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.

new year 2008-5Here’s wishing all of us a healthy, happy, and peaceful New Year.

I just went back and looked and my January 2014 To-Do List and realize how different things looked a year ago.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but nevertheless.  I had forgotten how focused I was a year ago on the Earhart-Hockman question.  I’m happy to report that follow up led me to a tentative conclusion about my ancestor, Elizabeth M. Hockman or Earhart.  I wrote about it here, in April 2014.  I haven’t pursued this question much further, as it looks to me like the possible resources I need are not online.  Another trip to southwest Ohio in my future?  I should probably also look at the Genealogical Proof Standard and Thomas Jones’ book.  Several references to how we know the person we found is actually our relative when that person lived and died without our knowing him or her have intrigued me since this is exactly the problem.

When I look at the question of organization and what I thought I would do this year, I also see that I didn’t follow the game plan precisely.  I had thought that I would use Evernote tags to guide me (To_Analyze for example) and I didn’t.  What I did do was start through my Denman file and add each piece of information I had already collected to the individual in RootsMagic and change the filename and put the file in the appropriate subdirectory.  I didn’t make it through this one family name before I distracted myself and moved to looking at each of my direct ancestors to see what life events (birth, marriage, and death at least) I had good documentation for.  I did the same work of making sure it was added to the person in RootsMagic including an image of the file if I had one and then renaming and putting it in the subdirectory it belongs in.  I got through all of my great-great-grandparents and made a list in Evernote of what was missing.  Not surprisingly many of the missing pieces were documentation for births; this included some that should have been recorded in a county or state registry and that I cannot find – yet.  My intention is to move this list to a spreadsheet as well so I can sort it, etc. but that hasn’t yet happened.

My only-formulated-so-far 2015 goal is to work on (and I hope to solve) the mystery of how I am related to the two Denman cousins I have connected with.  I spent a lot of time on the Denman line this last year and learned a lot, but we haven’t yet figured out or found evidence for how Michael Denman (c 1761-1800) and William Denman (1763-1858) are related although we are pretty certain that they are. I am working on getting my 4 siblings all to test their autosomal DNA and then will start on the Denman first cousins.  There are a couple of men available in that group and I’m hoping I can persuade one of them to also do a yDNA test.  I don’t know of any Denman men on my line who have tested, although there are a couple of Denman One Name Studies and at least one DNA study going on that would be relevant to my questions.   So, if by any chance you are a Denman man who descends from John and Marinda Blackman Denman (my line), or from any of William and Ann Boorman Denman’s sons, I hope you will consider testing your yDNA as part of the study.

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.

 

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