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Archive for the Category "Genealogy"

Another Benn branch Sep 26

Via Norfolk Blogger comes the news that Tony Benn’s granddaughter Emily has been selected by Labour to be their parliamentary candidate in East Worthing and Shoreham.

As I’ve noted before, my dad’s second cousin is married to Hilary Benn’s second cousin, so I guess I should add the latest political Benn to the diagram:
Benn-Howells family tree
You’ll be relieved to hear that I, at least, have no plans to become a Labour MP.

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1911 census to be released early Feb 06

Great news from the Archives: the 1911 census of England and Wales will get an early release following a ruling by the Information Commissioner in favour of a genealogist who was seeking information under FoI rules.

An online version will go live in 2009, 3 years earlier than planned, with a some sensitive data excised until 2012. A limited £45 per search service will be available until 2009.

Update: You can find the 1911 census at

Great-Uncle Frank Nov 11

Frank HowellsAs it’s 11/11 today, it seems fitting to recount an event that happened during the Second World War, 63 years ago yesterday. That was the day on which my great-uncle Frank Howells died.

He was born in north London on the 4th of March 1915, one of twins, the ninth child of Thomas and Emily Howells. Like his late father and his two brothers, Frank was an insurance agent. He was 24 when war broke out and became a lieutenant in the Reconnaissance Corps.

I grew up knowing the my Great-uncle Frank had died in the war, but didn’t know the details. As part of my family history research, I checked the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and was surprised to see that he was buried in Yorkshire. I obtained his death certificate which confirmed that he wasn’t killed overseas or in action. He died in the Military Hospital at Scotton and is buried in Catterick.

Inquest reports rarely survive, so the genealogist has to turn to the local press. A few years ago, I visited the public library in Darlington to search in the newspapers held there. The Northern Echo of 12th November 1943 covered the inquest.

— Catterick Inquest

At an inquest at Catterick Hospital yesterday on Lieut. Frank Howells, aged 28, who died the previous day, Dr. F.R. Eddison, the Coroner, returned a verdict of “Death by mis-adventure, he having died from a gunshot wound which caused haemorrhage and shock.”

Lieut. A. Harbottle told the Coroner that he heard a report and an exclamation from Mr. Howells. The witness saw that Howells was leaning on a table and was conscious. He did not speak. A corporal had also been wounded. A lance-corporal told him that a Bren gun had been accidentally fired during instruction. The witness thought that an inexperienced soldier could inadvertently load a live round with drill cartridge when they were of a mixed type. The rounds in use at instruction were examined at the beginning.

Capt. W. O’Brien said that Howells suffered from severe loss of blood.

L. Cp. K. Fraser, an instructor, said he himself examined the gun. He was sure that there was not a live cartridge among them. A trooper failed to do the instruction correctly and he told him to do it a second time. When he pressed the trigger he heard an explosion. Trooper G. R. Trueman said he was under instruction and could easily have recognised a live cartridge.

So it turned out to be an absurd and tragic accident that took his life. He was older than many of those who died in the two world wars, but still only a year older than I am now.

Jeremy Irons’s ancestor Oct 18

Wednesday night is family history night, so I’m currently watching Who Do You Think You Are?, featuring Jeremy Irons. They’ve just shown the marriage certificate of his great-great-grandfather, Thomas Irons. He was a Chartist, and prior to that was a London policeman living at 10 Cowley Street, Westminster – a few doors away from the building (or the site at least) that became the SDP headquarters and currently home to the Liberal Democrats.

Thomas Irons was subsequently arrested in connection with a planned insurrection and ended up with an 18 month sentence in prison.

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