Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A fatal accident in London on Christmas Eve 1848

I hope my readers won't find this too sad a story for the week before Christmas, but hopefully it is a timely reminder of those who are less fortunate than ourselves at this time of year.

As I sat having dinner at the Royal Society in Carlton Terrace a few weeks ago, listening to eminent mathematicians discussing the future of science education in this country, I couldn't help but ponder the fate of my own gg grandfather, Edward Clifford, himself an eminent mathematician, who had succumbed, at the age of 48, to a fatal accident just yards from where I sat.

Approaching the Christmas festivities I am reminded that this fatal accident took place on Christmas Eve 1848, although Edward died a few days later in Charing Cross Hospital.  But what a sad way to end a life.

The Era newspaper reporting on the inquest on New Years Eve, wrote the following:

Fatal Accidents:  On Thursday. Mr Bedford, the Westminster coroner, held two inquests at the Charing Cross Hospital.  The first was upon the body of Edward Clifford, aged forty-seven.  He was a mathematical teacher, and lately resided in Chapter Street, Westminster, and was possessed of great abilities in his profession.  Last Thursday the deceased was seen to alight from a cab, when opposite Drummond's Bank, and to lean against the railings for a few minutes.  Whilst in this position some boys passed, and made some jeering remarks.  This appeared to enrage him, and he attempted to pursue them, but unfortunately, before he had gone half a dozen paces, he fell off the pavement into the roadway.  At that moment the carriage of the Mexican Ambassador was passing, and both wheels went over his body, by which several ribs were found to be broken and the collar-bone dislocated.  Deceased lingered til Sunday, and then expired.  The cause of death was inflammation of the lungs.  Verdict: "Accidental Death".

Drummond's Bank (1877) before rebuilding
(from Survey of London Vol 16)
The accident took place outside Drummond's Bank, 49 Charing Cross (near Trafalgar Square, London - see 1877 picture left).  This has since has been rebuilt and can be seen here with its Drummonds sign over the door (even though it is now owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland) on Google Street View.

Edward Clifford had, in his relatively short life, published several mathematical papers, taught two royal princes (grandchildren of  King George 3rd) and fathered four boys, including my great grandfather, Edward Clifford.  Edward junior was only six years old at the time of his father's death, so it was hardly surprising that I was misinformed by relatives, about the name of my gg grandfather.  In fact, my gg grandmother remarried, a Thomas Newland, a few years later, and Thomas obviously became a father-figure as far as Edward junior was concerned.

I won't go into the details here of how I finally made the connection that this Edward Clifford, mathematician, was my gg grandfather, but suffice it to say that the inquest report to which the newspaper article referred provided all the proof I needed.

Rosemary Morgan London Roots Research

Monday, 8 November 2010

London Parish Records Uncovered - Part 2

Last month I wrote about the variety of archive locations where you can find London Parish records.  Of course if you live in or near London, it is not too difficult to make a visit to one or more of these London archives.  But I have become increasingly aware that many of my readers would find it difficult to get to London, because they live miles away, either in the UK or more often, abroad.  So for my distant readers, in this blog, I am going to concentrate on what can be done online.

I am focusing particularly on Ancestry UK here, because I am a great fan of theirs and this year they have completed the digitisation of several new and very useful datasets for Londoners, in conjunction with the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA).  I do also have a subscription to FindMyPast, but the main advantage of this has been for the 1911 census.  Now that Ancestry has announced that they, too, will soon have the 1911 census, I will struggle to find a compelling reason to continue with two subscriptions.

To get the most out of Ancestry for researching London ancestors, you need their Premium UK subscription, which is slightly more expensive than the basic UK one.  I believe you can access this for free at various libraries around the country, including the London Family History Centre.  So if you don't want to go to this expense straight away, check to see if your local library or archives provide free access.

Once you have access to Ancestry UK's premium service, you will find the five main datasets for London parish records as follows: 

It is important to remember that not all London parishes are included in these records (please see my earlier post London Parish Records Uncovered - Part 1) so if you can't find your ancestors here, please don't despair, they may be in a parish not covered by these records.

One of the most compelling justifications for the additional cost of this service is in the London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921. Not only can you search for pre-1837 marriages on here, but for the post 1837 marriages, you can download the actual marriage certificates, saving a fortune in GRO fees!  I have gradually gone back over all my Londoners, where I hadn’t yet purchased the marriage certificate, and downloaded them for free.

Of course, you can also do the same for baptisms and burials, but you won't find the actual birth or death certificates here.   If you are resisting paying for lots of death certificates, however, the London Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980 may provide extra information such as "age at death", which can help confirm that you have the right person.  It is always good genealogy practice to "kill off one's ancestors"! 

Burial and Poor Law records can help in other ways.  For example, they can provide details of children who died too young to appear in any censuses.  The 1911 census gives numbers of children, both alive and deceased, so these datasets can help you find some of these additional children you may not have known about before.

Having sung the praises of these Ancestry records, I must now add a small word of warning.  They are not as well organised and easy to use as you might expect of a major archive. For example, they have been organised according to the current London Borough in which they are located, not necessarily the most useful finding aid.  However, with a bit of persistence, and some knowledge of London geography, it possible to find the parish you are looking for.

There are also some errors and anomalies.  Cliff Webb at the West Surrey Family History Society has recently published a series of helpful booklets on the Ancestry coverage of Baptisms post 1813, Marriages post 1754 and Burials post 1813 for South London and Surrey.  You can purchase them here for a very modest fee.  I don't know of an equivalent for London north of the Thames, but if anyone does, perhaps they could let me know.

I have really only scratched the surface of these valuable datasets here, but I do hope that this helps if you are searching for London ancestors.  Please feel to comment below or contact me directly if you have any queries or comments.

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research

Monday, 25 October 2010

London Parish Records Uncovered - Part 1

If you are starting out in the search for London ancestors, you may think that they can all be found in one place, as is the case with County Record Offices for example.  Well think again!

Many genealogists and family history researchers will have seen the recent announcement by Ancestry that they have completed transcribing their London Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538–1812
Although Ancestry's statement that "This mammoth collection covers vital events in parishes all over Greater London....." is technically correct, it is also slightly misleading.  Ancestry has transcribed parish records from the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) only and they have not yet all been indexed! 

So if you cannot find an ancestor in the Ancestry indices, you should first look and see if the parish concerned has been transcribed but not yet indexed - you can browse the full list for 1538-1812 here.  (Later records  are available separately as either births and baptisms, marriages and banns or deaths and burials.)  Secondly, look and see if the parish records concerned do not originate in LMA, in which case you will need to look elsewhere.

One of the major series of Parish records NOT in the LMA (London Metropolitan Archives) and therefore not on Ancestry is the City of Westminster, which can be found in the Westminster City Archives.  This archive covers a much larger area than what we currently think of as Westminster, extending into parts of Paddington, Marylebone, Knightsbridge, Kensington, and as far east as Regent's Street and the Strand.  So if you can't find your London ancestors on Ancestry (or in the LMA), don't forget to check this other valuable resource! Most of these records have been transcribed on the IGI although the originals are not yet online.

There are also a few London parishes whose records are kept elsewhere, for example, the Royal chapel registers are held at St James' Palace, some chapel registers are held at TNA (the National Archives) and a few are still with the incumbent parishes.

Finally if you are close to London - or planning to visit - there are other London repositories where you can find collections of London Parish records, including the Society of Genealogists in Farringdon and the London Family History Centre (formerly the Hyde Park Family History Centre) in Kensington.

I hope this starts to sort out some of the confusion surrounding London parishes.  I will be continuing to post more blogs on London family history records and am also planning to start a series of occasional blogs on individual parishes - so watch this space!

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research

Friday, 22 October 2010

West Surrey Family History Society Open Day - Saturday 6th November

As a keen London researcher living in Guildford, I shall be attending the West Surrey Family History Society Open Day and Family History Fair on Saturday 6th November, being held at the Woking Leisure Centre.  Further details are available here

London related stalls will include:  Southwark Family History, East Surrey FHS, London Westminster & Middlesex FHS, West Middlesex FHS, British Records Association and London Family History Centre.
Much of what is now part of the Greater London was previously part of Surrey, and therefore covered by the East Surrey and West Surrey Family History Societies.  So for people researching London ancestors who lived south of the river, for example in Lambeth or Southwark, these two societies can be useful sources of information. 

Some very useful finding aids for researching Surrey ancestors, including Metropolitan Surrey, can be found on CD's produced by the West Surrey Family History Society. A full list of these indices can be found here.  Copies of some of these have been deposited at the Surrey History Centre, also located in Woking and containing archives relating to both Metropolitan and Rural Surrey.

Finally, nearby is the Brookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Britain, which was laid out in 1854 in order to provide burial facilities for Londoners for the next 500 years.  The graves of many Londoners can be found here.

Altogether several reasons for those with London ancestors to make a trip to Woking - and I hope to see some of you there!

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research

Friday, 1 October 2010

East India Company - Events in East London 2nd - 10th October

Do you have ancestors who were involved with the East India Company?

An East India Company Exhibition opens next week at the Mile End Arts Pavilion, Ashcroft Road, London E3 5TW.  The event (free) is being organised by the Brick Lane Circle, a voluntary organisation supporting the Bangladeshi community in the UK and can be seen from Monday 4th - Sunday 10th October.

There are also a couple of associated walks taking place this weekend - advance booking necessary (07574224891 or email:

  • Saturday 2 October 2010, 3-5 pm, called City of London and West End, by Nick Robins (author of The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational)
  • Sunday 3 October 2010, 2-4 pm, called Invisible Empire and East India Company Dockside by Dr Georgie Wemyss (author of The Invisible Empire: White Discourse, Tolerance and Belonging)

For readers who would like to find out more about the East India Company, a large number of records from the East India Company (and its successor the India Office) can be found at the British Library in London (and not ias with most govenrment records). The catalogue is searchable online in the Access to Archives catalogues. Many of these records have been made available online via the Families of the British India Society (FIBIS), who also have a members' only database.  A full list of FIBIS available records can be found here.

The National Archives also has several relevant records, especially for those in the military. It also has cabinet papers relating to Empire, Indian independence etc.

The subscription site FindMyPast has a useful description of British India Records and further records available to subscribers only.

Thanks to Emma Jolly for alerting me to these events and for clarifying some of the above.  Emma is a genealogist at Genealogic, and a British Library approved researcher for the Asia, Pacific and African collections, who is working on a new book on the British in India.  Her website has a further list of relevant record sources here.

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Paddington Open Day at Westminster Archives - Sunday 9th October

Do you have ancestors who lived in Paddington or surrounding areas of London? 

On Saturday 9th October, the City of Westminster Archives are  hosting a Paddington Open Day at the Archives. There will be a talk by local historian Hans Norton on the development of Paddington and an opportunty to go behind the scenes at the Westminster Archives to look at some historic prints, photographs, rare maps and many other items from the collection.  There are two sesssions, morning and afternoon.  Entrance is free but advance booking is essential.

This area has for many years provided affordable housing for middle class migrants to London, especially those arriving from the West Country on trains arriving into Paddington station.  Several of my own ancestors, originally from Plymouth, Devon, settled in the Paddington area in the second half of the 19th century, many working in local shops.

My own g grandmother, Lavinia Ann Baker, born in Plymouth, died in Praed Street, in the heart of Paddington, in 1889, above a shop which is now a Bagel Factory just around the corner from Paddington satation!   Many of  her nine children lived and worked in the Paddington area before branching out into other parts of London. 

This Open Day looks like a great way to explore some of the history surrounding this area.

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research

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Friday, 24 September 2010

70th anniversary of The Blitz in London

September 2010 sees various events celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain in London. 

If you're like me, you may have skipped over most of the 20th century in your Family History Research.  But as we now move further into the 21st century, and with more and more 20th century records coming online, it is time to pay more attention to this important period in our own families lives.  My own paternal grandfather was killed by a bomb near Croydon, South London in 1944 and my mother was a volunteer Air Raid Precaution (ARP) warden in Central London during the Blitz. So I have a personal interest here.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and Blitz, the Museum of Croydon is running two 'Over Our Skies' exhibitions exploring Croydons role in the events of 1940, both free of charge and both running from 18 September - 31 December 2010.

Croydon's Battle of Britain  - Local Studies Library & Archives, Level 3, Croydon Clocktower
Discover Croydon's vital strategic role in this historic battle. Using archive material and oral history, the exhibition looks at what daily life would have been like for Croydon residents, as well as the enduring legacy of the Battle for the borough. 

Croydon's Blitz  - Museum of Croydon, level 1, Croydon Clocktower
A collaboration between the Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation, local people who lived through the Blitz and the Museum of Croydon, this exhibition explores experiences of childhood for Croydon residents during the Blitz. 

For more information, see

London Transport Museum 
Although the Blitz experience tours of Aldwych Underground station this weekend have now sold out (maybe they will consider doing this again in the future), London Transport Museum is hosting an exhibition called "Under Attack: London, Coventry, Dresden" together with a series of related talks.  For more information, see  

West End at War
Finally, for pitcures of some of the devastation that took place in London during the Blitz, take a look at the West End at War website:

Thursday, 23 September 2010

New London Family History Blog

This is my first blog post so I thought I should introduce myself.  My name is Rosemary Morgan and I am passionate about Genealogy.  I have started this London Family History blog because I have found researching my London ancestors to be both challenging and fascinating.  Compared to researching in the "counties", which I have found much more straightforward, my London ancestors tended to move around between parishes, often crossing the Thames in the process and be far more difficult to track down.

So this blog is for both amateur and professional genealogists who would like to know more about researching in London.  I hope to be able keep you up-to-date with London news and events relating to genealogy.

I would be happy to receive any feedback or suggestions for this site.