16 Feb 2021

A Horse called Swinfield - guest post by Di Swinfield

Anyone who has undertaken an in-depth investigation of their surname (a one-name study) will know that the main method of collecting information is to search sets of data which are rich in names. The list is endless but some of the most common ones are birth, marriage and death indexes, historic censuses, street directories and old newspapers. They are often available online and when a new source becomes available it is possible to spend many hours trawling through lists of people who carry the relevant surname. We recently decided to splash out on a subscription to Newspapers.com, thinking that it would give us a lock-down project, ticking off the Swinfields we already knew about and filling in a few gaps in our research.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Swinfield is an unusual surname with the biggest clusters in Leicestershire and Warwickshire, England and New South Wales, Australia. There are hardly any instances in the USA although the name is often used there as a forename and one of the things we want to do one day is to document these people more fully and find out why they were given the name Swinfield. When we searched Newspapers.com for instances of Swinfield in the USA there were some forename hits, as we had expected, and we got ready to work through them. What we hadn’t expected was a huge number of hits about one particular Swinfield who lived in the 1920s and 1930s in New York and Kentucky. 

This Swinfield was a racehorse, a black male thoroughbred who was foaled in 1927, all racehorses having their official birthday on 1 January. The Equibase website states that he had 31 outings during a career from 1929 to 1931, with five wins, eight second and seven third places. He was bred by Walter J Salmon, a New York real estate investor, and trained at Belmont Park by Pat Dwyer. He appears to have had a fairly successful career, earning a total of $15,750 and considered at one time to be a hopeful for the Kentucky Derby. Although he didn’t quite manage that his wins included the Hilltop Purse at Pimlico, Baltimore in April 1930 and the Claiburne Purse and Homestead Purse at Hialeah Park, Florida, both in early 1931.

So why was he called Swinfield? Well, there appears to be no obvious reason, apart from the fact that his sire was called Swinburne. All genealogists like to see a well drawn and documented pedigree and the racing world doesn’t disappoint. The Equineline website has a five generation pedigree showing Swinfield’s male line back through Swinburne to Swynford and then John o’ Gaunt. We’ve spent many years disentangling human Swinfields from the posher Swinfords and it seems that the same aspirations to the nobility apply in the bloodstock world.

Many of the newspaper reports we found were accompanied by a grainy photo of the leading horses crossing the finish line but it took a while of searching before we could find a definite image of our namesake. Here he is finishing third (but promoted to second after the disqualification of the second placed horse), wearing number 9 at Havre de Grace, Maryland on 26 April 1930.

24 Oct 2020

Edith Elizabeth Swinfield (1884-1976)

My grandmother "Gran", Edith Elizabeth Worsfold, was born on 30th March 1884 at Mayes in the parish of Warnham in Sussex as the daughter of James Worsfold (1852-1926) and his wife Mary Baker (1851-1929). They had married on 24th August 1874 in the church of St Nicholas in town of Guildford, Surrey. James was a domestic servant all of his life, progressing from footboy in 1871 to groom at his marriage and culminating in being a coachman by 1881. His career resulted in him moving about in the south of England wherever he could find employment. After working at Winchester, Guildford and Tunbridge Wells, by 1880 he was at Elmswell in Suffolk. Moving on to Warnham with his wife and three sons, his fourth and fifth children, both daughters, were born there in 1882 and 1884. Gran was baptised in the parish church on 27th April 1884.

When Gran was only two, her brother Horace Reginald died at the age of just 8 as the result of a tragic, and what must have been a very traumatic, scrumping expedition to gather apples. It took him two days to die from choking on a core! Fortunately, Edith would have been too young to remember it. He is buried in Warnham churchyard and his broken gravestone is still there to commemorate his very short life. Edith's son, my father Reg Swinfield can still recall taking two buses each way every year, and being entertained with the purchase of new crayons for the long journey from Camberley in Surrey to Warnham, to visit his uncle's grave.  

Warnham National School admission register 1887/8
Gran and her four siblings all attended Warnham National School, which is today a private house. She was enrolled on 9th April 1888 and she left the school and village on 26th April 1889 when her family moved to Frimley in Surrey. By 1891, her father had found a new position as a domestic coachman and they lived at Barossa Lodge, York Town, part of Camberley, where her youngest brother was born in 1889.

In 1901, her father James Worsfold, now a fly driver with a livery stable, his wife Mary and only their youngest son George were living at The Staff Hotel, York Town. Three of the older four surviving children had been found positions in service in large houses in London. Ernest was a married man of 25, who worked as a coachman groom and lived at 2 Gordon Street, St John's Westminster, and Minnie was the 19 year-old nursemaid to the children of William E.M. Tomlinson, M.P., J.P. and barrister, at 3 Richmond Terrace, St Margaret's Westminster. 

Amazingly, Edith was also in the Westminster area of London at the time of that census. Aged only 17, she was second housemaid to Henry R. Madocks, retired judge of the Bengal Civil Service, in a grand house at 32 Eaton Place, St Georges Hanover Square. Looking at the house today, one wonders if her bedroom was behind one of those windows in the attic. I can picture her day of lighting fires very early in the morning, carrying water around the house, followed by many hours of cleaning and drudgery. She must have had days off when she could meet or visit with her siblings in the same part of town or perhaps catch the train back home to Camberley.

1901 census of 32 Eaton Place, Westminster

By 1911, Harry, Edith and George were back at home with their parents at 29 London Road, Camberley. James Worsfold was a jobbing gardener whilst Mary ran a boarding house of eight rooms. Her sister Minnie also left service in Westminster by 1907 when she married George Collins, a chauffeur, at St Michael's church. Her father James was one of the witnesses. By 1911, they had settled at Portsmouth, Hampshire where she remained the rest of her life, dying in 1970.

Edith already knew her future husband by Christmas 1906 as Arthur Swinfield was a witness at the wedding of her brother Harry Worsfold to Louisa Boyce at nearby Bagshot church in Surrey. They did not marry for another seven years until their wedding was solemnised at St Michael's, York Town, on 4th August 1913. She recorded that they became "betrothed" on 20th July 1912. He was then a waiter of Camberley. Gran's father and two of her siblings, Minnie and Harry, were witnesses. It is known that in late 1901, Arthur had joined the Leicestershire Regiment and my father believes that he was in India at some point during his service. Certainly, by 1911, he had left the regiment and was working as a footman in the household of Charles Matthew Griffith, a retired Major General, who was born at Poona, Bombay. He was then an Army reservist.

Arthur Swinfield worked as a butler at the Royal Military College, located in Camberley, from 1912 to 1946 whilst he and Edith Elizabeth lived at 9 St Mary's Road, which was her parents home. He re-enlisted for the First World War serving with the Lincolnshire Regiment where he saw action at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle from 10th to 13th March 1915 where there were 7,000 British and 4,200 Indian casualties. Arthur was listed as one of the casualties in a list of 21st March.

Camberley News
17 December 1926

In January 1925, at the age of 40, Gran gave birth to her only child at Bagshot Nursing Home. Reginald Ernest Swinfield was to become my father. 

Her father, James Worsfold, then aged 74, fell in the bathroom of 9 St Mary's Road on the evening of 28th November 1926 whilst his wife Mary was trying to get him ready for bed. James was practically a cripple, according to the evidence given to the inquest held in the house, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and chronic bronchitis. He struck his head on the bath causing a wound and concussion. Sadly, he lingered for a further seven days before he succumbed and died on 5th December. He was buried with great ceremony at St Michael's, York Town, where he had been a member of the choir for more than 21 years.

Mary Worsfold survived for a further two years before she too died at home at 9 St Mary's Road on 24th December 1929 from stomach cancer. One can only imagine how painful it must have been for Edith to care for both her father and mother in the last days of their lives. Both are buried in a grave very close near to St Michael's church.

Edith & Arthur Swinfield with other Worsfolds

By 1939, Arthur and Edith were living at 9 St Mary's Road, Camberley, Surrey. 

Arthur was working as a butler at the Royal Military College. The redacted member of the family would be young Reg Swinfield, then aged 14.    

Edith Swinfield (front row right) &
Arthur Swinfield (4th from left at back)
about 1950 at "Sunnymeade",
Frimley Green, with members
of the Bird family    

After her husband Arthur died at home in 1956, Gran continued to lived there for many years. I remember visiting her weekly from my infant's school in York Town. We usually had "yellow fish" (smoked haddock) for lunch. She and I attended Camberley Congregational Church, just round the corner from her home, most Sunday mornings. She smoked Park Drive cigarettes and always had a bottle of sherry for the entertainment of her visitors. Gran spent Christmases and special occasions in her later life with her daughter-in-law's family at "Sunnymeade", in nearby Frimley Green. Edith had a lovely sense of humour and loved to be teased by my mother's brother Fred Bird.

Arthur, Evelyn & Edith Swinfield
with young Geoff about 1955 
at 33 Park Road, Camberley

Reg & Evelyn Swinfield (back row)
Edith & Arthur Swinfield (front row)
& Geoff Swinfield in 1952 
at 9 St Mary's Road, Camberley

Evelyn, Gran & Reg Swinfield
with Fred Bird at "Sunnymeade"
in 1974

Gran's 90th birthday
at Ballard Court, Camberley

For the final few years of her very long life, she moved into sheltered accommodation at Flat B1, Ballard Court, in Camberley. The Mayor visited to mark her 90th Birthday in 1974 and she died there on 24th August 1976. She and Arthur are remembered on a simple stone in St Michael's churchyard, York Town.  

11 Apr 2020

Swinfield Family 12 is now ready to view online

Following my last Blog of 24th February, as promised I have completed work on the last of the 4 major Swinfield family trees.

Swinfield Family 12 can now be viewed at Ancestry. By clicking on this link or by pasting: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/tree/167088828 into the Ancestry website, you will be able to see all the relations who have been connected together into that large pedigree. To see who is part of that genealogy, you can view a tree of the principal male members at the Swinfield DNA and Genealogy project hosted by FTDNA.

This family has its origins in the parish of Markfield in Leicestershire. At present, I have extended it back as far as a weaver called John Swinfield who died in 1736. The current living members all descend from his son Thomas (1717-1783) and his grandson James (1759-1806). James has two main lines of descent through Thomas (1781-1868) and John (1792-1871).

Thomas junior's two sons, Richard (1803-1863) and James (1815-1903), are the progenitors of many living Swinfields. The former married Sarah Lygo at Heather, Leicestershire, in 1799 and that part of the family frequently used Lygo as a second forename in subsequent generations. Most of the current descendants of Richard still remain in the Leicester area. Branches of James's family through his son William Thomas (1837-1909), who settled in the Kingston area of Surrey, are still living throughout the south of England such as in the southern suburbs of London, Wiltshire and Hampshire. Another of James's sons Edward (1859-1940) hyphenated his surname to Swinfield-Wells and that family still flourishes today in Leicestershire.

The descendants of John Swinfield (1792-1871), who still bear the surname, have mainly remained close to Leicester. One later descendant, Henry Tomlin Swinfield (1893-1949), emigrated to New South Wales, Australia, in the early 20th century, where a branch of the family still lives. 

Don't forget that you can also access the other 3 major Swinfield trees online at Ancestry. 
However the amount of detail that you will be able to see will much greater if you either have asubscription of your own or use that website in a local public library. It is always possible to take out a 14-day free trial subscription to make use of the full applications. You will not be able to see information about living members of any family.

24 Feb 2020

Swinfield family trees now ready to see online

Since the beginning of this year, I have been busy compiling trees for the major Swinfield families. These are the outcome of the research, family gatherings and communication with Swinfields all over the World during the past 40 years. However, until now, they have only been available by making contact with me. I wanted to share them with anyone who wants to see them. Currently an outline of the main branches could only be seen through the Swinfield DNA and Genealogy project (click on this title to view that tree) hosted by FTDNA.

The easiest and most accessible way of providing much more detailed genealogical trees and data is via the international genealogical company Ancestry. I have now posted there public family trees for three of the four families:

Swinfield Family 1: This includes those who lived in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, and Sheffield, Yorkshire. It incorporates Family 4A which begins with Albert Edward Higginbotham, born in Derby in 1888, who later changed his name to George Alfred Swinfield, the surname being that of his mother's brother-in-law. That family has lived in Leicester ever since. 

Swinfield Family 3 & 4
: dates back to the middle of the 18th century, where it lived in the parish of Wolvey, Warwickshire, before descendants moved to nearby Mancetter. The oldest son of Family 3, William Swinfield (1804-1876) lived in Nuneaton, Atherstone and Mancetter before emigrating to Sydney, New South Wales, in 1848 on the "Walmer Castle" taking with him his younger children. His oldest son Thomas  remained in England where his descendants have lived in Birmingham (Warwickshire), Swindon (Wiltshire), Manchester (Lancashire), Cheshire, Southampton (Hampshire), Scotland and Ontario, Canada. In Australia, William's many descendants by his first two wives, have flourished in the Sydney area of NSW.

William's younger brother John (1806-1874) followed him to Sydney in 1853 on the "Beejapore" and is the ancestor of Family 4. His oldest son did not go with the family and instead went to work on the island of St Kitts in the West Indies as a sugar planter before returning to Alrewas in Staffordshire. John's younger son and his daughters went with him to Australia, the daughters settling in Tasmania. There are many living descendants but none who still have the Swinfield surname. 

The other living Swinfields of this family are descendants of George Swinfield, a younger brother of William and John, who was born in 1825. His branch of the family moved to the East End of London in the second half of the 19th century. In the 20th century, it dispersed into the London suburbs and out as far as Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.

Swinfield Family 5 (now incorporating Family 2)This is the oldest tree currently dating back to the late 16th century in Ibstock, Leicestershire. There is even a Family Bible that documents it as early as 1645! The family had land at Shackerstone, Appleby Magna, Hugglescote and Heather in Leicestershire and Ticknall in the adjacent county of Derbyshire. The family clearly had connections with the Swinfields who were Citizens and fishmongers of the City of London as documented in 17th century wills.

A descendant John Swinfield, born in 1680 at Markfield, Leicestershire, had a son and grandson who lived at Smisby and Ashby de la Zouch on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border. His great-grandsons were Thomas (1769-1833) who settled at Earl Shilton, and John (1773-1851) who became the blacksmith at Burbage, both parishes being in Leicestershire. Their families proliferated and many descendants are still found living in Leicestershire, not far from where the family lived in 17th century, but also in other parts of England and Wales. 

You can now access the three public trees online at Ancestry, free of charge (by clicking on the coloured title of that tree in this Blog). If you are not a member of Ancestry (free home trials are always available), most libraries have a public subscription that you can use to view the them. Just search for your known Swinfield ancestor and that should finding him or her on one of the pedigrees. You will not be able to view any living people as their names and life events are redacted for reason of privacy. Let me know of any additions or changes that need to me made. Enjoy!

Family 12, the tree of the last and very large family, is still being put together. As soon as that is ready to view as an Ancestry tree, I will let you know.

4 May 2019

New DNA tests for the Swinfields?

Over the past decade, I have been employing DNA testing in an attempt to determine if all Swinfields are ultimately related. If they are, their family trees could be traced back to one man who chose to use that hereditary surname and pass it on to his sons, daughters and their descendents. As it is the custom for women to take the surname of their husband at marriage, Swinfield would only have passed down male lines or on occasions when women, who were either single or married, had issue out of wedlock.

To date, the male line has been the most useful path to follow through the family trees to try to answer that question. Men inherit their surname from their father and keep it throughout their whole lifetime unless they change it for reason of inheritance or when they become a celebrity. In the same way, they also inherit their Y-chromosome from their father. That is the one part of the DNA which determines that a foetus will become male. By testing the Y-chromosome of selected living male Swinfields, it would appear likely that four of the five major Swinfield lineages, which have been tested to date, do have an almost identical form. That would strongly suggest that there was indeed only one ultimate male ancestor of all present-day Swinfields who would have lived in the 13th century and chose to use the surname. That may have been to mark where he lived at that time. There are several place names in England which are similar to Swin(g)field, notably in the counties of Kent and Staffordshire.

Now we have another type of DNA test which we can apply across all ancestral lines of our family trees. Irrespective of which of our 16 great-great-grandparents was a Swinfield, we may have inherited a discernible proportion of his or her autosomal DNA. The autosomes are all the other 44 chromosomes that we receive from our two parents in addition to our sex chromosomes (which are termed X and Y). We receive a random assortment of such chromosomes through the ancestral lines from our forebears. However, in addition, the autosomes are not passed on intact but also undergo what is called recombination, where they can interchange segments of DNA with their "pair". Consequently, siblings and cousins will inherit a different assortment of DNA from their common great-great-grandparents. Some may have lots of Swinfield DNA while others will have so little that it cannot be measured.

Autosomal DNA testing for genetic genealogy is a powerful tool in the family historian's armoury. Because of the "dilution" of DNA from one ancestral line through the generations, it can only be used over about the past five or six generations to seek or compare 4th or, at the most, 5th cousins. We can now look at both the male and female lines of our Swinfield family trees. Even if was your mother's father's mother who was a Swinfield by birth, and she received half of that from her own Swinfield parent, we may be able to detect that element of her autosomal DNA in you!

At present, only three representatives of two of the legitimate (as far as we know!) Swinfield lines have tested. Those are from families 5D and 5F. Remember that my line has not inherited any Swinfield DNA due to the "non paternity event" of 1840. My father, myself and those in our branch of the tree, as far out as our 2nd and 3rd cousins, have no Swinfield DNA!

Now would be a great time to test other Swinfields across the major family trees. An autosomal test, such as that provided by AncestryDNA, is best done on the most senior member of each branch, as they will have inherited more Swinfield DNA than their issue. That person, who could be of either sex, would preferably have a father or mother who was a Swinfield by birth. The test kit can be purchased for about £70 (GBP) (when they are on offer) and your DNA will remain as a legacy to your children and descendants after you have gone. We can link your test result to an online tree and then look for DNA matches to learn more about your relations.    
Who will put themself forward?
 If you would be interested in finding out more or can recommend a family member 
 who will take a test, contact me by e-mail at geoff@gsgs.co.uk or via Facebook.  

22 Apr 2019

Latest research and discoveries

It is 14 months since I last wrote about the Swinfields and the research which I have been conducting on the family's history. Early in 2018, I wrote about the exciting discovery of the "Family Bible", now in America, which Thomas Swinfield had taken with him on his trip across The Atlantic in 1854. That book had in it a record of his ancestry, which is what I now call Families 5 and 2, stretching back through five previous generations to Richard Swinfield born in 1645 at Markfield in Leicestershire. It has survived a journey of thousands of miles by sea and land via New Orleans and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to its current home in Montana.

Since then I have not been idle although I have not yet written about new discoveries. Over the past months, I have been actively pursuing the research in online indexes and sources as well as through original records. That has included three days in Leicestershire Record Office in September 2018 and a day in the Staffordshire Record Office in March 2019. I have also been utilising the new DNA tools that have recently been made available by the genetic testing companies to locate new branches of the Swinfield trees. That has given me new information which I trust will be of interest to all of you who are interested in our surname and its history. 

One very significant discovery, which happened in February 2019, is that yet another Swinfield Family Bible exists.

This time it documents members of Family 3C who live in New South Wales in Australia. Following the announcement in the newspaper of the death of Dawne Gwendolyn Swinfield in January this year, I wrote to her family expressing my condolences. Her son John passed on my message to his sister Julie Holmes. She informed me that she has inherited the Bible that was given to her great-great-grandfather, George William Swinfield (1854-1936), by his wife Elizabeth (McCarthy) as his 24th birthday present on 24th July 1878. The Family Register pages have been used by that couple and their descendants to document the births, marriages and deaths of another six generations of this branch of the family.  

What a genealogical goldmine!                 How many more bibles are waiting to be discovered? 
                                                    Do you have one?

19 Feb 2018

The Family Bible proves a link between Family 5 and Family 2

In the first Blog about the discovery of the Family Bible, which was published on 7th January 2018, it was noted that the Bible includes an entry for the birth of a John Swinfield on 22nd March 1773. That fact follows a reference to the birth of Thomas Swinfield on 27th August 1769. They must surely have been brothers. Although their parentage is not recorded, it is known that Thomas was baptised at Ashby de la Zouch church in Leicestershire on 1st January 1770 as the son of John and Jane Swinfield. That parish is located on the border between Leicestershire and Derbyshire.

John married Jane Radford in that same church on 28th November 1768. They also named a daughter as Elizabeth on 25th September 1771, although details of her birth were not recorded by the person then entering entries in the Bible. Jane was buried in that churchyard on 1st February 1809. John survived until 1820, when he died aged 81, and his body was laid to rest on 25th April 1820. Neither has an existing monumental inscription or any form of probate document.

The baptismal record of John Swinfield junior, born in 1773, is not included in the parish register of Ashby and is not included in any of the major genealogical indexes to the records of Church of England and nonconformist churches and chapels. Those include FindMyPast, which purports to have digitised and indexed all registers for Leicestershire, and Ancestry which has done the same for the Church of England registers for Derbyshire parishes. What became of John after 1773? He did not marry and was not buried from Ashby church. Did he move elsewhere to settle and raise a family of his own?

Consulting the database of over 4,000 entries in the Swinfield database, an excellent candidate was found for the marriage of John Swinfield to Catherine Lawson. Their marriage was solemnised in the church at Thurlaston on 3rd November 1800. That church is about 15 miles south-east of where his parents had lived.

Significantly, one of the witnesses was Thomas Swinfield who must surely have been his older brother who was born in 1769. Indeed the signature of Thomas at that ceremony is identical to that which he wrote at his own marriage in Kirkby Mallory church in 1803.     

John and Catherine moved to Burbage where their 12 children were born from 1800 to 1825. Ten of those were registered on 30th June 1819 at the Hinckley Presbyterian Chapel. Its register is at the National Archives at Kew (RG4/3187).

John had written his will on 14th January 1851 and it was proved by his son Job in the Archdeaconry Court of Leicester on 13th September 1856. In the inventory of his goods,  there is reference to five of his children and to his widow Esther, who, it is stated, was their step-mother. John specifically requested that his grandson Alfred should be taught the trade of blacksmith. 

John was buried in Burbage churchyard three days after his death. Catherine had died 17 years earlier when she was also buried there having died at 54. Most significantly, John's age places his year of birth at 1773/4, matching with the date recorded for John's birth in the Bible. Surely they must be the same man.

After his wife Catherine had died in 1834, John married again on 19th September 1835 at St George's church, Birmingham, to a widow called Hester Brightmoore. Her first marriage had taken place at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster in 1819 where her maiden surname was found to be Turner. Hester Swinfield died aged 78 and is buried in Cheltenham Cemetery, Gloucestershire.

John was recorded in the 1841 census of Church Street, Burbage (HO107/600/2, fol. 11, p. 19) with his wife Hester, his son Job and 5 year-old Alfred. By 1851, when John was dead, Job had become the head of the household in Burbage (HO107/2082, fol. 82, pp. 18 & 19) which now included his wife Ann (whose maiden surname had been Turner like his step-mother), his sister Mary, his nephew Alfred and his widowed step-mother, who, for some reason, was then recorded as Hannah. 

The 1861 census records that Job, a blacksmith of 48, had moved to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire (RG9/1798, fol 150, p. 48) leaving behind his father's widow Esther Swinfield, aged 59, who was then a nurse at the Workhouse at St Margaret's Leicester (RG9/2292, fol. 89, p. 1). She did not remain there, as by 1871, she was living again with her step-son Job, who was then working as a blacksmith and living at 18 Albert Street, Cheltenham (RG10/2667, fol. 32, p. 14). Job, his wife and one of his daughters were also laid to rest in Cheltenham Cemetery.

Two other sons of Joseph and Catherine Swinfield, Joseph and Thomas, as well as his grandson Alfred, the illegitimate son of their daughter Martha, also worked as blacksmiths for most of their lifetime. There are many living descendants of this couple today through Alfred, Joseph and their youngest child who was called William. Two of those attended the Swinfield Gathering in 2013. The suggestion that Family 2 may be closely related to Family 5 was mooted then. Further evidence was later added through DNA testing.  

The reference to the birth of John Swinfield in 1773 in the Bible, despite the absence of a record of his baptism, has now enabled a link to be made between Swinfield Families 5 and 2, which could not be established previously by using genealogical sources. Pedigrees showing exactly how the two families are connected can be viewed using the links at the top right-hand corner of this page.