Featured post

22 Feb 2022

Courting - Week 8: 52 Ancestors

Family photo taken to France

A few years ago, the widow of my only first cousin on my dad's side, Philip Davis (1948-2007) sent me a packet of photos, some of which I'd never seen before. 

Imagine my delight when I found one well-handled photo postcard which was fully inscribed, unlike the other copy of the same photo I already possessed.

I soon realised this photo must have been taken to the Northern Front by my grandfather Sydney George Tucker who had died of war injuries just three days after being demobbed in 1919.

In my granny Tucker's handwriting, the card is fully inscribed with important family anniversaries and I can see exactly how old each child was at the time. Previously I was simply guessing that it was taken in 1915 when he first enlisted after years in the volunteer forces.

However, it was taken on 22 April 1917, just before he was sent to France.  He had undertaken significant training in the new craft of aircraft artillery, based in the south of England, as well as coastal guard duties.  Being a family man, I guess he was reluctant to join up in 1914, especially since the war was likely to be over by Christmas.  Or so they thought.

Family birthdates, courting and marriage dates
Here is the back of the postcard.  It shows that my father Bob was just two years and 10 months old at the time.

His sister Jessie was eight and sister Cecily was seven.

Edith Annie Tucker's wish was not granted.  Yes, he came home after being hospitalised for 15 months to heal his physical injuries, but his psychological injuries were too much to bear.

On 31 March 1919, he was granted a temporary disability pension for 12 months.  He was in the Southampton War Hospital at the time, having fallen off the Southampton Walls and injured himself.

Three days later, still in hospital, he committed suicide.

21 Feb 2022

Females - Week 9: 52 Ancestors

Joined by mtDNA

Earlier this year, I posted a photo in Facebook of my sister, her daughter and me, stating that we all shared the same mtDNA. Well, I expect we do - I am the only family member to have bothered spending the money to see.  Family Tree DNA, the only genealogical company to offer this service found that my mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup H.  To be precise, I belong to subgroup H1a1a.  I shall not go into the science - it wasn't my favourite subject at school.

Neither have I found mtDNA to be much use in solving my family tree brick walls.  I simply have not got enough maternal great aunts in my mother's ancestry.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed down to both females and males by their mother, but only females pass it on to their children. It does not mutate much, less than one in a hundred according to Scientific American.  It is suggested that 12 generations of females are likely to carry identical mtDNA. . The H haplogroup is one of the most common in Europe.  Approximately 40% of the female population shares it. This haplogroup is thought to have originated near Syria and has since spread throughout Europe, particularly Spain and to North Africa.

At the moment, I can only trace my presumed mitochondrial DNA back five generations, all in Kent, England.  My mitochondrial 3x great grandmother was Elizabeth Terry who was born in Dartford, Kent in 1789 and was buried in Ightham, Kent in 1876, having first married Henry Ashby who died in 1853 and then her lodger William Vaughan, another agricultural labourer in 1867. This family must have been very poor - they were living on the Ightham Common, next door to one of Elizabeth's married daughters and her family. Elizabeth Terry's great granddaughter Kate Palmer - my birth grandmother - was also living there with her grandmother Elizabeth Ashby in 1891.

Ancestry has a suggestion that Elizabeth Terry's mother was Ann West from the neighbouring village of Plaxtol but I cannot prove that.

The mitochondrial DNA extends down another two generations from me, since my sister's daughter also has a daughter.  I shall probably not live to see if it goes any further since my gorgeous little grandniece is only eight years old.  Unless customs change dramatically, she won't think about having children for another twenty to thirty years.

17 Feb 2022

Landed: Week 7 - John Tucker Jr of Landford

Landford St Andrews church

As I began researching my Tucker ancestors in Hampshire and Wiltshire in the 19th-century census and baptismal records, I found that all of them were described as either labourers of some sort or agricultural labourers. Many of the widows were laundresses and their daughters were domestic servants.  Some were even described as paupers. Additionally, many of them were illiterate, especially the women.

My 3x great grandfather George Tucker (1802-1886) and his wife Hannah were living on the Downton Common by 1871.  Most of the common land in Landford and Hamptworth where they worked and probably lived as tenanted labourers were enclosed by 1861.  They could no longer supplement their labouring wages with grazing their stock and foraging for food or timber in these now private properties.

By 1881, George - now a widower - was living in the region's Poor House at Alderbury.  This often served as an aged care facility for the few people like him who lived into old age.  I often wonder why neither of his locally married daughters could not take him in.  Maybe they too lived in crowded housing with too many children.

Extending my search to siblings of these 19th-century ancestors, I found them most of them also were described as agricultural labourers.  It was only when some of them moved to towns and cities and compulsory education became the norm that their offspring were able to gain a middle-class standard of living. By the Edwardian period, my Tucker great grandparents in Southampton were sending their sons to private schools and their wives were well-educated.  They moved to better areas of town and built or bought property.

However, once I began researching 18th-century records, mostly through the Wiltshire Archives, I discovered that my Tucker ancestors had a higher standard of living, if not a more comfortable life.  The earliest records I could find were at Minstead, Hampshire. Some of them were yeoman farmers - generally leasing land from the landed gentry.  Some held copyhold title ie the lease was passed on to them by their father or other relatives.

Some did very well, better than their yeoman farming ancestors.  John Tucker 1799-1773 was first a blacksmith with apprentices in Bramshaw on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border but by 1735 he had moved to Landford, Wiltshire where he was a very successful farmer, able to leave his daughter Mary 500 pounds and his son John all his other freehold property and assets.  He was not the oldest son, so whether he married particularly well or was an excellent blacksmith, I do not know.

Whilst studying the Pharos Tutors Family History Skills & Strategies (Intermediate) Certificate in 2013, I researched and wrote about a will of my ancestor's first cousin John Tucker (1736-1811).  He was not "landed gentry" but he was certainly a gentleman farmer.  I doubt he got his hands particularly dirty.

Will of John Tucker, proved 1812 at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury

The will

This document from the Wills Register at the National Archives PROB 11/1538/130 (Catalogue Reference) is the Will of John Tucker, gentleman of Landford,  proved 14th October 1812 at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.  The will was dated 3rd July 1811.

The Salisbury and Winchester Journal of Monday, May 25th, 1812 announced:

“On Sunday the 17th instant died, Mr. John Tucker, of Landford, in this county, aged 76 years; a truly honest and upright character.”

Summary of the will

After stating his good health and mental state, he desires that all his just debts and financial exposure be settled, as well as the expenses relating to proving the will and discharging his debts.

He gives powers to settle his debts and money owing to him, to sell or auction his property and possessions to his executors, John Hicks (yeoman of Landford), Thomas Wilmot (solicitor and gentleman of Salisbury) and John Saunders the younger, gentleman of Broughton in the County of Southampton.

He leaves his plate and china to three female friends, Sarah Doyley of Fisherton Anger (near Salisbury) and Ann and Sarah Burke, daughters of Nathaniel Burke of Ipswich, surgeon.

His property consisting of a “freehold messuage, tenement or dwelling house wherein I now live with the garden, orchard, barn backside and one piece of Meadow” situated at Landford, and also other properties, freehold, lifehold, leasehold and copyhold, various acreages, a blacksmith’s shop;  freehold, leasehold, copyhold pieces or parcels of meadow bushy or arable land which he holds under Corpus Christi Oxford College[i] which he holds in his own life and the life of William Bishop situated living and being in Landford; and all his books, furniture, silver and other possessions of whatever quality are to be sold in whatever way the .

The monies raised are to be used in the following ways:

·       to invest £500, the interest from which is to be used to educate and maintain until the age of 21, a child Thomas Jeffrey Bumstead, the son of the late Rev James Hewett Bumstead, and after the age of 21 to give him the principal sum for his own use.

·       To provide annuities for some cousins (first and second) with legacies- James Winter £15 per annum; William Bishop, a servant of Fritham and George Tucker of Hamptworth (a second cousin) £8/10/- per annum, paid quarterly.  George Tucker was the older brother of my direct ancestor William Tucker.

·       To provide legacies for a large number of first and second cousins of between £30 and £50.  Most of them were labourers.  He also left his second cousin Sarah Maury (nee Tucker) £100 and another £50 if she was living with him at the time of his death.  He also left the previously mentioned friends Sarah Doyley (£100) and Sarah and Ann Burke (£300 between them) and the relatives of his late wife Sarah Moulton (£200).

Any additional monies raised from the sale of his properties was to be shared amongst all his first and second cousins.

Death duties

These were recorded in 1812 at the Canterbury PC, with John Hicks and others paying the duties[ii].


John Tucker’s will was crucial for my family history research, since it, and his father, another John Tucker’s 1773 will provided me with information that connected my direct ancestor William Tucker (1764-1843) born in Hamptworth, back to William Tucker of Fritham near Bramshaw, Wilts whose will was proved in 1712[iii] and his wife Mary whose will was proved in 1724. 

The testator’s father John Tucker senior (c1700-1773) was the younger brother of my 6th great-grandfather William Tucker (1697-?) born in Bramshaw, Wilts who was a yeoman of Hale near Downton, and was a grantee for the administration of his mother-in-law Mary Henbest’s estate in 1745. William married Christian Henbest from Bramshaw in 1724.  In succeeding generations, the Tucker families were baptised, married, lived, worked and died in the parishes of Downton, Landford and the district of Hamptworth, a corn and sheep raising community within walking distance of both villages.

The Parish of Landford and its surrounding districts

Nowadays, Landford is a scattered commuter community divided by the A36, but in 1801, 12 years before John Tucker died, it was a thriving agricultural village of 186 people, 97 males and 89 females with 37 families living in 32 households. Nearly everyone was employed in agriculture, 148 people, with only 13 employed in trade, manufacturers or handicrafts. [iv]

It had grown from 80 people in 1675[v].  Landford and its near neighbours Bramshaw, Downton, and Hamptworth were agricultural parishes which in the early 1800s were undergoing great changes, both through the continuing enclosure of lands, and the mechanisation of farm machinery.  It is likely that the Tuckers were beneficiaries of these changes, unlike some of their relative who became agricultural labourers by the 19the century.  Downton would continue to grow, particularly after the coming of the railways by 1844, but not before its population and that of nearby towns was poverty stricken through famine and changing economic times.

Our testator John Tucker died during the Napoleonic wars, and the parish records show that he was a churchwarden, handing out alms to soldiers who were passing through the village, probably on their way home from the ports. The old road from Salisbury to Totton went through Landford and Bramshaw. But otherwise, it is unlikely the war affected the village much.  Landford was a mixed agricultural village, with arable land and pastures, and on the edge of the New Forest where doubtless some villagers would have been employed as woodsmen.  Common areas were reducing rapidly, and many fields were enclosed.

A man of substance

During the visitation of the Bishop in 1783[vi], John Tucker was described in the Glebe terrier as a gentleman farmer who occupied Whitehouse Farm and had several other small holdings.  He also owned Landford Cottage, and farmed on a substantial scale.  The UK Land Tax Redemption record of 1798[vii] shows he leased four land-holdings from John Eyre, Esq. one of two of the large landowners in the area.  He also had copyhold of another property owned by the other, Robert Dumcom Shafto, to which he added the oldest son of my 4th great grandfather as a third party.[viii]

It is obvious from the will that John Tucker was a man of substantial means, doing well from his freehold, lifehold, leasehold and copyhold properties.  He had a good start in life.  There was evidence of Tucker holdings in Landford from 1708[ix].  His father, John was a blacksmith in Bramshaw in 1730[x] (Apprenticeship record for John Hatch, indentured to John Tucker) but by 1735 he was listed as a constable in Landford[xi]. He would have been an experienced farmer as well, working for his father William Tucker, a farmer of Bramshaw.  But as a younger son he didn’t inherit property, and would have had to start out on his own, opening a blacksmith’s shop in Landford. He died in 1773, a yeoman farmer leaving his son property and a blacksmith’s shop.  John Snr may have been a beneficiary of the land enclosure, and as a blacksmith in a village with a rising population, he may have done well.  He would have educated his son John, and even his own father William Tucker of Bramshaw could sign his name.

John Jr did not leave any of his estate to the parish, which seems unusual for the 19th century, but he was very loyal to his own extended family, particularly those who were not as prosperous as he was.  Many of them were labourers, including my ancestor William Tucker, his second cousin (more correctly in genealogical rules his first cousin once removed), who was left £50.  William’s older brother George, a labourer who was involved in settling his estate and earlier described as a yeoman was left an annuity of £8/10/-.  He was to live another 20 years.  Like John Jr, George had no children.

Being a gentleman farmer, John Tucker would have had the leisure to keep up a circle of distant friends.  No family connection can be found with the Bumstead family.  Thomas Jeffrey Bumstead, the legatee was born in Broughton Gifford in 1799 and became a minister.  He died in 1883 with a personal estate of £10,397 2s 9d[xii], so he was given a good start through this legacy.

John Tucker Jnr had married Sarah Moulton in Landford in 1789, the daughter of William Moulton of Boxford, Suffolk and she died in 1809.  He remembered her relatives with a legacy.  He also had a soft spot for spinster friends with china and legacies being left to three women, presumably all family friends.

Winding up the estate

His administrators were kept busy, with advertisements appearing in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal:

·       Monday June 8th, 1812 – calling for persons indebted to the estate to pay their debts; and all those who have demands on the estate to present their accounts;

·       Monday 15th June, 1812 – notice of an auction of “seven clever draft horses… fit for wagon masters or brewers; three narrow-wheel wagons, two broad-wheel dung cart carts and much more; farming utensils, free hold and leasehold estates, dwelling house, furniture, crops of corn on ground on different farms, dairy cows, young beasts.

·       Monday September 28th, 1812 – notice of auction on late Mr Tucker’s premises of remaining property – with description of furniture, animals, brewing and animal utensils.


The will therefore not only gave us information about John Tucker’s status, lifestyle, his date of death, an indication of where to look for advertisements of property sale, but also a list of relations and their relationships to him.

[i] I could find no reference to explain this.  Did he hold a lease for land owned by Corpus Christi College, Oxford?  Or was it a form of lease?

[ii] www.findmypast.co.uk Index to death duty registers 1796 – 1903, 1812 (image from National Archives)

[iii] http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk Wills P24/693 Probate records of the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury

[v] Ings, Stephen Landford: a Wiltshire village in the New Forest.  Landford, Wilts, Laneford Books, 2005 p 54.

[vi], Ibid, p 64

[vii] www.ancestry.co.uk UK, Land Tax Redemption, 1798

[viii] www.history.wiltshire.gov.uk/archives/  Wiltshire and Swindon Archives Catalogue Item 610/24 Lease and counterpart inserting a third life into a lease for two lives (19 December 1770) Consideration money £200.

[ix] www.history.wiltshire.gov.uk/archives/ Wiltshire and Swindon Archives Catalogue Item 610/18-22 Tucker property.

[x] www.ancestry.co.uk UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures, 1710-1811

[xi] Ings, Stephen, ibid., page 57

[xii] www.ancestry.co.uk England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966 Record for Thomas Jeffery Bumpsted

8 Feb 2022

Maps - Week 6: 52 Ancestors: The Southampton Blitz

Bombing of Southampton in November 1940
In 1940, my father Bob Tucker was still smarting over his rejection by the Army on medical grounds a year earlier.  He could have been in Egypt with some of his workmates, defending Britain, his country of birth.

It wasn’t until 1941 that he was required to sign up.  Wearing spectacles didn’t matter by the time Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.

Meanwhile, his mother Edith Annie Tucker was probably thankful - for the first time - that she no longer lived in her hometown Southampton where two of her sisters, Harriet and Kate still lived or indeed in London where two more sisters - Alice and Minnie - lived.

In 1940, Germany commenced bombing raids on London and other English towns.  As England’s premier military port and the home of the spitfire manufacturing, Southampton was a sitting duck for the German air raids. Starting in 1939, many children were evacuated to inland towns in neighbouring counties.

In June 1940, the anticipated air raids began. Many of the attacks were during the day, targeting manufacturing plants such as the Supermarine factory in the suburb of Bitterne where the Spitfires were manufactured.  The work was later spread throughout Southampton and environs but the Germans obviously had good information since these locations were subject to attacks as were air-raid shelters to which the workers would flee.

Later that year on November 30 and December 1, 700 bombs rained down on the docks and the commercial city areas.  This became known as the Southampton Blitz.  In 2016, the Ordnance Survey created a map that shows where each of those 700 bombs fell on those two dreadful nights. The National Archives and the Southampton City Council provided significant assistance to the Ordnance Office to produce the map, shown above.

My great aunt Harriet, a teacher and my great aunt Kate, formerly a bookbinder and by that time both in their 50s and 60s, must have been terrified. Although both were married, neither of them had children.  They remained in Southampton, doing what they could and later writing and sending care packages to my father in New Guinea.  Both of them remembered my father fondly, having assisted my grandmother feed and cloth him after she was widowed in 1919.

Two decades earlier, my father’s Reed grandmother, mother and aunts had been running a tea room and confectionery business in East Street, trading out of the debt left after their master baker father had died prematurely in 1915.  It had closed, debt-free after their mother died in 1924.  But nevertheless, they would have grieved the devastation of East Street, a thriving commercial centre in1940. Their Rose grandfather, George Henry, a butcher had died at 19-20 East Street in 1901 with his Reed family by his side.

Rose and Roger descendants were busily running their pork butchery in Upper Canal Walk, as was still-young widow Edith Tucker, my great grandfather’s second wife in the Canal Walk music dealership she inherited in 1924. The Blitz saw the end of those businesses. Eventually, East Street was renewed as a shopping centre but the area around Upper Canal Walk is now an ugly car park.

St Michael's steeple in middle of photo
Many of the churches they attended in the 19th century became smoking ruins, except for St Michael’s at the end of Vyse Lane where John Rose’s large family lived for three decades in the mid-19th century.  It has been said that the German pilots used its steeple as a landmark, enabling them to target specific buildings including the Civic Centre.

A family tale is that John Rose would take sanctuary in St Michael’s for hours or sometimes days whilst he was bringing in favours to pay his various fines and gambling debts.

The large church of St Mary’s, where many of my father’s ancestors were baptised was restored, but many other churches were not.  In fact, the Old Town within and Below the Walls on its perimeter is now a sad mixture of 1960’s residential Council flats, what remains of the old Town Walls and heritage buildings which somehow missed the severe damage or were able to be restored.

One benefit of the bombing is that the reparation effort after the war accelerated the housing renewal program.  Many of my ancestors endured extremely insanitary,  otherwise unhealthy and crowded housing, whilst others who could afford it - successful small business people - moved further out to London Road to the north and Fremantle, a new suburb in the Edwardian period.  Many of the poorer townsfolk had been living in long-condemned houses.

Altogether, more than 30,000 incendiaries and 2,300 bombs were dropped on homes, shops and factories, as well as port and military installations in Southampton and 631 people, were killed.  A further 898 were seriously injured and 1,000 houses were destroyed.

No wonder the Southampton my father left in 1924 was no longer recognisable and the street map had completely changed by the time I first visited in 1974.

Southampton Blitz. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southampton_Blitz#  accessed 22/1/21