Wednesday, 19 February 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 8: Sarah Ann Mottram nee Lea (1840-1894)

Sarah Ann Lea was born on 9 April 1840 in West Bromwich to James Bunce Lea and Ann Davis.  In 1863 she married Peter William Mottram at St Martins, Worcester.  They went on to have two known children.  James George Mottram (1865 -1866) and Elizabeth Ann Mottram (1874-1940) who was known by my Grandad as Granny Woods.

You may have noticed from my posts that I love newspapers and with the Mottram name being rare in Worcester it's a nice name to search.  A while back I came across these newspaper reports.

Worcestershire Chronicle

Saturday 10 March 1894


An inquiry was held by the City Coroner (Mr. W. B. Hulme) at the Guildhall on Tuesday afternoon in the circumstances attending the death of Sarah Ann Mottram, who died rather suddenly at her house in Bridge place, Lowesmoor, on Sunday afternoon. Mr. S. W. Coombs attributed death to fatty degeneration of the heart, due to intemperate habits, Peter William Mottram, Lowesmoor, gave evidence as to finding the deceased, who was a charwoman, 54 years of age, dead on her bed at five o'clock on Sunday evening - as already stated. She was, he admitted, addicted to drink. The Jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.

Worcester Journal

Saturday 10 March 1894

SUDDEN DEATH.— On Tuesday Mr. W. B. Hulme, Coroner, enquired into the circumstances attending the death of Sarah Ann Mottram, the wife of a labourer, living at Bridge-place, Lowesmoor, who died suddenly on Sunday. The evidence was to the effect that the deceased had been of intemperate habits for some time past. On Sunday her husband saw her lying on the bed smoking, and shortly afterwards he found her dead. Dr. Coombs stated that several of the organs of the body were diseased, and death had taken place from affection of the heart. The jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes."

Unfortunately, it would seen that it was not the first time Sarah Ann Mottram had been mentioned in a newspaper.  Given the rarity of the Mottram name in Worcester and the fact that this Sarah Ann is in the same locality as my Sarah Ann.  My Sarah Ann's occupation on the 1881 census...laundress.

Worcestershire Chronicle

Saturday 08 January 1876



Before J. Wood, J. Coucher, and R. E. Barnett, Esqrs. 

ALLEGED ILLEGAL PAWNING.—-Sarah Ann Mottram, laundress, Lansdowne-terrace, was charged with stealing one blanket, one sheet, two pillow slips, and one table cloth, and with illegally pawning these articles. Mary Lee, Lansdowne-terrace, was the prosecutrix, and as she did not wish to press the charge prisoner was discharged.

I need to understand who Mary Lee might be as Sarah Ann's maiden name was Lea.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Researching for other people: Southall, Gittus

What follows is some research that I did back in April 2003.  I had helped someone across the pond with their research simply because their ancestors had lived next door to my ancestors years ago.  The journey through their family tree, rather strangely, lead me to finding that some of their ancestors had the same surnames as mine.  I never found a connection between the two though.

I am posting because I am trying to get over Mytreeitus (self diagnosis after listening to Ron Tanner's Rootstech 2014 speech).  Ron explained that when people keep research to themselves (for whatever reason) it runs the risk of work being duplicated.  There is little point in these will transcriptions being hidden away in my files as there may well be someone else out there researching the people mentioned in them.  Also, I don't believe that this information is available online yet.

The transcripts that follow were taken from Birmingham Library Archive transcripts in 2003.

Clara Southall

This is the last will and testament of me Clara Southall of 13 Wattis Road, Bearwood in the County of Stafford Widow. I appoint George Gittus of 143 Gillott Road, Edgbaston in the City of Birmingham Builder and my son Arthur Southall of Winson Green Road in the said City of Birmingham Gas Meter Inspector Executors and Trustees of this my will. I devise and bequeth all my estate both real and personal unto the said George Gittus and Arthur Southall upon trust to convert the same into money and after payment of my debts funeral and testamentary expenses to divide the proceeds equally between the survivors of my children the said Arthur Southall, Mrs Eliza Ann Roche, George Henry Southall, Agnes May Southall and Thomas Southall and the issue of such children as may have died in my life time such issue to take equally among them per stirpes the share or shares which their parents or respective parents would have taken if living at my decease. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 30 day of September one thousand nine hundred and twenty one.

Clara Southall

Signed by the said Clara Southall in the presence of us present at the same time who in her presence at her request and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses.

C W Holcroft Solicitor )77 Colmore Row Birmingham
A T Morrison )

Proved at Birmingham 28 March 1929

The Will Index showed the effects as
Effects £3751 6s 7d
Resworn £4551 6s 7d

Clara's husband's will follows:

George Henry Southall

This is the last will and testament of me George Henry Southall of no 119 Aberdeen Street Birmingham in the County of Warwick Grocer. First I direct the payment of all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses and subject there to I give devise and bequeath all my real and personal estate and effects of which I may be possessed of at the time of my decease or over which I may have a disposing power and wheresoever situate unto my dear wife Clara Southall and I hereby appoint my said wife sole executrix of this my will. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and name this first day of December One Thousand Eight Hundred and Ninety One.
George Henry Southall
Signed and acknowledge by the said testator George Henry Southall as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses.

Joshua Howell - Solicitor Birmingham
Sidney Stuart Memzies - Clerk to Mr Joshua Howell

On the 7 day of September 1921 probate of this will was granted at Birmingham to Clara Southall widow the sole executrix.

Will Index showed the effects as
Effects £1596 16s

Trade directories show that George Henry Southall was at Aberdeen Street 119 and later 44 from 1884 to 1921.

George Gittus

This is the last will and testament of me George Gittus of 143 Gillott Road in the City of Birmingham retired Builder. First I direct the payment of all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses including estate duty on my real & personal property by my executors hereinafternamed I appoint my sons William George Gittus and Arthur Archibald Gittus (herein after called "My Trustees") Executors and Trustees of this my will I devise and bequeath all my real and personal estate upon my trustees upon trust to pay the income thereof to my wife Elizabeth Isobel Gittus during her life and after her decease in trust to sell the same by public auction or private contract and after payment of all expenses to divide the proceeds equally between my two sons the said William George Gittus and Arthur Archibald Gittus and in case only one of them shall be living at the time of my said wifes death then my remaining son shall take the whole of my estate absolutely. And I declare that my trustees shall be at liberty to let or devise my real and personal property from year to year or for any form of years at such rent and subject to such covenants and conditions as they shall think fit to accept surrenders of leases and tenancies and expend money in repairs and improvements and general to manage the property according to their absolute discretion and I further declare that the powers of appointing new trustees confirmed by statute shall for the purposes of this my will be vested in my said wife during her life. In witness whereof I have to this my last will set my hand this seventh day of January One Thousand Nine Hundred and Twenty One.

George Gittus

Signed by the testator George Gittus as and for his last will and testament in the presence us who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have here unto subscribed our names as witnesses.

William Thomas Gaunt no occupation 12 Laxey Road Edgbaston

Sidney Edwin Edmonds toolmaker 12 Laxey Road Edgbaston

On the 27 July 1929 probate of this will was granted at Birmingham

Here is a link to part of the family tree I put together for this family group. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Silent Sunday - Old Sheffield Plate? Baron's Coronet? Pemberton & Mitchell?

52 Ancestors: Week 7: Alfred (Robert) Fairbairn (1860-1937)

My nan would have been 17 years old (I repeat, 17 years old!) when her maternal grandfather, Alfred Fairbairn, died and yet she did not even know his name or that he existed. Nan had lost her father before she was three and her mother when she was ten. It is not surprising, then, that family information had not been preserved. It took me a long time to unravel the Fairbairn family tree and it was only possible due to the information provided to me by my nan's cousin. Discoveries are still being made and I'm still finding surprises.

This week I had another surprise. A while back I had found the following newspaper article on

Birmingham Daily Post

Issue 131600

Thursday, 16 August 1900

THREE MONTHS FOR NEGLECT – Yesterday, at Smethwick, Alfred Fairbairn (39) and Selina Fairbairn (36), husband and wife, of no fixed abode, were charged with neglecting their six children. - Mr. Norton (instructed by Mr. P. Baker) prosecuted, and explained that the ages of the children ranged from fourteen years to three months. For some months past both prisoners had been addicted to drink, and had failed to provide their children with the barest necessaries of life. - Mr. Heaton said prisoners had treated their children with barbarity. -They were both sent to gaol for three months, with hard labour.

That was a shock in itself! And also explained why my great grandmother and her siblings could be found at Kings Norton Union Cottage Homes, Shenley Fields, Worcestershire during the night of the 1901 census. I had not got around to looking into this any further and then I saw three separate references to Cottage Homes. One was a missed talk at the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy, another was a mention on Twitter and the third was when I was looking through back issues of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine at the local library. I took it as a sign.

A quick search of the Birmingham Archives catalogue showed that there were quite a few records remaining of the Shenley Fields Cottage Homes although most are closed. There were two records that were open to me – the register of deaths (1900-1945) and the Superintendent's journal (1887-1912).

So on Friday I had my first visit to Birmingham Archives at the new Library of Birmingham and very nice it was too.

I was given the Superintendent's journal covering the dates August 1900 onwards and got searching. Within a minute or two I had found a reference to five of the children being admitted to the homes prior to 18 September 1900 – just a list of their names and ages and that they had come from the workhouse.

Keziah Fairbairn aged 14 )
Emma           Do            12 )
Sam.             Do            10 ) All from workhouse
Jas.               Do              7 )
Albert           Do               5 )

I searched every page, thereafter, to see if there was an individual comment about them as there appeared to be quite a few write ups for different children and reasons particularly when the children left the home to be placed with someone. 

Then I noticed the sixth child (Ethel) being admitted, prior to 30 April 1901, again from the workhouse. She was just two years old and I need to understand why she hadn't been admitted at the same time as the rest of her brothers and sisters. Interestingly, there were another five children also admitted during that period who were only two and three years old so it may be that they were kept in the workhouse until they were this age?

On the same page it showed that all six children were discharged from the Cottage Homes. I had gone with the assumption that once they were in the Cottage Homes they would have remained there until old enough to leave but just over six months after being admitted they were taken out of the home – by their parents! Not at all what I had expected.

Sadly, Selina died in the Workhouse Infirmary, Selly Oak in October 1903 and Alfred died years later in September 1937 at 1a Raddlebarn Road, Selly Oak (a euphemism for the hospital). 

And now I am left with even more questions.


Update having just taken out a month's subscription with Find My Past I now have more meat for the bones - the family 'had been sleeping in fields and outhouses for months'.

Worcestershire Chronicle

Saturday 18 August 1900

BARBAROUS CONDUCT OF PARENTS. The Smethwick Magistrates, on Wednesday, imposed sentences of three months' hard labour each upon Alfred Fairbairn and his wife, Seline Fairbairn of no fixed abode, for neglect of their six children. The parents were addicted to drink and had failed to supply the children with even the barest necessaries.  They had been sleeping in fields and outhouses for months, and when the police took charge of them they were wet through, and in a famishing condition.  The Bench considered there was not one redeeming feature, and characterised the parents' conduct as barbarous.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

GMT times for RootsTech Free Online Broadcast Schedule

The RootsTech Conference is broadcasting, online and for free, 15 of its popular sessions.  

I was worried I would miss out if I didn't work out the time difference and thought I might as well share it.  

GMT time on the left with the schedule and MST shown on the right; as worked out using this site.

RootsTech Live Streaming Sessions

2014 Syllabus Materials

2014 Opening Keynote (90)

2014 Friday Keynote (70)

2014 Saturday Keynote (60)


Thursday, February 6
17:30:00 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Top 10 Things I Learned About My Family from My Couch by Tammy Hepps
20:00:00 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., FamilySearch Family Tree: What's New and What's Next by Ron Tanner
21:30:00 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Intro to DNA for Genealogists by James Rader
23:00:00 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Genealogy in the Cloud by Randy Hoffman
Midnight 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sharing Your Family with Multimedia by Michael LeClerc

Friday, February 7
17:30:00 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Storytelling Super Powers: How to Come Off as Your Family's Genealogy Hero by David Adelman
20:00:00 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Tweets, Links, Pins, and Posts: Break Down Genealogical Brick Walls with Social Media by Lisa Alzo
21:30:00 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Getting the Most Out of Ancestry.comby Crista Cowen
23:00:00 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Finding Family and Ancestors Outside the USA with New Technologies by Daniel Horowitz
Midnight 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Do It Yourself Photo Restoration by Ancestry Insider

Saturday, February 8
17:30:00 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Become an iPad Power User by Lisa Louise Cooke
20:00:00 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Information Overload: Managing Online Searches and Their Results by D. Josh Taylor
21:30:00 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., A Beginner’s Guide to Going Paperless by Randy Whited
23:00:00 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., How to Interview Yourself for a Personal History by Tom Taylor
Midnight 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Five Ways to Do Genealogy in Your Sleep by Deborah Gamble

2013 Video Archive which covers 
  • Opening Keynote (1:40:42) - Dennis Brimhall, Syd Lieberman & Josh Taylor 
  • First Steps in Famly History (35:58) - Jeannette Bennett 
  • The Future of Genealogy (42:55) - Thomas MacEntee, Lisa Louise Cooke, Dick Eastman, Alan Philips, Dear MYRTLE, Josh Taylor, Daniel Horowitz 
  • Tell It Again (1:01:48) - Kim Weitkamp 
  • 10 Fun Family History Activities (1:00:39) - Benjamin Bennett, Holly Linford 
  • The Genealogist’s Gadget Bag: International Panel (45:59) - Jill Ball, Marie Dougan, A.C. Ivory, Heather Rojo 
  • Finding the Obscure and the Ellusive: Geographic Information on the Web (45:31) - James L. Tanner 
  • Friday Keynote (1:06:32) - Jyl Pattee and Tim Sullivan 
  • Researching Ancestors Online for Beginners (53:58) - Laura G. Prescott 
  • FamilySearch Family Tree (54:18) - Ron Tanner 
  • Google Search… And Beyond (1:01:00) - David Barney 
  • From Paper Piles to Digital Files: Technology for the Organized Genealogist (1:06:18) - Valerie S. Elkins 
  • Using Technology Effectively to Solve Research Problems (1:01:06) - Karen Clifford 
  • Finding Spanish records from your couch-Encuentra registros Españoles desde tu sofá (57:12) - Sonia Meza 
  • Ditigal Storytelling: More Than Bullet Points Lab (51:12) - Denise Barrett Olson

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 6: Michael Alphonsus Cussen 1870 (Ireland) - 1941 (USA)

This blog post is credited to @familystories, @rjseaver and @CarlSAnthony for without their leads and information I may never have found this story. 

It all started Saturday morning when I checked my twitter feed to see what I had missed and saw Caroline Pointer's post 11 Genealogy Things You Need to Know This Morning, Friday, 31 Jan 2014

After I had changed my Yahoo passwords (Caroline doesn't just give genealogy advise but technical advise too) I went back to Caroline's post and saw the following:
What might I be missing out on? As it turned out I had only heard of 4 of the 10 websites listed and there was one, in particular, that stood out.

4. Chronicling America (

There are almost 7 million searchable digitized newspaper pages from 39 states between 1836 and 1922.

Newspapers :-) I like newspapers as they can give you so much information that you might never have found out about otherwise.  So I went and took a look.  As I still hadn't made it out of bed by this time having been distracted by checking Twitter all this was happening via my phone and the only name I could think of to check was Cussen.  Michael Cussen to be precise. There were four hits. 

The sun. (New York [N.Y.]), July 21, 1894, Page 7, Image 7

The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]), January 06, 1901, Image 32

The sun. (New York [N.Y.]), August 19, 1917, Section 6, Page 14, Image 50

Der deutsche Correspondent. (Baltimore, Md.), June 10, 1880, Image 4

Now I knew from early research that some members of the Cussen family had moved from Kerry, Ireland to San Francisco.  So The San Francisco call was the first link I went to and here is what I found.


Warrant Out for Arrest of Michael A.

Cussen Who Has Left the

A. Foster of the International Security 

Company, 503 California street, swore to 
a complaint in Judge Fritz's court yes- 
terday for the arrest of Michael A Cus- 
sen, 452 Page street, on a charge of for-
gery. He is accused of forging the name
of his brother, J. Cussen to a promissory 
note for $125 on October 31 last. The note 
was made payable two months after date. 
Cussen was until January 1 employed
in the White House, where his brother
is also employed. Foster says that Cus-
sen called upon him on the date men-
tioned and said he was hard up for ready
money and wanted a loan of $125. He was 
told that he must get some one to join
him in the note, and he returned with the
note signed by himself and by J. Cussen,"
who he said was his brother.
When the note became due it was not
honored and Foster called upon Cussen
who informed him he was unable to pay
the amount. J. Cussen was then called
upon, but he declared that his signature
had been forged and declined to be re-
sponsible for the amount. Hence the
warrant. It is said the defendant has left
the city. 

I do believe this is a reference to 'our' Michael Cussen whose full name was Michael Alphonsus Cussen.  He had four brothers two of which would have the initials J. Cussen.  John Aloysius Cussen and James Stanislaus Cussen both of whom were living in San Francisco at that time. 

According to the 1900 United States Federal Census Michael A. Cussen was the head of the family living with his brothers, John A. and James S., and sisters, Alice and Dora (census page is damaged so it is a little difficult to read but it does look like his sister Dora and not his sister Nora).  The census page is also ripped where the name of the road might have been but the other road names on the page include Fell Street and Oak Street both of which are close to Page Street although the house number appears to be 450 rather than 452.

I had a quick look at the information on my Ancestry tree for Michael and the next reference for him after the 1900 census was a marriage in Kansas in 1908, a US city directories entry for him in 1914 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and then his death in 1941 in Omaha, Nebraska so this would be consistent with the newspaper report that Michael had 'left the city'.  I did end up going back to Caroline's post as I had noticed that Kansas records had also been mentioned but I couldn't find a reference to the marriage on the website.  I went back to Ancestry and realised that the source the information on the marriage (rather worryingly) was OneWorldTree so I must have had a lapse allowing that information onto my tree without gathering evidence that it actually happened.  Which reminds me I need to work through the following post!

And here are 10 steps to fix that online family tree you started.

The newspaper article sent me googling 'white house, San Francisco, 1901' with the fourth hit being The White House in San Francisco by @CarlAnthonyOnline.  What a lovely article, lots of information and wonderful photographs too.  Be sure to have a good read.

As with any genealogical finding - you get one answer and then have a million more questions. Did J Cussen work at the White House in San Francisco?  If so, what did he do? And more importantly did he wait on the US President and First Lady?....