And its Smith!

As a Brighton and Hove Albion supporter and season ticket holder, I apologise for entitling this page as it is.  The title refers to a ‘fanzine’ from the 1980’s which refers back to the final seconds of extra time during the 1983 Cup Final, when the score against Manchester United was 2-2.  The ball came to Michael Robinson who was faced by the United goalkeeper, so he squared the ball to Gordon Smith.  Somehow goalkeeper Gary Bailey managed to throw himself across goal and get in the way of the shot as the commentator screamed “and its Smith”.  What could have been the greatest moment in the history of the Albion, turned into a damp squib, when they lost the replay 4-0.

So what has this got to do with my research, you may ask?  Well the one thing you don’t want is an ancestor called Smith, because of the myriad possibilities a common surname throws up.  When discovered, this was accompanied by an exclamation from me of “and its Smith”, more in despair at the difficulties that almost certainly lay ahead.  Worse still is one called John, the commonest of Smiths, who was my 2 x great grandfather, father of Ann Maria, who married my great grandfather – William Backler.  Trusting the research of others, avoiding the work of checking a common name, I managed to pick the wrong John Smith – see the blog page “One Eighth Welsh… Or Not”.  The correct John Smith was a coal miner, born in Heather, Leicestershire, who moved to Cannock Chase, another coal mining district, probably in pursuit of work.  I have now completed some further research into his family.

John’s grandfather was William Smith born in Swarkeston, Derbyshire.  He married Rebecca Ford on 27th October 1809 in Swarkestone.  In the 1841 census their ages were given as 50, but this was subject to the usual five year rounding allowed in that census.  The census showed daughters Hannah Smith aged 25 and Eliza Smith aged 20 and William Smith aged 1, who was actually 18.  Researching Swarkestone baptisms, William and Rebecca had John Smith in 1810, Thomas Smith in 1813, Sarah Smith in 1816, Hannah in 1819, Eliza  in 1820 and William in 1823.  I have also found a death certificate for Rebecca Smith aged 15 dated 14th September 1843, so born in 1828.

John’s father was the Thomas above who was living in Heather, Leicestershire in the 1841 census.  Thomas married Ann Wain (baptised 9th January 1814) in Heather on 25th September 1832.  Her father was John Wain and her mother was Elizabeth Kendrick, who were married on 28th December 1812.  Thomas and Ann had the following children listed in this census: John aged 8, Ann Smith aged 6, George Smith aged 4 and Jane Smith aged 2.  I have found a birth certificate for George dated 4th October 1838 in Heather.

John Smith married Ann Maria Hawkins in the fourth quarter of 1858.  In the 1881 census he was shown as a 47 year old collier, born Heather and she was aged 39, born in Blakenhall, Staffordshire.  In 1841 census she was shown aged 3 weeks, the daughter of 22 year old James Hawkins and 19 year old Caroline Arrowsmith.

John and Ann Maria, had at least seven children:

  • Laura Louisa Smith born 1865 in Heather, who married George Henry Francis in October 1882.  She died in November 1924 in Hemsworth, Yorkshire.  George Henry was born in West Bromwich in 1862 and died in Barnsley in 1923.
  • Elizabeth Smith born 1867 in Heather.
  • Ann M Smith born 1871 in Hednesford, Staffordshire, my great grandmother.
  • Benjamin James Smith born 1873 in Hednesford, who emigrated to Australia with his new wife Sarah Brittle in 1894 on board the Chemnitz.  They were married in Walsall on 20th December 1891 and appear to have settled in Geelong, near Melbourne, Victoria, where Benjamin passed away in 1935 and Sarah in 1949.
  • Betsy Ellen Smith born 1874 in Five Ways, near Cannock, Staffordshire on 3rd November.  She married Albert Edward Davenport (born 1872) in February 1896 and she died in Warrington on 20th March 1951.  In the 1911 census the Davenports had been married 16 years and were living in Warrington.  They had six children listed, but the section where it asks for number of children noted six born, but only five living, so something was not correct!
  • John T Smith born 1878 in Five Ways.
  • Mark Smith born 1880 in Five Ways.

This research showed the movement of these family connections from Derbyshire into Leicestershire and thence to Staffordshire, with an emigrant to Australia. As can be seen from the above, there are many more lines of enquiry to research, but I though it was time to stop and write up the progress to date.


Henry’s Brother – Samuel Backler

Samuel Backler was baptised in Haverhill on 4th October 1778 and he appears to have passed away in 1855.  He married Elizabeth Backler, who was born in Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire in 1775, reaching the age of 84.  In both the 1841 and 1851 censuses they were living at 10 Type Street in London and Samuel was occupied as a labourer.

Living with them in 1851 was daughter and widow Mary Wilkinson, born Fairford, Gloucestershire aged 48 and grandaughter Sarah Elizabeth Wilkinson, born at St Lukes, Middlesex (in London) aged 21 – baptised 1st November 1829 in Finsbury.  Mary was a grocer & general dealer, whilst Sarah was a straw bonnet maker.  Mary married Adam Wilkinson (1791- buried 14th October 1831) on 28th July 1829 in Finsbury, London, just a three months before she gave birth.

Sarah Elizabeth was baptised 1st November 1829 at St Luke’s, Finsbury.  She married a cooper, William Davis in the second quarter of 1856 in London.  William was baptised on 3rd March 1833 and this record shows his father as William and his mother as Mary.  In the 1861 census, William (aged 25) was shown as living with his father William Davis aged 51, a widower, at 2 Acton Street, Shoreditch, London.  Also living with William senior at this address was daughter in law Sarah Elizabeth (aged 25), with his daughters, Louisa Davis (aged 20, born Hackney), Eliza Davis (aged 17, born Shoreditch) and son Richard Davis (aged 7, born Shoreditch).

It is often hard to trace daughters when they marry, because of the change of surname.  Luckily, the presence of the Wilkinsons in Type Street in the censuses made it easier to trace the marriage of Mary Backler to Adam Wilkinson, find his early death, and then locate the subsequent marriage of their daughter Sarah Elizabeth Backler to William Davis.

What is interesting about this piece of work is that my 4 x grandfather Henry and, the subject of this blog page, his brother Samuel (my 4 x great uncle), both left Haverhill for Gloucestershire.  Mary Backler was born in Fairford not far from where her mother was born in Bourton on the Water.  After that their family moved to London, whereas his brother Henry stayed in Bristol.  Maybe Henry and Samuel travelled together on their West Country sojourn.  We will probably never know why they both left Haverhill, never to return.




More on Grandad Finn’s family

In the 1911 Ireland Census, my grandfather Thomas Finn, aged 15, born 29th June 1896, was living at home with his parents Michael Finn, aged 57, and Bridget Finn, aged 53, born 14th November 1866, baptised at Castlebar.  Also at home were three brothers, Patrick 19, Michael 17 and James 14, plus their grandmother Honoria, aged 84, who was a widow who had been married 62 years = 1849.  Her maiden name was Honoria King, and her husband was William Robinson according to their daughter Bridget’s baptism record.  The census revealed that Michael and Bridget had been married for 21 years and they had six children, of whom five were living.  I have not been able to identify the sibling who died, but it is likely to have been between 1894 and 1895 or maybe later from 1899 onwards.

My Great Uncle John Finn, who was born on 6th November 1890 was the living sibling not present at the family home in the census.  His parents were married on 4th February 1890 at Carracastle Roman Catholic church.  Bridget was noted as coming from Rooskey and her father was identified as John Robinson and Michael’s father was noted as Michael Finn, who was born on 24th September 1864.   Michael Finn junior, my Great Uncle, was born on 27th September 1893 and his older brother Patrick Finn was born 28th December 1891.

Great Uncle John married Kate Carney on 20th April 1933 at Ballaghaderreen Cathedral.  The witnesses were James Finn and Mary Towey.  Kate’s father was Martin Carney, known as Smiler, and they lived in Derryaraune village, part of the Townland of Dernabruck.  This is mentioned in Tom Finn’s paper, using the link below, at the foot of page 9.

The paper states that Martin Carney married Mary Durcan and, in addition to Kate, they had Martin Carney junior (who died in England), Winnie Carney who married Jamed (James?) Tatum from Shraugh, near Rooskey and Mary Carney, who married Patrick (Brownie) Forkin.  My Uncle Tommy, who lives near Ballaghaderreen, told me in January 2019 that he thinks old Tom Finn (no relation) who wrote this paper in 1999, is still alive and is now over 100 years old.

My youngest Great Uncle –  James – was born 6th October 1898, lived in Tavanabeg all his life and did not marry.  My Mum remembers him and my Great Uncle John, but she does not remember their older brothers Patrick or Michael.  All of the births of my Great Uncles were registered in the Lowpark registration district that came under the Swineford, Mayo, Superintendent’s District and recorded their parents as Michael Finn and Bridget Finn, formerly Robinson.

I have not been able to find Great Uncle John in the 1911 census and, as he did not get married until 1933, he may have just been away at the time of the census and much harder to find.  One of the key ways of finding people with common names is the location, because back in those days people did not generally travel far, but if they did, making any connections is much harder.  For instance, I know nothing further about Great Uncles Patrick and Michael.  I had a suspicion one or other may have emigrated to the USA, because I am picking up DNA matches to distant cousins.  These are not close links, so we are probably looking a generation further back at least, than the Hanrahans, where there are strong DNA links in New Hampshire, USA – see the Long Lost Hanrahan blog page.  Also, I have not been able to find any records that match immigration into the USA by any of my Great Uncles.  Still more research to do!