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 https://sarginsonfamily.com/.
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.
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.
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
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!
One of my initial reasons for carrying out my family history research was to see if I could work out where my “brains” came from. Most of my cousins and siblings have not progressed, from an educational point of view, beyond what were then called ‘O’ levels. I have gone much further than that and continue to seek out avenues to continue with my own learning and development.
I harboured for a long time a view that my intelligence must come from my maternal grandfather. A man I never met because he was a soldier in the Second World War and, although he didn’t die of injuries incurred during the war, he did die in a military hospital of a form of cancer at a relatively young age. I went to some lengths to get his war records so that I could find out more about his occupation before he enlisted, as there had been some suggestion that he had been a journalist. However, his war record confirmed that he had been a machine operator or printer for the Daily Express in Manchester; so no journalism there but perhaps an interest in words?
I have though followed his line further back into history as I knew very little about this branch of my family. I discovered that the Ellis family had come over from Ireland sometime between 1837 when their son Robert was born in Ireland and 1838 when my second great grandfather Francis was born in Herne Bay in Kent.
Francis had a successful career in the Coastguard service starting first in the Royal Navy as a seaman in Beirut working on a ship called the Renown. In the 1871 census he is a commissioned boatman in Sutton St Mary in Lincolnshire and by 1881 the chief boatman in Barrow on Humber. By 1891 he was chief officer of coast guards in Filey, Yorkshire; living with his family at 61 Hope St. This street is close to Cobble Landing where the RNLI lifeboat is currently stationed and is very familiar to me as we used to holiday in Filey when we were children; although at that time I did not know we had had relatives living there. By 1901 Francis was described as a naval pensioner and living in York which is where I went to school.
His own father, also called Francis, had been a boatman in Ireland. When he brought his family to England he was stationed in the barracks at Fort Moncrieff in West Hythe, Kent. Sadly this station no longer exists. Francis, my third great grandfather, was born in Mullaghmore on the North West coast of Ireland in County Sligo. At the time it was part of a large estate owned by English absentee landlords – the Temple family; it is now considered a smart holiday destination. It was also off the coast of Mullaghmore in 1979 that Lord Mountbatten and members of his family were killed by a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA.
So what has this brief foray into my family history told me about my roots and connections? Two key things come to mind:
- There is at least one example of someone in my family having a successful career moving through a profession in the way that I have.
- There are many places in Yorkshire and elsewhere which are meaningful to me, with Filey in North Yorkshire being a good example of this.