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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Have Fun Exploring North Northumberland's Heritage

This weekend (9-11 September) is Heritage Open Days in England. There are a number of events taking place in Berwick and North Northumberland which may be of interest. This includes the Ravensdowne and Greenses Walks.  The following is a selective list:

Friday 9 September

Georgian Berwick – a walk down Ravensdowne led by Linda Bankier.
Find out about the people who lived there in the past and how the street developed. Starts 2.30 pm at the Parade Car Park.
Booking via Berwick Tourist Information (01670) 622155 or email

Saturday 10 September

The Greenses -  walk around the Greenses area of Berwick.
Come and find out about the people who lived there and the nature of the community. Starts 10.30am at the corner of Bell Tower Place and the High Greens.
Booking via Berwick Tourist Information (01670) 622155 or email

A Hint of History at Spittal Point - an historical walk around Spittal.
Starts 1pm at Carr Rock.

Berwick Castle Tour  - find out about the history of Berwick Castle.
Starts 9.30am and 1.30pm. Meet at Railway Street.

From Ditch to Bastion – Find out about Berwick’s medieval defences.
Starts 11.30am and 3.30pm at entrance to Berwick Holiday Camp.

Masonic Hall – find out about the history of the building, situated in the Parade and erected in 1872.
Open 10am-4pm.
The Trewe Description of Her Majesties Towne of Barwick – a walk led by Catherine Kent around Elizabethan Berwick finding out about the town’s 16th century buildings and inhabitants. Starts 2.30pm at The Louvre, Bankhill.

Georgian Berwick  - a walk down Ravensdowne led by Linda Bankier.
Find out about the people who lived there in the past and how the street developed. Starts 2.30pm at the Parade Car Park.
Booking via Berwick Tourist Information (01670) 622155 or email

Belford Hidden History Museum Open Day – come and visit the museum and find out about the area in 1916; Middleton Hall and the suicide at the Blue Bell.
Open 10am-4pm.

Sunday 11 September

Belford Hidden History Museum Open Day – come and visit the museum and find out about the area in 1916; Middleton Hall and the suicide at the Blue Bell.
Open 10am-4pm.

Archaeology and Artichokes – Discover some of Berwick’s history at the Lion’s Allotments. Starts 12.30pm and 4pm at the Allotments on the Walls.

 The Tower Tour – Find out about 500 years of Berwick’s history in 500 yards.
Starts 10am and 11.30am at Ness Gate.

 The Trewe Description of Her Majesties Towne of Barwick – a walk led by Catherine Kent around Elizabethan Berwick finding out about the town’s 16th century buildings and inhabitants.
Starts 2.30pm at The Louvre, Bankhill.

Flodden Battlefield Walk – guided walk over the battlefield at Flodden.
Starts 2pm at the car park opposite Branxton Church

 The Battle of Flodden – come and find out about the documentary evidence which exists about the Battle of Flodden; the work of Tillvas, enjoy some children’s activities or try your hand at reading old handwriting.
From 11am to 3.30pm in Branxton Village Hall.

Full list of Heritage Open Days events in Northumberland and the rest of England

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

From Barbara Wright (née Lane) of Cumbria.

I have been researching my ancestry for many years and visited Berwick Record Office some time ago before the start of this wonderful project.

I have been trying in vain to find out who was married to William Sharpe, (born probably about 1590/1600) in the late 1620s.
I think William Sharpe is my 8th great grandfather but search as I might, I can't locate the source of this person so it may be another name entirely. My American contact seems to think it should be William Robert.

When was William born and where and is there other information about him?
Was William a burgess/freeman?

He had a son, Edward, born in 1630. This Edward married Fortune Richardson who was born about 1633 and together they had Edward, born on 29th July 1658. This Edward died, it seems, in 1672.

Later in 1671, Robert was born to Edward and Fortune and married Elizabeth Blackhell/Blackhall. Robert is my ancestor.

Another Edward was born to Fortune and Edward Sharpe senior in 1675 and from contacts I have through my DNA test we believe this Edward went via Ireland to America. I am in contact with someone in Mississippi, USA, who is doing the same early Berwick research but is descended from Edward Sharpe junior.

Another friend and myself have also extensively researched the Fortune Sharpe connection with Charles Mace and Francis, his son. Francis' daughter, Jane Mace, married into my Fenwick side of the family. John Fenwick was a tailor and I have often wondered if he, in early days, did an apprenticeship in Berwick .After marrying Jane they lived in County Durham.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Reduced Prices on 1841, 1851, 1861 Census Transcriptions at Borders Family History Society and Northumberland & Durham Family History Society

There was little welfare available before the 20th century, so people had to find work and that might have entailed moving.

Agricultural workers were usually hired at a hiring fair for 6 months, re-hiring by the same farmer could not be relied upon.

Workers might hear that a different farmer was a better employer or they might discover that the parish they lived in was an ungenerous provider of welfare so it made sense to move, if they could.

If you have ancestors in Berwick or North Northumberland, they may well have lived or worked in Scotland, too, most probably in the Scottish Borders, with Berwickshire and Roxburghshire being the most likely counties.

Borders Family History Society have a special offer on most of the 1841, 1851, 1861 Census Transcription booklets they sell but extremely limited stocks at the special offer reduced prices.

More details on their Publications Sales List.

Northumberland & Durham Family History Society are also advertising special offers on Northumberland and County Durham Census Indexes.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Learn about the pre-1855 Parish Registers of the Roman Catholic Church

Donna Maguire, archivist and records manager to the Bishops Conference of Scotland, is giving a talk on ‘The pre-1855 Parish Registers of the Roman Catholic Church'.

The talk takes place at the Corn Exchange and Ormiston Institute, Market Square, Melrose, TD6 9PN at 2.30pm on Sunday, 29th May. Map.

The talk will be preceded by Borders Family History Society's Annual General Meeting but that's usually over quickly.

I’m eagerly looking forward to this talk.
Donna is going to tell us about the Catholic registers for parishes that were founded before 1855, the six Scottish dioceses and the records of the Bishops Conference of Scotland and its agencies.

You may attend the talk and the AGM whether you are a member or not.
Doors open at 2pm; the AGM begins at 2.30pm.

Knowing how to find Catholic records is vital in family history, even if you think you have no Catholics in your family, you may be wrong, as I was, especially if you can’t find the birth of one or more your ancestors.

I suggest you go early to get a good seat.
They'll have a range of family history publications available to buy, and there’ll be light refreshments (donation expected) available after the talk.

 If you have a problem with your family history, please discuss it (no charge) with one of their volunteers.

The talk was previously advertised for last October but did not take place then due to illness.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Did You Have a Red Cross Volunteer in Your Family ?

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the Red Cross formed a Joint War Committee with the Order of St John, raised funds, organised volunteers and paid staff to provide equipment and services in the UK and the theatres of war. Everyone was trained in first aid, some trained in nursing, cookery, hygiene and sanitation.

Most of the women became nurses, initially in hospitals in Britain, but as the casualties mounted, more were sent overseas to casualty stations on or near the battlefield or to hospitals. Many people offered their houses as convalescent homes for the wounded or as auxiliary hospitals; some town halls and primary schools were used too.

There were over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals across the UK. They were staffed by a commandant, a quartermaster, a matron, a cook and nurses. Local GPs often volunteered for work in the hospitals in addition to their ordinary work. The nurses were all volunteers, often they were too young or old or had family commitments to serve full-time. Male volunteers usually drove or accompanied the ill or wounded to and from hospitals, many acted as stretcher-bearers, a lot were sent to France as ambulance drivers, some being wounded in enemy action.

Volunteers also collected clothing and books for soldiers in hospitals, raised funds, made bandages and splints, acted as cooks, store-keepers, worked in the offices and just as importantly, provided food and cigarettes to soldiers arriving by ambulance train. One of my great-aunts married a soldier she met on such duty.

A lot of people were displaced by the war, in 1915, volunteers started visiting hospitals looking for people who had been recorded as missing; work that the Red Cross is still involved in. By the end of the war in 1918, 90,000 volunteers had worked in the UK or abroad. There were lots of famous volunteers including Agatha Christie and Vera Brittain, perhaps some of your family were volunteers.

To find out, use the index of World War I Red Cross volunteers..

You can search by forename, surname, location or hospital or role.

Be careful when searching by location. I found that searching for Berwick-upon-Tweed found no results, for Berwick-on-Tweed there were 33 results, for Berwick there were 118 results including some in Sussex and those for Berwick-on-Tweed.

The initial search takes you to a search results page that shows name, county, date of engagement, age when engaged. Clicking on the name takes you to a detailed page about that person.

The information provided comes from record cards and may include name, address, age, character, service dates, hospital, rank, pay, duties, commission, honours awarded. Pictures of the cards are also included. Annoyingly, first names weren’t always recorded, some just gave initials.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Dorothy Young of the Greenses, Berwick; Who Emigrated to Canada

From Margaret Dougherty, a descendant of the Youngs of the Greenses:

My grandmother, Dorothy Young (1889-1967), set out from Berwick-upon-Tweed on her own for Canada as an 18-year old girl looking for adventure in September 1908. Perhaps you see something familiar in her features in this photo of her when she was about 30.
Dorothy Young (1889-1967)
Dorothy was the second eldest daughter of Robert Alexander Young (1854-1915) and Isabella Knox (1862-1937) of the Greenses. She originally went to Canada for a nanny position in small-town Ontario, but quickly grew bored with that, and for a time worked as a cook in a Northern Ontario lumber camp where she was the only woman, before settling in Montreal by 1911, where she worked as a servant. There, she was part of a circle of other Berwick immigrants, as I’ve found in news items in old issues of the Berwick Advertiser.

I have documented my grandmother’s lineage, which in addition to Young and Knox, includes Patterson/Pattison, Wedderburn/Weatherburn, Cowe, Clark, Melvin/Milvin, Edminson, Brack, Johnson, How and Spiers ancestors.

Dorothy returned to England in August 1915 to marry my grandfather, John Matheson, in London, while he was on a short leave from the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

They had met in Montreal, where John had emigrated in 1909 from Aviemore, Scotland. She remained in Berwick throughout the First World War, seeing my grandfather when he had leave. My mother, Isobel Young Matheson, was born in Berwick in May 1919. In August of that year, my grandmother and mother sailed for Montreal. Dorothy never returned to Berwick, but exchanged many letters with her mother and sisters.

I am still looking for any descendants of Dorothy’s siblings who stayed in England: Margaret Knox Young who married a distant cousin, George Young; Henry, Robert, William and Peter. Dorothy’s sisters Lizzie, Aggie and Izzie came to Canada as well, but Aggie and Izzie ultimately returned to Berwick, I believe.

After my mother died in 1979, we lost touch with her Berwick roots.
If you have any information about these, please add a comment below.