A Family Mystery in Kent – Josias Bell and Mary Kennard

As part of the preparation for my trip to Britain I needed to invest time in planning what research I might do and where to visit.

I know from long experience that I cannot expect to successfully research every surname and every person I would like . It’s simple not practical to even consider when travelling. I needed to have realistic expectations and goals.

As we would be staying in Kent not far from the ancestral manor farm and village churches, I choose to attempt to resolve a family mystery on one of my Bell family lines.

I believe one of my ancestors, Josias Bell of East Peckham, Kent, married Mary Kennard in about 1637 and had a large family.

I searched over several days using books, microfiche, cd’s and on-line sources to try and locate the marriage in parish records in, Kent, Sussex, London and many other counties. I was not successful in finding this marriage record. However, there is a reference that this couple applied on the 13 July 1637, to the Bishop’s Office at Rochester for a Licence to marry.

From the early 16th Century people intending to marry were able to avoid the inconvenience of Banns by obtaining a Marriage Licence. Banns entailed the parish vicar calling on three Sundays to whether there were persons present who objected to the marriage. This ensured the inconvenience of delay, and publicity, and often ‘well-to-do’ people felt it undignified to invite outsiders to object to the marriage.

The Licence was normally obtained from the bishops office of the diocese in which one of the party lived, and in which the marriage was to be celebrated. To obtain a Licence, one of the party, usually the bridegroom, had to make a formal statement called an ‘allegation’, including an oath that there was no lawful impediment to the marriage. If either of the party were under age, the application had to be accompanied by consent of his or her parents. I have not found any ‘allegation’ for this marriage in the Kent Records.

The Licence was issued to the applicant for delivery to the clergyman who was to perform the ceremony. These licences have not survived, but sometimes a record of the issuing of such a licence has survived in the Bishop’s Office records. The register recording such Licences in the Rochester Diocese has not survived for the years we are interested in, but an index of the former register has, and a copy can be found in the Kent County Records Office.

It was in this index I found the above mentioned Marriage Licence entry. No parish of residency or of the proposed place of marriage is mentioned in the index. Only a date and names of the parties is given. To marry by Licence rather than Banns, suggests that the parties may not have been residents of the parish, or, were sufficiently affluent enough to be able to afford the licence fee.

 Although I have used much lateral thinking and searching, I have not been able to find this marriage.

I then turned my efforts to searching for evidence of Mary Kennard. I searched many baptism registers in the hope of finding some possible Mary Kennard baptisms, which could lead us further with the Kennard family research. I found only one record of the name ‘Mary Kennard’ which falls in the right time frame. This was a baptism on 10 March 1610, the daughter of Thomas Kennard in Brightling in Sussex. When looking at this record we have to assess the likely possibility that this is the Mary Kennard we are seeking.


It is generally believed by many genealogists that families in the centuries before the Industrial Revolution did not generally travel far from where they were born and usually took marriage partners within an area of less than ten miles from their birth places.

I have searched all the adjoining and surrounding parishes of Hadlow and East Peckham, and many others for a possible family. There are no Kennards, but there are Kenwarde/Kenward families particularly at Yalding., I decided I would look at the possibility that the ‘Kenward’ family was in fact the one I was looking for.

Firstly I extracted all the references to the Kenward/Kenwarde/Kenard surname in the parish registers of Yalding, Nettlestead, East Peckham, West Peckham and all other near by parishes. I then made a list of all the Wills and Administrations of persons of that name in West Kent in the appropriate time span.


The surname is recorded in Yalding from early times and a Robert Kenward was buried in the Yalding churchyard on 8 August 1584, followed by his wife Margery on 11 May 1585. They are believed to have had children including sons, Robert and John.

Robert married Sarah and had children including Sarah baptised 11 September 1625, Mary baptised 29 September 1627, Mathie baptised 21 July 1629. Robert Kenward died 17 February 1629. His wife Sarah was buried at Yalding on 7 June 1639.

John Kenward married Mary Kynge on 12 July 1613 and had a number of children. These included Mary baptised 3 July 1621, Robert 21 March 1624; Kateren baptised 27 March 1627; Richard baptised 7 Dec 1628; Margaret baptised 30 May 1630 and Richard 21 July 1633.

I believe the ‘Mary Kennard’ whose marriage license to Josias Bell was issued on 13 July 1637 is the above mentioned Mary, the daughter of ‘John Kenward’ of Yalding, baptised 3 July 1621. I believe that it may be a clerical or transcription error in that the ‘nw’ is taken as a double ‘nn’.

If so, is it likely she would have married by License instead of Banns? I think it most likely, as Richard Garthford and Julian Kenward of Yalding married by Licence on 15 October 1632 and Richard Kenward of Yalding married Mary Kenward on the 10 December 1633 by Licence. I believe the above mentioned Julian and Richard Kenward to be close relatives of Mary, perhaps even older siblings. Therefore, it is possible when Mary came to marry in 1637 it was also by License. As Yalding was in the Diocese of Rochester all Licences would have been granted by the Bishop of Rochester.

I now have studied the transcriptions of the parish registers for Yalding for1637 and have found only two entries for marriages, in March and October. As there were six marriages entries for 1636 and ten marriages for 1638 I feel sure that there were possibly more marriages for 1637, but for some reason they were not entered in the marriage register, or if so, the entries for that period have been lost.

The Marriage License for Josias Bell and Mary Kennard was granted in July 1637 and I believe that the marriage most likely took place in Yalding, the bride’s parish.

I then studied the description of the original register as well as all the baptisms, marriages and burials recorded in the register for a ten year period between 1635 and 1645, to try and get some clues to whether the marriage may have taken place at Yalding, but the record has not survived. I have a full copy of the transcriptions made by Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson in 1941 from the original register at Yalding parish church and the corrections made by Alan Rolfe in 1965.Sir Thomas in describing the original register from 1559-1667 notes it is bound in a modern white vellum, and has been restored by the Records Office. It is made up of a number of vellum leaves containing a section for baptisms then marriages and lastly burials.

After describing later volumes he then makes comment on a note book found with the parish vestry papers, which contained baptisms and burials from about 1790 to 1810 as well as notes on various charities and offertories and also loose sheets with entries on the ‘Master’, family.

He states;’ This book was evidently a rough book from which the register was copied’. Perhaps this was the usual custom in this village. That is, that the information be on loose sheets and then later entered in the register proper. In fact noted in the register itself by the Vicar, Richard Warde in 1798 is the following. ‘This is a true literal copy of the ‘foul’ register of christenings delivered to me by the widow of the deceased Vicar John Warde, witness by hand’. In his general comments, Sir Thomas, also comments on the excellent and clear hand writing of the entries between 1640 and 1644. I believe this may suggest someone copied up the register at one time at the end of 1644 from another source, perhaps loose sheets.

In his general comments he says’ there were some people of old standing and position for instance the family of Kenward who flourished there in the Elizabethan days, they became absorbed in the Shaw family when Sir John Shaw married Martha Kenward the heiress; their son Sir Gregory Shaw lived here and their large number of children to be found in the baptismal registers’.

Sir Thomas does not make comment in his general description, but when transcribing the register he notes that between 1638-1641 that there appears to be some mutilation of the register and perhaps some entries missing.

In an attempt to see if there may be entries missing I searched an index of all Wills and Administrations for Kent and extracted the names of all those of the Yalding parish between 1635 and 1645. I found that there were eighteen. However on searching the parish burial register I found only seven of those names in the parish register.

According to records held at the Rochester Diocese Office, Rev Thomas Tourney was appointed vicar at Yalding in 1628 and resigned in 1639. In the Yalding parish registers I found five of his children were baptised there; Robert, 1630; John 1633; Thomas, 1635; Ralphe, 1636 and Thomas in 1639. There is also a burial of Thomas, the son of Thomas Tourney, vicar, in 1635. There is also a record at Rochester that Francese Tayler was appointed in 1639, but I have not found any further references to this man in the actual parish registers. George Bowle the parish clerk was buried on 18 August 1637. Does this suggest there was no one to see to the entering up of the parish register at that time?

I also noted when studying the transcriptions that it was the custom up to 1639 that the names of the parish wardens were entered at the end of each year. Those in 1639 were John Kenward and Richard Hatch.

It is also interesting to note that during 1639 of the eighteen marriages noted more than half were widows or widowers. This was a higher percentage than all the years between 1635 and 1645. There were more than eighty burials between January 1637 and January 1639. Perhaps the vicar Thomas Tiurney became ill himself and that is why he resigned.

In the original notes of Sir Thomas, he notes an entry on the back cover of the register which was written by one of the early vicars, that between June and September 1590, 40 persons died of the plague. In 1609 there were numerous deaths of ‘the infection’. There is no mention of this in the register itself. I believe that ‘the infection’ may have again visited the area in 1637-8.

Having noted this I then decided to do a similar study on the parish register at East Peckham, home parish of Josias Bell to see if there was any likelihood of gaps in the parish register. Burials from January 1637 to January 1639 there were a total of 46 burials; 8 marriages and 81 baptisms were also noted in this time span.

I believe there are sufficient clues to say that maybe the Yalding parish registers between 1635 and 1640 are not complete, and as a consequence Josias Bell and Mary Kenward may have married there in 1637.

We should remember that the Civil War was within a few years and the church registers may have been defaced in that time too.

In his history of Kent, Edward Hastead wrote in the section on Yalding. “It was for several generations the residence of Kenward which in the reign of Henry VIII was possessed of good estayes in the parish and its neighbourhood – Robert Kenward resided here and died in 1720 and was buried with the rest of the family”.

Sir Roger Twysden, of East Peckham, wrote in his journal when a prisoner of the Parliament in 1645.

At the beginning of these times, one Richard Kenward, having in East Peckham a piece of land within mine, called Longshots, offered to sell it to me, it lying very convenient for me. I was unwilling to miss it; and contracted for it, paid him about 400 pounds down, and had a year to pay 200 pounds for which I gave him my bond. Before this came due, Richard Kenward died and his wife needed money when she asked me for it saying she had no other income. Before the money became due I was sequestered and she married Mr Besbeech.

As we would be in Kent I decided I would visit the Yalding parish church to get some idea of the place, even though I could not prove the marriage took place there.


Our London Adventure- Trinity Gardens and the Tower of London

Tower Hill over looks the Tower of London and historically it was the place of countless public executions. A plaque marks the site of the old scaffold, and there were several small plaques naming many of the famous people who lost their lives there.

Two persons listed were Sir Ralph and Sir Henry Vane, who are connected to the village where members of my Bell family lived for six hundred years. That is the wonderful thing about family history. You can find these small threads in the most unlikely places.


This website gives a wonderful history of the area including maps and illustrations of the progress of Trinity Gardens.

Here is an extract from the above-

The Tower Hill area lagged behind the development to the areas of the City on London to the North and West and stood out as neglected compared with its surroundings. There were no defined roads and it was apparently used as a rubbish dump and even a quarry. At the turn of the 18th Century, local aldermen, residents and occupants of Tower Hill promoted a Parliamentary Bill for Paving, Lighting, watching, cleaning, watering, improving and keeping in repair Great Tower Hill and for removing and preventing nuisances and annoyance. An Act was passed in 1797 and included construction of a highway and the enclosure and laying out of Trinity Square Gardens. The work was led by the Corporation of Trinity House and the gardens designed by Samuel Wyatt. Wyatt was one of the greatest engineers of his age. Compared with his other accomplishments, including construction of Trinity House itself, Albion Mill (the most advanced industrial structure of its day) and lighthouses at Dungeness and Flamborough, the design of the Trinity House Gardens must have been a relatively trivial task.

The Act empowered the formation of the Tower Hill Trust to oversee the construction and management of Great Tower Hill and the Gardens. The Trust was entitled to levy a rate from all residents of the Square to pay for the works and their ongoing maintenance. The gardens were completed around 1797-8 and were laid out very simply in the form of an oval, and consisted of a central grassed area with small flowerbeds surrounded by a footpath, shrubbery and iron railings on stone plinths. The land to the south of the Gardens remained clear to the Tower and the river. Access to the gardens was controlled by the Gardener and the Trust laid down regulations for its use – which was restricted to subscribers and the residents of Tower Hill – there was no public access at this time.”

There is also a Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial for the men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave, but the sea.


Wikipedia gives a brief description-

The memorial was designed by Edwin Lutyens with sculpture work by William Reid Dick.

The World War I memorial takes the form of a vaulted corridor, 21.5 metres long, 7 metres wide and 7 to 10 metres high. Inside are 12 bronze plaques engraved with 12,000 names.

The World War II memorial takes the form of a semi-circular sunken garden located behind the corridor, to its north. It contains the names of 24,000 British seamen and 50 Australian seamen, listed on the walls of the sunken garden. In the centre of the garden is a pool of bronze, engraved with a compass pointing north. Between the two memorials are two columns with statues representing an officer (western column) and a seaman (eastern).

The Second World War extension was designed by Edward Maufe with sculpture work by Charles Wheeler.

Not all Merchant Seamen who died during wartime, and have no known grave, are commemorated here – they may be commemorated elsewhere, for example, the Liverpool Naval Memorial.

The memorial was unveiled by Queen Mary on 12 December 1928 and the Second World War extension by Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1955.

We found this interesting as earlier in the month, we had taken a tour of the Australian battlefields of World War I, in France and Belgium, where we had seen numerous memorials, but hadn’t previously seen any in England recording Australian soldiers or seamen.

After we had wandered around the garden we went down to the Tower of London.


As we walked through the huge gate towers we were jostled by the crowds. Sure it was high summer and a fine hot day and all the tourist were out in force, but hundreds of years ago it was likely to have had similar crowds of people moving in and out of the castle complex, carrying on their daily lives. There is a whole ‘town’ squeezed within the walls with a number of buildings and palaces.

The building, which we know as the ‘Tower of London’ where a number of royals were held prisoner is just one huge building within the complex.


This Tower has an incredible history of over a thousand years, being build soon after 1066 when William the Conqueror landed in England, however London had been actually founded nearly a 1000 years before, about 50AD by the Romans.

There are numerous websites that can give lots of information about the site. I found the Museum of London one really worth looking at http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk

We took a tour with one of the ‘Beef-eaters’ or guards who entertained us with various stories of the history of the place. Again in many places you couldn’t take photos, but I did purchase a book on the history of the Tower, and took hundreds of photos of the areas we could take photos, such as ‘Traitors Gate’ and outside of the palace where the Royal Jewels are kept.

After our visit we decided to take the train back to the area of London where we were staying, and right near the entrance to the station, there were exposed ruins of the original ‘Postern gate’ for the walls of the Tower. Although I knew there were sections of the original walls of London could be found scattered through out the ‘city’, this was the first example we had come across. London is certainly an amazing place.

Our London Adventure- The Monument and Pudding Lane.

In my last blog I wrote about our visit to several places around St Paul’s Cathedral that had significance in the lives of ancestors in my Baxter family.

We then walked down Cheapside, Eastcheap and Poultry before turning down King William Street, towards The Monument.


The Monument is a fluted Doric column in the City of London, near the northern end of the London Bridge, which commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666. This is the area where the fire started, and then burned across the city to the west of St Paul’s Cathedral. In fact the whole area we had just traversed.

I have recently found at least one branch of my family in London at the time of the fire, and so they would probably have witnessed it. To put this family into context I have researched this topic, not only from books and paintings, but found much helpful material on the Internet.

I have summarised the information from the following site.


September 2nd  – On this day in 1666, the Great Fire of London broke out in the bakery of Thomas Faryner in Pudding Lane. The fire soon spread from Faryner’s bakery to nearby buildings and went on to take a firm hold of the City, largely built of wooden houses, weatherproofed with pitch, and separated by only a few feet

The  spread of the fire was further facilitated by the weather, with the strong easterly wind.

The fire eventually essentially halted in its own tracks, spent, after the wind dropped, on the fourth day.

However, eighty percent of the area within the walls was more or less completely burnt out, and only the extreme north and east had survived substantially  intact (the walls had essentially confined the fire to the City within, although some areas without to the west had also been affected).  Around 13,000 private residences and places of business within and immediately without the walls of the City were either essentially or entirely destroyed, alongside 85 parish churches and St Paul’s Cathedral, 45 Livery Company Halls, the Custom House, the Guildhall, the Royal Exchange, the Royal Wardrobe and Castle Baynard.  Damage to property and trade was on an entirely unprecedented scale, as was associated homelessness and loss of livelihood.  Around  100,000 persons were made homeless, and had to be temporarily rehoused in camps,

The rebuilding of London was initiated by the Lord Mayor, essentially straight away, and within weeks a commissioned detailed survey of the fire-damaged area had been completed.

The man selected to oversee and implement the chosen reconstruction plan was Christopher Wren, an architect and a  member of an aristocratic family

Wren and his  office set about their reconstruction work as speedily,  as practicable, so as to provide  the City with the opportunity of re-establishing itself with the minimum of delay and loss. 

In all, they rebuilt 51 parish churches within and immediately without the walls, that is, around half of those that had been destroyed in the Great Fire’ together with St Paul’s Cathedral, and also rebuilt numerous other public and private buildings, many in the High (English) Renaissance or Early Baroque style – the cost of the entire enterprise being covered by a tax on coal.” 

The Great Fire of London of 1666 is not the only great conflagration that London has experienced. We must not forget the bombings of the 1940’s, which of course has a great bearing on what we see today in London.

In references to the churches rebuilt by Wren– “Of  these 51 churches, 30 are still standing, together with St Paul’s Cathedral, and 21 are not.  Of  the 21 that are no longer  standing, 17,   far more than one might have hoped, were demolished by our own over-zealous town planners and engineers in the pell-mell expansion of London following the Industrial Revolution – in some cases, at least marginally justifiably,  to  allow for development, but in many others simply because they were deemed, under the Union of Benifices Act of 1860, to be surplus to requirements!  Only 4, far fewer than one might have feared, were completely destroyed by German bombing during the Blitz of the Second World War.  However,  a number of others were also damaged to varying extents at this time, some of which were subsequently restored, and  some left as empty shells.   Two, St Mary Aldermanbury and St Stephen Coleman Street, were destroyed,  and 8,   Christ Church, St Alban, St Andrew by the Wardrobe, St Anne and St Agnes, St Augustine, St Bride, St Lawrence Jewry and St Vedast alias Foster, damaged, on a single, fateful night, Sunday 29th December, 1940, when thousands of incendiaries were dropped on an essentially unguarded City.”

There are several other sites that have detailed information about the Great Fire including the following


http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk › Stuart England

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk › Education

Then there are You-tube ‘clips’ that are well produced depictions of the time and event.

I like ‘Peter Ackroyd’s London’ which is a history series, and includes some well delivered ‘interviews’ with witnesses of the event, such as Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn.

For London before the fire, my favourite is ‘Pudding Lane Productions, Crytek off the Map’, which gives you a small window into what this part of London probably looked like before the fire.

In Pudding Lane itself there are plaques that commemorate the Great Fire and mark the spot where it all began.

The family I am researching appear to have lived at Clerkenwell and Holborn and so just outside the area devastated by the fire. However, if they were of the Tile and Bricklaying trade, which I believe they were, they no doubt would have been very busy in the task of rebuilding London. What a fascinating time period to be researching family history in this city and beyond, as building in brick came into its own.

After visiting the Monument and Pudding Lane, we continued walking along Great Tower Street and Byward Street, passed All Hallows (Barking), to Tower Hill.

Our London Adventure- St Paul’s Cathedral and the surrounding area.

Our cruise ship the Marco Polo returned to Tilbury on Tuesday 29th July. After we disembarked we took a train to London, where we had arranged accommodation to stay for several days, while we took in some of the sites, and did some family history research at the National Archives.

One of the places I wanted to visit was St Paul’s Cathedral. The present St Paul’s is the fifth cathedral to have stood on the site since 604AD.

My Baxter ancestors had lived close by St Paul’s for several generations. For nearly fifty years, their parish church had been St Faith’s- under-St Paul’s.

To begin our London adventure we had taken a train to St Paul’s Station, which is adjacent to the cathedral.

We entered the cathedral by the main entrance to join a tour. A visit to this magnificent church was a very moving experience for us. However, we were very disappointed not to be able to take photographs inside. We did visit the bookshop to purchase postcards and books to complement our outside photos.

The most important area of St Paul’s Cathedral, as far as our family is concerned, is what is known today as the OBE Chapel, but was formerly known as St Faith’s-under -St Paul’s.

St Faiths was originally in Castle Baynard Ward, and was one of the ancient churches of London..

The original church was at the eastern end of Paternoster Row, a street adjacent to St Paul’s. In 1256, St Faith’s was pulled down for the expansion of St Paul’s. The church was not rebuilt, but the parishioners were given space to worship in the actual crypt under St Paul’s Cathedral, hence the name St Faith’s-Under-St Paul’s. It was destroyed along with St Paul’s in the Great Fire of London.

When the new St Paul’s was built to Christopher Wren’s design between 1675 and 1711, the new chapel of St Faith’-under-St Paul’s was built in the east end of the crypt. This is where the children of James and Elizabeth Baxter (nee Dixon) were baptised between 1767 and 1784.

In 1960 this chapel became the spiritual home of the Order of the British Empire, and award holders of the OBE, and members of their family, may still be baptised and married here.

Another church which stood close by St Paul’s was St Augustine’s Watling Street. It was here that James Baxter had married Elizabeth Dixon by banns on 29 August 1766.


This church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 too, but was rebuilt facing Watling Street in the 1680s.Its distinctive tower was constructed in the 1690s and it is thought to have been designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.

The church was destroyed in 1940 in a World War II bombing. It was not rebuilt, but the tower was reconstructed as part of a new choir school for St Paul’s Cathedral.

There has been considerable recent development on the northern side of St Paul’s, including what would have been Paternoster Row and Ivy Lane, where the Baxter family lived in the 18th Century. We judged it would have been about where Paternoster Square is now. What really surprized me was the entrance to the square- Temple Bar.


In a former blog I wrote about a coloured print that hangs on my office wall called ‘The York Mail Leaving Temple Bar’. This ornate arch designed by Christopher Wren had stood on a section of the roadway where Fleet Street (City of London) became the Strand (Westminster).

In Medieval times the authority of the City of London Corporation reached beyond the ancient city walls in several places and these were known as the ‘Liberties of London’. To regulate trade in the city, barriers were erected on the major roads wherever the true boundaries were a substantial distance from the old gate house,. Temple Bar was one such place.

A Wikipedia entry from the Internet gives an interesting history of this London icon, a summary of which I have included below.

The first record of the bar was in 1293, and was probably a simple barrier such as a chain between some posts. More substantial structures with arches soon followed. By the late Middle Ages a wooden archway (with a prison above) stood on the spot.

Although it was spared in the Great Fire of London, it was decided in the rebuilding of the city, a new structure should be erected. Christopher Wren was commissioned to design this arch. This he did, and between 1669 and 1672 the beautiful Portland stone arch was erected.

Some two hundred years later the City of London Corporation, eager to widen the roadway, had it taken down. It was soon purchased by the wealthy brewer, Henry Meux and was re-erected as the gateway into his estate, Theobald Park, in Hertfortshire.

In 1984, a hundred years on, it was repurchased by the City, from the Meux Trust for £1, and brought back to London and incorporated into the Paternoster Row area and now marks the entrance to the Square.

What a fitting home for Wren’s beautiful arch, beside perhaps his greatest achievement, St Paul’s Cathedral.

The other entrance to Paternoster Square is the Newgate Street entrance. This was originally the other end of Ivy Lane, where my Baxter family lived.

Just along Newgate Street and around the corner was the ‘Old Bailey’ where my ancestor, Thomas George Baxter had first faced the Court in 1832.

We retraced our steps along Newgate Street and crossed the road at the King Edward Street intersection, to the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars. This was the church in which my ancestor George Baxter married Mary Brayne Kington on 13 Aug 1809.


Another extract from Wikipedia- The original church was constructed between 1306 and 1348, as the church of a Franciscan monastery. This church ranked as the second largest in Medieval London.

The church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was rebuilt, although not as large, to the design of Christopher Wren..

Over the next 300 years significant modifications were made. The church was destroyed in a World War II blitz on 29 December 1940.

The Tower survived, and today is used as offices, but the ruined nave and other sections of the church were not rebuilt, and now is a beautiful park in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.

We continued our walk up King Edward Street a short distance to an area known as Little Britain. This where my ancestors, George and Mary Brayne Baxter were living when their eldest children were baptised.

We then crossed King Edward Street in front of the old Post Office, and entered an ancient gate with a plaque announcing it was part of Greyfriars. This led us into a beautiful park, which is now known as Postman Park.

This area was originally the burial grounds of St Botolph’s, St Leonard Foster and Christ Church Greyfrairs. Even today you can see the odd monument tucked away in the corner, or a row of headstones hidden amongst the foliage against a wall.

This is also the site of the George Frederic Watts Memorials to the Heroic Self Sacrifice of the Ordinary people. There are several wall- tile memorials in a covered area and is an interesting place to visit. You can find the history of the place on several websites on the Internet, as well as many photos.

On the other side of the park we found St Botolph’s Church, which was facing Aldersgate Street. This was the church where most of the children of George and Mary Bayne Baxter were baptised between 1810 and 1822.

The Medieval church was a Gothic building and although it escaped the Great Fire of London, by the 18th Century was deemed unsafe and was demolished about 1788. Under the supervision of Nathaniel Wright a new brick church was built on the foundations of the old church, with a low square bell tower at the west end.

After a quick visit to this church, which we could only view from the outside, we made our way back to Cheapside and headed down towards London Bridge.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 10, Honfleur, France

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Marco Polo docked at the Honfleur Cruise Terminal early in the morning, under a dark threatening sky and strong winds.

Honfleur is an ancient town in north west France and is located on the south bank at the mouth of the Seine River. It is known for its old picturesque port with its houses of slate covered frontages, and has been painted many times by famous artists, including Claude Monet.

St Catherine’s church which has a bell-tower separate from the church is the largest  wooden church in France.

Many tours had been offered for those who wished to go ashore, from ancient towns to D-Day Landings in World War II.  However, before we could disembark we had to retrieve our passports from Reception, so we could enter France.

We had booked a tour to the ancient town of Bayeux, where the famous Bayeux Tapestry is displayed. It was over an hours bus ride to the town. We had a local guide who gave an interesting commentary on the history of the area, from Roman times to World War II, as we passed through the various villages and towns. By the time we reached Bayeux the weather had cleared to a fine warm day.

In fact the ‘Bayeux Tapestry’, is not a tapestry, but a beautifully embroidered linen cloth some seventy metres long. Wool yarn, coloured by vegetable dye, was used for the embroidery and the work is divided into fifty panels. The story begins with Edward the Confessor sending Harold Godwinson to Normandy, and ends with English troops fleeing the battlefields at Hastings. About six metres of the ‘tapestry’ is missing. These scenes were probably centred around William’s coronation.

It is believed to have been commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half- brother, Odo, who was bishop of Bayeux and Canterbury, and may have been created in Kent, by monks in the 1070’s some years after the conquest.

Originally it was hung in the Bayeux Cathedral, but is now housed in a specially built museum in the old abbey complex near by. An audio explanation is delivered by headphones as you walk along the glass panelled exhibition.


We also visited the awe inspiring Bayeux Cathedral and were able to take lots of photos, both inside and out.


In the afternoon we returned to the ship via a route that allowed us to view the ancient part of Honfleur.

I had made arrangements to meet with Eileen O’Duill in the Research Help Zone to find how I could access on-line, some of the ‘movie clips’ she had used in her presentation. There is much of this kind of material available to help family historians understand  important events in history.

Two sets of lectures were presented in the early evening. ‘Manorial Records’, by Paul Blake and ‘Ideas for researching non-conformist ancestors’, by Jackie Depelle. I found choosing between these two difficult, as I needed to go to both, but finally decided on ‘Manorial Records’ and made many notes to follow up on in the National Archives the following week.

In the second set of lectures we had the choice of ‘How to reopen and work a genealogical cold case’, by Lisa Cooke and ‘Matchmaking and marriage customs in  19th Century rural Ireland’, by Sean O’Duill. I went to Lisa’s presentation, as I’m always opening ‘cold cases’ and trying to move my research forward.

After a break, Eileen O’Duill delivered the last of the Unlockthepast lectures. ‘Mrs Fancy Tart is coming to tea: Making sense of family stories’.Eileen used one of the stories in her own family history, on her father’s side. It was many years before she could solve this little mystery, and it was all down to her father’s interpretation, as a small child, of the unusual surname of his mother’s visitor. Delivered with warmth and gentle humour, this presentation was excellent and really enjoyed by all present. A great way to wrap up a big ten days of wonderful presentations.

We rounded off the night with a cocktail party where prizes were drawn, photos taken and a wonderful time was had by all.

We were not able to sit on deck after dinner as the weather had turned dark, wet and windy, and we needed to pack and put our suitcases outside our cabin door, to be collected by staff ready for disembarking the following morning. Our cruise was coming to an end.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 9, St Peter Port, Guernsey

Sunday, 27th July 2014

St Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, which are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies, off the French coast of Normandy. They are considered to be remnants of the Duchy of Normandy and are not part of the United Kingdom.

Guernsey has been administered as an ancient Bailiwick since the late 13th Century,  with its own independent laws, elections, flag, and currency. Although we found English money was accepted here, we learned that you couldn’t use Guernsey money in England.

As a child who grew up in country New South Wales, I had heard about the Channel Islands. We had a beautiful creamy-orange and white ‘house-cow’ named Petunia. We were told she was a type of dairy cow called a ‘Guernsey’ who had originally come from Guernsey, in the English Channel. There were other differently coloured cows who had originated on the islands of Jersey and Alderney, too.

The Marco Polo arrived off the port as the sun was rising, and the town’s white buildings glistened in the morning light.

The ship’s tenders were again used to ferry those passengers who wished to go ashore.

There was quite a sea-swell and the tenders rose high, then dipped low, alongside the ship’s loading platform, and those standing on the stairs and platform waiting their turn to board the boat, felt they were swaying in rhythm with the sea,and it needed discipline to carefully listen to the assisting crew’s instructions, when to ‘wait’ and when to ‘go’, to step into the boat. When we were seated, the sea slapped noisily on the craft and then there were the ‘Ohhs’ and ‘Ahhs’ from the passengers, when we got under-way, as the boat rolled this way then that, until we were closer to the sheltered marina.


We had not booked a tour in St Peter Port but had decided to walk around the bay to the Castle Cornet, which rose darkly on the rocky foreshore. There was much to see as we strolled along, including beautiful garden plots and baskets spilling over with brightly coloured flowers in full boom.

The huge tidal differences between high and low tide were very evident in the marina, and we were amused how people went about the task of boarding their fishing vessels and yachts, which at the time were moored in the marina, but many metres below wharf level.


Castle Cornet was built in the old Norman style with huge towers and iron gate. The castle complex itself is now a museum, which gave us some idea of how these garrisoned castles worked in the past. It also housed five modern museums of the 201 Squadron (RAF), Maritime, Royal Guernsey Militia and the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry. These were housed in old stone buildings with modern purpose built interiors. Absolutely wonderful to wander through at your own pace and read the history.

We were also there for the Noonday- Gun ceremony and were told to cover our ears as it was very loud. It was interesting to watch the 18th Century red-coated gunner march to his post by the huge cannon. The big disappointment was that the gun failed to fire. They did not try the second time, and we were told it was the second time this year the gun had failed to fire.

We returned along the marina foreshore to the floating pontoon, where the ship’s tender was waiting. The sea-swell had abated, somewhat to our relief, so the journey back to the ship was not as rough.

I had arranged to meet Lisa Cooke in the Research Help Zone to purchase some of her e-books. It made sense for her to download them onto my USB flash-drive, rather than waiting to download from the Internet when I got home.

Then I dashed off to hear Helen Smith’s promised ‘Time-line’ repeat lecture.

The Unlockthepast evening lectures were the choice between Eileen O’Duill with ‘Dublin, 30 June 1922: did everything blow up?’, and Marie Dougan, on ‘Scottish Wills and testaments’.

As I’ve said before, my focus is Ireland so I went to Eileen’s presentation. I have been researching in Ireland for many years and am aware that not all Irish records were lost in the 1922 bombing and fires, but there were records lost, that would have been very useful in researching my Protestant families.

The Irish government is initiating programs that are digitizing many surviving records and making them available on-line.

What really gave me an insight into the whole Dublin situation in 1922 were the ‘movie clips’ Eileen used in her presentation. I wondered how my paternal grandfather, who had immigrated to Australia in 1891, felt when he read in the newspapers about all the troubles in Dublin. Although his parents had died by this time, he had several siblings living near or in Dublin, whose safety he must have been concerned for.

In the last presentation for the evening, the Unlockthepast team outlined all the up and coming planned conference cruises for the next couple of years. Some really great ones close to home, but also in the Baltic and Europe. All the details can be found on their website at http://www.unlockthepastcruises.com/cruises/.

As we sat on the deck after dinner and discussed the possibilities of the future cruises, we could see the white cliffs of the French coast in the distance. Tomorrow we would be in Honfleur.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 8, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly

Saturday, 26th July 1914

Isles of Scilly are an archipelago off the south-west tip of the Cornish coast of England. The five main islands, St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martin, St Agnes and Bryher, have a varied and interesting history.

We had been advised by the Cruise Tour Director that St Mary’s would be a tender port , but not those belonging to the ship, as previously used, but local boats from the harbour itself. We were not sure what to expect.

When we arose next morning we in for a surprize. We had anticipated that it would be a fine, clear morning, as it had been previously, however the ship was wrapped in a thick sea-mist or fog. Although we could still hear the ship’s engines throbbing below us, it was difficult to know if were still moving as there were no reference points on land or sea.

The pilot- boat appeared suddenly at the ship’s side and disappeared just as quickly after the delivery of the pilot.

There was a hushed silence as those passengers on deck, spoke quietly amongst their shadowy selves. Suddenly the ship announced its presence with a long blast on its horn. It was not long before it was answered by horns and bells, somewhere on shore, both on our port, as well as starboard. Then there was a whole musical interlude as the pattern of blasts on horns and the clanging of bells spoke to each other in the fog and guided the Marco Polo to its anchorage in St Mary’s harbour. It was easy to imagine how it was in days gone by, as sailing ships inched their way into port.

It wasn’t long before the Tour Director announced the first of the tender boats had arrived to take the passengers off for the tours. We watched from the deck above as those below embarked from the ship’s loading platform into the open boats. The water was a little choppy and the boats heaved up and down making it difficult to judge when to take the step aboard. This was made easier by the crew assisting, who gave instructions to either ‘wait’ or ‘go’. When the boat was full it disappeared into the swirling fog.

After some minutes the announcement was made, that although the ship was still surrounded by fog, it was clear on shore and the tour groups for the other islands, such as the Tresco Abbey Gardens, could proceed. In an hour or so the fog had cleared to reveal a beautiful picturesque town laid out along the shore.


We went on shore late in the morning and wandered about the town, until we joined our tour in the afternoon. This was a walking tour conducted by an elderly, but very fit local husband and wife team. The history of the island was explained as visited all the landmarks, from the ancient castle fort on the hill top to the extensive naval defences on the shore for World War II.


We returned to the ship soon after 4 pm, as I had made an appointment with Paul Blake in the Research Help Zone,to discuss records held at the National Archives at Kew ( London), that I planned to research the following week. I had all the catalogue references, sorted in numerical sequence and printed out. As my time there would be limited, I sort Paul’s advice on the most efficient way to locate, order and use the material. I also asked him how I might go about finding records on my Irish soldier in the 18th Century.

There were two sets of lectures offered by Unlockthepast in the evening.

The first was’The Tithe: its history, records and administration’, by Paul Blake, and ‘Using ScotlandsPeople effectively’, by Marie Dougan. I heard Paul’s talk on the ‘tithe’, as I have researched many rural villages in England, I knew what an important factor this was in parish histories. A few days before sailing on the cruise, I had visited the manor farm where some of my ancestors had lived in the 16th Century, and the huge ‘Tithe-barn’ is still there today.

The second set of talks were ‘On-line Newspapers’ by Rosemary Kopittke, and ‘Reading the original; hints and tips for deciphering old documents’, by Jackie Depelle. I listened to Jackie’s advice on how to decipher old documents, as I’m finding reading 17th Century wills, I have been able to locate for some of my families, very challenging when transcribing. I learned that there is no easy way, but patience and practise is the key to success.

After dinner we sat on deck in the hazey twilight and watched the commercial sea traffic passing all around us, as we were virtually at the ‘crossroads’ in the English Channel, where the ships crossed to sail up the western or eastern coast of the English mainland.

Our day at St Mary’s had been a pleasantly casual one, and I wondered as I went to bed, what our next port, St Peter Port in Guernsey would be.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 7, Dublin, Ireland

I woke very early as I was excited to be coming back to Dublin. We had visited this city some ten years before, and since then I had done extensive research into it’s history.

On our last visit I had felt at home in this city, and we had walked many of its streets and visited a number of the sites, including the National Archives and Library, and had even viewed the National treasure, ‘The Book of Kells’.


The highlight of our previous visit had been to meet with ‘cousins’ on my paternal line. My paternal grandfather, William Growcock, emigrated from Ireland in 1891 and I had tracked down many of his relatives, including those who had remained in Ireland. We had corresponded for nearly thirty years before we were able to meet face-to-face ten years ago. These days e-mail, Facebook and Skype are a great ways to keep in touch.

When we decided to visit Britain and Europe this year, and found the cruise ship was visiting Dublin for the day, we made plans with these cousins again.

The Marco Polo docked at the quayside early. The weather was warm and sunny.

After breakfast we were able to go ashore and board the free ‘shuttle’ bus service made available to cruise passengers. The bus dropped us off in Kildare Street, near the National Library.

A number of Unlockthepast cruise participants went to the National Library to attend a presentation by Carmel McBride, the research manager of ‘Enclann’ a professional research company based in Ireland. This had been kindly organized by one of our cruise lecturers. Carmel’s talk was an introduction to the library and their records for those who wanted to do research while there.

I certainly would have booked on this tour, if I had not be meeting with my cousins.


We decided to use the same landmark as of our last meeting, the ‘Spire.’

The Spire, is a large stainless steel, pin-like monument of more than 120 metres tall located in O’Connell Street, opposite the General Post Office, the scene of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Until 1966, Nelson’s Pillar had stood here, but was destroyed following the bombing by former IRA members. It was replaced by the Anna Livia monument, which stood there for a number of years before it was moved and replaced by the Spire in 2002. It can been seen all over Dublin.

We had arrived there shortly before the appointed time, but it was not long before I saw the party of four, coming towards us. After we had exchanged greetings, we found a quiet little tea-room where we ordered morning tea, of freshly baked scones with blueberries and cream and a welcome pot of tea. Shortly afterwards we were joined by another cousin from a more distant branch of the family.

What a wonderful few hours we had, exchanging information, family documents and photos. Just one of those days you wish would never end, but of course it has to.We were reluctantly finally ‘dropped off’ back in Kildare Street, to catch the shuttle bus back to the ship.

There I went to join Helen Smith in the Research Help Zone. Helen has family from Kent and has much experience in research there. Although I have many years of experience there also, I have not been successful in locating some 17th Century Wills , and thought she may have been able to suggest some avenues. We discussed several possibilities, but finally came to the conclusion, that for some reason, there may not have been any ‘Wills’ in the first place, however, I should not completely give up the quest, because there are sometimes those wonderful serendipitous miracles that ‘drop in your lap’ from ‘out of the blue’.

In the evening there were two lectures offered, unfortunately both on at the same time, with ‘Genealogy on the go with the ipads and tablets by Lisa Cooke and ‘How to make your on-line searching more effective’, by Mike Murray. I went to listen to Lisa Cooke as I have both a mini-ipad and an android tablet, which I am beginning to use for organizing my research in the field.  I have to admit I am often ‘technology challenged’ with all these new gadgets, but I have grandchildren, who can help me when I’m stuck.

After dinner I spent the ‘free time’ going through photos the cousins had shared. I had not seen these family photos before, including photos of my grandfather’s younger brother and his wife, and one of three of their sisters.

It had been a long and busy day in Dublin, but it could not have been better

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 6, Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Day 6, 24 July 2014

The next morning we arrived at Tobermory, the capital of the Isle of Mull, which had been established as a fishing village about 1789. Again we had to stand-off shore and use the ship’s tenders to be transported into the town. An amazing little town snuggly tucked under the hill with the shops and houses brightly painted. It is not until you look carefully that you see there is more of the town high on the hill, behind the trees. The brightly coloured buildings seem to be a feature in the western highland ports, as we saw the same thing at Portree on the Isle of Skye, when we were on tour there a few weeks before.


The town was busy and there was an air of excitement, as the crowd grew on the town foreshore. We had arrived in time for the annual Highland Gathering, which was to take place on the plateau above the town.


The procession, led by the pipers assembled on the foreshore and marched up the hill to the sports ground. They were followed by both competitors and spectators in a brightly coloured mass, as they snaked their way up the winding road. We enjoyed the stirring music of the bagpipes, as we sat on the foreshore, and watched them out of sight over the brow of the hill.

We also made use of the free wifi offered in town to contact family at home and confirm arrangements to meet some Irish cousins in Dublin the following day.

Although we decided to remain in Tobermory for the morning, many other cruisers took a variety of interesting tours, including the seven hour round trip to Iona, where St Columba established a church in the 6th Century. The island is steeped in history, including being the burial place of many of the early Scottish Kings.

We were to be all on board the Marco Polo by 4 pm, but then there was a delay with the tour to Iona, so the ship’s departure was an hour later than planned.

Unlockthepast had a full block of lectures from 3.30pm with the first hour’s time-slot allotted to Geraldene O’Reilly, with a ‘Portrait of a parish with focus on place names’, and Jackie Depelle’s workshop on ‘Family Historian’, a genealogical software program. Unfortunately Jackie was stuck on the Iona tour, so her talk was postponed to later on the cruise. I went to Geraldene’s presentation, as I’m a great believer that you can only understand your ancestors ‘by walking in their shoes’ one might say.  I delve deep into the local history, and place names can reveal much.

Geraldene O’Reilly, came from New Zealand, and although this was her only presentation, she has had a long association with family history groups, giving regular talks on a number of topics.

In the next set of lectures it was a choice between Sean O’Duill on ‘Country cures from Irish folklore’ and Lesley Silvester on ‘Quarter Session records’. Sean’s presentation was open to all passengers on the ship, while all other talks were only available to the Unlockthepast cruise participants.Again I was drawn to the Irish presentation which was very interesting.

After a few minutes break, more lectures to choose from. ‘Family History sources before 1837’, by Jackie Depelle and, ‘Timelines as a research tool’, by Helen Smith. I choose Family History Sources before 1837, as nearly all my research at present, is before that time, but I’m a great fan of time-lines and was disappointed to miss Helen’s talk. However, we were all very happy to take advantage of Helen’s offer to repeat her talk a couple of days later on the cruise. It was a great talk, and showed how ‘time-lines’ should be a basic tool, for all historians, especially family historians.

For the last set of lectures for the day, it was a choice between,’Highland Clearances’ with Mike Murray, or ‘Understanding the context and why social history is important in your research’, by Helen Smith. As we had heard so many references to the ‘Highland Clearances’ on all our earlier tours throughout Scotland, I decided it was time I found out more about them, and the part they played in Scottish immigration. Mike’s presentation was excellent and he was able to present the topic in a simple, but very effect way.

After dinner we had free time, and I decided to review all the notes I had made during lectures,and made a list of all the questions I wanted to discuss, along with the list of experts, whom I hoped could help me during the Research Help Zone. I also checked all the catalogue references and printouts I had made during my preparations, before I left home several weeks before, and brought along with me.

I had been holding off consulting these experts because I wanted to allow others to make the most of these wonderful opportunities, however we only had a few days left and time was running out. I needed to make appointments with my lists of experts, which I did.

I went to bed late in the evening, and as the weather had remained calm and warm, sleep came easily and quickly.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 5, Stornoway, Outer Hebrides

Day 5, 23 July 2014

We arrived early off Stornoway, on Lewis next morning, but we had to wait for the tender boats to take us ashore. This was the first time we had used the tenders, but the weather was perfect, so we could get away to our respective tours on time.

We took another morning bus tour, firstly to the Callanais Standing Stones, rated as the most important in Britain after Stonhenge.  When you stood on this hill-top you could also see other groups of standing stones in the landscape. All very mysterious.

A Tourist Centre was tucked in under the hill and could not be seen, until you walked over the hill and were upon it. Tea-rooms, toilets and gift shop, all a part of the system so these wonders can be visited by the ‘tourist’.


Then there was a short bus ride to the Carloway Broch, a 2,000 year old circular dry-stone, fortified tower.There was evidence of an internal staircase and rooms, but all without an ounce of mortar to hold it together.

Again a small Tourist Centre to tell the story of the broch, as well as offer handmade gifts, made locally, for sale. This enables people to remain farming in  the area, rather than a completely deserted landscape. This area is also popular as the backdrop of some  television series.


Then there was a longer leisurely bus ride across the island to the Arnol Blackhouse Museum. There the low stone houses were built in the old tradition, with stone-weighted, thatched roofs . A peat fire burned in the centre of the cobbled floor, and there was no chimney. No windows so light was by fire and ‘rush light’ arrangements. The animals occupied a ‘room’ at the end of the house, and there was also a ‘workroom’ where the men and women could undertake other activities such as weaving, when they couldn’t work outside.The very thick, low stone walls made the houses warm, dry and quiet when the Arctic Winter gales howled outside.  In some area these houses were occupied even after World War II. That is in living memory, for those family historians who know their ancestors came from Lewis or Harris.


[I believe in this photo there is a vent placed in the roof, so the tourist don’t choke when the peat fire gets smokey. I think those living in these as homes, would have been able to regulate the peat fire, so it wasn’t smokey all the time. The grassed, soil-topped ledge allowed repairs to the roof when necessary.]

Some cruise passengers went on a tour to Harris in the south, where they saw how the famous tweed cloth is made.

As we had taken a morning tour, in the afternoon before lectures, I was able to have a leisurely look at many of the Unlockthepast publications in ‘book form’ in the bookshop, which I planned to buy as e-books when we returned home.

Again as there were concurrent lectures in the evening, we had to make the choice between Helen Smith’s presentation on “Document analysis” and Jackie Depelle’s “Ideas,hints and tips for family historians in using digital photography”.

This was the first time that Helen had presented on this tour, although she had been very busy in the Research Help Zone every day. Helen is from Queensland and has extensive knowledge on many fields of family history. She is the author of several blogs and a number of publications and has been a team member on all the Unlockthepast cruises, other conferences and roadshows. I went to her talk, which centred on the analysis of documents, a very vital part of research for success in family history.

Although I wasn’t able to attend Jackie’s talk, I heard great reports of her ideas about digital photography. Just a pity I couldn’t be in two places at once. This was the first time Jackie had presented on the cruise too. Jackie Depelle is from England and works full-time in the family history field, much of it in adult education and is a special events co-ordinator. Her presentations ranged from digital photography to reading original and deciphering old documents.

Then it was a choice between Marie Dougan on ‘Scottish records at the National Archives of Scotland’, and Lesley Silvester on the ‘Lesser known London Records.’      I choose the one on London records as I’m doing extensive research in the London area at the moment, and I was able to make lots of notes to help move my research along. I heard those with Scottish ancestors were very keen to delve further into the National Archives of Scotland, after Marie’s presentation too.

After dinner, we sat on the deck and watched the islands disappear from sight as we sailed toward the Isle of Mull.

Before I went to bed I down loaded onto my computer the hundreds of photos we had taken in the first few days on the cruise. That is the great thing about digital photography. It doesn’t matter how many you take, as you can always cull them when you get home and have time to really look at them all. However, we were aware we needed to save them in more than one place, so if there was a ‘hicup’  we would not loose them completely.