1752 and all that

Just something for the amateur genealogist to remember.

1752, the year Britain and Ireland finally adopted the Gregorian calendar, started on March 25th and ended on December 31st. Not only was the year a short one, officially, but it also “contains” the famous missing eleven days as September 3rd was immediately followed by September 14th.

It’s something to bear in mind when checking those parish registers as prior to 1752 the year effectively ran from April to March and the old records will still show the old way. As an example, someone born in February 1741 to our mind would themselves say they were born in 1740. This can lead to confusion when researching so it is useful to be clear and record these dates as either (in this instance) February 1740 (O.S.) [old style], February 1741 (N.S.) [new style], or double date it thus: February 1740/1 to show we acknowledge the difference for any ancestors born January to March prior to 1753.

In Scotland, although the Julian calendar was still used up until 1752, the New Year changed to January 1st in 1600. Catholic European countries had made the change to the Gregorian calendar as far back as 1582.

Excitement and frustration

record entryThe beauty of the internet age for the genealogist is that new stuff gets digitised all the time. Find my Past recently (I think it was recently) released a whole tranche of Devon parish records and I thought it would be useful to have a poke around them looking for more Ellicotts. Because there seems to have been a substantial period of time when the family, or the name at least, centred around Sampford Courtenay in North Devon, I ran a search for Ellicott* and Sampford with no time restriction and got about 50 results. It was clear from these results that there were four distinct Ellacot family groups in the area at different times; all very good, except they don’t really connect with each other and there’s a noticeable gap in data between 1700-1780.

So I expanded the search to include the communities around Sampford Courtenay, places like Bondleigh, Ashreighney and North Tawton, and got a further 40 results. Some of these tie in with what is already known plus there seems to be a big Ellacott family in Winkleigh in the 1820s but there is still a lot of work to do. This is when genealogy becomes a jigsaw puzzle; I have lots of data but no clear picture. Now is when the fun begins; matching dates, places and people – wish me luck.

*including Ellacott and Ellacot

Uncle Stan

stanWhen I was a child we spent several summer holidays at my uncle Stan’s farm at Farlecombe on the edge of Dartmoor. It was an idyllic time, even the boredom of the stupidly long journey down there would evaporate as we turned into Devon’s narrow lanes – although this may have been due to the adrenalin rush as the possibility of tractor-based calamity increased.

Uncle Stan (actually my great uncle; Alfred Stanley Ellicott) was, to me, the archetypal farmer with his heavy corduroy trousers and wellington boots, he seemed completely at one with his surroundings as his thick Devon burr coaxed his cattle down the lanes through this beautiful landscape. He could have been there forever.

stan 2

Many years later I’m busy tracing my grandfather’s globe-trotting for Cable and Wireless and I start to notice another Ellicott appearing in the passenger list searches and it transpires that his brother, far from being a lifelong son of the soil, spent many years as a civil engineer in Sierra Leone, something no doubt other members of the family already knew but, at the time, was quite a surprise to me!

I suppose the moral of this post is never to assume you already know a person’s story: ask (about) your relatives, and even if you never find someone famous in your tree, there are always interesting tales to tell.

Another line, another tangle

While I wait for more details about AEG Ellicott so I can complete that set of stories (see earlier post), I thought I’d take a preliminary look at the Currie family – Elsie Edna Currie was my paternal grandmother – and surprise, surprise, there was another little mess-up within the data; conflicting Scottish census links. Not too disastrous this time, it just means I don’t know as much about my 4 times great grandfather as I thought.

It just shows how useful this process can be in sorting out your facts and sources!

Going back over things

It always pays to go back over things in case you see something that earlier passed you by. For instance, a little of the information that I mentioned in the previous post was buried* in an email I got last year and that I’ve only just noticed the full impact of:

“I have been speaking to my mother and she recalls my father mentioning his father being in Pretoria at a very old age”.

Because I have no idea of PJR’s death (for it is he), and the last known ‘sighting’ was before the war, this simple statement has ruled out, potentially, 40 years of possibly death dates. It is always a good idea to pay attention!

(*OK, not “buried” but mentioned briefly in a message about something else)