Wednesday 24 October 2012

How things have changed ...

Yesterday I decided to make a collection of family history stories as part of this blog, so I dug out a piece I wrote years ago, to start it off.  In fact I believe this may have been the very first family history article I ever wrote.  It was for the Isle of Axholme Family History Society's journal The Islonian and was published in their June 1997 edition.

More About the Maws (first published June 1997)

My (first) husband’s 3 x great grandmother was Milcah Maw from Wroot, in the Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire (baptism 18 April 1818).  Last year (1995) I did a family tree for a Christmas present for my ex-parents-in-law and discovered the wonderful world of family history.  Jean, my ex-mother in law, had her grandmother’s death certificate with the unusual name of Melika Martha Marsden.  The name remained in my mind all the way through my searches, it sort of ring!  I was able to trace much of the family tree in Sheffield.  All the ancestors were buffers, grinders, cutlers – the sort of trades you might expect in Sheffield.  The Marsden family were different.  They lived in Nether Edge, Cherry Tree Hill, a very nice part of town in those days 1860 – 1890  I was shown how to use the census indexes (incidentally all of the centre of Sheffield is indexed 1841 – 1871, the outlying parts depend on who did it and where you want,) and romped along through the ancestors back to 1841.  Melika Martha’s grandmother (as shown on her father Henry James’ birth certificate) was Milcah formerly Maw.  In 1851 she is called Millicent on the census.  Maybe the enumerator thought Milcah wasn’t a proper name.  I did not understand about the problems of transcription and enumerator bias then, but I do now, after a year of “Oh well, it’s near enough”.  Her place of birth is given as Wroot, Lincolnshire.  I had to look this up in an atlas and was surprised to find Wroot is only a few miles from my parents’ home in Everton, near Bawtry (this becomes important later).
A lot of my family history happens by chance discovery.  If you don’t know a thing exists, how do you know to ask about it?  Thus with the IGI, I heard an elderly man telling a lady sitting near me in the Local Studies Library about the ‘Morman Index’.  It sounded fascinating so I went and had a look.  I was amazed to find the Arts and Social Sciences Library (in the Central Library in Sheffield) had all the counties of England to the year dot.  At once I looked up Lincolnshire and found Milcah Maw at once, her unusual name stood out from all the other Maws.  Once I got the hang of the index I traced the Maw and Morris family back quite a long way through the lists of Thomases and Susannahs.
I gave my completed family tree to my ex-parents-in-law for Christmas 1995.  They were interested but not especially so, but for myself I was hooked.
The next time I visited my parents at Everton I asked if we could detour via Wroot on the way from Doncaster.  Dad complied and we found the little church at the far side of the village.  A man was just closing up the church and we asked if we could look around the graveyard.  He wanted to know what name we were interested in and when we said Maw he told us, “Ah … one of the most common names in the Isle of Axholme … lots over there behind the church, mind the brambles.”  Then he left us to it.
None of the Maws we saw that day made any sense to me but it was interesting anyway, so I decided to go a step further.  You understand that this was now going beyond a mere family tree and into the realms of “I just want to know.”
In the last year I have visited Lincoln Archives twice, read all the Wroot registers they have there, copied out all the Maw entries in the censuses in the Lincoln Library 1841 – 1891 for Wroot and looked in the Trade Directories.  I even wrote to the Maw One Name Society person in Canada but he was not interested in North Lincolnshire Maws other than to be aware they existed.  I went back to Wroot and copied down some of the inscriptions and was able to fit many of these into my mega Wroot Maw Tree (2 pieces of A2 taped together).
I have names, I have dates, now I want to know more about the Maws.  Wroot is such a little place and once it was full of Maws.  I cannot find any in the modern  phone book now although some of the gravestones were relatively recent.  I wonder where they all went?  Did they all leave for the big city like Milcah or did some go even further away, abroad even?
I hope I have explained my fascination with the Maws from Wroot.  They aren’t even my ancestors but they are my children’s.  I would like to know about Wroot in general and the Maws in particular.  My family tree has linked nearly all the Maws in Wroot into one family going back to Thomas Maw marrying Dorothy Auckland in 1668 so any Maw Wroot connection is relevant.
I also hope you see that I am only a beginner at family history.  There are many things I don’t know or haven’t tried yet.  I can ‘do’ censuses and parish records but am just beginning on wills for example.  Any help you can give will be appreciated.
So that was my first family history story, written at least 16 years ago.  Things I noticed when retyping this were how far family history research has moved on since then.  There was no mention of the internet for example and I was keeping my information on paper rather than in a computer program.  Census returns up to 1911 in England and 1940 in America are now available and can be search instantly online. 

You might be wondering whether I got any responses to the article and what more I know about the family these days.  There were no responses about Wroot itself, however I did make contact with a descendant of Maws who had emigrated to America.  Even more amazing they had emigrated in the 1850s and 1860s. 

Robert Maw left England in 1854 and then his father Edward (aged 53 at this point) followed in 1862, accompanied by a married son with his wife and children, together with Edward's surviving younger children.  He had been married three times at this point and lost all three wives.  They had borne 14 children, of whom only Robert, his brother Abraham and sisters Sarah and Alice made it to Utah.  Two daughters (one aged 22 and one just 1 year old) died "On the Plains" as they journeyed across America by wagon train.  Edward married again in Utah and had four more children.  This information was sent to me by a great grandson of Sarah Maw who is the fifth cousin three times removed of my children.  Edward Maw was the first cousin once removed of Milcha Maw who left Wroot for Sheffield.

I wonder if the Maws left behind ever heard from the emigrants? 

You can search for Mormon ancestors who emigrated to America on their Mormon Migration website.  There are passenger lists and extracts from diaries with stories about their journeys.  The IGI is now part of a huge online resource at the Family Search site.

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