Friday, 27 January 2012

Beyond the Internet Week 2: Ancestral homes and their history

One part of my family owned a great deal of property. Some was passed down through lines of direct descent, others through childless Aunts and Uncles. Nonetheless, the family had property and that means that somewhere there will be some documentary evidence, which is good news for a researcher.

The Butcher family were well known in Surrey. My several times Great Grandfather Daniel Butcher owned with his brother Richard a property in Guildford High Street that traded as a pub called The Nags Head. The building still exists, no longer a pub, but trades as a retail shop. There is much more research to be done on this part of the family and specifically the building that was owned by the family. Other documentation reveals that a branch of the family owned a farm called Scotlands which is in the village of Bramley, about 5 miles from Guildford.  Ironically, about 20 years ago I knew the lady who owned and farmed at the same farm. Whilst I knew her, I didn't like to be too familiar and ask her to look a the deeds. With hindsight, I wish I had!

Moving onto more recent times. My Grandmother was born in a specific road in Guildford. After her parents died my Grandmother went to live with her older sister. After she married in 1939 her and my Grandfather rented a property in Guildford and in 1940 they returned to the road of my Grandmother's birth where they spent the rest of their lives. I have the rent books from 1940 up until the mid 1990s. This particular road has been a source of interest to me and I now have a small archive of documents relating to it.

About 16 years ago my husband and I met up with a distant Australian cousin of mine. She and her husband were on a research and holiday to the UK and naturally she wanted to visit the rural parish were out Ellis family originated. My branch of the family moved two miles to Puttenham, the village that is the subject of my One Place Study, and her family migrated in the mid 1850s to Geelong Victoria. We managed to locate the address of Church Street and was standing outside the house that her family had lived in. We decided to ring the bell and speak to the occupier. Now, there is nothing like having an accent and asking to take photos, its a bit like it okay to say hello to strangers if you are walking a dog, if there is no dog and you say hello it seems odd! So, we rang the bell and waited. We had just thought that no one was home when the door was answered by a very elderly lady. We explained who we were and our quest and mentioned the photo. Next thing the door was opened and we were invited in. The lady had lived there with her husband and was at the time widowed, of course, I expect that she has since passed away, but she allowed us to take photos of the inside and outside of her house and we snapped away, including one of the then occupant. I do have a photo or two of the events of that day, but they are tucked away in the study and a rather large box of files - a result of the filing process of another blog post and I can not reach them!

In the absence of having photographs taken at the time of our ancestral links to a particular parish, the next best thing is postcards produced at the time. Over the last 20 odd years I have collated an archive of the parishes around the Guildford area that perhaps have specific reference to my ancestry. I launched a small project, for my own amusement last October, whereby I share a postcard a day. You can see them HERE

This postcard is one of my favourites. It shows the Church where I was christened, as was my Mother and maternal Grandmother. This same Church is also where several of my Aunts married in the 1930s.

Blog theme Inspired by Family History Across the Sea


  1. Thanks for participating in this theme Julie! It's great to see the different perspectives on the topic.

    We obviously share some reticence...I probably wouldn't have asked the lady to look at her deeds either, then in hindsight regretted being so polite.

    You were fortunate with your door-knocking accent...agreed an accent and a "poor me, I came all the way from Oz" can help. But truly I think people can simply be remarkably generous with their times and their homes. I've often wondered what I'd do, but then my homes don't have that history.

    I love that you're combining local and family history in this way.

    1. I would agree. People are in the main very kind and interested that a third party is interested in that home, family or whatever. I spent time living in Australia and was made incredibly welcome. Not just by my family but by their friends and in some cases friends of friends. We have had someone knock our door. He was researching his ancestry and called on the off chance. Sadly he was seeking the owner that lived here before the lady we bought the house from. So we actually had no idea. We directed him to a neighbour who would have known the person he was seeking. I also got him to leave his name and address in case I stumbled across anything.


Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread. Posts are currently moderated due to the sudden influx of spam postings!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...