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.

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.

17 Jan 2015

John William Swinfield (1922-2014)

On 10th November 2014, one of our most senior Swinfields passed away at the age of 92. 

John William Swinfield was born on 23rd July 1922. A native and lifelong resident of Sydney, New South Wales, he was the son of a builder, John Andrew Swinfield (1897-1964) and Jessie Isabella nee Mitchell (1893/4-1971) who married in the Granville area of the city in 1918. As such, John William was the great-great-grandson of William Swinfield (1804-1876), the tailor who left Hartshill, Warwickshire in England for Australia in 1848 with his second wife Sarah (Williamson) and their family of four children. Those included his 10 year-old son, John, who was to become John William's great-grandfather.

Attending Enfield Primary School and Belmore Technical College, he left formal education when he was just over 14, during the depression of late 1936, to try to find a job. He first delivered milk, making two runs a day for 12s-6d per week! Later he became a delivery boy for a grocer's shop at Hill Street in Leichhardt before gaining employment with the firm of Brico at Camperdown, which made piston ring and cylinder liners. By 1939, he was with Amalgamated Wireless in Ashfield as a fitter and turner in its machine shop.

During WWII, he served as a fitter and engineer with the Royal Australian Air Force, posted to Coomalia Creek Airstrip in Northern Territory (which was bombed three times!) and then in Northern Queensland. 

After the War, John sailed as second engineer on a trading vessel to Papua New Guinea where he lived for a couple of years. Returning to NSW in 1947, he found his first long-term position from 1950 to 1970 with Michael Nain & Co, makers of floor coverings at Auburn. Shortly afterwards in 1954, he married Joan Patricia (Boyne) and they had four children, John Andrew in 1957, Helen Jessica 1959, Pamela May in 1960 and Linda Jane 1963.

For the last ten years of his working life, he was a purchasing officer for the NSW Returned and Services League (RSL), of which he was an active member and President of its Burwood Club for 15 years. He took early retirement at 58 in 1980.

John William Swinfield became an expert on antique firearms and co-authored Australian Antique Arms & History published in 2009. He was President of the Antique Arms Collectors Society of Australia for many years.

It was pleasure to have him with us at the Swinfield Gathering held at Ryde in Sydney in May 2014, just six months before his death. He was there with all four of his children and four of his six grandchildren. 

24 Dec 2014

A Very Happy Christmas to all Swinfields

A very Happy Christmas to all Swinfields wherever you may be in the World! I hope that you are still enjoying reading about the developments in the search for “our” genealogy and family history. I will try to keep you informed of progress regularly in the New Year.

The most significant happening of 2014 was the very successful Gathering held in May in Sydney. I guess that the English Swinfields will be after another one in 2015 to see if they can wrest back the record for the number of attendees from our Australian cousins! 

Sadly two of those who were there are no longer with us. John Anthony and John William have left us for a better place, we hope. We are thinking of their families at this time.  

Of course, there have also been new arrivals during 2014. Children have been born with our surname to add to our number.  

John William Swinfield and family 
My current project, to be continued in 2015, is to build up a collection of photos of as many Swinfields, both by birth or by marriage, as I can find or be given. So far I have managed to obtain images of more than 360 of us. How many will we have by the end of the project?

Input from any Swinfields, wherever you live and are celebrating Christmas and the start of a brand New Year, will be much appreciated. 

17 Aug 2014

New Swinfield projects

I have used the Swinfield Blog, since I began it almost three years ago at the end of August 2011, to publish articles about the history of those who share the surname and to record what we know about the separate branches of the family. 

It has also been used to tell you what DNA tests have told us about the probable origins of the family. It has been a forum for publicising and reporting the two very successful Swinfield Gatherings which we have held in England and Australia in 2013/4. I hope that you find it very informative about others who share our very unusual surname and how we are related to one another. 
The Swinfield Gathering
September 2013
My current project is to gather together a photograph album of as many Swinfield faces as I can. How many images can I collect of those who are or have been Swinfields now and in the past? It is the older generations that I need help with. Do you have any photos of your ancestors or their relatives who you can positively identify? If you can dig them out of your cupboards, attics or from your own photo albums, I would love to add them to the Swinfield Photograph Collection. I am particularly interested in group photographs taken at Swinfield marriages or baptisms. However, I will be pleased to receive copies of any old photographs that you can find. Do you or your close relatives have some that you are willing to share with us all?

Australian Swinfields? Who are they? 
If you have, just send the copies to me, telling me who the people are. It would also be excellent if you know approximately when and where the pictures were taken. This will form a fantastic archive and the photos will be saved forever! I have also been thinking about what else we can achieve. What can we do to preserve the stories of our ancestors? A new project, to which I hope you will want to contribute, is to produce a short account of the life of a favourite or much-loved relative. This could be a father or mother, grandparent(s) or any other Swinfield who you remember with great affection. Let's write down their stories. You can see an example of one that my father, Reg Swinfield, and I wrote about my grandfather, Arthur Swinfield (1883-1956).

Arthur, Reginald & Edith Swinfield and a friend
with young Geoff taken in about 1954
Camberley, Surrey   

It will be an opportunity to record and honour their life. Would you do one for someone, living or dead, who is dear to you and your family? All I need from you is about 300 to 400 words which recounts their life, achievements and any funny or interesting stories that you and your family remember about them. Add a photo or two and I will put it up on a new section of the Swinfield Blog. With your input, we will produce a collection of Swinfield Biographies for our favourite relations. You have the stories and memories, let's collect them now! It will be a way of showing them just how much they mean to us. 

I hope that you will join in. Let me know what you can contribute to these two projects.

Geoff Swinfield (e-mail: geoff@gsgs.co.uk)