Genealogy in England – A Hinde Family Adventure
The English have been migrating to the United States since 1607 when the first colony was established at Jamestown, Virginia. Additional colonies were established in subsequent years in Plymouth, Massachusetts; Salem, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; Maryland; and Pennsylvania. This relative trickle of migration increased until the period between 1820 and 1920 when 2.5 million people moved from England to the United States – among them William Thomas Hinde, our “Grandpa Hinde.” After generations in the US, these immigrants have turned into millions of people with roots extending back to England and other UK countries.
Our initial effort was to begin to understand the family tree in a factual way. So we completed interviews with relatives who knew Grandpa Hinde and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Steer – our “Grandma Hinde.” We also made some trips to Taos during vacations to see grandpa’s blacksmith shop, the house he built, the old jail on the square, and numerous other examples of his blacksmithing talents around town. We suspect that he was commissioned to build the iron fence around Kit Carson’s grave – just across the street from the Hinde home. On our last trip there we discovered Hinde Street named in honor of this early day Taos pioneer family. This effort produced some colorful stories about the trip from England and their life in Taos along with some important documentation showing that the Grandpa Hinde was born Kempston, Bedfordshire in 1873 and Grandma Hinde was born in Risely, Bedfordshire in 1872.
Months turned into years as we gathered additional information about the Hinde family that stretched back to 1824 Olney in Buckinghamshire where the family was a stable member of the community for several generations. We found that the family lived for 2 years in Northampton where the Hinde family lived one generation back. Then they spent the next six years or so in the Pimlico area of London where grandpa was a farrier. The BMD project was particularly helpful in tracing members of the family back a couple of generations.
We found a distant relative through an Internet discussion group that tied directly to our oldest known relative in Olney – one of those happy occasions that we genealogists live for. We also spent $100 US to hire a professional genealogist in England to research William Thomas’ history as a bobby in London. As it turns out, he was not a bobby at all – but his brother, Ernest, was. This is a good example of how stories can get mixed up over time.
Grandpa died before my wife was born and grandma when she was very young. So, neither of us knew them very well except through family stories and the factual information that we had been able to find. At some time during our process we began to discuss a trip to England to see the places they had seen, to be in the places they had been, and to walk the places they had walked. We decided on a combined tourist and genealogy trip that would include highlights of London along with a few days of tromping through old church cemeteries – my favorite part of any trip. My wife decided that we would take the tube from the airport into London - something of an adventure for me. As we came up out of the station at our stop into a somewhat misty day in London, a kind local came up to us, "You two look like you are lost. How can I help you?" He gave us some precise directions to our hotel and a valuable tip on a pub along the way where we could lift a pint of bitter. That turned out to be typical of our experience; The British are friendly, witty and fun - something we will never forget.
After our time in London we took a train south to Maidstone where we picked up a car and toured Leeds Castle, a beautiful and relaxing spot not yet covered with tourists. Finally the genealogy portion of our trip was beginning! We continued to Dover where we took a wrong turn and very nearly entered the Chunnel under the strait to France. Thankfully, the tourist-friendly folks in England left a last-minute turn-around for us. We enjoyed a dock-side pub within walking distance from our hotel where I feasted on a fresh seafood platter in cream sauce. Margaret discovered her English roots with a plate of bangers and mash that were simply delicious. So much for the negative stories about English food; we found it different but quite nice everywhere we went. We slept with the window open to the channel where we peered through the fog watching the flickering lights in France – yet another world away.
Our schedule was much too tight as we could have stayed the week in Dover; it was just lovely with lots of interesting and historical things to see. We traveled along the south coast on our way to meet our distant cousin who had agreed to meet us for tea. We passed castles along the way that just begged us to pull off the road and linger for a few hours. Alas, we needed to move on and were content with seeing the beautiful beaches and countryside from the car. Somewhere along the way, our radio came on in the car with a warning about traffic conditions just ahead including detailed information about the motorway we were traveling and our direction – quite a fun surprise since we had never heard of anything like that before.
We reached cousin Rick and Linda’s house near Titchfield about mid-afternoon as they were finishing up a yard sale event at their house. It was fun to meet them and hear about their lives over tea. Since tea is not really a special event where we grew up in the US, it was especially meaningful to share it with these new relatives and friends. As you might expect, the conversation turned to family and genealogy as they told stories about some of the places we were planning to see. It just notched up the excitement level as we heard about the charming small towns and churches where grandma and grandpa lived as children.
We spent the night in a hotel on the harbor in Southampton, the port where the Hinde family boarded the Teutonic for New York in 1906 to begin the adventure of their lives. The next day we took a slight detour to the little town of Risely and looked through the graveyard without finding any familiar names. We went to the vicar’s house and got permission to go into the church to look around. We learned so much about England from that stop. There was an elevated section just off the sanctuary that had been built for the upper classes with a separate entrance; they did not go onto the main floor with the regular people. That section of the church now includes a stairway and is used as a classroom. There was a rope hanging near the back for ringing the church bell and the vicar said that training sessions were underway for bell ringers in preparation for an important anniversary celebration. The church was decorated for a fall harvest celebration from the previous week.
We also learned about conkers. Two people in two days had cautioned us to “Mind the conkers.” So we asked the vicar to explain. "Conkers are chestnuts – horse chestnuts to be more precise. They look a lot like a buckeye – but larger. In the fall, they are on the ground and could cause quite a nasty fall if you step on them in a certain way." Children – historically little boys - in England search for the largest and strongest conkers to use in a game called . . . conkers. "You tie the best conker you can find on a string by drilling a tiny hole in the conker and threading the string through the hole. Then you spin your conker on the string while your opponent spins his in the opposite direction until you conk them together. The objective is to break your opponent’s conker." I confirmed this story with British friends here in the states who just raved about the childhood memories that flooded back when thinking about playing conkers with their friends in England.
We wondered about how grandpa and grandma Hinde could have met since Risely was so far from Kempston and speculated as we made our way north to Buckinghamshire just an hour or so north of London. A few days later we discovered that there are two Risely’s in England – the one we visited and one within walking distance from the town where grandpa lived. Sigh . . . so much for planning. That’s why the original documents we had made such a big deal out of Riseley *Bedfordshire* England!
One of our first stops was the city graveyard in Kempston just to see if we could find any Hinde grave markers. The office at the cemetery was closed so we could not ask about records or locations – so we carefully stepped through the conkers and covered the entire cemetery in about an hour. We made our way to Turvey where great grandfather Hinde was supposed to be buried and found one distant cousin buried there next to a beautiful church.
We finally got to the correct Riseley church where grandma and grandpa were married in 1898. A member of the church met us in the street and directed us to the vicar’s house and he was very friendly and helpful. The church is quite old and the vicar explained that the main section was built first and then a side portion built later. The iron door was built by a famous metal worker from London and is still working and being used every day. The vicar apologized that they only have records back to the 1600s in the church – a pretty foreign concept to us since churches in the US are generally only 100 or 200 years old. We were able to get some good information about the Tabron family (Grandma's mother was named Tabron) from the ledger kept there. I took a few pictures inside including one with my wife standing on the step where her grandparents stood a hundred years ago and pledged their love for each other. It was a poignant moment for both of us as we soaked in the feeling of that place and imagined the beginning of their lives as a married couple.
Doing some research in this area? England is a place where you can still see little villages with thatched roofs, prehistoric stone circles, and Roman ruins. Well worth the trip and a relatively exotic trip where you can understand the language with a little practice. The records in England are wonderful - they include lots of information about parents and usually occupations - very helpful when you have two people with the same name. While record-keeping on the US frontier was not a priority, English records were being kept in good order. Here are some resources that helped us.
Bedford MK40 1PG
Tel: 01234 350931
Fax: 01234 342163
A great set of microfiche with both church and public records from Bedfordshire – many not online yet.
Taos County Historical Society
Buckinghamshire Family History Society
Bedfordshire Family History Socieety
Other neat links:
Gene Hall is a genealogist with 30 years of research experience and the CEO of FamilyTrackers, Inc., a world-wide genealogy exchange dedicated to serving the needs of genealogists, genealogical societies, professional genealogists, and transcribers all over the world. FamilyTrackers is located at http://www.familytrackers.com/ .
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