Author Archives: joanannreid

About joanannreid

Coach and writer with a keen interest in book. I have my own website where I blog on career related topics

Occupation: fellmonger

It was with great delight that I came across an ancestor who was a fellmonger as many of mine are either labourers or worked on the land. However, I did think with the first record I found that it said fishmonger; finding further records for Thomas Bellinger (1841-1938) though convinced me that his occupation was fellmonger and that he lived in Bermondsey, South London. The Tanners of Bermondsey website[1] explains that ‘fell’ is a skin and that a fellmonger was someone who either provided or sold skins to tanners. They might also have prepared the skins by removing the hair or wool from them which wasn’t a pleasant task.

Thomas Bellinger, my second cousin four times removed, was born and baptised in Enborne, Berkshire in 1841 to parents John (1799-1883) and Sarah (1816-1852). John was an agricultural labourer who married twice and had probably at least seven children, most of whom stayed in Berkshire.  Thomas had moved to Bermondsey by the 1861 census when he was recorded as a boarder and fellmonger living at 5 Laxon Street; this was in the Leather Market area of Bermondsey. The leather trade was prominent in Bermondsey in the 19th century and part of the Leather Market building, which was erected by prominent tanners of Bermondsey,[2] still exists in Weston Street[3]. The City of London had banned tanning “because the stench was so foul” and it had moved to Bermondsey where the running water it needed was provided by the Neckinger and other tidal courses.[4] Bermondsey’s growth through to modern times has largely been attributed to the leather trade.[5]

Thomas married Sarah Withey in St James’ Church, Bermondsey on 29 March 1863 and together they had at least nine children, two of whom died in infancy, as shown in the following chart:

Descendant Chart for Thomas Bellingercropjpg

The family continued to live in Bermondsey as follows:

Census Address Notes
1871 5 Paulin Street Children: Robert, Henry and John
1881 36 Earnest Street Seven children at home

Robert and Henry were railway porters – possibly at the nearby London Bridge station

1891 1 Earnest Street Six children at home

Robert was married and had left home.

Henry was a leather dresser, John a dairyman and Thomas a van guard.

Sarah, Annie and Alfred were scholars.

1901 28 Fendall Street Three children at home

Henry was a hide cutter, John a fellmongers labourer and Alfred also worked with leather

1911 42 Macks Road Thomas was still a fellmonger despite being 69 and a widower.

He was living with his son Robert and family. Robert was a carman with Bermondsey Borough Council.

During the time the family lived in Bermondsey the population increased significantly from just under 30000 in 1831 to over 81000 in 1901.[6] Much of the housing were tenements in multiple occupation and disease and unsanitary conditions were rife. A report by the Medical Officer for Health for the year 1895 recorded a death rate of 22.1 deaths per thousand of the population in Bermondsey; this was more than the 19.8 per thousand of population recorded for London as a whole. Infant mortality was 162 deaths per thousand. The report particularly noted that deaths from violent causes had increased and that three people were found dead in the Thames and one in the Surrey canal.[7] By 1901 smallpox had also become a specific concern when an epidemic broke out in Bermondsey.[8] Interestingly, one of Thomas’s sons Henry died in 1902.

After Thomas’s wife Sarah died in 1909, Thomas and members of his family continued to live in Bermondsey until his death in 1938 aged 96.

I too came to know Bermondsey when I started work in Bermondsey Street in 2006. I didn’t know about my family’s collection to the area though and although I’ve walked down Weston Street many times, I wasn’t aware of its importance in the leather trade. I’d certainly like to see more of the Leather Market building; something I can rectify on my next visit to the London Bridge area.


Stephen Richards / Former Leather Market, Weston Street / CC BY-SA 2.0

[1] Tanners of Bermondsey. : accessed 28 July 2019.

[2] Malden, E. H. ed. (1912) ‘Parishes Bermondsey.’ In: A History of the County of Surrey. Vol. 4. pp. 17-24. London: Victoria County History. : accessed 28 July 2019.

[3] Exploring Southwark. The Leather Market. : accessed 28 July 2019.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Malden, E. H. ed. (1912) ‘Parishes Bermondsey.’ In: A History of the County of Surrey. Vol. 4. pp. 17-24. London: Victoria County History. : accessed 28 July 2019.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Dixon, John. (1896) Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Parish of Bermondsey for the Year 1895. London: Fredk Tarrant & Son. accessed 28 July 2019.

[8] Brown, R. K. (1902) Special Report on Smallpox in Bermondsey from October 12th, 1901 to September 6th, 1902. London: Frederic Shaw. accessed 28 July 2019.

Genetic genealogy

It is quite some time since I last wrote about my genealogical investigations into my family. The last year has been taken up with the diploma year of my course. I decided that over the summer I would see what genetic genealogy could contribute to my own research. I took an autosomal test sometime ago and haven’t been able to establish how some of my matches are related to me. Many of them are based in the USA and share very little DNA with me. At best they are 2nd cousins and at worst 5th cousins and beyond.

I have recently taken an autosomal test with another provider who has a much larger database of testers. In preparation for finding more distant cousins I’ve been working on parts of my family tree which have been somewhat neglected. The person I chose to follow up was my great grandfather Digweed whose family originally came from Berkshire. This has proved to be a bonus as I have found ancestors in both Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. Both counties are close to where I now live in Oxfordshire.


Market Hall, Old Amersham

The first person of interest in Berkshire is Ashley Bellinger (born 1849) who, was the game keeper to Mr W W T Drake of Shardeloes, Amersham. He is my third cousin three times removed. The Drake family held the title of ‘Lord of the Manor’ of Amersham from about 1637; previously Shardeloes had been owned by the Tothill family. William Drake (1650-90) built the Market Hall in Old Amersham in 1682 and another William (1723-96) remodelled Shardeloes from 1758-1766.

Ashley continued to be game keeper to the Drake family until at least the 1901, census although he disappears from the records some time after his son George died in 1902. George (1876-1902), my fourth cousin twice removed, was a police constable with the London Metropolitan Police when he died of influenza and pneumonia in 1902. He was buried in Amersham on 28 June 1902.


St Mary’s Church, Old Amersham

Ashley’s father George (1806-1890) was a publican who in 1881 ran the Fury Bush Inn in Kingsclere, Hampshire. In 1871 he had recorded his occupation as a game keeper. George and his siblings had been born and baptised in the chapelry in Greenham, Berkshire.


St Mary’s Chapelry, Greenham

One of George’s sisters, Ann (born about 1804), seems to have married the same man, Ashley Cowper Croft, twice. The first marriage took place at Gretna Green on 20 July 1819 and they married again in Arundel, Sussex on 26 June 1820. Her husband Ashley became an articled clerk in Arundel on 30 May 1820 and was admitted to Gray’s Inn on 5 May 1823 when he was described as the fourth son of James Croft of Greenham Lodge, Berkshire. Ashley was living at Priestwood Lodge, Greenham when he died in 1833 and left a straightforward will leaving everything to his wife Ann.

These are just a few members of the Bellinger family who I’ve discovered as part of my research into more distant cousins, in preparation for the results of my autosomal DNA test. Of course the results from that came in earlier today and it seems that it’s the Ellis side of my family I now need to do some more work on!

The unidentified John Sarginson

It was probably about a year ago when my brother Tim set me a family history challenge. He is interested in a specific name on the WW1 war memorial which resides in St Helen’s Churchyard in Escrick; the village we were born and brought up in. The man’s name was John Sarginson. Neither of my parents was able to shed any light on this man who shares the same surname as we do. Our uncle Taff, one of my father’s brothers, wasn’t able to help either when we asked him about him earlier this year. Mind you he didn’t know that one of his ancestors from a nearby village had served in World War One, survived and is included in one of the historical books about Riccall; the village which he lives in.

Anyway how hard can this be to identify someone who is currently unidentified I thought to myself. Well much harder than I’d anticipated is the short answer. I started with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and found some John Sarginson’s who had not survived the war but, having carried out further research,  I don’t think it is any of them. Then I thought well perhaps he is in some of the other WW1 records: Ancestry, Imperial War Museum lives of the Great War, Findmypast and the National Archives at Kew. No luck there though.

Then I realised that there would probably have been some meetings to discuss the war memorial and discovered that some papers and meeting minutes had been lodged at the Hull history centre as part of the Forbes Adam collection. Perhaps this was going to be the eureka moment that we family historians crave. Yes you’ve guessed it, it wasn’t. A very interesting letter from Lady Wenlock written in 1921, just after the commemoration service for the war memorial, did reveal some of the local feeling around it and some of the the names which had been included on it. But no the papers didn’t provide any information about who was going to be included on the memorial. A separate sub-committee run by the Rector made those decisions; and so far it doesn’t look these papers still exist or are accessible.

So it was back to the drawing board. After extensive further research, including also looking at the other soldiers on the war memorial and who they served with, I am no further forward in identifying the unidentified John Sarginson. I am loathe to leave him as a mystery so have written to the local historian who wrote a book about Escrick to see if he can help.

If you know anything about this John then do please contact me. I have also posted this blog to my other genealogy website

Postscript: it looks like John may no longer be unidentified. He was probably Corporal John Sarginson of the West Yorkshire regiment. It would be good though to know more about his connection to Escrick as he wasn’t born there. If you have any further information do please get in touch.

My Irish ancestors in Walmgate, York

As part of my diploma studies with Strathclyde University I am currently studying Irish records. Some of my ancestors came over from Ireland sometime before the 1851 census and settled in the Walmgate area of York. The family concerned are my three times great grandparents:  James Weir (about 1784-1857) and Mary Carty (about 1804-1875). In the 1851 census they were living in Long Close, Walmgate, York with their seven children, six of whom had been born in Ireland, and one who had been born in York. James was described as an agricultural labourer as well as his sons: Patrick, John and James and daughter Catherine. Their daughters Judy, Ann and Mary were described as scholars and Mary Carty, a visitor and widow (and possibly James’s mother in law), was also living with them.

James died on 21 January 1857. His death certificate records that he was aged 78 and a labourer living in Long Close Lane; his cause of death was asthma and disease of the heart. His death was reported by his daughter Catherine who by then had married James Duffy.  By the 1861 census Catherine, James and family had moved to Middlesbrough.

After James’s death Mary (Carty/Weir) continued to live in York and was recorded in the 1861 census living with her daughter Ann, husband Charles Rafter and a “niece” Mary aged 11. A question I have is, was she the daughter of Mary who was born in 1851 when she was 47, or the daughter of one of Mary’s children? So far I haven’t been able to find a birth or baptism record for her.

My three times great grandmother Mary continued to live with her daughter Ann, Charles and their family. In the 1871 census they were living in the St Dennis area of Walmgate. Mary died on 24 March 1875 aged 67. Her cause of death was recorded a phthisis. She was living with her daughter Ann and family at 19 Dennis Street; her daughter is recorded as the informant on Mary’s death certificate.

My research into this family has had some success with three of James and Mary’s daughters: Catherine (born about 1826 in Sligo, Ireland), Ann (born about 1843 in Ireland and died in 1890) and Mary (born about 1851 in York and died in 1918). Mary married Luke Richardson (1846-1891) and they are my two times great grandparents.

I have had less success researching the following children of James and Mary who were all born in Ireland:  Patrick (born about 1824), John (born about 1834), James (born about 1836) and Judy (born about 1841). If you have any information about any of them then do please get in touch.

Beware of what you find

Researching my ancestors has become something of a passion for me and I really enjoy writing stories about the people I’ve met in this way. From time to time though, I find things out which result in me having a more sombre view of life in a rural village.

A recent example of this relates to the Richardson family; my great grandmother was a Richardson. I was surprised to see that I hadn’t completed all the birth, marriages and deaths information for part of this family who lived in Yorkshire in the late 19th century. As I progressed with the task I came across Mary Ann Richardson, my first cousin three times removed, who as a young child was injured in a fire and subsequently died. The accident happened when both her parents were at work and her two brothers were playing outside in the yard. It looks like she got too close to the stove and her clothes caught on fire. The inquest record explains that one of their neighbours saw her “with her clothes blazing all around”; and that Leonard Smales, a farm labourer, “seized her and rolled her on the floor” to put out the flames. Mary had burns to her legs, body, chest, chin and ears and although her wounds were attended to, she died. Rather poignantly the 1875 burial record for Mary records that she died aged four and three quarter years.

Life in rural Yorkshire wasn’t easy; both of Mary’s parents were working as labourers, Joseph on the railway and her mother Elizabeth on the land. They were at work the day the accident happened, a Saturday. By 1881 they had moved to a nearby village and Joseph was described as a railway platelayer for the North Eastern railway who perhaps had moved with his job?

Sometimes even brief records can pack an unexpected punch. On a recent visit to the East Yorkshire archives in Beverley I handled a small document which recorded the indictment and sentence of my five times great grandfather. Elias was given 7 years transportation for stealing a variety of grains; perhaps either to sell and/or feed his family. He never made it to one of Britain’s colonies though. Elias died in 1812 in a prison hulk ship moored off Portsmouth, probably of hulk fever. I tried to find out more information about his burial but it looks like prisoners were just put in unmarked graves or worse.

Seeing both these records gave me an almost visceral connection to the past, something which I was really surprised about. Sad those these stories are, it won’t stop me doing my research; and their stories deserve to be told, it has also made me more aware of the conditions my ancestors endured in a part of rural Yorkshire which I experienced very differently as a child. To me it meant freedom, fresh air and the chance to read and learn. For them it was more about the daily grind and being able to feed their families. Despite the current climate, in comparison to their lives, I feel very lucky to live in the present time.

A couple of challenges for family historians

I have recently been lucky to exchange emails with someone who was interested in my Palframan relatives and helpfully provided me with some information which has led me to revise my story on Michael Palframan and opened up a new area of possible research – those Palframan’s who went to South Africa in 1850’s and 1860s.

Collecting enough evidence to be sure that someone is an ancestor can be challenging. The further you go back in time the more likely it is that surnames will not be consistently spelled correctly and I’m sure that many people have come across census records where someone’s age looks suspect. I try and stick to finding at least three pieces of evidence for someone and definitely the more the better.

The second challenge is tracking down information for people, particularly if they have emigrated to another country. The lady I’ve been emailing kindly told me that five of William Palframan (1794-1840) and Ruth Sisson’s (1798-1871) children went to South Africa. The first one to go was William (1824-1905) in 1851, followed by John (1930-1895) and Thomas (1832-1926) in 1858, Michael (1832-1920) in 1861 and Catherine (1840-1912) in 1862 with her husband John Brunyate. Only Michael returned to Yorkshire and died there. Helpfully she also provided details of the Family Search records which I hadn’t found before. I do use this site, but not as often as I should by the looks of it.

While I don’t know the reasons why they all left Yorkshire, I was interested to see that Ruth, after William’s death, continued to run the family farm in West Haddlesey. In the 18141 census she is described as a farmer and by 1851 as a farmer of 135 acres employing two labourers.  Perhaps there wasn’t enough work for all of her sons?

Interestingly three more members of the Palframan family went to South Africa. William, possibly the son of Joseph Palframan (1833-1911), arrived in 1861 on the same ship as Michael (1832-1920). Then, in 1865, Thomas (b. abt. 1846) and William (1841-1924), both sons of Michael (1797-1877) and his second wife Martha Seymour (1813-1889), and William’s wife Mary Ann (1846-1906) arrived in 1865. William and Mary Ann did not stay in South Africa. They were back in the UK by the 1871 census and then went to Canada in the mid 1880s where they both died.

At some point I would like to find out more about these ancestors as they are all related to me. The five siblings are my first cousins four times removed. I enjoy reading about history and realise I know very little about South Africa in the mid nineteenth century. Do let me know if there is a good book I can read. There is always space on my shelves for another

Some thoughts on brick walls

During the last few weeks I’ve been working on one of my long standing brick walls.  Having researched my Sarginson relatives back to the mid-1800s I have been working on taking  his line further back.  I am now fairly confident that I have worked out who my five times great grandfather was. One of the challenges has been multiple possible spellings of the surname and that I found another couple with similar names. I intend to write Eliases story in the next few weeks.

My next brick wall is in one of my grandmother’s ancestors: the Barrett’s. It turns out that this can be spelled multiple ways too, including Barot and Baret. I feel another visit to an archive coming on!