Friday, June 29, 2007

How I Came To Be, Part The Second

Good looking family that. Mine, as it happens. This was 27 June 1942 and yer actual Keith Telly Topping's mum and dad's wedding at Walker Parish Church. As previously mentioned a couple of times in past blog updates, this blogger been doing a lot of genealogy over the last year or so. I've somewhat let it slip in recent months as work (and other ephemera) have got in the way but a couple of recent e-mails pointing me in new directions that I hadn't previously known about have managed to reignite the flame.

So, the lineage goes something like this:-
My parents were (and, in my mother's case, still were) Thomas Topping (B. Walker 1918. D. 1991) and Lily Lamb (B. Walker 1920). My grandparents are, also, relatively easy to reel off: Andrew Topping (B. Walker 1890, D. 1952) and Bridget Gollaglee (B. West Hartlepool, 1893, D. 1972) on one side and Andrew George Lamb (B. Elswick, 1896, D. 1973) and Elizabeth MacKay Elliott (B. Walker, 1895, D. 1973).
     Two generations back and the furthest from Newcastle this blogger has managed to get to is Hartlepool. It's not very exotic, is it? But then, at the great-grandparents stage, it starts to get a bit more interesting, at least geographically.

Thomas Topping (B. 1833, Crosby-On-Eden, Cumberland, D. 1915) and Margaret Dinnell McMillan (B. Mochrum, Wigtonshire, Scotland 1844, D. 1917) were my grandfather Topping's parents. And this is the first point at which things threaten to get a bit complicated with that old bane of most genealogist's lives, 'the second marriage.' It would seem that Tommy Topping (originally an apprentice blacksmith from Cumbria but, later a tradesman bricklayer and, ultimately, a self-employed house builder and shop owner in the East End of Newcastle) was twice married - firstly to a lady called Mary Robinson from Carlisle, by whom he had seven children. Then, after she died (of the 'fluence, apparently) in the mid-1870s, he remarried and had six further children, with Andrew, my grandfather, being the youngest. But the complicated malarkey doesn't stop there. His second wife - Maggie McMillan - was, herself, what they used to call 'a widow-woman.' She had previously been married to a man named Mister Arbuckle and had four children by that marriage (all of whom came to live with the Toppings and were, of course, half-siblings of my grandfather since they all shared the same mother). There will be further fun and games when it comes to the complexities of Margaret's background later.

Then, there is the second-generation-Irish connection: Edward Gollaglee (B. Stanton, West Hartlepool 1860, D. 1941 in Walkworth, Northumberland) and Sarah Gordon (B. Wolviston, County Durham 1858, D. 1907 in West Hartlepool) were my grandmother Bridget's parents. And here, we hit one of the great mysteries of my entire family tree. Edward Gollaglee was born Edward Gallagher, was married as Edward Gallagher and, indeed, on the 1891 census, just a couple of years before Bridget's birth, he was still calling himself Gallagher. And, so were his father and mother and his six brothers all of whom were living quite close to each other in Stanton. Suddenly, at some point during the early 1890s they all - more of less simultaneously - seemingly changed their name to Gollaglee (or, variants on it). Why, is another question entirely.

Edward's father, James Gallagher (more on whom later), presumably came over the Teeside from Ireland during the potato famine in the 1850s. The family speculation is that, perhaps, they thought Gallagher sounded 'too Irish' and, because much anti-Irish discrimination was taking place at this time (this was an era of perceived Irish sedition, after all) they simply changed their name to what was, essentially, an Anglicised version. The irony now, of course, is that whilst Gallagher has somewhat lost many of its Gaelic connotations (bless yer cotton socks, Liam and Noel, this blogger may well be your long lost cousin) on the other hand Gollaglee sounds about as Paddy as 'the bogs and the Little People.' Anyway, we'll get back to both Edward's parents and his wife, Sarah's, parents later.

Next, we come to a man who may well be one of this blogger's heroes: My grandfather Lamb's parents, Edward Lamb (B. Snape, Suffolk 1860, D. 1932 in Newcastle) and his wife, Mary Ann Mitchell (B. Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, 1863, D. 1939). So, here we have Edward Lamb. As we will discover later, he was the youngest child of an agricultural labourer from the Suffolk village of Snape (lovely place by the look of it - they've got a very nice village website. I must go there for a visit some time). Edward's grandfather was also an agricultural labourer and his father was an agricultural labourer and so on and so on probably back as far as The Domesday Book - the family name, alone, suggests they may have originally been shepherds. Edward was the youngest of fourteen children (or, fourteen who survived, anyway). Sometime around 1880, when he was twenty, he decided to up sticks and move. I don't know why - probably it was necessity for him. He may have realised that to follow his father's life would have been a dead-end and that he needed, if he wanted to make anything of himself, to go where the work was. Although I very much doubt he would have seen it in quite these terms, in his own small way, this man was as much of a visionary as Isambard Kingdom Brunel or Robert Stephenson concerning the way in which the world was changing. The Industrial Revolution was here and, like it or not, you had to adapt or you risked becoming moribund in society. So, Edward travelled to Great Yarmouth, met and married Mary Mitchell and their first two sons (this blogger's Great Uncles Bob and Ted) were born there in 1887 and 1889 respectively. Sometime between then and late 1890 when their daughter, Clara was born, the family had moved three hundred miles North to the grim terraced streets of Elswick in Newcastle's West End. There, Edward worked in William Armstrong's munitions factory on Scotswood Road. And, it was there - at 93 Maria Street, which still stands to this day - that in 1896, my grandfather Andrew Lamb, later a decorated war hero, was born. Without Edward deciding to move North, this blogger would never have been born. My grandfather would never have met my grandmother, simple as that. And, it is upon literally thousands of those kind of fleeting chance moments that the course of the lives of every single person on the planet is decided.

Tiny sidenote about the Lambs of Snape: Edward, as mentioned, was the youngest of fourteen children of a peasant farmer, William Lamb of Snape (he's actually described in the 1851 census as 'Pauper - Agricultural Labouror  [sic]'). William's eldest daughter, Eliza (twenty four years Edward's senior, born in 1836) married a local man, William Clouting who was, rather fabulously, a police constable (PC Clouting is an arrestable offence, these days, isn't it?) Sometime around 1865 Eliza and William moved to London (Aldgate, specifically) where William became one of the Metropolitan Scuffers. They had a couple of daughters, one of whom, Harriet, married another Peeler, Frank Jarman in 1888 and they and a son, set up home in Whitechapel in the East End. Now, what's the only thing that Whitechapel is even remotely famous for? Jack the Ripper (one point if you said that, minus fifteen if you said The Talons Of Weng-Chiang). And, when was Saucy Jack doing his naughty ripping stuff? The autumn of 1888. Frank, presumably, must have worked on the case. Isn't that brilliant? I'm only about six degrees of family separation removed from Jack The Ripper.

Right, back to the great grandparents. Lastly, we have my mum's mum's mum and dad John George Elliott (B. Walker, 1874, D. 1933) and Allison Gaylor Agnew (B. 1869, Hutchesontown, Glasgow D. 1936). They, along with just about everyone else on that side of my family, lived on Walker Road during the 1890s and 1900s. The 1901 census on numbers 61 to 75 (subsequently 1561 to 1575) Walker Road reveals people that are related to me in just about every house. You didn't move far to find a wife or husband in those days (unless you were Edward Lamb, seemingly), next door would usually do.

Great, great Grandparents: Sixteen of them and each one with, I imagine a story to tell: There's Thomas Topping (B. somewhere in Cumberland, circa 1791) and his wife Elizabeth Little (B. Lanercost, Cumberland, circa 1792). The Littles' were a family of blacksmiths in the area (Elizabeth's brother, Robert was, subsequently, a master blacksmith in Carlisle). One of their daughters, another Elizabeth, has three sons in the 1840s without, seemingly, ever marrying anyone? Gosh, I imagine there was quite a scandal there. One of her sons, John (born in 1844) did fantastically well for himself at the Carr's of Carlisle biscuit manufacturers, ending up in a management position. He never seems to have married but lived with a man named James Lawson - various described as 'boarder' and 'servant' on different censuses - for over thirty years. (I remember my dad telling me, many years ago, that we were, in some vague way, connected to the Carr family but he thought it was through a marriage).

Next we have Margaret's parents. James McMillan (B. Sorbie, Wigtownshire, Scotland 1824) and Mary Ann Kirby (B. Mochrum, Wigtownshire. 1826). And, here is another tale of two marriages. Mary Ann died of consumption, aged just thirty, in 1856. James - a ship's carpenter by trade - and his family (Margaret was the eldest of five and she would only have been nine years old) then moved to Dumbarton where Margaret acquired a step-mother, one Jane Gordon, and two step-siblings. Then the whole family moved to Newcastle which is how she ended up meeting first James Arbuckle and then, eventually, Thomas Topping. It is, again, on such decisions as these, taken a one hundred and fifty years ago, that my life rests. As a side-note here, there is some, mainly circumstantial, evidence that Margaret actually may have been adopted and was actually James and Mary Ann's niece - the daughter of Alexander Carson and Margaret McKie. Alex Carson was James's half-brother. Quite why they would give up their daughter to the McMillans is unknown. Possibly it was something to do with the death of James and Mary Ann's daughter, Mary (B. 1843), at around the same time? On the 1861 census, however, James McMillan (aged thirty seven - ship's carpenter) is very definitely described as the father of Margaret McMillan (aged sixteen).

James Gallagher (B. County Sligo, Ireland 1832) - the marriage recorded list his name of 'Gonogan' - and his wife, Mary Ann Gray (B. Stockton on Tees, 1834). Again, without the potato famine which decimated Ireland in the 1850s, this blogger would never have been born as not only James Gallagher and his family, but also John Gordon (B. Ireland 1826) fled from the Emerald Isle to the North of England. He married Bridget Roper (B. Wolviston, County Durham 1831), herself a first generation Irish girl. Meanwhile, back in Suffolk, where the cow-shit lies thick, William Lamb (B. Snape 1814) and his wife, Mary Dale (B. Snape 1817) were producing their fourteen children and living in a single-room building on Snape Street.

Mary Mitchell's parents are really interesting. Her father, John Henry Mitchell (B. Barking, Essex, 1833) was a fisherman which is how he and his wife, Ann Elizabeth Marks (B. Barking, 1835) ended up in Great Yarmouth in the first place. Finding the Mitchells marriage (and the maiden name of Ann for that matter) was one of the hardest tasks I had to undertake in my search through and Genesreunited. I finally found them almost by accident when looking for something else entirely. The name Marks suggests the possibility of some Jewish blood in me, something which I had not previously even considered. Unfortunately, my delving into that particular line of the family tree has reached a halt at Ann's father, Henry. I'd love to discover that a generation or two previously, the Marks family had been immigrants from, perhaps, continental Europe. But that's all speculation and research for another day.

James Elliott (B. Consett, Co. Durham 1849) married Margaret Ann Jane Moffett (B. Newcastle upon Tyne 1852, D. 1933). My mother still remembers Margaret (her great grandmother whom she knew simply as 'Nana' and who died when my mother was twelve). The reason why, fantastically, this blogger knows so much about the Elliotts, the Moffetts and various other branches of this side of his family is almost entirely down to one man, Albert Elliott - James and Margaret's youngest son, my mother's great-uncle. The Elliotts seem to have been a really smart bunch - most of the family were skilled tradesmen (Jack, my great-grandfather, was a master plumber for instance) but a couple were highly educated in an age when not many people - certainly not many working class people - were. Jack's brother, Lambton, was an office clerk for example and their youngest brother, Albert, also began a clerical career whilst, simultaneously, freelancing as a journalist with two local newspapers the Journal and the Evening Chronicle. That Keith Telly Topping is, sort of, following in a family tradition here with what he does for a living is a source of considerable pride. I like to think Albert would've approved.

In 1932, Albert obviously went through something of a similar process to what I'm doing now. He had been surrounded by all of these fantastic stories since childhood and so he decided that this needed to be recorded for posterity. Thus, he sat down with his mother, Margaret - then aged around eighty - and got some of her reminiscences down on paper. Whether any of it was actually published anywhere I haven't been able to find out, but a couple of years ago - through another distant relative, Karen Elliott - I received a copy of twelve pages of a typed manuscript Memoria In Eterna (actually, the article is about seven pages long but it appears that Albert did a bit more research, got some further details and so rewrote the last few pages) which includes this incredible narrative about the family. Without it, I would know virtually nothing about these people but with it, it's almost as though they're in the same room. About, for instance, how James and Margaret first met whilst she was working as a barmaid at the Staith House public house in Pelaw. How James started work at the age of eight (yes, eight!) for Losh, Wilson & Bell's Foundary in Walker. It's a fascinating document, not only in family terms but as a piece of social history. Allison Agnew's parents were William Agnew (B. Belfast, 1841) and Susan Johnston (B. Glasgow, 1845).

The great, great, great grandparents are the point at which I start to lose a few threads. I can't find anything further on the Toppings without a visit to Crosby-On-Eden although, thanks to a couple of friendly correspondents, I've discovered at least three more generations of Littles beginning with Elizabeth's parents - John L Little (B. Nether Denton, Cumberland 1764) and Margaret Topping (B. Lanercost, Cumberland 1761). That last name is, obviously, fascinating. What relationship was Margaret Topping to Thomas Topping, her son-in-law some years later? Obviously, these are villages where you've got maybe ten houses, a pub and church and, usually, everyone was everyone else's cousin. But, the name Topping cropping (s'cuse the pun) up so closely to, but not a direct part of, that line of the family is certainly very intriguing and something of a complicating factor.

James McMillan (B. Wigtownshire, Scotland, 1796) and Margaret Dinnell (on some documents 'Donald', B. Wigtownshire, Scotland, 1791) and - the most recent discovery of all, just last weekend - Robert Kirby, an inn-keeper, about whom almost no details are known and Ann Wales (B. England c 1800) were the grandparents of Margaret McMillan. Ann Wales appears to have led a very confused life, just like her granddaughter, being married twice (after Mister Kirby's death, she took up residence with one John Fletcher who at various times according to the census appears to have been a spirit salesman, a groom and, 'a pauper'). Those were, of course, hard times for a widow with a young family, you did what you could to pay the rent.

I have found virtually nothing further on the Gallaghers beyond that James's parents were Fergus and Maria and that the latter was born in 'foreign parts' according to the 1841 census (though her place of birth is listed as 'Plymouth' on the 1851 census). This does fit in with yet another bit of oral family tradition, that someone on my grandmother Bridget's side of family had some Latin (possibly Spanish) blood in them. I know little about the previous generation of the Gordons or Ropers either (I know that Bridget Roper's mother, Sarah - maiden name unknown - was born in County Mayo around 1800). Fortunately, however, the one thing they seemed to do very well in Suffolk was to record who was born where and when and to whom and, thus I can add Thomas Lamb (B. Snape, 1784) and his wife, Patience Taylor (B. Snape, 1788) and Samuel Dale (B. Brantham, 1791) and his wife, Susannah Story (B. Benhall, 1793) to the list. And, I can go back a generation further with the Lambs to yet another Thomas Lamb (b. circa 1750 in Snape).

Henry Mitchell (B. 1806) was John Mitchell's father. He was married to a lady named Anne - maiden name unknown - B. 1808 in Grays, Essex. Henry Marks was born in 1800. His wife was Mary - again, maiden name unknown - who was born in 1803 in Ilford, Essex. She, poor love, ended up in 1851 in the Romford Union Workhouse. That, tragically, is all I know about her. A similar fate befell a slightly more distant relative, Dorothy Bowman, born in 1762. In 1841 she was 'living on independent means' with one George Dodds, a sailor in Newgate Street, Morpeth according to the census. By 1851 she was an inmate at Newgate Street Union Workhouse, Morpeth (aged eighty nine). See what I mean about appreciating where you've come from?

James Elliott was born in Wooler, Northumberland in 1812. Memoria In Eterna has some further details about him. He was referred to by his widow, Mary Simpson, as 'a canny man.' The 1851 census states that he was living at 19 Foundry Place, Walker. 'His classification of trade was below that of his relation, Sandy Simpson. Sandy was a skilled plumber, whereas James Elliott was a "gangster"' his grandson, Albert, would write a century later. Gangster obviously, in this context meaning a member of a labouring gang as opposed to Don Vito Corelone! James died during the Cholera epidemic which swept Newcastle in 1854 whilst living on Bell Street in Walker. His wife, Mary Simpson (B. Scotland, 1820) appears to have been something of a smart lady. She already had a son - Alex - before marrying James. After her first husband's death, she lived for many years with - though, never seems to have actually married - a foundry worker named Robert Irving.

James Moffett (B. 'in a cottage on the hillside at Rothbury' in 1822 according to a lovely little detail Albert's article) was married to Isabella Bowman (B. Morpeth 1822) and here, my tree intersects with a massive branch. The Bowmans of Morpeth are a huge family - they deserve a tree all of their own, frankly - and they've been traced (by other researchers, I hasten to add) through Isabella's parents - William Bowman (B. Morpeth 1797) and Isabella Mosgrove or possibly Musgrove (B. Hinkley Redrow, Throckley 1798) on through half-a-dozen further generations all the way back to the early 1600s. According Albert Elliott's article, William Bowman 'as a young man was a Postillion on the carriages or coaches which travelled from Edinburgh to Morpeth.' The Bowmans also provide the only three genuinely 'famous' (or, at least notable) of this blogger's many relatives. Firstly William Woodman (b. 1806), who was married to one of the Bowman girls. He owned the one hundred and sixty acre Stobhill Farm and was first town clerk of Morpeth in the 1830s. Secondly, Edmund Bowman (b. 1807) who was a kind-of cut-price George Stephenson - a civil engineer who built the first railway link between Morpeth and Newcastle. And lastly, there was the noted landscape artist Thomas Bowman Garvie (1859-1942). Again, I'm very proud to be associated with all three of these - one a respected local official, another a man who helped - in his own small way - to build the modern world and the third a creative artistic type.

My great, great, great grandparents on my mum's mum's, mum's side were a bit more humble in origin, perhaps. William Agnew (B. Glasgow 1818), his wife, Sarah Young (B. Ireland, 1821) and William Johnston (B. Ireland, 1818) and his wife Allison Gaylor (B. Scotland, 1813). I have a few, scant, details on both Sarah Young's parents (James Young and Frances Dow who would have been married in Ireland sometime around 1810) and also the lineage of Allison Gaylor. And this is really interesting: Her father, John Gaylor married a lady who is described on various documents as Jane Topin, or Toppen, or Topping (b. Bo'Ness, Linlithgowshire, 1774). Circles within circles. (I have also traced her parents, James Topin or Toppen or Topping and Jane Cathrae).

I can go back a generation further on the Littles of Cumberland - John Little (B. Nether Denton, 1731) who married Margaret Graham (B. Lannercost, 1734) and, his father Richard Little (B. 1694 in Haydon Bridge) who was married to Jane Summerset or Sommerset (B. circa 1685). And the McMillans - James's parents being Anthony McMillan, a house carpenter (B. 1760, Garliestown, Wigtownshire) and Jean Gowan (or, possibly, McGowan). And the Lambs - Thomas Lamb (B. Benhall, circa 1750) who married Mary Knight (B. Suffolk circa 1750). And the Dales - William Dale (B. Suffolk, 1761) and his wife Mary Howard (B. Suffolk, 1767). As noted, they seemed to keep excellent parish records in Suffolk so I've also got details of Susannah Story's parents - John Story and Mary Hadnum (both born circa 1750).

Alexander Simpson (B. Midlothian, Scotland, 1797) and his wife, Agnes maiden name unknown (B. circa 1800) were Mary Simpson's parents whilst, William Moffett (B. Morpeth, 1779) and Jane Potts (B. Morpeth, 1780) were James Moffett's mother and father. After William Moffett's death, Jane reportedly ran the local hostility for many years. William's parents were James Moffett (B. 1756) and Isabel Wallis (B. 1756) who were living at Coatyards in Northumberland in the mid-1780s. William Bowman's mother was Jane Matfin (B. 1755) who married John Bowman in 1783.

There are numerous other side branches and subdivisions of a massive family tree which currently includes over seventeen hundred names but that's - in a nutshell - what one year of research has produced. At one stage, I had in my mind an idea for Roots-style book on all of this. Of course, Alex Haley had slavery and the Civil War as his back story, I've only got the Industrial Revolution and the potato famine so there are, probably, a mere twelve people in the world who would find some interest in it. But the notes are still here and, you never know, one day I might come back to it and novelise the whole thing like some sort of working man's Forsythe Saga. If, in ten years time you're sitting in an airport somewhere reading Descent by yer actual Keith Telly Topping, remember, you read the idea here first.