Wednesday 5th October 2005
If for no other reason than to allay whatever guilt feelings I may have had about enjoying myself too much, I fronted up to the Archives on Wednesday morning full of new-found resolve!
After a frustrating morning trawling through what seemed to be a school (or is it a shoal) of microfiche covering births, marriages and deaths, I finally struck what I hope is oil. I knew from the Wills that I had obtained earlier that one of my uncles, Richard Jago – that’s the middle one, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention – had three children, but I hadn’t been able to find any record of them either in births, marriages or service records.
It was only when I moved to death records that, in mid-afternoon, I found records that may prove pivotal in tracking down some living relatives – namely, the deaths, not more than 3 years ago, of Muriel Robinson (née Butler) and Peter Paul Jago. The only way of confirming whether or not they are, in fact, “rels” is to order copies of the death certificates, which I did on-line that afternoon. Now I have to wait for the four or five days it takes for them to be delivered.
If I continue to be lucky, and they are who I hope they are – or, with respect, were – there may be reference in their Wills to children – or grandchildren – who I may be able to trace and who may be willing to meet a “colonial cousin” – however many times removed. The deaths were registered in North Yorkshire, so I may just get back to one of my favourite parts of England.
If the truth be known, I had planned to go back there, anyway – if for no other reason than to visit Fountains Abbey and, of course York itself.
Thursday 6th October 2005
The following day, in a fit of impatience, I returned to the Probate office to see if I could find and get copies of the Wills of these new-found cousins. Regrettably, I could find no trace of Peter Paul’s (the preferred one, not least because I’m surer he was “one of us”) but did of a Muriel Robinson and from that – or rather from the accompanying Probate – obtained the address (in Richmond, North Yorkshire) of her son, Herbert Graham, who is the sole beneficiary.
I still need to wait for Death Certificates to make absolutely sure I have the right person and, while I’m waiting to have that confirmed or otherwise, I need to think through the best way to approach him with a view to exchanging family information and, perhaps, meeting. Given that, to my knowledge, there has been no contact with any of the UK Butlers for over 50 years, more than a hint of delicacy may be called for.
Then to National Maritime Museum Library to obtain my “Reader’s Card” and start my exploration of the Butler contribution to Naval journalism. I couldn’t work out why an R.J. Butler was still a contributor to what I understand was the, then authoritative, “Brassey’s Naval Annual” after the “Admiralty RJ” had died. That is, until the penny dropped – and that has been known to take a while – and I realised that the contributor may well have been his son – RJ “the middle”. Anyway, I have started recording the references from that “Annual”, backwards from 1935 and will continue that “search and record mission” (that phrase doesn’t seem to be worded quite as I remember it, but it’ll do) later next week.
At the same time I’ll be able to peruse a number of specialist Marine Engineering journals from 1931/32 to see if they did, in fact, acknowledge the “Admiralty RJ”’s passing. These are held “off-site” and are being ordered-in for delivery to the Museum next Thursday. I think I could become rather partial to the power of a “Reader’s Card”!
And lest you think it was all “work”, I had a late (threeish) lunch at the Museum of a truly gourmet club sandwich of rare roast beef, stilton cheese, red onion marmalade and rocket on “grain” bread followed by, wait for it, a just “heavenly” crème brulée – a delectation to which some, at least of you, know I’m partial. But as I was “working”, you’ll be pleased – or surprised – to know that I skipped the Pinot Grigio on this occasion.
Needless to say, all this took some time (not just the latish lunch) and I wasn’t “home” to Kew until after 7:00 – well past my bedtime – or, more correctly, my medicinal “glass of wine” time!
Friday 7th October 2005
After no less than two days “at the office”, another day off was called for. Given my long-standing interest in matters aeronautic – courtesy preliminary flying training with the RNZAF – I’d always promised myself a visit to the RAF Museum at Hendon.
For those of you in the know, the Museum is in an outer northern suburb of London and, as such, involved close to a 2 hour trip each way from Kew. Nonetheless that still left some 4 hours to indulge in a very leisurely stroll in, out, above, under and around what may well be the biggest collection of military aircraft in the world. That the collection included some current front-line planes surprised me, though I have to admit that the inclusion of my beloved “Tiger Moth” did not.
Oh, the memories: the open-air cockpit, the too-tight parachute harness that came close to causing personal injury, the flying goggles that didn’t quite fit, the leather flying helmet that fortunately did.
“Biggles” would have related to those!
What I hadn’t registered before – or perhaps misremembered – was the sheer size of many of the aircraft – and not just the bombers. The quality of the displays varied from the excellent – with accompanying interactive information panels about the aircraft on display – to the very, very tired Battle of Britain exhibit, which is badly in need of a make-over.
You’ll be happy to know however that, even amongst all these visual riches, I was able to fit in lunch – which, I regret to report, was only fair. Guess who’s been spoilt.
All in all, not a day for the culture vultures or, for that matter, the “doves” of this world, but for me the opportunity to gratify a personal interest and, as such, well worth the relatively long day it turned out to be.
Saturday 8th October 2005
I spent today, mainly at the Archives, on data “housekeeping” – making sure that I’ve entered everything of value and, when I got back home, backing it all up. Not too exciting, I have to admit, but very necessary.
Looks like tomorrow, Sunday, will be a well-earned “rest day”! Wot, not another one?
A very pleasant evening this evening as guest of my B&B hosts, the Lewinsons, for dinner. Grant had prepared both the prosciutto ham and honey-dew melon entrée and the blackberry and apple crumble dessert to accompany Janet’s hearty – and I mean comfort food type hearty – pasta dish with lashings of parmesan cheese! Not being able to find a suitable Australian red at the tiny, tiny, local Tesco Metro, my contribution was a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, which I hate to admit wasn’t all that bad. Nothing to match anything from SA, but there you go!
As I said, a very pleasant evening – and a really nice thing for Grant and Janet to do.
Sunday 9th October 2005
Sunday morning dawned fine and clear and “cool”, but as the forecast was for a sunny day with temperatures of, perhaps, 20° it seemed to me I should take full advantage of it.
So – off to Kew Gardens – all of fifteen to twenty minutes walk away. I was one of the early-birds, arriving there soon after 10:00 and didn’t drag myself away until nearly 4:00. Not surprisingly, given the time of the year, the open-air gardens were mostly in “under reconstruction” mode, but the indoor ones certainly made up for it. The showings in the Temperate House were just magnificent, as were some of the exhibits in the relatively new Princess of Wales Conservatory.
Unfortunately, the Rose Garden was past its best, but it must have been a spectacle no more than week or so ago. My disappointment with the Palm House and its contents had, I suspect, more to do with my lack of appreciation of their appeal than the “fogged” specs – a result of the necessary humidity. Yes, I know I could have demisted them, but I have to admit that my heart wasn’t in it.
But, for me, the real pleasure was just strolling, sitting, and strolling some more. Whether it was through the formal areas with their manicured lawns and “weedless” garden beds or the more natural woodland ones with their winding gravelled paths, I just loved it. Which I suppose is why I spent so much time just strolling, sitting, and strolling some more. As far as the “sitting” bit is concerned, I don’t recall having been to any park as well provided with seating. There seemed to be hundreds of benches – and, as a bonus, they were as well-placed as you’d expect from gardeners – in “full sun”, “part shade” or “full shade”. I sampled more than one of each type and will be offering Kew Gardens the documented results of qualitative research on the value of each – if appropriately recompensed, of course.
Apart from the intrusion of the sound of aircraft – at the rate of one every minute to minute-and-a-half – on their path to nearby Heathrow, it was just a truly wonderful way to spend the day. And, much as I hate to admit it, the day – weatherwise that is, would have done Sydney, Manchester, or even Adelaide, proud!
Monday 10th October 2005
Monday was another “summery” day, but as I had made an appointment with the Librarian of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects to spend the day there, I had to forego the “pleasure” of joining all those pale-skinned “Poms” barbecuing themselves by the Serpentine Lake!
In the welcome cool of the Library, I worked my way through the annually published “Transactions” of the Institution from 1875 to 1953. From the accumulation of dust, I suspect I may have been the first to do so. Apart from learning that RJ the elder had been a member of the Institution for over 45 years (and a Council member for 25 of those) and had presented a paper to the Institution in 1883, I failed to find what I was looking for, namely an Obituary from which I might find out more about him. Given the length of his membership, even the Librarian found this surprising.
I read the “paper” (entitled ‘Steam Trials of the “Satellite” and the “Conqueror”’) studied the accompanying tables and tried to come to grips with the six pages of the reported discussion that followed its presentation.
Having done so, I decided against having it copied for posterity but will retain details of where it might be found for more assiduous family researchers than me. It wasn’t that I didn’t find the paper of interest. How could I not, when my grandfather refers to the fact that, during the trials, “only the best Welsh coal was used”! It’s just that I didn’t understand most of it!
As if designed to confuse, both RJs (father and son) were members of the Institution – the son also for a considerable term (1914-1949). I could find no record of anything he had published but I did learn that he had been a draughtsman, as his father had been before him. But unlike his father, he wasn’t with the Navy but with what I presume was a Scottish shipbuilder in Dalmuir. Another lead, perhaps?
A full – and dusty – day! But not an altogether unfruitful one, even if that was from an archival rather than a genealogical perspective.
Another late lunch – around 3:30 or so – but the “mussels et al” were every bit as good as last time. And who was it said that genealogical research was just a long, hard slog? Not me – at least, not yet!
Tuesday 11th October 2005
Tuesday was spent at the archives in a further attempt to trace any record of the deaths of a number of earlier Butlers – without success I regret to report. However I did find that the Scottish shipbuilder in Dalmuir, W. Beardmore & Co, not only designed and built ships but aircraft and airships as well. A further search led to a whole host of sites; of which of most interest was that of the Glasgow University Archives who it appears hold some personnel records (mainly to do with salaries and wages, as I understand it). Could well be worth further investigation, when I’m in that part of the world.
Wednesday 12th October 2005
My disappointment, last evening, on receiving Muriel Ethel Robinson’s Death Certificate, from which it was clear she was no relation at all, has this evening been more than redressed by the receipt of Peter Paul Jago Butler’s, who clearly is. And what’s more the Certificate gives the name of a son, Anthony Richard Jago – and his address at the time the death was registered. I can but hope that he’s at that address still, but if not, tracing him shouldn’t be too difficult. Famous last words!
Once traced, I’ll need to write as persuasively as I can to see whether he would be willing to share information about his branch of the family – and, if that was positive, perhaps arrange a meeting. Now wouldn’t that be something!
But patience, Norm, you’re due back at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich tomorrow, to complete your search into the two maritime RJs – perhaps you’ll find that elusive obituary of RJ Snr.
Which seems to be a good – nose back to the grindstone, Norm – note on which to close.
Thursday 13th October 2005
The quite heavy and cold rain – and delayed or cancelled tube services – didn’t augur well for Thursday’s planned visit to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. And the auguries were right. All the copies of the monthly English engineering journals for 1931 and 1932 that had been ordered in for me from off-site were waiting for me as promised. However, that elusive obituary of RJ Snr still eluded me, as, in fact, did any reference to either of the RJs – no matter how hard or long I looked. I’ve admitted defeat on this – at least for the moment!
Friday 14th October 2005
What was that about famous last words? An initial on-line search failed to find my newly-found cousin, Anthony RJ, at the address shown on his father’s Death Certificate, so I just had to go back into sleuth mode. As a first step I visited the British Library, which is one of the few places where copies of all the Electoral Rolls are held.
My purpose was not so much to find him and his new address – a near impossible task without having some idea of where he’d moved to – but to establish if there were any other family members at the original address in 2003. By matching the addresses of one or more other known family members, I felt I might be able to reduce the large number of Anthony Butlers significantly.
So after going through the process of acquiring yet another Readers Card (complete with a photograph that makes my passport one look brilliant), I was allowed into the Social Sciences room where I was told I would be able to access the Rolls.
First find the Index to the Rolls – a relatively simple task – given that it was on the shelf below the sign which said “Electoral Rolls Index”. Almost there, thinks Norm. But the Rolls are indexed by Electorate, aren’t they? Having an address from a Death Certificate is one thing; finding in which Electorate and Ward that address is (particularly without a Postcode) is another!
A kindly Librarian came to my rescue by doing an on-line Postcode search for me, identifying the Electorate, finding the Volume reference in the Index and then completing my Reading Room Document Request for me. Why, you ask? Well, the Rolls are kept in the basement and have to be located and brought up to the Reading Room. “Come back in an hour”, says he. So much for my plans for the rest of the day: I had hoped to complete my British Library excursion in an hour or less and enjoy another of those lunch-hour concerts. Well if I couldn’t have a lunch-time concert, I could have lunch! I have to say, however, that the “breaded haddock” and chips that looked so appetising turned out to be more sustaining than delectable.
Sustained, suitably or otherwise, it was back to the Reading Room to work through the Roll for the Constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North. It will come as little surprise to you to hear that I found the relevant street finally on the third last page of the couple of hundred or so that made up the volume. But there you go, as someone is wont to say. Nonetheless I did find what I was looking for, as there were entries for a Janet C. and a Sean D. at the same address as Anthony R. So despite taking much longer than I’d hoped it would, it was a worthwhile exercise – or at least I hope it will prove to be – and I headed home to Kew on something of a “high”.
Before I get to follow up on Friday’s find, however, The Battle of Hastings – or at least the re-enactment of it – has to be fought, and polishing my armour and honing my sword in readiness for this had to take priority.