Maths and genealogy – what’s the link?

11 May 2015

Over the years, I have met a fair few genealogists/family historians of both the hobbyist, amateur and professional kind. Some dabble in the art whilst others perform on the other end of the scale – obsession. Frequently, though not exclusively, I have found that individuals who take the art more seriously come from a scientific or mathematical background. Why is that? Well personally, I have always loved a jigsaw – since a young age – and to me, the interesting part of science and maths was always the application of knowledge (solving problems). Maybe that is the connection between the disciplines? Genealogy is just one big jigsaw – a never-ending one, with no outside edges!
Unusually, I have spent the vast part of today doing maths. I still dip my toe in once in a while, but today’s visit was a rather long dip. In fact, the whole afternoon and evening! It is exam season over here in the UK – GCSEs, A-levels and other such unpleasantness – and so my past experience in the field of education is much in demand. Problem solving is at the forefront of the GCSE syllabus now (that’s the exams we do at age 15/16) and for those who find the subject of Maths difficult, asking them to do long, worded questions without a specific question like ‘solve this’ or ‘factorise that’, it can be very very tough.

I am sure that Samuel Bull didn’t have to contend with such challenges. In 1911, he was a Teacher of Philosophy and Maths in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. He prepared students for ‘the Christian Ministry under Committee of the Baptist College‘ (see below).

There are some interesting occurrences of the word ‘Maths’ in the 1911 – well, would you expect any less? – including birthplaces of St Maths Parish in Leeds, Pontefract in the county of Maths and Allenheads which is also located in the county of Maths. I have checked many old maps but have yet to locate said county.

Plenty of highly qualified mathematicians are recorded as well, including Sarah Katharine Tuckey – B.A. (London), I’ll have you know! – who, living at 39 Wellington Park, Clifton, Bristol was a ‘visiting mistress of Latin, Maths…’ and was connected with various private schools.  It is encouraging to note the number of ladies specialising in mathematical education ‘back in the day’ – Beatrice Mabel Cave Browne Cave and her sister, Frances Evelyn Cave Browne Cave were coach and apprentice lecturer respectively. However, I am curious as to why they failed to recognise that they had Cave in their name twice. Unnecessary I feel …

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