19 Sep 2015

The Second English Swinfield Gathering

It happened last Saturday! On 12th September, English members of the Swinfield and related families met at the George Ward Centre (the Community Centre) at Barwell, Leicestershire.

Once more, we had the chance to meet "our cousins" and to discover how we are related to one another. Fewer Swinfields, than I had hoped, were present but those who were there seemed to enjoy looking at the displays of family trees that had been laid out.

Unfortunately, only Family 5 was well represented. Even then, despite many promises of attendance from those who are on that pedigree, some parts of the tree had no attendees at all! The venue had been particularly chosen as being very near to where the majority of bearers of the surname still live.

I gave a presentation to illustrate what has been discovered about the family's history over the past 43 years of study.

My sincere thanks to those who came along to support the Gathering.

It could not have happened without the very hard work and input of Di, Sandra and Allan.

6 Sep 2015

See you in a week's time at Barwell?

In just a week's time, the Swinfields will be coming together at Barwell in Leicestershire.  Your relations and long-lost cousins may be there! Now is the chance to meet them. Make sure that you are there too.

Sandra Bates has ensured that there has been lots of publicity to make sure that it comes to the attention of all the "Swinfields" who still live locally. Besides delivering more than 50 flyers to known addresses of those who at some time have had the name, two articles have been published in local newspapers.

These articles will surely attract more people who live in the area.

We are busy making displays to illustrate what we know about the family's history.

Doors open at 1pm on 12th September at the George Ward Centre. 
Don't miss the illustrated talk which will begin at 2.45pm. 
Be with us until 5pm.

9 Aug 2015

Will we see you at the Second English Swinfield Gathering?

It is now just five weeks until the Swinfields will gather at Barwell in Leicestershire on 12th September 2015. This will be the second time that such an event has been organised in England. The last time that there was an opportunity to meet with those who have used our surname at any time in their life was back in September 2013. Those of us who were present at Appleby Magna in September 2013 enjoyed a very productive and rewarding afternoon with "our cousins". That was followed by an equivalent event for the Australian Swinfields in Sydney in May 2014.

Such Gatherings require a good deal of organisation and planning and consequently do not happen very often. If you miss this one, I do not know if and when there will be another chance for us to meet again. To publicise it, we have tried to bring it to the attention of as many Swinfields as possible.

That has been done through online blogs and publicity. Sandra Bates, who now lives in Barwell and whose grandmother was a Swinfield, has also toured the areas of Leicester, Swadlincote, Hinckley, Barton Under Needwood and Burton on Trent over the past few months delivering more than 50 flyers notifying the occupants of the forthcoming event. Those have not only gone to Swinfield households but to married women who had it as their maiden surname.

I hope that those who have heard about the Gathering will have spread the news to relations so that they may come as group. It would be great opportunity to have "a family day out". There is still time to arrange to come along with your close relations such as your parents, brother and sisters, children and even grandchildren. All ages will be very welcome.

So what will happen at the Gathering? You will be given a coloured badge which shows which family tree you are part of. Those who are the same colour as you will be your closest relations. Spot the cousin! You will be able to find yourselves on the displayed family trees and see just how you are related to one each other. These will be people who share the same ancestors as you but who you may not have met before.

It will also be a unique chance to see the documents which record the history of your ancestors and family to find out where they lived, what they did for a living and when and where they were born, married and died. Now is the time to find those documents, which you have in cupboards and attics, to share the history of your Swinfields with relations. If you have any old photographs of known family members, gather those together too to bring with you. We would love to copy them to add to our collections. They are all very important to us.

So we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at The George Ward Centre, Church Lane, Barwell LE9 8DG on 12th September from 1.00 to 5.00pm. 

At 2.45pm, there will be 45 minute illustrated talk which will show you what we have discovered about the family's history through both genealogy and DNA testing. Make sure that you are there to hear that. There is plenty of car parking space and entry is free.

What else is there more important to do on that Saturday? See you there!

18 Jul 2015

Monumental inscriptions and graves

Rookwood Cemetery 
Recently Andrew and Linda Swinfield have been visiting two of the largest cemeteries and graveyards close to Sydney in New South Wales. Many thanks for their sterling efforts.

Plan of Rookwood
They have located and photographed Swinfield monumental inscriptions and graves at both Rookwood and Woronora so that we have them on record. There are still 7 more monuments in the enormous Rookwood Cemetery to be found and photographed. Fortunately there is an index and a plan!

Proprietors' Cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA 

I have decided to add pages to the Blog so that those that we have for each family can be viewed. So far we have images for stones and plaques for Swinfields of Families 2, 3, 4 and 5. Those pages can be found in the right-hand column of this page. Have a look and see if your ancestor or relative is there.

If you know of any other stone or monument which records people called Swinfield, please send me a photograph of it and its location and I will add it to the archive. These are a very useful source of genealogical information but one which can easily be lost.

There must be more out there to find. Let's get copies of them before they disappear forever!

12 May 2015

Swinfield Gathering - A Reminder

It's now just four months until the Second Swinfield Gathering! 

Have you put it in your diary for 2015? Have you told your relatives that it is happening? Make sure that you will be there!  

Please let me know that you will be at Barwell to meet your relatives and see what we have discovered about the Swinfield family. It will be a fascinating experience.
                                              Who are you bringing with you? 

9 May 2015

Sarah Swinfield Raven - an update and an exciting discovery

by Di Swinfield

In my recent post about Sarah Swinfield Raven I mentioned Sarah's great-great-granddaughter, Colleen Swinfield, who had sent us copies of some family photos. I chose her photo of Sarah's oldest son, William, to illustrate what I wrote about Sarah's life. Among those pictures was another which caught my eye, after I had written about Sarah. It showed an elderly couple in the front garden of a house and was described by Colleen as, "William Swinfield 1841 photo believed to have been taken near Angel Yard, Earl Shilton about 1900".

This got us very excited as the only William Swinfield born in 1841 was Sarah Raven's brother who was also Geoff's great-grandfather. William has figured in a number of blog posts over the years, especially A Life in the Queen's Service and The End of an Eventful Life, written back in 2011. We know a quite a lot about William's life and death but until now we had no photograph of him. He died in 1905 when his only surviving son, Arthur, was a young and still unmarried man and the only family photos which we have were taken after Arthur's marriage and the birth of his son, Reg in 1925.

We had to contact Colleen to ask if she had any more information about this photo. She quickly replied that the photo was of William and his sister, presumably Sarah. Colleen had been given the photo by her Aunt Emma, who was the sister of her grandfather. Sarah's granddaughter, Emma, told Colleen that the families all lived "hand to mouth" and that most of the children wore shoes which had been thrown out by the shoe factories where their parents worked. It should be noticed that Sarah's shoes in the photograph are beautifully shiny!

We have no idea where Angel Yard might have been in Earl Shilton. Can anyone help us here? The photo was taken outside a house which has a front garden and looks rather more up-market. Was this Highfield Road? Does anyone recognise it?

All of this fits very well with what we know about William's life around 1900. He had settled in Camberley, Surrey, after a long career in the Army and his wife, Elizabeth, had died in the local Workhouse at Farnham in November of that year. By the time the 1901 census was taken at the beginning of April, William and Arthur were living with Sarah Raven at Highfield Street, Earl Shilton. This must have been rather more than a short visit as Arthur, aged 18, had found work as a shoe hand. Geoff's dad, Reg, also remembers his father, Arthur, being good at repairing shoes. It seems quite logical that the couple in the photograph were brother and sister, William Swinfield and Sarah Raven, both recently widowed.

By 1905 William was back in Camberley and met his unfortunate end after falling downstairs . Colleen has told us she has lots more photos which she is currently looking through. We can't wait!

22 Apr 2015

Sarah Swinfield Raven - A More Fortunate Sister?

Guest post by Di Swinfield

Back in 2011, one of the very first articles Geoff wrote for this blog was about his 2x great aunt, Jane Swinfield. Regular readers may remember reading about her incarceration in Millbank Prison and how she narrowly escaped transportation to Australia. Jane was the oldest child and probably the only legitimate daughter of Thomas Swinfield and Sarah (nee Hewitt) of Earl Shilton in Leicestershire. She had seven brothers and sisters, the youngest of whom was Sarah, born in 1845.

By the time Sarah was born, her mother had long since given up the pretence that her children were also those of her husband. She was living with Thomas Brown and it is likely that all seven of her younger children were his. The three youngest were certainly listed as his children in the 1851 census when they lived at High Street, Earl Shilton.

By 1871 Sarah had two illegitimate children of her own, William and Isaac, and was still living at home with her father, Thomas Brown. Her mother had died in 1862.

She had two more children, Mary Ann and Charles, in 1872 and 1874 but soon afterwards she found a husband. The General Register Office marriage index tells us that Sarah married William Raven in 1875.

When the next census was taken in 1881, Sarah was still living at her father's house in Wood Street and her four illegitimate children had been joined by two little Raven siblings, Emma and Thomas.

Sarah was listed as a Swinfield, presumably a mistake by the census enumerator. What was not a mistake, however, was the fact that William Raven was not in the house on the night of the census.

Where was he? Working away perhaps or temporarily staying elsewhere? Well, Sarah's husband was actually living very nearby in neighbouring Mount Pleasant, with his own three sons. William was in fact a much older man: his son, Alfred, was six years older than Sarah!

The 1891 census tells the same story, with Sarah remaining in Wood Street with her father and children while William Raven lived elsewhere. Of course, this arrangement may have served the couple perfectly well. Sarah had an elderly father and a growing family to take care of. She eventually had a total of four Raven children, with Ada and Gertrude being born in 1881 and 1885, as well as the four she gave birth to before she married, so her husband was obviously around sometimes! We only have a snapshot of their living arrangements every ten years through the census.

What of William Raven's earlier life? He had older children and so had probably been married before. Indeed, eagle-eyed readers may already have spotted him way back in 1851. He was then next door neighbour to the Brown and Swinfield household in the High Street! As a young man of 31, he lived there with his wife, Ann (nee Bent) and their three small children. After having an eventual total of nine children, Ann Raven died in 1871, aged only 45. The younger children were still very small, Sarah Swinfield also had four apparently fatherless children. Despite the 26 year gap in their ages, the marriage must have had its advantages in an age before social security benefits and with the ever-present threat of the Workhouse for families who could not take care of their own. We have no clue at present who might have fathered Sarah's four older children. 

William Raven died at the age of 79 in 1899.

Thomas Brown had also lived well into old age, dying in 1893 at the age of 84. Sarah was the informant of her father's death.

We do however have one further clue which sheds some light on the marriage of William and Sarah Raven. This article in the Leicester Chronicle and Mercury on the 18th November 1876 paints a picture of a marriage which was far from ideal and tells of domestic violence which the Hinckley Petty Sessions apparently found quite acceptable.

The grave of Sarah Raven in Earl Shilton churchyard
(courtesy of Sandra Bates)

Sarah did not re-marry after William's death.
She remained a widow in Earl Shilton until her
death in 1921 at the age of 75.

Colleen Swinfield, a member of the Facebook Swinfield Genealogy & DNA Group, is the great-granddaughter of Sarah's oldest son William (1867-1931) and has kindly shared some of her own family photos with us. This one shows William at the grave of his son, Clarence Isaac, who was killed in France in 1916. 

So did Sarah have a better life than her oldest sister, Jane? Probably. She had eight children, four of whom outlived her. She always stayed close to her wider family and never left the town of her birth, living to the age of 75, a comparatively long life for those times.

She seems to have been a dutiful daughter, taking care of a father who was never able to officially marry the woman who bore seven children with him. It is unwise to judge our ancestors in terms of our own, hopefully more enlightened, attitude to women's rights. Perhaps her marriage to a man old enough to be her father, who occasionally hit her when he thought she was neglecting her wifely duties, was a small price to pay for the relative security that it provided.