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As webmaster I have decided to move the blog of this site and relocate it on a proper blogging package under the name
Hertfordshire Genealogy News



All news of updates, plus more ephemeral news - such as details of meetings, recent articles in genealogy magazines, etc, will appear on the new blog once construction has been completed


26th August

A Message from the Resident Genealogist

"Ask Chris" is taking a Holiday until October

August has been a busy time on this site with plenty of interesting (and time-demanding) queries. It has also been very busy offline and I am in the middle of an 18 day period with 10 days of social activities - including 4 days away at the Dartington Hall School Reunion, while leaving my wife at home to welcome the Australian visitor who will be with us throughout September. This has all meant that my other blog, Trapped by the Box, has been rather neglected - as has some household paperwork, changes in the garden, and plans to get the flat roof of the garage repaired before the winter....

    On the health side I am taking regular rural walks and have been loosing about 1 kg a month on Doctor's orders. My damaged left eye (glaucoma) is no worse but I have just had confirmation that my "good" right eye has started to develop a cataract and this is just beginning to make it harder to read some of the more difficult smaller print documents. While my wife is getting more mobile after a knee replacement operation I still prepare most meals and do most of the shopping.

    Throughout September I plan to continue running the site - so please keep suggestions, updates, fault reports, etc., coming in. However I have decided that I will not be answering any new Ask Chris requests until October.


Making the most of the Summer

(At Battersea Park Zoo)

Your Questions Answered









Your Questions Answered

Missing Information and the use of Surnames in the Workhouse

Last week I posted an item under the title The Importance of Misleading and Missing Information relating to a search for PIGGOTT, St Albans,  early 20th century. Only hours after I had posted the page Anthony contacted me to say that the missing information on the St Albans Workhouse was accessible on Ancestry. From the information he provided I was able to determine that on the relevant page of the St Albans Workhouse returns only three out of 30 names had been indexed by FindMyPast. This was a serious transcription error and I emailed FindMyPast and got an inappropriate reply so complained - and have now had an apology, and a reasonable reply, where they agree that it is a serious error and will be looking into it.

     In addition Richard has provided more details, and asked some supplementary questions. A number of these relate to the surnames used when the parents are unmarried and the mother and children go into the workhouse.

St Albans


Census Returns


The Homestead in Juniper Wood

Richard Gustard wrote asking about the origins of the place name Gustard Wood (a hamlet in Wheathampstead) and the above seems the most likely explanation.

Gustard Wood

CAMP, Waterfield House, Herongate, circa 1900

Locating Census Addresses on Maps

Judy wrote asking if I could help find the location of Watergate House. I have used the answer as an excuse to update the Locating Census Addresses on Maps advice page, using the improved online services thatt have becone available sincr the page was created. The CAMP answer provides very useful examples of how to search for addresses using the 1911 census. Arthur Camp lived near the unusually named Land of Liberty P.H. which was described in the earlier posting HUNT, Land of Liberty PH, Herongate, Rickmansworth



Mill End


HUTCHINSON, Ware, circa 1770

Judith has kindly provided additional information on two of Norton Hutchinson's daughters Clarissa and Isabella.


Hertfordshire Postcard News

The Bedford Series Post Cards

These early post cards of Hertfordshire (and Bedfordshire) were published by Ernest Bedwell & Co., photographic material dealers, of Bedford. It has now been discovered that other publishers (such as WHS) had similarly named series, but without the distinctive logo. In addition a card of Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, numbered 14 (the lowest number seem so far) has been advertised for sale on ebay.

An Early School Post Card by P. Buchanan

P. Buchanan photographed schools all over the country. including Hertfordshire. The current card shows the Library, Lockers Park School, Hemel Hempstead. It has the lowest number, 3999, that I have so far seen on a Buchanan card for a Hertfordshire School. Do you know of any of Buchanan's numbered post cards of schools in Hertfordshire?

Hemel Hempstead

A Sarratt card from Watford Engraving Co?

This post card of Holy Cross Church, Sarratt, has no publisher name or logo. However the way it was printed, and the back, suggest that it was printed by F. Downer's company, the Watford Engraving Co. It was almost certainly published before the First World War,


18th August

A Message from the Resident Genealogist


Summer Plans and a Summary of a Busy Week

My plan for the summer was to keep a comparatively low profile - taking a bit of an online holiday in August, and recognising that I would have other things to do in September (an old school reunion, golden wedding celebrations, and a visitor from Australia).  In fact this last week had been one of the busiest ever in terms of the number of emails received - and on the basis that if I don't answer them immediately they are likely to join the vast historical "do when I have time" queue that I prefer to forget, they have all been attended to.

      If you don't have time to look at all this week's  answers and updates I urge you to look at The Importance of Missing and Misleading Information. This was a real challenge - as it seems that one of the problems appears to be a gap in the 1911 census returns - with the St Albans Workhouse returns apparently missing. In addition ambiguities appear to have arisen because the Workhouse appears to have treated the children of an unmarried couple to be those of the unmarried mother - ignoring the probable father. To verify exactly what happened will require the purchase of a number of certificates - demonstrating the importance of always checking the sources and not putting too much reliance on unverified index entries.

      The question of General Sir Cornelius Cuyler's portrait meant looking at a number of sources - but it is possible that none will throw any light on the history of the painting, However it turned up new information on books on Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City. A request for a high definition scan of pictures of Theobalds Park has led to two engravings of the Tudor Palace being posted online. More information has been received about the owner of one of the Catling Watches and Robert H. Clark's post cards while Marina and Linda appear to share a Potten ancestor.  Partly as an experiment the July 1924 issue of The Moretonia has been posted online - and if reactions are positive I may considered republishing other old school magazines and documents in the same way..

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So far this year 596 has been given towards a 1000 target.

Your Questions Answered




Your Questions Answered





Your Questions Answered





Your Questions Answered





Your Questions Answered





Your Questions Answered

The Importance of Missing and Misleading Information

One common problems is that some key information is missing from the indexes. Richard had a real problem. The evidence he has found appears to show that James Piggott and Minnie Castle were married in 1900/01, but not married in 1910/11 when Richard's ancestor James Castle was born in the Workhouse. The couple then "remarried" in 1918. Missing was evidence of a marriage before 1900 and the census records for Minnie Castle/Piggott and her son James Castle in the 1911 census.

     An investigation of the online 1911 census returns (on Findmypast) failed to reveal any record relating to anyone in the St Albans Union Workhouse - suggesting these records may be missing for all inmates. Also missing from the 1911 census was Elizabeth Piggott (the daughter of James and Minnie according to the 1901 census) and three St Albans Piggott girls who births are recorded on FreeBMD (without parent details unless you purchase the certificates). These were Sarah Piggott  (10), Lily Piggott (7) and Minnie Piggott (3). More interestingly another FreeBMD entry showed that a 5 year old Minnie Castle died in 1912 whose birth was not registered five years earlier. Could the child Minnie Piggott and the child Minnie Castle be the same person? See a possible explanation of what was going on at PIGGOTT, St Albans,  early 20th century which will need to be confirmed by the purchase of relevant certificates.

     In addition I add two press reports from the Herts Advertiser that show that James Piggott was twice prosecuted for illegal gambling on cards.

St Albans


Census Returns


Old News

General Cuyler of Danebury, Welwyn

General Cornelius Cuyler moved to St John's Lodge (now called Danebury) in about 1795 and died there in 1819. Steve recently acquired a picture of the General and wants to find out more about the sitter and the portrait. I survey a range of Hertfordshire related records but the chances of identifying the painter was from these sources is small. (Can You help?)



The Palace of Theobalds in the 16th & 17th Century

Following a request for a high resolution scan of Theobalds Park for possible use in a T.V. programme I have created a page to cover the history of the old Tudor Palace, which was demolished in the middle of the 17th century.


Robert H Clarke Post Cards

Robert Clarke published many postcards of the Royston area (both in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Colin has drawn may attention to an early card of Wrestlingworth, Beds, which he published. Did he also publish any cards of the nearby parts of Essex? Numbered cards of Hertfordshire are also of interest - especially if there is an early date of posting.

Tell Me

Title Deeds are important

The sage of the Catling Watches continues. Angela reports that the old title deeds of her house show that the land on which it was built was purchased by George Catling - and also mentions the will of his father-in-law, James Want. This emphasises the importance of preserving (and recording) old title deeds - see What happened to that vital record?


Morton House School, Dunstable

Morton House School is of interest to the web site because quite a lot of the girls who went to the school came from Hertfordshire, and because in 1925 the school moved to The Grove, Watford.  The school is also of wider interest because Elinor Brent-Dyer, author of the Chalet School series of children's books was a teacher at the school in 1923/4. As a result of this interest I have put online the July 1924 edition of the School Magazine, The Moretonia, which she edited. This is an excellent example of private school magazines of the period, and provides useful background information of how such a school worked.

   The latest contact is from Bryan who reports that he has been unable to confirm the passport date I have quoted in the Elinor Brent-Dyer page. Bryan is in the process of constructing a biographical website on Elinor.

The Moretonia

(school magazine from 1924)

POTTEN, Watford, late 19th century

Following Marina earlier request for information about Rev. Henry Thomas Potten, Linda writes to say that her grandfather married his daughter Kathleen. Linda knew him very well in his later years when he lived in Swindon - and I have forwarded the message to Marina. It is always nice to put possible cousins in touch.


St Mary's Church, Welwyn

Tony Rook is a well known local historian and the result is a well written guide to the parish church, with very useful diagrams identifying the memorials and other features on the church walls. There is also a comprehensive selection of "Then and Now" pictures. If you are planning to write a historical guide for your own church this could serve as a useful model.


Welwyn Garden City

Alan Cash's web site contains very extensive coverage of Books on Welwyn Garden City; Maps and Plans of the City, and Early Aerial Photographs.

Welwyn Garden City

The Webmaster Reports

Repaired web site links

With a web site as large as this web linkages are always going out of date, and there are also a number of out of date linkages on other sites which point to this one. A recent check (the first full check this year) with my software showed a large number of "broken links", some of which prove not to be broken on further testing, while for others the target information has been relocated or deleted. The checking and repairing process will take some time and will only be reported here where it affects the descriptions of the towns and village pages. The following have been repaired this week:


The Museum on the Bishops Stortford Menu

The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies on the Buckinghamshire page

The Essex Records Office  on the Essex page

Mill Green Museum on the Hatfield and Welwyn pages

The Wikipedia link on the Kings Langley menu

The Gaddesden Family History on the Little Gaddesden page

The Forge Museum at Much Hadham
Malcolm Smith's pages of information and pictures of Offley

Potters Bar History Online on the South Mimms & Potters Bar page


Please tell me if you come across a broken link (or know of a Hertfordshire link which should be included on this web site)

Web Sites


Tell Me


11th August

Your Questions Answered

SAUNDERS, Redbourn, 19th Century

Two helpful comments on last week's posting.- Tony points out the family connection between George Thomas Saunders and Saunders of Redbourn 19th Century and of Hemel Hempsted in 18th Century. Anthony points out the death of Frances Saunders in Hemel Hempstead in 1968 matches the "missing" Fanny Saunders.


The Hertfordshire Regiment in the 1920s

Nick wrote: saying his Grandfather [Lance-Corporal Bob Bristow] and Great Grandfather [Platoon Sergeant Bristow] are shown in the  picture Platoon of Hertfordshire Regiment at camp at Cardington, Bedfordshire. I provided a higher resolution image to show to his father.


Post Cards

Was your Ancestor a Victorian Businessman?

For some time I have been creating pages on selected Hertfordshire post card publishers. I became interested in George Reynolds Durrant, of Hertford when I acquired an old medicine bottle with his name on from ebay, together with some "Durrant Series" post cards.  I decided to create a page showing the bottle and the cards , together with brief biographical details. He proved to be an interesting character and decided to use him as an example of the kinds of things you can find online (or on CD in the case of some trade directories) if your ancestor was a significant Victorian businessman. As a result I have drawn up a detailed time line for him, and his son George Stuart Durrant using FreeBMD, familysearch, census returns, trade directories, access to archives, and Google searches of the web.



Another St Albans Football Team

Mike has supplied a picture of another St Albans football team. The team includes Harold Stone and possibly a George Bickerton and someone called Kennard, Can you help identify the team or any of the players?

St Albans

Post Cards

Pond Lane Council School, Baldock

Terry, of The British Schools Museum, pointed out that this school was founded in 1836, and I have used the opportunity to update the history of this school up to 1878. I am still hoping that someone will be able to identify some of the pupils in the photograph.


Paper Making


John Danzig made a video about paper manufacturing at the DRG Nash Mills site in the early 1980s.which is now available on YouTube as DRG: The Paper People and there is also a related interview .


6th August

Your Questions Answered

What Happened to George Saunders of Redbourn in 1864?

Carole wrote about Faith Hill (see William Hill, Transported to Australia, 1837) but her answer, and subsequent information are covered by the separate page SAUNDERS, Redbourn, 19th Century. In the 1851 and 1861 George Saunders was a well-to-do farmer but he seems to have lost his tenancy in about 1864. It seems that his first wife, Fanny, died - but no record has been found to confirm this. He fathered Faith Hill's child but later married her. By 1871 he appears to be in shortened circumstances - with his children scattered to the winds.


Books on Hertfordshire

Amwell & Stanstead's Past in Pictures

Ware's Past in Pictures

Rockingham Press

These two excellent collections of photographs, with associated texts, and useful indexes, are highly recommended. They were published by the Rockingham Press, which ahs a long list of publications relating to the South East of the County. Other volumes reviewed here earlier are Cheshunt's Past in Pictures and Hoddesdon's Past in Pictures.

Great Amwell

Hertford Heath

Stanstead Abbots

Stanstead St Margarets


Places in Hertfordshire

St Leonards, Sandridge

As part of the update to the Sandridge pages a page has been created for St Leonards church, including a painting showing the church before the 1887/8 restoration, a description of the church immediately after the restoration, and photographs showing the church in 2010.


The Webmaster's Report


Statistics for July

Site Totals: (comparison with August 2010): Visits  18964 (18298) of which 5854 (4495) were repeat visits within the month;  3518 (2907) different pages were viewed, the total number of page views being   51095 (56857). These all show a useful increase since last year.

Editorial Blog: This was viewed  445 (709) times - less than last year - but there were less updates this June.

The Guide to Old Hertfordshire: Visitors to "Map" page 510 (228).

Wikipedia:  426 (113) visits from 127 (38) different Wikipedia pages. The top page was for Apsley (16 views). The top non-place page visited from Wikipedia was Elizabeth GREENHILL, Abbots Langley, 1615-1679 (10 views)

Other Sourcests: Direct visits from family history pages include 38 from the Herts County Council, 22 from the Herts Family History Society and 15 from GenUKI. Of the 162 views of The History of Straw Plait in Hertfordshire (one of the top non-place "subject" pages) 14 came from The Straw Plaiting Industry and 12 from Links to Straw Hats ... Sites. It is suspected most of the other "straw" accesses came from Google searches.

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