Archive for January, 2012

When researching any part of the country, one of the first things I do is to look to see if I can find a historical trade directory, such as Pigot’s, White’s, Baines’ or from the mid-nineteenth century the Post Office Directories. The reason for this is the vast amount of information that can be found in a directory, from the history of the area, to its geology, population, sanitation, poor law union to entries for individual trades and people.

The first directories began appearing in the late eighteenth century and were mainly at that time for the London area; in 1791 the Universal British Directory was published giving details of the trades carried on in various villages, towns and cities across the country. In the nineteenth century a plethora of directories were produced, with some published every few years and others only appearing the once. Some publishers sent out canvassers to collect information, some used existing listings of trades kept by the earliest registry offices and still others were by a small subscription. Whichever way it was done, these historical directories now give us a window in time to our ancestor’s lives.

If we take the example of the Post Office Directory of Lincolnshire, published in 1868 published available on The Historical Directories Website, (http://www.historicaldirectories.org/hd/index.asp (NB, this project is now finished though the directories are still available to search); which has an introduction to the county, a list of the poor law unions and parishes within each, population tables, a list of Wapentakes, hundreds and sokes which help to place villages in their ancient places and a listing of Acting Magistrates for the County. But by far the most interesting information is within the detailed listings for each village and town.

This example is for the parish of Dowsby in Lincolnshire’s fenlands.

All Saints' church, Dowsby, Lincs. - geograph.org.uk - 90707.jpg

“Dowsby is a parish and village, in the Southern division of the county, hundred of Aveland, union and county court district of Bourn, parts of Kesteven, rural deanery of Aveland and archdeaconry and diocese of Lincoln, distant 4.5 miles south-east from Falkingham, 3.5 from Billingborough, and 7 north-east from Bourn railway station. The church of St. Andrew, recently restored, is an ancient stone structure, with a tower containing 4 bells, and on the south-side is an entrance porch: the interior consists of nave, chancel, and aisles; the nave being separated from the aisles by a handsome stone arcaded colonnade: the church contains handsome pulpit, ancient font, a stained glass memorial window and a brass tablet to the memory of a deceased member of the Scales family; also several handsome tablet monuments, and one of a lady named Ashton, life-size, recumbent; there is an organ. The register dates from the year 1670. The living is a rectory, annual value £612 10s with residence, in the gift of Mrs Johnson, of  Ryhall and held by the Rev Kingsman Basket Foster, B. A., of Lincoln College, Oxford. A school for boys and girls is endowed by a Mrs Burrel, deceased: the building is new, and adjacent to the church. Dowsby Hall, a fine Elizabethan mansion of stone, erected in 1630 is now the residence of Mr Seth Ellis Dean. Edward Nathaniel Conant, Esq., of Linden, Uppingham, is lord of the manor. The principal landowners are Lord Aveland, Mrs Deeker, Richard Lucas and Edward Nathaniel Conant Esqrs. The soil is loam; subsoil clay. The chief crops are wheat and oats, and pasturage. The population in 1861 was 195; the parish contains, including the hamlet of Graby, 1,809 acres. Dowsby is situated on the western extremity of the Fen district, or the low country.

DOWSBY DECOY is about one mile east. Graby is about one mile to the north-west; and the portion of the hamlet in Dowsby parish is called East Graby. West Graby is in Aslackby parish.

Parish Clerk, Thomas Wilkinson

Letters are received through Falkingham. The nearest money order offices are at Billingborough and Falkingham.

Free School, Thomas Wilkinson, master

[Next comes a list of residents, starting with the clergyman]

Foster Rev. Kingsman Basket, B. A (rector)


Atkinson Henry Corbett, farmer & grazier, Decoy

Bunning Robt, frmr & grazier East Graby

Casswell Henry, farmer & grazier

Claypole John, miller

Dean Seth Ellis, farmer & glazier, Dowsby Hall

Scales William, farmer

Taylor Benjamin Hunt, boot & shoemaker

Taylor William, grocer & beer retailer

Wilkinson Thomas, parish clerk, school-master and collector of Taxes

There are several things that we have learnt about the parish of Dowsby from just this short paragraph in the Post Office Directory. We know that the Rector Kingsman Foster went to Oxford, we know the name of the Lord of the manor, we know that Thomas Wilkinson was not just the parish clerk, but also the school-master and collector of taxes and we also know that the main trade carried out in this area was farming & grazing, that there is a mill, a grocer & beer seller and a boot & shoemaker.

More than just that though, we know that Dowsby has a particularly beautiful church, St Andrew’s is described thoroughly and it is easy to imagine my ancestors who lived in this parish coming to the church to be baptised, married or buried there by the Rev. Foster. They were agricultural labourers and from here I can see that there are at least five farmers in the area who they may have worked for. Did they buy their groceries from William Taylor or get their boots mended by Benjamin Taylor, did their children attend the school? From here further information can be sought, where was Dowsby Hall, does it still stand today? Who was Seth Ellis Dean, Henry Casswell, John Claypole – all these people were my ancestors’ neighbours.

The nearby parish of Gosberton was larger than Dowsby, and it’s entry is therefore significantly larger;

Additional information added for Gosberton included details of the Post & Money Order Office, Insurance Agents and Carriers, along with the list of commercial entries where again many of them are for farmers. Here also are other trades, such as butchers, druggists, bricklayers, blacksmiths, carpenters etc., a much wider variety than that for the smaller parish of Dowsby.

Directories are available in many local history libraries as well as record offices or archives, look for them on the reference shelves. Online directories can be found in several places, as mentioned above the Historical Directories, http://www.historicaldirectories.org/hd/index.asp website has a wide selection for each county; http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ has directories in its UK, City and County Directories database, some can be found on Google books, and others are available for sale on CD.

All are worth searching through for background social and local history, you may not find an ancestor in these directories (though somewhere along the line, most people do), you will however find out about their village, church, neighbours etc., it is possible to build up a picture of their daily lives using this directory and others like it produced throughout the nineteenth century.


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Working my way through the parish register of Burton Agnes at the East Yorkshire Archives in Beverley this week, I came across a couple of entries that provided a lot more information than the usual entries up to that point had. These were all signed by William Dade Rector of Barmston, two baptisms in October 1784, three burials Oct-Dec 1784 and a marriage on the 6 October 1784. I smiled to myself as I had come across ‘Dade’ register entries before and you’re always lucky when you find one as the information provided can take you back another generation, and often point to a different parish. I wondered what William Dade Rector of Barmston (near Bridlington) was doing in Burton Agnes that winter of 1784. The answer lies in the fact that William’s brother Thomas had lately been made Vicar of Burton Agnes and both the brothers had been born there, their father Thomas Dade (1718 – 1759) having been Vicar of Burton Agnes himself. I can only assume William was looking after the parish for his brother until he could move from his previous parish of Middleton in Teesdale to take up his duties in Burton Agnes.

William himself was not only Rector of Barmston (1776 – 1790), but of St Mary Castlegate York (1773- 1790), and also of St Michael-in-Spurriergate (1773); he was also the Vicar of Ulrome (not far from the parish of Barmston). In the 1770s Dade began recording information not only on the child he was baptising, but the father’s name, his parents name and their abode as well as their occupations and the same information for the mother. A full Dade entry looks like this:

St Mary, Castlegate, York

29 September 1774 – Archibald 1st born James Christie, Cornet in the Royal North British Dragoons eldest son Archibald Christie of Inveresk in North Britain by Ann his wf, Sister to Sir Alexander Gordon & Lucy, 6th daughter John Beardsley of Warwick, Attorney at Law dec by Mary Neale his wf, born Sept 24

So much information contained in one baptism entry, we have Archibald and his parents James & Lucy, his paternal grandparents Archibald Christie and Ann Gordon (whose brother Alexander is also mentioned) and his maternal grandparents John Beardsley and Mary Neale. Not only that we know that his paternal grandfather is from Inveresk in North Britain (i.e Scotland) and his maternal grandfather was an attorney at law. What a goldmine for any Christie researcher out there.

Another entry from the same page in the register reads:

21 November 1774 – Charity d John Hodgson of Lutton near Malton Lab, s Thomas Hodgson Weaver dec and Mary (d Richard Beeles of Hunkleby near Pocklington, a weaver) now pris in the Castle, b Nov 16 in the Castle

You have to wonder what John Hodgson had done to get him and his wife Mary incarcerated in the Castle that their daughter Charity was born there. We learn that John is a labourer of Lutton near Malton, his father Thomas is a weaver, his wife’s maiden name was Beeles and her father is from Hunkleby near Pocklington and he too is a weaver. Again by finding the baptism of Charity we find her paternal and maternal grandparents. (Addendum Quarter Sessions for East Riding shows a Mary Hodgson of Lutton wife of John Hodgson of Weaverthorpe labourer, accused of theft of linen cloth at Weaverthorpe, which is a mile down the road from Lutton.  QSF/254/B/3  c1771 So it looks like it was Mary who was incarcerated in the Castle).

In 1777, the Archbishop of York William Markham decided that all parishes within the Diocese of York should follow Dade’s example and many parish priests took up this idea and began to keep registers that, if they didn’t exactly follow Dade’s example, came quite close to it. Many clergymen though resented the extra work and the Archbishop made it clear that he wouldn’t punish any man who didn’t comply with his decision. I have come across examples of Dade type registers in my researches and these include the following examples:

Thomas 2nd son of Robert & Ann Watson Daughter of Charles & Elizabeth Cawkwell baptised at Thorne in February 1806

Here Ann’s parents are mentioned as Charles & Elizabeth Cawkwell, no mention is made of their occupation or of Robert’s parents, but from this I was able to find Robert Watson marrying Ann Cawkwell in 1803, I also know I need to go back in the baptism registers as Thomas was the second son of Robert & Ann.

Dinah daughter of Leonard Hunter, Miller and Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Thompson baptised at Pocklington 6 November 1794

This one is a lucky one for me, Dinah was the only child born in Pocklington, I managed to trace Leonard to York where Dinah’s siblings had all been born. Finding this baptism broke a brick wall of several years standing, proved her last name was Hunter and took me back two further generations. Though it doesn’t name Leonard’s parents, it gives his wife’s parents names and from that I was able to find Elizabeth’s baptism in 1749 in St Maurice’s, York.

However with the introduction of Rose’s Act in 1812, Dade registers came to an end, though some continued on for a little while afterwards, they soon died out.

William’s brother Thomas Dade who was Vicar of Burton Agnes for over 20 years was obviously not a follower of his brother’s ideals, his entries in the parish register of Burton Agnes are brief to say the least! I can’t help but wonder if this caused a few discussions between the brothers as to which was the best way to record the information of these life events.

William Dade died at Barmston in 1790 at the age of 50. As well as his work as a clergyman, Dade was an Antiquarian, and in 1783, he had been elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and he was working on a folio of the History and Antiquities of Holderness which he never completed before his death; this was considerably reworked and published later by George Poulson an historian in Beverley. Another project which he was working on was that of an “Alphabetical Register of Marriages, Births and Burials of considerable Persons in the County of York” in several volumes, I’m not sure if this was published. Obviously Dade himself had an interest in genealogy which would help to explain his interest in preserving family information for generations to come.

So if your family history journey takes you to Yorkshire and you are lucky enough to find yourself faced with an entry with extra information, then you can thank this eighteenth century antiquarian with an interest in genealogy. I know I do.

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