Research Projects

I’ve neglected my blog for over 12 months and it’s now time to devote some attention with hopefully new inspiration.

My own family tree research has slowed down considerably to the point where I seem to be just chipping away at brick walls all the time. So over the last year I have been busy doing genealogy research for other people. I must admit I find that very interesting and satisfying. It can also be challenging at times especially when things do not go as expected.

I had two particularly interesting research projects.

The first involved tales of Scandinavian heritage – so my ultimate goal was to prove or disprove the family tales.

I was able to trace the origin of the British ancestral roots back to people in the 1861 census. This included the then head of the family with an occupation of Master Mariner and birth place of Gothenburg, Sweden. There were six children, three with a birth place listed as Russia and three born in Liverpool.

It was fairly easy to track the family right up to the 1911 census – although not without some difficulties. The problems were mainly around incorrect name transcriptions in the two main online indexes.

The family name was BRUNSTRUM. However the 1861 census had been indexed as BRUMSTRUM and the family name in the GRO marriage records for the father was BRAMSTOM.

The 1871 census was to be found under BRUNSTROM. There were two more children now – one birth was recorded as BRUNSTROM and one as BRUNSTMOM.

In the 1881 census the manuscript entry looks BRUNSTON but has been indexed as BRIMSTON.

In 1891 the census entry has been indexed as BRANSTROM.

There is a marriage in 1900 and the name now becomes BRUNSTON in the GRO record. Although the census entry the following year is under BRIMSTON.

Finally in 1911 the name is still BRUNSTON and it has been indexed as that.

The research had a bit of a sad end with a newspaper article reporting the death of the great grandfather of the person I was doing the research for and one of his sons in a tragic accident.

John Percy Brunston

John Percy Brunston

The second interesting project was very recently.

I did some research for someone in Australia who has an interest my wife’s family name of Espley. In particular she wanted to trace a death for her great grandmother. Should be straightforward right!!

I started by checking the BMD records and sure enough there was no death registered. I checked various spellings of the name all without success.

OK not a problem – maybe she had remarried. No, there was no marriage recorded.

Perhaps she had emigrated? I checked the available passenger lists online – no trace.

Winifred Frances EspleyI decided to check the newspaper archives on Find My Past. Breakthrough at last.

There were various newspaper articles in the Gloucestershire Echo about the person I was looking for – she was sent to prison in 1939 for two bigamous marriages.

This revelation came as a complete shock to the person I was doing the research for.

Both of these research projects provide valuable lessons.

First of all never completely trust the transcribed indexes – always double check with the original document images wherever possible.

Secondly the discovery of information while perhaps interesting as part of the research can sometimes be tragic and also shocking for the person getting the results.

British Postal Service Appointment Books

There has been much chatter in the genealogy world this week about the British Postal Service Appointment Books just released on Ancestry.

I have done some searches for the main names in my family tree.  There are plenty of Dawson’s in the area of Yorkshire that I am interested in – so I need to look at those when I have more time.

However, there were only fifteen Espley’s plus three Aspley’s and two Epsley’s.  So I have captured all this information in a new table in my spreadsheet.

The Espley’s are:-

Wm. – 1894, 1895 and 1896 in Wellington, Shropshire

Jessie – 1910 in Wellington, Shropshire working on the telephones

Wm. – 1913 in Chester

William E – 1922 – the location isn’t recorded.  Employed as certified wireless watcher.

Victor G – 1933 in Bletchley as Postman manager.

Audrey M – 1935 at the Central Telegraph Office

Victor G – 1935 in Luton and 1937 in Bedford

John S – 1940, location not recorded

Frederick J W – 1947 in Stoke on Trent as a postman

Leslie – 1949 in Southampton

James F – 1953 in Stoke on Trent as a postman

If anyone can identify these particular Espley’s I would love to hear from you.

Espley One Name Study – Update #8

Ahead of schedule I completed transcribing the 1901 England, Wales and Scottish census into my spreadsheet records yesterday afternoon.

That’s all the England & Wales births, marriages and deaths completed and the census returns for 1841 through to 1901.  I feel well chuffed.

I started an interesting thread on the GOONS forum yesterday asking for advice from other researchers about how they assign unique ID numbers to each person.  There has been quite a lot of replies and a good number of different methods for keeping track of each person.  I will need to give some thought to what is the best option for me.

As I said in my last update I am now looking forward to trying to match people into family groups.

This is only the start of course.  There are many more records available in the UK including wills, ships passenger lists and prison records.

The bigger goal is to look globally and also for the variant names included in my study – Epsley and Aspley.

Amanuensis Monday – Daniel Owen Espley


Daniel Owen Espley is my wife’s grandfather.  He was born on 14 March 1886 in Biddulph, Staffordshire.  He was always known as Owen to  the family.

At some point Owen and his wife Betsy moved from Staffordshire to Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire.  They opened a glass and china shop in the town possibly because Betsy had previously worked at the Shelley pottery factory in Staffordshire.  As far as we know there was no other connection to that line of business.

Owen eventually stood as a local independent councillor on Mablethorpe and Sutton Urban District Council.

The photograph is Owen’s election leaflet for the 1947 council election.  By then a second glass and china business was being run by Owen and Betsy’s son, Fred.  And he gets  prominent publicity on the leaflet.  Here is the text of his election address:-

Dear Friend

Please do me the favour of reading this address carefully, for you are approaching one of the most critical elections ever known in our town.  The prosperity of all of you depends on the continued advance of Mablethorpe and it is within your power, as electors, to secure that advance – or prevent it.

Remember, the Council is YOUR SERVANT, not your master.  You pay for its upkeep and you should make sure it serves YOUR INTERESTS.

Are you content to let your rates rise year after year and yet see little improvement in the public services?

Do you realise that high rates are preventing the development of our town and impeding its progress?

Examine the back of your Rate Paper and ask yourself honestly – are you getting value for your money?

There are plans on foot for further expenditure on schemes which no other town of our size has entertained, as it is doubtful if they can be made to be self-supporting.  I ask you to insist on more economic spending of public money and to give your support to one who will see that you get value for every penny spent; one who wishes to serve you, not dictate to you.

These statements are worthy of your consideration if you are anxious for the welfare of Mablethorpe.  I offer myself to you as a candidate in this election.  If you return me I shall do all in my power for every ratepayer and for the good of the town.

Yours sincerely

D. O. Espley

What’s in a name?

I was recently browsing through the list of names in my family tree and noticed quite a few occurrences of surnames becoming first names. It got me wondering how common this was and I suspect that certainly in the 18th and 19th centuries it was seen more often – but that is just a guess. The tradition in my family seems to have stopped for the most part, although I haven’t explored many lines into the last century.

So I though it would be interesting to post some examples from my tree.

Mason Buckley is my 2 x great grand uncle. His parents are Thomas Buckley and Henrietta Mason – my 3 x great grandparents.

Watson Dawson is my 3 x great grand uncle. His parents are John Dawson and Ann Watson – my 4 x great grandparents. The name Watson was also carried on in to subsequent generations.

Daniel Owen Espley is my wife’s grandfather. His father Frederick married Frances Owen.

John Bentley Hurtley is my first cousin 3 x removed. His parents are Thomas Hurtley and Maria Bentley.

Bracewell Kighley is my second cousin 3 x removed. His father is Isaac Kighley who married Sarah Bracewell.

Greenwood Lonsdale – is the son of Thomas Lonsdale and Sarah Greenwood.

Thomas Ainsworth Musgrove is my great grandfather and his parents are John Musgrove and Catherine Ainsworth.

My grandfather Fred Ainsworth Stowell Musgrove got his name from his parents Thomas Ainsworth Musgrove and Ellen Stowell.

My uncle Stowell is the last in that particular Musgrove line to carry on the tradition.

John Robert Turner Musgrove is my grand uncle. His parents are Joseph Musgrove and Elizabeth Ann Turner.

George Wigglesworth Nightingale – his parents are Thomas Nightingale and Ann Wigglesworth.

I really like the tradition and it’s quite sad that it has stopped.

How common is this tradition in your family?

One-Name Study Update #1

I started work on my “Espley One-Name Study” on 29 October.

I don’t know if other people keep manuscript notes but it certainly works for me. So I have today finished transcribing the GRO births for 1837-1915 in to a new reference book I started just for this project.

My next step is to tackle the birth records on the IGI.

I have also registered a website domain name for when I am ready to publish the results of my study.

Things still to to do

  • join The Guild of One-Name Studies and register the Espley name with them
  • more research about computer software options
  • prepare a plan for when I finish recording the IGI births
  • continuing research on the Espley name – locations, historical facts etc.

I will be doing other family history tasks as well – so the “one-name study” will take a back seat from time to time.

This last week I have also been indexing census and draft records for Family Search. So it seems as though I have spent every spare minute in front of the lap top.

May be time for an IT break – then again may be not!

Wedding Wednesday – Wartime Hitch

My Parents married on 4th January 1941 at St James Church in Grimsby Lincolnshire. Grimsby was my mother’s home town but at some point she moved about 30 miles away to Sutton-on-Sea on the Lincolnshire coast to help my dad run a little glass and china business. My brother married in the same church 30 years later because, coincidentally, he married a Grimsby girl.
Both my parents had unusual surnames. Mum was a Britliffe – more commonly spelt with a ’c’ as in Britcliffe and Dad’s name was Espley. They also both had shortened versions of first names – Dad was Fred rather than Fredrick and mum was Bessie which is usually given to girls christened as Elizabeth.  

I’m not sure how my parents met. Both are now dead so I can’t ask. My Dad died in 1977 before I took any interest in their history and I never had the sort of relationship with my mum that lead to any discussion about ‘the old days’. In her later years when Mike started to research our family history she had great difficulty understanding why we would want to do such a thing.

Anyway I think my father must have been stationed in Grimsby during the war. He had a bout of polio when he was small and was deaf in one ear so wasn’t sent overseas. Certainly at some point dad was moved to Pontefract, West Yorkshire, because I know mum visited him at the barracks there. I am not sure if this was before or after the wedding.

Dad was nine years older than mum. Her dad was suspicious of this and told her that Fred was probably already married with kids. Mum disliked her dad and he didn’t attend the wedding. I am not sure whether he was working, he simply chose not to go or mum asked him not to attend.

My Uncle Jack – Mum’s brother- second from the right in the photo, gave her away. Dad’s Best Man was his brother Frank. The smallest two Bridesmaids are my cousins Shirley and Tessa but I don’t know the identities of anyone else in the photo.

The dresses were all made of velvet which must have been fabulous for a winter wedding. I am not sure how they got hold of all this fabric during the war. I believe the small Bridesmaids were in lilac and perhaps, therefore, the grown up attendants were in purple. The two colours would seem to go together.

The other thing I know is that mum had asked dad to buy a suit as she didn’t want him to get married in his army uniform. Obviously he ignored her! Luckily it didn’t make her change her mind and they were happily married for 36 years.