Sunday September 17th – Guest Blogger

Hi all

As promised I am not going to bore you with my shenanigans this week.  After making a plea on our Facebook page Roy Stockdill kindly agreed to put a piece together about his Wiltshire roots.

For those of you who do not know Roy, he is a retired journalist having worked for many years on several local and national newspapers on what I believe are a number of subjects over his career.  I first “met” Roy through an article he wrote for a well known family history magazine in which he featured the Wiltshire OPC Project.  Which after publication caused an influx of new followers and members, so thank you Roy for that.

Before I publish his offering for this blog I would just like to remind anyone who hasn’t got back to me about the annual team review that I would appreciate knowing by the end of the month if you wish to retain your parishes.  I have received quite a few staying and only two so far have retired.  The two retirees being Rog Jones who is based in Amsterdam and has relinquished Stanton St. Quintin and Seagry and Lynn Leggett has given up Yatton Keynell due to ill health.  We thank both for their much valued input to the project and wish them both well for the future.

Now back to Roy and his article.



From Yorkshire Back to Wiltshire

A Journey of the Past

 WHEN my wife and I married in Coventry 53 years ago it never occurred to us that we might both have lines of descent from contiguous Wiltshire parishes, no more than five miles apart and in one case only a mile apart. My ancestry was almost entirely from Yorkshire, or so I thought at the time, and my wife Stephanie’s was mostly Warwickshire.

However, when I began to research both our family histories in the early 1970s a truism of genealogy reared its head at an early stage: that the farther back you go in time and generations, more counties and more towns and villages enter your family tree and you find yourself with ancestors in places you’d never thought of looking!

For me, the realisation that I was not 100 per cent a Yorkshireman came when I discovered a pair of paternal great grandparents, Andrew YOUNG and Sarah MEAD, who were married in 1852 at Rodden, a district of Frome which lies right next to the border with Wiltshire. Andrew was from Gloucestershire but Sarah had been born at Frome. Tracing them through the BMD records and censuses found them having many children, including my grandmother Harriet YOUNG who was born at Twerton, a suburb of Bath, in 1865. However, in 1881 they suddenly appeared in Bradford, Yorkshire.

It became apparent that my great grandfather Andrew, a weaver, must have taken his family up to the West Riding in order to find work in the booming wool and textile mills of Bradford at a time when the West Country cloth industry was dying, due to the heavy competition from the new technology of the woollen and cotton mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

My great grandmother Sarah MEAD, a wool spinner, was born at Rodden on the outskirts of Frome in 1829. It transpired, however, that her father, my great great grandfather Philip MEAD, had been born at Bratton, the village that lies immediately beneath the Iron Age hill fort of Bratton Camp and the famous White Horse, about 1796. The censuses of 1841 and 1851 told me that Philip had moved just across the Wiltshire-Somerset border to become a factory foreman at Rodden.

Getting my Mead ancestors at Bratton farther back proved problematical, since Philip’s father, James MEAD, born about 1764, sometimes also used the name of PAIN. He married Mary GIDENCE at Bratton in 1789 and baptised children in both surnames. I found a marriage at Bratton in 1760 of John MEAD and Martha PAIN and my researches suggested that James was probably born illegitimate to a sister of Martha’s and adopted by John and Martha Mead, hence his use of the surnames Mead and Pain.

Having found my own Wiltshire line, I turned to my wife’s family tree. Most of her ancestors were from Warwickshire, specifically Coventry, Stratford-upon-Avon and Henley-in-Arden. However, she had clear recollections as a schoolgirl of visiting relatives, uncles and aunts and cousins, at Westbury Leigh, Westbury. Armed with this information, I found the marriage at Westbury in 1881 of her great grandparents, Henry HALL and Mary Ann DEW. The 1891 census revealed that Henry had been born at Trowbridge and Mary Ann at Dilton Marsh, so my wife’s lines from Wiltshire were clearly established.

The surname DEW turned out to be fairly prolific at Dilton Marsh, with many folks of the name appearing in the censuses. Mary Ann was born in 1858, the daughter of Robert DEW, a railway labourer, and Charlotte JONES. I was able to trace the Dews back to an Abraham Dew (1732-1821), my wife’s 6x-great grandfather. But what intrigued me particularly was that Dilton Marsh is barely five miles from Bratton where my Mead ancestors came from!

It got even more intriguing when I discovered that Stephanie’s great great great grandfather, Eli HALL, who was born at Trowbridge about 1812, lived for many years at Edington which is no more than one mile from Bratton! Eli was a shoemaker and appeared in a number of directories at Tinhead in the eastern part of Edington parish. Could my ancestors at Bratton and my wife’s at Dilton Marsh and Edington have known one another? It is such a small and very rural part of the world that it seems likely in the 18th and 19th centuries. We sometimes joke about discovering one day that we are umpteenth cousins!

If anyone recognises any of the names and thinks they might be connected to my wife or myself feel free to e-mail me at:


Roy has given me permission to publish this item on the various parish pages on the website too.  Once again thanks you.



Thursday 8th September -Annual Team Review

Hi all

By now you should have all received an e-mail asking whether you wish to continue as part of the OPC team.  This is something I do every year as our lives change so does the amount of time and commitment you have available to other things.  The review is by no means meant to pressurise anyone into being active its just the opportunity to allow people the choice.  Personally I don’t wish anyone to quit the project as everyone has a role to play and their input no matter how small or large is a valuable resource.

Roger Jones, who is based in Amsterdam has decided to relinquish his parishes of Seagry and Stanton St. Quintin,  Roger is based in Holland and has been a member of the team since almost the very first incarnation about ten years ago.  His time and input has been invaluable, however he has promised to keep in touch with the project and will let us know of anything interesting he finds.

If you haven’t received the e-mail then please let me know if you wish to remain as OPC’s if by the 31st September I haven’t heard from you then I will assume you are either no longer interested or that communication has been lost and the parishes will be put back up for adoption.

As part of this review please also consider sending me a profile and photo – too many of you are far too shy and silhouettes are not flattering  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Its good for users to put a face to the name.

At present the website is beginning once more to outgrow the facilities we use to create the site which you all contribute to and of which I am so so proud.   Susan and Michael Pearson are exploring new ways of moving forward and our at present working on the website platform to bring it up to date and certainly more admin friendly.

Richard Cresswell will I hope be able to work with Susan and Michael with ideas since he also has a background in web design.  I am a firm believer in making use of all available resources and am sure Susan and Michael will agree and welcome input from Richard.

Thanks to all who have so far replied to the e-mail 15 of us are so far remaining and no doubt over the next few days we will get more still willing to play their part.

By the way I forgot to mention its only just under 108 days to Christmas – if you don’t believe me take a look at the countdown clock


Sunday 28th August – Good and Sad News

Hi everyone

Sad News

Many of you will already know of the sad sudden death of former OPC Jan Oliver in June. Jan had been part of the OPC team from almost the beginning  of its inception.  Just over a year ago Jan decided to leave the project and set up her own website sadly asking us to remove all her personal work from her parishes.  Many people contributed to her pages over the years and her own research was phenomenal, often travelling from her home near Andover, Hampshire to the archives at Chippenham and visiting the parishes she had adopted forming many contacts and friendships over the years.  Hopefully her family will continue her work but at present it would seem from the number of enquiries I have received registration to access her work has been put on hold meaning that only registered users at the time of her death will be able to access the information. If this situation changes I will make you all aware should you wish to research her area of interest.   Other than her work on her own parishes she left me a wad of information and items for processing for other parishes which I have had to put on the back burner or at least in the queue of the thousands of items I have waiting to process.

Am sure you will all wish me to pass on our deepest sympathy to Jan’s immediately family which has been done.  Many have left their own condolences on Jan’s website 

Good News

Over the last few days Richard Cresswell has come forward to volunteer as Assistant Administrator.  Please make him welcome to the team.  Richard has a background in Web Development which is already proving beneficial to our website.  Hopefully Richard can assist Susan Pearson with background work as well as myself in the administration department.   Richard will slowly take over certain tasks that I do on a daily basis such as the Memorials days posting to Facebook and vetting new registrations to the website.  Am sure we will keep him busy but not to frighten him off am gently introducing him to the system.    So welcome to the team Richard your contribution is most gratefully received.

A New Idea

Sometimes I find it difficult to find something to blog about.  Therefore I thought why not ask our users, followers and team to volunteer to do a “Guest Blog”.  So if anyone want to give it ago – send me a message via the website, e-mail or Facebook and I will tell you how to submit the entry.   It can be on any subject you like that you feel our readers would appreciate to hear about.  But I am suspecting that anything to do with modern day sport would be a no-no since I have probably exhausted that donkey many times over.

Team Photographs and Profiles

Again I am appealing to you all as members of the OPC team whether Admin, OPC’s, transcribers or regular contributors – we love putting a face to the name.  If you haven’t done so already please send me a photograph and or a profile (see Meet the Team page of the blog for examples).  You can send them to me via e-mail and I will add them to the page

Hope you are all enjoying the weather wherever you are and will say bye bye for now from a dismal West Coast of Scotland.



Wednesday 25th August – Drawing Breath

Hi all

Well obviously I have to start with mentioning my passion – yep Sport.  What an amazing achievement Team GB made with almost all of the athletes raising their game.  I cannot decided upon a favourite moment since their were so many incredible individual performances.  As a tennis fan Andy Murray’s retention of the gold was pretty special.  Mo Farah was emotional as were the cycling team.  I think the swimming with Adam Peaty winning his gold and setting a new world record was something pretty special.   Just too many great performances to decide from – make me so proud to be British.  Sadly Wiltshire wasn’t greatly represented this time round (as far as I am aware) with just Danny Talbot (Chippenham/Trowbridge) qualifying for Team GB in the 200 metres sprint sadly finishing third in his semi-final.  Ed McKeever from Bradford on Avon had won gold in 2012 in the Sprint Canoe/Kayak 200 metres sprint and his successor to Team GB retained that title with Liam Heath taking gold.   The most successful Wiltshire based Olympian this year was Astier Nicolas who took team gold and individual silver in the equestrian eventing competitions.  Astier trains and is based near Calne.

No more sport I promise apart from saying that my beloved Stoke City has started the season as we predicted  – average at best however there is another 10 months to go says me with that evil smily grin.  I can see you all now saying in unison OH NOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Back to the website now.  I have not been shirking over the past month – Paul and I have still been busy loading and preparing items for the site.  Lots of new apprentice records are being added courtesy of transcriber Sue Brinson plus we still have thousands of items to load that have been steadily coming in.  All my own transcribing is now firmly on hold so I can concentrate on the backlog.  It takes time to format and check but am getting there.  Please keep sending items in though it will get loaded at some point.

As you know we had some parishes lose a lot of information when the owner of the information decided to move it to her own website.  I cannot seem to be able to access the new site and neither can some other users who have tried to join and over the last two months seem to have had no luck.  I have e-mailed the owner too and have not had any response.  I am just hoping that the lady concerned is well and that nothing untoward has happened.  As the new site needs registration to access the information  it would be a sad shame that all that information is locked away and no-one can access it for their own individual use.

One problem we have encountered over the past few weeks relates to our photo galleries.  For some unknown reason Google have removed their Picassa feature – for me personally this was an ideal way for us us to show off the thousands of photographs we have for the county – being able to display them in individual galleries depending on the parish and subject.  Any gallery created prior to the changeover seems to be fine however new galleries do not have the facility to show images with a label attached – obviously if the image is of a church in a new gallery it will be obvious from the fact its in a named gallery with the name of the church in it will give people a clue as to what they are looking at.  However if we add a new people gallery to a parish then as you browse through it won’t let you know who the people in the photo are.  If you get my meaning.  Never mind we are looking into the problem and have bombarded Google with the issue.

In the meantime I am rolling up the sleeves and getting stuck in with preparing more new additions to items on the parish pages.

One thing more it 4 months to CHRISTMAS hehehehehehehehe.



Monday 25th July -Me Again

Hi all

Hope you are all having a wonderful summer or winter depending where you are in the world.  I know that in some parts of the UK you have been melting in very high temperatures.  We have had one really warm day when the temp reached about 29 degrees but after that it has been a very damp squid of a time.  Although between downpours have managed to get washing dry.

Firstly need to thank all our members who have submitted items for loading to the website.  I am still in catch up mode but am really trying hard to get the items onto the parish pages.  It still takes a lot of time to reformat some items but most people are now sending the items in the correct font etc which saves heaps of time and therefore I can get to loading items that much quicker.

Recently I have had several members e-mail to say that they have not received a reply to enquiries where an OPC is in place.  I presume this is because many of you do not log into the site on a regular basis or perhaps are not checking their junk mail for potential messages left for you on the site.

I can’t believe that it is nearly August already one more month and I will be doing my regular site check up to see who wishes to continue with the project etc.  I have now stopped using the Do.It Volunteer Group for potential OPCs as I have found that some have just used the project to comply with job search requirements.

I am currently working on the backlog of submissions and have put aside any of my own parish research and transcribing.  Of course I was sidetracked by Wimbledon and the Davis Cup and other sporting events.  There is a gap at the moment before the Olympics commence and of course the return of my beloved Stoke City for the 2016/2017 football season.  There are still lots of transcribing projects to be allocated and parishes for adoption.  So if anyone is at a loose end and can do just a little that will be a great help especially when I have caught up.    I am still looking for admin assistants too.  To help with the preparation of documents for upload.  Paul is doing a grand job when he is not partying !!!!!!!!!!! (Just kidding Paul).

Just had a really wonderful surprise – a friend of Ruth Appleby (one of our members) put me in touch with a friend of hers Anne O’Gorman who very kindly purchased a book for me of photographs from the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette and posted it to me – and to my astonishment the front cover features a photo of my sister Dawn Topp as she was then as one of the Bathing Belles in the Devizes Carnival of 1960.  The book is worth every penny available here

Anyway continue to have a fun doing whatever you are doing and no matter where you are stay safe.





Sunday 26th June – How Time Flies

Hi all

Hope you are enjoying the weather wherever you are in the world.  Here in Scotland we have had some beautifully warm weather.  Yesterday we did get a real deluge but not half as bad as some places in the south have it.

Personally I am enjoying the summer of sport my beloved Wales doing really well in the European Championships, England still in with a chance.  I am also thrilled to have seen Shaquiri for Switzerland score a fabulous goal (hope he can reproduce that for Stoke this coming season) and of course Stoke are represented elsewhere in the championships so will be watching the Ireland team closely hoping they too can progress.  Heaven forbid though if it comes down to an England v Wales final.  I would have to be sat firmly on the fence.

Less of football cos there is also Wimbledon and the Olympics to keep me occupied as well as the website.

I am glad to say that I have found a new lease of life again for the website uploads and seem to be getting through quite an armful daily on the backlog.  I have put my transcribing projects on the back burner for a while to try and catch up.  I am very grateful though for the items still coming in and many thanks to the new transcribers that have joined us recently.  Again thanks to Paul for his assistance in getting the items onto the the website by linking everything I throw at him it really does save me some time.

We are currently adding lots of bits of information transcribed by Maureen Withey – Maureen is amazing at finding newspaper snippets and photographs that we can add to our galleries thus adding to many of the parishes that have no OPC to add material to them.  Of course if she finds something interesting for a parish with cover she still transcribes that so if you haven’t checked your parish in a while then there may be some new material there.

I have recently completed the addition to several parishes some new Inquisitions Post Mortem.  Jodi Fuller transcribed these.  For anyone uncertain of what these are – they are record of land transfers after death to an heir or a widow.  They are a good source for ascertaining what land was in an individuals possession at the time of their death and of course naming the next of kin.  It can also be a source of confirming if an individual survived his or her spouse.  You will find these mostly published under the Probate section on each page.

Thankfully my recent illness seems to in the main be under control and I do seem to have much more energy.  I am enjoying the website work again which I hadn’t really realised was beginning to flounder not because of my love of the project but because I always felt so ill and not able to concentrate on it.

Good news too that Susan and Michael Pearson are getting ready to update and hopefully improve the site.  Already they are experimenting with a few new features.

One of these comes via our facebook page we are now encouraging our users to add their surname interests to the documents section on that page.  Some have already added their interests so if you haven’t done so take a quick look.  You can also use it to add that brickwall problem – who knows someone might have the answer.

Signing off from what is now looking quite a dull day in Scotland weather wise – time to go rescue the dry washing I think.



21st May 2016 -Lots to Impart

I hope you don’t think I have abandoned the diary/blog – I have just been busy with one thing or another.

Firstly you will be pleased to know that the football season is over so you won’t be seeing me post on Facebook and other places my frustrations about my beloved Stoke City – who in fact finished 9th again for the third season in a row – Oh if only we had done better at the start and end of the season who knows we may have had an early start to next season (we might have been in Europe).  Sorry if this news leaves you deflated but you have now a few months of footie free blog posts until England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire take to the Euro field soon.  Bad news is tennis and athletics seasons are with us.

Secondly I am beginning to catch up with the back log (still I hear you say) but you have submitted so much material that we just can’t keep up even with offers of help to format etc.  It still takes a lot of time.  But we are getting there.  Again I must ask before submitting lists of names etc please check if there is a template which will make my life a lot easier.  Plus if you are submitting photographs if you could resize them to 640 x 480 pixel size (this can be done easily with several programmes including Microsoft Office).  All this information is available in the notes and guidelines and there are pre formatted templates that can be used and adapted for most things

I had gained quite a head of steam with catching up on the submissions until I started having a bout of what I thought was indigestion.  The pain became unbearable which saw me admitted to A & E with suspected Gall Stones – glad to say nothing wrong there or anywhere else visible on a very thorough ultrasound scan of the upper abdomen.   Blood tests showed a viral infection so they now think it was viral gastritis which with anti-biotics seems to be receding but I know now not to suffer in silence and self diagnose – off to the docs I shall go at the first sign of persistency.

Any way less about me and my illnesses and excuses.  I am beginning to get back into the swing.

At this point I would like to welcome to our team Diane Lafeber who has bravely taken over the parish of Tisbury and Wardour – a daunting task.  We also welcome Tony Horne who has joined us as OPC for Grittleton and Alison West who has taken up the reins at Colerne.  We wish them a very successful and fruitful time in the roles and certain I and everyone of us thanks them for their interest.

I would also like to thank those people who are sending me information for many other of the parishes Maureen Withey sends me masses for parishes she is not OPC for as and when she finds it -so much so that I have about 1000 items in the pipeline from her alone.  Plus recently we have been introduced to St. Phobus school in Salisbury by Tim Walker who very kindly has shared some of his memories as a pupil there.  And of course we must thank John Pope who is painstakingly working his way through the Swindon directory of 1928 so kindly copied by Nigel Chalk.

Of course everyone plays a part submitting items for their own parishes and to be fair am working through them on a date received system.

Please don’t hold back on submitting new items – but please be patient with me and Paul we will get to them eventually.

Just for you information the following events will take place over the next few months – these may be of interest to some of you.  Those marked with an asterisk are venues where Wiltshire Family History Society are due to have a stall

22 May Newton Abbott Family & Local History Day, Newton Abbott Racecourse*
11 June Romany & Traveller FHS Society Day, Waltham St Lawrence, Berkshire
18 June Wiltshire FHS Open Day, Steam, Swindon*
23 July Buckinghamshire FHS Open Day, Aylesbury*
13 August Liddiard Family Gathering, Aldbourne, Wilts*
16 September Henry De Bohun Heritage Festival, Trowbridge Civic Centre
24 September Bristol & Avon FHS Fair, UWE, Bristol This event has been cancelled
1 October Oxfordshire FHS Open Day, Woodstock*
8 October Glamorgan FHS Open Day, Merthyr Tydfil
5 November West Surrey FHS Fair, Woking Leisure Centre*