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Wakefield & District Family History Society

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Last Meeting

History of Midland Railway: Techniques for Research
Our speakers for the meeting on 4th April were Chris and Judy Rouse from the “Wyvern” Ancestry, researchers into the history of the Midland Railway. They began by showing an advertising poster for Wakefield Regatta in 1875. Judy asked if anyone could suggest where such an event would be held. Other than “The River Calder” there were no suggestions. Chris and Judy then outlined the development of the Midland Railway from a multitude of small companies into the third largest, but richest railway company in the country. The Midland is perhaps best known for the Settle – Carlisle line, but it also built a number of Midland Hotels in various parts of the country including the famous St Pancras Station in London and ran a fleet of ships serving Ireland and the Isle of Man, before being amalgamated into the LMS in 1923. Chris and Judy are transcribing a host of records of the Company including staff records, accident registers, sick pay lists, Company Board meeting minutes etc. all of which can provide valuable information to help family historians to trace ancestors who worked for, or had connection with the Railway. Their index currently holds some 48,000 names. A complete set of Board of Trade Accident Reports, covering the Wakefield area is held at the National Railway Museum in York. Railway staff were moved from station to station around the network and their movements can often be traced from Census returns. The railway system in the Wakefield area developed from no fewer than nine separate companies, all of which sought to benefit from the heavy traffic in moving coal. Wakefield’s first station was at Oakenshaw. This was followed shortly afterwards by Kirkgate in 1840 and then Westgate. Chris and Judy offer access to their name index for a charge of £5 and they also offer an advice service on tracing railway employees. Contact them on rouse31@tiscali.co.uk .
Family History Research and The 1911 Census
Family History Research and the 1911 Census On Saturday March 7th Jackie Depelle , well known to our Society because of her skills as a tutor in genealogy research and organiser for family history fairs etc, stepped in at short notice to give her talk on using the census returns and on the 1911 census in particular. First she emphasised how the source for any research should be carefully noted as the research progresses. As the family tree begins to grow, why not have it printed on a background of a photo or illustration of a church or cemetery. Most family historians are familiar with websites such as ancestry. com and findmypast, however errors do occur and it is advisable to check with the actual enumerator’s entries. Also do not neglect to check for neighbours; description of the route taken by the enumerator for an area which is found at the beginning of a folio and also spelling errors. The latter can be a problem when the head of the household may not be sure of birth dates or even the spelling of a name. The enumerators’ handwriting can sometimes be suspect with the earlier census returns. When it comes to the 1911 census the head of household was allowed to fill in the entries for the family. Jackie went onto emphasise that all the pages relating to a particular family should be studied for that little extra information. One family, for example, which had an eleven month old baby was noted as being given condensed milk! Other searchable websites that are helpful include: www.freecen.org.uk - www.genuki.com – freebmd – The 1939 Register Service – the National Archives. There are also a number of books written by researchers that might prove helpful. An example of this was a number of women names were missing from the 1911 census, who being part of the Suffragette movement, refused to give their names as a form of protest. Jackie concluded her talk by posing the question, ‘ What is the most important aspect of the 1911 census? The answer is - Everything.’ The amount of interest shown by those in attendance was displayed by the great number of questions asked and by the number of observations made. Next meeting is April 4th when C& J Rouse will use the ‘ History of the West Midland Railway’ to highlight techniques used in family history. Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
Battleof the Somme 1916
Battle of the Somme 1916 Richard Wimpenny’s aim, as our guest speaker on Saturday 7th February, was to tell the story of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He wanted to explain why the casualty rate was unprecedented in the history of warfare. World War One was really the first ‘industrial war’ in which combatants numbered in the millions and that advances in technology led to greater devastation and killing power. With the aid of graphically detailed visual aids; extracts from recordings of voices from the ‘The Front’ and a clip from the television show, ‘Blackadder,’ Richard described the opening stages of the war and how the British Expeditionary Force was really inadequate for what was to follow. Lord Kitchener, unlike many politicians, felt that the war would not be over by Christmas. He encouraged the idea battalions being formed from volunteers from local communities. Lord Darby of Liverpool was one of the first to do this with volunteers forming a battalion from Liverpool. Other battalions, later dubbed the PALS, came from Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and Barnsley. Many volunteers from Wakefield joined up with the Barnsley Pals. Early in the war miners from Wakefield and surrounding districts, had been encouraged by the West Yorkshire Coal Miners Association, to lend their skills as sappers i.e. excavating tunnels and laying mines. Lessons were learned from the Somme in which armies had become bogged down in a war of attrition and ‘trench warfare.’ However with advances in technology e.g. more effective artillery; improvements in tank warfare; increasing use of the RAFC and more sophisticated developments in trench defences, meant increasing success for the Allies. Then with the entry of USA in 1917 Germany’s defeat became inevitable. Richard Wimpenny’s interpretation of the War was extremely informative and enlightening in how the war was finally ended after so much loss of life and such devastation. The next meeting is 7th March when Kate Taylor will talk on Wakefield’s ‘Family Business of Joseph Rhodes.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310
Man behind the Mirror
WAKEFIELD & DISTRICT FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY More than ninety people turned up for our Christmas special on Saturday 6th December. Not only was Christmas cake and mince pies on offer but one of the Society’s favourite speakers, Anne Batchelor. She didn’t fail to intrigue us once again with a story that began with a photograph and a few brown coloured documents. Anne had these passed onto her by two of our volunteers, Jo and Hillary. They in turn had been told that a relative, while in the British Army in 1946, had been given the task of helping to clear up a prisoner of war camp in Belgium. The relative had taken down a mirror in one the huts and discovered a packet which contained a photo of a man in his 30s and a Germany driving licence that produced the name Wilhelm Winter. Jo and Hillary passed the packet and its contents onto Anne and asked her if she could track down the family of Wilhelm and maybe give back what had been found behind ‘ the mirror.’ Anne being who she is could not resist the challenge and with only a name, a date of birth, and documents that showed he was from Germany, began her search. However on the document were further clues; a name of a university in Berlin and the word Engineering. After a number of dead ends and the realisation that the mystery man had a name that was a common in Germany, Anne made a breakthrough after contacting the Imperial War Museum in London. A son was tracked down in Germany who began a correspondence with Anne and she was informed that Willie, as he became known, had lived until 2000. Apparently, Willie had escaped from the camp and secreted the documents behind the mirror. He found his way back home eventually married, had children and did in fact work for an engineering company. His son was extremely grateful to receive Willie’s photo etc. and was full of praise for the work and effort undertaken by Anne. Anne in turn received many copies of photos relating to Willie and his family and she has now built up quite a collection. In conclusion to a very enjoyable talk given in Anne’s inimitable style, she emphasised what could be done with the most obscure bit of information that can lead to such a fascinating investigation. There is no meeting in January. We meet again February 7th when our guest speaker will be Richard Whimpenny whose topic is ‘ The Battle of the Somme with particular reference to local Pals Regiments.’
The Mystery of the Trunk
The Mystery of the Trunk Elsie Walton began her talk on Saturday 1st November by stating ‘ It’s not what you know but Who you know.’ An email, sent to one of our members, sparked off a voyage of discovery for Elsie when a lady called Alison wanted to know if the Society was interested in a travelling trunk that she had in her attic. There was evidence that it had a connection with a German Jewish woman, called Hannah, who had come to Britain in 1939 as a refugee from Nazi Germany. This whetted Elsie’s appetite to know more of this child. She decided to make her mission to find out more. She combed through the Wakefield Express cuttings from the period, then online for Jewish sites that might help, then read books on evacuees and the Kinder Trains. Nothing really helped until a friend suggested that a contact in Horbury might help. A break through occurred when contact was made with a Robert and his sister Margaret who said that their mother had taken in an Anne Marie, a Jewish girl from Germany in 1939. This led to a series of emails between the contacts in Horbury with Alison and Elsie. The latter suggested, in response to Alison asking what should she do with the trunk, that it be donated to the Holocaust Museum near Newark. Elsie then found out that Alison lived nearby in Denby Dale and she made arrangements to collect the trunk. The Horbury connection told Elsie that there was a photo and evidence that the name of the owner of the trunk was Anne Marie Salamon and that she was now living in America. Furthermore that Margaret in Horbury knew that Anne Marie had worked as a laboratory technician in Wakefield! Elsie’s detective work led her to finding out more regarding Anne Marie’s stay in an evacuee centre on the Isle of Man, that this in turn led to a contact with the National Archives at Kew and then onto the National Archives in Berlin. The latter rewarded Elsie’s efforts by sending her a full record of Anne Marie’s personal history which confirmed all what had already been discovered but also that Anne Marie had settled down in New York, had married and had worked as a medical officer for the public health department in that city. Finally Elsie received news from Margaret that Anne Marie had died in 2012. Elsie said that although we all know something of the atrocities that were committed on those sent to concentration camps, it is only through personal stories, such as that uncovered by Elsie, that had led to an emotional involvement in unravelling Anne Marie’s story.

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