Hertfordshire Genealogy

Guide to Old Hertfordshire


Genealogy in Hertfordshire

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January 2011 Archive


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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

For more recent items see the Current Blog

27 January 2011







How you can help?





I need to relax ...

Last week there was a long blog covering a lot of updates to the web site, and this week there is a short blog. The reason relates to how I cope with stress. Those of you who have followed up the dedication of this site to Lucy and Belinda will not be surprised to know that post traumatic stress disorder was a major factor in my taking early retirement after Lucy's death, and was also certainly a factor in Belinda's death 15 years later.

    Mental illness affects different people in different ways and under normal conditions I can control my stress levels. Taking Franki (Belinda's dog) for a walk was one way, but he died last year, and while I still go out for a walk occasionally it is not the same. Running this web site is another way of keeping stress levels low - as long as I can avoid worrying about the backlog of things to be done ...  The problem is that if I spend too much time "de-stressing" on the web site other things which need to be done are not done and stress levels start to creep up.

     Recently I have had a number of things to worry about. Just one example is my bank messing up automatic payments - and I need to relax more. I have a backlog of everyday tasks which can be put off no longer. On the other hand a good flow of messages cheers me up - so I don't want you all to stop - or I might get even more depressed. There are several ways you can help:

  • If advice I have given you is helpful, or you can in other ways add to existing query pages it gives me a kick, and is usually very little work to post what you say online.

  • If you can send news (or even review copies) of any new publications relating the the history of Hertfordshire let me know. News of special activities at local museums, etc., only take a minute or two to add to the Blog - and will increase the value of the site to other visitors.

  • Keep asking questions. I would still like at least one question to answer each week - but please include as much background information as possible.

  • There is another way to cheer me up. I am doing this to raise money for a charity that helps the mentally ill in Hertfordshire. HALS charges of 15 for a single search of not more than 30 minutes including the time reading your question and preparing the answer for dispatch. In the last 10 weeks there has only been one donation to my collection fund -  which values the time I spend on this site at less than 10p an hour or under 2% of the UK minimum wage.

 To reduce the work load I will cut back on maintenance activities - such as the work I have been doing recently on the Rickmansworth area - and respond to more queries by short behind-the-scenes email replies - which take less time to prepare.


JENNINGS, Collier's End & Braughing, circa 1800

William Jennings is listed in the 1841 census as having been born in Hertfordshire - but of course no place of birth is given in this census. I show Brenda how to glean more information from the census and point her towards familysearch  for William's baptism. I include a picture (from google street view) of some old houses in the hamlet, Dassels, where William was born , and include a link to a map showing the hamlet on the Old North Road out of London..

Old News



Hemel Hempstead



Can you help?


An Exciting Discovery from 1898


I monitor ebay for interesting items and as information about small private schools can be hard to find I was interested to spot an advert for a copy of Heath Brow Chronicle for sale in Australia. Heath Brow was a boys school in Heath Lane, Hemel Hempstead, and was of additional interest to me because my uncle went there, so I put in a bid and won it!

     It turned out to have been a special issue devoted to pictures of the Charter Celebrations that were held in Hemel Hempstead when it became a borough and the charter was read out in the market square by St Mary's Church. This makes it a historically valuable document for the pictures alone.

     The artist is also of great interest. Randolph Schwabe was a 13 year old school boy whose parent had moved to Hemel Hempstead and who became a war artist in the First World War, and later became Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of London and Principal of the Slade School. He is listed in the Dictionary of National Biography.

     There was just one slight disappointment. The Heath Brow Chronicle was apparently weekly, sold for one penny, and was edited by Randolph's elder brother, Eric Schwabe. Because it is devoted to pictures of the charter events there is nothing else about the school, its teachers, or other pupils.  So do any of you know of other surviving issues of the Heath Brow Chronicle? In fact. if you have any other very old Hertfordshire school newspapers  let me know - and it might be possible to reproduce them on this site.



Hertfordshire Church Struck by Lightning

In August 1874 The Pictorial World published a picture of the church at Ayot St Peter which had recently been burnt down after a lightning strike.

21 January 2011



 For Your Diary


Hertfordshire Family History Society

Cahill Blood, a Military Family

29 January at Woolmer Green


Lock Repairs on the Grand Union Canal

If your ancestors worked on the canal you will be interested to see how the locks work. Several of the locks on the Marsworth flight have been drained for repairs and the "underwater" parts should remain visible until early in February. I have posted 5 different pictures.














How to unscramble errors in census place names

A simple looking question "Where is Scham Pound, Hertfordshire?" This turns out to be yet another recording error from a census return. I get many such questions - such as the time I revealed that "Hoopston" was meant to be Aspenden. In answering the question (see LONG, Sacombe, early 19th century) I decided to provide an answer which will help anyone with a similar problem to know how to tackle it. I look at what could have happened in a cottage in 1851 and how the name could have been incorrectly recorded. I suggest a test for "non-existent" place names, and give examples of how searching other census years, and baptism records, can find likely answers. Finally I consider how the "solution" place name could have been misheard by the census enumerator.


Small Churches need friends.

Small ancient churches, buried deep in the countryside, can been delightful places, and St Lawrence, Nettleden is no exception. Malcolm tells me that a Friends of Nettleden Church group has just been established and they will be setting up a web site later in the year. I will post details here as soon as it starts up.


Maunders Row, Aldbury

Google to the Rescue ...

Do not forget that virtually all Hertfordshire towns and villages are now covered by Google Street View, and if your ancestral home still stands you can sometimes get an excellent picture of it in minutes. Rita asked about Maunders Row, Aldbury,  and by clicking on the picture you can not only view the row of cottages from different angles - but can progress down the road and see the rest of the village.


What did George BLAXLAND do in St Albans in 1833

Michael has provided a useful update on George Blaxland, the Hitchin Quaker Schoolmaster (see BLAXLAND, Hitchin, 1788-1801) which triggers the supplementary question about why his grandson was born in St Albans. It  turns out that George Blaxland (1800-1874) was an engineer who was in St Albans at the time St Albans was getting its first piped water supply. So is there a connection? (see George BLAXLAND, engineer, St Albans, 1833).


Progress Reports on Various Surnames

.Dave writes with relevant news on the Catling graves in Bovingdon churchyard. (see CATLING, Hemel Hempstead area, c. 1815). In particular it includes a list of burials, with the ploy references which show that they are close together.

Andrew is the seventh person to add to the page FLITTON, Flamstead, To USA in 1868, which relates to the 19th century connections between Flamstead and the Church of Latter Day Saints. I have forwarded copies of his email to Ann, Connie, Darren, Geoff, John and Melvyn.

Hertfordshire Post Cards


Hoddesdon Church

Old print on post card

Royal Caledonian Asylum, Bushey

WHS Aldwych

Fore Street, Hertford


Baldock Road, Letchworth


Baldock Road, Royston

R. Clark Series

Posted 1911


Next Blog planned

to be ready by

29 January



Charles Dickens in Hertfordshire


Dickens in Hertfordshire is a booklet consisting of reprinted sections from The England of Dickens, prepared for a conference held in 1926. Places mentioned are Barnet, St Albans, Hatfield, Knebworth, Stevenage and Tom Tiddler's Ground.


The 1846 Post Office Directory

Following last week's request for information Jon reposts that the British Library has a copy of the 1846 Directory and the Guildhall Library has a copy of a virtually identical 1845 directory. (See Post Office Directories)


The Inquest of William Wood, St Albans, 1828

The press report say that William Wood and his brother had come to the St Albans area to help with the harvest, and went into the town to have a "beaver" at several local pub. William got drunk and started a fight in the Jolly Sailor public house. Daniel Grey hit back, and several days later William died from a fractured skull.


Hadley Common Web Site

Les has told me there is a new URL for the Hadley Common Web Site. I visited the site and it is attractively laid out, with many modern photographs.


FRENCH - Kimpton & Wheathampstead

Alec has provided a new URL for his family history web site.


Out of Sight, Out of Mind  The Long Stay Hospitals of the St Albans area

Last October I visited an exhibition at the St Albans City Museum about the former mental hospitals in  the area and I said I would post a report. A message from Ed about a book on Leavesden alerted me to my omission and I have now posted brief details of a number of books which were on display, and added links to several useful web sites.

Harperbury, Radlett Leavesden Leavesden Napsbury, London Colney Shenley Three Counties Asylum


Reorganising the Rickmansworth Pages - Some Picture Books

The following six books all include photographs of the area and I have brought all reviews up to standard with up to three sample pictures, with associated texts, to show how they present data. The sample pictures are (in most cases) added to related pages - which will be tidied up at later stages in the reorganisation.

Rickmansworth, a Pictorial History Around Rickmansworth Rickmansworth & Chorleywood in old picture postcards Rickmansworth - A Glimpse of the Past Rickmansworth. Chorleywood & Croxley Green Amersham, Chesham & Rickmansworth

Do you know when the First World War ended?

If you look at my email box you might think there were quite a lot of people who don't know. The real problem is that there is a limit to the number of questions I can answer and there are millions of people wandering the web looking for any friendly idiot who vaguely looks as if they might have unlimited free time to answer their often badly worded questions. The current arrangement for Tell Me and Ask Chris are deliberately designed to make such people think before they send me a message. Actually the approach works pretty well, but in the days since the last blog I have had three queries where the senders have blatantly ignored the guidelines and asked questions relating to the period after the end of the Second World War. I have drafted a standard rejection message (the box on the right is modified to include the relevant guidelines or F.A.Q).  Any comments you have on the wording of the letter would be appreciated.

12 January 2011


From the Resident Genealogist


As you will see below a lot has been happening on the web site. In addition domestic matters have been taking up an increasing part of my time. In part this is because my wife had a knee replacement operation in the Autumn, did not risk going out in the bad weather before Christmas, and is now on a course of antibiotics for an infection. I have therefore decided to publish this week's contribution early - without the detailed checking of all the links. This will allow me three days "off line" to catch up on things such as arranging for the guttering to be repaired and other more everyday household chores!

   While I may not be able to meet my current target of replying to 75% of emails within 24 hours, please keep your messages coming. The aim is to get out the next update in time for the weekend of the 22 January and there is always room for newsworthy items and updates.



Reorganising the Rickmansworth Pages

Having re-organised the page structure last week, I decided that what was needed was a good 19th century description of Rickmansworth and the area around it. I had already got an extract from The Beauties of England and Wales (1807) and I found two more. The Guide to Hertfordshire, by An Old Inhabitant (1880) is a very useful, and little known source and I have extracted all the relevant pages on Rickmansworth and used sections to document the pages on the Parish Church, Moor Park, Croxley Green, Chorley Wood, Mill End and West Hyde.

    The other book was Historical Sketch of Rickmansworth and the Surrounding Parishes and the section on Rickmansworth and its parishes has been extracted. This is the text of two talks given by R Bayne in 1870 to celebrate the opening of the new Town Hall. The approach of the book is to concentrate on people such as William Penn (of Pennsylvania) and I have laid out the text to allow notes and cross-links (both internally and to external sites such as Wikipedia).

      Next week I plan to look in more details at some more recent century books on Rickmansworth.









The County Boundary can really complicate things

Denise is a beginner who excitedly reported that she had established a link with HALSEY, Berkhamsted, late 18th century. This research is interesting because it involves St Margarets - near Great Gaddesden - which was actually an outlier of the parish of  Ivinghoe, Bucks.


... and Parishes also have boundaries

Mark's ancestor joined the army and was sent to Barbados shortly before the 1841 census. His army records say he comes from St Stephens, while the best fit baptism is from Abbots Langley. Researching the Abbots Langley family shows that they lived at Winch Hill, which is a hamlet in a remote rural part of St Stephens parish, very close to Abbots Langley village. See ATKINS, St Stephens, early 19th century


Two Sheep Stealers are Transported to Australia in 1811

Glenda is interested in William Scott and Thomas Cross. The were prosecuted at the same Lent Assize at Hertford in 1810, moved to the prison hulks at Woolwich, and finally transported to New South Walees in 1811. See SCOTT, Bushey, circa 1810


More about Alfred Dunham's family in the early 20th century

 Last week Adam updated DUNHAM, St Albans, 19th century and now Brain has clarified Ralph Stanley Dunham's activities in the First World War - and suggests what Percy may have been doing in Jersey during the Second World War.

  VAISEY - A firm of Solicitors of Tring

Gabby has found an album of old photographs in Perth, Australia, and wonders how it got there. At least some are of the Vaisey family (VAISEY, Tring, since 1876). I have drawn up basic details of what was a locally important family of solicitors.

The VAISEY Graves in Tring Cemetery

As it happens, my daughter Lucy is buried in Tring Cemetery, only about 100 yards from the Vaisey graves - and as a result I have added photographs of the relevant gravestones. See Vaisey, Tring - The Gravestones.


Can you help find a copy of the 1846 Herts Post Office Directory?

Jon recently asked me a question relating to this directory, which I sometimes quote on this web site. I have a CD which contains a spreadsheet which summarises the names, addresses and occupations - but not the town descriptions, etc. By comparison with other documents the date appears to be about correct. The CD does not mention where the source came from - or who published the CD. If you know where a complete copy can be seen (original, scanned copy, etc) please Tell me about it


Census Returns - Ancestry vs FindMyPast

As all donations to this site go to support the mentally ill of Hertfordshire I end up paying all subscriptions, etc., necessary to run this site, out of my pension. However I have decided to splash out and over the next three months I will be running my census returns in parallel on Ancestry and findmypast (and familysearch for 1881). I have only just started and will report progress in my blog - with a more detailed permanent report separately,


Kings Langley Local History Society Web Site

Mike emailed to say that their new web site is now up and running and is well worth a visit. In addition to news of forthcoming events and publications it has a history section describing a wide number of  topics, with pictures, which I am sure will grow, and become even more interesting over the years.




Three Cheers for Elinor Brent Dyers ...

Some time ago I posted Phyllis's account of life as a pupil in Grove School, Watford, and in December I extended this to include information on Moreton House School, Dunstable, which moved to the Grove. One of the teachers was Elinor Brent Dyers, who wrote the "Chalet School" books. I decided to post a message mentioning this on a bulletin board about the books (www.the-cbb.co.uk) and with a couple of days over the weekend about 80 people visited the relevant pages - and it is clear from the messages on the bulletin board that the link was much appreciated.

... and more about Moreton House School

     I also contacted the Dunstable Local History Society about the School and have promised John to write an article for their newsletter.

     It is clear that my bound copy of The Mortonia include some issues which may be unique and I am arranging to donate it to BLARS (The Beds & Luton Archive Service). I have updated the information on the holdings of the school magazine, and also the page on the history of the school.


Resurrection Men at work in 1823

Peter, writing on soc.genealogy.britain, transcribed a press report from the Morning Chronicle of 18 November 1823, relating to the case I had reported in my talk on The Road Through Harpenden. I have updated the page to include this report and a picture of Luton Church..







WARNING - Problem with Google Chrome Brower

It is not possible for me to monitor how this site works on every browser but my statistics shows 65% of you use Internet Explorer, and 16% each use Firefox and Safari. - totalling 97%. I have just discovered that, under certain circumstances Google Chrome incorrectly displays tables imbedded in the text, sometimes leading to a rather strange page layout. Fortunately the statistics means that only a few of you will have this problem.


A few emails may have been lost

Until comparatively recently I was responsible for all filtering of emails sent to this URL - which amounted to about 50-100 unwanted messages a day. My personal spam filter appeared to be working well, and I would only see one or two of these messages a day. In the Autumn the webserver took over the vetting role for all easily identified spam and the total number coming to me dropped to one or two a day, making it possible to check them. This week I discovered one genuine message was wrongly identified as spam. A long-standing fault in the filter has been corrected and would only have affected a tiny percentage of emails sent to me (usually addressed to someone else, with a copy to me) over the last year or two.


Thank You

Thanks to the kind person who started the ball rolling with a donation to this year's fund. It really cheers me up every time I raise a few more pounds to help the mentally ill in the county.

(If you haven't already done so cheer me up by making a DONATION now.)


7 January 2011




Tell me what you think of the new page layout


Reorganising the Rickmansworth Pages

It was decided that the Rickmansworth page needed a total reorganisation and this is underway which affects both the town of Rickmansworth and the area of the ancient parish including Chorleywood, Croxley Green, Mill End and Moor Park. A menu has been added, the information of the old main page has been distributed over other new pages and a Rickmansworth "home page" created. Virtually all the old text is still present, but in different locations, and new material will be added over the coming weeks..

     The changes have required modifying links on about 50 pages and the detailed changes to individual pages will be reported here as the planned changes are completed.

     A number of new post card images have been added to the new pages and more will be added shortly. - but picture titles and supporting text have not yet been added. This will be done over the next few weeks. The new images already include the following antique prints,

The Church, 1807

Moor Park 1773

Moor Park 1825

Loudwater 1851







William Cooper in the USA & Australia

Last year, in answering a question about a William Cooper & Nephew Watch Fob found in New Mexico I wondered if a Henry Harrowell who worked to the company was from Hertfordshire. Richard has written to provide evidence that he was not a Hertfordshire Harrowell - and the information he provided allowed me to locate a very helpful page on Cooper Engineering in USA and Australia.



Two of Alfred Dunham sons died in the WW1

Adam updated DUNHAM, St Albans, 19th century into the 20th century. Alfred Blow Dunham had 9 children and  and  both Earnest and Richard died in France in 1918.


Quaker School Connections

In December I posted about a Quaker School, BLAXLAND, Hitchin, 1788-1801, which had links with Ackland School in Yorkshire, where many Quaker children from around Hitchin (including parts of Bedfordshire) were educated. Nick has provided some additional information about the Pumphrey girls who attended the Yorkshire School from Bedfordshire


Nell Gwynne's Tea Rooms

Rosemary alerted me to an error in the description of this view of St Michaels and in correcting the problem I discovered that the building on the left was the Nell Gwynne Tea Rooms.



In Napsbury Hospital Sept-Dec 1917

Rohan has provided a post card by Riccardo Studio which is numbered and which can be given a date. By collecting number/date information on other similar cards it should be possible to at least approximately  date other cards. Please Tell me if you have other datable cards - or can identify other people in the picture.



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

Next Blog - with more  answers & Rickmansworth updates -  is planned to be up for 15 January.


2 January 2011


Happy New Year Everyone

Thanks to all who have emailed me over the holiday period, Messages such as the following really help to make me feel all the hard work I put into this web site is worthwhile.  Christine wrote:

I just wanted to say thank you for putting this together and maintaining it - you have so much information that is so useful generally, plus some great photos / maps / etc - wish all counties had such a great resource.  Being in Australia I have done nearly all of my research via the Internet, and am so grateful for information available.

Such encouragement was particularly appreciated at the end of a year when we fell over 300 short of the modest 1000 target for people with mental health problems in Hertfordshire. This works out at a depressing 0.003 per visitor to the site. If you found the site useful in 2010 and did not give then, a donation to the 2011 fund now would help to get it rolling.



Building News - An unlikely source for Burial Information:

Sometime genealogy information turns up in unusual places. A sketch of the ruined church at Ayot St Lawrence includes the writing on a grave board in the foreground. The picture won a medal and it was reprinted in Building News in 1904. This was reproduced in an advert on ebay.


Doodle Bugs over Broxboune in WW2

This falls outside the normal scope of this site but because it is an interesting query I though I would ask readers of this Blog. Gavin's Great Grandfather Major Ernest Thomas Fulcher lived at Sunny Lawn, Broxbourne, which he believes was destroyed by a Flying Bomb (V1). Tell me if you know if any Doodle Bugs fell on Broxbourne, and if so where.




An Unusual Wooden Church Memorial and its Restoration

Cameron provided a digital review copy of the Digital Atlas of England Annual Report 2010 which contains a excellent and detailed account of the Turner Monument in Therfield Church and its restoration. The cover shows a monument in Offley Church and among a collection of church pictures from elsewhere in England is a picture of the screen at St Pauls Walden.



  Offley St Pauls Walden Therfield Therfield

Hertfordshire Post Cards

Willian Church 1903

[revised date]

Norton Village

The Postcards of Housden of Letchworth Garden City

The Bridge, St Michael's

Oilette Post Cards


Site Statistics for 2010

On 31st December the Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site contained 3456 pages accessible from the home page and 6728 images. In addition there were about 100 pages/images accessible only from the Old Hertfordshire Google map. Including a small number of links from offline draft pages, etc., there were 57261 internal links and 2333 external links of which 231 were broken. (It is planned to try and repair as many as possible of these broken links early in 2011.)

     Over the year there were 230,063 visits to the site (average 630 per day), 657709 pages were viewed (1825 per day) and there were 3,852,848 hits (10,556 per day), totalling 125 Gbytes (0.34 per day). In an average month there were 4238 repeat visits and an average of 2759 different pages were visited at least once.

     These figures conceal a wide range of visitor profiles . About 75% of the visits come from search engines such as Google and, as anyone who uses Google will know, a significant number of these visits never get beyond a quick glance at the selected page. About 15 % come from links on other web sites (such as Wikipedia and Cindi's List) and such users are far more likely to spend time on the relevant page, but may not be interested in exploring the site further. The final 10% come either from people who type in the URL or have it stored as a bookmark and many of these will be regular users who may carry out extensive explorations of the site. In 2010 1463 visits lasted more than one hour. While the average number of pages per visit is 2.89, it is more informative to assume that all those who spent less than 30 seconds on the site as only visiting one page, and by adjusting the totals we find that other visitors averaged 9.11 pages per serious visit. This figure increased through the year from 8.43 pages in the first half to 9.70 in the second half.

     Four changes in the web site have been monitored using the statistics.

  • The Guide to Old Hertfordshire started at the beginning of January and after a slow start visits to the home page have risen to 441 visits in December.

  • The Editorial Blog was started in April and peaked at 771 visits in August when the bog was updated almost every day. The blog is now updated about weekly and there was a healthy 591 visits in December.  The introduction of the blog may be the reason why the number of pages viewed in serious visits increased by more that 10% over the course of the year.

  • In the autumn I drew attention to the importance of using the Find It facility for looking for family names and the uses of this facility leaped from an average of about 250 a month to a peak of over 700 in November.

  • It was discovered that there were many broken links to this web site on Wikipedia. In November these broken links were tracked down and corrected, and some additional links were added. As a result the monthly number of visits from Wikipedia rose from 77 in October to 341 in December.

This site supports the charity Herts Mind Network

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