Category Archives: History

Research and Responsibility

No, not a review of one of Jane Austen’s lesser-known offerings, just some thoughts on family history and similar research.

It can all be summed up by the case of my great-great-great uncle Moses. According to the Blackburn Standard of Saturday 16th February 1884 one Moses Gregson, a stone mason, was up in the Borough Police Court for using threatening language to his wife Margaret the previous day.

It may very well be a tale of domestic violence, but on the other hand it may be the story of a family man (or lovable rogue) who took an uncharacteristic drink and ended up in deep water. He was also fined 5 shillings for appearing drunk in court the previous day, so I suspect that he’d been hauled into court by the police whilst still full of the drink that had caused the original problem.

The question is whether to tell people or not.

To modern day members of the family it’s an historical curiosity, but if you tell outsiders it could be a bit embarrassing. It depends on your sensitivity to such things, and though I’m no shrinking violet I do feel a twinge when discussing the story.

The embarrassment would rise, I feel, as you go back in the generations. My mother would have been very unhappy with me revealing it, and my grandmother would have been quite upset. My great-grandmother, who may well have known Moses as a child, is an unknown quantity.

She was born in 1879 and is the oldest member of the family that I knew personally. I really don’t have a clue how she would have reacted to me telling the world her uncle had been in court for drinking and using threatening language to his wife.

If she was still alive I may have been too embarrassed to even mention it to her. She in turn may not have worried about it at all as she had grown up with many things and taken them all in her stride.

This leads on to another example.

I have a small silver medal issued in 1919 to thank a railwayman for his service in the Great War, where he had served in Mesopotamia.  He had two spells in hospital – once with fever and once with syphilis, which seems to have brought his service to an abrupt end. This article discusses venereal disease in the Great War if you are interested.

It’s slightly different to the case of Moses Gregson, as he isn’t a member of the family and I feel no embarrassment about it. I do, however, feel that family members who knew him may still be alive and it’s for them to talk about it (if they want to) rather than me. He was still alive into the 1980s and some of his old neighbours might still be around too.

It’s quite a can of worms when you start looking at it, and the choices are even harder when you’re trying to think of someone else and their reaction.

If something was mentioned in the newspapers in 1884, or in army records in 1918 should we talk about it openly, or should we worry about the possible sensitivity of other people?

 

 

 

 

Clitheroe and Family History

We went to Slaidburn on Monday, taking the tree picture on the way. It’s a fascinating old village, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Harry Potter film (or a Hammer House of Horror film for those of us who remember them).

I’ll be writing about that visit in a couple of days.

Then we went to Clitheroe. It’s a pleasant small town not far from Pendle Hill, and it has cropped up a few times in recent posts, mainly as a residence for various members of my family. I used to enjoy visiting it when I was a child, though I have to say that I never noticed how hilly it was when I was younger.

It was a dullish day so I had a go with the effects on my computer – not sure if it’s worked or not. One of my early memories is of visiting the war memorial with my grandmother and being shown her father’s name on the side.

 

Like so many others he’s just a name on a memorial now, I doubt if anyone who knew him is alive now.

These are various homes of the Carus family over the years. The one with the red car is where my grandmother was living with her widowed mother in 1917, and may be the one where the family photo was taken. The view of the castle is the one they would have seen when they stepped outside.

Harry Carus and family. Clitheroe 1915.

Harry Carus and family -1915

The house with the silver car outside is the one where all the family lived in the late 19th century – all nine of them!

The other one, with the box balls in the front garden, is where Isaac Newton Carus lived, before handing it on to one of his sons.

I have a lot more to do, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a strange feeling, seeing all these places where family used to live, particularly as I must have passed within 100 yards of one of them dozens of times without realising.

Peace Medals

When all the fighting was done, the UK decided to have a national Peace Celebration. The selected day was Saturday 19th July 1919. This was a little optimistic as the Great War was not officially over when they started the planning, and we were still engaged fighting the Bolsheviks in Russia. We were also still fighting amongst ourselves, with mutinies in Southampton, Calais and Kinmel and tanks on the streets of Glasgow.

There was trouble during the celebrations too, with the riot at Luton being the best known. The town museum, as I remember from a visit many years ago, has a livelier version of events than The Guardian. They blame trouble between the The Discharged Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation and the Comrades of the Great Warfollowed by a riot which involved looting a piano shop and playing Keep the Home Fires Burning after setting fire to the Town Hall. The two ex-service organisations had different political outlooks, the Comrades of the Great War being set up as a right wing alternative to The Discharged Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation. Eventually they were to resolve their differences and become founder organisations of the British Legion.

Part of the Peace Celebrations featured the giving of medallions, often in white metal, to local school children. Unlike 1911, Nottingham didn’t produce a medal. The Nottingham Peace Celebrations provided sports, cinema visits, fancy dress parades and teas for 30,000 children, though there is no mention of medals, apart from sports prizes.

Some places provided generic medals, though others were specifically made for individual towns and villages. The Derby Peace Medal in the header page is one of the better examples of design – featuring the badge of the local regiment.

The Sheffield medal is more typical, with a generic figure of Peace on one side and the city coat of arms on the other side.

The Birmingham medal is slightly better from the design point of view – I’ve always liked this representation of Victory. It features on a generic peace medal, with an agricultural scene on the reverse, which was the first of these medals I ever had (given to me by my grandfather back in the 1970s).

This is the obverse and reverse of the Derby medal.

Note: I’ve added a link to the previous post to access a picture of the 1911 silver steward’s jewel.

Nottingham 1911 Veterans’ Dinner

This is the medal that was given to members of the Boy’s Brigade and Boy Scouts who lined the procession route for the Veterans’ Parade in Nottingham during the Coronation celebrations. The Scouts were, at that time, a new organisation compared to the Boy’s Brigade. The medal features two stags with very flat antlers. They have to be flat to allow room for all the wording.

I presume Mrs J A Morrison was the wife of J A Morrison DSO, who was MP for East Nottingham between 1908 and 1912, and was host of the dinner.

There is a book which lists the names of the war veterans who went to the dinner, which was held at the Empress Rink, King Edward Street, Nottingham. The skating rink is reported as burning down in 1910 and being rebuilt as a cinema, which opened in January 1913 so I’m not sure how it hosted the dinner in June 1911.

There were 1,600 veterans, with 2,475 medals between them. The oldest veteran was 90-year-old E Pratt of the 17th Foot, who lost eight toes to frostbite in the Crimea.

Each veteran was given a copy of the book as a souvenir, with Stewards being given silver jewels (which I have seen, though never been able to photograph), and Captain Morrison, as he was then, being given a gold and enamel jewel.

Edit: This is a link to the catalogue archive of auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb showing a picture of a silver stewards jewel.

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 3)

W D Carus (2)Only one of the other three brothers seems to have served in the war.

Thomas, the oldest brother, was a Labourer in a Print Works in 1891, a Cotton Mill Oiler in 1901 and a Corporation Labourer in 1911. According to his obituary (September 1938) he joined the Clitheroe Fire Brigade in 1911 and served for 26 years. I’ll leave that for another post.

Albert, who was unmarried, and a Print Works Labourer in 1911, died in 1913. I don’t know anything about the circumstances, so that’s another avenue of research. In 1911 there was someone else in the Carus household too – Margaret Evelyn, a grand daughter aged seven. She was born in Aldershot, and that is part of Walter’s tale.

In 1911 Walter was living with wife and two younger children in Aldershot, where he was working as a carman for a furniture company.

There is little military paperwork, just an index card (pictured above) for a Walter Carus indicating that he went to France on 18th August 1914. On the back of the card is a Clitheroe address.

Adding Aldershot to a soldier who went to France within two weeks of the start of the war, I decided that it was likely that Walter had been a regular soldier before the war, and he had been called back from the Reserve (they mainly signed on for seven years in the army and five in the Reserve).

And that, as I often say, was that.

Looking through the papers, I was able to find this article in the edition for 3rd August 1917. The superimposed blue frames are part of the search process.

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From the mention of artillery, it looks like he may have been in an artillery ammunition column, delivering shells to the front. I can see that three years of that would produce “some exceedingly narrow escapes”.

The next time he appears in the paper is in 1955, when 50 members of the family took part in a reunion, when a son and a daughter, and their respective spouses, returned from overseas military postings. The full family was three sons, seven daughters, 34 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Plus in-laws. One of the sons-in-law produced cakes for the party – he was a prize-winning member of the Army Catering Corps so they were in safe hands.

His final appearance in the paper is a short obituary in 1957, which reveals the additional details that he served in the Army Service Corps for 19 years and was an Old Contemptible and member of the British Legion. He was a joiner by trade and retired from his last job, at the Ribblesdale Cement Co Ltd when he was 65.

I had three other relatives working there around that time, all from different branches of the family tree.

An Old Contemptible, in case you aren’t familiar with the term, is a soldier who served in France and Belgium with the British Army in the first phase of the war – 5th August 1914 to 22nd November 1914. They were referred to as a “contemptible little army” by the Kaiser.

It’s true they weren’t a very big army, and they didn’t have great equipment. If you subscribe to traditional views of history they may even have been badly led.

But they did what was necessary.

 

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 2)

I didn’t really know anything about the rest of the Carus family – my Grandmother had been brought up by her mother’s family after she was orphaned and her uncles had all  died before I was born.

Using census records I was able to reconstruct the family – Susannah (b 1872), Thomas (b 1876), Isaac (b 1879), Walter (b 1882), Albert (b 1884), Harry (b 1887) and Charlotte, who seems to have become Margaret (b 1890). I must spend a few minutes sorting out her details. There were also three children who died in the gaps between censuses. In the 1911 census they asked how long a couple had been married, how many children they had had and how many of the children were still living.

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Because Isaac was Isaac Newton Carus and Walter was Walter Dugdale Carus, which were both distinctive, I checked them out through the army records – there were only 16 entries for Carus in the medal record cards so I thought I had a good chance. Isaac N Carus popped up – entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal with the Lancashire Fusiliers. There was a note on his card that he had enlisted on 8th December 1915, several months before conscription, and had been discharged on 12th September 1918 under King’s Regulations 392 xvi. This is a catch-all regulation – “No longer physically fit for service”. It could be through wounds, disease or other causes. The next step was to check what they call the Silver War Badge Roll – it provides the additional information that I N Carus served overseas, was 39 on discharge and was issued with badge number B6.

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The Silver War Badge was first issued in September 1916 to servicemen who had left the service for a variety of reasons and was meant to show that they were not shirkers, deserving of a white feather. The first 450,000 men were given badges with no prefix, then they started the badges with the B prefix. Great Uncle Isaac was 6th on that list.

That was where I had to leave Isaac for the time being.

I was, however, able to pick him up quite easily when I took a look at the papers as he was the first Carus reference to come up. He died in Blackburn Royal Infirmary on 17th May 1947 at the age of  68. He is called “one of the best known Clitheronians” and had been badly disabled after being wounded with the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1917.

He worked as a printer, ending up with the Clitheroe Advertiser, but had to retire in 1925 due to his war injuries. He was active in the Oddfellows, the Weslyan Church (a Sunday School teacher for over 20 years) and the cricket club. He played football in his youth and was a regular in the cricket team (mainly as wicket keeper for the seconds) until his wounding, after which he became scorer and joined the committee.

He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. The sons both served in the Second World War and survived to play in many post-war cricket matches.

Unfortunately I have no photographs, but am working on that.

 

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1)

I just took out a subscription to an internet newspaper archive last week and the first task I set myself was searching for some family history. With one branch of the family it has come up trumps.

You may have heard some of this before as I have mentioned it and have used the photographs before. Sorry for the repetition but with new information, and it being exactly 101 years to the day since his death, I thought it was worth another post.

I have many common names in the family but am fortunate in having one branch with the name of Carus. To make things better, they come from Clitheroe – a small town with its own newspaper.

Harry Carus (1887-1916) was my great grandfather. When I started researching him I knew that he was one of a large family, that he’s on the Clitheroe war memorial and that he left a wife and three daughters when he died. He was a chapel-goer, Sunday school teacher and member of  a self-improvement club called the PSA (I believe that’s Peaceful Sunday Afternoon). He joined up as a volunteer and, on his last leave before going to France, laughed when his irate wife discovered that the three girls had found, and mostly eaten, the special cake baked for his last visit.

It had been on a top shelf in the kitchen and my grandmother had climbed up the lower shelves like a ladder before passing down to my Auntie Peggie – second in age and partner in crime.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the information that he died on 10.10.16. He was a Corporal, aged 28, belonged to “B” Battery of the 180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of H. A. and Margaret Carus, of 27, West View, Clitheroe, Lancashire and husband of the late Ellenor Carus.

This was during the latter, rainy, part of the Somme battle and was probably every bit as hellish as we imagine the First World War to be.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the iconic arched memorial that lists the names of  72,396 Somme casualties who also have no known grave. In a later post I may well come back to the phrase “no known grave” as it’s an interesting subject in itself.

As more details became available from the release of records I was able to learn a little more about him.  He had four brothers and two sisters, worked for a grocer and his last known address is still standing. I have visited it using Google Maps.

The army medal rolls show that he went to France on 28.11.15 and is entitled to the 1914-15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal. They spell his name “Carns”. His family was also given a bronze commemorative plaque and a scroll. On the subject of names, his wife was Eleanor, so even CWGC aren’t perfect.

When I searched the newspapers I was able to find the memorial notices posted a year after his death, and pin down a couple more family addresses. The family was still together in those days – the remarriage and death of Eleanor  and the separation of the girls was still to come, as Harry’s death continued to affect them in the coming years.

I was also able to find a mention of his death in the “25 Years Ago” column, when it was noted that he had been in a gun pit with six others when a shell landed in it and killed five of them. Presumably this was what had been contained in a letter at the time of his death – my grandmother had always said he was hit by a shell that killed him instantly and left nothing for burial. It’s nice to have corroboration but I’m not sure it’s true, it was just what people wrote home to parents and widows to hide the truth.

That, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Harry Carus.

Poppies

Roadside Poppies