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This Blog is to provide up-to-the minute information on updates together with some background on how I run this web site, plus more general genealogy news.

If you have any Hertfordshire history news that should be reported here, please Tell me about it

Friday 29th October


We have the face - but who did it belong to?   Occasionally someone asks a question which is a real challenge - because it looks at family history from a different angle. John's question - CATLING, Hemel Hempstead area, c. 1815 - was just such a question. The starting point was a pair of expensive pocket watches purchased in Hemel Hempstead almost 200 years ago - and the question was, in effect, "Who owned them - and how could they afford them?" The name Catling was not uncommon in the area and the first stage was to look at the alternatives and find the "right body", eliminating people with the "wrong body." Once the family was identified it seems that originally there may have been three pocket watches (Tell me if you know where the third one is). The answer shows how part of a family can be reconstructed by bringing information together from many different sources - including a will which showed that the head of the family had 10,000 in Bank of England stocks. The question of who the watchmakers, Varney and Ellett, were is also briefly examined.

Dagmar House School pupil remembered on Norwich War Memorial: Peter emailed to say that William Henry Eldret, who was at Dagmar House School at the time of the 1901 census, died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Errors in a 200 year old Family Tree? I am always complaining of errors in modern family history research (see The Dangers of Internet Genealogy) In connection with HUTCHINSON, Ware, circa 1770, Radfall writes telling of a book published in 1808 which would provided a clear answer to Bruno's original question - if only we could be certain why Norton Hutchinson's second wife is called Judith on the tree.

A Lost Hoo: Sheila's great aunt worked at The Hoo, St Pauls Walden, and I can find a picture of it from 1700, but unfortunately the house was demolished about 50 years ago. The old print show a game of bowls being played on the lawn..

More on the Horns of Handside: James has drawn my attention to two useful web sites, on of which contains a history of the farm (with map from 1839) and the other the reminiscences of a member of the Horn family, recorded in 1976. See HORN, Handside, Welwyn/Hatfield, 19th century


Saturday 23rd October


St Albans gets a face lift  When this site was first created in 2001 the idea was to have one page for each town or ancient parish. The City of St Albans has always been a problem. It has a complex and well-documented history back to the Iron Age.  There are significant Roman remains, the Abbey represents the remnants of a major monastery, and the central town plan goes back to Saxon times. The old borough boundary included the whole of the Abbey parish, and parts of the parishes of St Michael, St Peter and St Stephan. As it grew after the coming of the railway it also absorbed part of the  parish  of Sandridge. In addition I have additional interests in the city as I was born there, and I have carried out intensive work on the Bernards Heath area and the trade of brick making in the area.

     As a result there are now at least 200 pages on this site which contain information related to St Albans - some of which are hard to find - and a lot more information which could be added to the site if it could be fitted in. A new St Albans "Home Page" has been created which includes a brief illustrated history together with links to the latest changes which relate to St Albans. In addition an "Overview Page" provides a guide to the menus. There is much more to be done but now there is a better framework for visitors to the site, which also makes it easier to introduce new information.

  Hertford Castle St Peters Street, St Albans Hatfield House

Pictures from an old Railway Guide  I recently acquired some odd pages from a Great Eastern Railway guidebook, which must have been published in about 1866. In addition to some excellent and little known engravings it includes a descriptive text. The book was undoubtedly prepared to encourage people to visit places reasonably accessible to the Company's railway - and I would love to know whether it contained information on any other Hertfordshire towns. It is planned to add text extracts from the book at a later date.

An Early School in Hertford: In 2005 Brenda asked about whether Samuel Goodman was a head master at Christ's Hospital (See GOODMAN, Christ's Hospital, Hertford, late 17th century and it appeared that he had died a year before the school was founded. Brenda has now provided some more information and it seems that Aaron Peters ran a school in Hertford and, from 1656, was paid 2d a week per boy to take boys from Christ's Hospital who could not be accommodated in London. It would appear that Samuel Goodman became headmaster of this school after Aaron.


   Boxmoor Baptist Church

More about the NASH Paper Makers. Peter provided some more information relating to NASH, Frogmore Mill, Hemel Hempstead, Early 19th century.  He links the family with the Boxmoor Baptist Church and provides evidence that after his death Henry Nash's family went to South Africa, and became farmers. He reports a burial custom relating to the mentally ill, and I wonder how widespread this is. Information on the Baptist Church have been added to the Boxmoor page.

A Famous Rector at Therfield. Following a query from Cameron about the memorial to Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely, I have created a new page on Therfield Church, and added new post card images to the main Therfield page.

Filling in family history details in the late 18th century. Marian wants to know about Robert Smith's occupation and the Militia lists help. But further research could mean looking at unindexed documents at HALS. See SMITH, Aston, end 18th century..

And many more emails, etc. What is mentioned in the Blog is a bit like the top of the ice burg and some of the other activities I have recently been involved in include:

To raise some money to pay for these recent purchases I plan to sell off a number of duplicate books, etc, on ebay (seller Chris_from_Hertfordshire) over the coming week, and as a result I have updated the descriptions of Paper Pioneers (paper making in the Hemel Hempstead area), Two Coats Colder (Chronicles of Offley), St Albans High School for Girls and Around St Albans.


Thursday 21st October

Delays in Posting: Over the last few days I have been suffering from a bout of flu and while I have quite a lot of goodies almost ready to publish I have decided not to rush them through in time for this weekend - but you can expect some interesting updates next week.

Saturday 16th October

Hertfordshire Will Index now online: HALS has online indexes for the following Wills: Archdeaconry of Huntingdonshire (Hitchin Division) Original wills (together with some inventories), 1557 - 1857 (Ref: HW); will registers, 1557 - 1843 (Ref: HR); inventories, 1568 - 1789 (Ref, AHH22 includes some administration Bonds); Administration bonds and accounts, 1609 - 1857 (ref AHH23)  Archdeaconry of St Albans Original wills, administrations bonds and inventories, 1518 - 1857 (ref, AW); will registers, also including grants of administration, 1415 - 1857 (Ref, AR0); inventories, 1518-1764 (Ref, A25)

Can you identify these First Word War Heros? I have provided a page on The Hertfordshire Regiment in the 1920s illustrated with pictures supplied by John showing the training camps his grandfather attended. One of the photos is a group portrait of No. 2 Company (possibly the Berkhamsted Detachment). Several of the men proudly display their medals - can you help identify any of them? The opportunity has been taken to provide more information on the book The Hertfordshire Regiment.

Can you help Connie?  Connie is related to George Leslie Guy Card (see CARD, Napsbury & Shenley Mental Hospital, 1930-1949. Can anyone supply an up-to-date email address for the original enquirer?

Herts Family History Society Meeting: The next meeting is on October 23rd, at Woolmer Green Parish Hall (speaker starts at 3pm). The subject is advertised as "Willpower" - so I assume it will be about the use of wills in family history research.

Have you made a Donation yet? While there have been a number of generous donations the current total of 425 means I am likely to fall well below the 1000 target I set for 2010. I know things are tighter this year - but this means that many charities that help the mentally ill are finding increasing demands for their services, coupled with lower donation income.

Wednesday 12th October


Samuel Lucas - A Hitchin Artist (1805-1870)

Market Place, Hitchin   Corey's Mill, Stevenage   John Hawkins

Reginald Hine, the well known Hitchin historian, wrote this biography of a Hitchin artist, brewer and Quaker, in association with an exhibition of Lucas's watercolours to be held by Walker's Galleries, New Bond Street, London.

Appropriate links added to pages for Hitchin, Graveley and Offley.

A Very Busy Time - Work in progress: For various reasons unconnected with this site, I have been kept very busy - and as a result there are a number of things "in progress", with people getting provisional replies. So here is a summary of items in my "to do" list - most of which I hope to cover in the next few weeks..

John has sent some post card images of some military training camps associated with the 1st Herts Regiment and an information page is in preparation.

Peter has provided a scan of a post card of Foster's Mill, Boxmoor, and the relevant page on the Grand Union Canal will be updated.

A different John has contacted me about the Northumberland Fusiliers in Hertfordshire in the First World War, and I look forward to getting some interesting post cards from him, possibly showing troops and Long Marston.

Carlene has a very interesting question about a railway worker from Aldbuty who emigrated to New Zealand and was killed by the Maoris. I am currently waiting for some more information from her before posting what I have already researched.

George had a question about old maps and field names - so I am planning a page on Tithe Maps.

Helen hopes to write a history of her local village school in time for its 150th anniversary in 2011. This reminds me that many village schools will be celebrating similar anniversaries over the next decade or two and a page about school histories would be useful.

Ann tells me the Gatward family/history has now been published to celebrate the Hitchin-based family-run shop's 250th anniversary (GATWARD, Hitchin, late 19th century). I hope to collect a copy and report later in the month.

There has been further exchanges of emails relating to NASH, Frogmore Mill, Hemel Hempstead, Early 19th century and Hill End Mental Asylum which may lead to further updates of these pages.

At the beginning of September I visited the National Archives and promised information on lists of  Inns in Hertfordshire in 1756, men in the Hemel Hempstead in 1807, etc. At least one of these lists should be documented this month.

I haven't forgotten that in August I visited Hitchin and am planning a page on the British Schools Museum - and some new/revised Hitchin pages - as Hitchin is one of the towns in a half-way state of being reorganised.

In addition I have a long lists of books, post cards and other material waiting to be recorded in digital form.


Friday 7th October



Coronation Pageant, Bishops Stortford, 1911: Two post cards show the Coronation Pageant held at Bishops Stortford on June 22, 1911. One shows Boadicea on her chariot while the other probably shows the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I. One card was published by Mrs Mary Bruxby of Bishops Stortford. The other was sent from Bishops Stortford by Percy Bott to his mother at Dallance Farm, Waltham Abbey, Essex. Tell me if you can identify and of the people in the pictures (large images available). Pictures of similar pageants elsewhere would be welcome.

A New Book on Windmills: Gone with the Wind details the history of the two windmills at Tring (New Mill and Goldfield Mill)  and also contain lengthy accounts of three surviving mill buildings in Buckinghamshire - at Pitstone, Hawridge and Wendover. There is information on other mills, now lost, and a series of colour photographs ehich incldes several more in Buckinghamshire.


Nash Blacksmiths in West Hertfordshire: Following my posting of NASH, Frogmore Mill, Hemel Hempstead, Early 19th century I have had emails from Mike and Jean which confirms that it could be worth following up William Nash's background to see if he came from a blacksmith family. I don't have time to do a full investigation at present but felt it would be useful to provide some preliminary information on NASH (Blacksmiths), West Hertfordshire, from 1750. It is clear that there must have been a long established family of blacksmiths with smiths called James Nash being recorded in Abbots Langley, Berkhamsted, Bovingdon, Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley, Tring and Wilstone in the later part of the 18th century. (One branch of the family continued in the trade well into the 20th century at Berkhamsted.) Benjamin Nash and another James Nash were spoon makers in Northchurch. (Spoon making also involved hammering metal.). Interestingly members of the Nash family were involved in paper making at Abbots Langley, Northchurch and Rickmansworth before 1800, Other family names include Joseph, Thomas and William. This shows how valuable the Hertfordshire Militia Ballot Lists can be in tracking down occupation information in the late 18th century.

A brief history of Elstree with a map from 1746:  The History of Elstree as briefly described in The Agreeable Historian together with a detail from a contemporary map.

More on Dimsdale Buildings, Hertford. Anthony has spotted the index entry for some documents at HALS which clarify the location of these tenements - and as a result I track them down on later censuses and add another map. See Dimsdale Building, St Andrews, Hertford, 1841

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Poor old Joe was in Hill End Mental Asylum and in 1905 he sent a post card to his sister "Dear Sister, Cheer up I up and out of my illness and should like a line from you both."  Did he ever get a reply, or did his relatives desert him because he was mentally ill? Thanks to Llinos we now know that he sent an identically worded card. For more information about Hill End and its records visit www.stalbansoutofsightoutofmind.org.uk  and if you live in or near St Albans why not visit the special exhibition at the City Museum before the end of October. (I will be updating relevant pages on this site later this month.)

Monday 4th October


Life in a Victorian Village School: Philip has written an excellent article on life at Preston school in the Autumn Issue of Family Tree Magazine. It paint a vivid picture of what went on at the Preston school with much of the information coming from the school log book. Truancy was common, with poor children being absent so they could earn a few pennies by, for instance, gathering acorns to feed to the pigs. Infectious diseases meant that on one occasion 30 children were off sick with measles, and deaths were also recorded. If your ancestor went to any Hertfordshire village school in the late Victorian period this will give you a vivid picture of what life was like - and it may well be worth trying to find out if any relevant log books survive. [If you see similar genealogy related articles relating to Hertfordshire in other magazine PLEASE Tell me as I cannot monitor everything.]

Getting the most out of the census: Often there is information buried in the census which can be winkled out if you look at the document as a whole, rather than just the line or two that mentions your ancestor. Marge's question about Dimsdale Building, St Andrews, Hertford, 1841 provides an excellent framework, using the 1841 census, of demonstrating how you can extract information about the place where your ancestor lived, particularly in connection with a suitable map (Locating Census Addresses on Maps) - in this case a town map from 1830.


Friday 1st October

Three Blum & Degan Cards circa 1905


Parish Church, East Barnet


Mount Pleasant, Lavender Field, Hitchin


The backs of these cards are all divided (so 1902 or later) - and predate the characteristic Blum and Degan logo (first used 1905). The company went bankrupt in 1908 with a vast stock of printed but unsold cards. This may explain why so many cards were posted some years after 1905.


Post Cards of Mental Asylums: I recently had a kind offer of a photograph on one of the psychiatric hospitals in the St Albans area taken while it was being used as a military hospital during the First World War. When soldiers were in the hospital they were always sending cards off to family and friends with pictures of the hospital - and the general views of the buildings are pretty common, and ones showing patients occasionally turn up, although some may be almost unique in that they were taken by a visiting photographer who took pictures of individual groups of patients, who then ordered a small number of copies. What I am always looking for are pictures of any of the asylums when they were being used as asylums. Patients did not send cards at regular intervals to family saying "look at this view of where I am living" as it was considered a matter of great shame to have a relative in such a place. I think, over nearly 10 years searching I have only seen two postcards of Hill End coming up on ebay, and the prices tend to be sky high (and out of my purchasing range) for quite an ordinary looking view. Photographs of workhouses can also be hard to find for the same reason, and I am not sure I have ever seen a post card of St Albans prison (apart from the Abbey Gateway - which was a prison in the days before photography was invented)..

The Webmaster's Report for September

There have been 19622 visits in September, of which 4598 were repeat visits - which amounts to an average of 26 visits an hour. There were 60579 page views involving 2767 different pages (out of 3316 possible pages) and the average visitor saw 3.07 pages, although as the majority of visits were single pages found by a search engine, the average hides a very wide spread in activity levels. A study of the number of times individual pages (and groups of pages) were viewed has suggested the following changes to how the site works


Please Tell me what you think of the changes.

The Blog: Since the blog was first introduced the number of visits as increased month by month to a maximum of 771 in August, but has fallen back to 662 visits in September. It is clearly useful and I have been trying to post at least one update a day. At this level of visits it would seem sensible to reduce the frequency - perhaps to regular posting one a week - probably on Fridays in time for weekend viewers. Replies to queries and feedback comments (we could do with more of these) would be posted whenever ready and the date of last update has been moved to the opening page. This means that it will be quicker and easier to see if there has been an update since the last visit. (These changes may result in a small decrease in the page views - but improve the facilities for the regular visitor.)

A Guide to Old Hertfordshire: The access page on this site was visited 323 times in the month and the Google Map has been viewed about 4450 times this year. (It is not known how many place flags were viewed.) The monthly total is down from July and August. In September only 44 different place pages on this site were visited from Google and most of these were only visited once. This level of usage does not warrant any additional time being spent on this feature during the next few months.

Name Index and Find-it: I note that the 21 Name/Answers index pages have been used 2767 times in September but Find-it was only used 216 times for enquiries of any kind - and comparatively rarely for surnames. What appears to be happening is that people look at the index - find their surname is not present and assume it is nowhere on the site and move on. As such they will be missing the many lists of names on this site - which can include the names of people who sat on a jury, pupils in an old school photograph, brick makers and publicans, people who owned shares in a Victorian coffee house, etc., etc. The Answers menus and index pages have been modified to give more prominence to the search facilities provided by find-it. (This could lead to a significant use of the Find-it facility - and increased access to the pages containing lists. Hopefully this will  be sufficient to increase the average number of pages viewed per visit.)

"Topic Pages" - A number of "Topic pages" are comparatively frequently entered from search engines and their headings were modified to be more inviting to people entering the site for the first time.

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