The Miles family – basket makers of Shoreditch

Autumn has arrived here in the UK. For me this marks the start of the “family history” season; it’s time to return to my research. On checking through the blog posts I’ve written in the past, I’ve noticed that I haven’t included much about my Miles ancestors.
My great grandmother, Alice Miles, was born on 6th March 1861 at 5 White Hart Court, Shoreditch, London and was baptised at St Leonards Church in Shoreditch on 31st March 1861.
Alice’s parents were John Miles and Elizabeth Ram, who married at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth on 26th July 1841. They appear in the 1841 census, living at White Hart Court with 4 daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, Jane and Sarah aged between 6 years and 2 months. Although they didn’t marry until July 1841, John and Elizabeth must have been living together for several years. Elizabeth was only 17 when her first child was born. I have wondered whether this was John’s second marriage – this is something I need to check as there are some public trees on Ancestry which give Elizabeth’s surname as Shepherd. John was a basket weaver / basket maker.
By 1851 another 4 children had arrived: the family was still in White Hart Court living in what must have been quite crowded conditions. One daughter, Mary, doesn’t appear on the 1851 census so maybe she had died.
My great grandmother ,Alice, made her first census appearance in 1861 as the census was taken on 7th April one month after her birth.
The family was still at White Hart Court in 1871 although several of the children were no longer living at home. Some had probably married, others had moved away or perhaps died.
Children of John and Elizabeth Miles (dates based on their ages as given in the census) :
1. Elizabeth Esther born 1835
2. Mary Ann born 1836
3. Jane born 1839
4. Sarah born 1841
5. John born 1843
6. Emma born 1847
7. Elinor born 1848
8. Ephraim born 1850
9. Martha born 1851
10. Harriet born 1853
11. Abraham born 1855
12. Alice born 1861

I’m now wondering what happened to all of them…finding out will be my task for the next few days!

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More about the Filler family of Cottered and Walkern, Hertfordshire

Feeling a bit stuck on the main names I’m researching I thought I’d go back again to have a look to see what else I could find out about the ancestors of my 5 x great grandmother, Edith FILLER who married George PALMER in Cottered, Hertfordshire in 1779.

Edith was born in Cottered, Hertfordshire on 28th January 1759, and was baptised on 11th February of the same year.  From the Hertfordshire records on Findmypast I found that  her parents were William FILLER and Mary HARRISON who married in Cottered in 1758.  The record in the register states

William Filler singleman of this parish and Mary Harrison Spinster of Aspeden were married in this church by Banns this 29th Day of November 1758 by me Angel Chauncy Rector. 

This marriage was solemnised between us

William Filler X his mark

Mary Filler late Harrison X her mark

William’s father was probably Daniel FILLER, born in Walkern in 1704, who married Mary HAGGAR in Walkern in June 1729.  Daniel was baptised at Walkern on 7th November 1704; his parents were William and Elizabeth FILLER.

So – could I take this any further back?  The online records at Hertfordshire Archives include the marriage of William FILLER of Layston and Elizabeth TITMUS of Aston on 22nd December 1691.   But is this “my” William? Well  – so far, the HALS records, Findmypast, Family Search  and Ancestry haven’t thrown up any alternatives, and Layston is about 7 miles from Walkern.   Of course he may have been working on a farm there at the time of his marriage?

A William was baptised in Walkern on 13th January 1660, the son of William FILLER and Mary.  Maybe he is my 8 x great grandfather!! Whether I’ll be able to find out any more information I just don’t know!

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Revisiting a brickwall: Mary Couling – my 2 x great grandmother

I’ve been searching for details about Mary Couling (born c 1840) for some time.   From her marriage certificate I knew that her father was John Couling, deceased, and the 1871 census gave her place of birth as Oxfordshire.  Another researcher suggested some possible leads, so when I had time I started to follow the trail.

In 1861, before his marriage to Mary. my great great grandfather Thomas Brittain was lodging at 7 Spanns Place, St Pancras, in the household of Joseph and Rebecca Constable both of whom were born in Oxfordshire.  I finally found a possible marriage for this couple, in Headington Oxford in 1844 and then found them both in London in 1851;  with them was  an Elizabeth Cooling born in Oxford!

So could I prove a connection between this  Elizabeth Cooling, and my Mary Couling?

Here’s the family in 1841:


John Cowling 40
Rebecca Cowling 30
Rebecca Cowling 17
Henry Cowling 14
Elizabeth Cowling 7
Edward Cowling 2


And this seems to be the same family in  the 1851 census:


John Couling 53
Rebecca Couling 44
Edward Couling 11
Mary Couling 9
Now a dead-end street off Osney Lane, this was part of a historic road from the High Street to Osney Abbey. The present buildings date from 1868.  © Copyright Stephen Craven and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

SP5006 : The Hamel, Oxford by Stephen Craven

So I reckon there’s a reasonable chance that Mary Couling was  the sister of Rebecca Constable, in which case her parents were John and Rebecca.

My next  tasks are  to find a marriage between John Couling and Rebecca, and to establish where John was born. In 1841 he says he was born in county (i.e. Oxfordshire) but the 1851 census states “Ireland”.

I shall probably have to buy a birth certificate for one of the Couling children as that will give me more information.

On with the search!





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Mary Ann Dorsett born in Sunbury in 1792

For some time now I’ve wondered whether I would ever find out more about my 4x great grandmother Mary Ann Dorsett who married William Millington Mason in 1818.  I knew from the 1851 census that she was born in Sunbury, Middlesex in the early 1790s but the “backwards” trail stopped there.

In the last few days, a combination of searches on  and have provided several possible links.  I found a baptism of a Mary Ann Dorset , the daughter of James and Sarah Dorset at St Mary’s Church, Sunbury in 1792.  A definite possibility!  When I checked the other children of this couple, one name stood out: Elizabeth Hater Dorsett who was baptised on May 4th 1800.

St Mary's Church Sunbury

St Mary’s Church Sunbury
The church is by the river Thames in Sunbury. It was designed by Stephen Wright and built in 1752
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright steve and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The reason for my interest is the middle name “Hater”: one of my great grandfather’s half brothers also had this middle name, albeit spelled “Hayter”.  So was this a family name from the past?

A quick search revealed that a James Dorsett married a Sarah Hayter in 1789 at St Margaret’s Westminster.  Are these the parents of Mary Ann, and therefore my 5x great grandparents?  Or is it all coincidence?

If you recognise any of these names or they feature in your research do get in touch!  I would love to be able to confirm that these people fit into my family tree.



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Filler family of Hertfordshire

One of my resolutions for this year is to try to post more frequently, and to present my family history findings  as more of a work in progress rather than a definitive piece of research.

St John the Baptist, Cottered

© Copyright Eirian Evans and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Using the Hertfordshire parish records at I found the following potential male ancestors:

Edith’s father was probably William Filler born in Walkern in 1732.  His father, Daniel, was also born in Walkern, in 1704 and was  the son of another William.  At the moment I don’t have any further information about these people: it would be good to know what they did for a living.  No occupations are shown on the parish registers so I will have to look at other records to see what else can be found.

© Copyright John Salmon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Many thanks to the photographers whose photographs I’ve used to illustrate this post.

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Ayot St Peter Old Churchyard

Whilst out on a walk this week I stopped at the old cemetery in Ayot  St Peter , Hertfordshire.   It’s not connected to my family history but it looked very peaceful in the winter sunshine.

The churchyard is what remains of the old church which was struck by lightning in 1874 and burned down.  A new “Arts and Crafts” style church was built further along the road, so the original  churchyard lies abandoned.

This headstone was particularly interesting; it was one of the oldest headstones visible – I think the date reads 17th October 1734.

Headstone of Mr Daniel Nash

Headstone of Mr Daniel Nash

This tomb seems to have  once been very grand but it is now falling into disrepair:

Tomb in Ayot St Peter churchyard

Tomb in Ayot St Peter churchyard

See for more about Ayot St Peter.

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Hannah Brittain – a snippet from Ancestry

I already knew that my 3x great grandmother Hannah Brittain, nee Marsden, had died in Colney Hatch Asylum in July 1881 but when released the UK  Lunacy Patients Admission Registers for 1846-1912 I had a quick look to see if there was any more information.

From the records I learned that Hannah, a”female pauper”,  had been admitted to Colney Hatch on 2nd July 1879; so she was presumably a patient there for just over two years until her death in July 1881.

Some of the patient records are held at the London Metropolitan Archives so it may be possible to find out more about Hannah’s condition and the reasons why she was admitted to the asylum.

For now, though, I’m going back to search Ancestry’s asylum  records just in case any other ancestors appear!


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A visit to see “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”

Remembrance Poppies at the Tower of London

Remembrance Poppies at the Tower of London

I went down to London to see the poppies a couple of weeks ago.  The crowds were building steadily throughout the day but it was still an amazing experience.  The poppies themselves looked stunning in the autumn sunshine and there was a quiet buzz of interest from most of the people looking down at the moat.   Having recently discovered that my great grandfather ,John William Saunders, had been treated in hospital in Germany after being captured in 1917 I was very moved by the significance of each individual poppy.

London Oct 2014 002

Close up of some of the 888,246 ceramic poppies at the Tower


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Mary Harding nee Price (born c 1809)

It seems as though it’s time to revisit some of the family research I did several years ago. There’s so much new information online, which makes it easier and faster to locate people and make links.

One person who had eluded me until this week was my 3x great grandmother, Mary, the mother of Mary Ann Harding. I knew from the 1851 census that Mary had been born around 1809 in Leominster in Herefordshire but I hadn’t done any research to find out her maiden name.

I decided to send for the birth certificate of one of her daughters, Rebecca Harding, who had been born after the start of civil registration in 1837. The certificate arrived yesterday and confirmed that Mary’s maiden name was Price.

Back to Ancestry, which brought up the marriage record for William Harding and Mary Price in Lambeth in 1832.    The witnesses don’t appear to be family members though I need to check out “Elizabeth Duberly” just in case she’s connected. As the family seemed to reamin in the Shoreditch area for many subsequent years I wonder why they married in Lambeth?

st.mary's Lambeth

Now to have another look for William and Mary before they appear in London – William says he was born in Cambridgeshire so it seems most likely that they met in London.

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John Sheepwash – Pipemaker of Faversham

Some idle browsing led me to this interesting article from the Canterbury Times which focuses on the work of my Sheepwash ancestors:

The suggestion that the Sheepwash name was common around Faversham at Boughton, Graveney, Preston and Ospringe gives me another lead to follow, as I need to find definite evidence for some of the early family members.  And who were the  Sheepwashes who were fish and chip fryers?


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