Monday, April 16, 2007

Research for my next trip to London

A friend of mine got me interested in researching my genealogy online. My family has actually already been pretty good about this, asking elder members about what they know while they’re still around to tell us. So as many census forms, ship passenger lists, and military records I have found, it hasn’t extended the chart another generation yet. But as my mother told me recently, it’s nice to have the documentation confirming what we thought.

My most recent find was a 1901 census from England containing my great-great grandparents and their children: Barney and his siblings. (Barney - The not-so-Irish great-grandfather born on March 17th.) Because of the census form, next time I’m in London I know what street to walk down.
For those of my readers familiar with London (and I know there are at least a couple) they lived in Marylebone, now part of Westminster, at 56 Wells Street, not too far from Hyde and Regent’s parks. (Yes, I looked it up on Google Maps). Apparently it’s part of the Soho/Noho area. Maybe while I’m walking down the street, I’ll eat some sushi.

Barney claimed in the bio he submitted to Who’s Who in North St. Louis - 1925 that he learned tailoring “at the London Polytechnic” and was “a student at Oxford.”
What is now Westminster University at that time was under the name of Regent Street Polytechnic, and was located at 309 Regent Street. Locals probably just called it Polytechnic, since that was a prior name, and it was at that time part of London. It’s only four to five blocks from where he lived, which got me to research the school a bit more.

My family has chuckled at the idea of him attending college when he probably never finished high school. But as it turns out, I think we may have been unfair. Regent Street Polytechnic’s founder, Quintin Hogg, had a mission “to provide for the athletic, intellectual, social and religious needs of young men, and to this end he provided a range of sporting and social facilities as well as an increasing range of educational and vocational classes.” It appears he received his training from a charitable institution not too much different from the one his great-grandson works for today.
Now, to his claim that he was a “student at Oxford.” He doesn’t say Oxford ‘College’ or ‘University’, which helps more than you might imagine. Oxford England is about sixty miles away, however, a quick look at the maps linked to above, and Wells Street intersects with Oxford Street, a few blocks from where the Oxford Circus underground stop is today, and was in 1901, though then it was part of the Central London Railway.

So it seems likely that Barney was a ’student of life’ on Oxford Street.

Direct Descendent of Greatness

Well…having exhausted research on one branch of my family tree (my father’s), I went to my mother’s. Her family, especially the ones that came over from Holland in the 1600-1700s have done a great job of tracking their ancestry. has this thing called One-World-Tree, where everyone enters their trees, and thus there’s a chance of trees combining.

I found my mother’s mother on this One-World-Tree and then asked them the question: Any Famous Relatives?

I nearly fainted with the results.

Presidents: Ford, Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, Fillmore
Entertainers: Elvis Presley, Shirley Temple, Humphrey Bogart
Writers: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury

But all of these are distant cousins, several times removed. Fun, but not the cherry at the top of this Sundae.

My 18th Great Grandfather (YES! 18th!) lived from 1343 - 1400. He wrote poetry. I’m going to say no more. You can look it up on Google. 1343 1400 poet. Top results. There was only one person living from 1343-1400 writing poetry that I would be this excited about anyway. Yes. Him!

I know this is completely dependent upon the fact that everyone involved entered their family tree correctly. Shush!

I am SO including this in every bio I send to editors from now on!