Thursday, 18 December 2008

Road Trip 3 - the Surrey Record Office

The Surrey record office in Woking is a real gem of a place. Lovely open modern building, lots of lovely records to lose yourself in and enthusiastic helpful staff.
I was on the trail of the family of William Fitz-Henry and Martha Eagles of Ashtead. I wanted to know where William was buried to see if a gravestone would give me any further clues about his ancestors. I'd looked in the graveyard of the parish church of St Giles when I visited Ashtead earlier in the year, but hadn't found a gravestone.

The first bonus was finding that the parish records of St Giles weren't on fiche - this meant I got to look through the original register. And what a splendid register it was, all leather bound and gold tooled. I have got photos of it, but the copyright declaration that I had to sign said I would put any of the photos on t'internet. Sorry.

So who did I find in the register?
William and Martha's first two children (Hester and Rowland) were born before they settled in Ashtead, but I did find the baptisms of:

Harry Duncombe Fitz-Henry christened 8 May 1882
on of William FH (Captain Retired full pay) and Martha Elizabeth.

Woodfield Duncombe Tighe Fitz-Henry born 26 January 1883, christened 6 May 1883
Son of
of William FH (captain in the Army, retired full pay) and Martha Elizabeth.

William Fitz-Henry, born 30 October 1885, christened 19 August 1886
Son of William (Captain in the Army) and Martha Elizabeth.

Harry Duncombe died in infancy, but neither he nor his father William (died November 1885) were buried at St Giles. One of the records office staff suggested that one or both of them may have been buried at the new municipal cemetery in Leatherhead (the nearest big town). This would mean a trip to the cemetery itself to consult their records.

As a stroke of fortune, the records office also had some editions of Kelly's Directories for Surrey on fiche. Amongst the "Private Residents" were
1885 edition, Fitz-Henry Capt. William at Oakfield Lodge
1886 edition, Fitz-Henry Mrs. at The Shaw.
I had previously thought that she had gone back to be near her family in Buckinghamshire straight after she was widowed, but the christening of William and the Kelly's entry showed that she was still a fixture in the village for at least another 8 months. Oakfield Lodge was still shown on the Ashtead map of 1932, but the current Google map shows some modern houses on the site in what is now Balquhain Close.

So... why was baby William's christening delayed for so long after his birth? This was answered the following day at Guild of One Name Studies lecture in Dorchester. In short, a woman did not re-enter society after the birth of her baby until she had been "churched" - going to Sunday service at her church a month after the birth. Often the baby was taken along and was christened at the same time - not before, unless the baby was very sickly. However, Matha's husband died before she had baby William christened and she entered her six month period of "deep mourning". To have the baby christened during this time was considered at the very least disrespectful, and at worst it would have brought misfortune on the child. Hence Martha had baby William christened when the mourning period was over.

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