18 Jul 2015

Monumental inscriptions and graves

Rookwood Cemetery 
Recently Andrew and Linda Swinfield have been visiting two of the largest cemeteries and graveyards close to Sydney in New South Wales. Many thanks for their sterling efforts.

Plan of Rookwood
They have located and photographed Swinfield monumental inscriptions and graves at both Rookwood and Woronora so that we have them on record. There are still 7 more monuments in the enormous Rookwood Cemetery to be found and photographed. Fortunately there is an index and a plan!

Proprietors' Cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA 

I have decided to add pages to the Blog so that those that we have for each family can be viewed. So far we have images for stones and plaques for Swinfields of Families 2, 3, 4 and 5. Those pages can be found in the right-hand column of this page. Have a look and see if your ancestor or relative is there.

If you know of any other stone or monument which records people called Swinfield, please send me a photograph of it and its location and I will add it to the archive. These are a very useful source of genealogical information but one which can easily be lost.

There must be more out there to find. Let's get copies of them before they disappear forever!

12 May 2015

Swinfield Gathering - A Reminder

It's now just four months until the Second Swinfield Gathering! 

Have you put it in your diary for 2015? Have you told your relatives that it is happening? Make sure that you will be there!  

Please let me know that you will be at Barwell to meet your relatives and see what we have discovered about the Swinfield family. It will be a fascinating experience.
                                              Who are you bringing with you? 

9 May 2015

Sarah Swinfield Raven - an update and an exciting discovery

by Di Swinfield

In my recent post about Sarah Swinfield Raven I mentioned Sarah's great-great-granddaughter, Colleen Swinfield, who had sent us copies of some family photos. I chose her photo of Sarah's oldest son, William, to illustrate what I wrote about Sarah's life. Among those pictures was another which caught my eye, after I had written about Sarah. It showed an elderly couple in the front garden of a house and was described by Colleen as, "William Swinfield 1841 photo believed to have been taken near Angel Yard, Earl Shilton about 1900".

This got us very excited as the only William Swinfield born in 1841 was Sarah Raven's brother who was also Geoff's great-grandfather. William has figured in a number of blog posts over the years, especially A Life in the Queen's Service and The End of an Eventful Life, written back in 2011. We know a quite a lot about William's life and death but until now we had no photograph of him. He died in 1905 when his only surviving son, Arthur, was a young and still unmarried man and the only family photos which we have were taken after Arthur's marriage and the birth of his son, Reg in 1925.

We had to contact Colleen to ask if she had any more information about this photo. She quickly replied that the photo was of William and his sister, presumably Sarah. Colleen had been given the photo by her Aunt Emma, who was the sister of her grandfather. Sarah's granddaughter, Emma, told Colleen that the families all lived "hand to mouth" and that most of the children wore shoes which had been thrown out by the shoe factories where their parents worked. It should be noticed that Sarah's shoes in the photograph are beautifully shiny!

We have no idea where Angel Yard might have been in Earl Shilton. Can anyone help us here? The photo was taken outside a house which has a front garden and looks rather more up-market. Was this Highfield Road? Does anyone recognise it?

All of this fits very well with what we know about William's life around 1900. He had settled in Camberley, Surrey, after a long career in the Army and his wife, Elizabeth, had died in the local Workhouse at Farnham in November of that year. By the time the 1901 census was taken at the beginning of April, William and Arthur were living with Sarah Raven at Highfield Street, Earl Shilton. This must have been rather more than a short visit as Arthur, aged 18, had found work as a shoe hand. Geoff's dad, Reg, also remembers his father, Arthur, being good at repairing shoes. It seems quite logical that the couple in the photograph were brother and sister, William Swinfield and Sarah Raven, both recently widowed.

By 1905 William was back in Camberley and met his unfortunate end after falling downstairs . Colleen has told us she has lots more photos which she is currently looking through. We can't wait!

22 Apr 2015

Sarah Swinfield Raven - A More Fortunate Sister?

Guest post by Di Swinfield

Back in 2011, one of the very first articles Geoff wrote for this blog was about his 2x great aunt, Jane Swinfield. Regular readers may remember reading about her incarceration in Millbank Prison and how she narrowly escaped transportation to Australia. Jane was the oldest child and probably the only legitimate daughter of Thomas Swinfield and Sarah (nee Hewitt) of Earl Shilton in Leicestershire. She had seven brothers and sisters, the youngest of whom was Sarah, born in 1845.

By the time Sarah was born, her mother had long since given up the pretence that her children were also those of her husband. She was living with Thomas Brown and it is likely that all seven of her younger children were his. The three youngest were certainly listed as his children in the 1851 census when they lived at High Street, Earl Shilton.

By 1871 Sarah had two illegitimate children of her own, William and Isaac, and was still living at home with her father, Thomas Brown. Her mother had died in 1862.

She had two more children, Mary Ann and Charles, in 1872 and 1874 but soon afterwards she found a husband. The General Register Office marriage index tells us that Sarah married William Raven in 1875.

When the next census was taken in 1881, Sarah was still living at her father's house in Wood Street and her four illegitimate children had been joined by two little Raven siblings, Emma and Thomas.

Sarah was listed as a Swinfield, presumably a mistake by the census enumerator. What was not a mistake, however, was the fact that William Raven was not in the house on the night of the census.

Where was he? Working away perhaps or temporarily staying elsewhere? Well, Sarah's husband was actually living very nearby in neighbouring Mount Pleasant, with his own three sons. William was in fact a much older man: his son, Alfred, was six years older than Sarah!

The 1891 census tells the same story, with Sarah remaining in Wood Street with her father and children while William Raven lived elsewhere. Of course, this arrangement may have served the couple perfectly well. Sarah had an elderly father and a growing family to take care of. She eventually had a total of four Raven children, with Ada and Gertrude being born in 1881 and 1885, as well as the four she gave birth to before she married, so her husband was obviously around sometimes! We only have a snapshot of their living arrangements every ten years through the census.

What of William Raven's earlier life? He had older children and so had probably been married before. Indeed, eagle-eyed readers may already have spotted him way back in 1851. He was then next door neighbour to the Brown and Swinfield household in the High Street! As a young man of 31, he lived there with his wife, Ann (nee Bent) and their three small children. After having an eventual total of nine children, Ann Raven died in 1871, aged only 45. The younger children were still very small, Sarah Swinfield also had four apparently fatherless children. Despite the 26 year gap in their ages, the marriage must have had its advantages in an age before social security benefits and with the ever-present threat of the Workhouse for families who could not take care of their own. We have no clue at present who might have fathered Sarah's four older children. 

William Raven died at the age of 79 in 1899.

Thomas Brown had also lived well into old age, dying in 1893 at the age of 84. Sarah was the informant of her father's death.

We do however have one further clue which sheds some light on the marriage of William and Sarah Raven. This article in the Leicester Chronicle and Mercury on the 18th November 1876 paints a picture of a marriage which was far from ideal and tells of domestic violence which the Hinckley Petty Sessions apparently found quite acceptable.

The grave of Sarah Raven in Earl Shilton churchyard
(courtesy of Sandra Bates)

Sarah did not re-marry after William's death.
She remained a widow in Earl Shilton until her
death in 1921 at the age of 75.

Colleen Swinfield, a member of the Facebook Swinfield Genealogy & DNA Group, is the great-granddaughter of Sarah's oldest son William (1867-1931) and has kindly shared some of her own family photos with us. This one shows William at the grave of his son, Clarence Isaac, who was killed in France in 1916. 

So did Sarah have a better life than her oldest sister, Jane? Probably. She had eight children, four of whom outlived her. She always stayed close to her wider family and never left the town of her birth, living to the age of 75, a comparatively long life for those times.

She seems to have been a dutiful daughter, taking care of a father who was never able to officially marry the woman who bore seven children with him. It is unwise to judge our ancestors in terms of our own, hopefully more enlightened, attitude to women's rights. Perhaps her marriage to a man old enough to be her father, who occasionally hit her when he thought she was neglecting her wifely duties, was a small price to pay for the relative security that it provided.

6 Apr 2015

We are now married!

Four weeks ago today, I had the great honour to marry Di, my wonderful partner of the last ten years. In summer 2014, we decided that it was time to "tie the knot". As we both have relatives who live in many different parts of England and even on the other side of the World, we decided to get married whilst on holiday. Having had our first holiday together on the lovely island of St Lucia, that was chosen as the venue.

No-one knew that it had happened until we announced the wedding through social media and by e-mail to family and friends. How communication has changed in the past ten years! Many thanks to all who sent us so many good wishes for our future together.

It was expected that we could record the marriage within the separate overseas events registered in England and Wales. That way, anyone could find out where we had "made it official" and obtain a copy of the certificate. 

On checking the regulations, that proved not to be possible. Unless they know where and when we got married, how will future genealogists verify that a ceremony took place in such an idyllic place on 9th March 2015?

Having changed her name, Di is now officially a Swinfield and will continue to be very actively involved in furthering our knowledge of those who have this very rare surname.  

13 Feb 2015

The Second English Swinfield Gathering is happening!

An important date for your 2015 diary!

We are delighted to announce that another Swinfield Gathering has been arranged for September 2015. Almost two years after the first opportunity to meet “our cousins”, there is another chance for you to participate in what was a most enjoyable and informative event. I know that there were people who wished to attend the first one held at Appleby Magna, Derbyshire, on 22nd May 2013 but could not come for some reason. By letting you know the date and venue seven months before it happens, you will have plenty of notice and can add it to your diary for this year.

The Second English Swinfield Gathering
will be held on
12th September 2015
(otherwise the Barwell Community Centre)
Church Lane, Barwell, Leicester
from 1.00 to 5.00 pm

Barwell Church 
Anyone who is or was named Swinfield, by birth or marriage, is very welcome to come along to meet others of the surname, who will be your cousins both close and rather more distant. You will be able find yourself on the pedigrees, which will be displayed, for all known branches of the family. We will make it possible for you to introduce yourselves to others there who are on the same family trees and explain just how you are related. There will also be a wide variety of documents and photographs for you to look at. This time, I will also be giving an illustrated talk about the Genealogy and DNA of the Swinfields.

Whether or not you were at the first Gathering, you will be very welcome to come to this year's event. Let's see if we can wrest back the record from our Australian cousins who had 43 at their Gathering in Sydney in May 2014. Spread the news to all your Swinfield relatives now so that they keep that date free too.
The more attendees, the better! Please let me know that you are coming, and who you will be bringing with you, as soon as you know that you expect to be there. We want to see as many of you as possible in September.

Geoff Swinfield
14 Beaconsfield Road,                                                    Tel: 0208 325 3670
Mottingham,                                                                    e-mail: geoff@gsgs.co.uk

18 Jan 2015

Reginald Ernest Swinfield

On 11th January 2015, family and friends gathered in the West Abbey Care Centre in Yeovil, Somerset, to celebrate the life and 90th birthday of Reg Swinfield, my father. 

Born at Bagshot, Surrey, he was the only child of Arthur Swinfield (1883-1956) and Edith Elizabeth nee Worsfold (1884-1976), born 11 years after their marriage. In his early years, he suffered from ill health having measles, whooping cough and double pneumonia in quick succession, leaving him needing to be in a pushchair until he was five years old! His father was then working as a butler at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

In April 1930, Reg started his education at Yorktown School. His strength gradually improved and at age of eight, he joined the Frimley and Camberley Cadet Corps and eventually was promoted to be commander of Yorktown Platoon. He won several medals for both physical and athletic achievements. A very keen sportsman throughout his life, he played football and cricket for his junior school and in 1938 was selected to play football for Farnham Schools when they won the Wood Cup, the Surrey Schools Competition for under 12s.

Having not been successful in the examination at 11 to attend the local grammar school, he passed the 13+ examination to attend Guildford Junior Technical School from 1938 to 1940. In his first term, he played football for Guildford Schools who won the Hood Shield for all Surrey Schools in March 1939.
Leaving school in May 1940, he became an engineering apprentice at the world-renowned Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, Hampshire, where he trained until 1946, obtaining his Ordinary and Higher National Certificates. At the age of 17, in Jan 1942, he joined the Home Guard during WWII and served alongside his father until it was disbanded in 1944.
In August 1946, Reg joined Fairey Aviation Company at Hayes in Middlesex as a junior stressman, commuting four hours by train and bus each day, for the princely weekly wage of £5-19-6d. He worked on the Firefly Mk5 for six months and was then transferred to the team involved in the design of the new Gannet anti-submarine aircraft. 
During the football season 1947/8, he captained the Camberley Reserves when they won the Surrey Senior Reserve Section Challenge Cup.
On New Years Eve 1947, at a dance in Camberley, he met Evelyn May Bird (1924-2008). They became engaged on Evelyn’s 24th birthday and were married in St Peter’s Church, Frimley, Surrey, on 16th July 1949. Geoffrey Mark, their only child, was born on 2nd October 1951.
In his lifelong career, he was promoted to Assistant Chief Stressman and was made a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a Chartered Engineer. When Fairey Aviation was taken over by Westland Helicopters in 1960, the Rotodyne project was cancelled and he was transferred to the Scout and Wasp helicopters. By 1966, he was promoted to Deputy Chief Structural Engineer and spent some time at Cowes on the Isle of Wight developing the SRN4 hovercraft and later the Lynx helicopter.
From 1950 to 1972, he was a stalwart all-rounder for Bagshot Cricket Club, captaining the First XI for many seasons, scoring thousands of runs and taking well over 1000 wickets. Also a keen golfer, at one time playing to a handicap of 14, he was still playing in his early 80s.
Evelyn and Reg moved to Sherborne in Dorset in August 1972 with the closure of the Hayes factory by Westland and its transfer to Yeovil. Appointed its Chief Structural Designer and later the Chief Structural Engineer, he finally retired in May 1986 after 26 years with that company. In early 1987, they embarked on an eight-week round-the-world tour with their friends, David and Madge Hollely, visiting Honolulu, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong.
They have three grandchildren, Thomas William born in 1984, Benjamin Alan 1985 and Samuel John in 1988. His great-granddaughter, Lexia Lou, was born in September 2013.