Thomas Smith at Blackhall

The story of Thomas Smith is important to our family because he was the first Smith to live at Blackhall, County Meath.  He is not a direct ancestor of ours but he was my grandfather’s Uncle Thomas from whom – we were told – he inherited Blackhall.

Thomas Smith was born in Gamblesby, Cumberland, on 9 April 1833.  He was living with his parents and six of his brothers and sisters in June 1841 when the English census was taken.  In the March 1851 census he was living with his parents and two sisters in Sowerby Row, Cumberland, on a rented farm.  I believe he moved to Ireland with most of his family in 1852 or 1853 and lived on a rented farm at Rathcoun townland near Cashel, County Tipperary.  Thomas would have been 19 or 20 years old when he arrived in Ireland.  His older brother Lancelot Smith and he would have been the key to making their move to Tipperary a financial success.  There were six other family members (their parents and four sisters) depending on them.

I don’t know how long Thomas stayed in Tipperary but I have an idea that, early on, he started to deal in livestock.  I think he developed contacts with farmers in Tipperary and was able to make money by selling livestock in the Dublin market, among other places. Having done this for about ten years, I think Thomas was then able to afford to rent Blackhall and use that farm as a convenient location for animal grazing, close to Dublin.  Several years after he took over at Blackhall, I believe Thomas started the firm Smith, Griffin to conduct cattle sales in the Dublin market.  This is largely speculation at present although I do have some information to support my ideas.  I am continuing to look for more and better information that would support (or contradict) my assumptions.

However it came about, Thomas was able to rent Blackhall house and lands starting on 2 April 1863.

The house at Blackhall and the surrounding farmland are in the townland of Blackhall Big in the civil parish of Ballymaglassan, County Meath.  In 1854, when Griffith’s Valuation was conducted in County Meath, most of the Blackhall Big townland – and the nearby townlands of Ballymaglassan and Growtown – was in an estate owned by the Murphy family, then headed by James Murphy.

This is an excerpt of the ordnance survey map prepared at the time of Griffith’s Valuation showing the townland of Blackhall Big:

Copyright 2003 of OMS Services Ltd, Eneclann Ltd and the National Library of Ireland.

The lease that Thomas Smith acquired in April 1863 was in effect for the lifetime of Thomas himself and of his landlord, William Murphy, the owner of the Ballymaglasson Estate at that time.  (It is slightly confusing that the name of the Murphys’ estate is Ballymaglasson, and the Church of Ireland parish also spells the name the same way, but the civil parish and the townland of the same name are spelled Ballymaglassan.)

We have some rent receipts that were issued to Thomas Smith:

Between 1864 and 1868 the half-year’s rent payment had gone from £194 6s 0d to £223 8s 10d (including Poor Rate).  The second rate remained the same for many years.

To put this rental cost in perspective, in 1864 Thomas sold livestock, oats, wool and sundry other items for a total farm income of £2,584 1s 8½d.  This information comes from a farm account book that Thomas kept for about two years starting just before he took possession of Blackhall.  I will be writing some posts about the information that can be found in his farm accounts.

When Thomas Smith moved into Blackhall, he seems to have become involved very quickly in the small Anglican (Church of Ireland) community in the Parish of Ballymaglasson.  In March 1864, Thomas was appointed as one of two church wardens for the Church of St. Keiran.   A few months later, in July, there was a re-arrangement of the church pews required because the Parish of Rathbeggan was absorbed into Ballymaglasson; in the re-arrangement, Thomas Smith was assigned a single enclosed pew.  Thomas continued to be a church warden until 1870 when the Church of Ireland was disestablished and a select vestry was set up starting in January 1871.  At that point, Thomas Smith was appointed to the select vestry and was also appointed as one of four men to manage a Parochial Fund newly required for the support of the church (due to the loss of tithe income).  Thomas continued to be a member of the select vestry until he died.

Thomas’s involvement with the Anglican Church is interesting because it seems that at the same time in the early 1870s, in Donabate, Thomas’s brother Lancelot was limiting his involvement in the local Anglican parish and maintaining his links with the Wesleyan Methodists.  Both the Smith brothers were generous in providing donations to support their local Anglican parish.

Thomas did not live alone at Blackhall.  He would have needed at least a housekeeper and I believe his sister Mary provided that support for the first few years.  Mary was living at Blackhall when she married Thomas Bouskill in 1866.  Probably Thomas’s sister Sarah then took over the housekeeper duties for him.  She was certainly living at Blackhall in 1871 when their father died in Grange, County Tipperary.

Unfortunately, on 5 March 1873, Thomas Smith died at Blackhall aged 39.  According to a magazine article from 1955, Thomas died from pneumonia caught while he was working on installing drains on the farm.  He was buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

Perhaps surprisingly, Thomas left no will although he had significant assets.  Without a will, his nearest relative would inherit as the “heir at law”; that was his older brother Lancelot.

In the calendar of wills and administrations from 1873, Letters of Administration were granted to his brother Lancelot:

27 August                                                Letters of Administration of the personal estate of Thomas Smith of Blackhall County Meath Farmer a Bachelor deceased who died 5 March 1873 at same place were granted at the Principal Registry to Lancelot Smith of Corballis Donabate County Dublin Farmer the Brother of said deceased.  Effects under £3,000.

This referred to Thomas’s personal estate and not to any real property or businesses he owned.

We know he did not own Blackhall but he did have a strong lease to the house and land there.  We don’t have a copy of the original lease but we do have a useful letter written in May 1873.  The validity of Thomas Smith’s lease of Blackhall was confirmed in a lawyer’s letter to Lancelot Smith after his brother Thomas had died and someone else had tried to acquire a lease for Blackhall.

Aside from the lease on Blackhall, I believe Thomas had other business assets in a livestock sales and wool factoring business under the name of Smith, Griffin, and Co.

Thom’s Directory of Ireland in 1868 lists “Smith, Griffin & Co., cattle salesmen and wool factors” with the business address of 153 King Street North, Dublin.  A listing in the 1868 edition of the Directory would mean the business probably began in 1867 or earlier.  In 1872, the business moved from 153 King Street North to 16 Stonybatter (and continued at that address until 1930).  In 1891, Smith, Griffin changed its focus to “cattle salesmen, auctioneers, &c.”

Owning this business, or at least part of it, may explain how Thomas Smith had a personal estate of nearly £3,000 when he died.  (The equivalent in standard of living terms today would mean his estate was worth about £200,000.)

When Thomas Smith died in 1873, his brother Lancelot held onto the farm at Blackhall as well as the farm at Corballis.  I think Sarah continued to live at Blackhall after her brother Thomas died; she was definitely living there in 1875 when she married Joseph Cowen.   (It would be interesting to know who else was living at Blackhall after Thomas died; I doubt that Sarah would be living on her own for two years.  I also wonder who lived at Blackhall after 1875.)

Lancelot Smith must have kept the Smith, Griffin business of cattle sales and wool factoring running, as well as managing the farms at Blackhall and Corballis.  The business known as Smith, Griffin & Co. continued to belong to the Smiths until the 1960s.

Rent receipts for the Blackhall farm show that, in June 1874, the “Reps of Thomas Smith per Mr. Lancelot Smyth” paid the half-year rent owed of £223 8s 10d to William Murphy of Ballymaglass0n Estate.  “L Smith Esq., Rep of Thomas”, was still paying the rent in February 1879.  In July 1885, an agent – probably a lawyer – for the Ballymaglasson Estate sent a letter to Lancelot Smith saying the farm at Blackhall was now “out of lease” and he must give up possession or have a writ issued against him.  This meant that William Murphy had died and the lease had expired.

William Murphy’s heir was William Brudinal (or Brudenell) Murphy.  In order to keep renting the Blackhall property, a new lease would be required between Lancelot Smith and the new landlord.  No other letters were found on this subject.

A new lease must have been signed between Lancelot Smith and William Brudinal Murphy because we have later rent receipts.  The first one we have under the new lease is dated January 1889 and covers a half-year’s rent up to 29 September 1888.

The rent was now reduced to £199 3s 1½d and continued at that rate until 1901.

In March 1889 Lancelot Smith applied for a loan of £150 from the Commissioners of Public Works to improve the “lands of Blackhall Big”.

By 1895, Lancelot Smith’s son William had taken over management of the Blackhall farm from his father.

Despite his early death, Thomas’s life was significant because he acquired the Smiths’ first lease on Blackhall house and lands in 1863.  From that action, Thomas indirectly enabled his nephew William Smith to start his career as a farmer at Blackhall in the 1890s.

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A Wealth of Williams

This blog is named after my grandfather William Smith of Blackhall, County Meath, in Ireland.  There are plenty of other William Smiths in our family tree.  Following are the Williams I have come across in my searches; there are probably others in the outer branches of the family that I haven’t found yet.

The first Smith we can identify by name was called William.  He was born around 1640; I do not know the precise date nor if he was born in Melmerby, Cumberland, because the parish records do not go back far enough.  I do know that William’s oldest son Robert was born in Melmerby in 1668.  Although William and his wife Anne had four sons and one daughter, only one son Thomas survived him and had children.  (Their daughter Mary married Thomas Robinson and had seven children.)  William died in Melmerby in 1720.  He was my six times great-grandfather.

The first William Smith was followed by:

  • William Smith (the first William’s grandson), born in May 1711 in Melmerby but lived only a few days;
  •  William Smith (third son of John Smith Sr), born in March 1744; his fate is unknown;
  • William Smith (second son of John Smith Jr), born in October 1781 in Melmerby; he was an older brother of my great-great-grandfather Lancelot Smith of Gamblesby.

In 1821, this William Smith inherited the Melmerby property from his father John and his descendants stayed in Melmerby or in nearby communities in the Eden Valley of Cumberland.

It was at this time that the family tree can be split into two branches, one (headed by William Smith) stayed on the Melmerby property and the other (headed by his younger brother Lancelot Smith) lived in Gamblesby for a time, then went to County Tipperary in Ireland in the early 1850s.

Following the William Smith of Melmerby branch first, we have:

  • William Smith (fourth son of the above William of Melmerby), born in July 1825 in Melmerby;
  • William Smith (eldest son of John Smith and grandson of William of Melmerby), born in May 1849 in Parkhead;
  • William Harrison Smith (only son of William Smith and another grandson of William of Melmerby), born in 1859 probably in Gamblesby.

Then, following the Lancelot Smith branch, we have:

  • William Smith (fourth son of Lancelot Smith of Gamblesby), born in April 1836 in Gamblesby; this William went to London to work for HM Customs and did not move to Ireland with the rest of his family; he was my grandfather’s uncle;
  • William Smith (second son of Lancelot Smith of Corballis), born in September 1867 in Cashel, County Tipperary; this was my grandfather William Smith of Blackhall;
  • William Smith (younger son of Lancelot Smith of Beaverstown), born in February 1907 in County Dublin; he was my first cousin once removed;
  •  William Anderson Smith (second son of William Smith of Blackhall), born in December 1908 at Blackhall, County Meath; he was my uncle.

You can have a look at the family trees section in the menu bar to see where the various William Smiths fit into the two branches of the family.

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William Smith of HM Customs

William Smith was the ninth child and youngest son of Lancelot Smith and Elizabeth Westgarth.  I am referring to this William Smith in association with his place of work in order to distinguish him from all the other William Smiths in the family.

William was born on 9 April 1836 in Gamblesby, Cumberland, and he can be identified in the first two English censuses (1841 and 1851) as living in Gamblesby.  In the 1851 census, William is listed as living with his older brother Lancelot, his sister Hannah and his cousin Benjamin Salkeld.  William was still at school then.

When William’s parents and his brothers and sisters went to live in Ireland on a farm near Cashel, County Tipperary, William may not have gone with them.  I believe they left Cumberland in 1852 or 1853, by which time William would have been 16 or 17 years old.  I think he probably had got employment by then in the English civil service as a clerk in the offices of Her Majesty’s Customs (HM Customs).  Possibly he started his working life in the HM Customs service somewhere nearer home and later moved to work in London.  In any case, I don’t think he went to live in Tipperary with the rest of his family although I am sure he visited his family there.

By the April 1861 census, William was living in London at 4 St John Street in Islington with his occupation given as Customs House clerk, aged 24.  He was a boarder in the household of Charles and Mary Miller.  Charles Miller was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland, and was employed as a Post Office clerk

Last year, I was given the above photographs of William and his wife, presumably at the time of their marriage.  I was surprised to see on the back of the photographs that they were taken in Dublin.  For some time I had been looking, in vain, for William’s marriage in English records.  So, looking in Irish records I quickly found that, in September 1864, William married Caroline Brindley in Ballysheehan Parish Church, near Cashel, County Tipperary.

Caroline was the eighth of nine children of Thomas and Hannah Brindley.  Thomas was a farmer in Ballysheehan, a few miles north-east of Cashel and had been there since about 1850.  He was originally from Marple in Cheshire, which is where Caroline was born in 1839.

Thomas Brindley was one of the witnesses at the wedding of Hannah Smith and Joseph Backhouse in 1859 so I believe the Brindleys and Smiths were close friends.  I assume William visited his family in Cashel and had the opportunity to meet Caroline there.  I think the Brindleys were Methodists, like the Smiths.

William and Caroline had one son Hubert William, born in Tottenham, Middlesex, on 7 February 1869.  In the 1871 census, William, Caroline and Hubert were living in Percy Villas in Tottenham, Middlesex.  William’s occupation is listed as “Civil Service Clerk Customs”.

Sadly, Caroline died in late 1878, aged only 39, when Hubert was 9 years old.

In the 1881 census, William was living in lodgings in Stoke Newington (Hackney) while his son Hubert was in a boarding school in Hastings, Sussex.  William’s occupation this time was given as “Clerk HM Customs Old Establishment”.

Some time in or after 1885, William’s niece Lizzie Bouskill came to live with him in London as his housekeeper.  I believe they moved to a house in Stoke Newington.

I have been unable to find William Smith, Hubert Smith or Lizzie Bouskill in the 1891 census and I wonder if they may have been visiting their relatives in Ireland at the time.  (This is only speculation but it seems odd I cannot find any of these three people in England.)

William died in January 1892, aged 56.  Strangely, his niece Lizzie Bouskill died before him in September 1891; she was only 23 years old.  In the probate records, their address at the time of death was the same: Clyffe, 85 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, Middlesex.

William and Caroline’s son Hubert married Emma Mary Stubbs (known as Daisy) in Walthamstow, Essex, on 6 September 1893.  Daisy Stubbs was from Stepney.

In the 1901 and 1911 censuses, Hubert’s occupation is given as corn and forage dealer.  I have been told he succeeded to this business and I think it may have been inherited from his uncle Cyrus Slater, who was married to Caroline Brindley’s younger sister Eliza.  Cyrus and Eliza lived in Cheshire, where he was a corn merchant.  (How that business could be transferred to London I am not sure but maybe Hubert learned the trade from his uncle.)  It is interesting also that Hubert’s great-uncle Francis Brindley was a prosperous corn merchant and farmer in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

There would still have been a lot of horses in London at the turn of the 20th century so a corn and forage merchant could do well in the city.  I am not sure if Hubert continued with this occupation throughout his working life as motor cars increased in number and horses were displaced from the streets of the city. Hubert would have been 65 years old in 1934 so possibly he had retired before the need for corn and forage merchants had almost disappeared.  (We don’t have access to the 1921 census or later censuses to find this out.)

Hubert had a hobby as an ivory turner and hard wood turner; a number of his small pieces of the turner’s art are in the family.  Apparently he was so good at this craft that he was chosen by the Company of Turners to produce a pair of oval picture frames in ivory as a wedding present to the Duke and Duchess of York in 1923.  (The Duke and Duchess later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.)  Also in 1923, he was admitted to the Freedom of the City of London.  Hubert died in April 1954 in Hastings, Sussex.

Hubert and Daisy had two daughters, Winifred and Margery, and one son who lived for only a few weeks.

Winifred was born in Southgate, Middlesex, around 1895 and Margery was born, also in Southgate, in late 1899.  Unfortunately, Margery died from a fall in 1905, aged 5.

Winifred had a long life and was known in the Smith family as Cousin Win.  I owe Cousin Win a debt of gratitude because it is her family albums that are the sources for many of the old photographs on this blog.  And I am grateful to one of my cousins for kindly passing along the photographs to me.

Win married Cecil Heyes in 1924 and they lived in North London before the Second World War.   Some time after the War, they moved to Surbiton.  They had no children.  Win died in 1985 in Kingston on Thames.

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The Life of Lizzie Bouskill

This post is about Lizzie Bouskill, someone I didn’t even know existed until last year when I was in Dublin doing some research on the Smith family.

Elizabeth Bouskill (known as Lizzie) was born in Barnane, County Tipperary, on 3 June 1868.  Her parents were Mary Smith and Thomas Bouskill.  They had no other children.  Mary Smith was one of the sisters of Lancelot Smith of Corballis.

This formal photograph of Lizzie was taken in Kendal in the Lake District, presumably while she was visiting Smith relatives in Cumberland.  I believe the photograph was taken when Lizzie was about 10 years old.

Thomas Bouskill was a farmer in Barnane and had been a land agent there previously.  He was originally from Arnside, Westmoreland and was born around 1825.

Mary Smith was born in Gamblesby in 1826 and probably migrated to County Tipperary in the early 1850s with her parents and most of her brothers and sisters.  I assume Mary first met Thomas Bouskill while she was living in Tipperary.  When Mary married Thomas in July 1866 she was living at Blackhall with her brother Thomas Smith, probably working as his housekeeper.

These are the only pictures I have of Mary and Thomas Bouskill.  Mary’s photograph was taken in Kendal, as was her daughter’s photograph above.  Thomas’s photograph was taken in Thurles, County Tipperary.  I do not know why this photograph was taken; possibly it was taken at the time of his marriage to Mary in 1866.

The Bouskills continued to live in Barnane for the rest of their lives and both died in their late 50s: Thomas died in June 1884 and Mary in January 1885.  Their early deaths left Lizzie alone at the age of only 16.  When I discovered that Lizzie was so young when her parents died, I began to worry about what had happened to her.  I pictured her living a life of wretched poverty in a rural cottage, without friends or family to support her, or having to emigrate to America to start a new life.  Now I realize the reality was somewhat different – although sad in another way.

This is a formal photograph of Lizzie as a young woman.  The picture was taken in Dublin and could have been taken in 1885, around the time of her mother’s death.

Thomas Bouskill did leave a will and probate was granted to Lancelot Smith, farmer and William Smith, esquire; I assume these men were his wife Mary’s brothers.  Thomas was a farmer so would have had some property to bequeath.

From being responsible for Thomas’s estate, I assume Lancelot and William took responsibility for the well-being of their sister Mary (who only lived another few months) and then for her daughter Lizzie.

In 1885, Lizzie’s uncle William Smith was living in London working for HM Customs and was a widower (his wife had died in 1878).  According to William’s grand-daughter, Lizzie went to London to live with her uncle and to keep house for him.  This would have been a sensible idea because it would enable them both to have a home.  After his wife died, William had been living in lodgings, which probably wasn’t very comfortable, and Lizzie could not live on her own in Barnane.  Having Lizzie living in London with her uncle would also give her cousin Hubert a home when he was not at boarding school.  Hubert was less than a year younger than Lizzie.

This domestic arrangement continued for only a few years because, on 9 September 1891, Lizzie died at the age of 23.  I don’t yet know the cause of death.

Lizzie left an estate of almost £6,000, which surprised me.  I assume that she inherited most of this money from her father’s estate.  Letters of administration were granted to Lancelot Smith, farmer.  Without seeing the will, it is impossible to know which Lancelot Smith but I am guessing it was her uncle Lancelot of Corballis, not her cousin Lancelot of Beaverstown.

So Lizzie was not an impoverished orphan, as I had thought, but a young woman of means who lived a sadly short life.

  • Back Row: Lancelot, Sally, John, Lancelot (father), William
  • Middle Row: Tom, Eliza (mother), Agnes, Lizzie Bouskill, housekeeper?
  • Seated at front: Joe, Betty

The above picture appears elsewhere in  this blog (see the “Lancelot Smith’s Children Corballis” page in the “Family Stories” section) but it is useful here to show Lizzie with her Smith cousins of Corballis.  Lizzie is in the middle of the photograph wearing a hat.

I think this informal picture was taken by Hubert Smith, Lizzie’s cousin from London, and also the cousin of the Smiths in Corballis.  The photograph was found in an album belonging to Hubert’s daughter.  I notice that, while Lizzie is wearing a hat, the Smith women of the Corballis household are not wearing hats so I am guessing that Lizzie was visiting Corballis for the day with her cousin Hubert.  Since Lizzie died in September 1891, I know this picture was taken before that, possibly as late as the summer of 1891.

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New Menu Section for Transcriptions

I have just added a new section to the menu bar for transcriptions.  These are typed versions of handwritten documents that I have either collected or been given.  I think some of the documents are worth reading in complete form since I have quoted from them in some posts and pages.

There are only two transcriptions in the section at the moment:

  • Agnes Nicholson’s narrative about the history of the Smiths and life in Gamblesby when her father was a young man; and
  • Sarah Cowen’s will, which was probated in 1913.

I expect I will be adding others.

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Mrs Cowen and the Property in Gamblesby

Mrs Cowen’s maiden name was Sarah Smith; she was born in Gamblesby in 1829, the sixth child and fourth daughter of Lancelot Smith and Elizabeth Westgarth.  You can read more about her life in the “Lancelot Smith 1785-1871” page and the “Lancelot Smith’s Children Gamblesby” page in the “Family Stories” section.

This post is about Sarah after June 1871, when her father died in Tipperary and she was then appointed the sole executrix of her father’s will.  I found her appointment interesting because she had three brothers and it was usual for men to be appointed as executors of wills.  I thought it was also interesting that Sarah was not married and was living at Blackhall when her father died.  Unfortunately, the will was lost in the Four Courts fire in Dublin in 1922 so all we have is the information from the index of wills and administrations:

15 September      The Will of Launcelot Smith late of Rathcorvan County Tipperary Gentleman deceased who died 12 June 1871 at Grange in said County was proved at the Principal Registry by the oath of Sarah Smith of Blackhall County Meath Spinster the Daughter and sole Executrix.         Effects under £100.

I have made some assumptions about the consequences of the will, based largely on where she lived after 1871 and on the contents of her own will.

I think Sarah inherited the freehold property in Gamblesby her father had owned.

Sarah was still living at Blackhall in 1875 when she married Joseph Cowen in the Parish Church of Ballymaglasson on 2 January. Witnesses at her marriage were her brother Lancelot Smith and Mary Jane Kingsbury, a Methodist friend probably living in Dublin.  It is worth noting that the Married Women’s Property Act, passed in 1870 at Westminster, meant that she could keep ownership of her property after her marriage.

I was curious to know something about Joseph Cowen.  He was born around 1833 in Hesket Newmarket, Cumberland and was the eldest son of James and Esther Cowen.  James Cowen was a yeoman farmer originally from Dumfries in Scotland.  James and Esther had at least ten children.  In 1851, the Cowens were living in Caldbeck, Cumberland on a farm of 100 acres.  By 1861, Esther Cowen was a widow managing a farm of 97 acres and Joseph and his brother John were working on the farm.  In the 1871 census, Joseph and John were still living in Caldbeck; both were farm servants but had their own house.  This suggests that the Cowen farm had to be sold.  At the time of his marriage in 1875 to Sarah Smith, Joseph’s residence was given as Hesket Newmarket, I have no evidence that Joseph ever lived in Ireland.

I assume that Sarah visited Cumberland occasionally while she was living in Ireland, particularly after she inherited the property in Gamblesby.  I do not know how or where she met Joseph Cowen but it was most likely in Cumberland.

By the time of the April 1881 English census, Joseph and Sarah Cowen were living in Gamblesby and listed as a farmer of 35 acres and farmer’s wife respectively.  They probably went to live in Gamblesby soon after their marriage.  I think the Cowens were living on the freehold property and the house formerly owned by Sarah’s father and inherited by Sarah.

Agnes Nicholson, in her narrative written in 1916, describes the house in Gamblesby that belonged to her grandfather Lancelot Smith:

My grandfather’s house was … facing up the street with an uninterrupted view of almost the whole village.  It stood full south with a small orchard at the side & a bright little garden in front which sloped down to where the beck murmured & glinted in the sun, the pleasantest house in the village I always thought.  It was a small freehold property, bought I think at the time of his marriage …

Agnes Nicholson also mentions the importance of the Methodist faith to the local people:

Perhaps once a month the minister came from Kirkoswald … even from Penrith, being entertained for dinner & tea by someone in the village.  Of late years my aunt Mrs Cowen always welcomed them at the old house.

In the April 1891 census, the Cowens are still listed as living in Gamblesby.

In the 1901 census, Joseph Cowen is listed as a yeoman farmer and the name of the house as “Townfoot”.   That name is interesting because it is the name by the gate-post of the house pictured above.

Joseph Cowen died in 1908.

In his will, Joseph left his furniture to the use of his wife Sarah in her lifetime; then it was to be sold at auction and the resulting money to be divided between three people: his brother John Cowen of Fell Side, Caldbeck, his sister Mary, wife of William Bell of the same place, and his sister Ann, wife of Dixon Hetherington of Eamont Bridge.

Sarah Cowen’s cousin Joseph Salkeld, an engineer from Wakefield, was one of the witnesses for the will.

I do not think Joseph had any real estate property to bequeath.

In the 1911 census, Sarah was still living in Gamblesby, now a widow, and happened to have her niece Elizabeth Smith (Betty) visiting from Ireland at the time.

Sarah died in March 1913, aged 83, and was buried at the Parish Church of Addingham at Glassonby.

In her will, Sarah gave some small bequests including £100 (to be invested) to the Gamblesby Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.

The principal part of her will was that all her “lands and hereditaments of copyhold or customary hold tenure” and her “real estate of every tenure” and the residue of her personal estate were to be sold and the resulting money divided between her nine Smith nephews and nieces and two Bell nieces (her sister-in-law Mary Bell’s children).  Lancelot Smith of Beaverstown and Hubert Smith were each to get a double share compared to the equal shares the others received.

Lancelot Smith of Beaverstown and Joseph Westmoreland Benson, a yeoman from Unthank, Gamblesby, were Sarah’s executors.  (The Bensons were long-time residents of the Gamblesby area and were distantly related to the Smiths through Sarah’s great-aunt Elinor Falder.)

From the English census information, Agnes Nicholson’s narrative and the wills for Joseph Cowen and Sarah Cowen, I have concluded that Sarah inherited her father’s freehold property in Gamblesby and lived in what had been his house – the house where she was born – for the last 38 years of her life.

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The Children of Lancelot Smith of Gamblesby

In the “Family Stories” section of this blog, I have now added a page that summarizes the lives of the children of Lancelot Smith of Gamblesby and his wife Elizabeth Westgarth.  Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about most of them but have put together as much as I know at present.  I have also had to make assumptions to fill in some of the gaps.  Any additions, changes or comments you can provide would be welcome.

I find it interesting that, although Lancelot and Elizabeth had 10 children, they had surprisingly few grandchildren.  Four of their children died unmarried.  Of the six who married, two had no children.  Of the remaining four, one – Ann Bell – may have had children but I know nothing about her after she married.  That left three who definitely had children: Lancelot Smith of Corballis (who had eight), Mary Bouskill (who had one), and William Smith (who had one).

I will be adding posts about Thomas Smith of Blackhall, Lizzie Bouskill (Mary’s daughter) and William Smith and his family.  I think I know enough about them to justify a separate post on each of them.

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Upcoming Topics

I have a list of topics that I hope to add to this blog in the coming weeks.  If you have looked at the blog’s layout, you will have realized that I am using the top menu as a means to provide a lot of information that should not change much (unless I have got it all wrong).  So I have created a number of static pages in the sections called “Family Stories” and “Family Trees”.  I consider these pages as providing basic information about the Smith family, focusing on the male line as far back as we can go at present.  There is no doubt much more I can learn about the Smiths from doing additional archival research.  But this is what I know or believe now.  I will update the pages as I need to and will post a message to let you know what was changed.

Posts are shorter than pages and they cover topics that will probably change over time and will include different perspectives in response to your comments.  All the posts are found at

Comments are always welcome because they will help me to improve the information on the blog.  They will also help me to focus on the topics that are of interest to you.  I have my own ideas of what is interesting but that doesn’t mean you will agree.  Maybe there is a topic you are longing to know about and I haven’t mentioned it yet.  Let me know what it is!

Meantime, to give you an idea of what else will be on the blog soon, here is my current list of the topics to be covered (not necessarily in this order):

  • The life of Lizzie Bouskill
  • William Smith of HM Customs and his family
  • Eliza Upton and her ancestors in Tipperary
  • Agnes McSymon Anderson and her Scottish background
  • Elizabeth Westgarth and her family in Gamblesby
  • Hannah Huddart, Methodism and her Gamblesby roots
  • The Smiths of Cumberland after 1850
  • Thomas Smith of Blackhall 1833-1873
  • Household accounts at Blackhall
  • The Hardys of Park Head
  • The Mortons of Gamblesby and Melmerby
  • Tipperary Connections: the Mounseys, Brindleys and Nicholsons

I will update this list periodically in response to your suggestions and in light of new information I come across.

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The Great Famine in Ireland

In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It is usually known outside Ireland as the Irish Potato Famine.  This was only one of many famines in the country and across Europe over the centuries but this one had a particularly devastating effect on the country.  The worst years were from 1845 to 1849.

During the Famine years, Ireland’s population fell by between 20 and 25 percent.  It is estimated that approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, many to the United States and Canada.  The Famine did not affect all areas of the country to the same extent.  The cities – Dublin, Belfast and Cork, for example – continued to grow while rural areas, more particularly in Connaught and Munster, were badly affected by the local population’s dependence on the potato crop and their distance from sources of other food.

This map shows the uneven effects of the Great Famine on the population numbers across the country.  Most of County Tipperary was badly affected (shown as red), losing 20-30% of its population.  However some other areas of Connaught and Munster lost over 30% of their people.

The immediate cause of the Famine was the potato blight. Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland—where about a third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food—was made worse by many political, social and economic factors, including the effects of British rule and absentee landlords.

The Famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland.  Its effects permanently changed the island’s demographic, economic, political and cultural landscape.

The Great Famine caused many farms in Ireland to be abandoned in the late 1840s, landlords went bankrupt and tenants who survived the Great Famine fled the land if they could.  By the early 1850s, Irish landlords were looking for tenant farmers and there were economic opportunities to be had.  Our branch of the Smiths decided to take advantage of these opportunities.

Want to know more about the Great Famine?  This is a good website to use for a quick overview.

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Melmerby in the 1820s

The following information is extracted mostly from the “History, Directory, Gazetteer, of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland …” by William Parson and William White, published in 1829.

The village of Melmerby is in the Parish of the same name.  In the 1820s Melmerby had about 250 people living in 50 houses.

Most of the baptisms, marriages and burials of the Smiths of Melmerby took place in the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist in Melmerby.

A number of gravestones for the Smiths can be found in the churchyard.  They include the brown marble obelisk on the right of this photograph.

Being located on the road between Penrith and Alston, Melmerby was much better served than was Gamblesby in terms of transportation.  In the 1820s there were coaches several times a week and carriers available for the movement of goods and people.

Among the principal inhabitants were the local Rector, Rev Thomas Bargett, as well as Robert Hodgson a magistrate and owner of Melmerby Hall, and various craftsmen and shopkeepers.  The village also had a schoolmaster, John Slee, and William Varty worked as a gamekeeper to William Marshall, M.P.  In the community there were 15 farmers of which 8 were yeoman.  This was a different mix than was found in Gamblesby where all the farmers were yeomen.  However, the smaller number of farmers in Melmerby suggests they may have had larger farms than in Gamblesby.

The yeomen in Melmerby were:

  • Joseph Hall;
  • Thomas Jameson;
  • Edward Lancaster;
  • John Nicholson of Toddles
  • Thomas Robinson;
  • Thomas Salkeld;
  • William Smith; and
  • Henry Wharton.

William Smith was the older brother of Lancelot Smith of Gamblesby.  The Smiths of Melmerby had family links to several of the names listed: specifically, Jameson, Robinson, and Salkeld.  These links will be explored in later posts and pages.

The farms in the Melmerby area produced crops of oats, barley and potatoes and many of the farms were freehold.  In Cumberland as a whole there were about 7,000 freeholders at that time.  However, since about the 1760s, this class of farmers was gradually being reduced in numbers because richer landowners were accumulating farms and pushing smaller landowners to sell their property and work the land as labourers.

The Directory says the small yeomen and farmers generally “live meanly and labour hard”.  The people are described as generally wearing clogs and eating oaten bread, formed into large thin cakes, and baked on iron plates.  Barley, and black and white rye, were also commonly used for bread by the inhabitants.

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Gamblesby in the 1820s

The following information is extracted mostly from the “History, Directory, Gazetteer, of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland …” by William Parson and William White, published in 1829.

Gamblesby is in the Parish of Addingham.  Up to the end of the 18th century the name of the village was often written as “Gamelsby”.

The Parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels is near Glassonby but there is no town or township named the same as the parish.

Baptisms, marriages and burials for the Smiths in Gamblesby took place in the Parish Church near Glassonby.  There was no Anglican church in Gamblesby then.  However there were two other places of worship, one for Wesleyan Methodists and the other for Independents.

In the 1820s there were four small townships in Addingham, the largest of which was Gamblesby.  The village was roughly the same size as Melmerby but not as accessible by road.  In 1821, Gamblesby had 45 houses, accommodating 51 families with 279 people in total.

Addingham had two free schools at Maughamby and Hunsonby for the children in the parish.  There also seems to have been a small school in Gamblesby.

Gamblesby had 24 yeoman farmers, of which seven lived in the smaller community of Unthank, just north of Gamblesby.  The 17 yeomen in Gamblesby were:

  • George Benson;
  • John Dodd;
  • William Dufton;
  • William Harrison;
  • John Huddart of Hazelrigg
  • John Jackson
  • John Morton;
  • Thomas Parker;
  • Thomas Salkeld;
  • Joseph Sawer;
  • Thomas Sawer;
  • Lancelot Smith;
  • Joseph Watson;
  • George Westgarth;
  • Thomas Westgarth;
  • William Westgarth; and
  • Jonathan Winskill.

Aside from our ancestor Lancelot Smith, the Smiths had family links to many of the above names: Harrison, Huddart, Morton, Salkeld, Sawer and Westgarth.  These links will be explored in later posts and pages.

As well as the yeomen, Gamblesby also had two innkeepers, a schoolmaster, a blacksmith and a joiner (i.e., carpenter).

Farming was similar to that practiced in the Melmerby area.  In Cumberland generally, farming was fairly prosperous in the 1820s with net exports of corn being possible.  The system of tile draining for wet fields was becoming increasingly common and the tiles were manufactured in the county.

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The Smiths and Methodism

In many of the pages and posts about the Smiths who lived in the 19th century I have mentioned that they were Methodists.  You might wonder why this matters in a family history blog.  The short answer is because it affects where the historical records are.  Before the establishment of civil registration systems, the only records of births (actually, baptisms), marriages and deaths (burials) were kept by the churches.  Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1837 in England and in 1864 in Ireland.  It is thought that in the early years of civil registration some life events were not registered either because people were not familiar with the requirement or decided not to bother.  Church records continued to be important for tracing people’s lives in the 19th century.

The established church in England is the Anglican Church; this was so in Ireland as well until 1871.  (The Anglican Church in Ireland is called the Church of Ireland.)  As the established (state-authorized) church, the Anglican Church in England has greater political status than the other Protestant churches usually referred to collectively as non-conformists.  The non-conformist group would include Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, Quakers and so on.  From the 17th century to the early 19th century, non-conformists were prevented from taking part in public life or receiving public education and social benefits because they did not belong to the Anglican Church.

The Catholic Church, while also “non-conforming” to the Anglican Church’s creeds and practices, was treated differently; since the English Reformation in the 16th century, it was suppressed in Britain even more harshly than were the non-conformist churches and this was also the case in Ireland although the vast majority of the people in Ireland belonged to it.  Catholic emancipation occurred gradually in Britain, including Ireland, from 1829 onwards.

As a result of the various constraints on non-Anglican people and their clergy, early records in non-Anglican churches were often not kept well, were destroyed or were lost over time.

Regarding the Smiths, it is fortunate for us that they chose to record the key life events of their families in the Anglican Church.  Even though those records too are not always complete, readable or even available, especially before 1700, they are generally more accessible than the others.  From what I have learned so far, the Smiths were Wesleyan Methodists.  This version of Methodism grew out of the Anglican Church in the 1820s and was not antagonistic to the established church, at least in the beginning.

Another reason why it matters that the Smiths were Methodists is because of their social connections when they moved to Ireland – what we now call social networking.  It seems to me that in Tipperary their social network was made up largely of other English families and I believe a number of them were also Methodists.  I will be describing these links more in later posts and pages.

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Mrs Smith

So far on this blog I have been posting information almost entirely about the various Mr Smiths and their families.  This is not intended to overlook Mrs Smith!   Of course, it is much harder to find information about Mrs Smith – in some cases I can only find her forename, not her surname before she was married.  The earliest records are particularly difficult in that regard.

Women, married or not, left few traces in public records before the 19th century since they usually did not own or rent property, leave wills , vote or run businesses.  However, church records do sometimes give information that is useful.  Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in England in 1837; the Scottish equivalent of those records, called statutory records, began in 1855.  Census records, which started in England and Scotland in 1841, can often be helpful.

Records in Ireland are more problematic because much of what would have been useful for Smiths in the 19th century was destroyed in the 1922 destruction of the Four Courts Building in Dublin that contained the Public Record Office.  Also the census records in Ireland exist only from 1901 onwards (with a few fragments from earlier censuses, none of which are relevant to our Smiths).  Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths did not begin in Ireland until 1864.

Several of the Mrs Smiths will emerge from the shadows a bit more when I have started to add what I do know in upcoming posts about them and their ancestors.  I will focus first on Agnes McSymon Anderson, Eliza Upton, Elizabeth Westgarth and Hannah Huddart.

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Who is This?

There is a photographic puzzle that I hope you will help me solve.

Among the old photographs that I have received from family members are these two portrait-style pictures taken around 1868 to 1870.  The one on the left was taken in Dublin; the one on the right was taken in London.  The left one may have been taken a year or two earlier than the one on the right.

When I got the pictures, they were placed together and were labelled as: “John and Lancelot Smith?”  (The owner was not sure.)

After looking at the pictures for a time, I have concluded that they show the same man, not two different ones.  The beard is the same, hair-parting side is the same, the expression is the same.

Do you agree this is the same person in both pictures?  If you don’t, could you comment on why you think that?

There is a second question: who is he (or who are they, if you think there are two men)?

I do not think it is Lancelot Smith of Corballis, who would have been about 46 in 1870.  I have a picture of him at around the same time and he looked like this:

I hope you will agree the two pictures at the top of this post do not show Lancelot Smith of Corballis.

Is there a second Lancelot Smith who could be in the top pictures?

There is one possibility: Lancelot’s first cousin, born in 1833 in Cumberland and living in London in 1871, according to the English census.  He could have visited Dublin.

If the top pictures don’t show Lancelot Smith, do they show John Smith?  The big problem here is there is no John Smith that I am aware of who would be about the right age (roughly 35-40).  Lancelot Smith’s brother John died in 1848 as far as I know.

My preferred answer is that the pictures at the top show a different Smith: Thomas Smith, the first tenant at Blackhall.  I have no photographs of him and would dearly like it if these photographs were of him.  Wishful thinking?

What do you think?  Any other ideas?

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A Jumble of Johns

When I tell people I am researching the family history of people called Smith, they look at me sympathetically and secretly thank their lucky stars they have  a less common name to trace.   Actually it is not so bad because we sometimes have the unusual forename of Lancelot to go along with the common Smith surname; that has helped a lot.

However, we also have the “John Smith” name to contend with.  This name comes up often, including in our direct ancestors in Melmerby.   Because there were two John Smiths (father and son) who lived in Melmerby I have decided to label them John Smith Sr and John Smith Jr in this blog to keep them straight (see the family trees and family stories sections in the drop-down menu under the header picture).

The earliest John Smith in our family was born in August 1712 in Melmerby; he was the second son (and only surviving child) of Thomas Smith of Melmerby.  He was my 4 times great-grandfather (that is to say, great-great-great-great-grandfather).  I have labeled him John Smith Sr to distinguish him from his son John.

He was followed by:

  • John Smith Jr (my 3 times great-grandfather), born in August 1741 in Melmerby, the second son of John Smith Sr of Melmerby;
  • John Smith (my 2 times great-grandfather’s brother) , born in February 1778 in Melmerby and died in Jamaica in 1802 , the oldest son of John Smith Jr of Melmerby
  • John Smith (my great-grandfather’s cousin), born in May 1815 in Hesket, the oldest son of William Smith of Melmerby
  • John Smith (my grandfather’s uncle), born in April 1822 and died in February 1848 in Gamblesby, the oldest son of Lancelot Smith of Gamblesby;
  • John Smith (my grandfather’s second cousin), born in March 1861 in Melmerby, the fourth son of John Smith of Hesket;
  • John Smith (my great-uncle), born in December 1868 in Cashel, Tipperary, the third son of Lancelot Smith of Corballis;
  • John William Smith (known as William) born in October 1882 in Stainmore, Westmoreland, the only son of George Hardy Smith of Melmerby.

Clear as mud?  Check out the family trees in the menu tab at the top of the blog.

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