Tuesday, 21 March 2017

London Asylum for Deaf and Dumb

In my post concerning the bequests made by my late Great-Aunt Emma Jane Wray on 29 November 2016 (What can you find out form a will?), I made mention of the Asylum for Deaf and Dumb Poor, where her niece Elsie Pearson was resident for a period. Aunt Emma had left an annuity for the care of her niece which, on the face of it, was rather unusual. It turned out Elsie was disabled and needed more care and attention than her other nieces and nephews.

I had found Elsie on the 1911 England census, along with 414 co-residents of the institution located in Margate, Kent. Its size alone was impressive and made me think its importance would be worth a blog post of its own.

There are several websites that describe the history of the asylum. Some of the recent articles can be found at: The London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, John Townsend and the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb and The Asylum that changed the lives of young ‘unfortunates’. For many old photos of the institution see this website.

Reverend John Townsend (1757-1826) established the original school on Grange Road, in Bermondsey, London – the Asylum for the Support and Education of Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor, looking after 55 children. By 1792 the school had become the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. In 1807 it had been able to move to larger premises on Old Kent Road where they had space for 200 children.


There were some private institutions where people of means could send their children but this was to be the first public school where deaf children could receive a free basic education. Townsend received initial support from: Henry Cox Mason, rector of Bermondsey; Henry Thornton, banker and philanthropist; and the Duke of Gloucester.

Joseph Watson, one of the early headmasters was an inspirational and dedicated teacher, developed many techniques for instructing afflicted children and believed they were due an education as good as any other person. He wrote that, “Persons born deaf are, in fact, neither depressed below, nor raised above, the general scale of human nature, as regards their dispositions and powers, either of body or mind.

On the 1911 England Census, where I found my little cousin Elsie, the asylum was referred to as the Royal Deaf & Dumb Asylum. In later years it became known formally as The Royal School for Deaf Children, Margate.


The school was closed abruptly in December 2015, throwing 240 staff out of work, after the John Townsend Trust was put into administration (receivership).

On lists such as that found on the 1911 census, as well as other schools and institutions, one may get a better appreciation of the lives of ancestors. Such summaries are well worth looking for, as are the histories of those organizations.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

From a note on the census…

In my search for my wife’s ancestors I found several that were born in Macduff, Banffshire, Scotland. One cousin (twice removed), Isabella Lyall, moved around a bit but her birthplace and date was consistent on most records allowing me to find her on many types of records fairly easily – up to a point.

She was at home in 1841, in Macduff, as a child of one year, with her parents and two sisters. On the 1851 census she was staying with her grandmother, Mary McKay, also in Macduff and just a few blocks from her parents’ home. She was going to school at the time.

She married James Storm, a seaman, on 12 January 1861 in Macduff. Shortly after their marriage they moved to Findhorn, Morayshire, where James was employed as a seaman in merchant service. Isabella also had an uncle living there. The couple was residing in Findhorn at the time of the 1861 census (April). Unfortunately James died the following year in Findhorn, of Phthisis Pulmonalis (Tuberculosis) after suffering for two years with the disease. Isabella moved back to Macduff afterward, no doubt to be closer to her family.

In 1871 she is shown on the Macduff census as a housekeeper in the Thomson family household. At first glance there is no head of household shown and my first thought was that the individuals shown at the top of this page, two children aged 14 and 8, were part of the family at the bottom of the previous page. The surnames were different but that sometimes happens if a widowed woman with children remarries. In this case, though, the couple were not old enough to have children this age. I noticed there was a note by the enumerator that said of the Thomson family, “Head absent at sea.” That was the clue I needed to help me find Isabella on later records.
 
1871 Scotland Census for Thomson family, with Isabella Storm, living in Macduff, Banffshire
I looked for the lady, with surnames, Lyall and Storm, on subsequent Scotland censuses and on marriage and death records for the area. But she was not to be found.

Then I looked for the two children on the 1881 census and found one, aged 18, in a family with parents, William and Isabella Thomson. This Isabella was the right age to be Isabella Storm. I thought the child was most likely was the same girl as was listed on the 1871 census. Since there was no mother shown on the 1871 census I reasoned the missing head of that household might possibly have been widowed. On the 1881 census, there were three younger children that could well have come from a second wife, if the man had remarried.

I did a search for these younger siblings on the ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk website and up came birth records that showed their parents were William Thomson and Isabella Lyall! To top that, their marriage was shown on the birth records as 20 May 1871 in London, England. Quite obviously the 18-year old on the census was not the natural daughter of Isabella.

Don’t you love those Scottish records that have so much information about the families? It is interesting that Isabella used her maiden name for the second marriage but then again, that is not unusual in Scotland as women generally keep their own names.

From there I managed to find vital data about Isabella and William, on censuses from 1891 to 1911 and right to their deaths. I found William’s marriage to his first wife and her death just a year after their daughter was born. Her name was also shown on his death record. Both individuals must have felt a kinship right from the start, having lost their spouses too soon. They ended up living a long life together, Isabella dying in 1901 and William in 1915.

A whole family was fleshed out from one little note in a census. The enumerator obviously believed that just listing two minor children, with a housekeeper but no mother, needed a bit more explanation.

Was this serendipity or just plain close observation of a record? In any case it does pay to read everything!


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Digitizing Memories

I am currently digitizing all of our family albums. There are 60 of them spanning the years 1969 to 2015. There will be one more as soon as I get the last batch of photos mounted into number 61. I have finished scanning 37 of them which contain over 1,750 images comprising 3.3 GB of space.

So why would I want to do that?

Well, these albums contain all of the memories of our family captured in pictures, from when my wife and I met to the last trip to China to see our granddaughter’s lead performance in the Alice and Wonderland ballet. The main problem is that our family have all grown and moved away and are busy raising their own families. So the albums have sat on the bookshelf with no one to leaf through them. Yes sometimes the kids take a few down when they visit – to show their own children what growing up looked like. But since the visits are not very frequent the many years of memories do not get visited often.
 
Our Family Albums – now numbering 60, plus a few miscellaneous, specialty albums, containing pictures of our family from the time we were married.
I wrote about our albums and other material in a blog What will we do with future photos? last April. At the time I commented on what would people do with the thousands of pictures taken now with digital cameras.

The other reason for digitizing all the albums now is that I keep wondering what will happen to all these books when we are gone. I mentioned that in my previous post as well. That’s a great worry for all family historians – the preservation of files with family information gong back hundreds of years and memorabilia including everything from grandparents’ correspondence to cream cans used to haul milk from the farm way back when. It is all important to me but will it be to my descendants.

At least with digitizing the albums I can hope that our family memories will be preserved somewhere in virtual space where our children and grandchildren, and hopefully their children and grandchildren, might one day have a look-see.

The first 32 albums were the coil-bound type, usually with around 40 pages. Because I could not take the pages out and scan them separately, I had to hold the books down on the flatbed scanner and make an image much larger than the actual page size. Then I went through and straightened and cropped them. The last group are three-ring binder style which makes it easy to lift out and directly scan each page at 8 ½” x 11” size. Some of the binders have over 100 pages. It takes about an hour to do complete the digitizing of one album.

All the albums have the magnetic self-adhesive pages with the clear, fold-over leaves, although many of them are not very sticky anymore and the clear covers tend to come loose. That means some photos dropped out as I went through the books and had to be stuck back down with a glue stick. No matter! The end result is what matters.

I left the clear page covers down when scanning the pages. They did not generally interfere with getting a good scanned image. Certainly they are good enough to see who and what is in the photos. I also scanned at 300 dpi so the images are large and detailed enough to withstand enlarging on a monitor.
 
Screen shot of folder on my hard drive with album page images
One great thing about this exercise is that I have been able to relive the memories myself looking at every page as I went through the scanning process. It is neat to revisit the day your daughter arrived in the world, or your first grandchild, see the early school pictures and extended family get-togethers at Christmas. There are also wedding and birth announcements, some of which I have copied to my family history files. And copies of Christmas letters received over the years. In short, there is much more to our family album library that just pictures.
 
Some of the memories recorded in photos from albums now digitized
As I indicated in my April 2016 post, I am redoing all the old family albums of my parents. I am now working on volume five which will be the last one. They are large, leather-bound books. I have many of the really old photos scanned but will probably digitize all of the albums once I have finished the last one.

I will be putting the completed digital album library online so that all of our family members can access it – anytime and anywhere. The hunt is on now to find just the right venue to hold it all and still be secure. All the albums will go into plastic storage boxes now rather than back on bookcase shelves. I don’t have the room anymore for the bookcases. They will still be available if someone wants to dig out an album or two and they will be handy for whoever wants them later.
 
Albums now stored in plastic bins

Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.