Friday, September 22, 2006

An afternoon's search

Well, I was right – another two weeks before I posted an entry. But I can’t blame the mailing list transfer. Everything went smoothly with that and the Parry list has now migrated to the new mailing list software being used by Rootsweb.

No, it has just turned out to be a busy couple of weeks. Again, correspondance has taken up a fair amount of my time – fourteen Parry related emails received, leading to eleven replies being sent. A couple of the responses involved following families through all of the censuses, which can be quite time consuming but is also fascinating – seeing how fortunes change and a child in the workhouse can become someone famous, or how some families "die out", because branches all end with daughters, so there are no sons to carry on the family name.

Amongst the information sent to me recently was another obituary. As I’ve mentioned before, these can be very useful sources of information, as they often list the relatives attending the funeral. But one thing I noticed about this one was the separation of men and women – the men attending the funeral and the women being at the house. Was this a particular social practice of the time (or the area), I wonder?

There’s more to family history than just the story of a family – it prompts enquiry into many areas of social history that I, for one, might never have considered.

Other interesting reading I received were two articles relating to a Parry family from Machynlleth, where a researcher has traced the family, largely through property deeds and probate entries, back into the 1600s. At this time, the patronymic system was still in operation and the family is a good illustration of how the "Harry/Parry" name can re-occur through several generations, whilst not actually being their "surname".

It is an interesting thought that, for many Parry families, by the time the line has been traced back about six generations from someone alive in 1901, they might no longer have the surname. Unfortunately many of the surviving parish registers in Wales don’t start until the 1700s but, where they do begin earlier, or where the surname settled slightly later, there would seem to be great potential for researchers to be able to establish exactly when their family became Parrys.

If only there weren’t so many of them that it is often impossible to get back beyond 1800!

The Guild forum has again been a useful source of information. Amongst the sites posted have been some relating to modern references, such as UK company directors, or US "people look up" sites, such as the My Family people finder which found 26,466 Parrys! Clearly such sites produce a large number of results for the surname, sometimes with too many occurrences of even just one first name, to allow the data to be fully searched. Not that I’m in a position to do a great deal with such current data even if I could collect it all, since I still have the 20th century BMDs for UK to extract.

A recent addition to the Ancestry databases shows more promise, although again will tend to produce a large number of results. Their "British Phone Books 1880-1984 Release 1" contains 5120 Parry entries – somehow I think it will be a long time before I can do much with those but certainly the ones for the early 20th century will be useful.

Another "Guild" reference was a site for the town of Burton Latimer, in Northamptonshire. I wasn’t expecting much, since it’s not really a "Parry" area but I did find one family in the 1901 transcriptions. The household was headed by an unmarried Catherine M Parry, with "Head" crossed out and "sister" entered instead. With her were six children described as daughters and sons, but I guessed they were probably not her’s. In the course of trying to identify them in the earlier censuses, I found a couple of errors on Ancestry - someone transcribed as aged 2 when they should be 23, and as Parry when they were actually a married daughter and should have been Webb. Then there was another person transcribed as a son called Catherine Parry but who was actually a servant called Catherine Griffith.

I was going to say, after all that, that I never did find the original family that I was looking for – but I did (eventually). The 1891 searches were proving unsuccessful so I tried earlier and found a possible entry for the Catherine Parry in 1881, in Llanasa, Flintshire, with parents, Alexander and Margaret, and siblings Joseph aged 18, and Emma aged 12. At 15, the Catherine was recorded as a pupil teacher, so she seemed a good candidate for someone who is later a described as Governess.

Next I found the oldest children, in the 1891 census, with Frances as Francis, Margaret as Margaretc and the birthplace of Canonbury as Cannonbury. Obvious really. Good job Mary F was just Mary F!

This time the children were with their mother Louisa Flora Parry, visiting their grandmother, Emma M Draper. A quick look on Ancestry’s listing from FreeBMD, and there’s Louisa Flora Draper getting married in Kensington, June qtr of 1886 to a John Parry. Quick look forward to 1901, Louisa Flora (transcribed as "Floy") Parry is with her husband at the Vicarage in Bromley. John, her husband, is a Church of England clergyman. Staying with them is his brother Joshua Powell Parry, an undergraduate from Jesus College Cambridge. No children there – they’re obviously all with their aunt, Catherine, in Burton Latimer.

Back to 1891, where’s John? No sign of him at the moment so let’s look for Joshua. He also seems to have absented himself, so I’ll try the 1881. There’s Joshua P Parry, aged 9, staying with his brother William 22, another brother Edward G, also 22, and a sister Josephine aged 20. They’re in Liverpool and it looks as if John is also nearby - a 24 year old lodger, Clerk in Holy orders, Curate of St Chrysostom, with a B.A from Cambridge.

Looking further back, in 1871, there’s Alexander Parry again, with his wife, Margaret, this time with children John 14, William and Edward G., both 12 and described as twins, Josephine 10, Joseph 8, Catherine M 5, and Emma 2. Joshua would not yet have been born.

So I was right with my identification of Catherine in 1881.

Nice when things match up like that. And of course, that isn’t the end of the story. With a name such as Alexander, which is not a common Parry first name, and his birth place in both 1871 and 1881 consistently being Ysceifiog, it isn’t that difficult to find the family in the 1861 census, with the four oldest children, and then to find him in both the 1851 and 1841 censuses. In those, he was living with his mother, another Margaret, and his brothers, William, Thomas, Edward, and Joseph. The boys all seem to be in the building trade so Alexander must have changed direction, becoming (according to the census entries) a farmer and then later, a brewer, and earned sufficient to give his children the opportunity to gain an education and, for three of them, the chance to go to Cambridge University.

Those three sons, John, Joseph and Joshua, all appear in the Cambridge University Alumni. Interestingly, the entry for Joshua describes his father as the Rev. A. But I’ll leave that for a descendant to investigate!

So, from a site reference where I wasn’t expecting much, I have had a pleasant afternoon putting together a four generation family tree, matching up several disparate census entries in the process and been able to identify some of the Cambridge Alumni!

Not bad for an afternoon's search.

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