Author Archives: travellingmarshalls

About travellingmarshalls

I am a retired librarian with two grown up daughters and two grandchildren. I am married to Alan, also a retired librarian. We love to travel when we can. Seeing family and friends when abroad makes the holiday even more special.

My Irish connection.


Dublin skyline.

I knew that my Mum’s family contained an Irish ancestor, but until I started doing family history research I didn’t know who it was.
It turned out to be Arthur Henry Conlan, who married my great great grandmother Annie Smith in 1875.
From censuses I found out that in 1881 Arthur, known as Harry, and Annie Conlan were living in Sudbury, Suffolk, not far from Annie’s parents Walter and Ann Smith. On the census it’s recorded that Harry was born in Ireland, but not where in Ireland.
All three of their children had already been born by 1881.They were Annie Emma Maud, my great grandmother, known as Maud, born in 1875, Walter Harold born 1876 and Ernest Arthur born 1880.
Harry was working for the Great Eastern Railway, and he had a set back in May 1882 according to the Bury and Norwich Post. The report says,
“Harry Conlan, a goods porter at Chappel station and formerly employed at Sudbury station, was shunting some trucks when we was knocked down and a wheel of a truck passed over his leg which was very much injured. He was removed to the Sudbury Hospital and the issue of this was his uncertain.”


Harry Conlan at Twyford.

Thankfully though injured he survived, and in 1891 he and Annie were living in Twyford, Norfolk. Harry is on the census as a ‘Railway Gate Man’. On this census his birthplace is stated as Ipswich, and 30 years have been added to their ages! His injury is noted in the last column, “( illegible in Railway Accident).”
Only Walter and Ernest were living at home; Maud was back in Sudbury living with her grandparents Walter and Ann, working as a drapers’ assistant.
In 1901 Harry and Annie were still in Twyford and Harry was still a Railway Gateman. On this census we have more information about his place of birth; County Dublin is specified.
No children were at home. Walter was boarding in a house in Sudbury, working as a commercial traveller.He worked for Slee & Co, vinegar brewers. Ernest was boarding in East Dereham, Norfolk, working as a railway porter.( He later became the chief inspector at Thorpe Railway station in Norwich.) Maud was also lodging, in Petersfield in Hampshire, still working as a draper’s assistant . She married Frederick Brett the following year.

Harry died in 1910, and is buried in Bury St Edmunds, (see previous blog post.) In 1911 Annie is living with Walter and his family in West Road, Bury, very close to the cemetery, in a house called Roscommon; a tantalising clue. Harry’s death certificate is in the name Henry Arthur Conlan.

So I found him through censuses and by his death certificate . I’ve been unable to find his birth certificate, and I doubt I will. In Ireland compulsory birth registration didn’t come in till after his birth. Even if he had had a certificate it could have burnt in the Public Record Office fire in 1922, which was housed in the Four Courts building by the Liffey,( more of that later.) I’ve been unable to find a baptismal record either.


Now, I had trouble finding Harry and Annie’s wedding record as well. I drew a blank until my cousin Evelyn came up with some helpful information.
A little more background so you know my relationship to Evelyn.

Frederick and Maud Brett had 5 children; Norah, my grandmother, Patricia, Bridget, Eileen, Evelyn’s mother, and Frederick Arthur, known as Arthur. So my mother Geraldine and Evelyn are cousins. Evelyn has family records and photographs passed on to her from her mother Eileen, which includes information about a judge from Dublin called Charles Harold Walker.
There is a photo of him – a serious elderly man, grey haired and wearing spectacles, a gown and an ornamental chain. On the back is written, presumably by Eileen, ,”Charles Harold Walker Q.C. of …Bray, Ireland…Great Grandfather.”



And tantalisingly, there is a letter to Maud (calling herself Mrs E. Walker Brett) from the secretary of the President of Ireland , written in December 1938. It reads, “I refer to your…proposed biography of your grandfather, the late Charles Harold Walker, Q.C., LL.D., and to express his Excellency’s opinion that you would get useful information from The National Library, Dublin…and the British Museum.” (No such biography has been found!)

So I looked for Harry and Annie’s marriage under the name Walker, and there they were. They married in London, at Christchurch, Greyfriars, Newgate. Arthur Henry Walker married Annie Smith on 9th January 1875; his father is named Charles Walker, profession not noted.

This is now my dilemma. Harry didn’t use the name Walker after his marriage as far as I can see. The family was known as Conlan, apart from in Maud’s letter quoted above.
Was Charles Walker Harry’s biological father, or was he unofficially adopted, or a ward?

Charles Harold Walker was born in Dublin between 1797 and 1807 according to censuses and Trinity college Dublin records. He achieved a BA then an MA then became LLB and LLD. He was a barrister at the Four Courts and I’ve found many references to him in local papers and in Griffith’s Valuation records.
In 1861 he was living in London with his wife Louisa (nee Moritz or Morris) and daughters Mary Ann, Emma and Frances Sophia. In 1871 Charles and Louisa were in Guernsey, but he died in Bray, near Dublin. While in Dublin I obtained a copy of his death certificate , which says he was born in 1804, and died in 1884 of ‘general decay’. Under this in the cause of death column it says ‘some years certified’ which I don’t understand. The death was registered by his daughter Emma, who still has the surname Walker.
I can find no official link between Arthur ‘Harry’ Conlan and Charles Harold Walker.
I will continue to search.

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Chasing the Toons.

When my Grandad (the family genealogist at the time) first met my husband, who came from Hinckley in Leicestershire, he asked him if he knew the Toons.

He did know some Toons, but it turned out they were the ‘wrong ones’ and we weren’t related to them.
The Toons were a well known family in Earl Shilton, close to Hinckley.
J. Toon and Sons Ltd, a large hosiery factory, was started by Job Toon in 1850.
Job had three sons Alfred, James and Carey Job and one daughter, Matilda. Alfred and James followed Job into the firm and took over control when he died in 1889.


Alfred married Alice Harriett Smith, a sister of my great great grandmother Annie, daughters of Walter and Ann Smith of Ballingdon cum Brundon on the Essex Suffolk border, as described in a previous blog post .
It intrigues me how these two met. As nearby Sudbury had, and still has, a silk weaving industry, I wonder if this silk supplied the Toon factory and somehow a connection was made.
But I found Alice on the 1881 census boarding in Leicester along with Selina Parmenter from Great Cornard , both putting their occupation as school mistress. They were lodging with a Mr and Mrs Nichols, and Mr Nichols was a hosier, so maybe that was how they came to know each other.
(My father’s mother was born in Leicester 17 years after this census and became a school mistress, but that’s another story and some potential Leicester research for me!)

Alfred and Alice had four boys and two girls. All four boys, Carey Job (another one!), Ronald, Stanley and Gordon, joined the family firm. All four fought in the Great War, and all four came home. Gordon married and had two daughters, but died in his 30’s as did his wife.
Ronald became a local councillor, having a road named after him, but died in 1939. According to his obituary in the Leicester Mercury, 13th March 1939, he ‘had been a leading figure in the life of the Hinckley district. He was chairman of the Hinckley council and a great friend to the poor.’


My aunt and cousin can remember attending the wedding of Carey’s daughter Jean, so at that time the different branches of the family were still in touch.

Alice, Alfred’s wife, died in 1917. I was surprised to find out that in 1918 Alfred married Alice’s younger sister Jessie. I did some research after a friend I told this to exclaimed that this was illegal, and discovered that it had been until the law was changed in 1907.

You’ll remember that old Job Toon had three sons? Well, back to James, who to my further surprise, married Alice and Jessie’s sister Frances in Sudbury in 1891. There must have been something about those Smith girls!

I wondered where they were all buried. Having had success in Bury St Edmunds, and having been moved by visiting my Conlan relative’s resting places (one being Annie nee Smith) I tried to find this out. Maybe they were in Hinckley’s huge Ashby Road cemetery, where Alan’s parents and grandparents are?
Hinckley council had no record of them. Nor did the Earl Shilton parish council, but they did say that here was a small burial ground behind the United Reformed Church, previously the Methodist chapel.
I knew the Toons were Methodists and that James Toon founded the local church. So I emailed the local Methodist circuit contact, who replied that he had forwarded my enquiry on to a member who is a Toon descendant.
It turns out that this lost cousin of mine, a granddaughter of Gordon, regularly visits these graves, and she sent me photos of the gravestones, confirming that all three Smith sisters are there.

We met on a very chilly morning, exchanging much family information. What an unexpected bonus to actually meet a previously unknown relative and fill in gaps in each other’s family history knowledge . She passed on to me a photocopy of a document produced in 1950 to celebrate ‘A Century of Hosiery Manufacture ‘ from which 3 of these illustrations are taken.

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Surprised by bricks!

While in Bury I spent a happy morning mooching in the Record Office.
I hadn’t ordered any documents and didn’t have any burning questions to answer.
So I just browsed the shelves and came across “Sudbury Survey – A history of the industries of Sudbury, Suffolk”, published in 1948. It comprised typewritten sheets clipped together, each section written by a different local person.

Having found my g x 3 grandparents on the censuses from 1851 to 1901 I knew that Walter was a brickworks foreman, then manager, in Sudbury.
So I was interested in the section in “Sudbury Survey” that covered the subject of bricks.
I learnt that in the mid 1800s there were 7 brickyards in that area, 2 where Walter lived in Ballingdon, the Victoria brickworks and Allen’s
Allen’s, the book told me, “…supplied the bricks for the Albert Hall and Kensington Museum, the bricks being transported by barge to Manningtree and transferred to London boats.”
Allen’s was in production from 1812 to 1939, employing 100 men. The local sand and brick earth produced 2 coloured bricks, the Red and the Brimstone or Suffolk White.


Several different coloured bricks on this house!

I really hoped that this was where Walter worked. This would have made an interesting section in my fictional Who Do You Think You Are programme!
So on to Sudbury from Bury St Edmunds, stopping off in the beautifully preserved village of Lavenham.

A bit of background:
Walter Smith was born in 1825, at midnight according to the wonderfully detailed information my cousin has passed on to me, the eldest son of Robert Valentine and Eleanor Smith of Clare, Suffolk. He had 6 sisters, though one died at 2 1/2 before he was born. His grandparents William and Mary lived I Dickleburgh, Norfolk.
Walter and Ann Smith married at All Saints church Sudbury on Christmas day 1849. Ann, nee Goody, had lived near the church. According to the 1841 census she lived in Church Street, All Saints parish with her parents Joseph and Harriatt Goody.
Walter and Ann had 12 children, two died as infants and one at 13. Annie, my 2 x g grandmother was the eldest of their children. Three other daughters married into the Toon family of Earl Shilton.



We stayed at the Mill Hotel in Sudbury, on the edge of town by the water meadows . We could see the tower of All Saints church from our room, and if the weather had been kinder we would have followed the riverside walk and over the bridge into Ballingdon.
As it was we explored the town, visiting the library, Heritage Centre, Gainsborough’s House and the Vanners silk factory shop before the heavens opened and we retreated to the comfort of the hotel.


I took the opportunity to search the newspaper archives on Find My Past to see what else I could find out about the brickworks and narrow down which one Walter worked at.
I was pleased to discover from the Bury and Norwich Post and Suffolk Standard June 5th 1888 that Walter was indeed the foreman at Allen’s brickworks, having worked there between 40 and 50 years at the time.
This information was in a report of the drowning of a young man who ferried workers across the river and Walter was a witness.

So we had an interesting time in Suffolk, finding out more about the family and exploring the countryside, and finding bricks much more interesting than I’d expected.

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Paying my respects to the Conlans.


Following a family wedding in Norfolk we extended our visit by returning to Suffolk.
We stayed at the Premier Inn in Bury again, conveniently located opposite the Record Office.
On the Sunday morning I attended the morning service at St Mary’s, a five minute walk from the hotel, a church where some of my Brett and Wade ancestors were married  and probably attended.

I had a very warm welcome. The vicar’s wife sat with me and chatted away, and the couple in the pew in front turned and spoke to me several times.
I enjoyed the service though I didn’t know any of the hymns.
Sunday afternoon I walked to the cemetery in order to find the graves of Arthur, Annie and Walter Conlan.
I had been unsure about how to find the grave locations, but an online enquiry to the Bury St Edmunds council started a friendly correspondence with Sue who gave me the information I needed.
Helpfully, she listed the names on the adjacent plots in addition to the grave and compartment numbers.

The map at the Kings Road entrance to the cemetery is ‘upside down’ as you look at it, i.e. You are standing at the top of the map. It took a passing visitor and a helpful ex cemetery employee who looked over his fence to orientate me . With this help I stated my search for the graves.
Arthur, listed as Henry (his middle name) and Annie share a common , or unpurchased plot, along the boundary wall of West Road.

As no family live in Bury now, it’s unsurprising that the plot is in poor repair. It’s surrounded by stone, which is inscribed with their names and dates they ‘fell asleep’, Arthur in 1910 and Annie in 1924. Arthur’s name here is Harry, the name the family called him. ( A man of many names; a different story!)
Walter, their son, lies very close to them, just the other side of a path. He died in 1936 and is in a double plot by himself, as his son Harold bought the plot for both parents but his mother Elizabeth moved away, to where I haven’t discovered.
Sue at the council suggested the council could purchase the vacant plot from us, but as Harold didn’t marry or have children as far as we know, and as I’m not directly descended from him, it’s an offer we can’t take up.
Walter’s plot is also surrounded by stone, and there is a vase within it.
I had taken a table decoration from the wedding reception which I divided into three and placed them on the graves.


It felt good to visit.
Having done this I walked up West Road and found number 40 where Walter and Elizabeth had lived with Harold and their two daughters. Annie and Harry/ Arthur also lived there towards the end of their lives.
They called their house Roscommon. I take this as a clue to our Conlan ancestry, though as yet I have no proof!

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Why I Love Milton Keynes

I love this blog post from my daughter Erin on the event of Milton Keynes’ 50th birthday. You hope that your children will be happy in the place you’ve chosen to bring up your family and I’m so glad she’s liked it enough to stay.

Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug

Milton Keynes is celebrating its 50th birthday today so I thought I’d share some of the reasons why this New City is a place I love!

I have lived here for most of my life (bar 2/3 years somewhere in the middle where I lived just outside) and even though it’s been the butt of people’s jokes, I still firmly believe it’s an awesome place to live. Here’s why:

  • Milton Keynes was built a New City, with the environment, industry and lifestyle in mind. It has excellent links to London (be there on the train in less than an hour), redways (paths that run alongside or under the main roads, tarmacked in red) that allow you to travel through the town on bike or by foot almost completely without having to brave dangerous dual carriageways.


  • The buses have always and probably still are unashamedly always late. You might as well burn the timetables…

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Number project.

Well, mission accomplished!
When I started this number project over two years ago I had no idea how long it would take me to find numbers from 1 to 100. I suspected I might never finish it!
To start with I wanted to photograph the numbers exactly in order and if I’d continued that way I dread to think how long it would have taken.
I began to see ‘juicy’ numbers that I hadn’t yet reached and so bent my rules a bit so I could grab any within the next group of ten.
This was soon abandoned and I begun to collect any good photos and kept them by.
The prize for the most frustrating number goes to 61. As I related,  here , I  caught a 61 bus in Birmingham which crawled through the twilight and the traffic so it was dark and I was late when I alighted. So I missed my opportunity!
I have been overly excited to spot a number that I’ve been searching for, and at times it was hard to explain to the friends I was with exactly why! It has been frustrating too, when that longed for number just didn’t appear. I’ve also missed a number or two due to embarrassment , such as the clutch of table numbers behind the counter of the Waitrose café. Didn’t have the nerve to get my camera out!
It’s been an interesting project though and I know I’m going to continue to spot numbers; I just won’t photograph them!

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100; birthday!

Wow! My number project’s made it to 100, and what a celebratory 100 it is.

Alan’s Granny, Lizzie Spinks, reached her 100th birthday in 1988 and received her telegram from the Queen. The photos show Lizzie surrounded by her cards and gifts, the telegram, and the family gravestone, all marking this wonderful achievement.


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99; military vehicle.

Earlier this year we visited the Imperial War Museum in London, a fascinating place to go, though the memorabilia and the stories told are dreadfully sad.

While there I spotted my 99 on the registration plate of this military vehicle called a Humber ‘Pig’.

Alan remembered seeing them on the streets of Belfast while he was at Queens University in the early ’70s.

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Before and after.

This will be my last blog on the subject of my kitchen transformation as it’s now all done.

The last item to be installed was the roman blind in the dining section of the room. We chose a soft green fabric and it looks really good. Now the evenings are dark it makes the room cosy.

So there we are, including a couple of random lolcats.

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98; Michael Palin’s diaries.


This photo is rather blurry I’m afraid. I took this from my seat in the Milton Keynes theatre of this onstage prop of Michael Palin’s diaries. They were actually huge, rather bigger than Michael himself if I remember rightly.

The evening consisted of Michael talking about the many and various projects he’s done, illustrated by him reading from his diaries and film clips from Python and his travel programmes. It was a relaxed and entertaining evening though I was getting over a cold and was trying not to cough, which of course makes it worse!

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