Oct 012014


Priced at $850, the first production Model T was announced for release on 1 October 1908 in Detroit, USA. The design and development had started in late 1906 with the first factory built Model T produced on 24 September 1908. Achieving 20mpg (gasoline/petrol) and 85mpg (oil), the first production standard engine was produced three days later and the Model T was showcased at the Olympia Exhibition held in London on 13 November.

The Model T was the first Ford vehicle built with the steering wheel on the left and was a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the ninth of Henry Ford’s productions (with previous production models, A, B, C, F, K, N, R and S!) By 1910, he had nine sales branches in the US; in Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Kansas, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist and the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He did not invent the automobile or the assembly line but he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from a luxury to a practical vehicle which would profoundly changed the landscape of the twentieth century.

As owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. Ford was also widely known for his pacifism during the first years of World War One and also for being the publisher of anti-Semitic texts such as the book The International Jew.

In ill health, Ford relinquished the presidency of Ford Motor Company to his grandson Henry Ford II (in September 1945) and went into retirement. He died in 1947 of a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 83 in Fair Lane at his Dearborn estate. He left most of his wealth to the Ford Foundation and arranged for his family to control the company permanently.

Sep 302014

Sometimes, when we are researching for clients, fascinating gems pop out of the records and yesterday was one of those occasions. How many of you have ‘lost’ branches of your tree due to illegitimate births over the centuries? Personally, I am lucky that despite illegitimacy in some of my ancestral lines, I have always managed to track the father down, somehow!

So, you have John Smith, born of Dora Smith, or Eliza Brown, born of Mary Ann Brown…. but have you ever seen a certificate with only the FATHER recorded and ‘mother unknown’? She played a pretty crucial role in the birth, so how is she ‘unknown’? Well, apparently it is possible…

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Bangalore All Saints baptisms in 1891 record William Macfarlane, illegitimate son of James Creig Macfarlane and mother unknown. James was a planter in Ceylon and his son, William, was born on 9 November 1886. What a bizarre concept!

The record above on the baptismal register is equally interesting:

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Samuel Vincent born of ‘Soothee (native woman)’…. is that her family name, first name….? Heaven only knows. These two records alone would make for fascinating genealogical research, without even looking at the other four baptisms on the same page. I must stop myself investigating further….

Sep 292014

So, the saying goes: ‘Michaelmas chickens and parsons’ daughters never come to good’. But, what on earth does it mean?

Today is Michaelmas, the feast day of St Michael and one of four days on which quarterly rents used to be paid. The tradition of serving goose for dinner on this day is thought to have stemmed from the practice of giving your landlord such a bird as a gift:

And when the tenants come to pay their quarter’s rent, 

They bring some fowl at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent,

At Christmas a capon, at Michaelmas a goose,

And somewhat else at New-year’s tide, for fear their lease fly loose.

George GascoigneThe Posies of George Gascoigne (1757)

It was also thought that eating goose on Michaelmas Day would bring financial prosperity in the year to come. Much of September’s ‘weather legend’ relates to Michaelmas and it is generally said that good weather on this day promises a fine Christmas but – as always – some proverbs suggest the opposite: ‘A dark Michaelmas, a light Christmas’.


Over the years, other attractions and festivities attached themselves to the Michaelmas gatherings and some of them have developed into fairs which still take place in various parts of the UK in late September or early October. Chipping Norton in Gloucestershire holds its mop fair in September; King’s Norton in Birmingham holds a mop fair on the first Monday in October and these remain popular, even though their original purpose has largely been lost. Marlborough – just down the road from our offices here in Wiltshire – holds a ‘Little Mop’ fair on the Saturday before 11 October and a ‘Big Mop’ fair on the Saturday after! The second fair is also known as a runaway fair and comes from the tradition that those who had been hired at the first hiring fair could ‘run away’ if they found their master too hard and try to be hired by someone else.

Sep 282014

Mary Ann was the third born child of William Henry Day and his first wife, Elizabeth (nee Everett). Born in the September quarter of 1843 in the Epping Registration District, another three siblings followed before the 1851 census – William in 1845, Emily in 1846/7 and Frederick in 1850/1. However, William Henry was widowed by this time and had just three of his children at home along with a servant, Frances Everritt, to manage the house. Mary’s location has not yet been definitively identified.

On 18 March 1861, she married Nathan Burgess in Cheshunt and in the census, less than a month later, they were residing at Reckless Lane, Cheshunt (RG9/802/163/12) with a daughter, Maria E. Burgess aged 2 months:


Well, that would actually be Maria Emily Day born March quarter 1861 in the Edmonton Registration District, if truth be told!

Nathan is noted in this census as ‘deaf from birth’ although oddly, this is not referred to in any future census schedule. The couple had two children together – Ellen (b. 1863) and John (b. 1866). It is not clear whether Maria Emily Day was Nathan’s daughter or not, but she is always recorded as Burgess in the censuses.

The family settled in Cheshunt in a property on St James’ Road for several decades, with ‘Emily’ and John still living at home in 1881, aged 20 and 15 respectively. The photograph of Mary Ann, below, is believed to have been taken in the late nineteenth century:


Mary Ann lost her husband in 1890 at the age of 52. To date, her death has not been confirmed. More research is needed on this branch of my tree…..

Sep 272014

The UK’s first public railway, the Stockton and Darlington link was opened today in 1825 by railway engineer George Stephenson (1781-1848), operating the engine Locomotion.

Stephenson-No.1-engineLocomotion used all the improvements that Stephenson had pioneered in the Killingworth locomotives. It used high-pressure steam from a centre-flue boiler with a steam-blast in the chimney, to drive two vertical cylinders enclosed within the boiler. A pair of yokes above them transmitted the power downwards, through pairs of connecting rods.

The locomotive is really historically important only because it was the first one to run on a passenger carrying line, rather than for the innovations in its design.

On 1 July 1828, the boiler exploded at Aycliffe Lane station, killing the driver. With advances in design such as those incorporated into Stephenson’s Rocket, Locomotion became obsolete very quickly. It was rebuilt and remained in service until 1841 when it was turned into a stationary engine.

The general dimensions of the engine were: diameter of cylinders 9″; stroke of piston 24″; diameter of wheels 48″; total heating surface, 60 square feet; weight of engine 6 tons, 10 cwt., capacity of tank, 240 gallons.

On the opening day back in 1825, the engine drew thirty-eight vehicles upon which were four hundred and fifty passengers and about ninety tons of merchandise with the highest speed obtained being twelve miles an hour, the average being between four and six.

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