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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The Joneses who were smiths

As I've already said, nearly all my Joneses were smiths - blacksmiths - starting with my ggggrandfather Timothy, gggrandfather Richard (the first), ggrandfather Richard (the second), grandfather Pryce (was he an industrial blacksmith at Rolls-Royce?) and my uncle Ted (Thomas Edward) who was an industrial blacksmith with Jaguar.

There were others too, notably great great uncle James Jones (son of Richard l) who was the blacksmith at Llanbadarn Fynydd and who was a stalwart of the Particular Baptist chapel at Maesyrhelem. I've more information about him somewhere which I need to dig out.

Two of James' sons served in the Great War and their service papers survive; James' son Arthur James Jones joined up in November 1914 when he was 22 and was specially enlisted as a shoeing smith in the Army Service Corps and attached to the 8th Cavalry. He was promoted to Corporal farrier in 1915 and to Farrier Staff Sergeant  in 1916.

Richard Oliver Jones signed up in 1915, again especially enlisted as a shoeing smith and saw service in Iraq.

While it's exciting, reading through their service records, I've had no luck finding the papers of my grandfather Pryce and his brother Thomas who also served. Again they were shoeing smiths (or shoeboys as Dad said) but while Arthur, Oliver and Pryce came home, Thomas died in France. It's not easy to trace Joneses in the Great War but I think he's commemorated at Tyne Cot, having no known grave.

And while we're on tragic outcomes, I'll mention Richard lll. On a visit to Maesyrhelem I'd noticed a gravestone for a Richard Jones, late of Felindre, died 5 Dec 1912 aged 35 years. I wondered if this was a possible relative but Felindre is a few miles away; after checking censuses etc I realised that this was indeed Richard lll; he'd moved to Felindre and was the blacksmith there.

I'm starting an album entitled 'Family at War' and I hope to collect together the service records for as many of the family as possible; there's the four I've mentioned here; then at least two other members on the paternal side, James Lawton Woolley, George Willmore Woolley, maternal side: Ralph Oughton Brown, George Hick Brown, Jim Russell all World War One; then Arthur Jones, Elizabeth Stonehouse Russell (WW2) not forgetting great great uncle Richard Russell (served c1850-1880)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Aha, Jim Lad

Jim Russell was born on 1 Oct 1892 at 4 Caledonia Street, Thornaby but for the only time in his life (it would appear) he was registered as James Russell on 5th November by his father John Russell, grocer. It was only when my Mum obtained a copy of his birth certificate in 1988 that she realised he had been fibbing (knowingly?) when he insisted that he had been christened Jim. He's Jim on his army papers, Jim on Mum's birth certificate, Jim on his death certificate and Jim on his gravestone.

By all accounts, he was bit of a lad and it was 'suggested', quite forcefully I think, that he make a new life for himself. He went to Australia, apparently under the auspices of the Salvation Army (he never had a good word to say about them), sometime between 1911 and 1914. In 1911 he's listed in the census at 82 Buchanan Street, Thornaby as an assistant grocer. The next time he appears on paper in 21 Dec 1914 when he signs his attestation papers for the Australian Imperial Force (although the form also says he joined on 1 Oct 1914, his 22nd birthday). His father, John had died on 14 Feb 1912 so his next of kin is given as Mrs H Russell.

The 14th Infantry Battalion of the AIF left Melbourne on 2 December 1914 and arrived in Gallipoli (via Egypt and Lemnos) on 26 April 1915 under heavy shrapnel fire. On 21 August Jim was wounded (gunshot wound right shoulder) in the fighting around Hill 60 and evacuated to Mudros; he returned to his unit on 22nd September. Mum remembers him saying that he had been one of the guides on the beach during the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915.

After reorganisation of the battalion in Egypt, it was sent to France in June 1916 arriving at Marseilles on the SS Transylvania. As part of the 4th Infantry Brigade, the 14th took part at Pozieres, Mouquet farm, Messine and Polygon Wood; Jim missed the Polygon Wood action (26 Sept 1917) as he was sick with PUO (pyrexia (fever) of unknown origin) and pleurisy, taken to Etaples and didn't rejoin the unit until 2 Nov 1917. He was allowed 3 weeks leave in England in December and returned to France and detached for duty with HQ, 4th Infantry Brigade. It may have been here that he was 'cook for a general' as he claimed.

Just over a year later, on 23 July 1918 he was hospitalised with a carbuncle on his back and transferred to England spending some time in the Pavilion Hospital in Brighton; his health can't have been very good as he spends some time in various hospitals and on 14 October was transferred to the New Zealand Hospital at Codford with another carbuncle.

Back at the Codford depot on 1 November 1918, he was entitled to leave in Australia (he was a 1914 enlistee) but look 75 days in England in lieu having orders to report back to AIF Admin HQ in London on 23 January 1919.  The Armistice having been signed  on November 1918, he was sent to Tidworth to await demobilisation. He was discharged on 25 June 1919 and I have his demob papers.

We're pretty certain that he had made the acquaintance of Miss Stella Stonehouse before he left; quite how, we don't know, but they married on 4 December 1919.  It's clear though, from the stories that Mam tells that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress. Understandably so.

Jim and Stella, with financial assistance from Stella's father, opened a shop in Clifton Street, Middlesbrough - yes, it was a grocery - and son Maurice was born in 1921, daughter Elizabeth (Betty) in 1925.

When war returned in 1939-45, Jim eagerly joined the Home Guard, even after all he went through in the Great War.

He died on the 16th June 1951 aged 58;  cause of death given as cerebral haemorrhage, arterio sclerosis. The informant of the death, Maurice Russell, described him a master grocer (although I think this says more about my uncle than it does about my grandfather)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


What can I say? The Russells hold a particular fascination. My Mam who is still with us after a couple of really trying years. Her dad, Jim Russell - black sheep yet an Anzac (Gallipoli and Pozieres) - youngest of 12 children born to John Russell and Hannah Tweddell; that same John Russell who founded a dynasty of Russell grocers (without realising how many others in the family turned to grocery?).

Oh, and John Russell's eldest brother Richard, born in Tholthorpe (Yorkshire), joined the army, served in exotic locations (India, South Africa, Gibraltar), married a girl from Monmouthshire, whose daughter married a bloke from Cardiff. Ernesto Luigi Garibaldi Bellisario.

The genealogist cup runneth over.  More Russells and Bellisarios to come....

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A Brown study

As a bit of relief from all those Joneses (don't worry there are plenty more!), I'm switching to the maternal side starting with Richard Brown (yet another Richard!) my great great great grandfather. He was born in Benton, Northumberland to ( and I've yet to confirm this in the parish records) to Philip Brown and Elisabeth in 1792/3.

He married Mary Oughton in Washington, Co Durham (ancestral home of George Washington it would seem) on Christmas Eve 1812 - so very nearly 200 years ago. Children Richard, John, Jane, George, Philip, Margaret and Elizabeth Mary came at regular 2 year intervals but in the two years between Elizabeth and the next child, Mary Ann they moved to West Auckland/St Helen Auckland. There they added Mary Ann, Ralph Oughton and Thomas Lumsden; and with these last two, the introduction of other family surnames which so helps mark them out and lightens the load of the family historian.

I presume the moving was to do with Richard's work; it's interesting to follow the progression on censuses and various certificates. The first confirmation I have is with Thomas Lumsden's birth certificate - the first the family would've needed as they were introduced in 1837 the year TLB was born - where Richard is described as an overman.

The Durham Mining Museum website: (and well worth a visit) describes an overman as 'one who inspects the state of the mine every morning before the men go to work. He also keeps a daily account of the mens' labour. An overman is almost invariably a man who has passed through all the graduations of pit work, from the trapper upwards, and who has been raised to his situation on account of his ability and steadiness. An overman's wages in 1849 were 26s. to 28s. per week, with house, garden, and coals gratis'.

By the time son Philip was married in 1846, Richard was a viewer: more or less the manager of both underground and surface work. I'd like to find out more about the locations/mines where Richard worked and to see if there are any records that mention him but there are many Brown families in this area and in any case, by the time daughter Margaret married in 1847, Richard had become a railway inspector. Why the change, were railways safer to work on? Had there been a colliery accident? Was he headhunted? He's still a railway inspector in the 1851 census and the family has moved to Shildon but Richard's death certificate puts the family back in West Auckland; he died on 31 July 1859 of 'disease of the liver', the informant being TLB, present at the death. Perhaps surprisingly, Richard's occupation is noted as being 'grocer' but wife Mary, a widow in the 1861 census is listed as 'grocer and woollen and lace draper so it might've been something they turned to to gain extra income.

Richard and Mary's children had interesting careers; there's more research to do but I think the eldest Richard became a 'practical engineer', Jane married George Hall and their son Richard Brown Hall (there's that so useful interjection of a family surname that helps you know you're on the right track) married a Tweddle/Tweddell (which is coincidentally another branch of my maternal family); Philip Brown became a physician, Margaret married Thomas Riley who had a hand in apprehending Mary Ann Cotton; Elizabeth married (a cousin I think) the wonderfully named Burdett Lambton Brown and they will have a post of their own - I'm very fond of Burdett. And then there's  gg grandfather Thomas Lumsden Brown - TLB - but that's a story for another day.