The day after our adventures in Ditchling the cousins graciously took us to The Keep so I could explore a little.  This was particularly kind since I was the one out of the four of us who really wanted to spend a little time there, getting to see the collections and trying to find family records.  I got a morning of research with some help from a number of people, including my cousin; the others were quite good about doing a little wandering and then sitting and talking over a cup of tea.

The Keep is a new repository and building, opened in the Fall of 2013, which is a partnership of the East Sussex Records Office, the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections and the University of Sussex Special Collections and puts all of these records in one place.  I thought I had taken a picture of it as we arrived but apparently I didn’t.  So here is a picture, courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons.  The Keep

This building also houses the library of the Sussex Family History Group, which is staffed by volunteers of the Group.  It was in their library that we started and I was lucky enough to find Judy and Colin Excell on duty that day.  They were both very helpful in finding me places to start my searches in, and I came away from them with copies of several pages from a book about the Ditchling church group and several references for transcribed wills to send for; I also took an application to join the Group (which I did as soon as I returned home).   One of the record sets available to members (I’m not sure about non-members) is a collection of transcribed wills and probate records.  With the information from Judy I was able to request and have emailed to me two wills from the early 1700s.

I spent the rest of my time getting oriented to the microfilm collection and looking for several specific wills.  I was thrilled to find two of the ones I was looking for (William Denman of Cowfold in Sussex, 1738, and Michael Marten of Fragborrough in the parish of Ditchling in Sussex, 1750), and was able to get digital images of the pages which I downloaded to my thumbdrive (I came prepared!).  I think I paid The Keep 10p per image for this service.  On a quick skim on the microfilm reader I could see that William Denman mentioned sevWilliam my eldest soneral children, including his eldest son William, who we think is the father of my emigrant ancestor William Denman.  I also found that Michael Marten mentioned two of his daughters (perhaps the only two children still living when he wrote the will), both of whom were married to Denman men.  One of them, Ann Marten, was married to a William Denman ason in law Williamnd we think this is the same son William from the William Denman will.  This is the place in the search where a knowledge of very local geography and social history is so important and where my new-found cousin is particularly helpful.  Now that I’m home again and the winter holidays are behind us, I am starting work on transcribing both of these documents.

Unfortunately, the William Denman who married Ann Marten does not seem to have left a will.  It would have been so convenient if he had and had mentioned his son William who went to America!  If memory serves, my fourth great grandmother’s (Ann Boorman’s) father did leave a will naming her and that she had gone to America.

All in all, I left The Keep well satisfied and excited to follow up my finds.  As is often the case, I was left with questions and thoughts about how to follow up.  I think there are new English record groups in my future.  I wish I lived a shorter plane flight from this new repository.  I would happily spend at least a week visiting it daily to research.

On my recent trip to England, we flew into London and spent the first 4 days there.  This gave us time for site-seeing and we had a good time acclimating to the different time zone and accent.

Then it was time to move on.  I had planned that we would go first to Hythe in my quest for information about our Denman family.  Hythe, Kent, England was where William and Ann Boorman lived the first 4-5 years of their married life.  It was where their first 3 children were born, including my ancestor John Denman.  It was where they last lived before migrating to the new country, the U.S. in 1795.  We got ourselves to the Victoria Coach Station, bought a cup of tea and a sandwich for lunch on the bus, and found seats to wait for our bus to be called.

Two and a half hoDSCN2088urs later, at mid-day, we arrived in Hythe which is in the county of Kent and right on the English Channel.  Hythe is a small town of about 14,000 residents now, however in 1801 its population was between 1200-1400.  We got off the coach, wrangled our suitcases and looked at Hythe from the ground.  Just a couple of blocks away was the Malt Lodge, where we were booked to stay.  It was too early to fully check in, but they were happy to take our luggage in and since they knew which room we would be in we were able to take care of the formalities and get a key.

We went across the street to check out the Malthouse Arcade, an antiques mall just across the street from the Lodge.  We had tea and a sandwich, browsed a bit and then went out to look at the town.  I wanted to find the Library, since that was my goal for the IMGP4785next morning.  I had several items on my to-do list for the Hythe Library, including looking at their microfilms of parish records and whatever other documents might be available on microfilm.   As it turned out, the Library had a small Local History room and the town museum is in the same building.

We discovered that there was a walking tour of the town being offered the next morning, and my sister decided she would try that out while I used the Library microfilm reader and books.  (I was conflicted about this choice since I guessed that a tour with a guide interested in the town history would be interesting and useful.  I hoped my sister would take lots of pictures and ask lots of questions!)

Hythe is a cinque port, DSCN2176one of the towns that historically helped guard the southern English coast which is closest to France from invasion.  Although it was most active in defense before Queen Elizabeth I’s time, with the French Revolution taking place (1789-1799), there were fears that France would turn to invade England.  This may have been part of the young Denmans decision to migrate to the very new country that was America in 1795.  The picture shows Town Hall which was finished in 1794.  The rooms above are where meetings were held.

I have found no information so far that tells why William Denman moved to the coast from his Sussex farming town.  This move took him away from his General Baptist church community.  There is, so far, no documentation of any group moving to the Hythe area at that time and it was a close-knit community.  That was presumably why William went back to it for his bride, traveling some distance to Headcorn to marry in 1790 having already settled in Hythe.

In the Library, I was able to discover several interesting pieces of information.  My first goal was to verify the burial I had been told about several years ago1.   This was the burial of an infant, Richard Denman 3 Nov 1794.  I wanted to see that record for myself and to verify that there was nothing else.  Since I have never seen a Richard said to be a son of William and Ann, I was hoping there might be more.  Richard might have been a child of William and Ann, depending on how old he was when he died, but there was no listing of parents to be found and I did not find any other Denman listings.  (There were listings for four Booremans: 2 burials and one a son of named parents.)  Based on the date of burial, he might have been born to them between their son William (b. 8 Feb 1793) and daughter Elizabeth (b. 22 Sep 1794), although this would have been very close spacing since there were only about 19 months between William and Elizabeth.  While physically just possible, it does seem unlikely.  My tentative conclusion is that it is equally or more likely that there was another Denman family in Hythe at the same time and that Richard was their son.

I also found a book of the poll tax for Knights of the Shire to represent the County of Kent in 1754.  This book listed a John Denman as a freeholder in Kent, as well as 3 Boremans (John and 2 Williams) as freeholders.  Freeholder means that they owned the land as opposed to leasing it.  It is possible that any of these were relatives of my young Denman couple and that this relation encouraged William Denman to relocate to Hythe.  I haven’t found any evidence of what William did in Hythe, although I suspect he was a farmer.  Certainly, in New York he farmed.

The last find was a couple of manuscripts, written in 1969 and 1970, by the local Methodist minister about 19th century Methodist history in Hythe.  There were several fragments in these two manuscripts that document the earlier presence of a Baptist community (perhaps before 1800) and tells of a “nice little chapel” used by the Baptists (and was owned by a woman who was a Baptist) before the Methodists started renting it in 1813 or before.  Also found: a reference to the Hythe Methodist Baptism Registry dating to the beginning of required registration in 1837 when all the non-parochial records were called by the Crown to be turned in for safe-keeping.  This first Methodist registry was an old Book of Births and Baptisms annexed from the Baptists who had used the chapel before them, and is said to be in the PRO in London.  Unfortunately I did not manage to get there to look for it myself, but I’m hoping I can track it down online or at least find out if there might be useful information in it about my Denman and Boorman families.

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  1. Hythe, St. Leonard 1781-1812

Research
* Figure out how to request information about possible records from St. Xavier in Cincinnati.
* Continue to work on updating the Denman database with information already collected and/or noted by cousin Claudia in her review. I already discovered a connection I hadn’t been aware of! A good example of fresh eyes being helpful. [I made some progress on this in May, but I had collected a lot of information that never got put into the database, so it is a bigger job than I first thought. Worth doing, but a bigger job.]
* Start work on Boorman database I just started. I have information from three current researchers now, so should be able to make some progress.

Organization
* Continuing the work listed above on the DenmansIMGP4228 is also organizing files on my hard drive (and helping me establish a standard file naming process).
* Start clearing out the files in the small open box on the floor.
* Back up the blog! Plug-ins found so far to automate this task don’t meet my needs However I just saw a review of another one, that looked worth investigating. There is always hope – in the meantime I must remember to do it by hand.

Education
* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [In May I attended a live presentation by Marion Pierre Louis on house history which was fun and, I hope, will inspire me to get to work on that project for my original Salt house. I also managed to catch the Lisa Alzo Legacy Family Tree webinar on Ten Hidden Resources Every Genealogist Should Know over the long holiday weekend while it was still free. I was pleased to see that I was already aware of most of these, but she did remind me that some of them I need to re-visit.]

Research

My gorgeous magnolia and Cornell pink azalea

My gorgeous magnolia and Cornell pink azalea – Happy May!

* Figure out how to request information about possible records from St. Xavier in Cincinnati.
* Continue to work on updating the Denman database with information already collected and/or noted by cousin Claudia in her review. I already discovered a connection I hadn’t been aware of! A good example of fresh eyes being helpful.
* Start work on Boorman database I just started.

Organization
* The inboxes on my desktop are cleared! Three cheers!! Continuing the work listed above on the Denmans is also organizing files on my hard drive (and helping me establish a standard file naming process).
* Back up the blog! Plug-ins found so far to automate this task don’t meet my needs However I just saw a review of another one, that looked worth investigating. There is always hope – in the meantime I must remember to do it by hand.

Education
* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [Watched the Legacy Family Tree webinar by Judy G. Russell on “That First Trip to the Courthouse” which was very useful. Like many of us, I suspect, I feel tentative about researching in a Courthouse. I hope what Judy said will help me figure out what I might get from a Courthouse (and nowhere else) and then plan a trip.]

January was pretty much a bust for me in terms of getting tasks from my to-do list done. We started out the new year by clearing out three rooms so we could have carpeting installed. Two of the three were rooms we use as home offices and mine is my genealogy archives. So there were many, many (did I say that there were many?!) books and boxes and files to move out – not to mention my computer and the home wireless system. And that was just my office. The good news is that all went very smoothly and we started the new year with new carpeting (which I had been wanting to do for a long time).

Two days later we had a new refrigerator delivered and so all the attendant moving of food out, cleaning where the old one had been, and then hurriedly replacing all the food before the frozen food defrosted and the milk went bad.

I am not complaining – I’m only rationalizing my lack of progress on the family history front. I am very pleased with my new, warmer office floor. The bedroom looks much better with the new carpet and so does my husband’s office. The bonus is that we have extra room in the new fridge, which is a little larger than the old. So life is good!

In my genealogy world, the past month has been full of correspondence with several Boorman relatives as we all work on a mystery. There are many Boorman families in the counties of Kent and Sussex in England in the 1700s and we are trying to figure out a John Boorman who migrated to America, specifically to New York state north of New York City along the Hudson River, in the late 1790s along with a number of others. There are at least 2 books of compiled letters from these settlers and a specific letter has raised questions about which John this was and who his wife and children were. I will likely post about all this in the future, I hope when we have sorted it out to our combined satisfaction. In the meantime this is preoccupying me.

My final excuse for lack of accomplishment is that we are on a longer-than-usual vacation stretching across January into February. I am leaving this scheduled to post on Jan 31st but I won’t be here!

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