Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Visiting Ann

Several months ago I was going over some old research and found a new reference on ancestry.co.uk. to my husband's 3xGreat-Grandmother, Ann Elms (nee Jones).

It was a record from the Register of Private Graves at The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. The record gave details of the grave's purchase by Ann's husband, Benjamin John Elms, and notes Ann's interment in the grave.

I then found a second reference from the Register of Burials in the year 1866 at The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. 

Once I knew that Ann was there I wanted to plan a visit to the cemetery. It so happened that we had a holiday to Europe planned later in the year so we included a stay in London and a visit to the cemetery on our itinerary.

I learnt about The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Parkan independent charity that looks after Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (the current name for The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery). I found a wealth of information  about the cemetery and its history plus an offer from The Friends to provide assistance in locating graves. 

Several weeks prior to our intended visit I wrote to The Friends and received a reply that I had been put on a list of enquiries to be dealt with by volunteers and that it may take some time to get help from them.

As we were driving up to London last week my husband asked if I had heard back from The Friends and I indicated that I hadn't. We resolved to visit the cemetery on our own and try to locate the grave by ourselves.  

Robert was anxious to honour his ancestor
After we settled in our hotel a few hours later  I received an email from the Heritage Officer at the cemetery who said "Do you have a copy of the burial record/s or at least a burial number for Ann? Happy to help but we need the grave number to assist. If you are visiting on Monday I may be able to meet you on site to help with the location."  I responded immediately. As it was after business hours we didn't expect an immediate response and resolved to visit the cemetery on Monday.

As we were heading out last Monday morning we heard from Claire Stack the Heritage Officer  "Thank you for those documents, that's all I need. I can do anytime from 10am today." We agreed to meet at 10am.

We received a warm welcome from Claire whose passion for her work and love of her workplace were evident. Claire had access to information not on Ancestry that enabled her to take us to the old area in the cemetery where the grave could be found. 

Ann's grave was somewhere among the ivy and brambles 

Claire and Robert started looking through the undergrowth and stinging nettles in the appropriate section and, after just a few minutes, Claire called that she had found it. There was a headstone but it was covered in ivy which obliterated the inscription.

Headstone covered in ivy

Mindful of the fragility of the headstone Claire asked Robert not to pull the ivy off but to remove the leaves and try to break off the ivy at the base of the headstone. This we did.

It appeared as though Ann's husband, Benjamin John Elms, had intended for this to be a grave for the whole family. The inscription at the top of the headstone is "The family grave of  Benjamin & Anne Elms of Poplar." I have not yet been able to locate Benjamin's final resting place in 1872. The Register of graves indicates that there is only interment.

The inscription revealed

Robert, a happy descendant

She is not lost but only gone before
I hope we meet her on a brighter shore
Where we shall never part again
Lord be it so - Amen Amen

Being able to honour an ancestor was a rewarding activity on the last day of our holiday.

Our thanks go Claire for her warm welcome and assistance in locating Ann's grave. We would never have found it without Claire's care and kindness. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Back in the Saddle

I'm settling in at home after a seven week journey around Northern Europe and the UK. While the trip was mostly for pleasure I managed some research while visiting a cousin in Wiltshire and during our time in London.

Prior to setting off on our next holiday I have a few gigs on the agenda.

On Friday 1st September I am hosting the SAG's Weekly Hangout with the topic being Patres Nostri: paternal tales. I love these events that give members an opportunity to share and hear each others stories. Through my participation I get to chat with and learn from so many SAG members from around Australia and New Zealand.

Saturday 2nd September takes me to the newest library in our neighbourhood at Sugar Valley to present an introductory session on DNA.

On Friday 8th September I will be presenting a session Genealogy for All at the Free Family History Fair that precedes our State Conference which is being hosted by the Wyong Family History Group. 

I'm hoping to catch up with some genimates and meet new family history fanatics at these events

Saturday, August 19, 2023

A Genimate in London

We capped off our genealogy day by spending a few hours and sharing a pleasant dinner with genimate and font of knowledge on all things English, Graham A Walter.

There's always plenty to talk about when genealogy is involved

Graham and Jill

Chasing down the Elms

We went chasing Robert's Elms ancestors at Tower Hamlets Archive and Bancroft Road library in London today. 

The archive is housed in a beautiful old building which needs an injection of funds for some necessary maintenance. The mish-mash of furniture is at odds with the heritage features of the building. 

The public area of the Archive

The four staff we encountered were most agreeable and took an interest in our quest. There were many local resources available plus PCs with internet access that were loaded with several local and commercial databases. As use of the services and resources at this facility is free we did not quibble about paying the 7 pounds 50 cents fee to use our camera to take images of the resources/.

In addition to the main research area there is an entry foyer that has a selection of new and secondhand resources for sale.

Entry Foyer

While we didn't find as much information as we hoped we confirmed that the Elms were landowners in Poplar in the early 19th century. We were also able to pinpoint the locations of Elms Cottages in Poplar where the family lived for several decades. We have several photos of documents to review once we recover from our holiday.

We thank the local authorities at Tower Hamlets for their commitment to local and family history and preserving these resources for future generations. 


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