Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Ah, those old houses are still standing

I like to browse through Google maps to see if the old houses in which my ancestors lived are still standing. It is especially neat when I have an old photo taken of those people, or that location. Being able to actually see the old buildings gives one a better perspective of what it might have been like to live there…and then.

We are fortunate that so many of our ancestors came from the British Isles and that so many of the old homes have not been demolished. I have found some old family homes in England and Scotland although further back than 200 years some are now in ruins. Other houses and places of employment were lost during the blitzes of WWII, so unless some family photo is found we will never know what those buildings looked like.

Google maps gives us an opportunity to not only see the street on a map but also to look at it from a bird’s eye view on a satellite image. And then to have the street view as well and the ability to rotate the images to look at the neighbourhood in three dimensions is a real plus.

The house pictured below is located at 23 Priory Terrace, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England. My great-grandaunt, Emma Jane (Pearson) Wray lived here for many years. The left postcard photo was taken in 1909, with Emma standing out front; the right side is a capture from Google street view in 2016. The early picture was taken by James Pearson, one of Emma’s nephews who had stayed with her.

Emma Jane is listed on the 1911 English census at the address along with three lodgers: Mrs. Mary Beatrice Morgan and her sister, Miss Sarah Grace Purton, in one apartment, and Miss Mary Burns, renting a single room. The residence was called Moorhouse at the time, which name can be read on the pillar of the fence next to the entrance, and Emma’s occupation was indicated as “Board Residents & Apartments Occupied.”  Boy, she must still have rattled around in the place, even with her renters. She did like to have company, though, and many nephews and nieces apparently came to visit from time-to-time.

Emma and my grandfather kept in touch over the years after he immigrated to Canada in 1907 and until her death in 1951. She remembered him, and his children in her will which I wrote about here in December 2016 (three posts: What can you find out from a will?). She sent my grandfather another picture taken in 1920. On the back she noted a bit of family and house history – that the house had been renamed Greystoke Lodge after WWI – also indicating that she had lived at this location in 1907. Not much appears to have changed in the interim decade between when the two photos were taken.

From the outside, the building appears to have had little done to it, other than vegetation being striped away. Many buildings in the UK are listed as Heritage structures which prevents major changes from being made, at least on the street side. The one on Priory Terrace owned by Aunt Emma does not, but it has been preserved very well, along with several others on the street. You can search the protected buildings at the Historic England website to see if any ancestral homes have heritage status. They say on their home page that, “Nearly 400,000 of the most important historic places in England are listed. The List includes buildings, battlefields, monuments, parks, gardens, shipwrecks and more. Listing makes sure their value is protected.

I was interested in seeing whether the house had been sold recently and whether any other photos were available. Luck was with me when I searched for 23 Priory Terrace and came on the Rightmove website. Not only were there photos from a 2014 listing, there was also a floorplan and a recent history on when it had been sold. The single side of the duplex is about 3,100 square feet in size over three floors. It had fetched £420,000 in 2003 and £650,000 in 2013. It’s current valuation, according to a list on Zoopla is £837,000.

The three Victorian-style duplexes on the street were built toward the end of the 19th century. Ordnance maps show vacant land in 1885 and constructed houses in 1904. Each of the duplex residences have different styles of gabled structures projecting from the river sides. The 1904 map shows the various shapes and sizes of the buildings although from the front they look the same.

From Google maps you can see the houses on Priory Terrace from above, from the street and in three dimensions in oblique views. You can rotate the views as well to see the buildings from all angles, which is really outstanding.

The webpage showing the 2014 listing information also had copies of photos taken of the interior of the home at the time it was put up for sale. The ground floor looks like it has 10 to 12-foot cove ceilings; the first floor appears to have 8 to 9-foot ceilings with cove mouldings. Great care was obviously taken to preserve the original style. The kitchen/dining room was very tastefully modernized. I suspect the house may not have originally had the 4 ½ bathrooms and ensuites. The rear yard has been expertly landscaped.

The mycounciltax.org.uk website show current property taxes are £2,149 per year. On the 192.com website there was even information about nearby services, schools and crime statistics. There had been 19 crimes with 0.1 miles, the most common being for “anti-social behaviour.”

It’s amazing what you can find out from a click of the mouse. From many different online sources we can see today what the home looks like, outside and in. We can also find out a great deal of information about its value. Personal correspondence from an early owner tells us more about the history of the home.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Who was this lady? A Mother!

Mary Crispin (Carpenter) Shepheard; photo by John Hawke – Plymouth, Devon

This photo was brought to Canada by my great-grandfather, James Shepheard. It is labelled on the back, in his own handwriting, “My Mother” with his initials added, “J.S.”

The picture is not unlike others from about the same time period. I estimate it was taken around 1875 (given the number 27571a).

Her name was Mary Crispin Shepheard, nee Carpenter, and she was born in 1830 in Cornwood parish, Devon, England. Mary was baptized at St. Michael & All Angels Church in the village of Cornwood on 2 May 1830. Her parents were William and Mary (Crispin) Carpenter. William was an agricultural labourer and later a small farmer in the parish, tending about eight acres according to the 1851 census. In late life he was a coal dealer. William and Mary lived in the same house their entire married life which was very likely where Mary, along with her three sisters and five brothers were born.
Carpenter home in Corntown, Cornwood parish, Devon; photo taken in 1962 while house was undergoing renovation

Mary lived a relatively short life. She died on 27 June 1890 in Torquay, Devon, England. Her body was returned to Cornwood where she was buried. Her husband, John, lived another eleven years. When he died he was buried along his wife of 35 years.

No doubt Mary met John while growing up in Cornwood. He was also born in 1830 and baptized in the same parish church as Mary, on 27 December 1830.

Their courtship must have been a romantic one, at least I like to think it was. John had left home at a very yo0ng age. I believe he was in neighbouring Plympton St. Mary Parish in in 1841, at the age of 12 working as an agricultural labourer. I have not found him on the 1851 census but he was likely working in the Plymouth area by then. He was a labourer at Stoke Damerel, a dockside community adjoining the borough of Plymouth, at the time of their marriage.

Mary was still living at home in Cornwood parish in April 1851, at the time of the census but had relocated to St. Aubyn Street in in Stoke Damerel, only a few blocks from John, prior to their 1855 marriage. She obviously had followed him from Cornwood about 10 miles (as the crow flies, but perhaps a half day travel by cart) to the east. No other family members lived near either of them and none were witnesses to their marriage.

Their first child, William John (named for the grandfathers) was born in Stoke Damerel, on 27 August 1855 (you do the math) but baptized at the Cornwood parish church the following year. It appears the family had moved back to Cornwood by then. Four more children wee born in Cornwood between 1858 and 1865. Two more followed, born in Ivybridge Village, Ermington parish in 1867 and 1875.

John worked as a coal agent and carrier for many years in Cornwood and Ivybridge before the couple finally moved to Torquay, Devon where he joined his brother in the dairy business. Mary stayed home to raise their children.

It is difficult to know what kind of mother Mary was as no correspondence or personal documents survive. The fact that her son, my great-grandfather, kept a picture with him for many years, carrying it to Canada gives us some idea of what he thought of his mother. The message on her headstone also tells us what her family thought of her, as “THE BELOVED WIFE…” of John Shepheard.

Mary died at the young age of only 60, of peritonitis. Her body was returned to Cornwood and buried in the parish churchyard. We think that her family was saddened just as ours was when my mother died at age 57 and when James’s wife died at only 25.

We remember them all on Mother’s Day, of course, as we do all the mothers in our family, present and past.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Sometimes DNA Works

OK, I have made connections with a few cousins who share DNA. Some of them I probably would have met through other sources in any case but it was interesting to see how we matched up through DNA testing. Several cousins have tested on my maternal side but none so far it appears in my father’s line, which is curious. I am still waiting for results of Y-DNA tests done by a cousin which will hopefully give us information about our common 2nd great-grandfather (blog post: DNA Matches, 27 June 2017).

We have been teased with results for my wife. A few have matches of 1% and less. None so far have responded to emails to share information about our family trees so I cannot say the tests have any real foundation. Maybe this week we will hear from them.

But, finally we received more information from a cousin, Deirdre, who had tested on 23andme. She shared 2.22% DNA with Linda. The messages from Deirdre were timely as I was just working on writing up the family. Both are descended from common great-grandparents – 2nd great to Linda and 3rd great to Deirdre. They are 3rd cousins, once removed. Deirdre’s information gave us information about one line that also immigrated to Canada that we had very little knowledge about.

Linda’s mother, Jessie, had come to Canada in 1930, at the age of 21 (blog post: Passenger Ships – Part 3, 10 June 2014). Her passage expenses were to be repaid with work as a domestic servant in Calgary, Alberta. Here she met her future husband and together they stayed to raise a family.

Deirdre’s grandmother, Elizabeth, as a 19-year old, had arrived in Canada much earlier, as it turns out – in 1926. She was bound for Winnipeg, Manitoba, to join her aunt who had immigrated in 1906. One of Elizabeth’s sisters, Mary, came over in 1929, coincidentally on the same ship that Jessie sailed in the following year. Both sisters met their husbands in Winnipeg.

Interestingly, Jessie and Elizabeth were contemporaries, only two years apart in age, but had apparently never met. That despite the fact Jessie’s father, Alexander, had lived for a while with Elizabeth’s mother’s family in Govan, Lanarkshire. Alexander’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother were sisters, both of whom were born in the Shetlands and who came to the Glasgow (Govan) area together.

Alexander very likely knew Elizabeth’s mother, also Elizabeth, as they grew up in the same area and lived within blocks of each other for several years. We do not believe that Jessie ever heard much about these cousins, though. Certainly, the Canadian branch of the family in Manitoba never came up in any conversations. In fact, we never heard her talk about the Govan branches either. Perhaps we did not know enough to ask the right questions.

Anyway, now we know another cousin and we are looking forward to learning more about her family. Thanks to DNA tests. Perhaps we may find out why relatives growing up in the same area of Scotland did not seem to keep in touch.