Thursday, November 15, 2012

CLUES GALORE! Greatgrandmother's 1858 Birth Record

I love receiving snail-mail.  The clunk of the letterbox outside the front door as the mailman drops in something unknown and flops the metal flap back over it.  The feel of envelopes, the stamps, the possibilities.

Several years ago, I received a large brown envelope from Dudley, County of Worcester, with FIVE certificates, 3 labelled "Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth", 2 labelled "Certified Copy of an Entry of Marriage".  What wonderful mail indeed!  However, I was retiring at the time, going into hospital for surgery, and didn't really look at them beyond confirming the contents of that big brown envelope.  Today as I wondered what next to work on in my family tree, I finally scanned each of those five documents.  And in scanning, I looked in detail at the records. They now are all scanned, labelled, and filed appropriately.  My desk is almost totally clear of genealogy paperwork right now! Amazing.

Here is a copy of my paternal line Greatgrandmother's birth record, with an interesting information about her parents and her life.  (I made it X-large so that you could read more details.)  

When I teach Introduction to Genealogy classes for beginners, I always tease people by saying "There are at least 19 clues or questions to ask, on every document you find!"... because I've found that beginners only see two or three, and think they're done looking:   "Yes, there's the parents and birthdate. Done."  I still have much research to do with these certificates in hand.

This document is very easy to read, with careful calligraphic writing.  We have her address (born at home) as  Northfield Road, Netherton, Dudley, in the County of Worcester.  I had to look up more about the relationship of Netherton and Dudley to understand why there are two towns listed as if they were separate ones, in Worcestershire.  More to learn.  The number in the first column "448"  is the number of the registration, not the house number, by the way.

There is her father's name Thomas Whitehouse.  I do wish he had a more interesting name, like Linus or Beauregard, or something quite out of the ordinary.  But my ancestor men were good solid folk with plain names: Thomas, George, William, John, James, Henry.

But then there is her mother's name, written as:  Sarah Whitehouse late Shutt, formerly Price.   Here we see that Sarah's maiden name is Price.  And she was previously married, to a gentleman surname of Shutt.  I have a few clues to indicate his name was Thomas Shutt, and they were married only 1-2 years at most.  However, I haven't been able to confirm this yet - another marriage certificate, his death record, and a little more research still to do.

We have the father's occupation:  "Laborer at an Ironwork".  There is a reason this area was once termed the Black Midlands, due to the smoke/soot in the air which landed on the ground, trees, houses, people and - I am sure - on the laundry put outside to dry.  I'm trying to think how anyone kept clean when they worked such difficult dirty jobs as iron works jobs, or coal mining, and such.  I have to see which ironworks are close by to where they lived... which is quite an assumption, of course.  Still, perhaps I'll find something quite specific about an Ironworks foundry near Netherton, or near Northfield Road.

Were you able to read the Registration date?  and the informant?

Sarah made her mark X  The Mark of Sarah Whitehouse  Mother, Northfield road, Netherton/Dudley,  on the Fifteenth December 1858.  This date is about 5 weeks after the birth of their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Whitehouse.  And I'm making an assumption that my greatgrandmother went to the office to register the birth herself, as her husband, Thomas, had to work.

Bundle up the baby plus her 5 year old stepdaughter against the December cold and wet, and walk to the office where the birth needed to be registered.   Then back they would have to go home again.  I would like to find out where the Dudley Registration office would have been at the time, and how she might have gotten there.  Surely someone would have given her a lift... was there a railroad? a cart?  I'm abysmally ignorant about transportation options in the 1850s in England villages!  I also wonder if it mattered to her that she was not able to write her name on the birth registration form at the office.  I know so little about her.

I went back to look again at the 1856 marriage record for Thomas Whitehouse and Sarah Shutt, finding her father's name as John Price, Miner.  There were extensive coal mines in and around this area, so that is likely what he did.  Thomas' father was noted as Joseph Whitehouse (Dead), occupation, Nailer. Netherton was known as THE place for nailmaking, from the 1600s onwards into the early-mid 1800s.  Also on the marriage record, Thomas is listed as a Widower, occupation "Furnace Man".  I have begun to search for his first wife, whom I believe was also named Sarah, 5 years younger than him.

I find the records of a Thomas marrying a Sarah, and a Sarah marrying a Thomas for both first and second marriages an interesting symmetry.  Perhaps not so unusual, as those were quite common names in this time.

I have a few photos of my greatgrandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Whitehouse... she married a George Bunn.  There are so many Bunn and Whitehouse families in Netherton that if you had a stone for each one, you could build a home with them!  Several of the Bunn and Whitehouse individuals in my tree were born in Windmill End and in Darby Hand (Darby End), both tiny neighbourhoods near to Netherton.

Any and all Bunn/Whitehouse relatives - please get in touch and I'm happy to email you the copy of any of the Bunn and Whitehouse certificates I have received to date.  And if you have additional details I'd be thrilled to receive them!!


Leita said...

Great sleuthing, Celia - and figuring out all the details and questions of what their lives must have been like! Life was not at all easy for them! Guess the other cousins on the Bunn/Whitehouse side are glad to hear some of this news.

Celia Lewis said...

Well, they might - or I might have to remind them about this blog once more, particularly today's topic. Every time I find something, I have more questions and details still to research or think about. Thanks for stopping by! We should get together for coffee, eh? lunch?


Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis