Monthly Archives: September 2010

Updating Dad

The bridge in Ivybridge

Last night I phoned my Dad to give him an update on my travels.  He seems to be very excited about the information I have been uncovering in regards to our lineage.  This project has most certainly opened up a new channel of communication between him and I.  I mean, I like to talk about the rainfall in Nebraska and receive updates on the Huskers as well a the high school football team, however it’s nice when the starting topics of conversation can move into me sharing something of interest with him.

I was happy to report that I have finally pinned down Richard Kingwell.  His death certificate confirmed a few leads that had been shaky until this point.  Apparently, he died at the Stowford Mills.  Cause of death:  Inflammation on the lungs.  I thought that perhaps this was a work related death, however, my Dad pointed out that people were dying of Consumption at the time.  To be honest, although I had read the words ‘Consumption’ in many history novels, I never really knew what that meant.  I may need to do a quick search to see if ‘inflammation on the lungs’ was actually the wording they used for consumption.  Also, I found it very sad that the will Rich Kingwell (that is how he signed it….Rich) was written a year before he died.  So, I guess then we can conclude that he must have known he was ill.  How very sad.

And then you start to think of his wife.  And his kids.  The very many of them that there were.  When you imagine the story, it transforms from just ‘Cause of Death:  Inflammation on the lungs’ into a very tragic picture.  The family continued to live in the parish of Ermington (which is a part of Ivybridge) for a little while after his death, but then they moved into the St Leonards area of Exeter.  I found a census for 1851 (11 years after Richard died) and see that they were actually just living down the road from St Leonards church, very near the river.  Unfortunately, I cannot decipher the occupation of Mary Ann Kingwell.  To me it looks like ‘Amnuitant.’  Is that a word?  I must be reading it incorrectly.

Anyway, my conversation with my dad concluded with him asking me how I was going to get this thing to Edgar, where the family farm has been for years and years.  Good question.  I will add this to my list.

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Some tip top tips

One of my friends has recently asked me for some tips to tracking down those pesky ancestors.  I didn’t think that I had much to offer in the way of anything new to add to the bazillions of magazines, websites, blogs, etc dedicated to this wonderful journey.  However, I do have experience so from experience I shall speak.

I am going to jump in beyond the go-to-ancestry.co.uk, which is a bit obvious.  Instead, I am going to write about what I got caught up on: Parishes.

Goodness me, how I have been thrown into days of confusion, not knowing if I had tracked down the correct ancestor.  My example is Richard Kingwell.  He did seem to be a rather slippery person, or people as I thought.  About eight of them living in the same general area.  One was living in Ivybridge.  One was living in the parish of Harford.  One had a connection with Plympton.  The family seemed to be living in the parish of Ermington, Cornwood and even Ugborough.  Or was it the same family, different families, oh my head did spin.  And if I went too far back, the parish of Ivybridge didn’t seem to be where it ought to be.

What I learned, and it may seem a bit obvious, is that parish boundaries change.  If you track someone living in what appears to be several towns within a short time frame, and if you look up those towns on the map and see that they are rather a great distance apart, re-check your parish boundaries.  I very stupidly assumed that parishes basically meant ‘the town of’ such and such a church.  During one of my history walking tours, I learned that parish churches were sometimes not even in their parishes.

I also learned that talking to people is actually quite helpful.  I was very lucky in that I met some very wonderful and helpful people during my walking tours in Exeter.  Currently, I am pestering them something rotten through email.  At the moment, they don’t seem to mind.  Although you can find lots of information sitting infront of your computer or whirring through microfiche in your library, never underestimate the importance of meeting people and making connections.  I prefer to learn this way, anyway.

And here concludes my tip top tips.  Feel free to correct me or add to.

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And finally…the photos!

A reflection of me in the Alms House

This is the only photo of me throughout the entire trip.  In my mind, this arty piece of glass is supposed to be in reference to the windows that were once a part of this building.

Mol's Coffee House

Exeter Cathedral

Old Exe Bridge

Inside the catacombs

Inside the catacombs...and yes, this is where the bodies would have been placed

The catacombs - view from outside

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Exeter Day 4: Journal Entry

I’m sitting here infront of Mol’s Coffee House, with cappucino in hand, thinking about my journey.  The path beneathe me is the same path where Mary Ann Kingwell and her family walked.

I am sure that they never could have imagined the journey our family would take.  Not only did Maria Kingwell and Joseph Green move away from this gorgeous, green pocket of the country where Kingwells and Godreys must have been well-established, but they sailed across the ocean and settled in a land so very different from this.  To think that I am the only one of my family in the Kingwell turned Green strand to revisit their home, is something quite special and amazing.  For a fleeting moment, I imagined my future generations making this same pilgrimage.  And then I remembered.

Perhaps what I can take away from this experience is how personally wonderful this journey has been.  Maybe in the future, my Nephew William will visit me again and we can go on this journey together. Or perhaps my sister will want to experience this, or even my cousins.

Perhaps my future adopted child will want to go on a similar journey.  When before I had very much wanted to ignore ‘the other family’ aspect, I now understand its relevance and importance.

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Exeter Day 3: zoom zoom zoom

Again, you have caught me at the end of my day and I tell you, I could not possibly keep up this momentum.  Although I could easily spend several weeks here, delving into records and seeing what there is to see, I think I am near collapse.  I miss my family.  All two members of them.  My husband and my dog.

Today’s highlights go a little like this:

Why do they insist on putting car hire places where there aren’t any people?  Away from hotels.  Away from pedestrian areas.  I had to navigate my way around a pretty shady industrial estate, slipping my way between warehouses and I don’t even know what else. 

After several wrong turns and being lost for 20 minutes, I eventually found the car.  Car and I zoomed down the highway/motorway in search of Ivybridge.  En route, we saw what appeared to be a side car for a motorcycle.  It was different than any others I had seen before as it was longer than most.  This interesting little object was being towed.  More about that later.

I took a wrong turn and first went to Ermington, which was actually meant to be my second stop.  What a lovely little town!  I don’t think I breathed whilst driving through it though as the streets seemed to only allow one car.  Whenever someone tried to slip passed me I nearly passed out from intake of breath.  Ermington is situated on a hill, with only a few crooked little streets branching off the main road.  I found a mill whilst driving out of town and had a quick chat with the nice man working there.  I appreciate that I was taking up his time, his work time, to blather on about my little journey.  I told him I was in search of Kingwells and it just so happened that they had been living in that very town up until a couple decades ago. 

I then drove down the tight country roads (again, holding breath, hoping I wouldn’t scrape the side of my rental car along a hedge or stone wall) into Ivybridge.  I spent a couple of hours in the library, sifting through a box of old documents.  They were varied.  Oh yes.  Very varied.  Lots of history.  I found one particularly helpful document describing the several processes of creating paper in a mill.  History abounded in the form of photocopied newspapers.  And these, dear friends, were living in a box file.

After all of this reading, I needed to venture into the town. The very Ivybridge, the one painted by Turner and many other artists, the ivy bridge that was the main road into town from London, was beautiful.  I imagines my ancestors walking past it almost every day, listening to the water splash over rocks.  The dense trees, the atmosphere, the sound, were lovely.  I eventually found THE Stowford papermill.  It does have quite a imposing situation, right up there on top of a hill. 

I walked into town and took some photos of old buildings.  When I was walking back to my car, I saw that motorcycle side car, again.  It was attached to a motorcycle…and inside that car, was a coffin.  There was a photograph of a young girl and then I realised quite suddenly that I was witnessing something very sad indeed.  The main street in Ivybridge is narrow.  About 50 to 60 motorcycles slowly made their way through the town, honouring that young girl that had so unfortunately and so very sadly, passed away.

And so.

Berfore leaving town I popped into a toy shop and bought my nephew a little present.  Imagine.  I present for a young boy in Texas, bought in the town where his family lived over 200 years ago.

I drove back to Exeter, this time in search of the Records Office.  And there, oh yes, in there, I finally found the incredibly nugget of information that I was hoping to find.  You see, all along I had been thinking that my family had been poor.  I mean, their father had died, there were several children to take care of and as far as I could tell, Mary Ann Kingwell did not work.  But alas!  I found the will and other documents pertaining to the death of the paper maker, Richard Kingwell.  It appears he died rather a wealthy man.  Who knew!?  And perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, one of those nice big houses in St Leonards did belong to my family at one time.  I am really quite stunned.

And this here concludes my findings for Day 3.  I have another half day in the city and then I am off home.

What to think of all of this?

To quote a post card (1927) I bought yesterday at an antiques shop:  I am having a ripping time!

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Exeter Day 2: In search of context

My feet.  My legs.  My eyes.  My brain.  These things are all very tired right now.  I was going to wait to post something tomorrow, but I know what I’m like.  All the thoughts would fall out in my sleep, such is the extent of my forgetfulness.  So, here we go folks.  The low down.  The skinny. 

Today started with a walk around Rougemont and Northernhay Gardens.  This probably means nothing to you as I cannot post a photo.  It would be much more exciting if I could show you the flowers of these two lovely places.  The Rougemont Garden swirls around and up a slight incline to the castle wall.  There is a very discreet doorway that leads into Northernhay.  I felt like the girl in the Secret Garden or something like that.  It was all very quiet, early, not a person in sight (which did make me a little paranoid, but nevermind).  The views from the top of Northernhay were wonderful.  And that is all I have to say about this part of the day for the moment.

I joined the Industrial Heritage walking tour, which is only scheduled during this week, which just so happens to be Heritage week in Exeter.  Imagine my luck again!  This particular journey took 2 hours.  It possibly should be renamed The Loud Traffic No-Avoidance tour as we were all leaning in very close to the man to try to catch what he was saying.  I really liked this guide today.  His West Country accent was magic. 

As you can assume, we learned about the industry.  And the meat market.  Which was really gross.  The market was placed at the top of the hill and as the day went on, all the nasty things associated with meaty leftovers were washed down the road, down the hill, into the Western Quarter and into the river.  Vom.  I was so hoping that paper making would be mentioned, but alas, it wasn’t, so I must make my way into my own research.

The walk ended on the quay, where the sun was beaming hot and fine.  Big blue skies and big volumptuous clouds.  Super lovely.  I then made my way into St Leonards.

So, tell us Cassandra, because we are all like, dying to know and stuff…what is so special about St Leonards area of Exeter.  Well, my little dearlings, this is where my family lived.  Joseph and Maria were married in this parish. 

Some words to describe it:  Colleton Terrace is situated way upon cliff.  Or rather, when you walk out into the front gardens and look down, the pavement below along the quayside is very very far down.  St Leonards is steep hills.  Trust me.  These are why my legs hurt.  The church itself is perched way up on a hill, with the land swooping very steep-like to the riverside.  And this is the view my family had on the wedding day.  The roads between the river and Holloway road are very narrow, curvy and packed with houses.  The sun was beaming off of the white paint in a very warm, if somewhat blinding way.

What else can I say about it?  I think by the time I actually got into St Leonards I was well and truly knackered.  Photos were taken.  My mind was melting.  So to get a frappucino I went to stock up on sugar and caffeine.

And then I went to the West Country Studies Library.  And did this thing called ‘read books’ which was followed by looking at ‘microfiche.’  It’s a whole new world I tell ya.  I did actually find Richard Kingwell in a newspaper article dated 1821.  But that was really it.

Until tomorrow, kiddies.

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Exeter Day 1

Wow.  What.  A.  Day. 

I really need to type this out whilst it is still fresh in my head.  Beware of half sentences, grammar that could shame a 2nd grader and over use of !!!!!!!

Flying over this beautiful land, taking photos from the airplane window.  The hills.  The trees.  The sea not too far in the distance.  Big clouds.  Big skies.  My overall impression of the city is that it is rather compact.

I tumbled out of the airport bus into the newly revamped shopping district.  Big Topshops and Fat Face and New Look.  But alongside all this big white cement block was part of the ancient wall.  Quietly sitting there in the shade, not making a show of itself.  A bit crumbly.  A bit high in some places and a bit low in others. 

I trundled off to the tourist information centre and perused away.  Books, maps, it’s all here in my bag.  So, what was a girl to do with all this scads of information.  Dear reader, I bought for myself a much needed sandwich and coffee and read up on this wonderful town.  I looked at maps, remembered I can’t actually read maps, then just wandered around until I stumbled upon something interesting.

An alms house.  St Somebody’s in the middle of town.  I took an eerie photo of my reflection in a piece of decorative glass.  The ruins around me and my hardly visible image looking through.  The thing is, if my family were as poor as I think they may have been, this would have been one of their…haunts.  Maria’s father dead…he worked beyond the boom of the paper making industry, his work taken over by machines.  He would have possibly died with little money when Maria was just 14.  My mind did race with all sorts of scenarios.  But I’m not sure of any of it. 

I then found myself infront of the cathedral and Mol’s Coffee House.  Ooh la.  The dates, all over that Mols.  And the hotel.  17something.  I need these dates.  I need these buildings.  So away I snapped on my little camera.

My walk (remember, I am still carrying my heavy bags) took me to St Bartholomew and here, oh yes, here I stood on the very place where my art work is to be displayed.  The mother sitting on the bench with her son must have thought I was a bit crazy.  After all, no one smiles to themselves with such a toothy grin.  Click.  Click.  Click.  More pictures. 

Skip to my one bedroom room, drop off stuff, then race into town for a Red Coats Walking Tour.  I thought I was going to Old and New Exeter, but it seems that I had accidentally joined the Catacombs and Cemetaries tour instead.  But I tell you, fate has an interesting way of joining up the dots.  I thought I had missed my chance to go on this Cemetaries tour as it was scheduled for Wednesday and it was Thursday…no no no.  My dates have been mixed up all day today.  So.  Wednesday.  Tour.  Today.

I took notes.  I must have looked like such a suck up.  One fine man asked me what I was up to and then I just had to spill it.  Really.  I was so excited that I think I just blurted it all out about the tour and where it was going to be and blah blah blah.  Bless him.  He still wanted to be my friend after that.    Anyway, the tour took us to St Barts again!  And and and…oh yes, there’s more…we went INSIDE the catacomb.  I took loads of photos.  Stay posted, ladies and gents, as your eyes will be able to feast on them soon.  Well.  You may have to wait until Sunday.

Okay, so, we ended the tour.  My new friend then whisked me away to…the library.  How very helpful.  I am to go back there tomorrow to trawl through their local history section.  It just so happens that my new friend, a dapper Mr Beattie had popped into Exeter to find information, I don’t know, it’s something about history.  He seemed very interested in this project of mine and delivered some very useful suggestions which I think I shall follow when I return home.

So that was my day.  It was brilliant!!!!

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