1856 there were 102.” It also pointed out that traditions such as suttee (widow burning) had been abolished, and a law passed allowing Hindu widows to remarry. Before 1857 few Indian troops had served overseas, and a change in the law allowing men to be sent abroad proved unpopular. Additionally, the report noted that the British defeat in Afghanistan in 1842 and difficulties during the Sikh Wars had lowered the sepoys’ opinion of British officers and men. Officers, it was said, no longer understood their men or even their language. On 30 March 1857, having refused to use the cartridges, the 19th Native Infantry (NI) at Behrampur was disbanded. On 3 May, Sir Henry Lawrence prevented a potential mutiny at Lucknow, and the 7th Irregular Cavalry disbanded. On 6 May the 34th NI was disbanded at Barrackpur after a sepoy shot his adjutant and was subsequently executed. Meanwhile, on 24 April the native cavalry regiment at Meerut, 40 miles from Delhi, had refused the cartridges and a court martial sentenced 85 men to hard labour. Two weeks later the men were deliberately paraded wearing shackles, and rumours circulated the native garrison that British troops were being brought up to attack them. The troops seized the prison, released the mutineers, and rampaged through the bungalows of their British officers, killing men, women and children. Some contemporary reports noted that respected officers and their wives were spared and escorted to safety.

Mary Evans Picture Library


The Delhi Telegraph Office sent this message on 11 May 1857, to report the burning down of bungalows at Meerut by rebel sepoys and the killing of European residents.

British Library/HIP/TopFoto



MAY 2007




A contemporary British woodcut of the massacre in the boats at Cawnpore.

British Library C8456-02



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the Afghan frontier, General Cotton wrote: “In consequence of the mutiny of the 55th Regiment NI…and the doubtful loyalty of the large body of native troops at Peshawar, in which dissatisfaction was generally supposed to exist, I found…that it was indispensably necessary to disarm the troops (5th Light Cavalry, 24th, 27th and 51st NI) in which, on investigation, symptoms of manifest disloyalty seemed…to be found.” In other areas there was panic and confusion. Isolated Britons and their families were slaughtered or fled to the apparent security of the few British garrisons. At Jhansi the sepoys murdered their officers and besieged British officials and their families in the fort. After agreeing terms for surrender, the mutineers reneged and massacred everyone. At Cawnpore General Wheeler first refused to believe that native troops would rise but, when they did, managed to get most British residents and a few loyal Indians into a makeshift fortification around the barracks. Crammed into two small buildings, with the only well vulnerable to enemy fire, the small garrison withstood repeated assaults. For three weeks they held out; cannonballs slammed into the buildings, men were shot down trying to reach the well, and conditions rapidly deteriorated. The mutineers had accepted the command of Nana Sahib, a local dignitary, who offered General Wheeler the chance to get to the river and escape by boat. When on 25 May the British marched down to the waiting boats, some loyal Indians were dragged away and murdered, along with any Briton who went to their defence, but most of the column reached the river. Then disaster struck, though it is not clear whether it was an accident or deliberate trap.

Fighting broke out and the mutineers opened fire on men, women and children as they struggled to board. Only one boat got away into midstream. Eventually four soldiers reached safety – the only survivors. The remaining men, including wounded and civilians, were killed on the riverbank. Women and children were taken into Cawnpore as hostages. At Lucknow, Sir Henry Lawrence began fortifying the Residency after news of the Meerut mutiny reached him. Lucknow was the capital of the former kingdom of Oudh, which the British had just annexed, and it was seething with discontent. Lawrence had one British battalion, but was also well served by many loyal Indians. He drove the mutineers from the town but, at the end of June, not appreciating that other native garrisons had joined the mutiny, together with many local landowners, he engaged a superior and well-led enemy at Chinhat. Forced to retreat, Lawrence and his troops fell back on the Residency and were besieged. Meanwhile, at Peshawar Sergeant George Walker (27th Inniskilling Fusiliers), who took part in disarming native troops, wrote: “When we left Peshawar we left behind us the women and children and part of the 55th NI and 10th Irregular cavalry, but had hardly left when the 55th broke out and were very near giving us a second edition of the massacres at Cawnpore and Delhi and the 10th did not attempt to stop them. “When we got word we returned and took the 10th on the hop and disarmed them, after that we stripped them of everything, horses, money, property and everything but the clothes they stood up in. “We next followed the 55th who had…got into a fort about 30 miles from us and when

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fighting Delhi was finally captured on 21 September. The next day Brigadier Nicholson, who had been wounded in the assault, died. The emperor fled, but surrendered shortly after, together with his sons, who were executed on a pretext. While Delhi was being besieged, other relief operations got under way. Accompanied by about 2,000 men, Sir Henry Havelock moved towards Cawnpore and defeated Nana Sahib. On 15 July, with Havelock approaching, women and children hostages were rounded up and massacred. When even hardened mutineers refused to do the deed. civilian butchers were brought in. Relieving troops found a bloodbath, with the butchered corpses thrown down a well. Previous bloody reprisals were nothing to the punishments meted out after this. Captured mutineers were made to lick up the blood before being hanged, or tied over gun barrels and blown apart. Mutineers who surrendered under the personal guarantee of British officers were slaughtered, while officers happily looked on. Sir Henry advanced on Lucknow, reaching the edge of the city on 23 September. The sepoys built their defences expecting him to advance straight down the main road but, guided by Sir James Outram, a former British

The Residency at Lucknow, showing damage caused during the siege.

A page from the medal roll for the Mutiny Medal, listing some of those killed.

we got up to them the rascals began to show their teeth but we let fly with them right and left and then charged them but they would not stand it. They turned tail and made off helterskelter and we after them and fine fun it was only rather hot, for it was the month of June and the thermomitor (sic) at 110. We killed about 500 of them and the rest were all taken prisoner or destroyed by the villagers. “We next marched to Peshawar and it was worse than going into a nest of hornets but prompt measures were taken and such work you never saw what with shooting, hanging and blowing away from the guns, the place was one vast slaughterhouse.� News was flashed by telegraph, before the wires were cut, and slowly the British mustered forces to move against Delhi. They drove the mutineers back into the city and took up position on the low ridge outside; but plans to seize Delhi immediately were wisely abandoned. The rebels, reinforced by native troops and new mutineers, often attacked the ridge, so sometimes the British felt themselves to be the besieged. There were fewer than 2,000 British troops facing a rebel army of at least 30,000 and, short of ammunition, they often relied on firing back cannonballs which had already been fired at them. When the Commander-in-Chief, General Barnard, died from cholera, command devolved onto Brigadier Wilson. On 14 August reinforcements finally arrived from the Punjab under Brigadier Nicholson, followed by a siege train. After a week of heavy bombardment, the 25-foot high walls were breached, and Wilson planned his assault. There were only 4,500 men available, but on 13 September four columns, with another in reserve, mustered overnight. When the signal was given the men raced for the breach under a hail of fire and fought their way in, while the Kashmir Gate was blown up by the Bengal Engineers. As the mutineers fell back into the city, the British followed them. After savage street

British Library 2823


TNA:PRO WO 100/35



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A Punch cartoon marking the transfer of lands and responsibilities of the East India Company to the British Crown. The kneeling woman may represent the Rani of Jhansi, one of the main rebel leaders, who died aged 23 fighting the British. IA


Most archives relating to the Mutiny are held by the British Library’s India Office Records, part of its Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections, which includes thousands of official papers, letters, telegrams, and reports. The Indian Mutiny – A Guide to Source Material in the India Office Library & Records by Rosemary Setton (British Library, 1986) saves having to search dozens of indexes. It also describes the many privately donated letters, diaries and memoirs in the collection, plus contemporary photographs held at the Library. The British Library, Asia Pacific and Africa Collections, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB; telephone 020 7412 7873; orientaloffice.html. The National Archives holds a small amount of material, mainly recommendations for the Victoria Cross in the WO 32 series, plus lists of Indian Mutiny medal entitlements (WO 100/35-39). WO 33/4A contains “Hints explanatory of the discontent in the Bengal army”. Read more about it Christopher Hibbert’s The Great Mutiny – India 1857 (Penguin, 1980) is an excellent history. Peter A Bailey’s Researching Ancestors in the East India Company Armies (FIBIS, 2006) details where to find service records for Britons in the Company’s army. There are no records in Britain for Indians on either side. 26 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

great slaughter. This, however, was the turning point of the Mutiny. When reinforcements finally arrived from England, Campbell returned to Lucknow in March 1858 and retook the town. Other columns routed rebel armies in central India. Guerrilla fighting continued until the end of 1858, and only when Tantia Tope was captured and executed in 1860 was the Mutiny declared over; but its effects were long lasting The East India Company was taken over by direct British Government rule in October 1858. Bahadur Shah was exiled to Burma. Great care was taken in future not only to respect the sepoys’ religion but also to ensure that they never outnumbered British troops by more than three to one. Indian artillery units (among the best fighters in the rebel cause) were abolished. Indian Army officers were now obliged to speak several native languages. A number of British officers – including Campbell, Havelock and Nicholson – saw their reputations enhanced. Many Indians, particularly the Sikhs, and army units from Southern India, remained steadfastly loyal to the British, though in parts of the North the population supported the rebels – at least at first – and there was some guerrilla warfare. Hindus and Muslims had fought side by side against their British rulers, often with great heroism. Their failure to win was caused, in part, by lack of experience and trained senior officers. This attempt to revive the old India-wide Mogul Empire is seen by many as the first step in trying to create an independent Indian nation. Phil Tomaselli is a freelance writer, researcher and speaker, specialising in military and family history. He has helped his wife and mother research their families.


Resident, Sir Henry outflanked them, fought his way into the Residency, suffering serious casualties, and joined the garrison. His army was now also besieged. The capture of Delhi, however, freed troops for other relief operations. The new Commander-in-Chief, Sir Colin Campbell, marched on Lucknow in November and fought his way into the city. Proceeding carefully – his force of 5,000 was easily outnumbered several times – he stormed the Secundrabagh Palace, his Highlanders slaughtering some 2,000 rebels, and reached the Residency on the 17th. Two days later he began evacuating women and children, who accompanied him to Cawnpore. There he found that General Windham been driven back by the rebel Tantia Tope. Sending the women, children and wounded down river in boats, Campbell turned to the attack. Outflanking Tantia Tope’s army, he drove it back several miles. Again, there was



Punch 11 September 1858

 Survivors of the siege at Lucknow await presentation to King Edward VII on 3 June 1907, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the siege.

indus FP



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New historical tours to

celebrate the 60th Anniversary of India’s Independence

Photo courtesy Commonwealth War Graves Commission.(

Indus Tours, specialist tour operator to India, have launched two new tours ‘Journeys to Treasure’ to celebrate this years 60th a Anniversary of India’s Independence. Covering important historical events, such as the early establishment of the British East India Company and the 1857 uprising which lead on to India’s Independence in 1947, the tour will highlight the fascinating legacy of India’s interwoven history with Britain whilst covering the key attractions in each area. “With these tours, we aim to give a real insight into the important history of this bygone era and rekindle a feeling for the unique Anglo – Indian culture that excited at this time making India ‘the brightest jewel in the Imperial crown’. The tours will be led by Peter Liddle., Director of the first world war experience in Leeds, who is an historical author and lecturer on the two world wars as well as the founder of the Liddle collection of first world war materials at the University of Leeds. Highly knowledgeable and passionate about history and travel, he has a committed interest in India’s Culture, people, religious architecture, the British in India, the Indian Army and India’s rich wildlife. Designed to complement each other, ‘Journeys To Treasure’ cover two separate itineraries: Tour A: Delhi – Imphal - Kohima – Kazirangha Wilderness Sanctuary – Guwahai – Darjeeling and Kolkatta. 14 - 18 November 2007 Commending with the introduction to historic and modern India in the city of Delhi, the emphasise will be upon the siege and British capture of the city during the Indian munity, known as the first war of liberation. Visit the second World War Battlefield at Imphal and Kohima before travelling North of Kohima to Kazirangha Wilderness Sanctuary on the mighty Bhahmaputra River for 3 nights safari. Finishing in Darjeeling, the famous hill station below The Himalayan Peaks. Tour B: Delhi – Gwalior – Lucknow – Jim Corbetts’s National Park – Shimla and Amritsar 16 January – 2 February 2008 Commencing with the introduction to historic and modern India in the city of Delhi, the emphasis will be upon the siege and British capture of the city during the Indian Munity, know as the first War of Liberation. Travelling by train to arguably India’s most impressive fortress/palace in Gwalior, historic too for an Indian exploit during the Munity. The 1857 scene remains dominant in the next location, synonymous for prolonged privation and ultimate rescue, Lucknow. Famed for its wildlife and evolution from a hunter’s paradise to a conservator’s dream, then spend 3 nights in Corbett National Park before arriving in the well-known hill station retreat of Shimla. Finishing in Amritsar, a city of extraordinary architecture, religion, culture and history. The tours cost £2450.00/person and £2380.00/person respectively and include return economy airfares from the UK, all departure taxes, services of Dr Peter Liddle (Trip Director) all transport, sightseeing and entry fees as per itinerary. Accommodation on a full board basis for Tour A excluding lunch in Delhi and Kolkatta. Tour B is on a B&B basis except for Corbett National Park, which is full board.


The Tailor-made Holiday Specialists

Bookable through Indus Tours: Tel 020 8901 7320 email • Indus Tours & Travel Ltd, KBC Harrow Exchange, 2 Gayton Road Harrow HA1 2XU





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GHOSTS OF THE INDIAN MUTINY Poignant personal notes handwritten in the margins of a copy of the East-India Register bring a disaster from the past to life for Richard Carlyon


The frontispiece of the East-India Register and Army List for 1857.

hile looking through a copy of the East-India Register and Army List for 1857 in the Royal Holloway College Library recently, I found it had been extensively marked. I normally abhor the writing of marginal notes, especially in library books, but soon realised this “vandalism” was actually the raw material of history. These notes, all written in the same hand, are obviously Victorian. The Register contains lists – military, naval, civil, legal, commercial – and much else of interest for that period. Here are thousands of names listed according to their original regiments, with separate sections for Bengal, Madras and Bombay, the three semi-independent Indian Presidencies of the East India Company. Some names have been crossed through, some have marks on the side, and some have words added. Sometimes dates have a preceding word which I eventually realised was “Times”. These dates indicate that the original owner had been making

...this “vandalism” was actually the raw material of history. 28 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

these additions for more than a year, recording the fate of certain officers serving in the army of the East India Company during the Mutiny. A total of 609 officers’ names on the Bengal List have been marked in some way. Although it is clear that the original owner had a deep personal interest in keeping such a record, it is scarcely possible they knew all of them. The marks include: Dash to the left of the name There are 213 of these, probably indicating officers declared to be safe. Name struck through There are well over 300 such marks on 70 pages of the lists, sometimes accompanied by specific information. My conclusion that these officers had died was confirmed by entries in Lieutenant Colonel G H D Gimlette’s A Postscript to the Records of the Indian Mutiny, which traces the fate of the mutinous regiments, including some names of murdered officers. These agree with our marginalia. Additional individual word For example, “ret’d”, “dead”, “killed”. The word, “Times”, plus a date There are 22 such entries indicating the date of the issue of The Times in which the information appeared. The earliest is 21/9/7 and the latest is 19/10/8. Additional information Often included a capital F, assumed to mean Father. There are 64 addresses with next of kin. For example, on page 152, Lieutenant Wm H Walcot of the 47th Regiment Native Infantry (Volunteers) has his name struck through with the addition, “Rev. C. Walcot, Bitterly Court, Ludlow. F” Using these notes, we can tell something of the men’s parentage, including their social status. Twelve came from service families;


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this volume. It was bought after 6 May 1857, as it was the second edition published that year, and was used until at least October 1858. The owner had personal connections with some of the officers, and was interested enough to discover and note down the addresses of the next of kin of 64 casualties. The owner read The Times regularly, so probably lived in England. Maybe the volume was bought for the express purpose of marking down the Mutiny casualties, since it has survived alone and not as part of a sequential collection. Other sources of information were used apart from The Times, but we can only speculate as to what they may have been. From what work of reference, for example, were the addresses of next of kin with no Times date taken? The edge of the volume has been stamped with the words “Indian Dept” probably an addition by the college library. As Bedford College for Women amalgamated with Royal Holloway, it is possible that the volume came from there. This suggests that the owner was female. Whoever they were, their notes have the immediate physical reality of someone writing in the margins of history. Richard Carlyon is a PhD candidate in history at Royal Holloway University of London. He holds a BA from University College London and a Masters in Research from London Metropolitan University.

Examples of the personal information recorded in the Register.



seven names of next of kin belong to clergy and five of the fathers have titles, mostly knights. The remainder are civilian. Opposite Second Lieutenant J H Shuldham (Bengal page 82) is: “Co.I.T.H.S. H.E.I.C.S. F. Times 26/3/8”. H.E.I.C.S stands for the Honourable East India Company Service, and F is for father, but the initials Co ITHS remain to be explained. There are few entries for officers on the Madras and Bombay Establishments – then separate forces – and almost all of these are described as retired. This was because the Mutiny largely took place in Bengal. Some notes have additions, apparently as more news emerged. Colonel J Eckford, (page 72), has his name struck through but later notes read “Not dead”, twice. This particular change confirms that a struck-through name indicated the person was reported dead, but other sources suggested he had, in fact, survived. In the Bengal section, page 143, eight officers of the 38th Regiment Light Infantry (Volunteers) at Delhi have their names struck through with additions such as “dead”, “killed”, but for that of Lieutenant Alex J Anderson a second note, to the left of his struck-through name is an obscured scribble and to the right, in a cursive flourish full of apparent emotion and in much larger letters than usual, the word “alive”. Apart from the occasional “not dead” this is the only positive notation in the whole volume. News of an officer’s death may have further sad notes. Captain R C Fagan’s entry states: “Widow and 6 Children”. The name of Captain E C Vibart of the 2nd Light Cavalry has the addition, “Children left”. Of the four Vibarts listed, according to Lieutenant Colonel Gimlette’s book the retired Major Vibart was either “murdered in the Ganges massacre, or killed in the entrenchment at Cawnpore”. Christopher Hibbert says that Major Vibart and his wife were killed at the Ganges massacre. Captain Sanctuary (5th Regiment Native Infantry) has the addition: “Father is known to us. 6/12/7”. He was Thomas Sanctuary of Springfield, Horsham. There are some definite pointers to the identity of the person who owned and marked





The volume can be seen at the Royal Holloway Library, Egham TW20 0EX, telephone 01784 443824. No appointment or reader’s ticket is necessary. Details at -services/library/about. Read more about it F Clark (comp), East-India Register and Army List for 1857 (2nd edition W H Allen, of Leadenhall Street, 1857) Christopher Hibbert, The Great Mutiny (Allen Lane, 1978) Lieutenant Colonel G H D Gimlette, A Postscript to the Records of the Indian Mutiny An attempt to trace the subsequent careers and fate of the rebel Bengal regiments, 1857-1858 (Witherby, 1927) MAY 2007





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CHAPS AND CHAPATTIS Peter Bailey and Elaine MacGregor introduce the family history society for people with ancestors who were in India from the 17th century onwards

The third, enlarged edition of Baxter’s Guide – Biographical Sources in the India Office Records includes a comprehensive list of data useful to family history researchers. It costs £5.95 plus £1.50 p&p from FIBIS.

As the first in a series of FIBIS Research Guides, Peter Bailey’s Researching Ancestors in the East India Company Armies (£6.95) gives background history on the Company armies from records at the British Library. It provides full references and, where appropriate, the corresponding numbers for microfilms held by the Church of the Latter-day Saints, which can be viewed at their Family History Centres around the world. This is a great boon for those without access to the original records in London. 30 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

Two young sahibs of the 1930s.

supplemented by a twice-yearly newsletter. For members who live far from the British Library, FIBIS also provides a research service, for which there is a small charge. To encourage networking between members with common surnames or interests, there is also a members’ interests service, plus twiceyearly lectures on research techniques, where you can learn about personal success stories and the backgrounds of families from differing social class and occupations who lived in India. Peter Bailey is chairman of FIBIS, while Elaine MacGregor is treasurer and membership secretary.

Joining the Society


ounded in 1998, Families in British India Society (FIBIS) charges an annual subscription of £15 for UK membership, £16 for Europe and £18 for other overseas members. Benefits include: two journals a year; access to members’ pages on the website; discounts on publications, and the services of the Society’s research officer at the British Library. More details at or write to Mrs Elaine MacGregor, 14 Gableson Avenue, Brighton BN1 5FG.

Courtesy Hazel Craig


n estimated three million Britons lived and served in India over the 350 years of British presence on the sub-continent, so it is not surprising that many family historians have discovered ancestors who spent all or part of their lives in the Raj. Given the geographical and time scales, not to mention the huge numbers of people involved, researchers often turn to the Families in British India Society (FIBIS), the leading self-help group for amateur and professional genealogists looking for forebears who lived in India. Geographically, the territory includes Pakistan and Bangladesh, countries with close associations such as Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Persia (Iran) and the Gulf, together with islands which have historic links to India, such as Mauritius and St Helena. Historically, FIBIS researchers go back to the foundation of the Honourable East India Company’s (HEIC) in the early 17th century. Nor does the Society concentrate solely on the British in India. To do so would exclude Indians themselves, as well as a number of other nationalities who played an important historical role and became part of the country’s scene. To help members and other researchers, FIBIS transcribes and publishes relevant sources and data from the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections (which include the records of the old India Office) at the British Library – the main archival source. Alongside books relating to British India, the Society also produces the twice-yearly FIBIS Journal, which includes advice on conducting research, plus extracts from diaries and letters of ancestors in India – from the mighty to the most humble. This publication is




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Join our tour, organised in association with the Families in British India Society, to sites connected with the Indian Mutiny


arrivals/departures at airports, hotels, railway stations, plus porterage at railway stations for one standard item of baggage per person. The tour is limited to 30 people, with an estimated price, including air fares, of ÂŁ2,970 each, sharing a double room (single supplement is ÂŁ595). The price is based on economy class air travel from London to Delhi, with return flights from Kolkata to London.

Find out more Family History Tours, the specialist in historical family history tours to India, organises trips for the Families in British India Society.

A tour group at the Taj Mahal.

Elaine MacGregor

For further information email, visit or or write to Family History Tours, The Sussex Innovation Centre, Science Park Square, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9SB.

he year 2007 is a significant one for British Indian history. It is the 150th anniversary of the 1857 uprising, the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Plassey and the 60th anniversary of Indian Independence. To mark these events, Family History Tours is organising a second commemorative 18-day trip to India (the first, in February this year, was fully subscribed) from 5-23 October. This is an opportunity for fellow historians to spend time together, as well as possibly seeing where their ancestors lived and worked. Starting in Delhi, we will visit some of the sites of the mutiny, travel through the former Bengal Presidency, and finish the tour in Kolkata (Calcutta). Throughout the trip the party will be accompanied by a specialist from Family History Tours, as well as an Englishspeaking Indian guide. Among the knowledgeable guest speakers at evening lectures will be William Dalrymple, the distinguished author and historian, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Asiatic Society, who will be giving his talk in Delhi. Highlights of the tour will include: a visit to Meerut where the Mutiny began; the fort at Agra, where nearly 9,000 British families sought refuge; Kanpur (Cawnpore); the residency at Lucknow, where gallant defenders fought off much larger forces in a 90-day siege; and various sites in Kolkata (Calcutta). Accommodation will be in high quality hotels with all meals included, while airconditioned overland travel will be by coach and rail. There will also be celebration dinners at the start and end of the tour, as well as meeting and assistance on

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Easter 2007 Summer 2007 Christmas 2007

. t i t c e t o r P . t i t c e l l o c t s u j t ’ n o D Your precious memories and keepsakes need specialist help to survive over time. Sunlight, insects, damp and especially harmful acids given off by paper and cardboard will age and eventually destroy photos, documents and other mementos. Protect them with the true archival, acid-free storage system from the Memories & Nostalgia collection, manufacturers of archival products of distinction. This specialist range is constructed to the highest standards and trusted by world renowned museums and archive professionals. Why not use our popular Family History Box for your storage needs. It contains five useful box sizes, plus record sheets, archive tissue paper and practical solutions to the most commonly stored items in most households. Prices start at only £29.99 and include UK postage.

For more details on the Memories & Nostalgia range, or to purchase online, visit or you can simply call 0207 790 2394.

By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Manufacturers of Archive Boxes I. Waterman (Box Makers) Ltd London




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ON THE CARDS Thanks to the efforts of three military men, the Society of Genealogists has a substantial index of its Indian archive. Else Churchill describes a rich and unusual resource for tracing connections to the sub-continent


by surname, and then chronologically within name. You can view microfilms of the cards in the lower library. Large cards contain records of military officers, military service staff and civilian employees. The small slips hold births, marriages and deaths extracted from various sources. In addition to the cards, the Indian shelves in the upper library (shelf mark IND) contain a significant collection of printed books and typescripts relating to the British in India. The collection mirrors the Society’s usual arrangement of its sources into the following categories: General, Local, Registers, Monumental Inscriptions and Lists. General items cover the whole Indian sub-continent, including Ceylon, Malaya and Burma. The category includes histories, guides to research, gazetteers, biographies and genealogies. Local material consists largely of local histories, either for the three Presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Calcutta, or for specific towns and areas within them. In keeping with its general practice, the Society labels places with names that were in use during the period when our ancestors were living there. Some of the most important sources relating to baptisms, births, marriages, deaths and burials can be found among the Registers. They include

t only takes a few key enthusiasts to make something happen, and during the 1930s and 1940s the Society of Genealogists (SoG) was lucky enough to attract three Army officers who dedicated themselves to compiling the Society’s India index cards. These cover military and civil service careers, plus records of births, marriages and deaths, held by the SoG. A family historian using the cards should be able to navigate the Society’s unique collection of Indian material, which is an outstanding supplement to records held in the British Library. The three enthusiasts were Lieutenant Colonel H Kendal Percy-Smith, FRHist, FSG, and his friends Brigadier Humphrey Bullock and Major Vernon Hodson. Lieutenant Colonel Percy-Smith became the SoG’s honorary librarian in 1937. His obituary in the March 1976 edition of Genealogists Magazine said he maintained that: “Life consists of spells of hard work alternating with periods of slackness with nothing to do.” Inspired by reading back copies of The Genealogists Magazine during his spells in India over the war years, and with – presumably – little to do, Lieutenant Colonel Percy-Smith became one of those indefatigable indexers to whom genealogists owe heartfelt thanks. He and his companions compiled sets of cards covering roughly the period 1780 to 1857. They comprised slips used to create a number of typescripts, now held on the Indian shelves in the upper library. Once the cards were typed up they were combined to form an Indian subset of the SoG’s Great Card Index. These India cards are sorted alphabetically

Exterior of the Society of Genealogists’ headquarters in Clerkenwell, London.

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Society of Genealogists


An example of a card from the Percy-Smith Index Cards.

eight volumes of births, marriages and deaths in India (IND/R 1-8), which are the typed-up slips “alphabetically arranged by Major H K Percy Smith, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Deputy Field Controller of Military Accounts, India 19401947.” At the beginning of the first volume is a note stating that it was “typed in quintuplicate”. The first 153 pages were keyed in by a young Sikh typist in Rawlpindi, the next 18 pages by Major Percy-Smith, and the remaining 35 pages by Lieutenant Colonel H Bullock, OBE, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Deputy Judge Advocate General, North Western Army India. The entries were taken from publications like the Asiatic Journal, and directories such as the Bengal Directory, as well as monumental inscriptions (MIs) and registers. These may well fill in some gaps in the

About the Society of Genealogists The Society of Genealogists’ library has the largest collection of books and research aids for family history outside the United States. Admission is free to members; non-members are charged £4 per hour, £10 per half day or £18 per day. Details of all holdings, including the Indian collections, can be found in the Society’s online catalogue at The Society runs regular lectures and talks. One of particular relevance is on 19 September when Peter Bailey will talk about tracing men who served in the armies of British India. The Society’s quarterly journal The Genealogists Magazine, has published a number of articles about the Indian collections. In particular note the article by Major V C P Hodson in vol 6 no 5 which, though written in 1933, still contains a wealth of information on genealogical sources. The same volume also contains a series by the same author, Some families with a Long East India Connection. You can also see copies in The National Archives’s library. Although now out of print, a short guide to Indian sources in the library by Neville Taylor can be obtained as a photocopy from the Genealogy Officer by emailing Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA; telephone 020 7251 8799,


ecclesiastical returns of births marriages and deaths held at the British Library. In a separate volume there are a further 5,301 Anglo-Indian marriages compiled from similar sources by Brigadier HumphreyBullock [IND/R 11]. There is other material on vital events among the bound typescripts IND/R. These cover places such as Amritsar, Dalhousie, Guardaspur, Kalka, Simla, Fort St George, Bengal and Benares. Many of the India index cards also contain extracts from registers, MIs and directories which were put together in Anglo-Indian Collections (IND/R 8-10) by Brigadier H Bullock. These volumes also include his notes for a work entitled Anglo-Indian Families, which were typed and shelved at IND/G 73 (the term Anglo-Indian is used in the wider sense to include European families in India as well as Eurasians). The notes are often in the form of narrative pedigrees. The SoG has collected a considerable number of bound typescripts of monumental inscriptions relating to British cemeteries in India, in Calcutta, Cownpore, Central Provinces, Ceylon, Madras, North-West Provinces, Patna and the Punjab. These include an index to English monumental inscriptions in India printed in Bengal Past and Present between 1931-1937. Additionally, the Society holds the publications of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA), which is recording inscriptions from British cemeteries and churches around the sub-continent. Lieutenant Colonel Percy-Smith’s interest in India means that the SoG holds an excellent collection of printed lists for the British and Indian armies. These are easily accessible, whereas they are not on open shelves at the British Library. Early examples include: Alphabetical Lists of Officers of the Indian Army 1760-1834 (Dodwell and Miles); Government of Madras Military Dept Lists of the Army for 17871801 (reprinted 1909), and Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834 (V C P Hodson). Later army lists include ones for the three Presidencies, such as: Ubique: War Services of the Bengal Army 1863, Bombay Artillery Officers 1748-1861 and Madras Artillery Officers 1748-1861. You will find Indian Army lists after 1800 among runs of the East India Register and Directory (from 1803); East India Register and Army List (from 1844); The Indian


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Society of Genealogists

Army and Civil Lists (from 1861); The Indian List (from 1877) and, of course, officers of the British Army in India as listed in Harts and other Army lists on the Society’s army shelves. The Society’s lists include rare, early directories which are also not on open access at the British Library. These are particularly useful for information on Indian civil servants and employees of the East India Company. There are good runs of The East India Calendar; East India Register; India Office and Burma Office List, as well as extensive lists of civil servants in publications such as A General Register of the Noble East India Company’s Civil Servants of the Bengal Establishment from 1790-1842; and Alphabetical List of the HEIC’s Madras Civil Servants…1780-1842. The Percy-Smith India index also contains extensive notes on members of the Indian Medical Service, supplementing the various printed lists on the Indian shelves. If you are looking for wills, Lieutenant Colonel Percy-Smith’s index to Bombay Wills 1723-1900 (A-C only), in “East India Company’s service work in progress” is of particular interest. It is typical of some of the

The entry for George Everest, after whom Mount Everest is named, in Phillimore’s Historical Records.

Society of Genealogists


smaller lists he and others transcribed and typed up from records found at the India Office. Occasionally you will see references in the India index to correspondence in the Anglo Indian research papers, which are now with the SoG’s special collections. The papers comprise two boxes containing about 400 cases of correspondence relating to work undertaken by Lieutenant Colonel PercySmith and the SoG in 1949-50 on behalf of British subjects and their descendents in the Indian sub-continent and at home seeking to prove their nationality under the 1948 British Nationality Act. A name index attached to the papers supersedes that published by the British Families in India Society. There are also some unique notes on the Phillimore Historical Records of the Survey of India. Colonel R H Phillimore corresponded with Lieutenant Colonel Percy-Smith while compiling biographical notes at the back of volumes 2-4 of his history of the surveys of India. The correspondence includes letters, pedigrees, biographical essays etc. The notes are being indexed by a volunteer, who is also indexing the published surveys themselves to provide a fuller, combined name list of all individuals concerned.


A page from Lieutenant Colonel Percy-Smith’s index of deaths of British people in India.

Else Churchill has been the Genealogy Officer of the Society of Genealogist since 1994. She has over 20 years’ experience as a professional genealogical librarian and researcher, contributing regularly to family history publications and lecturing in the UK and United States.

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With thousands of campaign medals issued to soldiers and civilians in British-ruled India, many families will have an ancestor who qualified for an award. John Sly pins down their history uring the course of the 19th century British troops fought many battles as they attempted to subdue India and territories around its border. Their courage was recognised in a series of different medals. The first chronologically was the Army of India Medal, established in 1851, which marked British military involvement in the sub-continent between 1799 and 1826, a broadly similar period to that covered by the Military and Naval General Service medals. However, the first medal issued to all ranks for a specific campaign in


Many medals were issued only when claimed by an individual soldier... 36 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

India was awarded a decade or so earlier in 1839 to commemorate operations at Ghuznee. In general, medals for service in India look slightly different from those awarded in other theatres of war. From the Sutlej Medal of 1845-46 onwards, they tended to have scroll suspenders, in contrast to British medals awarded elsewhere. Clasps were usually separated by silver rosettes covering the joining lugs. They also had more attractive design features on the reverse, often inspired by scenes associated with the campaigns. The medals were generally struck at the Royal Mint, but occasionally dies were sent to the Calcutta Mint. This accounts for the different styles, as naming for all Honourable East India Company




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Mary Evans Picture Library

This engraving shows British troops defending Bhurtpoor as they fire on advancing Burmese forces during the battle for the city in 1826. Some 1,528 European survivors were alive in 1851 to claim the Army of India Medal with the appropriate clasp.

18 January 1826. The First Afghan War produced four separate medals, one with several varieties: Ghuznee (1839), Candahar Ghuznee and Cabul (1842), Jellalabad (1842), and Kelat-iGhilzie (1842). The one for Ghuznee appears to be the first medal awarded in India to all ranks. Established by General Order in November 1842, it was designed and produced in

Above, the obverse and reverse of the Army of India Medal with clasps for Allighur and Laswaree, issued in 1851 to survivors of British and Indian troops who fought campaigns in the sub-continent between 1803 and 1826.

(HEIC) recipients and some imperial troops was done in India. Medals were mainly engraved rather than impressed, and occasionally inaccuracies creep in, possibly because the work was done by native craftsmen unfamiliar with British spelling. Now that collecting campaign medals has become markedly more popular, they have risen in price. This, coupled with computer technology, has allowed modern forgeries – almost indistinguishable from the genuine article – to be created. Forgeries are often simply made by engraving a genuine name in the original style on a genuine un-named medal. Every medal should be thoroughly checked to establish its authenticity, then compared with the medal rolls at The National Archives and the British Library. Another point to watch concerns the issue of medals to descendents of men who died during campaigns. Many medals were issued only when claimed by an individual soldier; if he was dead, his medal would not be issued unless his family claimed on his behalf. Granting of retrospective medals was usually restricted to claimants alive at the time the medal was established, thus precluding any soldiers who had died during or since the campaign. A prime example of this was the Army of India Medal 1799-1826. The obverse of the medal shows a classic “young head” portrait of Queen Victoria by the famous Royal Mint engraver William Wyon. The reverse shows a seated winged Victory, beneath the words: “To the Army of India”, holding in her left hand a laurel wreath, in the right an olive branch; to the left is a pile of arms under a palm tree. The ribbon is light blue. There were 21 clasps, beginning with Allighur (4 September 1803) and ending with Bhurtpoor (17-18 January 1826); multiple clasps were separated by rosettes. Because the medal was issued only to survivors, who had to apply for it some 30 to 50 years after the event, the number of claimants was relatively small compared to the numbers who actually participated in the campaigns. For example, the rarest clasp – for the defence of Corygaum on 1 January 1818 – was claimed by only four European soldiers. On the other hand, the clasp Bhurtpoor was issued to 1,528 Europeans, survivors of a siege which lasted from 10 December 1825 to

British Library c2661-05

Left, a contemporary engraving of the charge of the 3rd King’s Own Light Dragoons at Chillianwala, 13 January 1849. British Army units served in India alongside units recruited by the East India Company. Bottom left, the Punjab Medal, issued for actions in 1848 and 1849, including this battle.

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 Right, Edward Law, Lord Ellenborough (1790-1871), Governor-General of India from 1841 to 1844. He criticised the plainess of the Jellabad Medal (below).

“I doubt the competence of the Mint there to execute at all in a creditable manner the medals I have...resolved to bestow” 38 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

Calcutta. The obverse shows the fortress of Ghuznee, the reverse gives the date, 23 July, at the top and the year 1839 at the bottom, surmounted by a crown, with the name engraved in the centre. The ribbon is half crimson, half green. The medal celebrates the taking of the fortress after its gate was blown. Imperial regiments which took part included the 4th Light Dragoons and 16th Lancers, plus the 2nd, 13th and 17th Foot. Among HEIC troops were the 1st European Regiment, and artillery manned by Europeans. The next medal was awarded for the defence and battles of Jellalabad, besieged from 12 November 1841 to 7 April 1842. This latter date appears on the reverse of the first design of the medal, which showed a mural crown and the word “Jellalabad”. The reverse read simply “VII April 1842”. This rather plain medal, made and struck in Calcutta, did not please the Governor-General, Lord Ellenborough, who remarked: “I am much dissatisfied with the Execution of the Medal which has been made at the Mint in Calcutta...and I doubt the competence of the Mint there to execute at all in a creditable manner the Medals I have...resolved to bestow...” It was subsequently withdrawn and a more artistic medal issued, designed by William Wyon and produced in London. On the reverse was a winged Victory flying over Jellalabad; the obverse was the familiar portrait of Queen Victoria. The ribbon for both types was chosen by Lord Ellenborough – who wanted it to become known as the Military Ribbon Of India – watered red, white, yellow, white and blue. It is scarce, as few soldiers awarded the first medal applied to exchange it for the second. Four different types of medal were awarded for a campaign involving the fortresses at Candahar, Ghuznee and Cabul. They had a common obverse but different reverse, which all bear names of the locations within laurel bushes, surmounted by a crown. The naming style varied: some were engraved, some were impressed, and some were issued un-named. The ribbon is the same as for the Jellalabad medal. The medal for Kelat-i-Ghilzie was issued to a mixed garrison of roughly 950 officers and




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men who withstood a siege by overwhelmingly larger numbers of the enemy between February and May 1842. The obverse of the medal shows a shield with the name of the fort, surrounded by a laurel wreath and surmounted by a mural crown. The reverse shows military trophies, with the words “Invicta MDCCCXLII”. The war in Afghanistan was merely the start of a whole series of campaigns around India during th 1840s, beginning in Sind (Scinde). Medals for these were intended to resemble those awarded for Afghanistan. All three bear Queen Victoria’s portrait, but the reverses differ. The first medal was struck for Meeanee, commemorating the battle won by Sir Charles Napier’s troops on 17 February 1843 against odds of up to 10 to one. The reverse shows a crown above a laurel wreath, enclosing the text “Meeanee 1843”. The second reverse is almost the same, but with the word “Hyderabad”, commemorating victory there on 24 March. A third medal combined the names of the two battles, using the Military Ribbon of India. Naming is on the rim. The only British unit to receive it was the 22nd Foot. In his book Medals And Decorations Of The British Army And Navy, John Horsley Mayo noted that this medal was unique as it was “the only instance of any medals for Indian service being paid for by the Crown.” It was struck at the Royal Mint in London.

Not long after Napier conquered Sind, Sir Hugh Gough was fighting in Gwalior. Two battles – at Maharajpoor and at Punniar on 29 December 1843 – resulted in British victories. To celebrate, every officer and soldier present was awarded a medal featuring two six-pointed bronze Stars, with silver stars in the centre, struck at the Calcutta Mint. The bronze originated from guns taken at the battles. Names of individuals were engraved on the reverse, which was otherwise plain. These Stars, which used the Military Ribbon of India, were intended to be pinned on a jacket, but are found with a variety of suspenders, clearly chosen by recipients who found it difficult to attach the medal to their uniform. On 11 December 1845 the first Sikh Wars broke out when the Sikh army crossed the Sutlej River. The Sutlej medal commemorates the main actions of this short conflict. The ribbon is dark blue, bordered with red. Four types were issued – for Moodkee, Ferozeshuhur, Aliwal and Sobraon – each with a different inscription in

The obverse and reverse of the KelatI-Ghilzie Medal. It is the rarest medal issued for the Afghan campaign.

The Gwalior Star, which anticipated the Victoria Cross by using metal from guns captured from enemy forces.

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Mary Evans Picture Library

Above, the obverse and reverse of the Sutlej Medal from the First Sikh War. Right, a contemporary depiction of the Battle of Sobraon in 1846 in which British forces defeated a much larger force of Sikhs, bringing an end to the war.

the exergue at the base of the reverse, which specified for which action the medal had been awarded. If a recipient was present at more than one action, he received the medal with the exergue for the first action and clasps, separated by rosettes, for subsequent ones. There was no clasp for Moodkee, as it was the first action of the campaign to be commemorated. This was the first medal for service in India with fitted clasps, which read upwards in

Probably the best known medal is the 1854 India Medal, generally called the India General Service Medal... 40 ANCESTORS MAY 2007

chronological order. The main reverse type shows a figure of Victory facing left, holding a wreath and olive branch. The legend reads: “Army of the Indus�. Any combination of reverse and clasps for this medal should be checked thoroughly for authenticity. On 20 April 1848 a revolt, which began with the murder of British officials in Mooltan in the Punjab, led eventually to a British invasion. Perhaps the most famous battle of this campaign is Chilianwala (13 January), where Lord Gough was outnumbered by at least five to two. The British attacked, and eventually forced the Sikhs to retreat with over 8,000 casualties. The former suffered 2,500 casualties, over 500 of them in the 24th Foot alone. On 21 February Gough defeated the Sikhs at Goojerat. The Punjab was annexed by Britain a few weeks later.



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Struck at the Royal Mint, the Punjab campaign medal was authorised as early as April 1849. Its reverse depicts a British general on horseback receiving the Sikh surrender, with an Indian landscape in the background, and a line of infantry on the right. The legend reads: “To the Army of the Punjab”, with MDCCCXLIX in the exergue. The suspender is typically ornate, while the ribbon is dark blue with a yellow stripe near the edge. There are three clasps – for Mooltan, Chilianwala and Goojerat – although a genuine three-clasp medal would be almost impossible to find because of the dates of the actions. Originally the medal was to have only two clasps; the additional one (Chilianwala) was granted in January 1850. There was some argument in June 1851 about whether civilians should be entitled to this medal and clasps. In April 1851 a military letter from the HEIC Court of Directors in London to the Government of Bengal quoted the number being prepared, and listed the names of political officers and volunteers entitled to the medal. This was refuted in a letter from the GovernorGeneral, the Earl of Dalhousie, dated 25 June. He was adamant that he had not given permission to any civilian or volunteer to put himself in the front line where a medal might be claimed: “ respectful opinion [is] that Military Distinctions ought to be reserved for Military men.” However Dalhousie was overruled, and civilians are also named in the rolls. Probably the best known medal is the 1854 India Medal, generally called the India General Service Medal (IGSM) 1854-1895 to distinguish it from subsequent general service medals covering 20th century campaigns on the sub-continent. The same design is used, with clasps for individual campaigns. A total of 24 clasps were issued, some of which are rare. On the medal’s obverse is the queen’s portrait, while the reverse is an adaptation of the British Military General Service Medal (MGSM). A winged Victory crowns a seated (anonymous) warrior; while at the base is a lotus flower. The ribbon is of similar colour to the MGSM, but the pattern is different, described as “red with two dark blue stripes”. The medal was first authorised for operations in Burma during the period 18521853. The clasp was named Pegu after the province, which was added to British possessions after the war. After Pegu the next clasp was for Persia, although the trigger for this campaign

occurred in Afghanistan, when the Persians formally annexed the city of Herat in October 1856. A British force was sent from India to Bushire on the Persian Gulf. After a vigorous campaign, which included the bombardment of Mohamrah on the river Euphrates, peace was declared in March 1857. In general subsequent clasps were issued for relatively small-scale campaigns in the region, many employing few or no imperial troops. However, one wonders why the larger campaigns did not deserve a unique medal, as was awarded for the Indian Mutiny and the Second Afghan War. For example, there were three campaigns in Burma between 1885 and 1892 involving large numbers of Indian Army troops and some 15 different imperial cavalry and infantry units. The clasp for the North West Frontier campaign needs to be examined carefully. It was not sanctioned until April 1869, and was therefore made retrospectively to survivors. It was originally intended to cover activity on the Frontier between 1849 and 1863, but a separate clasp was sanctioned for the Umbeyla expedition of 1863 as it had cost 900 lives. Later the clasp was extended to operations after 1863, the last issue being for the Hazara, or Black Mountain, expedition of October 1868. In all, the clasp was awarded for 17 expeditions of varying sizes. A separate medal was awarded for actions in the Indian Mutiny, beginning in August 1858 with the clasp Delhi. Other clasps were approved in May 1859, apart from the Relief of


The obverse and reverse of the India General Service Medal.

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The Indian Mutiny Medal, issued to military men and civilians who saw service during the uprisings in 1857 and 1858.


Lucknow, which had to wait until January 1860. The Indian Mutiny Medal is slightly different from other Indian campaign medals. Rosettes still separate the clasps, described as “fish-tailed”, and the suspender is a “cusped swivel bar”. Four of the five clasps celebrate iconic military activity: Delhi, Defence of Lucknow, Relief of Lucknow (all 1857), and Lucknow (1858). The fifth, Central India, commemorates an area of military activity from January to June 1858. The obverse shows a young head of Victoria, but the reverse is a dramatic helmeted Britannia, with a wreath in her right hand, the union shield on her left arm, and a lion standing behind her. The ribbon is white with two scarlet stripes. Naming is in impressed Roman capitals. The medal was also awarded to civil participants. Many members of the Indian judiciary and the Indian civil service were caught up in the fighting; indeed four civilians were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Second Afghan War (1878-1880) produced two medals. Originally the IGSM was to be awarded with clasps for Afghanistan, Ali Musjid and Peiwar Kotal, but as early as October 1879 Lord Cranbrook, the secretary of state for India, was keen to have a distinguishing medal for the campaign. The Afghanistan Medal was announced in March 1881 with six clasps: Ali Musjid, Peiwar Kotal, Charasia, Ahmed Khel, Kabul, Kandahar. This medal (in silver for combatants and bronze for camp followers) is interesting. It was designed by Randolph Caldecott, but executed by Leonard Wyon. The obverse has a unique portrait of Queen

Victoria designed by J Boehm, while the reverse incorporates an elephant carrying a mountain gun followed by marching soldiers, led by an officer on horseback. The ribbon is green with crimson borders. The shape of the clasps is unique: they are rectangular, but larger than usual with no rosettes covering the rivets. In addition, a bronze star was issued to the 10,000 or so troops who took part in the march of about 310 miles from Kabul to relieve Kandahar in August 1880 under Sir Frederick (later Lord) Roberts. Made from the metal of guns captured from the Afghans at the battle of Kandahar, it comprises a five-pointed star, with a crown and a suspension loop above, and a monogram of VR in the centre surrounded by a band reading “Kabul To Kandahar 1880”. The reverse is plain, for naming. The ribbon is similar to that issued for the First Afghan War. In March 1895 events in Chitral led to British intervention, and a famous siege and relief. This is commemorated by the distinctive India Medal 1895, which was extended to include clasps for campaigns up to 1902. On the obverse was the well-known “old head” portrait of the Queen by Thomas Brock, while the reverse was a new design by G W de Saulles, showing a British soldier and an Indian soldier, both holding a standard bearing the legend “India 1895”. The ribbon has three red stripes with green stripes between. There are seven clasps: Defence of Chitral 1895; Relief of Chitral 1895; Punjab Frontier (1897-98); Malakand 1897; Samana 1897; Tirah 189798; and Waziristan 1901-2. The argument for a new medal seems to have been that many soldiers in the Indian Army had been on several of the expeditions for which clasps were issued. They had collected up to half a dozen each, thus devaluing the medal as a record of service. This tended not to apply to imperial regiments, as they did not stay in India indefinitely, and even a two-clasp IGSM 18541895 for an imperial soldier is uncommon. However, by the middle of 1897 the whole of the North West Frontier was in revolt, and the new medal was extended to reward huge numbers of troops involved in the punitive expeditions of 1897 and 1898. The trigger for the uprisings seems to have been religion. The British were deemed a threat to Islam – despite the fact that there were Muslim regiments in the Indian Army – while the defeat of the Greeks by the Turks (a Muslim country) in Spring 1897 added to the fervour. When British forces at Malakand and




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Left, British artillery in the Peshawar Field Force on the road to Ali Musjid in Afghanistan, drawn for the Illustrated London News of December 1878. Far left, the Afghanistan Medal, awarded for service in the Second Afghan War.


The medal rolls are split between The National Archives and the India Office Records at the British Library. In general, medals issued to officers and men in the British Army are in series WO 100 while those for the Royal Navy are in ADM 171 at Kew. Those for officers and men in the Indian Army are at the British Library in series L/MIL/5. There’s a full list in William Spencer’s book (see below). Read more about it William Spencer, Medals: The Researcher’s Guide (The National Archives, 2006) George Tancred, Historical Record Of Medals And Honorary Distinctions (Spink, 1891) John Horsley Mayo, Medals And Decorations Of The British Army And Navy (Westminster, 1897)

Chakdara were attacked on 26 July that year a relief force was sent from Nowshera. In August 1897, a large force of Afridis and Orakzias, two of the most belligerent clans on the North West Frontier, attacked British garrisons along the Khyber Pass. The Tirah Field Force was formed to punish these tribes and restore the reputation of the British military. Probably the most important of all 19th century campaigns on the old North West Frontier, it was considered for many years to be a prime example of the difficulties encountered by regular troops facing a

guerrilla force in mountainous country. The medal history of 19th century India is intricately entwined with the political history, and in many ways reflects it. For family historians with an ancestor who was there, it is often a medal which prompts more digging into a rich seam of research. John Sly is a specialist in military history. At various times he has edited the Journal of the Orders and Medal Research Society, Medal News and Ancestors.

John Hayward, Diana Birch and Richard Bishop, British Battles And Medals (Spink, 2006) James Mackay and John W Mussell, The Medal Yearbook 2007 (Token Publishing, 2006) John Sly, “History in Minature” Ancestors 19 (March 2004) discusses how medals can help genealogists The medals in this article are reproduced by permission of Token Publishing MAY 2007





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TNA record focus

Patients dancing at a ball in the Somerset County Asylum in the early 19th century.

Wellcome Library, London


In the past many mentally ill and handicapped people were looked after at home, but others ended up asylums, prisons or the workhouse. Kathy Elam examines their records at The National Archives


aving someone in your family tree certified as a lunatic does not necessarily mean there is no genealogical information on them. Using sources at The National Archives (TNA) and local record offices, it is possible to establish who was detained where, why, at whose expense and for how long. Sometimes you might also find where they came from and their year of birth. By law, custody of the lands of idiots and lunatics was vested in the

Crown. Commissioners in Lunacy had been appointed by the Lord Chancellor since the time of Edward II, but only the wealthy tended to come before them because costs had to be borne by the family. The Commissioners held inquisitions (inquiries) to declare whether an individual was of unsound mind. The purpose was to enable their next of kin to administer their property and land, rather than have a relative committed to an asylum; indeed many inquisitions took place when the patient was already in one. required two doctors to certify an individual...

Just like current practice, it required two doctors to certify an individual. Occasionally they found that someone who had been of unsound mind had recovered. Relatives or solicitors submitted a petition for a commission of inquiry to the Lord Chancellor, with sworn affidavits attached supporting their opinion of the state of mind of the supposed lunatic. Executors of a will could also do this if one of the beneficiaries was thought to be mad. Very few affidavits survive at TNA, but there are about 1,000 of them from 1719 to 1733 under the reference C 217/55. Unfortunately they are not in any particular order, and are kept in two unindexed boxes consisting of double foolscap folded three times.

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The petition for John Bishop Parry prepared in 1812.

However, petitions and inquisitions from about 1648 to 1932 can be found in C 211 (except for those in Lancashire, held in PL 5, which are in poor condition and hard to use). The date of these determines how they can be searched. Firstly, there is a manuscript index covering the years from 1648 to April 1853, which you will find in the large documents and maps reading room at Kew. The reference is IND 1/17612. To use them you need to follow a slightly complicated trail. For example, the index lists “John Bishop Parry of Portclew, in the parish of Lamphey, County of Pembroke and now of Pennant in the County of Pembroke – 9 March 1812.” This entry 46 • ANCESTORS MAY 2007

has the reference 125. The list in the front of the book states that, for surnames beginning with “P” you need Volume 20 for 1801-1853, with the references 101-229. It can then be ordered as piece C 211/20. This tells us that John Parry’s only brother is William and on 1 April, in the 52nd year of the reign of George III (1812), they found that John Parry was a lunatic. All the farms, mills and fields belonging to him are listed, along with the names of the occupants or lessees. Another entry under “P” is John Pollard, number 100 in 1653, whose petition is addressed to Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector. Pollard’s petition is in C 211/19. In C 211/25 John Goodyer Tempest

is described as a gentleman now confined in Bethlem Hospital. His land and property in Guildford and Shalford in the county of Surrey is worth £92 17s a year. Twenty-two year old William Tempest is his only brother and heir. The mentally ill might be looked after at home or perhaps placed under the care of a doctor or nurses in a madhouse or asylum, which could be private or public. Under the 1774 Madhouses Act the Royal College of Physicians regulated private madhouses in London and Middlesex. Each September, until 1827, five of its Fellows were appointed annually as commissioners of lunacy, meeting the following month to grant licences. At least once a year


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TNA record focus

they visited each madhouse to assess its condition. Although any keeper refusing admission forfeited his licence, it was foolish for him to do so because it was next to impossible for a commissioner to directly refuse or revoke a licence under most circumstances. After 1828 commissioners from the College were replaced by commissioners in lunacy, appointed by the Home Secretary. These powers were transferred to the Lord Chancellor in 1832. However, they only covered metropolitan London and Westminster. In the provinces private madhouses were regulated by magistrates sitting at quarter sessions. A nominated justice of the peace, accompanied by a physician would visit individual institutions and send any adverse reports to the College in London,

where they were only made available to members. A few county asylums were opened during the 18th century – at Newcastle in 1764, Manchester in 1765 and York in 1777. They were initially funded by subscriptions from the rich, but most were eventually taken over by local authorities. In 1827 the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Lunatic Asylum had 80 patients, who were largely paupers. Staff comprised a superintendent, three male keepers and five “matrons”, who were assisted by convalescent women patients. Yet the private Belle Grove Retreat in Newcastle, which accommodated no more than eight or nine middle-class patients of each sex, employed three experienced male keepers, a matron,

four female servants and a housekeeper. County asylums could be established and run by quarter sessions under legislation passed in 1808, and were open to all classes of patients, including paupers, who would be referred by local overseers of the poor rate. Two of the earliest were opened at Sneinton, Nottinghamshire, and in Bedford in 1812. Archives – where they survive – are likely to be with county record offices. Between 1842 and 1844 the Metropolitan Commissioners in London undertook an extensive survey of asylums and their treatment of inmates on behalf of the Lord Chancellor. This was published as a House of Lords Parliamentary Paper [1844.xxvi.001].

The Art Archive/British Museum/Eileen Tweedy


TNA:PRO C 211/20


A George Cruikshank drawing of the American sailor John Norris, confined for 18 years at Bethlem Hospital in a grotesque, custom-built harness designed to prevent virtually all movement. His case was singled out by reformers in the 1810s as an example of the treatment offered to inmates.

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TNA:PRO MH 51/735

TNA records focus


The first entry for Miss Zachary in the alphabetical register of patients admitted to provincial madhouses between 1803 and 1809.

At the Suffolk Asylum they found some of the female patients “half naked from having destroyed their clothes; one was during the whole time we were in the yard, struggling with a nurse; two of the most violent were removed from the yard before we entered it, and fury of those who remained were excessive.” Their report led to the establishment of the Lunacy Commission, which allowed boroughs to establish local asylums in their areas. Surviving records are in MH 83. A volume at Kew [MH 51/735] lists nearly 1,800 patients admitted to

Definitions from the past An alienist or a mad doctor: a psychiatrist Amentia: mental deficiency from failure of the mind to develop normally Chancery lunatic: patient whose person and estate came under the supervision of the Chancery masters (pre-1842) and specifically appointed masters in lunacy (after 1842) Idiot: a natural fool from birth Lunatic: a person of unsound mind who was previously sane. The use of the term remained in official use until 1930 Melancholia: depression Mental defective: a person whose mental deficiencies were congenital. In the 19th century there was no legal distinction between idiots and lunatics Private licensed house: a private madhouse run for profit. After 1774 they had to be licensed


private madhouses outside London. The bulk of the entries are between 1806 and 1810, with a few from 1798 onwards. It includes indexes of patients and keepers of licensed madhouses. On page 106, for example, there is an entry for Miss Zachary, which includes “An Account of Lunatics admitted into the Licensed House of Mr Jacob at Hadham, Hertfordshire”. It shows that she was admitted on 20 March 1803 by the direction of her mother on the advice of Mr Person, an apothecary. A further entry shows she was readmitted exactly six years later, on 20 March 1809. This time the doctor was R Stewson of Brentford. There are also a very small number of files for patients (173 in total) in county asylums, dating from between 1849 and 1960, in MH 85. MH 86 holds similar material, beginning in 1908. Most files, however, are closed for 75 years, so they may not yet be available. Series MH 94 consists of registers dating from 1846 to 1960, kept by the Lunacy Commission until 1913 and the Board of Control thereafter. They record the name, age and sex of patients, the place to which they were admitted, date of admission and discharge/death. Early files concern Metropolitan asylums, later ones also cover those outside London. Starting in the 13th century, MH 51/734 lists various establishments in counties and boroughs, along with licensed houses. It gives the numbers of beds and so forth, plus the old and new names of the establishments, up to 1966.

It should be remembered, however, that most lunatics were dealt with under the poor law or through the criminal justice system, ending up in the workhouse, house of correction or prison rather than specialist establishments. Some workhouses – such as those in Bath, Liverpool and Manchester – contained wards exclusively for lunatics, or even had a separate building for them. Almost every workhouse had a number of mentally disabled paupers who were, for the most part, harmless both to themselves and their fellow inmates. They were treated much the same as the other adults, and expected to work as hard as they could. When Dr Nairne, a Commissioner in Lunacy, visited the workhouse at Walsall in June 1863, he found that lunatics “associated with the other inmates…all were quiet and orderly, and several of them were occupied; they were well clad; five of them have extra diet, and all have tea and bread and butter for supper. All of whom who are able attend Divine service and all walk out regularly twice a week beyond the premises…” Then, as now, prisons contained a fair number of mentally disturbed patients. Pieces MH 51/90-207 contain returns of insane prisoners submitted to the Commissioners in Lunacy in March 1858. The returns include names, plus brief details of their offence and state of mind. Special provision was made for soldiers and sailors who lost their



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Kathy Elam is a retired civil servant and genealogist who has been researching her ancestors since 1988. She holds the higher certificate in genealogy from the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, has lectured for the Society of Genealogists and is a member of their board of trustees.

TAKING IT FURTHER You can see the following research guides on The National Archives’s website or pick up a copy in the reading rooms: Chancery: Master’s Reports and Certificates (Legal Records 39) Lunacy and the State (Domestic Records 105) Lunatic Asylums, 18th-20th Centuries (TNA Domestic Records 104) To check the catalogues mentioned in the article, click on

A description of the treatment given to John Wing at Hoxton Hospital in London in 1825.

sanity in the service of their country. There are several musters of naval lunatics: ADM 102/415-420 holds records for Hoxton House from 1755 to 1818, while ADM 102/356-373 contains Haslar Hospital records for 1818 to 1854. Reports of treatment are in ADM 105/28, arranged in bundles by year. In the 1824 bundle there are lists of insane French and other prisoners of war as at 1 April 1813. Among the French is listed Ludovic Mann of the privateer Le Rapp, a Prize Master, who was received at Hoxton on 21 January 1813. These reports describe the general appearance of individuals, and their treatment. Cold salt baths, purging, bloodletting and blistering the skin

were the order of the day. Patients were prescribed henbane and camphor, along with strait jackets. This was the treatment given in 1825 to John Walsh who, “at the time of the full moon on April 3rd again became violently maniacal and attempted to destroy himself and others.” Some reports give more background details. One dated 6 April 1825 states that John Wing, aged 45, Landsman, was received from HMS Gladiator. He was born in the Parish of St Saviour in 1780, was a cotton glazier by trade and entered the Navy in 1805. It is interesting that he, along with John Davis and Edward, alias James, Connolly, who are described in the same document, are all found to be perfectly sane and cured after treatment.

Useful websites began as a study by Andrew Roberts on “The Lunacy Commission, a Study of its Origin, Emergence and Character”, but has grown into a detailed history of mental health and its treatment. has histories of many asylums and gives an idea of where surviving records are held. contains the archives of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Read more about it Amanda Bevan, Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives (7th edn, The National Archives, 2006) Pamela Faithfull, Basic Facts about Lunatics (FFHS 2002) James H Lappin, “Central Government and the supervision of the treatment of lunatics 1800-1913 A Guide to Sources in the Public Record Office” (unpublished MA thesis, 1995) available in TNA library. William L Parry-Jones, The Trade in Lunacy: a study of private madhouses in England in the 18th and 19th centuries (Routledge, 1971) Roy Porter, Madmen: A social history of madhouses, mad-doctors and lunatics (Tempus, 2004) Sebastian Faulkes, Human Traces (Vintage, 2006)

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TNA record focus

Men who featured among these reports included chaplains, marines, landsmen (that is someone who had not been to sea before, the lowest rank in the Royal Navy), ship’s surgeons and lieutenants.

TNA:PRO ADM 105/28


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Page 51



SMUGGLERS Battles between smugglers and the authorities often led to deaths on both sides. Roy and Lesley Adkins visit the graves of two tragic victims of an 18th-century skirmish in Norfolk



n the 18th century smuggling was not a cosy seaside hobby, indulged in by a few fishermen during their spare time, but ruthless big business. A combination of money and greed led to violence, and evidence of one such incident during that era is provided by two gravestones at St Mary’s Church in the village of Old Hunstanton (pronounced Hunston by the locals), on the Norfolk coast, due North of King’s Lynn and facing West across the Wash. The village lies close to Peddar’s Way, a track that was once a Roman road between the towns of Colchester and Lincoln via a ferry across the Wash. By the 18th century Peddar’s Way was regularly used by smugglers, who transported contraband from the coast to the communities of Norfolk. Part of it can still be walked as part

The church of St Mary’s at Old Hunstanton.


of a 150km national trail between Great Yarmouth and Knettishall Heath, near Thetford. One of the gravestones at St Mary’s, which commemorates a customs

The gravestone of William Green.

The last resting place of William Webb.

officer, is inscribed: “Here lie the mangled remains of poor William Green, an Honest Officer of the Government, who in faithful discharge of his duty was inhumanely murdered by a gang of smugglers in this parish, September 27th, 1784.” Nearby is the headstone of a soldier of the 15th Light Dragoons, which carries the words: “In memory of William Webb, late of the 15th D’ns, who was shot from his Horse by a party of Smugglers on the 26 of Sepr. 1784. I am not dead but sleepeth here, And when the Trumpet Sound I will appear. Four bulls [bullets] thro’ me Pearced there way: Hard it was. I’d no time to pray. This stone that here you Do see My Comrades Erected for the sake of me.” During the fight that caused the deaths of William Green and William Webb, two smugglers, William Kemble and Andrew Gunton, were arrested and charged with murder. MAY 2007






Page 52

Roy and Lesley Adkins


The Customs House in King's Lynn from where customs officials operated during the 18th century. It is now the Tourist Information Centre.

When the case came to trial, a sympathetic jury found the pair not guilty, and the counsel for the prosecution – a Mr Murphy – pressed for a new trial, commenting that if such obviously guilty men were set free simply because the country people favoured smugglers, then it was the end of justice. At a second trial the jury took three hours to arrive at the same verdict, and the two men were acquitted.


The revenue officers (customs and excise) acted as a police force against smuggling, calling on the army where necessary, though they were usually reluctant to do so because the troops were given the lion’s share of any seizures. The import of goods by smuggling only became a highly profitable enterprise from the 18th century, when luxury and even basic goods were brought in from far and wide. This was

because duties on spirits, tea, silks, lace, tobacco and many other products were being constantly and dramatically increased to pay for the never-ending cycle of wars. Most people resented these crippling taxes, turning a blind eye to the brutality of smugglers and the reign of fear exercised by the gangs over many communities – particularly those in Southern England who operated along the coast from Dorset to Kent. There was no social or moral stigma to the avoidance of taxes, and smugglers were welcomed for the cheap goods they sold, while those who opposed smuggling were often regarded as misguided or downright evil. With nowhere in mainland Britain more than 70 miles from the sea, all parts of the country were regularly supplied with imported tax-free goods by the “free-traders”. Smuggling was supported by the majority of the population, at all levels of society, and public opinion was on the side of the smugglers because people felt their taxes were being wasted on foreign wars that brought them no benefit. James Woodforde, the parson of Weston Longville, just West of Norwich and less than 20 miles from the Peddar’s Way, felt no shame in recording in his diary on 29 March 1777: “Andrews the smuggler brought me this night about 11 o’clock a bag of Hyson Tea 6 Pd weight. He frightened us a little by whistling under the parlour window just as we were going to bed. I gave him some Geneva [gin] and paid for the tea at 10/6 a Pd.” Woodforde is buried within All Saints’ Church at Weston Longville, the spot being marked by a memorial plaque. Smuggling was a secretive business, so it is a rewarding challenge to discover whether any of your ancestors was one of these “free-traders”. Roy and Lesley Adkins are archaeologists and historians and have recently written the acclaimed The War for All the Oceans (Little Brown, 2006). More information about their work can be found at




Page 35


Ninety years after one of the great battles of the First World War, Ancestors editor Simon Fowler introduces our exclusive tour round the battlefields


verlooking the Belgian town of Ypres to the North and East is a low ridge of hills. You hardly notice them as you drive along the fast, straight roads. Yet 90 years ago every soldier present there was aware of the topography. The Germans held the high ground, from where they shelled the British lines. Time and again British and Commonwealth troops tried to dislodge them. The greatest, and most controversial, of these attempts was the Third Battle of Ypres, universally known as Passchendaele, after the small village which was eventually captured by the Canadians on 6 November 1917 after three months of heavy fighting. When they arrived hardly a trace of the village remained. Some 310,000 British troops were either killed in action or wounded during the battle, in part because Sir Douglas Haig, the British

commander, continued the attacks long after the operation had lost any real strategic value. For the men involved, their abiding memory was of the mud. Heavy bombardment, combined with the wettest Summer of the century, produced a thick, clinging sludge which caked uniforms and clogged rifles. It eventually became so deep that, in many places, men, horses and pack mules drowned in it. This year’s Ancestors’ tour visits many of the sites where the battle took place, as well as locations of other battles around Ypres. As with our successful Somme trip last year, the tour will be arranged around the research needs of the participants – a unique feature of our visits to the Western Front. Tour leader Jon Cooksey hopes people on the tour will send him plenty of information in advance about relatives who fought on and around Ypres, so he can integrate their interests into the schedule. Jon, who led the 2006 Ancestors tour to the Somme, is a specialist in military history, and

author of numerous books on the First World War. The four-day trip, which starts on 31 August, will fit in visits to Tyne Cot, the largest British cemetery on the Western Front; the superb In Flanders Fields Museum in the rebuilt Cloth Hall in Ypres itself; as well as the moving Last Post ceremony conducted every night at the Menin Gate, just five minutes’ walk from the hotel. The tour will be based at the comfortable four-star Novotel in central Ypres, close to many bars and restaurants. The trip includes an introductory briefing at The National Archives, travel by ferry and airconditioned coach, half-board accommodation plus a folder of maps and information. The price is £425 per person (single supplement £65).

For full details contact:

Holts Tours on 01293 455 356 or visit




Page 54

Relatively speaking Family history is as much oral recollections as what is written in documents. That’s how David Annal learned more about his forebears and gained some new relatives


arlier this year I lost a third cousin twice removed but, at around the same time, and as if to compensate, I gained four uncles, two aunts and a whole host of cousins. The loss was Alexander Taylor Annal, better known to his friends and family as Sandy. He was born in June 1907 and died a few months short of his 100th birthday. He therefore narrowly missed out on receiving his telegram from the Queen – someone who, to put this into some sort of perspective, was born when Sandy was already a young man. I met him a few times in Orkney in the early 1980s and kept in touch with him through an exchange of letters and Christmas cards over many years. My mum and dad never missed a chance to visit him on their annual trip to Orkney, where he regaled them with stories of the old days and took them on trips around the island, pointing out all the old Annal farms to them. My dad was particularly honoured to be asked to be one of the pall-bearers at the funeral. Sandy was an authority on the history of the island of South Ronaldsay, its people and its places. He

lived on the island all his life and died at his home, less than a mile from his birthplace. I learned an enormous amount about my Annal forebears from him, and he told me a number of things about the family that I couldn’t possibly have gleaned from official documents. The source of much of Sandy’s knowledge was his grandfather, Peter Annal, a man with whom he spent a great deal of time in his formative years. Peter Annal was born in 1830, and was himself steeped in South Ronaldsay lore. I suspect that he was the inspiration behind Sandy’s own interest in family and local history, and the result of the countless hours spent in his grandfather’s company was a remarkable familiarity with people and events that took place many years before he was born. There’s an echo here of the tradition of oral history which the Vikings brought to Scotland’s Northern isles, and perhaps I inherited some of

...he told me a number of things about the family that I couldn’t possibly have gleaned from official documents... 54 • ANCESTORS MAY 2007

The author’s grandmother, Elizabeth Gray Davidson, with her brother and their dog during the First World War.

this myself in taking such an interest in my own family history. In recent years Sandy’s memories began to become confused and he had an endearing tendency to exaggerate – particularly when it came to the achievements of the Annal family. My father, according to Sandy, was a World War Two flying ace – it’s true that he was an RAF officer, but he never actually flew a plane – while I ran The National Archives and the British Library, apparently singlehanded!




Page 55



The Orcadian

Nevertheless, our my ancestors’ actions – even correspondence over a if I knew more than I do, number of years was it would inevitably be a invaluable to me and one-sided version of he will be greatly the story. Much as missed. Any of you history is always who are lucky written by the enough to have a victors, oral history Sandy in your is only ever told by family are those who are fortunate indeed. around to pass on Towards the end the tale. of last year, I was So, perhaps not checking some surprisingly, this was a entries on part of the family GenesReunited when a history which was rarely name jumped out of the discussed and which made Sandy Annal speaking at a screen at me, causing a me even more determined meeting in the 1970s shiver to run down my to get to the bottom of it. spine. The name I had I managed to prise the seen was quite clearly that of my bare bones of the story out of my grandfather, and I was pretty sure that granny, my mum and her brothers. It I knew who had posted the details. So seemed that my grandfather had what exactly was it that caused me to married again and settled in England. I react like this? discovered that he had had a fairly large I never knew my mother’s father, second family: four boys and two girls, Charles Flynn; he died seven years who were therefore my mum’s halfafter I was born, but long before that brothers and sisters. he had left my granny with her young The second marriage was clearly family in Edinburgh. I don’t know the bigamous, and I suppose it was this that details behind the break-up and I stilled my hand for so long and made certainly don’t think it’s my job as a me resist the temptation to make family historian to pass judgement on contact with my uncles and aunts. I was

Charles Flynn (left) with his brothers, photographed sometime during the First World War. He is wearing a Silver War Badge, which suggests that he had been discharged from the forces either because of wounds or sickness.

naturally worried about the prospect of opening a can of worms, and while my granny was alive I felt that making contact with “the second family” would be in some sense disloyal. My mum died in October 2002, the last surviving member of the family with a first-hand involvement in the events of the early 1930s. Now the burden of contact, as it were, fell onto my shoulders. But still I didn’t quite have the nerve to make the move. I kept coming back to the file of notes and documents I had assembled over the years, and I had even been to visit the cemetery where my grandfather was buried; but I still feared the consequences of announcing myself to a family who, as far as I was aware, knew nothing of my existence. This all changed in November last year when I came across my grandfather’s name on GenesReunited – an entry which had clearly been posted by one of my long-lost uncles. It was obvious that he was keen to find out more about his origins and it only took me a further two months to get up the courage and the resolve to post a reply. The rest, as they say, is (family) history! The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s all too easy to forget the “family” part of family history. It’s not just about documents – we need to speak to our relatives, to share and compare stories, then record what we learn. I’ve made more progress in the past few weeks with this part of my mum’s family than I ever hoped to, and I’ve got new leads to follow up on my next trip to Edinburgh. My grandfather was one of seven children so there’s a whole batch of second and third cousins waiting to be discovered. The family tree keeps growing and every new contact you make adds to the collective wealth of the family’s knowledge. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what are you waiting for? David Annal is Development Manager at the Family Records Centre.

MAY 2007


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Page 58

Peter Christian calls up the latest news about online genealogy in the UK and overseas

Good Lord! A new look for Burke’s Peerage Online at has made it easier to search the site’s genealogical database and access its wide range of detailed articles and essays. Redesigned by Origins Network, the database holds information on over 15,000 families (some going back over 1,000 years), comprising more than a million individuals. There are also 5,000-plus entries relating to current personalities. The new site lets you search by family name or simply the name of someone who may be mentioned in the records. You can restrict your search to people who were born, married or died within a specified period, to places associated with a person, to particular geographic regions, or to particular categories of record such as the peerage or contemporary American families. The generations of each family are colour-coded and indented to make the records much clearer to read than in the print editions. Access to the data requires a subscription, available at £15.95 for 24 hours or £64.95 for a year. Take out a joint subscription to The Origins Network ( and Burke’s Peerage Online and you’ll be given a 20 per cent discount for the first month.

Cyndi’s List Cyndi Howells has added the new UK and Ireland – Census page to This links not only to the major commercial sites providing census indexes and transcriptions, but also to many smaller, local transcripts. There is also a new blog at


Migrants’ database will serve family historians

As many as three-quarters of those settling in North America before the War of Independence went across the Atlantic as servants. If your family tree includes ancestors who emigrated, try the Immigrant Servants database at This new site holds details of people who travelled to Colonial America between 1607 and 1820 as indentured servants, redemptioners and transported felons. When

complete the database will include over 100,000 individuals. Alongside the simple search, an advanced version lets you trawl any field in the database, with an option for searching on surname variants. You can also simply browse the index of individuals. The amount of information available for each person varies considerably, but there may be a year of birth or baptism, a place of origin, and details of an indenture. The Learning Centre section of the site contains background information, such as a glossary, examples of laws relating to servants, and a comprehensive article about indentured servants and the records which provide information on them. The database itself gives a precise reference for sources of information on individuals. Although the site is hosted by a commercial genealogical research company, access to the database is free.

Mailing lists There are three new mailing lists for local interests. ENG-DEV-SOUTHTAWTON covers the parish of South Tawton and surrounding parishes in Devon, England. ENG-DBY-BOLSOVER will be useful for anyone with a genealogical interest in the Bolsover District, Derbyshire. Those with Scottish ancestors can try SCTHEBRIDES. The two English lists are linked from index/intl/ENG, while the Hebrides list is from index/intl/SCT. The number of lists relating to Irish immigration continues to rise. The recently launched NEW-ENGLANDIRISH is for anyone with a genealogical, historical or cultural interest in the Irish who settled and/or lived in the New England states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire. You can see additional information on the New England Irish Mailing List website at

News from the pews Learn more about where your forebears lived on This unusual new site displays collections of photographs and historical information about parish churches and graves in Western England and the Welsh Marches. The photos are presented via a “photo blog” which links to the actual pictures at /photos/parishmouse. So far the historical information largely comprises transcription from printed parish registers and trade directories.




Page 59

sailed from the UK between 1910 and 1919, due to be published shortly by The site now has details of 11.3 million passengers to America, Australia and other countries outside Europe, transcribed from 71,600 passenger lists.

Share your family tree online Two new sites which let you put your family tree online have taken different approaches. Zooof (yes, three Os) attempts to combine social networking and family history. Like Geni ( mentioned in last month’s news, allows you to create an online family tree then invite others to contribute to it. Because the tree is not publicly visible, you can include information about living people, which is not appropriate for the main pedigree databases. However, this also means that the site won’t help you make contact with other family historians. Zooof says there are plans to introduce several new features and tools, including the option of uploading GEDCOM files, along with continued improvement of its web-based software. Registration is free. Another new site, due to be launched

in August by Family Pursuit, will offer webbased software for storing information about your family tree. This means there is no need to install genealogy database software on your own machine. Unlike sites mainly designed as a general network for families, is more focused on genealogical research, but with the added advantages that the web offers for collaboration between family members. Among its features are the facility to “enter conflicting data, roll back to prior versions of data, and merge and unmerge individuals, relationships, events, etc.” It also says it will allow users to: “Create research plans to organise your data and bring family members together to work towards a specific objective through task sharing.” The site itself has a blog reporting the latest developments.


Names of passengers on the ill-fated RMS Titanic, went online in April, marking the 95th anniversary of when the liner was struck by an iceberg in 1912. The full 27-page list will be available to view, save and print free of charge for a limited time at They are part of the latest tranche of records of outward bound passenger who

TNA:PRO BT 27/776/2

Titanic tragedy remembered

Above left, the Titanic in Southampton Water, April 1912. Above, a page from the ship’s passenger list naming those who embarked at Queenstown, Ireland.

Dial an ancestor Ancestry has expanded its collection of digitised phone books. There are now 72 directories dating between 1880 and 1984 at In addition to books covering London and the South East, you can now browse directories for the Eastern counties, North West England, the Midlands and Scotland, as well as Ireland, although these books are not necessarily available for the whole period.

Fight for freedom The Library of the Society of Friends has mounted an online exhibition to commemorate the bicentenary of the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act at Quakers and the path to abolition in Britain and the colonies is an historical narrative running from the 17th century to the 19th.




Page 60

Take an online journey to India Stuart Raymond explores the internet for information about Britons who lived and worked on the sub-continent


any Britons have Indian connections, with ancestors who served in the Army, the civil service or the myriad professions who found a niche on the sub-continent. Some were nabobs while others held lowly jobs; and you can often start tracing their careers and family lives online. It will help if you understand the historical and social aspects of British rule in India. There is a general historical perspective on British people who lived and worked on the sub-continent at the Library of Congress’s Country Study: India on You can also see a useful Background to British India page on the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies’ site at This offers a brief overview of British Indian history, together with relevant titles in its library. The experiences of early 20th century expatriates are described in an online exhibition British Voices from South Asia at intro.htm, which includes a number of interviews with former residents. An essential guide for anyone who needs to find their way around British India is the Imperial Gazetteer of India at gazetteer. This site contains digitised images of 14 volumes, published between 1908 and 1931, which provide a detailed topographical description of the country. Despite these sites, and the ones mentioned below, surprisingly little information on British India taken from original sources is directly available on the internet. However, there are a number of web pages written specifically for family historians hunting for links to the sub-continent. 60 • ANCESTORS MAY 2007

The Family Records Centre factsheet on The British in India at british_in_india.pdf gives useful advice on tracing birth, marriage and death records in various repositories. Nick Barratt has a short page about India on the BBC’s Family History: Next Steps site next_steps/int_03_india_01.shtml. Much more comprehensive is Cathy Day’s Family History in India at index.html. It offers pages on church and cemetery records, including some abstracts, along with lists of microfilm which can be consulted at Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Family History Centres (visit to find your nearest centre). The Families in British India Society has a beginner’s guide and research advice. You will also find miscellaneous information on the British India Family History site at http://valmayukuk. This is a member of the British India Family History Research webring British_India_Family_History_Research, which links to 14 other relevant sites. Download the National Archives’s research guide, Sources for Imperial and Commonwealth History from RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=377 for more useful links. Of course the most extensive collection of records – the archives of the India Office, and the East India Company – are held with the British Library’s Asia Pacific and Africa Collections at asiapacificafrica.html. It is worth browsing through the

A 1905 advertising poster encouraging tourists to travel on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway.

collections page briefly before clicking the link to India Office Records (the direct address is orientaloffice.html). This page connects with further sections on topics such as the history, scope and arrangement of the records, classes of documents, details of preIndependence Indian official publications, plus useful suggestions for further reading and internet links. There are also pages on Sources for Family History Research in the India Office Records at oiocfamilyhistory/family.html. This site leads to detailed information on ecclesiastical registers of births, marriages






Page 61

and deaths, probate records, pensions, and other biographical records. It also draws attention to the biographical card index, which contains 295,000 entries from a wide range of sources. A page on occupations notes numerous specific sources, such as those for barristers, cadets, clergymen and merchants. Quite a few of these will have worked for the Honourable East India Company (HEIC). For a brief overview of the Company’s history, visit Peter Marshall’s page about British rule in India in the 18th century at empire_seapower/east_india_01.shtml, which links to a further page explaining the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

Many servants of the HEIC trained at Haileybury. Although the Company connection ceased in 1857, Haileybury is still a public school. A page on its website ( roll/EIC.htm) deals with the Honourable East India College: Old Haileybury. This leads to further pages listing casualties of the first Afghan War, the Indian Mutiny, and the Multan murders of 1848, together with VCs won by old boys. Many Indian Office Library and Records collections are listed in detail by the Access to Archives website at There are also other institutions which hold relevant records. You can, for instance, view numerous private papers and newspapers listed on, the website of the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University. Further collections of personal papers and photographs are kept by the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol (

Many digitised pictures are available on the Images of Empire pages, although you need to register before you can use them. The National Maritime Museum’s Research guide F5, The East India Company, at conWebDoc.604, describes relevant material held by the museum, which includes various artefacts as well as archival papers. The only important original sources online are the passenger lists for ships leaving the UK 1890-1960, available on the Find My Past site The database had reached 1909 at the time of writing and the direct address is This site also has other useful databases: the Bengal Civil Service Graduation List 1869, the India Office List 1933, East India Register & Army List 1855, the Indian Army & Civil Service List 1873, and the East India Company’s Commercial Marine Service Pensions List 1793-1833. These items are available to subscribers only. Although the Indiaman Magazine at recently ceased publication, the website (also commercial) remains a very useful source with several ebooks, including a collection of transcripts of British-India memorial inscriptions. Many Britons died and were buried on the sub-continent, from soldiers killed in battle to children who succumbed to tropical disease. Very gradually the headstones in these graveyards are being annotated and indexed, some being put online as well. The webpage of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia, on

bacsa.htm, has published transcriptions of cemetery records. You will find copies at the British Library, and Society of Genealogist together with the Association’s archives, which are listed on EMSenq.asp?pg=1. Perhaps of more immediate use is the Indian Cemeteries website, which contains a number of monumental inscription transcriptions. Very little information about relevant archives held in India itself has been published, although much material must exist. The National Archives of India at http:// archive_people.html almost certainly holds relevant documents, although there is no list of its collections on its website. The National Archives and National Library of Bangladesh collection.html provides slightly more information, as does the National Archives of Pakistan (click Departments and name). Pages about family history in Sri Lanka

can be found at ~lkawgw/index.html. Previously known as Ceylon, it was a British colony between 1798 and independence in 1948. You will find many pedigrees and their links to British India at Anglo-Indian Family Trees ( These include Indian migrants to Britain, as well as British migrants to India. You can add your own pedigree and, hopefully, make contact with other researchers. Another way to do this is to join the India British Raj mailing list at IND/INDIA-BRITISH-RAJ.html. Stuart Raymond has written many guides and handbooks. His Introducing family history, recently published by the Federation of Family History Societies, is available direct from him, price £9.95 (inc p&p), at PO Box 35, Exeter, EX1 3YZ or online at


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In the June issue of

TNA:PRO CO 1069/215

Through the years parish clerks have left behind not only a rich history of their service to the church, but also invaluable sources for family historians. David Leverett pays tribute to some unsung heroes of the Church of England. A drawing of William Hinton, a parish clerk at Lyneham, Wiltshire, drawn by his rector the Revd Julian Young.

Hospital staff at Springfontein camp in South Africa.


They cared for the war’s casualties, sometimes succumbing to the same diseases. Keiron and Alison Spires suggest ways of researching the women who volunteered as nurses during the Boer War.


UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT Whether your family tree includes an 18th century strolling player or the back row chorus of a 1940s musical, Nicola Lisle shows how to trace your theatrical ancestors. A pantomime poster from 1889.

A post-war recruiting poster for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.


A Georgian seaman’s rations included bread or biscuit and a gallon of beer every day, with a pound of salt pork on Sunday and Thursday, plus two pounds of beef issued on Tuesday and Saturday. Geoff Puddefoot gives a taste of how naval ships were victualled over the centuries.


• Slate workers • Shakespeare Birth Trust databases • Undercliffe Cemetery • Latest CDs reviewed

On sale 3 May at your newsagent, or subscribe today – see page 56


L L Ditchfield, The Parish Clerk (1907)






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TAKEN AS READ – May ELECTRIC LYME The coming of electricity to an English seaside town Martin Roundell Greene £10 ISBN 978-0-9552675-0-5 Published by the author. Available from The Bookshop, 14 South Street, Bridport DT6 3NQ, electriclyme/index.htm. Please add £1.50 p&p


urprisingly, it was not until after the Second World War that every home was electrified. Even then it was so expensive that not every room had electric light sockets, and most people preferred to cook or heat with the cheaper gas. Initially it was left to private enterprise and civic pride to build electrical generating stations, which would provide power to light the streets and the homes of richer citizens. The attractive seaside resort of Lyme Regis on Dorset’s Western border was the first town in the county to provide electricity for its citizens on 1 June 1909. It was not until as late as 1929 that neighbouring Bridport received electricity. During the 1930s the government established the National Grid and the Electricity Commission to connect the whole country. It encouraged the consumption of electricity by providing ovens, heaters and electric irons, which were then the most frequently bought electrical goods. (The records are now at The National Archives in series POWE 11 and POWE 12 if you are interested.) Lyme Regis finally joined the National Grid in 1948, largely because its elderly turbines could no longer generate enough power to meet increasing demand.

Such a topic might seem extremely dull. Yet this book turns out to be a fascinating history of a rather old-fashioned, small English seaside town during the first half of the 20th century, seen through the provision of electricity and the problems and opportunities this presented. Martin Roundell Greene has a very dry sense of humour which comes through nicely. He keeps technical details to a minimum, and where they are mentioned they are clearly explained. Strangely, it perhaps helped the story that the power company records were destroyed in a blaze at the generating station just before it closed. The author has had to rely on council minutes and local newspapers and, fortunately for his readers, he cannot resist a good story. There is the gas oven provided by the RSPCA to incinerate deceased pets, not to mention the saga of the drunken borough accountant who stole from the deckchair fund. By the end of the book you will have painlessly learnt how a now essential source of power came to Lyme, a story which was repeated in hundreds of towns small and large across Britain. Simon Fowler

Easy family history


nyone researching their family tree should look out for the authoritative booklets published by the Federation of Family History Societies. In Finding out about your family history (ISBN 1-86006-202-4, £2.99) Kathy Chater and Simon Fowler outline the records a beginner is likely to use, as well as indicating where and how they can be consulted. They also stress the need to check “facts” obtained from the internet against original sources, rather than just relying on websites. The text is illustrated by an assortment of photographs and facsimile documents, such as colour reproductions of birth, marriage and death certificates. The latest in the Federation’s series of Military History Sources for Family Historians is The AngloBoer War 1899-1902 by Phil Tomaselli (ISBN 1-86006-197-4, £4.95), which looks at how


several hundred thousand troops from Britain and the Empire served in South Africa. The booklet considers the records available and how to use them to research the soldiers and sailors who saw action during the conflict. A substantial number of primary sources record the service of and medals awarded to those who fought. As the bulk of these documents are at Kew, the author explains how to download record guides free of charge from The National Archives’s website. He also draws attention to indexed records available for downloading on a pay-perview basis. Secondary sources include a number of books, as well as contemporary publications, such as the London Gazette and the Army & Navy Gazette. A bibliography completes what is an inexpensive and extremely useful booklet. Paul Gaskell




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Kathy Chater reviews books on war and its aftermath


y the end of the 19th century the British Empire spanned the globe. It was built on trade but required military support. Many families had a tradition of service in the armed forces and in Dying for Glory: The Adventurous Lives of Five Cotswold Brothers (Phillimore, ISBN 1-86077-394-X, £20), Michael Boyes examines a generation of the Le Marchand family, which originally came from France via Guernsey. Their first ancestor described in the book fought with Wellington during the Napoleonic Wars and died at the battle of Salamanca. Three sons, two grandsons and five of his great-grandsons – the subjects of this book – also joined the Army, although one broke with tradition and went into the Navy. The everyday lives of those who served the colours consisted of periods of inactivity filled with sports and socialising, punctuated by military campaigns. Mr Boyes has expertly used family papers to set individual experiences against the background of political and military events. The book is extensively illustrated with photographs of people and places and gives a very readable account of the lives of Victorian officers of the Empire. One of the latest books about the Restoration period is The Regicide’s Widow: Lady Alice Lisle and the Bloody Assize (Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-7509-4434-X, £20) by Antony Whitaker. Judge Jeffreys “the Hanging Judge” is remembered as the epitome of politicallymotivated judicial murderer and indeed, at the notorious Assize over which he presided following Monmouth’s Rebellion in 1685, some 1,000 people were sentenced to death or transportation. However, as Mr Whitaker – a barrister himself – ably argues, Jeffreys was a good lawyer, but a bad judge. Alice Lisle was probably guilty of the crime for which she was beheaded – the last woman to suffer this punishment in England. The author also brings out how James II’s regime bent, distorted and ignored laws which did not suit its quest for total power and conformity.

In The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary pirates (The O’Brien Press, ISBN 0-86278-955-9, €14.95 £10.99) Des Ekin details how in 1631 over a hundred inhabitants of Baltimore, a village on the coast of Ireland, were kidnapped by pirates and taken into slavery in North Africa. The author describes the fate of some of the villagers, mainly using numerous accounts of their experiences given by other European captives, and considers theories that the corsairs were guided to Baltimore because the villagers were Protestant settlers. Events leading up to the Second World War brought many Jewish people to Britain but their history here is much longer. In Jewish Heritage in England: An Architectural Guide (English Heritage, ISBN 10-1905624-28-X, £16.99), Sharman Kadish explores more than 350 years of Jewish presence through the buildings they created and places associated with them. Some are medieval (Edward I expelled Jews in 1290) but most date from after 1656, when they officially returned. The author’s finely detailed descriptions of synagogues, museums, burial grounds and other institutions is complemented by excellent illustrations. This guide should inspire people, whether or not they have Jewish ancestry, to look more closely at the surviving evidence of communities in their area. Descriptions of treatment received by young male delinquents in Warwick County Asylum: The first Reformatory outside London (Stretton Millenium History Group, ISBN 0-9537462-5-9), by Anne Langley, offers an insight into Victorian theories about the causes of crime and methods of reform. An appendix lists nearly 200 identified inmates – there were up to 20 residents at a time – and, in some cases, what happened to them. A number absconded, some committed further crimes but others were reformed and did well. As the author points out, the questions raised by juvenile crime are still not satisfactorily resolved. Available from Stretton Dunsmore History Society, 12 Squires Road, Stretton on Dunsmore, Rugby CV23 9HF, at £3 + £1 p&p. MAY 2007



May books round-up



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Ancestors welcomes pictures, letters and emails on all aspects of family history. Tell us about your researches, and what you like – or dislike – about the magazine. We also have a panel of experts to answer your questions. Write to The Editor, Ancestors, The National Archives, PO Box 38, Richmond TW9 4AJ, fax 020 8487 1974, or email, remembering to include your address.

Remembering Somerset House

Fornication was forgiven

In the early 1970s my wife was secretary to a doctor carrying out research into the possible hereditary aspects of heart disease. She had to visit the old reading room at Somerset House to obtain death certificates for parents and grandparents of the people being studied, to see what they died of. In those days you had to pay a search fee before being allowed to climb the stairs to the galleries to look at the index volumes – now on open shelves at the Family Records Centre. I think it was 1s 6d for a permit to search the indexes covering a period of five years. The galleries were patrolled by Somerset House staff, who would demand to see your permit to ensure you were not taking a sneaky look at years you had not paid for. My wife soon realised the potential for doing our own family history. This is how our 40-year love of genealogy began, which has resulted in finding and meeting family members in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA and Sweden. We also remember going to the old Public Record Office in Chancery Lane to look at census microfilms. We were not sure quite what we were doing, and nobody was at all helpful! It was all so quiet and reverential – a bit like going into a church. You worked your way through the system and requested a single roll of microfilm. This was delivered after a 20minute wait by a man in a khaki overall. You threaded it into the film reader, laboriously went through it, only to discover that it did not have the entry you wanted. Then the procedure began all over again. Charles and Pat Hallifax

You are right that Kirk Session records held in Edinburgh are full of material about illegitimacy (Ancestors February 2007). Helen Linton, who was born at Westerkirk, Dumfries in 1766, had an illegitimate child named John Linton (17791864) – my great-great-great grandfather – when she was about 13 years old. As I understand it, the “sinner” had to sit on the Stool of Repentence to be chastised before the congregation. Kirk Session Records on the case of Helen Linton read as follows: “Parish of Juxta Kirkpatrick County of Dumfries Church Discipline Extract May 2nd 1779 Sess: Resit (?) Compeared Helen Linton and again charg’d John Anderson her fellow servant at Kinnelhead as guilty of fornication with her and the father of her child. She being interrogated where he was guilty with her and when she answered at Kinnelhead about the middle of July last. Being again interrogated if she had any presumption of his guilt with her answered that she could not say that had any presumptions but aded (sic) that when in pangs being asked by some present then declared that John Anderson was the father. Declares she cannot write and desires the Moderator to subscribe for her Sic Sub (?) William Scott Modr The session taking this affair under their consideration and understanding that the said Jno Anderson is not in the country being a soldier in Buccleughs fencibles appoint Helen Linton at her own desire to make her first appearance before the congregation this day.” “May 16: Helen Linton having appeared three Sunday Sabbaths in the Church of Kirkpatrick and being rebuked is now absolved from the above sin and scandal of fornication.” Ian Bartlett 9 Palmerston Way, Alverstoke PO12 2LY

SS Berlin tragedy commemorated The loss of the SS Berlin off the Dutch coast was not forgotten by the people of Harwich and Dovercourt (Ancestors March 2007). Exactly 100 years to the day, a Service of Commemoration was held at All Saints’


Joyce Harris



Chief Steward Bill Moor’s memorial in Dovercourt churchyard.

Church, Dovercourt, attended by several descendants. I can’t find all the graves, but there are three in St Michal’s, Ramsey churchyard, and there may be some in Dovercourt cemetery, plus 11 names on the All Saints’ burial index. It does not help that the sea air soon wears the lettering away. The graveyard is now closed, but Essex Society for Family History is preparing a list of monumental inscriptions. Chief Steward Bill Moor’s memorial was one of the three “heroes” graves refurbished by the Friends of All Saints several years ago. It was “subscribed for by personal friends”, possibly the local Masonic lodge. Steward Moor had been in charge of a small boy travelling alone, and when his body was found he was still clasping young August Hirsch in his arms. Next to Bill Moor lies Captain John Precious of the Berlin, who tried hard to turn the ship when it was hit by huge waves, but was ultimately blamed for the accident. Across from them can still be seen the headstone of Benjamin Catchpole, whose great-great-grandson wrote your article about the disaster. Mrs Joyce Harris 2 Hazelville Close, Dovercourt, Harwich CO12 3TQ




Page 69

Living dangerously at record offices

The war memorial in the Cotswold village of Coln Rogers is a bit different to most others from the First World War, as it lists the names of everyone who came home safely after the conflict ended. A pretty place in a very rural setting, Coln Rogers is one of some 40 so-called “Thankful villages”. The tiny Saxon church, with the memorial in its porch, is well worth a visit. Ken Sayner

I read David Hey’s article (Ancestors February 2007) with huge feelings of nostalgia. I well remember visiting the Lancashire Record Office in the early 1970s, aged 22 and very shy. The Office was then sited in the Guildhall in the centre of Preston. I had driven up from Essex to try and trace some of my ancestors and also take in the Preston Guild celebrations. Although the town was packed, there were very few visitors to the Record Office. Over that week the staff gave me huge amounts of help and, like David Hey, I was included in the tea breaks. Each day I saw at least one of the many colourful and lengthy Guild processions which passed the Guildhall en route through the town. We discovered that, by standing on the readers’ tables lined up along one of the walls, we were able to have a great view. Though never offered tea at Somerset House, I regularly visited there on a Saturday morning to look up my BMDs in the huge index books. There was a narrow walkway between the shelving and a continuous, narrow table which ran parallel to the shelves around the edge of the whole room. The trick was to pull out the relevant volume, then execute a 180 degree turn to deposit it on the table so it could be opened. Easy enough, you might think, but we were on the first floor, with nothing down the centre of the room between floor and ceiling. I’m sure an overenthusiastic researcher must have, on occasion, misjudged the distance between shelf and table and sent an index hurtling over the top! And, if that were not sufficient, the walkway was made of cast iron with an open design – not good if you suffered from vertigo. One of my best memories, however, comes from when my family was living in a tiny Essex village during the 1960s. Our house was opposite the church. Because my mother and I worked for the Cambridge Group for Population Studies, the Rector agreed we could borrow the parish registers, and we had them all on our dining table for some weeks. Looking back, part of me is horrified at the thought of the damage we could have done, while another stands open-mouthed in wonder at a privilege now long gone. Susan Leather

Ken Sayers

A full list is given at Does anybody have photographs of memorials in other thankful villages?

The memorial to the men from Coln Rogers who returned from the First World War.

Double trouble for man who married twice Following Mrs P de Haer’s query in the March Ancestors, you may be interested in a story from The North Devon Journal for 27 December 1991, reprinting a report from its March 1841 issue. This concerns the case of a man acquitted of bigamy at Devon Assizes in Exeter. His first wife had sailed for North America without telling her husband, and that was the last they saw of each other for the next eight years, until she returned and discovered his second marriage. At his trial the husband pointed out that the law allowed remarriage if a husband or wife had not heard from each other in seven years – very necessary at a time when travel was hazardous and communications poor. His lawyer added that bigamy charges were usually brought by the second wife! My interest is because a relative by marriage was involved. Ronald Webb 22 Abbotsferry Road, Tweedbank, Galashiels TD1 3RX

Recollecting days at the British Library Hannah Renier’s article on the British Library (Ancestors February 2007) was a delight. It reminded me of my annual visits to London, when I spend approximately 10 days at the Library researching Wiltshire manuscripts. My day begins with coffee at the bamboo-surrounded coffee shop. On reaching the manuscript room with my spectacles, notebook, pencil, magnifying glass and cotton gloves, and with the assistance of the efficient staff, I settle into the 16th and 17th century. At 12.30pm I am in the cafeteria deciding on the tasty morsel I will try. By 4.30pm I am usually feeling weary, so break off for a strong coffee and a biscotti, then back to work. On a late night I may stagger out at 8pm, go back to my room to gloat over all I have learnt, and prepare for the next day. ‘”What did you do in London?’” my envious friends ask when I return to Toronto. “Oh, I spent 10 glorious days at the British Library.” Why do they look at me strangely? Jessie Cunnington RN



War memorial gives thanks for safe returns



Page 70

Mesopotamia. At some stage John was apparently hospitalised in Basra. How can I find out more about his Army service? Maurice Meardon 7 Tavistock Avenue, Didcot OX11 8NA

Experts Ask the

Royal Artillery Museum and A The Library may have details of his career in India and possibly in Africa, or – more likely – that of the unit he served with. You will find more at There are First World War diaries in series WO 95 at Kew, which will give you a day-by-day description of events in the unit. Orders of Battle in WO 95 should tell you which RFA units landed in France on 13 September and later went to Mesopotamia. From this you should be able to narrow down the most likely unit in which John Knights served.

Out-pensioner of my ancestors, Thomas Cox, age Q One 62, was recorded in the 1851 census at Aldenham, Hertfordshire, as being a Chelsea out-pensioner. Can you tell me more? Mick Cox out-pensioners are former A Chelsea soldiers who received a pension after completing a term of service in the Army – usually 21 years during this period – but did not live at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. There should be a soldier’s document for him in series WO 97 at The National Archives (TNA), which will describe his career. TNA also has records of the Royal Hospital, which was responsible for paying these pensions.

Parents’ name game

Born in the USA? to family legend, my Q According mother’s ancestors came from Corsica, Maurice Meardon



John Edward Knights in his Royal Artillery walking out dress.

have an ancestor – Richard Henry Q IBinder – for whom I can find very little Soldier’s career information, although I wonder whether his parents had an odd sense of humour because he seems to have had a brother called Henry Richard Binder. Initially we thought that they were the one and same person, except that Henry appears as a witness on Richard’s marriage certificate. Richard Henry seems to have been born in Pimlico, Middlesex, and married in September 1843 at Newington, South London. Henry Richard was born in 1813 in St George’s Hanover Square, and married in 1838. Joan Dunn 8 Kimber Houses, Kennet Road, Newbury RG14 5JD add to the confusion, neither A To seems to appear in the 1841 census. Unfortunately it is unlikely it will be easy to find anything else about the brothers and their relationship.


researching the Army service of Q Imyamwife’s grandfather, John Edward Knights. The family Bible indicates that he sailed to India on the Dilwara in 1899, returning to the UK on the Toman in 1905, although I can find no evidence of this. We have a photograph of him taken in the blue dress uniform of the Royal Artillery. Between his return to Britain and recall to the colours in 1914, he may have served in Africa. I have been unable to find his First World War service record, which may have been destroyed. However, I have a copy of his medal index card indicating that he was a driver in the Royal Field Artillery and was awarded the 1914 Star and the British Victory and War medals. He arrived in France on 13 September 1914. The battalion seems to have been reformed after Mons and sent to

where a Greek consul married a Corsican lady before emigrating to America. Their daughter married an American man called Rogers, who owned a stud farm in New Orleans. The family eventually sold the business and came to England where, according to a birth certificate in my possession, my grandfather John Edward Dean Rogers was born, in Birkenhead in 1875. His father was Joseph Mead Rogers and mother Sarah Read, née Dean, a widow. The 1881 and 1891 censuses contain the same information. However the 1901 census describes him as born in the USA (British Subject). His age is given as 27, which suggests he was born in 1873 or 1874. Mrs S L Blaxley The Homestead, Langton Farm, Isham, Kettering NN14 1HQ John really was born in the A IfUnited States he may have had his birth registered at a British consulate, possibly the one at New Orleans, whose births, marriage and death registers can be found in pieces FO 581/15-19 at The National Archives. The US census records, however, suggest that no person called Rogers owned a stud farm in Louisiana at this time.




Page 71


Two tragic ends

An Empire Marketing Board poster of tea being loaded at Colombo, Ceylon.

Loss report wife’s grandfather was killed in a Q My car crash in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), in 1935. Can you advise me how I could find out whether there was a report of the accident in a newspaper? Stephen Greatorex Cleaveside, Bickleigh, Tiverton EX16 8RB


The British Newspaper Library at Colindale in North London has collections of many colonial newspapers, including a selection from Ceylon. The catalogue is online at, although you will have to visit the Library to read the papers themselves.

Adoption quest am trying to trace my natural mother, Q IMary McMahon, who gave me up for adoption in May 1943. All I know is that she was working in an aircraft factory in West London, was aged 31 and came from Ireland. Over many year’s searching I have come to realise that most of the information she supplied to the adoption society was untrue. Michael Cullen 44A Pierrepont Road West Bridgford NG2 5BP is unlikely you will find very A Itmuch now, although it is worth contacting Adults Affected by

Adoption – Norcap, 112 Church Road, Wheatley 0X33 1LU, telephone 01865 875999, to see whether they can help. You could also approach the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service, which operates in both the UK and Ireland. You can write to them at 101 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN or ring 0845 634 4747.

Absent architect wonder whether you can solve a Q Ifamily mystery. Samuel Patman and Mary Ann Foote had a daughter, Gertrude Foote Patman, at Kennington Green in March 1868. Neither she nor her parents can be found on any of the censuses, although Gertrude appears as Gertrude Wills after her marriage to William Thomas Wills in 1888. The marriage certificate, which states her occupation as servant, gives her name as Gertrude Foote (not Patman), with the father unknown. However, she must have known her father because her first child was named William George Patman, although she gave her maiden name as Foote. Samuel Patman was an architect, and family myth suggests that he was American. Peter J Smith 2 Bawnmore Court, Rugby CV22 7QQ

workhouse, near Hull, is remembered as a family stigma. James Crompton was the second surviving son of 11 children, born into a family that owned property around Bridlington Priory. However, he seems to have gone down in the world. In censuses he is usually described as working on farms, although by 1891 he was a widower, living with his eldest son in Preston. He died on 22 March 1896, aged 94, but his death does not appear to be recorded in the GRO registers so I have been unable to find the cause. The workhouse records have been lost. Two days later my great-grand father, Thomas Crompton, hanged himself in a shed behind his home at Preston. The inquest into his suicide was reported in local newspapers, which hint that his action may have been triggered by a visit to his father in the workhouse a few days before. I would like to know why James ended his days in the workhouse and so, perhaps, lay to rest a shame that has hung over the family for more than a century. Richard Crompton 95 Hailey Road, Witney OX28 1HJ is a death certificate for a A There James Crumpton (not Crompton) in the March quarter for 1896 for Sculcoates – presumably your greatgreat-grandfather. He was almost certainly in the workhouse because his family were no longer able to look after him. Possibly a third of men and women over 85 ended their years in the workhouse for this reason.

no Samuel Patman A Unfortunately appears in the American censuses between 1870 and 1890, although it is possible that the family emigrated to neighbouring Canada, which may explain their absence from the English census. An alternative is that he deserted his family at some stage.

Richard Crompton

TNA:PRO CO956/13

death of my great-greatQ The grandfather in the Sculcoates Union

James Crompton as an old man.




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TNA:PRO ADM 188/79



The Continuous Service record for Benjamin Field, showing his chequered career in the Royal Navy.

Runaway sailor my great-grandfather Benjamin Q On Field’s naval service record there is a final entry: “Run at Portsmouth”. Was he a deserter? Martyn Field 2 Spinney Close, Steeple Claydon MK18 2QP he was. In fact desertion A Indeed was extremely common among


sailors. A physical description and other details were often published in Hue and Cry and the Police Gazette. The National Archives has incomplete sets. There are also court marital records, in series ADM 178 at Kew.

Mother’s pride? am looking for Thomas Young, who Q Iwas a soldier in the 1890s at Aldershot, and would particularly like to know the name of his mother. Dianne Ellis

Thomas Young survived A Assuming to receive a pension, there should be a soldier’s record for him in series WO 97 at The National Archives. By the 1890s these records give next of kin, so it is possible his mother will appear in the document. The records are arranged alphabetically, but because Thomas Young was not an uncommon name there may be a number of different documents to go through till you find the right man. To narrow down your search, it would help if you knew either the regiment he was in, or have a more concise date for when he was at Aldershot.




Page 73

How they lived

Old soldiers never die Frank Richards meets some of his Indian Army predecessors who served Queen Victoria

The Royal Welch Fusiliers Regimental Museum


t was only during the winter that bacon was sold on the Plains, and one old man, who was called the Bacon-wallah, was always an early arrival under the large tree… He was a shrivelled-up old chap about five feet six in height and when I first met him I could not tell whether he was a white man, a half-caste or a native. But it turned out he was white. He smoked a native pipe called a hookah or hubblebubble: it held about an ounce of tobacco and he would sit on his haunches like a native while he was smoking…. I became very friendly with the old chap, who was an old British soldier who had served under the East India Company, or John Company as he called it. He was not sure of his correct age, but thought he was knocking a hole into ninety. He once asked me when I had joined the Army. I replied, that it was the year Queen Victoria died. He smiled and said that he had enlisted in 1837, the year Queen Victoria was crowned. After twelve months’ service at home he had been sent to India and had been nineteen years in the country when the Mutiny broke out… “After the Mutiny was over I left the service with a pension of a shilling a day for life. I had been so long in the country that I decided to stay in it, and quite a number of us old John Company soldiers who were entitled to a pension did the same. Quarters were found for us in the cantonments at Lucknow, and we managed all right on our bob a day, as victuals were twice as cheap in those days as what they are now. For six or seven months of the year I wandered about the country, visiting different military stations. I generally

Frank Richards in dress uniform.

stayed a few days with each battalion and when I left a collection was made for me…. I must have been about sixty at the time [when] I married the daughter of a couple of half-castes. She was thirty years younger than me and her parents, who had a bit of money, gave her a dowry of a thousand rupees. With this money I started a piggery in a small way, which soon got much larger. I have now made enough of money to retire on, but somehow I can’t, and I love to be under this old tree before breakfast in the morning.” There were a few more of these old John Company soldiers left who still wandered round the country for six or seven months of the year in exactly the same way as this old chap had done. When we were stationed at Agra one of them visited the Battalion every winter. He was still a strong and

powerful man for his age and always wore a breastful of medal-ribbons… He had fought against the Sikhs in 1845, was one of the relieving force at Lucknow in 1857, had taken part in the Chinese War of 1860 and also fought in Abyssinia. He became highly indignant when I asked him one day whether the ribbon which he said was the Abyssinian ribbon, was for the campaign of 1868, under Lord Napier. He snorted and puffed out his cheeks and said: “1868, my lad! Whom do you think you’re talking to? I fought in Abyssinia at a time when the backsides of the men who were destined to fight there in 1868 were no bigger than shirt-buttons.”... The amount of beer he could swallow was amazing and the dinner he could shift would have done credit to a recruit at the Depot. The last time he visited the Battalion he stayed in the Signallers’ room. He told us that when he enlisted in the Army a soldier’s pay was only a halfpenny a day. Although the pay was so small he considered that the soldiers under the old John Company before the Mutiny were far better off than we were. They were generally engaged on active service, from which they derived much loot. After a little war was over they would have the times of their lives and generally by the time they were broke they would be sent to quell another rising in some place or other. Frank Richards joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1901, serving in India for many years. His Old Sahib Soldier, first published in 1936 by Faber and Faber, was recently republished by the Naval and Military Press.

MAY 2007





Page 74

Best years of their lives?



f country children of the 1920s were transported into the 21st century, they would be impressed by the changes, but I like to feel they would really miss the freedom to roam the meadows and woods as we did. In those days we were a part of nature, revelling in the waterways, paddling in the Washbrook, fishing for tiddlers and gugeons and even swimming in the river Cherwell. We were always conscious of the changing seasons; it seemed to snow more often then, and I remember long, hot Summer days. Our knowledge may have been parochial but it was quite specialised: we knew where to find rare plants, while the boys knew where every kind of birds’ nests could be raided. There was also some boredom, even if the long Winter evenings were usually spent playing cards in

The author (left) and her friend Bessie Phipps. 74 • ANCESTORS MAY 2007

front of a blazing log fire or singing songs round the piano. More fundamental was the overall sense of security that most country children had, even though there was hardship and lack of money. There was a certain order to our lives and we knew where we fitted in. This is no nostalgic yearning for an ideal life long past. Before they reached puberty most of the farm workers’ sons were already hard at work, milking the cows before school and “mucking out” when they returned. The girls were well versed in housework, ready for the day they went into service. Despite this prospect, there was a feeling of great release when they were able to leave school at the great age of 13, and later 14. The boys, especially, did not take kindly to struggling with the mysteries of long division or learning Wordsworth’s Daffodils by heart. Still, they did have a rich childhood before the realities of work caught up with them. The other physical hardships we took in our stride: no central heating, but the living room was cosily warm from the range or open fire; no electricity, but all we ever knew were candles and lamps. We had never heard of television, but some of us had a gramophone and soon one or two crystal sets came into the village, although when I tried one I could only get a


Recalling her 1920s Oxfordshire childhood, Mildred Masheder suggests modern parents can learn from children’s experiences of that era Horses were the main form of transport for the author and her mother.

roaring sound like the sea. Today’s children have television, computer games, the internet and mobiles. Just as revolutionary are the physical comforts: indoor toilets; running hot and cold water; central heating; not forgetting now commonplace luxuries such as car ownership and holidays abroad. It seems to me that we need the best of both worlds, which entails strict regulation of the goodies of our present consumer society. If children spend an average of four, or even five, hours a day watching television and playing computer games, they miss out on outdoor play and being in touch with the natural world. Television has many assets, but should be rationed in terms of time and quality. The present paranoia about letting children outside the home can be offset by close community ties, especially in villages. Those in the 1920s had a lot to offer, not least an unhurried family life. Let us emulate the best of what they gave to childhood, both for the sake of the future generation and the future of the planet. Mildred Masheder is author of Carrier’s Cart to Oxford. Growing up in the 1920s in the Oxfordshire Village of Elsfield which can be obtained from her at 75 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5AU, or via She has written many books for parents and teachers.

Inside Back Pro



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Ancestors Magazine Issue 57