Monday, May 22, 2006

My Family, And Other Toppings, Gollaglees, Lambs, Elliotts, Agnews, Moffitts, Mitchells Et Cetera ...

This blogger started to get interested in genealogy and building up a family tree recently, dear blog reader - it's probably because Keith Telly Topping has reached 'that age' where one becomes aware of ones own mortality and all that.

It's good fun and a very useful diversion from me doing any 'real' work for a few days (actually, the original idea was to do an article to pitch to the local paper but it seems to have extended a bit beyond that now). Firstly, I sat my mother down and got about ninety minutes of family history and her memories on who was married to whom and what were various peoples maiden names on tape. Then I started checking out census records and, births marriages and deaths websites, and spent a couple of days in the local library and, finally, joined GenesReunited.

From all of six days research, I can already tell you that my dad's family is a straight combination of Cumbrian agricultural labourers - especially one Thomas Topping (born 1833) who came to Newcastle from Crosby-upon-Eden near Carlisle looking for work in the mid-1840s - and a bunch of second and third generation Irish migrants who, for some bizarre reason, changed their name from Gallagher to the allegedly 'much less Irish-sounding' Gollaglee and lived in West Hartlepool.

It's funny, actually - until three days ago I knew virtually nothing about my paternal grandmother, Bridget (who died when I was about seven and whom I can barely remember) except for three things which were bolted into my brain from an early age:
  • a) Her maiden name was Golligly (that exact spelling).
  • b) She was probably born in Ireland or, at least, if she wasn't then her father definitely was.
  • c) Her mother was either wholly or partly Spanish.
The last bit might still prove to be accurate (more research needed there - I know she was called Sarah Gordon and that her parents, similarly, were Irish) but the first two, it turns out, certainly are not.

Meanwhile, on side of my mum's family - the Lambs - are comfortably from Suffolk and Norfolk (specifically, Snape and Great Yarmouth) where the cow-shit lies thick (the name alone, I would suggest, means that we're all descended from shepherds). And, in the story of Edward Lamb, my great grandfather, you have an almost textbook microcosm of British Society in the early years of the industrial revolution. Born the son of countless generations of farm labourers, decides that he needs to move to where the work is and ends up a decade later with his young family living in 93 Maria Street in Elswick working in William Armstrong's munitions factory on Scotswood Road. When I say that he was a visionary, I don't mean that he would have seen the changing world in the way that George Stephenson or Isembard Kingdom Brunel would have but, in his own small way, he was aware of the way the wind was blowing and, because of that, I'm here. The other lot of my mothers ancestors - the Elliotts, the Moffitts, the Johnstons, the McMillans and the Agnews - are all very Scottish after a couple of generations of Northumbria (except for the Gaylors, who are yet more Irish).

Anyway, here's the Telly Topping United 1964-65 promotion squad. See if you can spot this blogger (hint, I'm just about the only one not looking at the camera!)


Steph L said...

It innocently starts out with "I've gotten interested in genealogy recently..." and then one day you find yourself in a dark records room hunched over an old ledger and cackling with glee because you've just discovered that your great-great-great-great grandmother owed back taxes several hundred years ago. From there you might as well just admit that you are powerless over the obsession.

I've had good success with and the Message Boards on

Wanna see a great picture of my granny?

Anonymous said...

I can't find another way to get in touch ....
We love your 'The West Wing' Guide - we are having a ball working our way through Series One (which we missed - in NZ).
However, ..... sorry about the 'However' Episode 18, the Slave Reparations piece has two errors, one by the programme and one by, errm, you.
1) Jefferson said his people had been kidnapped, taken from Africa to New Guinea before being sold to a slave trader from Boston: I think he meant one of the other Guineas, new Guinea being a barely discovered island on the far side of the world from Africa; tut-tut that your usually impeccable logic-failure detector didn't pick this up.
2) Jefferson actually named '$1.7 trillion' as the reparation sum; your book has '$1,700,000,000', or $1.7 billion.
Keep up the good work - we are big fans.
Bill Porritt

Janet Carr said...

Hi Keith,

I too am a victim of online genealogy detective work! I am now wondering if your grandmother was a close relative of my husband's grandmother (Minnie Gollaglee). Her father was Michael Gollaglee, a merchant seaman from West Hartlepool, who married Catherine McCarthy from Newport, Wales. Minnie was married in West Hartlepool in 1913.

Are you sure it was a name change from Gallagher? I wonder if it was Gallogly/Gologly? Do you know from which part of Ireland they emigrated? I have drawn a blank on this part of the family, and would be grateful for any light you can shed!

Janet Carr

Aidan said...

gollaglee!!!! I live in norfolk... i'm a Gollaglee. ken gollaglee's grandson.. he died in july last year i was wondering if you were any relative of mine.. distant im guessing minnie gollaglee!!! i used to get christmas cards from her.. i loved that woman

Cliffy said...

Hi Keith,
Not another bloody relative, and from the antipodes!!!!!
Not quite, but your Thomas had a second wife, Margaret, nee McMillan, and she was my gt gt grandmother.
I have an addiction to Family history as well, especially on freezing winter afternoons. It is a wonderful excuse to be doing something when you are wasting time and doing nothing.
kind regards, Susanne

Karen said...


Edward Gollaglee (Born in Larne. Ireland with the surname Gallagher) had one brother Michael and they both moved from Plymouth to Hartlepool in around 1871. Michael did indeed marry a Catherine McCarthy and was father to my paternal great grandma Minnie Gollaglee. Michael is said to have died at sea during WW1 but I don't know if this is fact or not. Would be good to know if anyone (including Keith) could shed any light on anything further back than this. Yeah I'm sad and need to get out more!

Liz said...

Firstly Minnie Gollaglee married in 1913 is not the Minnie Gollaglee (born 1912) Aidan is referring too. They are related but Aidan's Minnie was married in 1935 to Harold Steel in Hartlepool before moving to Singapore and then finally Leicester just before the japanese invaided Singapore during WW2. Harold remained a captive until he was released in 1945.

I have been trying to find out about Michael (1867) as I do know he died quite young. His niece Sarah Noble (nee Gollaglee) remembered attending his funeral with her father Christopher ("Christy") Gollaglee. Michael was 5th of 7 children of James and Mary (nee Gray of Stockton) Gallagher. The family changed their name to Gollaglee by the 1901 census. This was probably because they were originally illiterate.
The Gollaglee family all lived in Hartlepool and most of them worked in the shipyards at the turn of the century. Several Gollaglee's married Carr's as they were both large families that all lived on or near Pimlico Street.
"Christy" and Jane Gollaglee (nee Fleetham) had 13 children. Christy died saving someone elses life in the shipyard.