Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun -- Have You Visited an Ancestral Town?

It's Saturday Night - 
time for more Genealogy Fun! 

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:

1)  Have you ever visited one of your ancestral towns?  If so, tell us the town, where it is, when you went, and who are your ancestors from that town.

2)  Share your experience with us in a blog post of your own, a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a comment on this post to lead us to your story.

Here's mine:

One of my ancestral towns is Hilperton in Wiltshire, England.  It is located just east of the larger town of Trowbridge in northwestern Wiltshire.  My 2nd great-grandparents, James and Hannah (Rich) Richman came from Hilperton in 1855-6 and settled in Putnam, Connecticut.  They are my most recent immigrant ancestors.  

In 1993, after I had researched my ancestry for five years, we had a three week vacation in England.  We took the train from London to York to Edinburgh to Burton-on-Trent to Oxford to Ashton Keynes to Bath to Trowbridge to Salisbury to Bath and then back to London.  We stayed in bed and breakfast places in each city, and had a wonderful time sightseeing.  

While in Bath for several days, I visited Trowbridge and went to the County Record Office there, and did some research (looking for land, church and probate records) one day.  I took a bus out to Hilperton (only 3 or 4 miles) and easily found the church (St. Michael's and All Angels), which was locked, and walked around the graveyard.  I left a message under the church door with information and my phone number at the Bath B&B.

That night, the rector called and we had a nice discussion about the church, my ancestors, and the records they might have.  She invited us to attend church on Sunday, and said she would alert Mr. Potts, who was the church warden and keeper of the church chest material.  

Sunday morning arrived, and there was no train from Bath to Trowbridge in time for the service, so we spent 25 pounds on a taxi ride from Bath to Hilperton and got there in time for the 9 a.m. bell ringing.  We sat through the Anglican service, and were lost in the Book of Common Prayer.  Our pew neighbors helped us out.

After church, the rector greeted us and led us to Mr. Potts, who was probably 85 years old.  I explained my Richman and Rich ancestry, and he noted that the "last Richman" had died in the 1980s, but his daughter was still alive and he knew where she lived.  He said he recalled other Americans coming in the 1980s to research the same Richman family, and that he had found information in the church warden vestry book, which he happened to have at his home down the street.  

We walked over to his home, but his wife was ill, and so we didn't go into his house.  He came out after awhile, and said "Your James Richman was accused of stealing coal on the Avon and Kennett Canal, but was found innocent by a jury.  However, his reputation was besmirched, and he left for america taking his growing family with him."  

Mr. Potts offered to take us by the daughter's house, and we went by there, but it was lunch time and she was not home.  Her name was Roma Challis.  Mr. Potts then dropped us at the train station, and we went down to Longleat Manor house (which has an animal park), then to Salisbury church, and took a tour to Stonehenge before taking the train back to Bath, and were on our way to London the next day to fly home.  

I corresponded with Roma Challis for over ten years about the Richman and Rich families, and she passed away several years ago.  I was able to get in touch with the other Richmond family that was descended from James and Hannah (Rich) Richman and we corresponded for over a decade, but they too have passed away.   

I need to go back again to Hilperton to see if I can access the church warden's vestry book and obtain an image of the records pertaining to my ancestral families.  There may be information for earlier families, where I am stymied by a lack of records in the parish registers.  It is not yet online at FamilySearch.

All in all, this was an excellent adventure in an ancestral town and my first experience at a County Record Office, and one I will never forget.  I know a lot more about the Richmans and the records now.

This is not the only ancestral town I have in England.  My next latest immigrants are John and Mary (Palmer) Vaux who came from South Petherton in Somerset in about 1830.  I want to go visit South Petherton also.  However, one of my longtime correspondents and cousins has written the book on the Vaux family.


Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

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Seeds to Tree said...

I have visited Nothum, Wiltz, Luxembourg, population 153, yes less than 200, where my grandfather, Matthias Krieps grew up on a farm, the youngest of five. The oldest, the only daughter inherited the house and her descendents still own it. We know it's been in the family since 1822. During WWII, while the family fled to a safe area, the house was bombed. There was some damage, and they found the remains of two American soldiers in the house. I was able to tour the tiny house and stable, the church and graveyard and visit with the family who now owns it. Outside the house was a public water trough, because Nothum only got water in the 1950's. Matthias and his brothers were waiters in Luxembourg City, and after the war, Matthias had an opportunity to be the head waiter of a French restaurant in Chicago. Bringing his family with him, they thought it would be for a few short years, but they stayed. Today, Mathias' descendents include 3 grandchildren, 8 gr-grandchildren, 5 2xgr-grandchildren, all living within a few miles of Chicago.

Janice M. Sellers said...

Here's mine. My family's house only goes back to 1842!

Linda Stufflebean said...

I'm back on the SNGF ride now that my blog migration has finished; Here's my link:

I loved this topic! Thanks, Randy.

Shirley said...

Around the time of the Bicentennial I took a trip to Missouri, where my dad was born. I did some research, but also made time to talk to people who lived in the area and learn more about the culture. The town of Ste. Genevieve was amazing. It's the oldest town west of the Mississippi and I learned a lot about the ways things were done back in the 'old days.' I also spent time in St. Louis and in Perryville, where my grandmother was born. It was a great trip and one of the best parts was that I had decided to travel by train. I would love to do that trip again.

Nancy Ward Remling said...

Better late than never? I finally got around to finishing the write-up I started almost a month ago!