16 Apr 2016

A drive round some North Warwickshire churches

by Di Swinfield

Last week, we spent three days at the Who Do you Think you Are? Live event at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. On the way home, we realised we were close enough to Swinfield country to take a short detour and photograph some churches we haven't visited before. These places will be of particular interest to the Australian Swinfields who are descended from the two brothers, John and William, who emigrated to New South Wales in the middle of the 19th century.

St Mary, Atherstone

Atherstone church is where Edward Swinfield was baptised in 1834 and married in 1866. Edward was the son who did not travel to Australia with his parents, John and Mary Ann, but found work as a planter in St Kitts.

St Peter, Mancetter

Edward's younger sister, Mary, was the ancestress of Ruth Cuff of Tasmania. Mary was baptised at Mancetter in 1840. Their parents, John Swinfield and Mary Ann Bates, had married there in 1833 and sailed on the ill-fated 1852 voyage of the Beejapore.

Holy Trinity, Hartshill

The family lived in the neighbouring village of Hartshill, which is also where we believe John (William) Swinfield was baptised in 1838. He was the son of  brother William, who emigrated in 1848, and his first wife, Sarah Ballard. Among their descendants are Cheryl Cooper and Andrew, Helen, Pamela and Linda Swinfield, all born in New South Wales and living in Australia today.

These three churches are less than three miles apart and the brothers would have been very familiar with all of them.

28 Feb 2016

An important Swinfield find

Recently a very interesting discovery was made in the grounds of Hereford Cathedral in the west of England. St John's Walk was built in the early 16th century, it is believed from dendrochronology, to protect the members of the College of the Vicar's Choral from both the weather and the local inhabitants on their way to the services. It has been restored over the centuries and the most recent work concentrated on replacing stonework and damaged paving slabs. One of the stones used for the walkway had an inscription to Gilbertus de Swinfield! It is now in Masons' Yard awaiting conservation. The find was reported in the Hereford Times on 1st February

I have been contacted by Clare Wichbold, the archaeologist of Hereford Cathedral who was responsible for unearthing the slab. She learned of our interest in all those with the surname through an internet search. That led her to the Swinfield Genealogy and DNA Facebook page. Clare informs us that there is a detailed description of Gilbert's tomb and its contents in the Fasti Herefordensis of Francis Tebbs Havergal. It is known that after it was removed, the stone was sitting in the north-east transept until at least 1871 when it was recorded by a visiting antiquarian. Subsequently, it was employed as a paving stone.

Gilbert was a nephew of the more widely-recorded Bishop Richard de Swinfield who held that position at Hereford from 1283-1317, when he died at Bosbury. Richard's extensive register was published in 1909 and includes transcriptions of his letters and the documents produced during his time in charge of that diocese. Derrick Swinfield made an extensive study of his papers in the Cathedral Archives in May 2007 and has drawn up a pedigree of his immediate family.

Richard Swinfield (about 1240-1317) was one of three sons of Stephen who died at Bosbury in 1282. He may have been related to Peter Swynsfeld, one of the founders of Grey Friars Abbey, Leicester, in 1255, from where the body of Richard III was exhumed. Richard's brothers were Stephen of Gravesend and Thomas. The Bishop's tomb was examined and recorded by Dean Merryweather.

In addition to Gilbert, Richard de Swinfield had nephews named Robert of Leicester and John
Swinfield. The latter, who was Precentor from 1294, has a grand tomb in the Lady Chapel at Hereford Cathedral constructed after his death in 1311. Running along the archway are 16 pigs or swine, a pun on his surname, each decorated with the blue and gold chevrons taken from the arms of the Dean and Chapter.

Some leather and gold braid from the vestments in which he was buried have survived from Gilbert's tomb in the Cathedral Archives. Photographs of these are reproduced by kind permission of Gordon Taylor. They will form an important part of an exhibition of the St John's Walk finds to be staged in the Cathedral from 12th September to 31st December 2016. Di and I have been invited to visit. It will be a great opportunity for us all to see the tombstone and possessions from over 700 years ago. If only there was surviving DNA too!   

24 Dec 2015

Happy Christmas to all Swinfields!

It is that time again when we think back to what has happened throughout the past year before we look forward at New Year and to what is to come. In 2015, what was achieved in our search for the history of the Swinfield family?

In September, the 3rd Swinfield Gathering was held at Barwell in Leicestershire. This is the second time that we have come together in England. Once more, this was the opportunity to meet "new cousins" and to share information, stories and photographs about our ancestors and relatives.
Highfield Street, Earl Shilton
Earl Shilton churchyard
The next day, Sandra Bates took Di and me on a guided tour of Earl Shilton looking for and photographing the places where Swinfields lived in the village. We also visited the church and completed the collection of monumental inscriptions from that churchyard.

All the grave inscriptions, from whichever churchyard throughout the world they are in, are now being added to this Blog. Perhaps next year, we will be able to add the remaining stones which are in Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney.

I have been continuing to collect photographs of anyone who has ever had the surname of Swinfield. Believe it or not, we are nearing the 500 mark in the Family Album. If there is not one of you there that would be surprising and something to rectify in 2016! One of those is the first image that I have ever seen of my great-grandfather William which came to light this year.

At this time, we also think of those who have left us in the year that is drawing to a close. Sadly I am aware of three Swinfields who are no longer with us. They are Yvonne Patricia (1967-2015), Rosetta Winifred (1921-2015) and Abby Nicola (1996-2015). They will be sorely missed by their families.

I cannot tell you about the Swinfield marriages of 2015 yet as the records are currently only available to 2013. Of course, I know about my own wedding in St Lucia in March this year. I am so happy that Di has now joined the family.      

Reginald Felix Swinfield  (born 19th August 2015)
with Ben, Tom, Geoff and Reg Swinfield
(his great-grandfather born 11th January 1925)    
John Leslie and
Charlie John Swinfield
(born 27th November 2015)
Eight new additions have been welcomed to the Swinfield clan, being born in 2015 to my current knowledge. Our "population" is now about 600 worldwide (about 490 in England and 110 elsewhere). At present, I can only add three of them to the appropriate family tree. If any of you can tell me where they "fit in", please let me know.

Do have a Happy Christmas from us all!

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!