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Wednesday 9 April 2014

Interesting Family History Stories Shared at Coffee Morning

I had an interesting day at Berwick-upon-Tweed on 5 April, talking to people about their families at the Riding of the Bounds coffee morning at the Guildhall, Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Linda Bankier, the Archivist at Berwick Record Office created a new exhibition about the ceremony and the people involved in the 20th century and that attracted lots of interest. The slideshow of a recent riding was also popular and I was surprised that one lady was able to name lots of the horses.

I was pleased that people came to share their family stories.
  • One older man told me that in his youth there were 4 fishing families of his surname in the Greens area of Berwick. That's a huge contrast with the 1891 census when there 15 fishing families of his surname in the Greens area. He started going fishing with his father at the age of 5 or 6, and apart from 3 years war service had spent most of his life fishing - for salmon, sea fish, lobsters, and became a ghillie in his retirement.
  • A lady told me proudly that her ancestors were freemen (of the Berwick-upon-Tweed Guild)  back to 1730, at least. One ancestor who had married again after the death of his wife was jailed for a debt of £3 but his wife and children needed welfare. In those days, the welfare was paid by the husband or the father's home parish and one of the parishes did not recognise the prisoner's second marriage as valid so there was a court case to decide which parish should bear the cost. Another man was involved in election irregularities in the 1860s.
  • A visitor from York, whose father and uncle were freemen, told me his family were widely scattered, in Canada, Kenya, New Zealand
  • Another lady told me that her grandfather attended a tribunal twice during World War I so that he could avoid being conscripted. His reasons were understandable and the tribunal agreed to exempt him.
  • The granddaughter of a carter from Spittal told me that he carried stone to build the new bridge at Berwick-upon-Tweed; the business stopped at the start of World War I and her great uncle was killed early on, probably on the Somme.
  • Another man told me that his surname was from around Newton Stewart and his grandfather came to Tweedmouth to work on the railway. That contrasted with a lady whose family came from Tyneside to work on fish curing.
Of course, more detail is needed on these stories, but these show the antiquity of the Berwick-upon-Tweed Guild and that Berwick has both immigrants and emigrants.

If you have an interesting family story, please give me a summary in the comments below.

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