John William Saunders: A Prisoner of War in WW1

My FindMyPast subscription was due for renewal earlier this month but I decided that I was tired of trying to work out how the new search system works.   When I first started researching my family history I joined The Genealogist, and a special offer for previous subscribers had arrived in my inbox just a week before I gave up on FMP – so I paid my money and started searching.

I was interested to learn that the site has just released some World War 1 Casualty Records:

My great grandfather, John William Saunders (1875-1920) received the Silver War Badge and died in 1920. He has a Commonwealth War Graves headstone on his grave at Chingford Mount Cemetery – so was he wounded at some point?  I looked him up – and was amazed to see that he appears in the War Office weekly Casualty List for 18th September 1917, and the details show that he was “previously reported missing, now in German hands”.

This information led me to the website of the International Committee of the Red Cross which holds the WW1 Prisoner of War Records.  It took just a few minutes searching on to locate my great grandfather’s record, and to discover that he had been taken prisoner at Ypres in June 1917, registered at the prison camp at Limburg an der Lahn and then  transferred to hospital in Wurzburg.

There’s a lot more to find out – the two websites are fascinating and there is lots of interesting information, with photographs of some of the POW camps, on the ICRC site.




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Attack of the blog scraper?

If you are reading this post then you should have found it at “All Roads Led to London”. Someone out there has been “scraping” this blog, using my content without permission and without any attribution.    I doubt that the individual concerned has any interest in anyone’s family history, so illegally copying my posts is a rather pointless activity.  For me, it means that potential family contacts would be unable to get in touch – such a wasted opportunity!

So, if you find this post on a blog which appears to be based in the USA and where many of  the posts have the same date (June 2014) please log out and search again for the “real thing”.  I haven’t added much lately as I have been busy enjoying the summer, but as we move into autumn I will be doing more family history research and posting my findings here.

Please note the copyright notice which appears in the sidebar:

© A.G. Smithers and All Roads Led to London, 2012 -2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to A.G Smithers and All Roads Led to London with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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The Ferrys of Fuller Street

After a holiday and several weeks busy with work, I returned to my focus on the Ferry family. I’ve continued to find the Settlement and Removal Records fascinating.  On 2nd September 1850, a 74 year old single woman, Mary Ferry, was subject to an Examination. She was living at 10 Sale Street Bethnal Green.

Sale Street in 1923

Sale Street in 1923

This record probably refers to  my 4 x great aunt who in 1841 was living with her brother, my 4 x great grandfather  John, and his wife Mary in Fuller Street, Bethnal Green.  It’s possible that John died in 1850, and so it’s not surprising that his sister found herself in need of support after his death.  (I still need to confirm the date of John’s death).

Mary states that her father, another John Ferry, who had died about 30 years previously, had “rented a house at 4 Fuller Street for a great many years. He died in that house and buried three wives therefrom”.

This  gives me some information about my 5 x great grandfather, another John Ferry – and another avenue to research!  Who were the three wives – and which one was my 5 x great grandmother?


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Ferry Family Members in the Settlement and Removal Records

The Selected Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records, 1828-1930 on also provide fascinating information about various members of the Ferry family who had fallen on hard times. Amongst the records,  I was surprised to find that my great great grandmother,  Fanny Ferry, (nee Batchelor, born 1838) is mentioned several times, having applied for poor relief in Poplar in 1895. She had been widowed in 1889 when my great great grandfather Ambrose Ferry died, and clearly things had not gone well for her thereafter despite taking in washing and working as a charwoman. Presumably she had been unable to keep up the family home at 18 Old Ford Road, where they had lived for over 14 years. Since leaving Old Ford Road she had lived in Palm Street and Lamprell Street. Her daughter, Emily, my great grandmother, was also living at 16 Lamprell Street.

The records indicate that she was given “1 loaf, 2 meat” by the Poplar Union on 2nd December 1895 but was then removed to Bethnal Green a few days afterwards. Eight months later, on 7th August 1896, Fanny died of  “Granular Kidneys, Morbus Cordis” at the London Hospital.  She was just 58 years old.

The London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, where Fanny Ferry died in 1896.

The London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, where Fanny Ferry died in 1896.

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The Ferry family in the early 19th century

My month focusing on the Ferry family has been extremely productive. Using the London Baptism records on Ancestry, I checked the dates of the baptisms of all the children of John and Mary Ferry. Having identified 12 children born between 1794 and 1817 (Sarah, John, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Ann, Harriet, James, Samuel, Edward, Louisa, Joseph and William) I realised that my records included a thirteenth child, George, also baptised in 1794. I have now removed him from my tree as I’m fairly certain that his parents were a different couple.

The family lived in the Hare Street / Fuller Street area of Bethnal Green.

Fuller StreetIn Greenwood’s 1827 map, Fuller Street can be seen running parallel to Church Row.  St Matthew’s Church is to the left of Church Row.  Hare Street runs across the bottom of these roads.

By concentrating  on the Ferrys and not allowing myself to become distracted by other branches of my tree, I’ve learned a lot.  So I’m going to give the Ferrys another month ,of my time.  What else will  I find?

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Focus on the Ferry family

I’ve  began my January challenge by focusing on Edward John Ferry (1834 – 1912).

Edward John Ferry was born in Bethnal Green on 29th May 1834 (father: Edward William Ferry, mother: Frances Sarah Ferry nee Aburn). Edward John was one of the brothers of my great great grandfather, Ambrose Ferry (1837-1889). He married Sarah Bishop on 19th October 1857.

It seems that the family lived in Mape Street, Bethnal Green from at least 1861 until 1911. At first they lived at No 24 with John and Susan Bishop, Sarah’s parents, but had moved to No.55 by 1871.

Mape Street was located in one of the poorest areas of Bethnal Green. In “Sanitary Ramblings” (1848) Hector Gavin described part of the area:

“Between Mape-street and Hague-street there is a large and deep hollow, in the shape of an irregular triangle, with the sides measuring respectively about 130, 130, and 100 feet. In wet weather this is a sort of pond; into it are thrown at all times the contents of the fish baskets, the heads and intestines of fish, and every kind of animal and vegetable refuse. In the hot and dry weather in which I visited it, the surface had become exsiccated, and the nature of the filthy soil on which I trod was not readily perceived by the eye, but the sense of smell detected, in a concentrated form, the essence of putrefying odours, and the stomach heaved with nausea. At one end of this triangle, and on a level with its lowest surface, are rows of two houses, with open privies, and the soil oozing into a little ditch in the hollow”.

Forty years later, Charles Booth coloured Mape Street purple on his Poverty Map of London, suggesting the street was “mixed – some comfortable, others poor.” He comments that “the whole area looks better off than it used to be, probably on account of the good trade of the last two years”.

Edward John Ferry must have seen many changes during his long residence in Mape Street.

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Happy New Year to all genealogists!

For me, the start of 2014 is a time to clear the desk, dust off the files and start researching family history again.  Several months have passed since I blogged regularly; I lost my way a little with my research after a promising time earlier in 2013.  I really want to get back to researching and blogging this year.  I think I might focus on one family each month, work on finding out as much as I can and writing up some of the more interesting things as and when I locate them.

This month I shall be revisiting my research on the Ferry family of Bethnal Green, East London, with the aim of discovering more about their lives and the social history of the Bethnal Green area during the family’s time there.

Just now I’m intrigued by these two references which I found by chance on Familysearch.  They come from the minutes of the  Bethnal Green (Huguenot) Friendly Benefit Society:

1857 Apr 6 Proposed by Mr Geo Ferry, Wm Goddard by trade a Cabnet [sic] maker, 34 Turk St. Bethnal Green, aded [sic] 20 years.

1858 Jul 5 Proposed by Mr Edw. Ferry, Tho Stillwell by trade a Weaver, No 24 Mape St Bethnal Green, aged 23 years.

I have a George and an Edward Ferry in my tree, living in this area – might they be connected to these two gentlemen?

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Sympathy Saturday: Abraham Sheepwash, “Death from the heat at Purfleet”

One of my  grandfather’s brothers, Abraham Neville Sheepwash, was born in 1884 and baptised at St Anne’s Church in Hoxton.  Another researcher recently alerted me to a newspaper article about his death in 1898,  aged just 14.  My grandfather was born in March of that year.

In August 1898, The Essex County Chronicle reported on an inquest held concerning his death on board the training ship Cornwall, which was lying in the Thames off Purfleet.

His mother, Alice,  my great grandmother, wife of Edward Sheepwash, a fish salesman of Hawkesley Road, Walthamstow, told the inquest that Abraham had been on the Cornwall for two years, enjoying good health. She had visited him frequently and he had been home 3 times.

One Sunday morning in  August 1898, Abraham was found by the instructor, “lying down on a stool, insensible and breathing heavily”.  Despite being conveyed to the sick bay, he expired a short time later. The post mortem showed that the cause of death was “venous engorgement of the brain”, the result of heat.

Weather records from August 1898 indicate that it was very hot at that time, and London saw temperatures of between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (26 – 29.5 C).  It seems odd to me that a healthy young boy would succumb to the heat early in the morning, but perhaps he had been on duty the previous day and became ill then.

HMS  Cornwall was a reformatory ship , a naval training ship for boys.  Originally she had been the HMS Wellesley (built in 1815) but was fitted out as a training ship in 1868, renamed,  and moored off Purfleet.

So far I’ve been unable to find out  why Abraham had been sent to HMS  Cornwall, but it’s clear that he must have had a brush with the law in some way.

Dickens’s Dictionary of the Thames, 1881 , states of HMS Cornwall:  “This reformatory training-ship of the School Ship Society is anchored off Purfleet. As a general rule the committee do not admit boys unless the three following conditions are satisfied:
    1. That the boy be sentenced to not less than three years’ detention.
    2. That he be not less than 13 years of age nor more than than 15.
    3. That he be certified as sound and healthy.”

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A holiday from blogging – or perhaps not?


I was feeling quite guilty because  I haven’t managed to write a weekly post recently.  Work, holidays, family stuff, gardening and a rotten broadband connection have all combined to make it impossible to sit down and write regularly.

Then a few days ago I read a post on a blog called “myheritagehappens” which made me reflect on why I write this blog.  Firstly, it’s to help me organise my research and ensure that it doesn’t just languish in dusty files and boxes.  Secondly, I want to get the names I’m researching out there on the internet so that others can find me and connections can be made.   Thirdly, I hoped that writing would help me to document my thoughts and suggest new avenues to pursue.

This year I began to feel that as I hadn’t made any startling new discoveries I didn’t have anything include in my blog.  On reflection, though, even the smallest snippet of information might prompt someone to get in touch with a recollection, fact or photo.

So I shall try to return to my previous pattern of a weekly post, but it won’t necessarily be full of detailed genealogy.  The blog may become more of a repository for facts and records that I’ve found along the way – or just questions that have emerged from my research.

Taking a broader view may well prove fruitful – and if you are reading this and are connected – however distantly – do get in touch.

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Back to the Brittains – my great great grandfather’s children

After a short break from genealogy I’ve  decided to return to my paternal line and check my research on my great great grandfather’s family.  Thomas Brittain was born in 1834 and married Mary Couling in April 1863.  They had seven children, the youngest of whom was my great grandfather, George Francis Brittain, born in 1881.

I located the family in the  1871 and 1881 censuses which together gave the names of all the children:

  • Minnie Adelaide, born 1864
  • Thomas W, born 1866
  • Elizabeth, born 1868
  • Rose, born 1871, died 1873.
  • Rose Rebecca, born 1875
  • John, born 1879
  • George Francis (my  great grandfather) born 1881

In 1871 the family lived in Church Way, St Pancras.  This was a narrow street in Somerstown which led from Chalton Street to the Euston Road.  By 1881 they had moved to King Street, which was just a short walk away.

So, what happened to each of the children?  Minnie married Henry Buck in 1881 at Old St Pancras Church,which is where Thomas married Alice Bentley in 1884.

TQ2983 : The Old St. Pancras church, Pancras Road by pam fray Old St Pancras Church  © Copyright pam fray and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth married William Gulliford at All Saints Church, Camden, in 1889.  In 1894, Rose Rebecca married William Preston Franklin at Holy Trinity Church, Haverstock Hill.

John married Helen Wiltshire in 1901 at the Register Office in Islington, and my great grandfather, George Francis,  married Helen’s sister Elizabeth (Betsey) in the same year at St Pancras Register Office.

I think now  I’m going to try to find out more about them all – in particular John, who appears to have been an inmate of an Industrial School in 1891.  What had led him there?

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