I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I should have completed all 52 prompts by now, but I will do so as soon as possible.
A few days ago I shared an image from a poll book showing how my 3rd great grandfather, John Middleton Downes voted in the general election on 24 November 1868. 4 years later the Ballot Act 1872 introduced secret ballots to the United Kingdom but prior to that, where poll books survive, we can see how our ancestors voted.
The candidates John was choosing between were:
The Right Honourable Lord Viscount Milton
Henry F. Beaumont Esq
Walter Spencer Stanhope Esq
Lewis Randle Starkey Esq
The votes are shown in the above order by a “1” in the column.
The Right Honourable Lord Viscount Milton had served the previous term. He was a Liberal and believed that the reforms to date had been insufficient. He was one of the youngest members of parliament, and believed education should be extended so that “a proper system of instruction may be available to every child in the country”.
Henry F. Beaumont Esq stood just to thwart Mr Walter Stanhope. He was also a Liberal. He wanted to see reform in parliament to increase the franchise.
Walter Spencer Stanhope Esq and Lewis Randle Starkey Esq were both Conservative candidates. They were concerned about the destruction of British institutions and the threat to “the Protestant character of our country.”
Reading the addresses of the candidates the situation in Ireland was clearly on everyone’s minds.
The simple numbers in the columns above therefore tell me quite a lot about my 3rd great grandfather and what he believe was important.
The Poll for the Southern Division of the West Riding of County of York. DOWNES, John Middleton. 24 November 1868. p. 189. Collection: Poll books. Society of Genealogists, London. https://sogdata.org.uk/ : accessed 28 December 2021.
The Poll for the Southern Division of the West Riding of County of York. Addressses of the Candidates. August 1868. image. 02-03 Collection: Poll books. Society of Genealogists, London. https://sogdata.org.uk/ : accessed 03 January 2022.
The Society of Genealogists 12 days of Christmas, continues with Four Calling Birds in the Bristol Poll Book of 1852. This inspired me to have a look at the Society’s collection of Poll Books. I found my 3rd great grandfather, John Middleton Downes. On 24 November 1868 he had the choice of voting for The Right Honourable Lord Viscount Milton, Henry F. Beaumont Esq, Walter Spencer Stanhope Esq or Lewis Randle Starkey Esq to represent the Southern Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire in parliament. Lord Milton and Mr Beaumont were elected. The poll book shows John Downes voted for winning candidates. William Roddie only voted for one candidate. Several of the names listed with John Downes are familiar from my research in Wickersley.
On the fourth day of 12 Days Wild I focused on feeding birds. I cleaned the bird bath and moved to in front of my office window. I cleaned and refilled the window mounted bird feeders and replaced the empty tub of Flutter Butter.
I have a Beanies Coffee 12 Days of Christmas calendar. Day 4 was again Salted Caramel “All-in-One” so I decided to drink it this morning. The milk powder means that the coffee is a little sweeter than I prefer, and has that slightly odd taste that comes from processed milk. The “All-in-One” instant coffees are ok for emergencies and travelling but I wouldn’t choose them at home.
 The Poll for the Southern Division of the West Riding of County of York. DOWNES, John Middleton. 24 November 1868. Collection: Poll books. Society of Genealogists, London. https://sogdata.org.uk/ : accessed 28 December 2021.
I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I am way behind with my writing …. I could blame my University course, but term finished a month ago. I have just been doing other things.
Most genealogists and family historians will find any excuse for a wander around a cemetery. There is a wealth of information in cemeteries. To give something back to the genealogy community I am transcribing the memorials in two local graveyards Tabor Chapel and Ynyscynhaiarn Church. I will add them to Find-A-Grave when I find time too.
I do like the Welsh tradition of putting address on gravestones, so useful to us when this information has been forgotten. I hadn’t realised it was a particularly Welsh thing to do until I was looking for a geocache in my Mum’s local churchyard in Kent. We spotted one gravestone with an address:
St Mary the Virgin churchyard High Halden, Ashford, Kent In Loving Memory of Catherine Poulton the wife of William Williams of Gates High Halden Born 4th April 1845 Died 5th April 1917 Also of William Williams Born 31 July 1842 Died 23rd Oct 1931 Thank you to Mum, Vera Hopkinson, for this picture.
William Williams of Gates Farm, High Halden sounds to have Welsh connections, and the Welsh tradition of an address on the memorial inscription has been followed.
Years ago I spent some time exploring the churchyard at St Alban’s Wickersley where many of my Downes and Wadsworth ancestors were buried. My 3rd great grandparents moved to Wickersley around 1835 and had 13 children in total.
I find this gravestone heart-breaking. To lose one child must be horrendous. To lose four children in nine years just does not bear thinking about.
This gravestone, for my 4th great grandparents Benjamin and Sarah Roberts confused me. Benjamin Roberts was born in about 1782 and was baptised in Bramley near Wickersley, West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1806 he married Sarah Dawson, who was baptised in Tickhill in 1783. They had at least four children between 1808 and 1822, but as seen on the gravestone Benjamin died in 1826 aged 43.
Sarah married Richard Oliver on 24th December 1832 in the Cathedral Church of St Peter & St Paul, Sheffield. He was about 27 years old and she was 49 years old. Sarah died 15 years later and was buried with her first husband.
Richard Oliver went on to marry Benjamin and Sarah’s daughter Ann, his step-daughter. Ann already had an 8 year old illegitimate son, John, my 2nd great-grandfather.
I can’t help wondering what gossip there was around Richard Oliver, Sarah and Ann. Why did they both marry him? And of course, who was John Robert’s father?
You never know what you will find at the cemetery, and it is always worth looking for your ancestors gravestones.
I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. This week the prompt is “Brick Wall”.
In genealogy circles a “Brick Wall” is an ancestor beyond whom you have been unable to find anything further. As I have mentioned previously, until recently, my research has taken a scattergun sort of approach, finding what I can about any and all lines of my family tree. I have concentrated on what I have found rather than what I have not been able to. I am trying to be more methodical now, and at least making lists of the ancestors I need to return to, and working out what I do not know but should be able to find out.
One ancestor I know is a bit of a “Brick Wall” is my 3rd great grandmother Martha Grayson. I am going to use this blog to document what I do know about her and try to find a strategy to get a little further back on that line. Who knows, may be now that I have almost completed the SOG skills evening classes and have begun my post graduate certificate with Strathclyde University I have enough knowledge to break down the wall.
Martha Grayson was the wife of John Middleton Downes senior, the mother of John Middleton Downes junior, as well as my 2nd great grandmothers Martha Downes (wife of John Wadsworth) and Fanny Downes (wife of John Roberts). Martha Grayson is my 3rd great grandmother twice over as her grandchildren George Harry Wadsworth and Florence Roberts married.
Working backwards through her life her is what I have found:
Martha’s gravestone, at St Alban’s Wickersley. Reads:
“In Affectionate Remembrance Martha the beloved wife of John Middleton Downes. who departed this life Octr 13th 1880 aged 66 years. Also of the above John Middleton Downes who departed this life Sept 13th 1881 aged 75 years. Also Walter, son of the above who departed this life March 24th 1898 aged 41 years.”
Monumental Inscriptions. England. St Alban’s Churchyard, Wickersley, Rotherham, South Yorkshire. DOWNES, Martha family. Transcribed by Ruth Willmore 30 March 2003.
From this I deduce that Martha was born in about 1814.
In 1871 Martha was living with her husband at their grocery shop in Wickersley. Her age is given as 57, which fits with the 1814 birth date. Her place of birth is shown as Notts, Styrrup, which is just over the county boundary from Tickhill, West Yorkshire where John Middleton Downes senior is from. Living with the couple are their four unmarried children, John Middleton junior, Sarah, Walter and Alice, as well as widowed daughter Mary Ann Beevers and her children Florence, Caroline and Charles. The “e” of Downes appears to be missing, so the family could be recorded as Downes or Downs on different records.
Census records. England. Wickersley, Rotherham, Yorkshire. 1871. DOWNES, Martha. PN4704. FL64. ED. 17. p. 11. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 27 October 2009.
So I now have a birth place as well as date for Martha.
Moving back, the next time that I can find Martha is on the 1861 Census.
Martha is again living with her husband and children in Wickersley. No clue to an address is recorded by the enumerator, but John was a grocer & baker. Martha’s age is given as 46 and her place of birth as Notts Styrrup, which is consistent with the data we have already. With John and Martha are eight of their sons and daughters ranging in age from 3 year old Alice Eleanor to 20 year old Mary Ann. There is also a visitor, Charles Beevers aged 21, who later married Mary Ann. Census records. England. Wickersley, Rotherham, Yorkshire. 1861. DOWNES, Martha. PN3505. FL30. ED. 13. p. 5. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 27 October 2009.
Continuing to work backwards I have found Martha mentioned on their three youngest children baptismal records in the St Albans, Wickersley parish registers in May 1858, August 1855 and November 1852.1
Next I found Martha on the 1851 Census. Again the family are in Wickersley, and John is a grocer. The image is somewhat poor, but I can see that Martha’s age is given as 38 and her birth place is also consistent as Styrrup. The family has six sons and daughters, from 16 year old Elizabeth to Fanny aged 3 mo. Elizabeth’s place of birth is Tickhill, all the other children’s birth places are given as Wickersley on this and later census returns. There is a also a lodger John Winder who later married Elizabeth.
Census records. England. Wickersley, Rotherham, Yorkshire. 1851. DOWNES, Martha. PN2343. FL119. ED. 1a. p. 6. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 28 September 2009.
So, Martha was in Tickhill when Elizabeth was born in about 1834. That might be a further clue. Whether the Martha and John were living there at the time, or whether Martha went to her mother to give birth I do not know. By the time of Mary Ann’s birth in about 1841 they were in Wickersley.
Going back another 10 years, the family are again in Wickersley. The enumerator has helpfully ignored the instruction to round ages down to 5, and gives Martha’s age as 27, and records that she was not born in the county of Yorkshire. Once again this is consistent with the other records. The family have four children with them from 6 year old Elizabeth to 3 month old Mary Ann.
I also have this gravestone which I saw ont he same visit to the Wickersley as the one when I found Martha’s gravestone. This records some of their children.
Sacred to the memory of George Son of John and Martha Downs Who departed this life October 20th 1839. Aged 2 years and 6 weeks Also William their son who departed this life June 21st 1841 aged 2 years Also Henry John Grayson their son who departed this life Nov 20th 1846 aged 10 years and 10 months. Also Caroline their daughter who departed this life April 14th 1848 aged 1 year and 11 months.
Monumental Inscriptions. England. St Alban’s Churchyard, Wickersley, Rotherham, South Yorkshire. DOWNES family. Transcribed by Ruth Willmore 30 March 2003.
I decided to check the births of the children on the GRO index to check for any useful information regarding Martha.
DOWNES, ALICE ELEANOR GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1858 M Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 09C Page 398
DOWNES, WALTER GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1856 J Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 09C Page 403
DOWNES, SARAH ELLEN GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1852 D Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 09C Page 342
DOWNES, FANNY GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1850 D Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 22 Page 541
DOWNES, JOHN MIDDLETON GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1848 J Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 22 Page 543
DOWNES, JANE GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1844 S Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 22 Page 487
DOWNES, MARTHA GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1842 D Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 22 Page 454
DOWNES, ANN GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1841 M Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 22 Page 484
DOWNES, WILLIAM GRAYSON GRO Reference: 1839 J Quarter in ROTHERHAM Volume 22 Page 4872
Interestingly Walter’s birth was registered about a year after his baptism. I should check both the baptism register and order his birth certificate to see what was happening. Mary Ann’s birth appears to have been registered as just Ann. However, the other index entries are exactly as I would expect, with a consistent spelling of Martha’s maiden name. The three elder children were born before civil registration began.
Long ago, on a visit to Rotherham Archives I viewed the Wickersley parish registers and found an entry for Henry John Grayson Downes baptism. “1835, Feb 8, Henry John Grayson son of, John and Martha, Downes, Wickersley, shopkeeper”.3
Round about the same time I also visited Doncaster Archive Centre and found in the Tickhill registers an entry for eldest daughter Elizbeth’s baptism. “1834 12 Oct Elizabeth, John and Martha Downes, Tickhill Farrier, E H Brookbank, vicar”4
I also found John and Martha’s marriage in the Tickhill parish registers. “John Middleton Downes of this parish, Martha Grayson of this parish, were married in this church by banns with consent of parents this ninth day of June in the year 1834 by me Edward(?) Brookbank(?), vicar. This marriage was solemnized between us John Middleton Downes, (x) Martha Grayson. In the presence of George Downs, Mary Downs.”5 This tells me that Martha was living in Tickhill in 1834, as Elizabeth was baptised four months after the wedding and Henry John four months after Elizabeth we can assume that Elizabeth was born very shortly after, if not before, the wedding.
Sadly the marriage in 1834 does not give Martha’s father’s name. This is what makes her my brick wall. I have not been able to find a baptism for her, or any other record of her before her marriage. Searches of Ancestry, FindMyPast and TheGenealogist have revealed nothing further. FamilySearch has a baptism for a Martha Grayson on 10th July 1814 in Cumberworth, Yorkshire, but this seems a long way from Styrrup where Martha consistently said she was born.
The FamilySearch wiki tells me that Styrrup in split between the parishes of Blyth and Harworth. Church records for both parishes are apparently indexed on FindMyPast. I have tried searching the Nottinghamshire Baptism Collection there for Grayson baptisms 20 years either side of 1814, and found that John and Elizabeth Grayson had two children, Richard and Thomas, baptised in Haworth & Bircotes in 18126, but there is no mention of a Martha. The transcription gives their residence as Stirrup, so this will be the next thing I need to follow up, probably either by contacting the Nottinghamshire Family History Society, or with a visit to the Nottinghamshire Archives.
2 Births Index (CR) England & Wales. RD Rotherham. 1838 – 1858. DOWNES. http://www.gro.gov.uk : accessed 18 April 2021.
3 Baptisms (PR) (PR) England. Wickersley, [West Yorkshire]. 8 February 1835. DOWNES, Henry John Grayson. Vol VIII Jan 10 1813-Feb 18 1849. Rotherham Archive Centre, Central Library, Walker Place, Rotherham.
4 Baptisms (PR) England. Tickhill [West Yorkshire]. 12 October 1834. DOWNES, Elizabeth. Entry 1293. Doncaster Archive Centre.
5 Marriages (PR) England. Tickhill [West Yorkshire]. 9 June 1834. DOWNES, John Middleton and GRAYSON, Martha. Entry 240. P56/1/B3 and P56/5/4. Doncaster Archive Centre
6 Baptisms (PR) England. Harworth & Bircotes, Nottinghamshire. 21 August 1812. GRAYSON, Thomas and GRAYSON Richard. [Transcription] Nottinghamshire Family History Society. Collection: Nottinghamshire Baptisms. http://www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed: 18 April 2021.
I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. This week the prompt is Nam’es the Same.
I have got a bit behind with blogging, mainly because I have been working on researching a friend’s family history. That has given me my first taste of Irish records, which is a slight surprise to my friend as they thought their origins were in Yorkshire. Hopefully I will be able to post more about that later.
Anyway, Name’s the Same. As soon as I saw this prompt I knew I would be writing about my 3rd great grandfather John Middleton Downes, and his son, John Middleton Downes. My first step was to review what I already knew.
John Middleton Downes Senior was christened on 31st December 1811 in Tickhill, West Riding of Yorkshire. He married Martha Grayson on 9th Jun 1834 in Tickhill. The first time he appears on a census in 1841 his occupation is given as grocer, and his will, written in August 1884 less than a month before he died, states that he was a retired grocer and beer dealer. On some census, such as the 1871 here he is also a baker. None of the records in between suggest any other profession. I have added finding out the location and more information of his shop to my genealogy to do list.
The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1871 England Census; Class: RG10; Piece: 4704; Folio: 64; Page: 11; GSU roll: 847242
John Middleton and Martha Downes had 13 children, eight daughters and five sons. Two of their grandchildren married and one of their children was my grandmother.
John Middleton and Martha Downes named their ninth child, fourth son, after his father. John Middleton Downes junior was born in about 1848 and baptised on 28th January 1849. By 1871 he was a partner in his father’s grocery business, in 1881 he was living with his now widowed father and said he was a farmer, but in 1891 he was a grocer and farmer. I believe he married Sarah towards the end of 1891 and they appear to have had a son, another John Middleton Downes III who died at the age of one year in 1894. John Middleton Downes junior died in January 1896 aged 48.
So, having reviewed what I knew about the three John Middleton Downes I decided to do a little research to write this blog, expecting to be writing about a grocer’s shop.
I began by putting the name John Middleton Downes into Ancestry, without any dates or other information, just to see what appeared.
Wow. Family history really is not all sweetness and light. Was this man, who was accused of rape, my 3rd great grandfather aged about 64, or my 2nd great granduncle, aged about 27? The crime apparently took place on 26th September 1875, Sarah Ann Pearson was unlawfully assaulted.
Next I found the quarter session records from 21st October 1875 in Doncaster. This describes how on 26th September 1875 John Middleton Downes “at the Parish of Wickersley in the West Riding of the County of York in and upon one Sarah Ann Pearson unlawfully did make an Assault” it goes on to describe how she was occasioned actual bodily harm and how John Middleton Downes “against her will then voilently (sic) and feloniously to ravish and carnally know and other wrong to the said Sarah Ann Pearson” (West Riding Quarter Sessions, Indictment Books, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, England. 1875/6)). I was horrified. It seems that the Doncaster quarter session passed the case to Sheffield, and John Middleton Downes again appeared in court on 25th November 1875, this time in Sheffield, with much the same description of the crimes.
Feeling slightly sick I opened another document Ancestry had found for John Middleton Downes, this one a Calendar of Prisoners.
The first thing I noticed was on the right, Not Guilty. Phew, thank goodness for that. I really was upset at the thought of a rapist in the family. I also noticed that this document gave an age for the accused, confirming that it was my 3rd great grandfather who stood trial.
I finally found a newspaper article, from the Rotherham Advertiser which gave me much more detail. The alleged victim, Sarah Ann Pearson, was 12 years old. She did not “give her evidence in satisfactory manner” and the only witness had previously been accused of theft by John Middleton Downes. The trial had lasted all day, and witnesses were called to testify to John Middleton Downes good character. We may never know what really happened, if there was any attack in truth.