This week’s #52ancestors subject is Maps and I have struggled to find something to write about. I could write about ancestors who traversed the world and went to Australia or I could talk about mapping the smaller travels of ancestors around the county of Sussex. But then I decided to look at three mapping issues that I was reminded of yesterday. I am currently reading ‘Our Village Ancestors, A Genealogist’s Guide to Understanding the English Rural Past’ by Helen Osborn (the co-founder of Pharos Tutors). I am really enjoying the book and was particularly struck again by what I read yesterday in Chapter 3, The Land and The Farmer and thought I would share my musings.
We tend to look at a parish level when searching for ancestors but we need to think more regionally. If we look at Sussex in particular which is where most of my ancestors lived, we have a number of regions – the Kent and Sussex Weald, the South Downs, the marshes and the Coast. These regions are not nicely delineated by parish or county boundaries. Our ancestors would not have conducted there lives within the one parish, they would have criss crossed the region, according to their job, for instance a shepherd would have stayed on the South Downs but crossing parishes.
I have a number of families on my tree who came from Wartling. Now for me, you say Wartling and I immediately think of that tiny village with the church and the pub. But if you look at the parish it is large and sprawling and almost has two parts to it. I learnt quickly if I couldn’t find an ancestor being baptised, married or buried in Wartling, check the parishes around all the way up to Warbleton and Ashburnham parishes. Thomas Simmons my great x4 grandfather farmed at Cowden Farm in the parish of Wartling and was buried there in 1871 along with members of his family, but in terms of daily life would have been much closer to Bodle Street Green.
Something I am just getting to grips with at the moment, in my genealogical research is the issue of Manors. I have many Ag Labs in my ancestry who would have worked on a farm owned by or tenanted by a farmer and maybe part of a larger estate. Sometimes the owner of that estate might have had farms or other estates in other parts of the county of even different counties and labourers would have been sent to work at those other farms. I am wondering if that might explain why Smith Rhoades my great x3 grandfather was born in Orby, Lincolnshire in 1833 and ended up by 1860 in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex. He lived the rest of his life in Sussex and was buried at Aldrington, Sussex in 1919. I find the Victoria County Histories really useful for reading about manors.
Lastly something I found particularly difficult to get my head around when I started my genealogical journey was my ancestors who straddled the county borders, particularly the three counties, Sussex, Kent, and Surrey where they move between East Grinstead and Lingfield and Edenbridge with ease between the generations, making for interesting searching between three county record offices and a number of family history societies. Ancestry very early on added the Surrey BMDs to its website which were really useful in searching around Lingfield and my own county of Sussex with the Sussex Family History Group databases had good coverage of East Grinstead but Kent has proved more difficult and I have a list of ancestors that could not be found in the above two counties and need to be searched for when I get chance, over the border in Kent. A website I have used time and time again for the Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex and I found has transcribed BMDs for Edenbridge is The Weald
Please feel free to add your comments on my musings, anything you agree with or disagree with, I would love to hear them.