IMGP4905 with OMH marked

Map of Ditchling

So we set off to spend an afternoon in Ditchling with our new-found cousins and to meet the widow of the archivist for the Old Meeting House and another avid Denman researcher (who is related to the Sussex Denmans but much further back in generations).  Old Meeting House signpost

To briefly recap the two lines of most interest to me (and my cousin): I descend from William Denman and Ann Boorman who married in 1790, lived in Hythe in Kent and migrated to America in 1795 with 3 young children.  My cousin descends from Michael Denman and Elizabeth Hubbard who married in 1784 and raised their family in the area of Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.  I have also connected with another cousin who descends on this line from a different son than my English cousin.  It is discovering the parents for both William and Michael Denman that we are interested in.

A relative , John Bluet Denman, in the 1970s or early 1980s created a family tree for my line (for my uncle, Richard Denman) showing William as the son of William Denman and Ann Marten and showing Michael as also the son of these two.  At least one other Denman researcher has also placed my William as son of William Denman and Ann Marten.  With no church register currently available, and no will for the father William, to date there is no  evidence supporting this part of the tree.  Apparently there was a church register of births and deaths originally, which was seen and used by various researchers (including perhaps John B. Denman and certainly Leonard Maguire, archivist for the Old Meeting House) but which has gone missing since the mid-1980s or so.  This register covered approximately the years 1737 – 1810 (during which my ancestor William was born and baptized as an adult into the church and Michael also would have been).  As a congregation of a non-confoming and often persecuted church in England the records were never part of the officially recognized public records like the parish records or Bishop’s Transcripts and I’m told that records were often kept at a member’s home rather than the church (even after there was a church building).

IMGP4886One of the pictures that didn’t get taken was of the tea party we had on the small lawn in front of the the cottage (which is on the left side of this picture, with the chapel on the right) between the house and the old gravestones .  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with a clear blue sky and the  border of flowers against the cottage front wall was in full display, as shown in the picture. IMG_1298 We sat around a low table on which there was a tea pot, cups on saucers, and a plate piled high with “rock cakes” made by our hostess that day.  After we had all been served with a first round of tea and cakes, she brought out a plate of freshly-baked lemon cake.  Yum!  There were books piled in the corners to look through when I could pull myself away from the conversation, which meandered from Denman family history to Mr. Maguire’s archival interests to current-day church interests.

There were two particularly interesting experiences that afternoon.  One was seeing the chapel itself and the memorial tablets around the room.IMG_1306The other was the adventure of climbing down an old wooden ladder into the cellar of the old cottage and seeing the bare stones and original underpinnings of the structure.  One of the stones could be seen to have a number carved into it but I could not tell if it was part of a date or something else.  Unfortunately, the crypt under the chapel which contains my putative relatives is no longer accessible.  Recent work on the floor covered over the entry – no clue why they would think no one would want to see old graves/memorials!  So the archival notes by Mr. Maguire and the memorial tablets in the chapel itself are all that is left.

The beginning of our second week in England we moved on from Hythe to Lewes.  This put us in a lovely historic small town in the South Downs in East Sussex.  It has a castle and lots of old buildings.   The South Downs is a formation of chalk hills and Lewes is located where the river Ouse cut a gap through.  The hills are steep and Lewes is built on them.

We arrived mid-day and hauled our luggage up a long fairly steep hill to the High Street and found our hotel.  I had been warned ahead of time about the hills but was still taken somewhat by surprise.  Our room wasn’t quiteIMG_1269-contrast ready for us, but we dropped our bags and had lunch on the terrace looking out from a vantage point about halfway up a hill.  Then we wandered up High Street a little and lastly went looking for a garden for my sister.  (I wanted family history and she wanted plants and gardens, so we did as much of both as we could pack in.)  The garden we found was lovely and had many visitors, including groups of schoolchildren working off the energy they’d had to contain all day.  They were running around, jumping off walls and benches, fighting each other with long grass stems and generally having a good time.  Fun to watch.

The next morning we got ourselves back down to the train station which was where we’d arranged to meet up with the cousins.  They had graciously offered to come pick us up, take us back to their house for the morning to talk and then to lunch and over to Ditchling.  This is a Denman cousin I had connected with more than a year ago through this blog and then via a letter I wrote to the Ditchling church our ancestors belonged to.  Yes, my posts do occasionally attract a cousin’s attention; and yes, I actually wrote a paper letter to England (because I couldn’t find any other contact information for the Old Meeting House).  Serendipity at it’s best!

My newly-found Denman cousin is interested in the family history too, and we have a wonderful ongoing correspondence via email about our interests and what we are finding.  Unfortunately we have not yet been able to connect our two family lines definitely.  Both of us go back to a Denman man born in the mid-1700s (William b. 1763 in Ditchling and Michael b. c. 1750) in Sussex.  Although my line through William has been said to go back a number of generations in Sussex, there is no solid documentation for the relationship between him and the couple said to be his parents.  For my cousin’s line, Michael has so far as well resisted all efforts to find/document parents for him.

We spent the morning sitting around her table, talking about family trees and evidence found or not found, and looking at what we each had to share.  She of course had much more than I did, since I had pared down what I felt I could carry on planes and buses and trains.  And she had very kindly printed and copied a number of pages and trees for me and put all in a large envelope and a mailing tube  I could carry in my suitcase, we hoped.  While she and I were busy with this talk, my sister and her husband were getting to know each other and my sister got to hear about his interests and also to ask about his family.

IMG_1284At lunch time we went out to a restaurant  and got help deciphering the menu.  There was a discussion about what a Pimm’s Cup was – that included the waitress – and we decided to try one for the table since none of us had ever tasted one.  And at dessert time my sister and I were introduced to Eton Mess which is absolutely delicious and which was more than I should have finished with.

Almost enough good food to make me want an afternoon nap, except that we were heading to Ditchling to meet Mrs. Leonard Maguire and also another Denman researcher, and to see the Old Meeting House and some of Mr. Maguire’s papers that his widow still holds.  He was a thorough and prolific researcher who started out with a historic interest in the Baptists and developed genealogical interests in some of the families of the Old Meeting House along the way. With this all to look forward to I couldn’t have napped if you paid me to!

Although October has been officially declared to be the Family History Month, I usually think of November as being a family month as well.  It starts out with All Saints Day and All Souls Day (or Day of the Dead) where family ancestors are traditionally venerated.  Thanksgiving in the US is at the end of the month and that is certainly a family holiday if ever there was one.   We actually started the holiday season early this year in my family; in mid-October we got many of the women together and had a quilting/sewing party to make more Christmas stockings for the family celebration.  Our family has grown larger than the first set we made a number of years ago and we need more.

To briefly re-visit my October goals:  1) I haven’t managed to enter all the information from the multiple trees I brought back from England, although I have started the project.  Still hoping to figure out how to get them scanned without paying an arm and a leg.  2) I have gotten a lot of the information acquired into my database, although I haven’t even begun transcribing the 2 wills I brought back.  All of the various pages are sitting in a pile on one of the bookcases awaiting filing decisions.  3) I have saved all my pictures as .tif files and moved them to sub-directories by specific location.  I’m in the process of labeling them (boy! is that hard for some of them).  4)Lastly, I managed to write a post about our stay in Hythe and am trying to get all the travelogue-type information ready to go in a travel blog.  Not too bad – not great but not too bad overall.

I have also continued to chip away at the uncategorized, un-entered records I’ve collected for the Denman families and saved in the main genealogy file for them.  Even though I’ve made consistent progress, I still have 375 (!!) Denman files to look at, extract information from and enter in the database and finally put in the sub-directory file they belong in.  And this doesn’t count the files collected for the English Denman lines, or the Evernote files.  No wonder it’s taking me forever to do this!  I hadn’t realized how many files I had collected and just dropped in the main folder.

In service of this project, I’m trying a new principle for getting started.  First thing in the morning, instead of sitting down and reading email and looking at Facebook and checking for new podcasts and blogs, I’m immediately opening the genealogy folders and starting with the first file in line.  This seems to help and I actually have done a number of files.  I also have figured out that as I finish a file if I add “RM” to the beginning of the filename it clues me that the information has been added to my RootsMagic database.  With all the files starting with the RM they will still sort by the rest of the person name I use as a filename.  Now I just have to keep at it.

And that project, plus hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my ever-growing family, are my goals for November.  Hope everyone has a great month and a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 

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

The summer passed very quickly and I was consumed by planning and then taking a 2 week trip to England with my sister.  While genealogical research and even a small amount of organization took place, I was too distracted to note it.

Now I am back and re-adjusted to my own time zone again, and the annual Fall time change hasn’t happened yet to confuse me.  I came home from a wonderful trip with a head full of new thoughts and information, and many pages of paper as well as a usb thumb drive with 2 wills and many pictures.  Here is what I will accomplish in October:

1.  I will enter all new information from the 5 large sheets containing family trees that I returned with, thanks to my cousin and another Denman researcher who may or may not be related many generations ago.  I have a Sussex Denmans database in RootsMagic to connect all this information.  [These are what is known as A1 size sheets, about 22 by 33 inches, and will be stored in a mailing tube when I have extracted the information.  I would like to scan them, and will do that or get it done some time in the future.]

2.  I will likewise go through all the pages I acquired at the Hythe library and at The Keep and from my cousin and integrate this information into the RootsMagic database.    [Some of these pages are A3 size, which is about ledger size, and I’m not sure yet how I will file them.  The rest are, I think, A4 size and should fit all right in my standard files.  I will also scan all of them.]

3.  I will separate my pictures by location and label them.

4.  I will write at least one post for this blog about the trip and our experiences.

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